Why Would Hunters Consider Using Pack Llamas?
When all of our hard work pays off and a little lady luck enters the picture, we hunters are faced with the arduous, yet rewarding task of packing out our meat. That’s one big reason. In this article, I will make the case that pack llamas are the ultimate backcountry hunting weapon.
This past year I hunted with a couple groups, and we were blessed to harvest six elk, a bear and a few deer. Some of the pack outs were more difficult than others, obviously, but let’s be honest, packing your meat and camp out is rarely a walk-in-the-park no matter what. The kill is always powerful, but we all know the work begins when the animal hits the ground.
A pack out predicament could arise from a very simple or a combination of scenarios. Maybe it got too warm, and that has placed immediacy on the pack out timeline. Perhaps the hunters out walked their ability and got in a too deep or wandered too far from their vehicle. It could have been that the animal did not cooperate and died in the worst possible spot. Medical issues, blisters, cramps or many other ailments could also severely limit your pack out capacity.
Any of these realities, along with a host of others could spell big problems and could quickly turn an amazing hunt into a nightmare situation, not to mention getting your camp in and out. In certain situations these can both be a monumental tasks at times.
Enter The Pack Llama
It may or may not come as a surprise that Llamas are amazing for packing in your camp and packing out your meat. What might be more surprising is the fact they can make you a more efficient and successful hunter. I realize using the word weapon in the title was a pretty bold statement, but I think it’s spot on. Ultimately, my llamas will allow me to hunt more remote, rugged country, be more rested and comfortable, and allow me to spend more time actually hunting. Inevitably that will make me a more effective big game predator.
I’ve been researching pack llamas for several years and have been sold on the benefits for a long time. This past year, however, I’ve become closer friends with Beau and Kristin Baty at Wilderness Ridge Trail Llamas. After spending more time with and talking with Beau over the past year, the more intense my desire became to make the llama ownership leap.
Certainly, all pack animals have merit and their place, but for me, as you will read, and the way I love to pursue wild animals in the backcountry, the pack llama is the ticket.
Are All Llamas Created Equal?
All pack llamas are certainly not created equal. I have read and researched numerous accounts of people trying to use run-of-the-mill llamas as pack animals. There have been a few success stories, but more often than not, they ended up in complete failure. From my research, the best pack llamas are the Ccara llama which have been bred for thousands of years by the Inca. They tend to have short wool and can be very tall at the shoulders.
Unfortunately, they are not super easy to come by. It is challenging to find good packers, at least any that people are willing to sell. When you do find one, they can cost much more than you might expect. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Once you make a trip with a craigslist llama and then make one with a solid bred Ccara pack Llama, you will quickly understand the price difference.
How Pack Llamas Will Diversify My Backcountry Quests
I love everything about hiking in and out of the backcountry under my own power. I do not want to change that and will continue to challenge myself to get into the best possible hunting shape. I hunt super hard, and I train hard for it, year round. But I’m 51 years old now, and as I get older my passion for big game hunting only seems to intensify. The pack llamas will not make me any younger, but they will allow for more diversity in my backcountry quests.
- I can go deeper into the remote backcountry.
- I can take in more camp, gear and food luxuries.
- I will have the ability to take my friends and family with me on extended camping or hunting trips.
- I will be able to bring my hard earned, precious meat out quicker, easier and more efficiently.
When it came down to evaluating and adding pack llamas to our family, I focused on the following criteria.
What Makes Pack Llamas Ideal For The Backcountry?
When it came down to evaluating and purchasing pack llamas, I focused on the following criteria.
The attitude and laid-back nature of the llama is incredibly well suited for people with limited or no pack animal experience. Well-trained pack llamas are ready and willing to work hard and they don’t get worked into a frenzy very easily. They are not always warm and snuggly, but they do love to be around people and by nature they are very curious and observant.
The care, feeding and space requirements for pack llamas is drastically simplified compared to other pack animals. This makes them one of cheapest the options when considering ongoing annual costs.
Strength & Agility
The carrying capacity and raw ability of the pack llama is amazing. They can carry up to, and in some cases exceed, 20% of their body weight. Plus, they are incredibly sure-footed and agile.
Their adaptability and flexibility gives the hunter a huge advantage. They are great when traveling cross-country and off-trail and when properly conditioned, they will cross water with ease giving the hunter the ability to set up camps in places that most people cannot. Since they can go places that other pack animals can’t or in some cases simply won’t go, the hunter can also be extremely mobile. All of this combines to make us more effective hunters.
Llamas are serious endurance animals. With proper training, they can move quickly over extended distances, and they can do it day after day. Llamas do not require near the amount of water and feed as compared to other pack animals.
In The Field Maintenance
This is one area that quickly separates the trained pack llama from the rest. You can take them with you on your daily hunts or they can stay in camp during the day. This gives you exceptional hunting flexibility. Another benefit is that llamas are relatively quiet by nature.
When you compare the purchase cost, along with the needed packing/tack gear they cost significantly less when compared to their larger packing counterparts. The initial purchase, pack equipment, and the much lower annual care and feeding expense makes the pack llama a very economical option.
The equipment required to utilize pack llamas is not only cheaper, it’s significantly easier to use and handle in the field. The equipment is simple, lightweight and much easier to transport.
Llamas are amazing around people, especially children. I recently took my family down to Wilderness Ridge Trail Llamas with the intention of selling my wife on the whole pack llama idea. It did not take much selling. My kids, aged 7 and 4, were literally running around in the holding area, going behind, under and even climbing onto llamas that had never had a person on them before. My family loved them! They were incredibly gentle, super curious and cute, and simply a pleasure to be around. Most are not crazy about being petted, but they love to be around people.
During my research, I read countless stories and reports about the stubbornness, obstinate, headstrong, uncompromising and just plain difficult natures of other pack animals. While on an elk hunt in Wyoming this past year, I witnessed it first hand. We ran into two guys walking out in the cold pouring rain. They were leading two large mules back to the trailhead. They told us they had used the mules to pull a cart down a closed road 8 plus miles. When it came time to leave, the mules refused to pull the cart out. These two guys were forced to walk those animals out, load them up, return them to the outfitter and then walk back in with two new horses in order to retrieve their gear and camp! No Thanks!
Llamas are very loyal and follow along on a lead behind you. They are aware of their track and will never clip your heels if trained correctly. The have a good stride and can usually match the pace of most people.
This is another area where the pack llama shines. Obviously, you can put them in horse trailers, and that is preferred, but they can also go in truck beds with racks. I even watched a YouTube Video of M
att Rinella loading his llamas into a van. The combined weight of Llamas and the trailer is far lighter than larger pack animals and can be pulled easily with smaller trucks. In many cases a smaller more maneuverable truck and or trailer combination will allow hunters to access points that they may not be able to with larger trucks and trailers.
Llama’s are very alert and quite brave as weird as that seems. They sound warning alarms/barks when something is around. They are not spooked easily and I’ve found many hunters that talk about how they actually stand guard at their camps. Llamas have an uncanny ability to pick up the movement of other animals or predators as well. If you see your llamas staring off into the wilderness, you shou
ld pay close attention. At times, they might be better than your spotting scope.
The Pack Out
Most hunters have limited time when it comes to hunting. Imagine how nice is will be when someone gets an animal down, you load the meat on the pack llamas and the lucky hunter simply leads them out. That means the rest of the hunting party can go back to hunting, versus pausing the entire hunt while the hunting party packs out the meat on their backs. This alone may be worth the investment.
When considering all these points, the llama decision was simple for us. Our whole family is looking forward to all of the backcountry the llamas will allow us to explore. We can’t wait to get them into the wild!
I want to personally thank Beau and Kristin Baty at Wilderness Ridge Trail Llamas for all the help and guidance they have given us. After you read this article you will certainly be in the market to rent llamas for your next hunt, they are your folks! They both are amazing and we are blessed to call them friends. You can contact them at: http://www.wildernessridgetrailllamas.com/