Has fatigue ever plagued your elk hunt? If you’re being honest, it probably has. Fatigue makes cowards of us all. All elk hunting is hard. Whether private ranch or public ground, elk simply do not want to die, and they reside in areas that do not get disturbed. Wherever you find elk, no question you had to hike to get to them. After a few days of elevation gains, swirly mountain air, and rubber wearing off your boots, fatigue sets in and the coward begins to speak up. Fatigue warning signs are subtle but could be anything, such as choosing to sleep in, a decrease in balance, or becoming less surefooted. How about being lazy when it comes to getting the wind in your favor, or talking yourself out of going after a bull because he’s too far away. I believe fatigue will rob you of your confidence and diminish your predatory instinct. Fatigue is a liar. So to ward off the ravages of fatigue, you should get into Elk Shape before the season rolls around. Good news! This issue just hit the stands, and we have the entire summer to scout, train, and shoot. Let me show you a blueprint on how to get into Elk Shape.
Elk Shape Blueprint (A) – Become One With Your Hunting Backpack
By now you probably are lucky enough to know where you will be elk hunting this fall. Perhaps you burned double-digit points on a highly coveted tag, forked out some cash on a reputable outfitter, or picked up an over-the-counter tag. A few fortunate elk hunters live relatively close to their hunting unit. They will make bomb-runs to scout, hump the hills, glass basins, and leave trail cameras littered across the country. Meanwhile, others will be forced to study maps, beg for information on hunting forums, and try to make things happen when they arrive in the fall. Whether you’re a veteran or greenhorn, you will hike to find elk, and hustle to get into position on them. A backpack will likely never leave you throughout the hunt. You have to carry food, water, and game bags every step of the way. So getting into Elk Shape requires that you wear your backpack loaded down while you train to simulate what elk hunting has in store for you.
Step-Ups with Backpack –use a step or box with a height of 16” at the minimum, and wear your hunting backpack loaded with at least 30 pounds of weight. Add a few pounds to the pack each week leading up to the September opener. I always train with a pack that is heavier than what my actual set-up is, that way I feel light and mobile on the mountain come September. Step-ups are designed to use your legs and torso. Perform by stepping up onto the box with your lead leg, minimize push off with your back foot, and pay close attention to perfect posture as you step up and down. Alternate legs each step and keep track of your reps. Here are 3 backpack workouts to cycle through:
1. 1 minute of max step-ups, followed by 1 minute of rest, 10 rounds, record highest and lowest round of steps. Interval work will rid you of any susceptibility to fatigue. The goal is to have consistent rep counts each round.
2. 200 Step-Ups For Time. The caveat here is that every minute on the minute you are interrupted with 5 push-ups. Leave your pack on if you can or take it off, either way the clock is ticking so hustle on those step-ups. Record your final time when the task is completed. Oh, and by the way, the workout starts with 5 push-ups so you are hustling from the get go.
3. Walk for 1 hour non-stop with your pack on. Look for elevation gain/loss. This is more of a steady pace with no intervals. If you can go longer, do so. Wear your hunting boots. And bowhunters, carry your bow to simulate the real thing. My Elk Shape program has long hikes programmed every weekend while scouting, exploring, and checking trail cameras. If you can’t make it to the mountains, then load up and hustle through the neighborhood.
Elk Shape Blueprint (B) – Fuel Your Body With Proper Nutrition.
Proper nutrition boils down to planning and preparing food. Being cognizant of eating small balanced meals throughout the day will ward off fat storage. Every time you eat there should be a lean protein source, a fruit and/or vegetable, and some healthy fats like nuts or seeds. The second you let your guard down and eat fast food or gas station gut rot, the weight gain quickly ensues. Any weight you put on in the off-season will work against you once you step foot into your hunting unit. If I put a rock weighing 10 pounds in your hunting backpack without you knowing, you wouldn’t be happy about it. It would slowly work against you as you hunted. On the contrary, if you don’t mind lugging around an unwanted 5, 10, or 20 pounds. all day everyday of elk hunting season, then go ahead and continue to eat poorly. Most folks want to lose weight, and some want to put on muscle or do both. So with the help of Mtn Ops, we designed the Elk Shape Stacks to aid in your nutritional needs. The first Elk Shape Stack is for most guys who need to lose unwanted pounds around their waistline:
Herd Bull Combo for Weight Loss
Yeti – 1 scoop twenty minutes before your training session and you will definitely take it up a notch.
Enduro – This will aid your cardiovascular endurance and stamina, as well as recovery and fatigue resistance.
Blaze – This one does everything – you don’t even have to train (I’m kidding). Blaze improves overall health and suppresses appetite.
Phenix – Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle. The BCAA’s will aid in muscle recovery as well as muscle maintenance.
Ammo – This will come in handy for a meal replacement and/or post workout shake. I take immediately after training and you should too, don’t waste your workout.
Challenge Bugle Combo for Muscle Gain
Yeti – Pre workout (take it up a notch)
Enduro – Cardiovascular endurance
Ox – Increase testosterone naturally, faster recovery between workouts
Phenix – Amino acids (BCAA’s) for lean muscle maintenance/gain
Ammo – Meal replacement and/or post workout
If you live out West, do the step-ups and other strength training during the workweek. When the weekend rolls around, get out into your elk areas early and often. Find the sheds of the bulls in your unit, place trail cameras over water or feeding areas. Hike in several drainages, creating more knowledge of the land and potential back up plans for when fall arrives. Folks that are coming out West and don’t have time to scout, get yourself in the absolute best shape possible so you can maximize your limited amount of time during the hunt. Be fit enough to haul around a heavy backpack system, be ready to chase down bugles regardless of distance or terrain. A fitness perquisite will go a long way if you start now and stay with it until fall rolls around.
Nothing can replace the training specificity of humping the hills with a loaded backpack. If you have the choice of either pounding a treadmill or scouting in the mountains, obviously choose the latter. However, when you’re caught up in a crazy work week plus taking the kids to all their team sports and performing honey-do’s, then do step-ups in your living room once everyone has gone to bed. Put the headphones in and grind in the name of better elk hunting. Endurance and confidence go hand-in-hand, so make the summer count the most and tame the mountain. When fall finally arrives, you’ll be in Elk Shape which means you’re ready to conquer fatigue and conquer your unknown.
About the Author:
Dan is an avid bowhunter, holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology and owns CrossFit Spokane Valley. Follow him on Instagram @danthefitnessman and tag any of your training photos with #ElkShape