I know the calendar says its early summer, but you can start preparing now for your fall big game hunts.

The antelope and elk permits were mailed out almost two months ago and the excitement of having drawn one of those tags no doubt still lingers. The planning and preparation adds a definite purpose for many hunters with weekend trips to the unit, studying maps, and sharpening one’s marksmanship skills.

Longtime friend, Don Heizer, who drew an early archery elk tag, put it simply, “preparation is almost as much fun as letting that arrow fly.” Anyone who has been in the field in pursuit of big game certainly understands this kind of reasoning. There may be only one opportunity at that trophy animal and the well placed shot is critical.

A key factor in preparation that is often overlooked by many big game hunters is one’s physical conditioning before traversing the mountains and canyons so typical to Arizona. This no doubt, is the least favorite endeavor, which can aid in a successful hunt and placing that tag on those antlers. This is a subject I revisit annually in encouraging hunters to get in good hiking shape.

Being able to put boots on the ground in crossing that next canyon or climbing to that next ridge for a better vantage point is often the difference in finding the game. I am not a fan of trying to blaze a new ATV trail or taking that long range shot instead of making a stalk that would put one within a reasonable shooting distance.

After the game has been spotted with binoculars or spotting scope, the challenge is the stalk with a well thought out approach, which may take more than an hour of hiking through rugged terrain. Thus, physical conditioning becomes a major factor for the hunter. Being able to climb a ridge for the perfect shot takes hips and leg strength plus cardiovascular conditioning.

This requires exercise, which can be done months before the actual hunt in the field. A simple exercise program must be intentional with some degree of a planned out routine. Thirty minutes of prescribed exercise three times per week is enough to make substantial improvements within just a couple of weeks and over a summer the progress will be even more.

Walking is probably the best overall exercise and the easiest to implement. Within the city limits of Payson we have so many trails and of course Green Valley Park is perfect with a paved walkway. The key is to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping while the leg muscles are being conditioned to perform when you need them to on the hunt.

After a couple of weeks in a walking program it is time to add a few hills which will make the heart muscle work a little harder and of course the legs and hips will adapt to an increased level of exercise.

The time is now, start an exercise program and improve your quality of life so that you can enjoy the Arizona outdoors, God’s creation, even more. Remember, it will improve your chances of taking that big game animal this fall.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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