Written By: Chris Waters from Outdoor Empire
September for many people means that fall is just around the corner, school is in full session and the holidays are fast approaching in the next month or two.
But for those who are lucky enough to live in an area or can afford to travel to different states to elk hunt, September has a whole new meaning.
The excitement of the elk rut is a tough experience to beat. The idea that you are going to be in the mountains in a few weeks with a bow in your hand, chasing bugling bulls has nothing but “ADRENALINE” written all over it.
How to Get in Shape During the Offseason
But the question is: what on earth are you supposed to be doing during the offseason of hunting? What is the point of the summer months if there isn’t any real hunting season to help pass the time?
It has been close to five months by the time June rolls around that you haven’t been in the hills with a weapon in your hands chasing big game. So, if you are anything like me, the scale in my bathroom seems to groan every time I step on it during spring and summer.
It seems that the new fad for a hunter these days is lifting, running and protein shakes. These avid hunters spend an hour or so every day at the gym. But living in the country, we don’t even have a gym so I want to share with you different ways on how to get in shape to hunt during your busy everyday life.
Spice Up the Hike
My wife loves to go on family walks so I utilize this opportunity to either carry our four-year-old on my back or grab my Badlands Ox Pack and throw five gallons of water in it.
Each gallon is equal to about eight pounds of weight. This way, I am usually exhausted by the time my two-year-old is, and I can just dump out or we can drink the water before we head home.
An addition to the walk that works well is to add lunges and squats if the kids begin to lag. It slows me down but the workout ends up being far more intense.
After hiking a couple of hours, two or three times a week for about three months, I find that I can make it to the end of any family walk my wife has in store for us — with five gallons of water and all!
It just shows how I am a family man and I enjoy doing everything I can with my family. For example, I wanted to involve our kids in shooting our bows so my wife and I recently purchased a small bow for our four-year-old girl and our two-year-old son.
They love to take turns while we shoot and cheer for each other as we get good shots. When we are down to the range, I also use that time for sprints. As soon as we have finished shooting our arrows, I treat the ninety-yard range as suicides.
I will run to the target and retrieve the arrows, then I will sprint to twenty yards, then sprint back to the target, then to thirty yards and back to the target until I have made it all the way out to ninety yards. During this time of the year, I can only make it about one set of suicides before the sprint becomes only a slow jog.
It does not only help me get into shape, but it also gives me the practice of shooting while winded or with my heart racing, which in a small way is mimicking the adrenaline rush of buck fever. This is the best part of the activity.
Early Season Scouting
Juggling family life and the expensive hobby of hunting can get tricky. So as long as I am not trying to get close to the elk or anything like that, the four of us pack up and head to the hills just to do some early season scouting.
I carry my four-year-old on my back while my wife packs our two-year-old. Since they only have eight pounds difference, we both get a great workout and our legs, ankles, and lungs get used to the unforgiving terrain of 9,000 feet.
Walk a Lot
Regardless of how busy I am, even on my days off, I make sure to go out of my way to take or use the stairs.
I also purchased five-pound ankle weights so if I’m going to walk a lot for the day, I strap those on in the morning before work and attempt to beat my legs to death throughout the day.
5-minute Morning Exercise
Around July, I set my alarm for five minutes earlier than the usual.
I do little exercises every morning, from push-ups to squats. I also have two old car batteries in my garage that I use for lunges. It’s amazing if you consider the amount of exercise that you can do with just five minutes a morning.
Don’t Underestimate Small Steps
Of course, none of these is going to work if you don’t have dedication. But as long as you do something extra, then you are progressing. It may seem small but as soon as you add everything up, then come September, those elk won’t be able to figure out why they can’t seem to shake you.
Getting fit is extremely valuable since it allows you to hear a bugle and take off running with all your gear, which not only helps you close the distance but also keep you a lot safer from tripping or getting injured.
As your adrenaline kicks in full gear and you are breathing hard from the run, you will be grateful for the exercise you did all summer long.
Other Aspects to Prepare
Another vital skill to have under your belt is to practice your elk calls all summer.
I always leave a mouth call in my truck and I practice as I drive to and from work. No matter how many hundreds of times I have practiced, I always feel out of practice by the next summer as I get ready for another year of elk hunting.
The calls I work on are the different cow calls such as the “I am lost” call and the “estrus” call. I also dedicate a lot of time to a bugle since during the early rut, I have better luck with bugling than using an estrus call.
So don’t underestimate the value of getting very comfortable with each call and the variations of each.
I know I don’t need to say this but don’t forget to practice shooting your bow. This includes:
- checking your equipment
- getting new sights or strings early in the year to have enough time to get your sights adjusted
- shoot as often as possible
My wife gets out nearly every day because she wants to think less about it when buck fever hits.
Lastly, go over your gear to make sure you give yourself time to purchase the equipment you need as some things get lost or damaged. This also allows you to practice shooting while wearing what you plan to have on your back and get comfortable with it.
Shooting with a large metal frame backpack or binoculars on your chest can restrict arm movement, so it is important to work out those details as well.
Work Hard, Earn Your Reward
It is essential to remember that most of the time, what you get from the hunt is what you put into the hunt.
There are those few who get lucky and kill monsters on the side of the road. But the harder you work, the odds of being rewarded with not only a great trophy but most importantly, a great experience and a story to tell.