By Dan Staton, MS, PES
Fitness and Archery Editor

I got the nod from Mike Deming (CEO Sportsman’s News) to have a little extra room for the January issue when New Year’s resolutions are prominent.  Instead of some cool workout ideas that you’ll never follow, I decided to soap box/guilt trip the average weekend warrior/hunter on the fact that we and our future generation of hunters are getting soft.  Hopefully, we can diverge from this downward spiral of softness.  So here goes.  Most of us work a 9-5 job, have a family and other responsibilities, but share a common thread of the passion for hunting.  I know this is true for me.  I work two jobs to make ends meat, so squandering time is not an option.  If I want a full freezer, I have to hunt hard when I get a chance.  So to set the stage, here are a few condescending statements that might apply to you if you’ve gone soft:

  • You can’t climb a mountain very fast with a pack on your back.
  • You spend more time at base camp then you’d like to admit.
  • You’ve never truly backpack hunted for several days in a row.
  • You’re afraid to hunt far from the road or from your truck or ATV.
  • You rely heavily on hunting ground that has easy access.
  • You hunt the same places every year.
  • You’re afraid to go after that bull because you are not fit enough to pack the meat back.
  • You’re stuck hiking in the mountains with the extra 20lb around your waist.
  • Your weapon collects dust for the majority of the year.

Did any of those statements apply to you?  I’ve been contributing to Sportsman’s News almost since its inception and for the past six years I’ve been pretty tame, only cheering you on to break a sweat in the name of better hunting.  In this issue I’ve decided to take on my real personality, one that hates excuses and is fed up with hunters and future hunters being soft.

It’s not just hunters who have gone soft, it’s our kids too.  Maybe the whole country has gone soft.  I’ll start with the kids; they’re lazy, out of shape, overweight and spend more time in font of a TV, iPad or video game then playing outside.  Physical education has gone by the wayside and technology has all of society less active than ever before.  These kids are the future generation, future hunters and future military and yet 80% of 5th-12th graders take physical education classes.  However, enrollment declines sharply, with 98% enrolled in 5th grade, but barely 50% in 12th grade.  What’s our future military going to look like in twenty years when we’re retired?  Are we going to be stuck with inferior military made up of diabetic, overweight eighteen-year-olds?

So we have a surplus of lazy and weak kids growing up in our country and now, more than ever, hunting is no longer cool or widely excepted.  We’ve gone soft when it comes to defending our heritage.  The majority of folks still think of hunting as a redneck sport and there’s a new crop of vegans today who don’t see a necessity for hunting.  Most people who do eat meat buy it from the store.  Very few have tasted true organic, non-immunized, non-processed wild game from Nature’s pantry.  Folks who always buy store bought meat probably are too soft to do their own killing and meat care.

Bob Costas of NBC slammed the 2nd amendment during a Sunday night football game on national television.  There are other things that bother me like our country not wanting God being brought up in our schools, kids getting to learn about the legalization of same sex marriage and it’s no longer kosher to wish each other a Merry Christmas, instead it’s Happy Holidays.  My rant stems from my theory that we are just getting lazier and our modern conveniences cultivate a lack of acceptance of our hunting heritage.  I will not stand back and let our society ignore where we came from, nor our country’s guiding principles written over 200 years ago as our supreme law.  The hunters of today know that hunting is in our DNA, yet are infected with a lack discipline.  In the large scope of mankind, hunting has always been a way of life.  You kill, you eat.  You can’t grow plants year round, so this whole anti-hunting, vegetable eating movement has set me sideways.  I want hunting to be viewed for what it is; hard and natural.  Let me tell you why hunting is hard, that is real hunting on public ground without the aid of a private ranch or high fence.

If you have been blessed enough to kiss the Rocky Mountains, then you know the challenges that await you every fall.  Big game hunting was never meant to be easy, but that’s part of the allure.  Let’s talk elk for moment.  The bones of an elk weigh over a 100 pounds and make up the foundation this mountain athlete and survival specialist.  A mere man has a bone structure tipping the scales at or around 30 pounds.  A mature bull has a heart that weighs in at 10 lbs that pumps enriched blood to a network of dense muscle that enables it to maneuver rough and unforgiving country.  Man has a heart that weighs less than a pound and in most cases, will be taxed as soon as he steps on the uneven ground the elk call home.  In fact, most studies show an elk’s average heart rate to be in the ball park of 50 beats per minute, while most of us only dip that low while sleeping.

Elk own us when it comes to humping the hills, four legs to our two is comparable to a 4×4 truck versus a Toyota Prius.  There is not a whole lot of data on a bull’s lung capacity, but I did find that the average lung volume is somewhere around 23 liters compared to the average man’s six liters.  Elk have more working muscle to support, but my math shows their lung capacity is greater than ours pound for pound.  Big deal, elk are built for the mountains.  Well they also have us on vision and the olfactory.  Each eye of an elk can rotate independently and their wide-angle lens squashes our view. The elk’s nose has several hundred million receptor sites compared to our paltry five million.   The elk that I hunt also have numerous adversaries besides me, including black bears, grizzlies, cougars and now wolves.  So with all these comparisons, it is safe to say that hunting big game like elk, is not an easy chore.

We humans are the only species that don’t sleep or wake when we are supposed to.  We eat what we know is not good for us.  The human species is currently physically lazy and mentally bored.  Our species outlook is not very promising in my opinion.  One reason for our growing waistlines is that the hunt has become too easy.  We don’t even have to get out of our cars to inhale 2,000 calories of fast food.  Convenience is killing us. Eating only one meal away from home per week leads to an extra two pounds per year on average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture research. Americans eat more than half of their meals outside of their homes, so it adds up quickly.  The culprit is that we know what we need to do, and we just don’t do it.  We’re soft!  Our knowledge does not seem to change our behavior.  We lack discipline and the ability to live with delayed gratification.  We fail to teach our kids patience and control.  More than a third of children and adolescents in the U.S. are overweight or obese — that rate has more than tripled in the past 30 years.  We know how to fix the problem—we just need to make it a priority.

When you’re busy, the first things to go are sleep, diet and exercise. You would never give up Facebook or your smart phone, so I believe the first step is to set a sleep schedule and stick to it.  Next, cook healthy meals for the entire week so you have healthy options for a busy schedule.  Write down a short term fitness goal to work hard at, all the while telling everyone about it so you cannot let them down.   A couple hours of working out a week and simply putting the right food down the hatch is what will keep us vibrant, strong and not soft. You can win the day by waking up 20 minutes earlier for a workout, pump out some push-ups during commercials or take the stairs over the elevator.  The little things add up, especially nutrition.  What we eat determines how we feel and how many unwanted pounds we might have to lug around in the mountains.  Look at the side bar for your hierarchy of food types.

In closing, thank you for allowing me to rant about our current state of softness.  If it were not true, I would not be so passionate about our hunting heritage and future.  Our children need role models for hunting and fitness.  Don’t let our future generations of hunters go soft.  Lead by example and make 2013 your year.