Staring at a picture of a buck on the skyline can bring many thoughts to mind to any viewer. To me, it sends chills down my spine for the sheer excitement of being back out in the mountains the next hunting season. I can envision prior years hunts’ along with the distinct smell of the pine or sagebrush that I was around. While I may know now how to backcountry hunt and chase big bucks in the high alpine country, it wasn’t always so. It took some learning and some serious evolution from “normal fit outdoorsy guy” to “Big Buck Mountain Chaser.” Some may have no clue how to even start on an adventure like this. It would almost seem to either be a wish or a dream to you. Guess what? Both of those things can come true with a plan and some action. I will keep things fairly simple and very realistic to shed light onto what needs to happen. My goal is that by putting together a small list of ways to slowly evolve yourself into a big mountain guy/gal no matter what experience you have, you will take action and get involved or possibly reach out for some help and get rolling onto your next adventure.
I would highly advise someone to not just jump into their truck and drive down to a trail and say “I am going to get to that mountain top,” as they point there finger to a 14k summit. If you do that, do might as well call yourself the search and rescue ahead of time because there is a high chance you will need it. However, I would highly encourage everyone to start walking, or jogging on a treadmill on the weekly. Let’s say 3-4x a week. Just start small and move up as you start feeling that your stamina is improving. Before you know it, you will be running and weight lifting. As you evolve into this, start lifting weights because that muscular strength and endurance is greatly needed as you hike for days in the backcountry. The key here is simple. You need to start moving for 3-6 months before you embark on any journey because you will need to get your body used to the load. I would also recommend using a weight vest of 20-40lbs to emulate what it will feel like for your body as you are adding a pack on your back.
As I help others piece their gear together for upcoming hunts, I continue to tell people to just wear some of the items they have or get some similar items if needed that are less costly. While I am a die hard camo guy, I also came from a place that I pieced items together before I felt that I could take it to the next level. I seriously used a grey snowboarding jacket as my heavy rain gear instead of buying $500 worth of camo rain gear. Guess what? If it can keep me dry for 8 hours in the snow, it did me very well in the rain! Here are a few items I would lay out that could be swapped out if needed for other gear to ensure you get some benefit without breaking the bank.
The other day, I took my buddy over to REI to get a new backpack. He too is a new hunter that will not be hunting this year but he will be helping me scout and pack out an animal or two. This will truly give him the experience to see if he wants to evolve his gear as he continues into the hunting life. I ended up asking one of the associates to get us fitted for the new packs. The associated then asked us, “so what are you guys going to be doing with these?” My buddy says, hunting! The guy looked as us and was so confused. He then proceeded to tell us that he would not recommend these bags for hunting since they are made for backpacking. I then asked him, “Well, he is going to be backpacking in and scouting, he will not necessarily be hunting but why couldn’t he hunt with this if the load base is showing 55lbs?” He proceeded to tell me that he wouldn’t put as much weight in there but he should be fine if he isn’t packing in 100lbs of meat in the bag. Correct! You see, there is no real need to go out and spend $500 on a new backcountry hunting pack in your 1st year if you are going to be observing. Also, I remember getting a new backcountry pack from Sitka and that had the same load ability with a internal frame and it did just fine as I packed out a mule deer. Matter a fact, it was pretty damn comfortable. This is a prime example of how you can multipurpose your gear and get out in the backcountry to experience the best of hunting.
You will need different layers as you get out in the backcountry. Here are a few items to consider as well as their replacements.
- Baselayers- Under Armour Cold Gear
- Boots- Waterproof hiking boots
- Socks- Cold Weather Socks (ankle height)
- Insulation Layers- Puffy Jacket and Pant
- Outer Layers- Soft Shell Jacket and Soft Shell Pant of some sort
- Rain Gear- Snowboarding Gear or Rain Jacket for hiking/golf
Now, as I do mention these items, please note that these are just ideas that could get you through. What I have learned is as you swap items out and mess around with your choice of clothing, you will also learn what items you want to replace the soonest due to performance, quality or comfort. I remember my first hunting trip with an outfitter for elk and my head guide/owner of the outfitting business was wearing jeans 75% of the hunt. Was I cozier and more comfortable than him? Yes, completely but I also realized that he is used to being out here so much and to him it’s just another day. We also had a great time and saw plenty of game so it goes to show, it could be done. Let’s be honest, our grandpa’s didn’t have all of the fanciest gear to get out and kill monster bucks. These guys hunted in jeans and a flannel and they were just fine. Miserable but they were just fine, ha!
One of the things I like to do with a novice hunter or novice newcomer to backcountry style hunting is taking them out in the environment. There is no better example of what you will experience than by actually going through the scenario of seeing and feeling it. Either plan yourself a summer scouting trip for 2-3 days and get out to see the same exact spots or plan a 2-3 night camping trip and call it a fitness camping trip. Hit the hills and trails for 6-8 miles a day and camp out. You will easily know if your gear will hold up, if your boots are going to blister you up and if you are going to be frozen at night. This gives you trial and error along with a fun time. It also gives you time to revamp some of your stuff if it truly fails you while you are out in the rugged country. Mother nature is unforgiving and you do not want to be out there without ever testing out your gear.
You need to take action. I know someone personally that has lived their life on wishes and dreams. He always says he is going to do something, go somewhere or buy something and I have yet to see it. Actually, if I think of it, I have done all the things he has mentioned over the past 10 years and he has been talking about it for 40 years. Get in the gym, walk around your neighborhoods, go for a hike and use some of your own gear. The most important thing is get out and do something about it because nobody is going to do it for you.
If you do not have confidence in your gear and want some expert gear or want to just ensure you are taken care of, please take a look at my rental offerings. This takes all the guesswork out of things and ensures you have the right gear without breaking the bank. This will truly allow you to experience some things and it will help you decide what you like.
Please reach out if you need any assistance or if you have any questions. Alex@east2westhunts.com
Scout, Hunt, Repeat