Scattered amongst the dusty hills of Colorado lie my remains. Thigh muscles, calf muscles, my lungs stretched as fair as the eye can see. I left every piece of my being on the side of the mountain. The journey of a DIY elk hunt isn’t for the faint of heart and the weak of mind, but I powered through, leaving it all on the line. The gear I brought stood through the unseasonably warm days and long summer nights. Here are some pieces of gear that stood above the rest and a few lessons I learned along the way.
Gearing up for a hunt of this magnitude took time and patience. I thought through every scenario I could and packed accordingly. One piece of packing that stood above the rest isn’t normally found in my daily pack. However, after this hunt it is standard issue for every pack moving forward.
I’m big on organization, and if you’ve hunted with me, I have something that tackles every situation. I bought a cheap $15 electronics organizer to house my charging cords, fire starter, foot care products, eating utensil, vitamins, battery charger, paracord, and other necessities. It’s an easy purchase, but I wish they offered one in neon orange. I’d prefer something brighter so I can snag it quickly, if needed.
The travel cable organizer bag isn’t something you’d normally think when selecting hunting gear, but it keeps a ton of equipment in a small space.
We spend countless hours preparing for the hunt we often forget what keeps our bodies strong, water. The first day was the most brutal mark through laydowns and deep, dark timber. I’d walked four an hour and a half, taking small sips of water from my Nalgene bottle. After glancing at the OnX hunt map, it said we’d only travelled 800 yards. I was disheartened to see how little ground I covered and how my body felt. The two did not add up.
It all boiled down to my lack of hydration. Realizing the error of my ways early I was able to deploy a much-needed plan to rectify my bodies lack of water consumption. The 3-liter hydration bladder saved my body from completing melting down. Throughout the remainder of my trip, I decided the Kuiu Hydration bladder was for drinking on the move, and when I sat down that was for my Nalgene bottle.
The plan worked flawlessly through the trip. When day-time highs hit in the mid 90s hydration is number one on the things to do list.
Bonus: Liquid IV is a supplement I added to my water to maintain my hydration levels throughout the day. Before the morning hunt, I added two packets to my hydration bladder and kept my Nalgene bottle straight H2O.
I hide this saw from my wife. Why? Because it is so good, I let her borrow it once around the house and now she asks me all the time where the good saw is? I tell her I lost it in a boating accident.
I received the Hooyman Extendable Pole Saw for Christmas a few years ago. The saw was a quick addition to my daily pack ever since. I sat a wallow one day just to throw out a hail Mary near the end of my elk hunt. While it didn’t yield the results that I wanted, the tree saw was invaluable. I was able to trim away a few small saplings that impeded my arrows path.
A tree saw is a go-to in my pack. I’ve found it useful for pre- and post-hunt operations. I’d highly recommend finding a good one and sticking with it.
With most Western DIY hunts, footwear choice is crucial to success. Even in defeat, if your feet make it out alive you win. I’ve been breaking in a pair of Crispi Nevada Legend GTX boots specifically for this hunt. There is nothing wrong with them, but I did not have the confidence to ride out the hunt in them. That was a judgement call on my end. It ended up being the right choice.
My shoe/boot of choice? The Salewa Wildfire Approach. Nope, it’s not a boot. This is designed more for the climber crowd rather than the hunting crowd. This shoe fit the bill for climbing and comfort because I’ve owned this pair for over a year. So, the well-broken in insoles handled the mountainous contours while the supports of the shoe kept my ankles strong throughout the hunt.
My recommendation: go with something you are familiar with even if it is a daily-wear shoe like my Wildfire Approach. In fact, I’m going to be purchasing another pair just to have them ready for next season.
Bonus: Farm to Feet Damascus Lightweight Crew sock was the go-to sock of the trip for me. A blend of merino wool and other material made it ideal to wick away sweat and maintain comfort along to arduous trails.
I packed along two of my bows with me because sometimes travel takes a toll on gear. We’ve all been on hunts where TSA gets hold of a gun case and slings it from here to the hunting grounds, damaging or moving sights offline.
I drove so I wasn’t worried about the TSA machine taking over, but protection of my gear is important. My original attempt to find a Pelican Air case was a bust. So, I went with a Legend Everest Hybrid Roller bow case instead. It should be noted that I would not recommend this case for flight. The only reason I make that disclaimer is because I have yet to fly with this case and it is essentially a reinforced soft-sided case.
No doubt it could handle the stress of flight, but I bought the case with the intention of driving to the hunting grounds.
Although I was left high and dry, I wanted to make sure I pass along lessons learned and gear that I loved on the hunt. The gear didn’t fail me on the hunt. It was a simple lesson in poor timing, and the elk just didn’t want to play in such oppressive heat. Honestly, I don’t blame them.
If you see something in this piece that sparks an interest, click HERE to go to a page that I created to show you more gear that I used during the hunt. As always, enjoy the hunt and have fun with the chase. ~ KJ
Kevin Jarnagin (KJ) hails from Oklahoma but quickly established Louisiana roots after joining the Gun Talk team. KJ grew up as a big game hunter and often finds himself in a bass boat. Whether it’s making his way to British Columbia for elk or training with pistols, KJ always seems to find a gun in his hands and adventure on his mind.