The allure of hunting in the mountains has only increased over the past few years, as many sought to spend time outdoors and disconnect from the anxieties of everyday life. However, before you start planning for an escape into the wilderness there are many things to consider, from fitness, gear, and understanding your surrounding of the land and your targets. Here are the best tips you should consider when hunting in the mountains.
Maneuvering unsteady and uneven terrain can wreak havoc on the body. Hunting in the mountains is largely considered a discipline for the young and those who maintain a certain fitness level for the treacherous conditions that are often faced. From steep gravel-laden hikes for miles to wading through a current swept stream on an unsteady footing with a gun overhead.
The best way to approach physical fitness on the mountain range is to plan and train for it in advance. This doesn’t mean going to the gym, lifting every weight on every machine imaginable. Instead, focus on endurance, cardio, and some weight training for those heavy packs full of hunting and camping gear.
2. Altitude Sickness
A much-overlooked aspect of being up in the mountains is the potential for altitude sickness. If you’re targeting elk or deer, these species are commonly found between 6,000 ft and 14,000 ft. Altitude sickness starts to set in at an elevation of 8,000 ft.
Serious effects of acute altitude sickness include cerebral edema and pulmonary edema, which are caused by low blood oxygen levels. Lesser symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, shortness of breath, and difficulty sleeping. To avoid this, it is crucial to train cardio to expand lung efficiency as well as stamina. Your body’s metabolism slows down at a higher elevation, so make sure to load up on carbs ahead of the hunt. When you are in the mountains, stay hydrated as much as you’re able to, and try ascending in intervals of 1,600 ft to acclimate instead of directly ascending to 8000 ft or more.
3. Hunters Apparel
Being exposed to the peaks means you’re at the mercy of mother nature. Furthermore, bringing run-of-the-mill clothing could spell disaster for your hunting trip. The key is to bring items that will leave your body warm, yet allows your skin to ventilate and breathe.
Depending on the season, you may want to consider a hat and gloves. Items made with cotton are a big no-no as this fabric holds onto moisture and if you’re in colder temperatures this can cause hypothermia. Alas, opt for sweat-absorbing merino wool or synthetics like polyester or nylon. Mid-layers should be insulating, and outer layers should focus on the elements, like being windproof and rainproof. Additionally, if you are hunting in an area where there are known hunters around, you should incorporate some blaze orange into your attire.
4. All on Your Back
As important as having the proper apparel, it’s just as important to plan for food and shelter on your trip. Thus, with backcountry camping, there is much to consider such as cookware, tent, sleeping gear, water purification, hunting gear, and navigation to name a few items. If you’re planning for a multi-day stint, then you should expect to stuff an 80L-100L pack for a week. This can be strenuous on your lower back, so it’s best to work on core exercises, stretching, and even yoga to train the sciatic nerve.
On the other hand, select gear based on materials and weight rating, like opting for a titanium cooking set over others on the market. This is because of the lightweight nature of titanium versus stainless steel, which is 45% heavier. However, this doesn’t stop at cookware tent poles can be heavy, pick a tent with aluminum tent poles. If you’re planning on making camp by a known water source, utilize water tablets over bulkier water purifying alternatives.
5. Understanding the Terrain
Understanding the terrain is another underestimated skill in hunting. Looking at the topographical details of the land paired with seasonality allows hunters to gauge animal habitats and the equipment needed. If you’re targeting deer as an example, you will especially want to understand the way of the land. Looking for features like funnels where animals are pinched or saddles where the deer can only maneuver from point a to point b. Perhaps understanding that these creatures like to gather as a group on the edge of the field. Above all, a deer found in the mountains will have a home range that stretches over 1 square mile. By studying aerial, topographical maps, and terrain, you’re able to pinpoint and plan where to execute your hunt for your targeted species.
Having a good mentality is key on a hunting trip. You invest so much, time, money, and energy, and you pull the trigger to miss or wound the animal. It can be discouraging, especially if it takes you a couple of days to track your targets. Bad weather and low animal densities can also play a hand in this.
Get yourself into the hunter’s mentality. There needs to be an understanding that not all hunts are going to have animals or be successful. Rather, practice positive thinking and dial yourself back into the moment. Be like a businessman looking for their next client. As a hunter, you only miss the shots you don’t take, so adjust and go after the next target with a hunter mentality.
Are you Ready?
A good hunt takes weeks, even months of preparation, from ensuring the right gear, to physicality and mental atonement. Start with the basics, like targets and their habitats, and learn the terrain. From there, establish if any kind of training or gear needs to be updated, then everything else will fall into place. Hunting in the mountains doesn’t have to be a stressful endeavor, as long as you know how to approach it.