Hunting camp can be as critical to the success of your hunt as a bullet or an arrow. Minor inconveniences can be overcome but major obstacles can dampen, or even end, your hunting trip. If hunting with others the obstacles can be magnified and escalate quickly. There are many different types of camp along with various needs based on the time of year, terrain, and whether it is a do-it-yourself hunt or that with an outfitter.
If hunting with an outfitter it is crucial to ask for a detailed list of what is provided as well as information on additional recommended items. Understanding the totality of the hunt will help determine your necessary items. Various lists are available depending on the type of camp and hunt.
It is suggested to pack no more than 200 pounds per hunter so understanding the needs of your trip, and your hunting party, will help to ensure you pack enough but not too much. A good quality backpack and some practice hikes will better your packing-in experience. Scouting locations with aerial images, terrain or topographical maps and fellow hunter knowledge can help assist in finding the right place to set-up camp. Being close to a water supply is great but being too close can also increase the risk of flooding near camp. Seek out a flat rise about 200 yards from the water source. This will help keep mosquitos down during the summer months as well as avoid the colder air that settles in the depressions during the fall and winter.
When choosing a tent site keep in mind the levelness of the ground. No one wants to roll out of bed in the morning. Having a slightly higher point for your camp can help keep it dryer if weather does comes in. Clear the ground with a pine branch to remove rocks and clumps that might become tripping hazards inside your tent. Keep in mind the direction of the sun to position the tent so that the dawning light warms it in the morning. No matter the spot be sure to look up for widow makers or dead branches. Clear these if possible or select a different camping site.
A wall tent is the best approach for hunting camp. Having two wall tents is even better. This will allow you to separate cooking and sleeping areas. Odors linger in the fabrics of the tent and sleeping bags and will attract unwanted visitors. Hang food off the ground and burn any paper products or left over food to prevent enduring odors.
It is ideal to have everything off the ground inside the tents. You can accomplish this by using hooks and hangers designed for wall tents or creating a mini tripod with logs to hang items from. Keep your bows and guns off of the ground to prevent a broadhead in the toe or damage to your equipment. If you are able to carry in a cot with your 200 pound recommended max it will benefit you for the entire hunt. A good night’s sleep is crucial to feeling invigorated and ready to take on the day. Pulling pinecones and rocks from under your sleeping bag can stifle your sleep patterns. A cot also allows you to stay off the cold ground and better regulate your temperature.
A floor is not required in a wall tent but it can increase comfort. The floor should not cover the entire area as you need clearance and space for the stove and firewood as well as a recommended mud area when entering the tent. This will allow a space for you to take off any soiled clothing or boots and not get the flooring wet and dirty. If using guy lines to stake your tent or create space to hang items outside it is best to find reflective, glow-in-the-dark or neon rope. Tripping over a line can be comical to watch but imagine doing so with an armload of firewood or a loaded gun. The nature of hunting is that you will most likely not be living in camp during day light hours so it is important to pay attention to the hazards in camp upon set-up. Taking the time to structure camp upon arrival can make it easier to keep clean and organized for the duration of the hunt.
Let’s face it – some of us hunt to enjoy the social aspect of the evenings around a campfire swapping tales of our hunting dreams and disasters. Keep the positive atmosphere throughout your hunting trip with some expectations for those in camp. Take turns with camp chores. Pick a night for each member to cook dinner, wash dishes, haul firewood and keep the stove/fire fed at night. Everyone will be happy and all needs will be met.
There are staples that most hunters will agree on for refreshments in camp; Jerky from last year’s hunt, eggs and bacon as well as stew or chili for sustained nutrition. Do you remember your mother telling you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day? This couldn’t be truer at hunting camp. Prepare for a day in the field with a full meal in the morning. If you fill yourself, not gorge, on breakfast you should be satisfied until about 2pm. Jerky, peanut butter and an energy bar are great stand foods that are high in caloric values and can hold you over until dinner. If you have a successful hunt, cut the backstraps and grill to enjoy the spoils of the hunt.
After field dressing and quartering your kill don’t hang your meat near camp. Build a scaffold for meat storage or hang from a cross-beam between trees. Have them 100-200 yards away so that they are still within view but distant enough to keep space between you and any critters that might attempt a late night snack. You can take a log, about 2 inches diameter, and place between two trees – latching it to the trees with rope or twine. If there are not trees accessible to use take 7 logs about 7-8 feet long and make two tripods, or teepees. Place them about 6 feet apart and place the seventh log over the top in order to hang your meat. Take a tarp and place it over like a tent to keep the meat out of the direct sun or rain.
Enjoy the sense of history and tradition that comes along with a hunting camp experience and always protect our legacy as hunters; clean up your camp and leave it as you found it. Leave a good impression for the next person who might stumble upon this hallowed ground.