When you set out to hunt a large animal in the backcountry, there are some unique challenges presented. Faced with the same task as always, to find and kill the animal you’re hunting, you now face many additional obstacles to overcome. Keeping yourself alive and comfortable when you’re a long way away from help is not always easy. When you also have to pack in a shelter and supplies while navigating a rugged new environment, the task of hunting takes on a whole new meaning. I’m going to focus on a few of the unique challenges presented while backcountry hunting.
Packing In Gear
The first and main goal of any backcountry hunt is to get the gear you need for the hunt into the backcountry. A good frame backpack is essential here as you may need to carry 40-100 pounds at times during your trip. Some may choose to utilize animals like mules, horses, or even llamas to help pack in gear, but that can present difficulties too. You will need to pack in food, water (or a water filter), a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, portable stove, fuel, a weapon, binoculars, and extra layers of clothing at a minimum. The colder the place you’ll be backpacking into, the heavier your gear will be as a warmer tent and sleeping bag will add weight in insulation.
Staying Safe In The Backcountry
Being in the backcountry means you are a long ways from help should an emergency arise. You can’t just have a buddy pick you up and drive you to the hospital. Emergency medical services may be two hours or more away from your location. You likely will not even have cellular reception. This means you need to be prepared to take responsibility for your own safety. A good first aid kit and training to use it is a must. A satellite SOS device or a PLB (personal locator beacon) is almost a necessity, especially if you are on a solo trip. Starting a fire for emergency warmth and the ability to get water are skills that could save your life. There is also the issue of dealing with wild animals depending on where you will be. Bears, cougars, and other predators can be dangerous. While rare, you need to know the area you will be in and take precautions to avoid a bad encounter with a dangerous animal. Carrying pepper spray or a sidearm is also a good idea.
Packing Out Game
One of the other challenges unique to a backcountry hunt is dealing with and packing out meat if you are successful. When you are 5 miles or more deep in rugged terrain you will not be able to simply drag out a deer. Typically this will mean quartering or boning out the meat and carrying it out on your pack. This can take multiple loads. In the case of a moose, elk, or large bear you could be talking about hundreds of pounds of meat to get out.
Backcountry hunting is a challenge like few others. The combination of hunting with the added difficulty of backpacking in the wilderness means that you will be putting in a ton of work. Mistakes can get you seriously injured or worse. Preparation and planning can be the difference between success and failure.