by Michael Waddell
Getting in shape for elk hunting is just as important as your shooting skills. Elk habitat is big and rugged and you must be in decent shape to get around. Since most hunts last five days or so, your fitness should be such that you can last for the full hunt.
Focus on exercises that improve cardiovascular function and build leg strength. Your lungs and legs are what count in elk country. Always consult a physician before beginning a serious workout regimen.
If your hunt is going to be at high altitude, you will notice the thinner air even if you are in good shape. It usually takes a couple of days to get used to altitude.
One outfitter suggests that clients arrive a couple of days early just to lounge around camp while they get used to the situation. That way the client will be ready to go on opening day and not waste precious hunting days having to move slowly and gasp for air.
The Ups and Downs of Elk Hunting
Elk are not migratory in the sense of waterfowl or even their northern cousins, the caribou. They dont purposefully start out at Point A and invariably end up at Point B. Elk are drifters, looking for food, water and comfort.
Their only way of satisfying their comfort-zone needs is to move about in their range of habitat. In hot (and usually dry) weather, elk seek shade and water and are often found at low elevations. As autumn progresses, cooler temperatures allow the elk to move up into higher alpine meadows and even above timberline where shade is scarce.
Elk generally remain at the higher elevations, laying on their winter coat and good fat to get through the cold times to come. Hard winter and deep snow, up high, drive elk back down to lower elevations and the shelter of thick timber.
Depending on the habitat, such movement may be simply up and down a single watershed or may cover many miles and many mountains.
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