by Brad Fenson
Equipment to help give you the edge you need to punch your tag this fall—and some high-quality knives to make the work that follows feel a whole lot easier.
I’m an old-fashioned hunter, using checklists to prepare for adventures. Knowing I have everything for the duration of a trip gives me peace of mind and avoids field snafus. The Eberlestock B4 Atlas Duffel stands ready to transport the contents of my checklist to ensure everything is packed in a single, camp-ready carrier.
With nearly 6,000 cubic inches of space, the B4 Atlas stores extra boots, clothing and other hunt essentials. Padded dividers in the main compartment keep clothes, cooking gear and food organized while a hard-sided bottom protects optics, tripods or handguns. Six zippered side-pockets store ammunition, knives, sunscreen, bug repellant and other items you need to find and access quickly. All compartments can be locked shut thanks to YKK security zippers.
Deploy the rain cover stored in the duffel to protect your equipment from moisture or dust. Oversized wheels and a telescoping handle tackle rough terrain with ease, and the outer fabric is 500-denier ripstop nylon, ready to stand up to any abuse on the way to your base camp. The duffel weighs 12 lbs. 12 oz. and measures 29.5 inches high, 16 inches wide and 16 inches deep.
This convenient packing system allows you to spend more time hunting and less time looking for something. It’s proven to withstand airline handling and has helped me efficiently pack for any trip. Visit eberlestock.com to learn more.
The first knife I ever purchased was a Buck, and I still have that knife. The name was and continues to be synonymous with quality. The Buck Alpha Hunter Pro harnesses the same spirit of excellence, designed for big game hunters to field dress animals with thick hides. I took the knife to Africa and used it on 14 species of big game. The blade was touched up every evening and stayed incredibly sharp for the entire trip.
Buck uses S35VN steel, which holds an edge throughout the field dressing and skinning process without need for resharpening. The blade is designed for strength, with a high-panel flat grind and drop point. The Alpha features a full tang, extending the length of the handle for heavy use. Jimping on the top of the blade provides agility and control when using different grips on the knife for detail work. It comes with a reinforced leather sheath that keeps the knife on your belt or safely in your pack.
With a blade that measures 3.6” (9.2 cm) and a 8 1/8” overall length, it weighs just under 4.6 oz. Whether you choose the textured Richlite or walnut DymaLux handle, both offer exceptional grip even when wet. Each blade is hand sharpened by Buck and tempered to the appropriate Rockwell Hardness. This gives you longer edge life and easier resharpening to keep up with the demands of a challenging hunt. The Alpha Hunter Pro carries a Forever Warranty and is made in the USA. Visit buckknives.com.
A big mule deer buck came in to view as I edged to the top of a ridge. The deer stood beside a fence, and I quickly checked the map on my onX app before planning the stalk. Unfortunately, the deer was 10 yards onto the neighboring property. Though the buck proved inaccessible to me, at least knowing the exact boundaries kept me from agonizing over whether chasing it would lead to accidental trespassing.
onX Maps has grown rapidly in popularity and features, and now includes 3D mapping and even more features tailored to hunters. The information is always at your fingertips and easy to master. Offline maps make hunting remote areas easy; you simply download a map before the trip and use it in the field without cellular data coverage. Maps are available for all 50 states, and the app now services Canada.
Among the many features, the most-used is the public and private land boundaries. I shot a turkey in the Black Hills of South Dakota after using the onX app to identify public land. The maps can even help you break down the best turkey or elk habitat, using layers that identify specific trees or crops. The custom map tools allow users to save waypoints, draw lines, determine point-to-point distances and track hunting steps.
The hybrid basemap combines satellite imagery and a 1:24,000 topographic map to keep it user-friendly.
At $99.99 a year, onX Hunt Elite provides nationwide maps and exclusive benefits from leading hunting brands. RMEF members will appreciate the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Layer that displays locations, borders and entry points of RMEF access projects nationwide. You can find the RMEF Layer within the Wildlife Layers folder. Use code RMEF for 20 percent off new onX memberships. A portion of all proceeds for subscriptions made using this code goes back to RMEF. Visit onxmaps.com.
I used the ALPS OutdoorZ Elite Series hunting pack to transport moose meat and antlers back to my truck and found it comfortable and rugged. It’s lightweight, strong, adjustable and versatile, providing elk hunters with an array of carry options. The Elite Frame adjusts for a custom fit and stays cool with breathable mesh. Choose from the 1,800- or 3,800-cubic-inch pack bags, each easy to attach for quick day trips or multi-day adventures. Then, if you punch your tag and need to carry a quarter, special straps allow the bag to slide away from the frame, which, in combination with a built-in meat shelf, keeps heavy loads close to your center of gravity. Visit www.alpsoutdoorz.com.
GSM Stealth Cam
After hunting moose for more than a week, I took a break to hunt waterfowl. The first morning in the blind, my phone started buzzing with a notification from my Stealth Cam trail camera. I opened it to see a picture of a bull moose cutting through our yard.
Trail cameras are an excellent option for monitoring a property for game or for security. Stealth’s newest model is the Deceptor which combines AT&T and Verizon coverage in a single unit. The camera has
pre-installed SIM cards for both carriers and will auto-detect the best available signal, jumping from one
to the other as needed to maintain network communication.
Using the Stealth Cam Command Pro app, users can check their cameras in real-time for animals or weather conditions with on-demand photos and videos sent right to their device. Photos range from 4 to 40 megapixels, and a burst option allows up to three images in quick succession. The high-resolution QHD 1440p videos with audio are top-notch, as is the 36-piece, 940nm NoGlo LED array that provides detection and flash range out to 80 feet and works with a fast 0.4-second trigger and a recovery timeout that can be set from 5 to 180 seconds. The Deceptor also comes with a Python lock latch to secure your investment.
Learn more at StealthCam.com.
I have used a bino harness since the day the first model went on sale. I love how they protect my optics and prevent neck and back strain. Badlands has developed hunting packs and harnesses for 31 years and for 2023 has four entirely new modular designs that swap back and forth with a series of accessories that attach to the sides or bottom of the case. Models are: Bino AXS (a play on the word “access” as it’s the most accessible case for grabbing your binos easily). Bino EZ (very easy to open and stays open). Bino Mag 2 (an update to Badlands best-selling Bino Mag case). And finally, the Bino X2 (an update to Badlands popular Bino X case). Learn more at badlandsgear.com.
Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls
Calling elk can be challenging, but the innovative NSU “Next Step Up” line of diaphragm calls employs a recessed latex and palate plate to place your tongue in the correct position, helping novices avoid the guesswork. And since everyone’s mouth differs, the NSU line comes in a variety of palate shapes. The
Moon Phase is for people with a flatter profile palate plate while the Warrior is designed for hunters with a medium-low profile palate plate and comes ready to make everything from cow/calf calls to satellite to herd bull bugles. Learn more at rockymountainhuntingcalls.com.
Schrade knives and Rage broadheads combined forces to create the Schrade Enrage Series of knives with razor sharp replaceable blades. The Isolate 8 features a 3-inch replaceable blade that quickly and securely snaps on to a 5-inch non-slip handle, perfect for hunting. It also includes a case for blade storage, a blade removal/installation tool and a sheath. To further enhance safety, the handle gets grippier when wet and has a built-in pocket clip for easy carry. Visit schrade.com.
Another piece of equipment I had the chance to test when I had a moose down this past fall was the Outdoor Edge Razor Guide Pak set of butchering tools, which stores safely in a waxed canvas case to keep components separated. I used the knives and saw to break down the massive animal, which worked superbly. The kit includes a multipurpose Flip-N-Zip folding aluminum saw, as well as the RazorBone and RazorCape knives, which both use Outdoor Edge’s replaceable blade system. The kit comes with two 3-inch caping blades, a 3½-inch gutting blade, two 3½-inch drop-point blades and two 5-inch boning/fillet blades. Never hunt with a dull knife again. Visit www.outdooredge.com.
The GPSMAP 67 Series and the eTrex SE offer the latest Garmin technology in outdoor navigation devices. These GPS handheld units are built for rugged use and come complete with enhanced battery life to support longer expeditions. The eTrex SE takes 2 AA batteries (sold separately). The new handhelds feature better coverage in heavy timber or tight canyons. The GPSMAP 67/67i takes it a step further with multi-band support that utilizes multiple frequencies, further improving positioning accuracy. Additionally, the GPSMAP 67i with inReach technology lets users stay in two-way contact with friends and family without cell service. If needed, trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7-staffed Garmin Response Team. The GPSMAP Series is powered by internal, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Visit www.garmin.com.
Peax Trekking Poles
When I covered 18 miles and the equivalent of 347 floors on a mountain goat hunt, I was grateful for the help of hiking poles. Sissy Stix Backcountry Elite poles are designed with backcountry hunters in mind. The poles are ultra-light but extremely durable, made of carbon fiber and aluminum. The ergonomic handle provides enhanced comfort and versatility. The poles can be adjusted for height with Micro-Adjust Quick Locks, or easily collapsed so they can be stored on a pack. The features are well thought out with low-profile Trekker Baskets that prevent sinking and snags. There are even screw-on rubber feet to reduce noise during stalks. The poles come in a carry bag. Learn more at www.peaxequipment.com.
Some of my fondest memories of backcountry adventures involve wall tents. The comfort and protection from the elements don’t hide the magical sounds of sleeping outside. Davis Tent’s Elk Package is designed for hunters with a roomy 14 ft.x15-ft. wall tent with a window in the back, removable screen door and Colorado door (storm flap). The package includes a 3/4 floor, Ridge Wood Burning Stove and bags for carrying and storing both tent and stove. Visit www.davistent.com.
Montana Canvas uses grade A, 10 oz. cotton duck canvas treated for maximum protection from the elements, includes mildew inhibitors and is fire-retardant. Each Canvas Wall Tent features 5-ft. side walls, a 7.5 ft. zippered front door with weather flap and one 24×30-in. zippered screen window on the rear wall. Each tent is 100 percent manufactured in the USA. The end wall seams consist of six layers of double-stitched canvas, and the eaves are double stitched. The roof and footing are reinforced for durability and include a stove port. The tent comes with rope and a storage bag. Visit www.montanacanvas.com.
If you’re like me and have tried dozens of flashlights and headlamps searching for the best option, look no further. The Fenix HM65R is compact, lightweight and operates hands-free, lighting up whatever you’re looking at. The unit offers three settings to focus the beam of light on a small object or trail, and four additional settings that go floodlight-wide, all with varying intensities from 10 to 1,000 lumens at the push of a button. The unit is waterproof and shockproof, and weighs 3.4 ounces without the included 18650 battery, making it very comfortable to wear and lightweight enough to keep in your hunting pack. This headlamp is USB-C rechargeable and includes a battery level indicator. It also runs with two CR123 lithiums. Learn more at www.fenixlighting.com.
Whether it’s for rifle cartridges, broadheads or items I need to be waterproof, I use MTM cases asset for storing my essential hunting gear. When MTM came out with a Single Scoped Rifle Case, I knew it would provide the same level of protection for transporting a firearm. The case is deep to accommodate a scoped rifle and measures 50 inches long. Molded with high-impact plastic, it features four, strong snap latches and padlock points and uses high-quality egg-crate foam to keep your gun safe and steady within the case. It also boasts external tie-down grooves for securing to an ATV. See more at mtmcase-gard.com.
Slayer Game Calls
I remember the instructor of my first elk-calling seminar teaching me how to tie a string to the diaphragm call in case I swallowed it. That joke is even less funny for those who can’t use one. But even if a diaphragm call doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a call that will. The Slayer Enchantress might be just the thing you need to make realistic elk sounds. This all-in-one external elk call creates realistic sounds with the push of a button. The push call uses an internal reed and attaches easily to a Slayer Swagger bugle tube for rich tones and volume. A silicone “tongue” that mimics the shape and texture of a human tongue produces the sounds. Push a button to depress the tongue on the reed while blowing, and you can make every elk sound you need. Visit www.slayercalls.com.
Cold hands can take the fun out of outdoor activities in a hurry. The modern G-Tech Heat technology in the Heated Hand Warmers uses a 7.4-volt rechargeable lithium battery to provide up to 12 hours of continuous heat. Hunters shivering in their duck blinds or sitting by a tree waiting for an elk to pass as well as ice fishing enthusiasts can attach this hand warmer and use it without missing any action. The water-resistant polyester outer material helps to keep skin dry, so it warms fast. A switch on the front of the unit controls low, medium and hot settings. See gtechapparel.com.
With pre-installed SIM cards, the Muddy Mitigator wireless camera offers outstanding cell coverage using AT&T or Verizon. The camera takes 4, 8, or 20 megapixel-photos with an 80-foot detection and flash range. Using the Stealth Cam Command Pro app, users can view what is moving at the camera site in real time. Information on time, date, moon phase, temperature and camera location are included with photos. The camera comes with a ½-inch diameter and 20 twists per inch threaded insert and a Python Lock Latch and offers one-to-three-photo bursts and a five- to 180-second recovery timeout. Visit www.gomuddy.com.
Sceery Game Calls
The deep, guttural sound of a big, mature bull pierced the morning silence. A challenge bugle generated a response to pinpoint the bull’s location, and we ran to cut the distance. Calling elk is part of the enjoyment of the hunt. Ed Sceery recognized this and has been in the call game for years. With the Perfect Pitch bugle you can make every sound a bull makes from squeals, grunts and locating bugles to the screams and roars of the herd boss. If you are still trying to master calling, the Bad Attitude Elk Bugle Kit includes the bugle and a detailed 55-minute instructional DVD, “Guide to Using Bull Elk Bugles.” Visit www.sceeryoutdoors.com.