Why Hunt With Pack Llamas?
The first time I saw pack llamas was on an archery mule deer hunt in the Nevada backcountry in August 2014. Just 1 mile into our 10 mile hike to base camp and we were already getting tired. It was extremely hot and our packs weighed about 65 lbs each. We sat down to take a quick break when we noticed 2 guys coming up the trail with 3 llamas. The hunters each had on a small backpack that looked empty while the llamas had all of their gear. As they passed us we all laughed at how funny the llamas looked. Our laughing quickly turned to jealousy as we watched the 2 hunters and their llamas fly past us without any effort at all. We all looked at each other and knew we wanted to try llamas on our next hunt.
The following season we were able to rent some llamas from a llama rental company in Idaho for an elk hunt. After using the llamas for a week, we were sold. We knew we had found the perfect pack animal for our backcountry style of hunting. In October 2015 we bought our first two llamas, Malcom and Arnie, and started our llama rental business (Backcountry Logistics). We currently own 9 llamas and growing. Since buying our own packers, we’ve taken them on multiple hunting/camping trips. We’ve also rented them out to many hikers and hunters who have all been very impressed with them. The more we use llamas, the more amazed we are with their packing ability.
So what is it about llamas that makes them so awesome for backcountry hunting? I’ve narrowed it down to these 4 reasons:
1 – Llamas Are Low Maintenance
The biggest reason why pack llamas are taking over the backcountry is because of how easy they are to handle and how low maintenance they are. While in the backcountry, we stake the llamas out with a 20′ rope and let them feed on all the grass in that area. We will check on them in the morning before we leave to hunt for the day, and then check on them again when we return that night. Once they’ve eaten all the grass within reach, we stake them out in a new spot. If we know the feed is going to be very limited (for example, a hunt during October or November), then we will bring about 2-3 lbs/day of some supplemental pellets to give each llama.
Other than feed, llamas also require a small amount of water. Depending on the weather and amount of moisture in the feed, some llamas will go 3+ days without drinking. However, we always give them the option to drink as much water as they would like every day. Horses, on the other hand, usually require water every day… and a lot of it!
2 – Llamas Are Sure Footed
While hunting in the Wyoming high country this past fall, we ran into another hunter while making our way to the top of a very steep mountain. The other hunter told us that he had brought horses up that same trail the day before and one of his horses had slipped and fell off a small ledge and landed on it’s back. He told us that it took him and his buddies about an hour to get the horse out. Luckily, the horse was okay and didn’t have any major injuries. The llamas went up that same trail with ease. I never once felt like they were in a dangerous situation or that they might slip and fall.
After hunting for 4 days, it was time to head home. While heading down that same steep mountain, we missed the trail down and got stuck in a shale rock slide. We either had to turn around and make a big loop to get out of the rock slide, or we could just go through it. We decided to just go through it. The pack llamas did it with no problems at all. After making it through the rock slide my dad, who has used horses his whole life, said, “Those llamas did that so easily! I would have never taken horses through that.”
3 – Llamas Are Good Camp Guards
If you’re anything like us, you probably don’t enjoy sleeping in bear country. We’re always paranoid that a bear will either come into camp during the day and tear up our tents, or come in during the night and try to eat us (maybe a little over exaggerated, but you get the point). While hunting in the Utah backcountry during the 2013 season, we had 2 tents get destroyed by bears in less than a week! In order to keep hunting, we had to make the 8 mile hike back into town to get a new tent… TWICE! Not something you want to do when you’re trying to kill an elk.
This past season, Dustin had an elk tag in the same area, but this time we had llamas. Llamas are known for being very alert and protective animals. Whenever they hear, see, or smell something dangerous they let out a very loud chirping noise (we call it the Velociraptor). In our experience, black bears will run away when they hear that sound (grizzly bears might be another story). Every night we would stake out the llamas near our tents so they could warn us if any predators came into camp during the night. After hunting in the same area for over 2 weeks, we never had a bear come into camp.
4 – Stop Camping Like A Hobo
Ever seen this meme?
Before we started using pack llamas, this is what most of our backcountry camps looked like. We had a tiny tent, horrible food (and not very much of it), limited water supplies, and no comfortable camp chairs. Although we don’t mind that kind of hunting/camping, using llamas makes backcountry hunting much more enjoyable.
Have you ever gotten back from a morning hunt, sat down in a camp chair, kicked off your boots and put sandals on, grabbed a cold Mountain Dew, and then started eating a big strawberry filled powdered donut?? If you haven’t then you’re missing out!
Using pack llamas means you’re able to bring a bigger tent, much better food (like raspberry filled donuts), gallons and gallons of water, and luxuries like camp chairs and ice chests. Being able to bring all of these items means your hunt is going to be more enjoyable and you’ll be able to stay longer than you normally would have. Pack llamas allow you to hike 10+ miles into the backcountry and stay in a “5 star hotel” for the week.
Obviously llamas aren’t necessary to have a successful hunt in the backcountry. We hunted the backcountry for many years without llamas and had great success, but I can honestly say that ever since we’ve started using llamas our hunts have been more enjoyable and we’ve been able to go further and stay longer. So if you’re wanting to take your hunts to the next level, maybe you should consider trying pack llamas.
*For more photos check out our Instagram page @Backcountry_Logistics