Hunting Solo, Part 2


By: Jen Bickel

When I first started really getting serious into hunting, I was always hunting with other people. Therefore, I had that mindset that I didn’t need to carry much with me because I had that safe and secure feeling hunting with a bunch of big guys. I figured whatever came alone or went wrong, they would somehow be able to take care of it and me. I usually just packed my daypack full of chocolate and drinks. It was no wonder I hiked and hiked and hiked and never seemed to lose much weight.

Then there was the day that changed my life and my thought process forever. While elk hunting, my then boyfriend and I got lost without coats or packs for 15 hours. It was the worst experience of my life and it changed how I went about preparing myself for hunts. Not only did it change my way of thinking, I think my Dad just about had a heart attack over it and I am now not allowed to go anywhere without taking a minimum of 2 GPS.

The whole experience really kicked my butt into gear to find out what sort of things I should really be packing with me. For me, it has been a learning experience to figure it all out and I’m sure there are things out there that I don’t even know about that would be great for me to add to my pack list for being more prepared. Especially now that I do most of my hunts alone.

Of course one of the main things you want is a GPS. Make sure you get one that you understand how to use. I had grown up with the old school regular compass so never really used a technical GPS. The first time I went to buy one, I probably couldn’t have found my way out of the store. I guarantee the employees had a good laugh after I left and may still check to see if I am on any of the episodes of, ‘I shouldn’t be alive’.

Having a GPS is one of the most valuable things you could have in your pack. Most units now have so many features they can help you in other aspects in the field rather than just being a help in finding your way back to your starting point.

Another thing I use along with my GPS is a SPOT. It is a little device that you can send text messages from when you have no cell service. It also allows you to call 911 from wherever you may be and will dispatch help to your exact location. This gives me a very big sense of security, especially when I am alone. Mainly because I am a very clumsy person and if there is even a slight chance of something happening, it will happen to me.

There are a couple different SPOT devices that you can choose from. Mine goes directly off my phone and allows people to see where I am as I am walking. Now with having all of these electronic devices, I was packing my weight in batteries until I found out about portable solar panels. Now I can have my little lightweight solar panel attached to the outside of my pack and can charge extra batteries and my phone at the same time.

Next, is definitely food and drink. I used to carry a whole bunch of just chocolate basically. I won’t say that you shouldn’t carry chocolate because it can come in handy for a little sugar and mood boosts but there are definitely other things that are more important. I say mood boosts because chocolate makes me happy and when you are out hunting and you are not finding what you are looking for, sometimes you need a little mood booster.

I have found that protein bars and foods with lots of protein really help when I’m out walking and hunting all day. They also help curb your appetite so you can actually benefit some from all the working out you are doing. One super weird sounding snack that I have started to always pack with me is a peanut butter, bacon and honey sandwich. Don’t knock it until you try it. It’s actually incredibly delicious but then, I will take any excuse I can to eat bacon.

Also, pack your share of water or Gatorade but I also pack a small water purifier. They have made some great advances in water purifiers, a lot of them are very lightweight and easy to use and it’s much easier to suck water from a stream than it is to carry around 5 gallons. If you get yourself into an emergency situation, one of the top things you are going to need is water. You can live without food for a long time but you can’t live without water very long.

Any person will tell you that a first aid kit is extremely necessary to throw in your pack and there is really no reason not to. They make such small compact ones now that you won’t be able to tell it’s even there. It can save your life in several situations so it’s basically a no brainer! Get one!

Then there are other items that are always good to throw in your pack. If you’re like me, you don’t want to have a super heavy pack to walk around with all day. That’s why most of the things I put in my pack are extremely compact and lightweight. Waterproof matches are a must and weigh basically nothing. I also like to make sure I always have a couple of knives, which I generally always have at least one. Another thing I like to pack is duct tape and super glue. I use duct tape if I happen to get a blister and super glue for some of my littler cuts I get from branches or falling. Now, if you have a bone sticking out, I would resort back to your first aid kit and SPOT. Small cuts and scrapes I can handle but if a bone is broken, it’s time to call in the pros.

My forte is definitely bowhunting and for me to get started in the solo part of it that is such a big part of my life now, I had to find a way to make myself feel more comfortable being alone. The animals in the forest aren’t always as nice as they make them out to be in Disney movies so I always take along a can of Bear Spray. I like having a little extra power to back me up in case something happens with my spray so I also carry my .41 mag handgun with me. My handgun gives me the confidence that if need be, I know that it will defend me against just about anything I come across here where I hunt.

Typically a can of bear spray lasts 4 to 9 seconds. I first learned this when I was a kid and thought the can of bear spray was air freshener in my house. My parents were not nearly as amused as I was. 4 to 9 seconds doesn’t seem like much to me, especially if you happen to accidentally waste it on a fake charge from a bear. That is why I always made sure I had my gun securely attached to either my pack in reach or on my waist.

Another thing I would suggest doing is making sure your gun is as easily accessible as you are thinking it will be. Pretend like you are in an emergency situation and you need to grab it and FAST! I did this once and realized my arms were too short to actually reach my gun real fast if I needed to. Now I keep it securely within easy reach and pray that I don’t accidentally shoot myself in the foot.

Another thing you should always think about and prepare for is spending the night in the woods. You may go out thinking you will be back in just a few hours but due to weather or some sort of unforeseen circumstance, you should always be prepared just in case you do have to spend the night. One thing I highly recommend you have with you is a space blanket. A space blanket is compact, lightweight and can be a life saver if you stranded overnight or in colder conditions. A space blanket is also good to rig up as a tent like shelter and another time that a knife comes in handy if you need to make yourself a make shift shelter out of branches or if things really turn dire you can carve your final Will and Testament into a tree.

Next up is clothing. When I started hunting, I will be honest, I wanted only the cutest hunting clothes with all the same matching camo and I wanted it to be tight fitting just in case I ran across a good looking mountain man while I was elk hunting, I would look good. Now, I go out and generally look like a huge camouflage marshmallow with the occasional blaze orange topping. One of my first mistakes was a lot of my clothes were made of cotton and when I got lost and the weather turned and started raining, my cotton clothes decided to hold onto that water for dear life. Now I usually look for fabrics that are made out of fleece, 3M Thinsulate, Gore-Tex and wool. Moisture wicking fabrics are the best, they take that moisture off of your body and bring it to the outside of your clothes so that it can evaporate quickly. Getting all of that excess moisture away from your body can help prevent hypothermia when the temperatures start to drop.

The final item I feel important is a good back pack. A good pack that is well designed, has the features needed to store, protect and securely carry your items comfortably and is quality made of the best materials, is really important.

I think that about sums up the majority of the stuff that you should always try to carry with you. I know it sounds like a lot to pack around but believe me, if you are lost 5 or 10 miles in the wilderness with nothing but the clothes on your back, you will think back this article and realize that I made some good points. Now a days manufactures are finding more ways to make everything as small and lightweight as possible so that you can pack and carry everything you might need, regardless of the situation and conditions, conveniently and comfortably.

When you go to pick out your gear, shop around. Find what is comfortable to you and what will benefit you more. When it comes to real life situations you want to make sure you have the best equipment, not the least expensive, to get you through. Most of all, play it safe!

Also, make sure you check out where you can see some of the gear that we use and get a better idea as to why we love it so much.

Jen Bickel with a trophy mule deer buck she arrowed while bowhunting alone. Congratulations Jen.