Donít overlook physical conditioning when preparing for hunting season

By Paul Harder / The Observer August 16, 2013 10:49 am
Before that crisp fall air shows up in the mornings, hunters all over Evhastern Oregon need to be getting ready for those early treks into the woods.

If you procrastinate until opening day to go through your checklist there may have been something you overlooked — the physical demands of hunting. Many people overlook the terrain they’ll be crossing and the extra toll it takes on the body to traverse the mountains. Not only are you forcing the body to climb and descend while you’re scouting and hunting, but the trails aren’t always in prime condition. Loose gravel and rocks could present a problem. Now is the time to get ready.

“Each year we see people come in with sprained ankles and sore backs,” said James Gorham, a physical therapist at Mountain Valley Therapy. “We also see a lot of sore knees. With a little preparation, some of these injuries, for the most part, can be avoided.”

With archery season opening Aug. 24, now is the time to get a routine going before it’s too late.

The most overlooked aspect of getting in shape for the hunting season is leg strength. When you finally get that perfect line to shoot, you need to have a solid base underneath you. After hours of hiking through the mountains, your legs may be a little shaky.

Gorham said the best way to get your legs ready for the assent into the mountains is to walk hills.

“Cardio is a big thing. By walking hills you can get your cardio and build your legs at the same time. The key is to start small and work your way up,” Gorham said.

“It’s not a bad idea to incorporate gently squats and lunges. Again, the key is working into it and not putting too much stress on the body.”

The mountains aren’t like walking on a well manicured lawn. It’s taxing on the joints and ankles with the uneven ground you’re constantly navigating. 

While injuries like sprained ankles may still happen, a little time spent strengthening those joints can ward off some sprains.

“The key is to try a recreate that instability,” Gorham said. “That forces your body to stabilize itself. Single leg balancing is one of the things I would recommend. You can use a pillow or another soft surface and perform single leg squats.”

Of course all the prep work would be undone without getting ready before heading out on the hunt. Most hunters get up well before the sun comes up in the morning. That’s means cooler temperatures and tighter muscles. Gorham suggested setting those alarm clocks just a little earlier.

“The key is to getting the blood flowing in the morning. You don’t want to go out without breaking a little sweat if you can help it. Just walking around the campsite briskly before hopping on the 4-wheeler or out on foot can help out.

“Any activity you can do before you get out there is a good thing. You just don’t want to shock the body completely.”

Of course the easier option is to have someone else put you through the ringer. Right next door to the Therapybuilding is Mountain Valley Fitness and Health. The personal trainers there can design a workout tailored to get you ready for the hunting season. 

Whatever the case may be, don’t overlook having a solid base if you want a better chance of avoiding those minor hunting injuries.