Healthy Hunter: Season Was Easier Thanks to Fitness

Alabama’s north zone season ended Jan. 31 and after more than three months, preceded by late summer work, I was glad to see the sun set on yet another hunting season.

It wasn’t great from the standpoint of putting meat in the freezer. For another season, on the property I hunt, I didn’t release an arrow from my PSE Decree or Barnett Razr Ice crossbow, or shoot any of my firearms. I don’t hunt with just one thing; whatever strikes my fancy during prep usually rides along. It could be my .44 Mag S&W 629, a muzzleloader, my trusty Steyr .30-06 or H&R slug gun. Maybe the Winchester .30-30 lever action, which I love for its light weight, trim lines and knockdown power.

We have deer but the population isn’t great. So we’ve laid off the does for a while. Bucks have been elusive. No problem. I’m good with learning and when the time comes, if I’m fortunate, things will fall into place. I had great hunts in October at the Chain Ranch in Oklahoma with the Thompson Center Strike muzzleloader and another in November with Wicked Outfitters in southeast Kansas with Barnett Crossbows. On the latter, I saw some outstanding bucks, watched big bucks chasing does and had a great time. But none of the bucks came within range of the bow. Maybe this season will be different!

Hunting was better in 2015 thanks to a change in fitness and diet, which made for better days afield. This buck was taken with the Thompson-Center Strike muzzleloader at the Chain Ranch in Oklahoma last October.

Hunting was better in 2015 thanks to a change in fitness and diet, which made for better days afield. This buck was taken with the Thompson-Center Strike muzzleloader at the Chain Ranch in Oklahoma last October.

I won’t say the season was a bust, though, for two main reasons. First, I learned more this year about the deer that use my home grounds and saw some new bucks that showed up. That’s encouraging. Off-season work this year will hopefully keep those bucks and does around more frequently. I’m also going to be doing some serious predator work on coyotes, raccoons, armadillos and opossums. They’re hell on turkey nests and our bird population is low; coyotes also are fawn-eaters and they need to die. Soon, yotes. Soon.

The second thing I’m grateful for is my 2015 summer fitness workouts and autumn jogging. Last summer I joined an 8-week fitness boot camp that met at 5:15 a.m. Sixteen sessions for an hour each of high intensity interval training was tough in the Alabama humidity. The last session in August was brutal. (You youngsters and farmers and construction folks, I know you’re laughing. Not everyone works in beast mode all the time. So cut us older desk guys some slack.)

Those workouts along with my other walking, jogging and biking in our neighborhood paid off during hunting season. Some days, I’ll knock off 11 to 13 miles on my bike at lunch on a great route with no traffic to worry about. Others, I’ll combine walking and jogging for anywhere from 2.5 to six miles. I lost some weight, slept better and felt a lot better. Changed my diet some, too.

During the hunting season I was less tired. I wasn’t as winded walking to stands. Early mornings weren’t as harsh, and I’m not a morning person by any stretch. All of that, I attribute to my summer and autumn workouts. I’m looking forward to turkey season being better, too.

You can do this, too. Take a self-assessment, start mapping some walking routes, get some good shoes and maybe get your spouse or some buds to go with you. Yeah, men can walk together in a group. It’s motivation, encouragement, helping each other, just like helping drag out a deer or putting up a stand.

Start in spring and set some modest goals. Once you reach them, set some more goals. Just like trying to figure out a buck’s routine and having the goal of getting a shot, you can do the same with your fitness plan before the 2016 season gets here.

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