Marathons are a great way to stay ready for hunting season. All photo credits: Linzy Ballard
Application season is here! This is the time of year we focus on what states to apply for, what tags can be drawn or purchased and wait patiently for the fall to roll around.
If you are like me then you aren’t very patient and don’t want to wait for fall to roll around to enjoy doing what you love to do. This is why now is the best time to prepare and train for those fall hunts — or the spring hunts you may have coming up soon. This is the time to find your gear, try the foods you plan to hunt with and make sure that your physical capabilities won’t hold you back come fall. There is no such thing as the offseason!
There are many benefits that come from staying active year-round and not just during hunting season. Your quality of health will improve drastically as you maintain fitness levels. This can lead to decreases in chronic diseases as well as a lower probability of injuries in the field. Training leads to better moods and, depending on the program, certain adaptations in your body. Training during the winter and spring gives your body enough time to adapt and be ready for the abuse you will put it through in the fall. If you want your hunting season to be successful, this is not something you should put off until the last minute. Our bodies need time to adapt and comply what we are asking them to do! If you are burning your points this year or going on that dream hunt, you want your body to keep up with the demands that come with hunting.
There is no one-size-fits-all program to get in shape. I would suggest finding activities or a program that you enjoy and that motivates you. Some of the programs or activities you can get involved in include running, CrossFit, HIGH Fitness, shed hunting, TAC archery shoots, strength training, pre-season scouting, tuning in your bow, etc. There are countless ways to get in shape or maintain levels of fitness. Personally, I love to run. Running allows me to sign up for races and keep my motivation high because I am working towards something in the immediate future.
I would encourage you to find some sort of activity that allows you to stay motivated because the fall season is so far off that we often forget what we are working towards. For example, this year I am working towards a mountain marathon that is above 10,000’ in elevation. I am training at high elevations, going on long runs/hikes and also incorporating some strength training to keep me in shape for pack-outs. Soon, I’ll be able to add shed hunting as part of my training regime. This is a fun addition to whatever type of training you're doing because it requires you to hike several miles a day while carrying a pack and — if you’re lucky — add weight as you go. I will also be getting my bow dialed in this spring and shooting it frequently to improve my form and become stronger. Many of you train year-round, so you should keep doing what you are doing and, if need to change up the program, do it so that you continue to stay motivated.
Another reason this time of year is not the offseason is because this is the time to start prepping the foods and gear you need in the fall. The time to try new gear and foods is not while you are on your hunt. This can make for a terrible experience. The last thing you want is to get sick on your hunt and have it keep you from success or have your sleeping pad lose all of its air and end up sleeping on the ground for a week. The best time to experiment with supplements and different foods is now. Seeing how your body reacts to dehydrated meals, drinks and/or supplements now will save you time and worry in the future. During this time, I also like to test new gear like running shoes/boots, packs, apparel, sleeping equipment, etc.
Some of the nutritional items I am going to be trying this year are the Wilderness Athlete Hydrate & Recover, G2G Protein Bars as well as my own dehydrated meals that I prepare. Gear-wise, it is hard to try something new when you have found what works for you. I personally love running in Altras and have for years. I have tried several other brands, but Altra seems to be the best for trail running, road running and the long races that I do. Be sure to check out this recent article by Zach on Altra shoes. Your shoe preference will vary depending on your activity and cushion preference. I also enjoy La Sportiva boots because, as a woman, I have narrow feet and they are super stiff. I have used the women's Trango Tech model to shed hunt and hike in for years now and will continue to. The pack I will use for training when carrying weights or shed hunting is my women’s Mystery Ranch Metcalf. It fits my body shape well and allows me to carry weight without pinching me uncomfortably as other packs have in the past. Our bodies are all built differently, so make sure you find the training, nutrition and gear that will work best for you.
However you choose to prepare for this fall season, go all in. Not only will training benefit your hunting season., but it will also improve your overall quality of life. Now is the time to test out gear and see if it can withstand your demands. It is also the time to find the foods that best fuel your body and give you the energy you need to tackle your fall hunting season. Maintaining fitness year-round not only prepares us for this coming fall, but allows us to pursue our hunting lifestyle for many years to come. Put the time in now so that someday you can share those special hunting moments with your kids and grandkids.