Posts

The ultralight craze has been going on for years now, ounces turn into pounds as they say!  Much of the advancement in technology that saves us weight is and has been a good thing.  That said, there is a fine line between counting ounces, and maintaining performance and comfort.  Take backpacks for example, I’d definitely go 1-1.5 pounds heavier to have a pack that feels good on my back and will reward me when I turn my 35-50 pound load into an 80-100 pound load.  Food, cut ounces where you can but if you don’t get the nutrition and calories you need your physical performance will suffer.  A sleeping pad/sleeping bag, lots of weight can be cut here on many guys setups but at the end of the day I pick a pad that gives me the best sleep even if it does weigh an extra 8-16 ounces.  All that said I believe the same theory applies with rifles.  For the past 6 years or so I’ve been hunting with a 300WSM built by Snowy Mountain Rifles.  We picked components that would yield a durable and extremely accurate hunting rifle.  It weighs 12lbs 1oz without ammo so add in bullets and a sling and we’re right around 13lbs.  Not light by any means but a tack driver and something that once you lay down behind it it’s not going to move on you.  The past few years I’ve done more backcountry hunts for multiple days and although I can handle the weight I’d be happy to shave 2-4 pounds off my setup if possible.  This year I decided to build a new Mountain Hunting Rifle, one that would fall more in the middle of too light and too heavy.

THE GUN

Already having a custom rifle I wanted to get my hands on a gun you could purchase over a store counter and see how I liked working with a factory gun.  After some research I finally decided on the Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight in 300 Weatherby Magnum.  This caliber requires a 9 lug bolt and comes in weighing just 6 3/4 pounds.  A few things that attracted me to the rifle were weight, the sub-MOA guarantee, a 54 degree bolt lift, and a hand lapped and fluted barrel.  The rifle also looks great and with a muzzle brake should be a great shooting gun.

Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight, rifle, weatherby, mountain, hunting, lightweight, mountain hunting rifle

COMPONENTS AND SETUP

Getting the rifle is one thing, but setting up the gun to shoot is another.  First was the scope.  I wanted a few things in my scope: durability, high quality glass, and precise and repeatable elevation and windage adjustment.  I decided on going with the Vortex Razor HD AMG 6-24×50.  This scope is made in the USA and is an amazing scope especially with a weight of only 28.8 ounces.

vortex optics, razor hd, amg, built in the us

To mount the scope I decided on an EGW 20MOA Picatinny Rail as my starting point and then Vortex Precision Matched Rings would hold the scope firmly in place.  I also had purchased a Timney trigger in hopes of getting my trigger weight down close to the 1 pound threshold that I’m accustom to.  To finish it off I’d be putting a Triad Tactical check piece on the stock to help get a better cheek weld and still be able to comfortably see through the scope.

To install the optics and trigger I dropped into the Snowy Mountain Rifles Custom Shop and had old friends Greg and Jim help me out.  First things first we tried to install the new Timney trigger and set it to the 1.5 pounds that they advertised.

Jim installing the new trigger

Jim installed the trigger but anytime the trigger was set to less than two pounds the firing pin would go off as the bolt was racked forward.  Not good.  After working with it we decided to see what we could get out of the stock LXX Trigger which was advertised as being able to go to 2.5 pounds.  It had felt great initially and the only reason I wanted a different trigger was that I’m used to shooting a 15oz Jewell trigger and am a big proponent of a light trigger.  Jim worked on re-installing the factory trigger and after some work and testing it was safely pulling right around 2 pounds.  Sweet!

1lb 15.9oz

Greg then threw the rifle in the vice and began the process of mounting up the scope.

tactical gun build, EGW picatinny rail

Lining up the mount points

weatherby, mark v, ultra lightweight, mountain hunting rifle

Level, level and more leveling

After the rail went on the rings were mounted.  We adjusted the scope to fit my eye relief and then began leveling and tightening the rings.  Each ring was tightened accordingly with a torque wrench and soon we were in business.  At this point we added a Flatline Ops 30mm Sniper Accu/Level and called it good.  We took it over to the scale to see what our weight was.

The final measure: 9 pounds 9 ounces without ammo and before we added the cheek piece.  The hunting weight should fall just over 10 pounds.  Now by industry standards this is not an ultra light rifle but in my opinion it’s a lightweight rifle ready for multi-day backpacking trips in the mountains of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

mountain hunting rifle, weatherby mark v, ultra lightweight, razor hd amg, hunting, rifle, gun

INITIAL THOUGHTS

At the start of this process I was shooting for a build that would be in the 9 pound range so I went a little over my goal, but after shooting it I think it will be the perfect blend of weight, accuracy, and durability.  I’ve shot guns in the 8 pound range and to be honest they are hard to keep on target from hunting positions if you don’t have a lot of practice with them.  My 300WSM is on the heavier side of the spectrum but when you lay down on either bipods or a backpack, it’s rock solid and all you need to worry about is leveling the rifle and a smooth squeeze.  That has made for lots of perfect one shot kills over the years.  I’m hoping this new rifle will do the same while shaving about three precious pounds.  On my way home from Missoula I decided to get out and put a few rounds through the gun to start getting acquainted with the rifle and my new setup.  One thing that I quickly noticed after shooting a few rounds was the 54 degree bolt action.

weatherby mark v ultra lightweight, building a lightweight hunting rifle

Bolt closed

weatherby mark v ultra lightweight

Bolt open

This made for quick and easy reloading while staying on target.

flatline ops, sniper, accu level

Flatline Ops bubble level

The Flatline Ops bubble level was great as flipping it out made it easily visible while prone and shooting.  Being able to flip it back behind the turret means less pieces of the gun to catch on clothing and brush when in the field.

Vortex Razor HD AMG

Locking turrets on the AMG are money.

Weatherby Mark V, hunting, rifle, montana

Fluted barrel and a flawless stock finish

Triad Tactic cheek piece

Kestrel, Elite 5700, hunting, rifle, Mark V, Weatherby

This pocket perfectly fits my Kestrel and will mean less fumbling around when a longer shot presents itself.

So far I’m excited about this rifle and will be working on breaking in the barrel a bit more and finding out which bullet and grain combination work best in the rifle.  As I continue on the process I’ll post up further blog posts.

Zack Boughton

 

 

bucknasty browns, brown trout, eats, dry fly, mouse fishing, owyhee river, fly fishing

Watch the Top 10 Bucknasty Brown eats from the original film.

Want to see more Bucknasty Brown trout eats? Support our Bucknasty Browns 2 film by clicking here: BUCKNASTY BROWNS II

We are 25% of the way to our goal and really would love your help! If you enjoy our films, now is the chance to lend a hand and bring this film to life. You can help with as little as $5 and you can pre-order the film for $10. Thank you to all who have supported the film so far and have a Happy New Year!

2018, bear archery, bow, promo, lineup, bowhunting elk, elk

This fall we had the opportunity to work with our long time partner Bear Archery on a promotional video to help launch their 2018 lineup of bows.  With tags in Montana we hoped to fill during rifle we knew we would need to venture out-of-state to shoot an archery elk video.  With a quick turnaround we knew a September elk hunt would fit the bill.  One short scouting trip left me with some local info but film permitting forced us to hunt areas of the unit which I’d never stepped foot in.  With enough previous elk experience under our belt we still felt confident we could show up and eventually be in the thick of things.

elk hunting, idaho, public land, archery, diy, bear archery

Sunset over Elk Country on night 1

We arrived late in the afternoon and were able to dip into the head of a basin that we hoped to hunt in the morning.  A faint bugle and a few elk spotted just before dark left us feeling hopeful for the morning.  The alarm came quick and without much pause we were headed down the mountain and began to sidehill through a large, timber filled basin.  We had hoped to hear bugles but were greeted only with small amounts of sign and nothing of much excitement.

elk hunting, idaho, public land, archery, diy, bear archery

Other than a small bull this was the best sign we saw all morning

After the morning hunt we hopped into the truck and decided to move a few basins to the north.  A short drive down the road revealed multiple camps setup on the basin we had just hunted.  Our fingers were crossed that the next spot would be empty but we only found more of the same.  That night we quickly chowed down dinner and then scrutinized the maps and tried to decide on a new spot hopefully with less people.  Two days later we were in a new area with much more depth to the topography.  We hoped this would keep a few people out and our hike in the dark left us thinking of what might lie up the canyon.  As dawn barely began to show itself we heard our first bugle not more than a few hundred yards up the trail.  As we waited for shooting light we could hear multiple bulls sounding off further up the basin.  We continued up the draw and soon decided the best bet would be to chase the bull bugling closest to us and go from there.  We quickly climbed uphill following this bull headed to his bedding area.  When I felt we were on the verge of spooking some of the herd I decided now was the time to challenge him.  The next five minutes were spent exchanging bugles as I slowly worked closer.  Without a caller and with a cameraman in tow this can be a tough game to play but this day it worked to perfection.  As I moved up an elk trail I saw tines through the small pine trees ahead of me.  With an open lane in front of me I hooked up to my D-loop and waited.  As the bull disappeared behind the last tree separating us I drew.  Soon he emerged in the opening at 22 yards looking for his challenger.  One quick cow call slowed him enough to take a shot before he cleared my lane.  My arrow hit further back than I’d hoped but still caught lungs and I was able to watch my bull crash in a small rock field just 80 yards away.

elk hunting, idaho, public land, archery, diy, bear archery, bear approach

Tools of the trade

We took a few minutes to soak in what had just happened and then went to find my arrow.

elk hunting, idaho, public land, archery, diy, bear archery

300 grains of steel

Stuck in a log my arrow was covered with bubbly, red blood.  It was a sight for sore eyes as it had been a few years since I’d been able to tag a bull during archery season.  A short walk left me admiring an awesome bull elk taken on our beautiful public lands.  We are truly blessed to do this.

elk hunting, idaho, public land, archery, diy, bear archery, 2018 Bear Promo, ID Elk Hunting

elk hunting, idaho, public land, archery, diy, bear archery, bear approach

elk hunting, idaho, public land, archery, diy, bear archery

As we finished breaking the bull down it began to pour rain.  With about six hours of daylight left we knew we could get this elk back to the truck before dark but it would be wet and miserable.  For elk hunters it’s what we expect and the pain and hardship is eagerly welcomed.

elk hunting, idaho, public land, archery, diy, bear archery, kifaru, argali, hunting backpack, 2018 bear archery promo

The Kifaru Argali making its maiden voyage and performing flawlessly

Two trips up and down the mountain left us at the truck, sipping a cold beverage pulled from the YETI.  With daylight quickly fading we packed the truck up and headed home.

elk hunting, phillips 66, elk, hunting, roof rack, truck rack, gas station

One quick stop and then back on the road

After getting home Travis quickly got to downloading all the footage and beginning the edit process.  A week later the edit was done and delivered.  Here is the 1 minute Bear Archery promotional film:

 

If you haven’t checked out the new lineup of bows from Bear Archery you can do so right here > 2018 Bear Archery lineup

The bow I shot was the Bear Approach, an entry level bow that prides itself on exceptional value.  When I got it I wasn’t entirely stoked knowing this was an entry level bow.  As an avid hunter I like to have the best equipment I can get my hands on but I swallowed my pride and gave the bow a chance to show its true colors.  After shooting and successfully hunting with this bow I was blown away at the feel and value that any bowhunter could get from a $399 bow.  It shot as good as I could shoot, was quiet and dead-in-hand, and most importantly easy to tune.  I had about 4 days to setup and tune this bow before hunting with it and if I didn’t feel comfortable with it I definitely wouldn’t have taken it.  At the end of the day it has to feel good in your hand and shoot well and this bow did both.

Bear Archery, Bear Approach, approach, archery, bow, hunting, elk

2018 Bear Approach

-Written By Zack Boughton 

 

bucknasty browns, brown trout, trucker, hat, montana, fishing, wild, fly fishing, streamers, mousing

Now available is the Bucknasty Browns Truckers. Available in two new colorways. These hats are limited release and will be gone forever once they are sold out.

bucknasty, trucker, browns, hat, film, brown trout, fishing,

bucknasty, browns, film, movie, hat, snapback

bucknasty, trucker, browns, hat, film, brown trout, fishing,

bucknasty, trucker, browns, hat, film, brown trout, fishing,

 

We also have a new colorway now available in the Bully Trucker

Bull, trout, hat, trucker, fishing, apparel

Bull, trout, hat, trucker, fishing, apparel

Shop our new products HERE.

huge mule deer buck

For many hunters their season ends with the close of rifle.  Honestly by then we’ve had plenty of hunting and sleeping in sounds about right.  BUT, then you take a few days off and you instantly wish you were back out there.  About three years ago we looked into extending our season and late season archery hunting seemed like just the ticket.  Rutting mule deer bucks pushing out of their summer hideouts would cover hillsides for miles right!? Not so quick bud.

late season, mule deer, hunt, hunting, archery, idaho, bucks

Zack wondering where the heck a good buck can be found.

That first year was definitely one where we learned a lot.  Deer were plentiful but finding a buck pushing into the 150-160″ range was difficult.  In a week we saw two and made stalks but the steep country and crunchy snow made life tough for bowhunting.  Swirly winds sealed our fate and we went home empty handed but ready to tackle year 2.  The following year we put in a little more time researching areas and decided to move to a new unit.  This time we had more realistic expectations but also knew that finding a true 200″ deer could definitely happen.  With some snow moving in we were able to find more mature bucks although navigating the public/private landscape made approaching some deer almost impossible.

mule deer, hunting, idaho, phoneskope

Using the truck and spotter to cover country. Not a bad option when your new to the area and it’s cold.

As a hunter new to the area most of the first 4-5 days really felt like 90% scouting and 10% hunting.  After starting to hone in on some of the habits of deer moved in on the winter range we decided to hike up onto a ridge that would allow us to glass into a couple key basins that the deer used to bed in.  Sure enough that morning a few hours after the sun was up we found a big buck slowly feeding up through the juniper.  He was a stud.  His gait was characterized by a solid limp and I’m sure he’d had a long night chasing does and fighting with other bucks.

mule deer, hunting, buck, montanawild, late season, bowhunting, late season archery hunting

I think he’s a shooter.

We were able to bed him and watch him eventually fall asleep, head rested in the snow in front of him.  With the snow frozen from cold overnight temps we had to wait till the sun heated up the west facing hillside.  I finally decided on a long zig-zag path that would eventually lead us to within 40-60 yards of his position.  We weren’t sure what the wind would be like on the other side but he was the kind of deer we came on this hunt for and there was no way we weren’t going to give it a shot.  Two hours later we hit the last patch of open dirt and now it was snow and over 80 yards to go before we would be within shooting range of his last position.  We slowly crunched through the snow.  I figured there was no way the buck hadn’t spooked by now as it was very loud.  As I slowly crept ahead I saw antlers ahead amidst the thick juniper.  It was him and he was only 40 yards away.  My heart went from 0 to 100 in an instant.  The bucks rack shifted back and forth a few times but he never spooked.  After about ten minutes of observing him he stood up.  I could see his chest but branches made for an obstructed view of his vitals and there wasn’t any ethical shot.  He slowly began to feed downhill.  As soon as he was out of sight we looped ahead of him and waited.  After twenty minutes we hadn’t seen nor heard anything and again figured he was gone.  We went back up the hill and grabbed the packs.  I was curious as to what he had done and wanted to go follow his tracks to learn more.  Sure enough as we got to about 30 yards of his last position I saw horns again.  Apparently he had only fed a short distance and then re-bedded.  We again were pinned with no shot.  We were so, so close but eventually the wind betrayed us and he bolted.  Game over.

hunting, mule deer, sunset, montana wild, film

Another day in deer country.

The next morning we returned to the area but this time a few ridges over.  We watched another great buck chase does and fend off a smaller but still impressive buck.  As sun began to rise the deer began their daily route back up to the juniper covered hillside.  I knew two good bucks were in the group and we quickly shifted into position.  After a few minutes I saw a doe 70 yards to my right.  They’d picked a trail one away from the one we were sitting on.  The big buck hit a gap at 70 but it was too long of a shot to make quickly and they eventually hit our wind.  One buck spooked and one still to go.  We began to creep down the hill.  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed movement.  It was a doe being pushed by a buck.  I crouched down and saw 4 points on one side through the juniper as the buck nudged the doe once again.  The doe was on to me and bounced up the hill.  The buck wasn’t quick as keen.  He stepped up into my opening at 20 yards and my arrow flew true.  He bolted and I thought I’d shot the smaller of the the two big bucks.  Emotions were high.  After a half hour we began tracking.  A short ways later I saw tan in the snow.  As I walked up on my buck I had a mix of emotions.  I was ecstatic that I’d been able to fill my tag on a 4×4 on such a difficult hunt but I was disappointment that it was a young deer and not one I’d shoot if I’d been able to identify him better prior to the shot.  Lesson learned.

idaho, mule deer, bowhunting, late season, montana wild

Zack pumped to overcome the odds and fill his tag.

We took a few photos and then proceeded to quarter him up and make the relatively short trek back to the truck.  Year Two had ended in success but given the circumstances of the prior day it felt as if we had unfinished business.  We’d surely be back next year.

mule deer, camp, wall tent, bowhunting, late season archery hunting

Back for year 3. This time a wall tent came to help stay warm during the cold nights.

Our original plan for year 3 was to come down for the end of the season.  When a good friend wanted to join we shifted the dates to accommodate his schedule.  We would now be hunting the opening week of the season.  We knew there hadn’t been much snow but we’d give it a shot.  When we showed up the day before the opener we were sorely disappointed to see a rifle cow hunt ending with guys on 4-wheelers everywhere.  This pressure would surely make the big bucks extremely hard to find and with no snow it was shaping up to be a tough hunt.  Sure enough 4 days later and we’d only seen small two and three year old bucks and many, many does.

bowhunting, mule deer, late season, hunt, idaho

Long hikes and few bucks characterized the early part of the hunt.

With our film permits limiting where we could hunt in the unit we went back to where we’d seen a few good bucks in the past.  We turned up a nice 4×4 and proceeded to hunt him over the course of the rest of the hunt.  Each morning we could find him somewhere out among about 30-50 does and small bucks.  They’d eventually fill their bellies and start working back up the mountain.  Cutting them off was a guessing game and trying to avoid all the other deer proved to be a challenge.  We got close but his daily routine never had any pattern to it.  With a hundred elk in the area it was a zoo some mornings and keeping tabs on this buck proved to be quite the task.

mule deer, deer, buck, hunting, late season, idaho

The best of the bunch, protected by numerous does.

The weather was warm and sunny one minute and cold and blistery the next.  We covered country mid day hoping to find other bucks.  We went miles in to the nastiest areas only turning up does with little bucks.  The snow wasn’t present in the mountains and the big bucks hadn’t pushed into their wintering area.  Our timing was off and we re-focused on our target buck.

mule deer, hunting, idaho, controlled tag, late season, bowhunt, late season archery hunting

Enjoying another beautiful night in God’s Country.

Again we relocated him.  His general pattern was there but there was no consistency in his path back to bed each day.  One day it would be a 1000 yards different from the day previous.  As we neared the end of our hunt we found him honed in on a hot doe.  It was just two of them and there were far less other deer in the area that morning.  As we moved to cut them off they shifted their path at the last minute, rounding the hillside away from our position.  We looped ahead and picked them up again.  They were now in the bottom and we watched from above.  They moved slowly and worked up into a shaded and snow covered face.  After a short time the two bedded.  It wasn’t the best area but it appeared I might be able to make a huge loop and get behind and above them.  If the snow was soft enough in the shade I might be able to close the distance.  It was now or never and again I set off on a stalk that we hoped would end with an arrow airborne.  Tune in on December 5th to see the trailer for the film and December 12th to watch the full film and see if I can fill my tag on a mature mule deer buck.

Zack Boughton

 

jungle bears, bear, hunt, idaho

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!!

When planning a to shoot a multiple day film in a territory you are unfamiliar with, you need to plan ahead of time for every detail of the trip. The success of such a film/fishing project is no easy task, and one forgotten piece of gear could put the outcome of the film in jeopordy. The planning started back in January 2014. A night of tying flies for an upcoming steelhead trip, soon turned into a business meeting, accompanied by talk of searching the unknown waters of Oregon.

fly tying, montana, bully streamer

After picking our location and deciding on what dates would best fit our schedule, the plans were made. What gear to bring? What flies to fill our boxes? Food? Beer? Cameras? The list of unanswered questions seemed ominously long. First on our list was fly selection. After plenty of online research and phone calls, we found a man by the name of Nate, who owns Dry Fly Innovations. Nate runs an Idaho based fly tying company that produces some of the most detailed handcrafted flies we had ever seen. The word that kept pulsing the air was ‘small’. The bugs for success would be size 18-22 dry flies. After rummaging through a small selection of microscopic bugs that Nate had sent us, we knew this caliber of bugs were out of our fly tying league. I was used to tying large streamers and fluffy mouse imitations.

size 18, size 20, size 22, bugs, fly tying, midges

The location we were headed was full of mean, thuggish browns. With our dry fly stock planned, we also spent time filling our streamer boxes full of our own hand tied Lord of the Rings inspired streamers. We are firm believers in mouse patterns as well, and stocked a large quantity of foam mouse patterns.

fly tying, mouse patterns, brown trout, streamersNext was fly rods. With the notion of catching 20″+ browns, we made sure to load our rod case with a couple Orvis Helios2 7wts 9′ tip flex rods. Our dry fly presentations would be slung by Orvis Helios2 5wts 9′ tip flex rods and an Orvis Superfine Glass 4wt (the ultimate miniscule bug slinger). The fly rods would be accompanied with an assortment of Bozeman Reel Co RS Series reels and Orvis Mirage reels. Using some of the best rods, fly lines, and reels on the market, we had no excuses other than angler performance for bad casts.

orvis, helios2, bozeman reel co, rs series, 5wt, tip flex, 7wt

sceintific anlgers, fly line, sharkwave, vpt, mastery series, best, shooting

We had recently visited with some fellow anglers about the new Scientific Angler Sharkwave fly lines, and the talk was impressive. After numerous calls and emails, we were stoked to have Scientific Anglers on board for our project, and even more hyped to put some of their new lines to the the test. The Scientific Anglers Sharkwave Ultimate Trout lines would be our go to on 5wt and their Mastery Series VPT 4wt line on the Superfine glass. For our deep running 7wt lines we chose to spool up the Streamer Express WF-200-S, which is still the best sinking line I have ever casted.

scientific anglers, sharkwave, mastery, series, fly line, best

Tippet and leaders were full on SA fluorocarbon, keeping the end of our lines hidden from even the spookiest brown trout.

scientific anglers, fluorocarbon, leaders, tippet

Our trip would occur during Montana’s runoff. This time of year has weather that can change daily, so waders were a mandatory item on our trip. The Simms G4 & G3 waders were packed, alongside the new easy on/off G4 Boa Boot. We beat the crap out of our boots and waders, being predominantly wade fisherman. Nothing ruins a fishing trip like leaky waders, and knowing we were backed by the best waders in the business had our minds at ease.

smms, g4, guide, wader, stockingfoot, fly fishing

simms, g4, boa, boot, fly fishingGlasses. Our #1 tactic for hooking fish and filming it at a top notch level during this trip was to spot fish from high overlooks and then plan an attack. We needed our sunglasses to cut through surface glare and the Polarized ChromaPop Smith Optics were the perfect lens for the job.

smith optics, chromapop, fly fishing, fishing, montana wild, f3t, bucknasty browns, simms g4Most of our filming shots took lots of time to plan in order to be executed correctly. Pulling double angles without interference required us to first, spot a bucknasty brown trout, and then setup the cameras appropriately. Without knowing where the fish was going to feed on a size 20 bug made the chance of capturing the shot very difficult. Fortunately, we had great success finding fish from above and capturing some amazing fish eats during the trip.

fly fishing, sunglasses, polarized, chromapop, smith optics, montana wild, f3t, bucknasty browns

Once our main fly fishing gear was dialed, we planned food, camp locations, and beverages. Doing multiple days, we needed our food to stay cold without spoiling and chose to bring both the Yeti Tundra 75 and Yeti Tundra 50 for beverages.

food cooler, hunting, yeti coolers, tundra

We loaded the Yeti 50 with an assortment of our favorite Big Sky Brewery beers and energy drinks.

Yeti Coolers, tundra, big sky breweryWith our Decked truckbed unit, we were able to organize and pack all our cameras, fly fishing gear, food, coolers, and other misc items for three people to live comfortably for numerous days.

decked, truck, bed, organizerIf it weren’t for the extra layer of storage in the DECKED drawers, I don’t think the trip would have been possible in one vehicle. After grabbing our last odd and ends at the Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop, we were set and ready for adventure.

 

Make sure to check out our film Bucknasty Browns at the 2015 Fly Fishing Film Tour.

 

 

-Travis

 

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.

idaho, backcountry, wilderness, bear, hunting, spring

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.

Travis had moved away to check a small clearing to the left, Zack was stationed on a small rock and I had started making my way back to the packs. All of a sudden I looked up to see Travis frantically pointing up the hill, Zack had spotted a bear above us and motioned for me to get ready for a shot. Anthony VonRuden, Montana Wild, Mystery Ranch, Vortex, Long Range Shooting, Snowy Mountain Rifle Company, Idaho Hunting, Montana Wild I made a solid rest out of the packs as Zack got the camera ready. I steadied my breathing and Travis called out the yardage, 405 yards. I turned the dial on the Vortex to 2.75 MOA and settled the crosshairs. The bear turned broadside and I squeezed off the shot. It was a solid hit but the big boar turned and ran uphill, he slowed to a walk and I sent another round his way. I missed him just high but it didn’t matter the bear tipped over and rolled to a stop twenty yards down the hill. My emotions overtook me and I had to take a minute to gather myself. I told the guys that this was my most meaningful trophy to date. Bear Hunting, Sitka, Montana Wild, Vortex, Idaho Bears, Idaho Bear Hunting Our work was not finished, we snapped some photos and started taking care of the old boar. We made it back to camp at around two in the morning. After a few hours of sleep we broke down camp and loaded our mystery ranch packs to brim. It was still another 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. I know that I will not soon forget the adventure that we shared and look forward to many more challenges to come! Lone Wolf Knives, Bear Hunting, Punching Tags, Bear Hunting

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.

black, bear, hunting, idaho, wilderness, backcountry, montana wild, boughton, vonruden

black bear, hunting, snowy mountain rifles, vortex, razor hd

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.

bear, hunting, black, backstraps, idaho, montana, wild, spring

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.

camping, idaho, wilderness, backcountry, msr, tents

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.

black bear, hunting, idaho, montana wild, mystery ranch, metcalf

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!

Yeti, coolers, bear, hunting, idaho, montana wild, travis boughton

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

Words by Anthony VonRuden

Last light was fading as I left our viewpoint and made my way over to the heavy pack that I had become all too familiar with over the course of this six day hunt.  Another day had passed and we still were in search of another black bear.  Our Idaho backcountry hunt had us located twelve miles back in a basin full of thick brush, broken up by small grassy meadows and a half dozen creeks. This hunt was very special to me because I had roots in the region, my dad was a logger back in the 80’s and worked in the very same area that we would be hunting.  Zack and Travis Boughton, the co-founders of Montana-Wild, were alongside on the hunt.  Travis would be hunting with myself and Zack was manning the camera during our week long adventure.  These two spend as much time in the woods as anyone I know and with the combined expertise of the three of us the expectations were running high.  We all had a role to play on this trip and I was in charge of research and logistics.  We all wanted to do something that would test our limits both physically and mentally and our destination would do exactly that.  After countless hours scouting Google Earth, checking outfitter websites, and talking to fellow hunters, I had scouted a basin that looked like a black bear haven, the only catch was that it was over 8 miles from the trailhead.  We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but the reward if we pulled it off would be more than worth the effort.

idaho, bear hunting, yeti coolers, mystery ranch, backpacks, coolers, ford, f-150

After a five hour drive from Missoula we finally were close to the trailhead and ready to hit the trail.  As we drove along the river upstream we actually spotted a bear from the road.  Unfortunately he was inaccessible and we just watched him feed for a while before continuing on our way as planned.  We rolled into the trailhead and began making final adjustments to our packs before leaving the truck for seven days.  After a short time we we’re ready.  Our packs were far from light as they were loaded down multiple cameras and lenses on top of our basic gear such as tents, food, and other backcountry necessities.  We weighed the packs prior to leaving the house and the lightest pack weighted in at 60.4 pounds.  Not exactly lightweight.

Bear, Hunting, Idaho, Sitka, Mystery Ranch, Vortex, Snowy Mountain Rifle, Backcountry Hunting

We made good time and were soon eight miles back and at the base of the hill that we would have to ascend to reach our campsite. The brush was unbelievably thick and far from what we had expected after looking at Google Earth.  It was nasty and steep and home to a few moose looking to evade the local wolves.  The 1600′ of vertical climb took us two hours of solid climbing to complete.  The hike made us all want to quit but we pushed through and finally emerged on the top to a wonderful view and a chance to finally rest.

idaho, bear hunt, snowy mountain rifles, black, bears, montana wild, backcountry, spring, rifle, hunting

Once at camp we were treated to a king’s view of the basin and it quickly became evident that we would see plenty of bears throughout the trip.  We threw up camp and hurried over to a rock outcropping that would give us a commanding view of the drainage.  After five minutes of glassing we had turned up four bears out feeding.  Light was fading as we all exchanged high fives.  We began to strategize a game plan for the following day as we cooked up our meals in the soft light of an awesome Idaho sunset.

idaho, bear hunt, snowy mountain rifles, black, bears, montana wild, backcountry, spring, rifle, hunting, camp

The glow of the morning light was just becoming visible as we crawled out of our sleeping bags and began gathering our gear for the mornings hunt.  The plan was to work our way down the ridge that would take us to the head of the basin and into some clearings that looked promising the night before.  The brush was over our heads and the going was tough, but it seemed that every time we broke out into a clearing we would glass a bear feeding miles away on the other side of the drainage.  We just had to get closer to some open areas and hope we could locate a bear in a stalkable location.

Idaho, Hunting, Wilderness

Seeing those bears gave us the motivation to keep pushing forward until midday when we finally reached our destination and set up to glass.  Almost instantly Zack spotted a beautiful cinnamon bear about 800 yards below us.  Zack and Travis were gathering themselves for a stalk when I saw a little cub zip out of the brush to its mother’s side.  We just sighed and went back to glassing, hoping to turn up another bruin.  Hours passed and nothing showed itself, so we moved locations to get a better view of the area.  As we did, a spring storm blew in forcing us to take shelter under an old pine tree and wait for a break in the weather.

Sitka, Vortex, Hunting, Fire, Montna Wild

After the storm had passed we pulled out the binos and Travis spotted a monster bear.  The large boar was on the move and never even slowed down to feed, finally making his way into the dark timber.  We were pretty dejected and decided to start working our way back towards camp.  We stopped at a small creek to fill our water bladders for the night.  As Travis was pumping water I looked up and something caught my eye.  The binos confirmed my suspicions and I excitedly whispered to Travis to get ready for a shot.  A beautiful blonde bear was feeding through a series of small clearings above us.  After a few tense minutes of scrambling to get Travis set up, fire up the cameras, and relocate the feeding bear, we we’re ready for the shot.  As the bear fed into a good clearing Travis settled the crosshairs and made a perfect heart shot at 388 yards.  A short blood trail led us to Travis’ first Idaho bear.  We all exchanged high fives, snapped a few photos before breaking the bear down for the pack back to camp.

300 WSM, Shooter Glove, Sitka, Snowy Mountain Rile, Montana Wild

 black, bear, blonde, idaho, montana, wild, spring, hunting, snowy mountain rifles, vortex, optics, sitka, gear

bear, hunting, black, claws, idaho, backcountry, montana wild

By the time we got the bear in the pack and started working back to camp it was pitch black and pouring rain.  We slowly followed a grown in horse trail back down the basin.  Our camp was located only a mile away, but with a 1200′ ascent in the wet jungle we decided that our best option would be to spend the night under a tree.  When your that far back safety takes a high priority and it was decided that we would find the best shelter available and tough it out.  After finding a group of large, old pines, we quickly scraped together a small area where we could all sleep around the fire.  We got a fire started and roasted some bear backstraps as we dried out our wet gear.

bear, backstraps, black, blonde, camping, hunting, spring

I can honestly say that if we hadn’t invested in the the best gear available we could have been in serious trouble.  Fortunately we all had quality gear that mainly kept us dry and happy despite the poor conditions.  After fully drying out and filling our bellies, we began a long night huddled around the campfire.  Constant attention was required to keep the fire going through the night.

Sitka, Minimalyst, Danner, Montana Wild, Sitka Gear, Seeking Shelter

The next morning it was decided that we would forgo returning to camp and instead try to get on another bear.  It was a smarter decision to hunt during the day rather then waste our energy just to bust back to camp.  We hunted new country all day in an attempt to double up but were unable to turn up any bears.  As the sun sank lower in the west it was decided that Travis would pack his bear back to the trailhead and sleep in the truck.  Zack and I would make our way up the mountain to our camp and in the morning we would pack up camp and relocate to the opposite side of the drainage where the majority of bear sightings had occurred.  Travis would meet up with us at the new camp after his twenty four mile mountain marathon.

GPS, Hunting GPS Maps, Navigation, Sitka Gear, Montana Wild, Stream Crossing, Backcountry

Tuesday and Wednesday passed slowly as we were forced to change tactics.  A lack of any good vantage points forced us to hunker down and wait out promising areas hoping that a bear would show up.  It was slow hunting but it was going to give us our best chance at a bear.

Anthony VonRuden, Black Bear Hunting, Idaho, Wilderness Hunting, Sitka, Mystery Ranch Packs, Vortex Optics, Hunting, Bear Hunting

black, bear, blonde, idaho, montana, wild, spring, hunting, snowy mountain rifles, vortex, optics, sitka, gear

Wednesday afternoon I spotted a bear across the drainage feeding in the highest clearing.  It was a large chocolate black bear and I was eager to burn some rubber off my boots.  To much sitting around will make you itch to climb a mountain.  Zack and I quickly assembled our gear and began the trek.  We hoped the bear would feed while we crossed the basin.  As we crossed the creek and began to climb we soon realized the apparent stupidity of the idea.  What had seemed simple enough turned into a grueling two hour journey.  As we neared the top we elected to circle around the ridge and glass a few adjacent meadows.  The country was beautiful but all we turned up were two large elk in velvet.  As we made our way back down the avalanche shoot I spotted a large black bear across the drainage.  We quickly hustled to close the distance.  Five minutes later we were five hundred yards away but the bear was no where to be seen.  We had missed him by a matter of minutes.  A long nasty hike took us back across the creek and back to our camp.

Night Photography, Anthony VonRuden, MSR, Night Photos, Montana Wild, Idaho WIlderness, Star Photography, Camping in the Dark

Day 5  was much of the same.  Our morning turned up zero bears and the temperatures were reaching the high 70s.  We spent the day napping amongst the aspens and waiting for the high sun to fade to the west.

aspens, idaho, wilderness, bear, hunting, backcountry, nikon, 17-35

The golden time had finally arrived and we were set up over a wide high alpine hillside.  Time passed and we continued to patiently wait.  All of a sudden the silence was broken as Travis exclaimed “Bear, bear, up on the far hillside.”  A large chocolate bear had worked out into a clearing on the far side of the basin.  It was too far of a shot where we were at and we quickly scrambled to close the distance.  Five minutes later and the .300 was resting over my pack and a bear was in my sights.  The shot was 602 yards and the bear was feeding on fresh green grass.  His head was down and facing directly towards us.  As I settled the crosshairs on him I felt that instinctual moment when you know your ready to pull the trigger.  The shot rang out and the bear ran off to the left.  The guys were yelling saying I missed him.  A disappointing few minutes ensued as we all sat in disbelief.  I had taken a shot that felt right but wasn’t.  I got lectured on taking a broadside shot at that distance and we quietly retreated down the mountain for the night.  With only two days left to hunt it was coming down to crunch time.  Food was running low and our bear sightings were slowly declining in number.  It was now or never to redeem myself and make the trip a success.

black, bear, blonde, idaho, montana, wild, spring, hunting, snowy mountain rifles, vortex, optics, sitka, gear

Crunch time was upon us.  The vibes were refreshed that night in camp and we hoped that the following day would allow me an opportunity to redeem myself.

Read Part 2 here > Part 2.