“How much do I have to run in order to be in shape for a backcountry hunt?”
That’s a million dollar question that is very difficult to answer. I often think back to my first Idaho bear hunt that I went on right off the Salmon River. It was beautiful country in roughly 4k feet elevation. It certainly isn’t anything crazy when you think about the elevation so I didn’t train as much as I really could have for the hunt. Our first day was amazing with a jet propelled boat ride on a what were Rapids. Only 2 people in the state had access to drive boats on there due to being certified coast guards. That should explain the rough waters.
As the first day of hunting came, I was paired with a buddy of mine and a couple of guides. We ended up splitting up and hitting some really steep mountain country as we hiked up for 2 hours to get to some bear baits. I was watching my buddy and the guide haul some serious ass as I was slowly falling behind and feeling my heart beat out of my chest. While I was somewhat in shape, I told myself I would never feel like that again. The sheer embarrassment alone was enough but the feeling of being incapable of keeping up was absolutely demoralizing because I’m someone that doesn’t fail at anything. I like to be the best and I promised myself I’m going to never take things forgranted anymore, especially when it comes to health. I can say I haven’t felt like that ever again due to a specific training regimen.
Here are some simple things that you can do to make an impact on your next backcountry hunt. Plan on training for 4+ months.
1. Strength train your legs and core a couple times a week. Squats and deadlifts are the most vital to hit your quads, hamstrings and core.
2. Running is a great option to get your heart rate up and increase your cardiovascular endurance. I personally hit the treadmill 2 to 3x per week for at least 30 minutes. I’d truly prefer an hour of possible as I get ramped up for a months timeperiod.
3. Stairmasters are amazing to emulate the mountain aspect. I do this a couple times a week for 30 minutes. I think this is a key component to make your body feel better adapted to what you are about to be doing for days on end as well as miles after miles of hiking.
4. Get a weight vest. Put 20 to 25lbs of weight into this weight vest and start using this after your first month of workouts on the stairmaster and with squats/deadlifts to increase your weight as if this was your backpack. Do not run with it. The pressure on your lower back would be brutal but you can put yourself on a steep incline on the treadmill and make that switch.
5. Eat clean. Food is your most vital source. You have to eat good fats with good protein and get rid of the bad carbs. Drop the wheat, gluten, donuts, ice cream, etc. Increase your fiber and veggies and you will feel like a million bucks.
One thing I want you to consider as your training for your expedition. If you are hunting and you harvest an animal, you are going to be packing this animal out and will likely have 50-70lbs of meat on your back for miles. You need to be able to feel good about that so this is truly where your strength training comes into play. You might feel great throughout your whole hunt but if you have to go up 2,000 vertical feet to get to your animal and then go back down only to have to return for another packout, you are going to be in rough shape without being “in shape.”
Think about this before you embark on your next journey and put the time into the gym for yourself to know you can get the job done well.
Until next time,
Scout, Hunt, Repeat