With summer blowing by I’m sure everyone has been thinking about our upcoming hunting seasons, shooting, gear checks, conditioning, etc. I’ve been busy all year building an addition to our house but luckily that project is winding down and my brain is finally switching gears into hunting mode (thankfully).
Talking with a buddy who’s training for a marathon got me thinking that us hunters should be emulating how the running world prepares for a big race, incrementally added distance to each run, getting close to the final distance for the event which they’re training (and have I mentioned I hate running?) So whether you are hiking 200 yards into a tree-stand or hunting 8-miles back into somewhere, it doesn’t mean we can’t still use their methodology to get ready for our season. For instance, I have Aug. 30 on the calendar for the elk opener; I know I’ve got an 8-mile hike into camp with a full pack. It’s on an established trail so that’s not a big deal; however the following days’ side-hilling all day long will crush my feet/legs if I don’t get serious now. Armed with that info I can plan how I need to ramp up my training between now and then to make sure those last couple workouts are close to the exertion level I plan on hitting during my hunts.
A couple thoughts on my plan to make that happen:
Get out of the gym! Nothing compares to hitting the trail this time of year and actually doing what you’re getting ready for. While the Stairmaster, walking, jogging or biking may provide a good workout it still doesn’t replicate real world conditions. Next time you’re clawing your way up a mountainside, or even walking flat ground outside, pay attention to how much work your feet are doing to maintain balance, concentrating from your toes to your calves; it’s tough to replicate uneven/rocky ground on any piece of gym equipment.
Another reason to get out on a hike is to get familiar with your gear; a simple trail hike may reveal things that you forgot to address from previous seasons. For instance, you may have items that need replaced, holes/tears that need mending, etc. A recent hike reminded me that I want to shorten up some straps on my new pack, both cutting some weight and more importantly eliminating a loose end that may end up catching my bowstring. And finally if you’re able to combine the hike with some scouting it’s really a no-brainer.
What’s even better than hitting the trail? Getting off of it! I know the Forest Service folks won’t like this advice but nothing makes for a better workout than powering directly up the hillside, switchbacks are for sissies! Any stalk I’ve ever been on has been a direct route from where I’m at to where I need to be, why train any differently? To me one of the most grueling activities us hunters get ourselves into is side-hilling for any significant distance. Trying to walk parallel on a hill that sits at a 45 degree incline is like some medieval punishment for your feet and calves! Your eyes are always looking for that flat spot to rest, and if you’re hunting some steep nasty stuff those flat spots can be tough to find. Again there’s no side-hilling machine at the gym.
The other epiphany I recently had was how to get a solid workout on a family hike. With my little guys and their stubby legs, getting any kind of cardio workout is pretty much out of the question. Then it dawned on me, throw 60lbs in my pack and we all start moving the same speed. Perfect solution!
Whatever path you take to prepare for the season I hope it’s coming together well. While getting your body ready don’t forget the Trifecta (Shooting, Physical and knowing your quarry). And lastly train smart, as injuries only set back your efforts.
Good luck this fall, shoot straight.