Physical Preparation For Elk

Posted by: Dan Staton on Sep 3, 2013

The days are winding down to the opener, banked vacation hours sit on the shelf, and you're doing your best to stay focused on last minute provisions.  Your new gear has been tested, your scouting trips completed, and all your cameras await you with memory cards swollen with intelligence.  Your bow is super tuned, strings have settled, and your broadheads fly the same as your field points.  Your confidence is strong, you know that separation is in the preparation, but deep down you're aware that there's a missing component.

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While a lot of bowhunters focus on shooting prep, a good number neglect the most important piece of hunting equipment they own.

So, physical preparation took a backseat again, let me ask you this… Can you possibly hang a set of tree stands without breaking a sweat?  Drag a buck back to the truck by yourself?  How about keep up with an elk herd without being completely gassed?  Bowhunting is the most physical form of hunting. The aforementioned situations are just around the corner and conditioning was overlooked.  Listen, you have a narrow window of time to make this year different than the last.  Step up your game and invest in the most valued piece of equipment you own  you! 

If you have one week or a 10-day window to hunt, especially out West, remember there are no elevators.  Animals live where elevation and topography can shield them from human disturbance. Are you conditioned enough to hunt the back half of your trip as hard as you will hunt the first?  Most of the big game animals that succumb to my arrow outwitted me for most of the hunt, making the harvest somewhat of a buzzer beater.  If you're not ready to hunt “all out” each day why even take a full week off from work only to sleep in, or half-heartedly hunt the back half?  I know that conditioning has little to do with hunting whitetails, but we can agree it can’t hurt. 

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There is no denying that bowhunters need to be in top physical shape to keep up with wary animals that thrive in tough terrain.

We as predators do not hunt prey that is overweight and out of shape.  Animals thrive in the wild while you and live in a concrete jungle.  Elk and mountain deer travel miles to their food source, you pull up in a drive-thru. My point is that every extra pound you gained is one you have to lug around with you while you hunt.  So make yourself a deadly predator by training now, or stay back at camp burning precious hunting time and cooking me dinner.  Just a little sacrifice now can greatly tip the odds in your favor.  Here's how to get it done.

No Nonsense Intervals
Any conditioning is better than nothing right?  Sure, but let me push you in the right direction.  You are going to do aerobic workouts and interval workouts.  Intervals are short efforts at max effort lasting less than a minute, and aerobic efforts are low intensity lasting several minutes. Less intense and longer cardio bouts benefit endurance, but there’s a catch – a preponderance of aerobic training will foster a decreases in muscle mass, strength, speed, and power.  Aerobic activity has a pronounced tendency to decrease anaerobic capacity and can stir up some overuse injuries in a hurry (IE tendonitis in the knees and hips).  This does not bode well for those interested in being ready for what the outdoors throws at you.  Interval activity is unique in that it provides dividends for endurance, speed, power, stamina, strength, and melts body fat!  In fact, interval exercise is superior to aerobic exercise for fat loss.  With that being said, here's how to do intervals specific to backpack bowhunting.

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In order to make workouts more realistic you should wear the same gear you plan to hunt with.

Tabata Intervals
Put your 30-40lb pack on, find a trail with elevation, and employ this workout:
Tabata = 20 seconds of work at 100% effort followed by only 10 seconds of rest. 
1 round of Tabata is 8 sets. 
Rest 2 minutes between each set.
Perform 5 sets.
Total Duration = 24 minutes

Load your hunting pack, synch it down tight and hit the trail, hill, or mountain.  You need a stopwatch and water.  20 seconds of hard hiking will feel an eternity, and the 10 second rest will feel like 1 second.  If you have an area that will allow, set up a target to shoot a group of arrows on your 2 minute rest periods  this will get you ready and simulate perfect practice.  Mother Nature does not discriminate; she’ll treat you the same whether you’re old or young, fit or out of shape.  Don’t fall in the trap of just aerobic training for your hunt. Instead, mix the intervals in to get the cardiovascular dividend of endurance work without loss of strength, speed, and power.

Be forewarned, interval training is extremely challenging and will test your whit, resolve, and mental toughness.  Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, make yourself a better predator in just a few shorts weeks by last minute interval training. The key to developing the endurance and stamina without an unacceptable loss of strength, speed, and power is interval training. Intervals do not take much time, give you more bang for your buck, and skirt the wear and tear factor on your joints.

Editor’s Note: Dan Staton is an accomplished big-game bowhunter with a master’s degree in exercise physiology and is a strength and conditioning coach at CrossFit Spokane Valley.

Dan Staton

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1 Comment on "Physical Preparation For Elk"

Re: Physical Preparation For Elk #
I got tired just reading this article...doesn't bode well for me, eh?
Posted by Mookman on 9/10/2013 7:38:07 PM

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