High Buck Hunt

Great to see you guys getting out and putting in the hard work. Stick with it and you'll eventually find a place that really produces some animals.

I go back and forth about the best philosophy for how much gear to pack. In years past I really tried to save as much weight as possible. Like a few of you have mentioned, my pack was right around the mid 40# range not including gun or binos at the beginning of the trip.

Now I take the kitchen sink. 0 degree bag, thermarest plus a foam pad on top, tarp, lots of extra food, extra clothes. My bag was ridiculously heavy this year, but I figure it's just more motivation to get in better shape during the summer. And if you shoot an elk each pack load is going to weigh in the 70 - 80 pound range on average. If I were to pack in over 8 miles then I would definitely reduce weight, but just hiking in around 5-7 miles I would rather have my creature comforts and sleep better.
 
Hi-Buck in WA is Sept. 15-25--almost totally in summer. Now, can it get cold up high? Sure. But the need for the xtra weight and bulk of a 0F bag is a bit much for that time of year in WA state. In WA, hunting consistently much above 7000ft. elevation would be rare as WA is far N enough that timberline is markedly lower than in more southerly states. Further north you go, the lower timberline is. I do hunt high buck just on both sides of 7000' and have gotten weather here or there, but it is typically not to severe or cold that time of year. In addition, if 'lightning struck' during High Buck and u did get down to 0F, I would likely be just fine for sleeping by wearing the xtra clothing layers brought along even using a 30F bag. I can't imagine taking more weight on a summer hunting trip in WA than, say, the 2 lb., 10F rated Western Mountaineering bag--and in most typical conditions, I would absolutely roast and be quite uncomfortable trying to sleep in a bag of that rating because of that--that quickly detracts from comfort. You don't use 10 blankets on your bed in the summer because you'd be too hot, right? One sleeping bag does not 'do it all', at least for me. For most of us, a high quality down bag at about 30F and about 10F or perhpas a bit lower, will cover comfortably the majority of hunting situations we would be in in the lower 48.

Things can always go awry, but you just can't take everything with you all the time. Reduced weight means more energy to hunt. Reducing weight, however, is expensive. It all depends on what know, have and are comfortable with, but there's no doubt that lighter, as long as it's safely lighter, is the way to go. I'd much rather pack 50lbs, than 75lbs. any day, especially when completely off trail and in very steep terrain, as I am on the High Buck hunt. In any terrain, but especially that just mentioned, lighter is safer for me physically. I'll be less likely to lose balance, etc., and likely reduce the potential for injury or the severity of an injury should it occur. I think it's worth taking a look at lightening your load, whenever you can do so and retain an acceptable level of safety. That level, however, is something we all have to individually decide on.

Yesterday, I did 2500 vertical ft. in 1hr 19min. with a 53lb pack, 13lb. rifle included, for a planned overnight bear trip. The difference between that weight of pack and a 75 lb. pack in terms of energy required to get it up to where I hunt is tremendous. Not worth it, if I don't absolutely have to.

Save the weight for your long range rifle. Heavier rifles tend to be easier to shoot accurately.

Jon
 
Things can always go awry, but you just can't take everything with you all the time. Reduced weight means more energy to hunt. Reducing weight, however, is expensive. It all depends on what know, have and are comfortable with, but there's no doubt that lighter, as long as it's safely lighter, is the way to go. I'd much rather pack 50lbs, than 75lbs. any day, especially when completely off trail and in very steep terrain, as I am on the High Buck hunt. In any terrain, but especially that just mentioned, lighter is safer for me physically. I'll be less likely to lose balance, etc., and likely reduce the potential for injury or the severity of an injury should it occur. I think it's worth taking a look at lightening your load, whenever you can do so and retain an acceptable level of safety. That level, however, is something we all have to individually decide on.

Yesterday, I did 2500 vertical ft. in 1hr 19min. with a 53lb pack, 13lb. rifle included, for a planned overnight bear trip. The difference between that weight of pack and a 75 lb. pack in terms of energy required to get it up to where I hunt is tremendous. Not worth it, if I don't absolutely have to.

Save the weight for your long range rifle. Heavier rifles tend to be easier to shoot accurately.

Jon

I think that is just about the best advice you can get. Everybody has their own limit for how much weight they can carry for extended periods comfortably. If you don't know your limits and you carry too much it will absolutely crush you. Experience is king when it comes to this game.

BTW... I don't care who you are, 53#'s up 2500 vertical in 1.3 hrs is impressive!
 
Hey jmden, have you ever tried just using a fly set up with a set of poles??
I bought a tarptent contrail and used it this year but on some nights, we were way up high in rocks and it was tough to set up being that it is not freestanding. So................once again after hunting season, I am looking for more gear. (like I need anymore)
I started researching lighter weight tents and there are several possiblities on those especially if you just use the fly and the freestanding poles. And they are light weight although you would not have the securtiy of a completely enclosed shelter. You could always carry the whole tent setup if weather looked bad or just the fly/pole setup for milder weather although I think if you set up the fly setup, it could be a pretty good shelter. I've done the tarp thing and that always works okay but it is tough sometime to find ways to set it up if there is nothing to tie to. I am not a bivy sack guy as i like to have more room.

Randy
 
edit: mtnrunner, I didn't do a good job of answering your question. No, I have not done that. I've got a thing about liking to keep the bugs out and preferring a real floor to help keep water away from me. Back to that comfort vs. weight thing. The Rainbows are not freestanding, but are pretty close. If you're in the rocks, freestanding is obviously the only thing that's going to work. Good luck!

The best combination of good size, good shelter, good price and low weight that I have seen on the market (others will sacrifice space or weight a bit more than I, but I like to have a decent amount of space) would be the TarpTent Rainbow (2 lbs. 3 oz.) and TarpTent Double Rainbow, all things considered. Check out the floor sizes on these and the have side entrance and side vestibules (easier to get in and out of generally, that tents with doors on the ends) Can you get lighter tents? Yes. Are they more comfortable for their size than these listed? Most likely not. Not that I'm aware of or if they are they are made from a super expensive sailing fabric (that I can't remember the name of right now). There's a point where I'm not willing to go with lighter smaller tents due to concerns of space and strength durability. Even on the above tents, the floor durability and waterproofness is at the absolute minimum I would want to have.

Join and spend some time on backpackinglight.com forums. That's one of the best places to really learn what's at the cutting edge right now. Much of the info there can be adapted to hunting and there are some hunters there. I've gotten into a few interesting discussions with non-hunters there on occasion.

TarpTent used a 30 denier silicone coated fabric that is made for parachutes as a zero porosity (no air flow through it) fabric. The silicone coating helps increase the strength of the fabric, so it is very strong for it's weight. Vented properly, it can make a great tent. I use the same stuff so I have a fair amount of experience with it. Can you use lighter fabric? Yes. Should you? That's another question.
 
So much gear, so much little time, so much money.
I did alot of research on the tarp tents and I really like the product and I like their company. Where I hunt, i most likely will have to come up with something freestanding. I spent alot of time sleeping in deer and elk beds as that is the only thing available sometimes up high that is actually somewhat flat. As I said before, alot of the times it is in rocks. If the weather is okay, spiking it out is a no brainer---as you know, the mountains have a way of changing things. As the saying goes, "You don't pick an epic, it picks you."
I am a FIRM believer that going light and being where you want to be either at dawn or dusk is the only way to go. I never see anyone and I can't tell you how many conversations that I have with folks who say they never saw any game or how there is no game left. I just shake my head and am glad that not everyone heads to the high ridges. I also am with you on having the bug shelter. So.......I am still searching. I'm not sure it will ever end!

Randy
 
So much gear, so much little time, so much money.
I did alot of research on the tarp tents and I really like the product and I like their company. Where I hunt, i most likely will have to come up with something freestanding. I spent alot of time sleeping in deer and elk beds as that is the only thing available sometimes up high that is actually somewhat flat. As I said before, alot of the times it is in rocks. If the weather is okay, spiking it out is a no brainer---as you know, the mountains have a way of changing things. As the saying goes, "You don't pick an epic, it picks you."
I am a FIRM believer that going light and being where you want to be either at dawn or dusk is the only way to go. I never see anyone and I can't tell you how many conversations that I have with folks who say they never saw any game or how there is no game left. I just shake my head and am glad that not everyone heads to the high ridges. I also am with you on having the bug shelter. So.......I am still searching. I'm not sure it will ever end!

Randy

I wish I could help you out with a free standing idea... If I think of or see something, I'll try to find this thread and reply to it.

Yep, I think the same. You have got to leave camp and arrive where you want to be before first light and not leave until after shooting hours at least so that you arrive back to camp in the dark. If you don't, you are likely missing out. Once I set my camp up, I don't usually see it in the light until I'm packing it up to head out. Just the way it is.
 
This was one of my heavier packs this year as it was the 3rd week in October, and we were at 8k' with snow predicted... Only a 3 day trip but including my rifle, optics, and water, my pack weighed in at 52 lbs. As you can see, I still had a LOT of room left in that T1... As far as my gear goes, I think I could shave off another 1-1.5 lbs by updating my sleeping/shelter system, and next year I'll have a < 9 lb rifle so there's another 3 lbs saved. Might be able to shave off another 1/2-1.5 lb by updating clothing, and going to a better/lighter water filter (another 6-8 oz saved). So with all of that in mind, IF I were to upgrade all those items, I'd be in the $4k range including rifle pretty easy. And all that for only around 6 lbs of saved weight. Pretty rediculous huh? :)
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Mike
 
This was one of my heavier packs this year as it was the 3rd week in October, and we were at 8k' with snow predicted... Only a 3 day trip but including my rifle, optics, and water, my pack weighed in at 52 lbs. As you can see, I still had a LOT of room left in that T1... As far as my gear goes, I think I could shave off another 1-1.5 lbs by updating my sleeping/shelter system, and next year I'll have a < 9 lb rifle so there's another 3 lbs saved. Might be able to shave off another 1/2-1.5 lb by updating clothing, and going to a better/lighter water filter (another 6-8 oz saved). So with all of that in mind, IF I were to upgrade all those items, I'd be in the $4k range including rifle pretty easy. And all that for only around 6 lbs of saved weight. Pretty rediculous huh? :)Mike

Great pic! $$ really is the name of the game to shed weight. It really is pretty ridiculous how much it all adds up, but so much fun. Even just to maintain your gear is alot of money. Something always seems to be worn out.

So here is ridiculous on the other end of the spectrum... the pic below is of me packing in during the 2nd rifle season in CO. The pic was taken around 9,800 ft. Including my rifle the entire setup weighed 93 pounds. I've got good gear and a light rifle, I just brought a whole lot of stuff in. But I am very familiar with the country, knew about how far I would hike to setup camp and I knew I could handle the weight. Packed in a 4-season tent since snow was in the forecast as well as plenty of warm clothes. Also brought a lot of food since I was planning on staying for 8 days. Really did not plan on taking in quite so much, just kind of worked out that way.

Ended up shooting a nice bull and the heavy pack never slowed me down. Took 3 full days to pack out the quarters and head/hide. I know my heavy pack has most of you frowning, but it's just what has worked for me. I have tried to just be happy with the gear I have and just enjoy being out in the mountains. I also spend a whole ton of time training all year round to be in great shape so I can carry a heavy pack.
 

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Pack weight is so dependent on the type and location of hunt. My pack up to elk camp this year, with rifle, was right at 100lbs and we really don't pack in that far. But I had a 3+ TipiTent and stove (not the lightest setup, but incredible strong and comfortable--we had many good sized trees snap off 10' or so above the ground all over the area during windstorms over 2 nights, but the TipiTent had not one issue and with the Kifaru stove percolating along, we were nice and warm) and this is not exactly the lightest setup in the world, but very comfortable for a long stay, such as elk season. But where and how I elk hunt is much different from where and how I hunt deer and bear, mainly due to the several thousand ft. vertical involved and the the fact the deer and bear hunting is in late summer and much warmer than elk hunting. Gotta change the gear to the situation, no doubt about it.

HellsCanyon, would you mind giving us a few of your equipment choices and why? Always trying to learn a few tips...
 
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I hunt WA to i did not do the high buck hunt this year i did early rifle up high on the east side. We packed in about 8 miles from the trail head. My pack and gun weighed in right at 63 lbs total. I scouted the area several times with a day pack and spotting scope. Even then this is area has a few big fuzzy mean bears so i packed along the 44 on each trip. We camped in the treeline by choice and hiked up high in the dark i used for the first time a rain fly and hammock. Will i do it again i am undecided. It was ok but i was kind of scared to move to much while i slept and one night we had a black bear in camp and i am not sure me flipping out of the hammock or the profanity that followed scared the bear the most. I will have a lighter pack but heavier rifle next year when i am finished with my 300 RUM. I learned something else valuable atleast on the east side. Next year i am sitting on one of the lower ridges coming off the mountian till i find the deer i want and shoot then i will climb the wall to get to him. That choice is how i discovered longrangehunting.com. GOOD LUCK and keep at it its addicting...
 
I hunt WA to i did not do the high buck hunt this year i did early rifle up high on the east side. We packed in about 8 miles from the trail head. My pack and gun weighed in right at 63 lbs total. I scouted the area several times with a day pack and spotting scope. Even then this is area has a few big fuzzy mean bears so i packed along the 44 on each trip. We camped in the treeline by choice and hiked up high in the dark i used for the first time a rain fly and hammock. Will i do it again i am undecided. It was ok but i was kind of scared to move to much while i slept and one night we had a black bear in camp and i am not sure me flipping out of the hammock or the profanity that followed scared the bear the most. I will have a lighter pack but heavier rifle next year when i am finished with my 300 RUM. I learned something else valuable atleast on the east side. Next year i am sitting on one of the lower ridges coming off the mountian till i find the deer i want and shoot then i will climb the wall to get to him. That choice is how i discovered longrangehunting.com. GOOD LUCK and keep at it its addicting...

That's funny--the bear/hammock part... :D
 
Okay, after seeing some of these packs and reading how much you are carrying---i am officially a wuss. I freely admit it. Thats the first step, right???
But 30 pounds works for me.
Next year, I am just going to hire timber338................

Randy
 
HellsCanyon, would you mind giving us a few of your equipment choices and why? Always trying to learn a few tips...

I'm not a gear expert by any means, but I know what works for me and I think I'm pretty sufficient with my gear choices...

First Aide: P-chord, superglue, and duct tape plus a few hydrocodone's left from a shoulder surgery... I see a lot of guys pack in more than a lb of first aide supplies, when for me, if I can't get it done with this stuff, then I'm probably screwed anyways... wouldn't be a bad idea to have a quick-clot packet though as well.

Sleeping system: Marmot Sawtooth 15* down bag (has served me well for a few years, but I'd like to upgrade soon)
Thermarest sleeping pad (not sure which model, its an older inflatable one that weighs just over 1 lb. Still going strong but could use an upgrade if going more often late season).
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. Borrowed for this years hunt, and while I like it, I think that I'll be going to modular system where I can have a stove and removable nest. Thinking about a Megatarp from Kifaru or going with a small tipi. I really like the pro's of floorless, but HATE not being sealed off from bugs. Have also debated running a complete floorless with a lightweight Event bivy, good R-value sleeping pad and a high quality down quilt. Haven't decided what I want to do for next year yet!

Pack: Kifaru Timberline 1 ~ 5 lbs 9 oz and compresses down for day pack use, and can haul more than I ever want to carry.
Cooking: Titanium pan, MSR Pocket-rocket stove
Clothes (I think this is where most people can cut a LOT of weight if they are smart...): Merino wool base layers (I have First Lite), Core4 Element pants, Kuiu gaitors, Russel "tundra" pulloverk, Kuiu Spindrift, Core4 Element Jacket, small packable rain poncho. I wear these same clothes every day. The merino keeps the stink down and I'm good to 30* pretty easily. Also have merino beanie and a cheap pair of gloves. Would like to swap out the C4 jacket with a Kuiu Chugach and drop the poncho this next year. I really like wearing that Spindrift for an outer layer if no precipitation and it dries really quick! That softshell is kind of pointless if in heavy winds or really wet conditions. The Chugach could double duty...
Boots: Hanwag Dakota's
Socks: Any type that are mainly merino wool. I like Lorpen and Smartwool. 2-3 pairs (if water is plentiful, take 2 and rinse the 2nd pair in their "off" day).
Water filter: Katydin hiker pro. Would like to swap to a Sawyer squeeze filter though to save a few ounces.
Rifle: 280 Ackley, HS PSS stock (HEAVY-39 ounces!), M24 contoured heavy fluted barrel (HEAVY), Seekins large brake, factory 700 LA, bottom metal and trigger, Viper PST FFP 6-24 scope. (this whole setup weighs just under 12 lbs without a bipod. Next year I should be toting an 8 lb rifle...

Food: I try to take food that allows me to only have to cook dinner. Taking along single serving peanut butter's, cliff bars, granola bars, fruit bars, dried mangos, snickers, tuna packets w/ triscuits for lunch, and a mountain house type dinner allows me to be up and rolling early in the morning. This year's Sept hunt I had around 2500 calories per day and less than 1.5 lbs of food per day. I could do that for about 3 days but after that I need more calories per day. I would like to shoot for around 3500 calories per day depending on duration and weather... Just remember to try and shoot for around 100 calories per ounce if looking at snack bars or snack food...etc Only exception I'll make here is for the fruit bars as they have more vitamins than others and they are pretty important!

Thats about all I can think of off the top of my head.

Mike
 
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