by Mark Kayser and Caleb Stillians
From feather-light backpacks to a pocket toolbox, this gear section features the tents, knives, calls, trail cams and tech to make the most of every elk hunt.
by Caleb Stillians
Sweat dripped from my brow and my heart pounded in my ears as my friend Casey Richmond, director of photography at Eberlestock, and I busted through brush above timberline on our way down a mountain. We had just over a mile left to camp. That might sound like a cakewalk, but we were hunting on the notoriously thick and steep Raspberry Island in the Kodiak Archipelago, so the steep descent is a leg-burner, and the brush is filled with salmonberry brambles—a raspberry-looking fruit and the island’s namesake. It’s so thick the thorn-spiked brush loads up like a slingshot and tries to send you back where you came from.
Casey and I each carried an Eberlestock Vapor 7500 pack filled with quarters of Sitka blacktail deer. Bucks on this island are 40-60 pounds heavier than a typical Sitka blacktail, and between deer meat and gear, we were carrying about 85 pounds each. The Vapor pack rode well and offered plenty of room to hold extra clothing and equipment.
Thirty minutes later, we finally descended into a forest of Sitka spruce and easier walking. This band of trees, which runs along the ridge of the mountain, brought us to the last quarter mile where we had to drop off the ridge and plunge straight down once more into the salmonberry. Thorns pierced every inch of exposed skin, but we kept pushing, discovering that if we spun a 180, our light packs were still durable enough to break the brush along the way.
When you’re in the backcountry facing a challenging hunt, it always helps to have good gear. And those points in a hunt where broken thorns fester in your palms, and your legs have turned to rubber always make the best stories. RMEF receives a portion of the proceeds from the Eberlestock M5 Team Elk Pack and H31 Bandit Pack- RMEF Team Elk Edition. See more at www.eberlestock.com.
by Mark Kayser
Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls
Shock was all I could muster as a bull responded from a pocket of cover I’d written off as vacant. This bugle from my Wapiti Whacker was meant to spark a conversation from elk across the valley, not right in my face. I scrambled to a better position and fired off another intimidating volley, drawing an even madder, raspier response from the fast-approaching bull.
There’s no need to be a champion caller with the Wapiti Whacker bugle tube. The ingenious V.E.T.T. system hits just the right notes of a bull while allowing you to easily vary the pitch and message you’re sending. The Tube Tamer at the end of the call erases any sounds of plastic, while harmonizing the effects of the V.E.T.T. system. Pair the Wapiti Whacker with a Black Magic GTP diaphragm and you have unlimited opportunities to converse with elk without massive amounts of lung power.
Moving through the stand of junipers, I spied a small opening and hesitated, sensing the bull was close. A moment later he entered the gap and paused to scrutinize the movement of me drawing my arrow. In a flash, the arrow pierced his heart, and I soon watched the mature bull collapse less than 100 yards away.
Get the Whacker for $41.95 and add the Black Magic GTP diaphragm for $9.95. See the Wapiti Whacker and other RMEF officially licensed products at www.buglingbull.com.
Elk hunters are backpack junkies, and ALPS OutdoorZ helps feed that addiction. They deliver a customizable, lightweight pack system with their new Ultralight Elite. This bag is 30 percent lighter and 30 percent stronger than other ALPS packs. Purchase the frame alone for hauling elk quarters or easily add on an 1,800- or 3,800-cubic-inch pack bag with an aluminum hook system. The 3,800 model and frame top out at 5 pounds, 13 ounces. A contoured lumbar design, torso-length adjustment and air mesh help ensure comfort, while 500D Cordura construction guarantees a water resistant and rugged exterior. Pack bags are hydration-compatible and include a rain fly, plus a bow/rifle carrying system. The Ultralight Elite frame and 3800 pack retail for $499.99. Available this fall. See details at www.alpsoutdoorz.com.
The new Badlands MRK 3 includes 3,300 cubic inches of hauling capacity and the “split pontoon” feature of older Badlands models for your main cargo compartments and meat hauling space next to the frame. Badlands’ KXO-50 fabric provides a rugged and lightweight shell. The Allite Super Magnesium Frame aids in keeping the overall weight to 6 pounds, 9 ounces. Its Strata Suspension System adjusts easily for tailored shoulder harness and waist fit. The MRK 3 is hydration-compatible and includes a system to connect your binocular to the pack. A rifle and bow boot tucked in the bottom of the pack allow for either external or internal carry. It is modestly priced at $469.99. See the MRK 3 at www.badlandsgear.com.
Few pieces of gear are as essential and satisfying as a good knife. BUCK Knives delivers again with the 110 Slim Pro TRX. The 3.75-inch Cerakote Armor Coated S30V stainless steel blade opens ambidextrously via dual thumb studs. The robust G-10 resin handle is available in black, blaze orange or green. A pocket clip ensures the 3.3-ounce knife is always ready for chores large and small. The crescent tip of the blade aids in keeping the rugged blade thin, yet sharp. Use it to create an opening in the hide of your next elk and zip along smoothly for quick work. The $114.99 price won’t break the bank either. Made in the United States and available at www.buckknives.com.
Few things capture the mystique of elk hunting better than a wall tent tucked in a pine glade. Montana Canvas is a leader in providing shelter for hunters. The Blend Wall Tent continues the tradition but at a lighter weight. A 10-ounce cotton duck treated canvas roof sheds nature’s worst, and Relite polyester material covers the ends and sidewalls. These tan sections are fully coated, yet save you 40 percent in weight over the standard 10-ounce canvas model while packing into the backcountry. Tents include one window, a 5-inch stove jack with flap, sod cloth, stakes, rope, rope adjusters and a tent storage bag. Frame, flies and floors sold separately. Prices for models range from $1,259.99 to $3,579.98. Check out the Blend Wall Tent at www.montanacanvas.com.
Sometimes a knife is not enough. It pays to have a mini toolbox in your pocket, and that’s exactly what you get with the Gerber Lockdown Drive. From loose screws to tent repairs, this everyday carry tool does it all. Tucked away inside its low profile it has a 2.5-inch knife blade, double-sided bit driver, awl, replaceable utility blade, chisel edge and file. A clip guarantees a secure ride for the 3.87-inch overall length of the Lockdown Drive. The entire tool is barely a half inch wide and weighs a mere 4.5 ounces. Plus, it is a MacGyver steal at $51. Take a virtual test drive at www.gerbergear.com.
Replaceable blade knives have captured the hearts of many, and the Outdoor Edge RazorCape knife is the latest addition to the company’s RazorSafe system that allows you to change out blades with the push of a button. This 2-ounce knife features a 3-inch caping blade for the detail work required for trophy preparation. It also includes two additional drop-point blades for standard field work and a gutting blade. All are crafted from razor-sharp Japanese 420J2 stainless steel. Blades are secured in a black oxide-coated-steel blade holder for safety. The handle is Grivory nonslip polymer. It’s a great deal at $53.95. Visit www.outdooredge.com to learn more.
Backcountry elk hunters may scoff at hunting blinds, but not all elk hunters strictly hunt elk. And not all elk live in the backcountry. Some require a whitetail-like ambush, and the Primos Hide-N-Seek, new for 2022, provides concealment anywhere. With a 58- by 58-inch dimension and 67 inches of height, the blind is roomy enough for archers and cozy enough for firearm hunters. Windows open for a 270-degree view and operate on a silent slider system for stealth. Veil camouflage hides the blind, and you can customize it with natural brush using the integrated holders. It sells for $129.99. Be ready at your favorite wallow by visiting www.primos.com.
There is a certain type of freedom that comes with pitching a lighter base camp. The Davis Tent Go Tent offers that freedom. It’s designed to accommodate two people (or three without a stove) with its 10-foot by-10-foot space. High quality canvas provides protection, and the entire unit weighs 30 pounds (or 40 pounds with a sewn-in floor). Every Davis Tent resists water and mildew, and fire-retardant models are available. The entire tent folds down to a 2-foot-square package to fit into even the smallest of SUVs. The tent includes a 5.5-inch stove jack, and you can accessorize any Go Tent with a screen window, screen door and a Colorado storm door. The base model sells for $784. Begin your camp planning at www.davistent.com.
The Streamlight QB Compact Spot Beam LED headlamp will never leave you in the dark. At 1.5 ounces, this diminutive yet impact-resistant product lights up the world with a spot and focused beam that can be set at high, low or emergency flash mode. On high, its 200-lumen beam illuminates out to 85 meters, and its lithium polymer battery recharges with an included USB cable. When set on high with the spot beam, the headlamp runs for two hours and on low (95 lumens, 55m beam) it can illuminate the trail for a total of four hours. You can order it in black or yellow for as little as $32.99. Light up your world at www.streamlight.com.
A steady rest is vital for rifle or muzzleloader shots, long or short. BOG introduces the Camo DeathGrip shooting tripod to deliver a stable platform for hunters in any situation. From prone to standing height adjustment, the Camo DeathGrip also features 360-degrees of pan for fine-tuning your aim, steadied with a tension adjustment. With the ability to adjust the cant of your firearm to 25-degrees for shooting on a slant, this shooting rest delivers great versatility. An integrated bubble level gives you instant confirmation of levelness. Get it in Mossy Oak Bottomland or Realtree EXCAPE camouflage for $199.99. Find out more at www.boghunt.com.
Backcountry hunters embraced the original Garmin inReach communication and navigation device, and the inReach Mini 2, new for 2022, offers even more for those hunting beyond cellular service. The device has been improved to stand alone should your smartphone die. The battery now lasts 30 days, while the improved TracBack feature, satellite connection and coverage give you even more peace of mind in the backcountry. The reliable two-way messaging, SOS to summon rescuers in case of emergency, plus specific weather forecasts are invaluable features. Stay connected for $399.99. Learn more at www.garmin.com.
The Stealth Cam Reactor cellular camera takes National Geographic-crisp, 26-megapixel images and 1080P video at 30 frames per second. The 0.4 second trigger speed means fewer misses, even on an elusive Sasquatch, and with 100 feet of detection range, you can catch whatever walks by. Reasonably priced AT&T and Verizon plans are available across North America. Download he free Stealth Cam Command Pro App and use the quick scan QR code for simple setup, and management of the camera. Learn more at www.stealthcam.com
Trail camera regulations continue to impact their use in some states, but these devices remain effective scouting tools. Wildgame Innovations latest, the Encounter 2.0, teams with the HuntSmart app and is certified by both AT&T and Verizon networks using affordable service plans. Setup is simple: scan a QR code and you will be guided through the steps to begin receiving 26-megapixel images and 720P video to your smartphone. The HuntSmart app allows you to control many features of the camera in the palm of your hand. Trigger speed is lightning fast at 0.4 seconds and illumination extends to an impressive 80 feet. Shop for it as economical as $149.99. Discover more at www.wildgameinnovations.com.
Talk to the whole herd with confidence with Slayer Calls’ new 200 Series elk calls. These diaphragm calls give you superior control while allowing for a wide range of elk sounds. Send out non-aggressive bull calls such as conversational chuckles and location calls. Then draw out mews to create irresistible estrous calls. The 200 Series calls are built to comfortably fit most palates. Use the medium tension (orange) for a wider range of tones and higher frequencies or pick heavy tension (green) to jump to higher notes with less air. Add the 300 Series and 100 Series diaphragms to your collection to tap into those aggressive bugles and the gentler tones of cows and calves. 200 Series calls sell for $10.95 each. The icing on the cake? 10% of each purchase goes to organizations that help conserve wildlife, the environment and America’s hunting heritage. Visit https://www.slayercalls.com/shop/big-game/elk-calls/ to learn more.