If I start hunting a mile from the trailhead, I've learned that then I’ll be farther in the woods than 80 percent of the other elk hunters. If I go 2 miles more, I'll eliminate another 10 percent of the elk hunters or 90 percent of the other elk hunters. When I go 3 miles, I’ll lose another 5 percent and at 4 miles distance, I’ll rarely, if ever, see any other hunters. John Spears and my goal is to stay in that back country until we harvest an elk. We usually plan for a 7-day hunt, and we carry all of our camping gear in our backpacks.
What I Pack For a 7 Day Do-It-Yourself Elk Hunt:
What I like about the way Wyoming conducts its elk hunts is that if you go into a unit to elk hunt, and you don’t get your elk, you can return to that same unit during the general rifle season and hunt with your rifle. A few years ago I had a major accident that prevented me from hunting with a compound bow, so today I hunt with a Bowtech Stryker Crossbow.
In my backpack, I’ll put my crossbow, a ground pad, a 20-degree sleeping bag, my one-man tent, game bags, parachute cord, head lamps (small but powerful lights that you can attach to your hat or your head, so you can work hands-free), extra batteries and a small flashlight that I can use to change the batteries in my headlamp when needed. I also carry trekking poles (walking sticks). If I'm not using my poles, I can break them down and put them in my pack, but I use them all the time. When I'm climbing up mountains, they help to balance me and take weight off my legs. Fully loaded my pack will weigh at least 60 pounds. I like a Mystery Ranch Metcalf Pack.
I’ll take two pair of Mossy Oak Brush pants, two shirts and carry my lightweight base layer underwear in case the weather’s cold. I’ll wear Meindl Men's "Perfekt™ hunter boots made by Cabela’s, but I also put a pair of Crocs in my pack to wear when I'm in camp. I always carry a first-aid kit with ibuprofen, antiseptic, bandages, Band-Aids and something to clot blood in case of an accident. I carry my cell phone, because part of the way up the mountain, we’ll generally have cell service. I also have a good quantity of dehydrated food, trail mix and protein bars, since I’ll probably be hunting 1-2 miles away from where I'm camping. I take a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter with me to always have a way to filter water. The straw allows me to drink water straight out of a stream. These water filters claim to filter out 99.9 percent of all the bad stuff that can be and often is in the water you find when you're out hunting. I carry waterproof matches, a small flashlight and a headlight as well as multiple elk calls too. I also carry iodine pills as a backup to purify the water.
My partner, John Spears, and I each carry a Garmin 120 GPS. Then, we both can download maps of the area where we’re hunting. We like this particular brand of GPS, because it not only shows my location but also my hunting partner’s location. I also will have a Havalon knife that has interchangeable blades. Then when my blade gets dull, I take the old blade out, put in a new sharp blade and don’t waste time sharpening my knife when I'm field dressing, skinning and/or butchering my elk. I also carry a Gerber knife, because they’re ultra sharp and very lightweight; a lightweight all black rain suit in my pack made by Frogg Toggs; gloves; a face mask; a hat; a Polar fleece pullover sweater for the cold weather we may have in these mountains; and a lightweight base layer of wicking material next to my skin. The mornings can be real cool. But by 10:00 am, I’ll be taking clothes off. As I head back to camp, often after dark, the temperature will have cooled down, and I’ll have to put on my Polar fleece pullover sweater.
Day 1: Kelly Hicks Scouts from His Easy Chair for Elk on Property He's Never Hunted
Tomorrow: Kelly Hicks on Utah Hunting Versus Wyoming Hunting