By Chris Eberhart
It is cold outside! Winter has us in its icy grip. The mercury where I live has dipped occasionally into minus territory. When the wind blows it seems that it cuts through even the best of winter gear. With the days as short as they are it is easy to sit down in front of a fire and wait for spring, and not even think about whitetails for a while. And honestly, despite the fact that I am a whitetail fanatic, the stresses of a long hunting season, and the Christmas season, have worn me down a bit. But alas, preparation for whitetail hunting never ends. After a short annual respite in January to recover, I have started my annual cycle of getting ready. Weights and wandering are the cornerstones of this.
Since it is so cold outside and the roads are icy my daily running routine takes a natural dip this time of year. Though I still run a bit, I prefer to run on trails, and my trails are covered with ice and snow, sometimes treacherously so. If there is enough snow I pull out my cross country skis, but that unfortunately hasn’t been the case this year. I hate running on a treadmill, so that as a cardio option falls between the cracks for me. To counter the lack of my normal outdoor training routine I focus on strength training until the thaw begins. If you aren’t working on strength training for bowhunting you should be. I’m certainly not talking power lifting here, but the benefits of total body strength become obvious when you think about climbing trees, both while setting them up in the spring and hunting them in the fall. Just to be confident while climbing I recommend being able to do at least ten elbows out pull-ups. If you can’t do this you need to get busy.
In my opinion the key to strength training for bowhunting is lighter weights and more repetitions. The idea is to build strength and endurance without adding unnecessary bulk. I like to do at least six sets of ten to twenty repetitions of every exercise. Much of the time a set of simple dumbbells will suffice for an entire workout. Some of my favorite exercises with dumbbells include bench presses, military presses, curls, lunges, and core strengthening exercises, with some stretching and push-ups mixed in. (There are countless websites dedicated to explaining different kinds of exercises.) I like to switch from one exercise to the next without a break. That way I can work my full body in about a half an hour. I try to do this three times a week. If you can keep up this routine for a couple months you will go into the spring scouting period in great shape.
The other part of preparation that I recommend for this time of year is what I call wandering. There are a couple hunting seasons open right now in Michigan, including squirrels, rabbits, and crows. One of my favorite things to do is pick up a .22 and head out to hunting properties and wander a bit. The goal of these outings is manifold. Always the consummate hunter I like to carry a weapon, just in case the opportunity to score on some wild food arises. This kind of sort-of-half-hunting also keeps me moving slow and scanning my surrounding very closely. Attention to detail is one of benefits of this. The other thing, and perhaps primary reason, I do is scouting deer bedding areas, and new spots. I am looking for evidence of a mature buck that survived the hunting season, or a hidden gem of a spot tucked away somewhere deep in a bedding area. I’ve also found a shed or two while doing this. These outings also give me intimate knowledge of every inch of my hunting areas, and knowing your hunting terrain is always a big advantage come hunting season. The final reason I like to do this is for base fitness. Walking slow and long through the winter woods will keep you trim and fit. This is absolutely the most basic fitness exercise in the world. Walking in the winter woods also warms up my mood when the melancholy of winter doldrums set in.
So hit the weights and head to the woods. This is whitetail hunting prep that will keep you in the game, and have you ready to go for the spring scouting season that is approaching in a few weeks!
– Chris Eberhart, BowhuntingWildFood.com
If you want more great whitetail hunting information like this, check out Chris’ latest book, Bowhunting Whitetails The Eberhart Way