Recently, I've had conversations with three different individuals concerning three unrelated incidents or practices that alarmed me. I'm not going to name anyone and my intention is not to call anyone out. My intention is simply to use these examples as reminders of how important it is to protect ourselves.
I have a friend who, based on our conversations, rarely, if ever, wears sunglasses outdoors. Most people accept the fact that we need to protect our skin from the harmful rays of the sun. Our eyes need that same protection. Sunglasses are not just a fashion accessory any longer. The effects of the sun can cause or contribute to a variety of eye-related issues, including sunburn of the cornea, macular degeneration, and cataracts. Damage can occur even on overcast days. Winter can also be dangerous because of the light reflecting off the snow. People with lighter colored eyes are more prone to sun damage. I have blue eyes and it's very difficult for me to be outside without sunglasses.
It's not necessary to spend hundreds of dollars on sunglasses. The important part is to get some that block at least 98% of UVA and UVB rays. I personally wear polarized sunglasses that help block glare for a lot of my outdoor activities. The natural aging process will create enough eye problems for us. There's no reason to add to them by not protecting our eyes.
I recently had a conversation with another friend who just purchased a new shotgun. Naturally, this person wanted to shoot their new gun. The problem was they did not wear any hearing protection. The result was ringing in their right ear and muffled hearing. This lasted for a few days and was bad enough to scare this person. Fortunately, the issues subsided after several days.
It should go without saying that if you shoot any type of firearm, you need to wear hearing protection! Period. Lost hearing cannot be recovered. You may not notice major damage immediately, but if you make it a practice to shoot without protection, you will eventually notice the hearing loss. By then, it will be too late.
There are many forms of hearing protection on the market today that let you carry on normal conversations or hear low level noises, but will block loud noises like gunfire. Nobody really likes to wear hearing protection, but there is no excuse not to do it. Again, aging will create hearing problems for us. We don't need to compound them by doing something silly like shooting without protection.
My most recent conversation was with a co-worker who had a very scary experience. This person was bow hunting last week and was going to hunt out of a hang-on stand that was already in place. For those of you not familiar with a hang-on stand, it is basically a type of stand with a seat, metal framework, and a platform for your feet. They are portable, but most hunters hang them in a tree and leave them for the season. Generally speaking, the stand is secured to the tree with ratchet straps. Access to the stand is made by some form of tree steps, either screw-in or stick ladders that attach with straps.
My co-worker climbed the tree and got in the stand. They had just finished putting on their safety harness when the top ratchet strap broke and the stand tipped forward. This person fell about 4 feet and then the safety line tightened and stopped their fall. Unfortunately, they were spun toward the tree and smashed their face into the stand which was hanging by the bottom ratchet strap. There was a large branch below my co-worker and they were able to stand on it and calm themselves before getting back on the steps and climbing down.
If the strap had broken a couple of seconds sooner or my co-worker had been a couple of seconds slower getting the harness on, this would have been a much different story. They got a bloody nose out of it, but no serious injuries. Where my co-worker went wrong was not putting the safety harness on before climbing the tree. They admitted that while telling me the story. You should always attach your safety harness or vest and line prior to making the climb. Tree stands should be inspected before use to look for any obvious safety issues.
We're all adults and I'm not trying to be the safety police. At the same time, with the medical and scientific knowledge we have today, there is no reason for not doing simple things to protect our health. We all know it is important to protect our vision and hearing. The most basic command you will hear on a range before any shooting commences is "Eyes and ears"! If you make it a habit to shoot without eye or ear protection, it is simply a matter of time before it comes back to haunt you. The same goes for hunting out of a tree stand without a safety harness or not using it while climbing up or down.
This is basic safety stuff, but it can prevent a lot of problems for you and possibly even save your life. We all need reminders of that from time to time.