View Full Version : High altitude hunting

August 26, 2006, 10:58 AM
My brother and I, both in our 50's, are planning a Grand Tetons elk hunt next fall ('07, that is). :D

Besides our age, we both live on the coasts, and we're wondering if there are any tricks for getting ready for high altitude hunting. The place we are going has a 7200' elev. base camp, and the hunting, which is a combination of horseback and hiking, can reach up to 10,500'. Not exactly high enough to need oxygen tanks, but certainly no piece of cake, either.

We have a year to prepare, and we are both already doing the obvious: lots of time on the treadmill, stairmaster, and some on the weights. :eek:

How about it, any of you elk or mountain sheep hunters out there?

August 26, 2006, 11:49 AM
Make sure some of your training is anaerobic. You have to work hard enough to get short of breath at least 3 times a week for 3 months to really get where you need to be. If nothing else, do 10 minutes of DEEP breathing exercises 3 times daily.


August 26, 2006, 12:03 PM
Just get in the best shape you possibly can for this hunt. Pace yourself during the hunt remember it is not a race to a finish line. Do some hiking with the approximate weight of the gear you will be carrying on this hunt and find the hilliest terrain available to you and go up and down it as many times as possible during your workout. Even professional athletes have problems when they compete in high altitudes. Loosing a few extra pounds will allow you to carry more water and food to replenish your energy during the hunt at high elevations.

August 26, 2006, 12:20 PM
I'd say getting in shape, as you plan, is the biggest thing, both aerobic and anaerobic, but primarly aerobic.

Beyond that, people say that you ought to arrive in the locale at least 1-2 days early before exerting yourself in a long trek or hunt, just hanging out in a hotel or in your camp, in order to let your body acclimatize to the altitude. Then, just take it slow, don't overdo it, and stay hydrated while there! Lots of water. Lots of sleep/rest, too. Minimize alcohol intake too.

Start that exercizing now - get a stairclimber or treadmill so that you can exercise indoors during heat, cold, and inclement weather!

August 26, 2006, 03:33 PM
I'm going to check with my doctor Wednesday at my physical, and your comments are helpful, too.

We have a gym right near my office that has both weights and aerobic gear. The one I'm spending most time on right now is a treadmill with adjustable incline that can go up to a 12 degree up-slope.

Nothing like the hunt-of-a-lifetime to inspire a renewed fitness regime. :D :D

Capt. Charlie
August 26, 2006, 03:48 PM
Beyond that, people say that you ought to arrive in the locale at least 1-2 days early before exerting yourself in a long trek or hunt, just hanging out in a hotel or in your camp, in order to let your body acclimatize to the altitude. Then, just take it slow, don't overdo it, and stay hydrated while there! Lots of water. Lots of sleep/rest, too. Minimize alcohol intake too.

I lived at almost 9000 feet on Grand Canyon's North Rim, and I can tell you, those are words of wisdom. In fact, make it 3 days, as that's the minimum amount of time your body will take to adjust. Your body will begin to crank out more red blood cells and hemoglobin as soon as you arrive, but it takes awhile. Even when it does, your physical abilities are going to be limited. Plan for that. Allow yourself more time for everything. I've been told that iron rich foods help too.

One other thing, don't plan on eating a huge celebration dinner as soon as you arrive at base camp. My first day on the North Rim, I went down to the lodge to celebrate with a huge steak dinner. The last thing I remembered was saying "that was tasty!", just as I slipped off the chair into unconsciousness. It seems that the blood rushes to your stomach when you eat, and when you're already oxygen starved, something's gotta give. It was really embarrassing to wake up on the floor with the guys I was going to be working with, giving me oxygen :o :D . But I found out later that it happens a lot, especially with you flatlander tourists :D .

Fat White Boy
August 26, 2006, 07:49 PM
+1 on hydration. Drink lots of water. It will be the most important part of your daily routine at altitude...

Art Eatman
August 26, 2006, 08:47 PM
Don't take this for Gospel, but I read where many who hike a lot across high country back off on eating protein, and sorta stock up on carbohydrates. They say to begin a few days before beginning the hike. This doesn't mean NO protein; just less; digesting protein takes more water than carbohydrates do.


Capt. Charlie
August 26, 2006, 11:33 PM
Just thought of one other thing. Rehydration is important, but don't forget electrolytes! Dehydrating and rehydrating will flush the sodium and potassium out of your system, and that will make you sick as hell.

Our solution in the park service was to carry a bag of trail gorp. Now everybody has their own recipie for that, but my favorite is a base of granola cereal, add salt, M&M's, peanuts, and for potassium, raisins and freeze dried banana chips. Hang bag from belt, dig in while walking.... yummy! :D

August 27, 2006, 04:44 AM
Before going to elk hunt two years ago, just north of Leadville, CO I had an annual physical. I asked the doctor why my body hated me at altitude. He said that the body is trying to produce red blood cells when you go up in altitude.
The pains start from your body draining every internal resource to create red blood cells. Some people can accomplish this task in 1 or 2 days others 2 or 3.

He said to lighten the task for my body to make red blood cells, I should take a small dose of iron for two weeks prior to ascending to the high altitude.
(my doctor told me I could take the iron. Check with yours)

I took off the shelf iron in 65mg made by Nature Made. I went from a 3 day adjuster to a 1 1/2 day adjuster.
He also said stay hydrated and no big meals first two days. Exercise and eat right.
If you are back packing, my suggestion is try your pack out on a hike around the house and if you are comfortable with 80 lbs in your pack, take 40 at altitude. You have to eliminate alot of crapola to get to 40.
This worked for me. Good luck and have fun.

Art Eatman
August 27, 2006, 09:13 AM
My first summer in Terlingua, before my body got acclimated to the desert, was a bit rough. Lots of outside work, building a garage, porches, fence and a patio. Lots of 110-degree days.

I was going through three gallons of water and Gatorade a day. I found that the Gatorade helped me a helluva lot more than just water. I used the powdered stuff, mixing it with the water.

So, I'd recommend a canteen of Gatorade over a canteen of water, out and about for a day's hunting...


August 27, 2006, 10:09 AM
Good points about electrolytes - Gatorade and such would be even preferable to water. And bananas have a lot of potassium in them. As for trail gorp, good point - I like to take a mix called "Sam's Choice Nature Trail" from Walmart, which has soy nuts, pepitas, cherries, sunflower seeds, raisins, and almonds, and then I add M&M's to it for some extra sweetness.

Wow, Charlie, how long were you blacked out there after the big meal? Kinda funny, but kinda scary too. And thank you for correcting my mistake that it takes 3 days to acclimitize and build up the red blood cells, not 1 or 2.

August 27, 2006, 10:18 AM
Capt Charlie is right on a time line maybe more at your age now and the elevation differences your going to be experiencing.
I have lived at about 2500' most of my life but worked as a stone mason in the mtn's a lot, to elevations of around 8500', and hunting higher. When you get into the higher elevations you can definitely feel it and will need to slow down for a few days.
Elevation changes like your going to do will simply tire you faster and take a bit longer to recoup. Just don't push yourself as hard as you would at home and take short rests often. It is very easy to hurry to get a shot,over do it and be so shakey you can't hold still enough to shoot. I have done that.
Its easier to recoup if you don't wear yourself completely out, you should be fine. Post us a picture when you get back home.

August 27, 2006, 10:32 AM
you can get the gatorade pwder and mix it with water and drink a lot.

When I was in the mt.s in Afghanistan we only ate MRE's which had a lot of carbs, protein 3000+ calories and didn't have any problems. Shortness of breath for the first few days is bad though. I would recommend starting out hiking with your quipments equivalent weight in a pack and then eventually work up to double. Have a great hunt and please let us know how it turns out.

Capt. Charlie
August 27, 2006, 12:02 PM
Wow, Charlie, how long were you blacked out there after the big meal? Kinda funny, but kinda scary too.
Not long, I don't think. It was kinda spooky when I started to go out, mainly because I didn't know what was happening. Later we got a good laugh out of it. :D

I think I got clobbered worse than most because of the rapid change in altitude. Fredonia, AZ is somewhere around 3500 feet, I think, and from there US 89A climbs up onto the Kiabab Plateau pretty quick, so I did around a 6000 foot elevation change and wolfed down dinner in the course of just a couple of hours. I won't do THAT again ;) .

I'm not sure if it was my imagination or not, but it seemed that, once I got acclimated, each time I went back to high altitude, it took less time and was easier to adjust.

There was one other thing I remember, but it won't affect today's vehicles. One of my first duties in the morning was to go down to the lodge parking lot with a bunch of small sticks in my pocket. No, I wasn't handing them out as souvenirs :D ; back then, cars had carburetors, not fuel injection systems. Folks would come out of the lodge and find that their cars wouldn't start, even though they ran fine when they pulled in.

The problem was that the automatic choke closed when it cooled off, and while closed, there wasn't enough oxygen to start them.

Solution? Walk around and prop open the throttle plate with sticks until the choke opened. Problem solved! Of course, I told folks my master mechanical skills solved the problem, and that'll be a hundred bucks, please ;) . Just kidding; I have to read the instructions just to add washer fluid :D .

August 28, 2006, 05:44 PM
Take something with you for a headache if you are subject to get them.I usually have one for a couple of days until I get used to it.

Arizona Fusilier
August 31, 2006, 09:31 PM
Second on the aspirin; altitude sickness is real possibility. I get it without any real strenuous efforts, I suspect y'all would be more susceptible.