(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)
Because our basecamp was a cabin, albeit primitive, we could bring more of the comforts of home, including a cooler with fresh foods. The cabin is also stocked with oil lanterns, a kerosene heater and fuel, a wood burning stove, firewood, and camp-kitchen supplies.
If camping outdoors, then you’ll need more planning and additional gear (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad) that is suitable for the weather, camp kitchen items, waterproof matches, a lighter, and fire-starters. Learn how to use a magnesium firestarter. Wood is free (and useful if it is dry, available, and if it’s legal and safe to have a campfire) but bringing alternate fuel and a multi-fuel stove as a backup is wise.
For food, with a cooler, you can get fancy (like our steak and potatoes) or keep it as simple as hot dogs or cold sandwiches. Without a cooler, there are unlimited choices of shelf-stable foods, or dehydrated/freeze-dried meals, some that only require rehydration in boiling water and others that need cooking in water. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are heavy and expensive, but don’t require cooking or water to prepare except for a small amount to activate the heater. You could make your own dehydrated meals, with purchased or home-dehydrated ingredients.
In bear country, pack bear spray and a bear-proof canister or dry bag to hang food and smelly items high from a tree branch away from your camp. Even toothpaste or breath mints might be interesting to a bear. Don’t leave scraps of food on the campfire and don’t store food in your tent. If bears are active in the area, you might consider not cooking at all, to avoid scents that could draw them to your camp.
Stay hydrated. Even if you expect to have access to a reliable water source, bring some potable water. Have several gallons of water in your vehicle. If the temperatures are below freezing, I recommend removing a small amount of water from the jugs and storing the containers in a cooler to help prevent freezing and swelling.
If you plan to drink water from a natural source, don’t take chances, and have two filtering and purification options in case one fails. Purification tablets, drops and UV filters are easy to carry but they don’t filter out debris or chemicals. Pay attention to cautions about using iodine for certain medical conditions and for pregnant women.
A portable water filtering system, like a LifeStraw or Go Berkey can treat for chemicals, heavy metals, bacteria, and viruses. Sifting out debris first with gauze or cloth will extend the life of your filter. You can make your own filter with sand, gravel and activated charcoal.
Depending on the water source and purification method, you may want to boil for 3 minutes after filtering just to be safe.
Regardless of what you bring with you, “leave no trace” and pack it back out, including paper goods, plastics, cans, packaging, cigarette butts, etc. It’s lazy, irresponsible, and inconsiderate to leave trash behind, whether on public lands or private property.
Take bathroom breaks (and bury used toilet paper) well away from any body of water. If the TP is not biodegradable and compostable, pack it out in Ziplock bags.
If you intend to make a campfire, learn how to properly build and contain a fire, and douse embers before you go to sleep or leave the campsite. Many raging forest fires have been caused by careless campers.
A Side-Note on Relief
Ladies Only. Warning — This Content May be Disturbing to Some. To the guys who are reading this article, I apologize in advance for this section.
Men have the advantage of being able to stand to urinate, without having to completely remove pants and underwear — just unzip and aim, no toilet paper needed. We women can almost have that advantage as well with “pee funnels”, a clever item that still requires you to lower your jeans a bit, but without having to squat. (A godsend for those of us with bad knees.) If you do have to squat, I look for a log to balance on.
The funnels come in cardboard versions as well as reusable rubber models. You might want to try a few first to find one most comfortable for you. They are great for camping, hiking, car kits, bug-out bags, and for travel. I’ve come across toilets overseas that are just a cavity in the floor. And we’ve all been in gas station bathrooms that haven’t been cleaned in decades. One caution — without going into detail – I would strenuously advise practicing in advance. Trust me.
For longer car camping trips, you could take toilet hygiene to the extreme with a toilet seat that fits a 5-gallon bucket and comes with compostable waste bags. You can even get a pop-up changing tent to make your own little portable outhouse and shower room. Both are handy to have in the car in case of one of those 24-hour road closures, and the bucket can be used day-to-day to store water or emergency supplies.
Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. On my second hunting trip this past autumn, I was better prepared, perhaps overly so. Go Big or Go Home, I say.
While I can’t prove that it helped, I used scent blockers during the week before the trip, including shampoo, body wash, laundry detergent, dryer sheets and even lip balm.
My new roomy blind had been seam-sealed, waterproofed, and aired out for a week to reduce odors. I had selected my new blind location weeks in advance — partially hidden in the trees, but with visibility in three directions and near a corner of the woods where there was a salt block and scattered corn. (Again, check your local regulations about baiting.)
I switched my camo clothing to black — shirt, scarf and balaclava — to blend in better with the interior of the blind.
Setup in Advance. We arrived a day ahead to set up the blinds and drop chairs and gear. Some hunters recommend setting up a blind a week or more in advance if possible, so the deer become accustomed to its presence. Preparing the ground took a bit of time and some pruning shears… cutting down stray saplings and small shrubs, clearing thorny vines, brushing in the blind (scattering evergreen branches around and on top of the blind for scent masking and camouflage) and spraying acorn liquid around the blind for an attractant and scent masking.
A couple of old throw rugs and large flattened cardboard boxes served as a floor in the blind, which made it more comfortable and seemed to keep it warmer and reduce condensation gathering inside during the night.
A Lighter Load
My gear was pared down and better organized. An inexpensive orange vest with generous pockets (zippers left open and Velcro unattached) solved the issue of easy and quiet access to gear and snacks and allowed a smaller backpack. Storing my gear in a plastic milk crate kept everything contained and prevented the pack, water bottle and thermos from tipping over. A cardboard or foldable fabric box would work as well.
Opening Day. We did not arrive at the blinds before dawn that morning. With heavy rains and 30-degree temperatures, we chose to shelter in the cabin until the storm cleared. I felt sure that the deer had the same idea and were hunkering down somewhere. After a leisurely cozy morning in the cabin, we were settled in our blinds by mid-day.
Each time I heard a branch snap in the woods, I anxiously peeked out the window, sure it was a big buck heading my way. I found myself wishing that squirrel hunting was legal that weekend, because the little rodents were usually the culprits of the noise.
In addition to squirrels, though, it turned out that deer were very active that weekend, and I don’t think our late arrival hurt our chances. Within 30 minutes, I spotted a doe in the woods behind my blind, and an hour later, there was a doe wandering the woods across from me, although both stayed safely hidden among the trees. Shortly, another doe came down in the woods across from my blind (perhaps the same doe), and as I aimed, waiting for her to step out of the woods, I saw something out of the corner of my eye to the left. Yet another deer had come out on the other side of the woods. She stepped into the clearing and paused, standing broadside to me in a perfect target pose, only about 25-30 yards away.
Because I am an animal lover, I was asked over and over by friends and family, “Do you really think you can shoot a deer”? I had to answer honestly that I didn’t know, but I would soon find out. Flooded with adrenaline, as I trained my shotgun on the deer, I was still asking myself that question — until I pulled the trigger. I admit that it was a bittersweet moment.
Victory. Truthfully, I was amazed (but thrilled) that I was successful in hitting my target, while somewhat remorseful in taking the life of that beautiful creature. I cringed a bit when she grunted as she fell, but I was thankful it was a clean heart shot that dropped her immediately, and she died quickly.
My brother-in-law had warned me to wait a few minutes before approaching a downed animal, in case it was still alive, which could cause it to jump up and bolt. I texted him to let him know I had made the shot and waited for him to make his way to my blind.
When we reached the deer, he lightly touched the eye with the end of his rifle, to test for any reaction to ensure the animal was dead. After taking the obligatory photo with the carcass, I used my cell phone to report the kill with my cell phone via Kentucky’s “tele-check” line, recorded the information on my harvest log, and we loaded the deer on a small trailer to move it near the water pump. Then the real work began.
Field dressing is not for the faint of heart. I had spent hours studying videos on the topic of field dressing, but the experience in person was sensory overload.
I was fortunate to have access to water and a hose for cleanup, a small trailer to transport the carcass, and an experienced hunter to guide me. If you don’t have running water, you will want buckets or jugs of water for cleanup.
I had come prepared — sharp knives, field dressing gloves (to the shoulder), a disposable poncho to cover my clothes, a face mask and Vicks VapoRub to dab under my nose to disguise undesirable scents. (The Vicks and mask may not be very macho, but I’ll take a lack of nausea over bravado anytime.) Since I had taken the deer mid-afternoon, we had the benefit of daylight, although I brought a headlamp and a bright lantern flashlight just in case.
It was not an easy task… sitting and kneeling on the cold ground, twisted at uncomfortable angles, cutting the hide while avoiding piercing the intestines (and contaminating the meat), disconnecting organs, spilling the viscera onto the ground, and rinsing out the cavity. I was happy that I didn’t throw up, although I did gag a few times and had to take a break or two to clear my head and lungs, and to rest my back. I wasn’t worried about appearing weak… even some veteran hunters get queasy when field dressing. (Note: There is a method for “gutless” field dressing and quartering to avoid the intestines entirely. I’ll try that next time.)
We left the entrails for the vultures. We loaded the carcass on the trailer and took it to the cabin porch to secure it for the night, wrapped in a small tarp to keep the cavity clean and help protect it from curious predators. It was cold enough that spoilage wasn’t an issue. Had it been warmer we would have packed ice in the cavity. We broke camp the following morning, tagged the deer, and took it to a nearby butcher for processing.
Initially, it was mildly disappointing that my kill was a small doe (probably a yearling), rather than an impressive 10-point buck. However, a young doe is likely to be more tender and less gamey than an older doe or a buck. (Some say, “Shoot a buck for trophy, and a doe for food.”)
I had an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and pride when I cooked and served that first venison roast. I plan to go again next season, with even more knowledge behind me, and with the confidence that I could hunt if necessary to help put food on the table.
Hunting Information and Education
Hunting, Camping, Emergency Supplies, Freeze Dried/Dehydrated Foods, MREs
Camp Coffee Brewers
Food Dehydrating and Recipes
Wild Game Recipes
Water Purification Information and Equipment*
* As of this writing (likely due to the recent train derailment in Ohio and resulting potential water contamination) water filters are more difficult to find. Berkey Filters appears to be completely out of stock of most items. Check out other reliable brands or alternate methods of water filtering and purification, including making one yourself.