“The only time I ever got my s**t together I couldn’t pick it up.” — Roger Miller

A couple of years ago I was talking with Sandy Sallee (who co-runs Black Mountain Outfitters in Montana) about their hunters’ foibles, and she revealed that many of the 50- and 60-year-olds that Black Mountain guides for elk do a lot better physically than the 20- and 30-year-olds.

When the younger hunters find out how tough it is, she said, they sit in their tents all day. The geezers are used to suffering so they go out and ride from can to can’t and freeze and sweat up mountains.

Being able to take it physically is a major part of real hunting, and I think a lot of it is mental. I’ve known four SEALS well enough to talk to, and every one of them was small (5′ 5″ to 5’7″ and maybe 130 to 140 pounds), and to a man they said that there were people in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALS (SEAL boot camp) who were stronger, faster, and more enduring, but who washed out anyway because they couldn’t hack it mentally.

Size does not necessarily work in your favor. I was once told by a Selous Scout (the Rhodesian Army equivalent of our Rangers) that the ideal size for a soldier was about 5’10” and 160 pounds. Bigger than that, he said, and your height and weight just worked against you. And I’ve heard the same thing from other military sources.

About the toughest case I’ve ever hunted with was a Canadian named James Minnerie, with whom I hunted moose in Alaska in 2006. James was 6 feet and 180 pounds, and the guy performed prodigious acts of strength and endurance all day long for 12 days on end. I watched him pack 60 pounds of moose meat through a bog that almost put me in a body bag, and he never took a deep breath.

I still wonder where they plugged him in at night.