Just as one size does not fit every style of hunting camp fits well. As Hunting interests have and always will fluctuate with the ages, one of the aspects of hunting is on the rise more then ever before, that aspect is camp hunting.
Which actually makes sense if you look at society as a whole. The much more widely accepted sport of backpacking is growing ever more popular, and as with interest comes innovation, higher quality, lighter, cheaper, stronger, equipment coupled with greater cellphone reception, GPS equipment like the (Garmin inReach Mini) becoming ever more advanced and affordable. Amazing digital maps like BaseMap/ONX we as well as our loved ones can have peace of mind while exploring and testing our limits in some of the worlds most unforgiving places.
Backpack hunting also known as bivvy hunting is only one method of hunting more remote. So lets break down the different methods to get farther out, as well as give you guys some tips I’ve picked up over the years that you can incorporate so you can utilize them to get the most out of your next adventure.
Let’s start with the least extensive form with is (Base camping) named for you guessed it! Camp that is established at the base/bottom of that mountain. Generally at a trailhead often utilizing a large tent/tents/wall tent, camper/RV/truck or cabin. One of its perks is you have many of the luxuries of home due to generally not having to concerning yourself with weight. Which is nice for carrying that extra gear like a target, it’s always a good rule of thumb to bring your archery target to confirm your zero before the hunt each day. Additional archery maintenance and repair equipment on a hunt can make or break a hunt in the event of a fall or mishap with a broadhead touching your bowstring.
(This method is also a great one to incorporate with your bivy hunting. As it allows you to get much further from civilization without having to rely on mother nature to provide. Having coolers or refrigerators with extra (DOS) Days of Supply, 5 gallon water jugs for drinking and harvest cleaning.
Which is huge if your exploring an area you have never been, I’ve been into areas that show water on the map to find nothing but dried up beds, So always make sure there is a water source you can use until you can confirm a natural source that can be purified. other great items to have are a more extensive med kit injuries are generally small and can easily be fixed with a small kit that only weights a few pounds and fits neatly in your pack, this advanced kit may save a life in case of extreme emergency and maybe not necessarily just yours. dont just buy it and put it in the hunting box, learn how to use it attend a remote emergency response course, or EMT Course costs are generally pretty low and the knowledge and confidence of being prepared is unparalleled, a spare bow/bow press. again if you buy a press learn the ins and outs of bow maintenance, there are literally tons of online resources for working on your own equipment, if your more of a hands on instruction kind of person ask your local shop if you can tag along for a few bowbuilds or be taught by working on your own. (while still offering to pay the shop maintenance fee its a small cost for a great advancement in your archery knowledge.) all in all the benefits of base camping are vast and with so many great benefits incorporating it into your style hunting will allow you to get out further and stay out longer which in itself leads to a higher probability of success.
The second method is Spike camp or Drop camp are very similar only really differing in what who is running the camp, more often then not using the term Drop camp its being used to describe a type of guided hunt, where as a spike camp is used more to describe a DIY style of a similar camp setup. Both methods involve a large gear dump in a remote location that is generally comprised of larger tents that are left standing day in and day out during the duration of the hunt, supplies like water cans and coolers with rations, saws, axes larger cooking equipment like campfire cooking stands, Outdoor generally brought in before opening day on foot or by pack animals. This method runs a much higher risk of unwanted looting by both hunters and animals then the other two methods, for this reason it should be more of an option if you have none hunters tagging along that want to just stay at camp or hunting private land. (When setting up these camps for solo operations or large all hunting parties use your surroundings to your advantage, a good rule of thumb is build your encampment on the west side of the mountain as prevailing winds generally blow east to west, doing so will help ease the potential headache of a blown down camp, buy aftermarket tent stacks strong and long buy a good staking hammer that stays with the tent(insure it isnt going to rub a whole in your tent.) utilize camo tents or netting and brush in your camp. This will help it blend into the environment better and help shield it from potentially curious eyes. DO NOT LEAVE VALUABLES IN CAMP. if you absolutely must find a nice dead-fall with lots of branches and stash/cache them in its cover using either an extra dry, an earth tone tarp that can be covered with foliage or a hard box/bowcase that can be shallowly buried. Take your time in marking its location on your app or map. When using an app mark it directly as it lays as well as 10 to 20 paces back. Take a few minutes and note your directional orientation and other potential landmarks, if nothing stands out mark a tree to the left or right of the cache, or several trees on the most likely path that will be traveled when returning to the cache. DO NOT mark the cache tree directly. These steps will help ensure both your peace of mind as well as the safety of your valuables so you can better focus on the hunt.
The third and potentially the most popular and my personal favorite. Bivouac/Bivy or Backpack hunting. This type of hunting draws its namesake from the use of the shelter the bivouac sack, which got its name from the 18th-century Swiss German usage of Beiwacht (bei by, Wacht watch or patrol). It referred to an additional watch that would be maintained by a military or civilian force to increase vigilance at an encampment, which was then adopted by the British empire, then ultimately the United States Military. According to Merriam-Webster. This method requires the hunter to carry his or her camp on their back while they hunt. At the days end of each day the Hunter sets up camp, tearing it down before heading back out each morning. With a few tweaks this absolutely the best method for public land hunting given the advancements in backpacking technology from the packs & sacks themselves, to lightweight tents (if your bivouacking in wet climates), ever growing and evolving Extended Condition Weather Clothing Systems (ECWCS is not just made for cold weather 😉 dry bags, portables stoves, freeze dried foods, water purification and food supplementation. The possibilities and budgets are absolutely endless, I know that’s no even what your concerned with is it? No its the sheer thought of carrying an entire camp on your back seems daunting as hell. Don’t fret I got your six.
First and foremost you must plan accordingly you do not need ALL the latest equipment an entire sleep system or every piece of your favorite clothing system to hunt August or September Elk. my article (Pnuma System recommendations) has so much more on that. Know your area, is your hunt GMU in a no burn zone, chances are even if your not, open fire in prime elk or animal country period is less then ideal, not only the wildfire aspect but any animals in the general vicinity may not move, but this more then likely it will disrupt their pattern, even more so then just the hunting presence. so just skip the hatchet, instead incorporate a JETBoil a the inital costs are higher then alternatives, but the long term benefits are well worth it, fuel canisters are cheap, and they last for a long time for there size for a 7 day trip 3 is more then enough. the entire weight of the system with fuel is less then 1lbs,with all 3 fuels your still lighter then your average 14″ hatchet. The largest portion of your weight lays at your biggest weakness, your DOS that’s right your water & food. A single a gallon of water weighs 8lbs, on a 10 day hunt that recommended DOS is somewhere near 8 gallons or 80lbs of just water. (a more accurate way to calculate water consumption is 3 to 6 oz per mile walked with weight). Foods will account for roughly 20 to 30lbs more. As you can see this adds up very quickly as a way to offset this combine what you learned about caching above. Bring DOS in before the hunt, or plan on going for a resupply at your truck midway through, you can also having local friends that are coming bring in DOS before the hunt if you are hunting out of state of your local area. For most its best to just go in a little heavy with roughly 6 DOS if its a 10, 4 DOS if its a 7 day 3 if its a 5 day. Cache and mark your Extra DOS, NEVER Drop it all and a good rule of thumb is always carry at least 2 DOS. Establish a good sized grid area to hunt for that day within your physical scope, and work the hell out of that grid. If you wind up ass deep in elk you can put them to bed, pull out your bivy sleep in them, while still have another DOS on you. This allows you to get some of that weight off your back allowing you to move more quickly and stealthily, better allowing you to get a good feel for the area, all while still having your DOS in reach.
As revolutionary adventure and backpacker Mark Twight states in his book Extreme Alpinism “It’s easy to be hard, its hard to be smart”. Logistics play a huge part in our successes, both at home as well as in the wild. It’s how we train, how we pack, how we move, how we shoot, the way we think and interpret animal behaviors, all must be calculated. you will be putting it all to the test you will learn you will find holes in your system, you learn from them, mend them and be here for it. That how we become the best versions of ourselves. Go forth and explore our vast land we are truly blessed to share with such majestic creatures.