By Dan Staton, MS, PES
Fitness & Archery Editor
Late winter making you appear to be in your third-trimester? Does your couch have a dent from your rear being parked for hours in front of the tube? Here’s the issue; Getting older and loving to hunt has some real pain in the ass irony. As hunters get to the age where they can finally afford the really good hunts, they are often too out of shape to go on them. You don’t want to be in this predicament, so listen up. You still have a chance, that’s right, it’s not too late. Start the ball rolling with this 3-prong attack:
1. Be realistic. If you’re past your prime and work at a desk, it’s not the greatest idea to book a physically demanding hunt. If you’re stubborn like me, you can pull it off, but make sure you have 3-6 months to prepare, depending on how out of shape you are. Even if you’re only hunting locally, you might end up huffing and puffing your way back to the truck. The worst part of going on a hunt when you’re out of shape is the humiliation you may suffer. You may be left back at base camp to hang with the cook or worst yet, become the designated cook. I really don’t care for guided hunts, but the few I’ve been on left me scratching my head at many middle-aged guys that spent good money on the hunt, only to be limited to where they hunted and how they got there.
2. Dr. CrossFit. Go see a doctor to find out how your ticker is doing. The doc will give you a stress test, which means you walk on a treadmill with a bunch of electrodes strapped to you. Keep in mind that stress tests are not a 100% guarantee that your heart is good to go, but short of cutting your chest open to take a gander, it’s the best thing we’ve got. Second, lose weight. Seriously, lose all the weight you possibly can. If you can get to the point where people don’t recognize you, you’ve done well. No one wants to lug around a spare tire plus their day-pack up and down mountains. An extra 20 lb. can literally weigh you down during the hunt and handicap your experience. To lose weight the right way you have to start breaking a sweat daily. Exercise, but do not depend on just jogging alone. Running will get your heart and lungs in superb shape, but can quickly wear down your feet, knees, hips and lower back. Alternatively, ride a bike or climb stadium stairs. This is not only low impact, but because of the leg lifting and pushing involved, will actually do a much better job of conditioning you for hunting than will jogging. Lastly, I recommend joining a CrossFit gym. That way, you can sweat while being taught how to move correctly and be insured that you’ll never do the same workout twice. You won’t get bored, that I guarantee. There’s over 5,000 CrossFit gyms in the world and I personally have not found a better way to cross-train for hunting. Variety is key and with CrossFit you simply just show up and do the workout of the day. As long as you are not in charge of your program, you will be forced to address individual weaknesses and you get to do it in a group environment. Misery loves company!
3. Talk to the Guide. You and your guide need to have a heart-to-heart (pun intended) talk when you arrive. Remind him that dead men pay very poor tips. If you’re hunting with friends or by yourself, don’t put yourself in a situation where you will tempt the reaper. If you kill a big game animal, gut it, leave it and get help packing it out. The dead critter will wait for you. And don’t load yourself down with equipment because you’ll suffer for every ounce you carry. Invest in quality gear that’s lighter and more durable. Just a few pounds less in your pack can make a difference in the last days of your extended hunt. When it comes to setting a pace, you can’t be expected to run up mountains, so you are going to have to climb those mountains steadily or else go home empty-handed. A hunter who has to stop and gasp for breath every few minutes will get no sympathy from anyone.
As you read this it is late winter. All over this great land, middle-aged pot-belly hunters are enjoying the good life, demolishing six-packs and putting away massive calories from fast food. If you can start training now, you just might pull off the unthinkable and show up to hunting camp a fitter and healthier you. Kill yourself now so you don’t kill yourself in the mountains. Leave the hibernating to the bears and get moving today.