Energy Snacks and Hydration
Ideas for Elk Hunters

Energy snacks while hunting can make a long elk hunting day much more positive. So can staying well hydrated. Many people will end the day’s hunt worn out and think it is just because they are out of shape. It might actually just be that you weren’t replacing energy spent and fluids lost during your high altitude “endurance” hunt.

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Staying Hydrated & Energized

Not only ar.e high energy snacks important, but so is keeping your body’s fluid level up. Sports drinks encourage drinking because of the mild taste and help keep you hydrated. They contain electrolytes lost during heavy sweating. Just as important, they add some quick metabolizing glucose to your blood. Blood glucose is the key to keeping immediate energy level up and delaying fatigue.

I like Heed, made by Hammer nutrition, because it is not sweet and sticky. It doesn't have an overwhelming taste, just subtle flavors. It has a more complex carbohydrate in it for energy instead of sugar. You can try it for 15% off your first order by clicking here.

Sipping a sports drink, or Tang, lemonaide, etc. while hiking and hunting, along with an occasional energy snack, will help keep glucose level up. Snacks with some protein will add delayed, but long-lasting, sustaining energy to the mix as well. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a great high energy snack after packing meat for awhile, or after stomping up and down hills on rough terrain. (More specific snack ideas listed below.)

Your energy and fluid demands will sky rocket when hunting in the mountains and especially when packing meat or when the weather is warm. Don’t underestimate this. Drink before you get thirsty (even while hunting slowly).

Eat a high energy snack between each trip packing meat, if it takes more than one load. Take breaks to eat a quick energy bar or something, if the haul is long. Leave some in your camp or vehicle, as well as in your backpack.

Keeping energy levels high and bodily fluid needs met will go a long way toward avoiding soreness the following days as well. Re-nourishing tired muscles soon after a long haul will too.

Don’t wait until you “bonk” to realize you need some kind of energy snack or drink. As a marathon runner, I have learned the hard way to fuel up and hydrate early and often during a long athletic endeavor, which hunting and packing elk meat is! You don’t want to “hit the wall” when you are in the middle of big game retrieval, or pursuing long-legged, fast walking creatures in harsh terrain.

Don't Underestimate Energy and Fluid Needs

Many hunters underestimate the physical demands that elk hunting requires of them. Even casual runners and cyclists recognize the athletic nature of their sports, but hunters may not be mindful of how “athletically challenging” elk hunting can be.

By not paying attention to the increased fluid and energy demands on their bodies, many hunters put themselves at risk of, at worse, a serious health incident. At best, they may be setting themselves up for a less than stellar “performance” in the contest against a very athletic animal.

Drink Before Getting Thristy

It is vital that hunters drink before getting thirsty. If you wait until you feel thirsty, you have already become somewhat dehydrated. You will immediately start heading toward fatigue or possible health problems. Water plays an important role in keeping your energy level peaked. Don’t underestimate the increased need for water at higher altitudes, especially while stomping the mountainsides.

hydration bladder with a tube makes it so much quieter and easier to drink while hunting. Most backpacks are constructed to accommodate different brands of Camelback type hydration reservoirs.

Don't Skip Breakfast!

The demands of rising early to get on the trail long before daylight make it easy to want to skip the first and most important meal of the day. Don't do it.

Since elk hunting is indeed an endurance sport, starting off with a reasonably full tank is paramount. You will soon be running on empty with only quick energy snacks planned for later. The deficit may result in sluggish hunting energy at best.

Consider eating a bowl of oatmeal or other hot cereal before you leave camp or home, or at the trailhead. Another grain, like toast and jelly or cheese, would be a good start as well. Add a piece of fruit at some early stage and maybe a glass of milk or hot chocolate and you're off to a much better start than waiting for a snack down the trail.

Sports Drinks

Elk hunting or retrieving an elk carcass can quickly become a demanding endurance event. As a marathon runner, I have learned through the years to take advantage of the formulations of sports drinks, in order to enhance absorption of fluid and carbohydrates (the best source of energy). All sports drinks are formulated for the quickest absorption of both fluid and energy.

When hunting elk, I don’t often have time for an energy snack, so using a sports drink keeps my energy more level. When the weather cools, it's not as important to use a sports drink to restore electrolytes. I sometiems just use Tang in my Camelbak.

Energy Gels

I also use endurance gels as an alternative to taking time for an energy snack. I use energy gels made for distance athletes while hunting and packing meat. You can suck ‘em down fast and move on. They’re a very compact and convenient backpack food. You should always drink some water when using gels, since they are so concentrated.

They give you a quick, easy blast of concentrated calories from carbohydrate.

Hammer Gel is my personal preference because of the complex carbs and subtle flavors. (Click the link for 15% discount.) But there are many gels on the market that would serve you well. Most of them cost about a dollar per serving (1 packet). Hammer Gel comes in packets or a bulk bottle, which is more economical. Gels are very convenient and easy to down in a hurry while hiking, packing or biking in elk country.

The advantage of gels is that it doesn’t take long to suck down a couple hundred calorie packet in a hurry. They’re great for when you decide to move on after a herd of elk, rather than stopping for a more time consuming and noisy energy snack. Or while packing an animal out and your hands are filthy, as the sun is quickly fading to dark.

Single serve gels come in convenient pouches. You tear off the end and squeeze the thick boost of energy gel into your mouth. Gulp some water and off you go. Some gels can be purchased in bulk and carried in small bottles with a pop up drink spout, so you don’t have to mess with tearing packages while in the field. Gels are great backpack foods and full of quick and sustained energy calories while elk hunting.

Prevent Food Smells

Be mindful of smells that you carry with you in the presence of elk. Use a zip lock baggy for food and wipe your hands and face with a scent neutralizing wipe or spray after eating an energy snack.

Durable Energy Snack Ideas for Your Pack

In a backpack or fanny pack, crackers can become cracker crumbs, cornbread becomes corn meal, sliced bread becomes a dough ball and candy bars become globs, etc. With a little forethought, you might be able to find a way to keep sandwiches and other stuff from being squished, but here’s a list of some great energy snacks that will hold up in your pack and keep you going, or jump start your battery while elk hunting.

• Rice Krispies Treats®

Packets of Energy Gels

Trail Mix (nuts, dried fruit, cereal, candy, etc.)

Energy bars, granola bars, etc. (Most are made of complex carbs and protein)

• String cheese or other hard cheeses

• Hard candy (be careful of the choking hazard while walking.)

• Gel candies

• English Muffins or bagels (firmer than regular bread)

• Peanut butter, jelly packets, sliced singles cheese or cream cheese on the above

Jerky (we make jerky from last year’s venison. Click here for a simple, homemade oven jerky method)

• Hard beef sticks will not easily spoil in the heat

Dried fruits are great sources of energy and easy to handle

• Firm fruit like apples or oranges (remember the smell issue)

(Add to the list below.)

My staple snacks are Craisins or dried cherriesRice Krispies Treats®, and walnuts (almonds make me clear my throat a lot. Noisy!). Again, the odor issue with food is just as problematic as other human-associated smells. Scent control should be carefully practiced to enhance elk hunting success. Consider double bagging foods and clean up well with scent control odorless field wipes .

Hydrate early and often and take time for energy snacks before you get hungry in case elk beckon you over the hill at lunch time, or you end up needing extra energy in an unpredictable situation. Take enough for a night out, just in case, even if you’re just day hunting. For overnighters in the backcountry, the flavor of freeze dried meals has been greatly improved and are nice for hot breakfasts and dinners in back country camps. 

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