Hunting is more than just sitting in a treestand...
In November, I'm going on my first-ever elk hunt out in Colorado. I can't even express how excited I am for this opportunity. It's not so much the part of punching my tag on a huge elk, but more so the entire adventure of backpacking around in the mountains. However, that's all well and good if my body can handle it. Seeing as I currently live in Indiana, I am not used to the high elevation. I'm also not used to always walking up and down ravines and abrupt elevation changes. As you might imagine, this might be a problem. This is where some serious hunting focused workouts are in order.
With this in mind, are you in good enough shape to carry a pack and walk a considerable distance right now? How's your lower back? How's your upper body? Thankfully, there's still time to start a successful training program before hunting season. If you start this week, you should be good to go.
My buddy since before high school, who happens to be an elk guide, has been prepping me for this adventure for some time. Since last year when we decided we were going to do this, to as recently as yesterday, he's been giving me advice on how to not let my body fail me while on this trip. Now, to provide a proper disclaimer, I'm a former baseball player, I lift weights and I run. I'm not a personal trainer nor do I offer that advice. These are just some tips that I've implemented into my normal routine to prep for a western hunt.
First things first. I've been basing my workout training plan around what an elk guide has been telling me based on real world scenarios. For example, a conditioned core is a must. I'm not talking about rock-hard abs, but a core that can support a day pack and uneven terrain while not making other muscles overwork and causing strains and sprains. For this, I've heard recommendations to do sit-ups, incline treadmill walking with a weight, front squats and bent-over rows.
In all of my routines, I do a circuit in groups of 10 or so. For example, 25 sit-ups, followed by 15 front squats with a 35-pound dumbbell, followed by 15 bent-over rows using 35-pound dumbbells. Then, I end the round with a two-minute walk on an inclined treadmill, carrying a 35-pound weight in one arm, but rotating that weight back and forth as needed. That's one round. Do that for 10 rounds and you'll be ready to throw up. If that weight is too much, drop down to whatever you can do to keep proper form. If it's not enough, good for you.
If you want to take a bull elk from higher elevations, you need lots of endurance and body focus to get it done. If you see an elk sitting on a ridge a mile a way, you may need to walk two miles to get a shot. Sure, you're going to have rest periods, but being able to power through is a must. This is why most workouts people have recommended to me are solely built on endurance. This is the most difficult part of most hunting-focused workouts Sure, anyone can lift weights. But can anyone lift weights, run, lift more, run and continue to do that for 45 minutes to an hour? Yep. Here's the real challenge comes in.
Again, I'm no personal trainer and I'm only going off what a career elk hunting guide is telling me to do. But, creating a combination of tiring hunting-focused workouts and doing them in reputation is killer. For example, tonight's workout was 50 minutes long. It consisted of 35-pound dumbbell curls 10 times using different motions, such as hammer curl, Arnold curl, or straight curl. Then, that rolled immediately into 10 front squats using two 20-pound dumbbells. Next, it was followed by 20 leg-elevated pushups, then 20 bent-over dumbbell rows using the same 20-pounders. Finally, a 1/5-mile run on the treadmill capped it all off. Then, it all repeated again.
There was no goal for total reps, but for the endurance of doing it for 50 minutes. It was freaking terrible and awesome at the same time. Take lots of rest periods. You'll need them.
Simulate the Hunt
OK, so far we have two examples of some serious hunting-focused workouts. The best part of these is that you can create them however you like so long as you are putting them in a circuit. If you have a pull-up bar at home, work in a cycle of pull-ups in the routine. If you can do step-ups on a box, work that in. You imagination is only what is limiting your workouts. For any amount of time you sustain, keep the cardio up and physical level at a high pace. Now, here's how to really kick your own butt.
At the end of your hunting-focused workouts, do an extended walk with a backpack weighted down with 50-75 pounds of weight. Again, I do this on a treadmill set at the farthest incline actually in my hunting boots. I don't go far, maybe a 1/4-1/2 a mile, but that's good enough for me. On some cardio-only days, I go much farther.
So, what do you think? Hopefully you were able to find some inspiration of your own to kick your own butt into shape for this coming season. I'm preparing myself for a high-elevation elk hunt. You might be getting ready to cross a field to your treestand. Making sure your legs, core, back and lungs are in enough shape to actually do it, only makes things better in the long run. Plus, you'll feel better about yourself, too.
In any hunting-focused workouts or programs, you start at your own pace. If you're concerned about your heart, go see a doctor before you go to the treestand. Hunting has moments of high-intensity impacts on the body. If you don't think you can handle it, don't do it.