What does a huntress do when summer hits and the hunting season has come to an end?
Well, we dream about hunting, hope and pray for great tags, train to hunt, study new
hunting areas, buy new hunting gear, target shoot, and…we FISH!!!!
My husband, Joe and I have a favorite adventure we do in the off season. I call it “Fishin’
to Hunt!” During the summer months, we take a few weekend backcountry fishing
trips. We backpack into various high alpine lakes to help train for the upcoming hunting
season. Joe and I do a lot of backcountry hunting trips for 7-10 days at a time, so these
“mini” trips are perfect practice and training for the hunting season. This particular
weekend trip we invited Joe’s parents along for fun. Joe’s dad, Ray is one of our hunting
partners, so it’s great training for him too.
With backpacks fully loaded, hiking sticks in hand, and fishing gear at the ready, we
trek into the mountains. We usually hike about 6-8 miles roundtrip with 2-3,000 foot
elevation gains. These hikes help us strengthen our lungs, legs, backs, and stabilizers,
while we work on our balance rock hopping around the fishing holes. It’s a perfect
backcountry gym to help us stay fit and strong enough to pack out a deer or elk during the
One of the greatest benefits to these backcountry fishing trips is to try out any new gear
we have purchased. Each year we evaluate our gear and check to see what items need
to be replaced. The first items I check are in my first aid/emergency kit. It’s very rare
that you will need any of these supplies, but they should always be up to date. I replace
any expired medications such as Benadryl, Aspirin, Imodium, etc. I make sure all of my
Band-Aids and blister treatments are fresh. It’s also a good time to replace batteries in
headlamps, flashlights, and GPS. I also thoroughly check my fire making kit, emergency
bag, and raingear, along with any other essentials. One item I never leave home without
is a small roll of the always essential… Duct Tape! I couple years ago on a late Nevada
elk hunt I had a boot start to separate from the sole. I noticed it half way up a 2,000
foot climb to try and cut off my quarry. Snow was packed into the opening and my foot
was starting to freeze. We cleaned the seam, dried it with the heat from a Jet Boil, and
applied the duct tape while the boot was still hot. This gave a great bond that held while I
continued to hunt for the week.
On this fishing trip some of the gear we tried out was a new gravity water filtration
system, Joe had a new bedroll, and I had a new pair of boots. Each of these items
performed flawlessly, so this trip gave us complete confidence in these items going into
the hunting season. It’s always a good idea to do a practice run at home on your big ticket
items. Check all components on new gear, like tents, stoves, and water purifiers as well.
You will want to know how to use them before you venture into the backcountry. How
terrible would it be to pack in 5 miles and try to set up your new tent with only 1 pole,
when there should be 2! Being prepared is essential!
Food is always a big decision on backpack trips. We use these short trips to try out
different dehydrated backpack meals. There is nothing worse than being completely
exhausted after a long day of hunting, to come back to camp and have to choke down a
meal that you “thought” you might like. Trying new flavors helps us add variety to our
menu, so we can stay fueled up for the hunt. It’s also a good time to estimate your daily
food consumption. Figure out your game plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
You want just enough food to last your trip, so you can come out food light and game heavy.
Now of course the best part of these training trips is the fishing! We have a few different
stunning alpine lakes that we love to camp and fish at. The fishing is always amazing.
After a peaceful night sleep on the mountain, we wake up to the sound of nature’s alarm
clock and we’re embraced by the beauty of the backcountry at first light. We brew some
fresh coffee/cocoa (just add water), eat breakfast, and decide which lake to hike to next.
Each year we always seem to end up with the same wonderful experience. As we near
our destination, we climb through the last pine trees and glimpse the first rays of morning
light dancing across the water. We are mesmerized by the awe inspiring view that
unfolds! We reach the waters edge and quickly set up our rigs and throw out our lines. As
I wait to see a tug on my line, I soak up the surroundings. This year the brilliant blue lake
we are at is still mostly covered in thick ice. The sun illuminates the rocky cliff spires,
and the sound of water trickling from melting snow and ice cracking across the lake fills
the morning air. As I lay back on the rocks, I know life doesn’t get much better than this.
And then it does. I see the distinct tug on my line and I yell, “Fish On!”
After an awesome day of fishing, including a double hook up with Joe, we head back
to camp with dinner. Our five star meals consisted of fresh brook trout cooked over the
campfire and dehydrated pasta primavera on the side. Simply perfect!
The next day, we topped off our training trip with fishing a creek on our way back down
the mountain. We ended up doing a little catch and release with Brook, Brown, Golden,
and Rainbow trout! These fish are small, but oh so colorful! Remember these trips are
not just about training. They are about being in nature, recharging your batteries, and
enjoying the great outdoors. Besides you get to yell “Fish On”, even if it’s a shaker!
These training trips are always some of my fondest memories of the “hunting” season, so
get on out there and enjoy!