Many of you followed along as Donnie and I tortured ourselves with 2 Triathlons in a 36 hour period a couple weeks ago. It was rough, but surprisingly, the second triathlon on Saturday was not as rough as I would have thought it might be. By Monday I was already feeling like I needed to cut back on ice cream and pizza again and start working out! Two days ago I met up with a group of friends for a 20 mile road bike ride. Coming off back-to-back triathlons, I feel like I’m probably in about the best shape of my life. Although I haven’t worked out nearly as hard the past two weeks, I still feel like I’m in pretty good shape. I was questioning that subject for an hour straight during the bike ride. They absolutely made me look silly. My legs were jello, my lungs were on fire, sweat was blurring my vision…there’s a lot of room left for improvement. Which brings me to Elk101.com’s Elk Hunting Tip #1. Get in shape.
I had a good friend ask me a few years back what I felt the #1 thing he needed to work on as an elk hunter was. I replied “Get in shape.” I think the response took him quite by surprise. He kind of chuckled and asked again. I told him seriously, being in shape is the best tool you can take with you on an elk hunt. I saw him at the gym several times both before and after that conversation, and we finally had a chance to chase elk around together for a couple days last fall. On the drive back home he simply said “I guess you were serious when you said to get in shape!”
I certainly don’t tell this story to make it sound like I am a machine in the mountains. Quite the opposite actually. I tell it to hopefully motivate you to improve upon your physical conditioning, regardless of where you currently are. There will always be someone in better shape than any one of us – it isn’t a competition to be in better shape than your hunting partner, or myself, or Cameron Hanes. It is a competition to improve yourself.
None of us will ever be able to run down an elk. If we can keep up with a herd that is quickly moving from their feeding area to their bedding area for longer than 30 seconds, however, our chances of being successful increase. If we can beat a bugling bull to a saddle he is heading towards, we might get there in time to intercept him and get a shot. If we hear a bull bugling across a steep, nasty canyon and have the confidence to drop in and go after him, we’ll separate ourselves from 95% of the other guys in the unit and have a better-than-average chance at being successful.
Being able to go farther than other hunters is a huge advantage. Being able to push on and see what’s over the next ridge – being able to push yourself both physically and mentally – will add a greater measure of success to your elk hunting adventures than anything else I can think of.
Out of 5 guys on the bike ride Wednesday morning, I was the slowest by far. Several times, mentally, I wanted to fall back and let them go on. I kept telling myself I had to stay close. I tried to force my legs to push harder only to find there wasn’t anything left to give. The reoccurring thought that kept me pushing on was “elk season starts in 10 days!” If I allowed myself to become mentally defeated I wouldn’t have a chance. Pushing yourself past where you think your limits are allows you to grow both physically and mentally. Your body will respond…it just needs something to push it harder.
Wherever you currently are in your physical conditioning, go farther. Push yourself. Torture yourself. You’ll become stronger physically, and perhaps just as important, mentally. Start early in the year. Don’t wait until August 1 to start your workout. It’s certainly better than doing nothing at all, but you can do better. When you’re chasing those bugles straight up the mountain in 3 weeks, make a promise to yourself to be in better shape next season. When you pull that packframe up onto your shoulders and start the long hike back to camp with 1/2 an elk on your back, tell yourself you’re going to be stronger next time. Then follow though and do it! Your entire elk hunting experience will be more enjoyable, and successful, than ever before.