Welcome to episode #6 of the do-it-yourself Alaska hunting series. In this blog article, we’ll take a look at the topic of training for your hunt, as being physically and mentally fit are essential for success.
The level of physical preparation and conditioning that you’ll need for your Alaska hunting adventure will depend primarily on what animal you’re hunting, where your hunting, and what your specific style of hunting will be. For example, a spot and stalk style hunt for bear, caribou, or moose, where the majority of your time will be spent on a glassing hill surveying the surrounding area with a spotting scope or binoculars for hours and days on end, will not be as physically demanding as say a sheep or goat hunt where you’ll be hiking for miles upon miles up and through very treacherous mountainous terrain each day.
Even on a spot and stalk style hunt where most of your time is spent glassing though, once you begin the stalk, and especially after you harvest an animal, you’ll then be in for a great deal of hard work. Navigating through flat, swampy tundra or heavily forested terrain can be incredibly exhausting. And as I’ve covered in past episodes of this series, packing out potentially hundreds of pounds of meat from a large game animal on your back through the Alaska wilderness will absolutely kick your butt…no matter how young or how great of shape you’re in.
The bottom line is that no matter where you hunt, there will be tough, physical challenges that are unique to the specific terrain you’re in. So once again, as you’re in the planning stages of your hunt, you’ll need to be well informed and educated about the terrain features and challenges of your chosen area, and then be ready to take those challenges on through specialized training.
Specialized Hunt Training
The basic foundation for a hunting exercise program should be one of cross-training, which seeks to develop your overall bodily strength, cardiovascular conditioning, and flexibility through a regimen of stretching, strength training (such as weight lifting), and cardio, such as running, walking, or swimming. While there are many options for getting in shape and many forms of exercise that are great for wilderness exploration and hunting, a productive exercise and training program should be focused on imitating what you’ll be doing in the field and strengthening the muscles that you’ll be using the most while on the hunt.
For example, if your hunt will include hiking for miles a day through hilly or mountainous terrain with a moderately heavy pack on your back, then a good training exercise would be to load up your backpack and hit a nearby hiking trail, or walk a few miles around a hilly neighborhood somewhere several times a week in the same footwear you intend to use on your trip. If you don’t live in an area that has at least some similarities to the terrain you’ll be encountering in Alaska, then walking on a treadmill, stair climber, or another mechanical trainer with elevation adjustments is a good alternative.
As another example, if you’ll be on a moose hunt in areas of swampy tundra, then along with your overall conditioning program, doing more specialized exercises such as medium to high repetition squats, deadlifts, and lunges for your legs and back will be very beneficial…especially when it comes time to pack out all that meat. As many ill-prepared hunters who come to Alaska have found out, if you’re not in shape for the physical demands you’ll be encountering, then your dream hunt will quickly turn into your worst nightmare!
Again, the main focus and goal of your training should be to mimic the demands of the activity you’re preparing for. While all this may sound intimidating to some, keep in mind that you don’t need to achieve the fitness level of an Olympic athlete. You simply need to be in the best possible shape that you can be in and be properly conditioned for your upcoming adventure. You also need to be humble and honest enough to admit when you’re not up to the challenge or you may need more time to prepare. No matter what you end up doing for your training routine though, don’t forget to consult with your doctor before beginning an intense exercise regimen, as again, a memorable hunting adventure is simply not worth dying over.
Set Goals and Monitor Your Progress
No matter what your particular exercise program consists of, it’s important to track your progress and set goals for yourself in order to keep moving in the right direction. Make it a point to set a few, big, major goals to focus on as your ultimate target, and then develop a set of smaller goals to help you reach those big ones. Like any goals that you set for yourself in life, no matter how big or small, those goals should be SMART goals, that is, goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Documenting your training and fitness goals and monitoring your progress in a notebook or log is a great way to stay on track and it’s also very self-motivating.
As vitally important as it is to get in good physical shape for your Alaska hunt, it’s perhaps even more important to be mentally prepared. As many a veteran hunting guide has reported, most of their clients who had unsuccessful hunts ultimately failed because they gave up mentally. Dealing with terrible weather conditions for days on end, not seeing any quality animals during much of your hunt (which does happen quite regularly) and dealing with the many things that can and do go wrong while in the Alaskan wilderness can take a serious toll on one’s morale and level of commitment to succeed. One has willfully exercise a great deal of self-discipline, remain positive and patient, and constantly strive to overcome any and all obstacles…no matter what. One must persevere until the bitter end, as hunting success (especially on DIY hunts) often comes toward the end of one’s adventure, just as you may be tempted to throw in the towel and give up. So again, having the mental strength and stamina to push through what you thought were your limitations, and keep on pushing forward through the pain, discomfort, and letdowns are critical for hunting success in Alaska.
Tested Outdoor Skills
Finally, along with being physically and mentally prepared for your hunt, it goes without saying that one’s general outdoor skills should be fully developed, practiced, and most importantly, well tested before heading out on a DIY Alaska hunting adventure. Your shooting skills should be up to par, you should have a solid knowledge of wilderness camping and survival skills, and it’s also a very good idea to learn and practice CPR and first aid skills before heading out to the wilds. As I mentioned in a previous video, quite often the only helping hands out in areas of remote wilderness are your hands, or those of your companions. So having an abundance of outdoor knowledge and regularly practicing and putting that knowledge to the test is a very important part of being fully prepared for your hunt in Alaska.
In the next and final episode in this series, we’ll cover everybody’s favorite subject…hunting gear! So stay tuned. In the meantime, check out the video below to see more…