If you have been following Live Hunt for the past few months you already know that I am passionate (some say obsessed) about backcountry hunting. It’s both the mental and physical challenge of this style of hunting that keeps me fired up year round. As I write this in mid-August I am only 2 weeks away from my first big trip of the hunting season and it is time to review the steps I have taken over the past year to prepare. If you have been preparing for your own western backcountry hunt, or plan on doing one in the future, this will be a helpful guide to make sure you will have a safe and enjoyable hunt.

A backcountry hunter is an athlete, survival expert, marksman/archer and part-time wildlife biologist. You should not only prepare physically, but be competent in the other facets in order to increase you chances of success and be ready for any curveballs along the way.

Physical fitness
The Rocky Mountains are steep, high in altitude (thin air) and the animals are generally far from the roads. You need to carry your camp, and be ready to pack out a 750-pound animal if you are successful. This amounts to about 300 pounds of deboned meat. You owe it to yourself and the animal to be physically prepared for this. I have discussed my training regimen over the past few month on this blog so check my earlier posts.

This is non-negotiable. Know basic first aid, fire starting, shelter construction and wilderness navigation (map and compass) before you go. Practice these things often so they come naturally. Set up your camp and pack and repack your gear so you are familiar with everything and it is automatic.

Practice with your weapon or firearm. You will be shooting from a less than perfect angle, and will probably be out of breath and very tired. Practice, practice, practice and your bow will become an extension of you body. See my tips on draw length and form here.

Wildlife biology
Know your animal. Where do they feed? Where do they bed? When do they go to water? Do you know their anatomy for proper shot placement. I know this seems elementary, but the more you know about your animal, the better your chances will be when things are slow and the elk aren’t bugling. See my post on shot placement here.

The reason backountry hunting has consumed my life is simple, it’s by far the most physically and mentally challenging sport I have ever participated in. None of the aspects I have mentioned above can be overlooked. You won’t have an ATV to take you back to camp, there is no heater to turn on when it’s cold and when you need water, you may be dropping 1,200 feet in elevation to get it!

It’s just you and the gear on your back, against the mountain, mother nature and the animals that you pursue. Nothing could be more pure!