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. 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. 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.