It sounded like a cross between a Pterodactyl and coyote howl. Hearing but not understanding my disoriented mind was asking, “What is that noise?” What was this incessant racket right beside my head? Why wouldn’t it stop?
Suddenly in the other ear I heard my wife say, “Randy, shut off that alarm!”
As if in some kind of a trance, I wondered why on earth the alarm was set for 4 am. At the same time I was wondering, “…where am I?”
Many mornings during the late season I’ve woke up in such a fog I had no earthly idea where I was. As the sleepiness fades I’ll slowly figure out if I’m at home or away on a hunt. It sounds humorous, but to those of you who know how taxing a long hunting season can be, it’s a reality.
With a lack of rest, the need of vitamin D, and low levels of serotonin, our bodies can make us feel like we’re on the verge of loosing our mind. The mental and physical drain from hunting days on end can leave one questioning his or her own sanity.
When we continually demand our bodies do the unordinary, we create a physical cocktail that can contribute to us getting fatigued and frustrated more easily. Especially, when pushing ourselves beyond the normal in an attempt to avoid the taste of tag soup. This accumulation of stress can begin to affect our overall performance and moods. Yet, as the ultimate predator, we need to be at peak performance when under pressure.
Across the years I have learned a few pointers that I apply when hunting late season. There are no silver bullets or magic potions, but these tips have helped me keep an edge in spite of feeling totally worn out.
1. Focus On Proper Nutrition
When we’ve shivered all day in the cold, a Big Mac and large order of fries sound good to a numb mind and cold body. Hungry and craving carbs, the first mistake we often make in the late season is how we fuel our bodies.
When hunting in cold temperatures for extended periods of time, your metabolic rate increases. Meaning, your body burns more calories in order to stay warm. Your body also knows when you’re feeling cold that eating creates thermogenesis (heat production) or a warming effect.
Thirty minutes to an hour after you eat your body will generate 10% more heat.
Making it a practice to eat healthy in the late season will give your body the nutrients it needs to push through those weary days. What you eat for breakfast, pack in your lunch and snack on, can make all the difference in how you feel at the end the day. Food is fuel.
Trade those sugary snacks for some walnuts, almonds or sunflower seeds. Nuts contain quality protein, essential fats and will provide your body with quality fuel. Prepare nutritional snacks by pre pealing some oranges, slicing a few apples or choosing a preferred fruit to snack on throughout the day. Dried fruit mixed with nuts is also a quality option.
A candy bar may suppress your cravings, but taking in simple sugars will only make you feel good for the moment. Once your body is flooded with insulin, you’ll feel worse than if you hadn’t eaten that sugary snack at all. Push the Snickers aside and eat something that will have all day benefits.
You should also take in proteins from eggs, chicken or fish, even when your taste buds are screaming for a greasy hamburger. Our taste buds will try to tell us differently, but a Wendy’s hamburger has little nutritional value when it comes to replenishing what our bodies need during a late season hunt.
2. Remember Adequate Hydration
For some strange reason we tend to think that we need more water in the summer than winter. But, winter hydration is equally as important in preventing muscle fatigue and retaining mental acuteness.
When spending extended periods of time in the cold, blood vessels constrict in order to conserve heat and help maintain your core body temperature. To compensate for an increase in blood pressure, your kidneys will produce more urine than normal. An increase in urine production means a greater need for hydration.
Our bodies also have to warm up the air we breath to equal that of our core body temperature. This is the reason our winter exhalations look like steam. Due to the extensive evaporation caused by our breathing process, it is estimated that we can loose between one to two liters of fluid a day from breathing extremely cold air.
We often judge our water intake by whether or not we feel thirsty. But, just because you don’t feel thirsty doesn’t mean your body isn’t in need of adequate fluids. Measure your daily water intake by your body weight requirements, not your senses. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least half your body weight in fluid ounces on a daily basis. If you can’t stand the thought of drinking cold water when temperatures are freezing cold, carry a small thermos that contains warm water or hot green tea.
Proper hydration plays a key role in mind and muscle functions. Staying hydrated will help you stay focused when crunch time arrives.
3. Take Vitamin D3 And B12 Supplements
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that we normally receive from adequate sunlight. Short days and lack of sunshine can contribute to a vitamin D deficiently during the late season. This in turn results in a lack of energy and even depression.
If feeling extreme fatigue during the late season, take a vitamin D3 supplement. Due to our bodies absorbing sunlight better than a supplement, I prefer to take a 1000IU capsule during December and January. As crazy as it sounds, this tiny capsule has made a huge difference in helping to preserve my sanity and energy when hunting late season.
Vitamin B12 is another natural energy enhancer that helps in retaining stamina, improving moods and increasing energy levels. I have been taking B12 for several years now and it is especially helpful during the winter months. B12 is an essential supplement for achieving your optimum potential and unlike D3 can be taken year round.
Supplementing your vitamin D3 and B12 intake during the late season will definitely help to keep you feeling sane plus stabilize your energy levels.
4. Limit Your Caffeine Intake
When it’s cold outside there’s little that compares to a hot cup of coffee. I know what you’re thinking and I didn’t say go without coffee. But if you’re struggling to stay warm and keep a stable frame of mind, it might be best to limit your caffeine intake.
Caffeine can act as a vasoconstrictor; meaning excessive caffeine decreases the diameter of your arteries and increases blood pressure. Limited doses can promote vasodilation, but when sitting for hours in the extreme cold, your blood vessels are already constricting to preserve heat. Too much caffeine accelerates vasoconstriction, which leads to decreased blood flow and cold extremities. And I’ve never found anyone who can stay in a good mood when hunting with cold hands and feet.
Most importantly, caffeine suppresses serotonin. If you’re not familiar with serotonin you should be. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the GI tract and central nervous system. It is connected to feelings of well-being and is known as the happiness hormone. Serotonin helps to regulate physical functions such as energy, emotions, mood, sleep, appetite, muscle contraction and so forth.
During the winter months serotonin levels are at their lowest. Some claim this is a contributing factor to what is often called “cabin fever.” To keep your mood up and attitude positive, limit your caffeine and ward off the late season blues.
5. Get Some Rest
Yeah, right! Who gets rest during the late season?
Sleep deprivation affects each of us differently. Some get sick, others get irritable and others just have low energy levels. It is tough to find time to rest during hunting season, but it’s a must. Even a couple additional hours of sleep can boost your immune system, increase stamina and reduce stress.
Personally, power naps are a lifesaver when I start feeling totally wiped out. Even a quick 10-minute nap can give me enough of a charge to carry on the rest of the day. This may not work for everyone, but rest is a necessity for peak performance.
Sitting in the freezing cold for hours on end isn’t for everyone. But for the diehard hunter who refuses to give up, these are a few tricks that will help you be at your best right up until the moment you either notch your tag or hunting season ends. Stay positive and best of luck.