Friday, March 20, 2015

Lessons Learned with Conservation: Hunters Helping Wildlife

If you have heard it once, you have heard it a thousand times. Let me say it once more.

Hunters aid in conservation. 

The truth is, we give back more than we take away. Last year, Brett and I hiked into the desert to clean a sheep spring, camp for the night, and enjoy the great outdoors. We wanted to help give back by cleaning up a sheep spring for the local wildlife. It turned into a disaster, but it also showed us what we could handle when faced with adversity. Best of all, we learned a great deal and decided this year we would correct our mistakes.

Last year, we hiked in anticipating we'd be camping overnight. We also anticipated with the drought that the sheep spring we needed to clean out wouldn't have much water. We packed our camping gear and water for two days into the desert mountains. We didn't mind the extra weight on the hike in as we were using this as a training exercise for Colorado. The issues arose when we turned into the wrong valley, nearly stepped on a rattlesnake, had to hike out five miles in the blistering heat, and then we ran out of water. Our packs weighed in around 75# each. What a disaster! It might be great for training and learning, but seventy-five pounds for eleven miles? I am all for gear testing, and I am a little nuts when it comes to testing gear. I love to do it, but wow.

We talked about that hike all year. Knowing we would be doing something similar this spring, Brett and I decided we would not be camping and would try for a different spring. In fact, we again are working with the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep and opted to check on a big game guzzler and a spring in the mountains. Our goal was to support the wildlife by making sure they have water, but also to learn more about our GPS units and focus on pack weight. Essentially, what do we NEED to take and what do we WANT to take.

By focusing on what I need to take, I reduced all the extras and insane equipment I might need. With water, binos, snacks, and a first-aid kit, I dropped my pack weight by 52#. Yes, that is like carrying my 6-year old on my back. Fifty-two pounds! I think I will enjoy this mission a bit more this year. What did I do to reduce the weight? I'll tell you! I will share some of the things I did to reduce the weight for the hike.

  • I swapped out packs for this trip. I love my Badlands OX frame pack, but I am taking my Teton Sports Summit1500 for this trip. This saves me a few pounds and reduces my chiropractor bill.
  • Enough water for the day and I packed Aqua Pure tablets if I ran out.
  • No camping gear. Whew!
  • No extra clothing like jacket and pants. This year it's as minimal as I can make it. All while remaining safe in the outdoors.
  • No JetBoil. All PROBARs this year. Why cook when you don't need to?
  • No heavy camera, spotting scope, or tripod. This year it's my little Nikon point-and-shoot. Saves me about 8 lbs.

Overall, I am excited about this adventure. We are heading into the desert first thing tomorrow morning and plan to have everything done in one day. My pack, with binoculars weighs in at 23# and that makes me happy! Here's to hoping we get to see some bighorn sheep in the mountains, but even if we don't we are going to have a great day away from the city. This will be an excellent test to see what we have learned in the past year about our gear and ourselves.

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