By: Sam Leatherman, Professional Guide
Every year hunter spend the summer months buying the latest and greatest gear that is going to help them fill their tag in mountains. As a guide, trust me when I say, I see it all come season; rifles that cost more than trucks, bowsights that factor the range for you, and every piece of apparel you can imagine comes through the backcountry hunting camps. However, there is one piece of equipment all the guides in camp are looking for and often times can be the difference between backstraps on the grill and tag soup.
On the first day, when hunters show up to camp we hike up to the rifle range for everyone to check their rifles; during this time the guides are watching the hunters closely. We aren't looking at the custom rifles or the quality of optics, we are looking at what kind of shape the hunters bodies are in and how fast they run out of breath.
Unfortunately, most hunters head to the mountains carrying the best gear money can buy, but show up with a thrift store body. The simple truth is, you may have a rifle that can shoot 1,000 yards, but if you can't hike the three miles to the elk or climb up 2,000 feet to get to that buck then filling a tag is going to be difficult.
I'm not suggesting you need 6-pack abs and bulging triceps to be a good hunter, but I know for a fact that when the hunting gets hard and when you have to cover ground to get on animals, having prepared and invested in your body will do you more favors than any piece of gear you can purchase.
A great example of this was last season, I guided an older hunter who was in his 70’s through some of the roughest country Western Wyoming has to offer. It was extremely tough conditions and the deer where all the way at the top of the mountains. That 70-year-old man hung with me step-for-step, he was able to pass several decent bucks and on the last day filled his tag with a giant 30” muley. He had spent the whole summer prepping his body to hunt and when the time came, he was able to make it happen and kill a true Western Wyoming trophy. That same week, we had a young man half the age of the 70-year-old, he had a beautiful custom gun with all the bells and whistles, he hunted for two days and after seeing several bucks up high in the spotting scope elected to go home early - empty handed. As he was leaving, he said, “Sorry boys, my body just can't handle it.” As a guide, this is a terrible feeling. We do everything we can to accommodate our hunters and help them fill their tags with the animal they dream of; however, we can only do so much and the better shape you are in physically, the more excited we get!
If you’re planning on taking a trip to the mountains this year, whether its for a 5-day-hunt or a 30-day-extended-stay, do yourself and favor and bring the best body you can. Look into getting a custom workout plan designed for your hunt and have a nutritional plan that will have your body running at its peak performance.
Can't wait to see you on the mountain!