Easing your rifle over a rock, you are about to make that perfect shot on the ram of your dreams. Although this moment may be half a year away, now is the time to be preparing to make it happen.
Backpack hunting is a physical sport, and being physically fit and mentally prepared can make the difference between a miserable camping trip and a successful hunt to remember for a lifetime. Beyond simply jogging, or walking with a pack, here is how I get ready for my hunting season:
Sometimes weightlifting and other strength training exercises are overlooked when thinking about backpack hunting. However, I consider this type of exercise extremely important. It strengthens your tendons, ligaments, muscles and helps prevent injury. If you are doing it right, backcountry hunting will push you beyond what you thought your limits were and any areas of weakness will become apparent quickly.
Strengthening your lower body with exercises such as leg press, squats, and lunges are excellent ways to help prepare your legs for the mountains. Cycling your workouts in 3-week segments between strength (high weight, low reps), muscle building/endurance (medium weight, high reps), and recovery (low weight-high reps) will give you strength, keep you from getting injured, and even increase your cardiovascular fitness.
Upper body strength is just as important as lower body strength for backcountry hunting. Exercises like bench press, dumbbell presses (incline and vertical), rows, curls and tricep extensions are what I focus on. Carrying a heavy pack across rough terrain is a whole body workout. Heavy packs are just as hard on the shoulders and back as they are on the legs!
Any exercise is better than nothing, but weight training is something that should not be overlooked. In fact, this past year I did very little cardio for 4 months before I went on a solo sheep hunt, but focused on weight training. I came out with a ram and my camp in one load (about 130 pounds), and had no problem packing it the 17 miles back to the airstrip.
A marathon runner with excellent cardio, but little strength training would have struggled to say the least. With all of the money and effort invested into something like a sheep hunt, you don’t want to find yourself unable to climb that last ridge to get a shot at a ram, or even worse, to not be able to pack him out.
What are some of your favorite exercises and routines for getting in “mountain shape?” Let us know in the comments section, as there are always new things to learn and ways to improve!