While a good deal of mid-western bowhunters are engaged in shed hunting or contemplating next year’s food plot design, I’m spending the off-season in a different way. You see, for the “Mountain” bowhunter you either get stronger…..or you get left behind.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the Midwestern way of bowhunting whitetails. However, contrary to popular belief there are those of us that actually chase whitetails in mountainous terrain. And with that different type of terrain there are a different set of rules to live by and a different set of obstacles to overcome. Therefore, the off-season (if there is such a thing) usually begins with physical preparation. However, don’t kid yourself because there are so many more things to consider.
While many bowhunters spend the off-season in seclusion or engaged in “low-impact” activities, the Mountain bowhunter must keep moving forward or fall behind.
By the time January rolls around you realize just how much fun you’ve had over the holidays. And, while I do my best to eat healthy (clean) year round, I am after all…only human. This typically equates to a few extra pounds of adipose tissue (fat) sitting firmly on my gut by New Year’s Day. However, 2012 was different. Just 2 weeks before opening day of bow season I suffered a devastating knee injury that almost ruined my entire year. Although I managed to fill my tags, I failed to train at all for a solid 3 months (other than shooting). Needless to say there were more calories going in than there were going out….which equated to more lbs. finding its way to my mid-section.
A lot of guys think of upper-body when considering workout routines; and that’s fine. However, for Mountain terrain remember “the legs feed the wolf”.
Fast forward to the present day; my knee is operating at about 75% and I am finally training on a daily basis. Why train this hard, this time of the year, when bow season is so far off? It’s simple really….”Mountain” Bowhunting isn’t easy and sitting around feeling sorry for oneself doesn’t make it any easier. In addition, to be consistently successful on mature mountain bucks you have to go further and harder than the next guy. Otherwise, you will take the easy route which leads to mostly yearling deer or unfilled tags at best. Not that tagging small bucks is a crime, but I enjoy the challenge of trying to kill older, wiser bucks. I enjoy the “chess match” as much as the final outcome and lazy just doesn’t fit into the overall procedure of things. Embrace the Grind, Reap the Reward is my mantra.
The Road Less Traveled
To put it plainly, you’ve got to be in good physical condition to be successful in the mountains; there are no shortcuts. Daily workouts include a.m. cardio sessions and p.m. weight training sessions. Of course none of that really does much good if I’m constantly trying to fuel my body with junk food. Quality protein and low GI carbs are the norm. Yes, it’s a sacrifice when everyone around me is enjoying everything at their fingertips. But, the results are well worth it. They hang on my wall, linger in my mind, and adorn my screensaver from time to time.
“Mountain” bowhunting (and training for that type of environment) places certain demands on a hunter. Be sure to refuel your body with quality supplements.
In all honesty, I believe that had I not been in the shape I was in when I injured my knee in September I probably wouldn’t have had enough “gas in the tank” or sustained enough leg muscle to push through the pain of traversing the mountains for the short time span that I did. You see, by the time I was able to actually climb a set of tree steps my right leg was considerably smaller than my left. Luckily, I had built a strong foundation prior to the injury and done my post-season scouting the right way. The result….I tagged out on day 3 (thank you God) with a fine WV buck. If not for physical preparation, and answered prayers, who knows what my year would have turned out like.
Like everything else associated with bowhunting in the mountains the equipment I use has to be painstakingly thought out. Because, unlike other settings, the mountains will make you pay for an honest mistake; like choosing a slightly more comfortable (heavier) treestand over a lighter one, or wearing clothing or boots that are a little more cumbersome or heavy because they provide a little more warmth. Sometimes you have to know where to cut corners and what features are really going to matter in the mountains. By now you can probably see that most mountain equipment needs to be lightweight and mobile…kind of like yourself (see Celebration above). Otherwise it quickly becomes a liability.
Light, fast, agile and mobile. Everything you take in the mountains should fit this description. Even the accessories that adorn my bow are chosen specifically for the mountains. After all, it is rare that I see a buck from a long distance away, let alone loose an arrow at an extended shot range. Oh, there have been the occasional ones that were considered “out there”; but not many. My bow rig reflects that. Maybe yours should too.
If I listened to popular media and popular tactics my trophy wall would be pretty vacant. Mountain bowhunting requires stepping outside the box in order to find success.
The Other Half
So where am I going with all of this? What is the purpose of my ramblings? Well to put it simple, so much emphasis is placed on hunting in the Midwest that the other half, the “Mountain Men”, really have nowhere to turn for answers or advice on their unique way of bowhunting. I’m going to change that. I’m going to be your resource. I’m going to share with you, the readers of Bowhunting.com, what I have learned over the last 25 years chasing Mountain Whitetails.
In the weeks and months ahead I plan to delve deeper into topics that matter to Mountain Bowhunters. Topics like post-season scouting (in the mountains), gear that will make or break your next hunt, accessories you don’t really need (and those you do), telling the wind to “shove it” and much, much more. Just be sure to tune in because there is a lot to cover. Until next time…..Embrace the Grind, Reap the Reward.