25 November 2014

Wolf Hunt Phase I

*Due to some unexpected timing constraints I haven't been able to post the final parts of the 'Dry Run' series prior to my imminent departure and the Thanksgiving Holiday.

This weekend will be the first foray chasing wolves for the season, go in on Friday come out on Sunday. The intent is to hunt each weekend of December, either tagging out or harvest goal is met for the region.


Truck is 2 miles from base camp and the area I want to set up an observation point is 1 mile from base camp. I'll use the snogo with  trailer to get from the truck to the base camp and walk each morning to the observation point and back to camp each evening.

Here's a close up of the observation point. Wolf travel corridors as scouted last year are marked, as well as the watering holes and where I want to set the OP, wind direction is expected to be from the north west.

After the dry run and some input from members as well as my own observations I've decided to change up the shelter and some of the gear choices as well as food selections.

For shelter I'll be using a Sierra Designs Mountain Guide Tarp. Tarp being a bit of a misnomer, this is a four season expedition grade shelter, 109sf, 70d material with good ventilation options.

Image courtesy BigSurArcher
Within this tent I'll be installing a Seek Outside XL Titanium stove with a 9' pipe. Since SO couldn't get the stove to me in time for the first run Sweeneyguy (BCUSA Forum Member) was generous enough to offer up his stove which is identical, for my first run. THANKS SWEENEY!

For sleep system I'm sticking with the Kelty/HPG combo over a Klymit Recon insulated inflated pad over a Thermarest Ridgerest SOLite. Between the two of them I should have a R value of 7.2. The Recon has an R value of 4.4 and the Solite is a 2.8. I will be using a ground sheet in the form of a reflective all weather blanket.

Food wise I will be packing some Mountain House but will be supplementing with fresh foods as well. I've revised the calories per day from 2800 to a goal of 4000 based on how badly I became calorie deficient during the dry run. Between the cold and activity 2800 was far short of the need. Since I'm using a snow mobile and sled to get to base camp the weight became a non issue, bacon is back on the menu!

One of the things I learned last year regarding hunting in the open exposed to wind and weather and extremely low temperatures is I couldn't go more than four to five hours at a time without getting to cold. So this year I'm incorporating a ultralight ground blind that will shelter me from the elements and offer excellent concealment, this should prolong my sitting comfortably time dramatically.

I'm still going to be using the Weatherby 7mm Remington Magnum, I've had excellent experiences with this rifle in the past and see no reason to change. After practice I'm comfortable to 600 yards with this rifle, though from my OP the max to cover is about 500 yards with much of it at 250 to 300.

I'm not upgrading my glass either, my Leupold 10x42s have served excellently well for years. Weatherproof, clear sharp glass that's helped me put prey on the ground consistently.

Primary pack will be Kuiu ICON 7200 but will be switching to the ICON 1850 for hunting out of camp. One of the nice features about this combo is they use the same suspension system. The shoulder straps can be removed from the 7200 and put on the 1850 quickly. The frame and waist belt can also be put on either of them but I've found the internal stays on the 1850 are plenty.

Weather is looking like what I expected. Cold and snowy, temps in the low 20s to teens for highs and single digits at night. I should be plenty comfortable between the stove and the bags.

I feel like I'm well situated and prepared for the first run!

18 November 2014

The Dry Run Part II

I woke early the next morning and groaned when I though about crawling out of the warmth of the bags. The condensation was remarkable and coated the tent walls heavily, the cold was bitter and biting at my nose.

One of the things I'd started doing some time ago was 'drying clothes' in my sleeping back through the night. It's a simple concept and I only do it with base layers. Basically just putting them in the bag they dry out from the body heat, it also means not having to pull on cold layers in the morning.

Once in my clothes I crawled out of the tent. The falling snow hadn't done much more than dust what we had, no real accumulation.

The night prior I'd spent some time reading up on the basic functions of the new camera. Unlike most cameras I've owned this Sony actually has a built in user reference on what certain functions do, I'm not even a amateur photographer so a lot of this information was worthwhile to me. Having read about certain functions I set about getting a few pictures of the night sky since there was still an hour and half before dawn.

All I did was set it to 'bulb' which left the shutter open for 30 seconds. I think there are some other settings but it got the desired effect for the most part. This was with the camera on a little tripod, not a very good one either. I've got some more reading to do to figure out how to optimize but overall they were not too bad.

Much of day two had scenery that looked like day one, only colder.

As stated I also brought a couple day packs to try out while hunting away from camp. One of them was the FR Summit Boulder Junction. I like this pack an awful lot and enjoyed using it. One of the things I learned though was that it rides much much better with a sternum strap. It was simple to fabricate one and wish I'd gotten a picture but didn't think of it at the time. I just pulled the shemagh under the straps across the middle of my chest, pulled tight and knotted up. This worked like a charm and was actually more comfortable than a normal sternum strap because it was much wider and thus spread the weight better.

I had lunch in the field which was simple, another MH.

Later in the afternoon a nice snow storm buzzed into the area.

Soon enough I was headed back to camp, another day of winter in the winds having stripped away the build up of everyday life. I was feeling much better on the whole but I was also feeling the effects of calorie deficiencies. My 2800 calories a day wasn't enough to counter the cold and the activity level. I'd need to rethink content.

Back at camp I decided to get a fire going. Originally my intent was go the duration without a fire, well that got chucked.

I'm not a huge fan of fire prep in the dark but I hadn't pre-laid a fire so I had no choice. I usually do this but hadn't this time and I regretted it. I made a note in my notebook chastising myself to the error. When possible, always have fire fixings done, it's just good sense.

The Turley Whelen did what it does and fire prep was done. One of the things I like most about this knife is the length of the blade and the depth from edge to spine. It's perfect for shavings when your material can be placed with one end in the hollow below your clavicle and the other end on the ground. You can use two hands on the knife, one on the handle and the other nearer the point. This gives exceptional control for shaving making and you can really get a pile of them with a quickness.

Not long after that, with a good spark on a steel and a nice piece of birch to help it along...

I warmed myself by that fire for a while, drying out my outer layer. The set about getting dinner done. I snapped a few more pics and thought this one was particularly nice.

I was tired and unceremoniously hit the sack. It was colder than the night prior. I was out of easy at hand water. Any clothing or hats that were not wool were frozen hard and pretty much worthless. Sleep came quick.

Some time in the night I woke up to howling winds. It wasn't snowing but man the wind was hitting hard. I was happy to see the shelter seemed rock like. There's something about being in the middle of adverse conditions with minimal security but a tent and feeling secure in that tent that makes sleeping in hard conditions easier for me. I know that seems counter intuitive but some of my best sleep has been had in bad conditions while under a tarp or in a tent.

Drifted off wondering what tomorrow would bring.

17 November 2014

The Dry Run

As part of the 'Planning an Adventure Part II' I spent last week and through the weekend on a dry run of the wolf hunt to determine what will work and what won't.

  1. Primarily I wanted to determine how miserable I'd be if I tried the trip in mid/late December without a wood stove along to heat the tent. Originally I was planning on hot tenting but then I got on the fence about that and decided to see if several days without heat in a tent would be too uncomfortable.
  2. I wanted to evaluate a new to me camera (Sony DSC-RX 100)
  3. Additionally I wanted to see how challenging it would be to use the sled in some very rugged terrain.
  4. This trip I wanted to go as lite as possible but with adequate gear/supplies to go a minimum of 5 days but capable of stretching to 7.
  5. I also wanted to evaluate my planned food consumption against activity levels in deep cold.This meant Mountain House food and not a pound O bacon!
I'd planned on 2800 calories a day and picked the MH based on a minimum of 100 calories per ounce and found there are a couple that run much higher than that. The Breakfast skillet for example, meant to be used with a wrap, weighs 4.73 ounces but runs about 800 calories per bag. Nearly 200 calories an ounce and it taste pretty good too!

Clothing was merino wool base layers, Kryptek Cadog pans, Kryptek Aquillo hyper dry down puffy and a wind break jacket, for additional security I took my wool pullover as well. I didn't pack any extra clothing other than my sleeping base which is just another set of merino.

Sleep system was a 25 degree down bag from Kelty, my HPG Mountain Serape as an over bag, and I took a Ti Goat bivy. Thermarest ridge rest pad.

Tent was the Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT.

Stove was MSR Whisperlite International.

Primary pack was Kuiu Icon 7200 and I packed a couple day packs to try out.

Because I knew I'd be crossing a mostly frozen river I took the LaCrosse Aerohead 18" boots instead of my normal pac boots.

Weather indicated snow every day, temps topping out in the low 20s and lows in the single digits.

Heading in.

Once across the river the hike back to the camp site is about a mile and a half, that walk was uneventful.

After getting camp set up I headed out for an afternoon walk up the river with the intent of climbing the ridge line a mile up and circling back west and south then back into the valley returning to camp.

As is the norm for the northeast Minnesota back country you find beaver ponds in every other valley it seems. This one was rather unexpected, there was nothing on the maps to indicate it was there, in fact there wasn't supposed to be anything but a small creek. It would appear Mr. Beaver has been living up to the busy as a beaver moniker.

He was fun to watch, his small pond was losing the battle with the ice though he was fighting the freeze up. He had two holes left and would swim from one to the other and then claw/climb around the edges though his effort was futile, the ice would inevitably win.

Back down through the drainage towards the river I followed multiple deer tracks, crossed many lines of fox travel, the temperature was dropping though and an ominous feeling overtook me as the sun settled behind the mountain. I shrugged it off and headed for camp.

It would seem that no matter just how far back into the wilderness you go, you will occasionally find the hand of man, pun intended.

As I rounded the bend in the valley floor there was a flurry of red about a hundred yards further upriver. It darted from the edge of the ice into the tree lines. I stood and glassed, sure enough there was a fox working the area. He came back out close to the edge and became fur, he's going to make a nice ruff around the hood of my youngest daughter's parka.

Food was my priority when I finally made it back to camp. I hit the pump on the fuel bottle and connected to the Whisperlite, chicken and rice was on the menu!

Not long after dinner a light snow began to fall, and thus day one ended.

It didn't take long for me to realize I had a condensation problem with the set up. The bivy over the bags was wet on the exterior. My breathing was putting a lot of moisture into the air which would then freeze on the tent walls, but the bivy wasn't freezing it was just wet. The HPG bag was quite damp as a result. I stripped the bivy off the bags thinking it was partly to blame.

In spite of the dampness I was toasty warm to the point that I shed my socks. One of the benefits of the HPG Mountain Serape as an over bag, its synthetic insulation, while wet still provides warmth but more importantly it kept the down bag dry and free of dampness. The system worked.

Part II coming later this week.