Are You Mountain Ready?

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As I approached turning 50, I contemplated doing an African hunt.  I started researching and talking to outfitters about hunting in Africa.  I narrowed it down to two very well-respected African outfitters who offered bow hunting safaris.  I was close to pulling the trigger, figuratively at least, when I stumbled upon a hunter perched precariously on a mountain ledge near a small tent. 

I read about his story about mountain goat hunting and the challenges it offered.  Suddenly, it occurred to me that I needed to do a goat hunt before I got old.  Africa would be a nice hunt later in life when I slowed down some, but for now I needed a challenge.

I scrapped my Africa plans and started researching mountain goat hunting.  There was one reoccurring bit of advice – get in shape.  Fortunately for me, I heeded that advice, but somehow, I missed the part about “mountain” in “mountain goat.”   I guess it just didn’t sink in that we’d be climbing to the top of the mountain everyday.  The top was at 8,000 feet and it would take about 2 -2 ½ hours of climbing to get to the point where we could begin glassing and hunting.

As it turns out, I was in good enough shape to complete the hunt, but I learned a lot about conditioning for mountain hunting.  I think what I learned can probably be applied to other types of hunts, especially those at elevation.

For me, the key to getting in shape was finding “carrots” to keep me motivated.  The carrots I found were running races.  The idea of competing in a race kept me off the couch and motivated to go out and run.  I ended up doing a half-marathon on an extremely hilly course in Kansas City, Missouri that is rated as one of the toughest in the nation.

While I’d like to report to say I smoked it, I can’t – it was hot and humid and the race kicked my butt.  Still, I finished and got a half-marathon under my belt.  The physical conditioning I gained from the race was helpful, but not near as much as the mental conditioning.  I had to muster up an inner strength to keep running after mile 12 and that inner strength helped me when my quads started to burn on the climb up or across the mountain.

The running helped my overall conditioning and to build a good base, but I added hiking with a back pack filled with lead bags bringing the weight of my back pack to about 60 pounds.  This is the training that was most beneficial for me.  The ability to maximize oxygen is important, but leg strength is just as important.  I did find that I should have focused on this part more, but as the hunt progressed my leg strength gained quickly and I was able to climb longer without breaks.

In addition to the hiking I did walks on the treadmill with the back pack and the elevation setting on maximum incline.  I would do 30 minutes at 3 mph, but in hindsight, I really have done at least an hour each session.

I was in shape to complete the hunt, but in reality I wish I was in better shape so it wouldn’t have hurt as much as it did at times.

Anyone planning a mountain hunt should be in tip top shape and really focus not only on aerobic conditioning, but building leg strength and endurance.

Here is the program I would recommend starting at least a year in advance of your hunt.

Daily      4 sets of 25 jumping jacks to get you warm.

                4 sets of 25 sit ups to strengthen your core which is the key to overall conditioning.

                Alternate days of hiking with progressively heavier back pack with running.

Trail running is ideal because it is easier on the body and adds some challenges such as steep hills to your run.  Start out with the distances that you can handle and gradually add distance and speed.

A treadmill is a good training tool because you can see how fast you are running and do “intervals.”  Intervals will improve your distance and your speed.  Run at a speed that gets you breathing hard for 30 seconds and then reduce the speed to a walk or jog to recover.  Repeat for 30 minutes.

You can substitute stair climber days for hiking if you have access to a stair climber if not find stadium bleachers, parking garage or building stairs to climb.  Start off without a back pack and as you improve your conditioning add it.

 Finish with stretches for upper and lower body.

This may seem like a lot to do each day, but it will pay off and make your hunt more enjoyable and more successful.  The more ground you can cover the more likely you are to get a shot.


groovy mike's picture

most of all – thanks for the motivation!

RUGGED country indeed in those photos! 

You are right that as we age we need to make a deliberate effort to plan ahead for things that require fitness. Now that I’m in my 40s I found that I actually injured myself shoveling snow this winter. My body just doesn’t bounce back from soreness like it did 20 – or even 10 years ago. That is something to keep in mind. CVC – you made the right call tackling the mountain goat hunt while you were still young enough to enjoy it. Now go get your African hunt while you can enjoy it too!   

Most of my hunting buddies are at least a decade (or two) older than I am. I am inspired by the level of fitness that they still have and the hard hunting that they can do. It encourages me to look forward to another 30, 40, maybe 50+ years of hunting! But with the high cost of tags and transportation it is nice that we can do a few things to make the hunt more enjoyable and to increase the odds of success (significantly!) without spending a dime. Getting in shape with better diet and more exercise is something we all KNOW that we should do. It benefits us in every aspect of life. It WILL make hunting more enjoyable and increase your odds of success, but it will ALSO make you healthier benefitting your heart and lungs, blood pressure, and diabetes. Losing weight will benefit not only the cardiovascular system but it will also reduce the wear and tear on joints and as we get older – believe me – our joints need all the help they can get! Save your knees my friends! Besides all this – who doesn’t want to look better as well as feel better? We all know it, now we have to DO it.   

This is a timely reminder for me since it is 10:30 AM and I have already eaten the lunch I packed fro work today and THIS tip is going to motivate me to NOT buy a lunch at lunch time and eat that too! Yes, I was actually considering it!   

Thanks for sharing your training and excellent photos and most of all – thanks for the motivation! Mike

ecubackpacker's picture

Thanks for sharing your tip

Thanks for sharing your tip about your training regiment.
I never thought about training for a road races or a half-marathon as a way to get in same for hunting. I guess the grueling grind of a half-marathon would test your will to continue.
I like the idea of wearing a back pack climbing the stairss. I have run the bleachers at ECU but never wore a backpack before. That's a tip I'll have to try here shortly.
My way of building more inner strength would be train on the treadmill as you suggest. I hate using a treadmill. LOL
Thanks for a great illustration of what you endured while preparing for your hunt.

gatorfan's picture

Good tips

Good tips and great pictures! 

Thanks for sharing!


CVC's picture

Thanks.  You can see the

Thanks.  You can see the steepness in the terrain from the pictures.  Normal steep wasn't too bad for me, but it got to 70 degrees it pushed me to my limits.  Going up was tough, but I could set my pace, but coming down, I had gravity working for and against me.  it pulled me faster than I wanted to go sometimes and with loose footing it was a bit treacherous at times. I got more bruises going down then I did going up.

jaybe's picture


Wow, man -

That's some beautiful and RUGGED country there!

There's no way at my age that I will be able to hunt that - but I can't afford it anyway, so I guess it's a non-issue!

But I am going to be heading out west next fall for the fiirst time, where we will be walking terrain much more hilly that what I usually do here.

I am also going to be starting an exercise regimine, mostly in my basement and on the treadmill this winter.

Michigan roads aren't very conducive to safe walking or running during the winter.

I have two friends who were doing just that as he was recovering from heart surgery.

They were walking along the shoulder of the road when they were run down by a kid on a snowmobile doing 80 mph! They both received a badly frctured leg.

I'll stick to the basement, build up my walking muscles, and take frequent breaks to glass for mule deer while I'm hinting.

Thanks for the great tip and excellent photos.