A bowhunter is also an athlete. Nothing a person does on a day-to-day basis will match the great physical exhaustion caused by chasing big deer on big mountains, particularly where the air is thin and there are no trails. What happens when you spot a buck across a big canyon on the evening of the last day of the hunt? Your success or failure often boils down to your physical fitness and endurance.
Any cardio-type exercise will help you prepare for the hunt, and if you’ve spent enough time hiking and scouting in the pre-season you’ll probably be in tip-top shape for it. But if you’re planning a high-country backpacking/hunting trip, you’ll have to change things up a bit—your daily jaunt on the treadmill won’t be enough. Everything changes when you’re hiking uphill with an extra eighty pounds on your back, especially at the high altitudes where most big bucks live in early fall.
If you want to spend more time hunting and less time recovering, you’ll need to put a pack on and literally run to the hills before the season opens. I won’t get into any specific work-out regimens here; just know that your regular routine should include wearing a heavy pack and doing some vertical hiking. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a lot of mountainous terrain, you can always climb the stairs at your local football stadium. In addition to cardio, some extra weight training will do wonders to strengthen your back and shoulders.
On a recent hunting trip I felt like a machine and could hike all day without rest. But after shooting a big deer at the bottom of a steep canyon, I quickly realized I hadn’t conditioned myself for such a chore. With my pack loaded with nearly eighty pounds of venison, I was lucky to get the animal out at all, even with help from some friends. Remember, even a relatively easy hunt can become extremely difficult once you put an animal on the ground.