In my opinion one of the great challenges of sheep hunting is accessing and navigating the rugged country they live in. The sandstone gorges and high desert plateaus of southern Utah we guide in (especially the Escalante and Kaiparowitz) are some of the roughest, toughest, most intimidating hunting country in North America. Preparing yourself physically to not only enjoy your hunt, but to safely get out alive in this isolated, incredibly beautiful, yet harsh environment is extremely important and will make your experience much more positive.
Working your body into perhaps the best shape of your life will not only provide you with great personal satisfaction but may make the difference in achieving your goal of harvesting a trophy "Once In A Lifetime" ram. The following program and thoughts in regards to getting into "sheep shape" that I have outlined below has worked well for me. However, there are numerous physical fitness programs that may also be adapted to meet your needs. Keep in mind that individuals should always work out at their own pace and endurance level. Before beginning any physical conditioning program please schedule a thorough physical exam with your personal physician.
Getting your body prepared to cross endless gorges and climb vertical mountains does not happen overnight and involves months of much more than a normal cardio program at your local gym. The first step after your physical exam is to analyze key factors such as your current fitness level, your weight and body fat percentage, dependent of course upon age and body frame. Write down specific fitness goals that you wish to achieve and post them where you will see them every day. It might even pay to meet with a personal trainer or talk a partner into working out with you. The bottom line is to "light the competitive desire" that burns within you to achieve those goals.
To prepare a fitness program that will build the endurance, strength and cardiovascular development to hike through steep, rugged terrain with a heavy, unforgiving backpack on, you should concentrate on a variety of cardio exercises and strength training. During the winter months in most states, the hunt you have scheduled may seem far, far away. However, this is the time that you begin the difficult task of building muscle strength, reducing unwanted rolls around the mid-section, building cardiovascular endurance and achieving lean body mass. As I work out during the winter I incorporate into my routine a heavy regimen of strength training with plenty of cardio exercise built around cross training alternatives to reduce boredom. Here is what a typical weekly workout schedule looks like for me:
Monday: I start out with a 45 to 60 minute workout on a stationary bike or take a spin class followed by a weight-lifting routine that concentrates on my shoulders and arms with moderate weight and lots of reps. This will develop the endurance a hunter needs so that their muscles don't fatigue. I routinely follow this up with a tough abdominal workout. It's very important for you to strengthen your core.
Tuesday: I like to jump onto a stair-climber for at least 30 minutes. I increase the difficulty of the level so it is pushing me to keep up with the stairs. Afterward, I will spend another 30 minutes running on the treadmill or using an eliptical trainer. I finish by lifting weights, concentrating this workout on my chest and back. Again, reps are important to me for building the endurance I seek.
Wednesday: I put in another hard 60 minute workout on the bike or in spin class before doing a series of "killer" leg exercises that includes the following: NOTE - THESE EXERCISES ARE CRITICAL FOR LEG STRENGTH AND SHOULD BE PART OF YOUR WEEKLY ROUTINE NO MATTER WHAT!
Dead lifts, Lunges, Squats and Calf-Raises. I finish off with a tough ab workout once again. I also try to routinely include plenty of pull-ups and push-ups each day.
Thursday: I do some light jogging or easy walking on this day before switching to a yoga routine that is great for flexibility and strength. I never realized that yoga could be so physically demanding and produces result!
Friday - Saturday - Sunday: Many sheep hunters make the mistake of not getting out of the gym and "on the mountain." The best workouts that I know of in preparing myself for the hunting season is to hike with a heavy backpack on. I've used everything from sand bags to sacks of dog food to add weight in my pack. Initially, I start with around 50 lbs. I have a 2 hour course near my home that involves climbing a lot of hills with everything in between. In a couple of months I increase the weight in my pack to 85 lbs. If the winter weather doesn't allow me out in the hills I will carry the pack up and down the nearest stairs I can find or even get on the treadmill. Sometimes I will throw on a weighted vest at the gym while I'm on the stairmaster. During the summer I will also backpack in hot temperatures to prepare and acclimatize my body to the desert heat of my early fall hunts. It is alway important to keep your body hydrated.Back to the Top
I like to vary my cardiovascular routines during the winter by cross-training. I will often rotate between cycling, stair-climbing, running, jump training and will also throw in some INSANITY WORKOUTS that I purchased several years ago. I guarantee the INSANITY WORKOUTS will max your pulse rate out. However, with the advent of warmer weather I will incorporate "running hills" into my schedule. This not only strengthens my legs but is also incredible conditioning for my heart and lungs so that I can hunt longer, stronger, and recover faster from tough "cardio burns" in the field. I also schedule a lot of tough hikes out in the mountains on a regular basis to scout for animals. These hikes always get me into "uneven terrain." This really breaks up the routine of my "gym workouts" and prevents me from reaching a fitness plateau where I don't seem to be improving.
Religiously following a workout schedule such as this for 5 months will prepare you to meet the physical challenges of your sheep hunt. Don't forget that a very important part of your new physical challenge will be to also watch your diet. If you are to shed those pounds and develop the lean muscle mass I've talked about then you need to eat right. I'm not a dietician, but it just makes sense to cut out some of the sugar and foods that are high in saturated fats. There are a lot of great books that have been written on this subject. One source of outstanding information on "healthy eating" that I have used is the P90X Extreme Home Fitness Nutrition Plan written by nutrition expert Carrie Wiatt. This plan is designed to give you a healthier body that will become leaner and perform better over time. It's not designed for weight loss per se but was created to increase your performance and improve overall body composition. Incorporate this little book into your daily life and you will get incredible results and guaranteed physical improvement. Following a proven nutrition plan such as this may be the toughest exercise you do but is critical to achieve your very best condition!
That's my advice in regards to physical conditioning for your hunt. Good luck as you set out on a journey to prepare yourself to "take the road less travelled," as you spend quality time "out on the mountain" with us, challenging the diverse obstacle courses that only Mother Nature could design. I know you will be ready when the time comes to sprint up that gnarly sandstone dome so that you can harvest your "Once In A Lifetime" trophy.
HIGH DESERT WILD SHEEP GUIDES