Don't leave home without them!
Just a few weeks back I had a great time hunting in the Canadian bush near Edmonton, Alberta and learned a lot about the terrain as well as the conditions that affected my adventure there.
The woods are thick and go for hundreds of miles with very limited cellular signal and even few encounters with other riders. This started me thinking about just what types of equipment I would really need in this setting to keep me moving forward, safe and, most of all, able to call for help should I need to.
Here are a few of the items I would now want to include in my packing list when I get the chance to return to the bush.
GPS with Tracking
The worst kind of lost is when you think you know your way back to the truck, but every road looks the same. Maps of the area are nice, but if they do not list all of those small trails then you’re potentially lost. Maybe there are places in the tracks that are impassable or had seriously deep water. Let’s say there is a small beaver pond that has breached the roadway, causing the trail to quite literally fall out. You want to be able to mark these places and avoid them on the return trip. The best way to do that is with a GPS device such as this eXplorist TRX7 by Magellan. You log your trip by allowing the TRX7 track you and it can even reverse the route so you can follow it back to the main road or truck.
A good gun scabbard is a must for roaming the wild woods. You want to not only keep the rifle safe, but also avoid having it thrown around in the cab while crossing downed trees or bouncing through deep muskeg. Pick a scabbard that has a good inner liner to keep from scratching your prized rifle up. As a side note, be sure to really practice up with your rifle of choice. Ours was the Mossberg Patriot chambered in 30-06. This way if you should encounter an unruly bush beast you can be confident in your fight or flight methods.
Having the bright eyes for those night skies is also very important. If you hunt in areas where the sun goes down (I bet you might), then you can bet the best headlights or add-on service lighting will come in handy. Adding a positionable light to the machine will allow you to see your surroundings should you get stuck or lose the trail out.
Getting stuck is inevitable if you travel the deep woods and especially if you get a good rain during your hunt. There was one particular section of trail that was some of the most incredible deep muck (known as Muskeg to the locals) that just seemed to swallow the machine we were in. As the ground thaws heading into summer, these spots become nearly impassable. This is why an extra rope and a very good winch are surely needed for the serious hunter.
UTV-Mounted Cellular Booster
There are cell towers along the highways and some across the mountainous terrain, but service in the deep woods is limited. This is especially true if you are up in a grove of long limbed white spruce trees. Weboost is a company that makes a cell service booster just for your UTV (the Drive 4G-X) and this could be the difference between getting help or walking out into the wilderness to try and get a stronger signal. These kits are inexpensive when you consider the price to be paid should you have to spend the night in the woods.
Most of the roads in and out of the bush are just simple gravel-packed dirt roads and get very little maintenance during the year. Once you get off of the main road and into the tight winding trails you will encounter anything from slightly hidden stumps to large rocks that have been unearthed by other adventurers. These items can impact your travel dramatically and quite literally. A massive stump hidden by brush can tear away at the belly of your machine and possibly damage suspension components, leaving you stranded. The skid plates are not fool proof but they are, at least, insurance in the grand scheme of things.
This might just be your saving grace in the woods of any country. Small biting bugs love to chew on your pretty flesh when you stop and stand around on the trails. This one device could possibly keep you from going insane if you happen to break down in the bush. The ThermaCell is a self contained repellent device that only requires you to turn it on to get relief. On my hunt this was my most beloved tool!
Reliable 4×4 UTV
No matter where you go or what you think you might encounter it is always good to be able to trust your rig. You want a machine that is not a “maybe” machine but an absolute. Our ride through the bush was in the Can-Am Defender Mossy Oak Hunting Edition with its powerful Rotax V-Twin engine. Although several of the items listed above were already installed on the Defender, I would recommend them for any bushwhacking machine. The key to having an adventure is to be able to go and come home safely.