What is a Drop Camp Hunt?

Drop-camp hunting requires hunters to pack in everything they will need and get dropped off by boat, bush plane or horseback.
Drop-camp hunting offers a true hunting adventure. Photo by Brian Magee.

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.

If you are drop-camp hunting, you must spend time doing some detailed planning. You will have to take everything with you.
There is no running into “town” if you forget something when your drop-camp hunting. Photo by Brian Magee.

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.

You are on your own after the bush plane drops you off at your drop-camp hunt
On a drop-camp hunt, you are on your own once the transport leaves. Photo by Brian Magee.

GENERAL GEAR:

  • 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

Click here to purchase drop-camp hunting general gear.

Your drop-camp hunt plans must include how to properly take care of the meat.
You must include plans on preparing and storing the meat. Photo by Brian Magee.

HUNTING GEAR

  • 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
  • Tags/licenses
  • Spotting scope, binoculars, riflescope—we employ Sightmark Pinnacle and Latitude optics.

FOOD

  • 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

CLOTHING

  • 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.

The rewards of a drop-camp hunt are priceless like this Alaskan caribou.
The rewards of a drop-camp hunt are priceless. Photo by Brian Magee.

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.

Click here to read more about Brian’s epic Alaskan hunt.

Have you ever been on a drop-style hunt? Tell us about it in the comment section.

About Brian

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.

Successfully Hunting Spring Turkey in Oklahoma

Written by Brian Magee, Sightmark and Pulsar Pro Staff member.

Every year in late winter, as cabin fever begins to set in, we start to think about spring turkey season. As Mother Nature allows, we gradually begin to disc plots, frost-seed our clover and chicory and use prescribed fire on our native warm season grasses. Fire, in addition to management practices such as food plots, timber management and predator control, can dramatically increase turkey activity on your property. Fire suppresses unwanted plants and weeds, increases the palatability by encouraging new tender growth and improves wildlife habitat. In early spring, turkeys find these areas to be a great source of food. While predators such as coyotes and bobcats are much easier to avoid in freshly burned warm season grasses, mature toms find these burns irresistible—they are incredible places to seek out hens and put on a show, fans out, in full strut.

Mature tom turkey in the distance in the woods
A mature tom seeks out a hen.

A few days into the Oklahoma spring turkey season, we found ourselves set up on an area we had burned several weeks prior. While driving into the property, we located a big tom strutting in the middle of the burn. He had a single hen with him but she was giving him the cold shoulder as she fed along the edge of a creek. Several fingers of mature oaks separated us from the birds and we used them to our advantage as we cut the distance using woodlots for cover. A small pond at the edge of the woods meant the end of the road for us. We had cut the distance as much as possible and now only a few hundred yards separated us from where we had seen the strutting tom just 30 minutes earlier.

turkey spurs
The tom’s spurs.

I crawled across the burned grasses to get the decoys in place—hen and jake decoys were now easily visible from nearly every direction. As I set up, questions began to flood my head. Is the tom still in this area?  Will he hear my calling in the wind? Which way will he come from? We settled into a large clump of partially burned cedars and began to call.  I was slightly forward of my buddy, Chris Walls, who had volunteered to run the camera that day. Several minutes went by with no movement and no response from the tom we had seen earlier.  After nearly 30 minutes of periodic calling, I heard a faint gobble in the distance. Chris and I shared a quick glance to confirm that we had both heard what we thought we had heard. The tom was a long way away and had quite a distance to cover. Yet, still he had answered my call and that alone boosted our spirits considerably.

After that first gobble, things happened fast. As I called, the tom would immediately respond and occasionally cut me off. All the while, we could tell he was getting close with each subsequent gobble. The bird had committed and, within just a few minutes, had closed the distance by several hundred yards. I had to shift positions slightly. The tom decided he was coming right over the top of the pond dam to look for the hen that was making all of that sweet racket.

I heard him before I saw him. Although the tom neared, he remained hidden—the unmistakable sound of drumming just over the lip of the pond dam meant that he was close…real close!

View through the Sightmark Wolverine red dot.
Scoping out that tom from the Sightmark Wolverine!

Finally, the glimpse of a patriotic red, white and blue head over the edge of the pond damn made my heart race even faster! One last gobble and the body language of the old tom completely changed. He had seen the decoys! The tom was now focused on fighting his competition.  He cruised into the decoys at a brisk pace, dragging his wing tips and puffing out his chest. He passed by the Avian hen decoy without a second look and immediately began to beat up on the poor jake with well-placed wings and spurs!

As he continued, I stared intently, directly down my shotgun barrel at the unsuspecting gobbler. The Sightmark Wolverine’s bright red-dot reticle followed the tom’s head as he danced around the jake. Chris whispered the confirmation I needed that he was on the bird and rolling. While Chris was ready, I was not. I needed to let him clear the decoy just a bit to avoid putting pellets in my plastic prizefighter!

The click of the safety and a slight squeeze of the trigger left the tom laying on the ground between the decoys. A quick high-five with my cameraman and I ran out to gather what turned out to be another incredible bird off one of our Oklahoma properties. Property management and the right equipment played a huge role once again in the form of another successful turkey hunt. They don’t always end with smiles and high-fives but they do always end in an education. Make an effort to learn something every time you are out in the woods or on the water and it is sure to make you more successful in the future.

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About Brian

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.

Do you have a successful spring turkey hunt story? Share it in the comment section.

Alaska Caribou—The Hunt of a Lifetime

Written by Brian Magee, Sightmark and Pulsar Pro Staff member.

In 2015, Pulsar and Sightmark Pro Staffer Brian Magee and his friend and business partner Chris Walls from Fired Up Outdoors went on a drop-style hunt of a lifetime near Deadhorse, Alaska— an unincorporated community in North Slope Borough, 495 miles from Fairbanks. Here is Brian’s story.

We spent a great deal of time planning and preparing for our Alaska Caribou hunt! Well over a year in the making, we headed to Alaska to hunt Caribou north of the Arctic Circle. We chose to do a drop style-hunt—no guides, no knowledge of what to expect and no experience on the tundra.  It was sure to be an adventure and a learning experience.

We packed and repacked everything we would need for the trip—checking our gear and then checking it again. To keep weight down, we chose to take only one rifle with us. We headed to the range the day before our departure to double check the accuracy and zero.  Everything was in order and our excitement and anxiety were high.

A snowy, long, lonely stretch of the isolated road Dalton Highway in Alaska.
The Dalton Highway is one of the most isolated roads in the United States. It ends at Deadhorse, Alaska.

We arrived in Fairbanks without incident.  Baggage and weapons were accounted for—our first obstacle overcome! We looked forward to the long but scenic drive along the Dalton Highway to our destination near Deadhorse, Alaska. The drive was amazing as we crossed numerous types of terrain and habitat. The Brooks Range was absolutely breathtaking. No picture taken could ever do this place justice.

Stopping at several river and creek crossings to stretch our legs, we caught grayling and saw bear and moose tracks in the mud. I was having the time of my life and we were still making the journey north. Upon arriving at the Happy Valley airstrip, we met with our pilots and began condensing gear to fit in the small compartments of our bush planes.  In Alaska, you are not allowed to fly and hunt on the same day, so we were anxious to get into camp, set up and begin to glass and scout our area for caribou. As always anytime we travel, double checking the rifle and bows is a top priority. There was a target and bench set up next to the airstrip for exactly that.  Despite the best efforts of the commercial airlines, the .270 WSM was exactly as we had left it in Oklahoma!

Day 1

After a quick but very beautiful flight in the bush planes, we landed on a small gravel bar in the middle of a river. During the flight, I couldn’t help but notice several caribou and even a grizzly in the immediate area.  We thanked our pilots and began to set up camp. The area we were in seemed to be perfect. Several peaks with large bowls fed down into the river bottom where we had set up camp. Our optics would be able to do a good deal of work right from where we were. Tents went up, water was gathered, and the spotting scopes came out. Several small groups of cows and calves worked their way through the area that afternoon and anticipation was high for the next morning.

Day 2

We woke to heavy fog and less than desirable conditions. Visibility was reduced to the first few hundred yards from our tents. Mountain House biscuits and gravy and several cups of instant coffee broke the chill in the air and really tasted good. Despite the fog and drizzle, spirits were high, and we were just enjoying the entire experience.

Days 3-5

Days passed, and we experienced every possible weather condition from fog and drizzle to snow and even had a bright sunny day mixed in.

Day 6

Day six started out pretty much like most of the others, fog and light drizzle. However, the fog quickly lifted, and we were excited to see several bulls feeding in the bowl about two miles from camp. There were several good bulls in the group and we decided to attempt a stalk on the group in hopes of getting within range of one particular bull. The tundra is tough walking, especially uphill! The bulls casually fed across the tundra and it seemed like we needed to jog just to keep up with them. We worked a small drain that was bordered by blueberries on both sides and eventually found ourselves within rifle range of the group. I was running the camera and allowed my friend Chris the opportunity to put the .270 WSM to work. The wind was right, the distance was right and there was a bull in the group that Chris really liked.

Chris worked to a position where he could clear some of the leaves and limbs from the blueberry bushes and eventually settle on a tundra hummock that offered a good rest. He pressed the stock of the .270 WSM down into the tundra to give himself a solid rest and eased his cheek into position. He went over all the little details of the bull aloud: “good tops, good mass, big shovel.” The next question was, “Are you on him?” I quickly replied “yes,” and the deafening muzzle blast almost caught me off guard.

A hunter with his dead caribou in Alaska
Chris Walls and his epic caribou.

We watched as the giant bull only took a few steps and then fell over dead. We were celebrating and swapping high-fives in some of the most beautiful country we have ever set foot. Two point-of-view cameras captured Chris getting settled as well as the look right down the barrel. The big bull lay motionless in the viewfinder of the main camera.  What an amazing hunt in some amazing country! I recommend trying a drop hunt on the North Slope of the Brooks Range if you love adventure and beautiful scenery.

What is your most memorable hunt? Share it with us 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 with a bow. 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.

 

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