Getting Ready for a High Country Hunt

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Today's headlines read, "Hunter Dies of Heart Attack!"

I don't know how many times I have seen that headline in the past 16 years that I have lived in Colorado.

I moved here in 1994 via the U.S. Army to Ft. Carson, Colorado.  The "Mountain Post" as it is sometimes called.

When I arrived here, in pretty good shape, the unit told me that I could not participate in P.T. (physical training) for at least 30 days.  Now, I had just come from an overseas tour in Korea and was stationed in the northern most part of South Korea, near the DMZ, running five days a week in the mountains.  I was in pretty good shape to say the least.  But, Ft. Carson had a policy, for all new arriving soldiers, to get acclimated to the high altitude for 30 days prior to conducting P.T. 

Now, Ft. Carson, is not really in the mountains, in fact, it is on the front range of the foothills of the Rockies. But, it is at an altitude of 6,200 feet above sea level.  This may not seem like a lot, but try running five miles every day at that altitude and you will know the meaning of the phrase, "feel the burn".

I have been out of the army for about 13 years now and still reside in Colorado, and I am still in relatively good shape, for my job as a state trooper calls for it.  I have also been hunting Colorado's high country for deer and elk all of these years.

And let me tell you, you will feel the burn when you try to drag a mule deer just 200 yards up hill!  In 2003, I shot a nice 10x8 muley buck and decided I could drag him the 200 yards back up to the trail where my four-wheeler was parked.  I made it, but I felt the burn and was sore all night and the next day did not want to get out of the sleeping bag to go and find an elk.

Here is my suggestion for all of you non-resident or "flat-landers" that decided to hunt elk or deer in the high country of Colorado. 

First, start getting in shape months before your trip.  Either run a few miles a week around your neighborhood or on the tread mill.  Cardio is the key.

Second, when you arrive at your camp, take it easy and give yourself a couple of days to get used to the altitude.  You will not get acclimated in two days, but you will enjoy yourself much more than trying to bust your butt in the first couple of days.

Third, get a good night sleep.  I have never shot an elk or deer in Colorado at first light.  Not that it doesn't happen a lot and depending on where the animals are moving, you may need to be there at first light to close the deal, but I have never shot a deer or elk before 8:00 am, in fact all of my animals have been taken closer to 9:30 and 10:00 am.  But, if you do have to be the first one in the woods, go to bed early.  Six to eight hours of sleep will definitely make your hunting stamina better!

Good luck and be safe!


hunter25's picture

Great advice even for those

Great advice even for those of us that live here. After more than 25 years of living here I had gotten kind of lazy and was starting to hurt real bad after opening day every year. Now I have found that I actually enjoy hiking with my pack after work, I have a 7 mile loop up a paved but very steep hill that takes me about 2 hours to complete. I do this about 3 times a week all through the summer and even my 18 year old son can't keep up with me anymore.

Better health is a great thing.

ecubackpacker's picture

Great advice and thanks for

Great advice and thanks for sharing.
Getting in mountain ready shape can not be over-emphasized. I'm one of those flatlanders you talk about, in relatively good shape for my age. I heeded this same type of advice before my Co trip last fall.
I started running and lifting weights on a regular basis in the beginning of June for an October hunt. While I know it helped me starting in June, I now realize I would have been better off starting earlier. I didn't have any troubles with the altitude but I know loosing a few more pounds would have helped.
+1 on arriving early to your hunting area. Arrive early to get acclimated, as best you can, to the thin air at altitude.
Water and sleep are your best friend at altitude. Sleep is easy to come by, but water can be a concern if the streams are dry or frozen.
I urge anyone planning a high country hunt to read and follow the advice in this tip.

GooseHunter Jr's picture

That is another great tip. 

That is another great tip.  Sleep and hydration are some of the best thing that you can do for yor body anytime you are hunting at higher alltitued..even if you are used to the alltitude.  I have lived in CO my whole life and it still takes me a bit to get used to camping at nearly 10,000 feet.

CVC's picture

I agree about the need for

I agree about the need for sleep.  One other factor is hydration.  You need sleep and you need water to be able to perform at your peak.  Hunting in the mountains at altitude is not the same as being at or near sea level.  I find it takes me about 2 days to adjust, but then I get stronger and the altitude doesn't affect me.  But that first day is tough.  My heart beats so fast trying to supply oxygent to my body.

Train and train some more is good advice.