Learning From Long-Distance Hikers: Tips for Endurance
The hunting community can learn from the long distance backpacking crowd when it comes to managing hikes and terrain. Thru hikers are especially adept at covering many miles, day after day without slowing down.
While most hunters won’t be covering 20+ miles each day, picking up a few tips from experienced long-distance hikers only stands to help when the terrain gets tough.
Use Your Trekking Poles
It sounds so simple but trekking poles are often left behind or strapped to a backpack when they are needed most. The poles take pressure off your knees and distribute the workload across your body. Sometimes, even using a single pole can help you balance on very steep slopes.
While hiking longer distances between stalks and glassing points, always use trekking poles. Keep them handy for the short but steep climbs and descents as well. It’s worth the time to stop for a minute, take them out of your pack and use them in these situations. Over the course of a 10-day hunt, it can make a difference.
Manage Your Stride on Moderate Terrain
Injuries often occur while rushing through easy and moderate terrain. Trying to cover miles by extending your stride beyond normal can stress the hips and cause pulled muscles or a hip pointer.
Focus on maintaining your natural stride. This is easier said than done when you’re approaching an animal or anytime the adrenaline is pumping. Stick to your natural pace, moving intentionally and consistently. Unless you’ve been training as a mountain runner, sticking to a comfortable pace will get you there without the injuries and agony.
Make Adjustments on the Fly
Recognizing issues and making adjustments in the field will prevent injuries and create a better overall experience. An uncomfortable strap can wear you down over time so stop and fix the problem immediately. Every now and then, your load will be uneven and you need to pull a few items and rearrange gear for several minutes. No big deal.
When something isn’t right, continuing on the same path will only make it worse. If it hurts a little now, it will probably hurt a lot after several more miles. Take a short break, readjust and get back to the trail when you are ready.
Steep Slope Strategies
When you hit the steep stuff, stop and plan a route before moving forward. Oftentimes, there is a natural choice between shorter and steeper or more gradual and longer. The short but ultra steep routes can work for someone in tip top shape but most hunters and hikers will benefit from using breaks in the terrain and creating switchback patterns to work through a big climb.
Take small steps while climbing or descending and take frequent breaks to stretch and rest. Slow and steady wins the race on vertical slopes. Of course if you’re hunting with one of our experienced guides, they will do their best to find the most efficient route.
Know When to Stop
One of the most difficult things on a backcountry hunt is stopping. There could be a record-book moose just over the next mountain and you want to get there. We all do. Just be aware of your condition and be careful not to burn yourself out early in the hunt. Sometimes, mountain hunts can be a marathon. Give yourself the ability to keep grinding, even after several days of hard hunting. That means taking care of your body along the way.
On the first day or two, stop and rest when necessary. Treat your blisters, take frequent breaks and stretch diligently. Then regroup and get back in the hunt when your legs and lungs are ready. On hunts here at Kawdy Outfitters, the horses do much of the heavy lifting, which is very helpful. Even so, listen to your body and make sure you can go the long haul on a 10-day backcountry hunt.
Written by Zach Lazzari
Zach is an outdoor writer, a hunting and fly fishing guide, and very proud to be a part of the Kawdy Outfitters team. You can follow Zach’s adventures at bustedoarlock.com.