Packing and Gear Tips for “Adventure” Bowhunters
Bowhunting For the most part, bowhunters are dreamers—we’re always using our spare time to devise intricate plans to help us get the drop on our next target. Some don’t stop there, and scrimp, save, and sacrifice to experience a true “dream trip” adventure—likely one they’ve imagined since their youth. Minnesota’s John Schaffer, 45, is one of those big dreamers, but he’s one of the lucky few who are realizing those dreams. And lucky for us all, he’s only too happy to help others realize theirs. Schaffer happens to be one of the most knowledgeable archer-bowhunters in the nation, and he regularly doles out sage advice from behind the counter of his successful archery pro shop, Schaffer Performance Archery, based in Burnsville, Minn.
Schaffer’s impressive resume includes a long stint as an accomplished, professional archer, he’s owned and operated his namesake pro shop for the last 18 years, and, since 1989, has simultaneously manufactured premium archery equipment—gear that includes the well-known and unique Schaffer Opposition arrow rest, and Opposition Air Quick Detach bow sight.
Originally, Schaffer designed and built his respected accessories (known for their “bombproof” construction), to withstand the rigorous demands of traveling archers. And Schaffer knows how to build a rugged accessory. As proof, the veteran, adventure-seeking bowhunter is a mere seven animals away from completing a life goal: bow-bagging a North American Super Slam of 29 big game animals. Recently, I sat down with Schaffer to get some packing and gear tips for like-minded “adventure” bowhunters—people who might be making their own “hunt of a lifetime.” Heed Schaffer’s sound advice, and your dreams just might become reality!
Double-Wrap Your Bow
“What I like to do with my hard bow case is gut it, take out all the foam inserts, and put my bow in there, packed inside of a thin, separate soft case,” Schaffer says. “This ‘double casing’ offers the best protection to the bow, but the main reason is that, if I have to jump into a [tiny] float plane, I can pull off that hard shell, and still have my bow protected and ready to go.”
It should be noted that Schaffer, an archery technician par excellence, saves space and weight these days by carrying just one fully-rigged bow, and some key replacement components: 2 sets of limbs, a set of cams, and strings and cables. With these, even miles from nowhere, Schaffer can completely rebuild even a “blown-up” compound, in about an hour (he recommends that the rest of us carry a second, fully rigged and ready backup bow in case of breakdown).
Socks as Travel Bags?
Also inside his hard bow case, Schaffer will cram all the accessories he can (extra sight, bow stabilizer, releases, and more) packed inside his extra socks, which act as cushioning material to prevent damage to his precious bow. “And it also keeps everything from shifting around,” he says.
Make The Most of Carry-Ons
The well-traveled Schaffer has more horror stories than most when it comes to lost or misrouted hunt luggage. To prevent expensive hunt delays, he uses an extra-large carry-on pack (an ancient, full-size mountaineering-style internal frame pack) that allows him to safeguard several important items. On a typical hunt, Schaffer will bring the carry-on, as well as two checked bags: A large duffel bag and the hard bow case detailed above, filled with both bow and gear.
“I have had so many bad experiences with luggage being lost, that now I get on the plane thinking, ‘can I still hunt if the airlines lose my gear duffel?’ That’s my goal, so I get on the plane wearing my hunting boots, and inside my carry-on, I keep a base layer, an insulating layer, rain gear, and hats and gloves, so even if they lose my duffle, I can still hunt. I also carry on a binocular, spotting scope if needed, and rangefinder—anything they will let you take on the plane that is necessary to the hunt.”
Serious Phone Service
“Another critical piece of travel gear is my satellite phone. I take it with me wherever I go. One main reason is, I’m a father and a husband. The phone helps keep my wife sane when I’m on some far-flung trip, and it’s nice to be able to check in on the family, and my business, no matter where I am. A couple of times, I’ve had conversations on top of the mountain that have saved me from delays in production, and things like that. And, of course, the primary reason is safety; when you’re out there, and it’s just you and the guide, something could happen to the guide just as easily as to you. You’ve got to be prepared.”
Schaffer has had his sat phone (by Globalstar) for about 10 years, after purchasing it for about $1,000. He pays a monthly service fee—a minimum plan is about $30 per—that he keeps active year-round due primarily to deactivation/reactivation costs that make the continuous service a virtual wash.
“On my stone sheep hunt in B.C., I tagged out early, and I was with an assistant guide who didn’t have a phone,” Schaffer remembered. “I called the float plane base and told them they could come pick us up; they were originally going to get us five days later. It’s really a no-brainer to carry a sat phone, and I always bring an extra battery, although I’ve never needed one.” Click Here…