Read Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE. Well it’s been about six months or so since we were in New Zealand and it seems like forever ago. Time is short as we are in the midst of hunting season so there won’t be much words for this final installment but be looking for some content to roll out around the New Year. For now enjoy the photos and be looking for more here on the website and through our Instagram page.
Each year brings on a number of different hunts, some day trips and others week long backpack missions. Each has one thing in common, fuel. What you put in your backpack and your body has a great impact on your performance in the field. Generally the more calories the better and often happier you’ll be. They come at a price though, weight. As you fine tune your setups you begin to weigh calories to weight and try to maximize the equation in your benefit. Eventually we all find foods that fit the bill and taste good, for a while a least. By November we often dread another Beef Stroganoff Mountain House or a Chocolate Chip Cliff Bar. It’s easy to come by and trying new things can be expensive and hard to find. This year as I began to prepare for another fall in the mountains I dreaded the thought of the same old foods filling my pack. Fortunately I’d seen the Backcountry Fuel Box started by Cody Rich and got my hands on one.
I opened the box one day at my desk and proceeded to eat the first thing in the box, a Protein Puck. Dang that was good!! I had a hard time not eating the whole box at my house. Over the next three months I got to try a bunch of cool food products from small backcountry nutrition brands. Here were a few of my favorites:
- GreenBelly Meals – www.greenbelly.co
I got to try the Peanut/Apricot version and it was great. There are two bars in each package coming in at a whopping 650 calories and 33% of your daily nutrition.
- FBOMB – www.dropanfbomb.com
Next up was the FBOMB. I got to try the Macadamia with Coconut version and it also was awesome. These small packets are filled with nut butter and this one is Macadamia nut butter and Coconut Butter. It tastes great and provides 205 calories in 1oz of weight. Big on calories, taste and light on weight.
- Protein Puck – www.myproteinpuck.com
The Protein Puck in Almond Butter – Dark Chocolate was the first thing I ate out of a Backcountry Fuel Box and it was tasty as hell. This one comes in at 460 calories for 3.25 ounces of weight.
So far I haven’t really been diving into the dinners that come in the boxes, I’ve been saving them for hunts. There’s usually about 10 items in each box and they come on a monthly basis. It’s super easy, subscribe and each month a box shows up in your mailbox or doorstep. You’ll be able to use the food to supplement hunts and try new products you might not have easy access to. I would highly recommend them. You can learn more and subscribe super easily at their website > wwwbackcountryfuelbox.com
Read the first part of this series HERE. After a few weeks on the island we had put some great fish in the net but conditions had been tough. The rivers had blown out twice and most of the fishable days had overcast skies which made spotting tough in lots of the water we were fishing. We pushed through and made the best of it. We spent some time fishing the flats for kingfish which was a wild experience. I think we were a few weeks behind on timing and it seems that the locals feel the fishery is getting heavily pressured and there’s some shady tactics being used by guides with boats. We had a good time despite few kingfish sightings and wen’t back to town before being flow deep into the backcountry.
The backcountry was amazing but the fishing was tough! Coming that late in the season meant that the easy to see fish were insanely spooky and picky on flies. We all got into beautiful fish but our hookup to sighting percentage was definitely in the single digits. Finding fast water and taking extra time to try to spot fish in that water made things easier as it seemed these fish hadn’t been pressured as much. Be looking for Part 3 soon.
New Zealand Tahr Hunt – Day 2 started with the crew sleeping in till just after sunrise. With one bull in camp we felt confident in saving our energy for another solid evening hunt. Travis finished up taking care of his hide and skull as the guys fixed up a mean lunch of more tahr meat, potatoes, and onions.
After filling our bellies and taking a quick snooze in the sun we loaded the packs and started our trek back up the valley.
This afternoon we decided to go up the opposite side of the head of the valley. We wanted to look further back into the end of the drainage. After getting in position we started picking out tahr all across the upper half of the mountain. A few hours later and a small band of tahr had fed to within 50 yards before winding us and moving off. We had spotted a cool looking one horned bull up high on the mountain. His cape swirled and billowed in the wind and we knew he was a mature bull. After telling Josh I’d shoot him if he didn’t he decided this would be his bull to make a move on. After watching him move lower and lower it was time to make a move to get into shooting position. Josh and Ben set off while myself and August held back and kept an eye on him. Within twenty minutes of the guys being gone the bull had dropped so low we could no longer see him. Just a few minutes later we heard a shot echo through the valley. We picked up our packs and quickly hustled up the drainage to see what had taken place.
As we caught up to the guys Josh was admiring his first tahr. A unique and old one horned beast. We quickly shot photos as light faded and again we had a long packout in the dark followed by another dinner of backstrap and cold beers.
Want to see how close the bull got before Josh took his shot? Watch the following as we take you through Day 2 of our hunt!
Special thanks to Ben and August and if you’re interested in hunting any big game animals free range in New Zealand definitely hit up Ben at his website > www.bghnz.co.nz/
Written by : Zack Boughton
It’s now been over a month since I embarked on my first ever mountain goat hunt. Since then I’ve spent a good amount of time elk hunting and every time there is high, rocky country my eye wanders looking for those white specs. I’ve actually spotted about a dozen goats now in areas I’d never think of looking if it hadn’t have been for this goat hunt. Each time I watch them I’m reminded of their sheer agility and willingness to live in some truly wild places. Back to my hunt though. The plan was to get on the mountain a few days before season, locate a billy I’d seen during scouting and fill my tag quickly. The plan sounded good enough.
With a heavy pack and fresh legs we started up the trail. The weather was clear and warm and we made quick time en route to our first glassing location. Cresting the ridge two hours later and glassing down into the first basin revealed a billy working across the top of some large cliffs. So far so good.
The next two days would be spent glassing from a large ridgeline, affording us a view into 4 different basins. The closest basin was where I thought our target goat was living and sure enough on the first day we located him bedded under a rock edge. Despite their white color the mountain goats were proving to be difficult to spot at times.
That night we watched him peel around the edge of the basin headed towards the easiest trail to access and hike in the unit. With a day till season he’d surely not make such a silly decision right?
The following day was one that didn’t build much confidence for the opener. Our day began and ended the same, posted up along the ridge letting the glass do our walking. Only a nanny and kid were spotted during the long day.
With all the nearby goats pushing further into the unit we hoped overnight we’d have a few work back into the closer basins. The plan was to wake up first thing and look for our billy, if he didn’t show we’d make a long push along a ridge we believed was safe to travel along, leading us into a remote basin that seemed a sure bet to find a goat.
The next morning broke to more beautiful weather. As soon as we could see we were scouring hillsides looking for white specs. Thirty minutes revealed nothing and we knew we needed to make our push towards the remote back basin.
The route proved doable and we soon crested over the top. The basin sprawled out before us. With game trails worn deep into the ridgeline we figured it would only be a matter of time before spotted a goat. Unfortunately that afternoon only turned up a small group of sheep. Disappointing but I guess that’s hunting. We retraced our steps in time to take a last look for our same billy before we hit the tent for the night. He was nowhere to be found and we got some needed rest before waking up hoping that the goats would reappear. The next morning we quickly made it to our glassing point hoping a billy would be back into the nearest basin. Nothing showed and the surrounding areas were devoid of goats as well. Our move to test out new country in hopes of catching a billy off guard had proved futile. We begrudgingly packed camp knowing today would be a long one. A 1500′ drop would get us back to the trail and back up the mountain we’d go in the opposite direction. As we crest the pass I got cell service and a text message told of a billy shot right off the trail where we now stood. Apparently mountain goats can make easy and fatal mistakes. With other camps on the pass we figured we’d drop elevation again to push deeper into the unit. It wasn’t ideal but it would put us into some remote mountain goat country. Three hours later we’d dropped to the bottom and climbed up to our next camp. We were physically drained and took an hour to eat and take a short rest. With rain in the forecast we knew we needed to push on and try to find a billy.
A look into a vast chuck of country only revealed one goat, two miles across the basin. He’d be safe for now. We quickly sidehilled across the ridge to the next saddle. Only a few seconds into glassing a goat was spotted bedded under a rim of cliffs. The spotter revealed he was a billy and we knew a move had to be made quickly.
With adrenaline fueling our legs we sidehilled hoping our remote movements wouldn’t be observed by our target. His bed afforded a perfect view of all below him and a careful stalk would be necessary to get close. A mile out we had to begin utilizing the small amount of cover we had. Staying behind trees and small boulders got us to 1000 yards. He was now up and feeding. 100-200 yard openings would need to be covered as he fed up the hill and not looking in our direction. Some patience was necessary but eventually we got to 300 yards. He was still unaware of our presence but with a rifle built for it’s light weight and ruggedness and not it’s accuracy I knew getting closer would make this stalk into a guaranteed kill. Another sprint in the open with the billy feeding away put us underneath him and to our last zone of cover. As I peeked up over the boulders my rangefinder told me he was 190 yards away. With a good rest this would be a sure shot. I eased onto my pack and chambered a round. The view through the riflescope was utterly clear and somewhat unreal. The moment had come, I looked at his horns and although I knew bigger existed on the mountain this day had been an experience that embodied what I wanted the hunt to be. It felt right and I confirmed Travis had him in the spotter. As he stood slightly quartering away I eased into the trigger until it broke and the last thing I saw was the goat flip over and begin a short tumble down the mountain. The next few moments were spent riding out the adrenaline high and realizing that we now were deep in the mountains with lots of work to be done and darkness quickly approaching.
A mountain goat tag is a very special thing to have. That said mountain goat hunting doesn’t entitle you to a trophy or a goat, it only means you get to have an experience unlike any other and one you surely won’t forget.
We’re now in the midst of summer and it’s a great time to be outside for most of the country. Here in Montana its been a great summer so far. Even though it’s not technically summer we think of June as summer anyways. That’s when we start getting back out on the water in full force. It’s a time for salmonflies, early mornings, brown trout, big dries, streamer eats, laughs, roadtrips, sunscreen and lots of great scenery. This year we got to explore some new water in Southwest Montana and it didn’t fail to impress. Did we mention summer fishing is tight!?
The salmonfly hatch is one that is no secret here in Montana. It happens in most of the Western half of the state but at different times. Trying to chase the hatch and learn what makes the bugs hatch and what makes the fish eat is something that you could spend a lifetime learning. Whether you know what your doing or not it’s damn fun to watch a fish rise to a bug the size of your pinky!
Once you’ve started throwing the salmonfly around it’s sure hard to put anything else on the end of your line. Jumping from river to river though means you might be ahead or behind the hatch. Sometimes you’re early or the fish are just too full to look up that day and things slow down considerably. When you’ve had enough you tie on a streamer and see what happens, it usually works out to your advantage.
With summer comes our love for the smaller water tucked away in the backcountry of Montana. It’s where we first developed our love for fly fishing and it seems we always carve out a little time to get back and throw dries to hungry trout. The scenery isn’t bad either.
Even though we had a pretty solid winter, it seems our snowpack has burned off quickly. Rivers are getting low and Hoot Owl is out on quite a few rivers now. We generally shift our mindset over to hunting and scouting this time of year, but if you do get to spend some time on the rivers be sure to remember the fish are already worn down with the warming water and low flows. Be looking for a new film to be dropping here next week!! Also, thanks to all who read and support our content. As a small thank you we will be offering free USA shipping to you through the remainder of July. Just use coupon code: FREESUMMER at checkout!
-Written by Zack Boughton
Back in 2013 we decided to make a trip to some Idaho backcountry in search of spring black bears. If you want to read more about the trip there is PART 1 and PART 2. This is our longest film to date and shows more of the process and day-to-day challenges we face on hunts like this. It was our most physical hunt any of us had done but in the end the reward was well worth the effort put forth by all of us. Your support either through purchasing apparel, sharing the film, or even leaving a comment on our content helps us continue to make more hunting and fishing films!! ENJOY!!
12:23AM – The glow of my computer screen reveals a map littered with steep faces, jagged peaks, avalanche chutes, and small alpine lakes. Since this time last year I’d been waiting to return these mountains. As we bounced up the rocky back road the anticipation built as steep faces grew from the thick creek bottom. For the past two years I’d wanted to wrap my deer tag around the thick antlers of a mature mule deer.
Early last October I began to search the mountainous country of Western Montana with that purpose in mind. Many days were spent without ever laying eyes on a big deer. The only glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel was a day in late November when we arrived at a new trailhead only to see a bruiser of a buck down just above us on the mountainside. A couple of hunters vibrantly glowed off the snow covered hillside. I knew we were getting closer, but I would have to wait till 2013 to continue searching.
My 2013 deer season began on October 12th. My Metcalf was full of backcountry gear and food and we headed off up the mountain. The goal was simply to become more familiar with the area. Our first day started with a moose sighting. This bull stood patiently observing the area and quickly had me dreaming about one day having a moose tag in my hand.
We set up camp that night and laid eyes on a few deer through the spotter. Day 2 was spent looping high onto a rocky ridge and inspecting an adjacent basin. No deer were spotted, but we gained valuable knowledge of the area. As we descended back to the truck we spotted 2 bears feeding on berries in the thick brush on the adjacent hillside. The brush was far to thick for a bow stalk and we simply watched them disappear into the tall bushes. No bucks had been spotted but we felt confident that we could change that when we came back with a rifle in hand.
Montana’s general season found us back at the same trailhead with packs loaded down for 7 days. We slowly worked our way up the uneven trail keeping our eyes peeled for the tan hide of a mountain buck. That morning the spotter revealed two bucks nosing does high on the mountain. Neither buck was the “one” and we pushed onward up the mountain.
Day 2 broke with a storefront rolling in. Cold temps and snow were being called for. We were ready for the nasty weather, but unfortunately I had forgotten to tape the drop chart to the side of my stock and only remembered the data for 0-300 and 600 yards. To top it off Travis had come down with a head cold. We decided to back out for a few days and then come back for a fresh start.
Three days later we were again headed back up the mountain. Our goal would be to hunt a loop taking us over 3 mountain passes and through some great country to try to find a big buck. The gameplan was to get camp up to the first pass and spend two days there glassing the adjacent hillsides. Without knowing where these bucks liked to spend their time meant we would be putting in a full days work behind the glass. As we settled in for our first night, the sound of snow bouncing off of our tent was something we weren’t sure if we should be happy or mad about. When our alarms went off the next morning, snow and fog surrounded our camp. Low visibility, wind, and more snow meant we would be hunkered in the tent for some time, and we intended to wait it out. To worsen a poor start to our hunt, I’d started the morning with a sore throat.
The following afternoon the fog lifted just enough for us to sneak out for the last few hours of daylight. We slowly worked down and around a ridge working our way through the rocks. Nothing. It appeared that the the game would be found high on the exposed, wind blown slopes or far down the drainage below us. We made it back to camp where a fire was built, and we dried out before taking refuge in the tent once again.
6:20AM I’ve already been awake for a few hours. My sore throat has developed into a full head cold. Being stuck in a tent at over 7000′ with a cold is no fun, but the weather was clear and it was time to move. We shook our snowy tent off and loaded up our packs once again. We slowly began breaking trail through a foot of snow as we moved towards our second camp location.
After two days of living in the tent we were low on water and took a detour down to a lake to pump water before continuing on. As we did the unmistakable tracks of a buck crossed the trail and went up the hill.
With our water refilled we pushed on with high hopes of getting an opportunity in the next three days. Just as we reached the flat bench we would be calling home another storm began rolling in. We quickly got our tent up and immediately got out of the weather to avoid getting wet. A few hours later the visibility had decreased to about 200′. The decision was made to still stalk that evening and see if we could cut a track. With no tracks found we headed back to camp.
As I unzipped the tent the following morning I was very displeased at what lay before me. Another foot of snow and zero visibility. Enough was enough and I made the decision that sometimes the mountains win. This time, just as many times before they won. We quickly packed up camp once again. With two feet of snow it now complicated our descent back to the truck.
The plan had been to traverse some avalanche chutes where the deer liked to live and then work down to the trail and finally make our way to the truck. With the snow it made the idea of traversing avalanche chutes one that didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t feel like dying, and we decided to slowly slip and slide our way down through the trees and brush. Multiple small cliffs had to be navigated around and three hours later we finally set foot back on the trail. Five days essentially wasted in a tent and hiking through snow. Again I had failed to even lay eyes on a big mountain mule deer. No one said it would be easy and when you must teach yourself everything and find your own locations to hunt it makes it even more difficult. With no time this summer to scout I decided that our annual trip east must once again be done. This time we’d be exploring on our own in hopes we could fill not one but two deer tags.
Read Part 2 HERE.
Hunting out of your backpack is something every hunter should try at some point. The endeavor isn’t easy. Day after day of hunting in the backcountry with only your backpack will mentally and physically wear on you. If you haven’t trained in some way to handle the extra stress that a backpack hunt will put on your body then I recommend attempting a 2-3 day hunt about 5 miles back. Backpack hunting is by far one of our favorite ways to hunt and it can make a big difference in the quality of animals you can hunt. It allows you to really connect with the land and gain a greater appreciation for the outdoors.
With rifle season about to begin it often can pay off to get out further away from access areas. During the first 3 weeks we’ll be doing just that as we look to hunt in areas that just don’t see many hunters. Already this year we’ve hunted with camp on our back over a half dozen times, and figured we would give you a quick look into what we carry. The goal when backpack hunting should be to stay warm, dry, and happy.
This past week we did a quick 2 day trip about 5 miles back. We were searching some high country basins for mule deer. Despite not seeing any bucks it was still a success and was a good prep for some longer trips we have planned for rifle season. Below is some of what I generally will carry in my pack for trips from 2-7 days. Click the photo to enlarge.
Pack: Mystery Ranch Metcalf
Tent: MSR 2 man
Bag: Mountain Hardware 20 degree bag
Pad: Therma Rest Neo Air
Layers: Merino Wool top, Jetstream Jacket, Jetstream Vest, Kelvin Hoody, Timberline pant, Stormfront pant, Dewpoint Jacket, 1 baseball cap, beanie, Smartwool long underwear, 2 pairs of socks, 2 light gloves, 1 heavy glove.
Food: Dehydrated meals, Clif Bars, trail mix, jerky, dark chocolate, fruit snacks, candy
Boots: Danner Crag Rat
Others: Backpacking stove, water filter, 4 game bags, CamelBak 75L, Vortex Razor 65mm spotting scope, tripod, 2 knives, knife sharpener, firestarter, 2 lighters, GPS, headlamp, 75′ para-cord, extra shoelace, notepad, pencil, toiletries, first aid kit
This list doesn’t include everything and is just the essentials. It’s not a perfect list and should simply get you started in the right direction if you’ve never done such a hunt. We don’t weigh our gear and get worried over ounces due to the heavy camera gear that we constantly carry. If you can, go as light as possible. You legs will thank you and you’ll be able to hunt harder. As the season progresses we’ll try to keep notes on what does and doesn’t work for us out there on the mountain. The vibes are good going into rifle season and good luck to everyone out there!
If you missed Part 1 be sure to read it HERE before continuing.
The crack of dawn arrived quickly and we all slowly emerged from our tents to tackle another day on the mountain. The hours were getting long and full days on the mountain will mentally take a toll on you. This morning the goal was to work the upper end of a drainage we had yet to hunt. We were hoping the warm weather would push a bear or two up into the newly exposed areas. We slowly climbed up and around the mountain. It was just after 8am when we crested over the final ridge. A small basin of lush green grass was below us. We glassed for an hour without any luck. We grabbed the predator call and began a series of calling, hoping to entice any bears in the area to show themselves. After twenty five minutes we called it quits. We relocated to the top of the hill and settled in for a long day of waiting for a bear to emerge.
We settled in and layed under a tree for the next 8 hours. The only animals to show themselves were a few lonely mule deer who were traveling up the basin. No one was feeling super confident about the area and we made the call to work back down to the low clearing which we had spotted three bears in over the past five days. We stealthily worked back down the mountain but didn’t turn up a bear. With only an hour of light left we decided to try calling again. Zack began a sequence of distress calls that went on and off for the next half an hour. Nothing had emerged and Travis and I had thrown in the towel. I was slowly working back to my pack when Travis motioned for me to get down. Zack had stayed back on the rock and had spotted a good bear that stepped out into the clearing. He was 400 yards up the hill and slowly feeding left to right. A scramble ensued as we quickly set up the packs so I could get a solid rest.
Zack and Travis got the cameras rolling and I settled my sights on the black chest of the unaware bear. This time I would wait for a prime shot. As if to tempt me, the bear took a few long minutes before turning broadside. As he did I slipped my finger onto the trigger and began the slow squeeze. At 15 ounces the trigger cracked easily and my shot connected with a loud “thwack!” The bear looped uneasily uphill and began to slow. I quickly fired another round. It missed him just high but it didn’t matter as he tipped over on the steep hillside. I rolled to the side as a surge of emotions overcame me. We had overcome the previous night’s failure and had come back in epic fashion. Thoughts of my dad and his history with this place made the moment one of my most memorable and I told the guys that this was my most meaningful trophy to date. We quickly grabbed our gear and began the hike up to my first Idaho black bear.
Our work was far from finished though. We snapped some photos and started taking care of the old boar. When we finally finished our work on the bear we threw him in the Mystery Ranch Metcalf and began the short hike back to camp. We rolled into camp and enjoyed another night by the fire with fresh backstrap roasting in the golden flames.
We crawled into our tents that night at 2AM. It had been a long six days in the mountains. Our feet we’re blistered, our hands cut and dirty, and our legs sore and achy.
Sleep came easy that night, but was quickly disrupted as our alarms began ringing at 5AM. No one wanted to get up, but with 12 miles ahead of us it was necessary to get an early beat so we could make it back to civilization in time to check our bears in before heading back to Montana. We quickly broke down camp and distributed our gear amongst the three Mystery Ranch packs. It was twelve miles to the trailhead and we would all be carrying packs in excess of seventy pounds. This hunt was a true test of our resilience and determination and the test would only be over when we finally laid eyes on the truck.
As we dropped elevation our packs buried deep into our shoulders. The pain was there but it was some of the best pain I’ve felt. Pushing yourself to your limits and seeing what your capable of is something that is so rewarding and I’d encourage everyone to get outside their comfort zone this year. You just may surprise yourself and I know that I will not soon forget the adventure that we shared and look forward to many more challenges to come!
Special thanks to the following killer companies for making the best gear out there: Snowy Mountain Rifles, Sitka Gear, Vortex Optics, Mystery Ranch, YETI Coolers, Hunting GPS Maps, Danner Boots, Lone Wolf Knives, MSR, and Garmin.
-Written by Anthony VonRuden. Edited by Zack Boughton