We spent 8 days on the mountain in early September, public land DIY archery elk. There were four of us total, and I was successful and harvesting a nice bull on the third day. We did have a canvas wall tent as a base, but spent 6 nights packed in sleeping in backpack tents. There are countless opinions and huge gear lists that go into one of these hunts. I will break it down to the short version just hitting the key items. What worked well and what didn’t.
Bow: Bear Arena 30, 70#
Sight: Trophy Ridge React Trio
Arrows: Easton FMJ 400
Broadheads: Muzzy Trocar 100 grain
Summary: My bull was 32 yards, slightly quartering to me. the shot was high lung clipping the shoulder. Full passtrough and huge blood trail. The blood spray was 5′ high on the aspen trees as he ran by. He only ran about 100 yards, lived less than 12 seconds.
A+ satisfaction with this bow & arrow setup.
Pack: Sitka Bivy 45
I have used several different packs over the years, and the Sitka Bivy 45 is by far the best I have used. We packed the bull out over 3 miles. I fit a fully boned-out hind quarter and front quarter in my pack totaling around 100 lbs of meat. Yes, the packout was brutal and we got a little over ambitious. But, the frame was super stable and the pack handled the load very well. The pack is slightly heavier when empty than others I have had (7 lbs) but it carries exceptionally well well and the organization is very thought out. It could be a little lighter for day hunting, and I wish it had a sleeve for the hydration system.
A rating for this pack
I had a mixture of Sitka gear and Cabelas brand clothing. The Sitka is hands down the best stuff I have ever worn, and worth the investment for my purposes. The temperature regulation and moisture wicking ability is incredible. I wore the same clothes for 5 days with no odor. Mountain Pants, 90% Pants, JetStream Vest, Jetstream Jacket. A+ rating for the Sitka.
I had a Cabelas puffy vest, a Cabelas Merino wool base, and a Cabelas synthetic base layer that I rotated in. The vest was a great layering piece, and the Cabelas merino base lasted 4 days with no odor at all. The cabelas synthetic base layer (says odor resistant) stunk after one day. Overall the fit was not near as good on any of these pieces as the Sitka. Overall quality, but a step down for sure.
B+ rating for the Cabelas clothes.
Under Armour Browtine, un-insilated. Very affordable, very comfortable, the ground was wet every day, and my feet stayed dry for 8 days. No blisters.
A rating for the boots
Room for Improvement
Cabelas XPG 30 degree mummy bag. Awesome bag, but not warm enough for the mid September high country. It got down to 35 degrees some nights, and even with a bag liner and clothes on I was a little cold. The bag was lightweight, packed nicely, quality product, but I will take a 15 degree bag from now on for temps under 45 degrees.
C+ rating for my choice of bags
MSR Pocket Rocket: Good stove, extremely lightweight, small and very affordable. Didn’t really fit my cooking style. More susceptible to wind, took a little longer to setup than my buddies JetBoil and used slightly more fuel. I will go with the convenience of a JetBoil next year.
C+ for the MSR stove
Garmin eTrex 20 with OnX maps download. I was marginally pleased with this GPS. We were around trails and knew the area previously, so the GPS was critical to survival. But I would not recommend this unit for a wilderness hunt in unfamiliar country. It has a hard time grabbing signal in heavy timber and got us lost in the dark once. It also has a small screen. Battery life was great.
C+ Rating for Garmin eTrex 20
The Not So Good
In other words, don’t buy this stuff
Frog Togs rain gear. Good for fishing and local trips, but not packable rain gear. I had Cabelas XPG super light packable raingear that worked great. My buddy had Frog Togs, they took up tons of pack room, were heavy, and he got wet.
D rating for the Frog Togs
Backpacker’s Pantry brand food
It might keep you alive, but you have to be on the verge of starvation to eat it. Again, a buddy’s mistake not mine. He had this three nights and didnt finish it. I took Mountain House and loved it (but I like it so much I often eat it at home). Another friend cooked and dehydrated his own meals, which were excellent. He put them in a ziplock and prepare just like any other MRE. I would recommend staying away from the Backpackers Pantry.
D rating for Backpackers Pantry
Other observations and additions to my pack list
Crocks: I will have a pair of Crocks strapped to my pack from now on, on all backpack hunts. They weigh nothing and are great around camp.
Knives: I have all sorts of knives, custom knives, Outdoor edge, and everything between. I usually go pretty light on these hunts, so I took a serrated edge pocket clip knife, a Benchmade fixed blade knife (requires a sharpener), and an Outdoor Egde Razor Lite. If weight is an issue, leave the straight blade hunting knife at home and just take the Outdoor Edge Razor Lite. I broke the entire bull down and de-boned, including hip sockets and cutting off the head, with just three razor blades.
Go get em!