Hunter, writer, television host, and all-around athlete Cameron Hanes is well-known for espousing and following the philosophy he calls “Beast Mode Hunting.” Using intense physical and mental conditioning to pave the way for safer, more successful hunts, Cameron is widely regarded as one of today’s premier bowhunters. For someone who trains daily, runs 100-mile ultramarathons in the off-season, and hunts rigorously across the mountains of his native Oregon, you would think that Cameron would be constantly exhausted. Instead, he was brimming with energy throughout my interview with him.
“My approach is to be the ultimate predator, and for that to happen I need to be in the best physical condition I can be in,” he told me.
It is a simple enough idea, yet Cameron is not afraid to push himself to the limits. His brand of conditioning is more than just lifting weights and running a few miles, Cameron seeks out challenges that emulate rough conditions in the wild. Oftentimes these challenges push him past the point of failure, which is exactly what he needs to stay competitive in the rugged landscapes he loves. He reminded me that hunters do not compete with each other, but animals in their prime and in their native habitat, who possess survival skills far greater than those of humans. That is also why Cameron hunts exclusively with the bow.
“Because of the challenge,” Cameron said. “It is hard getting close to animals. You’re in the animal’s red zone when you’re in bow range. Animals are good at staying alive, especially out here, out West where there are mountain lions and other predators hunting them. It’s tough, so they’re pretty dialed in on their surroundings. As a bowhunter, getting into the range is very difficult and that’s why I like it. It’s definitely a test.”
Cameron has been a bowhunter since he was 18 and although he sees himself as a hunter first, he has always been athletic. It is a trait that he attributes to his father, who recently passed away in 2010.
“My dad was very athletic, played a lot of different sports. He never hunted, but he definitely had a lot of influence on me with athletics,” Cameron explained.
It is this background that led Cameron to establish the philosophy of an athlete being a hunter, and a hunter being an athlete.
“I played sports in high school, the regular football/basketball/baseball,” he recalled. “Then I took up bowhunting and it was going pretty well but I thought ‘Well, I think I could do better.’ That’s when I started running and doing half marathons. Me and a few other guys did a full marathon in 2003. I found that because of that, I started doing better in the mountains and that hunting went hand in hand with my physical prowess. I went from there and decided to push the limits and see what I’m capable of. That’s what led me to running 100-mile ultramarathons.”
Cameron found that he could use the time when he wasn’t hunting to train, bettering his performance come hunting season. Likewise, his experiences hunting bettered him as an athlete.
“The better shape you’re in, the more effective you’re going to be in the field,” Cameron said. “The mountains where I hunt are up and down. It can be deep or high as 12,000 feet. You can be sheep and elk hunting in Colorado and you’re carrying all this weight on your back, it’s tough. So I train every day to level the playing field. I mean, the animals are in the mountains every day, in their own element. Meanwhile we get pretty soft in this day and age. We’re in a house on a couch, watching TV and drinking pop and whatever else. I just think as an athletic hunter I can close that gap and be the ultimate predator. That is my goal every day. I can’t go to bed at night unless I know I did something to better myself that day. That’s my philosophy.”
And Cameron has the success to show for it. These days, he rarely leaves a hunt empty-handed.
“Bucking the odds, to me, proves that my formula is working.”
The bowhunter added that bagging an elk is not always the end goal for his training. Cameron has been on some wild hunts, whether in his native stomping grounds, Africa, or the freezing crags of Alaska. He emphasizes that the confidence born out in training can mean the difference between life or death.
“It’s about survival,” Cameron said. “When you get down to it, my training has me on the edge all the time. Nobody will say that running 100 miles is good for you; it’s not good for you. It’s hard on you, it’s hard on your body, and it stresses you out. But if you survive it, well then you’re raising your baseline on what uncomfortable means.
“I never lose it in the mountains,” Cameron continued. “I’m always calm and I focus on making good decisions. My training gives my confidence that I will be able to overcome anything that I face while out hunting. When people are out hunting and they don’t have confidence, they’re worried about where they are, whether they can make it back to camp before dark, worried about all sorts of things, they’re not focused. They go out and they worry about things back home. I work too hard to let these distractions come in. I’m focused on one thing and that’s punching my tag and taking an animal home. I think my training really helps with that.”
Cameron recalled one hunt where a Dall sheep he had just arrowed had run up to the side of steep drop. There he was, faced with losing a once-in-a-lifetime animal as it moved closer to the cliff edge, and Cameron made the decision to hold onto it.
“I could’ve slipped and went right over the edge with him,” he said. “But even then I wasn’t too stressed. If I panicked it would’ve been bad.”
You can see the video of that incident below:
“Same thing with hunting grizzlies and some of the other things I’ve done,” Cameron added. “You got to stay calm or you’ll never be successful.”
So how does Cameron reconcile training exercises that are every bit as extreme as his hunts? He uses a little trick to motivate himself.
“Faced with running 100 miles I say to myself at the very worst, this is going to be one miserable day,” Cameron said. “One miserable day out of my entire life. I keep this in perspective when I’m hunting, which might take 10 days. But it’s not a race, no one is telling me how fast to move, I move at my own pace. So in a hunt I might motivate myself by thinking ‘I’ll never be as miserable as I was when I was running 100 miles.’ Then in a race I might say ‘well I’ve been in the mountains for 10 days, cold, wet, hungry, and alone.’ I use them both to play off each other and its been working.”
Where others would draw the line at running 100 miles in one day, Cameron continuously pushes himself to go longer, go harder and do more. He confided in me that he was thinking about participating in the Badwater ultramarathon, a 130-mile race through the depths of Death Valley and ending high on Mount Whitney. Facing possible temperatures of over 130 degrees and conditions race officials simply describe as “hellish,” Cameron may have found his next challenge.
“I’m always looking for a test,” Cameron said. “I get really bored doing the same things or not challenging myself. I got to push myself and I’m always looking for something that will do that.”
As for what kind of hunt Cameron considers Badwater to be a warm-up for, I can only imagine.
You can learn more about Beast Mode training below:
We’d like to thank Cameron for giving us the time to interview him and you can find more of his videos on his YouTube channel.
Editor’s note: This interview is part of a series with OutdoorHub’s featured video partners. Click here to read our interview with industry insider and Hunt Channel President Merrill Sport, and click here to read our interview with firearm guru Eric Blandford of Iraqveteran8888.