"I Will Never Backpack Hunt"
An excerpt from Josh Kirchner's book, "Becoming a Backpack Hunter: A Beginner's Guide to Hunting the Backcountry"
I can remember it like it was yesterday. A close friend and I were headed to a local lake for a morning fishing trip. On the way, we were naturally talking about the upcoming hunting seasons. It was so hard for us to contain our excitement about another year in the field. Through our conversation, the topic of backpack hunting came up. I had done a bit of light reading on the topic, but nothing too crazy. During this early morning chat, I distinctly remember telling my friend that "I will never backpack hunt." My reasoning for this was really based off of my uneducated outlook on it. It seemed like way more work than I wanted to burden myself with, as well as sounding downright impossible. How in the world could someone fit an entire camp in a backpack, let alone harvest an animal and bring that out too? Backpack hunting just sounded cumbersome to me at this point.
So, I stuck to my guns after that conversation we had beneath the night sky. Hunting season came and went, and with it, my original outlook on loading up a backpack. We had so many times where other hunters "ruined" our hunt. Of course, this wasn't intentional but just comes with the territory when hunting closer to the roads. At this point, I was starting to warm up to the idea of heading in deeper. Not at all for the experience of backpack hunting, but just to get away from the crowds. For that, I was willing to give it some extra thought. Another plus to this, would be I could backpack with my wife during the offseason. Not only would I get some much-needed scouting in, but it would give us another hobby to do together. "Let the research begin," I said.
Everybody starts somewhere right? Well, I was starting at the bottom of the bottom. I never even owned a backpack for hunting before this. Looking back, I really don't know why I put myself through that, but it is 100% true. I killed a mountain lion awhile back and faced the cold hard truth of the downfalls that come with not having a pack to haul meat. That lion got dragged out that evening, and I’ve got the run marks on the hide to prove it. Sad but true. I bought a quality pack the next year. The more I read about other people backpack hunting and the adventures that they had, the more I realized how possible this actually was. You couldn't give me enough to read or watch via the internet and books on the subject. I wanted to know everything. By nature, I am a planner, so it was only natural for me to try and soak up as much as I could. The problem I was running into was I couldn't find anything that was centralized. There was a ton of info out there, but finding it was the hard part. Not to mention, all of the varying opinions on things. What was right? What was wrong? Who could I trust? Being someone that really knew nothing, this was frustrating.
After much research, literally years of preparation, and a backpack trip with my wife, I was finally headed out on my first backpack hunt. My brother would be joining me as we set forth into the unknown in pursuit of coues deer with our bows. Both of us were nervous and excited at the same time. This was something that we had been talking about for quite awhile, so we were pretty eager to actually get out there for the first time. Would we be warm enough? Did I forget anything? Are we actually doing this? Should we be worried about bears/lions? These were all things that were running through my mind as we hiked into our spot. All things that were trying to pull me back to the truck. Our minds can be our own worst enemies.
Our first evening in camp was a pleasant one. We spent that time glassing and eating dinner on the side of the mountain. Already, this had exceeded my expectations. Just the quality time I was getting to spend with my brother in the middle of nowhere was worth it. The cherry on top was all of the coues bucks we were seeing! Man, that was exciting! We couldn't wait to get up early the next morning and start making plays on these bucks.
My alarm "woke me up" and I was ready to get the day started. I got dressed and then it happened. At that very moment when I opened my tent, I knew that I would be backpack hunting for as long as I could. We were camped up on top of a mesa and the sunrise that lay before me was breathtaking. It was the most serene front porch you could ask for. Snow-capped mountains in the distance, a glowing red sunrise, and rutting coues bucks a stone throw from our tent. Now, I knew. I knew why so many before me touted about this way of hunting. It wasn't just for the abundance of animals and lack of hunting pressure. It was for the experience and this was mine.
That first backpack hunt of mine took place 5 years ago. Fast forward to the present day and nothing has changed, except my ever-increasing urge to be in the backcountry, with nothing more than my bow and what is in my backpack. Ever since that first hunt, I have craved that experience. If you are anything like me, you will as well.