I was at a gathering a few weeks ago and was struck by one troubling observation: How many young men around me were clearly overweight and out of shape.

When it comes to food, there are temptations all around us and, frankly, I have been guilty of excesses — too much and an absolute love of ice cream and chocolate.

But as I get older, I have made it a point to try to keep fit and to keep my weight at a healthy, decent scale.

Just prior to undergoing a serious shoulder operation back in May, I was told by the anesthesiologist that, for a man in his early-70s, I was in very good physical condition, that all of my vital signs and blood work pointed to a man in good health. That doesn’t just happen. It takes discipline and determination.

One of the best things that happened to me, since I retired in 2010, was taking up riding a mountain bike. My run consists of anywhere between 16 and 18 miles every other day. While we no longer heat exclusively with wood, I still fire up the old woodstove in the kitchen and keep a good supply of firewood in the wood shed.

Getting firewood ready for the winter is arguably one of the best exercises one could get into. You are working the arms, legs and the upper body as you cut, limb, chunk, split and stack the next winter’s supply.

To be honest, keeping fit gets even tougher as the years go by. But I have made every attempt to keep the pounds off and, with a bit of effort, every sportsman can do the same.

And since hunting seasons for archery deer, fall turkeys and the November rifle season are not that far away, men and women of the outdoors still have time to get into good physical condition.

Get to a local gym and talk to a physical trainer about the best way to strengthen the legs, arms and upper body muscles. Or, you can save some money — but this takes a real commitment — and work out by yourself at home.

Start slowly, especially if you are not in good physical condition. Go for walks every other day, and increase the distance, by smart margins. Better still, get out into the woods and push yourself up the small ridges. Out there, you will be doing double duty: getting exercise while, at the same time, scouting the woods, looking out for turkey and deer sign.

This is also a great opportunity to explore new country. One of the mistakes some deer hunters make is to stick with one place, one area, all season long. Things change out there in the woods. Move around. Study some new terrain. But, most importantly, get out and get into good physical condition.

Pick up some 5- or 10-pound weights and lift them carefully. Go slow at first and increase the repetitions as the days go by.

Prior to the deer and turkey seasons, there will be hunters who will take the time to practice with their bows, sight in their rifles and pattern their shotguns. Others will do their scouting thing. And there are folks who make certain deer camp is stocked with provisions and a good supply of firewood.

But, even if you take the time to do all of these important things, your chances for a good, productive hunt could be diminished if you go into the hunting season in poor physical condition. In fact, you could even be putting your life in jeopardy.

Every deer season, it seems, we read in the paper about how an out-of-shape deer hunter shoots a buck and, wham, drops dead. I am not talking about older guys whose time just happened to arrive at deer camp. That is different. I’m talking about younger, unfit men who push themselves beyond their limits.

So, get out there and get that body in shape. Develop a routine and stick with it. Come deer season or turkey season, you’ll be ready for those big ridges, the big country, and will discover that the adventure, out there in the woods, will be relaxing, more enjoyable because your body can take whatever demands you make of it.

Contact Dennis Jensen at d.jensen62@yahoo.com.

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