Physical Conditioning for High Country Hunts
Alright, ladies (and gentlemen tuning in to see what girls talk about when guys aren’t around), today I’m going to be touching the tip of an iceberg hugely significant to the world of hunting, specifically high country, big game hunting. The iceberg’s name is FITNESS. It’s not a four-letter word or the name of the monster hiding under your bed. It’s not an obnoxious acquaintance that won’t leave you alone or a one-night stand. It’s a life-long relationship. If you’ve never been in a relationship, start one today (I am still talking about fitness…your dating life is not something we’ll be discussing). If you’ve tried it out here and there but experienced a setback that became an excuse eventually turning into a full-on break up, get back together! Work(it)out! Here’s the deal, the depth and commitment level of your relationship with your body’s physical development has a direct effect on the quality of your hunts. Building a quality relationship can be overwhelming, so I’ll do my best to break it down and help get you prepped for whatever fall might bring (please bring lots of elk, PLEASE bring lots of elk!).
Let’s start this relationship off the way any long-term, healthy relationship should begin, with honest communication. Be honest with yourself about the current condition of your body. If you’ve got a few pounds to lose, tell yourself you need to get leaner. If you can run like Forest but you’re only pulling 35# on your bow, tell yourself to get stronger. If you’re thinking, HOLY COW, IT’S JULY AND MY SEASON STARTS THE LAST PART OF AUGUST, don’t panic. It’s not ideal. But starting something good and sticking with it for the next few months will put you miles ahead of where you are now. Do something today that your future-self will thank you for!
Training for a high country hunt is a hybrid class of fitness, requiring both strength and endurance. If you’re fortunate enough to drop an animal, once the adrenaline dies down, you will experience a moment wherein and you look at the massive creature you just killed and suddenly realize you now have a sportsman’s responsibility to get 200-300 pounds of dead weight back to your truck that’s parked over 5 miles from where you are currently standing. How do you prepare so that in that moment, though tired, you have complete confidence in your body’s ability to perform? You’re going to be pressing, climbing, pulling, jumping, curling, lunging, bridging and anything else you can do to challenge yourself physically. Enter muscle development, i.e. strength training. You use every muscle you’ve got hiking, drawing and holding, cleaning, quartering and packing out. Every muscle needs to be trained. However, in the late spring and summer, focus on building shoulders, back, core, glutes and upper legs. This is done primarily in the gym…over in the weights…yes, I said “weights”. Get comfortable in the Iron Jungle. Start frequenting sites like bodybuilding.com. Look up Jamie Eason and Heidi Powell. Find sources that focus primarily on conditioning for hunters like bowmarfitness.com, traintohunt.com and bowhunter.com. All of us are completely different and we will find results in different ways. Educate yourself about your body! Experiment. Find what works for you. You’re not going to “bulk like the Hulk”. You’ll develop theses crazy things called muscles. And you’ll love the way they look on you!
Second component to physical prep for a great high country hunt is endurance training. Please don’t think of this as “cardio”. That word tends to conjure up very negative feelings in most people. I want you to think of it as the vehicle that is going to take you places you would have not have been able to go before. It’s the power you are going to use to grab ahold of opportunities that you never thought possible. Reaching the top of a peak to glass for elk is no easy feat, but there is no other experience like it. Endurance is your ticket to shows very few will ever see. If you’re just beginning, take it slow enough to avoid injuries but be sure to challenge yourself. Walk/hike as far as you can at a challenging pace for an hour. Every week, go faster. Then move into a jog/run. I’m not a fan, but few cardiovascular activities parallel the results of running. Along with low intensity steady-state (LISS) training, implement days of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and/or circuit training into your week. The results of these forms of conditioning are priceless in the world of hunting. There are endless combinations of HIIT movements, circuit groups and timing methods. Youtube.com has some great training channels. Look up dailyburn.com and cameronhanes.com (this guy is a beast). Again, find what works for you. Learn to push yourself beyond where you were the last week. The prize is mountain adventures like nothing you’ve ever dreamed (and maybe even a filled tag!).
Remember, big game animals are some of the most elite athletes on the planet. Don’t insult them by bringing anything less than your best to the mountains this fall.