There’s this old image of the midwest hunter in our cultural consciousness that is an overweight, middle-aged guy, sitting in a heated ground blind with a rifle and smoking a cigarette. If this is you or the way you hunt then I mean no offense at all. Hunting means different things to everyone and, at the end of the day, if you are enjoying your time in the woods and taking home some meat every year you’re doing it right. However, don’t underestimate the athletic nature of bowhunting and the role that physical fitness and mental strength can play in it.
For starters, the act of drawing and shooting a compound bow is an intensely physical activity. It draws parallels to a golf or baseball swing. If you are drawing 45 pounds or more and shooting 50 arrows every other day you are going to strengthen your upper body, core, and legs quickly. The second part of fitness as it relates to bowhunting is hiking into your spot often with a treestand or saddle on your back. Walking back 2-3 miles with a 35-pound pack through thick brush and or snow is going to quickly let you know how in shape you are. Finally, sitting dormant in a treestand all-day while simultaneously remaining alert and awake is going to test your conditioning and overall fitness. Quickly and quietly going from 8 hours of doing nothing but watching to drawing back a bow, focusing in, and shooting is going to require that you have good stamina.
All of these physical challenges are going to drain on your mental stamina as well. Shooting a bow well requires that you are mentally in the game as well as physically. While your muscles do the heavy lifting, your brain is going to decide when it’s safe to draw back on a deer, where to aim, when to shoot—and sometimes when to wait for a better shot. Again, after being out in the elements for hours at a time alone, days on end during deer season, your mind will not be performing at its peak. However, the better your physical conditioning and overall health, the better your mind will be up to the task of killing a deer.
As the bow season opener has gotten closer, I have been drastically increasing my physical activity. I have been hiking similar terrain to what I will hunt in with a pack and wearing the same clothes I will wear when going out on opening day. These hikes and small game hunts have gradually increased in length until I am pushing my body each day to improve my conditioning. I have started running to improve my overall level of conditioning. Finally, I am practicing with my compound bow every day for at least 30 minutes.