Fall is here, and for many who live the Iron Game lifestyle, that means we are “in season." A bunch of you think I am referring to football season, maybe the championship season of highland games, or powerlifting, but no, I’m talking about the oldest sport of them all, hunting season!
If you know me, you know I am an avid hunter. It is really safer to say that in my life there is deer season and there is prepping for deer season, with some birthday and holidays mixed in for flavor. If I were to boil it down, my mind is usually wrapped around those magic moments in the wild that occur predominantly between October 15 and November 15. Our deer season here in SC is much longer than that, but this is when the rut or breeding season generally occurs. At this time, the bucks that have eluded human contact for the past 11 months might just screw up enough to been seen in range by yours truly. The question for the avid outdoorsman / Iron Gamer is, “how do you fit all this in (without accidentally becoming a bachelor)?”
I’ve had to balance my two passions for more years than I can count, and I have screwed it up a lot. Too many times I was strong as a bull in August, only to look like a refugee boatperson by Christmas. I want to shed some light on some of my notes for success when it comes to fighting a two front war of fun vs. training.
First of all, to balance two hobbies - work and family - you must have a supportive wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, dog, or whatever. You will be gone a lot; I know I am. Lesley is generally a “whitetail widow” when the leaves turn the pretty colors. One day I hope to make it all up to her and take her to Hawaii for a year. Someday. Except, of course, during November.
There are two types of deer hunting: Western style with lots of walking and climbing and Eastern style with long, cold sits, motionless. This in-season training will work well for both types. Based upon my geographical location and the style of hunting we do, I participate in Eastern / Mid-West Whitetail deer. This type of hunting is usually sitting long hours semi-motionless in the cold. The first thing to remember is in order to kill big bucks, you must put in your time, which is generally 2-3 hours in the AM, 2-3 in the PM as often as possible until you fill your tag with the desired animal. Sitting on a small seat 25 feet up in a tree at 5:30am in 30 degree temperatures is not extremely physically demanding, but the lack of movement and cold can wreak havoc on your joints and muscles. Couple that with climbing a ladder, carrying a bunch of gear, sawing limbs, drawing a 70lb bow, dragging a big buck (hopefully), jumping over creeks, climbing over logs and rocks, and you have a need for some physical fitness. Truthfully though, and let’s be honest, you want to stay STRONG!
Keep it fast and simple. You aren’t here for bodybuilding or to hit marathon pump sessions. You are working on reduced sleep and limited time. I like to cut back to 2-3 days per week and 2-3 exercises per session. My goal is to keep a basal level of strength and not turn into a Gollum. Here are some sample workouts:
A1 Standing Press 5x5, 6x3, 8x2
A2 Deadlifts 5x5, 6x3, 8x2
Foam Roll / lacrosse ball, especially on hip flexors and psoas
Dead Hang Pull-ups 5x5, 6x3, 8x2 (weighted if possible, assisted if required)
Squats 5x5, 6x3, 8x2
Low Back Decompression hanging (with heavy rubber band)
KB Swing 2x20
Clean Pulls 3x3
Rowing 2000 meters and/or loaded carry walks
Notice, this is not a lot of work. This can generally be done in 30 minutes or less including warm up and recovery protocol. It is important to use multi-joint movements that stimulate large amounts of muscle fiber and connective tissue, while, at the same time, tuning the endocrine system that aids in recovery and overall health. If I attempt more intensity or volume than this I run the risk of injury or illness. **Note- Western hunters get in enough cardio-style training in during their hunt, no need to do more). When I hunt, it is often mixed in with work (IPhone changed my life), so I am “on” from 4am until sometimes 10-11pm. A month of this will have you looking worse than that rutted out buck that lost 20% of his body mass in November (because he chased the girls too much). I digress.
I have also found if you are going to get the lifting in, try to sneak it in during the middle of the day. Any later than that and my energy levels are sapped, and I can’t forget to have time with the wife and kids. I have tried getting up early and banging it out under the impression that I will stay on an early am schedule, but soon realized I need to catch up on sleep sometime. A few extra hours of sleep per a week will change your life.
I have lived on Bo-berry biscuits (if you’ve never had these, I’m sorry), beef jerky and Monster Energy drinks for a month. On that life everything goes to pot. Living out of a dirty truck, changing clothes in the parking lot with bags under my eyes is not the recipe for wonderful, healthy meals or lifestyle. I have found that if I can prep my food and pre-made shakes it helps me keep some mass and strength. If you can afford pre-arranged meals in a cooler, you are golden. Obviously plenty of water (even super hydrating) is a must, with reduced warm-up time and cold weather, the muscles are much more prone to injury. Get used to peeing in the woods or a bottle if you must. I also bump up my amino acids and vit-c packs (I use Emergen-C) due to the less than optimal food intake and rest time.
Now, some of you will say, “I am not an “Iron Gamer” and, “I just want to stay fit.” That’s cool I suppose, but let’s talk about the reasons to be STRONG in the woods. Big bucks can weigh in excess of 250lbs and dragging one through the woods and lifting one into a truck bed is freaking hard. I don’t care who you are, it’s rough—especially when you are by yourself. Being strong always helps. Moving fallen logs across roads, moving stands (sometimes weighing hundreds of pounds), jumping over creeks, belly crawling are all acts which are much more enjoyable with super-human strength. Wrestling 4 wheelers, trailers, coolers full of meat (or beer) are all more fun, and safe, when you are STRONG.
- Reduced volume
- Low reps
- Big lifts