The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Lessons From the Backcountry

Expert Advice for the Ultimate DIY Hunting Adventure
Photos by Dave Merrill and Luke Carrick

No tree stands. No bait. No getting trucked in. You are the transportation. You are the logistics. You’re all on your own. If you like backpacking and you like hunting, then perhaps of backcountry hunting is right up your alley. But if you’re the type who enjoys a high-fenced canned hunt with guaranteed kills, you should probably be reading another magazine.

Last year, we attended either the very last Magpul Backcountry Hunting Class or the very first class Caylen Wojcik taught at Gunwerks — details are unclear, but the instruction absolutely wasn’t. Wojcik, along with Luke Carrick of Guide Rite Adventures, taught a comprehensive master class.

On the surface, this makes for one of the simplest and one of the most difficult hunting ventures you’re likely to take on. It takes more than just tramping off into the woods without a solid plan — lest you want to experience frustration, and possibly being the ultimate goal of a search-and-rescue mission.

Essentially, it means hiking to a remote location, glassing, hitting your mark, and packing out all of your meat. Oh yeah, and then your gear. Oh yeah, then if you have any energy left, that’s when you go back for your trophy horn-porn, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Today, we’re going to share with you some lessons learned — all are incredibly important to have a successful trip, regardless of the outcome of your hunt.

Multiple methods for making fire are definitely required.

Multiple methods for making fire are definitely required.

Know Your Limits
This applies to everything. From the weight of your pack and your physical capabilities, to your rifle and yourself. Rule number one isn’t cardio; rule number one is equipping yourself with the discipline needed to work within your physical limitations.

Just spotting an elk or whichever game you’re out for doesn’t mean you can hit it. While there are many who would be fully confident and capable of taking a 900-yard shot on one, if you aren’t, you absolutely shouldn’t. The more you know your rifle and yourself, the better the chances for a successful, humane kill.

This means going out and shooting from compromised positions; strange angles and in bad weather — confident from a bench is entirely different than competence in the field.

Have DOPE cards. Zero before venturing out. Shoot at both high and low angles. Learn how to read wind and apply corrections for your specific rifle and caliber combination. Don’t wound some animal to run off and die a slow, painful death just because you’re an unprepared a**hole.

No tripod mount for binos? No problem. Bungee cords work great.

No tripod mount for binos? No problem. Bungee cords work great.

Being a flat-lander mostly these days, the class treks up the mountain with camping kit, shooting gear, (heavy) camera equipment, and rifle made for some absolutely grueling and grinding days. Had I hit a stairmaster at the local gym wearing a ruck for a couple months before, it wouldn’t have been so bad. On the plus side, it probably made the other students in the class understand that they weren’t the weakest link. Don’t be the weakest link.

No Such Thing as Too Much Stability
This isn’t just about shooting, but about glassing as well. Ever try to handhold a 40x spotting scope? Not. Going. To. Happen. A small travel tripod with a pan/tilt head makes a world of difference. We utilized the compact and inexpensive Benro meFOTO Roadtrip tripod combined with a Vanguard GH-100 pistol-grip head for everything from spotting to shooting. While this offers less stability than a full-on Really Right Stuff setup, it definitely did the job without breaking either back or bank.

Additionally, we use sling pressure with the tripod itself to increase stability. Because this was a lighter-weight tripod, a bungee-type sling attached to the belt and the rifle sling itself allowed us to increase pressure for greater support.

Shoot off your pack. Shoot off your rolled-up sleeping pad. Shoot from the most stable position possible at the time.

Years ago, foolishly, I thought trekking poles were just for people who weren’t strong. And then a pair of poles saved me from blowing off the side of one of the Towers of Paine in Chile — big believer ever since.

Not only do trekking poles offer stability when traversing mountains, they also help you keep your legs fresher during ascents, and importantly, can be used as a rifle rest, if needed. While we still have a bipod mounted on the rifle, and a tripod as a secondary, knowing how to use poles for shooting is a great easy-button when you need it.

Backup your backups. And for Chrissakes learn how to read a map.

Backup your backups. And for Chrissakes learn how to read a map.

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