Take a quick scroll through your social media these days and you’ll likely see as many fitness photos as you’ll see photos of big bucks and bulls. Yes, physical fitness seems to be the rage among many hunters these days as they prepare for the upcoming hunting season. But does working out really make you a better bowhunter?
Looking beyond all the obnoxious gym selfies – is there really a method to all the fitness madness? You ran 25 miles today? Great! But is that gonna mean more punched tags come hunting season? Seriously – Does working out really make you a better bowhunter?
I decided to take my question to a source I knew would be legit. I approached Matt Davis at MTN OPS to pick his brain on the topic of fitness and whether or not working out really makes you a better bowhunter. Davis is an avid western bowhunter that spends countless hours in pursuit of deer and elk, and even sneaks in an annual turkey hunt with his wife each spring. Davis doesn’t just exercise and train to hunt, but believes that being in good shape benefits his health, life and family overall. Davis admits that he’s not big on straight cardio workouts and running for hours on end, but also knows the benefit of a cardio routine that will enable him to hike hard and get where he needs to be when chasing big game.
So what did Davis have to say about fitness and bowhunting? The answer may surprise you.
Does working out really make you a better bowhunter? “Easy answer,” says Davis. “No – Bowhunting is a combination of woodsmanship, understanding the game you pursue, and years of trial and error through successful and blown opportunities. But, the more opportunities you have, the more likely you are to be successful as a hunter. All that being said, working out, or what I’ll refer to as, ‘fitness,’ will enable you to have more opportunities.”
“For me, the thought of seeing the animal I want and not being able to get to it because of my physical limitations isn’t something I can accept. The only time I’m ‘okay’ with not reaching my goal is when I’ve done everything possible to prepare and execute. If it comes down to me missing, at least I had the opportunity to make the shot and I know what I need to do to improve and capitalize on my next opportunity.”
I asked Matt how he came to the realization that his physical fitness could actually help or hurt his chances for success in the field. What was the turning point in his own hunting career that he decided to work harder so he could hunt stronger?
“I knew that chasing elk and deer was no easy task. Especially if I wanted to go where there were no people and a greater opportunity to punch my tag. What seemed like a stroll in the park for these animals would take me hours of hiking and walking in an attempt to get close enough for a shot. After a few hunts, it was obvious. If I wanted to increase the number of opportunities to be successful, than being in good shape was important.”
So while Davis acknowledges that being fit won’t automatically make you a better bowhunter, he admits that fitness certainly opens the door to a number of opportunities that may have not been available to you had you not been in good enough shape to pursue them.
The Million Dollar Question
It’s no secret that when hunting in the mountains, you really ought to be in as good of shape as you can possibly be before making the climb. But what about flatland hunters? What about the guy that’s simply going to climb into a treestand and sit? Why does a whitetail hunter need to be in good shape to hunt? “I’d ask the same question to anyone that thinks they need a brand new bow, new backpack, 2” expandable broadheads and $5000 worth of camo and optics to shoot a deer,” says Davis. “The answer is simple – it builds confidence and empowers us.”
The simple truth and benefit to being in good physical shape to hunt the flatlands is that your body will have way more energy, you’ll be more alert throughout your sit in the stand. If you’re hunting public land and want to walk a mile deeper than every other hunter to explore a new area, you’ll be able to carry your stand, bow, food and whatever else you need without feeling like you’re about to pass out.
Dragging a deer out of the woods is no easy task. And the chore only gets tougher the older you get. Will your heart be able to handle it? Even the most basic strength training and cardio workout will greatly benefit your abilities before, during, and after the hunt. Think about it. You’ll enjoy the hunt infinitely more when you can do the work required without feeling like you’re dying because you’re out of shape.
Does Working Out Really Make You a Better Bowhunter ? – Conclusion
As hunters, we spend countless hours in preparing gear and property for hunting season. Sadly, many neglect preparing the one thing that matters the most – our own bodies. At the end of the day, you’ll be better at everything you do when you are physically fit.
“For me, I don’t just train to be a successful hunter, I train because my health is important to me,” says Davis. “I honestly feel that every single person realizes the importance of their health at one point or another in their life. Some start young while others figure it out later. Regardless of when you figure it out, there’s no denying that your health is important, and the more you take care of yourself, the more you’re able to take care of others and enjoy the things you love to do, which for most of those reading this article, is hunting. I plan on hunting as long as humanly possible and will do everything in my power to keep myself healthy and active.”
Getting your body in shape won’t be easy. Coming up with excuses to put it off another day is much easier. But if you want to hunt harder, stronger and longer this season, commit to working out and preparing your body for the hunt. Fitness will benefit your hunting efforts like few other things can. Your body is a temple. Take care of it. Keep it strong and hunt with confidence this season.
In shape or not, we can’t wait to see you at Bushmen Safaris. Contact Dani Anderson at mailto:[email protected] or call 208.322.5902 to schedule your South Africa trophy-hunting trip with Bushmen Safaris.
The article originally appeared on the Bowhunting.com website