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Conditioning for Hunting Season

Hunting season is getting close. Depending upon in which state you live, it could mean opening day is in September. If you haven’t already, it means you need to start a conditioning program for both you and your dog. The ramifications of not being fit could be fatal. The fun side of this is that you can work together toward being fit.

In our household, we run and exercise our dogs almost every day of the year. That means we don’t have to be concerned about “getting ready” for opening day. We’re there now. However, most dog owners don’t follow that routine. For those dog owners, getting ready means starting a conditioning program now.

Your goal for a daily workout for both you and your dog should begin during the month of July. As with any workout program, start slowly. Know your limit. By the time the hunting season arrives, you should be doing five miles of walking per day. If you’re doing your five miles per day in the woods and/or fields, your canine friend is doing around 15 miles. The formula is that your dog does three times the distance that you do. Five miles of walking per day should have both you and your dog ready for hunting season.

Human beings should be smart about their food intake. We know what is good and bad for us. However, our canine friend is totally dependent upon his owner to make the right decisions. There are volumes of written material available today on canine nutrition. And, much of it is contradictory and/or presented in a scientific gobbledygook manner. Let’s cover the basics.

The two most discussed ingredients in dog food are fat and protein. Basically, fat provides the energy for exercise and protein keeps rebuilding the muscles. Lower fat and protein levels such as 26% protein and 16% fat are a common formula for a maintenance level food. Our household feeds this level of protein and fat from January through July. However, for hunting season, we elevate our protein and fat level to 30% protein and 20% fat. Dog food researchers tell us that there is a “metabolic transition” of about 60 days before the benefits of increased protein and fat take effect. That means for an October 1st opener, you need to increase your protein and fat levels on August 1st.

Increasing and decreasing protein and fat levels typically meant upset digestive systems until about seven years ago when Kent Feed Company introduced the Native brand of dog food. Native was the first dog food brand to present several levels of protein and fat without changing the basic dog food formula. This meant little, if any, digestive issues for your canine friend. Our dogs thrive on Native.

When checking dog food ingredients, watch for hard to digest (and little nutritional value) fillers such as corn, wheat and soy. Adding these grains to the food is a cheap method for dog food companies to offer content without benefit.

Paying attention to exercise and diet will mean a safe and fun hunting season for you and your dog. Start your exercise and diet program today.

Paul Fuller is a lifelong sportsman.  He’s been an outdoor writer since 1971. He’s the host and producer of the award winning Bird Dogs Afield TV show ( and produced the epic video Grouse, Guns & Dogs. Paul shot over his first German short-haired pointer in 1961.

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