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.
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.
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!
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!