It is no secret. To be successful in a high altitude hunt you need to be in top physical shape. I live at 1500’ above sea level and on September 10th will be heading to New Mexico to hunt elk. Our base camp will be at approximately 11,500’ in elevation. Here’s how I prepare.
There are many exercises that elevate your heart rate and improve strength and endurance in your legs. Biking, running, elliptical machines, swimming, and hiking all help prepare your body for a physical hunt. The biggest key is to get moving and stick to a workout schedule.
I train year round. There may be times of the year where it is harder to get in quality workouts consistently, but at the very least do some maintenance workouts 3-4 days a week year round. Here is a quick summary of my year.
January – March. Winter usually has me indoors, so I abuse the treadmill, sticking to running and weight training at least 5 days per week. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and skating are also good outdoor options. Hunting coyotes on foot in deep snow is a great workout! Or if there is no snow, get scouting new big whitetail hotspots. Scrape lines and trails show up well. Hanging stands and clearing shooting lanes is a great workout. Join an indoor archery league to start honing your skills and keep you archery muscles in shape.
April – May. It’s turkey season and that’s that! I sneak in workouts whenever possible. Hiking around bow-hunting turkeys with a blind on your back is also a bit of a workout. I’m just too addicted to archery hunting these birds to focus on working out hard during this time of year.
June – August. It’s time to step it up! Most high country elk and mule deer hunts take place in September, which is now fast approaching. Get your bow tuned up and shoot it frequently. Set-up a work-out schedule; for example write it in your planner or calendar from now until hunting season. Monday hike 3-miles, Tuesday weight train, Wednesday run 3-miles, Thursday weight train, Friday bike 12 miles, etc. I like to mix up the workouts between running, hiking, and biking to prevent boredom. I enjoy getting up early and biking around areas that I plan to bow-hunt. It’s a great way to scout, get fit, and even learn something by listening to your iPod (if you want).
Starting in July I hike about 3 miles with 40-60 lbs on my back at least once a week. This helps prepare your legs and shoulders for packing out a bull elk. I live in relatively flat country so I put on my back pack and max out the treadmill’s incline. It’s not like the mountains but definitely helps!
Summer time is also a great opportunity to enter into road races. I find they give me something to train for and help me push my limits (as indicated in this photo!).
September – December. It’s hunting season! If you’re like me, workouts take a back seat when you’ve got a tag in your pocket. However, the days get shorter and it’s usually not too hard to workout for at least 45 minutes in the evening. This helps maintain your fitness for the next year. To me working out has become like brushing your teeth. I don’t feel right if I don’t do it. It’s a very good habit to get into and will help you on all hunting endeavors and quality of life. Fitness obviously depends on age and lifestyle, but can be improved in anyone at anytime.
One side note, as a preventative to altitude sickness I have taken Diamox (you need a prescription to obtain it). Diamox does seem to dehydrate you a little so you need to drink a lot of water. It also makes carbonated beverages taste funny while you are taking it, other than that I think it’s worth it and have never felt any sign of altitude sickness while taking it. I recommend it especially if your ascent will be rapid. Why leave anything to chance when you’ve got so much time and effort invested into a hunt.
I’ll keep you posted on my NM elk endeavors. Good luck on your hunts and thank you for reading!