Train to Hunt

Benn Conner stopped to catch his breath and looked up the mountain. His face told it all.

A long uphill trek remained for the 33-year-old from Fruita. With his compound bow in hand and 50 pounds in his pack, he grimaced and trudged onward. At a flat stretch, he trotted toward the next target area.

Taking deep breaths he took a quick peek through his rangefinder.

“Thirty yards, uphill,” he said to himself.

Then a couple more deep breaths, he pulled back the string, aimed and released. “Thwap!” A perfect shot and it was off to the next target.

This June, Powderhorn Mountain Resort once again welcomed archery hunters to the slopes of its ski area for its Train to Hunt competition, hosting both a regional qualifier and national competition. The event helps prepare hunters for the rigors of the season by forcing them through various physical exercises and then zeroing in on targets.

”I knew it was going to be tough,” says Conner. “But it was really tough, especially with the elevation.”

The event has competitors doing burpees, sit-ups and box step-ups with a 20-pound sandbag, and a short run up a hill. Then they’d shoot, and do it all over again — each time trying to calm the heart rate enough to make an accurate shot.

After four repetitions they head way up the hill for two more target shoots before working their way down the mountain and finishing with a 3D target shoot at the resort’s base.

One of the most unmerciful parts of the event is a missed shot. The punishment, as befell Carbondale’s Cole Wilson: 20 burpees. So he finished the extra work, took a couple of minutes to replenish his lungs, and sauntered off again.

“That was soul crushing,” says Cole, who competed in the event for the second straight year.

Thornton’s Jana Goers, 40, who just started hunting last year, competed in Train to Hunt for the first time and says she worked since January to prepare. “You can train all you want but it’s still hard,” she says. “This event definitely helps, whether it’s getting farther into the backcountry or packing out an animal.”

The competition is broken into age divisions, genders and into solo and two-person teams. One co-ed team was that of Karl and Melissa Weiby of Firestone, who were back for a second year, saying the training and competition helps prepare them for upcoming hunting season. “It helps you mentally as well as physically,” Karl says. Info:,

—Dale Shrull