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Doug Leier, Published August 28 2012

Leier: Hunters should prepare physically as well as mentally

Fargo

With the close of summer, you will notice a swing from fishing rods to shotguns. For the next two months, every day is one day closer to the next hunting season.

For many, it’s a seamless and welcome transition, even if the tradeoff means we’re one step closer to winter. On the other hand, while most of us are mentally prepared to get the hunting season started, we might have some work to do before we’re physically ready.

People who hunt all fall – starting with early goose and then doves and working through grouse and waterfowl – gradually acclimate their body to extreme temperatures and physical exertion. This natural progression may serve as an adequate tune-up for October pheasant and November deer season.

But for those who have planned their fall hunts on paper since the close of last year, but haven’t prepared their bodies for the physical challenges, sore muscles, blistered feet, overexertion and other injuries are all possible consequences. On the other hand, just like the softball player who spends the offseason periodically working out, hunters who are physically fit can tip the odds for success in their favor.

Deer hunting can often mean hikes through knee-deep snow or heavy cover, and up and down hills. In small doses, these activities are manageable. But a lot of deer hunters with little physical preparation start walking at noon on opening day and don’t stop until sunset. It’s no wonder they wake up the next morning with stiff joints and dwindling enthusiasm.

Hunters who start now can only help themselves. I have an old friend who works in the exercise physiology field who says that any preseason workout regimen won’t produce dramatic results the first day, but the sooner you start the better off you are in the long run.

It might be as simple as stretching and walking, and increasing your workout according to how your body reacts.

I’ve always tried to keep myself physically fit. But honestly, going for a walk each evening, plus doing push-ups or some other exercise, still does not prepare you 100 percent for the first couple of walks through thick cover and up and down varied terrain. It’s different muscles and movement.

Big-game hunters know first-hand how dragging a deer or elk quarter out after a successful hunt is also a major stress on the body. It’s also not an easy activity for which to prepare. But prepare as best you can ahead of time, and when your body tells you to stop, listen. It’s one time where stopping, taking a break or asking for help may literally be a life-saving choice.

And you hear, read and see this advice repeatedly: any new training program should begin with a check-up that includes a doctor’s recommendations. It’s not just a casual suggestion, but if you plan on having your hunting rig checked for any major preseason issues, check the mirror first. Get yourself a check-up.

Early summer is ideally a better time to begin a conditioning program that will make hunting season much less stressful, but it’s not too late to start preparing for those long walks of deer season, which opens Friday, Nov. 9 at noon.

Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov

Leier’s blog can be found online

at www.areavoices.com