The best part of this process means you are hunting

It’s September which hopefully means you are in a tree stand or atop a mountain looking to fill freezers and earn some hardware for the wall. You have put a tremendous amount of effort into preparing for your hunts and it is go time! As you sit in your stand or ponder the day at base camp over a cup of coffee, it is time to assess your performance in real-time to identify areas that can be improved for the future. And the best part is you get to take the test while hunting!

Blending it all together

Sam Roberts is a mountain of a man. It feels like there isn’t a weight he hasn’t met that he couldn’t lift but at the Beastmode Archery Challenge BMAC games this past June, Sam realized lifting weights might not be enough to tackle the mountain. After the first leg of the three-part event, Sam took off his pack and said, “Deadlifts do not translate to this!” Does that mean he should quit doing deadlifts and focus on other exercise modalities? Absolutely not but for an event like Beastmode that will challenge all aspects of fitness and provide a baseline for backcountry performance, more has to go into the equation besides heavy deadlifts.

Hunting in general demands a unique set of physical attributes such as:

Big Sam had a crew of BMAC competitors help cheer him up the mountain
  • Aerobic conditioning (recovery and utilization of body fat for fuel)
  • Muscular strength (the stronger you are the more force you generate with each step =  energy conservation)
  • Muscular endurance (you will be covering a lot of ground)
  • Speed and agility (terrain is uneven and slippery)
  • Join stability (no one wants to sprain an ankle in the backcountry)

Developing a workout program that not only addresses these necessities and progresses you accordingly is key to your success. We only have so much time and energy to go around so a program that works in phases and has you ready for opening day is something you should consider.

Sam finished the BMAC games which concluded with a 1.75 mile, 80-pound pack out and as he crossed the finished line, you could tell he was already thinking about next year. Roberts stated, “The BMAC games were by far the most physically grueling thing I have ever done in my life and I can not wait till next year! I’ll be back and better!

In-Field Assessment

Have you seen the meme that says nothing will let you know you are out of shape like dragging a deer out of the woods?  Whether dragging a whitetail or packing out an elk, that statement is fact! Other considerations are your ability to cover ground, drawing your bow effortlessly, core and shoulder stability, and mental focus. Being out of shape or not at the level to meet these demands can demoralize you in the field. Now is the time to assess as you perform.  Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where are my energy leaks?
  2. How fast am I recovering after climbing that ridge?
  3. Am I able to hunt multiple days in a row or is it a one-and-done?
  4. If successful, was I able to pack out my harvest with a relative degree of ease?

The phrase “it is what it is” rings true because in the field, there is not anything you can do about your conditioning in the moment but you can be taking mental notes. We are constantly asking out clients how they are performing on the range, in the gym, and during their rucks. As you pursue your quarry this fall, pay attention to how you can make your training even better for the next season.

In-Season Training

My hunting season in the Midwest is way different than western type hunts. Elk and mule deer hunters may train for a series of hunts five to seven days at a time. I’ll chase deer and ducks from September through February and during that time frame, my workouts are very different than the ones I perform from March through August. I call this in-season training because just like a football player, I am playing my game; not training for it.

Athletes still train during the season but their volume and frequency go way down. The goal is to maintain their strength and conditioning for as long as their playing season lasts and it is pretty simple. I want you to build in two total body strength sessions per week that have a total of 20 to 25 sets that focus on major muscle groups and basic movement patterns (push, pull, squat, hinge, core). If you want to add some hurricane circuits for extra conditioning at the end, knock yourself out but the goal is to maintain your baseline conditioning until the season is over and you can get back into your off-season program. This means you aren’t starting from a deficit and can continue a linear rise to exceed fitness levels from the prior year.

I love reading about the mindset and training of Navy SEALS because they are constantly assessing their training and performance. I don’t think you need to train to their levels but the processes they employ regarding their performance and how to get better is something we should all emulate. Use the upcoming season to assess your performance and develop an even better if scenario for your training!

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