Fitness lends itself to hunting prowess

John Schandelmeier

A week or so ago we traveled to Anchorage for the Big Wild Life Run. My wife was running the half-marathon and I watched.

I watched the leaders come through the 10-mile checkpoint and thought they looked about like me after a long pack -- maybe even a little worse. I saw my girl come by, maybe struggling a little, but she was cruising along OK. "These runner are all nuts," I thought.

But wait a minute. Are they really? After all, it's just a few days until moose season. Caribou and sheep are already open. If any of those marathoners are hunters, buddy up to a couple of them and bring them along.

I don't know any marathoners other than my wife. So, as soon as we got back home, I started to run. In my younger days, I didn't have to get in shape. I was always fit and ready to walk or pack. Now it takes a little more work to get ready. Hunting may be a necessity or it may be for recreation, but either way, there is no reason to beat yourself up while hunting. Get in better shape before you go.

I can't count how many times I've heard someone say, "No way I'm going to pack that moose from way out there."

Most of the time the guys who say that go home to eat hot dogs (personally, I like hot dogs fine - after I've been eating moose for a month). "Way out there" could be a mile or 400 yards, depending

on how much exercise you've gotten lately. Go for a walk, even if just around the block.

Walking will help, but you'll need something more if you have to cut off a traveling caribou. Running, even slowly, will help out your wind. At first it will seem like someone has tied a knot in your lungs. Try

running for one minute, and then walking for minute. Ten minutes is plenty. If you can do this twice a

day you'll see benefits by the second day. Gradually, over a week or so, walk less and run more. Don't look

for speed records; stay well within your ability.

Remember, this is part of hunting - the fun part. It's OK to stop and talk to your neighbors on these runs. If your hunting partner lives near enough, jog by his house. Maybe he'll feel guilty and run with you.

The ability to move a little easier has obvious benefits. You're quieter in the woods and less likely to be

intimidated by the thought of going after an animal a mile or so from the road. It also helps when it comes to packing. Packing requires good wind and strong legs. Practice with a light pack; 20-30 pounds is more than enough. Get off the sidewalk and into the woods. Uneven terrain makes for great training. Find a hill and coax yourself up it.

You will be amazed at the difference 10 days of light training will make in both your physical and mental preparedness.

It's hunting season! Be prepared! Whether you are planning to chase caribou, shoot at ptarmigan or just pick a gallon of blueberries, breathe deeper and stride longer when you go. Go for a walk - tonight!John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives in Paxson. He is a commercial fisherman and a two-time Yukon Quest champion.

By John Schandelmeier