A backpack hunt may be just what you need to reinvigorate your soul.
My first backpack hunt was a true challenge. With each breath, I could feel the moisture building on the inside of my sleeping bag. Laying awake right before my alarm sounded, I tried to steal any last bit of warmth I could before crawling out of my tent and braving the cold. Not far away, there were rutting Coues deer in the basin I was camped above. I’d hiked in the previous night and set my tent up atop a grassy mesa.
On the hike in, I was questioning my sanity. The overloaded backpack weighed me down, not to mention the unknown of the area I would be hunting. I had my doubts during that first backpack hunt all those years ago. What was once doubt though, has turned into a love so pure I am smitten at every turn of the trail. I’ve become anchored to backpack hunting and these are my top five reasons why.
Backpack Hunting Top 5 Reasons
Reason 1: Solitude
One of the driving factors that pushed me to try out backpack hunting was separating myself from other hunters. It’s not that I disliked them, but more so I wanted to enjoy the mountains in solitude — just me, the animals, and the place they called home. Not to mention that almost eerie stillness in the air. The backcountry is a dead-quiet place where a pin dropping wouldn’t go unnoticed. In my opinion, solitude undoubtedly adds to the quality of the hunt. There have been many times in the past where my hunt was “ruined” by another hunter.
It’s public land, yes. It’s also a bummer any time that encroachment happens though, especially when you have quality animals located. Backpack hunting has delivered on that front by leaps and bounds. In my home state, I have yet to run into another backpack hunter in the field. I’m sure it’ll happen someday, and I’m sure we’ll throw a friendly nod to one another. Until then though, I’m gonna enjoy the peaceful and quiet ride.
Reason 2: Adventure
If backpack hunting spoke, the word “adventure” would be a regular part of its vernacular. There is no shortage of adventure on backpack hunts. From traversing through the breathtakingly stunning country and sleeping wherever your feet take you, braving the elements, and living with critters. You’ll both see and experience things that the city will never provide. It is the ultimate adventure from start to finish and a motion so far removed from, not only the life we live in the city but hunting from the truck as well.
Truck camps have their place no doubt, but backpack hunting just takes things to a whole different level. Suddenly, the trip isn’t just about hunting. It’s about the whole kit and caboodle. The experience — adventure, along with the unknown, are the main ingredients for the experience.
Reason 3: The Backpack Hunt Process
I’ve always enjoyed the process of hunting. The preseason scouring of maps, the diligent practice in marksmanship, and then trying to find a needle in a haystack, followed by attempting to bring that needle home with you. It’s a process that screams sacrifice reward.
The process of backpack hunting is similar, but a little more complex. Not only are you going through the process of hunting, but you’re also going through the process of just living in the backcountry. That in itself is immensely rewarding. Put the two together and they are downright intoxicating for me. It brings me joy to wake up in the middle of nowhere and go retrieve my daily food from my food bag that’s hanging in a tree not far away. I’m excited to fire up my stove to make breakfast and coffee by the light of my headlamp. I look forward to when it’s time to go filter water.
Finally, when an animal lays in front of me, I am glad to go through the motions of keeping the meat cool and the arduous pack out to come. I both enjoy and respect the process of backpack hunting.
Reason 4: The Challenge
All that being said, backpack hunting is a challenge. It’ll push you both physically and mentally. I’ve seen it mentally break the manliest of men and send them right back to the truck without plans of returning. I’ve seen the physical demands make hardcore hunters question why they would even agree to such a thing.
The sheer challenge of everything that comes along with backpack hunting is exactly what lures folks like myself back for more over and over again. It’s not for everyone, but it is for some. I’ve also seen it stoke the fire of a few people. It unlocked a whole new world for them and they reveled in it. For those few, the prize at the end of the rainbow is always worth it too, no matter the end.
Reason 5: Gratification No Matter the End
The rewards of backpack hunting are many. They reach well past filling a tag. This really dawned on me on a fulfilling hike back to the truck after bear hunting for a few days in the backcountry solo for the first time. On this hunt, the bears eluded me and my tag was still in my backpack.
For some, that might be a bummer. In all honesty, though, it was the farthest thing from my mind. I had just hiked into a remote area alone and lived for three days out of my pack. There was bad weather, I slept in a coffin-like tent, drank water out of cold mountain streams, and I saw bears. Looking back on all of that on the hike out just put a smile on my face. It made me realize that the experience of backpack hunting is much bigger than any animal I’ll take doing it.
When I did finally roll out of my tent that cold morning in January, my breath was stolen from me. The sun was just starting to show itself from behind snow-capped mountains. There was an orange glow that filled the sky above. There was no noise, except what has been there for centuries. Rutting bucks weren’t far off either.
I’ve been told over and over again that there are much easier ways to hunt other than backpack hunting. I know this to be true. One doesn’t need to haul a heavy pack filled with camp into a remote location to hunt. One doesn’t need to be faced with the burden of shooting something and packing a massive load back to the trailhead. And one doesn’t need to endure sometimes constant discomfort. The prize is in the eye of the beholder though.
I don’t need to backpack hunt, but I sure do want to keep doing it. It’s part of my identity.
For more information on backpack hunting, read my book.