The hunting pack
By Luke Clayton
Sep 27, 2021
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I remember my first couple years guiding for elk and bear in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I was all about having everything on my back that could possibly be needed for the hunt. I bought one of those gigantic guide backpacks and stuffed it full of everything I ‘thought’ I might need and, looking back, a lot of things that I would never have needed. After a season of lugging all that weight around, I decided to go light and eliminate everything but the bare essentials. I purchased a very light pack and stocked it with items that would be needed for a day hunt in the mountains or…a hunt here in Texas.

As a younger hunter, I often found myself with a harvested deer or hog wishing I had thought to bring and extra item or two that would have made the field dressing and retrieval of the meat from the field a bit easier. It’s one thing to park one’s truck or four wheeler a hundred yards from a hunting stand and drive to the site to load up downed game but quite more challenging when the game is harvested in an area that is not vehicle accessible. A bit of forethought before the hunt will save much work after the game is on the ground.

For many years, I hunted a lease that had a connected series of gravel pit ponds that lead from the front road where I left my truck to the very back where I did most of my hunting. In the beginning, I actually quartered whitetail deer and hogs, just like when hunting in remote mountain states, and packed the meat back to the truck. Then I got smart; why not use my little boat to retrieve the meat! I remember feeling like a Rocky mountain fur trapper of the early eighteen hundreds when I loaded a buck in the front of that little craft and paddled back through the series of gravel pits to my truck! I later began accessing the remote area by water. For over ten years, I was the only human that visited that remote spot and I enjoyed many successful hunts there.

Regardless how I made my way to this remote spot, I still needed to have certain necessary items in my hunting pack. If you’re a hunter, stop and give some thought to the ‘must have’ items you carry. Of course, you will need a hunting knife. I know a couple of guys that pack only a skinning knife on their hunts. Granted, a good knife can definitely get the job done but a handful of additional items make the task much easier.

In my pack, I carry two knives. A quality knife will suffice for one animal but it’s nice to have and additional sharp knife to complete the job. I also carry a small diamond sharpening stone. A sharp knife is obviously my primary item. I’ve found a small package of baby ‘wipes’ is also very handy for clean up after field dressing game. It takes up very little space in the pack and weighs next to nothing. A few feet of nylon cord has many uses and I always include it in my pack. It can be used to hoist a rifle or bow up into a tree stand or to position a downed animal for field dressing. I always have my compass handy, even when hunting areas I am totally familiar with. Things look a lot different at night in the woods in case I have to trail an animal I have shot during the waning hours of daylight.

A roll of fluorescent orange surveyors tape is a must, especially at night, for marking the trail of a wounded animal. One item that is a bit bulky but very useful is a quality spotlight, I keep the batteries fully charged but I never trust one light. I pack a small light that I use for walking after dark as well as one of the automotive ‘bar’ lights that I’ve found essential for field dressing game at night. These little lights are very inexpensive; mine is only about 8 inches long and has a series of LED lights that provide plenty of light, even on the darkest night. 

I carry about 20 feet of half-inch stout rope in case I decide to hoist an animal above ground under a low hanging tree branch while I pack the quarters out of the woods.

Coyotes are always a problem to consider when leaving field dressed animals in the woods and this might sound a bit odd but I carry a little after shave lotion in a zip lock bag and place it around the carcass, along with a hat or some garment with human scent. I’ve never had a coyote disturb harvest animals left in the woods a few hours when using this method.  Early in my hunting career, I had a roving pack of coyotes find a buck I had left in the woods a few hours. Coyotes can do a lot of damage to game meat in a very short time.  If you have some useful items for a hunting pack, please email me. I might need to add them to my ‘basics’!

Camp bread

Here’s a recipe I have used for camp bread that is fast and easy. You will need either a Dutch kettle or cast iron skillet with lid. Mix a teaspoon salt, sugar to your liking, quarter cup of cooking oil, butter or bacon grease, with 2 cups flour and a half cup milk. Knead well and form into a ball. Flatten the ball to a thickness of about 1.5 inches and cut into quarters.

Bow season is about to begin. Luke talks about hunting packs and this awesome camp bread in today's column. (photo by Luke Clayton)

Place into a heated cast iron skillet or kettle, place lid and allow to ‘bake’ over low heat over a camp stove (not oven) for about 6 or 7 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side 6 minutes. Check to insure the bread is done in the middle. If not, allow a couple more minutes cooking time. If you desire ‘fry bread’ fry the dough in cooking oil. 

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