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By Madi Andresen
"You prepare food, clothes, shelter, firearms, etc., but why not your body?"
It wasn’t until about two years ago at the end of my collegiate basketball career that I really began to understand the importance of fitness and proper nutrition. I grew up very active, playing sports year around, riding horses, hiking, camping and hunting, but I wouldn’t say I ever truly enjoyed working out until roughly two years ago. Hunting on the other hand, has always been a passion of mine. I have been going hunting with my dad for as long as I can remember and began carrying a rifle and hunting on my own tag at the age of 12. My dad hunts hard according to the law of the land and with respect for the specie that he’s hunting. This is exactly what he has instilled in me. Some days it’s hiking silently for hours on an old skid road, while others are spent sitting and glassing canyons and hillsides waiting for a glimpse of movement. I learned long ago to move off the main roads away from where the animals felt pressured. This often meant blazing our own trail or finding some rough and gnarly deer trail to follow. To be honest I use to hate hiking in a long way as a kid, it just seemed like so much work. I don’t think I really understood what hunting was all about until a few years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved hunting, but as my love for fitness has grown, my perspective has also changed. Growing up I would have rather road hunted than walk all day to see nothing more than a few squirrels, but when the truck stopped I always got out and walked with my dad anyways because I didn’t want him to think any less of me. Of course he probably wouldn’t have actually thought any less of me, but I wasn’t going to risk it. Growing up with a younger brother close in age, the three of us often hunted together. I wasn’t raised to be boyish or as if I was a boy, since I enjoy so many activities that boys typically enjoy; I just wasn’t raised any different from my brother and I think that has shaped who I am today in the best way possible.
Things are a bit different now. I have found a strong love for fitness and with that, my love and passion for hunting has grown. I think I see hunting so much differently now that I no longer dread the hiking, the workout, or the thought of having to hike into somewhere and not see a single thing. Now, with none of those things on my mind to distract me, I’m totally focused on the hunt and willing to do whatever it takes to get to where the animals are and set myself up for success. Now, I will hike for days because I’ve learned to embrace the struggle, short breaths, tired legs, a heavy pack are not my enemy, but part of the challenge that makes me better. One thing I have learned throughout my fitness journey is that your body will take you so much further than you think it will. It’s our minds that are weak, not our bodies.
With that being said, I believe every devoted and passionate hunter should invest in their physical health. Not only is hunting physically and mentally demanding in general, but add rugged terrain, unpredictable weather, and other natural elements on top of being out of shape and you’re only increasing the chances of something bad happening. Strengthening your lungs, heart and muscles only increases your chances of success in the sport of hunting; success of both filling your tag and coming out alive. You may think I’m exaggerating. You may be the one that doesn’t make the time to exercise year round and then hits the hills during hunting season. What you must understand is that this is extremely hard on your body. Preparation is key. You prepare food, clothes, shelter, firearms, etc., but why not your body? Isn’t that the most important thing?
Over the years, I have known people that would pass up the opportunity to go after an animal they spotted because they said the pack out would have been brutal. Whether the nasty terrain between them and the animal made them think twice, or the distance they would have to cover was too far, or was it that they were afraid their body would not withstand? While time of day plays a huge role in your ability to go after an animal, especially one that may be far away or requires you to cover rough terrain in order to get to, the thought of the pack out being tough is the last thing on my mind when I spot an animal. I’ve never understood this way of thinking. You’ll never know unless you try, right? I am always game to go after an animal. You do have to keep in mind how much daylight you have left as well as strategically place yourself so that you’re at the best angle or have the greatest opportunity of seeing the animal once you get near it, but rarely do animals come easy. No, the animal won’t always be in the same spot or near the same spot when you get close to where you last spotted it, but how will you know if you don’t go?
As I continue to make fitness and nutrition a priority in my life, it is my goal to never refuse to go after an animal because of the fear that my body may let me down. Packing out an animal is no easy task, but often times the things we want in life don’t come easy. Many of my most memorable hunts were those that took the most effort. Mature animals, whatever specie it may be, are smart. You’re going to find them in the deepest canyons, thickest re-prod and gnarliest terrain. If you’re looking to be an average hunter seeking average animals, then you can probably be successful most years without training in the off-season, but I don’t want to be average.
Hunting is my passion and proper fitness and nutrition allows my body to perform optimally allowing me to push that much closer to the strong, successful hunter I strive to be. Train your muscles, improve your heart and lungs. Practice shooting after exertion when you’re breathing hard as if you had just hiked up hill for a mile and jumped an animal you didn’t expect to see. Train your body so that when you’re in the woods in what would typically be a trying or physically demanding situation that it feels like every day. And if for nothing else, train so that you come out of the woods safe; so you can go home to your family after a hunt. Train so that the thought of a brutal pack out no longer stops you from going after an animal. Train to be the best hunter you can be, because when it all comes down to it, hunting is between you and the wild.
So, my question is, are you fit to hunt?
Follow Madi and her story on Instagram @madiandresen and @true_terrain