Sunday, April 28, 2019

Fit For A King.

     Ruffed grouse are a tough bird, living in tough conditions and tough habitat. No doubt hunting them is tough, too. Truth be told, it's the fact that the Ruffed Grouse is a) excluding Woodcock, the only wild upland bird in New England, and b) tough to hunt, my main attraction to hunting them. This means one would be wise to get themselves and their dogs in shape prior to the opening day of the season.

     Fitness is an area where I have fallen by the wayside. Not too long ago I actively kept my self in shape to the point where even at 50 years old, a couple of weekends each spring and fall I made my way on to the rugby pitch for a bit of a throw down. But the last couple of years I haven't made any effort to be/stay fit, nor get back in shape. A few years ago I suffered a wrist injury, and after a year of not working, a surgery which left me with a partially fused wrist, and months of physical therapy, I finally had a wrist that was good enough for me to go back to work. This doesn't mean I was without my troubles. I lost a lot of mobility and strength in my wrist. 

Even as an old-boy I could leave a trail of destruction. Will it happen again?

     My lack of mobility left me unable to correctly hold and mount a shotgun. To get past this issue I installed a soft rubber palm swell on all my pistol grip stocked shotguns, which allow me to get the gun in to my shoulder correctly while filling the void between my palm and the stock caused by the lack of wrist mobility. Straight stocked guns, being shaped somewhat differently require the use of a Gripswell glove. Anyway, my wrist issues have been floating around in the back of my head for some time, and I've been scared to get in the gym, or out on a bike in fear of aggravating my wrist. Time to put that behind me and start getting back at it again.

     There are two kinds of outdoor grouse related exercise; exercise for man, and exercise for dog. The two do not really go hand in hand very well in many cases. This year I have decided to make a serious effort to increase my fitness level in a few different ways. Let's look at what I plan to do and why.

  • Hiking- I live very close to the Blue Hills Reservation in Massachusetts. This reservation has hundreds of miles of trails, some quite challenging, I can hike. I enjoy hiking, and think the endurance aspect of a long, tough hike on a regular basis will be beneficial when grouse season opens. In addition, I can bring the dogs along. While the dogs will certainly enjoy the hike, it is not very strenuous for them, and wouldn't be my first pick for getting them ready for the season.

  • Mountain Biking- This is my plan to get more serious cardio going. Mountain biking is fun, and a few good hill climbs is a great way to increase the heart rate. This, too, can include the dogs, but one would need to select the right location and, understand the limits of their dogs. In the past I routinely roaded Ginger from a mountain bike to get her in top shape. We had two different routes we could take, a 4 mile course, or a 5 mile course. Both courses were relatively flat, and offered numerous places along the way where she could get a drink of water, or cool off with a quick dip. Roading Ginger, however, was not an activity where I got lots of exercise. A 4 or 5 mile run for a Springer is a decent run for the dog, but not anywhere nearly enough cycling for a human to get a good workout. Sure, I got some benefit from it, but as a stand alone, it isn't enough, so there will be two different types of mountain biking happening; for me, and for them. No doubt a bigger, leggy pointing dog could run more than 4-5 miles, getting both of you a workout. Depending on the breed of dog you hunt with, mountain biking may be the thing.

  • Yoga- Well, not really, but I may give it a try sometime soon. I have, however, begun a comprehensive stretching routine. Stretching helps keep the blood flowing, and I just feel better when I do it. Truth is, I am not very limber, so this stretching came out of necessity, but as I see and feel progress, I really do feel better. I can't help but think being more limber will help to swing a shotgun better, too. Shoot better? Hmmm,....Maybe I will give yoga a try. 

      Hopefully this plan will pay off when grouse season opens, and I find myself following various spaniels across the New England uplands. In the past I used Apps like Runkeeper and Strava to track my workouts. I may start doing that again, and posting my workouts on the ASO Facebook page to keep myself accountable. Who knows? Maybe I'll even find my way on to a rugby pitch again.


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