Hunters are athletes, especially those who spot and stalk big game, climb mountains, or hike to a remote stand. Just as the Gator-Aid bucket has become synonymous with team sports, a hydration method is as important to you as your hunting knife. Even on long tree stand sits, keeping your body fully hydrated will help keep you fully alert, important for success.
Learning the Hard Way
I just returned from a DIY mule deer hunt where I envisioned seeing this big buck, or one like it in a perfect shooting position. Unfortunately, dehydration ruined that chance, an unsavory lesson learned the hard way. I planned to camp with my two grandsons and hunt a tract of public land where we had seen big deer the previous year. Normally, we camp with a group of friends but thought we could go it alone this time since the youngest lad could only miss a few days of school.
Camping on the Fly
Our camp consisted of one small tent and a GMC Denali where two of us slept, or tired to. The first night was very difficult because we didn’t have pads or an air mattress and we only got a few hours of sleep. We awoke late, and could not get our camp stove to work so we headed out without food or drink.. Although we saw one mule deer buck and two herds of elk, by noon, I could feel my energy drain. I drank the one bottle of water in my pack but that was woefully inadequate.
Heart Rate up and Down
I’m blessed with a slow pulse, normally 55 BPM, which helps me handle mountains and distances in my mid-70s. I used a Fitbit watch to monitor my pulse and noticed that my heart was beating very erratically, not a motivating event. Even walking slowly, it would jump from the 70’s to 120 BPM which was a concern. Midway to our final destination, I seemed to lose all of my energy and glanced at my watch which read a pulse of 150. Holy cow! That was nearly three times my resting pulse which brought the hunt to an end.
Back to Camp and Recovery-
I was baffled by my sudden disability. I routinely walk multiple miles with little difficulty and have hunted this area without becoming fatigued. Altitude could be an issue, but we were camped at about 6,000 feet. Since my youngest grandson and I seemed to have no energy, we chose to drive an hour to the nearest town, and get some solid food and plenty to drink. Before leaving we fixed the camp stove so that we had a means of cooking with several packets of oatmeal on the agenda for the morning.
New Day, New Beginning
Our alarm sounded an hour before daylight and we drove to a distant section of our deer hunting unit where we had seen a good deer population the previous year. We arrived just as daylight broke and scoured the ridges and ravines as we drove toward the Continental Divide. About half an hour later we came to a soft spot in the road where we buried the front wheel of the GMC. The rig was fitted with street tires and once we sank into the mud, there was no backing out. Zachary, my oldest grandson volunteered to backtrack while we waited at the vehicle. Luckily, the folks in Idaho are great people and within an hour showed up with a diesel truck and a long tow chain. They quickly pulled us out and we decided to hunt from that spot even though we were a mile from where we wanted to start.
8,000 feet, No Problem
Ironically, while waiting for help to arrive, I spotted six elk feeding on the mountainside above us and once we were on solid ground, the three of us headed toward the top of the mountain and hiked for the next two hours. We made several cow calling set-ups but got no response. As noon approached we decided to head back to camp and hunt the spots we originally planned. We had seen no mule deer and suspected that the harsh winter of 22-23 had taken its toll.
Day and Night Difference
My hunt ended far up the valley where we had intended to hunt on opening day. Suddenly, my energy was back, my confidence was back, and I felt like I had always felt while hunting elk. My conclusion was that dehydration had spoiled my best chance which was total pilot error. I had hunted this drive-to spot previously and I failed to plan properly. We should have had a meal plan so that we knew what we were going to eat and drink and had the tools to prepare it. I had been overconfident, careless, or both and it changed an exciting outing into a difficult learning experience. Hunting is an athletic endeavor and you can bet there will be plenty of energy drinks in my pack from now on.