By Dan Staton MS, CSCS
Getting into elk each day greatly increases your chances of launching a perfect shot into the chest of a large mountain bull. Wasting precious energy each day trekking to and from your hunting spot can decrease your odds dramatically. Many love the luxuries of a comfortable base camp, myself included, however I don’t mind hauling a bigger load on my back in the name of better bowhunting. Here’s the quick way to spike out or even bivy hunt your way to greater elk success.
The weather during my season, even in the high country is toasty. This makes scent control nearly impossible and stalking conditions bleak. I’ve found more opportunity bivy hunting my way into elk holes, keeping all my necessary gear with me while I hunt. This is not to say there’s a fine line of camping in the middle of an elk herd versus staying on the fringe so the elk stay undisturbed. Here are the items that will make this happen for you:
Be in shape – train with your backpack for eight weeks leading up to the season, whether it’s in spurts or long hike sessions on the weekends. You need to log the miles and hours and eight weeks is plenty of time.
- Bow, back-up bow in the truck, arrows, bino’s (8×42 minimum), rangefinder with new battery.
- Release plus an extra release (Murphy’s Law).
- Mystery Ranch Metcalf Backpack – This pack works with the NICE frame system and has eight compression straps to secure loads, weighs 5lbs 12 oz and is 4500 cubic inches.
- Easton Kilo Tent – hands down the best tent, light, spacious and easy to pack.
- Eureka Silver City sleeping bag (warm weather only) 2.5 lbs
- Water purifier – I use iodine tablets and don’t bring a filter; this makes for quick and safe water and saves on room and effort for water.
- MRS Pocket Rocket with butane propane canister (One canister will last one person for four days).
- Wilderness Athlete Drink mixes (Drink mixes will help with the iodine taste.)
- One knife in my pocket (Havalon) and an extra in my pack along with a small sharpening stone.
- 100 ft of parachute cord.
- Advil and Benadryl.
- 1 roll of toilet paper.
- 10 unscented baby wipes.
- Small tube of tooth paste / toothbrush.
- Headlamp with extra batteries – perhaps one extra bulb.
- Suunto Vector watch (Elevation and Barometric Pressure readings – learn how to use the barometer and it will tell you when a storm is brewing).
- One small Titanium pot.
- Extra mouth reeds.
- One extra broadhead with blades.
- Kennetrek Boots (that are well broken in).
- Five Alaskan Game Bags (Four for quarters and one for backstraps, tenderloins and scraps).
- Two large black garbage bags (one for dirty cloths and the other to keep pack from getting bloody on the inside).
- Canon camera with extra battery – I use a T2i with 32GB card.
- Firestarter flint and lighter.
- Cell phone and/or Iridium Satellite Phone.
- Sitka Clothing (washed in scent free soap prior to leaving the house) – Core shirts x 2, core bottoms, Ascent Pants, 90% Jacket, Traverse Shirt, Storm Front Lite (Jacket and Pants), Gaitors, boxers x 2, extra pair of Marino Wool socks and extra pair of liners, 100% Polyester short sleeve shirt for the pack in.
- Mountain House meals and protein bars – high carb/calorie items are necessary to keep energy levels up. Believe me, you will still not come back heavier than when you went in.
- One small peppershaker full of pepper. In hot conditions flies and bees become a problem.
When you are hiking on a bivy type hunt and sweating, you need good breathable type clothing to keep you as comfortable as possible. Regardless, you still must play the wind. Stay below them in the morning. As a general rule, you have probably two hours in the morning until transition time in common weather. During transition time, try to approach the animals side hill. By mid morning, plan on being above them. Picking a place to camp is crucial – plan on staying on a high ridge where you can listen for bugles at night. Some of the best scouting in the backcountry takes place at night with your ears. Put yourself in a location where you can listen to multiple drainages. This will give you the opportunity to be close to the bulls by daylight. If you are staying in a creek bottom, you limit yourself on the country you can listen to. Above all else, show up in shape and ready to employ the best tactic to get the job done – this just might mean bivy hunting.