GET INTO SHEEP SHAPE

You’ve done your research, talked with several guides and outfitters and you have chosen the mountain hunt of your dreams! You purchased all the necessary gear, looked into flights and hotels and your ready to go…or are you?

by ~ Jason Dyck

The single most important thing yet to do is work on your physical condition which us mountain guides call “sheep shape.” It’s a term used by mountain guides for many years to describe the ability and fitness of themselves and clients.

If you are in sheep shape you are able to climb steep inclines at a steady pace, sidehill shale slides without losing too much altitude, maneuver through boulder fields without a lot of effort and all this with a heavy 80+ lb backpack, layers of clothing and your weapon of choice. Being in sheep shape will greatly increase your odds of success on your hunt. You can have all the best boots, rifles, packs and clothing but if you can’t get to the game you definitely won’t have the same chances. Sheep shape doesn’t mean you need to be able to bench press several hundred pounds or be able to run a marathon in record time. What it does mean is you have good endurance, strength to maintain balance and strength to carry a load on your back and do all this without punishing yourself too badly.

There are many things a person can do in preparation for that dream mountain hunt. Here are a few tips and tricks used to greatly increase your odds on the mountain.

Train in the same gear you’re going to use on your hunt, it’s a great way to find out if your boots will blister your feet or your backpack is not set correctly on your body or if your clothes don’t allow you to move freely. This will help to fine-tune your gear and make sure you are comfortable on your hunt. Backpack hunting will require the use of every muscle in your body and you’ll quickly find out you have muscles you never thought you had as they will be stiff and sore to say the least. Strengthening your body core and legs are key. Here are a few things I do to get into Sheep Shape.

Workout Tip

I like to fill my backpack with a full jug of water from my water cooler, lace up my hunting boots and head out walking/hiking daily. You will find that the water swaying around in the backpack will force you to use more muscle groups, fight to keep your balance and struggle to maintain momentum. Start with the jug a quarter to half full of water and every few days add more water. The fuller it gets, the heavier it gets and the stronger you’ll become.

Before any type of exercise it’s important to stretch – and stretch a lot! This helps to loosen tight muscles and free up lactic acid build up which will cause cramps. It will help with blood flow and help prevent damaging or pulling a muscle. Remember to drink lots of water before, during and after a workout!

Hiking in the mountains is not like flat ground and so you should try to train on uneven or hilly ground. Try to find light slopes at first to help you strengthen your legs gradually. You are not just training for a week prior to your hunt so start off slowly and pace yourself, your workouts will gradually get harder and more demanding. As you feel that you can push harder increase the slope inclines steeper and steeper. If you live in an area without slopes or hills find a track with bleachers to climb up and down. Gravel pits work great as well. If nothing else, the local gym will have stair climbers to use.

Although backpacks should be worn to rest snugly on your hips, your shoulders will be taking a lot of weight as well. To help strengthen your core, shoulders and chest muscles 20-30 push-ups and 40-60 sit-ups daily will do wonders. Increase the amount you do every few days, even if it’s only 3 more. Every bit counts!

Being able to hike and climb for hours on end takes strength and endurance. You will need to train your heart and lungs as well. Skipping ropes for 30 minutes a day, 100 jumping jacks, cycling, jogging or swimming laps are all things you can do to help build your cardio. I use a cardio mask or a neck warmer placed over my mouth and nose to reduce airflow for short periods while training to increase heart rates and increase lung strain. You’ll find after using these you will be able to breathe much easier and not get fatigued as quickly, especially at higher altitudes where the air is much thinner and breathing much more difficult, like in sheep or goat country.

Another important thing to remember is your diet. Cutting back on seconds at dinner or deserts can help, but that alone won’t do it. I’m not a dietitian by any means, but common sense tells us that food high on sugars and fat can’t be good for you. You’re best to consult with your doctor, a dietitian or personal trainer as to what foods would be right for you!

So there you have it, a nothing fancy and inexpensive way to get yourself ready for your next sheep, goat or mountain caribou hunt in Sheep shape!