Training: Building the Foundation Winter training should focus on becoming a more knowledgeable and durable human by spring. Honestly assessing your performance from the previous year is the most effective way to achieve this. However, this is easier said than done. This past year I tapered off strength training a month before the fall season and focused solely on endurance. I wanted to drop a few pounds and see if these two things helped me sustain performance deeper into the season. I also needed to heal and work around issues with my shoulders and elbows caused by lifting earlier in the year. I felt pretty damn good at the end of 21 days of elk hunting, covering 10-12 mountain miles a day chasing bugles. My knees and feet felt better than they had in several years. I believe this was in part to changing boots during summer training and getting a new set of custom footbeds. Getting back into the gym, however, between the big game and Whitetail seasons proved humbling. Over those months in the mountains, I’d lost strength and certainly felt it under the squat bar. After many seasons I’m not sure there’s a way to prevent this from occurring. I know the activities I’m training for and feel I need to be more prescriptive to achieve better results. I’ve created a program adapted from lessons learned from Mark Twight and Michael Blevins at the Nonprophet; www.nonprophet.media. I’m also trying to take my own advice to “train smarter and not always harder.” That’s a conclusion difficult to accept but one I hope will provide longevity to my pursuits in the mountains. I’m active in the mountains year-round, hunting, ski touring, climbing, and hiking but hitting the gym in shitty weather is often the easy button. I’m committed to mixing up my training more and avoiding falling into the rut of the gym. I’ve put a training plan onto a calendar to help remove emotion from the training and limit negotiating with myself when motivation is low. The program is directional but detailed enough to help me prepare the day before and be ready to execute. I’ll give it till April and then reassess this program’s results. Gear Locker: Being Vigilant Format Design Engineering Bearosol Holster $59.00 www.formatde.co If you hunt in terrain where you’re not the only apex predator stalking the woods, you need to figure out how to protect yourself. The question is whether to carry bear spray, a sidearm, or both. My solution varies depending on the unit, partners, and the time of year. Whether bear spray or a pistol, the challenge seems to be finding suitable holsters. I started using the Bearosol holster this past season while hunting in the Bob Marshall wilderness. When hunting “the Bob,” it’s not a question of if, but when you’ll encounter Grizzlies, Black bears, and possibly wolves. Bear spray is only effective if it’s accessible. The Bearosol holster allows me to move it to different pieces of my kit to ensure it’s always deployable. The holster fits on the handlebars of a mountain bike, can be hand-held when hiking or blood trailing, secures to a packs waist belt, and is Molle compatible for an optics harness. The Bearosol holster fits standard 8 & 9.2-ounce canisters but can’t hold a 10.2-ounce canister. If you’ll be hunting in Griz country this year, figuring out a way to keep bear spray in reach at all times is just prudent. The Closet: Laundry Day Is it worth taking the time to wash, inspect, repair, and retreat rain gear? Yes. Rain gear is the car insurance of the backcountry. We hope to never need it, but we buy the best because when you need it, nothing else will do. It’s important to understand that the micro-pores that make good rain gear breathable are larger than molecules of water vapor but much smaller than a water droplet. These micro-pores provide the pathway for breathability but become clogged with dirt, blood, body oils, and insect repellent. When clogged, the breathability and value of the rain gear are diminished. Washing rain gear once a season or after it becomes unusually soiled will keep this investment functioning at its best and extend the product’s life. Another component of technical rain gear to consider is the outer face fabric. The face provides abrasion protection to the garment and serves as the first line of defense against water infiltration with the application of a durable water repellent treatment (DWR). Over time and with harsh abuse, the DWR treatment wears off. The efficacy of the DWR can be evaluated after washing when the garment is still wet or while wearing it in a storm. Water should bead up and run freely off the garment’s face. If the outer face absorbs water, the DWR needs to be re-applied to the garment. Rain gear with a failing DWR will absorb water and becomes heavier over time. If the temperatures are below freezing, the rain gear will freeze, making for an uncomfortable experience. Wet face fabrics also promote “cold bridging,” which chills the user by conducting cold through the garment. Most importantly, rain gear with a saturated face won’t breathe well or at all, reducing your investment to the equivalent of a well-tailored trash bag. Rain Gear Maintenance: 1. Always wash rain gear according to the manufacturer’s care label inside the garment. That said, it’s generally accepted to wash rain gear in a washer with liquid detergent, warm water on a gentle cycle. It’s a good idea to rinse the garments twice to ensure the removal of all detergent. Shake the rain gear of excess water and hang it to dry. If the garment’s outer fabric is saturated, the DWR needs to be re-applied. If the DWR is still functioning, water will bead on the surface, and you can toss the garment in the dryer for 20-30 minutes on medium heat. 2. There are numerous after-market treatments to include wash-in and spray-on products. I prefer spray-on treatments for their ease and ability to direct the DWR to only the outside of the garment and high wear areas like shoulders and waists. While the rain gear is still wet, hang it up outside and spray liberally with the DWR spray. Let the treatment dry, then toss the garments in the dryer on medium heat for 20-30 minutes to activate. 3. Inspect your rain gear carefully for cuts and holes. Any damage discovered is usually easy to repair. Most manufacturers should offer a patch kit. If they don’t, McNett offers Tenacious Tape that works very well for Gore-Tex and other laminate repairs. Apply the patch after washing the garment and ensure it’s dry. I like to warm the patch with a hairdryer or iron to set the glue. Rain gear is a vital layer in a technical clothing system. While most hope to never wear rain gear, it can save your life in poor weather. Properly maintain rain gear to ensure it will perform as required when you pull it out of your pack. Products for Rain Gear Maintenance: Revivex DWR spray www.gearaid.com Grangers Performance Repel Plus www.grangers.co.uk Nikwax TX Direct spray www.nikwax.com Media: Mindful Hunter podcast #47 In this podcast, Jay and I discuss risk mitigation in the backcountry and dive into preparing for winter hunts. Wilderness Locals podcast #72 In this podcast, Ty and I discuss how to stay comfortable in the woods, along with how new hunters can begin their hunting journey. Gear Junkie podcast #6 In this podcast, Adam and I discuss technical clothing systems and some best practices for use in worst-case scenarios. We also discuss mentorship in hunting and how to help others be successful. The Word: Creating Opportunity For many years I’ve tried to create hunting opportunities outside of the traditional spring and fall seasons. Numerous and stressful hunting scenarios offer the opportunity to work through your shot process, practice stalks, and manage your nerves. The extra reps have paid off numerous times during the fall season where opportunities are difficult and fleeting. Off-season hunts provide the chance to work through the high stress of close encounters. The more stressful situations you can put yourself in, the better you can inoculate yourself from them. These hunts also offer the opportunity to test new clothing, boots, releases, and broadheads. It’s vital to honestly assess and hot wash your performance after each encounter. Did you calm your nerves, and was the timing of your draw correct? Can you remember going through your shot routine, and can you recall the animal’s body angle? Was your gear quiet enough for the stalk, or does something need to be replaced or modified? Another great benefit is the supplemental food source provided by these hunts. Hogs are great on the smoker, and Axis deer is possibly the best wild meat available. In Texas, getting 2-4 shots a day on hogs is realistic and a good test of broadheads. Hawaiian Axis deer provide all-day stalking opportunities on super weary animals. Depredation tags offer ways to fill the freezer and practice getting to full draw on weary animals. These off-season hunts are relatively affordable, and the best part is you don’t have to draw a tag. Many also occur in warm weather climates allowing folks in Northern states to escape the cold grip of winter, and some are in exotic locations perfect for a family vacation. A successful season often comes down to one opportunity and split-second decisions. Getting reps now can pay big dividends later in the year. When the bull you’ve been chasing comes through a shooting lane, or your target buck appears after weeks of grinding it out in the stand, you need to be operating on instinct built from realistic training.