I’ll Take the Low Road: Canoe Hunting:

posted in: Backpacking, Canoeing, Hiking, Hunting | 0

A canoe (or better yet, a pack raft) can get you to many spots which would be almost impossible with a 4WD or just on foot (even just across a swollen river, or much further along a lake), and it can get you (and your quarry) out again with a minimum of effort. See: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/sambar-stalking-101/ Victoria possesses a wonderful network of navigable rivers/lakes often linked to walking tracks or off-road vehicular tracks which can provide an unsurpassed wilderness experience. See: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/gippsland-pack-rafting-routes/

What is Pack rafting?: I just realised that many readers may not realise what pack rafting is, so I’ll try to explain. A number of folk eg Alpacka: http://www.alpackaraft.com/ & Klymit http://www.klymit.com/litewater-dinghy.html have developed these ultralight but tough (= Alpacka ie suitable Grade 3 rapids – and above!) inflatable rafts/canoes which weigh approx. 2 kg (4lb) – or less, Klymit < 1kg. Coupled with a paddle of 800 grams (or less) and a life vest of 500 grams (or less), you can stow this boat and what you need to ‘drive’ it safely in your hiking/hunting/fishing backpack (which should itself weigh 500 grams or less empty! See: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/backpacking-gear-advice/ & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/ultralight-pack/ & http://www.theultralighthiker.com/ultralight-hunting-daypack-update/)


My Fiord Explorer descending the ‘Boulder Rapid’ (Grade 3) on the Thomson River.

You will need a reasonable waterproof liner, and I would recommend a second one inside the first to contain your sleeping bag and change of clothes. Throw in all your other ultralight hiking gear (and maybe some fishing gear) you’ll be going where they’re biting obviously – and maybe a packable rifle, and you are good to go for quite a different adventure. I use a (Browning) BLR ‘Lightning’ .308 myself in ‘take-down’ form, (meaning it ‘breaks’ into two and can be stowed inside the waterproof pack liner) in my hunting pack. This is great for keeping the rifle clean and dry. You may need a waterproof gun bag eg http://www.theultralighthiker.com/aloksak/. I also carry it stowed like this in my pack on walks out when carrying a heavy load. I have two shortened hiking poles (@100 grams ea – they also serve as my tent poles, selfie stick, tripod, fishing rod, etc) which help enormously with a ‘carry out’ – at least at my age <70! They transfer around 40% of the effort from your legs to your upper body, and mean that you can maintain your balance with ease.

Now you can walk and paddle to some really inaccessible spots. These are the places where folks with only 4WDs or motorbikes can’t get. Often they can’t get to them without several days’ walk (both in and out – or not at all), whereas you will be getting in and out relatively easily. It might be that you will also want to combine canoe hunting with a motorcycle carrier so that you can ‘do’ one long section of a river and recover your vehicle when you finish. Something like this: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/motorbike-hitch-carrier/ but there are many potential ‘loops’ as well where all you will need is your canoe and your feet. A mountain bike could be used instead, and is much lighter and cheaper than a motorbike

Of course I am assuming you already have a fair degree of canoeing skill and experience. If you do not, I suggest you get it before heading off into the bush on your own – or with a friend. The three golden rules used to be: don’t get side on (particularly to a log), lean into rocks (this rule is reversed with inflatables – as you will quickly find out – splash!), stay on the inside of bends (avoid overhangs and logs). If there is likely to be a ‘stopper’ (eg a waterfall), or just anything you are unsure of, get out and walk. This is one of the beauties of pack rafts; they are so light and portable. An older style Canadian canoe could easily weigh 35+ kg. Then you maybe put in it 50+kg of gear. Portaging that becomes a serious problem sometimes. On the trip in you will have perhaps 15 kg including the pack raft and gun! You may have considerably more on the way out! Mind you, we now have these: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/ultralight-canadian-canoe/

The ‘rule’ about side on/logs etc is because if your canoe fills with water with you still in it (or you stuck downstream of it), the water can easily weigh half a tonne – or more! You will not be able to lift yourself out of it, or it off you – and you will drown, as so many have! If you must cross a lake, go all the way round within 20 metres of shore. Lakes frequently have large standing waves which form suddenly and can tip you out. Anyway, you might find yourself in the lake water far from shore for one reason or another. It may be too far to swim, or as is often the case lake water is frequently just above zero (from shading, snow melt etc) just a few inches below the surface. Many folks have died of hypothermia before they could swim to shore, only 100 metres or so! ‘You live and learn, or you don’t live long’! Lazarus Long, ‘Time Enough for Love’, Robert Heinlein.

One of the beauties of raft hunting is that you can move your camp easily, so that you can check out much more territory. Access to cool water also makes keeping meat fresh (and clean) easier. You can easily take more food with you as it won’t be so much work carrying it, and you can catch some fresh fish/crays to supplement your diet.

Another advantage is that you can set up semi-permanent camps if you want. It is no big deal to take a canoe drum in (each) when you go, and to leave it there – so that some useful equipment is hidden away against future use. There is little risk that nefarious folk will find or interfere with it. I find the further away from people you get, the more civilised it is. You might want a larger shelter, a saw, axe, some comfier folding furniture, some emergency supplies – & booze!, a quantity of salt, a hammock or two, dynamo radio, etc, etc. A good idea might be to write your contact details inside the drum lid so that if anyone should need to use them in an emergency they can contact you to arrange their replacement.

Summer canoeing with the family fits well with being a winter deer hunter, as it gives you a chance to check out some good spots, see what the deer are doing and introduce the youngsters (and your partner) to camping, catching your own food  – and the great Gippsland bush!

Whitewater Rivers of Victoria: A very useful resource: (of course it is not an exhaustive list, but it might be a good start): https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1KquqzZygh-1toyLq3DTt_ItC-UM&ll=-37.852948477811616%2C146.85638701650396&z=14

Happy Hunting!

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