I’m not much of a backcountry type. I like driving to where I’m going, then using my reserved bipedal power to pursue birds or trout.
I don’t always live up to the Leave No Trace mantra. I’m more of a Leave No Unnecessary Trace kind of guy. Some traces are handy, like when I’m truck camping and come across an unoccupied fire ring. Remnants of prior camps may render dispersed camping a little less dispersed, as an unattended fire ring is the outdoors equivalent of a neon “Vacancy” sign.
I generally leave that fire ring for the next nimrod. That seems the rational approach when you’re camping near a well-traveled road in a popular spot. In the backcountry, however, dismantling your fire ring, or even going without fire altogether, may be warranted.
Wherever you go there are standards for appropriate care and conduct. If I camp in a developed site with paved roads and clean toilets, I’m still going to make sure every bit of trash — even the smallest shred of candy wrapper or, back in the old days at least, soda can pop tops — is picked up.
Pop-top patrol was usually our last duty before breaking camp when I was a kid. Under Dad’s watchful eye we’d scour the ground for every last pop top.
You know who should have won a Nobel Prize? Daniel F. Cudzik, the inventor of the now ubiquitous stay-on tab. Regrettably, Cudzik was not recognized by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences before he passed in 2018.
The only thing I leave behind at developed campsites is unburned firewood. But I have packed into wilderness spots a time or two where I dispersed the blackened stones of my fire ring, and even hand raked grass tamped down by my tent.
Sometimes just the illusion of untrammeled is worth preserving for the next explorer.
When I fish, any discarded line is rolled up and stored in my vest until I find a proper receptacle. All trash as well. I’ve no doubt left a bit of litter behind, by accident of course, so when I find an old leader wrapper or lure dangling in a tree, I pack those out as well.
I like to think of myself as an ambassador of sorts for hunting, an activity frowned upon by a growing segment of society. So I’m always saddened when I find spent shotgun shells out on the Chukar Grounds or other places where hunters chase game birds.
It’s not always intentional. Sometimes ejectors fling shells into heavy cover where they are difficult to find. Occasionally, they simply fall out of your vest. So again, to account for litter I’ve inadvertently left behind, I pick up after others.
Sometimes it’s clear the shells remain due to negligence rather than honest mistake. I once came upon a neat pile of three yellow shells in bare dirt, on the edge of a sage filled ravine I knew to be a favored hangout of a large covey of chukars.
Yellow shells mean 20 gauge, and three likely meant the hunter was carrying a pump or automatic. I’m quite certain if you go to a gun shop to buy a single-barrel 20-gauge shotgun, the law requires you show proof of your chukar bona fides before the transaction can be completed.
My last time out I wasn’t camping. It was just a day hunt and the only traces I left were footprints and Hankook tread patterns in the two tracks. I didn’t have much of my own to clean up, but out on the flats I observed a rusty file cabinet riddled with holes.
Target practice I suppose. I tossed the file cabinet into the bed of the truck and hauled it to the nearest authorized receptacle.
Not my trace, but clearly unnecessary.
Rob Breeding is the editor of www.mthookandbullet.com.
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