Category Archives: Backpack Hunting

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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Wear & Tear


I packed out my first bull in fall 2011, cursing every step I took down the mountain. My streamlined backpack straps cut deep into my shoulders under the heavy load. The waistbelt bulged and threatened to bust if put under anymore strain. I pushed on, cringing as my load wobbled with the weight shifting back and forth. My body was completely worn out by the time I made it back to the truck with the final load.

It wasn’t until I packed out my second elk a month later that I realized I wasn’t being a complete sissy. My backpack sucked, plain and simple. I needed to find a solution if I was going to continue to elk hunting.

I was introduced to my first Mystery Ranch pack in the summer of 2012, and hunting changed for me right then and there. I had never seen a pack with such craftsmanship. The military grade materials alongside the NICE frame seemed like a flawless hunting package. The idea of being able to load an elk quarter and still carry out everything I brought in blew my mind. Not only functional, the NICE frame Longbow fit my torso and shoulders snug avoiding … READ MORE >

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Mystery Ranch ISO 9001:2008 Certification is Official!

christmas 2013 2

If you had been visiting Mystery Ranch on a Friday at the end of June, you would have been surprised by all the hooting and hollering.

If you worked at the Ranch, you would know that really, we do this all the time.

But this celebration was something different. Dana Gleason, with great fanfare, and in front of a floor of momentarily motionless sewing machines, had just announced that our ISO 9001:2008 registration audit was over – and our auditor was recommending us for certification!

Now, for the acronymically overwhelmed, that last sentence may mean very little at first glance. But for us, it means the culmination of over two years of preparation and effort put into our quality management system.

At the Ranch, we’re committed to upholding the highest standards in the industry for design, craftsmanship, improvements, and customer satisfaction. Not all gear is created equal, and we wanted to ensure that the quality management system that backs those high standards was also one of the best in the industry. After thorough research, several intense analyses of our existing system, and a few not-so-gentle nudges from potential customers in Europe and the fire industry, we chose to start work … READ MORE >

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The Trio – Part 3


By Zack Boughton – MONTANA WILD

The spring had been a success but I was still anxious to fill my own tag. I had spent about 5-6 days looking for a bear and had yet to get an opportunity to chamber a round. It was mid-May and plans were put in place to leave early in the morning to give it another shot. 4:30 came too early, my eyes in a painful squint as I hit the lights and proceeded to get ready. We hit the trailhead just before sunrise, the temps in the low 40s and skies clear. After an hour we began climbing up a ridge where we had seen two bears a week prior. We wove our way through the timber, glassing where we could and hoping to interrupt a bear’s breakfast.

With no luck we moved to a spot on the ridge which afforded us a view of some new country. Around 2 we spotted a tan, furry hide a mile to the west. The bear slowly fed and then laid down, apparently sharing our feelings of it being a good time for a snooze. We grabbed our packs and moved along the logging road for … READ MORE >

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The Trio – Part 2


By: Zack Boughton – MONTANA WILD

We got out for another awesome hunt with our friend Tyler a few weeks after our first bear hunt. This time, the landscape was greener and the animals were more awake.  After a long morning of hiking and glassing elk, we made a gamble and switched locations.  We were positioned along a steep ridge where we’d seen lots of sign the year before, but as we climbed the mountain, we crossed snow drifts that were still 3-4 feet deep. We sank to our knees with every step, breaking through the crust, just trying to find the pockets of green.  As we slipped along, I noticed a tan spot on the hillside that didn’t look quite right.

A look through the binos revealed a beautiful blonde bear feeding at about 600 yards, a doable shot but only if the bear stayed put. We moved up the road and Tyler got the rifle set up. The bear proceeded to claw and tear at a rotten stump, only pausing for a moment in a head on position before lumbering off and slipping over the ridgeline.  Sh*&!  We regrouped and dropped into the bottom.

It was Tyler’s first … READ MORE >

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The Trio – Part 1


By: Zack Boughton – MONTANA WILD

The speedometer dropped rapidly as I banked a hard left off of the highway and onto the loose gravel of the mountain road.  Snow banks stained dark brown with spring mud marked the way up and away from the river. We were back in the mountains and it felt good – it had been too long since we’d seen the white peaks looming in the distance.   With the sun rising I pushed the gas pedal deeper, anxious to burn some rubber off the old boots.

Western Montana saw record snowfall this winter – with Missoula getting almost 40″ in February alone.  Winter had been a long one, but the green of spring could finally be seen peeking through on some of the south facing slopes. It was late April, and though the landscape was still bleak, I had a bear tag to fill.  We set off loaded down with camp and food but still making good time. By mid-morning we had set off up a broken ridge to see if we couldn’t find our first bear of the year.

A day and a half later we were headed home.  Sign was nonexistent and we … READ MORE >

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Jungle Bears

The anticipation was building.  Our Mystery Ranch packs were loaded to max capacity.  3 cameras, 16 camera batteries, 2 audio recorders, handfuls of AA & AAA batteries, 2 Garmins, 19 Mountain Houses, 1 Snowy Mountain Rifle Co .300WSM, 2 water filters, 4 bear tags, and 3 guys looking for an amazing Idaho bear hunt.  We hoped the planning we had compiled over the past 6 months would finally come together on what would become our hardest hunt to date.

I laced up my boots and made one last attempt to collect my thoughts before hitting the 10 mile hike to our camping location.  We had all the necessary gear to accomplish our goal in 7 days.   Now we just had to put the pieces together and take the pain that comes along with carrying +70lb packs.  The country we were hunting was a beautiful backcountry landscape and helped us push through the aching pain in our shoulders and feet.  The only thing that stood between ourselves and our camp for Day 1 was a 1600′ vertical ascent.  What looked like a maneageble open hillside on Google Earth, turned into an overhead jungle of brush.

We clawed up the mountain, busting … READ MORE >

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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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