I can remember reading literature from the likes of Cameron Hanes, Dwight Schuh, and a whole library of magazine articles that all had to do with backpack hunting. Reading these stories made my mind wander like no other. The thought of hiking into a wilderness area with nothing but a backpack, bow, and a whole lot of hope truly did consume my thoughts for some time. No vehicles, no people, and a rugged but simple way of hunting was something that I knew I had to experience in the future. Finally, after much day dreaming and probably annoying my wife with way too many adventure/bowhunting stories, I decided that I NEEDED to try this backpack hunting thing out. I am so glad that I did and I would like to share with you why I think YOU should consider backpack hunting in your future.
The promise of adventure is such a big thing when one talks about a backpack hunt in my opinion. You are hiking miles deep into an area with no roads, probably no cell service, and the likelihood of seeing other folks is pretty slim. Everything that you need is on your back, not to mention you are trying to bring a piece of that wilderness home with you in the form of a couple hundred pounds of lean, organic, free range meat. You are at the mercy of mother nature and what she bestows upon you can oftentimes dictate a miserable hunt, or an amazing hunt. Either way adventure is surely in store and who doesn’t like a good adventure every now and then?
Stay Where the Animals Are
A huge advantage of doing a backpack style hunt is the ability to stay where the animals are. This really helps lighten the load in terms of hiking. For instance, last January I backpacked into an area on an archery coues deer hunt. In the mornings, I would wake up, walk less than 100 yards to my glassing spot for the morning, and eat breakfast. Yes, less than 100 yards from my tent, and I was glassing up rutting coues bucks! If I weren’t on a backpack hunt and I had to hike into that area every morning, I would have to not only hike a couple of miles every morning just to get to where I could glass, but I would also have to get up way earlier in the morning in order to get to where I needed to be on time. So, being back there already, enabled me to expend way less energy each morning and leave me more fuel in the tank for the task at hand. Pretty sweet set up.
Let’s say that during your hunt, you actually bumped your quarry out of the country you were in. This is something that is bound to happen from time to time. None of us are perfect hunters and the only way for us to get after it, is to get after it. This involves putting some pressure on the game we chase. Animals are going to be bumped from time to time, whether it is by you or other hunters. If this did happen, it would be quite feasible for you to just throw camp right back on your back and follow that herd of elk into the next basin, drainage, etc.
Less Educated Animals
Getting off the roads and into the backcountry offers another positive. Hunting less educated animals. Have you ever thought about that? I know I didn’t until I experienced it. A deer that doesn’t see people that much compared to one that does can act totally different. The buck that is hanging in close proximity to a road often will bolt at the slightest sight of a human. This deer knows humans and has made the connection. However a deer that doesn’t see people that often at all will many times act puzzled when put in front of someone, especially if that person is wearing good camo. I had this happen to me on the backpack Coues deer hunt I mentioned above. On three separate occasions during that hunt, I had deer anywhere from 30 yards to 8 ft. Not one of them booked it out of there. They merely just walked away. Don’t get me wrong. These deer knew that something was there in front of them, but they just either couldn’t see me, or didn’t see me as that much of a threat.
I have yet to be successful on a backpack hunt. This past January was my first time and just the fact that I did it was enough reward for me. Of course I would have liked to bring home a big Coues buck, but in the end, what I got out of that hunt mentally, was nothing short of amazing. I could just imagine how I would have felt if I actually filled my tag! Just the act of backpacking is mentally rewarding enough for me. Every time that I have gotten back to the truck whether backpacking or backpack hunting, it feels like I’ve achieved something. Like I have gotten through another chapter of the season. Top that with having a successful hunt, hauling all of the meat out with your camp, and you come up with a feeling of accomplishment that I will forever chase.
When it’s All Said and Done
Backpack hunting is not for the faint of heart, but if you can hack the physical and mental barriers that it holds, you really can have one heck of an experience. Please note that you absolutely do not have to hike 12 miles deep in order to have that good experience either. Even if you only hiked in a few miles, just so you didn’t have to make a huge hike in the morning, you will still be able to have an awesome hunt. Maybe you’ll love it or maybe you’ll hate it. The only way to find out is to load up your pack, grab your bow, lace up your boots, and start trekking! The solitude that comes with hunting like this will envelop you and either drive you crazy or sooth your soul. If you are anything like me or the select few other individuals that choose to hunt this way, you will find yourself in the latter.
Josh Kirchner is the voice behind Dialed in Hunter, a blog that not only documents his own journey, but provides gear reviews, tips/tactics for western hunting, and encourages other hunters to chase and achieve their goals. Josh is a passionate bowhunter that has been hunting with his family since he was a small boy, but for the last three years has been eating, sleeping, and breathing the hunting lifestyle. When he is not chasing elk, deer, bear, and javelina through the diverse Arizona terrain, he is spending time with his wife, two herding dogs, and mischievous cat. Connect with Josh on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.