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A Hunter’s Journey From Near Fatal Accident to Peak Physical Performance in the Field

Successful hunters in Western states need more than a sharp eye and quick trigger finger. Preparing your body to withstand the rigors of traversing harsh landscapes that often rise to high elevations is crucial in developing the stamina, strength and cardiovascular fitness needed to be successful in these environments. I learned the hard way back in 2005 and have committed myself to maintaining great fitness to overcome the physical challenges of hunting in some of the toughest conditions. In this series, Kevin Guillen, director of Marketing and Communications at Wilderness Athlete, and I delve into proper ways to prepare for each hunt and how to get the highest performance from your body.  

I got into the hunting industry, literally by accident. My job as a National Sales Manager for a Fortune 500 company required travel Monday through Friday and I was tired of being a part-time dad and husband.  

In late 2004, I started a side gig by purchasing a franchise from a company that promoted hunting and fishing destinations. This “side gig” was just supposed to be for fun and help support my hunting/fishing habit, but God, fate, or whatever you want to call it had other plans for me.  

In October of 2005, a Jeep going 70 mph crashed through my house and ran over me while I was standing in my kitchen.  Actually, to be more specific, the Jeep landed on top of me, and I was buried under it, along with a ton of debris from what used to be my kitchen.  

Jeep after it was pulled out of Greg Ray’s kitchen

My wife, Deborah, was fortunate enough that when the Jeep hit her, it launched her through two walls in our home and she landed in the garage on top of one of our cars, sustaining superficial cuts, bruises and a giant hematoma on her thigh where the Jeep struck her. I had significant injuries that over the next few years would take 11 surgeries to get me mostly fixed.  

Jeep inside Greg Ray’s home.

The entire top of my right foot was severed down to the bone, including all of the tendons that make my toes work, Achilles tendon was cut, ACL damaged and knee cap cracked, broken ribs, punctured lung (from the broken ribs), liver, kidney and spleen damage, appendix and gall bladder removed, concussion, teeth knocked out, numerous cuts and bruises. Oh yea, and my left arm completely paralyzed from nerve damage where the Jeep impacted my left shoulder.  

Because of my injuries, numerous surgeries and the never-ending physical therapy that went along with it, I lost my job.  

Greg Ray in the hospital after a near fatal accident

Because most of my time was spent either in a chair with my leg propped up or on crutches, we decided to focus on my “side gig.” In a relative short period of time, we had a full fledge business going and were really close to replacing my income from my former employer.  

I know this is a lot of information that does not have anything to do with exercise and nutrition, but I wanted you to see where I’ve been, so you can better understand my journey. I also wanted to make the point that we all have our limitations or perceived limitations, and it’s up to us to decide how we train around them or through them.  

Five months before the accident I went on a black bear hunt in Idaho. I was in my late 30s and stayed in “ok’ shape but did not take care of myself near to the degree that I do now.  

Keep in mind, elevation in Idaho is not terrible. Most hunting area’s are under 10,000 feet with a good portion being in the 7,000-feet range, but for a flat lander from Oklahoma that had never experienced any kind of altitude at all, it might as well been 14,000 feet. I remember walking just a few hundred yards on a game trail and having trouble catching my breath. I had no idea what was happening or why I was feeling like I had the legs and lungs of an 80-year-old, two-pack-a-day smoker. 

I loved Idaho. I admired its beauty and, to me, everything just seemed so clean, fresh and untouched. The views from some of the ridges were unbelievable. I wanted to come back. I wanted to see more, but first, I had to get in much better shape. 

Fast forward to today. I have been planning a mule deer hunt back to this very same area for this fall (October 2020), and my outfitter tells me that the area we are going to will make the bear hunt look like a walk in the park.  I want to share my upcoming journey with you and along with Kevin, share some of the knowledge that has been passed along to me.  

I’m not a trainer. I’m not a nutritionist but over the past 10 years, especially the last five. I have had the privilege of working with some professionals in the fitness industry that have helped me fine tune workouts and my nutrition. At age 54, I am in the best shape I have been in for years. In fact, I would mop the floor with the late 30’s version of me. It’s all because of proper nutrition, a solid workout program and a strong determination that I will not compromise. Because of this, I have been able to hunt areas I would have never seen if I had accepted my “limitations.”  

Look for our second installment where we discuss the importance of proper nutrition to get the most from your body.   

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