While many Westerners take it for granted, hunting big game in the Rocky Mountains is an incredible privilege. For thousands of Americans living east of the Rockies, hunting species like antelope, mule deer, elk, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep out West is a dream come true. It’s also a daunting endeavor.
The whole experience can be overwhelming if you’re not accustomed to it. There are the often-complicated regulations and drawings, the maps riddled with ridiculously intricate topo lines and property boundaries, and all the other travel logistics, which is not to mention the prospect of hunting a species you’ve never hunted before in a place you’ve never set foot in.
By far though, being in good enough physical shape to hunt for days on end in the mountains — thousands of feet above where you live — is the most important hurdle to cross for an enjoyable and successful hunt in the West.
When Michigan resident Bob Lutke first came West elk hunting, it kicked his ass but he absolutely loved the experience and knew he wanted to return. Determined to be more prepared for his next elk hunt, Bob started doing MTNTOUGH in 2019 with his friend and colleague Dave Maatman. The two friends work together in Holland, Michigan. Like many of us, their careers keep them extremely busy. They still take their lunch in the onsite gym every day, and MTNTOUGH is on the menu. They write their workout on their white board and crank it out with one unbreakable rule: no bitching.
"I started MTNTOUGH after my first elk hunt when I realized I needed to be better physically,” Bob says. “The backcountry is no joke, and working out has been a game-changer for my mountain hunting. I keep doing MTNTOUGH though because it has positively affected my everyday life, physically and mentally.”
Dave says he was intimidated by the workouts at first, but quickly became hooked.
"From the outside looking in, MTNTOUGH looks intimidating,” Dave admits. “But once you get into it, you realize that your body often has more ability than your mind often gives it credit. When you pair that with the accountability from a group of friends that encourage you to get after a workout even when you may not feel up for it, you can do even more. MTNTOUGH has been a great way to stay strong and active in my day-to-day life, and if I do get another chance to chase screaming bulls out West...I will be ready."
Bob Lutke (right) on a Montana mule deer hunt.
As the office workouts became an everyday routine, Lutke and Maatman brought others into their orbit. They recruited Drew Brondyke and a little while later told their colleague Scott Frein that he had a week to decide if he was in. He committed to the program and has made amazing progress over the last year and a half. Each one of them has their own goals, but their camaraderie has grown along with their physical and mental toughness.
"I've never been more consistent and excited about working out. I'm two years into MTNTOUGH, and it's still as challenging and humbling as day one,” Drew says. “But you can go at your own pace and make each workout as difficult as you want. MTNTOUGH has been a big positive factor in my life, both physically and mentally."
Scott says the same, and is experiencing the holistic health benefits that we are constantly preaching to our community:
"The MTNTOUGH workouts have been the best thing I have ever done for my all around health. I feel this experience has made me a better husband, father, friend, co-worker, and employee. My favorite thing about this experience has been the encouragement, camaraderie, fellowship, and commitment of the entire group of guys I work out with."
MTNTOUGH Director of Business Development Weston Paul is married to Dave’s sister, and he’s been inspired by this group and their commitment, their progress, and their performance on hunts in Montana since they started doing MTNTOUGH. Weston recently took a vacation back to his wife’s home state of Michigan, and he carved out time to do a work out with the Michigan MTNTOUGH squad.
The Michigan MTNTOUGH team, from left to right: Drew Brondyke, Dave Maatman, Bob Lutke, Scott Frein, and Weston Paul.
“I knew these guys were really dedicated and I happened to be taking a family vacation in Holland, so I reached out and asked them if I could join them for a workout.” Weston says. “I asked our lead trainer Jimmy to work up something special for them!”
Weston wrote the workout on the office gym white board and flipped it around to show the team. It was a unanimous "Let's go!"
“It was obvious immediately that these guys could push,” Weston says. “One round, two rounds, and we just kept going. Everyone at their own pace and with the right weight for their presses. The Michigan humidity is no joke and I could feel it even though I was inside. I was pouring sweat immediately. It was awesome to see them push each other. It was just like the Lab in Bozeman. A bunch of hardworking individuals coming together and doing something hard, tackling the ‘mountain.’ I especially loved when halfway through the workout Dave pointed at Scott and said, ‘That guy has NO quit in him!’”
In honor of the Michigan MTNTOUGH squad, and for every Midwestern hunter preparing to come West hunting, we’re providing their workout below.
The Michigan MTNTOUGH Workout
- 10 squat press
- 20 walking lunges (weights in hand)
- .25 mile run at 3% grade,
- 20 russian twists (10/side) w/ one weight.
Repeat for 45 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)