Being in shape means enjoying moments like the above.
by Russ Mehling, General Manager, Webber’s Lodges
If you’re like me, you’ve probably stopped reading already because you saw a reference to one of the vilest words in the English language: EXERCISE.
For those who are still with me, I’m not going to try imparting any life altering perspectives on living healthier by recommending changes to diet or exercise routines. All I hope to do is provide some incentive to help you achieve the highest possible level of enjoyment from your hunt of a lifetime.
Very few of the hunts we offer would be considered exceptionally physically challenging. There will be hikes — particularly on our caribou hunts — long hours in the field, and hopefully some heavy packs to carry out, but our terrain is generally easily navigable and the weather not uncomfortably hot or cold, with Spring Musk Ox season being the exception.
With that being said, I believe the better shape a hunter is in physically, the more enjoyment they will get out of their hunt. I also believe you will create more and better opportunities for the game you are after if you are in the best shape possible for your hunt. Maybe the upcoming hunt could provide the catalyst you need to start that new life you always talked about over late night (light) snacks and (low carb) beverages… but I promised I wouldn’t go there, so let’s move on.
The easiest thing I would recommend is some light cardio. This should be an attainable goal for most of our hunters. Start with short walks, increasing to longer hikes. You could even add some terrain to these walks, or add some weight to your day pack or larger pack frame. Walking is also a great way to break in those new boots, and test out other gear you may not be familiar with.
Adjusting pack size and loads, using walking sticks, and even practising your dressing-in-layers routine so you know what to wear based on the conditions and level of exertion you’ll experience in camp are other great ways to prepare. Generally, I would avoid lots of running, particularly if you aren’t currently a jogger. No point in pounding your joints just prior to your hunt. Having great cardio during your hunt won’t help if joint pain prevents you from getting out of bed in the morning.
Speaking of sore joints, and especially muscles, the second easiest recommendation would be stretching. During the week or so you spend in hunting camp, you’ll be doing a lot of physical things you probably don’t do at home: climbing off the floats on a plane, jumping in and out of boats, or hiking uneven terrain with a pack on your back. Stretching regularly at home and during your hunt will allow tired muscles to recover more quickly. You’ll also be more comfortable, so sleep will come easier and be more restful during the short nights generally experienced in hunting camps.
Once you’ve become comfortable with long walks and you’ve gained some flexibility through stretching, the exercise regimen can be tailored more specifically to the hunt you are planning. Different conditions call for different preparation. A high-altitude hunt for wild sheep requires different training than a tree stand hunt for whitetail deer. A great way to plan your exercise regimen is to visit with your outfitter, as well as hunters on his reference list, so you understand exactly what the hunt will demand from you physically. Failing that, talk to a trainer at your local gym, explain your upcoming adventure, and he or she will likely be able to suggest exercises that will benefit you most.
Your age and baseline of physical ability should only be used to temper your exercise regimen. Neither should be used as a reason to prevent you from getting in better shape for your upcoming hunt. If it goes well, and you start to notice improvements in your health, you may even convince your spouse that you need to go on these hunts regularly for your own good! That logic didn’t work for me, but that’s no reason you shouldn’t try!
I’ll leave you with one brief anecdote that proves my point.
A few years back we had a bowhunter who was in extraordinary shape. We found out during the hunt that he regularly competes in ‘Iron Man’ events (notice I said ‘competes’, not just ‘participates’). He accepted that bowhunting caribou was a difficult task, but was determined to take his animals with a bow. He spent the week observing and stalking several caribou including a slammer he didn’t feel comfortable shooting at the range he was able to close in on.
On the next to last day, he and his guide saw a group of ‘bou well off in the distance. With most hunters, it would be a matter of wait and see if the bulls closed the distance for the possibility of a stalk. Once the guide told him there were quality bulls in the bunch, our hunter said, “Let’s go!” The animals were several miles off, but with a hunter whose physical ability warranted the attempt, the hunt was on. A couple of hours later, his arrow found the mark. A long hike with heavy packs back to camp was his reward for being in great shape for his once-in-a-lifetime caribou hunting adventure!