Many of us hunt solo often. Whitetail deer hunting, in general, tends to be more of a solo effort than say hunting waterfowl or going out west to hunt mule deer. The risks are low because we are only out for an afternoon/evening or maybe a whole day—dawn to dusk during peak rut. We come home every evening. Our hunting spots are typically within an hour or so of home. Hiking back to our treestand we might walk in a mile or two. In most of the areas we deer hunt we still have cell reception. So hunting by ourselves here in the midwest isn’t that big of a deal. When you start talking about heading into more remote wilderness areas up north or the mountains out west the calculus changes. With a group of friends or a guide, it’s easy to stay positive and work through the hard times together. If you get injured there are other people who can seek help—even if you become incapacitated. Solo hunting can be much more intimidating and add significant risk to a hunt when you are far from help. With no one to rely on but yourself, it is the ultimate test as a hunter. I don’t say this to discourage you from taking a solo backcountry trip. On the contrary, I feel they can be some of the most rewarding hunts. There are some additional things you will want to consider when planning your hunt.
The biggest consideration you will make while on a solo backcountry hunt is staying safe. This can mean different things depending on the location you will be hunting, however there are some basics you will need wherever you travel to.
- Communication – This is critical. Hunting with others means that someone can go for help in an emergency. When you’re by yourself you must have some means to communicate if you get in trouble. A satellite messenger (such as the Garmin Inreach series), a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), or a satellite phone should be on your person at all times.
- First Aid Gear – You should have the means to deal with a variety of health emergencies. Stopping hemorrhagic bleeding, dealing with an allergic reaction, and treating routine injuries are all considerations. You are your own first responder when solo hunting.
- Predator Defense – Though still exceedingly rare, your chance of an encounter with a dangerous predator goes up exponentially when you are by yourself. Bear spray and a pistol are necessities if you will be in an area with bears, cougars, or wolves.
- Planning – Before your trip, plot out a basic route or general area and stick to it. Let a trusted friend or family member know your planned route and make dates to check back in if possible. Giving the local DNR or USFWS office a copy of your planned route is a great idea too.
- Weather Information – If you are hunting in wilderness areas, you should have some way to get weather information. Knowing that a severe blizzard is coming the next day can be life and death information in the backcountry.
Solo hunting can be some of the best time you will spend in the wilderness. Going out alone and knowing that you can survive is a good feeling. By taking some basic precautions and bringing a few extra pieces of gear you can ensure that you have a safe trip.P