Whitetail hunters think about their gear, but not the same way as western hunters. Every thought involving an individual piece of western hunting gear starts with, 'Do I really need this?'
The reason for this upfront question involves, of course, weight. Even day trips for mule deer involve a pack, and anyone who has spent time out West fully understands what carrying extra ounces feels like.
It gets worse if you're planning on a bivy hunt. There is a movement, particularly in the elk hunting scene, where getting as far off of the beaten trail is a must. This often involves serious hikes of miles upon miles, and when you travel that far, you must carry everything with you.
This results in backpacks that are heavy. To me, the tipping point of extremely heavy is around 70 pounds.
This is a no-joke weight to carry around, and even half of that will test most flatlanders without fail. Fifty pounds is much more muscle friendly, and it can be done. But it all requires the right gear.
Following are nine products worthy of a day trip, or a five-day bivy adventure into the backcountry.
Mystery Ranch | Metcalf
With it's top-loading design and nice frame for stable, comfortable loads, the Metcalf
from Mystery Ranch
is a killer pack for serious western hunts.
This made-in-the-USA pack offers 4200 cubic inches of storage space, making it the perfect choice for bivy hunts or after you've notched a tag. To ensure that process is as easy as possible, each Metcalf features an overload shelf, 10 compression straps, and an exterior detail pocket.
Nikon | 10x42 Monarch
Quality glass that adds less than a pound-and-a-half to your weight total is always appreciated in the West, which is why the Monarch 10x42s
is a great choice.
A 4.2mm exit pupil lets plenty of light reach your eyes and the 10-power magnification is ideal for pairing with a lightweight spotter to cover all glassing situations. Monarch 7s are waterproof and scratch resistant, and a personal favorite feature is they can be fixed to a tripod with the tripod adaptor.
Core 4 Element | Merino I90 1/4 Zip
Proper clothing in the backcountry will mean the difference between enjoying your hunt or giving it all up for a set of golf clubs. Core 4 Element Merino I90 1/4 Zip
is an excellent choice for all-season hunts, or just about any time the sun dips behind a distant peak and that cold air rushes down the mountainside.
Merino wool is a staple for most serious backcountry hunters due to its moisture wicking properties and ability to keep you cool when necessary or warm when it gets cold. This top has become a go-to garment for me on nearly all of my hunts out West.
Flextone Game Calls | Bull Rush Glunker
With an elk tag in your pocket, you're almost guaranteed to hunt the mountains with a couple of mouth calls, perhaps a push-button call, and a bugle tube. Unfortunately, every hunter out there carries the same calls and the elk can get awful skittish about rushing into every mewl or ripping bugle they hear.
If you're a public-land hunter, you might want to consider the Bull Rush Glunker
from Flextone Game Calls
, which produces the 'glunking ' sound bulls make when they find a girlfriend. If you're around a herd bull and he hears a bull glunking near his cows, he is not likely to tolerate it. This is an ideal closer call for those moments when you're just out of shooting range.
Sitka Gear | CORE Lightweight Hoody
I've yet to meet a Sitka Gear
garment I don't like. Few companies churn out top-quality western wear like they do, and a new favorite is the CORE Lightweight Hoody
. With its long sleeves and form-fitting hood, the CORE Lightweight Hoody is excellent for high-exertion hunts.
This breathable, moisture wicking garment utilizes permanent Polygiene Odor Control Technology to neutralize your smell, which every mountain man knows is inevitable. When it gets to the point in the hunt where you can barely tolerate your own funk, you'll really appreciate all of the odor control you can get.
Archer Xtreme | Nitrix-4 Quiver
Quivers don't immediately come to mind when we think of western gear. Oftentimes they are somewhat of an afterthought, but that all changes the minute you attach a shoddy one to your bow. Then you realize you need something quiet, lightweight, and mobile like the Nitrix-4 Quiver
from Archer Xtreme
A carbon fiber adjustable arrow rack accommodates all arrow lengths while simultaneously reducing noise and shot vibration. An articulating mounting system also allows you the chance to mount this quiver tight to your riser to increase your in-field accuracy.
Trophy Ridge | HX
I first tried out the HX
rest in anticipation of spring hogs and turkeys. After setting it up and shooting a few practice rounds, I knew Trophy Ridge
had done their homework with this accessory. Its Vertical Drop Technology supports the arrow for as long as possible while still getting cleanly out of the way, which is ideal for broadhead accuracy.
The HX is a total-containment offering that is extremely simple and rugged. It's a great rest for hunting the farther you travel toward the setting sun after crossing the Mississippi.
Spot Hogg | Fast Eddie
An awful lot of the good western hunters I know use Spot Hogg
sights. This is more than a coincidence. Their latest - the Fast Eddie
- is built off of their popular Hogg Mobb adjustable sights. It is third-axis adjustable, rugged, silent, and boasts a large yardage knob.
Like all Spot Hogg sights, it's a concisely engineered piece of bowhunting art that won't make any sound during the shot. It also utilizes the Double Pin scope, which is a BulletProof pin that incorporates an extra aiming point. This means you can stretch out some additional yardage even when you're dialed as far down as possible.
Cabela's | XPG Expedition Two-Person Tent
In my experience, a two-person tent really equals space for about a half-person, and a four-person tent is tolerable with two hunters. That is why I look for lightweight tents that offer a decent sized footprint, like the XPG Expedition Two-Person Tent
This four-season tent is designed to withstand the elements through its T56 aluminum four-pole frame and 68-denier 210T polyester-ripstop body. At just over 10 lbs, this isn't the lightest tent on the market, but I'll make an exception for a quality shelter. Nothing beats a good tent to come home to when you're three-quarters of the way up a mountain and have done nothing but hunt from dark to dark.