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WILTZ: Knowing a little more about heat's effects not all bad

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Imagine a hunter who has spent $20,000 for a hunt in Tanzania. The primary quarry is cape buffalo, and our hunter is on the road that first morning just after daybreak. The trackers riding the Toyota Land Cruiser's rear bumper are watching for fresh tracks. They pound on the vehicle's roof when fresh tracks are spotted.

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The PH (professional hunter) and our hunter pile out of the Toyota. The chase begins. It soon becomes a footrace in oppressive heat that may go for eight to 10 miles. Our hunter prepared by walking every day, but his workouts were not in high heat and humidity. He collapses after four miles, and his hunt for a buff is over. There are no refunds. Unfortunately, the scenario I just related occurs more often than one might think.

Whether heat will be a factor when we take to the field this fall, or if we are going to participate in the family picnic softball or volleyball game, we need to know how heat will affect our body. This is especially true if we have some years under our belt.

With all the hunting I've done both home and abroad, I've never had to contend with excessive heat. My hunts in the southern hemisphere were during their winter season, and we were far enough south of the equator that it didn't matter. The closest I've come to excessive heat while hunting involved pronghorn antelope in 90-degree heat. Even though I walked an eight-mile stretch that day, I carried plenty of water -- the bottom line of today's column.

Only twice in my life has heat disabled me. The first time was as a 15-year-old in 100-degree heat. I had pitched the entire baseball game, and while running the bases late in the game I passed out. Dehydration, as well as heat exhaustion, was the culprit.

The second time came when I was a 20-year-old working at Chicago's Republic Steel. Fred Nicholson and I were cleaning out the flues beneath an open hearth furnace. It was 135 degrees under that furnace, and Fred and I relieved each other every five minutes. When I came out of the tunnel for relief, I looked out into the switchyard and saw a sandy beach, blue waters and hundreds of girls. When I told Fred about the beach, he called Mr. Ryder, our foreman, who in turn called for a doctor. The doc took one look at my eyes and sent me home for the day with full pay and a ride in a company car.

What got me to thinking about today's heat topic was an article in the July 2013 Sports Afield magazine. The story, "Some Like It Hot," was penned by Anthony Acerrano. I read the story because I know I'm at risk for three reasons: I'm a senior, I'm overweight and I'm not in very good shape. Today I'm going to paraphrase Acerrano's primary points. Hopefully they will be of value.

The evaporative cooling brought on by sweat is our primary defense against overheating. What promotes sweating is good. What impedes sweating is bad. When our core body temperature rises a degree or two, the body responds by initiating defenses against hyperthermia, or over-heating. An adrenaline flow triggers sweating on the surface of our skin. Evaporating sweat then carries heat away from our body. Our body functions flawlessly, and we experience no problems.

On a personal note, I won't say that the following practice is for everybody, but when I'm out in a boat and fishing under a very hot sun, I like to take my shirt off, saturate it in lake water, and put it back on. The cooling caused by evaporation is amazing!

We are all aware of "wind chill" and "heat index." This has to do with a combination of factors that make it feel colder or hotter than it actually is. We experience "heat index" when heat is mixed with humidity. This combination is particularly dangerous.

Sweat only cools when it evaporates into the air. Here's where humidity enters the picture. The higher the humidity, the slower the rate of evaporation. For example, a 90-degree temperature combined with a 90-percent relative humidity creates a felt temperature of 122 degrees. Humidity drastically slows the benefits of the sweating process. We must be aware of this danger.

Dehydration or water loss is arguably the major cause of heat illness. We need to be conscious of the need to constantly replenish the water we've lost through sweating. The buffalo hunter mentioned in the opening paragraph may have saved his hunt by drinking more water. It would be difficult to consume too much water under these conditions. Pre-hydrating would also be an excellent idea when one is about to face oppressive heat.

Overexertion can be a major cause of heat-related illness. I don't believe that an older person is as likely to experience the effects of overexertion as a younger, stronger person who isn't concerned about heart, etc. The day I collapsed on the base paths is a good example.

Finally, alcohol and caffeine are dehydrating. They deserve consideration "if the shoe fits."

* * * * * * * * * *

Applications for the rifle antelope season are due Aug. 9. I like it that non-resident hunters may only apply for an antelope tag after the second drawing. Pronghorn numbers are down, and being a South Dakotan should have its privileges. To our SDGFP commissioners: Good job!

Two weeks ago I told you about "roughing it." Since then I went on a Canadian fishing trip in a half-million dollar motor home. Yes, I can handle both extremes. I'll tell you about it next week.

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