As a hunter, it’s impossible to prepare for everything you might encounter, but experience and training help us to assess different situations and handle the things that can’t be controlled. One thing we can control is how we prepare ourselves physically to go hunting.
The advantages of physical fitness are well researched and widely known. This involves leading a healthy lifestyle and keeping fit. This is particularly beneficial when hunting over mountainous terrain, and it helps prevent injury. Perhaps the simplest form of preparation is to make sure you have the right hunting equipment – including firearms and optics.
Many of us are less keen to work on our physical fitness, but some of the most sought-after animals live in areas that can only be reached on foot. We asked four hunters how they get fit for their adventures.
When hunting my favorite animal, the reindeer, my black Norwegian Elkhound Rocky is always by my side. In the mountains, reindeer are nomadic creatures that are hard to spot and disappear just as fast, like ghosts. The fact that you have to work so hard to see them is what I love most about reindeer hunting. In preparation for the hunt, Rocky and I use our Alpine garden as a playground. Sunsets, climbing on boulders and cliffs, exploring new places – this is when I feel a sense of peace combined with an adrenaline rush. I do endurance training but save my joints by avoiding running on asphalt. Instead, I run on terrain that is similar to that of the hunting ground. I like to train light, so I take the absolute minimum with me. I also cross-country ski and practice a Norwegian shooting discipline called jaktfelt. I enter competitions for fun in both these disciplines.
My training goal? I’d like to go back to Canada one day and join a mountain goat hunt. The last time I was there we were stopped by extreme weather conditions. It snowed heavily during the hunt, so we had to stay in the tent for three days before coming back down. We can’t control the weather – but that’s fine too!
Hunting is a way of life, so you have to do something every day – not just one-off training for an upcoming hunt. I have hunted all over the world, in all kinds of terrain – from incredibly rugged mountains in Asia to the flat grasslands of Africa. The local mountains near my home in Spain are ideal for hiking and trail running. I concentrate on long-distance endurance training including lots of ascents and descents. My favorite trick is to carry a backpack full
of water bottles to the summit and then empty them – this guarantees a gentle, knee-friendly descent. It’s crucial to have lower body and torso strength for balance and coping with rough terrain, so I concentrate on these areas in the gym. My dream hunting destination is the Himalayas in Nepal. The usual challenges of hunting in the mountains increase exponentially with the higher altitude, which could be over 5,000 meters (16,000 feet).
I grew up near the Rocky Mountains in Canada and have spent most of my life in the mountains. When I was 12 years old, my father introduced me to bighorn sheep hunting, and I have been addicted to it ever since. As my passion for mountain hunting has grown over the years, so has my personal fitness level. My work as a chiropractor strengthens my upper body and torso. I’m familiar with a variety of exercises for the lower limbs and teach them in the gym, but for me as a hunter I find it more effective to train outdoors. Hiking, walking the dog, and just spending time in my hunting boots on rough terrain – this is enough to build mobility in my feet and ankles and prevent injuries. When I train indoors, I concentrate on functional exercises involving the gluteal muscles. This large muscle group is essential for pelvic stability, climbing, and the legs in general. Despite my love of the mountains, my name reflects my dream hunt: Cape buffalo.
Hunting is a family tradition and I’m proud to pass it on to my five-year-old twins. I also grew up with hunting – my father took me hunting in Belgium and around the world. We became obsessed with mountain hunting and the search for ibex took us to incredible places like Spain and Mongolia. My hunting style has evolved over the years, and today I love bow hunting. When preparing to go on a Dall sheep hunt in Alaska, I lost some weight with the help of a nutritionist. I worked on my legs and general fitness by running three to four times a week, gradually increasing the length of the run, my speed, and the weight of my backpack. Apart from running, my wife and I also followed a TV fitness program, which gave us fast results. I realized how much the training had paid off when I strapped a ram to my backpack. I couldn’t have done this without the training. My next target is a mountain goat hunt on Kodiak Island.