Getting In Shape For Upcoming Fall Hunts


Results from the Arizona Game and Fish Department lottery drawing for deer, turkey, sheep, and fall javelina hunting permits should soon be available on the Internet — type in and follow the directions posted.

Elk and antelope tag winners have already been determined and those lucky hunters now have those precious permits in their hands for the 2011 season. Now is the time to do your part and prepare for the rigors of the fall hunt.

The topography of canyons, mountains and plateaus creates the perfect environment for the extensive use of optics by hiking to a distinct high point where a person may see for miles. Oftentimes that particular spot will require a hike up a steep incline that may be a mile or two from the nearest road. This could be the obstacle that will keep some hunters from ever seeing that trophy elk or deer. 

The other possibility is seeing those big antlers in the spotting scope, then have the reality set in that it will require a two- or three-mile hike in some of the most rugged terrain Arizona has to offer to get to the site. After the first couple of days of a season, most trophy game animals find the deepest canyons as far from a road and hunting pressure as possible. You can penetrate these areas if your legs are in shape and your heart and lungs have been conditioned to make the rugged hike.

This may require a change in your daily routine — finding time in a busy day for 30 minutes of exercise that will pay big dividends. Right now there are ample daylight hours for a simple walking program.

Good physical conditioning is often overlooked as a determining factor in western big-game hunting. Being able to leg an extra mile or cross one more major drainage can greatly increase your odds of harvesting an animal.

I had this experience when on the last day of a rifle deer hunt we crossed one more major canyon after seeing very little in the first mile from the road. The last high point created a vantage spot where we saw six different bucks in a secluded canyon that no one had reached during the first days of the hunt.

Start now with a simple walking program with the initial goal of a 15-minute mile at least three times per week. This routine, if carried out for two weeks, will become easier; then add another mile, which will extend your workout to a 30-minute program. The body responds favorably to gradual, safe exercise with the ultimate goal of being in good hiking shape in time for the fall hunts.

In the second month start to add to your route some of Payson’s hills, which will also be beneficial to the heart muscle and lung capacity. If you have a big-game tag in unit 22 or 23, the hills in town can get you ready for the more strenuous climbs in the Tonto National Forest. No matter what kind of shape I am in, it still seems like I am “huffing and puffing” up the mountain to get to the next vantage spot.

Sometime during the second month of the walking program, add a daypack for one or two days of the walking workout. Most day hunts will have a tripod, spotting scope, and other hunting equipment that could weigh 15 or 20 extra pounds and simulating that on your back can get you more prepared for that opening day. That daypack can get heavy in a hurry walking up a ridge to get into position at first light.

Once the body is accustomed to a systematic walking program, your overall quality of life can improve by making it a part of the daily routine.

There are many different walking routes in Payson — Green Valley Park is one of the most popular with its level ground as well as hills.

The body will respond favorably to a consistent exercise program. If physical conditioning has not been a part of your lifestyle, then it would be wise to consult a doctor before establishing an exercise routine. The results can be life changing, so get ready for the coming fall hunt this summer.

Start now with an intentional walking program and enjoy the surrounding Rim Country — God’s creation.


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