The fall hunting seasons are not far away. With the big-game drawing being completed, most outdoorsmen know if they were fortunate enough to draw a deer, antelope, elk or sheep tag in one of the many Arizona hunts.
If you were one of the lucky lottery winners, then scouting plans and target practice are sure to follow. The odds of filling a tag greatly increase with time being spent on these two variables.
There is one often-overlooked factor in western big-game hunting that can ruin the hunt of a lifetime and that is your physical conditioning. Being able to leg an extra mile or one more major drainage can often be the difference and greatly increase your odds of harvesting a trophy animal.
Local outfitters agree that physical conditioning of the client is the most important variable that can be worked on well in advance of a scheduled hunt. Longtime friend and successful bear and lion guide, Steve Smith, calls this being “legged up.” Having your hips and legs being ready for the ordeal of all the vertical terrain hiking of the Arizona outdoors is vital.
Start now with a simple walking program with the initial goal of a 15-minute mile, three times per week. This routine, if carried out for two weeks, will become progressively easier. When this occurs it would be advisable to increase the workload by adding another mile, which will extend your workout to a 30-minute program. After another week or two, this will also seem easier to accomplish. The body responds favorably to gradual safe exercise with the ultimate goal of being in good hiking shape in time for the fall hunts.
Adding hills and inclines to your walking program not only improves overall leg strength, but can also strengthen the heart muscle and your lung capacity to take in oxygen-rich blood.
We need to remember most of Arizona hunting is done on ridges, canyons and mountains, which often includes “huffing and puffing” up the hill to the next vantage spot.
The three-day per week regimen, after a month, can be increased to a five-day program as the body gets into better physical condition. The ultimate goal is to make exercise a part of your lifestyle, which can improve the quality of life over a longer period of time.
After establishing your walking program, adding a daypack with weight to simulate a tripod, spotting scope and other hunting equipment can also increase the rigors of the workout. This is how it will be on opening morning leaving the vehicle or camp behind, heading for the hunting area. Believe me, that daypack can get heavy in a hurry going up a ridge.
If you are starting a walking program for the first time and are in the over 40 category, it would be wise to first consult a doctor to see if you are up to the task.
The body will respond favorably to a systematic consistent exercise program, you will feel better and in the long run improve your quality of life.
Remember, that trophy animal may be on that next ridge or across that far canyon, so get ready this summer for that fall hunt.
Plan now, be consistent in your workout, so this fall you will have the hunt of a lifetime in the great outdoors, God’s creation.