The first time I went into the elk woods was the fall of 1990. I had prepared physically, just like I did for football season the eight previous years – by doing nothing, especially not running. The first morning right out of camp, my guide Rockie, tried to see if he could get this WV kid to tap out. After a few miles at the 4 mile per hour pace on the trail towards Chimney Rock, I was still with him. I was sucking a little extra wind because of the elevation difference, but doing quite well despite the fear that had been instilled by being told “you had better run your butt off before you get here.”
At 43 and overweight I look back to try to learn from the events of the past. The reason that I was able to keep up was similar to the reason why I was ready for the first Saturday football game. I played myself into shape. From the time I was 14 until my mid twenties, I competition coon hunted and was running through the woods either chasing hounds 4 or 5 nights a week or some other critter that needed me to eat it. There was no time for conditioning, it just happened and I stayed in shape because I was climbing some hill or mountain almost every day.
Then came my years of guiding clients on archery bugle hunts in Oregon. I had clients call me and scare me to death. For example, “I am running six miles a day and I just got out of the marines”. I will never be able to keep him busy, I thought. But season after season, client after client would usually wear down as the week went by. The lesson learned from all of this is to do re-implement task specific training. Now that I have opted for an office instead of the woods (my mistake), I am trying to get back into shape. I know from earlier experiences that no matter what I do in the gym, there are some specific tasks my body will have to perform that I have not conditioned for. I am certain that any workout routine should incorporate some task specific actions like the one you are training for.
I believe the reason that the hunters I guided would wear down after a few days was that their leg muscles were not conditioned to put one foot in front of the other on a near vertical elk mountain. Their lungs could provide the oxygen if they were conditioned, but they did not have the muscles built up to use it. Study the type of terrain you will be hunting, and the weight you will be packing and include it in your training regimen. Even down to carrying something in your hand that is similar to your weapon. Every elk season my shoulders get sore from packing a bow. Something I hadn’t done all summer.
It is sometimes hard to mimic the elevation that you will be hunting. If possible, try to get some hikes in at elevations similar to where you will hunt. My office faces the Smoky Mountains National Park in east Tennessee. I look out of my window at Mt. Leconte as I type this. That 6300 foot summit sits at almost the exact same elevation as the elk mountains I’ll be scaling in September and provides a local opportunity to train my lungs for the upcoming elk season. All conditioning is good, just be sure to add some task specific training and your next hunt will be much more enjoyable!