It’s heating up all across the country right now and do you know what that means? Early fall hunting seasons are starting to show their face! What an exciting time of year it is to be a hunter. As we make our way through what I call “prep season,” it’s hard to not feel the anticipation of what’s to come. Many of us have early season tags in our pockets. Whether we’re talking glassing for August black bears or spot and stalking antelope, the temperatures are likely going to be high with some areas north of 100 degrees. Typically, most hunting seems to take place when these numbers drop along with the leaves. For those that have “the bug” though and are willing to endure scorching temperatures in the name of hunting, here are some things to think about for your next summer trip.
One of the first things that comes across my mind when hunting in the heat is keeping things light. The thought of lugging around a bunch of unnecessary stuff just doesn’t sound appealing, especially in hot weather. An obvious culprit here is clothing. An ultralight merino top with a hood will do wonders in the heat. This will breath well, which will help keep you cool, and it’s extremely comfortable. I mentioned getting one with a hood for a reason. Staying covered out there in the sun is important. Not only will it help save you a sunburn, but it’s less exhausting. When the sun is beating down on your bare skin all day long, keeping your energy up is that much more difficult. By using a lightweight hood, you’ll protect your noggin and the back of the neck. It’s creating your own shade in a sense. If you don't have a hood, a bandana can also help. Getting that wet before wearing is a fantastic way to cool off. This thinking doesn't stop just with your tops. Pants are another thing to look at. Keep them lightweight and thin. The heavier the clothing, the more energy you are going to use carrying them around on your person. Lightweight tops, bottoms, socks, etc., are the way to go.
As we roll through hunting seasons, things have a way of getting lost within our packs. Sometimes, they find a little hole to nestle in and we just straight forget about them. Before we realize it, we’ve got extra stuff in our packs that was probably for colder weather (the last hunts we were on) and we are carrying more than we need. Make sure to go through your backpack before these hot weather hunts and clear out the unnecessary. You don’t need those hand warmers that you were toting around back in November.
The hotter it gets, the less I want to eat. Super hot weather just has a way of making me lose my appetite and I know I’m not alone there. Those tasty protein bars that were a luxury during the winter time are now much less desirable. This is because they are so dry. That’s the last thing I want to be eating when it’s blazing hot out. Not to mention that the chocolate ones are an absolute mess at these times. By the time you get it out of the wrapper, all of the chocolate has migrated away from the bar, leaving you with a granola bar and chocolate covered wrapper. So, maybe think about bringing some food out there that is actually satisfying. I personally love dried fruit on hot hunts. Yeah, it may not be cold and wet like it would be back home, but it’s a vast difference from that messy chocolate bar. Fruit leathers are another thing I’ve enjoyed in the past. A cold breakfast in the morning is something I’ve also enjoyed. Cold water in a granola/fruit/dehydrated milk mix. Good stuff.
Before heading out in the heat, having a plan for your harvest needs to be something on your radar. The first thing you can do is to make sure you’ve got a quality set of game bags — something that is lightweight, strong and breathable. This is going to aid in the cooling process while keeping the bugs off of your meat. Bugs are always worse in the heat. By getting those quarters hung up in a tree inside those game bags, you’ll enable air to hit the whole quarter to help build that nice crust on the outside. Doing this in the shade is preferable. From there, know what you’re going to do with that meat after everything is all cut up and hanging. My plan is always getting those goods back to my truck and into a cooler with ice. After that, we head home and I start processing the animal. Everything gets cut up, vacuum-sealed and put into the freezer. If you plan on bringing your harvest to someone else to process, find out the details on that ahead of time. Find out their hours, rates, turn around time, etc. The reason I started processing my own meat was that the place I planned on bringing my animal to was closed the day I harvested it and a super far drive from home. In the end, I learned how to do it myself, but the point remains.
We can’t talk about hot weather hunting and not talk about water. Water is so crucial for us staying safe out there in the heat. Staying hydrated is something that I often see taken for granted and I’ve for sure done it myself as well. A lot of times it’s not on purpose. We just get excited during the “heat of the moment” on these hunts and simply forget to drink, especially if the water we have is warm, which it often is. It’s just not that inviting to think about slugging down that warm water. While it may not sound satisfying to do so, this is something that needs to happen. If you’ve never had a heat stroke before, let me tell you, it’s some nasty stuff. I’ve personally had it a few times working down here in the desert and each time it reiterates the fact that I need to pay better attention. Having that in the mountains, miles into the country could spell out a very bad experience. So, do what you need to do to make sure you’re drinking. In the past, I’ve had certain markers on a trail where I take a drink at. My wife has gone to the extent of putting ice in her bladder to make that water more desirable. If you’re backpack hunting, keep tabs on your water supply and where you’ll be able to fill back up. There are also drink mixes to help replenish electrolytes and what not. These are great for breaking up the monotony of water and are a good way to cap off the day with dinner.
Hunting during the early season hot weather have really grown on me through the years. It used to be something that I never really looked forward to as hunting season was always a cold weather thing for my family. I’ll have you know, though, that there is some exceptional hunting to be had when the temperatures rise. And a lot of them are over-the-counter hunts due to the fact that they aren’t as popular as their later season siblings. These are hunts that most folks can just go and do on their own accord. So, instead of waiting until the leaves fall, get out there and experience some of these adventures. The more time you can spend in the field, the better you are going to get at your craft. All the while, you never know; you might just find a new favorite hunt. Soon, instead of dreaming of crunchy fall leaves and cool air, you’ll be dreaming of blazing hot sunshine and velvet bucks.