This article is one of many from our Goat Prep Series
Here’s the problem with mountain goats: they live in the mountains; the nastiest, roughest, and shittiest part of the mountains. For most goat hunts, being physically capable is a prerequisite. This article is meant as guidance for those looking to hunt goats in the next 3 to 6 months. I realize folks have limitations on time, so I prioritize what I feel is most important.
If all else fails, look up a half-marathon training schedule online that conforms with your schedule. Stick to that schedule and you will have a very good base for your hunt.
Fight High Altitude by Building Cardio
If you can only do one thing during your preparation, make sure you work on improving your cardio vascular capacity. I’d rather have an endurance athlete show up with his granddaddy’s rusty 30-30, than a fatso show up with the ability to shoot game at 1,500 yards.
It’s not the horses that will knock you on your ass, it’s the altitude. The first stalk isn’t a problem for most folks. It’s the second, third, and fourth where they falter. When you get exhausted at altitude it is harder to bounce back. I’m lacking a fancy academic paper to support this, but I’ve seen it enough to confirm that it is a statistical fact. This presents a real problem when goat hunting.
Goat hunting is about achieving that pivotal moment. You’ve blown a stalk, passed up on a couple sub-par billies, then on the third day you glass up a 9.5″ slammer on the rocky rim above. You have to have the capacity to make that one last stalk.
So, our goal is to prepare you to avoid exhaustion at altitude and during stalks. If you are training at sea level, that means aerobic fitness. Focus on cardiovascular exercises that involve high intensity training. High intensity interval training will closely mimic what you’ll find in the wilderness: fast, steep climbs followed by rest periods.
Here are a couple examples of high intensity interval training you can do before your trip.
If you have access to a treadmill whether at home or a gym, use the incline. I’m not going to sugar coat it; this is not fun. Running on a zero incline will do little for your hunt preparation. That’s for yuppies and vegans.
If you consider yourself a beginner, hop on a treadmill and walk. Start walking at a 1.7 mph pace with a 2 degree incline. Every three minutes increase your incline by 1 degree. Keep increasing your incline for 15 minutes, then decrease back down to 3 degrees for your last 15 minutes. Aim for 30 minutes of work.
Don’t grab the handle bars and lean back on the treadmill. That’s for hippies. If you feel you have to lean back, decrease your incline.
Once you have reached inclines of 6-7 degrees, your hamstrings are getting 400%+ activity compared to walking on level. Your glutes (i.e. ass) are getting close to 300% more activity. The longer you can stay in this zone, the closer you are getting to the mountain hunting environment. Most goats are harvested on 30-40 degree slopes.
MOUNTAIN GOAT TREADMILL WORKOUT:
The next stage of treadmill training is slightly higher paced, more incline, and more fluctuation.
Minutes 1-5: Warm up at incline of 2.0 degrees pace 2.5 mph.
Minute 6- pace 2.5 inline 2.5
Minute 7- pace 2.5 incline 5
Minute 8- pace 2.5 incline 6
Minute 9- pace 2.5 incline 7.5
Minute 10- pace 2.5 incline 8.5
Minute 11-15: pace 2.5 incline 9.0
Minute 16-20: pace 3.5 incline 2.0
Do this set for two cycles. 40 minutes total.
Once this workout is a breeze, speed it up a bit, heavier incline and do three cycles. Remember, you might be doing 6-10 equivalent cycles during your hunt, in thinner air.
MOUNTAIN GOAT STAIRMASTER WORKOUT:
Stairmasters or stairs are a great way to train as they closely mimic hiking uphill. Hop on a Stairmaster and set it at a challenging level for 1 minute (for example, 1 minute at level 9) then follow with 2 minutes at an easier level.
Minutes 1-5: warmup/rest at level 5 for 5 minutes
Minute 6 Level 8
Minute 7-8: Level 6
Minute 9 Level 10
Minutes 10-11: Level 8
Minute 12 Level 12
Minutes 13-14: Level 10
Minute 15 Level 14
Continue this pattern for 2 cycles for a 30 minute workout.
Start wherever you feel comfortable but keep yourself accountable! You want a little discomfort, that’s when change occurs. People who cheat by pushing down on the side rails and leaning forward eat granola, and don’t have goat hides on their couch!
If you have mountains or hills nearby, go for a hike as your aerobic exercise. Start with hikes for 30 minutes, then an hour. Once you feel like you’ve mastered the hike, add some weight. Pack your hunting gear in your backpack and hike with it on. This is also a great way to ensure the comfort of your pack. You will be wearing a pack for up to seven days straight on some of these hunts. Making sure it fits well is essential.
Exposing your ankles, knees and, most importantly, your mind to traversing off-trail and lightly used terrain is a big plus. Beaten down paths are the thoroughfare of tie-dyed wearing cannabis lovers, not goat hunters. The problem is that land use managers, to protect public resources, want to keep you on maintained trails. This means you need to find somewhere more remote or even private land where your off-trail hiking doesn’t cause lasting impact.
When structuring your week’s workouts, do cardio at least two days per week. Three times per week is optimal.
The last thing I want to mention regarding cardio preparation is about keeping motivated. Cardio workouts are monotonous. The ways we have been able to combat the bore: 1. Learn how to download podcasts. Listening to interesting interviews can make cardio training a relaxing part of your day. 2. Consider group fitness class. Group spinning classes are one of the best because most of them incorporate a form of high intensity training into their routines. These classes are widely available, inexpensive and give you a time/destination for your cardio. I have also myself used and had clients use Peleton spinning bikes/classes during the off season. They offer a great system, but it is not cheap.
One thing that tends to catch hunters by surprise is the true vertical nature of goat country. There is rarely a goat hunt that goes by that doesn’t entail some “sketchy” terrain. Some hunters will realize on their first day of hunting goats that they have lived with a dormant fear of heights. A short climbing lesson or mid-level guided mountaineering hike in your geographic area before your hunt can give you a shot of extra confidence when chasing goats.
Core Strength for Backpacking
Outside of endurance and cardio vascular resilience, core body strength is useful in the mountains. In the case of backpack hunts, it is essential. Having a strong core helps your balance, avoids injuries and personally it helps me sleep with less back pain in small tents.
The core workout I recommend below is closely related to the workout presented in this book: Kettlebell Simple & Sinister. It’s an easy read and I highly recommend this book if you are serious about improving your core strength.
Keep in mind that kettlebell training, done right, is easier on your body than other forms of exercise. You’re not constantly pounding the same muscles, joints and bones. You are doing a full body workout.
The best way to start is to take a couple group classes. These classes are coming more and more common at local gyms. A certified instructor can help you get down the basic moves with proper form. Once you are ready to go at it alone, buy a couple bells and a workout video or two.
These things are like entire gyms in a steel ball, you will only need a couple sizes. Typical kettlebell sizes needed:
|Average Huntress||15lbs, 25lbs, 35lbs|
|Strong Huntress||25lbs, 35lbs, 45lbs|
|Average Hunter||30lbs, 45lbs|
|Strong Hunter||40lbs, 55lbs|
If you’re interested, here are a couple workouts to get you started:
Beginner Kettlebell Workout
10 kettlebell swings
10 clean and press (one arm at a time)
10 windmills (one arm at a time)
10 snatches (one arm at a time)
30 seconds kb swing
30 second Turkish get up- right side
30 seconds Turkish get up- left side
30 seconds squat
30 seconds snatch- right side
30 seconds snatch- left side
If burpess make you sick to your stomach, replace them with pushups. It is hard to replace the great workout they provide, but they do make some people sick due to the constant movement.
Best of luck preparing for your hunt. Stay safe, avoid injury and slowly progress on your training. The more you put into this, the more you will enjoy the physical aspects of the hunt.
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About Cliff Gray
Cliff is a registered outfitter in the State of Colorado, guiding and outfitting over 100 hunters a year for elk, bighorns, goats, bears and mule deer across wilderness areas in Colorado and British Columbia. He has years of experience hunting big game via remote backpacking and horse/mule packing.
Cliff is a private pilot, certified wilderness first responder, and an official measurer for both Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young records programs.