How To Prepare Physically For Elk Hunting

How to prepare physically for an elk hunt

Preparing for the rigors of an elk hunt in the Rocky Mountains is one thing not to be taken lightly.

Physical fitness is the last thing that crosses our minds as we get through the excitement of getting our tag, doing all of the land surveillance online and even scouting some areas to spot that one bull we want to take home.

As time gets closer we make sure we have the right boots, and our camo is set.  We ensure our rifles are sited-in and we make extra effort that we have lots of practice, so we don’t miss when the opportunity presents itself.

The problem is that when we finally lay down the elk we have been scouting for the last few months we forget that we must haul that animal out and depending on the weather…in a timely manner. 

You see, hauling the animal out after doing some processing in the field is one thing…but getting to where they live can be another. Elk live between 6,000 and 10,000 feet above sea-level. As elk season comes there will be times where you will need to hike some kind of distance with a pack to get into position.

If you live in lower elevations and don’t take heed to do some physical activities beforehand, you will suffer at the hands of your own body.  This is why it is so important to make sure you take some measures before you head out on the hunt. Make sure you are in good physical condition to handle the rough terrain and to properly take care of the animal you will potentially lay down.

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The number one thing you can do to prepare for any type of endurance activity is a steady cardio routine. The key is to start EARLY!

For most dedicated backcountry hunters, backpackers, etc. the cardio never stops. It’s one of those things where if you don’t use it you’ll lose it. So, to keep on your game you are always doing it.

For those of you just starting out it is important to start slow and build up over time. Springtime is a great time to start. Some great ways to start out is to do some day hikes on the weekend. Doing some day hikes such as going shed hunting gives you some purpose for the hike but will start to build up your cardio capabilities in higher elevations. 

A good distance will range between 4 and 8 miles to start. Over time you will want to build up your mileage.

Other forms of cardio are getting out and going for a good ole run. For me, this is the one cardio activity I can do no matter what. I don’t need any equipment, vehicles, etc. I just need to find some pavement or dirt for that matter and get going.

The key to this is to start elevating your heart rate for an extended period of time and doing it on a regular basis.

Here is an example of one of my weekly running schedules:

Monday: Easy Run for 30 minutes (usually get a 5k (3.1 miles) in distance)

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: (Speed day) Run 1 mile slow then do 3, 6-minute intervals at a 7:30 minute mile pace. These can be broken into smaller intervals like a 60 second sprint with a 90 second walk if the longer interval is too much.

Thursday and Friday: Rest

Saturday: Long run (5 miles)

Sunday: Rest 

This type of schedule will usually land me right around 15 miles for the week. For those of you that say you don’t have time…make time!

HIIT Training

High intensity interval training is one of the most effective ways to increase cardio and strength under the pressure of time. This is one reason why CrossFit is so difficult. The biggest benefits is you are versatile and are doing big compound movements. 

This not only burns a ton of calories and burns loads of fat but will increase your ability to do many tasks in the backcountry that require agility, speed, and strength. One of these tasks would be processing and hauling out the heavy meat.  

Another great part about doing this type of training is it doesn’t require any equipment. Now to get more strength out of it adding weights is as easy as filling up some sand bags, picking up heavy rocks, etc. It doesn’t have to be barbells and kettlebells. 

Now if you have a gym membership or can get to a CrossFit gym…AWESOME. If not don’t fret.

Here is a great example workout you can do anywhere that will surely get your heart rate up and your muscles gassed! 

Set a timer for 20 minutes and do as many rounds as you can in this 20-minute timeframe. A round consists of successfully completing all exercises in order one time.

Warmup with a 10-minute jog or do 5 sets of 25 jumping jacks

The 20 minutes starts here


20 air squats

10 close grip pushups

1-minute plank

20 air squats

10 regular pushups

1-minute side plank (right side)

20 air squats

10 close grip pushups

1-minute side plank (left side)

20 air squats

10 regular pushups

1-minute lying leg lifts

If you have access to a pull up bar, then every other round you alternate the pushups with the pullups.

As you do this you will figure out really quick that building strength and endurance is not rocket science. Even simple moves will push your limits and trust me…you’ll be sore. 

If you have a smartphone, getting the Trifecta App will have a different workout you can do every day and that way you will never have an excuse to not know what to do when it comes to getting some strength workouts in. 

Wrapping Up

As with any workout routine, it’s always great to get advice from your doctor and a certified professional. But when it comes down to it getting your heart rate elevated is SIMPLE and does not take much to get the job done.

Some final quick tips. If you are just getting started, start slow. Being consistent will always outweigh and outperform big bursts of effort for short term gains. Be safe, have fun with it and don’t forget to get outside.

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