Besides target practice, Jeff Decavitch never thought about preparing for hunting season.
Now, he understands that training makes for a better hunt.
“I was way out of shape,” he said. “I used to be in pretty good shape when I was younger but I let myself go.”
About three years ago, Decavitch started getting back into shape through a strict training regimen. He quickly discovered that it complemented his hunting. Then he combined the two and walked away with a national title.
Back in August, Decavitch competed in the Train to Hunt competition in Sedalia, and was crowned a National Champion in the Super Masters over-50 division.
“We put in a lot of hard work, so it was really gratifying,” the soft-spoken Decavitch said.
The unique event is about the combination of archery shooting and physical fitness. Over the two-day event, competitors were confronted with a number of physical challenges followed by a test of their archery skills by shooting targets.
The course, Decavitch said, was more than two miles long and each station was a different physical challenge. One had an obstacle that included a belly crawl and up and over obstacles. There was a tire flip, the old up-and-down drill, a simulation of a meat pack with up to 80 extra pounds in the back pack, and other physical challenges.
“It’s pretty tough when you add the altitude and you’re running the majority of the time (from station to station), so it definitely pushes you,” Decavitch said.
Every challenge was designed to push each competitor to his or her physical limits and get the heart-rate elevated.
Even with all those physical challenges, success still came down to accurate shooting with more points awarded to a heart shot and time penalties for missing the target.
Shooting gets tougher when the heart rate goes up.
The 52-year-old Fruita man discovered Train to Hunt through his friend Sean Hicks.
“He’s really the guy who got me involved, he really pushed me hard, he always stood behind me,” Decavitch said.
Hicks qualified for the Train to Hunt nationals but a torn left calf muscle kept him from competing.
Decavitch thought about not going to nationals because Hicks couldn’t compete, but Hicks, 44, wasn’t going to allow that to happen.
“I told him he was going because he had a chance to win the whole thing,” Hicks said.
Decavitch credits Hicks for pushing him.
“He was why I was on the podium, because I was trying to keep up with him in all our workouts,” he said.
Hicks also got his niece Jasmine (J.J.) Johnson involved in Train to Hunt.
Johnson, 25, a Grand Junction High School graduate, won the Women’s Team National Champion with her partner Lindsay Lou from Gunnison.
“It really does simulate archery hunting and what actually happens on a hunt,” she said. “Putting (fitness and shooting) together is the perfect fit.”
And shooting is all about the heart rate. Whether it’s an elevated heart rate from doing a physical activity during the competition or the heart rate that jumps when it’s time to take a shot during the hunt, Johnson said that’s where the ultimate challenge resides.
“(Train to Hunt) simulates it so well, because your heart rate is beating out your ears when you’re getting ready to take the shot,” she said.
Both Johnson and Decavitch, who have been archery hunting for many years, agree that the competition gives them motivation to train.
Even though Johnson is a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym, she still needs some extra incentive sometimes.
“It really amplified my training, and I needed to lose some of the baby weight after I had my son (Wyatt),” she said.
As for Decavitch, using a dedicated, focused CrossFit regime, the result was a loss of 24 pounds over the past three years.
“I didn’t know how out of shape I was until I started working out,” he said. “It’s made hunting way more enjoyable.”
Hicks agrees: “It gives you back that competitive nature that you had when you were younger. It’s great to train and stay in shape year-round, so you can be in your peak shape for the (hunting) season.”
Before he started training, Decavitch chuckles when he thinks about some of his hunts.
“I’d hear a bugle way off in the distance and I’d have second thoughts,” he said. “Now, when I hear it, there’s nothing that’s going to keep me from going after him.”
Decavitch said he’s been fairly successful as a hunter over the years.
“I’ve been relatively lucky to put meat in the freezer, and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
Hicks said the Train to Hunt sport is growing more popular all the time and is even featured on the Sportsman Channel.