Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Do You Plan for a Life or Death Situation when Hunting?

The other day, a question was asked on about what to pack for a week long hunt. Quite a few people chimed in and gave some great advice. A few days later, while sitting at work, I brought the subject of backpacking and survival with a co-worker who is an avid hiker. We discussed scenarios and options that could happen to any of us. We discussed thinking ahead and survival in the outdoors. I've been reading up on hydration and survival lately, and it is disturbing how many people only pack enough food and water for the exact time they plan to be outdoors. 

Now, I realize that there are many other factors to consider like bears and mountain lions, etc. when you venture into the wilderness. I am only touching on a few major topics.

Last year, when planning a day-long hunting trip in the high desert, I checked the weather and saw that the temperature where my friend and I were going to be hunting would be in the 90s. I also knew that we'd be hiking a few miles in, spotting and stalking, and be sitting in the direct sunlight much of the day. Where I hunt there are no water sources at all. Every water source listed on the map has dried up, so we plan accordingly. We each packed in an extra gallon of water.You should have seen the emails and comments I received stating I was crazy. Many said I was packing too much, or that I was over-thinking the situation. The day of the hunt, we found ourselves having to hike out a longer distance and we ended up drinking all of our water AND we had to stop at a gas station for more. Thank goodness we had planned to have extra on hand!

The next discussion was about food and how much to pack in. Sure, for a day hunt you may not need a lot of extra food, but do you pack more just in case? I know that when I go out, I plan for an extra two days. That's even when I go on a day hunt into the backcountry. Plus, if you pack in smaller food stuffs, like some of the 400-calorie survival bars you can save space. I don't want to be caught alone, not able to get out of the forest, and to be dehydrated and hungry.

We also discussed surviving the elements and I mentioned that I always pack a survival blanket. It's not always me I am thinking about. What if my hunting partner falls and needs to stay put overnight until help arrives? What if I come across a stranded hunter who is chilled and needs assistance? These are some of the things I think about when I am hunting. Sure, it can mean a little extra weight, but I am willing to heft the extra 10 lbs or so in. To me it's worth it.

There are some great articles out there about what to pack and if we pack too much. Mark, from SoleAdventure, posted this two-parter back in April offering some great ideas and advice.

What do you hunters do? How much water and food do you pack? Do you plan for a 'what if' situation? I am very curious whether you are a treestand hunter who hunts a local farm or you are an extreme backcountry hunter who hikes 10 miles in. Please comment and let me know.


  1. On a mountain lion hunt in Arizona back in 2008, I advised my father to take several days worth of medication (he has heart trouble and diabetes as complications from Agent Orange in Viet Nam). Midway through our horseback tracking his horse lost a shoe. We were fortunate to get the horse back to the truck some 6 hours later. The horse had to be retired because of permanent damage caused to his hoof from the rough terrain. We easily could have been there not only overnight, but over several nights. So food, water, and any medication, especially prescription is a must to plan for.

  2. Here in Southern Arizona temperatures can easily rise to well over a hundred degrees from early may clear through October, and water is as scarce as unicorns. When I have people come in from out of town that want to go hiking I will usually tell then to add a gallon of water to what they think they will need, and then double that. I also tel them that no matter what when they get half way through their water it is time to turn around and head out the way they came in. I totally agree with the premise of packing extra. Especially for back country hunting and hiking. Thanks for the great advise!

  3. In Minnesota, water held against your body can still freeze solid, especially during the very last season: Muzzle Loading. Want a good read for hunting in severe weather? Google Minnesota’s Armistice Day Blizzard.

  4. Great tips and stories guys. I truly hope people take this to heart and plan a bit better.

  5. Mainly a farm hunter here in AR, I always try to pack a first-aid kit and plenty of water. I always tell at least 2 people my exact hunting location in case something happens. Great post Al!