As the arrow quickly passed through the bull and I watched him fall within sight, I quickly realized the work that lay ahead. Facing a 5-mile pack trip out of the wilderness, I was relieved I had lost 15 pounds before my New Mexico elk hunt. Being in shape is a necessity when pursuing wilderness elk.
Face The Fat Facts
If you're a hardcore hunter, you know how gaining a few pounds can hinder your ability to hunt. How many of us have hunted close to a road because we didn’t have the energy to walk a mile or more? How many of us use an ATV because we’re not in good shape? How many of us have a difficult time getting a deer out of the woods? Many hunters, including myself, struggle with their weight. Being overweight results in lost opportunities in the field and takes away from the overall hunting experience.
Years ago, a hospital did research on how dragging a deer out of the wood affects a hunter's heart. They discovered that many hunters are out of shape, and dragging a deer out of the woods is an easy way to end up in open-heart surgery. There are plenty of stories out there about hunters who have suffered a heart attack while hunting. Eating a large breakfast before hunting, getting buck fever, followed by dragging a deer out of the woods can contribute to a heart attack.
Eastern hunters who are out of shape before heading to the West to hunt in the mountains are looking for trouble. Thin air at high altitudes and a heavy backpack can bring an out-of-shape hunter to their knees. The bottom line: If you want to be able to hunt well into your 70s or 80s, you can increase your chances of being able to—and filling your tags—by being in good shape.
Become A Wilderness Athlete
Mark Paulsen is the strength and conditioning coach for the University of New Mexico and the founder of Wilderness Athlete, a company that makes nutritional products for outdoorsmen. “Americans are more overweight than ever before—hunters and non-hunters. Hunters should try to focus on staying in decent shape because, if we’re not in shape, it makes getting into the treestand or backcountry more difficult. Everything about hunting is strenuous. Hanging a treestand and dragging out a deer can be very physically demanding.”
Watch What's On Your Plate
Many hunters don’t work out or eat right. When hunting season arrives, hunters start walking and hiking in the woods. It doesn’t take long before most hunters over-exert themselves, quickly realizing they're out of shape, so they start hunting closer to the road. The biggest bucks and most abundant game are often far from the beaten path, and to get where they live you need to be in good shape.
According to Paulsen, the good news about getting in shape is that you don’t have to be a gym rat. “Research shows that 30 minutes of working out three times a week can really help a person get into shape. Obviously, the more a person works out the better, but doing a 30-minute workout three times a week is enough to cause a person to start shedding pounds and building muscle if they are eating right.” Eating right is the key. Most Americans eat large amounts of processed food, which Paulsen says is a big no-no. “Eating a diet high in vegetables and fruit, low in processed food and working out a little bit are the requirements for losing weight. It isn’t complicated,” Paulsen explained.
Trim Without The Gym
If your idea of fun doesn’t include walking on a treadmill and staring at the wall three times a week, Paulsen has good news for you. “Some people think they need to workout at a gym to get into shape. That isn’t true. Walking in the woods, riding a bike, doing push-ups in the basement, snowshoeing in the winter, swimming in the summer, and a variety of other physical activities can help people lose weight. The goal is to get your heart rate up for 30 minutes. Combine that with better eating habits and less processed foods and hunters can shed pounds quickly,” Paulsen noted.
Choose Extremes, Manage Moderation
Today, more than ever, you'll find extreme athletes crossing over into the hunting industry. Many magazines and TV shows have writers and hosts that are extremely fit. Some of them look like they belong in the NFL or on an Olympic team. Average Joes often assume such rock-solid physiques are unattainable, so they don't even bother to take positive small steps. “You don’t need to be as tough as He-Man to be in good shape. Shedding some weight can help your overall health. The healthier you are, the easier it will be for you to get into the woods and hunt for years,” Paulsen explained.
In the middle of this holiday season, Paulsen will be the first to tell you to enjoy your favorite treats. “Everything in moderation is what I advise. When the holidays are over, get back to eating healthy and be careful not to get caught up in a bad diet. Never starve yourself to lose weight. When people do this, they often lose muscle, not fat. We need the muscle to burn the fat,” Paulsen suggested.
For hunters who are serious about losing weight and getting in shape, check out the Wilderness Athlete website. Products include energy drinks, protein shakes and everything in between.
My Personal Fitness Situation
I have cerebral palsy and struggle getting around in the woods. I often struggle with my weight. Wilderness Athlete products help me shed a few pounds and get into shape before the hunting season arrives. The way I look at it is, every 10 pounds not on my body when September 10 arrives are 10 pounds I am not carrying into the mountains of Colorado. On the New Mexico hunt I wrote about in the beginning of this article, if I wouldn’t have been in good shape, I wouldn’t have been able to get 5 miles off the road to hunt. I love hunting in the West, and want to be able to hunt for years. I’m sure you do as well. Being in shape and losing a few extra pounds will help you remain healthy and strong for years to come, and going the extra mile in pursuit of a big buck or bull won’t be a big deal.
About the Author: Tracy Breen is a full-time freelance writer who often writes about overcoming physical problems to enjoy the outdoors because he has cerebral palsy. To learn more about Tracy, visit TracyBreen.com.