Getting In Physical and Mental Shape before the Hunt!

Discussion in 'Articles' started by SCJagter, Aug 15, 2014.

  1. SCJagter

    SCJagter AH Member

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    How do you get in shape before your African safari.... Well getting in shape for your African Safari is like getting in shape for any hunt!

    I am what I would call a very athletic person, knowing the importance of being able to walk that extra mile in search of my prize and just plain go the distance. It has paid off in dividends and being in hunting shape is completely different than being in GYM shape! With that said hunting is just as much a mental game as it is physical so you can be in the best shape of your life but when it comes down to taking the shot its all a mind game and that is where pushing yourself comes into play in my humble opinion.

    But last year I said to myself I wanted to be a better hunter!

    I am not a professional in this world of exercise but I can speak from first hand experience and I have hunted with people who thought everything was just going to fall into their laps "on the vehicle" but part of the stalk and fun of hunting is actually hunting.

    I came across this post from Field and Stream and kinda modified it with some other routines and articles I read about stalking and my own personal experience etc. But I am providing it as a base line for those of you that need a starting point. And for you fellow bowhunters below is also an article for you!

    Getting Started:
    http://www.fieldandstream.com/photo...10/get-ready-hunt-big-game-boot-camp/?image=0

    For the Bowhunter:
    http://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/hunting/deer-hunting/2014/05/get-elk-shape-phase-one
    http://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/hunting/2014/06/get-elk-hunting-shape-phase-2


    What I did:

    For my most recent hunt in 2013 several months in advance on top of my normal workout routine at the gym and daily runs, in the afternoons I started walking 3 miles 5 days a week yeah I hear the nay Sayers of that isn't far to walk and no it is not but this was not just ordinary walking...

    This was walking and stalking in my little hunting world stalking trees and bushes practicing my walking and yes pushing my body harder and further each day. (I am sure some of the passerby's thought I was crazy leopard crawling putting one mean stalk on a pine tree!!) I did all of this in a nearby state forest so it wasn't so bad but if you have to do it in your neighborhood please take a video and post it to AH!!!

    Walking very slowly heal to toe watching each step trying not to make any sound on all types of terrain, sand, leaves, rocky ground, dirt, grass etc. is very difficult because it takes total body control since you may not always be standing up practice bent over as well as crouched etc. you don't want to be the reason you got busted. Start on short distances maybe 50 yards and increase your distances the more you get comfortable.
    (This can be very time consuming but trust me if you are in the field and you see that huge Kudu bull before he sees you and you put on a slow stalk, that takes time and you don't want frustration and fatigue to get the best of you, always end the walk with getting yourself into the best position you feel comfortable to take that shot!!!)

    On top of walking slowly I worked on my just normal walking at a brisk pace and that was where distances and endurance comes into play. When you walk/stalk take what you would normally take when you are going to hunt, Binos, day pack, water, and something that represents the weight of your rifle. You want to know what all these things feel like when you are actually hunting and how best to control them. (I have had the binos bang on the rifle on more than one occasion and my pack hit me in the back of my head! very laughable)

    Getting on your hands, knees and bellies and practice your crawls sounds funny but it will pay off you just need to apply the same principals as above when walk/stalking. Especially with a rifle! I don't know about you but my guns and scopes are like my babies and I treat them like that but if you don't know how to control your gun as an extension of your body you will be more worried/focused about it than your trophy!

    Conclusion:

    I hope those of you who do not exercise will get out and do so and those of you that already do, push yourselves even further! If you can not physically do the recommended exercises there are many others out there that have the same effect with less strain on the body if in doubt contact your local gym or health club and consult with a professional.

    Exercise is so important in hunting not just so that you can walk long distances carrying a rifle etc. but also for you to be able to learn to control your bodies reactions within adverse heart thumping conditions!

    The below pictures are from the Eastern Cape spot and stalking Kudu. Decided to put down the bow and take out the rifle for this hunt. Not the biggest bull ever but sure was lots of fun! You get busted more than anything! Clever Clever animals those Kudu! He know graces the wall of my office!

    Best of Luck!!

    SCJagter

    Here is a little quote from the article: If you never push your body prior to the hunt, how can you expect it to perform at its peak on the mountain?

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    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2014
  2. tarbe

    tarbe BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Enthusiast

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    Hunting shape is not gym shape!

    Very true!
     
  3. Rob44

    Rob44 BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    I hunted in some rocky terrain not the easiest to train for,for my next trip a Stair stepper will be a Must, also I found my legs got sore from actually walking down hill The Hammies just wern't used to that
     
  4. Velo Dog

    Velo Dog AH Fanatic

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    SCJagter,

    Excellent points, one and all / I really enjoyed reading your post.

    I am not the man I once was but am still in reasonable shape for my age, due to an active / outdoor lifestyle, cutting firewood, marching up and down creeks and rivers with fly rod in hand, snowshoeing in winter, with grouse gun in hand, walking my dog up and down the hills in my neighborhood, etc.
    Never been much for sitting around, watching TV all day and such - too boring.

    Although I am officially a geezer now (in my 60s), every time I book a hunt, Africa or anywhere, I train for it during the full year prior to lift-off from my local airport.
    This includes putting extra miles on my boots than I normally would, doing calf raises to strengthen my Achilles tendons, regularly shooting whatever rifle I plan to take and no other, and generally eating less food, especially fattening food, for the full year leading up to the hunt (when I croak, I wish to be buried under a mountain of bacon, eggs, pork ribs, T-bone steaks, gravy, biscuits and butter).

    Almost forgot; I also do "shrugs" with a dumbbell in each hand to build up the trapezius muscles, so the rifle weight on either shoulder does not leave me sore after a few miles.
    Not very scientific but it has worked well for the type of hunting that I do (walking slowly, stopping often to glass for game).
    I can go all day long while carrying my rifle, as long as I get enough water and take a sandwich break around mid-day.
    On my last safari, I carried my rather heavy .450 No2 double for many days and did not fall to the ground weeping in exhaustion.

    These days, a lot of fuss and screech is made over making rifles lighter and lighter.

    But the way I see it is that;
    If I loose 10 pounds of fat off my bozo ass, a 10 pound rifle then rides for free.

    If an old duffer like myself can do that, most people can do so as well.

    Cheers,
    Velo Dog.
     
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  5. ArmyGrunt

    ArmyGrunt AH Veteran

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    excellent advice, friends. I have the added benefit this year of training for my late-Sept safari, and an early-Nov 18.6 mile road march. Those of us in my Unit are doing the Norwegian Road March this year at the University of Southern Indiana. I'm actually looking forward to it. I forgot how much I enjoy a long walk with a crap-ton of weight on my back until I started the training again. Call me crazy.....Maybe it's the nature of the pack, but 56 pounds seems to disappear when it gets cinched down tightly.
     
  6. CAustin

    CAustin AH Fanatic

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    Get your hunting boots on and walk walk walk. Go up hills and down. Walk on the street and on the shoulder of the road. Put a small book bag over your shoulder the next day with a couple of books n it and you should be great. Like Tarbe said gym shape is not hunting shape.
     
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  7. Sable123

    Sable123 AH Senior Member

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    This is a great thread thanks @SCJagter.
    Im 28 years old run almost 20kms a week and cycle almost 80km, but put me alongside my 60 year old father in law and he would walk me into my grave through the valleys and mountains on our farm! Because he is fit for that specific terrain. And i think you raise a good point in you need to "train" for what you going to do. If its walk and stalk you after, then practice creeping, crawling and sliding on your belly. It may be silly in your back garden or around the house but it will pay off in the field. A little bit of exercise at home will be worth it, you don't want to crawl 100 metres and not be able to get a good shot off at that +50" kudu bull that you have flown half way across the world for because you panting wheezing and can't hold the rifle still. There is certain ways of crawling with a rifle or bow and alot more difficult with them.
    In my eyes being fit and training before your hunt is no different to practicing on the shooting range!
     
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  8. arizona

    arizona SILVER SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    20140406_091618.jpg Very good subject. I am one of those people who made a trip to Africa without being in shape for hunting, and my shooting and my results suffered for it, still have a wonderful time, the second trip last year was much better at about 15 pounds lighter. Everything improved. This year I am going to go on an Ibex hunt and the preparation have been a lot more serious. At the time of the hunt I will be well past the "geezer" stage and into very old geezer (70 next month). With diet and circuit training 3 day a week plus 1 day climbing the mountain range (south mountain) that is within 10 miles of my house has put me at 192 lbs., down from 220 when I started about 8 months ago. In MHO the mountain work is the most productive and rewarding, I check my progress with a GPS every hike and push for more distance and tougher trails as I go. Uphill is ok, you can duplicate that somewhat with a stair master, but downhill is something that you only get with a mountain.
    The problem with hiking in Phoenix in the summer is the heat, but I found that if I go early in the morning it is doable. I am going to make this a lifestyle for me as there are many more hunts I want to take, next year back to Africa is the plan.

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    Last edited: Aug 16, 2014
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  9. AfricaHunting.com

    AfricaHunting.com FOUNDER AH Ambassador

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  10. glgardnerjr

    glgardnerjr New Member

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    Just got back from Zim and climbing kopjes or was a 3 - 10 time per day occurrence and some of them were more like small mountains. I was prepared for the walking but wish I had added a significant portion of stadiums to my routine. The stairmaster for me isn't near the same a climbing bleachers plus you get the downhill portion too.

    Also, I purchased a 15 pound bar that I carried on my shoulder whenever I walked. Slings are great but I found it much easier to carry my rifle by the barrel over the shoulder and adding the bar to my routine toughened up shoulder.
     
  11. arizona

    arizona SILVER SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    Good idea on the bleachers if no mountains nearby. I work in a medium rise building on the 7th floor, I have taken to going down and up the stairs after lunch every workday, adds some additional work on the legs. The Sunday morning mountain hikes are what I look forward to, here is a photos from this morning, the recent monsoon rains have turned this part of the desert green.

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  12. tarbe

    tarbe BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Enthusiast

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    In the Marines, I was taught to attempt to mimic your expected conditions, in your training. Make the training even tougher than the real thing, if you can.

    So when it came time to do my first backpack hunt for elk in the Frank Church Wilderness in 1987, I spent the better part of a year hiking up and down the steepest grades I could find, while wearing packs up to 60 pounds and carrying a 10 pound pipe in my hands.

    My hunting buddy hiked through his mostly flat neighborhood, with empty hands.

    Guess who ended up having to leap frog, to carry the other guy's pack the last few miles of the hike in to our base camp? I was very glad for the intense training...which I really needed seeing as I was 7 years post USMC life at that time!
     
  13. jeff

    jeff AH Veteran

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    Being mentaly tough is also just as important or more so when the hunting is not going well and you see your dream hunt slipping through your fingers.
     
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  14. Pheroze

    Pheroze BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Veteran

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    Great thread!

    I am in the prime of my first 47 years of childhood! However, I find that I injure myself when I do sporadic, intense, training - those stupid injuries that impede your ability to train harder and seem to last longer every time. I am now trying to maintain a baseline level of fitness and flexibility to prevent the injuries that come from periodic training. My theory is to keep a decent foundation throughout the year making it safer to build on when a more rigorous training is required. I have a desk job in a city environment so gym exercise is the only way I can do that.
     

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