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Sighting the Elusive Green Monkeys of Kanyemba - I.J. Larivers

Prevention always being one better than cure, obviously moderation is the answer. But after a few beers, you won’t remember the question. So time to look at damage control. There’s not much one can do about a night’s bad sleep until the next night, but other physiological problems can be dealt with to some degree.

Re-hydrate. Get as much fluid into the system as you reasonably can, as a large part of the felt symptoms of a hangover emanate from the loss of water, mineral salts, and vitamins. I always take Darrolyte tablets or re-hydration salts - but NOT salt tablets, which can exacerbate the problem - into the bush, regardless of whether or not I am carrying anything more fortifying for later. A few Darrolyte tablets - don’t overdo it - especially with a litre of orange juice or soft drink, will do wonders. (An intravenous drip is either going a bit overboard, or the hallmark of a true practitioner of the art of imbibing, but I have seen it done...). Vitamins which have also been lost can be replaced with tablet supplements, and also by natural means - fruits, fruit juices, and a light, high-fibre breakfast. Don’t overdo the multi-vitamins - you don’t need that many, and not only are surplus vitamins of no benefit, some may be toxic in their own right in high doses.

And the hair of the dog? Depends largely on what you may be called upon to do later. While it is true that your system HAD acclimatized the night before to functioning as best it could with high levels of alcohol present, by the time the living hell of the next morning rolls around, most of the alcohol is no longer alcohol, and your symptoms are the result of all manner of biochemical imbalances and deficiencies. So the argument that a slight top-up of alcohol will gently coax you back to the right-hand bank of the River Styx is of limited validity, and depending on one’s constitution, it just might land you right back where you’ve just come from. Assuming that we’re talking about beer, the water and carbohydrate content may be of some small benefit, but - NOT if you’re going back into the bush or onto the firing point with a loaded firearm! (Though as an aside, it is interesting to note that in the Olympic and precision shooting disciplines, alcohol is not considered to be a banned substance).

Article continues below.

I remember visiting a well-known shooting range in South Africa one fine Sunday in 1980. We started the morning off with a couple of Practical Pistol Classics like the “El Presidente”, and then finished off just before lunch with a “Jungle Lane-type” field course, wherein the shooter engaged numerous targets from the sun-roof of a moving Renault 5. The day’s shooting over - or so I thought - we all repaired to the pool for a few dozen beers - each - and an excellent braai. It was when a few shooters afterward announced that they were adjourning to a nearby range for a bit of shotgunning that I began to feel like an endangered species and left. Alcohol and firearms do not mix!

Best, then, to treat the symptoms of a hangover by bringing your metabolism back into balance, and getting a bit of rest into the bargain if you can.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it - it is common sense that you won’t have to worry about managing the aftermath of a night for the record books if you take it a bit easier next time. For some, this is easier said than done, but if one’s sole purpose in going on a hunt or to the gun club is to do the maximum amount of damage to the liver in the shortest possible space of time, there are cheaper ways of doing it.

Re-hydrate at the end of the day with water, fruit juice or soft drinks first - and then have a couple of cold beers. I habitually put down as much as two litres of water if I’ve been losing body fluids throughout the day - remember, alcohol de-hydrates you in the end and compounds the problem of water loss from other sources such as sweat. Caffeine has the same effect on the pituitary gland as alcohol, worth remembering if you’ve also had copious quantities of tea or coffee throughout the day - you are likely to have lost more water than you have taken in. This sort of “incipient dehydration” in the early evening is insidious as you most likely won’t even realize how low your fluid level is.

Consume your alcohol - whatever form it takes - in moderation, and ultimately with food, as an empty stomach hastens the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Two beers, not six (one day I may be able to learn how to do this..). A couple of glasses of wine with your meal, not a bottle. A final Scotch or Brandy and coffee before bed, not two. And all the time, be aware of how much water you are losing. A few glasses of water throughout the evening and a couple of Darrolyte tablets before bed won’t go amiss even if you haven’t been drinking any alcohol.

A good friend of mine and a fine shot may have gone onto the range one fine day some years back, in such a state that his level of social interaction was relegated to sitting under a tree, burbling incoherently at other people’s shoes, and when called to the firing point in the heat of the mid-day sun, he shot a new range record. Most of us cannot do this, and if we think about it, we wonder why we should try. We go to the range to improve on our past scores and to socialize with the like-minded. We go on a hunt for myriad reasons - the enjoyment of the bush, the challenge of the hunt, the company of good friends. In all of this, there is much to be appreciated, and no reason at all to detract from our sense of enjoyment by practising amateur anaesthetics. At best, over-indulgence in the pleasures of the vine or the vat can cloud good memories, and at worst it can get someone seriously hurt.

(Now, why can’t I always take my own advice....?).

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You might be a big game hunter if as a kid you hunted sparrows with an airgun. ~ Rod Williams
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African Hunter Vol.5 No.3 June 1999
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