By Scott Carpenter – CGB Editor
For most of the province, hunting season is a little over a month away. But there’s more to getting ready than just range trips and working a year’s worth of stiffness and inactivity out of your muscles and joints. It’s time to have a good hard look at your equipment.
If you’re doing a lot of road hunting then this topic isn’t terribly important. But depending on where you live boot choice and maintenance is critical to simply staying in the field.
I’ve hunted from one end of western Canada to the other as well as overseas and I can tell you the best boot for the job is different from place to place and season to season.
On the prairies, where most of our deer hunting took place in the later part of fall when temps could dip into the minus twenty to thirty degree Celsius range the choice for boots was completely different than it is here in the Northern Cascade range where I currently reside.
On the prairie side of things I normally ran two types of boots. For cold and nasty weather I wore Kamiks. They are real winter boots with about a minus thirty-five Celsius temperature rating. They suck to walk in, they’re heavy and not very rigid but they keep your feet warm and at those temps, that’s the only really important thing.
For a milder winter, I kept boots like Irish Setter or Rocky. They were high tops, part nylon, part leather, water proof and had a Thinsulate rating that was good just into the freezing range. They were great boots for the low lands and even the Rocky Mountain foothills but they aren’t tough enough for the really high country.
Enter the full leather hiking boot. My favorite has always been (and still is) Meindl. A full leather boot gives you a lot more support in rugged terrain but more importantly, they will stand up to the punishment that rocky country dishes out better than a standard hunting boot will. Sharp rocks will destroy a standard boot pretty quickly, hard leather will take the punishment and keep you moving.
The downside to heavy duty boots is break in. They are stiff and take some time to become comfortable. My last pair of Meindls took me more than a year to really get loosened up. I wore them constantly. But they also lasted me over a decade before they began to leak and squeak. I was loath to give them up. By the time they started to look like they’d been run over by a herd of Cape Buffalo they were getting really comfortable.
Leather also requires a fair bit of maintenance to get a full life out of. It’s important you follow the salesman’s advice in this department. Given what you pay for a good pair of mountain boots (often north of $300.00 to $400.00) it’s worth the time it takes to clean them up and maintain them properly. The most important part though is to wear them often. Get them broken in before the season starts or you’ll soon wish you’d just gone barefoot.
This is a topic that has dogged me for the better part of my hunting career. My wife gives me a hard time about it because there are about five packs either lying around the house or hanging from the wall of my garage (and maybe more). I still can’t tell you what the best pack is for hunting because it really just depends on the type of hunting you are doing.
I guess I have a pack for each occasion. For a quick run or hike up a local hill, I carry a small day pack loaded with a few essentials like a first aid kit, blister pack etc. After that, things get complicated.
The type of pack I use has less to do with how long I am gone somewhere and more to do with where I am going and how I will be hunting.
If we are moose hunting on the eastern or western slope of the Rockies I carry a smaller pack because we are either hunting out of a camper or staying in someone’s house. The pack I am carrying is loaded with gear to butcher a bull but I don’t expect to use it to carry out meat. For that, I have an older, larger external frame pack that I leave in camp in case we kill something in a bad spot, the hope, of course, being that if we tip over a big swamp donkey we can get a quad to it. That’s ‘hopefully’.
For back country hunting, I have a larger internal frame Eberle Stock Dragonfly pack that carries enough food and water for a few days and has enough room to carry out the better part of a boned out deer, sheep or goat.
A few years ago we tipped over a small muley in the upper Cascades and I actually put the entire front end of the deer into it without boning it out. It was just a day hunt and even though it was a four-hour pack out I preferred to be able to hang the deer in two pieces until I could get it to the butcher. The pack performed admirably. My hunting partner, carrying the rear half, might have preferred we boned it. His smaller external frame pack didn’t carry the load properly. I think his back paid for it over the two thousand foot descent back to the vehicle.
Whatever the pack is you decide to purchase just make sure it is of good quality. Good quality gear is more expensive up front but it also lasts longer, thus saving you money in the long run.
Oh ya, before I forget: if you’re starting to get old like me, get a good set of hiking poles. It’s like having four wheel drive on the way up and takes some of the pressure off the joints on the way down. You can find good ones at the hippier outdoor stores like MEC.
A Few Other Things
Knives. Goodness, gracious. Knives.
There are so many lines and so many options within each line how do you know what to pack? Which steel should you choose? What about sharpeners? What type of blade shape? How long should it be?
Keep it simple.
The blade should be short. Too much blade means you will knick and cut things you ought not to while cleaning your kill. You want the steel to be soft enough you can sharpen it with a stone in the field but not so soft that it loses an edge two minutes after you’ve started cleaning whatever it is you tipped over.
I like Buck knives. The steel seems to fit the description above and since I don’t like stopping to sharpen my knives any more than I have to I carry two folding Buck 110’s. Folders are nice because they take up less room in your pack and if you have a bad fall you won’t accidentally end up with a blade somewhere it shouldn’t be. The downside is folders take a long time to clean properly. These things are called trade offs. It is what it is.
Like knives, volumes have been written on this topic. The most common type of bino we sell in the store is the 10X40. It’s popular for a reason. It is a compromise between magnification and ease of use. The higher the power the harder it is to keep a steady picture. The lower the power the closer you have to get to your game to judge size and quality.
Also – the more you spend the better the clarity will be. Cheap binoculars perform poorly in this department. All the magnification in the world doesn’t do you any good if you don’t have clarity. Spend a little more and you’ll get a little more. With optics, you generally get what you pay for. For value, I’m a Nikon guy. I promote the hell out of the product because Nikon is first and foremost a glass company and because they make a quality product at prices most people can afford. If you want to spend more and step up I would advise looking at the Zeiss Conquest HD series.
Depending on what the regulations are where you live this might be a non-issue. Fortunately, here in BC, we can wear whatever we want while we’re hunting. If you have a penchant for frills, lace, and pink satin then go wild. I’m not guaranteeing you won’t get shot at but you won’t get fined.
As for camo, it seems like every year there is a new whiz bang pattern that will make you disappear into thin air. For hunting, I don’t put much stock in camo clothing. Camo patterns are more appealing to the human eye than anything else. In my experience, most animals will either smell you or see you move if you are careless regardless of what you are wearing. If you are moving camo will not make a difference. If you are not paying attention to the wind it won’t help you either.
It’s more important to be dressed for the weather and to be prepared for what mother nature can throw at you. I just wear earth tone/neutral colors for the most part. In fact, I bought my first camo technical rain jacket two seasons ago, my old green MEC Gortex poncho having been absconded for dog walking purposes.
And that’s the most important bit of it. If you are going into the backcountry don’t forget the essentials: first aid, fire starting kits, foot aid, water purifier etc etc etc. And if you’re going on your own please remember to tell someone where you are headed and when you’ll be back.
In the mean time have fun and enjoy the season. Don’t forget, starting in September we’ll be running our annual “Show Us Your Game” photo contest. Details will follow here and elsewhere in a few weeks.
Thanks for stopping by.