Author Archives: steve-drake

NICE Metcalf



Based in Bozeman, Montana, Mystery Ranch has had a decade’s long heritage in hunting. Our Internal Frames from the old Dana Design Terraplanes in the 80’s and 90’s to the NICE Frame systems we have today, share a robust framing that controls the outlandish loads required to pack in a camp or pack out a trophy. Carrying unreasonable loads in unreasonable terrain and circumstances is second nature to us, around the world and in the backcountry of Montana. The progression of MR hunting packs, based off our military influences, moderated and edited by Mark Seacat and our in-house crew of hunters, has ultimately landed us here with the lightest weight NICE Frame pack we’ve ever made. Introducing the NICE Metcalf.


Kyle Christenson on designing the Metcalf:

At Mystery Ranch design is a communal ongoing process. We strive to wow our customers by integrating their ingenuity and feedback directly into our products.  Our direct sales approach gives us immediate access to those who use the product creating a tight feedback loop for development.  The NICE Metcalf in no exception, as it has been developed by hunters that not only use our gear, but use it hard!  The NICE Frame


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6500 In A Year



After winning the Mystery Ranch 6500 in the BAYED contest on On Your Own Adventures Forum – Hunt Talk, I’ve been trying to give this pack the workout it deserves.

Immediately, this pack became my go-to pack while shed hunting and bear hunting in the spring and carrying the spotting scope and other goodies.

Over the summer I took it everywhere with me.  The 6500 carried my gear deep into trail-less areas several times, on quests for cutthroat and golden trout.

Trying to get away from the crowds while paddle-fishing on the Missouri, I got a chance to haul out my first critter for the pack.

The pack even got to come to work with me a few times. Working on the Charles M. Russell NWR, I helped dig out a 75 million year old Elasmosaur fossil.  I packed in bags of plaster and five gallon water jugs for the crew using the NICE Frame and Load Sling.  I even packed out the skull of the beast encased in rock and plaster. It was the heaviest load I’ve ever carried.  The pack did great!

August through November the pack never went more than a few of days … READ MORE >

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Immersion means more days in the field, which yields more opportunity to mingle with elk, to learn from the elk, and perhaps to release an arrow.  And so I immerse myself in elk.  They have me captivated.  Every day that I scout, photograph, and hunt elk, I learn something about them and their behavior.  One thing learned is one thing gained, and that gaining is how I define success.

On the evening of September 23, … READ MORE >

Posted in Backpack Hunting, Mountain Adventure, Rants Exclusives, Trip Reports, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Props to a solid elk hunting partner


“Unsuccessful.” That’s how my partners elk drawing results read. In an area with ample tags, he was one of a few who did not draw a bull permit. Kyle is a brilliant pack designer at Mystery Ranch, the man responsible for the Blackjack, the Saddle Peak, the Naya Nuki and the Fuze, among others. I’ve had the privilege of working with him between classes at Montana State.

Despite the lack of a tag, Kyle has devoted himself to following me around in the woods with over twenty pounds of camera and video equipment in an attempt to capture the experience.  Props to a solid elk hunting partner and friend!

Let’s hear about your hunting partner!?… READ MORE >

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My introduction to antler hunting was a parody.  Seventeen elk sheds the first year and ten the second led me to think I had found a honey hole.  Assuming the following years would produce equally high yields I sold many of them to a local chandelier builder.  $350 was the reward – I had hoped for $900.

The secret spot was discovered the third spring.  Snowmobiles and four-wheelers had scavenged the place.  I witnessed two individuals chase down a six point bull on their four-wheelers, hooting and hollering, trying to get him to drop his antlers.  Their arrogance and lack of respect disgusted me.  Ethics should play a role in all types of hunting.

I’ve been shed hunting for eight years now.  After the grandeur of the first two years, I’ve come to value the antlers I find a whole lot more.  The sentimental value of each one, even if it’s chewed up, has more worth than the money they fetch.  Although the chewed up sheds usually do become dog bones.

My house is loaded with deer and elk antlers.  They are the primary decorative piece, despite my family’s and roommate’s objection.  In my kitchen alone there are twenty two … READ MORE >

Posted in Backpack Hunting, Mountain Adventure, Trip Reports | 12 Comments

High Wind Warning


High Wind Warning – A statement issued by the National Weather Service for the entire state of Montana. A statement that should have been a consideration for my weekend plans.

With a strong wind straight out of the west I headed to my destination, a family cabin and acreage, in eastern Montana. A lengthy drive brought me to a blockage in the road, a massive snow drift, where I must ski the remaining two miles into the cabin. I parked right up next to the drift overlooking the possibility the road blowing shut behind me.  Overlooking the high wind warning was my first mistake. Parking where I did was my second.

Late that night, after watching a few movies in the comfort of the cabin, I was starting to question the integrity of the roof above my head. The wind was howling! My dad called to report a 114 mph gust was recorded in Choteau just before it destroyed the wind-measuring equipment. 80 mph gusts were recorded in Red Lodge and Livingston.

The next morning I awoke to a strong breeze and pleasant temps. There was no new drifting at the cabin. I felt assured the road, two miles away … READ MORE >

Posted in Mountain Adventure, Skiing, Trip Reports | 3 Comments

Steven Drake’s 2010 Montana Hunting Season Slideshow




Posted in Backpack Hunting, Dana DNA, Mountain Adventure, Mystery Ranch HQ, Skiing | 2 Comments

My Rifle Gives Me Little Advantage


The elk have moved out of the high country and into the thick and dense low lands.  The bulls are grouping up and have quit bugling.  My sight and sound advantage has been taken away.  A positive attitude and the liklihood of snow are all I’ve got now.

This year I’ve been blessed with drawing a limited entry elk permit in a unit with high potential for big bulls.  I am able to archery hunt AND rifle hunt.  Previous years I’ve only been allowed to archery hunt.  Last September, I was fortunate enough to take a beautiful six point bull the third week of the bow season, in this unit. My success left me optimistic about this fall’s opportunities.  So far, that opportunity has been just out of reach.

Elk season started off with me walking up on another archer’s kill that was never recovered.  The meat was too far gone by the time I found him.  I left the bull hoping that the hunter would eventually find him and punch out their tag.

I hunted the low country the first two weeks of the season with a few chances on smaller bulls.  The rut was slow to start so … READ MORE >

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2010 Montana Archery Antelope Hunt – VIDEO

Pronghorn at sunset

The learning curve in hunting as an archer is steep.  Many seasons of spot and stalk techniques have left me close but empty handed. After years of hard work and persistence, I was fortunate enough to harvest my first Pronghorn Antelope with archery equipment.  This short video documents my first two weeks of the season – from stalk to harvest. Enjoy!


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Big Fish and Lasting Memories

Sockeye Salmon on Lake Creek

21 years ago in April, while my mother was in labor with me, my dad was out fly fishing the Missouri River. Perhaps I was born to fish. When I turned 21, I held my dad to a ten year 21st birthday promise – we’d go to Alaska for a fishing trip.

Fairweather Range near Juneau from 36,000 ft cruising altitude

Growing up, my hunting and fishing buddies were my Dad, Paul, and my Dad’s two friends, Phil and Denny. Every summer Phil, Denny, and my Dad, would go on a fly fishing trip into Yellowstone Park. I was never invited. They said that when I turned 21 I’d be of age to join them on such a trip.

Recently, in the first week of August, I found myself along with Phil, Denny and my Dad, in Alaska in pursuit of big fish and an unforgettable experience.

We started our trip in the small town of Hope, on the Resurrection River, catching Humpies on fly rods. Humpy is the nickname for a pink salmon. The Humpies were running hard. We had no problem hooking and inadvertently snagging dozens of these fish with our fly rods. … READ MORE >

Posted in Mountain Adventure, Mystery Ranch Employees, Mystery Ranch HQ, Trip Reports, Uncategorized | 4 Comments