Hunters in their endeavors to hunt big game tend to overlook some of the smaller things in their surroundings. The writer once almost trod on a rabbit while deer hunting in Colorado, only to have it run forward about 20ft into the safety of a large bush, whereupon a tremendous noise erupted from the bush and a really big Mule Deer buck lept out and took off at a great rate on knots. Needless to say the writer transfixed by the morphing of rabbit into mule deer did not get a shot off. One of the other things that hunter frequently neglect to observe is the presence of poison oak. Poison oak is in the same family of plants containing toxins as Sumac and Poison Ivy, Western Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) in the west, Sumac in the Midwest and Poison Ivy in the eastern states.
Not all people react allergically to the urushiol toxin in poison oak, however as one ages that can change. Someone who has been exposed to poison oak may not have a reaction for many years and then suddenly become allergic, so it is not to be taken lightly. As can be seen in the following photographs it is excruciatingly painful and irritating, in extremely severe reactions can cause difficulty in breathing or death if not addressed immediately. Reactions typically range from a light red rash through to skin blistering . The blistering can cause complications by virtue of creating open wounds, which if not dressed correctly can develop into sores that leak puss.
Generally the reaction occurs a 24-48 hours after contact with the urushiol, and the worst conditions are days 4 thru 7. Most people get over the rash and or blistering after about two to three weeks even with no medication. Over the counter antihistamines and hydro-cortisone creams or oral antihistamines may help alleviate the rash. In severe cases Doctors will prescribe a regimen of steroids (Prednisone) for about three weeks. This regime is typically 3 pills a day for the first week, followed by 2 pills a day for week two, and one pill a day for the third week. The best ‘cure’ is to remove the urushiol by scrubbing with cold water and soap within the first 15 minutes after exposure. There is no antidote for exposure to the urushiol of these plants, and once affected by the urushiol, one tends to be even more susceptible to the effects.
It is best to study the images in some of the references given to be able to accurately identify Western Poison Oak/Poison Ivy/Sumac in your hunting area and determine what additional precautions you need to take while hunting, like wearing rubber gloves to untie boot laces, and remove outer clothing if they have touched the leaves of the plant. It is equally important to understand that the urushiol can become airborne when cutting the plant down, or if burning the plant, and that the toxin can remain in a dead plant or just the roots for up-wards to 5 years.
For more info on Poison Oak/Ivy/Sumac: Check here & here and here & here