The GEAR we use to hunt early season ARCHERY
My goal is to break this down for anyone interested in leaning off of my experience hunting hot and dry early season archery:
Let's start with the bow(s) - yes, I bring two bows with me on any out-of-state hunt and here's why... Murphy's Law "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong". It is not a matter of if, but when, so I like to have two bows setup and tuned ready to rock. I have had my rest go haywire, my sight get crushed on a fall, and I even witnessed my dad cut his own strings accidentally with a sharp broadhead. I don't want to drive to some archery pro shop hundreds of miles away from the trailhead and be at their mercy to fix my rig, or be at the truck without a bow press trying to do a DIY repair job. When you upgrade your bow, don't sell the original, keep it as a back-up. Here's a quick video on what to pack in the backcountry for minor repairs.
I keep extra arrows in my Easton Arrow Tote, usually at least a dozen. My backpack of choice is the K3 4800 from Exo. We did a 40 minute in-depth video on its features and design, you can view that here.
Next let's talk the business end of my arrows and why I strongly encourage fixed broadheads no matter the species... To shoot broadheads as well as a field point you have to have a tuned bow. Timing or cam synchronization must be perfect. Your rest needs to be in the correct position. Don't be lazy and slap on an expandable to avoid super tuning. Expandable broadheads have come a long way, I won't deny that, but you still are subject to early deployment if you catch a blade of grass or a little bit of brush. Fixed has better penetration and I am out to get a a complete passthrough regardless of how big an entry hole is. Fixed can provide a leg up on some margin of error. I used Grim Reaper Micro Hades 3 Blades and love the sharp chisel tip and solid flight at longer distances. Once you're all tuned up and ready to head out, make sure to do the silver sharpie to your setup, here's a video for that.
Next up, layering systems. I am skinny (not really) and don't have much body fat and struggle to stay warm on almost any hunt. Last year in Nevada, it would get down to 30 degrees at night and by 9am we were in the mid 80's. So the very first items to get the nod are legit base layers.
Synthetics or merino? The answer is yes, I like both and they're always in my system to insure that I do not get cold. I can always peel layers off to cool down, but it is not always easy to get warm. The next step is to find the ultimate light and breathable clothing, look no further than these key Sitka pieces: Ascent Pant (comes with knee pads that I always keep in), Core Lightweight Hoody, and Ascent glove. This stuff is worth its weight in gold, it's breathable with strategics areas of mesh and features 4-way stretch Cordura nylon for enhanced durability. LINK to learn more.
These two items are ALWAYS in my pack regardless of the season or time of year... a puffy packs away into almost nothing and weighs almost nothing. I can put it on over my lightweight hoody when I get sweaty and it will be dry within minutes. I can sleep with it on when I am on the mountain for an extra layer, and I usually spend long glassing sessions with it on to stay warm when I am not moving. The other item is Vapor SD Jacket which solves the problem of midday thunder boomers or the fast moving rainstorm that catches you off guard. I can stuff this jacket in my pack and easily bust it out when conditions change rapidly.
Let's go over my optics, a very critical component to advancing your hunting prowess and improving your odds of finding your quarry. Vortex Optics upped their game this year by leaps and bounds. The Ultra HD glass is the best I've looked through, lookout European manufacturers. I think 10x42 gives an archer everything they need to quickly glass hillsides, grid basins, and size up any animal. Next I pack a spotter for capturing Phoneskope footage and images of the animals I am hunting. It's a must in this digital era. I use the 27-60x85mm Razors with an angle. Lastly, rangefinders are something I believe you should invest in - get the absolute best you can afford. The Razor HD 4000 is easily the best one I've ever used. The glass inside is ridiculous, the display is a small red dot which let's you truly range specific features and spots, and ergonomics of the device have been perfected. I have always been critical of their previous models until now, so if you are in the market definitely go test them out at a local retailer. You'll notice a butt pad in the image, this is for extended glassing sessions on rough terrain, you'll love this item and it is easy to pack away, this gets used almost everyday, I bought mine off of Amazon.
Finally, I have an Outdoorsman's compact tripod which took me a long time to save up the dough and invest in the best. Cry once, buy once and you'll be stoked. This tripod is super light and has amazing micro adjusting pan/tilt. This has been a game changer for me.
The next piece might be the most overlooked aspect of a successful hunt. Everything starts and ends from the ground up. What you put on your feet dictates how fast and how well you move about the country. I have been using Kenetrek since 2010 and I have seen some of their competition try to emulate their brand, but at the end of the day, Kenetrek is still way ahead of everyone when it comes to being the best hunting boots for out West. I prefer the Mountain Guide non-insulated for all my hunts. You'll notice my boots are conditioned with Kenetrek's waterproofing beeswax before I walk out the door. This will make your boots last longer and they always break in after a few hikes. I also use their socks which are order resistant and extremely light by design.
Here's a pile of items that I think are highly critical to keep in your pack: Caribou Game gear synthetic game bags to put meat in, no more cheese cloth if you want to insure your meat is well taken care of. I pack a quarter pad to lay meat on when I am in the field butchering, plus this can double as emergency blanket and/or create shade if you need it. I have the Poseidon from Dark Energy to charge my cell phone back up, by the way I am always using my phone on Airplane mode with my cached maps from onXhunt. If you are interested in using your phone to map your hunts and know where you stand, use the discount code 'elkshape' to save 20% on their app. I have the Elite membership which gives me access to all 50 states, you can also select one state which is their Premium membership. Learn more here and if you are doing any e-scouting, you have to listen to this episode of the ElkShape Podcast which breaks down Google Earth Pro and KLM files. For a knife I use a basic Havalon, there's no denying how sharp their scalpels are so please be careful, which leads me to investing in an quick clot system for piece of mind. I bought mine off of Amazon after watching good buddy David Brinker accidentally put a broadhead into the back of his calf while elk hunting in 2018. A few other important items are as follows: lighter, lens cloth wipes, hand warmers, Rimrok stalkers and a Stealth Cam 4K with SD card reader. Yes, I pack a trail camera with me and have put it out in places that have obvious signs of a funnel, pinch, saddle or water where I can see for myself who's using the trail. Another way to use the camera is to leave it setup back at camp as a security measure.
Finally, here's what I rely on to tote my gear from my home, in the truck and to my final hunting destination... Sitka has a badass drybag and bow case known as the Launching Pad that work well and help keep everything organized and dialed which is something that many bowhunters will appreciate.
I have been bowhunting since 2001. I started out with cotton clothes from Walmart and very basic gear. This piece is designed to help you get a grasp on what I deem the very best equipment available on the market currently. You do not need to go buy everything that I have mentioned here, especially if you're not in a position to pay with cash. I don't like debt, in fact I hate it. I add this so you know that I completely understand how spoiled I am, but also know that is has taken years and years of working hard and saving up to invest in this type of top-notch equipment. I have left out some stuff in this overview, but I wanted to hammer on the majors and give you some insight as to what goes into the early archery season. If you're like me and slowly chipping away at improving your gear over time, start with the best boots you can afford, right into the best glass, and follow it up with the best backpack and clothing system. Upgrade over time, get a side hustle to fund your bowhunting addiction and never go into debt for equipment. You can learn more about ElkShape and our programs we offer, including our online ElkShape camp which will assist you in shortening the learning curve and conquering your life and fitness goals.