Hunting in the mountains on a multi-day hunt is both a physical and mental test. If you can successfully apply the three following tips, your experience on the mountain is sure to be more enjoyable. It is a lot of time and hard work in planning and training all leading up to one moment in time. Make the most of it by being prepared!
1. TRAINING AND EXERCISE
I try to stay in good shape year round, exercising 4-5 times per week. Each year about mid-June I start to focus on training for our hunt in September in the mountains. Living in Montana for a few years this was easier, but now living in central Illinois in flat country I really need to work at it. Biking, running, leg workouts, lunges, squats, and wall sits are all key in preparing for hard hikes and heavy packs. I will also start walking 2-5 miles 3-4 nights per week with 50-60 lbs in my pack. We have one hill close by that I also try to go to each week and hike up and down with the pack as well. My kids like to go along, so it turns into good family time. In addition, I shoot a few arrows most nights and we have a 3D range close by, so I try to make it over there once a week as the trip gets closer.
2. FOOTWEAR AND APPAREL
If there is one thing that drives hunters off the mountain more than another, it is sore or wet feet. Your feet is where it all starts and it is important to have a solid footwear setup to ensure a comfortable, dry and pain free hunt. Once your feet and legs start to get tired or hurt you will quickly loose your mental focus and your hunting experience will not be as much fun. I recommend spending the extra money needed to have great footwear. I pair my Kenetrek Mountain Extreme boots with Smartwool PHD socks for ultimate comfort. The socks are padded in the right areas and do a great job of wicking away moisture and the boots are solid and durable to keep my feet and ankles protected and sturdy.
Clothing is the next critical part. You will have to handle any type of weather at any given time from 20 degrees and snowing, to high winds and/or rain, to beautiful and 80 degrees. Layering and having clothing that is both packable and performs how you need it to is crucial in mountain hunting. I start most days wearing a Sitka or Under Armour base layer. The weight and warmth of this layer will depend on the weather forecast. On top of that I wear Sitka Timberline Pants and the Jetstream Jacket. The Timberline pants are reinforced and waterproof at the seat and knees. They are very tough, yet maintain solid flexibility in all the right places as you are maneuvering through the mountains. The Jetstream Jacket is windproof and water resistant. It is lightweight enough to walk in, yet provides enough warmth when needed. Windproof apparel is key in the mountains as most days are fairly windy in higher elevations.
In my pack I usually have the Sitka Kelvin Lite Jacket, Dew Point Jacket and Pant and the Stormfront Glove to handle any weather conditions we might face. The Kelvin Lite Jacket is a very lightweight and packable jacket featuring Primaloft insulation providing plenty of warmth for sitting and glassing when the temperature starts to drop. The Dew Point Jacket/Pant and Stormfront Gloves are a 100% waterproof, lightweight and packable shell. If a rain storm moves in, I am confident that I will stay dry and comfortable. Depending on the weather forecast for the day, I may throw in an puffy or fleece layer if it is supposed to be colder.
Great optics and a bino harness are key in the mountains. You will spend a lot of time looking through your optics; the clearer and more eye relief, the better. I use a Swarovski 10×42 binocular. Swarovskis are great for low light conditions and glassing for long periods of time. Also we have many options for great bino harnesses. After hiking many miles and battling a variety of elements you will be glad you have a great bino harness. Along with quality binoculars, I recommend having a rangefinder that adjusts for angle compensation. This will help you be significantly more accurate, especially in the mountains when most shots tend to be at some degree of angle. My go-to rangefinder is a Vortex Ranger 1300.
Bow & Pack
There are many great bows on the market and available at SCHEELS. Choosing a bow all comes down to personal preference. I have come to prefer shooting Mathews bows. You may hunt for days and only get 1 shot at an Elk, you have to have a bow you can count on and have confidence in to make a great shot. Our SCHEELS Experts can help make the process in choosing a new bow a lot easier, stop in store to learn more about our selection and to try out a new bow. When it comes to choosing a pack you will want to find something that is comfortable and be adjustable to fit you. This will be critical when hiking for miles, storing your gear, or packing out an animal. My current pack is the Sitka Bivy 30. This pack has the right amount of storage for all of my gear and a variety of pockets to keep me organized in the field. We have a variety of packs to choose from online and in-store. Make sure to find the right pack in the right size for your hunt well before the season to allow you plenty of time to get everything organized and get the packed fitted properly.