Hunting is a grueling activity. Through sweat, stress, and sometimes even tears, it can take a toll on your body and your mind. Getting lost in the woods and having to hike miles more than anticipated, pulling yourself up after a fall, keeping clear through confusion, and all of that compounded with exhaustion means there are many big (and potentially dangerous) blunders that could be avoided by preparation and conditioning. Give yourself the best chance this fall at a safe, successful, and fun hunting season by training during the offseason - no trigger required. Experienced hunters know that success in the field is all about endurance. So many chances are lost if you cannot stay the course or keep up. The sweet spot is when peak physical and mental fitness meet good timing and opportunity.
Here are some tips and main principles surrounding offseason training for hunters.
Train the body
There are so many ways to train your body to be ready for hunting season. Why not use a weighted hunting pack to simulate what it will actually be like?
The hunting gear brand KUIU offers a CrossFit-inspired workout plan that is sure to whip you into shape. It is a six day per week plan designed to work all muscle groups. You start the program with about 15 to 20 pounds of weight in your hunting pack, and increase that week over week until it equals the same weight as when you are hunting in the field.
Another great suggestion from KUIU is to get out into the wilderness you will be hunting for some pre-season scouting. You will have to bring an actual pack full of supplies anyway. This is a good way to test the terrain and look for bedding, rutting, and watering locations. You will get a sense of how long it might take to reach hunting locations and what it takes to get there. Filling your lungs with fresh air and getting your boots dirty is a double-whammy win for physical conditioning and wellbeing.
If you want a female-catered program, Maranda Hough is a hunting mentor and health coach for women who's shared some great info with help from outdoor apparel brand FORLOH. She recommends, in addition to cardio, strength training with weights to make your body ready for hunting season. Hunters should spend a few days per week doing strength work. The top six exercises for Hough suggests for hunters:
- Lunges, especially weighted walking lunges
- Shoulder Presses, barbell or dumbbell
- Dead Lifts using heavy weight, or for older hunters concerned with injury, Leg Presses
- Box Step-ups and Step-Downs
- High-Volume Calf Raises
Condition the mind
The other aspect of getting ready for hunting season concerns the complicated muscle perched on top of your neck. What is going on in your brain will make or break a tough situation. Having the ability to stay mentally healthy when nothing seems to be going right gives you the best chance out there. Fortunately there is a lot you can do to prepare your mind for the tough circumstances you might find yourself in during hunting season.
There are plenty of science-based benefits of establishing a regular meditation practice that include lower blood pressure, increased focus and clarity, pain reduction, and increased attention span. All of these can be of benefit while hunting. Start practicing meditation long before hunting season. Make it a part of your daily routine, maybe as a way to start the morning or right before bed. Once you have learned how to tap into the calm of meditation, you can access that when you need it while hunting.
Marathon runners have long implemented breathing exercises to keep their endurance high. The way we breathe affects every system and function in our bodies. Breathing deeply boosts energy and oxygen delivery. Not only that, it calms the nervous system and helps humans deal with stress. Hunters can adapt breathing exercises to meet their own needs, aiding in both physical and mental wellness.
Here is a breathing exercise from breathwork expert Richie Bostock, known as 'The Breath Guy' to try out:
Start by taking three quick, powerful inhalations through your nose without exhaling, progressively filling your lungs. Focus on expanding your lower ribs and abdomen while keeping your shoulders still. Exhale through your mouth. This three inhales/one exhale should take no more than two seconds. Repeat that 20 times. After the last exhale, hold your breath. Once you feel the need to breathe, repeat steps 1-3. Finish with deep, calming breaths.
Doing breathing exercises like this often will translate to better breathing and more breath control during pre-season training and the real thing!