Category Archives: Backpack Hunting

Kansas Whitetails – Part 1

I’ve seen it more times than I can remember. The look in someone’s eye, filled with confusion and doubt when I speak of excitement about heading home to Kansas. It’s no different this time around and that’s alright. Whitetail season is coming up and I’m heading home for a full season.

Rocks fling out of the tire tread and ping the undercarriage of the old Tacoma, floating down gravel roads through the Flint Hills of NE Kansas. I’d notice em, except fiddle and steel guitar sound waves cranking out of the speakers in the cab buffer any other noise out. That includes my meager attempts of backroads karaoke, thankfully not audibly noticeable.

Thirteen years have passed since I’ve spent lengthy time at home with the family, not including the annual pilgrimage for the upland season to chase birds around. Even longer since a successfully filled whitetail tag.

The senses of previous experiences flash through my mind as the knobby tires crunch and chew on gravel while I slowly pull into my brother Joel’s driveway. I’m nervous as hell pulling down the drive, yet excited to spend this time with my little brother.

Here goes nothing…

Living with Joel is a … READ MORE >

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This Land Is Your Land

By: Tim Hoffer

Looking back to my first big game hunt, I can still recall specific moments from the day: spotting the forkhorn mule deer buck bedded at the edge of a stand of pines, nervously getting into position for the shot and settling in behind the scope, and my dad’s advice of ‘stay calm, take your time’, which did nothing for a shaking, anxious 12-year old boy getting ready to pull the trigger on his first big game animal. That hunt kick-started a true passion for me in the outdoors, whether with a gun, bow, flyrod or camera in hand, one that is stronger today than it was three decades ago.

That hunt, and many others over the years have a common thread: without public land, nearly all of them would not have been possible. And that unbelievable gift in the way of public lands goes well beyond hunting. I learned to ice climb in Hyalite Canyon in the 1990’s, all on public land. Backcountry skiing in the Spanish Peaks? Public land. Shooting my first elk, bear, antelope, and turkey? Joining one of my best friends on his Montana mountain goat hunt? How about showing my 5-year-old son how … READ MORE >

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The Soul of a Hunt

By: Lindsey Elliott

I didn’t know it at the time, but I started preparing for my first hunt nine years ago. I was working as a guide for a field studies program, and we’d hired a woman to come teach us how to make fire from bow drills. This was no ordinary woman. She specializes in what she calls Paleotechnics and has more grit and know-how than anyone I’ve ever met. Her name is Tamara Wilder. We’d found a fox on the side of the road months earlier. Knowing we could make use of it somehow, we picked it up, and during her lesson, she taught us how to case-skin. We ran short on time and only got a third of the way through. I had to get my students out on their 24-hour solo. As the room was emptying, Tamara looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to finish this.’ What followed was an internal dialogue of confusion, doubt, and intrigue, as I questioned, ‘me?’

Everyone went their own way except for me, the fox, and a piece of obsidian. So I took a deep breath, sat down, and decided to get familiar. At first, I looked. I began … READ MORE >

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How to pack out with your MYSTERY RANCH pack

by: Jason Matzinger

The Spring of 2016 here in Montana started off a little further ahead than many years that I have hunted here in the past. Snow lines had already made their way halfway up the slope of the Bridger Mountains right outside of my hometown of Bozeman which meant I was going to have to hunt in the higher elevations earlier than normal. When hunting bears in the spring, I often hunt along the snow lines because it offers the bears the best of both worlds. Open hillsides filled with fresh chutes of green grass and water, yet a cool, damp place to spend during the heat of the day. My plan was to concentrate my efforts to the first month of the season, mainly, because I prefer to hunt bears early when their available food sources are so few and far between because of the remaining snow, and secondly because I was going to be traveling for the better part of May and June.

The first couple of days I decided to be patient and cover as much country as possible with my spotting scope in hopes of turning up a couple of different bears to hunt. … READ MORE >

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Hunt Right

written by: Mike England

photo by: Craig Hergert

“In our rather stupid time, hunting is belittled and misunderstood, many refusing to see it for the vital vacation from the human condition that it is, or to acknowledge that the hunter does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, he kills in order to have hunted.”

So wrote Jose Ortega y Gasset, the early 20th-century Spanish philosopher, who remains one of history’s most passionate and eloquent voices for hunting. Nearly a century later, Ortega y Gasset’s sentiment holds true: hunting is routinely criticized, and often condemned, by those who do not hunt. And in our increasingly urbanized, modernized, digitized world, things are only going to get worse. Our time, it seems, is rather stupid, too.

But it’s also rather wonderful. Especially here in Montana, where wildlife numbers are high, public-land access is abundant and legally protected, and there are plenty of like-minded people with whom to swap huntin’ stories around the campfire. Our hunting culture is vibrant and proud, and even those who don’t hunt are delighted to share in the bounty: juicy deer brats, seared antelope tenderloin, and cabernet-colored elk backstrap grilled up and passed around the table. … READ MORE >

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Mystery Ranch Ambassador Team

All of us at MYSTERY RANCH are thrilled to announce this impressive group of individuals as our team of Ambassadors. This elite group of genuine and humble people will be pursuing adventures in the spirit of MYSTERY RANCH and with that, sharing their stories and photos.

Check out our formal press release and look for more to come from these exemplary characters who live the MYSTERY RANCH life.



Launches new microsite to celebrate the select outdoor visionaries who reflect the brand’s values and fuel the company’s product development

Bozeman, MT. (February 14, 2017) – MYSTERY RANCH, makers of superlative backpacks, just announced their Ambassador Team. Comprised of cutting edge climbers as well as hardcore backpacking hunters, what really sets these individuals apart is how they blend their respective outdoor prowess with higher purpose. Be it fighting tooth and nail for the protection of public lands or simply offering the highest quality, locally sourced foods, the MYSTERY RANCH Ambassadors are so much more than their V-grades or Boone and Crockett scores.  These understated, over-achieving athletes are both low-key legends as well as inspirational advocates.

When asked what delineating characteristics define a MYSTERY RANCH READ MORE >

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Hunting Full Circle

By Steven Drake

It’s amazing how the pursuit of a specific activity can fully engulf our lives, whether that be backcountry skiing, ice climbing, or for me, hunting elk. My first memory of a bull elk was while riding in the back of my dad’s truck on an old dirt road in the mountains of Montana. It was last light, and the sky was ominous with thunder rumbling above. Suddenly sparks flew from the side of the road, and my dad hit the brakes. Two bull elk jumped the barbed wire fence, busted the top wire, and ran right in front of the truck. Their massive antlers vanishing into the darkness was haunting to me as an 8-year-old, but in that fear was also a sense of intrigue. Since that day, my love for elk has grown exponentially. What first started as a flash in the darkness has resulted in a 365 pursuit of knowledge. In the summer I set trail cameras and glass from high mountain ridges scouting for elk, learning their summer ranges and finding bachelor groups of bulls. Then, come fall, it’s bow/rifle in hand. Then, come winter, whether successful or not that fall, I’m scouting for … READ MORE >

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Completing the Circle

At Mystery Ranch, when we invest in something, we do it with longevity in mind. Whether it’s the importance of protecting and preserving wild places as harbors of healthy habitat, or the inherent fairness for access to our public lands – we feel it in our core. As hunters who are willing to earn an experience, regardless of income or social status, we’re staunch supporters of keeping public lands public. And while there’s a nation’s worth of hunting on Forest Service and BLM land, for us, there’s no place that helps us better connect with our primal instincts than genuine Wilderness.

As such, we’ve named our newest hunting packs after two of our most revered Montana Wilderness Areas: Metcalf and Marshall. These vast, untamed tracts of original land inspire our innovation and are ideal sanctuaries for intrepid sportsmen choosing to slow it down. Relishing the pre-hunt preparation: poring over maps… preseason scouting and scouring… getting to know the folds and spines in the landscape… sharpening your senses to their most razor hone. Methodical stalks to perfect shots or, perhaps, shots left untaken. Because, ultimately, it’s not about the roasts and the European mounts – it’s about reminding ourselves … READ MORE >

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How to Pack Out an Elk: The Definitive Guide

The adrenaline has hit you full force. Days, months or years of effort have finally paid off and you had your opportunity. That opportunity wasn’t about to slip by again and the arrow flew true. A short track job and a bull elk lay before you.

The moment is bittersweet, the experience searing an eternal memory into your brain. One thing has become clear though, the work now needs to begin. For many this is a daunting task especially if hunting by one’s self. Today though we are going to give you our insight on how to break down that bull and get it safely back to your truck. There are many ways to do this and opinions may differ on the process. We do know one thing though, we have developed a way that works very well for us and dozens of big game animals packed upon our backs has left us with the experience to say it works and it works well.

We’ll break our process down into two main steps, 1) Quartering the elk and 2) Packing the elk.

1. How to Quarter an Elk

First make sure you tag your elk according to the state’s laws … READ MORE >

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Bear Hunting in Idaho

Spring bear hunting is dear to my heart – public ground bears roaming large tracts of rough country with limited hunting pressure.

I’ve been spring bear hunting in Idaho for the last seven seasons, learning the hard way. Limited on time, I spend the majority of my bear hunting efforts on the weekends and I save precious vacation time for fall elk hunting.

This year, the hard work paid off.

A Bear Hunter’s Playground

Northern Idaho is home to lots of National Forest land, wildlife, and predators. At the time of this writing, the Idaho Fish and Game department is doing their best to curve the population of cats, bears, and wolves; so in the particular unit I hunt, you can purchase two bear tags over the counter.

To get into bear country, you’re looking at several miles of driving through mud and snow before parking and hiking into merging basins.

In order to spot bears, you have to find places that they like to hang out. I glass the melting snow line, looking for places where cover isn’t too far and green grass and water are close by. I like to set up glassing stations (we use 20×50 Vortex … READ MORE >

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