Can you go hunting while pregnant? The answer is not a clear-cut yes or no. You have to get the green light from your doctor and then you may go hunting provided that you take specific precautions to protect you and your baby.
There are many different opinions on this topic because the biggest concerns for the pregnant mother are her own safety as well as that of her unborn child. However, if the necessary safety precautions are taken, the advice from your doctor is followed and you are in good health, then there is no reason why you cannot go hunting while pregnant.
When it comes to pulling the trigger, the two main concerns regarding the baby’s safety are lead levels and loud noise. Now, while shooting indoors and firing repeatedly is quite different from hunting outdoors and pulling the trigger only a few times over a period of time, it all comes down to the specific noise level. See our section on “Your Baby’s Safety” below.
Your Own Safety
Of course, your safety is directly linked to the safety of your baby. If you take care of yourself and your body, then your baby will automatically be protected too. On the other hand, if you are careless and attempt tasks not advisable for pregnant mothers, you will not be the only one who gets hurt, but your baby will too.
Although there are no laws prohibiting pregnant women from hunting, bow hunting or climbing tree stands, there sure are some risks involved and some guidelines to consider. It is better to take the necessary precautions to prevent your unborn baby from getting hurt.
When it comes to shooting a bow some doctors even recommend archery as an ideal exercise during pregnancy. There is, however, a difference between shooting a bow in a range and bow hunting out in the field. And although walking and exercise are good when pregnant, you should keep in mind that you will be exposed to the elements, you will be walking greater distances and you might be lifting heavier equipment and gear than you normally do.
For more information about bow hunting, check out this article about bow hunting for beginners.
It is therefore important that you maintain a good level of fitness before and during the pregnancy. And do not attempt any tasks that make you feel uncomfortable or put too much strain on your body.
Some ideas to keep in mind when bow hunting is to back off the draw weight to eliminate any strain, the draw should be smooth and easy, do not overdo it and quit when you feel tired.
When it comes to the safety of a pregnant mother out hunting, tree stands are most probably one of the biggest concerns. Initially, when the fetus is still small, it might not make much of a difference, but later in the pregnancy, it does create some problems.
For one, any type of ladder, hanging stand or climber requires some amount of effort to get to where you have to be and as your baby grows larger, it will require more and more strength to do so. Later in the pregnancy, the size of the baby influences your balance because it forces the center of gravity farther back and away from the ladder and consequently you will need greater strength to climb and to maintain your balance.
Pregnant women are also more prone to dizziness and together with balance, these can be quite dangerous when you are in a tree stand. Now, tree stands are dangerous, to begin with, and even experienced hunters have been injured by falling from it. Therefore, being pregnant you should be extra cautious when hunting from a tree stand.
To learn more about tree stands, check out this article about hunting deer from a tree stand.
Being pregnant, you should also consider that it could get rather uncomfortable if you sit in a tree stand for long periods and there is nothing like a painful back to bring your hunting trip to an abrupt end.
One last aspect to take into consideration is that pregnant women are more susceptible to cold exposure and will, therefore, be more affected by extreme conditions than before the pregnancy. Luckily there are easy ways to stay warm when out in the woods as we discuss in our section on “Hunting Strategy Tips” below.
When it comes to your safety the key is to do your research, ask your doctor and take advice from other pregnant hunters who have done it several times before.
If you do it right, it could be a great experience to share with your unborn child.
Your Baby’s Safety
Once you have put adequate precautions in place to ensure your own safety as a pregnant mother out hunting in the woods, your next step is to ensure the safety of your unborn baby.
Although there are a number of concerns regarding the safety of the baby, two stand out from the rest: noise and lead levels.
These are well-discussed topics and there are a variety of different answers to this problem.
Lead levels – it is true that research has found that high lead levels are toxic to both adults as well as babies still inside the womb. Now, when a bullet is fired, lead particles are expelled into the air. These particles can easily land on your face, arms, hands and even in your hair. It furthermore lingers in the air and could be inhaled.
The fact is, lead exposure is harmful to a developing fetus as it is transferred from mother to baby through the placenta. It is said to cause a number of problems for the mother and unborn baby, such as a decreased birth weight, miscarriage, preeclampsia or premature delivery.
However, most of the research found regarding high lead levels as a result of shooting a rifle seems to indicate that the highest risk for it, is found when shooting on ranges. Except for shooting lead ammunition and handling lead bullets, high levels of exposure is found mainly when:
- Shooting indoors,
- There is inadequate ventilation,
- Repeatedly shooting a firearm,
- Not wearing gloves when cleaning a gun.
Looking at the prevalence of high lead levels, it seems that most lead exposure occurs when shooting lead ammunition on an indoor range and when reloading ammunition.
Now, this seems to be relevant when shooting repeatedly in an enclosed area which is a very different scenario than hunting out in the woods.
For this reason, most experienced hunters feel that lead poisoning is not such a huge risk when hunting out in the woods.
Noise – there are numerous determining factors when dealing with noise levels affecting unborn children. We know that a baby starts responding to sound as early as 16 weeks into pregnancy, with the cochlea being fully developed by week 24.
First of all, some studies have indicated that chronic exposure to loud noises can cause damage to the baby’s hearing. However, it is important to note that it is repeated exposure to gunshots for long periods such as would occur on a shooting range.
For example, if a baby is exposed to continuous loud noises of 80dB for approximately 8 hours a day, the chances are that baby could be born with hearing loss.
Secondly, it has to do with the type of gun used because different guns fire at different decibels, with the average anywhere between 140-180dB.
However, this does not mean that a pregnant woman cannot or should not shoot, nor does it imply that she should not go hunting.
All indications of hearing the loss in unborn babies as a result of exposure to loud noises, seem to be as a result of chronic exposure and not intermittent exposure such as when hunting.
But just to be sure, there are precautions a pregnant mother can take to limit the impact on the baby which are discussed in our section “Hunting Strategy Tips” below.
Stress – one study indicates that the mother’s emotions and mindset can have an effect on the baby’s reaction to the shots. They suggest that a mother who loves hunting, is excited about it and enjoys it, will have no stress-related feelings toward the loud noise as opposed to a mother who is stressed and nervous when shooting. They suggest that their baby’s will correspondingly experience less or more stress as a result of the gunshot.
Hunting Strategy Tips
As a pregnant mother, you have to take into consideration your own safety as well as your baby’s safety when you plan your hunting trip. It is not as difficult as it sounds; all you have to do is to make some small adjustments to your hunting strategy.
1. Always check with your doctor first.
2. Hunt from a blind rather than a tree stand.
3. Put a comfortable chair in your blind.
4. Be careful not to fall especially in snowy conditions as your balance might be slightly off especially in the third trimester.
5. If possible, avoid hunting in your third trimester.
6. Shoot your gun only when necessary.
7. When choosing a rifle, consider one that does not have much of a kickback, for example, a 243 rifle. Avoid rifles that are more powerful than a .22 caliber.
8. Be careful when handling your ammunition, be sure to wear gloves.
9. Use full-metal jacket ammunition or lead-free ammunition without a lead core and with lower lead particles in the gun powder.
10. Avoid shooting from the hip.
11. Walking is good during pregnancy, however, avoid carrying heavy gear and definitely not for several miles.
12. Layer your clothes, especially over your stomach. Wrap your tummy with heavy clothing that will act as an ear muff that will reduce the noise exposure to your baby.
13. Wear comfortable clothes that can stretch.
14. Keep hydrated. Drinking enough water will prevent swelling, control nausea and reduce the chance of overheating.
15. Maintain your energy level by snacking every so often.
16. Keep the blood flowing by moving around and standing up.
17. Keep warm by wearing a warm cap, gloves, socks, and fleece layers.
18. Do not lift heavy equipment.
19. Do not hunt alone – The golden rule when pregnant is track, but don’t retrieve. You can take the shot but let someone else field dress and haul it out for you.
20. Stay relatively close to a hospital especially when your delivery date is coming up soon.
Can deer sense pregnancy? Most research studies suggest that since deer have excellent senses, therefore, they could most probably sense a pregnant hunter. And while some theories do indeed suggest that it will spook them, we could find no solid proof of this.
One female hunter bluntly says that you can’t hunt while pregnant because deer can sense pregnancy and they won’t come near you.
This does seem somewhat far-fetched as deer might have excellent smell and elevated senses so they can sense emotions, but there is no evidence that they will avoid pregnant hunters merely for the fact that they are pregnant. They could have been spooked by noise, or movement or some other smell.
The bottom line is, we have no proof of how or why deer will react toward pregnant hunters.
Is it safe to eat deer meat while pregnant? Other than having a gamey taste, deer meat is good for you mainly because it contains less fat than red meat. It is safe to eat while pregnant provided that it was a healthy animal and as long as the meat is properly cooked and processed.