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Shoot, Wellness / August 21, 2016

3 fitness tips for big game hunters

Written by: Renee Howard

You know how to hunt big game. You’ve already laid out your coveralls, field tested your gear, and taken your rifle to the range. You’ve watched almost 30,000 hours of YouTube videos about tracking and shooting.

But all that prep work will go to waste if you blow a lumbar disk on day one, or if your legs turn to jelly on the way to camp. To really succeed at hunting big game, especially hunting big game in remote terrain, you also need to know how to prepare for a big game hunt.

So before you clean your gun for the umpteenth time, work on one of these three physical skills:

1. The long hike in

The problem: You get to camp and are too thrashed to head up the mountain in pursuit of game. You waste your whole trip whittling toothpicks.

How it happens: On the hunt, you travel through all manner of rough, steep country. You problem-solve your way across rivers, around cliffs, and over rocks, all with a heavy pack. This taxes your body more than a trail hike, and wears you down before the hunt even begins.

How to train for it: Develop endurance. Hike long distances in all kinds of weather with a pack pre-season. If you live near your hunting area, toss some weight in your backpack and scout the terrain on foot.

If you don’t live near your hunt, just load up a pack and bushwhack around your local woods. Start small with weight and distance, increase over time.


2. The wait and hustle

The problem: You spot the animal and hustle into position, but you’re too winded and shaky to shoot accurately. Or worse—you’re too tired to make it into position on time.

How it happens: You’ve sat in silence for a very long time in very bad weather. All of your energy reserves have been spent trying to stay warm, and you don’t have quite enough left for the high-speed stalk once you spot the animal.

How to train it: Develop explosive strength and cardio. Interval training is ideal preparation—sprint short distances at the local track or up a nearby hill.

As with all training regimens, start with an easy distance and work your way up over time.


3. The heavy carry


The problem: While lifting your kill or hiking out with it, you get careless and twist your ankle or herniate a disc in your back.

How it happens: Heavy lifting happens at the very end of a successful hunt, and is a common cause of injury. Your body is already worn from the trip, so lifting a carcass and carrying its weight in your already heavy pack puts you at risk when you least suspect it.

How to train for it: To avoid injury on the home stretch, focus on core, ankle, quad, and knee strength. Further your training to focus on joint stabilization. Do a lot of squats and resistance exercises.

Mobility training is critical so you don’t tear a hamstring while saving yourself from a gnarly tumble on the trail—take that yoga class you’ve been avoiding.

Looking for more? We’ve got you covered:

For training programs for hunters, check out

For mobility training tips, read Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr Kelly Starrett

For tips on training at home, read Never Gymless: an Excuse Free System for Total Fitness by Ross Enamait.

You know how to hunt big game. Follow these tips so you can act like it.

about the author

Renee Howard

Renee is a photographer and writer based out of South-central Alaska. Her interest in bridging gaps between all manner of outdoor sports, philosophy, folk culture and backwoods artistry is a significant motivation for her work.

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