Western Outdoor Times - Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

Lighten Your Load For Hunting Season

 

September 1, 2018 | View PDF

Margie Anderson

You'll probably spend a lot of time glassing, so don't scrimp on optics. Last year we hauled these big binoculars all over the countryside. Check out the rocks. They're serious ankle busters if you're not wearing good boots. There are plenty of lightweight boots that have great soles.

I'm not as young as I used to be. Last deer season, Margie and I lugged our heavy AR's all over the mountains in very rough and rocky terrain, and it was no fun. By the time you figure your backpack, optics, tripods, rifle, ammo, and water, you could be carrying 40 extra pounds around, mostly uphill and downhill. And that's BEFORE you have to carry a deer out.

Heavy Loads

For instance, Margie was carrying a big pair of Docter Optics 7X50 binoculars, a backpack that sagged off her shoulders and threw her off balance, a 9-pound AR, and a big tripod, as well as food and water, the first aid kit, field dressing equipment, etc. I was carrying about the same amount of gear, and even though my AR is slightly lighter, it wasn't enough to really make a difference. Plus, my backpack was even worse-fitting than hers. After last year's hunt we decided something had to give.

New Backpacks

The first things we replaced were those awful backpacks. After quite a bit of research, and asking all of our hunting buddies for advice, we bought a couple of Badlands backpacks. These things are fantastic: The Diablo Dos has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any hunting pack on the market, and features a Hypervent™ suspension that allows cool air to pass freely between you and your pack and a load-transferring frame for comfortable load carry. It pretty much eliminates shoulder fatigue and overheating.

It's got three horizontal rear compression straps, a redesigned and highly functional hip and belt pocket design and a new built-in rifle/bow boot. Plus, it has a lifetime unconditional warranty. Perfect. Check out Badlands packs at http://www.badlandspacks.com

Next, The Optics

Next, we tackled optics. We had both been carrying heavy, old binoculars, so we decided to go to pocket models. We made the decision not to scrimp on the optics since they are so important. I chose Kowa Genesis 10x22's, weighing in at just over 11 ounces. They are crisp and clear, even with my far-less-than-perfect eyesight.

Margie chose Swarovski CL Pocket binoculars, 10x25. They weigh in at just a hair over 12 ounces, and she loves them. We also bought two Bino Bandits, which are little hoods that fit over your binoculars and fit flush to your face, blocking glare, wind, etc. They are very helpful for reducing eye strain and improving visual acuity.

Check out the binoculars at http://www.kowaproducts.com and http://www.swarovskioptik.com , and you can get Bino Bandits on Amazon or at http://www.alpineproducts.com.

More Adjustments

You really can't cut down on how much water you carry without risking your health, but you can use a hydration bladder instead of metal bottles. We usually just eat peanut butter sandwiches or protein bars when we're hunting, and those aren't heavy, and we really didn't want to cut anything out of the first aid kit, so that stuff all stayed the same.

Lightweight hiking boots help, but make sure you don't scrimp on sturdy soles - you don't want to feel every rock you step on out there. Also, be sure to get them high enough to help support your ankles - it's easy to twist an ankle on rocky terrain.

Now, The Rifles

Seriously, the rifles were bothering us more than anything. The slings we were using were top drawer, but that doesn't help much when the rifle itself is all hard angles and digging into your back, side, or front. It seems like we spent a lot of time trying to get them into a comfortable position for climbing.

I decided the best thing to do would be to save the AR's for target practice, and build a lightweight hunting rifle that we could share. After all, we always hunt together so why carry two rifles?

Remington Model 7

I started with a .243 caliber for low recoil, and got the Remington Model 7. We took it to McMillan Stocks (www.mcmillanusa.com ). They made us a gorgeous, lightweight custom stock in their Hunters Edge pattern. You can choose where you want the sling mounts, and we chose to get one on the side as well as on the underside of the stock where everyone else puts them.

When you attach the sling to the side of the butt stock, the rifle rides against you flat, without the scope or the butt bumping into you all day long. It's pretty awesome. McMillan fit that custom stock to the rifle beautifully, even fitting it to the custom trigger.

Trigger, Sling

I dropped a Timney Trigger in the rifle (www.timneytriggers.com ). It adjusts from a 1.5-pound pull to a 4-pound, whatever suits you. Then I added a Blue Force Gear Vickers Combat Application Sling. It's lightweight and pretty awesome. Blue Force Gear has a lot of great slings as well as tons of other stuff – check it out at http://www.blueforcegear.com

Scope, Ammo

Finally, I chose a Leupold 4.5-14x30 Wind Plex CDS scope and mounted it with Talley scope mounts. We'll be shooting Winchester Ballistic Silver Tips and Hornady Superformance® SST, both in 95 grain. I'm also thinking of trying Copper Creek Ammo. They make custom loads. We'll check them all out and see which ones the gun likes best.

This is how I looked last year. Check out that heavy gun, tripod, and the saggy pack. Ugh.

Final tally: Our new hunting rifle weighs in at 7 pounds, and feels like even less thanks to the sling position. With the new rifle, the new packs, and lightweight optics, this year's hunting trip is shaping up to be a lot more comfortable than last year.

More Information At These Sites

Leupold Scopes http://www.leupold.com

Talley scope mounts http://www.talleymanufacturing.com

Winchester ammunition http://www.winchester.com

Hornady ammunition http://www.hornady.com

Copper Creek ammunition http://www.coppercreekammo.com

 

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