Searching for Wapiti: An Overnight Backcountry Hunt in the Gallatin National Forest

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Searching for Wapiti: An Overnight Backcountry Hunt in the Gallatin National Forest

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    Eric Vann


    Companion forum thread to: Searching for Wapiti: An Overnight Backcountry Hunt in the Gallatin National Forest

    A backcountry hunting trip exposes the author to new ways of looking at his gear as well as an excuse to go off-trail and wander with a purpose.

    Mark K


    Eric,  Thank you for an informative look into overnight lightweight backcountry hunts.  I have been backpacking for years and recently got my first hunting license.  I hope to pursue wild chukar in the foothills and mountains of the western states.  While many backpackers on this site may not hunt, I believe it’s important to note that hunters tend to be conservationists and adhere to the rules and bag limits established by their state’s Department of Fish & Game/Wildlife. Mark

    Ben Wortman
    BPL Member


    Locale: Nebraska

    Great article.  Takes me back to my fist solo backpacking elk hunt.  I was on the other spectrum of light at that time though.  I thought I was doing good just getting the pack below 50lbs.



    Mike Oxford
    BPL Member


    Locale: Silicon Valley, CA

    A few quick (hunting-based) notes:

    1. Elk, like most ungulates, cannot see blaze-orange.  However, they see blue VERY well.  You may wish to reconsider your outerwear choices.
    2. The HMG 4400 is a poor choice; it isn’t going to hold up well when loaded down with elk, even boned out, and the weight-transfer will be nil.  The only way would be if you take 6-8 smaller loads back out but that’s a lot of miles and time.
    3. No pen for the tag?  Zipties?  550 to help while skinning/quartering since you’re solo the second day?  Cow call/bugle? Seems like you’re missing a few essentials here.
    4. With an animal that big you should either switch to a Havalon or carry a sharpening stone.  Most likely you’re going to dull out both of the knives long before you get half-way done.
    Eric Vann



    Thanks for the Notes.

    1. I did not know that Elk see blue so well. Thanks for the heads up. I guess there is a reason hunters wear blaze orange and camo. I’ll have to work on improving my outerwear color for next year.
    2. Hmm interesting thoughts about the HMG porter. I have carried significant weight in it (not elk level weight) but have never really had any issues carrying heavy loads. My plan was to bone out the meat and hike down to my car and then drive up the Forest Service road I found so that my trips would be shorter. No matter what hauling an elk out is work. What pack would you recommend for an ultralight backcountry elk hunt?
    3. Tags in Montana have places to cut out the date so no pen needed :) and I had electrical tape to attach the tag to the animal. 550, what’s that? Well, my friend Scott had an cow call but he took that with him when he left. I’ve never done much hunting with calls before. I would like to get into using them. I hear they are crucial for bow hunting but I haven’t started doing that yet.
    4. Yep you’re probably right about the knives becoming dull. (Between you and me this trip was more about doing an overnight camping trip and less about hunting. I just figured if I was going to be out during hunting season I should be at least be prepared to harvest an animal. I really wasn’t expecting to find anything although my hopes were elevated at one point.) I got an elk last year and it was a lot of work to clean and move and the knives did get dull. I definitely don’t know the ins and outs of what is the best gear is for the whole process. My plan was sort of to figure it out as I go along and make up for gear deficiencies with brute force and calling friends to help out :) Regardless, I appreciate the insight as I’m sure your suggestions will help me to be better prepared next time.
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Hunted cow elk for four days in Nevada’s Jarbridge Wilderness. I jumped 10 elk (yes, ALL cows!) coming up over a ridge but they saw me 1st and were gone before I could get off a shot.

    I intended to backpack in to the center of the wilderness area but was told by a state game protector to stay put as most of the hunters were on the other side and would drive the elk to me. So much for that theory.

    My weather was unseasonably warm, in the 70s F. at 8,000 ft. Glad I had Bushnell’s range finding binoculars. Got lots of practice ranging mule deer, for which I had no tag. :o( Closest buck was 25 ft. away! Unfortunately my .300 Win mag Browning A-Bolt never fired a shot that week.”Wait ’til next year!”

    I learned that carrying a handless “one egg” skillet is great for pancakes, freeze dried scrambled eggs, bacon, etc. It was a great addition to my 3 cup pot for cooking.

    Joe Kuster
    BPL Member


    Locale: Flatirons

    Just throwing this out regarding the pack:

    I tend to hunt with a light pack rather than my meat hauler. When I get an elk down, I’ll take a light load of meat on the first trip, usually by strapping a meat sack to the outside of the pack and take all of my hunting gear back to the truck. I keep my meat hauler in the truck for all of the subsequent loads.

    If I still have a deer tag as well, I might mix that up, but this has worked well for me over the years – no larger pack to catch on branches and I’m dumping the extra gear on the first trip back to the truck anyway.

    David Schoessow
    BPL Member


    Very enjoyable and interesting read. I especially like the detail on equipment and food. Thank you.

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