Prepping for the Hunt

It's the middle of summer and the heat these past couple of weeks has been sweltering. High humidity and high temps can only mean one thing. Fall is right around the corner. As I write this today we are less than two months from opening day of our deer archery season. I live, breath and bleed for archery season. I have so much anticipation, I can still hardly sleep the night before.

As we approach the season, it's time to do some prep work. In the past my prep work involved shooting the bow in the summer for practice, working at ranges up to 70 yards, hanging a few trail cameras and making a plan for which tree I wanted to be in that opening weekend.

In the last couple of years my approach has changed and my hunt has changed. No longer am I trying to track down a white tail buck and hoping to get 30 minutes worth of cooler weather in an evening for one to step out. I now head to western ND to chase mule deer.

If you have ever been to the badlands, you know the scenery is second to none in beauty. If you have ever hunted the badlands, you know that much of it is rugged and can be unforgiving. Now of course you can drive roads and glass areas that you can see from the road, but that is not how me and the group of guys I hunt with prefer to hunt. We enjoy getting off the roads, walk in a couple miles and glass some areas with less hunting pressure. Some days we are putting on 7-8 miles going from spot to spot.

When you are putting on that many miles in that type of terrain, being physically fit makes a bid difference. Last year, I started a routine, of getting to the gym, doing some cardio and strength training. It made all the difference for me, just wish I would have started sooner.

This year due to COVID our gym was closed when I started to get back into a more consistent routine. I have been running 2.5 miles a day, 5 days a week since June. This should help the cardio before the season starts. I do however want to simulate what it's like walking up and down that terrain. This week I am going to start hiking the steepest hills I can find with a fully loaded pack. While the running in the morning will be a help, it's a big change when you are out west, hiking up and down those big inclines with 30 pound pack on your back(even more when you are packing out an animal). My whole focus is on building my legs. In the gym, I like to do lots of leg strength training. Squats, leg lifts, calf raises, and dead lifts are all exercises I utilize to build my legs. While my cardio is important, I really notice a difference in my hiking when I add strength training. Walking up and down those canyons is like doing hundreds of single leg squats and just cardio alone won't allow you to bet at your peak performance.

Now that we have our fitness in check, that other part of my training is to shoot my bow, and shoot it a bunch. I get to the outdoor range as often as I can and have an outdoor target set up at my lake cabin that I can shoot at when I'm not in town.

My practice regimen consists of me shooting at my farthest ranges possible. So much of the badlands it wide open and you may have to take a relatively long shot at that trophy buck and I want to be confident in my equipment and my ability. Most of my practice is at 60-70 yards, which is the max my local range gets to. If I could, I would practice at 100. Not that I believe you should be trying to make an ethical shot at 100 yards, but practicing at those extended ranges, makes taking a 40-50 yard shot seem easy. Over the years, I've noticed my groups at 40, 50 and 60 really tighten up when I practice at those longer ranges. Unfortunately some of those arrows get a little too close as the pictures below.

While it was fun to "Robin Hood" the arrow, it was expensive and I try not to shoot at the same dot for groups because of this exact reason. I hate breaking arrows.

We we move closer to the season, I will start to make sure all of my equipment is ready, but for now, we are roughly 6 weeks away and my focus is on my fitness and getting my shooting to it's top form before opener. What do you do to prep for season? Is fitness a part of your routine? I would love to hear in the comments what you do that has been working for you and what hasn't.

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