How to Become an Endurance Bowhunter

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Are You Wanting to Get in Shape?

(Heartland Bowhunter photo)

With a bulldog tenacity and drive that rivals that of any elite athlete, Cameron Hanes is shattering the preconceived image of the hunter. He’s the poster boy for the new extreme outdoorsman, running ultra marathons and training in the most hostile conditions so he can improve his odds afield. Svelte, extremely motivated and pain-driven, Hanes is taking bowhunting to a whole new level, and he’s taking others along with him.

The Grind

“The most successful bowhunters I know are as dedicated and committed to our sport as any professional athlete,” Hanes says. “I hope my efforts help bring to light the intense passion many of us have for hunting. While I am just a normal guy and take a lot of pride in that, I also know that not everyone out there is willing or able to go through what I will for bowhunting success. But I hope to motivate and encourage those who are willing to give it a try.”

Despite his drive, Hanes isn’t immune to the desire to quit when the going gets tough. “Mountain hunts in the Wyoming backcountry can get extremely difficult and grueling,” he says. “After eight days of hunting with no success, I’d be lying to say that quitting didn’t cross my mind, but quitting is not an option for me — at least not anymore.”

Instead, Hanes pushes through and completes the task. Because he’s built up his physical and mental strength, he’s able to persevere longer than others, and as a result, he often experiences success. In fact, his goal is 100 percent success.

Hanes has improved his ability, endurance and pain threshold by pushing himself physically every day while running. He’s proven that the qualities that make a good bowhunter can be achieved through running.

And run he does. Last year he ran six marathons, and this year he’s training for a hard-to-imagine 100-mile-long race in Wyoming with 38,000 feet of elevation change — the longest of his ultra marathons thus far.

Hanes estimates the winner of this marathon will cross the finish line after 20 hours of running, which is his goal. Hanes runs a race to win it. The pain involved in a race like this can only be described as misery, and although misery may love company, Hanes wants to hog it all for himself.

“I love when it hurts,” he says. “I run during the hottest part of the day in the summer. If it’s 100 degrees, I can’t wait to run. In the winter, I’d rather run when it’s nasty outside than when it’s nice. Snow, pouring rain, freezing cold, ice — that’s perfect. I’m motivated by pain, because tough hunts hurt. I train for pain, so in crunch time on the hunt, I can push through and get it done. ”

No Option for Average

“When I think of average, I think more of my humble upbringing,” Hanes says. He grew up with no money and no special opportunities. He said no one believed in him or thought he would amount to much in life, let alone in bowhunting. He traveled a long, hard road to success that included a low point in his life, but all the sacrifice has paid off.

“Fifteen years ago I dropped out of a 10k race and felt like a failure. That same year, I had little success bowhunting. I was weak mentally and physically. Yes, I still killed an animal or two, but I let myself down because I had chances at great animals and blew them because I didn’t have the stamina to go after them. I made the decision then to never let that happen again.”

Since his so called days of mediocrity, Hanes has ramped up what he expects of himself in the bowhunting woods, which means he’s also ramped up how he trains for success. The enthusiastic and energetic hunter/athlete enjoys sharing his regimen with other hunters with the hope of inspiring and motivating them to improve their own performance, but Hanes, who runs and shoots his bow every day, understands that his intensity level may not be for everyone.

When other hunters ask Hanes what they can do to improve their performance, he tells them to get active but to not set “crazy” goals. For example, don’t decide to run an ultra marathon if you haven’t been running at all because nothing will kill incentive faster than setting unattainable goals.

“Start out walking,” Hanes says. “Then incorporate some jogging in between. For example, walk 15 minutes then run 10 and keep that pattern going. As time goes by, increase the time you spend running and soon you’ll be running the full distance. If you start wherever you are and ramp up your routine slowly, you can achieve your desired level of fitness.”

Inspiring Others

Through seminars, magazines articles, TV shows and books, Hanes motivates and teaches thousands of outdoorsmen about how they can improve their success afield by improving their physical shape. “Hunting gave me confidence to write from the heart of my experiences — the tough lessons and the successes. Ten years ago, I self-published my first book, ‘Bowhunting Trophy Blacktail.’ My second book, ‘Backcountry Bowhunting, A Guide to the Wild Side,’ is now in its fifth printing. I went from a kid with no future to being the current TV host of ‘Elk Chronicles,’ the television program of The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.”

Hanes says his greatest hope is that through the use of various media outlets, he’ll inspire others to pursue new levels of physical strength and stamina. He claims the quality of not only his hunting but also his life has significantly improved since he began pushing himself harder, and he hopes the same will happen for others. “Now I go into each hunt believing I will no doubt get a trophy animal within my effective range, and I will unravel its blood trail after my razor-sharp broadhead slices through it,” Hanes says. “My goal is for this scenario to play out on each and every hunt — no exceptions. I am driven to 100 percent success. I’ve been there before. I hiccupped this year at almost 90 percent, but I will be back. Success all comes down to how committed you are physically and mentally. Believe and you will achieve because the mind is a powerful tool. As I was coming up through the ranks, no one believed in me, so I had to believe in myself. I still operate the best in such a mode. I put a chip on my shoulder taking a ‘me-against-the-world’ approach. With tunnel-vision focus, I convince myself there is nothing I can’t do.”

Hanes wants to convince others to believe the same about themselves.

“My goal, for the bowhunters out there, is to take bowhunting preparedness and dedication to the next level. To give guys something to shoot for. I am all about the tradition of hunting. There is nothing I enjoy more than sharing a hunt with my kids, Tanner, Truett and Taryn, but I am also excited about the future of our sport. Today’s youth are drawn to the sport for the challenge, for the coolness factor, and if my plan works like I envision, they’ll want to raise that bar to new, never-before-seen heights. That excites me.”

Hanes later completed a 100-mile race. He finished in 27th place with an overall time of 29 hours and 20 minutes. Hanes said he’s disappointed in his time, but proud of the accomplishment.

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Editor's Note: This was originally published September 4, 2009.

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