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How to Get in Shape for Hunting

Samuel Reid explains how to be mentally ready and physically prepared for a successful hunting season.

Hunting is, undoubtedly, one of the most challenging physical activities, and it requires not just fitness but also balance, coordination, and endurance. That is why getting ready for the big game hunting season should mean more than having the best equipment and gear. Elk hunting, in particular, means being in the mountains, at high elevations, and on rough terrain.

Both beginners and seasoned hunters need to be aware of the possible dangers they are exposed to during hunting and the importance of being in shape, to prevent accidents or injuries. Being mentally ready and physically prepared is one of the keys to successful hunting, especially as you go deeper into the woods, during the cold season, up in the mountains.

Why Is Hunting Fitness Important?

While it is entirely possible to go hunting without any physical training, this does not mean it is a good idea. Hunting increases the risk of a heart attack and potential injuries. Being at a high altitude, and hunting for elks, means that you are getting less oxygen.

Add to that the pressure of the constant movement, the low temperatures, and the challenging terrain, and you will get an idea of what your heart is submitted to while you are hunting.

That is why aerobic fitness is crucial for preventing a heart attack. Remember, when you are by yourself, in the woods, the chances of getting help in case something happens, also decrease. If you are not already in shape by the time you go hunting, you might find yourself breathing heavily, limping, with an aching body, instead of enjoying being up there.

Another thing you should keep in mind is your strength. First of all, you will be carrying all of your equipment, including rifles, crossbows, and a tripod deer stand. Even if it is a lightweight one, it is still a considerable weight that is added to the rest of your gear. Then, after the effort of moving, searching, and hunting, it will be time for you to carry the entire animal or the packed meat.

Therefore, if you want to be able to enjoy the hunting season and have a successful hunting session, it is highly advisable to start a simple fitness program to get in shape for hunting.

Start With Small Steps

Your primary goal should be to gain more overall strength. A strengthened body can handle marching through the woods for days and can recover faster after possible slips or falls. An easy and effective way to gradually increase your strength is to walk, carrying weights. You can choose an equal amount to what you would take while hunting, or you can start with something light.

Train Your Legs With Step-Ups

Hunting in the mountains is inevitably challenging for the leg muscles. Alternating between moving uphill, marching, and going downhill is an exhausting task for hunters with weak legs. The best way to train your legs is to do step-ups. And, to take it even further, you can also use weights while doing your step-ups.

You can conveniently train in your garage or even at home. All you need is a chair or a sturdy box. Strap your hunting boots on, carry your backpack and start practicing. Try to do as many step-ups as you can for 30 minutes, or try a version of interval training, by alternating 60 seconds of step-ups with 30 seconds of rest.

Ruck Marching for Endurance

After you have done your walks and step-ups for a few weeks, it is time to step it up a notch by starting a “rucking” training routine. Ruck marching is a training method used in the military, and it is essential for getting accustomed to the kind of weight you will be carrying during hunting.

A good routine should include rucking two or three times per week. Try to alternate days when you pack lightweight, around 40 pounds, and walk at a faster pace, with days when you pack up to 70 pounds, but walk at a slower pace. 

Also, do not forget to stay hydrated. Especially when oxygen levels decrease due to elevation, having enough water and electrolyte drinks in your system is crucial.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • REID, S. (2020) How to Get in Shape for Hunting [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Samuel Reid is a freelance writer and fitness fanatic who loves to write fitness articles.