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Hunters: Get Fit

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Spring is heading this way fast, but if you're not prepared physically for the hunt, you might find yourself winded, tired and miserable during your excursion in the field.

"Every year, I hear about hunters who suffer heart attacks in the field," said Scott Vance, former collegiate athlete, licensed personal trainer and the National Wild Turkey Federation's director of conservation field operations. "Today's turkey hunter isn't always up to the physical challenges of the hunt. Combine that with pre-existing undiagnosed health problems and you have a recipe for disaster."

Unlike deer hunting or duck hunting, where hunters generally spend hours sitting still in a tree stand or blind, turkey hunting requires a good deal of walking — one of the best forms of aerobic exercise.

Most turkey hunts require the hunter to walk moderate-to-long distances while scouting or trying to locate birds. Add the fact that he or she is usually traveling up and down hills, around trees, over logs and creeks, and the hunter has a formidable workout.

Because turkey hunting is often physically exerting, and more than 910,000 Americans die of cardiovascular diseases every year, many hunters could be at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke while in the field.

Dr. Robert Dettmer, retired M.D., avid turkey hunter and NWTF national board member says that little things, such as maintaining a healthy diet, can really help hunters in the woods.

"Your diet is something you can control every day," said Dettmer. "Even if you don't have much time to exercise, watching what you eat makes a difference in your overall health."

Here are Doc Dettmer's tips to get ready for the spring season: Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any type of training regimen.

If You Smoke, Stop

Smoking is the worst thing you can do to yourself. Smoking and tobacco use can cause disabling lung disease, cancer and heart disease. Mixed with the added strains of the hunt, tobacco use can lead to disaster.


Walking is without a doubt the easiest and most beneficial form of exercise. Start off walking short distances and work into longer more difficult walks. In just a short time, you'll start to shed unwanted pounds and feel better.

If you're out of shape, it's probably because you don't exercise enough and you're taking in too many calories. By keeping your portion sizes reasonable, you'll be able to eat the foods you want and stay healthy. Also, eat more frequently but consume smaller portions. Eating six small meals is much better than three big ones. Did you know the recommended serving of cooked meat is three ounces, similar in size to a deck of playing cards? A medium piece of fruit is one serving and a cup of pasta equals two servings. One pint of ice cream contains four servings. Refer to the Food Guide Pyramid for information on recommended serving sizes.

The amount of food you should eat depends on your caloric needs. Use the Food Guide Pyramid and the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels as handy references.

Eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet.

To maintain good health, you need more than 40 different nutrients so avoid cutting any single nutrient out of your diet completely. There is no magic food that supplies them all and weight loss from all-or-none diets are difficult to maintain.

Your diet should include:

  • Bread and other whole-grain products;

  • Fruits; vegetables; dairy products;

  • Meat, poultry, fish and other protein foods.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Your ideal weight depends on factors including your sex, height, age and heredity. Excess body fat increases your chances for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some types of cancer and other illnesses. Conversely, nutrient deficiencies can increase your risk for osteoporosis and other health problems. If you're constantly losing and regaining weight, a registered dietitian can help you develop sensible eating habits for successful weight management. Regular exercise is important to maintaining a healthy weight.

Train for Conditions You Plan to Hunt

If your hunting conditions require you to walk three miles before daylight, try walking that far on a forced march several times before hunting season arrives. If you want to hunt in the mountains, train in the mountains or at least simulate that type of hunting in your exercise. Many pieces of cardiovascular training equipment have modes that allow you to mimic mountain passes, gradual inclines and any other condition found in nature.

Also, walking or jogging in the area you'll hunt during the weeks prior to the hunting season will allow you to do some much-needed scouting and will increase your chances for success during the hunt.




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