Would you consider bringing a llama along to your next elk hunt?
Cheaper than traditional pack animals like horses or mules and more flexible than ATVs, llamas are quickly making a name for themselves among hunters as an alternative way to get their kills out of the woods.
While the idea may sound ludicrous to some, hunters like Thomas Baumeister of Montana call the use of pack llamas one of the best-kept secrets in the backcountry.
“It’s like having a little parrot on your shoulder,” Baumeister told the Independent Record. “They’re always looking at things and paying attention.”
Llamas have been used as pack animals since the very beginning of their relationship with humans. A llama can carry up to 400 pounds, requires less maintenance than a horse, can forage for itself, and can even stay at camp with nearly zero oversight for hours at a time. Llamas are also intelligent creatures with a fierce protective streak, especially against predators. For this reason, the animals have often been trained to replace sheep dogs for safeguarding livestock against carnivores like coyotes and wolves.
A close relative of camels, llamas can go for days without water and are experts at regulating their own internal temperature. One common worry is that the animals may be mistaken for game and shot by other hunters, so outfitters often deck their lamas in orange neck and body covers just to be safe.