Physical preparation of my first sheep hunt.

MosquitoCoast

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I'm just looking for some solid advice from those that have done this a lot as to whether I am on the right track or not.

This August I will be going on my first sheep hunt. Going for Dall in the Yukon on a 10 day hunt. I've been up there before to hunt other species as kind of prerequisite if you will prior to committing myself to a sheep hunt. I'm 47 years old and not getting younger. At about 6'1" 180lbs I'm on the skinnier side and my runner legs aren't probably best suited for mountain wear and tear. That said, I have "embraced the suck" on many a hunt and expect to on this one.

I live on the East Coast United States literally 20 mins from the Atlantic Ocean and am basically training at sea level.

I've been working out about 5 days a week for what seems like the last 2 years. Up until recently I just ran 3 miles or walked 5 miles with 55 lbs in a pack, and did a lot of Yoga. For the last 3 months, I've changed my routine because there is virtually NO terrain where I live. Now my routine consists of a mixture of incline (5%-15% inclines) treadmill work at a fast walking pace for 40 minutes, finished off by a 1.5 mile run, OR on short days I do 30 mins on the stair master in two 15 minute sessions which can be grueling but I get through it ok. Usually after either of these exercises, I lift weights on the machines doing 15 reps, 3 sets over a variety of about 5 different machine exercises for another 30-35 minutes after treadmill or stair master work. In addition to those workouts, I do hot Yoga to stay limber two days a week religiously and sometimes 3 if I can fit it into my work schedule.

Even though I used to walk the neighborhood with 55 lbs in my pack for the last two years I've stopped that because I wasn't getting any incline work. So three months ago I started the gym routine above. Recently I bought a 45 lb weighted vest and I wear one of those masks that simulates elevation by reducing oxygen intake cut my workouts to half the time. Usually with the vest and mask, I'm doing 5 min intervals at 5% incline, 8% incline, 6% incline, 10% incline, 8% incline, and then 12% incline with a 3 minute 15% incline then cool down for 7 minutes at 2% incline. Weight hasn't been an issue yet but man the mask has kicked my ass.

I feel like I am doing enough but really I am a fish out of water here. I always feel a slight struggle with elevation on any hunts or activities I do around mountains. At least that happens the first couple of days before I start getting used to it. i will say that I feel in excellent shape but the last thing i want to happen is to feel fine the first two days of the sheep hunt only to deteriorate physically by the 4th-5th day. I plan on packing light, but i am going to be taking a bow and a rifle on this hunt so I expect my overall pack weight will be averaging around 35lbs or so.

I'm going to keep this pace up until about 3 weeks prior to my hunt where I will just go into rest mode and practice Yoga to stay fit. Am I on the right track? Am I doing too much, too little? I want to physically be able to dominate this hunt because I feel like if I can do that the mental side of things won't be nearly as tough.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. It is a little weird prepping for something you have never done nor understanding what exactly is in store for you.
 

*zap*

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The mask may not be a good idea. I do not think it replicates altitude and have heard that it actually just starves your body of the oxygen it needs for exercise. I would research that.
Your doing alot of uphill but no downhill, maybe stadium stairs up/down with weight or something similar.
Adding in basic compound movements for whole body strength training might be a good idea.
 

leoni1

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Sep 4, 2019
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I live in Alberta and am fortunate to hunt sheep every year.

Having read through your post, it is impressive how much you have committed to preparing for your hunt.

I have a couple bits of advice:

- Take a couple different long weekends and go hiking and backpacking into the mountain range nearest to you. Schedule one trip about 3 months before your hunt, and the second about 4-6 weeks out. Give your legs a good proper workout by hiking peaks with some weight on your back.

- Do not taper for a full 3 months. I come from an Olympic background in biathlon, and a taper of more than 2 weeks prior to our biggest events was all that we did. If you want a long taper, make sure to continue your workouts, and only cut them back by 25% in length. If you cut back too far, you will likely be out of shape by the hunt!

- You mentioned your worry about declining energy as a hunt progresses. I hike peaks and mountain bike in summer and ski tour in winter, in addition to running, weights, plyometrics etc. There will ALWAYS be days in which your energy ebbs and the hills seem longer and steeper. Be prepared for the peaks and valleys. They will happen no matter how well prepared you are, both mentally and physically.

GOOD LUCK!


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Kotaman

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Agree...Skip the mask and keep doing what you're doing. Nothing replaces actually hiking uphill, but you are doing everything you can.

Regarding the "Pope and Gun" situation. If you're gonna take the gun, leave the bow at home. From the experiences I've seen, anyone that brings a gun on a "bow hunt" almost always exclusively kills with the gun. If you are dedicated to the bow, then skip the gun all together. 99% of the time, taking both is an exercise in futility for the bow. Save the weight, save the hassle, take one or the other.
 

Doc Holliday

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I've only been on one sheep hunt, but I live in Florida, equally close to the gulf of mexico, and here is what I would contribute:

Put that 55# in your pack, put on your boots, and walk a few miles in the sand that is far enough from the water that it is soft and sucks you in. Someone told me to do that before my hunt....I didn't do it, but wish I had listened. If I ever go on another one I will definitely be doing this. On your hunt you are going to be stepping on alot of rocks.....some will move, some won't, but you won't know until you step on them.

One thing that I did do that the same person told me to do, was to get a wobble board. Practice on this thing periodically while watching the tv, etc. It helps with your balance and working out those lateral muscles. After doing it you will feel it in your legs....again, this is for walking on those rocks.


If you can find a parking garage nearby, that is one thing I also did frequently throughout the summer. Put on your pack, your boots, and hike up and down the stairwells of the parking garage. Mix it up by walking up and down the ramps here and there.

I don't think the altitude is going to be as big of a factor as you are thinking. I'm guessing you will be hunting from 4,000 to 6,000 ft.

I can tell from what you already posted that you are going to be just fine.....please post a thread when you get back and tell us about your trip. From one GA boy to another, I promise you it will be life changing.
 
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Cactus kid

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I read the book "Training for the New Alpinism" by House and Johnston recently as i prepare for a different sheep hunt. Maybe the best book on endurance mountain training I have read (not that I have read many). Very informative.

Here is a link to the authors coaching website. This article is specifically about training for mountaineering.


Though the book is written for alpine mountaineers, there is a lot of cross over into mountain hunting: hiking for miles upon miles with a weighted pack, in steep terrain, for days and maybe weeks. The book is great for somone who needs to be in peak physical shape for one, maybe two, big long events a year.

Their approach to training is worth reading. Way too much information to cover here but :

They advise a lot of volume in V1-V2 zone, basically below a conversation pace. This is to build up the "aerobic base."

They advise strength training, with an emphasis of building up the CNS so you are recruiting more muscle fibers. This will lead to strength gains and not muscle (i.e. weight) gain.

You can get as in the weeds as you want, but its worth the time.
 

idahohikker

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I'd ditch the mask. Don't taper more than a week, maybe two max. I think you're on the right track.
 

waitforit

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Cant believe nobody has mentioned basic weight training. Trust me, you will have a lot easier time getting around with bigger leg muscles. I would aim to be able to squat at least your bodyweight and deadlift 1.5 times that as baseline fitness.

Doing this will also give you a strong core which will help sidehilling, stepping over rocks etc.

Ditch the mask and the treadmill. Weight train, and for cardio do HIIT in the form of hill sprints with and without your pack on.

1 week of rest before the trip should be plenty if you are fit and strong.
 

LitenFast

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I agree with heavy deadlifts, squats, lunges, step ups, carries, yoke, etc. strong legs and core go a LONG ways later in the trip when you are hopefully packing out heavy and already tired.

I don’t do any running, but do heavy lifting, hiking with progressively heavier weight, and get additional work capacity with sand bag, lunge, step up type circuits.


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outdoorsman12b

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Your taking fitness seriouslyso in my books you have already won. No one routine works for all. Especially for guys north of 40. Don't worry about altitude. Pack training is still invaluable even if you don't have hills as it gets your body use to load.
 

mshortdog

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If you are rifle hunting it sounds you pretty much where you need to be physical. Bow hunting you will cover 5x the ground. A lot of the times the same ground. The hunt duration will be longer. Make friends with a 8 plus floor stairwell a couple times a week with pack and boots. Max incline treadmill pack and boots. 1 hour minimum. I also walked on rock jetties. Shoot your bow 5 times a week on an incline and/or decline. Decide on rifle or bow before you leave. I would not carry the extra weight in the back country. Have a great trip!
 
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MosquitoCoast

MosquitoCoast

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Agree...Skip the mask and keep doing what you're doing. Nothing replaces actually hiking uphill, but you are doing everything you can.

Regarding the "Pope and Gun" situation. If you're gonna take the gun, leave the bow at home. From the experiences I've seen, anyone that brings a gun on a "bow hunt" almost always exclusively kills with the gun. If you are dedicated to the bow, then skip the gun all together. 99% of the time, taking both is an exercise in futility for the bow. Save the weight, save the hassle, take one or the other.
The guide carries the gun luckily. I just prefer he carry my gun and not his gun.
 

bigbaddad71

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Feb 21, 2017
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No mask. On the advice of an orthopedic surgeon, low intensity cycling is one of the best exercises for someone backpacking.. And ruck training with a pack of 45lbs or less.. Any heavier is just way to hard on the joints to be of benefit..

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*zap*

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I think you can minimize the impact on your joints by rucking on an incline treadmill and with the proper gait/foot placement/posture.
I ordered the alpine training book yesterday and am interested in the v-1 & v-2 info plus increasing muscle fiber recruitment via the cns, hopefully it is a good book with that info and more.
I was planning on adding steady state low intensity cardio and looked at the bike's last night after strength training to see if any were book reading friendly....looks good to go.
The article posted above recommended liss for active recovery days because of the benefits of increasing blood flow slightly for a period of time on those days. Hopefully the book has more in depth info. Recovery is a big issue for me @63.
 

bigbaddad71

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I think you can minimize the impact on your joints by rucking on an incline treadmill and with the proper gait/foot placement/posture.
I ordered the alpine training book yesterday and am interested in the v-1 & v-2 info plus increasing muscle fiber recruitment via the cns, hopefully it is a good book with that info and more.
I was planning on adding steady state low intensity cardio and looked at the bike's last night after strength training to see if any were book reading friendly....looks good to go.
The article posted above recommended liss for active recovery days because of the benefits of increasing blood flow slightly for a period of time on those days. Hopefully the book has more in depth info. Recovery is a big issue for me @63.
Don't over think it either..

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AK_Skeeter

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Becker Ridge, Alaska
Poor endurance or sore feet can be a problem.
The shooting light in August can be from 4 am to midnight...so you really need endurance for long, long days.
And 16-20 hour days in the alpine can lead to blisters or sore feet.

Can you get to the Appalachian trail in Georgia for some long distance multi-day backpacking...that would help with breaking in your boots and getting tough feet, and your endurance.
 

trouthunter1106

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Nov 19, 2013
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Colorado
Not that I’m an expert, but I’d start with four or five weeks of barbell and strength training, then another four or five weeks of body weight/conditioning, and then spend the last 7 or 8 weeks training specifically for the mountains.

Check out Mountain Tactical’s website. Rob Shaul does an excellent job of creating programming for highly specific mountain events. Specifically the Fortitude, humility, and back country hunting plans. You can get a subscription that gives you access to all of those and 100+ more.
 
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