How To Elk Hunt For A Lifetime
Author: Bob Terwilliger
How I Got Started Hunting:
I am addicted to elk hunting and those who share this passion fully understand what I mean. There are of course those who are still dreaming of a chance to hunt elk. Frankly, that is where I started myself; elk hunting was a dream from a young age! I was fortunate in that I grew up in a family where hunting was a family tradition in the heart of the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. I got started following my Dad and Grandfather around hunting whitetails from a very young age of about 6 years old. They taught me all the fundamentals of hunting skills, gun safety as well as the right hunting ethics! My love of hunting grew each year, and I shot my first whitetail buck when I was twelve.
Starting from my childhood, I would read about elk hunting in Outdoor Life and in Field & Stream. As I grew older into my 20’s and 30’s, several times I thought about going west to hunt elk but with providing for a young family it was not realistic financially. Little did I know in my later 30’s I would get my chance. In early 1994, I received a job offer in Colorado with significant opportunity! With the economy and job market in New York in serious trouble at that time, it did not take long for my wife and I to decide to make the move!
I spent the entire summer of 1994 learning country in Colorado, and it paid off with killing my first bull that October I was hooked for life! After hunting the first 14 years here on my own very successfully, I got into guiding as a second career (at the time in my early 50’s) including working for 2 of Colorado’s Largest Outfitters and guiding full time for 9 years, which translated to 7 weeks hunting every fall (i.e., 4 weeks of archery and 3 weeks rifle). I still do a little guiding today during the archery season as well as guide wilderness fly-fishing but am more focused in the years I have left hunting with family and close friends.
Physical Fitness Is Your Most Important Asset:
In the interest of hunting hard and maintaining my lifestyle, it did not take me long to figure out that my physical abilities from playing sports and love of training were going to be one of my biggest assets with elk hunting. Elk like remote country, off the beaten path and away from people. My love of elk hunting made me train harder to keep my edge. With aging, this has been extremely important. I dread the day I must give this up which is what pushes me to keep battling father time! When in your 30’s and 40’s, you can typically get away with mistreating your body with poor diet and skipping exercise now and then. As you get into your 50’s and now mid 60’s for me, how you take care of yourself means everything given it is harder to maintain / build muscle and loss of fat becomes more and more difficult!
In the interest of helping others, here are some exercise tips that have worked well for me over the years:
- Establish a regular exercise program that fits within your schedule. For those new to working out, get help and pay for a few training sessions to get yourself started. Enlisting your hunting buddy as a partner can be a great way to hold each other accountable.
- With exercise, start small to establish the habit and give your body time to adjust. Set realistic goals and track your results! This can be a great motivator especially when you see yourself getting stronger and losing unwanted pounds and or inches off your waist!
- I am a firm believer that the best training is one that offers a total body workout with a focus on a strong core and legs. Forget long distance training and focus on high interval training as this best simulates the condition you will encounter in the high country (i.e., ability to push hard up steep terrain and recover quality for a shot). Ideally, training 3 days a week to start and increasing to 4 (or more for the advanced).
- Minimally, 1 or 2 days a week rest are essential. Your body needs time to recover and rebuild.
In the interest of losing unwanted pounds and building muscle, eating a healthy diet is also key to good health. As a starting point, for those looking to lose fat, you need to first understand your “basal metabolic rate” – the number of calories your body needs to run itself each day (without exercise). To determine this, there are lots of tools on the internet that can help you determine this based on age, size and weight or some gyms offer “InBody Machines” which will measure your body fat, lean muscle mass and your basal metabolic rate. Using this as a starting point along with daily calorie tracking, will enable you to better understand how much you should be eating based on your goals.
Consuming enough protein is essential to building muscle. There are a range of thoughts here but in general, most exercise experts will tell you; you need to take in .6 to .8 grams of protein for every pound of body weight if you want to build muscle. One thing to keep in mind, as one builds muscle, it is normal to not lose weight, but you will lose fat. Muscle weighs more than fat! Additionally, with the building of muscle, you will burn more calories.
No doubt if your goals are to achieve a higher level of fitness, diet plays an important role in the end results. The best diet for you is the one that helps support the results you are looking for while at the same time allows you to integrate it into your lifestyle ongoing! Here a few final tips that will be helpful in support of achieving your fitness goals:
- Snacks: healthy snacks (i.e., fruits, vegetables, nuts) can be ok if used to help control your appetite so you don’t overeat at main meals. However, you do need to be careful as in the end it can add up to more calories in your day!
- Avoid use of sugar and soft drinks: adding sugar in your coffee or soft drinks adds unwanted calories and spikes your glycemic index (elevates your blood sugar and can also lead to weight gain and /or make it more difficult to lose weight). If you must use a sweeter, use a little maple syrup or honey.
- Eat early in the evening (when possible before 7:00pm): eating early can help you avoid snacking too much or feeling so famished you overeat. It also allows some activity before bed and allows some built-in “fasting time” before your next meal at breakfast. This can all help in the interest of losing unwanted pounds!
- A little info on fats: most are familiar with “bad fats” to stay away from like fried foods, fatty meats and non-healthy oils etc. However, there certainly are many good fats that should be part of a healthy diet again keeping calories in mind! Examples are dairy (i.e. milk, eggs, cheese), fish, nuts, avocados, good oils like olive and avocado.
- Food Calorie “Traps”: in the interest of controlling your calorie intake, there are several “food traps” to be aware of! The first is eating out. While everyone enjoys going out to eat now and then thus eliminating the work of cooking yourself and / or enjoying some different food, typically food you eat out is going to contain more calories than food you prepare yourself based on the ingredients used and how foods are cooked. Another major food trap is today’s new buzz for healthy eating where foods are labeled as “All Natural or Organic”. Be careful here and read the labels looking at the number of calories and grams of sugar! It will shock you!!! One of the areas to be most careful here is with energy / protein bars. Some of these can have as many calories as an entire meal! The last area to be aware of is dried fruits and fruit juices. While many times these are quality, healthy snacks, that does not negate the fact that they are high in sugar and calories!
- Alcohol consumption – I left this one for last as this can be a real problem for some. While I think we all understand the health risks of too much alcohol, many who struggle to drop unwanted pounds ignore the fact of how much of a role alcohol can play in these situations. If you look up calories of your favorite drink, you might be astounded at the number of calories in just one drink! As an example, I will use a very popular one in today’s world which are microbrews; a 7% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer is going to deliver between 250 to 280 calories, an 8% around 300 to 320 calories, 9% up to 350 calories, and anything above 10% you're heading into the 400-calorie zone! Now for a lot of people, drinking beer means at least 2 drinks, add up those calories and you get the idea! Alcohol also enhances your appetite which can further add to increased calories. In any case, while many enjoy drinking here and there which is fine, but you do need to factor this into your “calorie big picture” in the interest of achieving your fitness goals!
Bottom line, you need to ask yourself “how long do I want to be able to hunt elk hard”? If the answer is to a ripe old age, make the commitment now no matter what your age! I will be turning 65 this July. While father time has hit me with several roadblocks since turning 60 (i.e., right hip replacement in 2016, left hip replacement in 2020, rotor-cuff tear repair 2020), I just keep battling back and thus far have lost no quality of life! I have not slowed down much either. My plan is to keep chasing elk well into my 70’s and hopefully into my early 80’s with the help of my son. One thing is certain, I will not stop in my efforts to maintain my health the best I can in the interest of keeping this lifestyle!
In closing, my sincere interest in sharing this information is to show others what is possible with hard work and lifestyle changes. If you love to hunt elk, take care of yourself, make lifestyle changes as needed and you will be able to enjoy it for a long, long time!
Best of luck this fall too!