Category Archives: Backpack Hunting

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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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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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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The Wolf Days of Winter

MT Wolf 2012 Pack 3


Randy Newberg, of On Your Own Adventures, called and asked if I would be a guest hunter on his show for a Montana wolf hunt.  I was excited and thankful that he would call me to join him, especially considering I had zero wolf hunting experience.  Randy and I talked, and we both understood this hunt wasn’t likely to end with much in the way of wolf footage, and even less likely to end with a dead wolf.

But Randy and I both have the same philosophy when it comes to hunting: The odds might be stacked against you, but the odds drop to zero if you don’t at least give it a try.

We spent five straight days hunting for one of Montana’s most elusive creatures.  Our expectations were low, so we were thrilled when we spotted our first two wolves late in the afternoon of the first day. Under normal circumstances, we would have had a shot at them, but the camera guy was unable to locate the animals in his viewfinder, so I had to pass on the shot. I was learning, painfully, that trying to capture the harvest on film adds a significant … READ MORE >

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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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The Hills


By Peter Moore

“You going to be able to make it to The Hills this year???”

That’s what I asked Sam as soon as my unsuccessful bow season ended. Sam is my hunting partner of six years, but he’s never around these days, busy training for the 2012 Paralympics’ Cycling events, while traveling the country as a motivational speaker.

“The Hills” is our annual hunting trip, and since Sam grew up hunting, he should know that tradition is everything.

He could only squeeze one long weekend out of rifle season, and it was all we needed to pack up the Sprinter and head north. We drove five hours and talked about where we might find some big Mulies, knowing that in late October, the deer hold high, waiting ’til mid November to head down to the wheat fields to rut. We settled on putting our MR packs, and our legs, to the test and hauled up to a high ridge line where we could set up camp.

The weatherman called for 50 degrees and calm and was wrong as usual. What he meant was 30 degrees with 70-mile-an-hour gusts – not necessarily the conditions you want when camping on a … 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, all that success sparked against a bit of luck, which sent my arrow flying. And so I harvested a gorgeous Montana archery bull.


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