One evening I was waiting for Corey to come out of a Canyon we had started into earlier that day. We had got separated as we opted to hunt in different directions to scout a new area. We often use small, handheld radios for these situations to get back together after a few hours of scouting if we aren’t able to hear each other’s bugle. The radio crackled a little and I grabbed it and got to a high knob near the mouth of the canyon. It was Corey and I could make out that he had shot a bull and was up the canyon a few miles. It was nearing dark, so I made a few sandwiches, grabbed some water, and headed in. WOW! What a jumble of alders and creek crossings to plow through to try to find my hunting partner! I was dreading the pack out in the dark, knowing it would likely extend over into the daylight as well. We can usually make short order of getting an elk in the little white bags and my mind was racing about how we would get out of here in the dark.
After a few hours of hiking and bugling I finally heard Corey bugle back and he was still a good half-mile up the canyon. We finally met up and discussed the shot and scene after the shot. We followed blood a short distance to the top of a rock bluff and could see where the bul had bedded, but were’t able to determine any trace of an exit in the dark. We dropped back down near the creek to discuss our situation. Remembering the trek that had just taken me nearly two hours, I told Corey I wouldn’t be back if I went out tonight. I would have come back ten times if necessary, but my whining convinced Corey that we should tough out the night on the ground under the stars.
Now comes the gear part. We made a small fire and both curled up around it in a half-moon, nearly encircling our little blaze. I had opted to not carry in a jacket and had only a short sleeved t-shirt for my upper body. Corey had a Sitka core shirt and vest, which would be his only cover in the frosty night. I dug down into my pack amongst the three old snickers bars that had turned white and found a silver space blanket that I had packed since my days of guiding in the 1990’s. We had to carry survival gear and first aid kits when guiding, as well as have first aid and cpr certifications. Since that little blanket weighed nothing and took up less room than a deck of playing cards it always had made it through the annual clean out ritual. Well this night was made very comfortable for me because of the space blanket. I would raise it up to allow a little heat from the fire to go under it and it would keep me toasty warm. I tried to repack it – I don’t know who they pay to fold it up but mine was 3 times as big after I used it!
At daylight, we found that the bull had jumped straight off the bluff he was bedded on and had died less than 50 yards below. We quickly got the bull cut up and with the entire elk split between the two of us, we started the long hike out – a hike that didn’t end until later that evening. Corey and I both headed to the sporting goods store to get a staple that will never leave my pack unless it is covering me on a frosty, unplanned night on the ground. What is really nice is that I just googled this space blanket and it can be bought for less than $2. Everyone should carry one of these, even if you don’t think you will ever be too far to get back before nightfall.