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Gear & Accessories Hunting Long Guns

Elk Hunter’s Gear Guide

by Aram Barsch Von Benedikt   |  June 20th, 2011 11

Hardcore elk hunters know the gear that makes for a successful hunt. Here’s a list of essential items from a hunter who walks the walk.

When elk hunting deep in the backcountry a quality pack such as this one from Badlands is paramount.
When elk hunting deep in the backcountry a quality pack such as this one from Badlands is paramount. Not only does it carry your entire home—tent, sleeping bag, food, and clothing—it also needs to be comfortable. And if the hunting gods smile upon you, just maybe it will carry the evidence of your dreams out of the high country.

Binoculars, transcended only by the weapon that you hunt with, are the most important tool that you will carry on a big country elk hunt.
Binoculars, transcended only by the weapon that you hunt with, are the most important tool that you will carry on a big country elk hunt. Get good ones with quality glass that gathers light and can take hard knocks. Avoid pocket-size models: An 8X 30mm is a good minimum, with 10X 40mm being even better.

A fine, accurate, lightweight rifle is just the thing for a backcountry elk hunt—mobile, dependable, and capable of delivering a precise shot when it counts.
A fine, accurate, lightweight rifle is just the thing for a backcountry elk hunt—mobile, dependable, and capable of delivering a precise shot when it counts.

A quality military style sling is a good choice for the serious elk hunter—durable and versatile. It may not sport cushiony rubber or cobra-shaped styling, but it’s been getting the job done for elk hunters for over a century.
A quality military style sling is a good choice for the serious elk hunter—durable and versatile. It may not sport cushiony rubber or cobra-shaped styling, but it’s been getting the job done for elk hunters for over a century.

Distances in the high country can be deceiving. The use of a reliable rangefinder will help you make those longer shots cleanly. Use a quality brand with good glass and intuitive handling characteristics.
Distances in the high country can be deceiving. The use of a reliable rangefinder will help you make those longer shots cleanly. Use a quality brand with good glass and intuitive handling characteristics.

Home in the high country. A tent doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to be very waterproof, lightweight, and able to withstand serious storms. Heavy, durable zippers are a must.
Home in the high country. A tent doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to be very waterproof, lightweight, and able to withstand serious storms. Heavy, durable zippers are a must.

A quality scope is a sure priority on a rugged backcountry elk hunt—capable of inspiring surprising emotion following a successful shot! Spend the money for something that can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’ because when you’re packing deep for trophy bulls, you won’t have a spare.
A quality scope is a sure priority on a rugged backcountry elk hunt—capable of inspiring surprising emotion following a successful shot! Spend the money for something that can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’ because when you’re packing deep for trophy bulls, you won’t have a spare.

Keep your knife sharp, lightweight, and of good quality. Oh yes, did I mention sharp?
Keep your knife sharp, lightweight, and of good quality. Oh yes, did I mention sharp?

If there is one thing you’ll always want in your pack, it’s a good multitool. The pliers, files, screwdrivers, can opener, and blade can mean the difference between broken equipment and repaired equipment, allowing you to stay that much longer and hunt that much harder.
If there is one thing you’ll always want in your pack, it’s a good multitool. The pliers, files, screwdrivers, can opener, and blade can mean the difference between broken equipment and repaired equipment, allowing you to stay that much longer and hunt that much harder.

Memories captured. Carry a quality small (shirt pocket sized) digital camera. You will be able to record those defining moments and sunrises, your trophy, and the essence of what may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Memories captured. Carry a quality small (shirt pocket sized) digital camera. You will be able to record those defining moments and sunrises, your trophy, and the essence of what may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The Stormy Kromer hat: A legend of serviceability among serious elk hunters and guides for almost a century. Genuine wool keeps your cranium warm and dry and lasts forever.
The Stormy Kromer hat: A legend of serviceability among serious elk hunters and guides for almost a century. Genuine wool keeps your cranium warm and dry and lasts forever.

A good hydration bladder is better while hunting than a bottle. It doesn't slosh when half empty, fits into odd spaces, and has a multitude of uses—like washing dishes.
A good hydration bladder is better while hunting than a bottle. It doesn’t slosh when half empty, fits into odd spaces, and has a multitude of uses—like washing dishes.

Keeping a journal while on an elk hunt is a great way to preserve the memories and sensations of a dream come true. In the future a glance at the pages can bring it all flooding back—the sights, the smells, the scream of a monarch bull hanging in the high country air.
Keeping a journal while on an elk hunt is a great way to preserve the memories and sensations of a dream come true. In the future a glance at the pages can bring it all flooding back—the sights, the smells, the scream of a monarch bull hanging in the high country air.

An old broken rifle stock, found deep in the Idaho wilderness. What stories it could tell... including how not to choose a stock. Whether you prefer wood, wood laminate, or composite, be sure your stock is sound before embarking on a rigorous deep-country adventure.
An old broken rifle stock, found deep in the Idaho wilderness. What stories it could tell… including how not to choose a stock. Whether you prefer wood, wood laminate, or composite, be sure your stock is sound before embarking on a rigorous deep-country adventure.

A beautiful moment—making meat in the mountains.
A beautiful moment—making meat in the mountains.

Aram Barsch von Benedikt grew up in Utah’s high country, guided elk hunters in Utah, Montana, and Idaho for 14 years, and has published wildlife and outdoor photography in five different magazines. He currently works as Wildlife Manager on the Longfellow Ranch, a 350,000-acre west-Texas operation that teems with trophy mule deer, elk, Rio Grande turkeys, blue quail, javalina, and the odd whitetail and aoudad. It is a 100-percent non-high-fence operation.

  • HECTOR CARLOS ROVEDA

    Very truly, but I will be prefer if Aram said what brands of tools, tents, clothing, etc. they used in the mountains (I'm sorry for my bud English). Regards.

  • H R Spivey

    Hector has a very good point.

    HRS

  • Jim Gardner

    Quality sleep gear: moisture proof groundcloth, dense foam pad, good sleeping bag, waterproof top covering or bivy bag. If you can't sleep dry and warm in conditions from rain to snow, on frozen ground, and temps to zero and lower, with high winds and leaky tents, you'll be in real trouble. The dense foam pad, good bag, and a waterproof covering are manditory. Air matresses are guaranteed to go flat and won't insulate adequately from the ground.

  • http://att.net Tom

    Hi, enjoyed the article, but one thing wasn't mentioned was BOOTS, so unless you're being "beamed"around by "Scotty" from Star Trek. Pardon the pun, but you have to have a good understanding, a pair of fifty dollar boots that you buy at Walmart may work on the woodlots in the east, but will kill you in the back country, as with the good old thermal knits that we use for shoveling snow, working in the yard and tree stand and box blind hunting. Remember "cotton kills", you need a high quality undergarment that wicks away moisture and keeps you dry. The good tent ain't much help if you're soaking wet from sweat, from hiking up the mountain all day.

  • Jim Cleary

    Good review. Also bring a knife sharpener for repeated use at the kill site. And it also pays to buy a wolf license, if available, since the local wolf pack will quickly find your elk remains and stay a day or two at the kill site to feast upon them. Think of harvesting a few wolves as your civic responsibility. Unlimited Idaho non-resident wolf licenses are available for only $30.

  • Fabrizio

    I'm trembling from the cold….. I took my four hundred pounds elaphus deer on 18 september this year with 10° C°…..in Hungary.

  • Matt

    What would you guys suggest as a good cartridge for elk? I have a 7mm-08 and was considering purchasing a 7mm Remington Magnum.

    • Kevin

      The 7mm-08- will do the trick. Yes a 7mm Remington Mag just cant be beat for a good elk cartridge. However I know few hunters that can shoot accurate out to 300 yards accept for writers in hunting magazines. Don't get caught up in the hype. When I moved to Colorado 20 sum years ago I met a guy who had taken 24 elk with a Brit 303. I ask him (having never hunted elk before) where was the best place to hunt them such as dark woods, mountaintops. He smiled and said close to the road. Keep the 7mm -08. Until you get one. I have many rifles and my favorite for an elk gun is my Ruger M77 in 308.Why it weights 5.9 lbs and I won’t cry when I drop in on a rock – which I have. Plus walking around at 11,000 ft I will trade you all day long for 3 pound of water and snacks for 3 lbs of rifle.

  • Curt B.

    260…7mm-08…270…308…30-06…7mm Mauser…Christ…Swedes hunt moose with a 6.5×55!! Nothing wrong with a 7mm Rem Mag or a 300 Win Mag…but it's not the shooting at game that is the problem (Unless one cannot control Buck Fever!)…it's shooting at the range and the recoil flenching causing inaccurate bullet placement whenit comes time to "Make Medicine". Of course not everyone has this problem..bot too many do. Plus…what the writer here fails to mention is a location to need the proper gear. Where Iive in Colorado…there is a serious population problem for the big three…deer/elk/antelope…a serious lack thereof!! Over hunting and poor management = poor success rates. Very poor for the 2011 season!!

  • Curt B.

    And it doesn't look like there will be any improvements in the near future. Sorry guys…just the way it is.

  • craig m

    my wife has had two shoulder surgerys she wants a winchester 270 concerned with recoil what would you guys recommend

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