It turns out I’m not quite in shape for hunting yet

If you’re trying to get in shape for hunting season, remember that the only thing that mimics hiking miles on high-elevation trails with a loaded backpack is hiking miles on high-elevation trails with a loaded backpack.

You can spend every spare moment you have in the gym, lifting weights and running on treadmills, and you’ll get in great shape, for sure. But if what you’re trying to get in shape for is hunting, you’re doing it wrong.

There’s only one way to prepare for hiking in the mountains, and that’s hiking in the mountains. You can load up your backpack with weight, strap on an oxygen deprivation mask, and get on the stair climber. That’s the closest you can come to the real thing, and it’s certainly better than sitting on the couch. But it’s not entirely the same.

Up in the mountains, for one thing, you have actual elevation to contend with. The higher you go, the less oxygen there is. Even on a trail, the footing is far less stable than it is on that stair stepper, and it’s amazing how much extra effort it takes to step carefully – especially when you’re hauling a heavy pack.

I’ve been doing what I can to stay in shape lately, but last weekend I realized I’m still a long way from being ready for hunting season. I took the family on a hike up in the Snowies on Saturday. We decided to take the Sheep Lake Trail, which is fairly easy as hiking trails go. It’s just pretty long. It’s nine miles from one end to the other, and we went out and back. At about the seven-mile mark, I started to realize I need to get a heck of a lot more mountain hiking in before my first hunting trip.

Granted, when I hunt, I usually don’t go 18 miles nonstop. There’s a lot more stopping involved when I hunt. But the weekend hike was a good reminder that I need to get up in those hills a few more times before September.

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