Heart attacks kill the most hunters every year. In fact, there are fewer hunting accidents during hunting season then heart attacks. Why are hunters at risk? Because a lot of us (and I’m guilty as well) think we can slack off all year and go climb a mountain like we did when we were 16. Hunting is strenuous, and you owe it to yourself to be in the best shape possible. You will be healthier, feel better and be happier during your hunt if you aren’t in pain (or dead).
What you do depends on your age and physical shape. I’m assuming that like me, you spent most of the year with the most minimal workout possible. The best thing to do is start out slow with walking. Walking is great because you can adjust quickly to your level of fitness. If you are in poor shape, start with a couple of blocks and work your way up to 4 or 5 miles. If you are in okay shape you might want to start with a mile. You can quickly build up your stamina this way.
As you get better, add in a slope and a backpack with weights to simulate what you will experience on your particular hunt. Of course, varying your speed and working out muscle groups with weights never hurts. It also pays to drink water and add a good balanced diet and vitamins to help your body recover quickly and be more efficient. Give yourself several months to get in shape. The shortest amount of time you should ever have is six weeks and only if you are already in some sort of decent physical condition to start. If you are coming from the couch, try to give yourself more time.
If you are a tree stand hunter, you should add in strength building for your legs, arms and hands. Climbing stairs with a backpack, lifting your body weight (pull-ups), and grip strength exercises can help with this. Climbing a 20 foot stick-ladder is not for the weak or faint of heart, so remember that you need to get in shape for this as well.
Finally, age is also a factor towards what kind of shape you will be in for hunting season. I know every year that goes by I get slower and it takes longer to get in shape. If you struggled last season, give yourself more time and plan a low impact exercise routine to help you be the best hunter you can be. Good luck, and be healthy!