Vacationing means different things to different people – some like to bask in the sun, others prefer skiing in the snow. But elk hunting, now that’s an activity for serious players. The thrill can hardly be explained, but it can never be shaken off. Once you give it a go, elk hunting stays in your boiling blood for good.
Though a typical hunt lasts about five days, the preparation is much longer.
Most elk hunters train for months before the hunting season. You can be physically fit and still fail to get out of bed on the third day of the chase. Elk hunting is a demanding activity in every way. For a full and interrupted experience, you need both physical and mental stamina, honed in extensive altitude training.
Here’s everything you need to know about the elk hunting fitness regimen.
What Hunters Mean by “Elk Shape”
Exercising for elk hunting is more than your regular fitness regimen. The so-called “elk shape” requires months-long cardio and strength training, in addition to a balanced diet. Why so serious, you ask? The extensive “elk shape” training is necessary unless you want to sleep through most of your hunt.
When you’re chasing bulls at 11.000 ft. from sea level, being in good form is not enough.
Aside from miles-long daily hikes a couple of days in a row, the high elevation is the most challenging part of elk hunts. The higher you go, the less oxygen you have, and the harder your body must work. When your muscles can oxygenate normally, the body must compensate for that by increasing energy levels.
In other words, you get tired more easily when you’re high above sea level. This energy-related domino effect catch even the most physically fit people off guard when they go elk hunting for the first time. If you have to take breaks all the time or spend a day off the ground, you might never spot an elk, let alone shoot one down. Endurance is key to living this experience to the fullest.
How to Train for Wilderness Hunting
Before we get to the regimen, let’s underline the paramount impotence of a proper diet again. It would be best to readjust your nutritional habits when training to achieve a particular physical shape. In this case, that implies cutting out processed food and sugar and sticking with protein, fats, and carbs.
To get into “elk shape,” you’ll need a lot of quality meat, vegetables, and nuts. The rest is all cardio and strength training, plus kettlebell workouts to boost both.
Cardio Training for Elk Shape
High-intensity cardio is the best way to achieve the level of fitness needed at high altitudes because it’s very similar to the tempo of elk hunts, which consists of short, physically demanding climbs and plenty of low-intensity hiking in between. For this, it’s good to combine gym workouts with open-space hiking.
Treadmill-based HIIT training is perfect for this.
Start with a mid-tempo pace (1.5 – 2.5 mph) and a 2-degree incline, depending on your current fitness level. Within a half-hour workout, increase and decrease the incline several times before reaching 5-6 degree inclines. By the end of the regimen, you should be able to reach 9 degrees.
Second, you need to include off-trail hiking as well.
Two to three times a week, go hiking somewhere off-trail because your body and mind will have to get used to bushwalking. Carrying weight is also a good idea. The more you recreate the conditions you’ll be set up against in the wild, the better. Hike for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
Strength Training for Elk Shape
Should we mention once again just how physically challenging high-altitude hiking is? If you’ve never trailed the wilderness, it’s probably not what you expect. For starters, there isn’t a designated trail. When being hunted for sports, you tend to prefer impervious terrains over desired paths.
Rocky terrains require core strength, so you’ll have to focus on that too.
Make sure to include these exercises in your workout at least three times a week:
- Squats (split squats and other variations)
- Back extensions and plank
- Pushups (classic and single leg)
- Bridge (classic and single leg)
- Hamstring curls (classic and single leg)
After a couple of weeks, once you start feeling stronger and more confident, add a couple of kettlebell exercises to your daily workout. This is a fantastic way to strengthen your core while doing full-body training. Kettlebells are incredibly effective because they target every key area and engage all muscles.
On average, you should be able to swing between 30 and 45 lbs.
In the end – Endurance, Patience & Commitment!
As hunting does, nothing gets your blood pumping, but this adrenaline high is a seconds-long reward for months of endurance, patience, and unwavering commitment. You can try elk hunting without any preparation, but you won’t like it. Hunting is about that perfect moment. Be sure you’re ready for it.
Train hard and good luck!