May 2, 2012, 1:01 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
It’s that time of year. We’re in the middle of turkey season, and I’m already dreaming of the hunts coming up this fall, but then again, I live most of my days dreaming of the hunts coming up this fall. In just a few short months, it will be time to pull on the chest waders. In the darkest hour before dawn, I’ll wade off into thigh-deep sucking mud with a sack of a couple dozen decoys on one shoulder, shotgun and blind bag on the other. When the water’s deep enough, the dog and I will ride in the kayak, but most of the time, I’ll pull it behind me, too. Now that’s living!
I start to sweat and breath hard just thinking about it. Question is … is it the thought of the exertion or the excitement of “being there” causing my palpitations? I guess we’ll never know! But what I do know is that if I’m going to enjoy those mornings in the slough, I’ve got to be in shape to do it.
With Tax Day in the rearview mirror, it’s high time to get back to the gym and in shape for the hunting trips ahead. As I approach 50, some health issues intervened and demanded I climbed back on the treadmill, elliptical glider and weight machines a couple months early this year. So far I’m down 16 pounds and most of my pants need suspenders. That’s all a good thing.
I used to think all that stuff about getting a check up before you start a work out program was for “old guys.” Well, I are one of them now, and the check ups I had revealed some important considerations – nothing specifically life-threatening, but good things to know. So now, I’m a big advocate of an annual checkups, eating right, and staying in some kind of decent shape.
Once you get the thumbs up from your Doc, think about the physical effort that will required in the hunts you have planned this fall. If you’ll be hunting anything with “mountain” in its name like caribou, goats, or sheep, then what you need to work on is a no brainer. You should certainly throw elk and mule deer into that mix, too.
Primarily work on your legs and your lungs. Once you’re feeling reasonably good after a brisk walk (almost jog) of 3 miles with the treadmill incline set on at least 7 or 8, add in the pack you plan to carry on the trip. Empty is okay at first, but before you leave for the trip you need to work up to carrying the weight you expect to carry on the mountain for that same 3 mile brisk walk. Then start working on the dreaded StairMaster, pack and all.
When I hunted Dall’s Sheep in Alaska in 2009, I was in the best shape I had been in for years. I dropped nearly 40 pounds prior to the hunt and another 10 while on the mountain. Aerobically and in muscle tone, I was about as ready as a 47-year-old flatlander can be. What I wasn’t prepared for was the constant loose and uneven footing. Essentially we were boulder-hopping with as much as 90 pounds on our backs for 10 straight days.
Since that hunt, I’ve given a lot of thought to how to prepare for that terrain. With a mountain goat hunt planned for early October, I’ve given it a lot more thought recently. Yet, I’ve not come up with any revolutionary. So I’m asking you for your help. Please leave comments to this blog if you’ve learned how to train for the terrain on mountain hunts … short of moving to the mountains, which just isn’t in the plan for me … yet!
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