By Chuck Nottingham
Last weekend's warmth drew us to Fish, Wildlife & Parks' rookery along Milk River to check out my hunting partner's .32 muzzle-loading rabbit rifle where we met another hunter enjoying the spring sun.
The hunter said, "Bzzzzzzzzz. Rattle, rattle, rattle. Bzzzzzzzzz!" Translation: "This is MY bush. I'm waiting for a mouse. Beat it!" Sheeze, what a grouch!
Beat it, we did but not before I was fast on the draw for my extractor pump. No, it's not the latest snake gun. It's a first aid device for poisonous bites and stings, and I was reassuring myself it was along.
We backed away from the prairie rattler's hunting spot until we could no longer shudder to its buzzer-warnings. We hunted elsewhere, but let me tell you, a bit shaky and much more alert.
I was glad I had the "Extractor" kit along. Before we got back to our vehicle, I'd be even more glad.
The Sawyer "Extractor" comes in a bright yellow, hard-plastic box about 5 by 3 by 1* inches, handy for pockets. It's not something to leave in the hunting rig. Inside are a safety razor for quick hair removal that may hinder suction, and a large-barreled plunger with choices of four suction tips to fit any configuration of skin or size of bite. There's also room in the box for extras, such as alcohol wipes, band-aids, antihistamine tablets, and topical pain-relief pads.
What you won't find in the box and should never add is a blade for cutting open skin or a tourniquet, as some older snake and bee kits used to contain.
According to Dr. Michael Vance, Director of Medical Toxicology, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, never cut a rattlesnake bite. Never suck any pit-viper strike by mouth. Never tie a tourniquet on a bitten extremity. Other "nevers" are never use electric shock, never apply ice directly to the wound, and never give victims whiskey or other stimulants. In cases of rattlesnake bites, nearly all folklore and fads are useless or even harmful.
Instead, use the Extractor in the first three minutes after the bite, then keep the bite site level with the victim's heart and transport to the nearest medical facility for evaluation for antivenin and antibiotic therapies. Period. As long as transportation isn't delayed, the bite-site may be cooled with cold compresses to reduce pain.
Then as we hunted back to the rig, my sugar-sweet disposition got me stung by a bee.
Quick on the draw again, I used the safety razor to whisk hair from around the sting, careful not to touch the stinger. Attaching the smallest suction tip and putting it over the stinger and its still-throbbing poison sac, I pulled the hypodermic-like handle on the Extractor and plunged it home. Powerful suction was immediate. Its vacuum popped the sac before more venom could inject. I broke suction, brushed the stinger away with the razor blade, cleaned the patch of skin with an alcohol wipe, and reattached the Extractor.
By the time we reached the vehicle, more poison had been extracted in the form of a single, clear drop. I took two Benadryl tablets, and we drove home. As this was my second sting in less than a year, we carefully watched for symptoms of anaphylaxis reaction, but noticed no difficulty breathing or gasping, no swelling of lips or tongue, no hives on chest or neck, no nausea, and no unusual weakness.
What I did notice was a lot of local pain as the peptides in the tiny tail-gunner's venom went to work. But I have to admit, the discomfort was not as severe as my last sting without benefit of the Extractor.
At home, we washed the local swelling again, applied a topical ointment, and continued to be alert for signs of systemic shock. At first indication of any breathing distress, it's best to get the victim to a hospital.
Some hunts go better than others, I guess, but being prepared for Montana outdoors may help keep potential disasters to a minimum.