Monthly Archives: August 2015

  • Preseason Fitness with Stefan Wilson of Hunting Fit

    DSC_0014 Dead lifts and other multi-joint exercises strengthen the posterior chain, helping to prevent injury and lower back pain in the woods.

    Hunting seasons are fast approaching and with the right preparation you will be reaping the joys of a successful hunt. When preparing for hunts, it can be easy to overlook one aspect: Your fitness. Physical fitness is just as essential to hunting as practicing shooting. Without fitness, you very well might be going home empty handed. So what are some things you can do right now to get ready got the upcoming hunting seasons? There are two elements of physical fitness that are necessary for hunters: Cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength.

    Cardiovascular Training Techniques

    When considering how to train for cardiovascular endurance, you have to think about how you hike while you are hunting. Typically, it is a series of pauses followed by short bursts of hiking, then pausing again. It is essential to "practice how you play," or in other words, train the way you hunt. That is where high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.) and tabata training come in.

    H.I.I.T. is a form of cardio that focuses on sprints and active rest. With interval training, the sprinting portion of the workout is done at a high level of exertion. This should last for about 30 to 60 seconds, based on your fitness level. The active rest portion is done at a slower pace in which you are still moving, but slow enough that your body is able to recover; this period last for about one to two minutes. A typical H.I.I.T. workout should last around 20 minutes, cycling between sprints and active rest. You can do any cardio exercise you prefer; however, you should try to focus on those exercises that will emulate hiking (stair-stepper, jogging on an incline, etc.). H.I.I.T. cardio will train your body to be accustomed to the drastic changes in exertion that take place during a hunt. If you are new to this type of training, start with two minutes of warm-up, followed by eight cycles of 30 seconds of sprinting and 90 seconds of active rest. Finish up with two minutes of cool down. As your fitness level increases, increase the duration of time you are sprinting while decreasing the duration of your active rest.

    Now that we have an understanding of H.I.I.T., we need to look at tabata training. Tabata training is a shorter, time efficient form of H.I.I.T. Tabata training is often used with one multi-joint cardio exercise (burpees, high knees, mountain climbers, etc.) and should last between 4 to 10 minutes.

    To perform a tabata workout, perform the selected move at absolute full intensity for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, then go right back to full intensity for another 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and so on until your time is up. You should begin by doing this for four minutes until your body can adapt to the training style at which point you can increase the time each week. In terms of intensity during the workout, you should be exhausted by the end of the workout. The active 20-second intervals should be performed at the fastest possible pace while staying safe and maintaining good form. If you feel like you can keep going when the time is up, you either did not give 100% or you need to increase your time. When performed correctly, this is one of the most effective (and efficient) forms of interval training for losing weight and improving your cardio level.

    Ideally, you should be performing an H.I.I.T. or tabata workout three to four times per week. You will see the greatest benefit in these workouts by doing them immediately after a resistance workout. Combining H.I.I.T. and tabata training will prepare you for the cardiovascular demands of hunting, especially when hunting at high elevations.

    Strength Training – Muscle Groups

    Now that we have discussed cardiovascular endurance and how to train for it, let's move on to muscular strength. Muscular strength is developed through resistance training, often with weights but other times with body weight and isometric techniques. However, building muscular strength is not just a matter of building bigger muscles. It is a process of strengthening the foundation of your body and then building from that foundation. This foundation is made up of the posterior chain and core muscles. The posterior chain is the series of muscles that run along the backside of the lower half of your body. They include all of the major muscles and stabilizer muscles in your lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves. These muscles are responsible for giving you a solid base. They involve your core (abdominals, obliques, lower back, etc.) and help to stabilize your body. A strong posterior chain will also help prevent injury and lower back pain. Exercises that will help strengthen your posterior chain are often multi-joint exercises that involve multiple lower body muscles (deadlift, barbell squat, lunges, straight-legged deadlift, etc.).

    Your core muscles are those muscles around your midsection that stabilize your body (abdominals, obliques, lower back, etc.). Strengthening these muscles is essential to preventing injury, especially when carrying a pack and hiking through hills. Exercises that use the core's full-range of motion (Russian twists, woodchops, decline sit-ups, etc.) will help strengthen your entire core.

    Other exercises for upper body muscle groups are also beneficial and everyone has their own flavor for how to train their upper body. Just always remember to use proper form, value functional fitness over bodybuilding, and do the exercises that are going to help you to succeed in the field.

    DSC_0026 Solid core strength is essential for long hunts in rugged country.

    Strength Training Techniques

    When it comes to repetitions and sets, lower weight, higher rep sets are always better for the hunter. A one-rep max with 5 minutes of rest is not going to help you on the backside of a mountain, but three grueling sets of 20 reps with only 60 seconds rest between sets will. Sets in the 12-20 rep range will not only help to build muscular strength, they will also increase muscular endurance as well.

    Rest between sets is another factor. 2-3 minute rest is primarily used for powerlifting. For our purposes as hunters, the less rest, the better (Remember, practice how you play…). You need a bare minimum of 30 seconds rest between sets to give your muscles time to recover, but 90 seconds should be the maximum amount of rest.

    Advanced techniques for resistance training can be great tools for building muscular strength and endurance. Isometric training is a great tool, especially with bodyweight exercises. To perform an isometric rep, raise or lower (depending on the exercise) your body or the weight to the contracted portion of the movement (when your muscles are completely engaged) and hold it for 8-10 seconds. Then slowly return to the rest position. Continue this for 10-15 reps and do 2-3 sets. This is a great tool for promoting blood flow, muscle recruitment, and improving muscle endurance.

    One last thing about strength training: Do you remember tabata? It is great for weight lifting as well. To perform a tabata resistance workout, choose a weight for a given exercise that you could do 15-20 times (start on machines until you get the hang of it. Using free weights right away with tabata techniques could result in injury when fatigue sets in). Start the timer and do as many reps as you can with proper form during the working portion, then rest during the rest period. When you reach the point where you can't do full reps anymore, do partial reps. Just make sure you are working until the time is up (I like to use an interval timer app to help me keep track; when I hear the beep, it's time to go again).

    Sample Workout

    Deadlift – 3 sets of 12 reps (90 seconds rest between sets)

    Leg press (tabata) – 4 minutes

    Wall Squat (isometric) – 3 sets of 1 minute

    Dumbbell lunges – 3 sets of 15 (60 seconds rest between sets)

    Russian Twist – 3 sets of 30 reps

    Reverse crunch – 3 sets of 30 reps

    Cardio: 20 minutes on Stairmaster (H.I.I.T.) or 6 minute burpees (tabata)

    These are some techniques that you can use to prepare in the next few weeks for the hunts you have coming up this season. Even though you might not have a lot of time left, these techniques will help you make the most of the time that you do have. It is all about preparation; taking the time to prepare now can pay big dividends down the line. Don't let fitness be the reason you came home empty handed. Get in shape, get out there, and get that tag filled!

    Stefan Wilson is a First Lite Pro Staffer and the founder of Hunting Fit, a site dedicated to holistic preparation for big game hunting. You can read more of Stefan's articles on fitness, nutrition and strategy at the link above.


  • Help Wanted: The Ultimate Sales Internship

    Patience Paid off. Helen's first kill. Be prepared to pack out everyone's elk while answering emails and manning the phones and feeding the office fish.

    Are you looking for invaluable sales and business experience within one of the fastest growing brands in the hunting landscape?  First Lite Performance Hunting Apparel is currently looking for a Sales Intern for the Fall of 2015. This is a terrific opportunity to develop and hone your business skills in a fast-paced retail environment while getting a comprehensive perspective on the operation of an independent outdoor gear company.  The position is located in Ketchum, Idaho and will require an average of 40 hours a week.  The start date is TBD and the position will likely terminate sometime in mid December.

    The ideal candidate will be a confident, organized, well-spoken individual with extensive outdoor and hunting experience who is looking to gain sales experience in the industry. Customer service or outdoor retail experience is preferred. Knowledge of social media marketing, outdoor writing and photography is a plus.   Strong writing and communication skills are required as well as a work-hard/play-hard mentality. Most of all we value honesty and integrity, a strong work ethic and an authentic passion for life in the back country, blind and tree stand.

    While you would get to enjoy one of the best all around hunting landscapes in the lower 48 and work along side a fun-loving, passionate crew, please know that this position is no walk in the park and our interns have historically been very strong contributors to the brand.

    Pay is hourly.  If you think you have what it takes, please send a cover letter and a resume to [email protected] with "Internship" in the subject line, telling us why you're the ideal candidate and why you would thrive at First Lite.  No calls or drop-ins, please.   Deadline for application submission is August 25th and the position will start as soon as possible.


  • Early Season Scouting High Country Mule Deer


    If you have luck like me, you probably aren’t expecting to draw a limited quota tag for a big buck unit.  Luckily, there are plenty of over the counter options in the west that yield trophy mule deer bucks every year if you are willing to put in the work.  The earlier you figure out where you are going to hunt and start putting in the work, the better off you will be when hunting season rolls around.

    There are a lot of variables that determine when you should start scouting for that buck of a lifetime, such as when you’ll be hunting and what kind of terrain you will be hunting, (desert v. alpine).  There is a lot of work that can be done before summer fully arrives to identify an area to hunt and get out on the ground to scout the country.

    If you are itching to get a head start on your hunting season, here are a few early season mule deer hunting and scouting tips you can use to increase your odds of having opportunities on quality bucks in the mountains.

    Do Your Homework

    The best scouting starts at home.  Numbers and data are your friend if you can put just a little bit of effort in sifting through them.  Most western states publish annual harvest statistics on every unit.  There is a lot of information about size of bucks harvested, number of bucks harvested, number of hunters, etc.  There are a lot of ways to dissect the data, but I like to look at trends over the past several years for a unit.  You can learn a lot about mule deer populations and dynamics with a little bit of data analysis.

    For extra credit, you can dig even deeper into the data by researching the game population reports that most fish and wildlife management agencies put out by species for particular units, zones or portions of the state.  Buck and doe ratios, habitat quality and other limiting factors for mule populations are often published and publicly available.  State game biologists can also be a good resource if you can find one willing to share his or her knowledge with you.

    Embrace Technology

    I can’t remember my work life before the internet and email.  I’m also not sure how I ever hunted before Google Earth.  It’s not a secret tool like it once was, but it saves me untold hours of time in the field.  Aerial photography technology is a must for every hunter today, in my opinion.  Microsoft Bing also has a great aerial photo mapping software nearly identical to Google Earth, and I often use both because one will usually have a crisper image resolution for a given area than the other.

    Pick a Small Number of Places

    You’ve picked out an area, done your research and now you are wandering aimlessly on Google Earth trying to figure out where to hunt.  Your goal should be to find a handful of places that you can get out on the ground and scout.  There are many clues you can search for, but when it comes to hunting high country mule deer, one of the primary things you should look for is habitat security.  Big bucks live a mostly solitary life and don’t like to be bothered.  This usually this means getting as far away from roads and people as possible.  This is a great excuse to get into the backcountry.

    Second, look for good habitat.  This will always have to be verified on the ground, but bucks need water and food, and they have preferences for the kind of food they want.  Green, protein rich grasses and shrubs will be preferred over less nutritious and nutrient poor food.

    Scout Like You Hunt

    Finally, the fun part of this whole process: getting out in the field.  If you are going to take the time and energy to go scouting, it is worth doing it right.  I will start heading out in late June or early July depending on the snow levels.  By mid-July at the latest, you can be fairly certain that the big bucks have moved into their high country summer range, and they will stay there until weather pushes them down. The first thing I look for when I’m out on the ground is habitat.  In the early season in particular, I’m not as concerned with seeing animals as I am looking at habitat to make sure all of the key features of good habitat are present to hold big bucks. The habitat quality is as important an indicator of what is lurking around as is seeing that monster buck.  Look for the food, water sources and habitat types that bucks hang out in.  Cirque Basins with multiple escape routes, flat benches with wide views, rim rock and protein rich grasses and shrubs are all important indicators of whether or not an area will hold big game.

    At the risk of stating the obvious, you also want to look for deer.  It’s hard to find big bucks during hunting season, and it isn’t any easier during the summer.  In order to see quality bucks, you need to treat scouting like a hunting trip.  In the summer, most big game animals are only active early and late in the day and will spend most of the day in the shade.  Glassing first and last light is a must, as is being smart about not staying too long or pushing deer out by being careless about how visible you are and how much noise you make.

    Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see big bucks everywhere.  Unless you drew the tag of a lifetime, it is unlikely you will see huge bucks around every corner when you are hunting.  Scouting is no different, and particularly if you are scouting early in the summer, you are mainly looking at habitat and getting to know the country.  If all the signs of good habitat are there, don’t give up too early on an area.

    The last item I look for on scouting trips are places to bivvy.  Since I’m usually hunting in the backcountry at higher elevations, I also use my scouting time to look for bivvy spots.  We need water too, and if you don’t camp near a water source, it takes time away from hunting and adds logistic complexity.  Finding a camping spot before you head out with a heavy pack and a rifle saves a lot of time.  Find a spot to camp that is close to where you will be hunting, but preferably hidden so every deer can't see you camp from a mile away.

    Homework, Scout, Repeat

    After getting out on the ground, if I find an area that I like, I will make plans to go back and spend more time looking for deer.  If all the places I’m scouting turn out to not look good, it’s back to the drawing board and the cycle starts all over.

    Note on the author:

    Bradley Brooks and Jason Kauffmann are on an incredible quest to push themselves and find both the bucks of their dreams and some solitude in the high country of Idaho. We at First Lite have partnered with them to at least make their high country experience a little more comfortable. For more information search #chasingridgelines and give them a follow here Chasing Ridgelines.

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