“Take It Like A Girl” - Getting fit for hunting season - the sequel

Whoa,   I was seeing stars.  My peripheral vision was blackening and closing in on me.  A sudden crashing pain had me stunned still as I stood pinned against a tree by a hundred pound twenty foot ladder tree stand.  I was knocked silly.  My jaw muscles were on fire.  Time stood still.  The last time I felt like this, I ended up in the hospital.

“Linda, are you all right?” my hunting bud, Mara, asked, pretending to be calm.   I did not feel alright.  I felt like barfing.  I felt like I had the IQ of a houseplant.  After a few minutes however, my endorphins kicked in and the pain began to wane.

To this point, I had felt like Wonder Woman with our project.  The experienced huntress, the tree stand wizard, the legend in her own mind.    Our project was getting a quarter mile off the road and into thick woods, navigating around six foot high standing corn to take down a large ladder tree stand and move it to a better hunting spot.   NO problem.  Taking the stand down got tricky however, even for two women.  I didn’t realize it was a twenty footer that weighed so much.  I had put up and taken down ladder stands by myself but they were much smaller.  This behemoth had a swing up seat, shooting rail, a Jacuzzi tub and wet bar.  Well, it was so heavy it felt like it had those last two amenities.   I managed to loop a rope on the chair of the stand and then lowered it slowly to the ground.  My friend was impressed.  Everything was working.   I felt like a female MacGyver.

We transported the stand a few hundred yards away to an area with very little footprint space available and found a crooked tree that unfortunately was the best location for it.  In the process of trying to raise the stand, the swivel seat popped loose and I didn’t have the strength to bear up under the stand’s ensuing fall to the ground.  On its way down, it bounced off my face, smacking me square on the chin and jaw.

So much for being a hunting goddess.  My eyes teared up and I started to cry.  I took it like a girl.  But I did NOT snivel.  And my gal pal did not fawn over me, thank God.   Instead, I bucked and focused on the task at hand.  Once the initial shock was gone, I was ready to rock again.

The rest of the process went well.  I put step stix up on the back of the tree, shimmied up and down a few times and looped the mother of all ropes over a branch 24 feet up.   While hanging like a monkey on a vine, I used my body weight to pull the stand into position, ending up flat on my back.  It then got secured it with a ratchet strap.  Mara trimmed out the stand area and I trimmed out shooting lanes.  We put up a trail cam nearby and hit the road for home.  Between raspberry thorns and the tree stand incident, I look like I’d been in a boxing match.

What was more sobering than seeing my beat up face in the rear view mirror, was admitting why this accident happened in the first place.  My chin was bloodied and swollen, my inner lip looked like ground round, my lower teeth felt loose and my jaw ached.  What I discovered was, my upper body strength had deteriorated due to lack of working out, to the point that I couldn’t do what I always used to be able to do in the woods.  I had made a mistake that I have preached to others about over the years, concerning the importance of fitness with hunting.  Now here I was, not physically prepared for the rigors of the hunt.  Dragging a 150 pound deer out of the woods was clearly out of the question.

Having been an aerobics instructor many years ago, I knew the shtick.  Plus, I have written about fitness and hunting as well.  You start form the ground up for getting in shape for hunting season:  Feet, Legs, Core, Upper Body and Wind.

Fitness for feet is less working out than it is having the right footwear.  Footwear needs to be as comfortable as a running shoe with ample warmth and protection for your hunting seasons.   You should get your hunting boots early, and go hiking in them in order to get them broken in.  Quality itch-free wool socks are a must.  There is nothing worse than aching, miserable feet that have been imprisoned in stiff new hunting footwear.

Fitness for Legs is next. Personally, I am a distance runner, roller blader and I walk a lot.  Any of these, or other leg workouts like biking, on a regular basis (3 days a week for at least an hour) will give you the strength you need to spend all day in the woods, climb trees or drag a deer out.   If you don’t stay fit year round, you should at least begin preparing three months before you hunt.  Hitting the woods with wimpy legs will result in exhaustion, cramping, shin splints, strains or even sprains and this goes for any age or gender of hunter.

You “Core” is your abdominals and your back. Having a strong core will help you stay warmer, help you sit tall and still in a tree stand all day and will make climbing and hiking enjoyable rather than an exhausting painful chore.  Not having a strong core can result in a pulled back or obliques, pulled abs, hernia, side aches and much more.  Some exercises for your core are sit ups, yoga, palates or weight bearing activities using machines.  Physical outdoor labor is great for core strength too.

Next is your upper body and this was where I messed up. Arms and upper back. I moved this year and my usual physical lifestyle had become more sedentary, upper-bodywise.  I used to chainsaw trees, split wood, dig, build, and always seemed to be shoveling something – every single day of the year it seemed.   Shoveling things by the way is EXCELLENT for your core too.  I’m still strong, but I didn’t have the strength I was used to having and that I honestly thought was still there.  I was still pulling the full weight on my bow after all, but I had misjudged.  The strength was not there after only six weeks of NOT getting upper body conditioning.  This is especially important for women, since our strength is less in the first place, but I’ve seen the same with men who do not maintain fitness.

Last, but probably most important, is your Wind, that is, your aerobic fitness.  How quickly do you get out of breath when exerting yourself?   If you are not aerobically fit, several problems can arise when hunting.  You won’t have the stamina to be outside all day walking through the woods to scout and hunt, for one.  You will break a sweat with very little exertion when hiking or walking to your stand and in cold weather this can make you chilled once you are sitting still in your hunting stand which can lead to hypothermia.  You won’t have endurance for things like putting up stands or tracking deer.

So I guess I have to resign myself to going to a gym for the time being.  It is no excuse to not have physical activities just outside my door like I used to.  I don’t want to ruin the upcoming 4 months of archery and firearms hunting just because I got a little soft.  The time to start is now.

How ready are you for hunting season?  It’s just around the corner and it’s not too late to prepare.