Anyone who has ever hunted for elk knows how challenging, frustrating, physically-demanding and even painful it can be. None the less, elk hunting can be very addictive. One can easily become obsessed to the point he or she is so focused on the hunt they may not realize how far they have gone, what time it is, and not exactly sure where they are. Here we are going to discuss how these and other factors may come together to be detrimental to your survival, and the gear you should have on you at all times to ensure you survive your hunt.
Imagine this scenario; You and your buddy are hunting elk in the Rocky Mountains. You get back to the truck early evening after hiking all day carrying your 30# daypack. Wow! what a relief to finally get that weight off the shoulders!
You are in the truck heading back to camp you spot a small gang of elk with two bulls in the bunch. These elk are traveling, so you have to move quickly to get to a point 100 yards away to get a shot. You have a knife in your pocket or on your belt, and extra shells in your pocket. Oh! Grab the rangefinder, shooting sticks and binoculars. We are only going just there, this is all we need...
You get to the point just in time to watch the last elk disappear into the woods. You notice the trees open up just a few hundred yards in the direction they are headed, and there is a little "spur" ridge extending off the one you are on that looks like a good spot to shoot from. You get there, they are in range, but the trees are too thick to get a clear shot or there is a cow in the way. There is an hour of daylight left, so you keep following, just sure you eventually will get a shot. The next thing you know, you lost the elk, and it is dark. Oops - forgot to bring a light. As a matter of fact, you have no lighter or fire starter, no water, no food, and you have on a lite hooded sweatshirt. No matter - the truck is this way. You walk and walk, stumbling over sticks and rocks. Now it is fully dark and you finally admit to yourself your not sure where the truck is.
Elk have a way of mesmerizing a hunter, clouding his judgment and leading him astray. Much like the Sirens of sailor lore and the Pied Piper. It's easy to find yourself in this predicament. In this case, the hunters make it thru a very long, cold, sleepless night and find their way back to the truck the next morning, no worse for wear. This could easily have been a fatal mistake.
Here is what you can do to ensure you survive your next elk hunt; You must have a small accessory pack of some kind, be it a waist/fanny, small shoulder or backpack. Many "module" type packs feature a small detachable pack. This is an ideal system that makes it easy to ensure you have your basic essentials for overnight survival all in one place. This pack must be small, or you might choose not to bring it. Bring it along no matter how short of distance or length of time you plan to be from the truck or cam - your life may depend on it.
Essential survival gear and supplies this pack should contain:
Cigar or cigarette lighter And a magnesium fire starting tool. Fire starting material or tender is good but optional.
LED Headlamp and an extra set of batteries. It is also a good idea to carry a small flashlight such as a mini-mag in a belt sheath.
A bottle of water and a filtering straw or cartridge.
A 4'x6', or larger sheet of mid to heavy weight black plastic. This can be used to make a lean-to or shelter from wind, rain, or snow, or used as a "ground" cloth. It also works well to keep pine needles and dirt off the meat while boning out an elk in the field.
A compass and/or GPS. A compass is better suited for this small pack, but if you choose a GPS, be sure to pack at least 2 extra sets of batteries.
A very small pocket-size first aid kit. Some of these will even contain a compass and other tools.
Paracord - 10' minimum. Paracord has so many uses it is a must.
A couple granola bars or small bags of trail mix are recommended but not absolutely necessary. You can go days without food if you must.
Lastly - a ziplock sandwich bag containing several sheets of paper towels. These will be used for toilet paper, cleaning bloody hands and arms, mediocre fire starting material, and wound dressing. Paper towels will still perform if wet - unlike toilet paper.
Providing you have dressed appropriately and have a knife in your pocket or on your belt as most hunters do, this is all the survival gear one needs to survive in relative comfort for short term.
There are many elk hunting scenarios that can lead to your demise if you are not prepared for them. If you have a small pack containing this short list of essential survival gear items, you will be much more likely to grab it in your haste to catch up to that bull, and to have it along nearly guarantees you will survive a night or two under most conditions, whether you are forced to spend the night, or simply choose to so as to resume the hunt come daylight.
Pack smart, hunt smart, hunt hard. and above all, have fun and enjoy your precious time in the elk woods worry-free and confident you are prepared for surviving your adventure pursuing the majestic and alluring "Ghost of the Woods".