BWB Fitness Series #1
                                                                                                By Matt Breton

For decades now the hunting industry has advanced on the back of technological innovation.  Things like better clothes, lighter fibers, faster bows, more accurate rifles.  How far can these advances take us?  Will a bow that can shoot 10 feet per second faster make me a better hunter?  Can a GPS that stores 32 GB instead of 28 help me shoot a bigger bull?  Will a rifle and bullet combination that shoots .75 MOA instead of 1 MOA make the deer more dead at 70 yards?  The next leaps are likely to try to take human error out of the equation.  More computers, more smart stuff, more… everything.  

The hunting life, to me, is about being engaged, to live so completely in the moment that there is nothing but the hunter and the hunted.  At a certain point, technological advances end up disengaging us from being in that moment.  I use many innovative products; those that I feel make me a better hunter, for whatever reason.  I shoot a compound bow and a scoped rifle, wear treated wool and carry a GPS.  But the technology cannot replace the adventures I seek or the experiences I covet.  It cannot get me to the bull and his harem five miles from the trailhead in the Colorado backcountry or help me sort out the track of the trophy buck I’m trailing in the big woods of northern Maine.

I believe the next frontier for advancing the performance of the modern hunter is the arena of physical fitness.  Of the few things you personally have control of during the pursuit of a buck on his turf, fitness is your greatest asset.  Many people work very hard to become fit enough to tackle tough terrain and are rewarded for it.  I see people training today so that they can be better tomorrow.  But there are many more who are not.  I’ve sat across from people who couldn’t make it into the high country of Wyoming because they were too heavy for the horses.  I’ve sat next to gentlemen who paid dearly to have a guide help them track down a buck in Maine and then were to worn out to hunt the last two days of a six day hunt.  

The day to day life of an average American is likely spent behind a desk or in an office.  The average hunter does not fare much better.  People in general are less fit and have more health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.  They spend more time in the doctor’s office than they do in the woods. These issues are preventable with a healthy diet and exercise.  Even the aging carpenter is not immune; swinging a hammer and hauling lumber doesn’t simulate dragging a buck three quarters of a mile out of the woods.  Let’s be honest, there is a large portion of the day when people are not sweating or breathing hard.  

None of this is good preparation for the rigors of a hunt.  Why would anyone want to spend three days of a five day pheasant hunt getting their legs going and waking up so sore every morning that reaching the breakfast table is a challenge?  Many of us do not have an entire month to work our way into hunting shape.  We need to be able to climb out of our truck on the first day of our hunt and chase that buck wherever he takes us, drag him out and put him in the truck.  If we simply chase him and don’t close the deal, we need to be ready to roll again the next day.  

There is a way.  Hunt more efficiently and effectively.  Keep your head in the game longer.  Feel stronger and perform better.  You are not tied to your desk or sentenced to life in a treestand.  The fountain of youth is out there, waiting to drip from your brow and puddle on the floor.  It takes sacrifice, discipline and effort.  It will be rewarded.  You will gain the ability, the capacity and the willingness to remain strong in your pursuit.  When the buck crosses the next mountain headed away from your truck, you need to know you can get there…and back.  

If you are willing to sharpen your shooting skills and spend hours on the internet researching your next hunting clothes purchase, you should be willing to invest some time and effort in your fitness.  A focused program will yield big gains in a relatively short amount of time.  You do not need to become a marathon runner or power lifter.  You do need to commit to improving your endurance and strength.  As these improve, your confidence will grow and when things get tough on the track in November you will have what you need to stay after him until you drag him out.  

Next up in the Big Woods Fitness Series is information about beginning to build your endurance.  As the foundation of all the other aspects of physical training, improving your heart and lungs is the first step in becoming a fit hunter. If you would like to ask Matt a question or send him a comment please email him at nwsjoutdoorathlete@gmail.com.

*Before starting a training program, please consult with your physician to make sure it is safe for you to exercise.*