Nimrod's Packing List
Nimrod: a hunter, idiot, or jerk. I will let you decide on which definition is fitting. Let me begin by saying I am not a professional hunter. Nor am I good at planning hunts. or planning in general. In fact, you should probably take this article and do the exact opposite for best results. That being said, I have made a few treks across the country for some “freelance” hunting. Some were with buddies, and we just had our best guess as to where the ducks are. Some were with other fellow brown dog owners that randomly invited me to hunt with them, no doubt hearing that I always come bringing piss poor shooting, but copious amounts of bourbon. Other trips were made after a lengthy and heroic fight with my favorite gift to the world, given to us by Mr. Elijah Craig. After our last bout I ended up booking a cabin, and figured I’d find my way when I got there. I tried to compile a list of the basics- again, basics of what you may need on a trip. By no means is this an end-all-be all list. I remember the first time my buddy invited me out west and he said if you don’t go you will forever regret it. That was 8 years ago and now I go every year to that area, since then I’ve added multiple other trips to different parts of the country. Hunting not only allows us to enjoy the outdoors, but we enjoy our dogs more, we meet new people, see new things, and have new experiences. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be hunting my Boykin in a pit blind in January in Nebraska on the North Platte. I never thought I’d be lucky enough to flush a pheasant in the cattails of North Dakota. Nor did I ever dream of heading north to hunt the “king of all game birds”, the ruffed grouse. Let me say this: just go. The worst that happens is you don’t bag anything. Yes, we do want to bag birds, but for me, I get more out of the journey and the experience than the shooting of the birds. More importantly, these trips mean more time with my brown dogs and less time working; I’ll take that deal every day.
So here’s our list:
1. Dog: Dawnie and a few other people made it known that some folks have indeed forgotten their dog on a hunting trip.. Don’t do that. Remember the dog.
2. Dog food: The dog’s health is first and foremost above my own. He’s working four times as hard as I am. It’s hard sometimes to get pups to eat on a trip. Try mixing bone broth and goat milk into their food(thank you Ryan Baumgartner). Traveller duck hunted for 2 weeks, lost a lot of weight and as soon as our upland trip started he was eating again. Remember to rest your dog periodically if it’s a long trip.
3. Dog first aid: Again, dogs are first. There are a lot of good companies that make dog first aid kits. I’m lucky in that I haven’t had to use them yet, but from what I’ve gathered, always have some snacks or an oral concentration solution of gluclose for the dogs just to make sure we prevent hypoglycemia. I would also advise upland hunters to carry a stapler and wire cutters. There are some very good companies and some good podcasts out there that describe in detail what you should carry. For me, I carry a basic kit along with those two tools. ALWAYS know where the closest vet is, just in case of an emergency.
4. Vest/Towel: Just to remind you, I’m no expert. Whether duck hunting or upland bird hunting, I would recommend some sort of vest for a variety of reasons. First being warmth while duck hunting. I also use an inexpensive lightweight upland vest, mostly for protection from burrs, the bane of our existence as Boykin owners. From my experience, a Boykin can handle the cold water for the most part. It’s the wind that hurts them the most. Remember when you were younger and if you were in the pool/beach when the water was cold? If you stayed in the water, it wasn’t too bad, it was once you got out and into the wind that you’d start feeling cold. Now multiply that tenfold. If you’re hunting in the cold, dry them ASAP. If they have a good vest, their body should be dry. If possible, position the pup out of the wind as much as possible, or get a blind for them.
5. Extra gun: This goes without saying. At some point your favorite gun will jam, misfire,break, or in my case, just all of a sudden not shoot straight or magically be full of blanks. Perhaps the sun always seems to hit the barrel just right so it’s always in your eyes? While this is a rare occurrence, I have had it happen. Shooting experts and the best physicists are trying to work out the cause of this anomaly .
6. Hunting Apps/Maps: There are a lot of great options out there. OnX, BaseMap, and HuntWise may be the biggest ones depending on your needs. We’ve had good success with a combination of the apps in order to find the land owner information so we can knock on doors. These apps also help tremendously when planning a trip and figuring out where you want to go. Don’t forget just a good old fashioned map. There will be a lot of times where you won’t have service.
7. Extra socks: This will happen. At some point you will have to deal with wet feet. Whether that is you having to ford over a river/creek to get a bird since it’s a straight cliff down, but you should have just trusted the dog and let him go (clearly not from personal experience). Or you’ll try and look to see if hit a bird and slip off a boulder into a little stream(also not from personal experience). If you think you have enough socks, bring more.
8. Extra Shells: There’s no doubt that at some point there will be someone on the trip that makes up every excuse known to man on why they missed or perhaps abide by the “accuracy by volume” methodology. This being said, that character will promise you that he will pay you back with gas money, road snacks, or an unborn child if you’d please just let him borrow a few more shells. At some point you or someone will need more shells.
9. E-Collar and charger: While we can, for the most part we can see our Boykins when upland hunting, there are times when they may break, chase a cripple too far, or chase a running pheasant. While I don’t need the functionality of the e-collar often, it is something nice to have, just in case. I heard on a podcast “distance distorts control”, so I want to make sure I have my pup under control as much as possible at all times.
10. Patience: Not everything will go as planned. Not every retrieve will be perfect. The dog will bust birds. Be patient and be flexible with your plans on these trips. Remember, the goal isn’t truly a full game bag; the goal is more time with our dogs, more time with our friends, more time outdoors.
While this isn’t an all inclusive list, I hope it shows that packing for a trip (freelancing?) isn’t all that daunting. While this is by no means an all-inclusive list, I hope this will at least help you see that it isn’t really as daunting as one may think. Freelancing is not some impossible trip. As Gene Hill states, “But the nicest thing about all this - is just to be away. ‘To see the elephant and hear the owl’ is all there is.” If you’re thinking about going on a hunting trip with your pup, go.