Get Yourself Ready for the Big One

Whether you are doing a guided hunt in Alaska or a DYI in the Rockies you need to be in shape. Every year I have at least one hunting client whose hunt turn out to be less than expected because he wasn’t in shape physically or not prepared in some other way. Getting prepared is more than putting on your backpack and jogging to work or going to the range on weekends.

You need to try to replicate the conditions you will be hunting. When you are out hunting you are not walking on flat ground. You’re going to be working on hillsides, walking through grass, on rocks, busting brush. These are the conditions you should be practicing in. I realize some people will have trouble here but with some creativity most can come close. Freak out your neighbors put your hip boots on, load pack and go walk the ditches along the roads. Ditches let you walk uphill, downhill, or side hill if you are lucky you can even wade through some good gooey mud. They also help you build the right muscles for working on uneven terrain and let you field test your hip boots. You probably shouldn’t carry your rifle here though it might make the locals a little nervous. Find a shelterbelt where with a lot of blow downs to work around. At work forget the elevator take the stairs.

Getting in good physical shape isn’t the only aspect of the hunt you need to work on. You need to get you shooting in shape to. Use the range to get sighted in and test new ammo but use the woods to do your real practice. At the range everything is near perfect. You know the exact distance of each shot. Your shooting lane is nice and flat and neatly mowed. You’re probably shooting under a roof. Get out in the elements revert back to your younger years and go stump shooting, if it is windy and raining so much the better. If you have a scope that is going to fog up when a cloud passes over it won’t do you much good. Practice in adverse conditions – fog, low light, wind, rain, or all the above. Both o these pictures are of a stand we use to practice on. We have a total of five targets all at different angles and distances. This is set up to replicate our black bear bait stations.

The second biggest mistake I see hunters make is they will buy a piece of new equipment and not try it out before hitting camp. Hip boots and sleeping bags are the worst offender. Many times especially guided hunts hunters will mail order hip boots and sleeping bags and have them sent directly to the outfitter. They may save a little time and money getting gear to camp but they will probably regret it later. They’re going to get to camp where they can’t exchange them only to find out the hip boots don’t fit worth a nickel or their sleeping bag isn’t as warm as advertised. I had bear hunt a few years ago who was a good 6’6” and well over 200 lbs. He ordered a sleeping bag and had it sent to the outfitter. Everything he had shipped to the outfitter was sent out to camp before he got to Alaska. When he opened his sleeping bag it was one of those little mummy bags you would take when you want to pack light, like on a goat hunt. This guy couldn’t get half way in the thing luckily there was a packer who could fit in it so they could trade bags for the hunt. I’ve had hunter who bring the same chest waders on a moose hunt that they wear duck hunting. You don’t walk 6 or 8 miles a day in those things; they are made to sit in a blind.

The whole point of the hunt is to have fun. You can’t do if you are cold and wet with blisters the size of fifty-cent pieces on your feet. One of the outfitters I work for always tells prospective clients “if you come to one of my camps you need to have an Alaskan state of mind” What he is talking about is life in camp isn’t always going to be perfect. There are going to be days it will rain sideways, the bugs will drive you nuts, or you may spend the day wading mud. I you are in shape for it and have a “lets get out amongst um” attitude you’re going to have the hunt you worked to get.

Replicate your hunting conditions as best you can and don’t worry what your neighbors think. Work out and practice in the woods. Never take untested gear to camp nobody out there cares if your stuff is the latest and greatest. All it has to do is work for you.

About the Author

Chuck Lamb

Chuck Lamb

Chuck Lamb lives on a remote Alaska homestead with his wife and sons. He makes a living guiding, running a remote trapline, and writing about homesteading and other outdoor skills.