Flexible Hunting
by Patrick Smith

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I like things flexible. Versatile. Like my choice of rifles: keep them light and give them enough caliber to handle any situation you might encounter in the area you're in. And so on, with all one's hunting gear.


When I started developing my biggest hunting pack system, what is now called the Long Hunter, the same multifunctional, versatile thinking was put to work. So perhaps a discussion of the options you have with the Long Hunter whilst afield is in order.

Option 1 - Full pack. Obviously, you would be using the full pack while moving camp. But I'm speaking here of day hunting out of camp, but with the whole pack - bag compressed down (it will compress quite small if you use all six compression straps). The advantage gained by day hunting with the complete pack can be significant. Should you connect with a critter you can immediately begin hauling both quarters (assuming you have a Cargo Chair) and serious quantities of organ and boned meat. Being an internal frame set-up, the compressed pack is quite small and unobtrusive. You give up virtually no stealthiness.

Option 2 - Freighter setup. Slide the internal frame out of the pack bag, attach the bag's top pocket and the Cargo Chair to the now stand-alone frame and head out. The top pocket provides 1000c.i. of storage for rain gear, tools, first aid stuff, food, etc. In this mode you are always ready for serious quarter-hauling.

Option 3 - Lumbar pack. The Long Hunter's top pocket converts to a long gun carrying lumbar pack. This is the lightest, freest way to go. If you succeed with your quarry, you simply return to camp for the ingredients to start hauling, either freighter mode or full pack.

Options are great, and the Long Hunter system certainly has plenty. I used all three last season.

I used the complete pack in northern Labrador on a Caribou hunt. Two quarters went onto the Cargo Chair on the back of the pack, and the heart, liver, back straps' tenderloins and boned-out neck meat went inside the pack bag.

Yes, that was a pretty hefty load - about 140 lbs. A companion toted the other two quarters on his Long Hunter and we carried out this very large Caribou in one trip.

On my first elk hunt last season, I of course packed in beyond the motorized crowd, as I always do, and hunted out of my tipi camp. By the fourth or fifth day, I was getting a little antsy to move camp over the ridge to some new country. But I figured I'd investigate first. So I set myself up with the Lumbar Pack option and scouted over into the next drainage real fast to check things out. As I entered a large meadow over there a young cow raised her head from feeding, allowing me to spot her through the grass atop a slight rise between her and myself. My rifle sprang from the Gun Bearer as I stepped to the right for a clear angle through the grass, found its way to my shoulder, and WHAACK! My freezer was stocked with succulent cow. All I had to do was clean her and ramble back for the rest of my Long Hunter.

My second elk last season was also taken on a reconnoiter from base camp. I decided to check out this favored area on about the fourth day. It was a considerable distance and I almost moved camp. Instead, I decided to take the whole pack and check out the spot ready for business. And, sure enough, elk #2 was bagged by mid-morning with my trusty little.308. I boned the entire elk and loaded up the main bag of my Long Hunter. I was going to try a single haul!

Backing into the harness with the pack sitting on the ground, I tightened everything up and managed (barely) to assume a hands and knee position. But couldn't stand up! So I literally crawled to a spruce tree where I used its lower branches to gradually get upright. And set off for camp.

I made it about a mile. At the first ridge I struggled maybe 1/3 the way up, and decided I had determined my limits as a meat hauler. Fortunately, the Long Hunter suspension system didn't hurt me, I simply didn't have the will power to trek several more miles (with plenty of it uphill) with what I estimate was 180 lbs. So I cached half the load and made two trips from that point back to camp.

In '97 Craig Boddington had carried 165 lbs. of wild boar that I had shot in an effort to break his Long Hunter (which he didn't accomplish; in fact, he is still using that Long Hunter). As far as I know his was the previous weight record for meat hauling. Well now we know that a Long Hunter will successfully haul 180 lbs. but that I won't anymore!

These illustrations from last season cover Options 1 and 2, full pack and converting the Top Pocket into Lumbar Pack mode. But, believe me, I've used the Freighter mode plenty as well. I suppose the most photographic
example of this mode is Chad McMurray's charming picture of a huge propane tank lashed to his frame, which is elsewhere on this website.

Versatility, it's a concept that never goes out of style.

Patrick Smith
From home in Golden, Colorado

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