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Ultralight Camp for the Airgun Hunter

Posted by on January 19, 2013

As I suspect is true of many readers of this blog, I have several outdoors interest outside of airgunning. I like to hunt with firearms and bow (OK not a huge leap), but also flyfish, tenkara, ultralight spinning, kayaking, mountain biking, and camping (especially ultralight camping). And while the interest in each of these pursuits is free standing, it’s also possible to combine them to increase the enjoyment on each trip out.

I’ve got my SOT kayak rigged for fishing, and will often slip a compact airgun in the hold for shore breaks, allowing me to stretch my legs and bag a squirrel or two at the same time. But combining an airgun hunt with an ultralight camping overnighter is one of my favorites. This allows me to slip my camping equipment into my standard hunting pack without significantly increasing the weight, but still providing everything needed for a comfortable night in the field. It is a low impact stealth camp that can be put up and broken down in a few minutes. Typically, while out in the field I’ll set up my camp towards the end of the day, hunt the dusk, hike into camp and make a cup of tea and prep dinner, sometimes hot sometimes cold, climb into my bag and read or listen to an audio book on my iPhone, then sleep for a few hours before getting up for an early morning hunt. When getting up in the morning I’ll make some coffee, break camp, slip everything in my pack, and carry it along with me.

I have a variety of setups depending on conditions, but the stuff I carry for camping is pretty basic; a hammock tent system, down bag, down jacket, alcohol stove and cook pot, and a head lamp. This adds less than 5 lbs to my hunting kit. For food, I’ll take noodles, oatmeal, soup, tea or decaf, and trail mix …. keeping it simple, light, and easy to prepare. Sometimes I’ll use a bivy rather than the hammock, but either of these lets me set up in a stealth mode with minimal impact on my surroundings.

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I was working my way through a flooded muddy river bottom hunting gray and fox squirrels. It was cold and there were no insects, but there was also no good spot to pitch a tent. This is where a hammock excels.

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My pack contains my down sleeping bag (green sack), hammock and rainfly (gray bags) food (red sack ), toilitries (blue sack), and cook kit with alcohol stove.

I have several articles coming out where I’ll be relating the details of specific trips, but in this blog entry I tell you a bit more about the gear I’ve chosen. The first thing I look for is gear that will keep me warm and dry, but there is other important criteria;
1) It needs to be lightweight
2) It has to be easy and fast to deploy
3) It has to keep me hidden (stealth)
4) It has to be low impact

The reason it has to keep me warm and dry is obvious….. I’m way past the age where discomfort is acceptable or easily forgotten. I want to bundle up and get a good nights sleep so I’m ready to hunt in the morning. I want the gear to be compact and light weight so that it fits into my hunting pack without significantly changing my pack balance or bulk, so that I can effectively hunt with it on my back. I already have enough hunting gear along, not to mention the gun and shooting sticks, to add a ton of additional weight. My objective for these trips is not to spend hours finding a campsite and setting up, I want to find a place as I’m stalking the woods, decide “this is the spot”, and be set up in a few minutes. I want to make my soup or hot drink with as little fuss as possible, and sack out.

When hunting alone, I’m also camping alone. I feel much more secure in a spot deep in the woods where nobody is going to stumble upon me in the middle of the night. I find that my hammock lets me set up in uneven and difficult to reach areas, all I need is a couple trees the right distance apart. I’ve strung my hammock on hillsides, over streams, in the middle of a thicket, where I feel nobody can sneak in on my camp…… on public land these days I worry much more about bad people than animals, that’s why I keep my little Sig Sauer .380 in an easy to reach pocket of the hammock at night. If anyone does come along I’ll know it well in advance! My sleeping bag is an ultralight down, and I’ll also pack a fleece bag for additional warmth if it’s going to be very cold. And finally, when I break camp to head off in the morning, I want to leave no trace that I’d camped there just the night before.

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My hammock up, pack and gun hanging on the tree, it took me 15 minutes to set up.

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Standing 50 yards back, the camp site blends into the background.

My cooking kit is a little alcohol stove fabricated from a coke can, and a little aluminum pot made from a monster can, the whole thing weighs just a few ounces! There’s an ultralight backpacker called intenseangler.com that makes these cool little kits which sell for a very low price … and work great. I can make soup or tea in a few minutes, and a little 4 oz bottle of Heet or denatured alcohol is more than enough for a weekend trip.

I have a collection of ultralight packs made specifically for UL camping, where the objective is to have all your non-consumable gear weigh in at less than 12 pounds (minus water and food). But these packs while very light, are generally less suitable for hunting situations, where when I need an article of equipment, I need it quickly. Purpose built hunting packs serve the purpose better.

Any gun will work on a trip like this, depending on the game you’re after. But in the spirit of keeping it compact and light, I tend to carry a gun (for squirrel hunting) like the AirForce Talon P, the Marauder Pistol/Carbine, or an FX Ranchero pistol. The reason the Talon P is a favored gun is that it has the power to take a coyote or fox if I stumble across one, and the small air tank gives me a substantial shot count. However, If hunting predators or big game, the FX Boss is a great selection, again because of the large air capacity and high shot count. In these hunting situations, you need to carry the air you’ll need, and a spare tank starts to move you away from the ultralight concept!

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A couple grays in the bag, the Talon P is a great little squirrel gun but can also dial it up for bigger stuff when the need arises.

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All set up and I’ve got a couple hours of daylight to stalk along the river. I like the Talon-P for this application …. keeping everything light and compact!

An airgun and the ultralight gear I’ve described will let you turn a routine squirrel hunt into an adventure. I didn’t get a chance last year, but next spring I’m going to add this ultralight camping gear to my fishing rigged kayak to run rivers and streams, which I reckon will allow me to hunt un-pressured areas of public land surrounded by private property that is otherwise difficult to access. Camping, hunting, fishing, kayaking ……. I just need to figure out how to get my bike tied into the action!

8 Responses to Ultralight Camp for the Airgun Hunter

  1. Gabriel

    Mr. Chapman: as always I enjoy your posts and direct most of my friends (the ones that are more “outdoor” oriented at least…) to your blog. UL Camping is always been a thing that is in the subconscious of all outdoorsmen. We are always looking for ways to incorporate more”fun” into our forays without encumbering ourselves, or the people around us. I have a small stove that i thought was very compact but you have shown me wrong, and now i am experimenting with small can cookware if i can, if not will probably end up purchasing your kit. I saw the video and it seems amazing. Most of my gear fits in a book bag, but i find that i am willing to inconvenience myself for the right sleeping bag… I know a bad night of sleep can really put a damper on a weekend of fun…
    As per the bycicle… I found a solution to your problem. I found a 1970 European folding bike that lent the frame, and then bough a 2nd hand BMX bike that essentially provided most of the components for the other frame. Voila! knobbly tires… stronger brakes. I bought a gel seat and used the rear rack and a plastic crate bottom cut to fit with zip ties to the handlebar (provides thousands of holes to attach bungee cords and clips). seat and handlebar are easily removed. I can clip a strong LED to the crate if riding at night… but the whole thing is sprayed with desert tan and flat black… It folds a bit bigger than its tires and carries me (195 lbs ) and gear into the woods in no time. It also folds under the toolbox of my truck in no time… Fits in a duffle bag that makes it not very noticeable, an it weights about 30 lbs. I have taken it into my inflatable kayak several times, but now i am working on making a little raft/cargo carrier that can float behind the kayak… just gotta find a case that is buoyant enough…

    See? its a disease i tell you… lol

    PS by the way, look into the inflatable kayaks… the company is SEAGLE… I have tested the base model and it works flawlessly. they have a new sportsman model that is absolutely amazing!!!

    Cheers
    Gabriel

    • Jim Chapman

      Hello Gabriel;

      Thanks for the kind words. I really like the stove, they work well and are very light weight. I’m almost as bad with my camping equipment as my hunting stuff……. My name is Jim and I’m addicted to gear …… My gear collection has just about every type of backpacking and camp stove you can imagine, but the alcohol stove is the one I’ve been using most.

      I made the statement about adding my bike to the mix in jest, but your approach sounds great! Mt bikes are an excellent way to get back along fire roads quickly and quietly, but lashing it to the equipment well of my “yak” sounds too tempting not to try!

      Regards,

      Jim

  2. Gabriel

    Jim: thank you for your reply. I apologize if i commandeering more of your time, but maybe you could help me chose a better airgun for Backpacking trips. You seem to favor the Talon P as a small hunting rig… isn’t it too loud? I am afraid of taking one shot and having all wildlife disappear for 2 hours or so… How is it compared to the Marauder Pistol? I don”t mind having an audible signature… but I always mind sounding like “someone is shooting in the woods” to other people I might be sharing the woods with. Any comment would be very welcome…

    Cheers
    Gabriel

    • Jim Chapman

      Gabiel,I do like that Talon-P because it is powerful and I’ll sometimes switch from squirrel to coyote mid stride. Having said this, the Talon-P is LOUD and this is it’s weakness as stealth camping/hunting gun …. At least if you want to fly completely under the radar. The Mrod pistol is much quieter, but also lower power. It will be great for those 25 yards squirrel, but not much use if a coyoe (or even a raccoon) happens by. It all depends on your hunting needs, for the right application either of these guns is a good way to go. I could also add the FX Verminator as a good candidate (actually probably the most versatile option).

  3. Jeff streck

    Hello, My name is Jeff I’m a retired cop from back east who moved out to Az. a few years ago. I have become a huge fan of your web site and all the stories of hunting in Africa. Plains game with my bow small game with an airgun would be a blast. I was curious if it was possible to mount the larger tank onto the Talon P. Im very interested in building a carbine out of the pistol model. Whats your opinion. Havent made it to your shop yet but I will soon. Cash will be tight for the next month or so do to weddings and such I must attend and going to your TOY STORE while broke would be more stress than my hart could take….lol. Thanks for the time you take to inform us new to the sport.. Hope to meet ya soon.
    AS. my lady says the only difference between men and boys is the price of there toys. hate when shes right.

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Jeff;
      Thanks for the kind words, glad you like the blog and website, I have a lot of fun doing them! I know what you mean, my wife looks at the gear in my toy man cave and shakes her head, but I know there’s nothing there that I don’t need….. I can’t wait for the September trip down to the Eastern cape, last year I didn’t go, and was only the second or third time that’s happened since I married my wife there 16 years ago, I miss the place and it’s like a second home to me …… doesn’t hurt that the hunting is great and I have a lot of friends there. The Talon-P is a great little gun, I’ve got mine in carbine trim and I’ve seen some really nice guns built on the platform. It’s my favorite backpacking gun, and will handle anything from squirrel to a coyote. Let’s hear how the build goes when you get the gun and hit the field.
      Regards,
      Jim

  4. Ben Beals

    Jim,
    Another well done article. I was trying to decide between a Talon P and a Maruader rifle for suburban yotes but this article reminded me that I wanted a compact PCP for taking along on my fishing SOT or Sea Eagle inflateable. The Talon P just made it to the top of my airgun wishlist. I am already dreaming of fall smallies amd squirrels all in one trip. Do you use the same pellet for small game and predators in yoy Talon P?

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Ben;
      It is a great kayak gun, and stows away neatly. I use my Ocean Kayak, hammock tent and ultralight camping gear, with that gun for a compact bit of kit for my weekend spring fishing trips. Smallies on flies and squirrels with an airgun …. doesn’t get much better.

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