The health benefits of running are well documented. General cardiovascular and muscular fitness benefit your hunting in obvious ways. If you’re fat and lugging around a bunch of extra weight you just won’t as easily be able to climb over that hill, walk through that swamp, or climb that mountain. A weak body casts a shadow of doubt over determination. When every muscle hurts the will to press on, and do what is necessary to be successful while hunting is drastically reduced. Or stated the other way around: the fitter you are the more likely you will be to spend that extra hour on stand or climb up and have a look over the next mountain. General fitness makes you a better hunter, and running will increase your fitness level.
Runners are simply tougher than people who don’t run. Running well is all about monitoring and controlling pain. Those who run well, or have been running for a long time, are masters at dealing with pain. The pain from running is quickly replaced by a euphoric state commonly referred to as runner’s high, which is the result of natural production of endorphins. This habit of dealing with pain translates directly to hunting. A great deal of hunting takes place in less than ideal weather conditions. It is either too hot, too cold, and generally uncomfortable. There is also a lot of physical exertion required to hunt in real wild environments. Spend a half a day on an icy November day sitting in the woods and you will experience some pain. The more you are accustom to dealing with pain the more time you will be able to put in before returning home. Runners are often capable of taking normal hunting pain and turning it into a hunter’s high and therefore increasing the time they spend in the woods. And as we know the more time you spend hunting the more successful you will be.
Running also hones your hunting focus. The state that I reach while running is a sort of meditation, though I hesitate to use that word because of the current more esoteric hijacking of the term. While running your mental focus is mostly inward, almost trance like, but you are totally aware of your surroundings. Hunting is the only other area where I also arrive at this trance like state. By entering a similar state of meditation I can spend hours and hours on stand, while focusing primarily inward but also being sharply aware of my surroundings. This way I conserve mental energy for the moments when complete focus in necessary, such as the moment of the shot. By running I am actually training my mind to reach a state necessary for long hours of hunting. Hunting is really the original form of meditation, and meditation practices such as yoga are attempts to imitate a natural state that every hunter already knows. The Inuit standing motionless on the ice next to a seal’s air hole for hours on end is meditating through the hunt, and focused on making the kill. The bowhunter sitting on stand for hours is doing the same thing .
Running is also one of the best ways to deal with buck fever. By running you increase your heart rate and breathing rate. You also work and fatigue large muscle groups in your body. While running your fine motor coordination in your hands is also somewhat reduced. The more you run the more accustom you become to this state. Buck fever arrives with a jolt of adrenaline which causes your body to physically react almost just like while running. Because runners are used to this condition and are masters at judging what their bodies are telling them, buck fever becomes far easier to deal with, sort of a “been there, done that” situation. By running you are training your body to naturally deal with the stress of making a killing shot.
In my opinion, if you want to become a better hunter you should do yourself and favor and get out and run. You will be glad you did.
And on a Philosophical Note:
I consider both running and hunting basic human needs that should be classified along with other basics like eating and sex. In fact, there is very strong evidence that both running and hunting shaped our very morphology as humans. In the realm of evolutionary time we were either running to food, running to make food, or running so that we wouldn’t become food. Hunting also shaped both our bodies and minds. Our vision and focus is forward and pointed, which are sure signs of a predator, and ability to communicate developed partially because of the coordination necessary for hunting animals that were bigger, faster, and stronger than we are. Running and hunting therefore are basic threads in the fabric of humanity and both should be embraced. Just because we no longer need to run to get food or need to hunt, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do both. Running and hunting fit together perfectly, and are in my opinion critical to a balanced life. Those who neither run nor hunt are denying basic aspects of being human, even in our modern technological world. That we run and hunt is probably more important than ever.