Backcountry hunting takes a a huntsman far from the beaten path and deep into the unexplored corners and shadows of the wilderness. The pros of going back country is the excitement and promise of bigger, wild game but the cons include that it is time consuming and dangerous. Backcountry hunting requires a pioneer spirit and and proper preparation, but if you have a clear idea of what to expect, and follow a few safety tips, it can be the best hunting experience you’ll ever have.
Considering how far from civilization you’ll be, and how dangerous the backcountry often is, it is a good idea to have a satellite phone handy while hunting there. Though you yourself may be a skilled hunter and confident in your competency, you are still traveling through uninhabited terrain, which is completely unpredictable. If you fall and break your ankle, the paramedics are likely hundreds of miles away.
Try to pack light. Experienced backcountry hunters have managed with packs weighing less than 40 pounds total. You can find tents that weigh about two pounds, a sleeping bag that is around the same weight though if you’re hunting in the cooler season, be sure it’s a down bag, and you can find a sleeping pad that weighs only about 12 ounces. The bulk of your weight is going to come from your weaponry. This is where bow hunters have a distinct advantage over gun hunters. You’ll also want to bring a camping stove, clothes for layering, food, water, and some kind of optic for spotting. And don’t forget the first aid kit.
Decide where you want to hunt in advance and research the history of the area, locate maps, and check the weather. You will need to determine what approach you plan to use once there. You have two choices. Do you want to base camp hunt or bivy hunt and spike camp? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. A base camp means you’ll be hitting the same population of wildlife during your stay. Bivy hunting means you’ll be up and moving and tracking different populations, but requires setting up camp nightly and requires a terrain that is easy to hike.
In addition to the satellite phone and topography maps, bring a compass. Even if you have GPS, bring a separate compass, because if something goes wrong and all else fails, at least you can head in the right direction. If you are hunting in a region where bears are prominent, remember to hoist your food high into a tree at night somewhere away from where you plan to sleep, and pack bear spray and a whistle. Lastly, beware of rain. Have a plastic sheet handy to cover your gear, and if you’re in a storm, head to low ground—never camp near tall trees or high ravines.
Hunting in the backcountry is an exhilarating activity, but you must be conscious of the dangers that could befall you at anytime. Know your hunting ground, pack lightly and smartly, and bring a method of communicating with civilization in the event of an emergency. With the proper research and preparation, you can enjoy the peace and satisfaction that comes with choosing the road less traveled.