No Pain, No Gain
I remember when I first heard about people actually working out for hunting. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous. All I knew about hunting was that you sat in a tree or on the ground and waited for a deer to walk by. What is physically taxing about that and why in the world would anyone workout in preparation for it? My thoughts on the subject changed drastically after I really got into hunting out west though. The animals out here live in some rugged country and if you aren’t physically prepared to even get to where they live, let alone haul one out of the mountains, you are really in for it my friend. Don’t believe me? Have your luck at a spot and stalk western mule deer or black bear hunt. When you get back, you might think differently.
There were a few times in the past where I thought that I was never going to get back to camp, I was so exhausted. A lot of those times, I wasn’t even hauling meat! This served as a wake up call to me. If I ever wanted to be a consistently successful western hunter, I needed to get my butt in gear and start working out more and eating better. That is exactly what I did. I couldn’t bare the thought of me killing an elk and not be physically fit enough to get the animal from the mountains to my freezer. In truth, hunting is one of my biggest motivators for going to the gym now. Another huge motivator/inspiration for me was reading the book “Backcountry Bowhunting” by Cameron Hanes. If you have not read it, please do so. I HIGHLY recommend it. In this book he lays out everything from gear for the backcountry, nutrition and exercise, to how to get your animal off of the mountain and the mental fortitude that comes with this type of hunting. It is truly one of a kind.
This was an intimidating topic to say the least when I first started down this path. To me it is just as important as working out if not more important. I didn’t know anything about nutrition. For this reason, I did do the whole calorie counting thing for quite a while just so I could understand food better. No, it was not fun, but it definitely gave me knowledge that I didn’t have before and I would recommend doing so. In the past I just ate whatever I wanted and didn’t worry too much about it. I never knew what a proper portion of something was. Turns out, I was eating WAY more than I should have. Going into a “food coma” was a very common thing for me.
You don’t have to go on some insane diet and measure all of your food, although doing this might give you some valuable insight as it did me. You just have to eat like an adult. Stay away from things like fast food. This stuff is not only bad for you, but way more expensive than just going to the grocery store. You are wasting money AND putting those bad foods in your body. Saving money and putting better food in my body sounds like a way better plan to me. Don’t get me wrong, I would be kidding you if I said that I didn’t indulge in some comfort food every once and awhile, but it is just that. You want to eat well enough so that it isn’t a big deal if you do want to indulge. After all we are still human.
As long as you are physically able, there is no excuse for not getting to the gym in preparation for the mountains. You can make time to workout. You just have to prioritize. Instead of sitting on the couch and watching Netflix, get up and go for a jog or go to the gym. Heck, you could workout while watching Netflix for that matter! It is just about how bad you want it. How bad do you want to be successful out there? This is something that I had to come to terms with. Hunting is my #1 activity that I do, so it is very important to me. The only one that is stopping me from physically being ready is myself. Even if you can only workout for 20 minutes a day, that is better than nothing and will for sure aid you come hunting season.
Gym or Bust?
By no means am I saying that hunting is all about physical fitness. Just because you are fit, does not mean you are a good hunter. Many other skills are involved. For instance, if you are fit, you might be able to get to where those elk are, but that means nothing if you aren’t proficient with your weapon or you don’t know how to stalk an animal. The list goes on. On the same token, to underestimate the physical ability of the animals that we hunt does them a disservice and you not being ready to hunt them also does you a disservice. When I go hunting, I want to get as much out of it as I can and being out of shape severely dampens that. When is the last time that you saw an overweight mountain lion? They are lean, fast, and strong as heck. These things combined with their stealthiness and tracking abilities make them absolutely deadly. Let us learn from one of the most efficient predators in the mountains.