Does Being In “ElkShape” Make You a Better Hunter?

ElkShape_Banner_800x400 Pro Staff member, Mark Skousen, wrote a great article earlier this week on Getting In “ElkShape”. He mentioned that in the recent #PROJECTSUCCESS survey, physical conditioning ranked #6 out of 10 factors that elk hunters felt contributed to consistent success. This finding was surprising to him – and to me – but apparently it wasn’t a big surprise to many hunters. In fact, there were several comments on Social Media from hunters who defended the low ranking of physical conditioning, and felt it really wasn’t all that important.

ElkShape_Image3Here’s my take on it…

Last night, I watched a documentary on Netflix titled “The Barkley Marathons”. This is an almost unheard of ultramarathon in the backwoods of Tennessee where racers travel 130 miles on an unmarked course. The course includes 60,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, and racers are given just 60 hours to complete the course. Everything about the race is unpredictable – a secret application process, an unknown start time, and treacherous terrain – and tests every characteristic of physical and mental fortitude. In the first 25 years of the race, there have only been 10 people that have finished.

As I watched the finishers come in from 60 straight hours of course navigation, it amazed me at what the human body – and mind – are capable of. After being awake for 48 straight hours in unpredictable weather, being torn to shreds by the unforgiving elements, and pushing your body to the absolute edge of physical limitations, the only thing keeping these racers from failing over the next 12 hours was their mind. There have been a few packouts on elk hunts that made me feel like those racers looked!

Watch the trailer for the documentary here:

Watching racers fail at a rate of 99% over 25 years, I could see why the following comment was made in regards to Mark’s “ElkShape” article: “Mental conditioning and the ability to live with misery will always trump physical conditioning…”

However, I think I agree more with the following reply: “I agree that mental toughness is important. But you can’t simply “think” your way into shape when you’re on the mountain chasing a big bull. Strong mental capacity will stop you from quitting when you’re body has more to give. But when the body fails, no amount of mental toughness will change that. That said, I think most guys quit in their head long before their body does.”

ElkShape_Image1Which brings me to the point of this article: I truly feel that persistence and mental strength can help a hunter overcome physical adversity in the mountains. But I feel that those characteristics are developed – and maximized – through some form of physical conditioning. A physical conditioning program will develop physical strength AND mental toughness, and together, those characteristics can carry a person over insurmountable mountains of adversity.

One of the racers in The Barkley Marathons said, “Most people would be better off with more pain in their life.”

I think what he meant by that statement is that pain and suffering develop character and help us overcome hard things. When we push our bodies physically, we feel pain – burning lungs, aching muscles, weakness being forced out. This physical exertion teaches our mind to push through these challenges, and to push beyond the looming failure.

The founder of The Barkley Marathons, Lazarus Lake, said, “If you’re going to face a real challenge, it has to be a real challenge. You can’t accomplish anything without the possibility of failure.”

So, is physical conditioning really all that important to elk hunting success? I think so. Can you be successful without spending any time preparing physically for elk season? Sure, it happens every year. But it would be really hard to argue that you won’t be a better elk hunter if you workout than you would be if you don’t workout. You will be a better elk hunter, period. I’m not talking about being better than your neighbor or someone else….I’m talking about you being a better elk hunter if you work out than you would be if you didn’t. has partnered with MTN OPS and the RMEF in an “ElkShape” program aimed at getting you ready for elk season. There isn’t necessarily a defined program that you have to follow. It’s simply motivation for you to get yourself physically ready to conquer the elk mountains this fall – to get yourself in “ElkShape”.

Seven members of the Pro Staff spent last week working on multiple video workouts designed to get elk hunters in “ElkShape”, regardless of their current circumstances and level of conditioning. From gym-intensive workouts to home workouts with a backpack, our goal is to motivate you to be a better elk hunter in 6 months than you are right now. I’ll be working on making these videos available in the near future.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to be a body builder or an ultra-marathon runner to be a successful elk hunter. But I do feel that you will enjoy more success – on and off the mountain – if physical conditioning is a part of your lifestyle.

You can read Mark Skousen’s original article on “Getting Into “ElkShape”” here:

What are your thoughts? Should Physical Conditioning be higher than #6 on the survey? What role does physical conditioning play in your success? Are you ready to get into “ElkShape”?