For many of us who shoot competitively most of our shooting is done in hot weather. The shooting season may begin in March or April but very soon we're in the summer months and sunny hot days. This year, it's been especially tough since temperatures for most of the country have been above normal.
Here in Southern Illinois we've been breaking records for hot days and for the number of hot days back to back for the past month or more. Those records go back to the 1930s in many cases. We're also almost 15” below normal in rainfall, the worst drought in 50 years, and no relief is in sight for a break in the temperature or in the drought.
Since we're only about an hour from the World Shooting & Recreation Complex in Sparta, Illinois and we travel and shoot from early March through November of each year, we're very conscious of the effect of hot days on shooters. We've seen shooters succumb to excessive heat and know both the short-term and long-term effects of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
So, how do we continue to enjoy our sport without exposing ourselves to the dangers of excessive heat? First, we must all use common sense. If we have health problems that make us more susceptible to the negative effects of being in the sun, we may need to take extra precautions. Some medications may cause us to burn more easily in the sun for example. It's a good idea to check with your doctor and pharmacist if you're taking prescription medication and ask about exposure to heat and sunlight.
Okay, so you're that “healthy as a horse” individual who's never had a problem with the heat, do you need to take any special precautions when temperatures are in the high 90s and 100+. You bet you do! Folks who have never had a problem can develop one very quickly when the heat is excessive. Let's start with hydration.
Most of us have heard the old saw, drink before you're thirsty and may have discounted it but we do so at our peril. By the time we're thirsty, we're probably already dehydrated. To prepare for a day of shooting in the heat, drinking a bit more liquid the day or even a couple of days before can help. Of course that means water or other non-caffeine and non-alcoholic beverages.
Long sleeved shirts made from sun-blocking material can help prevent sunburn as can the use of sunblock on the backs of our hands, ears, nose and cheeks, etc. It's also wise to consider a wide brimmed hat to replace the traditional cap to give some additional shade and help keep us cool.
Heat can also cause us to become fatigued more quickly than usual. Take any opportunity to sit, preferably in the shade and use that time to rehydrate. If at any time you start to feel dizzy, disoriented or nauseated, seek help immediately.
Hot weather is also the time when many bees, wasps, and fire ants are very active. If you are allergic to stings or bites, you should always be prepared with Benadryl or a generic substitute and if your allergies are severe an EPIPEN. It's good to remember also that bees are often attracted to bright, colorful objects (thinking they are flowers apparently) so it's good to wear darker colors if possible.
One overexposure to excessive heat can cause long-lasting and at times irreparable damage. Once we've had too much heat, we may never be able to tolerate even normal high temperatures again. It's worth a little extra effort and thought to preserve our ability to keep on going.
We can't do anything to control the weather where we shoot but we can take some simple precautions to make our shooting a more enjoyable experience and help insure that we'll be able to do it for many more years.