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The Optics Llama

Joined
May 25, 2017
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colorado
Seems to be a lot of interest on here about using llamas so here is a story from a few years back some might enjoy.

DSC06172 by squirrel2012, on Flickr

My buddy Gary and I teamed up for what must be the fourth or fifth year of packing into the backcountry to go get the “free meat” to last us through the long, cold, winter. This year it was a lot more like September weather than it was November, sunny and sixty being the norm. We even had blow flies (which I detest) and I was ill prepared for, as I had packed no black pepper to sprinkle on the “free meat” to ward them off. I decided to take seven llamas, Gary took five, one of mine was to be a new guy (Logger), who had only been trained around my property and not been on trail yet. And this trail is quite tough, definitely not a beginner type of access. Gary thought this was funny.

He promised to take a copy of “The Backcountry Llama” in which I had just had an article printed of a totally disastrous trip of just this sort- new llamas + tough trail = complete disaster, was the plot of the story. He promised to sit on a stump and read from it to me as I dragged my rookie down the trail for six miles. I knew he was lying as there was no way he could read those big words without help.

Gary was (as usual) late getting to my house and I had ten llamas in my trailer for two hours waiting on him. Logger fought the whole time with whoever was closest, and this continued all the way to the trailhead. Everybody was pissed off and covered in llama spit by the time I started packing them up, not a good way to start a big adventure.
Logger made it all of 200 yards in the #2 position as he alternated humping the lead llama and turning to do battle with the #3 llama. Gary thought this was funny.

I switched him to the lead position which eliminated the humping (at least as far as I am willing to admit) but did little to eliminate his “kill ‘em all” spirit. The heavy load and steep trail soon took its toll on his attitude, though, as he began to wonder if he would survive this abuse. (He thinks his purpose is to convert hay into poop), he never signed on for hard labor. Four miles in he started to show signs of serious fatigue, and I noticed all the other llamas smiling a bit, following Rocky Balboa turned Pee Wee Herman. He started lying down as if he meant it, but we had miles to go yet. Gary thought this was funny.

He took his string on around mine and was going to get started on setting up camp. As soon as he disappeared over the hill I winked at Logger and told him it was time to cut out the acting job as now camp would be set up on arrival with dinner maybe even being ready when we pulled in, good job Logger!

DSC04043 by squirrel2012, on Flickr


DSC06180 by squirrel2012, on Flickr


Logger it seemed, was not acting like he was dead, he was dead… I dragged him for a few yards, no response. I went back and thunked him between the eyes with the carabineer (heard an echo) but got no response. I shut off his air and he merely floundered a bit, willing to go to the llama great beyond right then and there. I have drug gutted mule deer that showed more signs of life than ‘ol Logger. If Gary had been there he would have thought this was funny.

I tied him off to some sage and carried on up the trail with the six good llamas, all of whom grinned as they stepped over his prone carcass. Logger did not even raise his head to watch us leave him for the ravens.
I got to camp and found Gary had done nothing I required of him, and there was still a lot of work to be done setting up camp. We got it all done and I had just enough daylight left to go back for Logger, before the mountain lions started closing in. He was standing and not at all happy to see me when I topped the ridge, even less so when I un-tied him and told him there was a job to finish. I got him to camp at dark-thirty, pulling, cursing and prodding him up the final ascent from the creek to camp, where Gary was lounging with a glass of wine beside the woodstove. Gary thought this was funny.


I discussed my options with Gary the next day, which he calls his “relaxing day” getting mentally prepared for “opening day”. I mentioned shooting Logger while Gary thought I should address the real problem and shoot myself. I came up with a compromise plan, which would whip Logger into a “lean mean hiking/packing machine” by the time for our pack out (which is a much tougher hike). I have become an addict to my pile of high quality optics for an intense style of spot/stalk hunting which I enjoy. Austrian spotting scope and binoculars, Italian tripod, digiscoping camera and all the adapters, bells and whistles, to hook them all together, all this stuff weighs a ton. Our huge swings in temperature necessitate carrying lots of clothing to be used in layers depending on temperature and steepness of the grade being hiked. Normally this falls on my broad manly shoulders to carry all of this junk around on my back. My new plan was to make Logger carry all of this and save my back, and as a side benefit he would get “trained up” during the process. I was going to make Logger my “wooly daypack”. With him to do all the heavy lifting I could even take stuff I normally do without and wish I had, like a canteen of water, butt cushion etc. So my plan was to hunt an extremely elusive and wary critter while having a boisterous Labrador and an obstinate llama with me, what could go wrong??? Gary thought my plan was funny.

DSC04804 by squirrel2012, on Flickr

- - - Updated - - -

DSC04916 by squirrel2012, on Flickr

The evening before the opener I hiked up a very steep incline, as a trial run for my plan, to a great lookout point. Gary rolled his lazy ass off his cot to tag along, which could only mean he thought it had a lot of potential for amusing him, as it violated his whole “relaxing rule”. Logger did not disappoint and laid down numerous times on the steepest sections. Gary thought this was funny.


Opening morning I got going well before daylight as I had a very long climb, pulling my little optics llama behind me. Everything went well until we headed up a steep point in the dark and he started lying down. I would drag him a few inches and he would jump up and go a ways before repeating. It is very hard to drag a llama uphill through sage brush and I arrived at the top exhausted and sweaty, and well on my way to being aggravated with my little wooly daypack. I took a few minutes to wheeze and as it began to get light I looked off and saw a large 5x6 bull elk feeding in range without a care, as if every day or so a guy drags a llama up past him in the dark. I put Cody at heel, ignoring Logger, and crawled out a few yards to a good prone position, waited till legal shooting light and dropped him with a single shot. I crossed the steep gulch with my two critters and dressed the elk as Cody helped and Logger watched warily. I pointed out to my little wooly daypack that the elk had been much more beautiful than him, and had never done a thing to me to irritate me, and yet, take a look at what I had seen fit to do to him. I’m not sure it sunk into Logger the point I was making, but he never laid down for the rest of the trip…



DSC04830 by squirrel2012, on Flickr

I still had two tags to fill with the “free meat” so after recovering all of the bull to camp I carried on with my original plan. On about the third day of our daily hikes he seemed to have turned the corner, balking a little but nothing a simple tug/jerk on the lead could not overcome, steady pulling did not work with Logger, he required a stout jerk to overcome his stubbornness, otherwise he would just dig in his heels a little deeper. On the sixth day of my hunt a cow came close and I dropped her cleanly with a single shot, while Logger and Cody watched to make sure I did it right. The next day I took the full string of llamas to the cow, carrying all of the bull also, I butchered her, and took all the meat from both elk and Logger to about the halfway point of the hike out to the trailhead. I tethered Logger with the meat lying in the snow and took the other six llamas back to camp with me.
Gary and I packed up our camp the next day and picked up Logger and the meat on the way out and had all our gear and two elk back to the truck in one trip. Yes I said only two elk, Gary was elk-less, and I thought that was funny…

DSC04871 by squirrel2012, on Flickr
 

Bowhunter50

Senior Member
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Feb 25, 2015
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Awesome story! That’s a beautiful Bull. I’ve never hunted with Llamas but it sure sounds fun ha. I was afraid your plan would backfire and Logger was going to take off with your optics. I laughed at your discussion with logger after killing your bull.


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OP
OP
S
Joined
May 25, 2017
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Location
colorado
Loved the story, out of curiosity how much does one llama pack on average?
That is the BIG question, and it can't be answered with specificity. If you are off trail on a 30 degree slope jumping down timber you might have a 40 lb limit. If you are walking down a closed logging road the same llama might have a 100 lb limit, same for distance expected to cover. If you want to do 20 miles in rough country (few can) it is a lot different than if you are wanting to go in 3-4 miles...

All that being said I tell my renters to keep it below 75 lbs and most will be just fine. And of course all llamas are not created equal, and you are only as good as your weakest in the string. My story above illustrates this fact.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2018
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Canton, Mississippi
Great story! Love it. I've rented Llamas several times for elk hunts. They're a lot of fun. My horse buddy thinks I'm crazy for using them - or at least he used to. I think the success stories are starting to make him reconsider.
 
OP
OP
S
Joined
May 25, 2017
Messages
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Location
colorado
Lots of people get in a rut, they "love" horses, mules goats etc. My theory is always if an animal is reasonably able to be handled and is carrying my crap up a hill (or down) then it is just fine. All of them fill a niche as far as their strengths and weaknesses go. Llamas have a ton of strengths and only a couple of surmountable weaknesses. When i was just a kid I went on a bush plane moose hunt, on the plane's dashboard was a sticker saying "ass, gas, or grass... nobody rides for free"

Not even the dog on a sheep hunt.
 

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hobbes

Senior Member
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Jun 6, 2012
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Great write up and photos. Glad the story had a happy ending. I was picturing optics scattered and broken on the mountain side.
 
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