Updated: Oct 10, 2019
Imagine it is a crisp fall morning. The grass is slightly frosted, a light moonlit fog hovers over the landscape. It is a mostly cloudy morning but no rain. You have your pack ready to go, and your thermos of coffee ready to hit the stand. You have been preparing since last season for today and are ready to hit the stand hoping to get that monster buck you saw on your trail camera near your favorite spot not too long ago. You lace up your boots, sling your bag over your back and start the trek to your tree stand. You manage to navigate over the remaining stalks of corn and fell trees on your way to the stand. You get to the foot of the stand and look up, just 20ft of climbing remains between you and the spot you will be spending the next several hours or a whole day. Lugging your pack to the top, you finally manage to get to the top and secure your harness.
Does the above paragraph get you excited for that opening day hunt? I know that walk in, on those perfect mornings are one of my favorite parts to hunting. I know there have been some hunts where I can feel a little winded, especially with a heavy pack weighing me down. I wanted to discuss an article (1) I found that addressed this exact aspect of the hunt. Hopefully, it will shed some light onto the true demands that hunting can require of someone.
The researchers in this article attached an electrocardiograph sensor to 19 hunters in order to analyze how the heart reacted during different aspects of hunting. They looked at hiking, deer dragging, climbing a tree stand, and buck fever. When hiking, there was a highly variable response in the participants. Some participants had as high as 98% of their max heart rate and some were as low as 38%. The reason for the variability can be to a multitude of factors such as weather, terrain, and gear being carried. Climbing a tree stand resulted in heart rates of 62%-103%, far less variable than hiking. Researchers (2) found that climbing a tree could also elicit abnormal heart rhythms.
The variability described above should not be ignored. While some hunters experienced what would be classified as light exercise, others experienced vigorous exercise. In addition to bouts of vigorous exercise, abnormal heart rhythms can be a further concern for proper fitness before beginning the hunting season. Ensuring proper cardiovascular endurance is important for all individuals hunting, especially those who have tougher commutes to their stands.
Do you prepare your fitness for hunting? If yes, what do you do? If not, why not?
1. Verba, S. D., Jensen, B. T., & Lynn, J. S. (2016). Electrocardiographic Responses to Deer Hunting in Men and Women. Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 27(3), 364–370. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wem.2016.03.005
2. Haapaniemi S, Franklin BA, Wegner JH, et al. Electro- cardiographic responses to deer hunting activities in men with and without coronary artery disease. Am J Cardiol. 2007;100:175–179