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Joined: 07/10/2009
Posts: 11
Elk @ Altitude

Good afternoon -

I am currently looking at the Mt Zirkel Wilderness Area as a possible hunting location. I live just above sea level currently and am working toward a hunt next fall. This leaves me time to get in shape but I am wondering about the elevation change. At close to 10,000ft in some places I wonder what type of shape one would need to be in to holdup for a week to two weeks of scouting/hunting.
I'm just trying to gauge anyone's thoughts on the rigors of hunting at this elevation.

Thanks for your help.

Best regards,
CuseCat04

Location: Utah
Joined: 02/24/2003
Posts: 596
Elk @ Altitude

This was written by Cameron Hanes in an e-mail press release and I thought would be good info to pass on. Also try to spend a good day and night at say 7,000 ft prior to going up to 10,000 if at all possible.

"Wilderness elk hunting is an athletic endeavor but you don’t need to kill yourself getting in shape. Cameron Hanes, fitness and bowhunting authority as well as TV show host and columnist for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, says moderation in exercise is a key for most hunters.

"You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to build up amazing endurance, but you do have to get started with some sort of workout regimen. Every day you spend in inactivity, you get weaker. Every day that elk move through high country, they get stronger. And the longer you wait to exercise, the wider the gap grows," said Hanes.

Here are five ways to start closing the gap.

1. Try a "commercial workout" when you’re sitting around watching TV. Do push-ups and sit-ups during the commercials. Over the summer months, this exercise can make a big difference.

2. If you’ve been doing nothing recently, there’s no point in running. Going overboard right out of the gate will only make you too sore, cause you to hurt yourself or burnout quickly. Go for a brisk walk instead. Walk for 10 minutes and slowly jog for five. Do this back-to-back for 30 minutes, four times a week, for a couple of weeks. Slowly begin to lengthen the overall workout, then start increasing the jogging time.

3. You needn’t spend tons of time. If you’re at your ideal weight, you need just 30 minutes per day of exercise, minimum. If weight loss is a concern, experts say it takes an hour of exercise each day to lose weight without going on a diet. Thirty minutes will do for weight loss if you both diet and exercise.

4. Hard workouts are not always better. Some of the world’s greatest athletes exercise at "conversation pace," meaning their pace is easy enough to have a conversation while running. Even many Olympians workout at a comfortable pace 90 percent of the time. As you get into shape, try long (45 minutes or more) comfortable workouts three or four days a week. Then, one day a week, do a harder fast-paced workout.

5. Mix it up. Add some variety to your walking and jogging with cross-training and lifting weights-but keep in mind that almost everything you do in elk hunting begins and ends with your legs. Throw on your pack and climb hills or bleachers. Get on a bike. In the weight room, emphasize squats and lunges. Lots of reps are more important than heavy weights, because for elk hunting you need lean muscle, not size.

When hunting season arrives, Hanes says, remember to pace yourself. The endurance you’ve built over the summer will allow you hunt longer, not necessarily faster or harder. Many hunters tend to overexert at first and hit the wall quickly. Slow, steady hunting for longer periods gives you your best chance to take an elk.

While he admits it’s not for everyone, Hanes prepares for elk season by training for and competing in ultramarathons, races up to 100 miles or more across high-elevation trails. His advice on workouts for hunters spans from basic suggestions for average people to highly technical info for elite athletes in elk country."

Location: Utah
Joined: 02/24/2003
Posts: 596
Elk @ Altitude

Some more advice on high elevation hunting from a guy named Roy Grace who hunts annually at high elevations and kills big bucks.

"Here's what I do to prepare for these types of hunts. I'm by no means an expert in this area, but it works for me. Some think its extreme, but I do what it takes to hunt these areas where most will not.

First off, to hunt at high elevations, being in shape is a must, IMO. It will save you hours of pain not only in your muscles, but your brain when you experience decreased oxygen levels. However, there are some things you can do to alleviate your pain.

When I decided a few years ago that I was going to start backpacking into high elevation wildernesses, I quit lifting heavy weights and saw a nutritionist. I immediately went on an all natural food, low daily calorie diet that dropped my weight from 196 to 161 pounds over a five-month training period. This was combined with my daily routine of running which I've always done to keep my cardio level high since my profession requires it. I usually run between 8-15 miles per week, at a fairly quick pace to burn fat and calories (average 9.5 minute mile and a half run).

This combined with an 1850-calorie daily diet of all natural foods, and I've been able to remain in good shape. I'll be honest; it's not easy when you're in your 40's and for many will be a life changing routine. Basically you eat 6 small meals a day, which include fresh vegetables, fruit, skinless chicken, fish, and venison. You limit your starchy foods and NEVER eat any white flour products (whole wheat only). No soda, sodium, caffeine (one cup of coffee a day is allowed), artificial sweeteners, etc. If you use salad dressings or eat yogurt and granola, they must be fat free and low calorie.

EVERY meal I eat is weighed, so I can assure the amount I'm eating is correct. Example-6 ounces of grilled chicken, 1 cup of salad, 1 cup of green beans. Remember, when you eat too large a meal at any sitting, the remainder of that food is stored immediately to fat. Furthermore, if your "diet" is eating one meal a day, you are actually storing food to fat, as your body has been starving all day. As a result, when it receives food, it stores a portion to fat reserve to save when you fast again. This is why small meals throughout the day will "trick" your body and boost your metabolism rate.

This diet, coupled with physical conditioning (running / hiking program) makes the transition from sea level to 12,000' much easier. Some other "tricks" to reduce altitude sickness is taking pure activated "charcoal tablets" within 24 hours of your hike. One should also drink A LOT of water……even when your stomach can't take anymore…..drink some more.

Lastly, try not to gain too much elevation in one day. When I arrive in the high country, I drive as high as I can (elevation) when I get to trailhead or the end of the road. Where I begin my hike in Colorado is about 11,000'. When I first arrive (generally mid-morning) I spend the entire day there and take it easy. I then spend the night at trailhead to acclimate myself. When morning arrives, I begin my hike. This "formula" has worked well for me and I've yet to experience altitude sickness since implementing this routine.

This program works for me and maybe will help others prepare for physically demanding hunts."

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Location: Colorado
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Elk @ Altitude

Going from sea level to 10,000 ft above sea level is going to be tough, even if you're in excellent shape. There is a lot less oxygen at that elevation and your body will not be acclimated to working with that much less oxygen. If at all possible, I would recommend coming a few days early and not doing any strenuous climbing/hiking for at least 3 days, a week is better. I would go on easy walks to get used to the thin air. Even if you're in great shape, you can still get altitude sickness. Drinking lots of water is very important.

I live at about 6300 ft above sea level and when I hike at 10,000 and above I still get a headache the first day, then it improves each day.

If you have any kind of physical problems, like asthma, heart problesm, etc., it will be greatly exacerbated at higher elevations. Being in the best physical shape cannot be stressed enough, as rather_be_huntin has already stated. Do whatever you can to improve your stamina. Fatigue sets in quickly at higher elevations, and your legs will feel like they've turned into lead weights and your lungs will be screaming for air!

Oh... and welcome to BGH! Big smile

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Location: SW Mtns. NM
Joined: 05/04/2008
Posts: 227
Elk @ Altitude

Great tips from those who know!! I try and get up to elevation before hunt to get used to it. I'm in Sierras @ 7-10k now with packer working.But even tho I'm used to it ,I still get up there before to get acclimated, longer the better.I'm moving to 7400' in NM,but when I go to 10-14kI still will need to get used to it first.

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Location: California's Gold Country
Joined: 08/22/2007
Posts: 9
Elk @ Altitude

FWIW

"To prevent acute mountain sickness, a climber's initial sleep altitude should be lower than 8,000 feet. At altitudes above 10,000 feet, the sleeping elevation should increase no more than 1,000 feet per day.

A simple, fundamental rule will help to prevent severe altitude illness in almost every case: If a person experiences any symptoms of altitude sickness, the person should not ascend or increase the sleeping elevation until all symptoms have resolved. Failure to follow this rule can allow simple altitude mountain sickness to progress to potentially fatal high-altitude pulmonary edema or high-altitude cerebral edema."

You can sometimes use a diuretic and/or asprin for AMS. You can avoid this by changing your hunt...increase time, as suggested for "pre-hunt acclimation" or hunt at lower altitudes. The greater your exertion the more likely you are to get AMS or other worse ailments. Are you hunting sheep? If not, plan to hunt lower and slower.
HTH
Dave

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Joined: 07/10/2009
Posts: 11
Elk @ Altitude

We are planning to hunt OTC Elk during the second season. I guess I was leaning toward this location because it is designated as a wilderness area. We liked the idea of keeping hunter numbers down without the use of motorized implements.

We will start looking at lower elevations. My exact info is live at 600 to 700 ft, hunt whitetails at 2000ft (home town growing up).

Does anyone have a good website for BLM lands?

Thanks for the help.

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Location: Underhill, VT
Joined: 08/20/2008
Posts: 27
Elk @ Altitude

In just about 3 weeks I'll be hunting elk near Vail Co. We'll see if all my exercise over the past two years will pay off. I talked with some former Olympic skiers that live in my area (NorthEast) that have skied all over the world. I asked them about altitude sickness. They said drink lots of water. We will be arriving almost 4 day before we begin to hunt. We will be hunting between 8K and 11K. The posts listed above are very helpful and support what I have heard and read about us flatlanders dealing with REAL mountains.
When I get back I'll be happy to pass along how a made out, if your interested.
I'm 55 and I began getting ready for this trip almost 3 years ago. I've never been a couch potato but I also knew that 10,000 feet was not going to be kind to me either. For the last year I've been in the gym 5 days a week working on cardio and overall body strenght. Like I said above, we'll see if I've done enough.

One last thing, I can't *#@$&? wait!

Location: Utah
Joined: 02/24/2003
Posts: 596
Elk @ Altitude

Sounds like you should do just fine. Good luck and definitely let us know how it goes! I understand your excitement, archery deer starts for me next weekend.

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Re: Elk @ Altitude

Any updates on your trip Flyfish?

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Location: Southern Colorado
Joined: 03/25/2005
Posts: 245
Re: Elk @ Altitude

The altitude will probably slow you down. That in itself is not necessarilly a bad thing. Most hunters travel too quickly and miss some opportunities because of it. The thing you really want to avoid is the situation where you are plodding along - just traveling - instead of being alert and recognizing when you may be moving into an area of good habitat. Whatever shape you are in get good at managing your own energy.

On opening day most hunters are amp'd up. It is very difficult to contain their excitement and restrain themselves from covering many miles. I find that once someone overdoes it like that it puts them at a disadvantage for the next several days. Physical fatigue causes one to move poorly - to make noise that he wouldn't normally make. The mental part is even more important but harder to identify. You want to be anticipating the next terrain feature, the wind, other hunters, and know the difference between when you are entering an area with good potential as opposed to just hiking.

Try to pace yourself. If you feel yourself suffering from fatigue find a good posting spot where some animals might pass through and just conserve your energy for a while. Water sources can be good. Sitting in black timber can be productive also.

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