Your summer scouting trips are ideal opportunities to give back to the lands that serve your wild needs. Without the pressure to punch a tag or fill a freezer, these forays through your hunting land also offer the freedom to explore other realms of outdoor fun. You may find, as this author did, that hunting for trash as you search for trophies is an entertaining and rewarding way to hone your game for the upcoming season.
Backcountry hunting may be the only outdoor activity where you hope your pack gets heavier as the trip progresses. When we take a weapon for a walk through the wilderness, we hope to return to camp with heaps of meat from one of North America’s largest beasts strapped to our back. Standard hiking trips do not prepare you for a burgeoning backpack. Those Patagonia-clad trekkers over on the Appalachian Trail can (pretty much) calculate their exact pack weight for each day of their sabbatical — it gets lighter by about a pound of granola per day. Spending a day bushwacking and collecting as much trash as humanly possible can better simulate the demands of a hunting excursion.
Rip a half-buried tire out of the ground or riverbed.
Strap that tire to your back and pack it to the dump. Dozens of hunters have walked by it over the last several decades, but you’re the only one tough enough and who cares enough about your hunting land to say, “If God didn’t put it there, it doesn’t belong there.”
In addition to accommodating the weight of a big, awkward garbage pack, you’ll also be challenging your body with the (potentially comical) series of squats, reaches, crawls and shimmies needed to wrangle up all those rogue trash items from their coy hiding spots amongst the boulder and bramble patches. Be assured, you will exercise in ways that you wouldn’t if you just kept pounding your feet straight down the AT, CDT or PCT (or other well-traversed “T” (trail)). When you think you’re at maximum capacity, you’ll discover more trash and deploy “octopus arms,” “monkey toes,” “kangaroo pouches,” “buffalo humps” and “banana phalanges” to keep it all contained and pack more of it home. More importantly, I’m confident that your refuse removal experiences will help you discover a new connection with nature.
As you become more adept at trash hunting, you might develop a love for the challenge of eliminating all the man-made items from your hunting areas. In time, you may also take as much pride in spotting a beer bottle from across the canyon on your summer scouting trips as you will in spotting a bedded buck there during your fall hunts.
On your first summer scouting trip, strive just to notice the garbage around you. Prioritize your scouting, but be aware of mankind’s impact on the land you’re enjoying.
Then, on your second trip, bring one garbage bag with you and fill it as you scout. Remember, there’s no pressure to put meat on the table, so relax, have fun and treat the experience as hunting practice. Prepare your eyes for hunting game by honing them to notice the little things they used to skim over. Finding that gleam of light reflecting off some shiny foil will help train them to find the sheen of an antler tip later in the year. If you belly crawl through the briar patch to collect that item, you’ll be more prepared to slither into archery range and harvest that bedded buck. Trust me, you can’t over-practice belly crawling. At the end of the weekend, when you’re packing a full bag of trash and your spike camp back to the truck, you’ll feel like you’re really preparing to pack out that trophy billy/bull/buck! Hell, you can even practice taking grip’n grins.
Perhaps, more than any other hunting training program, trash-collecting will leave your body feeling stronger, your brain powers feeling sharper, and your soul feeling… well… more soulful. To maximize your return on investment, spend a little bit of time picking and a little bit of time compounding your impact by encouraging others to join the quest — you’ll have done the earth an immeasurable service of monumental importance! Then, be aware of how the earth expresses its gratitude.
Hopefully, it is revealed in the form of a punched tag and healthier you.