Drop-Camp style hunting is becoming more and more popular and is an excellent choice for the do-it-yourself type hunter. Drop-Hunts can be of many varieties and possible options include hunts where the hunter is dropped off via bush plane, horseback, float trip and even by hiking into a destination and pitching camp. While drop-hunts certainly provide access to land, they often do not include a guide to cater to hunters’ needs. You are on your own once the transportation leaves and everything is up to you. Deciding which animal to shoot, what tactics to use, cleaning, cooking, caping, fleshing, all are responsibilities of the hunters. DIY drop-hunts on public land are incredibly inexpensive for obvious reasons; however, outfitter sponsored drop hunts also are pretty affordable. The common theme here is affordability, perhaps the biggest advantage for hardworking folks looking for true hunting adventures.
Planning for a drop-hunt takes time. Every detail is the responsibility of the hunter and care must be taken to make sure the correct license and tags are purchased, permits have been acquired and the knowledge of how to take care of animals once harvested is an absolute must. The harvested meat and trophy require special preparation, handling and know-how.
Preparation for a recent drop-hunt into Alaska’s Brooks Range began with planning over a year prior to our departure. Once planning began, we gradually began acquiring gear and researching the area, learning all we could about what to expect from remote north-central Alaska at that time of year.
Several factors come into play when planning what to pack for a drop-style hunt. Time of year, length of stay, location of the hunt, game being pursued and the number of people are just of few of the considerations that must be accounted for when planning what to pack for an extended drop style hunt. Remember, you are on your own. All gear, food, etc. must be taken by you.
There are occasions an outfitter may provide tents and other gear for drop-hunts. This is one of the details that need to be figured out at the time of booking. Again, every detail is the responsibility of the hunter. Check your gear, as well as the gear of other hunters in your group; they should do the same for you. Hunting trips like this are generally very remote, so a quick trip to the store to grab something you forgot is often out of the question.
Walk on the rocks I’ve stumbled on. To better help you prepare for your own drop-hunt adventure, I have compiled a gear list based on the research and personal experiences of myself and other drop-hunters in my parties.
- First aid kit (Band-Aids, tape, gauze, Tylenol, Benadryl, Neosporin, Moleskin, etc.)
- Water purification tablets or filter system
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Knife with sharpener (the knives with replaceable blades are great for caping and fleshing)
- Lightweight cook set, cooking stove, fuel and utensils
- Water bottle (Nalgene is great. I recommend at least two bottles to carry with you.)
- Collapsible water storage container for camp (1 or 2 gallon—saves you trips to the fill bottles)
- Rope and/or Paracord (Paracord is versatile and can be used for all kinds of things in camp)
- Tent (Get at least one size bigger than the number of people, i.e.: 3-man tent for 2 hunters. This gives you extra room for gear. A three-season tent with good rain fly and vestibules is best. Taking a tarp or footprint for your tent is also a good idea.)
- Sleeping bag for unpredictable cold weather (You can always sleep outside of the bag if it gets warm. I’d recommend a bag rated for 0 – 15 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Lightweight sleeping pad or air mattress
- Waterproof matches, lighter or magnesium striker
- Fire starter (commercial items are available or you can make your own)
- Toilet paper
- Camera and or video camera with extra batteries
- Insect repellent or ThermaCELL
- Game bag
- Trash bags (contractor type is preferred)
- Fishing supplies
- Hand/dish soap
- Packs (day pack and frame pack)
- Compass, maps and GPS unit
- Flagging tape to mark trails and camp
- Rifle/bow with ammunition and/or arrows
- Spotting scope, binoculars, riflescope—we employ Sightmark Pinnacle and Latitude optics.
- Instant hot cereal
- Mountain House or other freeze-dried food
- Instant coffee, hot chocolate
- Trail snacks (jerky, dried fruit, Granola)
- Foil for cooking fish or other game
- Salt/pepper, seasoning and citric acid for meat care
- Rain gear (In Alaska, you get what you pay for!)
- Base layer and underwear
- Hunting pants 2 pairs (Wool or synthetic is better than cotton. Wool is warm and is naturally anti-microbial. Synthetic is lighter and dries faster.)
- Socks 4 pair
- Gloves 2 pair (One lightweight and one heavy)
- Hats (beanie or warm hat and baseball style cap)
- Jacket and or vest or parka (Plan for the worst. It is possible to have temperatures in the 20’s in Alaska in August.)
- Hunting shirts, multiple (Wool or synthetic is better than cotton.)
This is a condensed list of the essential gear you need to have with you on a drop-style hunt. While some gear may or may not be needed based on the nature and length of your drop hunt, as well as environmental factors, each item should be carefully considered. Of course, don’t be afraid to add items to this list based on your own experiences but always consider what is practical in terms of weight, how your gear is getting to your drop-site and other factors; as examples, we carried pistols for bear protection as well as video equipment to film the hunt. Obviously, our packing list was modified to accommodate for those factors.
When participating in a drop-camp type hunt, multiple small bags are often better to pack than one or two large bags. This makes loading them into the plane or on horseback much easier. Many of the hard-sided gun and bow cases will not fit into the bush planes. Bring soft-sided cases along with you and transfer bows or firearms into the those prior to departing to your hunting location.
Have you ever been on a drop-style hunt? Tell us about it in the comment section.
Brian is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but has spent most of his life in the Oklahoma City area. He achieved a life-long goal of becoming a firefighter in 2003 and is now a part of the Oklahoma City Fire Department as a Lieutenant. His love for the outdoors, hunting and fishing began at a very young age thanks to a family who shared that same interest. He grew up with a fishing pole in hand and began hunting with his dad around the age of 6. At the age of 14, he received his first hunting bow for Christmas and his love for bowhunting was born. He has been bowhunting for over 25 years and has had the privilege of harvesting many animals. While he spends most of his time hunting and fishing, reloading also ranks high on his list of hobbies. He is married to a very understanding wife and enjoys every minute they spend together.