that is classic coues deer country, some cool fall arizona weather and sitka gear open country which continues to perform beyond my expectations. just about the time i decide that i have had enough of arizona and consider moving the heat breaks and i get to spend time in places like this. this was a great backcountry bivy hunt in true hardcore fashion.
this wasn’t my hunt but i was happy to help out by heading up high to make sure nothing really important got missed. as it turns out, the guys found what they were looking for on their side of the world so i did a lot of hard humping up those hills for nothing. well, that isn’t really true. i had the whole area to myself and i got to give my gear another thorough sorting out. i wore under armour boxer briefs, danner socks, sitka gear 90% Pants, a yates uniform rappel belt, sitka gear traverse zip t and sitka gear stormfront lite jacket the whole time but i switched from scarpa escape gtx boots to the lowa tibet pro gtx half way through for comparision.
the weather was stormy on and off and got cold enough for light snow flurries at 5000 feet. the stormfront lite Jacket is tougher than i previously gave it credit. i covered a lot of ground, busted a lot of brush and there wasn’t a mark on it. it kept the wind and rain away but even with good active ventilation techniques it couldn’t “breathe” well enough to stop the sweat from accumulating underneath. that is perfectly OK with me because i know that when you are working that hard in those conditions you are going to sweat big. no shell could solve that problem but what separates the good stuff from the bad or even the so so is the time it takes to dry once you get to where you are going and strip down to let everything dry out. yes, you read me correctly. i said strip down. oh, it ain’t pretty but as soon as the huffing and puffing stops i take my tops slash bottoms off and hang them over bushes to air dry. i’ll take my boots and socks off too if i can and just sit for a while in my chonies until me and my stuff is dry or at least drier so my own body heat can do the rest. the sitka gear, true to its mountaineering heritage, dries faster than most other hunting gear.
now, the more interesting situation is when you can’t strip down to dry off. like when it is raining or snowing too hard. so what do you do then? look, you have three main moisture management tools at your disposal. waterproof slash vapor permeable shells and wicking base layers, active ventilation techniques and physical exertion control. if i know i won’t be able to strip down and dry out at the end of a big climb i wear as little as possible (i have even worn nothing just so i could put a dry base layer on later) under my shell, slow my cadence way down and take it as easy as i can. if that means rest stepping and taking a lot longer to get to my destination, so be it. i will be drier and warmer when i arrive,
that works fine for hunters because we don’t like to move too fast anyway, it spooks the game and we end up walking past country we want to closely inspect. if you are in a situation where time is critical, like a SAR team member or military special operator, then you might consider bringing extra base layers in your pack to put on when you stop. the moral of the story is to stay dry and warm.
so, i was doing a great job of picking my area apart with the swarovski 15s (on a manfrotto 190CXPRO3 carbon fiber tripod, outdoorsmans pan head and outdoorsmans binocular adaptor and studs) when i heard that they had glassed up a nice buck and were going to sneak close enough for a shot. an hour later they called me and told me they needed help carrying everything back to the trucks.
i beat feet back down, got in my truck and drove to where they had parked. i stripped the mystery ranch crew cab pack down to the bare essentials (water, bivy gear, SPOT and medical) and headed straight up. two hours later i was complimenting cody on his choice of bivy sites and filling my pack with their gear.
cody goff just getting back to camp with his field dressed coues deer loaded into my outdoorsmans optics hunter pack. since he was already fully loaded down with meat, cape, head and horns i put all of his gear and whatever else that was left in my crew cab. sorry for the poor photo quality but they forgot their cameras and i forgot to ask before leaving mine behind in the truck. the droid did OK in a pinch.
goff made it back to the bivy camp just before dark with my outdoorsmans pack filled with his deer. after a little break, some food and the obligatory vignettes of his extraordinary hunting prowess we set out for the the trucks parked a couple thousand vertical feet below us. heavy clouds obscured the moon so we relied on our headlamps to keep us out of trouble.
let me address a couple of things at this point because i think they might be particularly helpful to all readers. first, i parked my truck in a clearing and put a small princeton tec flashlight on the top of the cab aimed towards where i thought bivy camp was. i wanted to prove to the guys something i had learned during my time with the sheriffs office which was how conspicuous even a relatively weak light source could be when shown against a pitch dark background. sure enough, as soon as we cleared the highest hilltop between us and the trucks the little light was faint but clearly visible to the naked eye. i have said it to dozens of civilian audiences over the years and i will say it again here. after proper boots, clothing and water the most important piece of gear an outdoorsman should carry is a dependable flashlight with fresh batteries. a dedicated, purpose built strobe, like the acr firefly III, is even better if you want to improve your chances of being found at night. that assumes of course that someone is looking for you. i would make a slight modification now to that admonition if i were t
o go back out on the psar (preventive search and rescue) circuit and that is to add a SPOT unit to your essential gear.
second, whether it is reaching the summit or filling your tag, once you have attained the days goal and you are preparing to head back to your truck, take your time and do it right. water up, get some food in your belly and take a little break to recharge. if you don’t, if you rush it you stand a good chance of meeting some of my friends on the mountain rescue team and their favorite rescue helicopter crew. trust me, it will take a lot longer for you to get home after you have turned an ankle or twisted a knee or worse then it will to take it easy and slow down on the return portion of your trip. a good set of trekking poles will help tremendously in this respect as will a couple of strategically consumed wilderness athlete energy gel packets.
i guess we got back to the trucks about 9:00pm and we quickly doffed our packs and gathered around the cooler to carry on a tradition that my dad started about 35 years ago just outside of prescott on fains ranch. we each hoisted an ice cold “silver bullet” in celebration of another good outing, another good story to tell when we are all to damn old and crippled to do this sort of thing. well done goff, cheers to you!