A new breed of bowhunter desires to hunt longer and go farther. They follow a simple rule in mountain hunting: The farther you travel from roads, the greater your chances for success.
Getting far from roads gives hunters more opportunities to find animals undisturbed and unpressured by other hunters. But bowhunters must be fit and lean to make long hikes in thin air on steep slopes. Cardiovascular endurance keeps lungs from burning out during hikes that test even marathon runners. You also need a strong core and leg strength for the hardest task of all when hunting far from roads: packing animals out.
Zac and Rocky Griffith are a husband-and-wife team who take fitness as seriously as their bowhunting. “There is a synergistic correlation between being in great shape and having long and successful falls, whether that means harvesting animals or just enjoying your time on the mountain,” Zac said.
The Griffiths live and hunt in Utah, where their primary prey are elk and mule deer, which live at high elevation. Zac and Rocky, like many Western bowhunters, hunt large tracts of public land. These parcels cover hundreds of thousands of acres open to anyone with a valid hunting license. It’s possible to find solitude and unhunted animals by simply walking farther in steep areas most hunters avoid.
Rocky and Zac rely on their fitness to reach these remote, forbidding lands. “Fitness definitely plays a huge part in hunting,” Rocky said. “Without it, I honestly don’t think we could go to half the places Zac and I go to.”
Getting in shape doesn’t have to be complicated or feel like work. “A ton of resources online are easy to understand and digest,” Zac said. “What’s neat is we are all heading in the same direction, but we all take a different path. Just get on a treadmill, burn some calories, sweat a little, drink a lot of water, and start small.”
Rocky does simple treadmill workouts to train for bowhunting. “I like walking at level 12 incline and 3.5 speed just to keep your heart rate at 120 to 125 beats per minute,” Rocky said. “You’re getting cardio, plus you’re building leg muscles that you use on a vertical climb.”
Two other offseason exercising options are scouting and shed hunting, which are great ways to get into shape. If you hunt whitetails and you’ll more likely climb trees than mountains, fitness still plays an important role in bowhunting and general wellness. Hanging treestands and dragging out deer are physical challenges made easier by fitness.
Fitness also provides major health benefits. “There are no downsides to being physically fit,” Zac said. “There are absolutely zero factors of physical fitness that aren’t beneficial to your psyche, your health, your wellness and your emotional well-being. If you’re actively engaged in physical activity, and you’re setting and achieving goals, you’ll be a happier and healthier person.”
From whitetail hunters to hardcore mountain hunters, fitness is a growing trend in bowhunting. A quick swipe through social-media accounts of popular bowhunters like Cameron Hanes and Eva Shockey reveal as many gym selfies as hunting photos. Bowhunters nationwide are reaping fitness benefits in the field and in their daily lives. Longer, happier lives and longer, happier bowhunting seasons are goals we can all chase.