Last year during a Colorado elk hunt, I logged 68 miles in eight days on a backcountry bowhunt. The terrain was rugged, requiring up-and-down hiking with a 32-pound pack.

backcountry bowhunt

Consider purchasing wearable tech to track your distance and pace. If you’re on a budget, pedometers often cost less than $15. For something offering more functionality, consider a device like this Garmin Forerunner worn by the author.

That’s a lot of miles hauling a lot of weight, and it’s something every backcountry bowhunter must be prepared to handle. The good news is you don’t need a gym membership or a fancy pair of vibrantly colored running shoes to implement this workout into your training regimen. All you need is a pair of hiking boots, a set of hiking sticks and a pack loaded down with the gear you plan to tote or a few sandbags to mimic the weight.

Twice a week — and usually after a run — I go pound out a few miles. Hiking with a pack allows me to feel the weight on my back and the sticks in my hands. Sometimes I’ll stroll around town with my pack in tow. (This will get you some funny looks, especially if you decide to strap on your bow). Other times I drive out and hit a few country hills.

If you’re looking to prevent that sore feeling in your traps (upper back and below the shoulders), shoulders and lower back, this walking workout will get it done. Plus, hiking to prepare for a backcountry bowhunt allow you to get comfortable with your pack.  Also, by using it two to three times weekly, you’ll  become familiar with every compartment and get the pack perfectly adjusted to your body.

After You Hike With a Heavy Pack, Shoot

It’s also a great idea to practice shooting while wearing your pack. Shots taken in western climates are often done with weight bearing down on your shoulders and hips.

Below is a 6-step, wear-your-pack shooting workout.

  1. Make sure your pack weighs between 25-30 pounds, grab your hiking sticks and pound out two country miles.
  2. After your two-mile hike, remove your bow from your pack, set your sticks to the side and set up a target.
  3. Next, mark distances of 60, 50, 40, 30 and 20 yards with your rangefinder.
  4. Starting at the target, sprint to your 60-yard mark wearing your pack, load an arrow from your quiver and deliver the best arrow you can manage.
  5. Jog up to the target, retrieve the arrow and place it back in your quiver.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 from 50, 40, 30 and 20 yards. Don’t stop and don’t take a break. Can you make five kill shots under the strain?

By the time you’re finished, you’ll be huffing and puffing pretty good. Not only is this a great cardio workout, but it also creates a “game-time” type of intensity when shooting.

Click here to learn more about bowhunting the West.