WHAT YOU NEED IN YOUR PACK FOR SUMMER TRAIL CAMERA DEPLOYMENT
Take a minute to Google "hunting gear pack dump," and you'll notice quite a list of articles and videos. That information will range from a small day pack for squirrels to multi-day Alaskan moose adventures.
Pack dumps are focused on items for an actual hunt. Packing for a day in the woods with a sack full of cameras isn't the typical everyday discussion. Maybe throw in a few cameras, a bottle of water, and a snack or two, and you're ready to go. Heck, you may just be running out to hang one or two, and it will only take an hour of your time. But those long hot days during summer trail cam hikes can be intense and have their own challenges.
If you're the type that will spend entire days hanging cameras in the mid-summer months, you're ahead of the curve. Here's how you can stay safe and pack smart.
A remote communication device is probably not where you want to spend your money. But if you'd ask my buddy Tom Runscavage, he'd tell you it's a must-have item.
Tom once broke his leg while scouting when he was crossing a creek. He didn't have a satellite phone at that time, but fortunately, he was able to reach 911. Dispatch pinged his location, but it still took 2 hours for medical help to arrive.
Thankfully, Tom was able to get the help he needed. But there wouldn't have been cell service if he had been in the areas he normally roams. It would have been impossible for him to get out of a remote location. Not to mention life-threatening.
Hiking poles are a staple for western hunters trekking up and down mountains. During summer camera hikes, carrying a pair of sticks will save you from injury, mainly your knees, when moving downhill. The downhill motion creates a lot of twisting and increases your risk for injury.
Poles boost the health benefits of walking. They also improve blood flow in your arms and hands, which helps reduce fatigue. When traveling areas of heavy cover, poles will help you push through. While they may take a few hikes to get used to, they are well worth it.
WATER BLADDER AND FILTRATION SYSTEM
July hikes call for more than a half-liter bottle of water. If you're serious about setting your web of cameras, ten miles can sneak up on you quickly. A lack of water could become a severe issue. Dehydration will also increase the chance of making poor decisions. That could mean rushed trail camera placement and difficulty sticking to a planned route.
Save the extra weight and allow access to clean water by carrying a filtering system. They're perfect for long hikes where water sources are present. They're also good for multi-day trips where more water is needed.
Water bladders are a great tool for day trips or backcountry hunts where there's a distance between water sources. They easily fit into a pack, and they don't require stopping to take a drink. You can use certain filtration systems to fill a bladder, but be sure to avoid contaminating the bag and straw.
The bonus? You will cover more ground and be more effective with a reliable water supply.
Most of us like the idea of carrying a sidearm. I was in that crowd until I bought one and learned the focus needed to shoot a handgun. A bear charging at full speed is not a target I'd be able to hit.
During a camera hike in June, a buddy and I rounded a thicket and ran into a large black bear. He was less than 15 yards away, upwind, and not so happy to hear something he couldn't pinpoint. Slinking into a little more cover, the bear squared up at us; the hair on his back bristled. My buddy drew his 9mm, and both of us were pretty uneasy with the small protection for such a big animal.
Bear spray is no joke. When used, it provides a 96-inch cloud out to 30 feet. Of course, there's a risk of spraying yourself, but the defense will still have the stopping power you need.
Summer weather brings out a lot of critters we typically don't like. Snakes are one of them, mainly the venomous kind. Macho men can say what they want and plan how they will kill snakes that get in their way. But usually, by the time you realize there's a snake, you're already in striking range and on the sake's radar.
On trail cam hikes, friends and I have had a lot of close calls with rattlesnakes in these eastern woods. All of them happened before seeing a snake from a safe distance. Coiled up in striking position or inches from stepping directly on heads, we've been lucky to avoid some serious trouble.
Snake gaiters give you peace of mind when hiking through any snakey country. They will save you from the critters you can't see in the brush or when you're not ready for a surprise. Not to mention, killing some snakes could come with a hefty fine. Many states have special licenses for snakes, and legal regulations mirror any other game species.
Packing for a camera hike is more involved than grabbing a few packs of AA batteries and a couple of cameras. What is in your bag is your insurance policy. Of course, no one likes to carry car insurance. But when it's needed, you won't regret having it.
AUTHOR: Aaron Helpler, Exodus Black Hat Team Member