Pre-Season Prep: Train for the Hunt
By Steven and Jess Laughter | Way Up West Outdoors
At our house, preparation for hunting season takes place year-round in just about every aspect from fitness to dialing in gear. Tags in our pockets and boots on the ground in the fall is something we dream about during the off months – hunting season is so short, and time in the woods is precious. The last thing we want to have happen is to be unprepared for a hunt whether it be a general OTC rifle deer tag or the Mack Daddy of draw tags.
Now, we may be a little on the extreme side as far as fitness goes but there is a method to our madness.
In years past, fitness for hunting was sort of – looked down upon in our lovely social media world. But now, it seems to be at its height with well-known icons in the industry literally naming their pages with some kind of fitness word in it, ie – Elkshape, Huntlete, Wilderness Athlete etc.
For us, we are pro fitness for hunting. More fit = suck less on the mountain.
Early on in Steven’s hunting experiences he failed on a Mule Deer hunt because of the lack of physical fitness. From that point on he decided he would never be unsuccessful on a hunt with something that he can control. Steven’s passion for fitness and specifically fitness centered around being better in the mountains sparked and he hasn’t looked back.
Prepping for hunting season year-round can be a little on the overwhelming side so I will give a little break down and main focus points by season:
It has been a long winter in SE Idaho and the snow is finally starting to melt. We’ve spent all winter chasing gains in the gym that we lost during hunting season last fall, and all our new gear we ordered over the winter is just waiting to be tested. For some reason, the first hike in the spring always seems to be a little bit of a wake up call. Although we’ve both been hitting CrossFit hard all winter and staying in good shape – nothing gets you in hiking shape like actually hiking.
Throughout the spring season we get out as much as we can in search of sheds, sunshine, and to burn boot rubber. Three to four days in a row of shed hunting with 10-15 miles a day is a regular thing for us. With an annual June bear hunt around the corner, we utilize shed season to get our hiking legs back underneath us and to dial in gear – are the gaiters you ordered going to work like you thought? What about the new boots or insoles? This is a good time of year to work out kinks in your gear lineup.
Summer kicks us into an annual June bear hunt that will just tide us over until fall. All the spring hiking we’ve done since March pays off. Wearing a pack for days while stomping in the miles doesn’t seem to be as hard at this point in the year.
While we continue to CrossFit and hit cardio at Gold’s Gym regularly the workout routines start to change. We direct more attention to leg heavy workouts like pushing/pulling a sled, weighted lunges, variations of box movements, and a lot of squats. Not only do our workouts shift to hammering our legs regularly but they also get a lot longer in duration. We go from more of the classic HIIT style CrossFit workouts to what we call “long grinders” where we workout for upwards of an hour to really focus on endurance training.
After all the hard work during the spring with hiking we don’t want it to go to waste – this is when the weighted pack hiking begins at least once a week. With Kifaru being such a modular pack company there are several ways to utilize any bag or different accessories like a Grab-It or Compression Strap kit to help make it easier. For us, we like to keep our set up as close to how we pack meat as possible – we use the load shelf between the bag and frame with our bags compressed tightly overtop. We’ve found something simple like a bag of gravel from Home Depot reinforced and wrapped in Duct Tape weighing anywhere from 35-80lbs is a great thing to have for this.
Our favorite time of year – FALL. This is where all the hard work from months of prep is truly put to the test. Not only should you be in peak physical condition and ready to hike for days on end – your mind should be sharp as well. As you worked day in and day out since the end of last hunting season it’s not just your leg muscles that grew, that little muscle between your ears got stronger too. On days you didn’t want to work out or take your pack for a hike, those were the days that brain needed it most. Hunting is just as much a physical grind as it is a mental one.
Hunting season only rolls around once a year for a couple months – for most of us. We make the most of these few short months, which can include really burnin’ the midnight oil. Leaving for hunting camp in the evening after work to get there late but ensuring you have a morning hunt. And on the other end, driving through the night to come back home to go to work the next day. You have to want it because I guarantee you, an elk isn’t going to just fall into your lap. So, spark a fire under yourself, set goals, and accomplish them. Put all the grinding in gym, hiking with your pack, and gear testing for the last three seasons to work.
Snow is flying, hunts are over, you’ve lost all your gym gains, but your freezer is full! Wild game that you worked hard for will fuel you for the next 9 or so months to come. Winter is the time when we get back to focusing on rebuilding and bulking back up after months of hiking. Sure, we hit CrossFit a little bit during hunting season, but it wasn’t our focus. Nothing like that first WOD after hunting season to really knock you into the dirt.
Aside from our winter spent in a gym it’s also a time to assess gear – what worked, what didn’t, what you loved, what you didn’t, and what you lost on a mountain side somewhere. Reorganizing our gear room is always a sure sign that it’s winter at our house – lists of “need to buy” start accumulating and hunting season dreamin begins all over again.
The hardest part about preseason prep is – no one can do it for you. You either do it, or you don’t. Sure, you don’t have to go to the extreme and make it a lifestyle like we do – but what we don’t recommend is “I’ve got a big hunt next month and I need to start getting in shape.”