CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The American Heart Association hopes West Virginia hunters will be more aware of their health before they head into the woods this fall. The organization has teamed with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Police to raise the level of awareness in hopes of preventing tragedies this hunting season. It’s called “Heart Healthy Hunting.”

Heart attacks are the number one hunting related incident investigated each year by Natural Resources Police in West Virginia.

“We have way too many hunting incidents that involve heart attacks because the man or woman is not as fit as they thought they were and that’s when those issue arise,” said Captain Ed Goodson of the West Virginia DNR’s Natural Resources Police.

Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Executive Director Dr. Steven Eshenaur echoed Goodson’s concerns.

“It’s important that hunters prepare themselves to go into the woods. Get a checkup before you go on your big hunt then when you’re out in the woods, stop frequently, take a break, stay hydrated, and take healthy snacks with you,” he said.

Often hunting season draws people into the woods who may not get very much exercise at other times of the year. Suddenly they put a severe strain on their body and can trigger a heart attack or stroke.

“Know your limitations and have a plan in place, that way everyone knows where you’ll be when you are hunting,” said Goodson.

“It’s important that hunters prepare themselves to go into the woods. Take care of yourself and seek the care you need, an emergency might happen while you’re in the woods,” Eschenaur said.

The American Heart Association’s Heart Healthy Hunting campaign was launched following a high number of tragedies in West Virginia. Delaney Roberts, a student at Wahama High School in Mason County, lost her grandfather to a heart attack after he dragged a deer out of the woods five years ago, and ignored the symptoms.

“Be aware of the signs and symptoms so it doesn’t happen to you. Talk to your doctor and make sure you’re okay. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you’re healthy so you don’t have to go through something like this,” Delaney said.

P.J. Cooper is another who is a survivor of a similar incident. He suffered a heart attack while hunting in McDowell County. Cooper said he’s very lucky.

“I didn’t recognize the symptoms and now I’m more aware of things and I want people to understand when you’re out there, you’re on your own,” he explained.

DNR and the American Heart Association advise hunters to always have a charged cell phone with them, make certain they are in the best physical shape possible for hunting, be careful to know your limitations and don’t over exert yourself. It’s also advisable to make a plan and let people know where you’ll be hunting, when to expect you back, and to stick to that plan.

Story by Chris Lawrence, WVMetroNews