One of the requirements of a successful, enjoyable sheep hunt, or any Alaska hunting trip, is that the hunter be in ‘packin’ shape.’ It’s great to be able to climb all day in the sheep mountains, but being able to carry a loaded pack comfortably is equally important. Sheep hunters typically have a difficult pack in to their hunting area with a moderately heavy pack, then (hopefully) a heavy to very heavy pack out with all their gear plus a ram. The more we are accustomed to packin’ heavy loads, the lighter they seem. Every day of a sheep hunt is more enjoyable with this type of conditioning behind us. Don’t wait until the hunt to get into ‘packin shape.’
Today I put in one of my many installments to getting there myself. My partner, I, and my dog traveled between the Matanuska Trail system and the Crevasse Moraine trails with moderate loads. Even my young Labrador tried out his dog pack, but it was empty as this was his first time ‘packin.’ Fifty pounds was enough for the last day of April for us. In my younger days I would be toting 50-100% more than that by now, but I was satisfied with the lighter load today. I don’t expect to make a single trip out with a sheep and all my gear any more. I used to be more anxious to get out and could handle the 100lb. plus loads that entailed. Now, I plan on two trips, or split the extra weight of one ram with a partner. Eighty or ninety pounds is the limit I’m willing to put on my ‘experienced’ hips and knees, because I’m focusing on using them for a few more decades. Strength took a back seat to longevity at about my five-decade mark.
It was a great day to be out. More and more wildlife is active now – ducks, geese swans, grouse, hawks, and squirrels were all encountered on our three-hour jaunt. Watching for the animals (and looking for morel mushrooms) distracted us from the muscle, joint, and foot discomfort from the extra weight. My feet even got sore, so after the hike I laid down and elevated them for 20 minutes or so to drain the swelling and, thus, the pain. That’s a great trick to use in the field as well; it has always worked for me. A ‘packin’ session once every week or two over four months is all it takes me now to get back to where I need to be for sheep hunting. In between, I’ll schedule cardio sessions to keep working on my aerobic ability so necessary for a sheep hunt. The two workouts compliment each other – together they are the basis of getting ready for sheep hunting in Alaska.