How to Prepare for an Elk Hunt at High Elevation

Elk hunters on horseback in Rocky Mountains

Samuelson Outfitters offers guided elk hunts in Colorado. Keep in mind that elk can be found “way up high in the mountains.” That means hunters need to be prepared to hike to elevations they don’t normally deal with on a daily basis, and the “air up there” can be thinner, making it harder to breathe.

So what can hunters do to prepare for high-elevation elk hunts? Ideally, they should prepare 3 to 6 months ahead of time by working out to be ready for the physical challenges. It’s kind of like preparing to run a marathon!


First, speak with your doctor and tell him or her about your plans. Then ask what’s appropriate for you workout-wise. The biggest challenge you’ll face is the altitude. On the first day, you might be fine but by the third or fourth you might be exhausted. You want to prepare yourself so you’re not too exhausted when hunting in the mountains.

Next, consider high intensity interval training at a gym. This involves fast, steep climbing exercises followed by rest periods. For instance, you can use a treadmill and/or stairmaster on an incline. Don’t make it too easy! You’ll want to increase the incline over the course of a 30 minute workout, and don’t hold onto grab bars or lean back. You want to work your hamstrings and glutes hard. Keep in mind that elk are often killed on 20-40 degree slopes.


Thirdly, if you have hills or mountains near where you live, go hiking before you end up in Colorado hunting elk. Add some weight– a packed backpack is a good idea. Do a 30 minute hike one day and work your way up to an hour the next time. You might try hiking off trail, too. When hunting elk, you don’t usually stick to the beaten trail.

Cardiovascular workouts three times a week will help your body prepare for an elk hunt in the mountains. Maybe listen to music to keep yourself going or join a group fitness class. You should also do some strength workouts focusing on your core muscles. Ask a gym trainer to show you how to work with a stability ball (doing ball squats against a wall) as well as hamstring curls, back extensions, pushups and planks. You might also workout with kettlebells.

It’s important to train your body to be ready for the challenges that come with hunting elk at higher elevations.