During the course of your hunting career, sooner or later, you’ll wake up and discover that you are not getting any younger. I personally didn’t figure that out until this past big-game season. I had knee issues during my first three days in the woods. I spoke with the doctor at the end of the season and he attributed this, IT band syndrome, to over training during the off-season. This spring I had to reinvent the wheel to keep my fitness level up for 2011.

After learning about my IT bands, I quickly realized that I needed to cut back on heavy, downhill, backpack training. My fix was simple: pack water jugs while making my ascent, pour them out once I got to the summit and then head back down a whole lot lighter. This way I’d get all the added benefits of the heavy weight on the way up, but save my knees, joints and hips on the way down.

Generally, I try and keep a minimum of 40 pounds of water inside my pack with an additional 25 pounds of gear, and as season gets closer and my training begins to increase I add weight accordingly, up to 100 pounds. This method has been working great so far and I seem to have a pretty good handle on my knee issues.