Hunting off the beaten path is one of the surest ways to up the odds of finding game animals, especially when hunting on public ground. And, no, I’m not just talking about hitting the trail earlier than your competition; I’m talking about carrying in camp on your back in preparation for a multi-day hunt.
While backpacking in for big game hunts is more common, especially in western states, I don’t recall hearing or reading much about ANY hunters hitting the backcountry to chase gobblers.
Maybe it is because the majority of turkey hunters live in states east of or bordering the Mississippi River and tracts of public land aren’t as vast as in the west. Nevertheless, a backcountry turkey hunt is a trip adventure-seeking hunters should definitely consider.
To make this hunt a reality, you’ll need your typical turkey hunting gear and the following big ticket items:
Backpack: Yes, you’ll need to ditch your treasured turkey vest for a backpack. Start with a backpack that is in the range of 2200-2500 cubic inches to find a pack that should hold enough gear for a few days. Expandable sections or the ability to strap gear to the top or bottom of the pack will help immensely. The ALPS OutdoorZ Hybrid-X is a great place to start, marrying an internal frame pack with a meat-hauler frame pack. This means when bag a bird, you can stash it between your frame and storage, keeping your gear free of blood and feathers.
Backpacking tent: The hub of a backpacking camp is the tent, so make sure it is a good one. Shoot for a tent that is easy to pitch and strike. Make sure the floor is waterproofed in case of inclement weather, and also make sure it has room to store needed gear. A single-person tent is great if you know you won’t have a hunting partner with you, but for as little as a pound extra in weight, you can upsize to a 2-person model made by most of the big tent manufacturers. The Browning Granite Creek 2-person tent has been my tent of choice for the past few season. All the poles come shock-corded together, meaning it would be hard to lose and parts, and the double vestibule gives added space to stash gear should rain move in.
Light sleeping bag and pad: Since you won’t have the comfort of your bed for sleeping, you’ll want to make sure you have a decent sleeping bag and pad. But since you’ll be carrying in things on your back, you should consider weight and size for both. I ran with a Browning Vortex 35 and an ALPS Mountaineering Cirrus sleeping pad for a backcountry elk hunt in the fall of 2018. Total weight for both was just more than three pounds, which is heavier than I would have liked, but the comfortable sleep made up for it.
Water filter: It is wise to carry a water filtration device when camping off-grid as you surely don’t want to carry in the extra weight that quickly tallies up when toting a few days’ worth of water. There are a number of filtration systems out there, but I snagged the Survivor Filter Pro. At just $65, you get a system capable of filtering 100,000 liters before either its pre-filter and internal filters need replacing. It also comes with a lifetime warranty and a 100% money-back guarantee.
Backpacking stove: You could carry premade meals, but using a stove to boil water for morning coffee or dehydrated meals is the way to go, at least in my opinion. I’ve been using a Jetboil for years because of its ability to boil water at a rapid rate and the boiling pot also can double as a coffee mug. While it has evolved over the years from when I first
First aid kit: Okay, you might already carry this to begin with, but hitting the backcountry for a couple extra days might mean you beef up your stash of medical supplies. Make sure you have medical tape, bandages, band aids, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, moleskin, pain relief, needle (for removing splinters), scissors and other normal meds you may needs for spring allergies.
Misc. small items: While the above items will give you a great start on what to pack, you might also need a few of these smaller but ideal pieces of equipment: trowel, compass, extra batteries for flashlight or headlamp, eating utensils, rope, fire starting materials and a power bank to charge items like your phone.
Now there is no need to purchase all the items at once. See what you can borrow from friends or purchase second hand just to get yourself started. But, spend a night in the backcountry while chasing turkeys, and you’ll make it a regular event each spring.