Preparing for a Backcountry Elk Hunt
What’s the ultimate goal of an elk hunt? The meat? The horns? The experience? We all differ in that department. But the one thing we can all agree upon, for those of us who have had the good fortune to hunt Cervus canadensis, and as others will find out, you better be in really good shape. There’s a chance, albeit a pretty slim one, that you may catch a nice bull down low in a valley. This would typically happen when they’re making the journey to their wintering grounds. Regardless, be prepared to hump it up and over mountains, all of which, of course, will likely be preceded by a nice long horseback ride if it’s the backcountry you seek.
Get in Physical Shape
We cannot express this enough. Start a workout regimen at least 12 weeks, six days a week, before you head out on your hunt. There are a multitude of specific workouts you can undertake, but we’ll simplify it for you: Jog for 30-45 minutes every day for the first two weeks. Start slow – take the time to warm up and jog at a pace that allows you to run at least half of the time.
Incorporate slight inclines at least every other day. After two to four weeks, depending on your physical condition prior to training, you’ll begin to “get your legs under you” thus allowing your body to take on more.
Assuming you need four weeks, start concentrating your efforts on running/fast-walking up and down slopes in weeks five and six. You can even go to your local high school football stadium and workout on the bleachers if you live in a flat area. Now, you’re halfway there.
Add 10 pounds to a pack in weeks seven through nine and another 10 pounds, totaling 20, in weeks 10, 11 and 12. Cut out soft drinks and beers to a certain extent during your training. Easier said than done. We know. But the difference will be quickly noticeable.
You want to exert yourself, not kill yourself. Especially with the hunt of a lifetime on the horizon. TAKE REGULAR RESTS. Heck, enjoy it and think about the end result. Not to mention your spouse is going to take notice.
Good Great With Your Rifle
You’re working your tail off getting in the best shape of your adult life. Your step is light and your favorite pair of hunting pants are actually getting a bit loose. There is no doubt in your mind that by the time daybreaks after the first couple days of the hunt, you’re going to get the nod of approval from your guide’s discerning eye for staying on his hip the entire time.
That’s fantastic. Let’s talk about what’s next – being able to make virtually any reasonable shot. The guide will have watched you run several rounds through your rifle before the hunt to get a good idea of your shooting skills. And no guide in their right mind is going to force you to take a shot that you don’t feel comfortable with.
Invest some money in ammunition. Sure, it would be nice to shoot everyday, but most of us have other things like life to deal with. However, we’d suggest a minimum of three times per week. And don’t just set up on the bench and shoot. Rather, practice from every possible scenario you can imagine – run uphill, find the target, take a shot from the prone position; that sort of thing. If you have land or know someone who does, or can even find a local shooting range that offers such hunting prep classes, get on it, and fast.
Go Horseback Riding
Plural. Multiple times for several hours each time. If it’s a backcountry trip, horses are involved more often than not. This is number three on the list because getting in great shape and perfecting your shooting will all be for naught if you can hardly walk due to chafing. Get your gluteus maximus primed to the rub of a saddle. Again, if you don’t own horses or know anyone who does, find a place to go ride.
Other than go in with sharp knives and a good attitude, that’s about all you need to know. We could have mentioned Get the Right Gear, but you, dear reader, are no fool. Of course you’re going to have the proper gear – comfortable boots, several changes of socks, breathable clothing, a spacious pack, rain wear, a toothbrush, etc.
We are always excited to see the success of the Bergara community. By all means, use our Facebook page as a bragging board and post your photos. Success, to us, is not always about a heavy set of horns.