How mountain biking will make you a better hunter
A few years back I took up mountain biking. I hoped to shed a few pounds and get my wind back and the bike offered a way to do so that was fun, as well as being easier on my body than running. I eventually settled on single track trail riding as my style of choice. “Single track” biking entails riding off road on narrow paths built specifically for mountain bikes. The trails vary widely in level of difficulty and Wisconsin has miles and miles of dedicated courses.
A few years, and a few thousand miles later, and I am certain that mountain biking has made me a better hunter. It can make you a better hunter, too.
High intensity interval training has been demonstrated to be an effective way to shed fat. The practice most commonly involves a 20-second interval of intense aerobic activity, followed by a 10-second recovery period. Repeat for eight reps. The practice absolutely works, and it is absolutely not fun!
The great thing about single track mountain biking is that the trails take full advantage of the topography. Trails feature climbs, downhills, rocky sections, switchbacks, which are all fun to ride. The faster you ride, the more fun you have! The result of this style of riding? A high intensity interval workout that you don’t realize you’ve done.
Riding helped me lose about 20 pounds and I have kept it off for more than three years. Each fall now, packing in a climbing stand and hunt’s worth of archery gear feels like far less effort. Climbing is easier, too.
Road racing cyclist Greg LeMond, one of the greatest athletes the US has ever produced, famously said: “it never gets easier, you just go faster.” He is right. In an effort to have more fun, I have found myself riding a bit faster, and a bit farther each year.
My stamina is getting better and better, and each fall I’ve reaped the rewards. When bird hunting, a grouse waits for no man! And to a dog on point, time is of the essence. Hours and miles into a bird hunt, when high-stepping through grass and osiers, the extra stamina comes in handy. When bowhunting remote spots, better stamina means I now begin my hunts calm and composed, instead of wringing wet, winded, and worrying about how I’ll manage to get back
Guiding your bike through a rock garden, crossing a ditch on a narrow boardwalk or staying on the trail through a switchback demands balance. Even a short single track trail will feature multiple challenges that will test and improve your sense of balance.
Balance is not typically touted as a skill required in hunting, but biking has improved my balance and balance has improved my hunting. I am now more confident while dodging and weaving through the tag alders towards my dog on point. I am now more graceful and quiet while creeping towards my stand in the darkness, and I more poised when I am forced to freeze in place.
Getting in there
The DNR classifies a bicycle as an all-terrain vehicle. On state-controlled public lands, the mountain bike must stay confined to ATV trails. That said, there are many miles of ATV trails statewide that offer access to many acres of public hunting land. A mountain bike will get you in there faster than walking, and in near silence.
The same can be said of logging roads. Unless they are gated, you can probably ride them on a mountain bike. It’s faster than walking and riding is nearly silent.
County land regulations vary, but in many counties, gated utility roads are fair game for a mountain bike. One mile of easy riding will get you into land that probably seen few hunters. Bike in a mile and then walk another half mile into the woods? You might be able to count hunters per season on one hand.
A mountain bike can provide access to lands with less hunting pressure. The exercise mountain biking demands will help you hunt those lands gracefully and provide you with the stamina to hunt for more hours.
Access to remote land, improved sense of balance, the stamina to hunt all day with a leaner physic, the mountain bike has many benefits to hunters of all stripes, maybe it’s time you gave it a try