It’s Almost Too Late to Get Ready for Upland Hunting 2020


By: CJ Steely | Posted: February 28, 2020


Here’s how you won’t miss out!

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Truth is, that for most of us, there is barely time to get ready for the 2020 hunt.


Upland hunting wild birds is a physically challenging passion. Great wild upland bird habitat involves difficult terrain. Wild birds are found where habitat is best and in locations less trafficked. There are reasons some areas get less hunting pressure than others. Oftentimes these hunting areas involve more difficult access and/or require physical exertion that some hunters aren’t able to exert. Whether it's slogging through miles of thick boot caking mud, traversing woodland hills or scaling steep western mountain ranges, strenuous activity is required.


But for many upland hunters, we don’t take required upland physical activity as seriously- for example- as elk hunters might.  When hunters envision hunting big country wapiti, the mind conjures up vertical mountain passes. Oftentimes serious upland bird hunters don’t prepare as earnestly to spend days in the field hunting upland birds. Last fall, I measured the daily physical activity spent among myself and other fellow hunters as we spent serious time in the field hunting pheasants.  Our daily miles walked fluctuated between seven and 14 miles. When you think of walking that distance through slick muddy fields, traversing uneven terrain, a hunter needs to be in good shape. When upland hunters are not in proper shape it makes it difficult to enjoy the experience, not to mention safety/health-related risks. A doctor friend of mine practicing in a Midwest hospital, centered in some of the nation’s best pheasant hunting country, told me recently, “…it's often we see upland bird hunters frequent the ER with the onset of heart attacks coinciding with the Pheasant hunt.” He continued, “It’s not unusual for us to see a dozen or so pheasant hunter heart attack cases accompanying the opening weekend of the pheasant hunt.” 


Fitness levels can have a dramatic effect on our abilities to enjoy the upland hunting experience and pose serious health issues especially to those ignoring proper upland hunting physical preparation. Inherent physical limitations can have the effect where hunters miss out on the quality of experience they could have otherwise had.  When a hunter is not in shape there is a tendency to avoid the very passions once held sacrosanct.


Being physically fit is more than just cardio but includes good nutrition, which means learning to eat to live rather than the other way around. Do your research on nutritional supplements designed for the outdoorsman and augment a good diet by supplementing the nutritional gaps. Mental prep shouldn’t be forgotten, which includes proper sleep. Getting our aging muscles ready for the hunt is important as well. I know a famous football coach that made a major focus of his team’s physical fitness program is a strong muscle stretching routine. The morning following every football game his players showed up for an hour-long yoga session. Upland hunters need to have good balance and mobility. Whether its yoga or another stretching regiment, start slowly and work your way progressively forward. Measure your progress and you will be encouraged with the increased results. 


Focus on your core muscle group. Think about the last time you spent days upland hunting, how fatigued were your back muscles?  An ignored core exercise routine can lead to serious back complications, hernias and more. In addition to core weight lifting routines, long walks are excellent core developers and are good for your dogs as well. Take along earbuds and listen to the latest Reb McNally or other Extreme Upland podcasts (a shameless marketing plug).


Each person’s physical fitness level is an individual thing, but regardless of our existing fitness status, there is always room to improve and no reason to wait another day. Don’t be intimidated by the daunting task at hand. If you are already physically fit, find areas to improve on- take on more challenging upland hunting pursuits. When was the last time you chased steep valley chukars or made an upland hunting excursion above the timberline looking for the elusive Colorado high-country Ptarmigan? Why not? The time to start planning and getting ready is now!





#1 Go see your doc


Your diet and exercise must be advised in direct consultation with your doctor.


#2 Make a design towards a planned hunt


Surely you are thinking of a fall upland hunt you want to enjoy. Make plans for the type of physical activity that would be required to enjoy the hunt you are planning.


#3 Find your baseline


If you need to be able to hunt ten plus miles, maybe start now by seeing what your baseline time is to walk a mile, and then work to improve that time each week leading up to the hunt.  How long does it take you to walk five miles or even ten? What is your standing heart rate? Where is your stretching parameter limits? Obtain and record your baseline(s).


#4  Make goals


Goals not written are only wishes. Post your goals where you can see them every day and then measure your progress. Be patient as you progress. Don’t try and make too big a leap right off the bat. And if you slip, get back up and move forward.



An Upland hunter’s keys to success:


Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition!!!


A pretty good rule of thumb is to:


Eat as many green-leafed vegetables as possible. The more vegetables are consumed raw the better, but when you do cook try not to overcook. Overcooked Veggies lose much of their nutritional value


COMPLETELY AVOID GRAINS. Grains of today doesn't resemble the scraggly wholesome wheat a hundred of years ago. Genetic science has engineered grain to be more pestilence and drought resistant. In doing so they have changed the nutritional structure of the grains. We see advertisements for whole grain cereals and or whole-grain bread but in reality, it is analogous to which type of cigarettes are most harmful i.e. maybe some cigarettes contain less nicotine but in the end, they are all bad for your health, the same goes for grains today, none of them are all that beneficial for our health.


Raw nuts in moderation have exceptional value for our health. Don’t be led away into buying honey roasted peanuts or salted almond snacks and think for a minute you are doing your body good. Only raw nuts, in moderation, are your target.


All meats are not all created equal, but regardless, be careful about the amount of meat intake. The rule of thumb is that your meat portion should be limited to one meal a day. The serving size should be able to fit neatly within the palm of your hand.


Fruits are awesome but some fruits have more sugar than others. Fruits with high sugars should be consumed in moderation but other fruits have a “No Limit” sign, posted to their consumption. Fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and other dark berries are awesome! Apples such as Granny Smith apples and citrus such as grapefruit can be consumed to promote excellent health.


Beans are the magic food (unless you are sleeping in closed quarters in a hunting camp). Beans should be consumed daily and without limits. Now when I say without limit, I don’t mean canned beans with high salt content or beans prepared with tons of oils, etc. Beans soaked and prepared with the least number of unnatural additives as possible will promote significant health benefits working against health issues such as diabetes.


It should go without saying that processed sugars should be avoided- soft drinks are among the many evils of our day. That said, if you are a big chocolate cake fan, being permanently prohibited from ever enjoying a moist succulent serving of cake will only add to the possibility of failure. Rewards yourself on occasion with an occasional treat – occasionally.


Nutritional supplements can fill in the gaps of a great nutritional plan. Good nutritional supplements can significantly augment our physical fitness, adding energy and essential minerals. I have my favorites which I am not afraid to share, but whatever company you use, make certain of the science behind the company and your existing needs are proven. For me, I have gone with Mountain OPS, a supplement company that focuses on the needs of hunters. I find it fits my nutritional goal designs. So far, I have excellent success.


Water, lots of water! Recent studies state that four out of five Americans are not drinking enough water. How much is enough? Well, that can vary person-to-person but again, rule of thumb is the 8/8 rule. Eight ounces of water eight times a day.




Start where you are, work towards your goals. Focus on the upland hunting you have planned. There may be a dramatic difference between an upland hunter pursuing chukars in “Hells Canyon” or a pheasant hunter pushing cut cornfields in Iowa. Either way, try and train so that you can sustain a strenuous enough cardio ability to maintain an hour's performance respective to your hunt for at least five different intervals during a day. A hunter needing to hunt for 10 miles a day needs to be able to have cardio to push hard through at least two to three-mile intervals at hunting speed without having to seek the shade of a nearby barn. You need to have the ability to refresh and do it all over again at least five additional times during the day.



Pumping the Iron- or not?


If there’s an awesome gym nearby and that’s your thing, by all means, go and pump iron, But if you are like me, I hate to be indoors any more than I have to. I look to nature for my strength increasing needs.


For example:


When I commence on my cardio routine there is a nearby creek where a large granite boulder guards the creek crossing. I start my routine by placing my toes on the top of the rock and performing push-ups.


A bit further on my course sits an older elm tree with a fairly vertical limb. I use the limb to perfume five sets of chin-ups.


Towards the end of my trail is a large steep hill. I have made it a practice to properly lift five heavy stones to the top on five sperate trips. I am starting my own monument.


There are other types of muscle-building opportunities you can do in your neck of the woods that don’t require the inside of a gym.


While looking good in your swimsuit might be an admirable goal, much of upland hunting needs to focus on the lower body and our legs.  I.e. Sitting in a bench position against a tree reading the best upland hunting articles or hunting dog training books or walking steep hills. Maybe even taking the stairs everywhere you go rather than the elevator. Just remember to strongly focus on legs strengthening.




Begin a regiment of stretching



 Remember to record your beginning baseline so that you can measure the progress you are making. Think about the last time you went in the field hunting. Were there times you had to stretch or jump a small creek? Did you have to lift legs over a barbed wire fence? Possibly you were in the woods crossing over the top of logs and bushes.  Simulate your stretching to reflect your upland hunting reality.


Many hunters experience tight leg muscles. Muscle tightness is very common especially when we spend too much time sitting throughout the workday. Most of the year our knees are bent in a sitting position and then all of a sudden, we are cornfield bound trouncing through heavy cover. If we don’t seek to rectify the issue, the muscles that flex our knee joints can become shorter. As we age, we may lose some muscle and extensibility.  Don’t let this happen to you. Have a consistent routine to improve flexibility. Increased flexibility will have a remarkable advantage for you in the field.


Start today!


Some upland bird hunting openers are only five months away. Regardless of your scheduled upland hunt’s timing, start today with a commitment towards improving your physical statues. Treat your upland hunting passion genuinely and it will reward you in spades. Don’t be discourages if you are physically well below where you should be today. Make written goals and look towards small steps to a larger more enjoyable 2020 upland hunting experience.

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