The human body is a complex piece of hardware that is capable of doing some pretty amazing stuff. For example, it has the ability to replace every part of itself in a constant cycle of regeneration. You get new skin about every month, your liver is completely replaced about every six weeks, skeleton every three months and so on. This goes without saying that this doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t go to sleep at the end of the sixth week of your liver cycle and wake up with a completely new one; that would be some superhuman stuff right there. It does however constantly replace cells by renewing them through a cyclic process. This is just one example of how amazing our bodies are. With that being said, I was able to test my body and mental fitness a few weeks ago while on an archery backcountry elk hunt in northern Colorado. Being my first partial/solo backcountry hunt, I would say that I had no idea what to expect in terms of being physically and mentally prepared.
My current training has given me the mental and physical baseline that is needed in order to perform at a given moments time, however I knew going into preparation for this hunt that I would need to supplement a sport specific type of programming. You see, to be successful in backcountry hunting, there are three pieces one must work on: shooting, knowledge, and physical fitness. You could be the best shooter out there but if your physical fitness is crap, you’ll lack the drive needed to continue pursuing the hunt. Likewise, being in top shape but lacking the proper shooting mechanics could hinder you come knock time. In essence, there must be a balance between the three.
The Ultimate Predator programming that Atomic Athlete introduced this year allowed me to be able to prepare myself physically and mentally for the specific task I was going to embark on. The three month programming consisted of a three week block which entailed three areas of concentration: aerobic, strength and sport specific training, followed by one week of what we call “deload,” which is basically the same movements but done at a lower volume and load. The main focus of this programming was to improve the aerobic endurance and lower body strength endurance of the athlete while maintaining low to moderate intensity efforts over long periods of time. This is simulating what the legs would be able to tolerate- high workloads of moving the body with weight and equipment over steep terrain day after day. The weekly training consisted of tire drags (30-60min), step-ups with weight (35-50lbs), running and walking with a loaded pack, and other sport specific exercises. One caveat to Atomic Athlete programming is that nothing gets easier, you just get used to the suck. This is arguably noticeable around week eleven’s 60 min tire drag. The Ultimate Predator programming does not get easier as the weeks go by, it does however become more manageable. The structure of the programming is designed to build a solid foundation of aerobic and strength endurance, with an emphasis on progression.
To get an idea of how the Ultimate Predator programming correlates with the physical demands the backcountry renders, my very first DIY archery elk hunt was a great example and truly humbling experience, to which I can give credit to the programming in accomplishing a successful harvest.
The first week of hunting I covered about four to five miles a day with loaded weight starting at around 4 a.m. and ending at legal shooting hours, around 7:45 p.m. My first real test came at day seven when I decided to move my hunting area three hours north of where I was originally at. Meeting a buddy of mine we started our nine mile ascent towards an area he liked to call his “honey pot.” Excited and anxious, I had no idea what physical demands I was going to embark on for the next couple of hours. The first five miles was considerably easy, the terrain was relatively nice with a gradual increase in elevation. That all changed at around roughly 8,500 ft., with a drastic incline in elevation of about 80 degrees - I’m exaggerating a bit here, I didn’t have a transit level to compute the elevation grade, but you get the idea. The terrain completely changed as well, going from a suitable trail to basically no trail at all. For a second there, I thought we either lost the trail or diverted on another path my buddy only knew about. The last four miles consisted of a grueling stretch of an abrupt incline and numerous switchbacks. Four and a half hours later we finally made it to what would be our basecamp for the next 2 weeks. Within that timeframe land coverage would be spread anywhere from five to seven miles a day. The real test came on day 13- it was then I knew my training had paid off.
On my last day of hunting I was able to locate and kill a nice 5x5 bull elk, which happened to drop about six miles away from our basecamp. Three trips (both ways) and many, many hours later my hunt was over. Exhaustion would have been an understatement for what I was feeling upon completion. However, I was prepared mentally and physically mainly due to the predisposed training stemming from the Ultimate Predator programming.
Upon completion of my backcountry hunt, I felt that I accomplished a great deal, both physically and mentally. Not only did I have a successful harvest, but my training paid off and proved its effectiveness. While one may not be able to train for certain variables within the respected environment (e.g. weather and altitude), you can prepare yourself for the terrain you will possibly be facing. The Ultimate Predator programming is pertinent to backcountry hunting and the arduous environment that welcomes it.
I will continue to use the Ultimate Predator programming in preparation for future backcountry hunts, and look forward to putting it to the test. Until next time, stay strong, stay fast, stay harder to kill.
Author - Miguel Valdez
Built2Hunt Content Contributor