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Use Turkey Hunting as Training Ground for Elk & Backcountry Expeditions

Use Turkey Hunting as Training Ground for Elk & Backcountry Expeditions
February 22, 2024

By Jeremy Koerber, Fit To Hunt

Pies do not magically appear in the oven.

That is a line I often use with new clients who have an elk tag in their pocket and believe one month of training will have them ready for the back country. To bake a pie one has to:

  • Gather ingredients
  • Make a pie crust
  • Combine the ingredients
  • Pre-heat the oven
  • Bake the pie

It’s a process that you have to follow in linear fashion to enjoy and this is how I see preparation for the backcountry. If you don’t follow the steps in the right fashion and give yourself time, the end result is less than satisfactory.

We are weeks away from the first turkey season opening in Florida, but there is still time to train and for those of you who are not hitting the gym to prepare for your fall hunts out west, or chasing whitetail in the Midwest for that matter, here is how training for turkey hunting can help you ramp up to punch an elk tag this fall.

The foundation

You can keep yourself at a high fitness level year round but it is unlikely you can stay in peak physical condition. Our goal for elk hunters is to have them peaking on the day their boots hit the mountain which is very similar to an athlete on the field of competition. If the holidays were a little too kind to you or you are just starting an exercise program, focusing on the movement patterns that will help you be successful in the turkey woods is a great way to begin building a foundation for back country conditioning.

Movement patterns that benefit turkey hunters include:

  • Split Squats: Builds functional, bi-lateral strength and mobility
  • Bear Crawls: You will have to close the distance to a hung up bird at some point
  • KB Deadlift: The foundation for everything in the outdoors

My goal for our clients is to start with movement patterns that I know will improve their performance in the spring woods and then increase the difficulty over the next several months. For example:

  • Split Squats turn into Weighted Split Squats or Bulgarian Split Squats
  • Bear Crawls turn into Bear Crawls with a Push
  • KB Deadlifts turn into regular or Hex Bar Deadlifts

The movements themselves do not completely change but the complexity of the exercise and intensity changes to match the overall challenge of the hunt and output needed. This happens over a period of months. Consistency is king and slow and steady wins the race. Simple movements in March will morph into advanced exercises in July that will help you attack the mountain.

Log miles

If you read any of our content, you know we love rucking. You can bike, swim and row all day long but nothing prepares you for hunting like rucking, but there is zero reason to load up a pack with 65 pounds to chase long beards. Especially if you are new to exercise or have not been training regularly. That is an invitation for injury.

To kick start your cardio and prepare for turkey season, we suggest you start walking and use the FIT (Frequency, Intensity and Time) principle to determine how you modify your cardio. For example, if you begin by walking 30 minutes three days a week, think about how you will modify your walking sessions in week two. You could:

  • Add a day of walking (Frequency)
  • Walk faster or add weight to a pack (Intensity)
  • Walk longer (Time)

But we suggest only manipulating one variable. Never bump up all three in the same week.

Once you have a few weeks under your belt, consider adding a weighted pack that is the equivalent of your turkey vest.

Go hunt turkeys then pivot

Training for turkey hunting will provide you the base layer of conditioning you need to begin the ramp up to the backcountry training. At this stage, you have a lot of the basics mastered, a solid layer of strength & conditioning and are both physically and mentally ready to level up.

From May through early August, weight training sessions will increase in complexity, volume and intensity. Your weighted hikes will become more strategic to include long hikes with moderate weight and heavy pack hikes to simulate packing out hindquarters and backstraps. It will get tough and it is supposed to. If we were to go back and use the pie analogy, we just put the pie pan in the oven and we are close to the timer going off. You are now in the dialing in phase but you cannot get to that point without the work you did in February. You cannot cheat the process.

Do you need a hand?

We designed two different programs with turkey hunters in mind.

The Strutter is a six-week program that focuses includes exercises that will help you perform better in the turkey woods. It is great as a standalone program or can be combined with an existing workout.

For the turkey hunter chasing Merriams or Rios in hill country, we created Extreme Strutter. This eight-week program is quite possibly one of our hardest DIY workouts and is perfect for the hunter who has already been training and is wanting to chase mountain birds.

All GoWild members get 10% off all of our DIY programs and apparel. Just use code: GoWild10 at checkout. 

Good luck this spring and with your summer training. There are a lot of ways to get #FitToHunt and we are honored that you ready this article and took something away that will help you punch more tags this spring and fall.

Get after those long beards and what more can we do to help you get and stay #FitToHunt?

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