Get Whitetail Fit

What can you do to set yourself apart from the masses of public land bowhunters? Put in the work and get whitetail fit.

Get Whitetail Fit

The man laughed. Did it hurt my pride? A little, but not enough to deter me from my whitetail ways.

“I get it for elk and the like,” he continued. He could tell he’d rubbed me the wrong way with his chuckle, and his tone softened a bit. “But for whitetails, really?” he jabbed one last time.


The Beginning

I got into running years ago to be more efficient when hunting the plains and mountains of the West. I discovered the better shape I was in, the further I could go. That wasn’t all, though. Not only could I cover ground, but I could also stay on the hunt for days on end. My legs, for the most part, stayed lactic-acid free. Time is a bowhunters’ best friend and being able to cover ground and remain in the woods for long stints was my recipe for consistent success.

Of course, the more tags I notched, the more of an interest I took in my commitment to fitness. I started experimenting with supplements and altered my diet. I met with doctors and several nutritionists. Was it necessary for hunting? No, but I’m a bit OCD, and for me, exercise and diet became part of my lifestyle.

I pushed it to the extreme, running multiple ultramarathons in the Colorado mountains, including a trio of 100-milers. Do I tell you this to brag? No. My goal with my writing is to help and motivate, and if you decide to heed the advice to come, I want to lay the background — make sure you know I didn’t pull this out of thin air.

My body had become a machine, and I loved it. I was running, biking and lifting. Swimming? Not so much. I want to, but I sink.



I’d been on a few whitetail bowhunts and was quickly falling in love with the species. I loved the process of scouting, running cameras and the like. I also, and this surprised me, thoroughly enjoyed sitting in treestands and ground blinds. The sit-and-wait world was a new one for me. Each time a stick cracked in the distance, and my eyes spied tan hide slipping through the timber, the pitter-pat of my ticker increased. My only problem was the lack of physicality hunts demanded. I was hunting a river system close to my house. The property was private, small, and toting treestands and gear didn’t require a lot of effort.

My great friend and fellow outdoor writer, Tony Peterson, changed the “physicality” part for me. I will say without question that Tony is the best whitetail bowhunter I know. The guy is a public land genius — killing multiple bucks on open-to-anyone dirt each year.

“You gotta come do a public land bowhunt for whitetails,” Tony told me over the phone. “Public land hunting, especially in walk-in areas and the like is hard. Not only are you camping, but your toting stands and blinds, sometimes for miles, across difficult terrain. And when you down an animal, that animal has to be packed or carted out.”

The author knows a thing or two about extreme physical training. He’s completed multiple ultramarathons, including a third place finish in the 2018 Grand Mesa 100-Mile Foot Race.
The author knows a thing or two about extreme physical training. He’s completed multiple ultramarathons, including a third place finish in the 2018 Grand Mesa 100-Mile Foot Race.

First Timer

We met in the Sooner State. The area was teaming with public land — tracts measured in square-miles rather than acres. There were three of us, and we each had two buck and four doe tags on a single license. I love Oklahoma.

It poured rain for the entire trip. Midday hours were spent trying to dry camp and clothes before loading stands on our backs and trekking in deep to explore new evening haunts. It was a grind. On these early October mornings, encounters were few, but we were knocking down does, which required the use of deer carts and packs. We spent many nights packing and cutting up meat under soupy skies.

Though we didn’t kill any bucks on that particular trip, the hunt forever changed how I would view whitetail hunting.


What’s This Got to Do With Me?

Read the title to this section. Thanks. Now, reread it. I know this is what you’re likely asking yourself. Well, here’s the answer.

Have you lost a lease? Someone dropped the landowner a few more Benjamins than you could match? You looked into buying a slice of whitetail heaven only to realize the price of decent whitetail dirt has exploded? I’m there with you. You went and visited your favorite landowner; after all, you’ve been hunting old Bob’s place for years. You went to high school with his son and worked the farm during the summer. Bad news: Bob leased the ground. Yep, it happened to me as well.

The fact is, bowhunting for whitetails is becoming a rich man’s sport, forcing more and more bowhunters to seek out their dreams on public ground — no big deal. Public hunting can be incredible. With that noted, the days of killing a good public buck over a public food source where you can see your truck from the stand are over. Spots that look amazing and are close to access roads are being hammered. What do you do to set yourself apart from the masses? Get extreme and get whitetail fit.


Whitetail Fit

On average, I burn between 4,000 to 6,000 calories per day in the elk woods. Since I started hunting public land whitetails, seeking them out in areas others aren’t likely to access, I burn between 3,300 to 5,000 calories per day. How? Thanks to some good advice from another buddy and public land whitetail guru, Alex Gyllstrom, I mostly do hang-and-hunt missions. I pick a spot on my onX Hunt App, strap on a pack, treestand, climbing sticks, food and water, and get to it. The walk, of course, burns calories. Then there’s the process of hanging the stand, taking it down, and walking back to the truck. On those nights my arrow finds its mark, weight is added to the pack, and multiple in-and-out trips are made.

If you’re a gritty bowhunter and like putting in the physical work, this type of whitetail hunting will appeal to you, and you’ll find that you will experience increased success. If this type of hunting sounds nauseating, but you’re tired of not punching your tag and are ready to do what it takes to get it done consistently on public dirt, read on.


It’s a Lifestyle

If you’re already in semi-good shape, great. If not, start slow. The process is a marathon and not a sprint. A newbie fitness-goer looking to get in good whitetail shape could begin with the following routine:

  • Monday: Two-mile walk/run. Nothing fast. Just get out and get the blood pumping. After the run, be sure and stretch and use a foam roller to help push lactic acid from your muscles.
  • Tuesday: Hit the gym. My advice is to enroll in a beginner’s CrossFit class. CrossFit is great for the body as it incorporates lots of athletic movements. CrossFit boosts flexibility; builds strength and stamina.
  • Wednesday: Rest Day.
  • Thursday: Grind it today. Hit a good two-mile walk/run. If you prefer to bike, go ahead. Just make sure you get in enough miles to get a good sweat going. Round out the day by heading to your CrossFit class.
  • Friday: Walk it out. Grab the wife, kids, dog, whoever, and go for an evening stroll. Nothing strenuous. Try and get in a good mile.
  • Saturday: This will be a strenuous day. Start with an early morning 5K run (3.1 miles). Go at a pace that is comfortable for you. Don’t worry about time, and yes, it’s OK to stop and walk. Again, a bike ride is excellent but be sure to add mileage. Finish the day with a solid CrossFit workout at the gym.
  • Sunday: Rest Day.


Avoid Injury

After each workout, be sure to stretch and roll out. Take care of your body to avoid injury. Consume no less than 90 ounces of water per day. I also recommend mixing Wilderness Athlete’s Energy & Focus with its Hydrate & Recover once per day. This mixture will help hydrate the body and prevent cramping while assisting muscles in recovering. You will also feel a sense of extra energy and alertness throughout the day.

Eat Better

Help your get-fit process along by changing your eating habits. No, you don’t have to get crazy. Start small. Eliminate sugars. Cut out soda, candy bars and other sugary foods. Start eating more greens and try and stay away from processed grains. Eat plenty of protein. Consume that meat that you kill. You’ll quickly notice, just by cutting out sugars and processed grains, how much better you feel.

Hang-and-hunt missions can produce excellent results. Being prepared physically to tote stands, climbing sticks and other gear for miles on public land is a must.
Hang-and-hunt missions can produce excellent results. Being prepared physically to tote stands, climbing sticks and other gear for miles on public land is a must.

Hunt Better

Now you’re physically and mentally ready for your hunt. Stay smart. As mentioned earlier in this article, a big key to being successful is staying on the hunt day after day. Many bowhunters, even those in great shape, burn out because they aren’t taking care of their bodies on the hunt. You have to stay hydrated and replace the spent calories.


My daypack food looks like this:

  • Pro Bar Meal Wholeberry Blast Bar (380 calories, 51 grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein)
  • Two RXBARs (210 calories per bar, 24 grams of carbs per bar and 12 grams of protein per bar)
  • Kind Blueberry Pecan Bar (190 calories, 18 grams of carbs and 4 grams of protein)
  • Three ounces of homemade elk jerky (90 calories per ounce, 11 grams of carbs per ounce and 9 grams of protein per ounce)
  • Two packs of Justin’s Almond Butter (190 calories per pack, 7 grams of carbs and 7 grams of protein)

 Total daypack calories = 1,640

Eating well is a staple to consistently winning on public land. Whether you cook a big evening meal or rely on a Mountain House, on-the-hunt nutrition can’t be overlooked.
Eating well is a staple to consistently winning on public land. Whether you cook a big evening meal or rely on a Mountain House, on-the-hunt nutrition can’t be overlooked.

At night, even when you’re tired and just want to fall into your cot, you need to eat. If you eat a good dinner, you will sleep better and feel way more energetic the following morning. I’m not a good cook, so I rely heavily on Mountain House meals. Take their Sweet & Sour Pork, for example. A 2.5 serving bag contains 580 calories, 48 grams of carbs and 12 grams of protein.

Along with my Mountain House, I also like to down some fruit. For me, an apple and a banana are the right combination. Experiment ahead of time to see what works for you. In addition, I also usually boil some water and down a cup of Ramen Noodles.

Go ahead, get into whitetail shape. Some will laugh, tell you it’s not necessary. You can just smile as you add horns to your wall and stack meat in your freezer. Enjoy the process. 

Sidebar: Kent on Being Whitetail Fit

My good friend and fellow outdoor writer, Tim Kent (above), lives in New York. Most of his season is spent 20-feet up a tree, and he had some great advice on the importance of being whitetail fit.

“Whitetail hunting and being in peak physical fitness are rarely considered interrelated, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Kent said.  “Although my personal year-round fitness pursuits were driven by the rigors of hunting the steep-dwelling species of the mountain west, the associated effects have certainly reflected onto my whitetail hunting effectiveness. My ability to access, hang and prepare stands has improved. I sweat less and stay warmer because my base layers don’t get cold and clammy during periods of intense activity while traveling to and from a stand or blind. I also stay warmer in colder temps thanks to improved circulation. Dragging downed game is easier, and I am less sore even after the longest drags. I have more energy, and grinding for days on end takes less of an assault on my system. I seem to handle the surge of adrenaline much better when I’m more physically fit, which has led to more focus and greater efficiency in taking game.”


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