You know the Scouts motto: Always Be Prepared. It’s something to remember for every mountain outing. Although, it took on new meaning for me last weekend while I was up ...
If you read Part 1 of Preparing For The Hunt series, then you got some detailed information about how to select your Game management Unit (GMU), how to put in for your tags, and some pre-scouting tactics for an elk hunt.
You can do all of the research you want, but if you don’t have the right gear or take the time to prepare yourself physically, it won’t matter if you snagged that elk. You’re still going to have to field dress and pack it out, and this is where the real work is. Part 1 was all about the brains of the hunt. Part 2 focuses on the brawn to get the job done. You need both.
I’ll start this off with a little disclaimer – I have never packed out an elk myself before. However, I do have 10 years of personal training in my background of professional experience, with a focus on biomechanics. I’ve trained thousands of people for various goals – from losing 100 pounds to training for marathons. I know what your body is going to need to do to hike up a mountain with over 100 pounds of meat on your back.
If you want to do the most bad ass outdoor Crossfit style workout for hunters that I have ever seen, then you need to go check out Cameron Hanes’ website. It’s extreme and this is only recommended for the hunters out there who are already in great shape, and are frankly fitness obsessed. You have to be if you’re going to hike up a mountain side multiple times with a 130 pound rock.
I like this video, as crazy as it is, because it follows my thought process of train for your sport, and train for your terrain. By watching this video you can see what fitness aspects are really important to focus on: leg strength, balance and joint stability (specifically ankles), core strength, and most importantly – endurance.
Now, most of us are not this determined. I don’t think you have to be. You can have a well-developed training program in the gym that works on these aspects in a more balanced (and safe) manner. When I’m not on the trails, then I’m in the gym on the treadmill on high incline for an hour to work on hill endurance and prevent shin splints. You can also do the stair-mill (some people even bring their full packs to the gym to train). I’m also on the trail training for my terrain doing at least a 6-10 mile hike every weekend. As we get closer to hunting season, I’ll load up my pack heavier each week so I’m replicating the sport motions almost exactly.
Ironically, I hate working out in the gym (personal trainer burnout), so you won’t see me doing squats on the squat rack or lunges and deadlifts. I’ll do something similar on the trail instead and focus on functional training, like walking lunges. I’m only in the gym when I can’t get my boots in the dirt on weekday nights or when I’m stuck with poor weather conditions.
I think it’s essential to be hiking regularly if you’re going to hunt. Bill would beg to differ. He’s doing Krav Maga three times a week working on some serious cardio endurance, explosive power, and overall body strength, but no trail time.
Either way, there’s no “couch to elk hunt” program. You have to get out there and move frequently – at least three times a week. Start with hiking first and work on trail endurance. Then find some exercises that work for you that you can blend in. Do it on the trail, do it at home, or do it at the gym – whatever. Because honestly, the best workout is the one that you’re actually going to do.
The best way to pack for a hunt is to start with generous daypacking gear and camping setups and start adding the hunting-specific pieces. Each season is going to require a different set of gear too. We’re going into 3rd season rifle. I was up in Redfeather Lakes on Sunday where there were patches of snow and it was blustery at 10,000 feet while gunshots echoed through the forest. As I write this post now, there’s over 8 inches of snow in the same spot. So, while you always have to prepare for unpredictable Colorado mountain weather, you really have to plan for it all in late season hunts.
This list gets kind of long, and some items can be expensive. We have a saying in our house, “only chumps buy retail.” I have to say that Bill is one of the best bargain shoppers there is out there and we didn’t purchase any of this at cost. I’m pretty sure we’ve saved over $2,000 buy looking for discount codes, coupons, sales, and killer deals. Sierra Trading Post, Cam0Fire, The Cymb, and Amazon have been our hunting gear saviors.
There are two types of gear you’ll need to accumulate: pre-kill and post kill. Pre-kill gear is what you’re going to need to stalk.
- Cammo and hunter orange is a given. Lady hunters – find a stretchy yoga hiking pant material. The regular hunting pants SUCK if you actually want to hike and move around freely. Also remember that cotton kills. Wear wool or poly fabrics and dress in layers.
- You’ll need sturdy worn-in boots, no matter the season – I bought a new pair of Keen boots just for this trip (I needed something warmer and more water-resistant). You’ll need a solid 4-6 weeks of regular break-in time before you hunt.
- Gaiters – You’re going off trail and running through streams and water. Or snow.
- Binoculars or spotting scope – we each have a pair of Bushnell binoculars for glassing. I have a waterproof 8×42 mm pair and Bill has the Waterproof Legacy 10x55mm.
- Binocular harness – these binoculars are heavy and you want them handy instead of in your pack. We have the Bushnell Delux Bino Harness.
- Range Finder – we don’t have one, but we’re making due.
- GPS Unit – another thing we don’t have this year, so we’re going old school with maps.
- Scent elimination products – this is the one thing that will ruin your hunt because elk have a very developed sense of smell. We have spot-wash detergent to launder our clothes, control freak spray, scent-a-way field wipes, Fresh Earth scent wafters, and elk bomb elk urine.
- Windicator – or you can throw some grass in the wind to gauge direction, but this is nicer.
- Elk calls – cow calls and bull bugles. This is a post all on its own, really. But you need these to at least get their attention no matter if it’s during the rut or after.
- Last but not least – a backpack with a frame. I grabbed a new one since I’m going to go on some backpacking trips this summer. Nothing like an excuse to shop for gear!
And let’s say that after all of that, you’re successful in bagging an elk. Now what do you need? Your post-kill gear. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has a fantastic video showing everything you need to pack to field dress. The only thing we found that was missing was a tarp to help keep the elk free of dirt. It’s just easier this way. We have the same E-Z saw in the video and then a Havalon knife to quickly change blades instead of sharpening.
That pretty much covers everything that you need to prepare for an elk hunt in Colorado. There’s what you need to know, what you need to have on hand, and what you need to do to get your body ready. I haven’t covered game habit education or tracking, but we’ll go over that in next year’s hunt. For now, it’s all down to some skill and mostly a whole lot of luck!
The next hunting post will be the story of what goes down while we’re out there. Elk or not, I’m sure it will be a great story to tell.
Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself.
This weekend was full of trail time – both in the city and on the side of mountains at 10,500 feet. While taking the kids along with me to hangout at Riverbend Ponds Natural Area, I realized that my time on the trail is slower. I’m looking around at more than just at my feet moving over rocks. I’m looking for turtles, watching fish jump, and scanning the trees for owls. I’d have to say it’s all in part of keeping my eyes open and taking the time to capture photos for Fresh Air Fort Collins along the way.
I’ve been to Riverbend Ponds many times over the years. It’s one of Bill’s favorite city fishing spots. But I never set out with the intention of getting nature photos for blog fodder. I have to say this is one of my favorite parts of writing this blog – taking the time to see something new and interesting to share with people who may have missed the beautiful scenery, just like I had before.
I hope your weekend was just as beautiful, and as always, feel free to take photos along the way and share them with us on Fresh Air Fort Collins every Monday!
I’ve lived in Fort Collins for just over a decade now. In that time I have never owned a car. In that time I have also never worked in Fort Collins. Both jobs I’ve commuted to over these years have been in Loveland, and between a few different residences and a couple of workplaces, I’ve been able to count on a 12-15 mile one-way commute twice a day, 5 or 6 days a week.
Everyone you tell that you’re an all season commuter asks the same well-meaning questions, so here’s a quick FAQ:
1. You didn’t really ride today, in this?
If I’m here, the bike is here.
2. What about when it’s cold?
If you can dress to ski/board, you can dress for just about any weather conditions a Colorado commute can throw at you.
3. What about sweating up your clothes before work?
This one is a little tricky and has a few different answers depending on your circumstances. In my case, I have my own office and I can close the door and change when I get there. Sweat, by itself, doesn’t smell. It’s just that the places we sweat the most are the warm dark places where bacteria that cause B.O. like to grow, so commonsense good hygiene (shower right before leaving the house, change out of damp base layers as soon as I get to work) give me some confidence that I’m not offending my coworkers.
Chances are your commute would be shorter than mine and you could probably afford to ride slowly enough to avoid building up much of a sweat. There’s also choice of materials, which is its own article, but the short version is avoid cotton and use wool and fancy wicking materials as much as possible.
4. What about traffic and cars?
This is one I’ve been grappling with lately. The death of Fort Collins cyclist Ernesto Wiedenbrug, who was hit and left to die by a driver who later received a plea deal for an astonishingly light sentence, occurred on my commute route. He died on a stretch of frontage road south of town that doesn’t usually see a lot of traffic, where there is now a roadside memorial that reminds me daily of the bias our legal system has against cyclists and in favor of drivers. It makes me feel helpless and angry and vulnerable in a way I never used to. If you ever want to murder someone in the US and get away with it, run them over in a car and toss a bike next to the body. Not only will you get off, but the article about will mention that your victim wasn’t wearing a helmet and the comments will rant about how it was their fault.
The good news is Northern Colorado is one of the areas in the country where cyclists are getting organized and speaking up and trying to change the bias, by asserting our rights, educating the public, and holding other cyclists accountable for bad citizenship. It’s gonna be–to put it mildly–a long haul.
We’ve also got more bike lanes and multi-use paths, and more bike-friendly businesses and safe drivers than most of the US. It’s a good place to be a cyclist and a great time to be here.
And in my case, in what’s gotta be well over 80,000 miles by now, my most serious commuting incident in all those years was slamming into a delivery van that cut me off coming out of a driveway. Still kicking myself I didn’t let the company’s risk department make me an offer. I was working at a hospital at that point, so I straightened my handlebars, did a quick tooth check, and rode straight to work, locked up the bike and told my boss I needed to run to the ER real quick. They immobilized my shoulder for a couple of weeks but nothing was broken.
Scared? Don’t be. My commute is my gym membership, my therapy session, my antidepressant, my yoga, my meditation. It’s my buffer between the stresses of work and the sanctuary of home. And sometimes vice versa.
The truth is, not everyone’s lifestyle is suitable for bike commuting. There are some circumstances that rule it out, but not many. And most of our excuses have solutions that are easier than we might have thought, if we’re serious about it.
If you’re interested but concerned or unsure, feel free to drop me a line at NoCoCyclingEvents@gmail.com with your questions.