by Terry Wieland
In most midwestern states, pheasant season will open in about eight weeks (mid-October), which leaves a decent amount of time to do something about the legs that will be carrying you over plowed fields, under, through, and over barbwire fences, and forcing their way through shoulder-high CRP grass.
Pheasant hunting is not the most physically demanding of the shooting sports, at least not on the surface. But it does force you to do a few things most of us are unaccustomed to in our everyday lives.
Where I used to hunt pheasants every year in South Dakota, plowing through thick, heavy CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) grass occurred every day, and it wasn’t for just a few feet. Often, we’d walk a field end to end—300 to 400 yards with the grass impeding every step.
Barbwire fences were all too common. Some you could step over by holding the top wire down; others, we had to separate top and middle wires and step through, bent over; still others, it meant laying down the gun, then getting belly down on the ground and squirming under, a variation on the old infantry leopard crawl.
When unfamiliar demands are made on unsuspecting leg muscles, all kinds of unpleasantness can ensue. One night in South Dakota, I was jerked awake by severe cramps in both legs at once and could hardly get out of bed to stretch them out. You would think that, being a lifelong runner, my legs would be good for this but, as I say, it’s unfamiliarity that gets them.
I asked my friend Jeremy Koerber, a physical training instructor who specializes in fitness for hunting, what exercises he would recommend in advance of a pheasant hunting expedition.
The first recommendation was what he called a “split squat,” and what I know as a lunge.
“Step forward with your right foot and back with your left. The back foot should be up on your tip toes. Slowly lower the left knee to the ground. When you do this, you will create a 90-degree angle with your front and back leg. Continue lowering until the front thigh is parallel to the ground, then return to the start position.