Turning Into a Traveling Hunter
I grew up on a small farm in Oklahoma. Access to hunting was just down the road, so traveling out of state to hunt never came about. When I got older, the most extended trip I'd taken to hunt whitetail was three hours down the road to a family ranch. That all changed with a move 10 hours from the happy hunting grounds I called home. I've changed my packing strategy over the years and refined my packing. It has now become an art. Here are my tips on transitioning to a travelin’ hunter.
Understanding the Game
I've made some big mistakes when traveling. Over packed and under packed—you name it, and I've made the mistakes when packing. Years ago, I headed out to Wyoming in pursuit of antelope and hauled a big cargo trailer with all my gear. It was my first time out west hunting these speed demons. I didn’t know what to expect. Now, I can make that same trip by carrying a rifle case and backpack. What’s changed?
Our initial gut feeling is to take everything with us. While not wrong, I think hunters, more times than not, pack unnecessary gear. I understand the game I’m chasing and the area I’m hunting better now than ever before.
Months before leaving for the trip reach out to local game wardens to get reports. I contact them for two reasons: To get a better understanding from someone who is active in the area and when I come across them in the field they are familiar with me. I've yet to run across a game warden who hasn't been willing to answer my questions.
The older I get, the less I want to deal with a hundred different pieces of gear. When I move through an airport or hit the road, I don't want to drag around clutter. How you package your equipment is almost as necessary as what you take. I recently returned from a successful elk hunt in northern B.C. This is a big hunt, but not a full-on backcountry hunting expedition. But, I would be traveling with a gun case, one bag, and a backpack. Here's how it went down and what I packed. You'd be surprised to find out how much you can fit into these three containers.
Plano Field Locker Mil-Spec Double Long Gun Case
Pros: Thoroughly enjoy this gun case. It has plenty of storage to fit both guns I took. I've traveled all over the place with this one, and it has never failed. The reinforced construction makes the Field Locker seemingly indestructible.
Cons: It weighs 28 pounds out of the gate. That means to fly without added costs you can only fit in 22 pounds before fees begin to incur. I fit in two guns and a bipod. If I were alone traveling with one gun, I could have fit in binos, camo, and a few other items before running into weight issues.
To purchase a Field Locker from Plano, click HERE.
If I had to choose a replacement, it would be the Pelican VAULT. While waiting on my guns to be unloaded by the airline staff, two Pelican Vault cases rolled out of the chute. I've used it a couple times before, and the weight savings and durability make it worth a look. To learn more about the Pelican VAULT, click HERE.
Tip: Store ammo separately to avoid any frustration at the airport. I stored mine in the original box in my checked luggage.
Sitka Drifter 120L
Pros: The Drifter is my go-to bag from here on out. This bag goes anywhere and keeps gear safe. I had no problem throwing lights, binos, camo, and other hunt-related products into it. The weight of the product is listed as 50.7 ounces. I assure you that it feels a lot lighter than that. Every stitch in the Drifter series seems to be done 100 times over. I have the utmost confidence in taking this bag anywhere in the world. Most folks don't know that Sitka offers a line of luggage options. Trust me, it is worth every penny to save the items we spend our money on. Carry straps make it easy to sling over your shoulders, which frees up your hands to carry a gun case or cooler. If I'm being sincere, I am about to put my money down on another Drifter bag for those lighter hunts.
Cons: The Drifter 120L carries a price tag to match its durability. Like all Sitka gear, the Drifter is built to last years. If you fancy yourself as a traveling hunter, quality luggage ranks right at the top. I'm okay with saving an extra month or two if I know for sure the bag is going to last hundreds of cross country hunts and adventures.
If you want to learn more about the Drifter series or other pack options from Sitka, click HERE.
Tip: Use the internal compression straps. In a duffel like this, compression straps aren’t installed to get in your way. They keep gear in place without shifting around while you sprint through the airport.
Blackhawk STAX EDC Pack
Pros: If you wrote off Blackhawk, then shame on you. They've been silently working away in the wings and launched a line of quality packs without many of us realizing what happened to the company. My bag has plenty of room to accessorize and customize to meet my needs. I expect my backpack to fit whatever I am doing that week. The STX EDC bag has 1400 cu. inches of gear space. For this trip, I packed all my camera gear, which included charging cords, batteries, and extra memory cards. This bag has plenty of MOLLE in all the right places to add pouches, which I will get to later. Blackhawk equipped the inside of the pack with loop-lined MOLLE, which was great because I outfitted it with a Tac Shield pouch to add more storage space.
Cons: I found the shoulder straps to be a bit too thin. The load for Canada was a bit stout for the STAX EDC, but it could be I needed a larger bag for gear I was carrying. For day-to-day travel, small shoulder straps aren’t that bad.
Tip: Go through your bag before the trip. How many stories have you heard of a guy getting busted at the T.S.A. stop for loose rounds? It happens all the time. Take time to go through your bag to ensure nothing stops you to or from your destination.
To learn more about Blackhawk packs, click HERE.
Tac Shield Compact Gear Pouch, Low-Profile Admin Pouch, and Handheld Light Pouch
Pros: I don't care if you're using pouches on tac belts, backpacks or vests. They are handy pieces of equipment that we often forget about. I’m a new user to the line of Tac Shield products, but I’m a firm believer in them now. I think the most surprising pouch that I outfitted on the Blackhawk STAX EDC bag was the Low-Profile Admin Pouch. It has spots for flashlights, pens, notepads and a pistol magazine. However, instead of using the pistol mag pouch for its intended use, I threw a C.A.T. tourniquet in there, which worked out nicely. I was also shocked to see how affordable these pouches were, and Tac Shield has a bevy of offerings.
Cons: I should have ordered the black color. I know that isn't a massive con, but I don't like walking around looking like a tactical guy. I'm far from it, but if you plan on using it in the field, maybe the coyote tan color fits the need.
Tip: I like to have no fewer than two tourniquets on or near me at all times. That means in the field or on the streets. Also, don’t forget to practice with a separate tourniquet to get familiar with the practice of applying them during an emergency. Tac Shield offers excellent options to store tourniquets on your pack.
To learn more about Tac Shield products, click HERE.
In the end, a traveling hunter needs to understand the preparation it takes to get ready to venture out. Packing plays a considerable role in the overall success of the adventure. I've been the guy dragging a busted up, piece of crap wheeled duffel through the airport with a gun case in tow. NEVER AGAIN! Now, it’s all planning and prepping early to avoid the headache and worry that travel brings about. ~ KJ
Kevin Jarnagin (K.J.) hails from Oklahoma but quickly established Louisiana roots after joining the Gun Talk team. K.J. grew up as a big game hunter and often finds himself in a bass boat. Whether it's making his way to British Columbia for elk or training with pistols, Jarnagin always seems to find a gun in his hands and adventure on his mind.