This is finally the year! This is the year you’re going to study and spend and head to a new land to hunt an animal you’ve been dreaming about. To some, it’s the Rocky Mountain Elk, to others it’s a wide heavy racked high country Mule Deer, or maybe its to the Alaskan Glaciers for Mountain Goat; but you’re going to do it and the time is now!
To so many I have spoken to, screaming September bulls are a mythical creatures that turns grown men and women into tantrum throwing eight year olds in Walmart, and you want to be that kid too. You want to know everything and you are going to come home with that long tailed six point to show off to everyone you know. You start by reading blogs and then on to podcasts and Born and Raised Outdoors is queued on repeat on every YouTube streaming devise you own. You ask everyone you know and tons you don’t for advice because this is a trip you have been dreaming about. It has to be done right.
All the expos are showing the industry’s new products and you start hitting the “Buy it Now” button on the websites so fast your mouse has a worn hole in it. It’s finally go time and you have spent hundreds of hours shooting and staring at google earth to find where you think the elk will be and watched every E-Scouting video out there. You’re parking here and hiking to here and you’ve spent thousands of dollars on new gear to make sure this hunt will be successful. IT’S GO TIME!
After hours on planes or driving across state lines you get to your parking spot and your dream is about to become true. It’s still dark but everyone gets out and starts the trek as the light comes over the far mountain and then, oh my god! This country is BIG and that mountain doesn’t look anything like what Google Earth showed me. The tree lines look right but I didn’t know those cliffs were 28 feet high or that deadfall was really 4 foot wide trees! Turns out that four mile trek is as a bird flies, and all the twists turns and elevation change makes this a seven mile pack and not four. Two miles from the truck you’re thinking “maybe this looks like a good spot to camp?” You’re exhausted and haven’t heard a bugle yet. You’re breathing so heavy your breath hitting the cool mountain air looks like a locomotive exhaust churning across a mountain side. You did everything to be ready for this hunt except prep the most important tool you need for success, your body!
People tell you it’s going to be hard and that the grade is steep or rough but you didn’t anticipate this. All that E-Scouting to figure out where the elk are, well they are there, and they are there for a reason. They are there to have the advantage over predators. Maybe you did train some. You lifted a few weights and you went on some jogs or hikes, but how do you plan for this? How do you choose the right plan to make sure your body is the machine that it needs to be to make this a successful hunt?
The internet, maps and E-Scouting are beautiful things but until recently, they have never really been able to give you a quality picture of what you are going to encounter on the hunt to a new land. I have always tried to use Google maps and OnX to get an idea of where I am trying to go but recently I discovered Outside Analytics. The potential here is endless but I want to focus on how you can use their platform to better understand what you are getting into and start “E-Scouting for your next Training Plan.”
Outside Analytics is currently a free service and if you head to their website (Outly.io) you’ll select “Hunting,” then the state, animal, and hit go. You can do tons with this platform but we are focusing on getting you ready physically so scan to your hunting destination and zoom in some. Using the tabs on the left you’ll want to select trails and turn on the smaller trails options that you most likely will be taking to your grounds. Next go down to the little mountain symbol on the left and hit turn the terrain feature on. Your map will turn into an array of colors so turn the transparency down a little to get started. From here to best get an understanding is to go to your starting point and look at the route you want to take.
You have already scouted this same stuff for where you think the elk will be so now look at the colors of the map. If the area you are looking at is in the dark yellow to red color, you are anywhere from 30% - 42% incline! Let’s put that into perspective. If you were thinking about jogging on a treadmill to drop a couple pounds or even at a quick pace on incline, well the average treadmill only goes to 15% grade and my map is saying I’m going to spend most of my time hiking hills more than DOUBLE that incline. Looks like walking on max incline isn’t going to get you there.
As you zoom in closer to view the trails and paths to take you’ll want to look for things like chunks of rocks and deadfall. Fallen pine tress can end up stacking over 4 feet high and you’ll have to look at ways around. Once you have a better idea of the path you will want to take and understand the layout of the land and grade of the mountain you can use the “My Places” tab on the Outly platform to trace your steps. Yes this is something you can do with all the GPS systems out there but I have yet to use one that will take into consideration the elevation changes and grade that you are walking. For example, my Garmin InReach said the distance from my camp to my downed elk last year was around 2.6 miles, but this was mostly just the distance a bird flies and not the ups, downs, twists and turns I had to make to get there. In tracing the same steps on Outly that I had on the Garmin, the trail equaled out to just over 4.8 miles.
So now that you have all this new data for your hunt, what does it mean and how does it help me find the right training plan, supplements and more for your hunt?
These answers are going to vary for everyone but first start with how long your hunt will be and get a better feel for how far the trek will actually be; then factor in the incline rates, obstacles, and what you think your daily pack weight might be. For longer, steeper mountain hunts you should focus on endurance and total body strength and power. For more open country, flatter and brush hunts, you still need the endurance but speed and agility are more of a concern and the training plan for that hunt should be quite a bit different than a high peaks mountain hunt.
To understand why, take my hunt and the unit next to me as examples. By analyzing the Outly layers and maps, the average grade on my September hunt is over 30% and I go in for 7-14 days at a time. My average pack weight is around 45 pounds and I walk over 10 miles a day. Yes, hiking hills and running will help but with inclines like that I am going to be using trekking poles and I am going to need strength and power as well as endurance. My shoulders, back and core have to be able to take the stress from the poles and the pack and still be able to have the strength to draw my bow and hold steady for possibly an extended time to know that I can make the shot when it matters. Some guys may focus too heavily on their legs for a hunt like mine and that can put you at risk and a greater chance you wound the animal. With the data of my hunt collected I will focus more on total body workouts, weighted stairs, and the weighted incline treadmill walking BACKWARDS! It will greatly help with your balance but is also very difficult to the point where it will help build your legs and endurance far more than an incline walk or jog.
One unit west of my hunt the incline grade drops to nearly 20% with far fewer obstacles. That area is far more open terrain and you may have to move much faster to get to the animals and it is unlikely that you will be using trekking poles to help offset the weight. I personally would focus more on cardio and hypertrophy workouts in this case. Yes you still want to focus on total strength but the ability to move fast for longer periods of time will come in much more useful here as the animals graze and move faster than they do in heavy timber patches on steeper mountain sides.
Every ounce of data and knowledge you collect is going to increase your chances of success when you finally head off to your hunt. Beyond that, your body is the most important piece of equipment you use on your hunt and hunt specific training is going to up your chances of success significantly. Outside Analytics now gives you greater access to understanding what you are in for on that dream hunt and Built2Hunt has a variety of plans, guides, and products available to make sure you are prepared for the specific hunt you are headed out on. Don’t be the guy who is left wondering what was over the next ridge, be the one that took that next ridge and comes home with a freezer full of meat, a rack, and a story to tell everyone.
*Article written by Built2Hunt CEO Jeff Moran (@relentlesshntr_208)
If you are interested in diving more into this topic please leave a comment below of what you thought and we can take this farther by stepping into individual hunts, and how to use plans in levels to reach your goal.