While guides stress the imperative of physical conditioning before a hunt, few emphasize the need to improve shooting skills. Most of us sight in our rifles from a bench. We can do pretty well from a supported rest. But what happens when there’s no convenient rest to steady your rifle? It’s a shame to lose a trophy bull because you had to shoot offhand.
Once or twice a month in the last few months before your hunt, visit your local rifle range and practice shooting from offhand, kneeling, sitting, and prone positions. If you can find a range with running-deer targets, try them. Also, seek out a range that allows shooting from 200 yards or more. You’ll learn to coordinate breathing, sight picture, lead, and trigger squeeze. And, of supreme importance, you’ll develop that intuitive ability to hit what you see.
There’s one final element of pre-hunt conditioning, and it’s the toughest one of all: mental attitude. Despite what we’re told by outfitters, in our mind’s eye we always picture fair-weather hunts with plenty of game and comfortable, if primitive, accommodations. The reality is often quite different. It can be cold and wet, game can be moving in unusual patterns, one of your tent-mates might snore like mad, and the terrain can be much more rugged than it looked in the video. Knowing that you’re in pretty good physical shape will give you the confidence to weather these discomforts.
Mental conditioning is also about managing expectations. If your goal is simply to kill a braggin’-rights trophy, you may be setting yourself tip for acute disappointment. On the other hand, if you have come on the bunt to explore a wild land that few ever see; to test yourself against terrain, the elements, and game; or to enjoy a dramatic change from your daily routine, you’ll have one hell of a trip.
The older we get, the less flexible we become. Climbing, kneeling, reaching, stooping – they’re all required in a high-altitude hunt.
Bob Anderson is the author of Stretching, a comprehensive guide to flexibility. He recommends finding a personal trainer who can help you develop a program that meets your needs. If you can’t find a trainer, Anderson suggests the following exercises. Start easy, increase pressure as you feel comfortable, and remember to breathe deeply. – Dan J. Olsen
- Interlace fingers above the head, palms up. Push up, feel the stretch, breathe. Hold 15 seconds.
- With knees bent slightly, grasp elbow behind head, pull gently. Hold 10 seconds.
- Knees bent, palms above hips, push forward. Hold 10 seconds. Do Mice.
- Hands on hips, feet forward. Twist right as if looking back over the shoulder. Hold 10 seconds. Twist left. Repeat.
- Use hand for balance on the wall. Lift foot, rotate 10-12 times clockwise and then 10 -12 times counterclockwise. Repeat with other foot.
- Place forearms flat on wall, clasp hands, place forehead on hands. Bend one leg while stretching calf on other. Hold 10-15 seconds.
- Place hand on the wall for support. Grasp top of the foot, pull up gently. Hold each leg 10-20 seconds.
- Stand with feet forward and shoulder-width apart. Bend knees slightly. Hold 30 seconds.
- Place hands on one thigh, push up with arms, push down with hip. Hold 10-15 seconds for each side.
- Bend knees slightly. Relax neck, arms. Bend forward until you feel a slight stretch. Don’t strain or bounce. Hold 10-15 seconds.