Feeling like a dog? The dog days of summer are upon us, but this doesn’t mean we should allow ourselves to slip into the summer doldrums.
Instead of dreaming and pining for those crisp mornings with elk bugling and ducks quacking, work so that you can enjoy them when they do arrive.
The summer doldrums should be your summer recharge season. Plug in and fill your physical reserves so you have plenty with which to milk every minute of “on-line” time outdoors this fall.
Exercise? I’m afraid so. But being in great shape is your single best advantage afield. The man or woman who can hike the extra mile, run to cut off the herd, and sit another half-hour in the cold is the one who will be there when the game arrives. Strength is important, but endurance is essential. That’s what keeps you in the game.
How to get it? Move. Often and for long periods. No need for painful running; walking will suffice. Biking and swimming and any other aerobic activity are equally good, but walking is what hunters do most, so get those legs and lungs in perfect shape by walking terrain similar to what you’ll hunt.
If you can do this with weight on your back, you’ll gain strength and stamina faster. Just don’t overdo it and injure yourself. Then you’ll be set back for days, maybe weeks. Steady progress is what you want.
Start with ten to 20 pounds in a pack. Add five to ten pounds each week or two until you’re carrying 40 to 75 pounds. If you can hike four miles nonstop under a load like this, you’re getting in hunting shape. Pull a ten-mile backpack hike once a week and you’re becoming an elite hunter/athlete—and no actual athletic skills are needed, just toughness and staying power.
In addition to walking, shoot. Keep an unloaded rifle around the house and shoulder it every day. Learn to operate it like your right hand. Quick, smooth, instinctive. None of this hunting around for the safety, no swinging the barrel thither and yon trying to find your target in the scope.
Keep both eyes open and focused on the target. Raise rifle to cheek and shoulder until the target appears behind the crosshair. If you have to bend down to the stock or raise your head off it to see through the scope, raise the comb or lower the scope. Look at how things don’t line up and then do what’s necessary so they do line up. When your cheek hits the stock comb, your eye should be looking right down the sight.
I’ve said it before and before that: shoot in field situations, not off the bench. Off the ground, off rocks and posts and limbs. Off portable bipods and in varying habitats until you train yourself to assume the steadiest, fastest, and most reasonable shooting position every time—and then hit the target. Vary the ranges from close to far. Learn to estimate range or use a rangefinder. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Better to “waste” $500 on ammo this summer than waste your whole hunt and tag to a miss this fall.
“Summer doldrums?” Not for hunters.