Bowhunting Fitness: No Off Season Keeps You On

|   Category: Bowhunting, Fitness Written by:

When it comes to the subject of bowhunting fitness, it is an honor to interview two guys who are well versed in what it takes to stay in peak physical shape both on stage and in the stand. These two gentlemen have a reputation for not only being dedicated fitness fanatics but passionate bowhunters as well. Known for being dedicated to a lifestyle where being at your best is not an option, Brandon Hammonds of FMP Bowcast and Davie Ferraro of I Hunt Strong are a reliable source of knowledge that can benefit all of us. Hats off to both of them for sharing these bowhunting fitness tips for the beginner to advanced bowhunter who wants to take fitness to a whole new level.
 
bowhunting fitness
 
365: Brandon and Davie, welcome!

 
Davie: Thanks Randy, it’s an honor to be a part of this interview with both you and Brandon. You are absolutely correct, when it comes to hunting, in particular bowhunting, there is no such thing as an off season. Bowhunting and fitness are both correlated in regards that they require a lifelong dedication and discipline.
 
Brandon: Thank you, Randy! For years I have seen huge benefits to off-season fitness training and I am very happy to share any info that will benefit this new breed of bowhunters.

 
365: Let’s share a little background with our readers. Brandon, let’s start with you. You are a gym owner, a former bodybuilding competitor, blogger and contributor to the FMP Bowcast podcast. Tell our fellow bowhunters what inspired you to get into bowhunting.
 
Bowhunting Fitness Tips
 
Brandon: Being a kid growing up in Michigan, odds are someone in your family hunts. It really started from there. One day some 25-years ago we rented some VHS tapes at the local video store. At the time it was some of the first guys who filmed bowhunts. Guys like Ben Lee, the Wensel Brothers, Bob Folkrod and the very first tapes of Realtree before it was Monster Bucks.

That was all it took and I was hooked! I am sure it was like reading Hemingway’s hunts to some people but that’s the kind of connection it made with me. Those old school tapes of bowhunting just burned into my mind and soul and that really started it all. I’ve never stopped. It took four years of bowhunting to shoot my first whitetail at the age of 16. I remember even then, in the off-season just dreaming of the October skies, chilled mornings, sights and sounds; I couldn’t wait until October rolled around again.
 
365: That’s an awesome story, Brandon. No doubt our readers will identify with it. Tell us a little about FMP Bowcast.
 
Brandon: FMP Bowcast is a semi weekly podcast that you can find at fmpbowcast.com. The show is really for the new school archer. It’s an interviewing platform that has guests in the hunting and archery industry sharing tips of the trade that will improve your overall shooting experience.
 
365: Davie, as the founder of I Hunt Strong, blogger and fitness competitor you have an incredible following as an athlete and an avid bowhunter. Tell us about that moment of epiphany when you decided you wanted to bowhunt.
 
Davie: Since I was a little boy, at the age of 3 or so, my dad had me in the woods teaching me how to hunt: learning the signs of game, vegetation, deer activity, how to be quiet, etc. I have always been fascinated by the sport and every year for both my birthday and Christmas, all I ever wanted was hunting gear. I had harvested many deer prior to ever bow hunting. In Florida, bow season is the first to open up and runs for about a month before muzzleloader and gun season. So bowhunting was just another way for me to get out in the woods and hunt earlier and extending my deer season by a month.

Back when I was a junior at The University of Florida, I had the opportunity to hunt a 5 acre track in Bronson, FL. My dad had an old Fred Bear Whitetail Hunter compound bow he let me borrow. With just one week prior to the opening of bow season, I was out on the property scouting finding trails, rubs, and scrapes in high hopes of arrowing a deer. I found a couple of places to put my climber, trimmed some shooting lanes, and made note of certain land marks as my yardage markers. This was going to be my very first time ever bowhunting.

As with any season opener, my night of sleep was very restless due to excitement. I left my apartment and was set in my stand well before daylight. At about 8 o’clock am, I watched a doe slowly meander grazing on fallen acorns towards my stand. As she made it to my 25-yard marker, I slowly drew back the Fred Bear and with my adrenaline racing through my body like I had a case of buck fever, I shot and sure enough, missed. From then on, I was hooked. The challenge was on and I had fallen in love with the sport of bowhunting.

When I graduated from UF, I took some of the money I received from friends and family and bought a Mathews Outback. In my eyes, it was a gift that always gives back in more than one way and to this very day, I still think that same way.
 
365: Those are some great memories! That Fred Bear Whitetail Hunter has influenced a lot of guys our age. Tell us how bowhunting impacted your decision to start I Hunt Strong.
 
Davie: Right out of college, I went to work for a big developer in the Tampa Bay area selling properties and after 3 years of success and a busy schedule, I realized I was missing something: time with family, friends, and hunting. So, I decided to leave and follow one of my true passions, fitness.

By this time, I was already involved in fitness and was a top competitive athlete, but I wanted to help others achieve a transformation for themselves. With great success, I was looking to take it a step further. I was still missing that one true passion, my passion for the sport of hunting. I remember thinking to myself, “How can I get into the hunting industry”?

As I marinated on that idea, I simply thought, “The more fit you are, the more opportunities you will have at success when hunting.” In particular, bowhunting is tough and without a doubt, extremely humbling too. We as bow-hunters are trying to predict the unpredictable and expect the unexpected on an animal for which we have no control of. And the last piece of arsenal you want to fail on you is your body. And that’s where I combined both fitness and hunting to form Hunt Strong, LLC.
 
365: As you both know, I survived a horrific explosion several years ago. I was not expected to live and had a long journey to recovery. My passion for bowhunting and fitness are directly related to that incident. It was through lots of prayer, bowhunting and regular exercise that I got on the path to mental and emotional healing. Because of my own journey, I have a lot of empathy for the guy who is standing on the sidelines saying, how and where do I begin? Brandon, lets start with you. What words of wisdom do you have for the guy or gal that wants to know how to get in peak physical shape?
 
Brandon: Change the “I can’t” to “I can.” Sadly, fear is what limits our mental approach to making changes for the positive.

Being in peak physical shape does not happen overnight. So don’t let that fear of not seeing immediate results get in your head. It took years to get out of shape for most and the same goes the other way. It takes time to better yourself and your shape. Once people understand that, they can change themselves for a lasting and healthy lifestyle!
 
365: Davie, how would you encourage someone to take those first steps in getting fit?
 
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Davie: This is where I experience the most challenging part on my side. If it were up to me, everyone would be active and fit for not just the hunt, but for life, so we can be around for decades to come growing the sport of bowhunting. All I can do is motivate someone to take those first steps to be fit, but it’s entirely up to the person to start. Like I always say, “desire is the starting point of all achievement”. A person has to make a decision in their mind and the body will follow. I want the best for everyone and for everyone to enjoy a quality of life. Just Do IT! Start, which is the biggest step. It doesn’t have to be in a gym, you can do it at home. Get active; it’s as simple as that. Look at the positive and avoid all negativity. Do it for your family and friends, they want you around for long time. Do it for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren so that one day you can introduce them into the sport of hunting.
 
365: Having repeatedly heard the excuse of, “I don’t have time to spend three hours a day in the gym.” Let’s talk about how much exercise is enough to make a difference. What do you guys advise your clients when it comes to setting goals and seeing results?
 
Davie: Quality over quantity! More people often think that more is better, but better is better. The ideal workout is less than one hour. That’s just 4% of your day at most. You want to avoid overtraining at all costs due to the catabolic effects it has on your body. I often tell my clients, “It’s better to make time in your schedule for exercise now than to be forced out of your schedule by an illness later.” And you are never too old to start exercising.

Make sure your goals are realistic and attainable. When it comes to results, don’t get too carried away on scale weight. Often times, weighing everyday can discourage people and they give up. Rather, focus on body composition (Lean muscle mass/Body fat percentage). In the first few months of training, you are going to put on some lean muscle mass, which weighs more than body fat. So if you have only lost 10 lbs. on the scale, you may have gained 4 lbs. of muscle and lost 14 lbs. of body fat. How will you know this? By getting a body composition done monthly. The best way to tell is how your clothes fit and how you feel. Remember, we are not looking for quick fixes, it’s about lifestyle changes. Hang in there and keep battling. Every day is a new day.
 
Brandon: That is something I hear weekly and with the 24hr gyms around now, home workouts and YouTube, it’s just a sad excuse. Of course, depending on goals, but I’ve seen huge changes in many clients with 30min 3-4 times a week. Myself, I am done daily with everything in about the 1 hr mark.
 
365: As someone said, “The longest journey begins with a single step.” Would you both agree that consistently taking that one step forward is what keeps you going in the right direction and progressing toward your goals.
 
Brandon: That is so true, the first step is always the biggest and hardest to make! After that making small steps or as I tell my clients “small victories” towards that goal will always keep you motivated and moving forward!
 
Davie: Being consistent is a must. Trust me, there are days when I don’t feel like going to the gym, but I go. Sometimes just getting there is half the battle. You don’t want to fall into a rut and lose what you have worked hard for. As legendary fitness guru Jack Lelane said “Make yourself sweat everyday”. Being fit is a journey in itself; endure it, because I hope you are in it for the long haul. It’s like climbing a mountain, don’t focus at the top, focus on where you are climbing and before you know it, you will be at the top looking for more opportunities. Take one day out of the week and rest, your body needs time to recover and grow. If you want to shoot your bow on your day of rest, I highly recommend it.
 
365: Lets talk nutrition. Obviously, healthy food consumption plays a big role in fitness. Give us some key elements in understanding proper nutrition.
 
Davie: Nutrition is 80% of your results. What you eat today determines who you will be and what you will accomplish tomorrow. In other words, optimal results come from optimal eating. I find myself telling my clients along with others, “You can’t outwork a bad diet!” I believe in wholesomeness (one ingredient foods)! A sweet potato is a sweet potato, blueberries are blueberries, and venison is venison. There is no ingredient list to go along with it.

Eat every 4 hours. It’s all about increasing metabolism, so key in on smaller more frequent meals. When it comes to protein, keep it lean and try to eat as much wild game as possible. The best thing about wild game you harvested is you are the only person that has touched that meat from field to table. There are no preservatives or hormones. If you run out of wild game, eat free range or grass fed animals. Stay true to The Hunt Strong Lifecycle: Train hard, Hunt Strong, Eat Wild, & repeat!
 
Brandon: I am big believer in eating quality meals 5-6 times a day. The more often you eat, the more you will burn — it’s that simple. Understanding the right foods for this is of utmost importance. Such as eating at least 1-2 servings a day of greens or colored veggies with quality protein will keep you lean!
 
365: Would you both agree that setting a daily goal of eating 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight and 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight is a good place to start with diet change.
 
Brandon: On point Randy, good job. That is pretty close to what I advise and it’s a great game plan for anyone from beginners to the advance. All of us that are outdoors men and woman should take all the advantage from the wild game we harvest it’s loaded with protein. Venison is a staple for meals for myself.
 
Davie: When it comes to consuming protein, I don’t believe there is a magic number. But I do believe that consumption doesn’t always equal absorption. If I went and ate 75 grams of protein in a meal, there is no way my body can absorb all that. I like to keep it simple. For men, per meal, eat 30 to 45 grams of lean protein (3/4 in. thick the size of your palm) and for females, eat 20 to 35 grams of lean protein (1/2 in. thick size of palm) per meal. Don’t get too caught up in measuring everything, just make good choices.

When consuming carbs, stick to complex carbs over sugary carbs. Some examples of complex carbs consist of oatmeal, potatoes, pastas, rice, couscous, etc. These are carbs that contain a very minimal amount of sugar. Sugary carbs are high in simple sugars. Examples of sugary carbs are fruits, juices, ice cream, etc. The only sugary carbs you should eat are fruits, with berries being the best.

Eat your veggies! Eat as many vegetables as you would like. Find new ways to cook them and flavor them. The more rich in color, the more antioxidants you consume.
 
365: Lets move on to supplements. What advice do you have on protein shakes, pre and post-workout drinks, ZMA, glutamine and so forth.
 
Davie: Supplements are a rapidly growing industry bursting at the seams with impure and inferior products smartly marketed. Don’t get too caught up in the mix. I only take and recommend a high quality whey protein and glutamine after my workouts to help build lean muscle mass and recover. If it is sweetened, be cautious of the carbohydrate content. I do however recommend taking a multivitamin and ZMA’s (zinc, magnesium, & vitamin B6) at night prior to going to bed. ZMA‘s are designed to maximize absorption and promote recovery from exercise.
 
Brandon: I like to keep diet and supplements simple as I can. But every guy/gal needs a multivitamin. I also prefer to use a powder form of Amino Acids and whey protein daily. ZMA is great, I take it every night!
 
bowhunting fitness interview
 
365: That’s some great information. Let’s switch to exercises. As far as exercises for Bowhunting, what overall exercises do you feel are best for preparing the bowhunter.
 
Brandon: Gym or no gym we can do a few items that will improve our bowhunting season.

Exercise legs at least at a basic level. We all can do body weight squats. I would train to be able to do 4 sets of 25 reps of your body weight. Can’t do 25 then do what you can until you hit that goal. This will make all long hikes and treestand climbs easy.

Train your core with the basic plank, front and both right and left sides. Just repeating a few sets of 30-45 seconds will pay off huge in the fall, when lifting and settings new stands and all the twisting when climbing we do.

Last thing is your rear delts. A simple way to achieve this motion is two dumbbells/bands left and right hand, sit on a chair or bench and keep you back straight. Lean your chest to your knees and with both hands fly the dumbbells up to or even with your shoulders/back and down at a controlled speed. 4 sets of 15 will make pulling that 70 lb string in cold weather feel like is not even there.
 
Davie: Progressive resistance training is your most effective tool for preparing for the hunt. It needs to be often repeated but never duplicated. Regardless of the sport, all athletes need to be built from the ground up since most of the movements are generated from your legs, and hunter athletes are no exception. I can’t tell you how vitally important this is. Performing squats, lunges, leg extensions, leg curls, hip adduction & abduction, and calf raises can and will prepare you for the hunt. If you can, vary the exercises as much as possible. For example, when doing lunges, perform walking lunges, side lunges and lunges in place. Start off just using your body weight and then progressively add weights. I recommend training legs twice a week.

Value your core, for your core is everything. Without a strong core, you are setting yourself up for failure or possibly an injury. More than 80% of the general population have or will experience back problems and this is more than likely due to a lack of core strength. Performing abdominal exercises like sit ups, planks, leg lifts, or using the ab wheel are great ways to strengthen your abs. You never know what position you may have to get into in order to make a shot count and a strong core will make it much easier.

No doubt, upper body strength makes the difference in bow hunting. Try to look at weight lifting from a 3 dimensional standpoint. Performing as many exercises utilizing different angles but still working the same muscle is key. Do this for all upper body exercises as well as lower body. For example; performing bench press with barbells and dumbbells in the flat, decline, and incline position.

Make sure you learn the proper technique and form when you are performing your exercises. Don’t get carried away with the amount of weight you can lift. If there is a doubt you can’t perform more than 6 reps properly, reduce the weight. If you don’t, injury will eventually occur and keep you from obtaining your goals. Also, from a hunting standpoint, learn how to control your body and you can do this by exercising in a slow and controlled manner. Isometric exercising: pausing during a movement while engaging the muscle being worked should be done on a regular basis.
 
365: Let’s talk about the benefits of cardio. Most guys would rather do strength training than cardio, give us some overall reasons why cardio must be included in the exercise regimen of a bowhunter.
 
Brandon: That is very true. Cardio plays a key role in our overall health including heart health. Also a key role in helping us keep human odor down as well. The better cardio shape we are in the less we are huffing hard, breathing hard, sweating hard and the best part that all works together to cut down human odor.
 
Davie: Benefits of cardio: Some individuals turn their head when they hear the word cardio while others, are all about it. But the bottom line, cardiovascular training should be regimented into your fitness plan. Your heart is a muscle and in order to become stronger it needs to be worked. Getting your heart pumping at an accelerated rate on a regular basis is a must. You don’t want to be out of breath performing what should be a simple task such as climbing a tree stand. When you perform cardio, you are increasing the muscles of the diaphragm which are extremely important, especially, if you are hunting in high elevation with thin air and it’s harder to breathe. Remember, the most important product you can ever rely on is your body. Hunt Strong! Performing cardio 3 to 5 times a week will also help increase your metabolism making your body more in tune and effective. Cardio also helps in releasing muscle soreness from a previous weight training workout.

How to start? For beginners, start off just getting your body moving and build up a sweat by walking or riding a bike. As you become more cardio fit, increase the intensity and add in some interval training by walking for 4 minutes at a fast pace followed by a jog or a sprint for a minute. Learn to push your limits and focus in on your breathing. Before you know it, you will be running the whole time or climbing stairs.
 
365: Thank you both for taking the time to provide our readers with some very valuable information pertaining to bowhunting fitness. Hopefully this will inspire someone to take that first step to get in the best shape of their life. Trust you both have a safe and successful hunting season. Thank you again!

For more bowhunting and fitness tips, visit Ihuntstrong.com and fmpbowcast.com

About the author

Christ follower, husband, father and founder of 365 Whitetail. Randy is the former Online Editorial Director for Petersen's Bowhunting, Petersen's Hunting, North American Whitetailand Bowhunter Magazine. His passions include fly fishing, photography and exploring wild places.

View all articles by Randy Hynes