Another year, another hunting season! Oh, yeah it is in full swing as we speak and I have been loving every second of it. I hope you have been, too! With any luck, you’ve already even filled a tag or two! This season is far from over though and there are still many adventures to be had. The elk rut is in full swing right now and the deer rut is right around the corner. And don’t forget about fall bear! Many of us will be backpack hunting in the near future and, for some, it will be their first time doing so. This can be slightly daunting in the beginning. A sort of nervous excitement builds around it. First, let me say that I am stoked for you. Hunting the backcountry offers an experience like no other and is something that will change you for the better. From the true quiet that it offers to the character-building that comes with it, you’re definitely in for an adventure. However, I thought now might be a good time to lay out some quick tips for the first time backpack hunter.
In the beginning, it is really easy to overcomplicate backpack hunting. I think this is because many of us are not familiar with it and want reassurance that we’ll have a good experience. It is natural to be a bit apprehensive of it and to even be intimidated. We are used to a life of convenience and safety. Taking yourself out of that bubble can be difficult for some. Doing research is great and I’m a huge fan of it. The more prepared you are, the better. However, let’s not make this more complicated than it is. The goal is to load up a backpack, spend some nights out in the backcountry and hunt. There isn’t a massive difference between you setting up a truck camp and hunting from it or setting up a backcountry camp. The only difference is all of your gear is on your back and the vehicle isn’t right next to you. If an animal is taken, there is a bit more work involved as well in order to get it back to the vehicle. Everything else is very similar.
I am a fully admitted gear junkie. Every year I try out new stuff for my kit and am excited to do so. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new water filter or a new shelter, I get stoked. As someone goes through the process of learning to backpack hunt, I think it’s hard not to get addicted to gear. We’re always striving to get our packs lighter and systems more efficient.
That involves a lot of gear testing along with trial and error in the field. However, right in the beginning? It isn’t necessary. By all means, if you want to really get nerdy about gear, then go for it. The truth is, though, you don’t need the latest and greatest of every piece of gear out there. Sure, your pack might be a bit heavier, but the important part is that you are out there. The fanciest gear in the world is no replacement for the experience and knowledge you will gain from being in the field. So, if it comes down to you buying a heavier shelter or waiting until next year to go backpack hunting, carry the extra weight. You’ll be glad that you did in the end.
The last tip — and probably the most important — is to actually make this happen. I talk to a lot of folks each and every year that express interest in trying this backpack hunting thing out. They’ll dive deep into the topic, buy all of the gear and even make a scouting trip or two. After watching videos and reading books about it, they are more than inspired and ready for action. At least they think they are. When it actually comes time to make it actually happen, some throw in the towel and end up not going through with it. I’ve heard a multitude of excuses for not getting out there and have even used a few myself. Just like when you might come home early from a hunt, regret always sets in here. To not pull the trigger and go is to do yourself a disservice if you ask me. After all of the preparation, research and money spent? Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk and make it happen.
Backpack hunting holds so much meaning to me as I sit here and write this. It really is the full experience out there that gets me. Just the whole process and anticipation of it all. From hiking into camp to sitting behind the glass eating dinner; it captivates me — so much so that I often find myself smiling from ear to ear on the way back to the truck. This happens even if I don’t see one single animal on my hunt. Imagine that. When you are in the backcountry on your first backpack hunt, soak it in. Enjoy what is in front of you and appreciate the opportunity that you have to do such things. Backpack hunting can definitely be difficult, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be wishing you were out there living in the dirt again soon after getting home.