Last Minute Guide to Getting into "Elk Shape"

Archery elk hunting is a physical endeavor. Training in the name of better elk hunting forces you to discipline yourself, manage your time, and choose to be uncomfortable.

Elk hunting, like any other species, boils down to grinding out each day and maximizing any and every opportunity.  Here’s a quick, no nonsense approach to making up for any slack created by procrastinating for elk hunting season.

Time is finite so you have to win the day.  Train first thing in the morning.  The elk are always on their feet at first light, thus, you should be too.  There are zero honey-do’s, errands, or kid’s sports at dawn.  This is your time to break a sweat and move the needle in the right direction. Here’s the big ticket items to do as much as possible leading up to the hunt.

  • The Workout

Since we’re down to the wire, I have cooked up the best possible approach regardless of your current shape.  High intensity interval training (aka HIIT) will give you the most bang for your buck.  It’s nothing new, but you cannot deny its fast and efficient results.  The best type of interval to utilize is TABATA intervals.  The work period is 0:20 seconds of max effort followed by a shorter rest period of 0:10 seconds, complete 8 consecutive sets on any movement.  If you are going to do multiple rounds of the 8 sets, try resting at least 2 minutes between.  Here are the movements and scaling options. Remember, check your ego at the door and get yourself the proper dosage.

  1. Tabata Burpee – from a standing position, lower yourself to the ground with your chest and thighs touching the ground, push yourself back up to your feet and end with a clap of hands just overhead. (To scale up add a pack with 20-40lbs.)

  2. Tabata Box Step-ups or Stairs – I prefer a 20” box, alternating lead legs, stepping up and stepping down in a controlled cadence.  The lead leg is your primary mover. (To scale up add a pack with 20-40lbs.)

  3. Walking Lunges -Maintain perfect posture while you lunge with proper shin angle.  Your back knee should just kiss the ground lightly, your strides should be long enough where your front knee does not go over your big toe. (To scale up add a pack with 20-40lbs.)


  • Food Intake

The lowest hanging fruit when it comes to preparing for elk season is to take less weight into the mountains by shrinking unwanted fat cells on your body.  Tighten up your late night snacking, avoid eating out leading up to the hunt, and eat a rainbow a day of fruits and vegetables while backfilling with lean protein sources.  It’s not rocket surgery, just eat real food, control your portions, and avoid sugar.

The combination of consistent good food decisions backed by a regular training schedule will get you to where you want to be.  It’s not uncommon to buy supplements to help lose weight.  That’s like putting your tie on first when in reality we need to put our dress shirt on first.  That means start by eating clean and avoiding convenience.  Eating better doesn’t involve little trouble or little effort; just the opposite.  If you can plan and prepare your food for the week ahead you’ll be more likely to stay on track, save money, and shed a few unwanted pounds prior to the elk opener.  Skip the supplements and buy quality foods at the grocery store.


  • Perfect Practice

I would encourage shooting a few arrows before your training session and immediately following.  Keep your pack on while you shoot.  Make sure to include some kneeling shots so you have reps at creating the same anchor point and upper body position regardless of the awkward shooting positions; a high heart rate is recommended to simulate what will actually take place during the elk hunt.

Most elk hunters are seeking adventure and an opportunity to arrow a bull in some of God’s best country.  Doing a little groundwork before the big hunt can provide just the edge you need to notch your out West elk tag.

The clock is ticking, control what you can control, and that starts by bumping up your grit and determination.  Good luck.

About the Author: Dan is the founder of and is a seasoned archery elk hunter.  He’s been a strength and conditioning coach for over 18 years and cut his teeth elk hunting public land since 2001.  Dan is known for his work ethic and straightforward approach to all things bowhunting and fitness.

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