Health benefits of hunting

Hunting involves physical movement, mental preparedness, and provides nutritional benefits.

A man pulling back a hunting bow, aiming at a bullseye target.
Photo: FreeImages/Jamie Woods.

Hunting is a sport that provides numerous health benefits. Whether you hunt using firearms, bows and arrows or traps, you are physically moving more intensely than normal. Hunters walk long distances in uneven terrain to scout the woods looking for the game of their choice. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that each week, adults should engage in 150 minutes of “moderate-intensity aerobic activity,” such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of “vigorous-intensity aerobic activity” like running. This recommendation can easily be achieved through the sport of hunting. 

Hunting easily fits into the category of “moderate-intensity aerobic” activity. Hunters are physically on the move for more than a day. Hunting requires preparation before and after the season ends. Physically, hunters are preparing blinds, traps, and bait or maintaining food plots before the season opens. Besides preparing equipment, hunters are physically scouting the woods, target shooting and even sometimes training dogs. Hunting requires stamina, strength and balance to maneuver through the woods and shorelines, opening traps and to stay upright and still in a tree stand. These hunting tasks require walking, bending, stretching, balancing, pulling and hauling, which are cardiovascular (aerobic), strength building and stretching activities.  Some hunters even process and package their own game, which can take more than a few days to complete. 

Hunters also get a mental workout, familiarizing themselves with hunting rules and guidelines that can change yearly. They need to be able to read a compass and control their breath and nerves while aiming. Many hunters have tales of missed opportunities due to nerves. Some refer to these nerves as "Buck Fever, "when their hearts race, breathing increases and their knees and bodies shake when they see that they have a shot. Being able to recognize and control these physical and mental responses is key to a successful hunt. There are mental health benefits for just being outdoors:

  • Natural antidepressant
  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reduces stress
  • Sunshine increases vitamin D intake

Hunting can be done alone, or with friends and family. Many hunters were taught to hunt from a family member when they were young and continue to enjoy this outdoor family-time tradition. These social benefits are what enticed many to go hunting initially and what makes them continue to participate.  Some enjoy the challenges that temperature, inclement weather and terrains can add to their hunting adventure. There are many hunting related social groups individuals and families join such as archery or shooting clubs, hunting clubs, veteran support clubs and even clubs that fight hunger.

Once the hunting season ends, consider attending a Michigan State University Extension mindfulness series such as RELAX or Stress Less with MindfulnessThese programs provide stress management information and techniques to calm the mind and body, similar to what you may experience during hunting. MSU Extension also has a variety of food preservation programming that can teach you how to preserve the nutritious lean game meat you've hunted.

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