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Equipment

When in doubt go with quality. However, there won't be any doubt because this is what you'll need:

  • Headlamp ?Must have a good headlamp. Mine is a Petzl and ran me about $30. I have had the same one for about 3-years with no problems. I also carry a small halogen flashlight for back up and extra AA batteries, which both of these are run on.
  • Sleeping Bag ?Can't sacrifice quality here. Must be lightweight and not too bulky. I have a system in which I am able to put my entire camp into my sleeping bag stuff sack. My entire camp consists of my bag and my?
  • Bivy Sack ?For true bivouacking, I don't think you can do better that the all Gore-Tex Bivy Sack. I have had mine for over 6-years and it still is going strong. It weighs less than 2 lbs. and with my sleeping bag inside, will, as I mentioned fit in one stuff sack. With this system I can set up and breakdown my camp in under 5-minutes. This is key in the world of the efficient wilderness hunter.
  • Compression Bag ?This will compress your sleeping bag and Bivy sack into virtually half the size. When it is lashed to your packframe, size is almost as important as weight. You can get them at REI.
  • Rangefinder
  • Binoculars ?The old cliché, "Get the best pair you can afford," still holds true. I honestly don't know how you could do any better than a 10X pair of Swarovski's. Remember, you can't harvest what you can't find. Quality optics are responsible for increased opportunities. Paramount item.
  • Bino-System
  • Platypus Water System ?Must have item for the guy who will be working hard and covering lots of ground. You have to keep yourself hydrated and this deal will make that task much more doable. It will hold 2 liters of fluid and the tube that comes from the container and attaches to your pack's shoulder strap makes drinking very easy, which lends itself to more fluid consumption. This is a good thing.
  • Sleeping Pad ?It is not about comfort it is about getting yourself off of the ground and retaining body heat. My self-inflating pad weighs about 1 lbs. 15 oz. and was $35.
  • Packframe ?I like using an external packframe as I am able to lash quite a load on with my nylon rope. My Peak-1 packframe with a Tarantulas pack ran me about $170. This is a great pack, with very usable compartments, good waist belt and comfortable shoulder straps with a chest strap.
Miscellaneous ?Doesn't really fit into any one category, but never the less, these items should not be overlooked:
  • Knife and Sharpener
  • Chapstick
  • Ibuprofen
  • Duct Tape ?This might be the best first-aid kit ever.
  • First Aid Kit ?At least should have some stuff to clean up cuts etc., as a nice complement to the Duct Tape.
  • Cut Your Toenails
  • Nylon Cord ?100' of small diameter, braided, nylon rope.
  • Extra Release
  • Extra Serving
  • Cell Phone ?I have used one to call my packer for meat hauls and directions to the kill sight. Very important during those warm and getting warmer Septembers. Obviously, the battery will only last for a few days, but that is the precise time you'll need it. For instance, if I kill a bull early, I can still hunt for deer or bear and visa versa, but before I am free to do that I have to get the meat taken care of off the first kill.
  • Baers' Feet
  • Extra Broadhead Blades
  • Oversized, Durable Cotton Game Bag
  • Camera ?Must have a good 35 mm camera with flash and self-timer and small tripod. Carry at the very least two rolls of 100 or 200 speed film and take a number of different set up shots with your kill.
  • Allen Wrenches ?You should pack a couple of the key sizes. If a rest of sight comes loose your hunt could be over unless you have your Allens.
  • Toilet Paper
  • Handy Wipes ?A package of these antibacterial wipes in a small resealable travel pack are worth the extra weight.
  • No Saw ?This is extra weight and if you bone your animals ?which will help the meat cool anyhow ?you won't need one.

Clothing and Footwear

  • Boots ?All about timing of your hunt and comfort. I have hunted during times of unpredictable weather in mountaineering type boots, which incidentally wreak havoc on my feet after many miles and days, but are very necessary. I have also hunted during the September elk season, where chances of any substantial weather are nil, in Gore-Tex trail running shoes which are much more comfortable. Some guys might not feel as though the trail shoes or anything less than a heavy leather boot would give enough support to ankles, feet, etc. and they would be right. This is a personal preference and knowing what your body needs structurally to stay operable.
  • Two Changes of High Quality Socks. The new Bass Pro Shops catalog has some great CoolMax socks for about $8 a pair. These would be perfect for the typical archery elk hunt. They are 50% acrylic, 30% CoolMax, 18% stretch nylon and 2% spandex. This is a perfect blend of sock for the hunter who will be covering some country.
  • Lightweight Polypropylene Underwear. This is worn against the skin to wick away moisture.
  • Lightweight Waterproof/Windproof Jacket. Even late summer storms can be brutal in the high country.
  • Camouflage ?I typically wear lightweight, cotton, large pattern camo during elk season.
  • Other ?I always have a pair of cut-off camo pants and a t-shirt (not white) to wear during midday travel. You want to try and control body odor, so getting overly hot and sweaty should obviously be avoided.

Hunting Strategies, Tips and Bow Performance

Bottom line is DIY hunting requires more planning and logistics than that of a typical "backyard" bowhunt. If your quarry is elk or even big mule deer, you will probably need to figure on hiring or finding a packer to haul the meat out of the backcountry (In this case, I'll call "backcountry" anything more than 3 miles off of the road). Typically, I don't think one guy can pack out the meat off of a bull elk in time if the distance is over 3 miles. I know there are always exceptions, so just use this as a general rule of thumb.

You must be efficient with your energy supply. Over a long hunt you can only push the envelope so long before bad things start to happen, i.e., missed shots, loss of drive, half-hearted stalks, and so on. To be most effective in the backcountry you should bivouac out with the sleeping bag/Bivy Sack system I spoke of. It is a considerable squandering of energy to hike back and forth to a base camp. With camp on your back, you can, relatively speaking, sleep near the elk, roll out of bed and kill your bull. Bivouacking out means more opportunities and more opportunities, means more kills.

Additional Tips
  • Topography Map ?Any seasoned backcountry bowhunter will have camp on their back and a topo map handy at all times. A topo map enables you to maximize hunting opportunities by helping you to locate water sources, funnels, saddles, likely bedding benches, etc.
  • Shooting With Your Pack On ?This changes things a whole bunch. It is a kiss of death to practice all summer in shorts and a t-shirt then go run around in elk country for a week with 40 lbs. hanging off your shoulders and expect to be able to hit anything once "Crunch Time" comes. You must practice with your hunting pack on. You have to be able to not only shoot, but also shoot accurately.
  • Hitting the Target ?You absolutely have to shoot your broadheads prior to season. First paper tune your field points then designate a couple of the exact same brand of broadheads you will be hunting with as "practice" heads. Shoot these with the exact same brand and size of arrow you will be hunting with and make sure they are flying straight.
  • Spin - your broadheads and arrow like a top to make sure they are a good match. There should be no warble or wobble.
  • Razor Sharp Broadheads
  • Sight Level ?A bubble level on your sight is a must when hunting broken and steep country. Bow canting has caused many a miss or worse, wounded animals.
  • Hunting Bow Performance Expectations ?In my opinion, you should forget speed. All excessive speed will do is allow you to miss faster. I might be a little envious as with my draw length I never have to worry about excessive speed. I think if a guy can shoot around 260 FPS and more importantly his bow is quiet and forgiving, this end of the deal is set. Durability is very important also. You have to have a rig that can stand some abuse.
  • Kinetic Energy ?While too much emphasis is put on speed, not enough is put on kinetic energy. This is where you penetration power comes from. You should shoot for about 60 foot pounds of kinetic energy, which can be figured using this equation - square the velocity (speed), divide by 450,240 and then multiple it by the full grain weight of your arrow.

Backcountry Myths

  • Myth #1 ?There is no way I could afford a wilderness or backcountry bowhunt.

    Fact ?Three buddies and myself are paying $2,000 total or $500 a piece, for a horse pack in drop camp hunt in Oregon's largest wilderness area this coming elk season. This price includes four pack mules, which will haul 120 lbs. apiece gear and supplies and also includes meat hauls.

  • Myth #2 ?I have to be in supreme physical condition to bowhunt rugged country at high elevation.

    Fact ?It sure wouldn't hunt anything but if you pace yourself and hunt the entire trip, anything is possible. I like the saying, "You don't know if you don't go." You gotta do it to see where you're at. Everyone learns something every time out. But, you also must be realistic. Many guys go way too hard the first day or two and simply can't sustain it and quit. The desire is gone and essentially then, they are just on a camping trip.

  • Myth #3 ?Wilderness bowhunting will be one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life.

    Fact ?The truth is a hunt like this might not be enjoyable 100% of the time, but it will be on of the most memorable week or 10 day portions of your existence. Like all bowhunts a DIY backcountry hunt can be tough, fun, depressing, brutal and cherished to name of few of the biggies. The only difference is that back there everything is accentuated by approximately a factor of 10.
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