Get fit for: Backwoods hunting in the high country

Get fit for: Backwoods hunting in the high country

Fitness is an often over-looked section of hunting. While the un-initiated may see hunting as a casual walk in the woods any experienced hunter knows otherwise. Tracking, trekking, climbing, lifting, hauling and many other types of physical labor are part and parcel of hunting. You must be in good shape to hunt effectively or else you may have to cut a trip short. If you are waking up each morning horribly sore and unable to keep up with your game, what sort of hunt are you going to have? So, getting into hunting shape, that is the question. The important, over-all concept we must keep in mind is, any fitness routine must simulate the conditions we would find when hunting. Much like the army attempts to simulate all the parts of war for basic training.

The answer however can be divided into four main areas:

1. Strength
2. Endurance
3. Flexibility
4. Nutrition


Each of these areas is part of the overall scheme of “getting into shape”. Let’s start with strength; we are not body-builders. I suppose if you are interested in “looking good” that’s great, and you should work out accordingly. But, for the purposes of this article and for hunting in general, let’s talk about “Functional strength”. Being able to a bench press with 300 pounds is great; however, most of the strength that is needed for hunting is whole body-lifting motions. Think about it, you are either carrying supplies or some sort of game. Not to mention pulling yourself up one side of a mountain and lowering yourself down the other. For this type of work you want to do exercises that allow for lots of muscle groups to work together at the same time. P.S. a lovely by-product of this is that you will loose weight and tone up (so much for the anti-body building thing. :-). A good split may be upper body/lower body, which means that every other day you would work out the upper body alternating with the lower body. For example:

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Lower Upper Lower Upper Lower Upper

Essentially what you are doing is alternating your workout so that every other day you are strength training and alternating which section of your body that you are training. This will allow for recovery and allow you to use large muscle groups in concert and build functional strength.


This section is arguably more important that the strength training section. How long can you last at that pace? If you were hiking at full tilt, how long can you continue without petering out? So this needs to be functional as well. I mean, you certainly aren’t going to be sprinting across the woods are you? No, but you will be continually moving, walking over rough terrain and carrying a heavy load. So we get into hunting shape by doing what we would do in the field. On the other days of the week when you aren’t training your strength section, you should be hiking or long distance jogging. Obviously, in order to simulate our field time, we would want to hike for miles; just like we would on the hunt. However, since this isn’t going to be possible for most normal people, I suggest you jog for a minimum of 20 minutes at different inclinations.

Changing the inclines will allow you to be prepared for the type of motions that you will be dealing with in the bush. Try alternating your heart rate from low to high. How can you tell? Well, it’s fairly simple and you don’t need any fancy equipment. If you are breathing heavy, then your heart rate is up, if not than it’s down.


In order to climb and maneuver around over rough terrain, it helps to be flexible. On the days that you are doing both your strength and endurance training you should also be working on flexibility. A few simple stretches or better yet a Yoga sun salutation done about 5 times will be enough to get your flexibility up, not to mention the secondary benefit of stress relief. Be sure to stretch and lengthen all the major muscle groups, especially the hips and hamstrings; as you will need flexibility there when climbing up or over things.


Nutrition is horribly overlooked by most hunters. I suppose it’s in our DNA, you know, we are such manly men that we can’t imagine eating a salad. However, it is very important to keep your food intake healthy. Let’s start with hydration; you have to drink enough water. Here’s a rule of thumb; “If you are thirsty, than you have already started to get dehydrated.” Drink before you get thirsty. Have a bottle of water with you at all times, especially in the field.

Your food options may need some changes as well. Each meal should have fibrous carbohydrates, protein and fats. Fibrous carbohydrates are things like fruits and vegetables; this will give you energy allowing you to move around all day long. Protein is the building block of muscle if you are working on building your strength than you need protein at each meal. Fats must be from mono-saturated sources, such as olive oil, nuts, and fish oils; these types of fats will also help to give you energy and keep your over-all immune system working.

As with anything, you should seek out a professional for each of these areas. A trainer to put together the right type of workout for you to build strength, endurance and flexibility and a nutritionist to build you a solid nutrition plan. Now get up off of that couch and do something.