When planning your backcountry hunt, the primary focus of the plan—besides finding animals—is to locate perennial water sources; Springs, creeks, etc., Water location scouting through research with maps, hydrologists, game biologists, and on-foot, is the key to the success of your backcountry hunt.
Locating your camp in proximity to animals is usually the number one goal; not camping too close as to displace the animals, but close enough to be in the hunt.
Having water sources close enough as not to spend hours in travel or pump time, should be a goal as well. Typically the higher in elevation you go, the fewer water choices you’ll have. Some regions of the world actually have more water-sources the higher one travels, so careful study of the area you hunt will dictate the necessary water-logistics for your back country hunt.
Once you’ve located water sources, the planning hasn’t ended. HOW you go about the collection is another item that needs serious consideration—before the trip. Develop a “system’ for the various places you hunt, as rarely will one type of water-“system” work for all areas.
Are you carrying a filter/purifier? Is it the light-weight version utilizing chlorine or Iodine tabs? Are your water sources high mountain flowing streams, with little need to treat at all? Are you carrying Drom™ bags to store water to lessen the impact of water collection time? Using a straw-in-a-bottle type? Is it your first time using the technology? Hope you tried the technology before you stepped-foot into the wilderness, as an unforeseen problem can end your hunt.
Serious consideration to your elevation and the “quality” of your water source is very important. One hunt I’d planned for a desert Mule deer hunt, I shied-away from due to the amount of cattle fouled spring sites. Finding safe, clean water just wasn’t going to happen, making the amount of water I’d have to carry from my vehicle too big of burden.
Start by asking friends, their likes and dislikes; where they hunt—desert or mountains; do they use iodine? Are you allergic to iodine? Weight a large issue?
Once you’ve settled on a “system,” try before you get out to where you hunt, and be sure to maintain the “system,” to avoid freezing, bacteria growth, or other issues. I just replaced my MSR filter/pump, purchased in 1987, after diligent maintenance. I remember pumping at least six gallons on a remote Alaska caribou hunt, without changing the pre-filter. It pumped nearly a hundred gallons in its life time, I hope I get that kind of life out of my newest filter.
The idea of back country “Rambling,” as Mr. Patrick Smith, Founder of Kifaru, calls it, is increasingly appealing to many folks. But, now-a-days anyone with a GPS unit can travel for many weeks over all kinds of country. But, what occurs when the GPS is inoperable or the batteries die? Do you know how to navigate without your GPS? In country you’ve never been in, or seen in daylight? How about in the dark, or when fog or heavy snows set in? How competent are you at travel without a map and/ or compass?
The above reasons, I believe, are why there aren’t more folks sharing the back country. These are some reasons back country travelers get lost. But, personal navigation is just that—personal—we need to take personal responsibility if we are going to go beyond the Green gate. If we are going to travel in the back country away from modern conveniences, then we need to know how to get back to the trailhead. Make the effort to learn just the basic skills, and the back country becomes an endless wilderness that has no boundaries.
As a former search and rescue volunteer, I know of a story of a group that was lost in the Cascades’ of Central Oregon. They were able to “call 911” to report they were lost, and when an intervening Sheriff’s Deputy asked if they had a GPS unit, the answer was “Yes, but we don’t know how to use it!”
A similar call to Central Oregon’s 911center a year later revealed that the “family,” still had not learned the basics of GPS operation, as they requested “rescue” again, from nearly the same location. The obvious point being, “know your equipment, how to use it, or stay home.” No, they weren’t fined!
If you don’t have the necessary navigation skills, even staying on the roads and trails can lead to an overnight in the back country. Always carrying the twelve essentials is an absolute. One Central Oregon hunter on an ATV some years ago, decided to drive away from camp—on a road—to dispose of the remaining carcass of a deer. Once down the road he found a likely place to leave the carcass. The return to camp seemed simple, but somehow he “couldn’t follow” his own ATV tracks back toward camp, and spent the night out without any of the essentials. Very cold and lucky to be alive, the lesson learned is, always carry the 12 essentials!
There is a similar story from a trio of Central Oregon snowmobilers’ whom found themselves stuck in deep powder -- in a whiteout. Having a cell phone did them little good, as they didn’t quite know where they were; their decision? Light the snowmobile on fire to send a distress signal. They were ill-prepared to spend the night with poor clothing choices, and no overnight equipment—Job security, we call it! Yes, they made it out without injury, but not because of the smoke-signal!
A common belief or “Old wives tale,” is the (Im) practical advice to always go down, or drop in elevation if disoriented. The reasoning is, “You’ll eventually hit a road.” --Simply not true, and that strategy can be very dangerous in many locales. I’ll refer to the “disoriented” hiker versus the “lost” hiker. The difference can be subtle, as many of us have been “disoriented” for periods of time, but not truly lost. The difference in the decision tree for one is different than the other; I’ll try and explain. The “disoriented” hiker still may have bench marks or landmarks at his/her disposal, where the “lost” hiker has none.
So, “how do you stay found?” What might seem to be straight forward advice to some is a crooked path to others, but I’ll try to give some basics:
Oregon Pack Works, LLC makes no claims to be an expert in back country navigation. These above stories and tips are merely that, stories and tips. Your actual experiences may vary.
As long ago as thirty years—I was sixteen, at the time—the “idea” of a back- country bird hunter was something I desired to do, but finding someone to share that journey with, was as rare as an albino moose. Today, there is an increasing trend toward back country hunting in general, but bird hunting? I say yes!
The savvy bird hunter, as well as the back country big game hunter knows, that many times the farther back we go from modern human activity, the more plentiful the game. This trend is developing in upland bird hunting. The early-season Ptarmigan, Grouse and Chukar hunter, can “weather” the weather and camp for two or three days and hunt back country destinations that few people visit. By staying the night, you’ll find yourself amongst the game the next morning. And if you shoot like me, it might just take a day or two to kill a limit.
I hunt without a dog now that my latest Lab is gone. But, I don’t let being dog-less thwart my efforts. It’s only a little lonely without your hunting pal, but take-along a flask, and after twelve hours of hunting and a nip off the flask, you’ll sleep like a baby. Of course, the enjoyment and companionship is missing, but find a friend that has a dog, to truly provide safety and commaraderie.
I pack as light as possible for a 36 hour back country bird hunt. Always take the 12 essentials, and if you camp near water, cleaning those first-day birds, and letting them cool overnight, just helps them last that much better the next day on your way back to the car. A foldable “soft-cooler” is also a handy item to carry in the early season.
If you haven’t given it a try, you might enjoy the solitude and all the birds you can handle, instead of a long hike back to the car at prime hunting light, when the birds are beckoning—spend it hunting. And next time, stay out overnight, who knows you too might just become a back country bird hunter.
With the right hunting pack, you can have a good bit of bivy gear and food, plus a couple limits of birds, and not feel out-of-balance when you spin on some birds. The enjoyment far outweighs the minor logistics associated with a two-day bird hunt. Hope I run into you on some distance bluff in Chukar country this fall. We can compare gear lists and share a sage brush camp fire and share some tales of back country birds, and a nip off the flask.
I’ve processed my own game for over thirty years. I learned the skill from my father before I was old enough to hunt big game.
The basics of meat care start before going afield for the hunt. The ethical hunter must have a complete understanding of meat care. This involves knowing travel times, on foot or horseback; knowing the weather you will hunt in; and having the proper skills and equipment to clean, transport, and care for your wild game from the time of kill to the time of processing. As a meat processor, one should carry a minimum of items to quickly process the animal.
First step—observe the smell and look of the animal. If the animal appears sick or the meat has a foul odor, be wary. There are a few stories of animals unfit to eat. Contact a wildlife officer if in any doubt. This may be difficult far from roads, but you don’t want a “wanton waste of game” charge.
Here are my basic game processing rules.
Loading a pack properly is part of the fit, comfort, and enjoyment that any pack wearer and bearer gets out of their pack. The DIY hunter wants his trip to be predictable and with few problems. But many times we don’t practice loading or carrying heavy loads—especially heavy weights such as our gear for an eight-day trip, or boned-out meat.
Pack comfort is made up of three factors:
Drinking water to some is like eating vegetables or going to the gym. We know we should, but just can’t seem to make it happen. Soda pop or caffeinated drinks are all some people drink—all day, every day. This isn’t good for you at home, the office, and it really isn’t good for you in the mountains. It is work to drink enough water in the backcountry.
Your body is 60% water weight. The human brain is made up of 95% water. Blood is 82% and lungs 90%. A mere 2% drop in our body's water supply can trigger signs of dehydration: fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on smaller print. Just a 3% drop can equate to a 30% drop in performance.
Mild dehydration is also one of the most common causes of daytime fatigue.
Water is important to the mechanics of the human body. The body cannot work without it, just as a car cannot run without gas and oil. In fact, all cell and organ functions in our entire anatomy and physiology depend on water for functioning.
In addition to the daily maintenance of our bodies, water also plays a key role in the prevention of disease. Drinking eight glasses of water daily can decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45%, bladder cancer by 50% and it can potentially even reduce the risk of breast cancer. You lose close to a liter of water a day through breathing, sweating and bowel movements. The Institute of Medicine advises that men consume roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day and women consume 2.2 liters (about 9 cups).
Alcoholic or sugary drinks have no place in the mountains. They lead to dehydration—the one thing working hard at elevation will do for you already. If the weather is hot or cold, your body needs water to aid in digestion and efficient synthesis of nutrients. Drink water at night? Yes! You may wake up to pee, but you’ll avoid debilitating cramps. Knees aching? Drink up!
Incidentally, though uncommon, it is possible to drink too much water. When your kidneys are unable to excrete the excess water, the electrolyte (mineral) content of the blood is diluted, resulting in low sodium levels in the blood, a condition called hyponatremia. Endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, who drink large amounts of water, are at higher risk of hyponatremia.
Rest assured that for most of us most of the time water is nothing but good news.
The previous articles, Calorie Count and Hydration, are two interrelated themes when we think about human performance (H.P.). And yet, we are usually more motivated to know how to get the most out of our physical training, than the food and water we drink. This is the third and final part of three essays about H.P.
For hunters, it’s the hour-by-hour stalk or belly crawl. It is the two-day, meat pack-out at the end of five long days of hunting—before daylight to after dark pursuits. It is performing at “your” peak; and that is different for everyone.
It’s interesting to note that the military is researching chemical stimulant effects, as well as many other intangibles. The biggest performance variable I can relate to is sleep deprivation. When hunting, we may not pursue animals at night, but some of those very successful hunters actually “dog” the animals at night, so at sun-up are close for an opportunity, and by doing so carefully, that herd bull will eventually tire of the “threat,” and expose himself for the shot.
I’m not researching chemical stimulants. Bugling bulls are enough motivation for me. I am however, analyzing my training, diet, mental aspects, and most importantly—recovery and sleep—knowing the difference between the two, is important. Recovery involves sleep, but just sleeping is not “active” recovery. Active recovery is stretching, walking, and rest. A rest “from” training! Let the body heal and get stronger. Over-training has far larger and, longer lasting ramifications than not training enough!
Training your feet should be Priority ONE! Many a trip is ruined by poorly performing feet. If you don’t have good boots, don’t try out those brand-new boots two-weeks before your trip. Second to your feet, is just being out-of-shape. Certainly not training your feet has ramifications, but injuries that limit your performance should be avoided. Blisters are treatable. Strains take time to heal.
Are you consuming “enough” calories and the right calories for the stress you’re enduring. Are you losing ten pounds or more while in the back country, and, how was your motivation to get up before dark the fourth morning? Sleeping-in? Certainly mental toughness is another intangible that is hard to measure. Some have just “trained” their brain, more than others. It is these “edges” that can be honed with a “training plan,” for back country hunting.
First, write your plan down! What isn’t written usually doesn’t last for long.
Secondly, don’t start a month before hunting season; start right after last years’ when you were motivated! Write down, “How” you need to train, based on “How” you felt last year. Expand on your strengths, Improve, your weaknesses!
Thirdly, review “everything,” from nutrition, sleep, gear, and fitness in your plan. Lastly, get out there! I’ve found for my training to last for a full year—and not get bored, I get outdoors; plus I mix it up. But, there is no better fitness than “hiking the hills,” doing the EXACT THING you’re going to do on your trip, to do it better.
DIY hunters have large caloric intake demands. This article is another view on foods for performance in the back country. I try to hit the minimum of 100 calories per ounce of weight carried. It’s tough, and not always rewarding when it comes to food, but I’ve found a general list of foods that come out to about 2.2# of food per day*, and are fairly non-perishable. I’d love to have steaks and seafood, but that can wait until I pack out my animal. Notice that breakfast is my biggest meal, and it should usually be yours.
*Calorie count is largely dependent on calories burned/physical effort, plus metabolic rate. I try to eat “enough” protein, as I don’t want to rob my lean muscle if I don’t eat enough. I choose to eat fewer calories on the “easy” days, thus I may have spare food.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and especially at night after bed.
With the advent of “Ultra-Light, this”, and “Extreme, that”, I thought it would be appropriate to address the growing phenomenon of going lighter.
I like you, probably have a budget I have to live within, thus limiting the ability to acquire all of the “newest and lightest” stuff on the market—at least, all at one time.
So, maybe like me, you pick and choose the items from which to “upgrade” first. Your list may look like mine; Replace the things that weigh the most first and replace the bulkiest items next, or vice-versa. The order of things doesn’t really matter.
So, where to start? Going on-line is always the first place to go. With searches of words such as: ultra-light hiking, backpacking, etc., I’ve found that Backpackers LOVE STUFF! But, alas, so do hunters, as we carry many things that backpackers don’t because few of them are butchering game and carrying implements of death--typically. So, we can decide certain things that HAVE to be carried in the backcountry as soloists/Hunters. Now the fun begins. Once you’ve pared-down to the “essentials,” WEIGH IT! Weight and bulk savings costs, did I mention that?!
So, while you’re weighing items, I’ll give some tips on how and where I cut back—on weight and bulk--still knowing that once I’ve started this obsession, it will most likely never end!
A ton of articles talk about reducing the “Big” three:
These “Big” three are typically, the bulkiest and heaviest base-weight items backpackers carry. The other weights that are difficult to reduce is water, then food.
I have reduced in two of the above three, but find it near impossible to reduce pack weight that is capable of hauling heavy weights—like meat—and enough gear, long distances comfortably. My pack is convertible, and heavier than my old pack, so what I gain in efficiency (I have fourteen combinations on my back), I loose on the weight category. I’ve just found that you can skimp on certain things, but a good pack isn’t one of them! Just carry less stuff, and carry lighter gear, with less bulk!
Here are some examples of where I cut down, both weight and bulk—over the years.
Now you may say, “I don’t even carry coffee! So I’ve saved something.” Yes, it’s true, but you’ve also missed something. The time that I just sit still and see the wonderful things in life nowadays, and ponder things--typically is the first waking minutes when I can not be rushed and enjoy the view—and I love my coffee!!
Note: I’m not bashing my friends who carry the JetBoil®, but man, the bulk and weight is too much, in fact, one friend—also a Coffee Natzi, carries TWO JetBoils®!!
One pound for each JetBoil®—Plus fuel, Plus Bulk! Think about that stuff!
Get rid of the weight AND the bulk!! My Pocket Rocket,™ is only 3 ounces!
5. Wood burning Stove—I love my Para-Stove! In fact, after a LaNiña year in 2004—I changed my whole shelter system, to include the Kifaru Para-stove. I’ll never be cold and wet for very long, ever again! This, after seven long days of hunting in the rain--that was it. This is one of those trade offs. The stove weighs just over three pounds, but by reducing bulk, and two-pounds from my sleeping bag; another savings of bulk and two-pounds from my cook stove; and over three-pounds savings from my old shelter system. This trade off was easy—albeit expensive.
So, this is just an example of where you can go, but remember, personal preference is what it’s all about; your preferences may NOT match others, so know your preferences, develop a system, and before long you’ll have reduced weight and bulk—and that makes me sleep a lot better at night!
1. Lumbar pack: behind mesh pocket--para cord, fire starter, in baggie tooth paste, deodorant, tooth brush, one t.a.g.-bag, x-bowl, msr spoon. Two small outside pockets—small items…
in lumbar pack main pocket--compressed in sil dry bag, clothes consisting of ua underwear, ua socks, rocky base layer top-bottom, ua t-shirt, ua mid weight fleece, ua jacket, ua beenie.
2. Right side overflow bag:
jet boil flash
msr auto-flow filter
gsi coffee mug
extra jetboil 100g cartridge
4 liter platypus
packable rain jacket
3. Left side overflow:
towel, soap, wash cloth
sea to summit pocket shower
sea to summit folding bucket
energy bars 3 per day in seperate dry bag
in seperate dry bag, breakfast 2 oatmeal per day, 3 coffee via per day plus 1 hot chocolate per day.
4. Hydro pack:
3 liter source-bladder in rear bladder pocket. Tp plus brunton power pack waist belt pouch right side, range finder, gps, left side pouch, digital camera, headlamp
Sleep system: sits between overflow bags. All in sil-nylon dry bag is:
sea to summit reactor, montbell ul-3 bag, thermarest neo-air, nemo meta 1p tent, seperate dry bag with mountain house meals for dinner and lunch.
I take the mountain house out of the packages and reseal them individually in baggies each labeled to save space. I carry two empty pouches to re-constitute the meals in.
Jim Dean, Prineville, Oregon
|Msr Ti pot||8 freeze dried (2meals) dinners||REI Brand--Carbon Trekking poles|
|MSR Pocket Rocket||Dried Cherries||Calls|
|2 MSR 110gm. Fuel bottles||Jerky||Saw|
|8 Luna bars||GPS|
|Sleeping Stuff||8 Kashi bars||Digital Camera|
|Clothes for pillow||8 brkfst. Bars||Croc camp shoes|
|Thermarest||8 chocolate squares||Face Camo|
|Home-made bag cover||Starbucks VIA Fr. Roast-16||small repair kit|
|Western Mtn. down bag||16 oatmeal packs||clothes line|
|Montbell Down jkt.||headlamp|
|Montbell Down pant||Worn||Spare Batteries|
|Camo shirt--Hot Weather||Radio w/ear bud|
|Camo shorts--Hot Weather||sunglasses|
|knife||belt--?||1st aid kit|
|cordage||Fleece jkt.--Cold Weather|
|rubber gloves||Fleece pants--Cold Weather||Toiletries|
|Silnylon meat bags x 2||T.P.|
|Shelter System||wet wipes|
|Clothes||Kifaru Super tarp||scentfree wipes|
|Camo Stocking cap||Kifaru Super tarp annex||toothpaste|
|undies x 2||Kifaru Stove||toothbrush|
|long john top||Water hauling||saline|
|long john bottoms||Drom Bag||soap|
|Drom Shower bag|
|MSR hydration 130oz.|
|Nalgene Canteen 48oz|