Proper conditioning and having the right equipment is essential to a successful archery hunt. While there is a difference between a hunt in the back woods and an elk or moose hunt in the wilderness of the US west, the vast reaches of Canada or the wilds of Alaska, proper preparation is always necessary.
My hunting gear is overloaded with the kind of stuff one should take when hunting in true wilderness. My fanny pack always has a first aid kit, fire starting aid, space blanket, lite rain gear, navigation equipment and more. When I hunt, I never, never leave camp without that fanny pack. In a pinch, I could weather a severe storm, a minor injury or even getting lost. This is precautionary stuff that makes it tougher to haul around on a hunt but makes my time in the wilderness far safer.
I had an experience in my archery elk hunt this fall that while not life threatening, made my hunt far less enjoyable and reminded me why I carry all that gear.
My hunting buddy, Jay, would be a bit delayed getting into the Colorado mountains this year. I reached the mountains a couple of days ahead of the season to secure a good camping spot near the area that we wanted to hunt this year. We had hunted here before and had a pretty good idea of the terrain and where the elk were likely to be hanging out.
While awaiting the opening day and Jay’s arrival, I did some scouting and placed a few trail cameras to see if we could pattern where and when the elk were passing through the National Forest we were hunting. I knew where we were, I knew the layout of the forest we were in, and I would be using old logging roads much of the time to get where we wanted to hunt.
It was a long trek into the forest from our base camp, well over a mile. While the old logging road made the trek easier, it was still a significant change in altitude from one place to the next. Over all, my travels would probably carry me somewhere between four and six miles round trip. I had been walking a lot over the summer to be in condition to hunt these mountains and was certain that I could handle the pre-hunt adventure. I loaded up a small backpack with my cameras and decided that it was just a simple walk to the hunting area, and since I knew it very well, I didn’t need to lug my fanny pack with all my stuff. After all, I wasn’t really hunting yet! I wasn’t going to get lost! There was no threat of a winter storm or even a serious rain storm, although rain was a possibility late in the day!
My first foray into our hunting went reasonable well. I started early, on the trail by 7:30 in the morning. I confirmed that elk were indeed still in the area. I found many well used game trails with lots of fresh elk sign. I was able to strategically place a few trail cameras. Likewise, I was able to refamiliarize myself with what I had remembered of a previous hunt. I trudged back to camp 4 or 5 hours later, tired but feeling pretty good about my conditioning and my accomplishment.
The lone concern was that by mid-morning , it was raining and it continued to rain throughout the day. It wasn’t a big deal, it was warm, and in truth the rain kept me cool as I struggled against the mountains up and downs.
The following day, buoyed by yesterday’s experience, I set out again in the morning. However, my Lowa hunting boots were soaked, inside from sweat and outside from the rain. My clothing from yesterday had mostly dried, but I knew that the rain-soaked ground and forest flora would still be wet especially that which I would have to walk through. I opted to wear my Muck boots which will keep my feet and legs dry but are not nearly as comfortable for tromping the mountains of Colorado.
Like yesterday, I took only enough gear with me to be able to check the cameras and do a bit of scouting. I stayed dry, but 2 ½ miles from camp my right boot was noticeably rubbing on my heel. It was then I knew I was in a bit of a fix. I had no doubt I would make it back to camp, but I was pretty sure there would be quite the blister on my heel before I got there. I was right, it was a blister the size of a nickel and, of course, the blister burst as well.
As soon as I was back in camp I tended to the wound, but it would impact my ability to hunt for the next few days. No matter which boot I would wear, not matter how I would cover the blister to protect it, I would struggle with walking. Oh, I was still able to push through the pain, but it significantly impacted my desire to walk, the distance I was able to walk, and the enjoyment I usually find hunting the Colorado mountains. Had I been carrying my fanny pack, or even my first aid kit, I could have easily placed a bandaid or moleskin on the heel and eliminated the pain of the next few days.
I have always prided myself on being prepared and careful. In this case, my pride and my laziness, had a significant impact on my elk hunt. A blister on my heel is a pretty small problem. It’s not a broken bone, or a severe illness. It certainly wasn’t life threatening. But sometimes it is the little things that we don’t pay attention to, and don’t prepare to mitigate that turn an all-consuming pleasurable hunt into a daily struggle with a nagging pain. Did I get my elk? Don’t know yet. I am writing this article from camp while I hopefully allow my heel to heal instead of chasing the elusive Wapiti!