By Zach Lazzari | Photos by Ryan McSparran
You’ve been training all year for this and now the moment is real. You are immersed in the backcountry wilderness, traversing ridgelines and glassing remote drainages. Like a finely tuned athlete, your body is still susceptible to cramps, fatigue and breakdowns. Here are six tips to managing your body throughout a wilderness elk hunt.
1. Nutrient Load Before Your Trip
This doesn’t mean you should eat yourself sick before the big trip but definitely amp up the calories a bit. Focus on nutrient rich vegetables, high quality protein sources like game and grass fed beef and wholesome carbs like wild rice. Starting at 2-3 days before the trip, eat an extra serving at each meal so you have more to burn on the trip. Also eat bananas and potassium rich foods to prevent cramps when you are hard on the trail.
Many hunters forget to stretch during the trip. You stretch before and after home workouts right? Stretch out throughout the day while you’re on the mountain. Take short breaks to stretch out and interrupt any repetitive movements. This is especially important when you hike long distances.
3. Move Slowly
Avoid letting your excitement get in the way of good judgement. Move slowly and methodically to avoid overstressing your body and to prevent spooking game. Be observant as you walk and stop to glass, rest and stretch as you go. You can move slowly all day and be thorough on the mountain.
This should go without saying but many hunters overlook hydration. Drink when water is available and drink even when you are not thirsty. I have a habit of getting side-tracked and forgetting to drink water myself. I notice that my muscles fatigue easily and take longer to recover when I am dehydrated. Drink regardless of conditions, including in the frigid cold.
Supplements are not a necessity but they don’t hurt either. I recommend testing supplements during the training process to see how your body responds. The last thing you want is a stomach ache in the field. Wilderness Athlete sells Hydrate and Recover packets that will help you absorb water and stay charged throughout the trip. Keep your supplement options simple and gain as much nutritional value as possible through your food sources.
6. Eating in the Field
Dehydrated meals are lightweight and almost a necessity on an extended wilderness elk hunt. You will burn a ton of calories in the field so don’t hold back on your meals. Go for the most calories dense options available. Mountain House meals are popular and tasty and there are many great options for your hunt. Also carry protein bars, nuts and any other desired foods that are easy to pack and provide a good amount of fuel. Leave the potato chips and gummy bears at home, they won’t help you in the backcountry.