T-Time – Training For Turkey Season

Recently, I was scouring online looking for Merriam's turkey outfitters and came across something that gave me pause. In the information about the hunt it read, “Hunters should be in good enough physical condition to hike far away from the road into quality turkey areas. Hikes could be 1 to 1-1/2 miles from the end of the road.”

Last year, my spouse and I hunted between the Missouri and Niobrara rivers near Lynch, Nebraska, in late April and the birds were henned up. For the next three days, we conducted spot, scoot and shoot operations trying to get our gobblers.

From a vantage point during the hunt, I watched through binoculars as my bride practically jogged up a steep hill behind our guide. Hidden behind some cedars they watched the hens pass as two gobblers brought up the rear.

With heart racing, it took everything she could muster to catch her breath – not good when aiming a shotgun. She missed.

For younger hunters in their 20s and 30s who are in the prime of their lives and in excellent shape, training for turkey may not be that big a deal. But, for middle age and senior hunters chasing western turkeys can be a physical challenge. 

Here are some basic thoughts all hunters should consider when training for the upcoming spring turkey season.


  • Start with learning your maximum heart rate. A rule of thumb is the number 220 minus your age (Note: health, body weight and other factors can impact your maximum heart rate, so do a little research).
  • Determine your maximum heart rate and plan on doing at least 20 minutes of cardio between 50 percent and 60 percent of your max, three to four times each week, at least six weeks prior to your hunt.
  • Achieve this with a weighted backpack, briskly walking 1-1/2 miles.
  • Enhance your training by doing several minutes of step climbing on your local high school bleachers. 
  • Consider jumping rope. For every two minutes of continuous jumping, rest two, and build yourself up to several sets.


  • Participate in stretching exercises at least three to four times a week. Not only does stretching improve physical performance, but it reduces fatigue as well. (As a rule of thumb, start by stretching your large muscles and work your way to smaller.)
  • Include your hamstrings, thighs, groin, chest, back (upper and lower) and shoulders into your stretch regimen.
  • Stretch 15 to 20 minutes on the average.
  • Add resistance-type bands to help maximize stretching activities.
  • Engage in lightweight-type exercises, particularly for the upper body. It will help pay dividends when carrying a backpack and shotgun most of the day.


  • Consult your family physician before engaging in any physical training program is always a good idea.

Old meleagris gallopavo can run upwards of 25 miles per hour, where the average healthy human runs in the range of 10 to 15 mph. Doing a little pre-turkey-season training won’t help you to out run a gobbler, but, you just might stay one step ahead.

Photo caption: Hunting western turkeys, like this Merriam's tom, can present physical challenges for hunters who may be out of shape or have health problems.

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