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Fitness for Hunting

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Physical Preparation for Backcountry Hunting

The exercises and content expressed in this column are for illustrative purposes only. Consult your physician before trying any physical activity or nutritional plan. RECOIL and its contributors are not responsible for any harm or injuries sustained while attempting these techniques.

Whether hunting on the tundra of Alaska or the savannas of South Africa, there’s a good chance you’ll face formidable terrain and weather conditions. Then add in long periods of hiking, stalking, and lying prone, punctuated by bursts of squatting, crouching, and sitting, and you’ll no doubt tax your body. The good news is we can prepare you for this. Learn the right way to train for a wide range of positions you’ll need for backcountry hunting.

Yes, You Need to Be in Great Shape
Hunting can be very physically demanding, and you can’t let a lack of fitness limit your ability to catch your own food or your enjoyment of the sport. Missed opportunities due to exhaustion can be extremely disappointing. Worse yet, heart attacks can happen if you’re in rough shape. Many people every year succumb to heart attacks simply by shoveling a driveway, a far easier task than dragging a deer out of the woods.

Our earlier ancestors were in much better shape for this type of activity. They regularly walked, ran, lifted, fought, and just had much more overall activity. Hunting was no problem. Nowadays, we all sit most of our days. Obesity rates continue to rise, and we’re just becoming less fit overall.

KneelStand3.jpg Drag2.jpg

If you’re going to be successful in hunting, it’ll involve a lot of slower, continuous movement over varying terrain. Even low-intensity activities, like moving from one spot to the next, low-level climbing, and stalking your prey, can take a toll. This is especially arduous with a rifle and gear. After all, if you’re not fit enough to get to the prey, you’ll never be a good hunter. This requires a good deal of aerobic conditioning as well as general strength and the mobility to get into potentially awkward positions and postures based on an array of different situations.

If all goes well on the hunt, you’ll transport the animal back to your vehicle. Dragging a large body any appreciable distance represents a significant challenge, even for relatively fit people. And we all hope our kill isn’t a scrawny specimen! But that’s not all. You’ll still need to pick it up, load it, secure it, and reverse the whole process to prepare it. That pretty much touches on all areas of fitness.

We Have A Plan For That
There’s clearly a great benefit to being in good enough shape to hunt, but what exactly does a program for a hunter look like? Much of the time, training for a particular sport doesn’t have to be extremely unique; attempting to mimic every nuance it has to offer is usually a fool’s errand. General athleticism is vital to every athlete. Hunting is no different.

Being a well-balanced athlete is all you need. That being said, there are some specific positions that hunters need to be able to get into. For these positions, there are exercises and movements from which you’ll benefit. Specifically, we’ll look at squatting, hiking, stalking, crouching, and lying prone as positions to train for.

Being able to get into and out of these positions is important. We’ll touch on each of them below, providing one mobility or movement preparation exercise and one strength exercise that aids the position. Specifically for hiking, we’ve included a conditioning exercise to make the most aggressive terrain seem like a walk in the park.


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