Do you know what it takes to be a Mountain Hunter?
We all know that being physically and mentally prepared for a hunt will increase our odds for success, so I wanted to share this great write up from one of my clients of what he learned in the process of preparing for his mountain hunt.
Received the email you sent to everyone and wanted to say I can really relate to falling behind in the off season on my diet and exercise. I
thought I might elaborate a bit, and if you’d like to share this with your clients feel free to. I apologize it got a little long winded buy it just
started flowing out while I typed.
Most of us who enjoy mountain hunting spend the majority of the year working and/or running our businesses to support this ridiculous obsession we have. In doing so we’re often on the road and on the go nonstop, and our diet and health take a back seat to getting the job done. Then a month or two before the hunt we scramble around trying to get into “sheep shape” so we don’t die in some country that ends in “stan”. I’m as guilty as anybody when it comes to this, and this past year has proven that to me. Last year I went back to Kyrgyzstan to hunt Ibex and brought two buddies along for their first ever mountain hunt. I’m 39, they are 28 and 29 years old. I explained to them what they needed to do to get in shape, sent them a list of exercises I do, etc. Last year I got very serious about getting prepared for this hunt and hired a personal trainer AND a nutritionalist. I will say without a doubt the nutritionalist was the single best expense I EVER made in my life. Until hiring her, I knew eating fried food was bad, too much beer wasn’t good, but I had no idea about how not eating processed foods, drinking half your body weight in oz of water a day, and monitoring your caloric intake (macros) could change my life. After the first 6 weeks of following everything to a tee that she told me, weighing my food, drinking green tea, etc., I was getting discouraged that I saw no change. Then almost overnight I began losing weight and putting on muscle. Being 6’2″ and 180 lbs. I wasn’t “fat”, but I was “skinny fat”, hight body fat percentage. I went from 182 lbs. to 172 lbs. but the biggest improvement was losing 12% body fat, and I did this by eating far more food than I ever had before. But it was the right food. I ran circles around my two buddies 10 years younger
I now look at every piece of food differently, analyzing the protein, fat (good and bad), and carbs and overall calories per meal. I don’t weight my food anymore but estimate, as I feel there is a happy medium between being fit and being “that guy”. Bottom line is that fad diets, weight watchers, etc. can work, but once you stop buying that product, the weight will come back, period. If you know how to eat and prepare food properly, it’s a life changer. One of the things that sticks in my mind that she taught me is to eat for sustenance rather than taste (for the vast majority of meals). Healthy food can be good tasting too, but if you consider that in a 24 hour day you eat about 1 hour total, and after you eat the taste of the food is
gone, and you’re satisfied either way with a full belly. If you’re eating healthy the other 23 hours will be so much more enjoyable for you, and will give you the energy for the next crucial step, exercise. I also compare it to alcohol. .08% blood alcohol level will make you legally impaired. That’s less than 1/10 of 1% in your blood. Now if that can affect you that much, imagine what the food you’re eating does.
Now here I am, 3 months away from my next ibex hunt again, and I am only about 1 month into eating right and exercising again. I kick myself because had I continued on with this past hunting season last year I would be in so much better shape than now. I’m still waiting for my metabolism to kick in like it did last year and the weight start coming off again. If you’re like me, we spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on the best, and lightest, gear out there. I’ve got $3,000 into a rifle just to make it 6 lbs. with the scope. I choose almost all of my gear based on weight. But
the easiest and cheapest weight to shed is on our bodies. Losing 5 or 10 lbs. will add up to thousands of saved compounded lbs. being hauled up the
As for exercise, I did use a trainer last year quite a bit. This year I use him a few times a month, mainly to plan my workouts in advance, and to
periodically check my form on exercises. Doing exercises incorrectly will do little and sometimes can hurt you. A good all around program that
focuses on the entire body but really hits the legs, core, and back is key. I’m not looking to do a ton of bench press and body building exercises, but
more things that I’ll use on my hunt. Obviously stamina and cardio is the key. I literally live at 4′ above sea level in the low country of South
Carolina, so I have a huge disadvantage to guys who live in the West or even at a few thousand feet. My go to machine in the gym is the stair machine.
Not an elliptical or stair stepper, but a true stair machine where stepping on one step doesn’t raise the opposite step back up. The best machines have
stairs that fall away as you climb. I start off training with no pack and go 30 minutes at about 60 steps per minute. By the time I’m ready for the
hunt I’ve got a 25 lb bag of dog food in my 5 lb frame pack, my hiking boots on, 5 lb. ankle weight on each ankle, and an altitude training mask to
simulate the oxygen level at 12,000′. 30 minutes with this gear and I consider myself in shape enough to chase those goats. I alternate cardio
days on the stairs with weight training days, and if you’re doing the weight training properly your heart rate stays up for the entire workout and thus
you’re getting cardio in at the same time.
Gear. I see so many people with inferior gear on these hunts. By all means if you have the money invest in good gear. I use all merino wool everything when I can because it dries fast, breaths, and doesn’t retain odor as much as poly, which means I can wear it longer and pack less. I can actually wear wool for days, change clothes and let the other items air out at camp during the day, then re-wear them. Again, weight is the main factor when I shop for my gear, whether it’s my pack, clothes, rifle, etc. Just simple things as using lithium batteries instead of alkaline will save weight.
Ounces turn into pounds, so when it comes to weight savings you can almost never go too far. But I’ve seen photos of Bryan in Alaska where I swear he was carrying a kitchen sink, no lie. I can go into way too much detail about gear so I’ll stop it there.
Bryan spoke about the importance of shooting long distance and I cannot agree more. I personally won’t go on a mountain hunt unless my rifle will
shoot a 5″ group at 800 yards. Doing that with a 6 lb. rifle isn’t always easy. I do load my own ammo and shoot a custom rifle, but the main help for
me is more good equipment and planning. I use a rangefinding binocular that also compensates for angles and tells me the hold for distance depending on such angle. There are some other devices that get more technical taking into account altitude, pressure, humidity, etc. but I haven’t used them yet. I use a target turret on my scopes for elevation and rather than have the fancy etched markings made for my custom load, I just use a piece of masking tape and make own true my marks for each known distance. Once I get sighted in at 200-800 yards, I use a chart to convert my sea level 90 degree F trajectory to my estimated altitude and temperature where I am hunting, which always is much flatter. I can tell you now, if you sight in at sea level and then shoot at an animal at 600+ yards without compensating for the attitude variation, you WILL either miss or wound the animal, period.
I see many people trying to shoot long distance with 9x scopes. 20x or more is the only way to go for long shots. I prefer adjustable turrets over
multiple lined reticles because it’s easier to just dial in your distance, hold and shoot. And when you change from sea level to 12,000′ you just make
a new piece of masking tape with the new distances, then put a piece of scotch tape over it to keep it from getting rained on. It’s not easy to
find a light weight scope with 1/8 MOA adjustments, but if you can, buy it. 1/8 MOA is twice as accurate as standard 1/4 MOA at long distances. To me fine reticles are much more accurate than heavy ones. Mounting the scope is far more critical than people think. Invest in a ring lapper and you’ll see how far off most rings are from being true. The Whelen kit comes with 1″ and 30mm ring lapping kits as well as scope mounting levels, which is by far the single most important item in mounting a scope. If the reticle isn’t perfectly perpendicular to the action, you can be off several inches left or
right at long distances. And last but not least, familiarize yourself with parallax, which is one thing most hunters don’t understand. If you’re not
adjusting your parallax, or focus on most scopes, you could be off by as much as 5″ at 500 yards from where you see your reticle and point of impact.
If you can move your head around while looking through the scope and the reticle moves also, parallax needs to be adjusted. There are few things
worse in life than to spend 8 days on a mountain climbing up and down, and when you finally get a shot at a trophy animal you miss because of a
technicality. I once had a friend miss an honest 250″+ whitetail with 14″ double drop tines (I saw the deer myself) in Alberta because his action
screw wasn’t tight. Check the torque of all screws and use loctite.”
Jack Dickerson, President