By: Justin Hunold
Physical preparation for hunting matters. Let’s face it Hunting season is a grind. Most of us never really have an “Off season” but the actual in season life is hard on your body and the older you get the harder it is. When I was younger in my twenties I ran on caffeine, bad food and beer. I’d hunt every morning, go to work and work until about 10pm and then get home prep, decompress and get up between 2-4 am to do it all over again. Somedays I would fit schoolwork into that mix too. Now that I’m 40, this schedule seems like a pipe dream.
What are some ways to make hunting season easier? Do you have to be Cameron Haynes? How about someone like Steve Rinella or Janis Putelis instead? How do we stay in good physical condition for hunting season? Here are tips for being in tip top shape for your hunting season.
Meal planning- We aren’t talking macros and micros or any real hard science here. Most of the year let’s think about clean eating for most of the time. Concentrate on the basics, proteins, fats, vitamins, healthy carbs, fruits, veggies and if possible something fresh and not pre packaged. I try to stick to this for most of the off season, with some cheats here and there. The guideline I heard somewhere a long time ago is “If you can stack it, don’t snack it” . Basically if it comes in square packaging try to avoid it.
As far as this diet goes, I still have beer, the occasional snickers, potato chips or even ice cream. I have an almost four year old and we try not to waste food, so I eat a lot of half eaten PBJ’s. I’m not saying to be a nazi about your diet, but trying to eat right is better than not. You will feel better. The thing is if you cut all junk out how will those gas station meals, weird diner breakfasts and other foraging opportunities hit your stomach during hunting season if your stomach isn’t used to junk at all?
But meal Planning goes farther than that. During the season, rather than scrolling through social media for far too long try to get the coffee maker ready for the morning, make some healthy food and get it in your blind bag for the next day. Have a plan for those meals and have them ready. This leads to less gas station snacks, more money in your pocket and more sleep when it’s needed most.
Sleep- I am not a great sleeper, I wake up most nights for a span of at least an hour. What I do well is fall asleep and wake up. I never snooze an alarm, and my lights go out as soon as my head hits the pillow. I use this to my advantage. I know I can push my alarm to the last possible second because I always get right up, no snooze. I also hit the hay when I feel tired to maximize that pre middle of the night wake up. Meaning during the season if I’m tired at 7 if possible I go to bed.
We all have a life. We all have more stuff to do than time to do it in. So, sleep is often the thing we sacrifice. But, there are a lot of credible folks that say it’s the most important thing we can do for our health. What are we to do?
Firstly, if you have sleep apnea , get that taken care of. I know lots of guys in camp that have it, and they all feel better when they have it under control. Just listen to your buddies snore through the night at camp sometime. Listen to the pauses and gasps. The sooner you get that under control the better off your health will be. For some folks its a machine, others its a mouth piece and for some it’s losing some weight, all of these work together in combinations or even singularly and separately. I know some folks that “didn’t have the energy” to work out but once thye got their apnea in line they suddenly started working out. That sort of sleep deprivation matters.
The other thing is learn your sleep patterns, learn what your body needs. I know my sleep strengths so I play to them during the season. I also know I can run full bore for about ten days before a crash, but then I will need one whole day to recover. I try to plan trips, days off and hunting times around these factors.
You may never get eight hours of sleep in a night, but look at getting the best possible sleep you can for the time you can. Know your own sleep patterns and needs. If you snooze, the first alarm needs to be earlier and if you are a third shift worker, afternoons may be your best option.
Exercise- Ugh, this is the one that goes out the window during the season. I run, ruck, hike and lift all off season, then season hits and my work out is the walk into some far flung hunting spot with all my gear or paddling a kayak a mile or two for the same reason. I need to be better about this, and I should incorporate some stretching.
You don’t need to be Cam, lift, run shoot. You can be Steve and Janis, load pack hike around. I’m not going to tell you I look like a Greek god either. But I try to keep a minimum standard and that is this – The Navy SEAL minimums for Physical Screening (sans the swim). 42 push ups in 2:00 mins 50, Situps in 2:00 mins, 6 pull ups and a 1.5 mile run in under 11:00 mins. These won’t get you into the program but they are a baseline I find useful.
At the end of the day you will be less tired, better mentally, sleep better and hunt better if you’re in reasonable physical condition. Everything is harder in the water and we spend a ton of time wet in waterfowl hunting. Start with a walk if that’s tough for you and go from there if you think the SEAL minimums are a breeze take a look at the Competitive standards and do them for time.
Supplements- Over the past three years we all had decisions to make in regards to our health. One of those decisions for me was supplementing my vitamins and minerals. I also incorporate nootropics on a semi-daily basis.
Surprisingly, those athletes taking things like Glucosamine, Fish Oil and Turmeric for their joints are shining the light down the path of more comfort for us hunters. If you hear one complaint at camp about being sore it’s generally joint related. Why not supplement for that the whole year?
Nootropics used to be regarded with voodoo but caffeine is a nootropic and most of us use it daily and likely can’t function as well without it. I use all sorts of nootropics specifically on hunt days and I feel they make a huge difference. I feel sharper and more focused.
Probiotics- Eat some yogurt, take probiotic supplements and figure out the things that don’t agree with your stomach. Many hunt plans have gone awry because of thunder guts and the runs. Get out in front of that. Give yourself enough time to go before you get your waders on if possible, carry imodium in your rig and blind bag….worth it.
These are just a few simple or not so simple things I do through the year that will probably help your season go a bit smoother, make you sharper and a better hunter, and hopefully lead you to be more successful. Listen, every single one of us has a different life, different stressors, different physiology. None of this will be a cure all for everyone. But I bet if you take one of these and tailor it to your own self your hunting season and life in general will be better for it.