I want to talk about how I carry my rifle on a mountain hunt. My technique is likely slightly different from what I see most hunters doing. Keep in mind that I am speaking specifically about mountain hunting, which involves days and days of hiking and only a few moments, if we are fortunate, of handling the rifle.
Every hunter is looking to carry the rifle to address three considerations, and it’s going to be a matter of personal preference and the terrain and type of hunting in question that will determine the best method. The three considerations are:
- Weight and balance of the loaded pack
- Protection of the rifle and optics from dropping, scratching and compression
- Quickness of access
I describe my approach for the mountain situation below.
Weight and balance of the loaded pack
For me, the best position for my weapon is directly in the centre of my pack because it’s generally speaking the heaviest piece of equipment that I would have. I don’t want to be out of balance at any time when I’m rock hopping when I’m just hiking through the mountains; I want to be as stable and have my weight distribution as solid as I possibly can.
If you choose to put your rifle on one side or another, balance the weight with a spotting scope, water or tripod.
Some people find that the rifle disrupts their front-to-back balance. I don’t, but this is something to consider. If you have your pack loaded with heavier items closer to your spine, you can minimize the backwards pull of the gun.
Protection of the Rifle and Optics
Taking off your heavy pack, often upwards of 80 lbs, introduces the risk of scratching or seriously damaging whatever you have on the exterior of the pack. No matter where your rifle is, you will face the risk of damage. With the rifle in the centre, I don’t have to worry about which side of the pack hits the rocks because I know my rifle is on neither side.
Quickness of Access
In the mountain hunting environment, access speed is a very low priority. Some hunters have commented that the threat of a bear encounter necessitates easy access to the rifle. I have been fortunate to have avoided such encounters, so it’s not something I worry about very often. I’m unwilling to carry a gun in my hands or on a traditional rifle sling for such a low-odds risk. I would much prefer to have a bear spray at hand that move my rifle from its place on the rear of my pack.
I’d invite you to consider these factors the next time you head into the field. Having spent hundreds of days mountain hunting, I’ve been very pleased with this approach, and I think you might be as well.