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Backcountry Bear Hunting: Preseason Conditioning

Where Exercise Science meets Practical Application...

Most guides and backcountry hunters will tell you that the biggest limiting factor with backcountry hunting is typically physical fitness.  As hunters we spend months of the preseason; sighting a bow and/or gun(s), researching topo maps online and acquiring new gear/equipment and clothing.  It should be no different and on our forethought of training for bear season in the backcountry.

Any good strength coach or trainer will advise that you start slow and micro progression to avoid injury.  Here are some tips and helpful guidelines to follow for a successful backcountry trip: 

Progressive Overload - increase challenge over time

  • Conditioning - Increase oxidative stress (Cardio) volume weekly, can be distance, duration/time, load or all

Specificity - train for what you are going to do

  • Conditioning - walking, hiking, rucking, weighted farmers walks, weighted sled pull or pull

Rest/Recovery (work + rest = success)

  • Sleep 7-9 hrs per night

  • Recovery (weekly 1 off day per week, Program 6-16 weeks have a lighter unload/deload build in) 

  • Injury Prevention (goldilocks zone - too much injured, too little no adaption) 


  • Fuel healthy nutrient dense foods i.e. Salmon, salads, nuts, oils, eggs, lean meats

  • Protein 1 gram per pound (Protein supplements)

  • Calories - equal in vs. out to maintain current body weight (know what you expend per day both workout and non-workout days)

  • Hydration drink 75%+/- of your bodyweight in ounces of water per day (example: 200 lb = 150 ounces per day)

  • Electrolytes salt, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride, phosphorus (examples: nuts, potatoes, broccoli, milk, coconut,  seeds, juices, Pedialyte, lmnt, propel, tablets, wilderness athlete, liquid IV

These are examples and suggestions, modify as needed. 

Disclaimer: Please note that these are suggestions/recommendations and can be modified depending on level/ability and/or equipment. You should consult your physician and/or physical therapist before starting any exercise program.

Backcountry Bear Hunting Conditioning Program (16 weeks):

Phase 1:

Phase 2:

Phase 3: 

Phase 4:

The backcountry hunter is like no other athlete. Steep mountains, deep gorges, loose terrain, side -hilling for miles.  The gym workout might be an hour but a backcountry hunter's demand in the field is 12-16 plus hours.  You might hike ten to fifteen miles a day then do it again for the next five, seven, or ten days in a row.  Then on the last day you have to back out one hundred pounds of meat on your back for five plus miles.  This is what makes backcountry hunting preparation and training so challenging, but also so rewarding.

For more information, workouts, or video’s check out


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