Food For Backcountry Hunting & Camping Trips

What food should you pack for a multi-day hunting, camping, or backpacking trip?  That’s an important question, and the answer shouldn’t be… “Whatever I can find in my kitchen right before I leave, or pickup at the gas station on the way to the trailhead.”

Last year I wrote a post entitled, Food for Backpack Hunting – Tips, Ideas, and a Lightweight Menu.  In that article I not only shared what I was bringing each day for my backpack elk hunt, but why I was bringing it.  I highly encourage you to read that post to learn about the key elements of Packaiblity, Ease of Use, Value, Edibility, and “The Magic Number”.

In that post I shared my meal plan, which I put together based on previous experience with backpacking trips.  But how did the menu work out for my elk hunting trip specifically?  Did I have enough calories?  Did any of the foods not work particularly well? What am I changing for this year’s trips?  Let’s answer those questions…

The Dietary Debrief

Overall, I was really happy with the food that I brought last year.  I looked forward to eating what I had with me, and felt satisfied and energized throughout the day.  I had more than enough calories (~2,900/day), and finished the trip with a decent amount of food leftover.  There wasn’t any particular item that didn’t agree with my stomach, or failed to be appetizing.  The strategy of packing all of each day’s food into its own zip-loc bag was perfect.  I loved the convenience of grabbing one bag per day for my daypack and quickly seeing what I had left to eat for that day.

What’s Changing

First, let’s take a look at my updated list for this year, and then we’ll talk about some of the specific changes…

View/Download Spreadsheet

New Numbers

I am bringing a bit fewer calories and have optimized the caloric density, so I’m saving a total of about 1.5lbs for 7 days of food.  The changes from last year to this year are…

  • Calories: Down to 2722, last year was 2915
  • Weight: Down to 1.45, last year was 1.65
  • Calories per Ounce: Up to 121, last year was 114

Modified Menu

Breakfast – Last year I only ate my planned breakfast of granola cereal on one or two of the days.  It was much quicker to grab a Probar Meal Bar for breakfast than it was to deal with adding (and sometimes heating) water to the cereal and dirtying a bowl and utensil. This year’s breakfast will be a Probar for sure; they are quick, convenient, filled with quality nutrients, and freaking delicious.  (My favorite flavor is Superfood Slam.)

Lunch – Almond butter, Wheat Thins, and Landjager = Perfection.  I’m not changing a thing here, except I am moving from Justin’s Nut Butter packets to PocketFuel Naturals Nut Butter packets.  They’re both quality products, but I like the larger serving and resealable packaging of PocketFuel Naturals better.

Dinner – I wouldn’t want to live off of Mountain House for much more than 7-10 days, but there is nothing better for a weeklong excursion into the backcountry.  I like to use the “ProPak” meals to save on space in my pack.  I’ll be moving from Snickers bars, which worked well last year, to Probar Base protien bars.  I love the Chocolate Mint flavor, and the extra protein helps get me after a the macronutrient levels that I’m after.  Not to mention, the Probar is made with higher quality and natural ingredients; Snickers, not so much.  I’ll also be adding some extra fat to my Mountain House meals by bringing along single-serving packets of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Snacks – The trail mix, jerky, and Honey Stinger Waffles are staying on the list from last year.  Last year’s Probar “snack” has become this year’s breakfast, and because I had more than enough calories last year, I’m not replacing it this year.  The Clif gel that I have listed with Breakfast will more often than not become a snack/energy shot for later in the day. The Nuun Hydration Tablets provide a light, refreshing flavor to filtered water and also help to replace electrolytes.

Let me know if you have any questions!

4 Requirements for Incredibly Accurate Broadhead Flight

Great broadhead flight is often attributed to the broadhead itself, but there’s a lot more to it than that. To learn what makes a broadhead fly incredibly accurate or frustratingly erratic, let’s examine the four main factors in broadhead flight.

If you have these four things – a good broadhead, the right arrows, a bow that’s been setup correctly, and good shooting practices – then your broadheads will be deadly accurate.

The Broadhead

There are dozens and dozens of broadheads on the market – some are bad, the majority are good, and there’s a few that are great. I’m not going to single out any particular model/style here; that’s not the point of this article. I’m also not going to dive into the basics, such as the fact that most mechanical broadheads tend to be more forgiving (not necessarily more accurate) than most fixed-blade broadheads.

I do, however, want to debunk the statement that a particular broadhead “flies like a field point”. This statement is sometimes inaccurate, and always incomplete. There are more factors to broadhead flight than the broadhead itself.

An Array of Fixed-Blade Broadheads

For example, consider three scenarios that will often yield different results. One, we could shoot the same broadhead out of the same bow, but use different arrows. Two, we could shoot the same broadhead and arrow combination out of different bows. And, three, we could take same broadhead, same arrow, and same bow, but have different people shoot it.

The downrange results most likely changed in these three scenarios, but did the broadhead itself change? Not one bit. In some cases the broadhead might have flown “like a field point”, but in other cases it wouldn’t have. In all cases, nothing about the broadhead changed.

On the flip side, I don’t want to completely rule out the idea that a broadhead does/doesn’t fly like a field point, because there are certain cases where broadheads won’t fly like a field point regardless of what arrow/bow/shooter is used. There are also broadheads which are inherently more accurate (it would be be better to say, more “consistent” and more “forgiving”) than others. This became very apparent in the numerous fixed-blade broadheads that I tested and reviewed.

So, yes, broadhead choice matters. If you’re checking or “tuning” your setup for broadheads, then your best bet is to shoot with several different models to see what results you get. Pick up some cheap (used even) broadheads that you keep just to test and compare with.

The Arrow

I can’t overstate how important arrow selection and arrow quality is for broadhead flight. Your arrows have to be spined correctly if you want great broadhead flight. Simple arrow selection charts are fine for field points, but when it comes to broadheads you need to consider all of the variables that affect arrow spine: the bow’s draw weight, the bow’s draw length, the arrow shaft length, the arrow component weights, the weight of the broadhead, and sometimes even the bow’s cam design/style. To learn more about all of that, check out this post…

Read: Understanding Arrow Spine

Once you know what arrow shaft you’ll be shooting, you need to make sure that it is built and assembled properly. Because broadheads are less forgiving than field points, little things like “squaring” the ends of the shaft becomes really important. You’ll also want to “spin test” your arrow assembled arrows to make sure there’s no sign of imbalance or wobble. To learn more about arrow shaft prep and assembly, check out this post…

Finally, in terms of arrows, let’s talk about fletching choice. In general, the greater the surface area of a broadhead, the more surface area you’ll need for fletching. So if you’re shooting mechanical broadheads with a really small profile, then you can get away with a smaller vane, too. But if you’re shooting a larger fixed-blade, then you might need a bigger vane in the rear to help with steering/correction.

Then there are the factors of installing the vane straight, with an offset, with a helical, or some sort of combination. (The greater the offset or helical, the greater the drag of the arrow, and the quicker the arrow will stabilize.)

Increased drag is a good thing for most “hunting distances”, but can have negative effects for shooting broadheads at longer ranges.  Drag slows an arrow which causes it to lose down-range momentum and makes it less resistance to outside forces, like wind.  That’s why, for example, if you’re interested in long-range accuracy, then you want to get away with as small of a vane as you possibly can.

You have to balance all of these variables, and I can’t address every combination of broadhead, vanes/fletching/feathers, and straight/offset/helical, (not to mention things like 3-fletch vs. 4-fletch), but I will say this: I have found Norway’s 3″ Fusion vanes with a slight offset and helical to be one of the most consistent and versatile setups that I’ve tested. It’s fun to play with other choices/configurations, but force me to choose one setup for anything and everything, and it’s going to be 3″ Fusions.

At Full-Draw With Broadhead

The Bow

We are finally to the section that most guys jump to first, and that’s bow setup. Before you ever attempt to broadhead tune, or check the accuracy of your broadhead flight, it’s important that you know the bow has been setup and tuned properly.

Make sure that your cams are “timed” or in sync with one another. To learn how you can check this at home, have a look at this…

Another critical aspect of bow setup for broadhead flight is your arrow rest. Your centershot and rest/nock height must be correct to begin with. Here’s how you can make sure that’s the case…

To confirm your arrow selection and arrow rest settings, its a good idea to do some “diagnostic shooting”. The two primary methods are paper tuning and walkback tuning. Here’s how you do each one…

We might need to make some adjustments from there, but we’ll cover that in our next post, which will be a step-by-step tutorial on the process broadhead testing and tuning.

The Shooter

Finally, let’s talk about you.

Because broadheads are inherently less-forgiving, flaws in your shooting form and technique are magnified. The most common shooter errors that cause problems with broadhead accuracy are grip, anchor point, and form/draw-length.

Yes, it’s true – maybe the problem with shooting broadheads is you.

There are some universal principles for “proper” grip (such as keeping loose pressure, letting the bow “cradle” in between your thumb/forefinger, etc.), and there are variables that vary from person-to-person, or bow-to-bow (such as using low/med/high grip, amounts of side pressure, etc).  Make sure your grip isn’t inducing any sort of torque into the bow at full-draw, and make sure you are not “grabbing” your bow’s grip upon release.

In terms of anchor points, you need to make sure that you have multiple anchor points that are identifiable, repeatable, and comfortable. Here’s how to make that happen…

Anchor Point Examples

Last in this article, but certainly not the last thing to be considered, is your shooting form. Things like feet placement and head position matter for all shooting, and weaknesses in form become even more apparent when shooting less-forgiving broadheads. The most common form flaws are derrived from incorrect draw lengths. Here are some resources to help you identify and correct form issues, and ensure that your draw length is set correctly…

Time to Broadhead Tune (Maybe)

Whew, that’s a lot of info – and we didn’t even talk about the actual process of tuning for broadheads yet! But here’s the thing, if you follow this advice, then you probably won’t need to “broadhead tune”. That’s what I was getting at when I said that Broadhead Tuning Is A Waste Of Time.  This information may not be a “quick cure” if you’re struggling to get good broadhead flight right before season, but if you consider these factors going forward you will dramatically lessen the time that you spend fiddling with things to get good broadhead flight.

If your broadheads are close to where they need to be, but not flying with your field points exactly, then we can make some adjustments and do some “tuning”. That’ll be what we cover next…

Broadhead Tuning Is A Waste Of Time

Broadhead tuning can be a frustrating process – especially if you shoot fixed-blade broadheads, as I do. I get a lot of questions about broadhead tuning and it’s time that I “come clean” and answer all of these questions publicly.

The fact is, I don’t broadhead tune…

…and the reason is simple: I don’t have to.

I have struggled, in the past, to get broadheads and field-points to fly together. But what I learned is that if you do things right before you shoot your broadheads, then chances are you won’t need to change much – if anything – to have great broadhead flight.

Case in point, last night I shot broadheads out this year’s hunting bow for the first time. (It’s awful late to start shooting broadheads, I know!) Here’s what happened…

First, I started by shooting a Solid Broadhead from 20 yards, just to see if things were close. Here’s the result…

First Shot with Solid Broadhead

Next, I decided to step back further and shoot one more Solid, followed by a field point…

First Shot with Solid Broadhead & Field Point

I figured I would try a mechanical, too, so I sent a Trophy Taker Ulmer Edge downrange…

First Shot with Ulmer Edge

This is why I don’t “broadhead tune”.

So what’s the secret? How do you get results like this without broadhead tuning?

I’ll cover what I believe are the most important aspects to good broadhead flight in a soon-coming post, in which I will also address what to do if your broadheads and field-points aren’t flying together when you start shooting them side-by-side.

If there’s anything specific that you want me to address in that article, please leave a comment below or shoot me a message.

Digging Deep

Three months ago the first brick fell. Three days later the entire building was nothing more than a pile of rubble. The seemingly impenetrable shell of brick and mortar was reinforced by inner skeleton of steel; it stood secure through many storms over nearly 30 years, but it was no match for a few men with machines.

As soon as the ground was clear, a new work began. The future for this chunk of dirt promises to bring bigger and better things, but the progress is hardly visible.

Construction Site

It took 3 days to destroy the old, but now – more than 3 months later – the signs of new life are remarkably unimpressive. A few beams protrude from the surface, but that’s it.

You can’t see the much of the work that’s been happening over recent months, but it doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been important developments. Although it doesn’t look like much, the work that’s been done up until this point is the most important work that will be done on the entire project.

Digging deep. Spreading footing. Securing holds. Stabilizing foundations. That’s important stuff.

In another year this lot of dirt will hold six-levels of concrete, glass, and steel. The grand opening ceremony will celebrate this building’s state-of-the-art technology and styled furnishings; every detail – inside and out – will be meticulously manicured. The three months that was spent digging in dirt to hold this all together will be forgotten.

Our lives are a lot like this building.

We want progress. We want results. We want the latest and greatest. We want to be attractive. We want to be appreciated. We want our grand opening ceremony, our ribbon cutting, our celebration of how great we are.

What we don’t want to do is go beneath the surface of our lives. We don’t want to do the painful work of excavating what needs to be removed. We don’t want to dig in the mess until it hurts. We don’t want to be patient and lay a solid foundation.

But all of this must be done before anything great can be built. If you skip the pain, you’re not building anything other than a facade that’s soon to fall.

Bow Basics: Peep Sights – Use, Sizing, and Selection

The peep sight is a simple part of a bow setup, but its importance is often overlooked.  The purpose of a peep sight is to properly align the bow’s front sight, in the same way that a rear sight is used to align the front sight-post on a rifle.  Without peep alignment, the front sight on a bow isn’t guaranteed to be accurate.

For example, a shooter may place the bow’s sight pin on the bullseye of a target, but the rear of the bow may be low, causing the alignment to be off and the arrow to miss high.  When the peep sight is used to align the front sight on a bow, the shooter is ensuring that their alignment is correct, and that consistency can be achieved – shot after shot.

Interchangeable Aperture Peep Sight Kit from ClearShot Archery

Types of Peep Sights

Peep sights come in various sizes, and are measured by the peep’s internal diameter.  From 1/32” on the small end, to 5/16″ on the large end – various sizes are offered to meet user preferences, and to match different diameter front sight housings.  The most common peep sights have a fixed internal diameter, but there are some new designs on that market that allow the user to adjust the peep’s inner diameter with interchangeable inserts.  Smaller peeps are more precise and are often used by target archers, whereas larger peep sights are typically used by hunters that are looking for more field of view and better visibility in low-light conditions.

Other variations in peep sight designs include tubed and tubeless varieties.  Peep sights with tubes have been used to ensure that the peep sight rotated to the correct position every time when the bow was drawn back.  This consistency in rotation is achieved at full draw because tension on the peep’s tube would “pull” the peep into position.  However, as bow string materials have become stronger and more stable, peep sights have become less susceptible to variances in rotation and the need for added tension has diminished – so tubeless peep sights have become increasingly popular.

How to Use a Peep Sight

There are two primary techniques that are used to align a peep sight with a bow’s front sight.  The first method is to center the bow’s sight pin in the center of the peep sight (below, right).  In this case, a shooter with a multiple-pin sight would center their 20, 30, or 40-yard pin in the center of the peep sight, depending on which sight pin they were using.

Peep Alignment with Sight Housing

The second method (above, left) is to align the bow’s entire sight housing (the outer “ring” of the sight) within the peep sight’s field of view, regardless of which sight pin the shooter may be using.  This technique works especially well when the peep sight is selected to match the size of the sight housing.  Keep in mind that there is no exact formula for determining a peep size for a given sight housing size because the geometry of the shooter’s anchor point, draw length, and other factors will determine the distance between the peep sight and the bow sight’s housing.

How to Select a Peep Sight

The main consideration to make when choosing a peep sight is which size you need.  You could take a guess, or go through the painful process of installing and trying different sizes, but my preferred method has become to use an adjustable peep sight.  Because I like my bow sight’s ring to line-up perfectly within the peep’s field of view, an adjustable peep is incredibly helpful.

The other advantage of an adjustable peep is that I can use it with different bow sights.  For example, sometimes I shoot my with one bow sight for target/3D, and then switch to another sight for hunting season.  An adjustable peep allows me to switch back-and-forth between these different-sized sights simply adjust the aperture of the peep to match the sight, instead of removing and installing a new peep altogether.

Recently I have been using the IA (Interchangeable Aperture) model peep sight from ClearShot Archery.  This kit (pictured above) includes a 5/6” housing, and different inserts that can be installed into the housing to make your peep aperture become 7/32″, 3/16″, or 1/8″.  They’re built right here in the US, precision CNC-machined, and come in different colors to help with quick visual recognition.