5 Silliest Mistakes People Make In the Outdoors

Here’s how to make sure your genes stay in the pool.

posted on September 15, 2017

Here at NRA Family, part of our mission is to offer useful advice to people who are interested in getting started in an outdoors lifestyle. After all, if you’re new to hunting, hiking or camping, there are a lot of things that you might not know offhand. For example, many people don’t know that people suffering from hypothermia can die if they’re re-warmed too quickly. Or that snakebite should not be treated by sucking the poison out. However, there are some things that just seem self-explanatory...some mistakes that just seem too obvious to make. The problem is that, well, there are people out there making them. So sit back, relax, and enjoy as we recount the five silliest mistakes people make in the outdoors!

  1.       Watch Where You’re Going

You probably heard that phrase more than any other from the time you started to walk until you attained adulthood. Of course, we all know we need to watch where we’re going…but occasionally, especially when there’s a great photo opportunity in the offing, we forget. For example, this tourist who nearly fell to his death trying to take a picture at Yellowstone National Park. He managed to save himself at the last minute by bracing himself against the narrow sides of the crevasse he’d stumbled into. Had he missed, he’d have fallen about 200 feet. Of course we all want to have photos to memorialize our wonderful time in the outdoors…but what good is a picture if we’re not around anymore to see it?

 “Now, wait a minute,” you may be saying. “That’s not all that silly. Everyone stumbles once in a while.” Fair enough, dear reader. So let’s move on to Number 2…

  1.       Don’t Ignore Flash Flood Warnings

Of course we’d stay home if we heard there was a tornado warning, or a hurricane in the offing. But all too commonly, we ignore flash-flood warnings, and head out anyway. But did you know that flash floods are the leading cause of weather-related death? Part of the problem is that they just don’t sound that scary…after all, it’s just a little water. Another part of the problem is that flash floods can occur miles downstream of where the actual rainfall is happening, particularly in dry environments in which the soil doesn’t absorb water very well. But the truth is that flash floods can arrive with scary suddenness and intensity…and when it comes, it may not just be water. 

Not silly enough for you? Don’t worry: We have three more to go.

  1.       Venomous Snakes and Drinking Don’t Mix

When you think of snakebite injuries, you’re probably picturing a very non-silly (and serious) scenario—a hiker who steps on the wrong rock and startles a rattlesnake, perhaps, or a fisherman who has a cottonmouth drop into his boat. And, of course, that does happen. But did you know that the majority of snakebites happen to intoxicated people? It’s true: 60 percent of the time, the folks who have been bitten by snakes had "tee many martoonis (hic)" before deciding it would be a great idea to take a shovel to that copperhead they saw in the yard. The problem is that snakes are fast…and drunks usually aren’t.

The good news is that, with prompt medical care, this isn’t likely to be a fatal error. Only five to six fatalities from snakebite happen in the U.S. each year. (Let’s just hope that someone sober drives the victim to the hospital.)

     4.       Don’t Take Selfies With the Bison

Every year, more than 3 million tourists visit Yellowstone National Park to take in its breathtaking views and observe the wildlife. And every year, someone (usually several someones) make the mistake of thinking that those placid, stoic bison are as calm and approachable as cattle. Yes, they’re not carnivorous, but that doesn’t mean these SUV-sized critters won’t attack if they feel annoyed or threatened. Take, for instance, the tourist who decided to snap a “selfie” with her back turned to a bison just 6 yards away. The massive beast charged, lifted her up and tossed her with its head. It could have been much worse; the animals have also been known to gore and trample tourists who got too close. So we’ll say it loud enough that we can be heard in the back row: Don’t take selfies with the bison.

Oh, and don’t throw rocks at them, either. Turns out they don’t like that.

  1.       Don’t Dress Like a Deer On Opening Day

This one’s a personal anecdote: I was hunting the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, where the opening day of whitetail season is practically a state holiday. Dressed in camouflage and a blaze-orange hat, I rested with my back against a tree and listened as the 300-acre public land area I was hunting reverberated with gunfire. Suddenly, I heard a different series of sounds: Loud singing and talking from the trail that led to my perch. Soon, three young people emerged from the brush. All of them were wearing tan or brown jackets—one of which was offset with a white hat, and one of them over a white hoodie. I admired how the white hoodie bounced along jauntily just like a whitetail’s flag as I wondered to myself (perhaps a bit uncharitably), Are they on drugs?

They were headed right towards me, so I thought I should do the right thing and let them know that I was there—no matter how clueless they might be, it would be rude to frighten them. So I put my rifle down, leaned around the tree, and gave them a big wave. In return, three shocked faces turned white, three jaws dropped, and three sets of legs spun on their heels and beat feet so fast I envisioned a Road Runner-esque cloud of dust. As they ran, I heard one yell, “THAT TREE JUST GREW AN ARM AND WAVED AT US!” (I think that answered my question about drugs.)

The good news is that hunting-related accidents are falling, and falling fast. The vast majority of hunters know not to fire at a deer-colored object without verifying beyond any doubt that it is, in fact, a deer. However, the lesson remains: Don’t dress like a deer on opening day—blaze orange saves lives.



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