Mark D’Ambrosio, long-range shooting instructor at Branded Rock Canyon and former sniper in the Marine corps, provides his extensive LRS resume to help us understand what it really means when it comes to hunting. Mark shares his own journey and experiences coming into the hunting world, imparting lessons and advice that can make your next hunting successful. In particular, he speaks about the various requirements to be an effective LRS – from your gun set-up to your skills. He also talks about the ethical side of hunting, putting forward the humility required to assess whether you will only injure an animal or take them down in one hit.
Listen to the podcast here:
Fit 4 The Hunt – DIY Les Welch
We’re crossing fitness and hunting and trying to get everybody fit for their hunt, hence Fit 4 The Hunt. As a personal trainer, it’s coordinating workouts more specifically for people who are looking to be out in the mountains or maybe it’s even just learning how to be better equipped for sitting in a tree stand all day in Wisconsin or the Midwest or out East or whatever it is. Basically, trying to get everybody in a little bit better shape for being ready for the mountains and hunting in general.
How did you find out about these guys?
There are different competition venues. Fit 4 The Hunt is associated with the Alpha Challenge, which is out of Colorado, and there are other ones as well. Basically, it’s us folks who are like-minded, who really like to work out and love to hunt and always striving to be a little bit better. You just eventually cross paths with them and these competitions started popping up and competing with different people and even more importantly after the competition and prior to the competition, during the competition, just be with like-minded folks. I actually met Brian Horton in the Denver ISE, which is the first time I met him a couple of shows ago. It’s been in the works for almost a year of me pulling this affiliate in here in the Midwest. My area is Wisconsin, but I’ll work with Minnesota. I work with online clients literally all over the United States. It’s handy that way. It’s finally coming together. It was launched on a Facebook Live event there that you did and we’re getting ready for the mountains. We’ll have some fun and get after what we do the best we can.
You’ve always been into fitness and keeping yourself mentally and physically strong. Share my audience in the Midwest that all they do is walk less than a quarter mile to a tree stand, to a box blind. Basically, they’re sitting there all day. The most exertion they have is either putting up the standard, taking the stand down or hauling out here. Why do we need to be fit?
Fit in my opinion is going to add years on to what we love to do. Being in better shape, a better condition is going to allow you to hunt longer as far as the years of your life. In Wisconsin, we’re allowed to actually break down our animals; we don’t have to drag them out anymore. That’s a nice plus. You’re throwing a whitetail in your pack with all your gear. You’ve got 60 pounds, 70 pounds if you’re taking a cape and a rack, maybe 80 pounds in your backpack. It’s nice to be ready for that. If you want to do old school and drag that into your own, it’s not exactly fun especially when you’re dragging that on the ground here. Where most people will fail to a degree is being mentally ready. Can you go sit in that stand October 31st through November 10th all day when you just don’t know when that buck is going to cruise through? I wouldn’t miss it personally. Like you said, “Cut your blinds in and out.” All of it plays hand in hand.Your physical and mental strength is proportionate to your success. Click To Tweet
The more physically or mentally stronger you are, I guarantee your success will be a higher portion of it. Western elk hunting is 10% of hunter skill, 90% of the elk. The success ratio out there give or take is a very high percentage of 20%, and that’s very seldom anywhere. If you think about that, if you have people who are repeatedly killing animals, that really is true. I know I don’t want to spend the time and the money, even if it’s in Wisconsin, I don’t want to be spending that time. I’ll take that bow if I only have the opportunity with that an animal 10% of the time I go out. It’s not about the harvest either, it’s about the experience and everything else. Being prepared for it is a no brainer in my opinion.
I’ve talked about this a lot. Elks are only found in 10% of their habitat, be that 10,000 acres, 100,000 acres, it doesn’t really matter. With elk hunting, you have to find the elk. There are a lot of ways to do this. Check out Corey Jacobsen, who’s got a great course on all that. Corey knows a lot about that. Elk hunting, if you’re in shape, I think anybody can get on elk, but you have to be mentally tough and physically tough. I still hunt to this day over 10,000 feet. That’s where I hunt elk and it kicks your butt. It’s hard and I go slow, I don’t go fast anymore but it actually helps my hunting and I glass a lot more. Once I pattern the elk and it is patternable just like whitetails. If you’re able to do that without a lot of pressure, then you’re going to be able to turn into one of those ten-percenters. That’s my two cents about elk hunting.
I think the same goes for whitetail too. I really think there are two main groups of whitetail hunters or possibly three. We won’t get into baiting, not baiting public or private. Personally, I don’t bait and I don’t hunt private land. 99% of the animals that I hunt are on public lands that you and all my neighbors and everybody else in the state and the country can go hunt. I don’t always need to be able to go further than them or go faster than them but being mobile. I probably said this on your last podcast, Garrett Roe has the perfect move. Be mobile and stay mobile. That’s my philosophy if I’m whitetail hunting, turkey hunting, deer hunting, antelope hunting, even mule deer hunting. We’re going to sit behind glass for hours on end, but if there’s nothing in those basins I’m going to the next basin over. It’s the same here for Wisconsin. I know guys are going to have two stands. A good friend of mine who I met at one of these hunting competitions, we’re just talking about this. He’s got two stands and he primarily bases his fall on for whitetails in Wisconsin.
When he told me that, it blew my mind. I’ve got a dozen stands sitting out in the garage, but I’ve only ever got one elk maybe or I’ve got two or three in my truck. Mature bucks leave whitetail sign. They leave big scrapes and they leave big rubs. I’m not talking early season in September because I’m out West hunting elk. I’m talking mid, late October and all of November. I’ve got the crispies and they’re on the ground and they’re working. They’re looking for scrapes and rubs and I hang and hunt. At dark, I’m down with my stand, my sticks, whatever it is comes with me and I might have another spot in mind, even if it’s rough. If I don’t have what I’m searching for, I’m off. I might put four, five miles on in between hunts during the day looking for what I’m looking for.
Granted I’ve got areas I hunt, I’ve got 20 or 30 areas in my mind that I’ve hunted previously, I’ve scouted previously in the spring like shed antlers. As soon as the snow melts, you can look for those scrapes and those rubs from a prior year. I’m not looking for a specific deer. I don’t really get into the hunting of specific deer because I’m hunting public land and I don’t know if that deer got killed by the neighbor four miles over during rifle season or not. I’m looking for a sign and I know that bucks have core areas that are very common like a walleye or a largemouth bass. When that bass gets caught on an area, another bass is going to move in. Whitetails are the same exact way.
Where I find a perennial sign for whitetails, it’s going to be there year after year. It might fluctuate up and down a little bit; a little better, a little worse. I’m constantly moving, constantly looking at those areas. That’s where I think the training, being able to mentally say, “I shouldn’t be hunting but knowing that I don’t have it here, I’m going to go put on three, four miles quick.” I’ve got the legs to do it. I’ve got the mental capacity to know that I should be doing something else. It all works together. It’s a perfect example of mentally being ready. It’s not always a physical ready either.
Dan Infalt was on the show. He’s well-known in Wisconsin for killing small bucks. He hunts for our tree. I Google Earth. I showed where Bullwinkle lives in Wisconsin and my buddy missed him. He shot over his back with traditional archery. It’s 27 inches wide, it’s just the pig of a public land buck. He lives in the swamp. I left Dan Infalt. He shot over him and I said, “I know where he is, I know where he lives.” I showed him my buddy and he said, “What are all those trails?” I said, “Those are deer trails. They’d been there forever. They’ll continue to be there forever because it’s a swamp and that’s the way it is.”
Those deer trails are like caribou trails up in Canada. Caribou trails are for hundreds of years. These deer trails are here for hundreds of years because that’s where they live. That’s where they feed and they’re creatures of habit. Nobody’s going to go in and get them out of the cattails. As soon as you step into the cattails, they know and they’re out of there. You can see patterns, you can see hubs, you can see the whole thing. Dan Infalt hunts for trees. Once he finds the right tree, he told me he’s got trees he won’t hunt anymore because he’s killed so many deer out and the challenge is gone. That’s a killing tree.
If you ever saw Dan Infalt’s deer on the side of his barn, you’ll go, “My goodness.” He’d kill some deer and a lot of guys have killed as many deer as Dan, but Dan’s got it down to the science hunting swamp bucks. Just like Les said, he looks for the core areas, he looks for the perennial sign. I’d love that word that you said, perennial sign, because that’s year-after-year. A big buck will take over another big buck’s area if he leaves that area, if he vacates it. Like a bass, a big trout, I fly fish for trout and I know the whole water. If I take a 24-inch trout, a big brown out of there out of a stream, within days there will be another trout in there. That trout will stay there until a bigger trout comes along and kicks him out. That’s just the way it works. Folks, read on because this is some of the keys that will put you on some of the biggest bucks of your life. Your thoughts, Les?
I know the audience can’t see everything here. On these bucks, five of these have come from in a core area of about 300 yards circle. It’s a hub exactly, a big swamp, an edge and a slash and just the sign moose from year to year. This is a big elk huntery. We have hardly any deer left. We have more wolves than deer and that’s literal. I know if I go there, there’s going to be some sign. It might be off a little bit here or there, however they’re using that edge. It’s exactly right about the perennial sign. In my opinion, big bucks will make little sign. They’ll make a little scrape. I’ve got one on film, a mature buck in Kansas making a scrape that is big, but he did that with one paw and kept going. I’ve never seen a spike make a rub on an eight-inch tree. When you start seeing a big sign, that’s what I look for. If there’s a big sign that’s fresh, I hunt it because I know a little buck is not making a big sign.Big bucks will make a little sign, but a little buck will not make a big sign. Click To Tweet
What about horizontal rubs? That popped out on my radar for the first time. I’ve been around, I googled it. People have been talking about it for a long time. Where Bullwinkle lives, there’s a horizontal rub, and my friend told me that he’s only seen Bullwinkle rubbing on that. He hasn’t seen any other deer. True, not true, what are your thoughts?
The horizontal rub, we’re seeing a lot that’s being publicized a lot more with Dan. The guys on The Hunting Public is using that quite a bit. Myself, I’ve never done it. I like the thoughts of it. I was just watching an episode with it and it really does intrigue me. My issue with it for me is I’m not stationary enough to do that. I don’t usually hunt one stand more than one or two times, but maybe this will be that thing that slows me down a little bit. Maybe I put a couple because I’ve got a couple of places in mind where I think that would really work. I throw the camera up over. It’s something I need to learn. It definitely has its merit and I need to understand that a little bit better. You’re talking about Dan and the THP guys, they’re using it with really good success. It’s intriguing.
They’re building their own horizontal rubs. I’m talking about the natural ones. I’m telling people, just hang a camera on it and you may see the biggest buck in the area but a horizontal rub, that’s natural.
I’ve got pictures of them. Almost every year I find them out west. The elk uses them like crazy. Every year you’ll find them. The first one I saw, I’m looking at it instead of looking up and down, you’re looking left and right. He’s got a rub of ten feet, it’s really neat. On average, I’d say I find one or two like that, it’s neat. The concept is there. I haven’t explored it like I need to yet.
I don’t know all the rationale between mature bucks doing it versus juveniles or younger age class bucks, but it’s intriguing. Bill Winke been talking about it. Realtree, Josh Honeycutt, really smart people, Tom Miranda. If you go to YouTube, you can see how to do it, where to do it, why to do it. It’s just something that’s popped up on my radar screen from a buddy of mine in Missouri City. For the first time he saw a living tree that was horizontal that grew that way and rubbed the crap and he killed a big buck. He killed a Booner off it.
Definitely, it needs some exploring.
Let’s talk about your 2018 season and how that all came together, you had multiple trips. Let’s start off trip one and work through where you are now.
I’ve been to Canada. I went Canada bear hunting in the spring with some buddies. We had good hunt shots, some bears up there, quite a lot of walleyes. We ate a lot of walleyes, that was pretty awesome and talked a lot. We were up there in Ontario’s Cygnet Lake Outfitters, that was really good. Then I did IRONMAN Wisconsin here. We had a bunch of turkey hunts too. We filmed some turkeys. It was a little rougher year for turkeys. I’m getting a little more particular to and how and where we hunt. We did shoot some turkeys and got some on film. It was the IRONMAN Wisconsin here in September. From there I came home and finished IRONMAN at 9:00 PM, 10:00 PM, got to the hotel, drove back home from Madison to Chippewa Falls. It was a gear bomb in my living room. I unloaded triathlon gear in my kitchen made of triathlon Gearbomb out there. Literally loaded this up, took a shower, started for Wyoming and got a couple of miles down the road.
My truck I could hear it wasn’t right. I thought it was a U-Joint, this is in the PM. I called a good friend of mine who owns an auto repair shop here. I said, “Brad, I’m supposed to be on my way to Wyoming. I think I got a U-joint out in the truck. Can we take a look at it?” He had me come over to his house and dropped it out quick. It was a U-joint. We replaced it the next morning. We couldn’t get parts, so he put me on the front of the list. I still owe Brad some elk steaks for this one too by the way. We got the U-joint fixed up. Then I headed to Wyoming solo. My hunting partner, Mike, was already out there and unbeknownst to me, he’d already killed the 326-inch bull the day I was headed out. There was no service out there and he didn’t have inReach. I didn’t actually even know where he would be. I went into my spot. I got there. His truck wasn’t there. I hunted there a few days solo.
These are public land, general tags?
Wyoming is a general tag. 99% of my hunting is public land. I’ve got a spot here in Wisconsin. It’s 40 acres of private land. It’s all open hardwoods. I never killed a good buck on it. I’ve seen a few. Most of my stuff is all public. Everything out West is always public. I’ve never hunted private out there. It’s all DIY, no outfitters. I use the quads for the horsepower and the backs and the shoulders, sometimes a weak mind really gets it done. We got to Wyoming, we spent three days in an area that we had a good buck in 2016. The elk wasn’t there. There were a lot of people. I could’ve stayed and ground it out and probably got into elk, but that’s where the mental part of saying, “I’ve got to go.”
Literally, we had a sheet, I should have brought it out for this because I don’t think people have a good backup plan, much less a third to fourth. We had 36 options down on paper. My hunting buddy is amazing when it comes to maps and planning and thoughts. He’s a land surveyor in Minnesota. We have 36 options down, from one through 36 and just start going down there. We had the roads, the access points, how to get in there. We had them color-coded; red, yellow, orange, what we thought looked hot. This is all virtual scouting. This is not boots on the ground.
The only spot we had boots on the ground is where I originally went to those first three days and I’m going to say dead and I was overrun with people. I pulled it out and I knew Mike was going to be searching through probably those first top five spots, that’s logical. I started heading that direction and whatever order it was, I found his vehicle at the third spot. I think it was on my day four, I pulled in there and was setting camp up when he came walking up from the stream bed about two hours later holding a stringer of fish and a fly rod. I was, “Fly fishing in elk season. That doesn’t add up.” I peeked in his truck just to see, I’m doing this in the window and I didn’t see any horns. I said, “What are you doing fishing during elk season?” He said, “I can’t go elk hunting if you don’t have an elk tag.” Underneath the tarp, he had a beautiful 326-inch six-point bull. It’s all DIY.
Mike is retiring in February. He’s a couple of years older than I am. This is his fifteenth or sixteenth year out there. It’s definitely not his biggest bull, but he’s got one on the ground and we had a good time, good chat about that. It got really difficult after that. The elk was there and they were bugling. We were in elk but only for a day. We ended up coming out on this trip. We normally pack in for seven to ten days, only come back out when we need food. This, we were having to go in three, four miles to hunt. That’s a short enough walk that we’d hunt until dark and then come out. Yes, we don’t get out until 11:00 PM, 12:00 AM, 1:00 AM. Anyways, on my second night there and my first night of hunting, we’d come out. Mike, hunted with me that day. You can just see it wasn’t right. It’s a big camping spot where we were in and it’s all lit up there. There are 20, 30 vehicles and camps there and people are driving out hunting other places, but there are no lights. This is 11:00 at night and we got down there and there were only two rigs left and there are notes on our trucks and our gear’s gone literally.
Some friends we have made in the camp, we just met them. A DNR warden had come in and evacuated the place out. There’s a fire two and a half miles north of us. I don’t remember whatever it was. They evacuated people out. Mike ended up going home then because he didn’t have a tag anyways. When I bumped further north and run into another fire, I evacuated out of there. I came back further south and they had roads closed. I couldn’t get into there. Now, I’m going down that 36 list sheets trying to find spots and bombing in the day hunting in and out. I had some encounters. I actually passed a couple of bulls and had a really nice encounter. I ended up going into another area on the September 19th or 20th. I went to day hunt it, and got into bulls and called the bull in at 11:30 and killed. I had a friend back here, I had a Garmin inReach and it was keeping me posted on the fire situation.
When I got off that night, I got the elk broke down and I brought up back straps, skinners and some scrap, got up to the truck, dumped it at midnight and checked my inReach and I had five messages. I knew something was up when I had that many. I messaged back. A new fire had started and it was less than a mile north of where my elk lay at that time. There were 40 hotspots had jumped up in the last 24 hours. The wind got really bad with 30-miles-an-hour and it was blowing embers in it. There was something 45 or 50 fires within a ten miles circle of me. It became a race. This is where the conditioning turned out nice. I literally slept for about three and a half hours, got packed, got Dennis’s pack and threw that on. I headed in and I made three loads out that day. Eighteen miles of hauling meat that day. I got my elk and I just got out of there. It was getting pretty ugly. I got some great pictures and video footage. There were fires everywhere, smoke, haze, fog. All my gears smelled like fire.
It was an interesting hard hunt, but that’s the mental and physical. I had a lot of miles packing meat in a very short time just coming off of an IRONMAN. I was ready for it but it was good. That was late September. I came back home, I don’t believe I did anything. I hunted here a little bit. I film a hunter on a couple of hunts. I went to Kentucky and did IRONMAN there. It’s the same exact thing. I drove back from Kentucky, dumped my crap and the kitchen. I pulled my crap out of the living room, loaded the truck, went to Minneapolis, picked up a friend and we drove to Idaho and we did our first rifle hunt out west ever as public land. We bought deer tags. Long story short, we planned on buying elk tags, but they sold out the day I killed in Wyoming. By the time I got service, they were out of the Idaho General Tag. I didn’t get an elk tag. We ended up just buying deer tags. I didn’t see a lot of deer. It was a tough hunt. That’s where I was having good company. We had a lot of fun. That was really good. It was tough mentally not seeing the deer. I’m used to being able to find animals. It doesn’t matter what it is, and I don’t know mule deer hunting.
This is only the second time I’ve ever deer hunted and the first time I’ve ever really what I would consider hunting mule deer. It was a great learning experience. We’re in Idaho and I guess this is the lowest deer population I’ve had in a number of years out there with some bad winters and stuff. We have a lot of fun. I did not fill a tag which is a humper to me. It’s not necessarily about a kill, but I like being good at what I do, especially when I take somebody new out there on the hunt. That was a little different. I came back and did some hunting in Wisconsin, film hunting and shooting a couple of deer here and then from here went back to Kansas with my hunting partner Mike. We had a good hunt there. We saw a lot of deer and filmed a lot of deer. There were I think 52 different bucks I saw in seven days there all in public land.
We met a couple of really good guys. The Head Hangerz guys out of Kansas came and visited and Garrett from Heads Up Decoy came and visited. They helped us out a lot to narrow down areas for us to start searching in. Literally, we put 400 to 500 miles on the trucks and probably 100 miles on each of our legs or more maybe. I’m scouting looking for the things that we talked about in the podcast. We had a good hunt there. One thing I found out is there are a lot of predators out there, a lot of coyotes and bobcats. I hope to make a trip out there if not this winter, next for sure to haunt them a little bit. We met again some good people, made some good friends out there. It’s a hunt I’d like to do if possible. We came back here and got back to the day before rifle season. We jumped into Wisconsin rifle hunt here, we shot a few for the opening day. Actually, I shot my biggest rifle buck to date here. I think we shot five deer and a coyote the first day and then a couple more deer throughout the season. We’re still chasing them around here a little bit. Cameras are being quiet. The deer was pretty scared. You know how the deer are in Wisconsin once they get chased around by a couple of hundred thousand people literally.
We’re still watching the cameras a little bit, I’ll get out of here. We’ll maybe get down to Minnesota a little bit and we’ll see how it goes. I’ll start traveling a lot being at a lot of the different shows, that will pretty much wind up the season. I’ve got a lot of the recap on Rokslide on another season. I’ve been doing that thread down there for a few years. That’s recaps the whole flaw. You can see the different animals we’ve harvested and just a different review. I’ve done different things that we’ve talked about and laugh about and bled over so to speak.
For the audience, if you plan not just your hunt but you’ll hunting multiple states, it takes time to drive there. It isn’t as expensive as you might think. Yes, it does cost some money for gas. It does cost money for food and tag, but there are a lot of states, Western states included that have over the counter tags. It’s not just limited draw. DIY hunting on public land is doable. It’s more than doable, especially out west. It’s where everybody hunts for the most part. You don’t need private land to be successful out west. Yes, you’ve got to have a tag, but other than that you don’t.
Think about that because you need to start planning for 2019. I’m going to put in for my general tag because in Wyoming you have to put it in for the general tag even though you get it, you still have to put in for it. You have to pick up your archery tag. It’s that’s the way it is. You have to learn the nuances. Don’t wait until February to say, “I want to put it in for Wyoming.” You’re already too late. I’ll give a plug for GoHunt.com. They’ll help you understand and work through all the different things that you have to do. Les, you’ve been hunting for a while, you’ve done successful hunting, what do you know that you sure wish you knew several years ago as a hunter?
2019 is 90% plan for me. 2020 is probably over 50% plans. 2021, 2022 and 2023 all have plans. Once hunting season gets over, people are worried about ice fishing. My thought process is when I’m sitting in the tree stand in Kansas, I’m already worried. I already know what my draw selection is going to be. Somebody I asked all this time I start thinking about 2019 and it’s not. 2019 is already done. It’s a formality. I just need to fill out my applications of where they go because I already know what I have scheduled and what I’m going to have plan. There might be another hunter too that I’ll throw in there.
In fact, one came up that I’m working with somebody that we might be in Idaho in late December. There’s always that option. I already have my main four or five months would be planned. A lot of states, you need to be planning ten to fifteen years out. Arizona, Utah, Colorado, deer and elk, those are anywhere between 10 and 25 years you need to be thinking at least about, maybe not planning that far, but thinking. It’s a good point you brought up. 2019 is already said and done as far as the planning goes. Things I wish I would’ve known about several years ago are the mountains. Years ago, I had mountain hunted. This is my tenth year in the mountains.If you haven't been out west, go. Odds are you might not come back. Click To Tweet
I wish I would have started it when Hunter did at ten years old. If you haven’t been out west, you need to go. Besides what we talked about Fit 4 The Hunt, mentally and physically, that’s probably the biggest other things. You will or you won’t, either way, you’re going to decide that and whether that succeeds or go or just make the next step in whatever you do. It doesn’t matter if it’s fitness, if it’s hunting, if it’s nutrition. I can’t do it for you, Bruce. You can’t do it for me and you can’t do it to any of your audience. I can’t do it for any of my clients either. You will or you won’t, it’s up to you. Nobody else can decide that or define it, you need to do that. If you haven’t been out west, go. Odds are you might not come back.Nobody else can decide or define something for you; you need to do that yourself. Click To Tweet
Talk a little bit about writing for Rokslide and why that’s helped you become a better hunter.
Have you had Tony Trietch on the podcast from Michigan? I’m going to give you his contact information afterward.
I’m at 560 shows in three years. There’s nobody with more podcasts about hunting whitetail than yours truly.
He was on a twelve-week road trip. I’m going to say twelve weeks, I might be off one week, it might have been eleven weeks, he was gone. Tony left Michigan with his truck packed up and he had an epic year. He had tags like most people have dollar bills in their pockets. He hunted everywhere. I don’t know how many animals he harvested, how many miles you put on. Tony is one of the things about Rokslide. Jordan Budd, Jared Bloomgren, Robby, Ryan, they’re all amazing people. The biggest thing with Rockslide, if you want to come on there and drama and conflict and pump your chest, the ban hammer comes out, I think is what they call it.
You’re going to find the most dedicated group of backcountry DIY hunters that’s in one spot than you will anywhere. Writing on there, it’s a privilege for me, I enjoy it. I love to do it. Great people, super good knowledge. All the people who visit it, for the most part, 99% of them are really good people. There are none of the conflicts, none of the drama and the information level is more than you can handle. If you give a question on anything like that, search it on the Rokslide, you’ll find an answer. If you hit any one of us up, there’s probably a dozen of us on there, you’ll get an answer for it.
Les, let’s make sure we touched base with you after show season in April. I’d like to have you back on again and talk about conditioning because I think myself as they get older, it gets harder. There’s no question about that. It’s the biggest failure point for most people is physical conditioning and mental conditioning. Because there are times in every single hunt that you don’t want to get out of bed. You don’t want to go to that next base, especially out west. It’s not that much different in whitetail hunting. There are some mornings that are frigging cold and you go, “I’m going to roll over. I’m not going to get up.” Your trail camera says, “Mr. Wonderful was underneath your tree at 7:05,” and you go, “My goodness.”
You have to be dedicated. You have to be committed, but you have to have the tools to do that. The tools are mental and physical condition. Surprisingly, it doesn’t do you really good to go out and drink all night and then try to hunt all day. If you’re nineteen, eighteen, whatever legal drinking age and you can do that, fine. As you get older, you just can’t do that. I love Jack Daniels and I enjoy it as much as the other guys. I made up elk tenderloins with Cabernet Sauvignon. That was a five-star meal. Having said that, the commitment to the physical and the mental is a huge part. It’s 50% of the success of your hunt.
You’ve asked about the different physical aspects and we’ve talked about different mental things. In Louisville, in between some of the hunts, it was probably the hardest mental thing that I’ve ever done. Maybe around 3,000 of us started IRONMAN Kentucky and the conditions were horrid. It rained the entire day, the upper thirties and low forties temperature and then you try to ride a bike for six or seven hours and then do a five or six-hour marathon. To my knowledge, I think it was the highest DNF rate of any race. I believe there was 37% DNF on the bike alone. The temperatures, literally you cannot feel your hands, your feet, everything was numb.
I’ll guarantee you, there was way fitter people than some of us that finished that DNF at 30, 40 miles in on the bike because they couldn’t mentally wrap their head around. Their body was actually stronger than they thought it was. That goes with everything. You’re talking about as you get older. We’ll probably have to talk in the near future as well. You talked about your hip replacement in 2014. My orthopedic said I’d have to have my left hip replaced within a year. While we’re over four years beyond that, I fight with the pain, both sides left and right need to be replaced. He’s already given me that.
Working around that even with those limitations, I can go on the mountains and go further than I ever have. I’m in the best physical and mental shape probably of my life, and that’s at 44 years old almost. Mike, my hunting partner, he’s retiring in February. He’s not a hindrance in the mountains at all. Anybody else that I hunt with, he’ll keep off with. I’ll push 30-year-old guys. That’s just the way it is. It’s exactly what you said. It’s at least 50%, you said. Definitely when April turkeys come around, that timeframe show season is over, bear hunting starts. I always enjoy talking with you on the podcast. It’s good fun.
Les, thank you so much. Have a great show season and I can’t wait to connect again.
- Les Welch
- Fit 4 The Hunt
- Alpha Challenge
- Corey Jacobsen
- The Hunting Public
- Cygnet Lake Outfitters
- Head Hangerz
- Heads Up Decoy
- Tony Trietch
About Les Welch
Some people were born to hunt. Les Welch is one of those individuals. Les grew up chasing Wisconsin small game and whitetails. After years of harvesting countless whitetails with his bow, including many Pope & Young, he was ready for his next challenge – hunting western big game. Since committing to become a successful western big game hunter, Les has targeted numerous antelope, mule deer, and elk, all with a 100% success rate. Les carries an Iron Will mentality into each of his hunts, as well as off-season preparations. After his first western hunt, he realized he would need to be in top physical condition to continue to find success. Just a few months later, he had already lost sixty pounds and 20% body fat. Les is now an Ironman Triathlete, Personal Trainer, and Fitness Nutrition Coach.