Skip to comments.ASK MEATEATER: WHAT DO YOU CARRY IN A MOUNTAIN HUNTING PACK?
Posted on 10/19/2020 8:07:27 AM PDT by SJackson
Ive often been accused of carrying a lot of stuff going into the mountains for all-day or multi-day hunting adventures. But Ive never once been accused of being unprepared.
Every elk or mountain muley hunter exists on a spectrum of comfortand associated pack weightranging from spartan to cushy. Some folks simply are tough as granite, but I truly believe that most of us will hunt better, go further, and stay longer when we have the appropriate gear to make us feel comfortable and relaxed. Besides injuries and dealing with other hunters, the only way to ruin a day in the mountains is to not have the right stuff.
With the versatility of todays hunting backpacks, theres really no reason to not have what you need and be ready at all times to kill something. It is a giant waste of timeand possibly a waste of meatto go all the way back to the truck to grab your kill kit or meat hauling frame. Its much better to butcher an animal when you find it and take the first load out post haste.
You can fit a lot of other stuff in those packs and, while that doesnt mean you need to haul all of it all the time, you often can afford a few creature comforts that will enhance your enjoyment and performance.
Opening weekend of elk season this year brought both 80-degree sunshine and a full-on blizzard. I was glad I carried in my full-on shell jacket and pants for a backcountry hunt; my partner was disappointed he forgot his. There is certainly space for judgement calls, but I pretty much always assume when Im headed into the mountains that precipitation and 60-degree temperature swings are possible. Besides the clothes on my back, I also always bring a beanie hat, merino buff, mid-weight gloves, and packable down jacket. The amount of extra clothes I carry increases relative to the weather deteriorating later in the season.
If you often hunt alone and way back like I do, its smart to have duplicative means of finding your way out, surviving a night, or calling in the heavies. I follow the mantra of two is one and one is none. To that end, I always carry my iPhone with onXmaps, a separate GPS unit, a SPOT locator beacon, and extra charges for all. You can also use an InReach or EPIRB or whatever you want, just dont leave it behind.
For the sake of survival, I also carry a robust first aid kit, a small shelter tarp that doubles as a butchering drop cloth, a small water filter, as well as a pistol and bear spray in grizz country.
If you dont think youre going to kill anything, youre probably right. Hunt with the mindset that luck might strike at any moment, and pack to be ready for it.
When hunting mule deer, I carry four large game bags. For elk, I bring six. For the moose I killed last month, we used eight. I roll those up and pack them tightly in a small stuff sack, along with a sharp knife, a small sharpener, thin rubber mechanics gloves, and a contractor-grade garbage bag. The gloves protect my fingers and the garbage bag protects the meat, my pack, and my back when I go to load up. Keeping all these items together means you can get right to work.
Its weight to some, and its quality of life to others. I tend toward a desire to be comfortable and content glassing on some rocky outcropping in the wind above the timber line all morning, or busting through that timber all afternoon. For that reason, I rarely ditch my butt pad, an old Therm-a-Rest Z-Rest cut in half. One hunting buddy brings an ultralight chair, but thats a little rich even for my tastes.
Trekking poles add a pound or so and dont pack very well, but I have a hard time leaving them behind anymore. Steep ascents and descents or heavy backpack loads almost necessitate a little extra balance and support. Its just something you get used to. Dont forget the end-cups for your poles when youre in deep snow or mud.
Spotting scopes are optional and whether I carry mine depends greatly on the general visibility the landscape provides. What I dont view as optional anymore is a small tripod for glassing. Your glassing ability increases tenfold when your binoculars are stabilized. You simply see more when your lenses arent riding your breaths up and down. Speaking of optics, it has to be a really cloudy day for me to leave my sunglasses in the truck.
The hippest new fad in cool-guy mountain hunting is hauling along a JetBoil stove for day hunts. Ill admitIve done it myself. Nothing makes you feel quite as competent and one with the mountain as making a nice cup of coffee while glassing on a high promontory at first light. A hot bowl of ramen at lunch on a cold, snowy day is downright delightful too. Sure, thats a foolish additional weight when you could just have water and a bar, but if it keeps you in the game day in and day out, the weight can be worth it.
Wheres the cougar jerky?
I follow the mantra of two is one and one is none. To that end, I always carry my iPhone with onXmaps, a separate GPS unit, a SPOT locator beacon, and extra charges for all. You can also use an InReach or EPIRB or whatever you want, just dont leave it behind.
Lot of stuff, but I don't hunt in the mountains and usually am not out for the day and don't backpack much anymore. No disagreement with his assortment of electronics, but I never enter the woods without a compass and if in an area I don't know, one of those paper things called a map. Can easily be printed out if not easily available.
If I cant get there in my Gator, I ain’t going.
RPG....just to be sure.....
I’m old, Now I just sit in a comfortable chair on the south side of the shop waiting for deer to come in to the apple tree 50 yards away.
Also, know your heading and back azimuth before entering the treeline.
On one hunting trip, I was late heading out after twilight to the road to catch my ride. I got dark and then pitch dark. I would have wandered lost and stumbling all night except I had a tritium compass and mini-maglite.
I decided next time to take along some of those reflective thumbtacks for backtracking waypoints in the dark.
No head mounted light? That is mandatory in my experience. And the best invention in a long time are packrabbit packs.
“a SPOT locator beacon,”
An experienced Wyoming elk hunter I knew told of running across two city boys traipsing down a logging trail one day, carrying big guns and small daypacks. He would horse-pack 10 or more miles into the backcountry and typically hunt for a week or two, so naturally he asked what they planned to do if they shot an elk. One pulled out a Motorola handie-talkie and said “We call for the helicopter”.
Cell phone and a charging system. Running apps geared for outdoors. Nothing more likely to save your butt than this.
Fire kit. You better be able to start a fire if you’re stuck on the mountain and freezing to death.
Electrolyte pills. Fatigue/cramps will kill you...
Dry clothes/quality clothes. If you get wet, stuck, you’re a dead man.
The above are some important things left out of this article.
Delivery menu from Pizza Pit! ;)
I always tell people that even if you're walking DOWNHILL, it still feels like walking UPHILL - and in another year or so one of my legs will be slightly longer than the other from always walking on an incline. Natives to 'The Driftless Area' are BORN with one leg shorter than the other, LOL! ;)
I live in the lower left corner of the state. The Glaciers completely missed us, hence the hills and all of the bluffs along the Might Mississippi which borders our state on the left.
My Grandpa Nils shot his last deer out the kitchen window - at age 93! ;)
That is being well outfitted!)
I was on a business trip with a citified buddy that had us way in the sticks in south Mississippi. We headed out late afternoon for New Orleans a 100mi away to catch a plane home. Dusk hit and the buddy was blasting down the state highway way fast and i got him to slow down lots because we were in deer country. A few minutes later a group of does flashes out of the trees and across the road. Slam on the brakes. If wed still been blasting the road like we had been, we probably would have had a nice mess on our hands and maybe broken down.
I had 78 one ton Ford with a 300 lb homemade front bumper. Trouble was it didn’t have enough get up and to to “harvest” road kill.
The apple tree behind the house is the best bait.
Psh... An ATV with everything I need.
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