Get in a pre-season shakedown for a more sucessful hunting season.

21 Aug

Sheyk-doun; verb

A shakedown is a period of testing or a trial journey undergone by a ship, aircraft or other craft and its crew before being declared operational. Statistically, a proportion of the components will fail after a relatively short period of use, and those that survive this period can be expected to last for a much longer, and more importantly, predictable life-span.

Getting in a vigorous, full gear shakedown session while scouting for Bear season

I was greeted by the early morning song of birds as I slid from my truck and took a big pull of the fresh, mountain air. The air smelled sweet and new, as only it does in mid spring after the woods have renewed itself from the dormancy of winter. I paused for a moment to listen to the sounds as the birds and squirrels greeted the sun, starting it’s daily journey over the eastern ridges. My little hiking partner “Saxton” whined eagerly as I unhinged the door to his kennel, letting him escape with an anxious bound. Hefting My MR Crew Cab off of the truck seat, it felt like it weighed a ton as I shrugged it into place. With a soft click, I snapped it’s buckles closed and tightened the straps before setting off up the trail with bow in hand. Falling into step, the bottom of my Cat Quiver softly banged a cadence against the butt of my pistol, as my pack voiced it’s displeasure with light creaks and groans. “LEFT…RIGHT….LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT…” a Drill Instructor’s voice called out in my head, setting the pace as I marched up the mountain side. After I passed the first mile mark, I paused briefly to make some final adjustments to my pack straps and swap my bow to my other hand.

With every step my destination became a little closer as the distance behind me became a little greater. Every increase in incline swelled my legs with blood as my heart rate increased, causing my lungs to work a little harder. Eventually my left arm started to tire and become numb from carrying my bow, which only brought a smile to my face. I reflected on the up coming month of September, which marked the start of my most favorite outdoor activity: Bowhunting for Elk. This definitely brought a smile to my face.

No, this was not a hunting foray into the backcountry; but only a practice run, a “Shakedown” if you will. My pack tipped the scale at just less than 48 lbs, which really put the hurting to my legs and feet. I didn’t need to pack so heavy and I didn’t need to carry my bow with me, either. But like I said before, this was a shakedown, the first of many in preparation for the upcoming hunting seasons, which would put my body and mind to the test.

As I neared the four mile mark, my old hip injury was starting to talk to me and I could already tell that I had worn the wrong socks which led to quarter sized blisters later on. Judging by the way I felt at just a little over the half way mark in my predetermined 12 mile journey, I begrudgingly decided to make another half mile before turning back to the truck. Yes I was disappointed with my performance this day, but that was the exact reason I was out there enduring the pain. I knew that with consistent, self-inflicted pain and punishment over the upcoming weeks, would only lead to a more enjoyable and more successful time in the field when it really counted. Cameron Hanes always says “Train hard to hunt easy” and while I don’t even consider myself close to Cam Hanes caliber, his philosophy has always made sense to me. It’s like an athlete training for game day; he usually puts himself through much more physical stress than he ever would experience on the day of the big game. But all of the extra preparation, pain and pushing himself to the limit allows the athlete to focus on the task at hand (which ultimately is winning) and garners himself more of an edge over the competition.

I myself view the mountain and the animals I chase, as the competition and success in the field as my victory. Success in the field can be viewed very differently by every individual outdoorsman and my view of success does not always hinge on the notching of a tag. This may be apparent by the lack of numerous shoulder mounts, or other “trophies” gracing my Man-room wall. I know for a fact that if you rub a generous amount of Johnny’s seasoning or use a nice Worcestershire marinade; an un-notched tag doesn’t taste half bad!

Game day! This was me, leaving the truck on my first ever multi-day solo hunt in the back country. Due to improper planning; unbeknownst to me, I faced a near seven mile hike in…to the trail head! I was very glad I had several 6+ mile shakedowns under my belt in the weeks prior.

Seriously though, I have always felt that “it is not about the destination, but about the journey” and to me the journey is everything. This is why pre-season preparation is of the utmost importance. Case in point: my quarter sized blisters I suffered on this day. Just by wearing the correct socks would have averted this from happening and may have allowed me to squeeze out a couple of extra miles. This was the first time I had experienced blisters on my feet in at least six years of backpacking and mountain hunting; but I wore a pair of “hiking socks” that I had not worn before. It was better to find out now, pre-season instead of finding out that “hey, these socks suck…” on the first day of elk season.

Notice that I was carrying my bow along, as well. Four pounds doesn’t seem like much while you are working yourself around the 3D range; but pack it around all day long while carrying a pack and it can seem like you’re packing a boat anchor! If you are a rifle hunter this may ring even truer, since the average big game rifle may weigh close to double that of a bow. Whether I’m shooting my Traditional bows or my compound, I like to take several “bow hikes” during the summer. Not only does this help your muscles get acquainted to the weight of the bow in your hand for extended periods of time, but it can be a lot of fun too. Roving around the woods stump shooting or varmint hunting is all part of the experience and is training for the real deal. Once again, rifle hunters can get in on this action. I own a custom-built, Ruger 10/22 that I love to rove around and whack Prairie dogs or even targets like rocks and small sticks that might be laying about (always keeping safety in mind). Not only is this type of “training” fun but helps to develop your hand-eye coordination which will pay big dividends when it counts.

whether your hunting high altitudes like on my 2009 trip, or just chasing game a mile or two from the trailhead; when it comes time to pack out that load of meat or chase that herd of elk…the more pre season preparation you have beforehand the better.

The big game seasons of the fall will be upon us before we know it and it’s never too late to squeeze in some pre-season conditioning. So do yourself a favor and plan a shakedown before it’s too late. Not only will this help make your season go smoother for you by increasing your conditioning, but you may be surprised as you work the kinks out of your gear system. You may just find that ”chink in your armor” before it’s too late and spare yourself some heartache that could force you to pack it up early. Like I mentioned before; I would much rather suffer those quarter sized blisters now and not be wincing with every step later on, while trying to conclude a stalk on that monster bull waiting for me out in the timber.


For additional pre season conditioning that would most definitely aid in a successful season; check out This hunt oriented training system draws off of current Cross Fit methodology but is tailored specifically to “making you a better predator” during the hunting seasons.

Also see: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), I’ve found this method of training to be highly effective, especially when applied to your cardio routines.

*As always, please consult your Doctor or Physician before entering in any kind of conditioning routine or engaging in high stress activities.

Train like you hunt! Suiting up with your full kit and putting down some boot leather will pay huge dividends come hunting season.

I definitely was packing a full load here! My trip was only supposed to be for three days; but me being me, I had around five days worth of gear and food.

Is that a modern-day Sasquatch?! Nope, just me running to work with a 40# pack. While maybe not a smart way to train for extended periods of time; a few miles a few times a week will definitely pay off during hunting season and is a good way of ramping up your intensity preseason.

Hunting so-called “open” country definitely has its share of rugged terrain and can be very challenging.

Backcountry like whats found in the Bob Marshall definitely requires some preseason prep time; not only for your body and mind, but for your gear as well.

While hunting last year in NE Texas; I discovered a terrain completely alien to me. Constantly wadding through knee-deep water, busting through very thick brush and dealing with boot-sucking mud, presented its own challenges.


6 Responses to “Get in a pre-season shakedown for a more sucessful hunting season.”

  1. jeremiahjohnson78 August 21, 2011 at 8:51 am #


    • Earl Johnson March 16, 2012 at 12:46 am #

      That is some good Information! Ill have to talk to you first when I decide to do a BIG hunt. My hunting consists of scouting farms and setting up tree stands. Then wait for the right animal. I do hunt mountains all around my area but its only for whitetails and the forest aren’t large enough for 7 mile treks through the woods because there is usually a road near by any hunting spot. I will hunt the Big Country one day! Again Very good work Cuz. I enjoyed reading this.

  2. Earl Johnson March 16, 2012 at 12:53 am #

    That is some good information! Ill have to talk to you first about the gear whenever I decide to do a BIG hunt. My hunting consists of scouting farms and setting up tree stands, then wait for the right animal. I do hunt the mountains all around my area but its only for whitetails and the forests aren’t large enough for 7 mile treks because there are usually roads near by any hunting spot. I will be hunting the Big Country one day!!! Again very nice work Cuz. I enjoyed reading this.

    • Luke Johnson March 16, 2012 at 5:47 am #

      Thanks, Earl! Anytime, I’m more than happy to help in any way that I can!

  3. Jacob Zirkle November 12, 2014 at 12:13 am #

    Ok where did you get the Bowtech dipped. How did it turn out. It looks sick in the photos.

    • Luke Johnson November 12, 2014 at 1:06 am #

      Jacob; that’s one of the original Destroyer 340’s, back when Bowtech was an authorized decorator of the Optifade patterns. I’ve been trying to get a few things dipped in Optifade over the past few years…and I’ve come to accept that it’s like hunting for a Unicorn…!

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