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Backpacking for Cascade Black-Tails
Although I looked like and smelled worse than a wet dog, I was in very good spirits. I made it out to my car in five and a half hours. Not bad considering I was constantly telling myself “be deliberate,” “be careful,” and “slow down.” My little car was a welcome sight. Almost exactly a year before I was looking over a big black-tail, having already notched my tag. I told myself I’d try to tag a mature black-tail the next year. Well, now that I was back to my car, I could say I’d done it!

Backpacking for Cascade Black-Tails

Well, I’d almost done it. Going back in the next weekend for my gear was an adventure in its own right. More snow had come down and there was a windstorm that weekend, even in town (Seattle and Everett). The conditions were only that much worse in the Cascades. I did a little more map studying with my dad that week to insure I took the best possible route in and out. I got in with little trouble. It was actually easier than the first trip. Almost a foot of snow had fallen since I’d left. It was beautiful to say the least.

It started to snow steadily and I turned in early for bed. During the night the wind started ripping. My tent didn’t get pounded too hard (protected by old growth timber) but I would hear large trees falling not far away. A couple were so close I could feel the earth beneath the tent shake. I unzipped the door at one point expecting to see downed trees near the tent, but could see nothing but snow flying everywhere in near blizzard conditions. I knew there was nothing I would be able to do if a tree came my way. I certainly wasn’t getting out of the tent!

Backpacking for Cascade Black-Tails

The next morning was still blizzard-like conditions. It’s no fun trying to pack your tent up in these circumstances. I did get packed up as quickly as possible and made the descent rapidly at first. The wind had subsided a great deal compared to the night before. Even so, I was sure to avoid the “dead forest” as there would surely be more trees falling. The crampons I was trying out with the ratcheting straps were not cooperating. The straps were coming undone occasionally even though I put them on under my gators. I had snow all the way down to my car. I was glad to complete the final part of one of the greatest hunts of my life.

While I recommend hunting solo, I understand the drawbacks. Here are a few things to consider before you decide to make multi-day trips alone in the wilderness. If your hunt is successful, you will carry an absurd amount of weight, or make multiple trips, or (most likely) you will do both (first trip out I had 136 pounds according to the bathroom scale). More risk is involved since there is no one else to go to for help should something go horribly wrong. I can give personal examples where things almost went very badly. To keep things brief and decidedly less embarrassing these will be omitted. If you are hunting with a good friend you have someone to share in the humor and occasional struggles.

Backpacking for Cascade Black-Tails

Hunting solo does have advantages. One person produces half as much scent, noise and movement observed by game. You have more country to yourself. You can change your plans at the drop of a hat, not worrying about disturbing your partner’s hunt. Having two people almost doubles the chances that someone will get hurt (possibly even more depending on the other person’s experience/skill level). In my opinion you are more likely to harvest quality game when alone. You may also have a greater sense of satisfaction, successful or not. Nothing teaches self-reliance better than…well, actually relying only on yourself.

Lucas Beitner has been hunting big game since age 10. He mostly enjoys backpacking into the high country for black tails and mule deer in the Cascade Mountains. Lucas spends much of the off season scouting and hiking. He also enjoys competing in practical/tactical long range shooting matches.

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