This time of year should be a time of reflection on last deer season. While you might turn your attention to shed hunting and winter scouting, it’s reality check time for those lofty goals you set in October. Did you tag your “target” buck? Check out that new piece of ground? How many deer did you miss? When you did drag a deer back to the truck, were you winded and gasping for air?
This last one, which pertains to your hunting fitness, should be as fundamental to deer hunting as anything else. Unfortunately, it gets neglected like most other hunting fundamentals, such as regular shooting practice, proper scouting, and general woodsmanship. Luckily, there are several months between now and the start of a new deer season. That means you have plenty of time to get into hunting shape before fall rolls around. Of course, if you put it off, along with your scouting and target practice, don’t be surprised when you achieve the same—or worse—results as last year.
You don’t have to sport washboard abs to be an effective or fit hunter, but you do need to be able to drag a deer without running the risk of a heart attack. Being physically fit won’t just help keep you alive, but it can also make you a better deer hunter. If you can walk farther, not get winded easily, and navigate steep terrain, then you’re ahead of the next guy who can’t. You’ll avoid the crowds and open yourself to more opportunities because they’re physically demanding. Whether you’re getting back into the routine or starting a new one, here are a few things to consider as you get in hunting shape for this fall.
Just like hunting, everyone is at a different point in their fitness career. If you were a college athlete, it might only take you a couple weeks to get acclimated to a fitness routine. On the other hand, if you’ve never worked out a day in your life, you’ll want and need to start with the basics to avoid burnout or injury.
Most New Year’s resolutions die before February because people shoot too high and try to get fit too quickly. Start with a reasonable workout plan. Be honest about your schedule. Don’t start with a goal of working out six days per week, especially if you’re starting at ground level. Start with a manageable workload.
Maybe you decide you’re going to do three intentional, fast-paced walks every week for thirty minutes each time, which research has shown to be effective. That’s already ninety more minutes of fitness that you weren’t doing previously. Now, the goal is to increase your volume as you go, but starting here will give you a good baseline and the capability to get your training in motion. While it might seem like a matter of time in your day, hopefully, your health and fitness will become a non-negotiable part of life, as it should.
Getting in shape doesn’t have to be complicated. Structured plans do foster accountability and consistency, which are key to long-term success, but that doesn’t mean you need to join a gym to have an easier time dragging out your deer next season. If you think about what whitetail hunting requires, it’s basically walking short to long distances with weight on your back and occasionally dragging dead weight for those distances as well. You can mimic this almost anywhere with rucking.
You don’t have to buy fancy workout equipment. Load a pack that you already own with your hunting gear, or weights if you have them, and walk briskly around your property or neighborhood for anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes, depending on your current fitness level. As this becomes easier for you, pick up the pace, add weight, or increase distance. There are plenty of exercises for whitetail hunters, but this is a great starting place. It doesn’t require buying a gym membership or extra equipment, so you have no excuse not to do it.
While there are a range of free and subscription-based weight, resistance, and even hunting-specific training programs available, things like running or rucking just require effort. It can be intimidating to start or buy workout programs, but anything is better than sitting on the couch. If all you can do is run, then run. There’s a misconception that if you’re not getting better, you’ll just stay the same. In reality, if you’re not getting better, you’re regressing. And it only gets more challenging as you get older. Regardless of how you decide to exercise, consistency is the key, so find something and keep doing it.
I’m not saying that improving your mile time or deadlifting five hundred pounds will correlate to you killing a big buck, but it will make the grueling part of hunting easier. You’re much more likely to walk an extra half mile in the dark when you’re consistently training. Out-walking the competition becomes a no-brainer when you’re used to running several miles every week, and those long treks become mere walks in the park. If nothing, fitness will allow you to enjoy hunting more, and that’s worth something in itself.
Feature image via Captured Creative.