Getting In Shape For Big Game Hunting

By Mike Hawkridge

Hunts are crammed with challenges well beyond our control; weather, terrain, and uncooperative big game can all be factors we are forced to work with. There are things we can do to tip the scales of success, including; gear, equipment, and knowledge. One other element I believe strongly in is fitness. I feel that fitness is one factor that will give you the edge needed to achieve a high level of hunting success. If you have been a part of the hunting community for any length of time, you’ll more then likely have heard the slogan “sheep shape”. This refers to the level of fitness typically needed to make it into sheep country and within range of a dream ram. Although not all hunting requires a hunter to run marathons or bench 400lbs, ya got to be able to at the very least walk into your tree stand and climb into it.


The type of hunting adventure will dictate the level of fitness that you should reach for, for example, chasing cougars through three feet of snow will mean that at some point your lungs will explode unless you do a little leg work before. After pursuing a booner elk to the top of the mountain, wouldn’t it be nice to have enough breath left in your body to squeeze the trigger? Packing out pieces of a bull moose on your back will have many un-seen parts of your body puckering.

Gold’s Gym membership will not be needed; some simple exercises can set you up for a fit fall hunt. Aerobic exercising can be as simple as walking around the block or some time on a stair master. I feel it is important to match the type, as well as the duration, of exercising with the nature of the chosen expedition. I typically will spend about an hour at a time training aerobically to prepare for my mountain guiding. To switch things up a notch, I’ll do some level of increased activity for short bursts. This readies me for the quick scrambles for one rock to another while stalking goats and sheep.

Core strength is equally important, effecting overall power and balance. Any resistance and weight training that involves the entire body will increase overall core fitness. Barbell training is easy and very effective; bent rows, upright rows, military press, lunges, and dead lift are some of my favorites. These movements help me with the strength I need to pack critters down off the hills.

Stretching is another vital component of overall fitness. Without flexibility, joints will suffer and that means you suffer. Proper stretching will help defend against many sprains and strains that could end your hunt early. Fall weather conditions characteristically mean poor footing and with poor footing comes slipping and falling.

Being in shape for hunting season will increase your experience and help keep you safe, not to mention the added benefit of quite possibly helping you live longer. Oh, another quick note, before you start any workout routine consider a checkup with your doctor and for you guys over forty….ya roll over on your side and try to relax!