No matter how much time you spend dialing in your bow or evaluating each item in your backpack, nothing is more important than being physically prepared for a spot-and-stalk bowhunt. To reach your physical-fitness goals, you need little more than your bow, boots, backpack and a sandbag.
Your hunting boots and backpack must fit comfortably. They’re integral tools for spot-and-stalk hunts. To learn your gear and ensure you’re ready to hunt, load your pack with a sandbag, lace up your boots, and intensify your preseason scouting while hauling that extra weight.
Scouting while pack training, also known as rucking, strengthens your legs and lower back as you scope potential hotspots. Rucking down the street or along a favorite hiking trail is beneficial, but navigating uneven terrain better replicates real-world hunting situations and promotes stronger hips, knees and ankles.
Rucking also helps break in boots and lets you adjust your backpack to balance the loads you carry. Nothing ruins a hunt faster than a sore back and blistered feet, so don’t procrastinate. Simple lifestyle changes like walking the dog while wearing your boots and backpack can be the difference between a fun backcountry hunt and a week of misery.
Western terrain and high elevations differ vastly from most of the country, so take advantage of hills and significant elevation changes near home. Rucking on flat terrain is helpful, but hiking steep hills better engages your quadriceps, the large muscles on the front of your thigh. Even if you don’t have hills nearby, you can work your legs by hiking up and down bleachers at high school athletic fields or outdoor stairs at other public facilities.
Just as some whitetail hunters practice shooting from elevated sites, spot-and-stalk bowhunters practice shooting under conditions like those they’ll encounter when hunting. A heavy backpack and rapid heart rate can affect your form and accuracy, so include your bow in your preseason workouts. Warm up by shooting three arrows, and then run downrange to retrieve them. Run back to your bow, and then nock and release your arrows as quickly as possible. At first it seems like your heart will beat out of your chest, and that you can’t hold your bow steady. Eventually, though, you’ll adjust to shooting under duress, just as you would if you had to hustle over a ridge to finish a long stalk.
You can build even more strength while including archery into your workouts. Try tossing a sandbag overhead eight to 10 times before releasing an arrow. While combatting your heavy breathing as you settle the pin, you’ll strengthen your shoulders and back while increasing your breathing and heartrate. A simple wooden box is a great, affordable tool to add to your home gym. You can add stairsteps and box jumps to your regimen to increase the explosiveness and lower-body strength needed to traverse rugged terrain.
None of those workouts require gym memberships or a pricey arsenal of exercise equipment. You can do these exercises in your backyard or at nearby public lands. To intensify your training further, enter nearby shoots or competitions such as Train to Hunt events. You’ll put your body to the ultimate test, and identify areas that need attention before hunting season. Meanwhile, you’ll meet like-minded people with similar goals who can help motivate you and be great resources for improving your spot-and-stalk skills.