Wednesday, December 16, 2009
upland vests and gear
There are many different vests on the market today. Some good and some not so good. Like everything else, you get what you pay for when looking at vests. With all the different vests I've looked at or tried I still haven't found the perfect chukar vest and doubt I ever will. Especially on the warm early season days.
Most of this doesn't apply to the hunter that is taking a quick jaunt from the vehicle, but if you're like most chukar hunters and you take off by yourself for the day you have to be prepared. The preparation isn't only for you but for your four legged companion also. He has depended upon you up to this point in his life and he's still counting on you today.
First off, and probably the most important, is the vest either needs a water bladder or pockets to carry water. Water is paramount for a good hunting dog. Not only to keep his hunting senses toned but for his life. If there are no water sources in the area you're hunting, you will have to pack plenty. I'm lucky, I don't drink a lot of water, so I usually have mine for the dog's if we run out.
The vest should have a large pocket on the back to place your emergency items. It also should have a couple of straps on the cargo pouch for your rain coat or cold weather coat. For me the more pockets the better. I believe you need at least four separately divided pockets to keep your equipment separated. Two separate small open end pockets are helpful to place your radio and electronic dog receivers in. With those two pockets should be a couple of D rings to tie your lanyards to in case they happen to fall from the pocket. Shell loops in a couple of the pockets or on the flaps are also nice.
Wow! That's a lot to ask for. But it sure would be nice if they made a backpack like that to carry about 18 lbs. of necessary things. That's including water.
Oh, also you need a vest with a waist belt and harness system to take the load off your shoulders and put it more on your waist. Hopefully it will be adjustable for comfort. Well, good luck and if you find one please notify me because I'll be next in line. Luckily for me I have a good wife who has sewn many of these extras on a store bought vest for me.
So now, what do I put in the vest that adds up to 18 lbs? First and most important is water. On warm weather days you may have to pack 1 and 1/2 gallons of water which is 12 lbs. From there you can do the math. Most of these things I have never used and hope I will never have to. But there is always a first time.
One of the pockets has shotgun shells unless I have a vest that has loops for 25 shells. I always have a box worth of shells. Even at 1 bird for 3 shots that takes 25 rounds. I've been with people that need a lot more shells in order to get their 8 bird limit. I always pick up my empties and put them in with the dead birds. Energy bars for both you and the dog are needed. First aid kit for both you and the dog should be included. Multipurpose tools come in very handy. Not only is the knife used quite often but pliers are used for pulling quills and screw driver to tighten a loose screw on your gun or other accessories. I pack a removable sling in case I have to shoulder my shotgun for any reason. I can also use the sling as a short lead for a dog if needed. Spare batteries are along in case the electronics run down. I carry a small flashlight and emergency fire starter. I've never had to spend the night out while chukar hunting but if I ever do I want to make sure I'm awake in the morning. I also like to pack a camera although life would go on without it. I make sure all of these battery operated things work off the same size batteries so I don't have to pack different versions. I have a small lunch along. My jacket for whatever season is strapped on the back of my vest.
I saw a shoulder harness in the uplandidaho.com site for carrying a hurt dog. I'm going to add that to my list and hope that it can double for my sling also. Karl Dehart sells them and you can probably get them through the upland site. I had to carry one of my dogs two miles to my truck one time and one of these carriers would have made it a lot easier and safer.
As I said, most of these things I have never taken out of the vest, but if I ever have to use them it will make all the many miles I have carried them worth it.
One other thing that I have found useless for me is the front load bird style vest. I like the extra room they give but I have had Barb sew the front load area shut and just use the side load for my dead birds. Before she sewed them shut, I was loosing birds and spent shells every time I bent down to go under a fence or bush. I think the front load vests work good for pheasants but not for chukar and smaller birds.
Good luck with your new bird vest. Who said you didn't have to be a pack animal to hunt upland birds?