SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – October 2010

Killer Hike

When a lifelong backpacker decides to shoot a deer, will he lose touch with the wilderness he loves--or get closer to it?

by: Bruce Barcott Photography by Paolo Marchesi

On farmland in eastern Washington.
On farmland in eastern Washington.
Tracking dear in the Snake River Bluffs.
Tracking dear in the Snake River Bluffs.
The author approaches a buck she shot seconds earlier.
The author approaches a buck she shot seconds earlier.
Expect a gallon of blood from a buck.
Expect a gallon of blood from a buck.
The author learns to dress a deer.
The author learns to dress a deer.
The author (right) scouts for deer.
The author (right) scouts for deer.
The author dresses a deer.
The author dresses a deer.
    Tags:


“Field dressing” is a pretty term for a bloody, messy, disgusting operation. It involves cutting open a freshly killed animal and removing its guts and organs. It’s done on the spot, at the point of the kill—otherwise, the carcass is too heavy to haul. The guts are left for coyotes and other scavengers. Jennifer tutors me on the finer points.

“Start your cut here,” she says, pointing to the deer’s nether regions. Jennifer and I spend the next half an hour slicing through deer hide and peeling through the animal’s thin, mucousy layer of fat. The shifting breeze sends a briny funk of odor—the smell of warm blood mixed with body gasses—up my nose. I fight back a dry-heave.

By the time Gator arrives that evening, my deer is cooling in a local meat locker. “Time to get you yours,” I tell him. I can’t believe I’m saying those words even as they leave my mouth.

Gator is a bit of a legend in mountaineering circles. He pulled injured climbers off of Mt. Rainier for nearly 20 years. He’s almost as famous for his eclectic collection of friends. Senators, CEOs, Everest-climbing superstars, and backwoods hippies all consider Gator their righteous bro. One of those friends, Ted Cox, is a seasonal Rainier employee in his 60s who’s come along on the hunting trip to…well, nobody’s quite sure why he’s come along. Ted opposes hunting like dogs oppose cats—with loudness and constancy. “I’m here to witness the slaughter,” Ted declares.

The next morning, Gator, Ted, and I are up just before dawn, pounding coffee. Gator’s day often starts with a 2 a.m. alpine start, so this is a lazy Sunday for him. “Sure beats getting up in the middle of the night in a storm on the side of a mountain,” he says.

“I can’t believe you’re really going through with this,” scolds Ted. “What have you got against some poor, defenseless creature?”

Gator laughs. “Aw, Ted. What about those fish you like to catch?”

“That’s different,” says Ted.

We hike through fields to the sloping coulees of the Snake River canyon. At the rim we pause to take in the scene, a classic Western vista that hasn’t changed much since Lewis and Clark came upon it more than 200 years ago. The Snake drains most of Idaho, and the river’s breaks are formidable—dry gulches and ravines falling away and folding in on themselves for more than a mile before hitting water. Deer, coyotes, and other wildlife come here to hide out in the rock crevices and pockets of brush.

Gator and I scramble over steep terrain. Because of the rifle on my back, I find myself placing steps with newfound precision. A tumble here could easily lead to a misfire, or worse.

“You’ve got to add something to the equation when you’re hunting the breaks,” Jennifer had told us. “That’s whether you can haul a 150-pound deer up the cliffs after you shoot it.”

“Honestly, I’m not that worried about bagging a deer,” Gator says. “The main thing I’m concerned about is not making a lousy shot and letting some poor animal wander off wounded.”

We crouch by a pocket of trees and brambles. “There’s got to be something in there,” I say. “Why don’t you set up a shot while I flush?” Gator hugs the ground and props himself on his elbows. I toss some rocks into the trees. After the crackle and thunk, movement.

“Two of ’em,” I say.

“I see them,” Gator murmurs.

A doe and her yearling emerge from the shadows. Gator takes his finger off the trigger. Our tags are for bucks, not does. We watch them disappear over the next ridge.

That night we return empty-handed. Ted is visibly pleased.

“Nothing killed today, fellas?” he says. “What a shame.”

Centuries ago, kings employed jesters to keep things lively and to deliver hard truths in a nonthreatening package. For Gator and me, Ted plays the jester for our collective conscience. He gives voice to the inner hiker in both of us. All around us, sportsmen speak of “harvesting” deer, as if living creatures are barley. Ted reminds us that we are, in fact, killing animals.




Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star Star

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
John Avent
Nov 26, 2013

I would agree with most of what is said in this article. I am a hunter and a ultralight backpacker and I can say that they can easily go hand in hand. As for the need for hunting, most hunting is done for the experience of being in the woods and spending time with others. The ethics of killing a game animal isn't about need necessarily, but we take pleasure in the opportunity to stalk and hopefully kill a worthy quarry in the outdoors. Well written article hopefully showing how backpacking and hunting are not necessarily at odds with each other when they each respect the other.

Star Star Star Star Star
At
Oct 19, 2013

Dear Bruce,

Thanks for this article. I enjoyed it.

I made a film about my friend, and backpacking companion, going through a similar journey. He's also a philosopher at the University of Colorado, so the film wanders into both the ethical and literal wilderness. You, and others who enjoyed your piece, may find it of interest:

http://www.atfilms.info/The-Rocky-Mountains

Thanks again for the article,
At

Star Star Star Star Star
George P
Oct 06, 2013

Excellent well written article. I am a lifelong hunter as well as a lifelong hiker and backpacker. I find the two complement each other they are not at odds with each other. I find it encouraging that as a person and as a journalist you truly did walk a mile in another persons shoes. That you did so with a open heart and mind is a tribute to your integrity. Like hunting or not you have felt the honest reward of truly "Bringing home the Bacon".
Thank you for your honesty.

Star Star Star Star Star
dsfds
Jun 25, 2013

http://www.guccishoesoutlettfactory.com/ gucci shoes outlet gucci handbags outlet
http://www.northfacecoutletonline.net/ north face clearance north face jackets outlet online
http://www.monstervheadphones.net/ monster beats outlet online beats by dre pro
http://www.mfactoryoutlet.com/ michael kors factory outlet michael kors outlet online
http://www.cfactoryonline.com/ coach outlet online coach outlet
http://www.cshopfactory.com/ coachfactory.com/shop coach outlet usa
http://www.mcoachoutlet.com/ coach outlet usa coach outlet online usa
http://www.cmichaelkorsoutlet.com/ micheal kors outlet usa micheal kors outlet online
http://www.mk-michaelkoroutlett.net/ michael kors outlet usa

Star Star Star
sds
Jun 25, 2013

http://www.guccishoesoutlettfactory.com/ gucci shoes outlet gucci handbags outlet
http://www.northfacecoutletonline.net/ north face clearance north face jackets outlet online
http://www.monstervheadphones.net/ monster beats outlet online beats by dre pro
http://www.mfactoryoutlet.com/ michael kors factory outlet michael kors outlet online
http://www.cfactoryonline.com/ coach outlet online coach outlet
http://www.cshopfactory.com/ coachfactory.com/shop coach outlet usa
http://www.mcoachoutlet.com/ coach outlet usa coach outlet online usa
http://www.cmichaelkorsoutlet.com/ micheal kors outlet usa micheal kors outlet online
http://www.mk-michaelkoroutlett.net/ michael kors outlet usa

Star Star Star Star Star
Tanner
Dec 12, 2012

I hunt on some land that pretty much all grassland and doesn't see an ounce of fertilizer. I usually take one deer from here every year. Totally grass feed natural deer. Can't get anymore organic than that.

Kevin
Sep 21, 2012

I am a life long hunter, and backpacker. When you combine the two you get the ultimate wilderness experience in my opinion. I was looking at this magazine to see if I could benefit from it, I will be subscriber from now on.

Dave H.
May 26, 2012

I see I spelled vegetarian wrong. No, I am not just a dumb hunter. Just a human like you. Share the wilderness. lol

Dave H.
May 26, 2012

I have not even read half of the article yet and I never chime in on these things. This article, however, is the best article I have ever read in any outdoor magazine bar none! Bringing people together is what we need now more than ever. I have been an outdoorsman since I was 8 and caught my first sunny with a stick,line, and hook. I grew up in the woods of suburbia and gradually wandered further out. I fish, ski, hike, mountain bike, camp, anything I can to be outdoors. I didn't start hunting until I was 35. I needed something new to do and was invited to hunt. It's not about the killing, it can't trully be explained until you do it. I am one of the minority I guess that is not on either side. I see nothing but being closer to nature when I hunt. I had a girlfriend that was a vegiterian. She said at least it's honest, and you use the whole animal. Not like the drive through. Plus if it ever hits the fan she said she had me to get through it. The most exciting times are when I harvested nothing. The close encounter with bears, the 5 minute old couger tracks etc etc etc. Thank you for an honest look at hunters as just avid outdoors people! We love what hikers love ...being in tune with nature! Let's try to respect each other on common ground.

calisanidiot
Jan 02, 2012

What we need to understand here is that people are entitled to their own opinions and beliefs, and whether or not you agree or disagree with hunting, you should respect others' beliefs. To "Cal" who posted earlier: You are an idiot. Who are you to judge what Bruce (the author) believes? I don't care how much you are against hunting or the killing of animals, you do not wish death upon a person. Your opinions are your opinions, nothing more. You are just one of billions, so your beliefs have no priority in this world. I've never hunted, and I don't like the thought of killing animals/game purely for fun, but I would kill a thousand animals and leave them to rot before I would wish death on a person. It's this sort of lack of respect for other's beliefs that cause problems in the first place. If you want to hunt, then hunt. If you don't, then don't. Live your life the way you want, I'll live mine the way I want, and Bruce will live his the way he wants. Stop being so concerned with others' lives, they're not yours!

To Bruce: Thank you for this article. Whether or not I agree with you is beside the point, I enjoyed your sharing your beliefs (which should not be disrespected) so boldy.

Joe
Aug 03, 2011

Excellent article. I have been a backpacker for many years and like you never really considered giving hunting a try. I am seriously considering taking the hunter's education and giving it a try. Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts.

Troy O
Feb 08, 2011

Great article I have been a person who enjoys both hiking and hunting... I have hiked in Denali and the Wrangells and hunted and hiked in the Brooks Range, would love to see more cross over articles for I am always looking thru BP for ways to safe on weight and gear to use on my trips.... Thanks again good job

Aaron Williams
Jan 21, 2011

I thoroughly enjoyed this article.

Neil
Dec 27, 2010

I was pleasantly surprised to find this article. As a person who hunted with my family as a child, became a "backpacker", and now has returned to hunting for a variety of reasons, I've been on both sides of the coin. While the ethic of "leave no trace" is slowly and fortunately permeating hunting, hunting has given back something I missed as a hiker. Moving slowly, stopping and remaining motionless for hours, conscious of every leaf and puff of wind, I see the smallest plot of land with a depth that would have would have missed in the miles I racked up while backpacking. Having returned to hunting as a urban 40 year old, I also had to take a renewed look at the philosophy and ethics of hunting, and I enjoyed the author's well written account of his own exploration of the issue. While I doubt Backpacker will or should start publishing rifle reviews, I can say that I read through other parts of your magazine with a new interest for the first time in a while. Thanks for being willing to explore beyond the stereotypical boundaries between two groups that share a common cause in preservation of wilderness.

Steve Backs
Dec 06, 2010

Great article and my kudus to BP magazine for publishing it. Perhaps you have opened some eyes to a part of internal but suppressed chemistry of our being. For many hunting is an "excuse" for being outdoors that allow us to feel the world around us at a higher resolution than I do when I'm hiking in the woodland hills during the other months of the year.

Eric S
Dec 01, 2010

Excellent article! Please keep hunting and flush this out into a book. As a Natural resource management student I had similar converstions with the Forestry students. I have returned to (bow) hunting and find it further bridges this odd divide among the outdoor crowd.

Shannon
Nov 24, 2010

What a great story. THANK YOU for writing this. I am glad the author took on a challenge that was out of his comfort zone. The article was extremely honest. It was a great read and I will be passing this onto others!

dana ivers
Nov 18, 2010

Bruce covered in vivid,engrossing detail most of the activities of a large animal hunt for food. I would just like to add that first time "hunters" could research outfitting businesses in their hunting area of choice, and hire an outfitter to guide a first hunt.We have such an outfitting business and would welcome a novice or two. Dana Ivers, cowcreekoutfitters.com

Myriam Bouchard
Nov 12, 2010

I absolutely loved his article. As a lifelong outdoors enthusiast, backpacker, and Bambie-lover, I had my first deer hunting season last year (you can read my story here: http://myrbou.blogspot.com ).

Deer hunting season is a mere week away and I can't wait - yes, I know, I am one of "them" now...

When I tell other I started hunting, to the horror of some, I only accept criticism from those who don't eat meat - otherwise, it is pure hypocrisy, as somebody, somewhere, is killing an animal just for you to eat...

My mentor-hunters don't like to play God - and I understand that some hunters do... sadly - especially those who do not kill for food... and that is a whole other side of hunting which can be debated ad nauseum...

Ben Long, Montana
Nov 12, 2010

Thank you for the thoughtful essay on an issue and experience that is difficult to put into words. Whether we hunt or not, we share a world where beautiful, wild places are rare and diminishing. We should work together to pass them on, along with the freedom to hike and hunt. www.backcountryhunters.org.

View all comments

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Darn, very tragic news:
Posted On: Aug 23, 2014
Submitted By: double cabin
Trailhead Register
Your Yosemite Tips
Posted On: Aug 23, 2014
Submitted By: double cabin
Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions