You’ve heard that to hunt elk you need to get in shape. Outside of a mountain goat or sheep hunt or perhaps some Alaskan wilderness backpacking hunting, there is no other hunt that will tax you physically more than a Colorado elk hunt. So here are some helpful points to be at the top of your game for your hunt.
- Exercise – This cannot be stressed enough. When I hunt, I average walking 15-20 miles every day. While this is spread throughout the day, it is often at high altitudes with dramatic elevation changes. You don’t have to be able to run a marathon, but if you go into a Colorado Elk hunt without any preparation, you are setting yourself up for a miserable hunt. I recommend simply walking on a treadmill every day and slowly building up your distance. I also recommend varying your walking by walking at different inclines. Some guys recommend walking with a backpack or weights to get used to it. I have enough issues with my back so I don’t want to put that strain on my back all the time. I have found I am in good enough shape by just consistently walking. I recommend starting your program at least 2 months before your hunt depending on your current level of fitness.
- Hydration – According to some studies, you lose a liter of water for every 1,000 feet above 10,000 feet just by breathing. While there are some lower elevations with elk, most of the time when you hunt elk in Colorado, you are going to be at high elevations. Add to that the vast amount of walking that usually takes place on this type of hike, water is extremely crucial. Not only will dehydration give you headaches and disorientate you, but it will also sap your energy and can get dangerous pretty quickly. You don’t want to be disorientated when you finally see that big bull. I typically carry at least 2 liters of water with me for a full day. Your intake may be more or less depending on your body size, but water is the one area I am willing to carry more of. You can do with just about anything else but water is extremely important for your Colorado hunt. I also recommend having a back-up plan for other water options as well in case of emergencies (filtration straw or portable system or iodine drops). Don’t make the mistake of heading out on an elk hunt without enough water!
- Food – In an effort to not sound like your wife or mother, I’m just going to tell you to make sure to eat healthy when you are doing a Colorado elk hunt. Avoid very fatty foods before and during your hunt and pick high energy foods for during you hunt. I find it very important to eat a good breakfast before you start…especially if you are needing to start the day off with a decent hike. Not only will it help you get going in the morning, but it will also set the stage for energy throughout the day. Look for a future article dealing more with food before and during your hunt!
- Rest – I often observe this as something people overlook! Make sure you have a comfortable place to sleep. If staying in a hotel, you normally don’t have to worry about the comfort level. Here you need to worry more about distractions that may keep you from getting to bed on time. TV, or talking with buddies late into the night can be a lot of fun, but if you are so sleepy that you can’t keep your eyes open the next day in the field, you have got it backwards! Save those late night talks around the campfire for the summertime or after your hunt….you’ve got an elk to kill! If camping out for your hunt, it is very important to make sure that you have things set up for comfortable arrangements. Sleeping pads, cots, and a warm enough place to sleep can make the difference between a disaster and a success. Time and time again I have seen guys that have spent huge amounts of time and money preparing for their hunt…..only to not get the sleep they need and be wiped out just a day or two into the hunt. You will be getting up early and walking huge distances up and down a mountain. Set your priorities and make sure you get the rest you need!
- Altitude – Unfortunately, this is perhaps the biggest one of all….and the one that is the hardest to prepare for! Altitude sickness is real and it WILL affect you! While all of the areas we just mentioned (exercise, hydration, food, and sleep) will all play an important role in helping this, the most important issue with this is to admit it exists! Take it easy and slow when you first start and don’t try to push through. While it does help to get to your hunting site a couple days before to acclimate, the reality is unless you have the privilege of living at 9,000 ft. you will be slowed down by the altitude. Don’t try and pretend it doesn’t exist. I have the opportunity of living at 5,000 ft. normally and spend a lot of time throughout the year at high elevations, and it still affects me every time I hunt.
We prepare for our hunt in so many ways. We make sure we have the right gear, we practice our shot, we do our homework on our area….make sure you don’t forget about the fitness part of your hunt. It will make or break your Colorado hunting experience.