I watched a funny reel this week

In the post on Instagram, a pretty fit individual was poking fun at the level of intensity some will go to in their physical fitness to prepare for elk season. If you did not know better, you would think this guy was devaluing training to be ready for the mountain, but it highlighted extreme training; the kind that takes over one’s life and likely puts you closer to injury than a high level of outdoor performance. It is a fine line and the reality is, that different styles of hunting or types of hunts will demand different things from you. Here are a few thoughts to help you prepare for your fall hunts.

The difference between elk and whitetail

Aside from size, the difference between pursuing a whitetail in Missouri is much different than chasing an elk in Montana. The physical demands are also very different.

Most whitetail hunting on private land will be comprised of walking to a tree stand and pending your method of choice, shouldering a rifle or drawing back a bow. Both require different types of strength and conditioning, but the hardest part of whitetail hunting might be dragging a deer out of the woods. If you hunt public land, the level of physicality required is much higher.

Elk hunting is a performance event. It could require miles of hiking in some pretty gnarly country and when you do tag, the ability to pack out meat and antlers.

Both hunts require physicality but western-type hunts, including the pursuit of mule deer, typically demand more physical preparation.

A tale of two of two bears

Last month, two of our online personal training clients went on two very different types of bear hunts. Erin Merrill, founder of A Strong Cup of Coffee chased black bears in British Columbia while Bill G. of Maryland pursued grizzlies in Alaska. We knew Erin’s hunt would not be as physically demanding as Bill’s but we went in with the mindset to be over-prepared (when a guide says it will be an easy hunt, I suggest going ahead and getting as fit as possible.) Bill, on the other hand, faced 14-hour days in driving wind over an 18-day hunt in terrain where other hunters quit and went home.

Merrill knew she was ready when she drilled a 115-yard shot just moments after arriving at camp.

Both Bill and Erin trained hard and as we developed their plan, the premise was we weren’t just preparing for the hunt. We were preparing for the unexpected.

  • Would they have to hike longer than anticipated to find a bear?
  • Would they have to trail a bear after the shot?
  • Would weather turn or accidents happen that would turn a hunt into a survival situation?

Merrill, who harvested a giant black bear on her hunt stated, “This was a new method of bear hunting for me in terrain that was I was unfamiliar with. Knowing that I was physically ready to hike with a pack and rifle allowed me to just focus on the bears and the overall experience. If I had not trained, I would have struggled to keep  up with the guides and been miserable hauling that bear out of the woods.”

When asked if the two years of training had prepared Bill, a 60-year-old with two artificial knees to chase a grizzly, his reply was “Absolutely!” Bill was not able to keep up step-for-step with his 27-year-old guide but he had no issue climbing mountains where he could reach out with a bent elbow and touch the mountainside in front of him. To put it in context, Bill trained for two years, five days a week to have the physical abilities and mental edge for a grueling hunt. He did not regret the effort.

Is it wrong to go above and beyond?

As a personal trainer, coach, and outdoorsman, I don’t just train for turkey hunts, fishing, and chasing deer; I train for life and I train hard but within reason. I will never tell a client not to become the very best version of themselves but I will point out the following when red flags arise such as:

  • Training too many days in a row and not allowing the body to recover
  • Performing exercises that are dangerous or offer a low reward vs high risk (injury)
  • Pushing through pain or injury
  • Training at volumes that offer no additional benefit (law of diminishing returns)
  • Performing exercises they are not physically ready for (box jumps, weighted vests, etc)
Train hard but train smart!

To become an elite outdoor athlete, one has to train hard but no matter how hard you train, this process is multiyear; not multi-week. Maybe your goal is not to become elite but to simply be healthy enough to put in food plots, run the brush cutter, and fill a few tags with your bow vs. running up mountains searching for elk. If that is the case, we encourage you to train to the level of fitness required to do those things and possibly a little past that level for good measure but if you told us you wanted to do those things and be JACKED in your tee shirt, that is okay too.

We will both consult and encourage you to take your fitness and health as far as you want to go but we will always coach you to do it in a manner that is safe, effective, and produces high rewards vs. high risk of getting hurt.

Your personal strength and conditioning and the manner in which you achieve it is in the eye of the beholder. There are many ways to get and stay #FitToHunt.

If you would like a free consultation to go over your program our team would love to connect with you. As a growing provider to the outdoor industry, our goal is to help you achieve yours and it would be an honor to connect with you. Simply email us at info@stayfittohunt.com.

Thanks for reading and Stay #FitToHunt