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Elk Hunt Prep: Part 2

With summer in its final stages in Nashville, the heat and humidity of the south hits hard when taking that first step outside.  Being an early riser, I like to take full advantage of waking up before the kids and enjoying the solitude and comfortable temperatures while getting my workout started before mother nature turns up the oven.  This year is all about functional fitness training and besides utilizing my portable squat rack/pull-up gym, some of my favorite workouts involve some makeshift gym equipment such as: a riding lawn mower, suitcase weights, a sledgehammer, and tires these get the job done every time. Again, going back to article #1; it doesn’t need to be fancy.  It just needs to work.

This is also a year of purposeful training with the purpose being to successfully come home with a freezer full of elk meat.  It may be tough to train for the demands of the mountain, but it will make bringing down a bull this fall that much sweeter.  You can’t predict what Mother Nature is going to throw at you on a hunt, so I’m training for it all.  From the moment when I start hiking in, until the moment my body releases the weight of that meat-filled pack, I will need preparation for every second on that mountain. I know I am always going to be under some sort of mental and physical load at all times. I also know that I will be carrying everything I need to survive and make this hunt happen on my back, so I train with a frame pack loaded with free weights simulating the weight I will be carrying on and off the mountain.  If and when a shot presents itself, I will most likely be wearing my pack, so I practice shooting my bow while wearing my pack as well. Range time is intertwined with a workout to simulate the elevated heart rate and mental load that will be present in the moment a shot opportunity presents itself.  

Strong legs and well-conditioned heart & lungs are king when it comes to mountain hunting.  An efficient set of wheels that can get you ahead of a herd bull and into position for a shot or to hike out a heavy pack of fresh elk meat are extremely important contributors to a successful elk hunt. An enduring cardiac system makes for a powerhouse engine setup that can get you from point A to point B when every second counts after glassing a bull on the move, from a distance. Elk can cover a lot of ground in a very short amount of time and the only way of keeping an edge on the mountain is to have a powerful, efficient drivetrain.  

Besides targeted exercises like squats or deadlifts for legs, I like to compound my workout with some cardio. This is where the lawnmower comes into play.  I have fabricated a mount on the front where I attach tow ropes which connect to a belt or harness for sprints and uphill climbs, increasing intensity by adding weight or pulling on a steeper incline. With my son or daughter operating the steering wheel, I increase intensity either by upping the sets or by adding weight.  

I love using suitcase weights that are used on tractors to keep the front end of the tractor on the ground when pulling equipment thru the field.  They work great for things such as farmer carries and can be strapped on a pack for added “punishment”. Throwing the frame pack loaded with a 45lb plate and carrying a suitcase weight in each hand are guaranteed ways to burn the legs and fry the shoulders. It reminds me of the days of hauling hay bales thru the barn or carrying full 5-gallon buckets of water in the cow yard for the heifers to drink in the summer.   It makes sense now why all the farm kids were tough as nails back in high school.

The lawnmower has been turning into a great piece of gym equipment for targeting my back as well.  Who would have thought that I could cut the grass and get in shape with it!  If nothing else, it’s something new that keeps my interest, so I’m rolling with it. Using the fabricated front bracket and tow ropes that I mentioned earlier, I attach a v-grip/close grip handle and use this setup for close grip rows. A large rope attached to the bracket is also great for hand over hand pulls as well.  Either variation is great for developing the “lats” and the intensity can be altered by either adding weight or pulling on an incline.

After starting this “farmer style” workout, it’s been really fun to get creative with these exercises, which has been helpful in staying motivated.  By the way, the tailgate of a truck works great for “box jumps.”  Pun intended.  

Fancy gym or home “make-shift” gym; you can find a way to get it done. Being creative is key. Training has been fun this year so far and I’m keeping my eye on the mountain in hopes of connecting with a bull elk come September. Until then the mission continues.

About Jimmy Herman

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