Top tips to build and maintain hunting fitness

Top tips to build and maintain hunting fitness
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Liza Sautter, a Montana public land hunter, has loved the outdoors since infancy. Whether she is hunting Rocky Mountain Elk, photographing grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park, or fishing a high mountain lake you’ll find her someplace wild.

A massive component of any hunt just like gear and a weapon, is physical fitness. Staying in shape all year will make pre-season and season a lot easier. It sure beats trying to get back into shape when the hunting season countdown begins.

Hunting Fitness Preparation

Maintain a regular gym workout schedule, 3-4 days a week throughout the entire year. Then as season rolls around, add weighted pack workouts and scouting to your schedule. While gym shape will help you in the mountains, mountain shape is a totally different ballgame.

Exercising for the hunt

Building a workout schedule that works for you is a must. Whether you hit the weights before or after work, establish a routine that you can stick to. Strength throughout your entire body is a must for a successful season. Create a split that works all areas, including your core, which is crucial for carrying a heavy pack load.

Here is an example of an upper and lower body split. You can break it down further splitting quads, glutes and hamstrings as well as triceps and biceps, abs and back. Cardio should also be a part of every workout. You can’t get up the hill if all you’re doing is huffin’ and puffin’.

Cardio HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training

Alternate between high intensity in short bursts and short rests. The goal is to keep your heart rate up. For example, sprint on the treadmill for 45 seconds with a 1 minute rest in between. Do this for 15-20 minutes and your body will continually burn calories throughout the day, far more effectively than running on the treadmill for 30 minutes.

Liza Sautter in the Mountains


Not only is scouting key to the hunt and patterning animal movements, but it is important to your preparedness for hunting season. While the gym keeps your muscles toned and cardiovascular system ready for work, the high altitude of the terrain you will be hunting in is completely different. There is no better way to get prepared for season than to go where you plan to hunt. A better knowledge of the landscape, watering areas, and animals in the area never hurts either.

If you hunt far from home, consider getting out for hikes locally. Getting into the mountains at all will get your blood pumping and legs in shape. At least once a week, load up the pack and head for the hills.

Weighted Hunt Pack Workout

On top of getting in the mountains, getting accustomed to a heavy pack is also crucial. Start with a half-load and work up to as much weight as you can. Whether you take your pack to the gym and walk on the treadmill or just go for a walk in the neighbourhood, break in your shoulders just as you do your legs. This is especially important for early season archery hunts when it is hot. Getting animals out before they spoil is your legal obligation and takes a lot of strength and mental fortitude.

With the season right around the corner, keep this in mind on closing day. You’ll notice yourself saying what great shape you’re in. Use that momentum to get into the gym and keep yourself in shape.

Read more on Liza Sautter’s hunt for the elusive Rocky Mountain Elk.