This weekend is the start of Third Season for elk and deer. Steve and I liked what we saw last year in the Flattop Mountains in northwestern Colorado, and will be going back, along with Noel, my partner on my first successful hunt four years ago.
This is my sixth backpack hunt now, and each year I further refine my pre-trip to-do list. It’s not perfectly applicable to all locations, seasons, or hunting styles, but this checklist will get you most of the way there.
- Choose a hunting zone, season, and species.
- Apply for the draw (April) and/or purchase an over-the-counter tag (August+).
- Read or re-read regulations that are specific to the location, season, species, and license.
- Identify several specific areas to hunt, ideally under a range of conditions (e.g. severe fall, stormy forecast).
- Finalize trip dates.
- Coordinate travel plans with hunting partners.
- Book airfare.
- Book ground transportation.
- Book pre-trip, intra-trip, and/or post-trip lodging.
- Research likely environmental and route conditions.
- Create gear lists (tip: for templates, use my 3-season backpacking gear list and my backpack hunt gear lists).
- Acquire all gear.
- Wash, renew, and repair gear, fabrics, and insulations.
- Sight-in rifle.
- Practice with rifle to determine ethical shot distance.
- Lightly clean rifle and optics, and sharpen cutting tools.
- Place electrical tape over the muzzle to keep out debris.
- Insert an empty memory card into camera.
- Load data (e.g. topo map tiles, management boundaries) onto GPS or smartphone.
- Top off batteries for all electronic devices by recharging or replacement; pack spare batteries, if appropriate.
- Calculate food needs.
- Purchase, prepare, and package shelf-stable food.
- Purchase stove fuel.
- Assemble first aid, foot care, and repair kits.
- Create and print topographic maps.
For outside the field
- Casual clothes and footwear
- Travel food and drinks
- Phone, tablet, e-reader, laptop (with chargers)
To leave in the car
- Scale (e.g. WiseField Fishing/Luggage Scale) to weigh packs and meat bags
- Rifle re-sight: ammo, cleaning kit, allen wrench for scope, sight-in targets
- Multiple animal contingency: extra pack liners, knife blades, nitrile gloves
- Set of hiking clothes + footwear that would be more comfortable for hauling out meat than primary clothing + footwear
- Leave itinerary information with an emergency contact.
- Update settings on satellite messenger and satellite phone.
- Refresh on field dressing technique (I like this video best, and this one and this one, too).
- Pack up gear
- Purchase perishable food.
- Pack up supplies.
- Get a forecast for the hunting area(s).
- Settle on a starting hunting area based on last-minute forecast.
- Close up the house, e.g. set up email auto-reply, backup files.