Nutrition is key when prepping for western hunts

Physically training for your hunt is not going to be as effective if you don’t fuel your body with the right foods.

Proper nutrition is critical to get your body to perform to its optimal potential. Nutrition is something you need to focus on no matter the time of year, whether its during your training or during your hunt.

Our quest to provide you with the tools you need to prepare for your hunt led us to a local Montana business. Ivory Nutrition , based out of Bozeman, is run and managed by Alishia Zemlicka, a native Montanan and avid hunter and outdoorswoman. Alishia is a certified nutritional coach who focuses on proper nutrition and tailoring programs specifically for hunters.

Her philosophy of “We train hard to hunt hard, we hunt hard to eat good, we eat good to train hard” really resonates with most hunters who spend hours and days in the field to fill their freezer with wild game meat. We met with Alisha to get some tips for the best nutrition practices hunters can utilize in their preparation for their hunt.

What is a good place to start with changing your nutrition habits? First thing you should implement?

The first thing is to start cutting out as much processed food as possible. A good plan to strive for is to eat 80 percent whole foods and 20 percent processed, but if you can get to a point where you are eating 90 percent whole, and 10 percent processed that’s even better.

The Mayo clinic website has several more tips for cleaner eating:

  • Limiting highly processed, packaged foods with a long list of ingredients, most of which are not natural. Ingredients listed on the food label should mostly be foods that you recognize.
  • Cutting back on foods with added salt, sugar or fat.
  • Avoiding foods that are drastically altered compared with their natural form, such as apple juice versus a whole apple, chicken nuggets versus a fresh chicken breast, or vegetable chips versus fresh vegetables.
  • Also, frozen fruits and vegetables are OK because they are minimally processed and can sometimes contain more nutrients than fresh varieties since they are frozen at their peak.
  • Preparing and eating more foods at home. Start with simple meals to help you get into the habit

She also mentioned that you can’t forget to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, preferably a gallon a day.

As you begin changing your habits you should also start looking into portion guides which advise you on how much of each food group you should consume in each meal, this ensures that you are not eating too much or too little, and helps give you a guideline to stick too.

Our bodies needs differ from one another depending on our lifestyles and goals, you should consider having your caloric needs assessed and find out what your macro numbers are and follow a food plan that fits your specific needs.

What is proper nutrition while hunting to keep your body fueled and have energy?

While we are out hunting in the mountains our body uses up a lot of energy and we have to keep fueling it in order to be able to feel good, energized, and performing to our optimal level. The best way to do that is to focus on consuming carbs and fats. Protein is great as well and you shouldn’t count it out but it will not provide the same source of energy, so don’t focus on consuming large amounts of protein.

Alishia recommends starting the day off with a carb dense breakfast – a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter, or a sweet potato with eggs and bacon are some ideas.

Throughout the day it is a little harder to consume whole foods. Apples, nuts, and seeds are good options. Additionally there are lots of snack options available out there, some specifically geared for hunters and backcountry use. Alishia also mentions that you should plan ahead for energy, for example if you know you have a big climb ahead try eating a couple energy chews before you tackle that climb. Don’t wait until you are climbing and feel depleted because at that point it’s too late.

Lastly, she stresses, don’t forget about proper hydration. If you are not a fan of plain water or even for just an extra boost try mixing in hydrate powders.

Clients who are interested in having a customized nutrition program planned for them can contact Alishia, who is happy to work with you whether you are local to Montana or you are out of state.

Come prepared for your Montana hunt

Hunt in Montana's Ruby Valley with Upper Canyon Outfitters.
When hunting in Montana, it’s best to come as prepared as possible – especially when it comes to fitness.

The six P’s of hunting with UCO

Have you heard about the 6 P’s?

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

We are strong believers of this simple yet straightforward saying here at UCO as it applies to many of the daily aspects of our life, and elk hunting is no exception.

The moment you have been waiting for is here, you have all your gear packed and ready to go. You can already feel that anticipation for the first day of the hunt, the hunt you have been dreaming of and preparing for for months, if not years…

But are you as prepared for it as you should be?

One of the biggest obstacles faced by our clients is underestimating the physical demands that are required for hunting in the mountains of Southwest Montana and there is nothing worse than traveling all this way for your hunt, starting your week out, only to end up realizing that your body is struggling to the point where you end up spending more time taking recovery breaks than actually hunting.

So what can you do to prevent that from happening? The biggest thing is: Get in the best possible shape before you arrive for your hunt.

Most hunters will find out if they were successful at drawing a tag by mid-April, giving them almost six full months to physically prepare for their hunt. Hunters who take the time to train and get their bodies in shape increase their chances of success as it allows them to go farther into the mountains where others don’t and they will have the stamina to hit the mountains hard, every day, rather than losing energy a few days into the hunt.

Upper Canyon Outfitters is situated at 6,000 feet of elevation and we hunt anywhere from 6,500-8,500 feet, which means that throughout your week here you can expect a lot of elevation gain, often over challenging terrain, and at altitudes you may not be used to.

Preparing your body to meet this challenge is not something you can do overnight. We urge you to start preparing now. You will not regret it.

Aside from the preparation to be in good physical shape you also need to prepare yourself mentally for the hunt.

Hunting is tough, and hunting in Montana in particular presents a lot of challenges you may not have encountered before. The days are long, the weather is not always favorable, you will get tired, uncomfortable, and perhaps discouraged – but you can’t let any of these things stop you from believing that you can achieve what you came out here to do.

Our head hunting guide, Aston Boone, touches on the mental toughness aspect when he reminds clients every week that you absolutely cannot lose your motivation to keep going, even if you haven’t seen an elk in three days, even if you had a missed opportunity, even if you are as tired as you’ve ever been. You have to hunt hard from the first day to the last. To him, your motivation shouldn’t solely rely on harvesting an animal. Rather, you should focus on the fact that you are in a beautiful place, chasing wild creatures, and that you should remember to have fun, and enjoy your time in the mountains. Harvesting an animal is a bonus.

What are the most important things to focus on in terms of fitness in preparation?

The most important thing is to start now. Don’t put off your training until the last minute. You cannot prepare for the demands of mountain hunting overnight.

You also don’t have to go all in right away. Start gradually and work up the intensity and duration of your exercise.

Since you will be doing a lot of hiking, leg exercises are very important. You should focus on your calves, quads, hamstrings and lower back. Including some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to build up your cardiovascular capacity is really important, especially since you will be hunting in higher than normal altitude.

As you progress in your training you should consider incorporating the gear you will be using on your hunt. For one, it is a good way to test it and make sure it’s comfortable. Improperly fitting boots will make you miserable if you have to wear them 14 hours a day for a week. Same with a pack that doesn’t fit right. With added weight to your pack (try packing it with the items you plan to have with you) and the added weight of your boots, you will surely increase the difficulty of your exercise but the result will be increased strength in the areas that you need to focus on, and it is a good way to overall simulate similar conditions to the ones you will encounter while hunting.

For hunters who may not have access to a gym, what are some effective workouts they can do at home to prepare for their hunt?

You don’t need a gym to get in good shape for your Montana hunt. One thing to remember is that anything you do now towards getting in better physical shape is better than not doing anything at all. Train at your own pace and don’t push yourself to the point where you might get injured.

Below are a couple links to websites that offer training tips and plans- be sure to discuss your needs and expectations with a professional before embarking on a training regimen in order to prevent any injury.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.