Most hunters are ‘preppers.’ Every year we make sure the guns are sighted in, the clothes are scent-free, and the vacation days are planned well in advance of the hunting date.
But one thing we may forget to do is to get ourselves physically ready for hunting season. Keeping in shape is important if you’re young, but for those getting older, being ready for hunting season is essential!
One reason—nobody wants to keel over from a heart attack in the woods, but every year it happens. A 2014 study by Slippery Rock University pointed out that hunters are more likely to die in the woods from a heart attack than from a stray bullet or from falling out of a tree stand.
While the effort required to hike through rough terrain, climb into a hunting stand, the adrenaline rush of shooting a deer, and the cold weather may all play a role in stressing the body, the study found the biggest danger to hunters is the exertion required to drag a deer out of the woods. This effort puts a huge strain on the heart—spiking it very quickly to maximum levels. It’s like going from 0 to 100 percent capacity in just a few seconds.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries asked Tim Crooks, Fitness Director at Crunch gym in Richmond about how to prepare now for hunting—to walk long distances, climb into deer stands, and to drag a deer carcass several hundred yards.
“Definitely train before the season starts—do some cardio to get the heart rate up. Don’t just go out into the woods. Start with a warm-up, increase flexibility—do some dynamic stretching, then strength exercises like squats -3 sets of 10, jumping jacks, lunges, side bends, core work, and planks. Get your body more used to exerting energy. “
“It’s also important not to forget about stabilizing the little muscles, like the joints and ligaments around the knee. You can do this with balancing exercises, like balancing on one foot.”
Take Frequent Rests
Besides cardio and strength work, another way you can reduce the risk is simply to take rest breaks when you’re winded—especially important when dragging a deer. Your body will let you know when you need a rest— and you should listen to it. If you’re hunting with others, it’s always a good idea to get a buddy to help you out with the drag.
Check with your doctor if you have any concerns about your health, and before you begin a workout routine. While you might consider taking the time getting in shape for deer season an extra chore, when it comes to hunting, it’s best to remember the old Boy Scout motto and be prepared.
–Ron Messina, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.