Getting in shape for an elk hunt

woodsmoke

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Dec 29, 2019
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Greetings,
I’m looking hard at taking a trip out west next year. listening to those who have done it, the common thread is that everyone seems to wish they had prepped more for all the walking, exertion. I did a lot of backpacking in my teens, but not since. I’m 42, pretty active and my wife makes sure I eat fairly healthy. Im mainly looking for recommendations on conditioning for the hunt. Should I load up my pack and spend time hiking? should I look at a gym membership? Who’s done it before and what’s your advice?
Thanks.
 

SSSamurai

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From my experience, lots of hiking with a pack, but don't go much heavier than 40lb or you risk injury while training. Also, get good boots and break them in while you are working up to longer hikes. Bad boots and unprepared legs and feet have probably ruined more hunts than anything else...
 

thestoicmarcusaurelius

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It’s a different type of fitness. Obviously, the more fit you are the better but you don’t have to be a super athlete to have good “hunting fitness”. A lot of people have a hard time being used to being on their feet carrying a load for hours at a time and an even harder time maintaining focus and concentration and not mentally zoning out when tired.
 
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bhanley

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what elevations will you be at? the biggest thing i noticed last time i went was just that by about day 3 of it all, i think my body acclimated a bit more to the oxygen differences between flat texas and 7-10k feet spots in CO. so if you can get there a few days early to adjust i would recommend that. but i know it can be tough with limited days off from work etc
 

Wlfdg

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jphil108

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I would suggest a weighted pack and a lot of long walks in the hilliest area you can find. I push the kids around our very hilly neighborhood in a stroller and have added a pack and heavy boots into the mix in the last several weeks. start light like 10 pounds and work your way up to 50-60 over several months.if you haven’t backpacked in a while, You’ll be amazed at how sore even a ten pound pack will make all the muscles around your hips and lower back when you first start back under weight, gradually increase weight every 3-4 weeks. Try to walk as fast as possible and use as much stride length as you can and focus on form so that your knees ankles and hips are moving in a straight line and not wobbling all over the place. That will build stability in all the tiny muscle sets and prevent injury. Be careful going down hill that you are trying to absorb each step with muscle control and not large impacts to your knees and hips. Throw in more and more weighted hikes in rough terrain once you know that your joints and ligaments have figured out what’s going on.

I have found this to be way more enjoyable than running, my knees don’t hurt, no shin splints, great cardio and my legs are getting a lot stronger.
 

isofahunter

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  • Jun 11, 2010
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    My prep involves a pack and kettlebell and as much walking on uneven and steep ground as possible. I start light and work up to 2-3X what the load is going to be at elevation. My hunting pack loaded is 20lb and rifle is 7-8 lbs. In the weeks leading up to the hunt I have a pack that weights 50-60lbs and a kb 15-20 lbs. I carry the kb to stimulate the rifle/bow I am going to carry. Your weapon should be in your hands while hunting not on your pack or slung.

    Staying flexible is important to, stretching is important, especially your hips.

    Quality gear is really important, you need to have gear you can wear all day and be comfortable. Your body and gear need to fit as you will be on your feet all day moving either up or down hill.

    As said above if you can get a couple days of elevation without too much exertion that makes it better. Stay hydrated and protect your skin chapstick, lotion.

    Last falls elk hunt I took an FNG and I laid out a plan for him to get in shape. He did no prep and after day 1 he would walk 300 yards, sit an hour and go back to camp. He was whipped the whole week. He told me never again and the the group was a bunch of tough, crazy SOBs.

    Good luck.
     

    woodsmoke

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    Dec 29, 2019
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    Solid advice, thanks. I’ve been loading up my 25 pound 2 year old son in a back carrier and walking the hilly areas on our property. Hits me more in t cardio area than the muscle soreness so far.
     
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    Kae006

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    what elevations will you be at? the biggest thing i noticed last time i went was just that by about day 3 of it all, i think my body acclimated a bit more to the oxygen differences between flat texas and 7-10k feet spots in CO. so if you can get there a few days early to adjust i would recommend that. but i know it can be tough with limited days off from work etc
    This is good advice. If you're coming from a much lower elevation, try to get up to altitude with enough time to acclimate prior to your hunt starting. You'll be surprised how quickly you get winded when you're body isn't used to the different oxygen levels.
     

    jphil108

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    The kettle bells are a great idea, If your house has stairs you can put your pack on and go up and down stairs in several sets too, you can change intensity by skipping stairs every other other set and go up and down sideways. Target long exercise sessions and add weight slowly. One thing I’ve found is how much the weight of shoes affects fatigue on long hikes so find lightweight boots or good trail shoes for the hunt and break them in well, but train in some heavy-ass work boots or wear ankle weights.
     
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    Brisket

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    Jan 31, 2020
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    Ive used a few methods to get in shape. I'm in Texas so its flat here... that said, in 2017 I relied heavily on a stairclimber at the gym. Started with no pack and gradually added pack weight to 50lbs and increased number of floors. It helped a lot, but packing out was terrible with the extra weight from meat.

    In 2018 I just went for weighted hikes on whatever hills I could find. Started at 50lbs and moved up in weight from there. The pack out was easier on my back than 2017 but I didn't feel like I could get as much air.

    In 2019 I did unweighted stairclimber sessions, and heavy pack step up boxes. I made a box with 3 heights that I could work up to. 2019 my back was as strong as it was in 2018 and I felt like I was in as good a shape as 2017. I feel like this is the right training for me.

    This year I'm doing step up boxes and running bleachers (covid has the gym situation kinda weird so stairclimber is out).

    Whatever you do, try to do a few very long sessions close to your hunt date. Something like 6-8hrs. Endurance workouts require a totally different set of conditioning and you don't want your first session to be the hike in. Conditioning days are also good to figure out what food works best for you and how much food to carry.

    Also, don't rush the training. Give yourself several months to ease into it/allow for setbacks
     

    jwknutson17

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  • Apr 29, 2017
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    Get your legs and back strong. Don't burn yourself out before the season. Don't necessarily train with a heavy pack all the time. I usually don't have more then 25lbs until I kill something. Again, don't burn yourself out before the season. There is nothing that simulates elk hunting better then actually hunting. Dont think you need to get in 5 miles to find elk. Further isn't always better. Work up slow with pack weight. Injuring your back with a heavy pack out of the gate can set you back months. Hiking all the time with a heavy pack is unrealistic. Hike with a 25-30 lb pack to simulate a day load. Do heavy box step ups at the gym or make a box to build those muscles up. Hiking around with 60lbs all the time, for me, sets me back. Step ups are key. Oh and invest in some carbon trekking poles. You will thank me on your pack out! Best of luck! Season is almost here.
     
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    Powder_Burns

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    When I first moved to CO mountain hikes kicked my ass. I’d go about 300yd and have to stop to catch my breath. Doing long mountain hikes week in and week out, finally shaped up and acclimated. A 10 mile hike doesn’t drain me the way a 2 mile one did when I was still acclimated for sea level.The fitness types out here actually run up and down the mountain trails without stopping.
    I’m fairly confident that once your cardio is that good, the hunt part isn’t that bad. Nobody is jogging with a pack and a rifle up to an elk herd, its a slow and steady pace.
    I would suggest a week or two prior to your hunt acclimating to altitude and hiking the trails would pay dividends. Granted thats not always a feasable option, but cardio is king...get your legs and back in shape.
     
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    Buckley

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    Lots of good advice above. Cardio, endurance, acclimation to the best elevation that you can reasonably reach. If you find good hills to train on, try packing gallons of water for weight on the way up then dumping them before you head down to save your knees a bit. I hike with trekking poles most of the time but will do intervals without, this helps with core strength and balance. Good luck on your hunt!
     

    required_user_name

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    Check out this site. They keep it simple and intense.
     

    Choid

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    I live in western elk country, so I have some built in advantages in dealing with terrain and elevation in training. I lift four times a week, with a pretty heavy concentration on back/hamstrings for lower body and upper body relative strength. I also row intervals twice a week. In addition, I will do hill hikes with a 45 lb pack (shoulders only, no hip belt) 1.5 miles a day and 6 miles on Saturdays, all at a pace at which I can talk but am working and noticeably breathing. Basically trying to work harder than I will hunt. In addition I usually do one backpacking trip a year into the backcountry, maybe 30-40 miles over three days, just to be used to it and to train and have fun at the same time.

    Basically I try to do most of the things I have to do while hunting, but make each challenge a step and a half harder than it will be. I find that by hunting season, 10-12 miles in a day with a 20 lb pack is not a breeze, but also not difficult at all. And the training is enjoyable time I get to spend with my wife and dogs.

    Oh, bodyfat is your enemy here. Any pound you have on you that isn't helping you walk or carry is a pound you can't carry in your pack. Even more muscle isn't particularly helpful after a point. At 200, even at a low body fat percentage, I find hunting the hills much more difficult than at 180, so with experience I have gravitated to the latter.
     
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    Maedho12

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    Lots of good advice here and everyone is signing the same tune- hike, hike, and hike some more.

    I'm a gym rat and I've had my butt whipped on some long hikes in the mountains with a pack. In my opinion you need to hike with a pack similar to what you'll be using on your hunt. I wouldn't go crazy and try carrying a super heavy pack it will just fatigue you and you'll run the risk of injury.

    Also, I don't know your build but every 10 lbs of fat you lose is 10 lbs you wont have to carry.

    Good luck and enjoy your time with mother nature.

    Mark
     

    Maedho12

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    Jul 9, 2020
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    I live in western elk country, so I have some built in advantages in dealing with terrain and elevation in training. I lift four times a week, with a pretty heavy concentration on back/hamstrings for lower body and upper body relative strength. I also row intervals twice a week. In addition, I will do hill hikes with a 45 lb pack (shoulders only, no hip belt) 1.5 miles a day and 6 miles on Saturdays, all at a pace at which I can talk but am working and noticeably breathing. Basically trying to work harder than I will hunt. In addition I usually do one backpacking trip a year into the backcountry, maybe 30-40 miles over three days, just to be used to it and to train and have fun at the same time.

    Basically I try to do most of the things I have to do while hunting, but make each challenge a step and a half harder than it will be. I find that by hunting season, 10-12 miles in a day with a 20 lb pack is not a breeze, but also not difficult at all. And the training is enjoyable time I get to spend with my wife and dogs.

    Oh, bodyfat is your enemy here. Any pound you have on you that isn't helping you walk or carry is a pound you can't carry in your pack. Even more muscle isn't particularly helpful after a point. At 200, even at a low body fat percentage, I find hunting the hills much more difficult than at 180, so with experience I have gravitated to the latter.
    Bravo. You've hit the nail on the head!

    Last year I purchased a concept 2 rower and it's one of the best purchases I've made.
     

    acudaowner

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    you have to make your very own rocky 30 min montage video you have to and video tape it . the before fat slow you and during your training where you struggle and micky gives you a pep talk that breaths new life and determination into you and after the lean fast ready for any challenge like walking miles straight up a mountain side after your pray with nothing more than a loin cloth and a fork .lol you can do it .
     

    STex

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    The first time I hunted mountainous country (Red River, NM area) it kicked my behind! The next year I prepared and kept up with my guide. The key, like a lot of guys stated, is hit the cardio! Make sure you have a sturdy pack, layer your clothing, and have fun. Good luck!
     

    hellishot

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    Cardio time. If you go to the gym, use the stepper machine. If not then find bleachers at a local park or stadium. Try to find a hilly road and practice with a backpack with some weights to simulate an uphill trek.

    Most importantly is to start a cardio regimen which includes walking or jogging. Gotta get your endurance up!
     

    ntrinsik

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    When I was training for Rainier, I’d spend 1-2hrs a day with a 70lb pack on a treadmill at max incline at about 4mph. I’d take the same pack and hike a local peak on the weekends. Weighted step ups also.
     

    Choid

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    I live in western elk country, so I have some built in advantages in dealing with terrain and elevation in training. I lift four times a week, with a pretty heavy concentration on back/hamstrings for lower body and upper body relative strength. I also row intervals twice a week. In addition, I will do hill hikes with a 45 lb pack (shoulders only, no hip belt) 1.5 miles a day and 6 miles on Saturdays, all at a pace at which I can talk but am working and noticeably breathing. Basically trying to work harder than I will hunt. In addition I usually do one backpacking trip a year into the backcountry, maybe 30-40 miles over three days, just to be used to it and to train and have fun at the same time.

    Basically I try to do most of the things I have to do while hunting, but make each challenge a step and a half harder than it will be. I find that by hunting season, 10-12 miles in a day with a 20 lb pack is not a breeze, but also not difficult at all. And the training is enjoyable time I get to spend with my wife and dogs.

    Oh, bodyfat is your enemy here. Any pound you have on you that isn't helping you walk or carry is a pound you can't carry in your pack. Even more muscle isn't particularly helpful after a point. At 200, even at a low body fat percentage, I find hunting the hills much more difficult than at 180, so with experience I have gravitated to the latter.
    Just to re up this. I recently got back from this summer trip. Friends from out of town couldn't make it because COVID, so my wife and I went in for four days of more backpacking and sightseeing than fishing. We ended up doing 15 miles a day in the heat all but one day. That day we did more like 8, but it was climbing the Chinese Wall. My ass was sufficiently kicked at around 45 lbs of gear. My wife is a freaking monster phsyically. At 120 and 49 years old, she did better than I did, and her pack was only ten pounds lighter. Both of us feel very ready for elk season, and figure we will only really feel much if we are so lucky as to be packing out.
     

    NukeMan

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    I head to the mountains from Illinois about every other year. Crossfit 3 days a week and weighted pack hikes 1 to 2 times a week have served me well. I load up 40-50lbs and road march the hilly ass roads around my place for about 5 miles. The mountains ain't killed me yet!
     

    Racerngr1

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    I’d encourage just general fitness of any sort (I do CrossFit) and it has served me well although some of the guides I go with haul ass through the hills because they do it all the time. This was a rear quarter if I’m not mistaken and my pack weighed around 100# if I’m not mistaken right here.
    B553DD33-F70E-4C8A-9040-325561598A9F.jpeg