And how to avoid them

1. Drowning while peeing

You’re on the lake and after a Thermos bottle of coffee, you’ve really gotta go. You stand up, brace your knees against the gunwale, unzip and, suddenly, you’re in freezing water wearing four layers, but no PFD. Sounds like a Three Stooges movie, but it’s no joke—every year, police say they find drowned sportsmen with their pants around their ankles.

Avoid by: Bringing a pail. And wearing your PFD. Duh.

2. Falling from a treestand

Gravity can attack in so many ways: tree steps come loose; a dead branch breaks; a cheap S-hook straightens or you lean out just a little too far. If you’re lucky, you bruise some ribs or get a few scrapes. If not, you break a bone—or worse.

Avoid by: Wearing a properly rigged safety harness, raising and lowering your gear with a rope, and regularly ensuring the stand is stable.

3. Shooting yourself

Returning to your truck to warm up after a cold morning in the duck blind, you forget to unload your shotgun before leaning it against the truck. As you fumble with your keys, the gun topples over and—Bang!—you take a load of #2 right in the legs.

Avoid by: Always unloading your gun, and double-checking to make sure the chamber is empty, when it’s not in use.

4. Cutting yourself

With wet, cold hands you’re hurriedly field dressing a nice little doe before losing the last of the day’s light. The knife’s a little dull, too, but since time is short, you keep cutting away. Suddenly, you lose your grip and the dirty blade slices your wrist. Not good.

Avoid by: Taking your time, cutting carefully, keeping your hands as dry as possible and maintaining a sharp blade.

5. Getting hypothermia

Dressed lightly, you’re hunting on a warm fall afternoon when the temperature unexpectedly drops and a storm blows in. Suddenly soaked, you start shivering and soon feel tired and stiff. As your body temperature drops, you start to slur and lose your balance. Less than an hour later, you’re confused, apathetic and overcome by an urge to sleep. Soon it’s lights out.

Avoid by: Being prepared for any weather—and staying dry and warm.

6. Suffering frostbite

After hours of pulling fat perch through the ice, your fingers are a little red and tingly, but it’s nearly impossible to bait the hooks while wearing gloves, so you tough it out. But soon your digits turn pasty white, the skin begins to harden, blisters form and then—excruciating pain.

Avoid by: Immediately warming or insulating your extremities if they become numb, which means the tissue is near freezing.

7. Overheating your body

You’re hiking home after a cool morning on a backcountry trout pond, and the day’s now a scorcher. Headachy, sweating buckets and a little nauseated, you really should’ve brought more water and lighter clothing. Soon you’re getting goose bumps, your skin is red and you’ve stopped sweating—your heat exhaustion has turned to potentially deadly heatstroke.

Avoid by: Drinking water, wearing light clothing and taking it easy during the hottest hours.

8. Rolling an ATV

With your ATV loaded down with moose quarters, you’re gunning up a four-foot bank at about 45 degrees when you accidentally hit a big root. As though in slow motion, the front end of the quad comes up and you begin to topple backwards down the slope. You see a lot of sky, then everything goes black.

Avoid by: Always watching for obstacles and knowing the limits of your machine—and your driving skills.

9. Eating poisonous plants

Yum! Nothing beats foraged goodies like, say, puffball mushrooms. After dinner, though, you start feeling queasy, followed by vomiting, diarrhea and cramps. If left untreated, renal failure, coma or even death could occur.

Why? The tasty puffball is almost indistinguishable from the immature Amanita phalloides, commonly known as the death cap.

Avoid by: Not chowing down on wild edibles unless you really, really know your botany.