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.


Most of our clients here at UCO are repeats guests. We are thankful and blessed to have so many loyal people return to our home year after year.

We believe that there are a few distinct reasons people return to our hidden gem in the Ruby Valley. One is the fishing. We offer a unique opportunity to have an intimate fishing experience in which you can catch anything from a rainbow trout to a grayling, all while enjoying the serenity of Montana.

Our horseback rides offer some of the most breathtaking views a person can imagine, and people never leave the dinner table hungry.

But another reason people come back year after year, is the people at UCO.

We like to say that UCO is “where here feels like home,” and we mean that. We want people to feel as though they are part of the family as soon as they walk through the front door. One of the people that have made many lasting impressions is Jake McDonald.

Jake is Donna’s partner in business, marriage and shenanigans. He is often in the background of UCO, keeping things running smoothly. Not all clients have the opportunity to spend time with him, but those that do tend to remember him for the long term. So, in honor of Jake’s birthday coming up on January 22nd, we thought we would write a blog about some of his Jake-isms.

  1. Awesome. According to Jake, this is the most overused word in the English language. There have been countless times that a guest will be admiring the beauty of the Ruby Valley and will say with a an awestruck expression, “This is awesome!” This phrase is quickly followed by Jake’s response of, “well I wouldn’t say that. It’s nice, but not awesome.” He believes that the word awesome should be reserved for miracles, great acts of bravery, and perfectly baled hay.
  2. Outfit. If Jake tells you that he likes your outfit, don’t be flattered by your meticulously put-together, stylish, western-influenced ensemble. Instead, he will be referring to whatever vehicle you drove in with. In Montana, we have our own way of referring to things and calling vehicles outfits is one of those vernacular tendencies. Another reference Jake made up is one he reserves for rangers and 4x4s and that is Noodlebuggy. No one is really sure of the origin of this nickname, but it has stuck. So when you are at UCO and request a 4×4 tour in a ranger, don’t be alarmed when your guide tells you they are going to run and get a Noodlebuggy.
  3. Nicknames and horse names. Jake, with very little effort, has managed to rename every employee and horse that has graced UCO. So if you are assigned to ride Cherokee, our trusty herd leader, and Tymbre, our head wrangler, goes to get him for you, don’t be alarmed when Jake tells you, “Here comes TSS (T-Double S, Tymbre) with Camanche (Cherokee). If you are given a nickname by Jake, know that it is one of the highest honors at UCO.
  4. Handshakes. Along with nicknames, Jake has created a unique handshake with many clients and staff. Some of these handshakes have reached levels of complication, that would require an instructional YouTube video for an outsider to learn. Jake manages to remember them all with little effort.
  5. Don’t Panic. Anyone that has spent any amount of time with Jake has learned his number one rule: Don’t panic. Jake applies this rule to every situation. Are the horses out and headed to Alder? Don’t panic. Is a noodlebuggy rolling down a mountain? Don’t panic. Jake can be heard asking people around the ranch, “What is the number one rule?” The correct answer here is: Don’t panic.

Upper Canyon Outfitters is a guest ranch in Montana that offers some incredible activities and experiences, but we would be nothing if not for the people that helped create us and continue to work hard to make us the best we can possibly be. Please feel free to share any of your Jake-isms that we may have missed.

5 reasons to book a Montana hunting trip early

Montana hunters pack out after a successful high-mountain harvest.

It is December and the chill of the winter has finally set in. It is easy this time of year to embrace the warmth of your home and the comfort of the holiday season, but there is something else that should start to spark in the back of your mind. It is the perfect time to start the booking process for a hunting trip in Montana. Here are 5 reasons why now is the perfect time to book your big hunt:

  1. In order to secure a hunting license in Montana you must meet a strict deadline. It depends on what game you are hunting, but if you plan on hunting elk, mule deer or white-tailed deer during archery and rifle season, you must have your application in by March 15. to the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. The hunting application can be a time consuming and confusing process, which is why Upper Canyon Outfitters will take care of applying for you. As soon as you book your hunt, we get all the necessary information from you and we take it from there. Last year, we had a 100% success rate for the elk/deer combination license draw.
  2. The sport of hunting appears to be on the upswing. More people are becoming interested in this authentic experience, and with that comes more bookings. Upper Canyon Outfitters is about three-quarters booked for the 2019 season and half booked for the 2020 season. We are striving to keep the number of hunters we book to a limit so that we can continue to offer the best possible experience, but that means that space is limited. So if you are thinking about booking, now is the time.
  3. While the sport of hunting may be one of the oldest activities known to mankind, the gear for hunting is evolving at a rapid pace. Booking now will allow you time to research the best products to make your hunt a great experience. Upper Canyon offers 15% off all Sitka gear and we have professional guides that love to discuss the latest and greatest gear with you.
  4. Hunting comes with a great ethical responsibility to make a great shot when the time comes. The more time you have the practice target shooting, the better. Upper Canyon Outfitters suggests you have an intimate knowledge of your gun before you get here. Upon your arrival, our guides take all our guided hunters out to our range to fine tune and dial in their gun, but we expect you to have prepared and practiced shooting long before your arrival.
  5. When it comes to hunting there is no guarantee of a harvest, but there is a guarantee of hiking and majestic views. The earlier you start training for your high altitude hunt, the better your experience will be. Cardio and weight training are great. We have even had hunters hire a personal trainer in preparation of a great hunt. It is best to start now to increase your likelihood of a harvest. Being in good physical condition also allows you to enjoy your hunt, as you are ready for the big climbs and long days.

X-tra Bonus: You know what to add to your Christmas list, you can never have to many hunting gadgets. Happy Holidays from all of us here at Upper Canyon Outfitters.

Ready to book? Call or email UCO today.

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