By: Kristine Morse
I came across a post on Instagram recently that posed a question. I forget exactly how it was phrased, but it was something along the lines of “Do you need to train like an athlete to be a hunter?” Of course (or maybe not), the simple answer was “no”, but the post continued on to ask, “but what if you did?”
I haven’t always been a hunter. In fact, I only identify myself as one if I preface it with “rookie”. I have a handful of friends and family members who hunt, but nobody who could really take me “under their wing” per se, so I’ve largely had to teach myself. I work with firearms routinely in my job but despite being comfortable with them, I haven’t used them in hunting. I held a compound bow for the first time in the summer of 2014. I bought my own, took my Hunter Safety course, and started “hunting” (that’s a bit of a stretch) that fall. The fall of 2016 was when I really began investing my time and efforts into trying to hunt- I hung trail cameras and checked them regularly, set up and disguised my spot months before opening day, and practiced shooting my bow from different positions and distances. Now, as I approach my fifth Deer season with a hunting license, I’m preparing to hunt an entirely new place with limitations on what I can do to familiarize myself with the land beforehand (I’m moving to a new state a month before their Opening Day).
I haven’t always been athletic, either. I played basketball from a young age, but I only got by because I was tall. I was involved in competitive figure skating too, but my success was limited by my lack of physical fitness. I began road-running in 2009 completely on a whim and found that I hated it less than most forms of cardio, so I stuck with it for a while. I’ve been running on-and-off since, and started a “run streak” on January 1st of this year. Since then, I have run 626 miles, at least one mile every single day. One of my “off-running” periods started in July of 2016 when I stepped into a CrossFit gym for the first time. Say what you want about CrossFit (I know, I drank the KoolAid), but you have to admit that when done right, it’s effective. I was having so much fun at classes 4-5 nights a week that I couldn’t be bothered to run outside or step on a treadmill! The issue is, after about a year I started to plateau with the body-weight movements and endurance-heavy exercises. I was getting stronger and moving more weight, but I was physically too heavy and didn’t have the stamina to push myself to go further. I had become fat-fit! I came to the recognition that if I ever wanted to be able to accomplish some of the typical CrossFit benchmark movements (pull-ups, box jumps, and the coveted muscle up, for starters!) I was going to have to lose some weight.
Through diet awareness and exercise (as well as diagnosis and treatment of an autoimmune disease that impacts my metabolism and energy levels), I was able to lose fifty pounds over the course of a year. Notice I said “diet awareness”- I refused to live off meal-replacement shakes, pills, or salads for a few months in order to drop weight fast, only to gain it back once I started eating “real” food again. I didn’t want to “give up” anything, and I haven’t! After becoming more aware of what I put into my body, as well as increasing my activity levels, I have seen a tremendous increase in my overall strength and endurance. With the start of my run streak in January, I started having days where I ran AND attended CrossFit both in one day, oftentimes back-to-back. I will say, I was a little disappointed to see the max weights on some of my complex lifts decrease initially with my weight loss, but I have largely been able to bridge the gap between my personal records at my heaviest and now. In addition, I have taken considerable amounts of time off my running PR’s. When I started my run streak, my fastest mile was done in 9:57 and now I can maintain a pace slightly faster than that for five miles. I’ve also discovered that being stronger all around has significantly improved my recovery. My joints don’t ache and my shoulders don’t get sore after a long run, like they used to when I was running and not lifting.
So what does any this have to do with hunting? I’m aware that hunting in New England is an entirely different beast from hunting in other parts of the country. The land is generally flat, and as far as I am concerned, I’d prefer the cold of New England winters over sweating while sitting in a stand. That being said, I know (as much as a “rookie hunter” can) that when the day comes that I finally have a kill to drag out of the woods, I’m going to be grateful for all the time I spent dragging weighted sleds around a garage-gym with no air conditioning. In the meantime, I’m going to appreciate the fact that stronger legs have made it easier to trek through the woods; stronger back muscles have made it easier for me to sit for long periods of time; and stronger shoulders have made it easier for me to wait at full-draw.
Go check Kristine out and follow her story on Instagram: @kristineobscene