Sleeping With The Enemy

For better than a quarter of a century, I’ve been bowhunting elk and mule deer on the public lands of our Western states. All my outings are of the do-it-yourself variety, and because of this, I’ve gleaned a vast storehouse of memories and savvy.

Through the process of elimination, I’ve carefully refined my hunting tactics to a point where I’m able to enjoy 100 percent success on these “self” hunts. For this to be so, there are a lot of ingredients that must come together to make the outing work like a well-oiled machine. In the following article, please allow me to tell you about a particular hunting strategy that has proven invaluable to me over the years.

Hunt A Big, Remote Area
Whenever I pick an area to hunt, I try to choose one that is big, remote, and intimidating. These factors usually exclude 90 percent of all other hunters — objective number one accomplished. It is also a safe bet that such areas will hold good numbers of game animals, some of which will be of an older age class — objective number two accomplished. At this point of the game, I’m already well on my way to a successful outing!

There’s nothing easy about backcountry camping and bowhunting. Give it a try to see if it’s for you before you invest a small fortune in top-end gear.

Next, I will choose a location somewhere in my hunting area that is centrally located for a base camp. Here, I want to be a long distance from roads, with a large amount of trackless country around me. From this location, I want to be able to hunt in numerous directions, for many consecutive days. Whenever I head into my remote base camp location  — whether I’m mule-packing, or simply backpacking — I make sure to haul a good supply of food into this spot so that I can stay for up to a week if I find game numerous.

Once I’ve established a base camp, I start a daily routine that works on a 24-hour rotation, which begins and ends at noon of each day. My schedule goes something like this. Eat a large meal at midday, take a short nap, and then load my backpack for an “overnighter.” Toward early evening, I set out on a hunt which will be totally open-ended — no particular destination, schedule or return time is necessary (at this point, it’s always a good idea to “save” base camp on a GPS). Thus prepared, I can hunt at whatever pace I choose, in whatever direction I choose, with no worries other than finding game.

Spend The Night
This provides for a very relaxed and effective hunt since I’ve eliminated all the hiking associated with an evening return to base camp, which would inevitably occur well after dark. By spending the night where I’m hunting, I also save myself an early-rise, and another burdensome confusing hike in pre-dawn darkness.

While spike-camping in the middle of an area that I’m hunting, I’ve often been “clued-in” as to the whereabouts of game that I’m after. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been awakened during the night to the sound of a bugling bull. If I’d spent the night at a distant base camp, chances are, I’d have never located this particular animal. And since finding game is at least half the battle, such knowledge can prove invaluable.

A spike camp will put you right in the “living quarters” of your quarry.

Furthermore, many has been the time that I’ve arisen an hour or two before daylight, quickly “stuffed” my camp, and set forth following the distant sound of a drifting bull elk. With no worry about becoming “lost,” I’ve often followed such vagrant bulls in the darkness (a full moon is a big help), while simply awaiting first light. More than a few times, I’ve been within sight of my quarry as shooting light arrived. I’ll tell you this — such an approach has put a lot of antlers on my wall — and meat in the freezer — over the years.

Live Off Your Back
To top it all off, there is a lot to be said about the feeling of independence and control that such a hunting strategy offers. After all, we all know that mental confidence is a strong force that breeds great success. By living “off your back,” in a completely self-sufficient manner such as this, you’ll gain a wealth of outdoor savvy. This type of solo, wilderness existence will slowly morph you into the proverbial “lean, mean hunting machine” that rarely accepts — or experiences — failure of any kind.

Certainly, this type of outing isn’t for everyone — it’s for a special breed of able-bodied, focused, and extremely passionate individuals. Nevertheless, to fully experience bowhunting at one of its highest levels of challenge, the full-tilt adventure such an outing offers must be experienced to be appreciated. Give this form of self-sufficient bowhunting a try — you’ll either become addicted, or you’ll swear it off for life!

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Eddie Claypool provides tips on bowhunting, with an emphasis on whitetails. Over the past 20 years, Eddie has harvested 50-plus Pope & Young animals. Most of these animals were taken on public ground, though some came from private ground that was accessed through hard work & a handshake. He has not been on guided hunts, nor has he hunted on “managed” properties. Elk, Mule Deer, Antelope & Whitetails are his favorite species.

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