Trail People

Trail People

By Jimmy Laner

As a new hunter in the western landscapes, it can be a daunting task finding huntable animals in accessible places. It can be even harder when you’re going to a new place that you’ve never actually set eyes upon. As is the beginning of my foray into the elk mountains this fall.

At the beginning of my search, I affectionately referred to the places elk live as “woods” simply because I didn’t really understand what mountains were just yet. As most know, those “mountains” sure do look a lot less steep on Google earth than what they actually do in person. I covered miles upon miles, mountain upon mountain looking for the signs that would tell me elk live here. I can honestly say that I found more moose and mountain goats than I did elk at first, but that finally changed about a month before the Idaho archery opener. Once I found the spot that I needed with the sign I wanted, it simply came down to finding the time to get out there and explore the area during hunting season.

On my first trip into the elk mountains, I was fortunate enough to be tricked by two hunters into thinking there was a war being waged between a couple of rutted up bulls hellbent on winning the affections of a hot cow. From all of my turkey hunting experience, I should have known right away that the bugles I was hearing were not if fact quadruped critters, but rather the biped variety. Getting close enough to figure this out, I was met on the trail by another group of hunters that seemed rather annoyed at the rut fest happening in the drainage just below where we stood. They had backpacked a few miles into the area the night before only to find the place overrun with several hunters. I had trudged across creeks and shale slides for about the same distance to find my reward of multiple hunters running all over the place, so I felt the collective pain. Ah, the life of a public land hunter. They were extremely polite, and decked out in some of the best gear on the market. We chatted a bit and I found out they were all from the west coast in Roosevelt elk country. It didn’t take me very long to realize that I recognized the voice that I was speaking to and the names of the other hunters they were sharing a camp with. I won’t name anyone here, but this person just so happens to be one of the most well respected call makers in the country.

He and his group explained that they were going to hunt the rest of the morning back in the direction I had just hiked in and then hitchhike (hopefully) to the top of the mountain where their trucks were waiting. With the amount of people that were stomping through the timber in the direction they had just come from, I offered to give them a ride in exchange for letting me hang around while they hunted their way back the opposite direction.

My reward for doing so was that I got to see firsthand what a seasoned elk killer can do with a mouth reed and bugle tube. We walked back to a spot where they wanted to throw out a location bugle and boom- right on cue a bull popped off… about 1,500 vertical feet above us. So we did what any level headed individual would do at this point- essentially run up the mountain continuing to call to the bull (by this I mean they call to the bull, as I was not about to ruin their chances with my squawking). So up the mountain we go. Watching the interactions between the callers and the bull was pretty impressive to say the least. I had never been fortunate enough to see a calling sequence quite like this since I’m so new to the game, but it was fun to get to be a part of a mature bull coming into a challenge bugle looking to beat the hell out of a youngster for encroaching on his territory and harem of cows. Although none of the three bows in the group were able to get off a shot, it was well worth the time and effort of going up that mountainside- smelling, seeing, and hearing a bull approaching, even if I only got to see his head and antlers from thirty yards distance scanning the area for his aggressor. After he realized something just wasn’t adding up, he turned the other way and skedaddled up the hill never to be seen again. We made a quick stop for a trail lunch, shot the bull about shooting bulls, and talked about just being happy to play the game- as another group of guys that were born and raised hunting are known to talk of. We laughed about how bad we all smelled and then headed back to the truck. Once we got to the top of the mountain, said call manufacturer was gracious enough to give me some calls for my trouble- even though it was really my treat to get to learn what little I was able to absorb from their elky interactions. All in all, it was a great morning and I was glad to make the small connections to a few other good dudes in the outdoor world with myself.

Two weeks later in the same general area, I was skirting a ridge glassing the opposite side of the drainage above a few wallows when I heard a stick break on a bench just below my vantage point. I heard some cow calling and quickly realized there was someone below me working his way up the mountain to my level. Not five minutes later, I spotted the caller just fifty yards up the trail from my position. I approached slowly, not wanting to startle him or any other animals that might be in the immediate area (like the 5×5 I was at full draw on the weekend before…).

We got to talking about hunting and where all we had been exploring, doing the usual sizing up of one another and not being entirely truthful about what we’ve seen and where we’ve seen it. We talked about bowhunting, target shooting, mutual friends, workplaces, wives, kids, dogs- you know the usual, casual conversations you could have with a complete stranger.

I pride myself in being able to make a pretty accurate judgement call on any strangers I meet, whether it’s at the local gas station or in the woods, so I came to the quick conclusion that this guy seemed like a really good person. He must have somewhat liked me as well, so we got each other’s names and exchanged Instagram handles. We wished one another luck and we went our separate ways, hoping to run into an old herd bull on the way out.

It wasn’t until later that I really realized who I had just talked to. I came to find out that the person I was speaking with has contributed to numerous high country mule deer archery books, killed just about every big game animal in the country, and is probably one of the best target archers in the west. Talk about humble- not like many of the celebrity hunting “professionals” that you see on Instagram. Just a solid guy with a killer instinct- the ultimate predator if you will.

The last day of season, I ran out for an abbreviated morning hunt. I really didn’t hear or see much- most of the elk were pressured enough that they have gotten back into deep holes in the timber- somewhere that only a suicidal solo hunter would dare to shoot an elk and face an all day pack out. Walking out the trail on the way to the truck, I ran into a guy carrying a recurve over his shoulder heading in for his afternoon hunt. Looking back on the situation, I really wish I wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to head back home. Who knows what he did or who he was. From the way things had been going so far in the archery season, he was probably the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. But who knows. Maybe he was just an ordinary person out for an ordinary hunt, just like myself. Regardless of what it was, I hope he had as much fun as I did chasing bulls through that timber this season.

The elk archery season has come and gone and I’m truly blessed for the wife that deals with my early mornings, the animals that play cat and mouse with me in the mountains, and the people I meet on the trail. I’ll miss it, but it’s only about 10 months from now that I’ll be chasing elk back in the high country again. I just can’t help but think- is it September yet?

You can follow Jimmy Laner on Instagram @idaho_archer

A Tale of Two Toms

Growing up in northeast Ohio, there was a constant, longing for spring and fall to roll around. Springtime in my world meant turkey hunting and baseball, while the fall brought on bow hunting for whitetail deer. Being born and raised on a large family plot of land and with room to roam the woods and start tagging along on hunting adventures long before even being a teenager, I never really wondered why I do the things I do. Whether it was obsessing over my archery setup, testing different loads through my guns, or just buying gear throughout the seasons, some form of hunting is on my mind at some point every single day. As I grew up and went through the various stages of relatively normal life I realized that I was part of an overwhelming minority of the population. Something like 11.5 million people go out and hunt nowadays- a very small drop in the bucket when you realize the total population of the United States is hovering around 325 million, equating to about 3.5% of that total. The only way this is going to not drop any further is that we as hunters are going to have to introduce more and more people to the sport. I know sometimes it may be easy to get greedy and not want to take people out to your spots or it may seem like to much of a hassle to deal with someone who doesn’t know as much, but it needs to change. To do my part in this, I figured I would try to get my wife to go hunting with me. I didn’t really need to push her, as she actively wanted to spend time with me, so if it needed to be in the woods she was okay with that. She grew up about fifteen minutes away from me in the neighboring town, but had absolutely no exposure to hunting and fishing as a child. To say she is a true city slicker is an understatement, but I love her anyway. And on the flipside of that, she would also be the first to say she sees varying degrees of insanity when it comes to the obsession that’s in me with hunting and that she thinks I’m a redneck (among other things), but thankfully she loves me as well.

Even though she came from a family that had no exposure to hunting or any outdoor excursions like what I grew up with, she still agreed to go turkey and deer hunting with me. From what I gather, she is more attune to chasing spring turkeys through the woods rather than sitting in a tree stand in the fall waiting for big woods bucks to come strolling by in the rut. I don’t know if it’s the stationary part of freezing in a tree stand she detests, or if she just enjoys actively making noise and chasing things, but she now has the spring turkey bug. And to this I am eternally grateful.

wooded trail

She probably became hooked on the turkey hunting side of things because of the experience she had two years ago with me on a chilly April morning. We set out early for the hour long drive to the family property around 4:30 in the morning so we could get into the woods and be ready to roll once the birds warmed up with the rising sun. As we got into position in the dark of morning, we waited amongst the chirping songbirds for the thunder of those big boys to commence. As any seasoned turkey hunter would know. That waiting led to more waiting. And more waiting. And more. Not a single gobble all morning long. As this was my wife’s first foray into hunting, I was thinking in the back of my mind that this was going to be a total disaster. She was going to hate it, never want to go again, and mock me for both not finding any turkeys to chase, but also for wanting to go looking for something that obviously isn’t there to begin with. I needed to get something going, and I needed to do it fast. I decided to move out to the end of the property where we’ve killed a lot of birds in the past, catching them in a transition area between open fields and the surrounding timber. As we approached this area, I began to hear the faint rattle of the end of a gobble. Any seasoned turkey hunter knows what I am trying to describe- that two to three clicking sounds that are just a bit louder than the beginning of the gobble. Steering more in the direction of that rattle, we picked up the pace. I wasn’t about to let a frisky hen get in between this bird and us at this point. We closed the distance in just a few minutes and got to where I could hear the bird a little better. It was now pretty evident that there were actually two birds gobbling back and forth at one another, rather than just the one sounding off. I positioned my wife off to the left, trying to explain to her that I didn’t want her to be smacked in the head by a three and a half inch hot shell screaming out the breach of my Mossberg 935 if the opportunity presented itself.

I’ll just say that I’m an extremely aggressive caller by nature. I always seem to get in disagreements with my dad about how to approach birds in the spring. I will temper that in saying that he has probably forgotten more about these birds than I’ll ever know. But as his son, I obviously tend to think I know more, whether I actually do or not. In being this aggressive, it’s sometimes hard to temper myself when I have a timid bird that I’m working. Thankfully for the sake of this story, I had two birds and they were screaming hot on trying to find themselves a girlfriend. There was only one of me for the two of them. And this was about to turn the tide in my favor. After about two or three good cut and runs, those boys decided to have a foot race to see this sweet talking hen with the diaphragm call. And my wife just happened to be about five feet to the left of me when they decided to make this happen. targeting

Where we were set up wasn’t exactly the most ideal spot, but when you have two birds closing the distance as quickly as these two were, you really don’t have much of a choice. There was a small ridge that dumped over into an old strip mine high wall that ran along back to our left, so there was really no place for these birds to come but straight in front of us or to hook far around to our right. If they decided to come in from the left, they would have to walk clear around us and either fly up over the top of the high wall or not come to our level at all. So we sat down right away and decided to roll the dice. This hilltop only allowed us to see roughly thirty five yards in front at the most, and I knew for the sake of her being with me, I needed to let them get in close. I wanted to make sure she got the chance to see them in the wild before I took the shot. As beautiful as these critters can be with their feathers and all, they’re also pretty ugly. Having a face only a mother could love is a good way to describe them, but the dedicated people that appreciate them see that real beauty of each and every one we come across. Regardless, I wanted her to see them up close for herself so she could see what they look like in their natural surroundings.

I didn’t really need to make much noise after those few cuts to let these two jokers know where we were. I could hear them coming over the horizon, gobbling incessantly at one another. And all of a sudden, there it was- the white golf ball head bobbing through the spring undergrowth on his way to find his lady. I never got a look at the second bird because I was too busy trying to find an opening in the foliage to catch up with the first tom, but I know he was somewhere trailing behind. Like I said earlier, I could only see around thirty five yards to begin with, and this bird was on the move. It probably worked out for the best because my wife had a front row seat to the show, the shot, and ultimately my sprint to the flopping bird. From how she talks, I’m on Usain Bolt’s level of sprinting, but I’ll let you think whatever you want.

We got all our things gathered, grabbed the spent shell, unloaded the gun, and filled out the tag. Then we started taking pictures and she even decided to get one with the bird. It was a cool thing to see when someone who never experienced something like that gets a little lost in the moment of a successful hunt. I know I get lost in it all when the practice and preparation comes down to the moment of truth and things happen the way you want, because obviously you typically fail more often that you succeed in hunting, but that’s definitely part of the process that makes me love it all so, so much. On our way back to the house, I tried explaining to her that it rarely happens that fast and ends up being that easy and that she should probably never expect it to be that easy again, but not even that would dampen her spirits. I think she’s hooked, just like the spurs on that big old tom I had slung over my shoulder.

hunter with turkey

The Red Bull Legacy – Badlands Packs

The “Red Bull” Legacy – by Benjamin Allen

The “Red Bull” Legacy

I was raised in the mountains of North Idaho in a hunting family that always held camaraderie and unity in high esteem. As my brothers and I grew up, we had the benefit of learning and growing together, building off of each other’s successes and failures. Most of these successes and failures were fairly insignificant, impacting our group’s gear decision for a year or two until the next big thing came out; but on rare occasion, we would discover something timeless – something that would become part of who we were as a group and stick with us season after season, developing its own legacy as we built ours. One of these successes dates back almost fifteen years and I like to think of it as the beginning of the Red Bull Legacy.

I was a mere twelve years old when I saw my first Badlands pack. It had been lying in an open pasture where horses, for whatever reason, decided to make a meal of it. By the time we got to it, it was tattered almost beyond repair. Nonetheless, something about it caught our eye. It wielded the head of a bull on the back in bright red, a brand none of us had ever seen, so we snatched it up and took it home; partially because we were picking up litter out of the field, but in part because we were curious about this red bull brand.

badlands vertical logo

In the months following, my older brothers (both much older than myself) began doing research into the brand. One thing led to another and somewhere along the way, they were told that if they sent the pack back to the manufacturer, it would be repaired. I think the hesitation which followed was caused by a juxtaposition between their curiosity to see what would happen if they did indeed put this pack in the mail and the feeling of unjust enrichment that would come if a functional pack were ever to arrive in return. At the end of the day, the curiosity ultimately won out and the tattered bag was packaged up in a box and taken to the post office. I was too young to remember vividly how it returned – whether my older brothers got a new pack or whether the horse-chewed pack was repaired – but I do recall that sometime later a big box arrived at the house and excitement spread among us three.

Over the next few years, my brothers and I would fight after every successful hunt over who got to haul out meat using the Badlands. We tried increasing the amount of weight that would be loaded into the Badlands and decreasing that in the rest of the packs, in an attempt to balance the incentive, but the same fight still ensued. When I continually found myself on the losing end of this battle (likely because I was still in high school and they were both now adults), I decided I needed to have a red bull of my own.

That summer, after begging and pleading with everyone in my family to “chip-in” and help the poor high school kid, I was the proud owner of a Badlands 2200. From that point forward, my Badlands made every hunt with me, from quick shed-hunting excursions after school to overnight backpack trips. Within two years, the pack had hauled elk, deer, bear, turkeys, and even football gear. However, even with all of this, the greatest success of this pack was what it did for those around me. Every hunt I made, I was eager to show my Badlands off and gladly gave it up to whomever I was hunting with. In part, I knew that I had found a hidden key to success that would allow me to hike longer and further than ever before, and I wanted everyone I hunted with to have that same success. Before long, this second red bull in the family turned into three, then four, then five…

It has now been a few years since the days of saving up lawn-mowing money and begging family to help me put my first Badlands pack on my back. This past year, I took my original 2200 off the shelf and gave it to an old family friend and state Hunter Education instructor, knowing the influence he would have on young hunters and his ability to share this hidden gem with them once he discovered it for himself. Since the day we first stumbled across that tattered pack in the horse pasture, nearly every piece of my family’s hunting gear has changed, from the boots we wear to the camouflage patterns we prefer, but the one thing that has never faded is the red bull on our backs. Today, between my brothers, their wives, and their children, there are now 17 Badlands packs between us. In my mind, it takes something special to withstand the test of time, to stay at the top of an industry inflated with fads and trends that change faster than the seasons, and to embrace technological advancement to produce the next best product one step ahead of the rest, but if it does, it can truly be called a legacy. Badlands is a legacy. This is our Red Bull Legacy. 

– By Benjamin Allen

Badlands Packs Haul My Gear in the Backcountry

Hauling your gear through the backcountry isn’t a job for a department store backpack. Educate yourself and choose wisely. There are many factors you must take into consideration when investing a quality pack. Instead of giving you a complete rundown of the specifications for what you should look for in a pack, I am going to share with you what I am using and why.

Just yesterday, a friend of mine asked me what packs I was using now. Back when we hunted together I was using a Badlands 2200. It turns out that I am continuing to use that very same pack five years later. Why? It is THE most durable pack I have ever used, it fits well, and I used it to haul an elk off a mountain in Colorado, plus I used it to pack out my deer in California. It has seen its’ share of blood, tears, busted zippers, torn fabric, and I could go on. I am very hard on my gear. It gets tossed in a pick up, dropped down the side of a mountain, hung in a tree, and it still does the job well. Badlands has a warranty I have never seen anyone else come close to beating. You do damage to your pack and need a repair, send it in and they will repair it. Done. No questions asked. In five years I have only sent my pack back one time. I had tears and such, but they were minor issues. When I busted a zipper, I figured there was no way they could fix it. Wrong. They repaired roughly six things I had done to the pack. Now it’s as good as new and ready for another five years. They honestly have the best warranty in the business.

posing with hunting pack


The second pack I use is the Badlands Point. It’s a lightweight pack that works great for my day trips and my treestand hunts. I can still fit what I need to in it and when I am tough on it, it holds up very well. I used this one to help haul my gear out when I shot my first pig. I was able to swing the pack around to my chest while I carried the pig on my shoulders. 

Now, I also use a Badlands OX frame pack when the need arises. This is one I hope to utilize more this year when hunting bear and deer in the backcountry. It works really well right now for training and hauling sand. 

So there you have it. I love my Badlands packs. Sure, I am a proud member of the Badlands Operative Pro Staff, but that’s not why I love the packs. I loved the packs before I was invited to join the team. Plain and simple, they are tough and will work well for you in just about any situation. If you have any questions, feel free to email me, message me on social media, or ask one of my fellow OPS members. We love our Badlands gear and stand by it.

Now I must go peruse the catalog and see if I need another Badlands pack. . .

– The SoCal Bowhunter – Al Quackenbush

The 10 Commandments of Bowhunting – Johnny Costello

The 10 Commandments of Bowhunting – Johnny Costello

During my journey along the heavenly path of bowhunting I have acquired a certain set of summons to abide by. This list lengthened as my seasons raced along, but now this ole’ man has finally settled into the reality that these compiled “commandments”, if you will, are protocol for me to feel unabridged during my preparations, as well as during my time spent in the wondrous wild I have come to love and cherish. I have learned to practice all of these “religiously” in order to give me the highest percentage of a chance of experiencing even one extra encounter with any form of wildlife than I would have otherwise. This includes birds, varmints, predators, and the like. My ultimate goal is to have everything naturally come to life around me like I wasn’t even there. This is my belief, and here is how I pursue it.




A – Hunt strictly and steadily with every subtle step while the wind is in the forefront of my thoughts.

B – Employ optimum cleanliness, achieved with scent-preventative (non-UV) clothing, proper soaps, shampoos, sprays, deodorants, detergents, and scent-proof boots and gloves. This will minimize the chances of catastrophe when the wind unpredictably changes in a moment. I have learned that these simple solutions have repeatedly given me that few more seconds I needed to reposition, back out, or sneak a shot off. I’m also certain that these applications weaken your scent enough to momentarily confuse even the smartest of animals downwind from you. I also believe some products can actually eliminate your smell as long as you aren’t profusely sweating, or if you have been eating the wrong foods during the season. This is a critical factor that should not be ignored.

C – When I am in the hunt I use the finest deer, elk, predator, and cover scents always. I have found this to be one of the most determining factors I put upon myself. My blinds are kept scent-free when not in use, and are sprayed down and cover-scented with “Evercalm” before each and every hunt.

D – My treestands and blinds are strategically placed with extensive thought involved. Thermals, predominant winds, weather forecasts, bull and buck travel corridors between feeding, bedding, and waterholes, existing shade, shelter, shooting lanes, scrapes, rub lines, wallows and good background are all studied and respected accordingly to prevent detection…. long before I ever commit to installing my stands.

E – When treestand hunting I never leave my pull-ropes or lifelines hanging. They will eventually become a 30 ft. human scent-wick while waving a huge red flag to mature animals. I use the wind-up pull ropes, and of course this is where owning high-quality scent-proof gloves becomes insistent. My ladders and steps are always “handled” with the same consideration every climb.

F –  Peeing and squatting is unpreventable, but leaving a scent trail is. I always carry a pee-bottle in my pack. Avoid a plastic one (I had one break in my pack once.. say no more). I use aluminum or glass with a sock stretched over it to muffle the sound. When I’m  facing a #2  I get pretty creative as to how and where this gets done. Your strategic burying capabilities are cardinal at this point, and this reality should not be neglected. I carry a large “back-up” freezer bag in my pack for treestand hunting. Yup..that’s right. This “matter” may contaminate your area for a whole season if you so desire, so 911’s should be expected and prepared for thoroughly. Luckily, learning self-control of my faculties buys me plenty of time.

G – How I get to and from a stand is a priority. There is always a right way and a wrong way, and it always pertains to the wind. After learning the right way I mark my path with reflectors for night travel. Normally I develop two ways going to and from because of wind and thermal changes at different times of the day. I habitually clear anything that may rub against me and I always off-set my own path from active game trails.


A – Practice shooting year-round. Become as one with your bow and keep it that way. Adjust consequently with the stretching of the string. Avoid over-shooting. (Please take note that I use the words “practice” and “memories” often in this article. Bear with me, for these words serve each other very well, and exemplifies the whole point I’m trying to make.

B – Learning to read yardage may be one of the most important demands of all. Of course I use a rangefinder, but mostly for developing instinctive sight/shooting habits and for making yardage landmarks in my stand perimeters. However, long-distance shooting is a whole different ballgame. Every yard matters, therefore requiring extensive practice and analysis in the field. This is why my rangefinder is always within reach. The same goes for treestand or blind shooting. Degree of angled shots from high elevations and making accurate shots through portholes while sitting or kneeling can be very difficult to achieve without constant practice. Lifesize 3D targets along with obstacles between us can help dramatically during this type of rehearsal. Always envision the vitals of your quarry when taking aim. See the eventual exit wound and what’s in-between it and “the spot” before placing your shot.

C – Maintain consistent tuning of your bow and arrows. Paper-tune often and listen for unwanted noises during your release. String-stretch can cause big changes in these areas, so beware. Tuning arrows is a kick to me. I eventually will find my best flying arrows and number them. I will always have a favorite (I have an arrow that has killed 3 bucks in a row and counting). I have this really cool “Goat-tuff fletching tool” that makes it easy for me to systematically develop and maintain “Fave-5’s” for my quiver. Just like muscle cars, what’s under the “hood” is what wins…not looks.

D – Take every measure possible to quiet your bow. The things an animal is capable of doing once your release is heard almost defies logic.

E – Keep your bows, releases, and treestands lubed and inspect them frequently for loose parts etc.

F – Keep all of your gear scent-free, even during the off-season. This includes packs and boots. An Ozonics system at home accomplishes this easily, or simply storing everything separately from the inside of the house in a scent-free area will serve the purpose

G – Safety must be exercised at all times. Lifelines, harnesses, and climbing savvy are crucial when hunting off the ground. Importantly, I have the very best lighting systems for getting in and out in the dark. The art of hanging a treestand safely is paramount, not only during the installation but also for the critical climb in and out. Arrow clearance must be checked immediately with each hunt, especially when blind hunting. I draw back with an arrow knocked and test for obstacles and clearance daily.

H – Shooting with all of your gear on and with broadheads attached to your arrows is vital when preparing for opening day.

I – Always inspect your arrows for weak or cracked shafts, damaged nocks and bent inserts.



A – Purchase quality layering systems for every type of weather condition. Have breathable apparel for hot conditions. I believe it to be a must to wear super-quiet fleece (or something comparable) when “calm weather” bowhunting. This is a prerogative to me. I always test my suit by simply drawing back a few times and listening carefully for unwanted sounds, because I know my prey is for sure.

B – Once again, scent control garments are a mainstay in my arsenal.

C – Own different camo-patterns so you have the freedom to choose which one suits your surroundings best. Be sure to have black for blind hunting. I simply carry a black pullover, gloves, and mask in my pack when hunting from a blind.

D – Give yourself choices of good footwear for different climates, terrain, and wet weather conditions. Traction, comfort, quietness, warmth/coolness, and dryness are key in the outdoor world. I always have more than one pair of wet weather boots available to me to switch out when possible.

E – Extremely high-quality raingear is instrumental here in the Northwest. Once again you should find the best quality and quietest suit offered I’ve learned that what I wear under my raingear can significantly improve the quietness of it. Of course if it’s windy or raining hard this usually isn’t a factor.

F – The bows I have chosen are the best money can buy. I do not settle for less in this area. They are fast, light, forgiving, smooth, quiet, and extremely accurate. If I blow a shot it is most definitely all on me, and I subsequently have to live with that. There are many excellent bows available to us these days, so this isn’t as difficult to achieve as some of the other goals I’ve mentioned.  My machines are decorated with the finest accessories I could find, and are treated like my best friends. I guess you could say they are carefully coddled. Own a quality hard case. Accessories make the difference.

G – My trigger release is also a pampered and petted piece of genius. I just can’t believe the technology that is offered to us in this respect. Mine fits like a glove, functions smoothly with a hair trigger, it’s fully adjustable with a ball-bearing 360 degree rotating head that smoothly eliminates torque, all while being virtually indestructible.

H – The arrows and broadheads I shoot are just as important to me as my bow. To be frugal in this department would be asinine. I own the straightest shafts in the world and I married them to the most taming vanes available. Then I capped them with the deadliest, sharpest, best flying broadheads on the shelf. Maintain the razor edge of your broadheads as they age. The end result is they fly like darts, cut like butter, and paper test perfectly. (Be sure to choose the proper stiffness splines for your bow.) The flight of my arrows are the essence of my being, along with the crimson results. My freezer continues to show proof of this.

I – My Optics are simply an extension of my eyesight. My eyesight has brought me my string of success. These extra pair of eyes are not only like having x-ray vision to find even the most hidden trophies, they can even tell you how far away they are. It’s like having one of God’s ultimate gift in your hands. I carry the very best on the market for this reason.

Lisa geared up
Lisa is always prepared, and doesn’t miss a thing.

J – The packs I wear are an extension of my home. They need to be quiet, comfortable, waterproof, and large enough to carry all of the essentials to keep me predating at a high-octane level, and to keep me in the field longer. It’s substantial to have the right packs for the right hunt. I own the finest. If you’re like me you are carrying things like water, flashlights, matches, GPS and compass, first-aid kit, card reader (if needed), food, raingear, phone, wipes, scent killer, scents, extra clothes (when needed), pee bottle, ziplocs, processing tools, extra batteries, rope, calls, ribbon, rattle horns (when needed), spotting scope (when needed), and 5 hour energy drinks etc. Organization of all of these items are key for success.



A –  We all know the weather can become a huge obstacle in our quest to succeed. However, with each condition comes a potential strategy that can turn it in your favor. Obviously snow can be extremely helpful by assisting the hunter with improved tracking abilities. Also most prey becomes much easier to spot. Usually your quarry won’t realize this until it’s too late. When it’s nasty they become more mobile in order to find available food. I love sinking an arrow into a trophy under these conditions. I will most definitely enjoy easy blood trailing. Of course rain quiets the forest floors and fields and deadens your sound with it’s own. Depending on what type of game you are pursuing they all react to rain a certain way that can be relatively easy to predict. Study this well during your pursuits. Dry hot weather creates advantages as well. Waterholes become a magnet to all living things.The ground becomes incredibly noisy, becoming a huge advantage to the still/stand hunter. The same noises you contend with from bugs, squirrels, birds, and other movements they need to decipher as well. This helps cover sounds you may make in a stand, or at least confuses them as to what  the sound is from. Animals seek cool dark places on Norheastern slopes during the heat of the day, giving you an advantage to locate, intercept, and capitalize on their bedding areas. Windy conditions can also increase your chances of stalking animals for similar reasons. With all of the movement from leaves, branches, grasses, and the swaying and cracking of trees, your movement becomes less pronounced. Calm, quiet conditions require the hunter to be the best he can be to avoid detection, but this can also improve his visibility and ability to pick up sound and movement. Fog doesn’t necessarily hinder the bowhunter either. This condition allows some movement when needed, and your scent doesn’t carry nearly as far.

hunter with buck
I’ve taken some of my biggest bucks in foggy weather. Nothing is more blood-pumping than when monster appears from the mist. Im sure many of you are fully aware of all of these advantages, but my point of all this is that I hunt in almost any condition.

B – Predators can change the face of a scape overnight. This is usually short-lived, but their activity stirs up movement and increases the travels of their prey while taking them out of their normal routine. This enhances the chance of them making a crucial mistake, as is the intent of the predator’s pressure. When my trail cameras show me this type of activity, I often keep hunting the same area. This choice has served me well. Besides, the excitement of having this company around me is what I call a bonus.

bobcat captured on stealth cam
This bobcat prowled around the wallow for days.


bear captured on stealth cam
Two days after the bobcat moved along this bear showed up.
elk captured on stealth cam
After chewing on my camera, the bear left the wallow and the elk returned.
predator captured on stealth cam
In the Northwest we hunt right alongside predators every day.
hunting pose
This is what I call a bonus. I called him in right before Lisa took her 2014 buck!

C – When camping becomes necessary I have the finest tent and sleeping gear I can afford. I optimize my comfort so I can rest thoroughly. Without proper rest I would quickly unravel and become useless in the field. To eat well and stay dry and warm/cool is of the utmost importance.

D – Egos and jealousy are somewhat common in the hunting world, especially in the difficult field of archery. Frustration can sometimes be overwhelming when attempting to bring home a mature trophy, and many times I have seen this problem ripple into families, friendships, and even amongst total strangers. This can be very detrimental to the hunter and to the sport itself. We all have a responsibility to represent our sport with class and dignity if we want our rights to withstand the forces of our adversaries. I have witnessed reactions from hunters about hunters that has been nothing short of pathetic. Most of us praise our fellow hunters’ successes, and this praise is more than likely returned when we prevail ourselves. Gossip and hearsay can spread like a cancer from one bad apple, and can eventually turn someone’s celebration into a nightmare. Competition can be very heavy and wearing on the sportsman, so if size matters to you it should be pursued with class and respect for all others around you. I’ve learned that genuinely honoring other archers’ successes has a way of bringing good fortunes back to me. I’m more interested in seeking knowledge from them than seeking revenge. These poor actions contaminate our pride with poison. Modern bowhunting is far different than the past. There are so many of us pounding the brush these days that we tend to overlap more frequently. As populations increase our domains are shrinking. These concerns are putting more of a demand on us than ever before to exercise good sportsmanship and conservation at all levels. We need to stand by one another like brothers. If I want to sleep better and hunt better I praise my fellow hunters. When the changing of the guards occurs our children will thank us for it.

E – A man’s work and home life can have an enormous impact on how we practice and hunt the way our hearts want us to. Some people are blessed more than others but I’m not one of them. This is a very difficult paradox that needs to be handled cautiously, but it can be done. Adjust to your own means. For example, 20 arrows a day isn’t a bad practice. Being limited to hunting on weekends, as frustrating as it is, seems to be working ok for me. Of course it has everything to do with preseason scouting and stand preparation. I actually do my homework year round in this respect. I’m fortunate enough to have a soulmate who has been willing to learn to video and hunt with me while helping with preparations etc. This not only relieves pressure in our home it is a huge asset in the field as well. The joy that this has brought is priceless. This arrangement should at least be considered, when possible.

hunting duet pose
These memories cannot be replaced.

two hunters posing with turkeys

F – Logging and land development can sometimes seem catastrophic initially, but with careful studying you can turn this nightmare into a dream come true.

author with 2015 trophy
The author with his 2015 trophy

That’s exactly what my partner Tim Thomas, Lisa, and myself did this past season. We took advantage of the fresh 300 acre clearcut that changed the face of our stomping grounds by quickly analyzing the changing movements of the local deer herds. This led us straight to brand new “honey-holes”, as we went 3 for 3 on elusive Blacktail bucks. Learn your area well and you will almost always find the answer.

Lisa with hunting kill
Lisa passed up numerous bucks waiting for the monster she targeted, only to take this fella on the day before the last day.
Tim Thomas with hunting kill
Tim Thomas shifted stands numerous times before whacking this dandy.


A – I’m never deterred by lack of activity. I shift gears, move to another stand, make new stands, study trail cameras thoroughly, and if need be I travel to other areas that I have prepared during pre-season. I’d like to think of myself as a problem solver, while showing patience and a burning desire to keep hunting.

B –  I accept discomfort. No matter how hard I try to avoid discomfort I always wind up enduring it, especially when stand/still hunting. I stay put, stay strong, stay focused, and stay still.

C – Extreme obstacles, such as steep rugged terrain, swamps, slashy forest floors, rivers, creeks, thickets, deep snow and ice, poison oak, and blackberries can slow a hunter down to a crawl. With proper physical and mental conditioning these barriers can be embraced and conquered.

D – I devote all daylight hours to being successful. Yes, this does include rest when necessary.

E – No matter how physically or mentally demanding your job is, when you get home pick it up a couple of notches and get after it, whether it’s practicing, scouting, stand preps, or hunting itself. Make every minute count.

F – I always sneak into my areas way before daylight, and in the evenings I stay put until after dark. For whatever reason animals don’t seem to spook as much when they can’t see you well. When my identity is limited many of my spots stay active even when I bump the animals I’m pursuing.

G – I get to bed very early so I can wake up early… every morning. I refuse to rush after waking, for this is when I forget things and make mistakes. The last thing I want to do is to have to rush into a stand or to where a herd has previously been found. This is no way to start your day.



A – When it comes to bowhunting I’m a “no holds barred” kind of guy. I try all new breakthroughs with enthusiasm. If something helps even a little bit I throw it in my arsenal. If I experience even just one little encounter more than I would have if I didn’t use these products then I am a happy camper. I like having every advantage I possibly can to help bring the bacon home, and to create incredible memories on top of it. I’ve read so many critics reviews that express doubt about some of the products I use. I can only say “huwhaaaaat?” My experiences don’t lie, and I will not be influenced otherwise. There are many hunters that are not the “bells and whistles” type, as they put it, and they like to try to get things done traditionally. To those hunters, I salute you. However, I personally like alot of action with success as the result, and I’ll do whatever I can to increase my odds.

B – Scent control products are advancing rapidly, and I am one who is always watching to see what’s next. I am a huge fan of carbon and silver, as well as with

hygiene, detergent, and soap and spray products.

C – HECS garments have brought my hunting experiences to a whole new level. I consider this product to be a major breakthrough in the industry. My encounters have multiplied with bizarre “never seen before” episodes happening right in front of my eyes..great ones that I will never forget. These memories are priceless to me, so why put a price tag on them?

D-  Bow silencing products have truly come a long way. I want my bow to be as silent as it can be, for I have watched far too many slow-mo videos of bucks jumping the string and ducking and dodging perfectly tossed arrows only to disappear into the shadows. Silence is golden, so seek it.

E – The mechanics of bows are improving at an alarming rate, and this is one of the coolest trends to be following. Cams are improving every year, bows keep getting faster, lighter, quieter, and more accurate. Tradional bows are getting almost too beautiful to shoot. Speed is maintaining with lighter poundage bows. Shorter bows are becoming more forgiving. Now you can change draw lengths without a press? These advancements are very exciting to me.

F- Bow accessories have been keeping the pace with the bows they clothe. Sights have transformed into artwork, while making it so much easier to sight in these days, along with the brightest of pins. Stabilizers are futuristic. Arrow rests defy logic, as they have become everything from self contained to offering total arrow clearance, regardless of bow speed. Detachable, lighted Quivers from under the hood and on top? Wow! Man does this help prevent damage and hang-ups when pulling a bow up into a treestand in the dark. Trigger releases have become a micro-machined miracle, with accomplishments like torque elimination and fold-away features. Bowstring improvements have solved so many problems of the past, such as twist and stretch issues. Even bow waxes are becoming more sophisticated. Do I sound excited? You’d better believe I am.

G – The arrow arena has it’s own reasons to be applauded. Shafts are truer and tougher than ever before with unmatched penetration advancements. .001 straightness? Holy cow!! Strength in tiny diameters? Sheeet! Competition in the vane industry has forced the making of the most taming and toughest vanes in history. The choices of broadheads that these products thrust have simply been blowing me away. Now when they say “it flies like a field-point” they actually mean it. When you hear them saying “it will change blood trails forever” it’s actually true. Also, the technology in mechanical broadheads has reached an all-time high. Because of this it’s putting pressure on the many stubborn states to finally legalize mechanicals for big game. This is cool stuff happening and we get to reap from it.

H – Blinds and their accessories have shown vast improvements. Blind webs are at the top of the list in my book. To be able to weave surrounding foliage onto my blinds has made a night and day difference in our success rate on the ground. Quality bowholders and comfortable adjustable seat options also show special improvements. Treestands have become more comfortable than ever. Ladder stands are even becoming more trick these days.

I – Lifeline safety ropes are an outstanding achievement. These are a must to the tree guy. Harnesses have evolved to be light and comfortable with no restrictions while being much easier to put on, especially in the dark.

J –  Optics have become astonishingly improved. The ARC system in rangefinders is beneficial for elevated hunting tactics. Having the rangefinder engineered into the binoculars is also a major breakthrough. Water-proofing has finally been achieved.

K –  Finely detailed and realistic turkey decoys have shown one of the most impressive advancements to the bowhunter.

L – Calls have become extraordinarily improved upon. Diaphragms are comfortable and easy to use, rattle bags are convenient and work well, bugles have become refined, box calls, slates, and strikers keep advancing, and predator calling machines are off the grid.



A – The older I get the more aware I become of that for me to keep my chops up I need to keep shooting..shooting..shooting. If I don’t I seem to get a little lacks-a-daisy about even the basic fundamentals of proper shooting form. This only leaves me with having to re-polish my skills when the seasons sneak up on me. Rather than stumble through the frustration of it all I force myself to stay in touch with my bow year round. Besides, there are always variables that need constant attention when it comes to the mechanics of a bow. String-stretch and twist alone requires adjustments that are much easier to stay up on with daily practice. Plus, with these habits I stay keen to lubricate and maintain my” love machine” overall.

B – When I practice on a daily basis my hand-eye coordination becomes much sharper and stays that way. With this comes an improved competence to judge yardage without a rangefinder. This ability is an overwhelming advantage to the bowhunter. I do not have the freedom or the means to travel to shoots far and away, and my job gives me very little freedom in the summer. Consequently I’ve developed my own personal target range. I have spot shooting targets and a variety of 3-D targets at variable distances and degrees of angles. I even have a treestand practice area. This is extremely beneficial to me. I am constantly “multi-position” shooting, for I am certain that my shot opportunities will put me in unconventional postures compared to the typical upright shooting form.

C – Stretching and muscle conditioning is a must in order to become consistent with your shooting ability. This is the easiest way to keep proper form at all times. I stretch before and after shooting and muscle development simply comes hand in hand with practice itself. Once again, I never over-shoot, nor do I put myself in a position where I’m forced to. I think this mistake is the easiest way to pick up bad habits which is always followed with a bad attitude.



A – It doesn’t matter how good of a shot I become, if I’m puffing, panting, shaking, and gasping for air I’m more than likely going to make a mistake. These kinds of errors can potentially snowball into a string of bad memories and an empty freezer. The only way to prevent these nightmares is to stay fit.

B – Respiratory and cardiovascular conditioning is as one with successful bowhunting. I have found that the best bowhunters in the world are consistently in great physical condition for a reason. This reason is why I strive to do the same. Their example is all I ever needed. The importance of running, cycling, general hiking, or any form of exertion that makes you sweat and breathe deeply is more than words can describe. Sweating and burning calories is an internal cleansing that will diminish body odor dramatically. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the conditioning that comes from shooting alone is as important as everything else I’ve mentioned. One of my weekly challenges is to hold my bow still, at full draw, for as long as I possibly can and then still be able to make an accurate shot. This has helped me tremendously in the field.

C – None of this can be accomplished without a good diet. I cannot even begin to say enough about this subject in this article. There is so much important knowledge I’ve stumbled on that I would love to share with you but it’s too extensive for this segment. However, It’s only practical for me to mention it briefly. To be vague the hunter should always be thinking about what he’s putting in his mouth to stay fit and to be capable of continuing to develop good memories. Avoid spicy foods and meat before and during your seasons if possible. Many foods put off an odor that’s strong and musky that will literally fume from the pores of your skin as you perspire. The prey we chase has been evolving to outsmart it’s predators for centuries, and through this evolution their noses have developed an uncanny knack of knowing exactly when they smell a meat-eater from a browser. Go figure.



A – By the time hunting season falls upon me I already have conditioned myself to hit the sack early every night. This simply allows me to jump out of my bag at  2:30 every morning frisky and eager to greet daybreak with fire in my veins. As my day progresses I listen closely to what my body tells me, and if I feel the need to rest my head for a spell that’s what I do. When I do I try to time it with the slowest part of the day. It is a priority to be alert and focused every second of a hunt. Sometimes the moment of truth can be staring you right in the eye in a blink, so if your reaction time is dragging even momentarily it could all be past you before you even think about hooking your release. If I allow my rest to slip away there is a good chance my trophy will slip away too. Many times I have found my whole season come down to one moment. I refuse to not be prepared for those few seconds that may change the outcome forever.



A – I am one who finds myself praying every day for a good aftermath in all regards.

B – I always express how grateful I am for all life and for the food brought to my table. This includes the beautiful land I roam, the freedom I’m blessed with, my rights to keep and bear arms, and for all the good memories that will last forever.     (Img.#40)-This memory of seeing Jackson Bartow’s face after he pasted this tom was forever precious to us.

C – I exercise my beliefs spirituality with every step I take in the wild, and I make sure I’m having fun while doing it.

D – I give thanks to all of the groups and individuals who battle every day to defend our rights and our freedom, abroad and right here at home.

family memories group photo
Special memories with the family

E – I give praise to all of the great sportsman who protect and uphold our rights with wisdom and force.

F – I bow to all of the heroes who built our constitution and who historically fought for the freedom of all people in America.

G – I thank God every day for the majesty brought to my world, and for the health that keeps me hunting it with a ferocity.


I’m certain that I’ve probably missed some important factors for some, but these personal commandments have worked very well for me. I live my life according to them with confidence that I will be compensated for it. I have been a student of great hunters for many years. Along the way I’ve leaned towards people like Bob Fromme, Jim Ponciano, Tom Nelson, Scott Haugen, Larry D. Jones, Tom Miranda, Chris Rager, Dwight Schu, Jim Horn, Ted Nugent, Jerry Morrison, Tim Thomas, and the preachings of Randy Ulmer and Knight and Hale, all for their advice and wisdom. This blessed education has carried me far in my quest to succeed. When hunters at their level speak I listen very carefully, and I highly recommend you to do the same. I can only hope this may help or at least remind some you of how there may be a better way to bring success into your world of bowhunting, and maybe even the smallest changes will bring you accolades in a very big way.



Bear Archery bows

Trophy Ridge sights, stabilizers, arrow rests, and quivers

Badlands packs, apparel, tents, sleeping bags, and accessories

Rocket and Flying Arrow Archery broadheads

Gold Tip Pro Hunter shafts

Goat Tuff vanes and fletcher

HECS Stealthscreen garments

Conquest Scents’ Evercalm, VS1, Rutting Buck, and predator cover scents

Crispi Boots

Leica Optics

Oakley RX glasses

TruFire releases

Dead Downwind products




The True Measure of a Successful Hunt

By Chris Swanson

It had been 10 straight days, and no sign of elk. Ten long, excruciating, sweaty, brutal days was about all I could handle without seeing, or let alone hearing a bull. It was the second to the last day of early archery season in Washington state,  and the September sun seemed to attack my shoulders with relentless heat as I sat on an open ridge gorging myself on huckleberries like a bear. I had heard grizzlies were few and far between in the wilderness area I had journeyed into, but that still didn’t make my nights alone in the backcountry any more comforting. I continued to glass across a deep and mysterious drainage that formed a perfect horseshoe, capped with rocks and wildflowers at its apex. It was a sight for the sorest of eyes, mine included. Now, I will be the first to tell a new hunter that it does not require a kill to have a successful hunt. In my mind, witnessing the breathtaking scenery and escaping from reality are a victory in their own right. But, this was my hardest season yet, and I began to lose sight of this very idea and frustration began to set in.

Chris Swanson overlooking view

As the day wound down, I began to wonder what kind of elk paradise was down in the bottom of that formidable horseshoe drainage. It was a place I swore I would never venture, no matter how desperate I got. At least that’s what I thought! Just as I was gathering the contents of my Badlands pack and swinging it onto my shoulder, I heard what I had longed to hear for over a week. It was a chuckle from a bull in the bottom of the drainage, and he wasn’t alone. As I set my pack down, I saw the most beautiful sight I had seen all day, or all week for that matter. There were about 10 blonde hides working out of the timber into a small opening at the very bottom of the drainage. As soon as I could get my spotting scope setup and crawl behind it, I saw him. The bull was absolutely magnificent, and sporting what I would estimate at being a 350-360 class 6 point rack. I couldn’t believe my eyes. As the evening light began to fade, I began to lose sight of my potential trophy. I threw a couple cow calls off the edge of the ridge, and he cut me off with the most deep throated and raspy bugle I had heard in my 6 years of bow hunting elk. Unfortunately, he was in his bedroom, with his ladies, and did NOT want to come investigate my position. I decided to hike about a half mile back onto the opposite ridge where my good friend Gary and I rendezvoused. After hunting alone for the majority of the season, I welcomed the companionship. We decided to set up camp at this location to keep our scent from wandering down into the new found elk haven. It was that night in my tent that I decided I may have lost my sanity. We were going to drop off into that drainage and give every last bit of energy it would take to arrow that bull.

Morning came quickly, and the darkness seemed to taunt us as we quietly slipped down the mountain side. The vertical drop was near 1200 feet, an arduous task on rocky terrain in pure darkness. With my red lensed light guiding the way, we found the bottom. It was cool and elky, and the stench of a testosterone fueled rut hung in the air. We were in the right place. As the sun rose, we started to slip closer to where I had last seen the bull the night before. I didn’t have much chance of pulling him away from his cows, but I could perhaps setup and ambush or try a spot and stalk if I could locate him. The bottom of the drainage was absolutely not what I expected. It was open underneath the canopy of timber, much like a park with a stream and lush grass. As we pressed forward, I found a perfect ambush point. It was a large wallow adjacent to the stream and appeared to be heavily used. We decided that we would sit over the wallow and throw a few soft cow calls into the timber around us. It became apparent that the elk were already bedded for the day, and we were in for a long sit. The morning turned to day, and it was getting hot. “This big boy has to be hot”, I thought to myself, “He is going to have to hit this wallow at some point.”

As the day progressed, we stayed patient in our approach, because the last thing I wanted to see was this big boy get even the slightest clue we were in his house and disappear like elk so mysteriously do. Just as I was losing hope, I heard a cow mew up ahead of us. I cow called back, and things started getting busy. I could tell the elk where on their feet, because the vocalization and sound of limbs breaking was unlike anything I have heard. I called sparingly, just waiting for the big man to come take a dip. It was at this very instance that the last day of elk season would come to a screeching halt. We heard movement behind us about 50 yards. “Crap!” I thought, “We’re going to get busted!” As a slowly turned, it was not an elk I saw. It was Mr. Grizzly bear himself and he was not small. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I checked the wind, and it was in our favor. But, his presence must have alerted the elk because it sounded as if a freight train went up that same mountain face we scaled in the dark that morning. As the bear approached, it became apparent he didn’t know we were there. I then realized that he must have been coming to my cow calls, which was an eerie feeling when I realized he was indeed looking for a meal. We had no choice, we had to stand up from cover and make our presence known before he was at a distance that we could smell his breath. As I stood, he stopped. It was a stone cold kind of still, and he seemed to look right through me. Gary stood next, and then the bear stood last. There we were, all standing there looking at one another wondering what our next move would be. As I whistled and hawed at him, he held his ground. At a distance now of about 25 yards, he was too close for comfort. We backed out of the wallow area slowly, one step at a time with pistols drawn. Then, with a blink of an eye, I was flat on my back. I had tripped over what I thought was a branch, and bounced back to my feet in an instant. When I realized the bear was staying put, I decided to glance down quickly at what had tripped me up. Our jaws dropped. It was a woodland Caribou shed, fresh from the previous year. Now, you must know, that is an extremely rare find in Washington due to the extreme few remaining in the area. We grabbed the shed, clutched our bows, and got the heck out of there.

Chris Swanson with woodland Caribou shed

We managed to climb back out of the drainage throughout the evening, and I started reminiscing on my very “eventful” day. And then it hit me. I had regained the spark. This experience had illuminated the innate sense of connection with nature that had started to dwindle as a result of what I thought was an unsuccessful 2013 elk season. In actuality, this had turned into one of the most exhilarating and satisfying hunts I had ever been on, and the fact that I was able to share it with a close friend was priceless. No, I didn’t arrow a bull that September, but the events of that last afternoon and the extraordinary scenery will cling to my cache of hunting memories for as long as I live. That in my book is a measure of success itself.

-Badlands Pro Staff – Chris Swanson

Bears and Bears and Bears….Oh my! Badlands Packs Enter Bear Country

Our good friends from Open Season TV have been flat out getting work done for bear season. Check out three success stories from Chuck Paddock, Rusty Jackson and Mike Burks as they rock the best hunting packs on the planet. A big thanks to Open Season TV for always rocking Badlands during their hunts. We’re proud to be a small part of their amazing success.

Story by Chuck Paddock

My season started in early May in Alberta with Sherwood Outfitters I was a little worried that it may be a little early & the weather may affect the hunt & I was right. We battled 20 degree weather & 8” of snow & even though we had those conditions we still had hunters shooting bears while I was there & a couple wolves were taken but after 4 days of hunting I had to head for home unfortunately. I was planning on coming back in late May after my trip to Manitoba or so I thought. Even though I never took a bear we gave the opportunity for a couple of our intern cameramen to hunt together & film & they both took their first bears with a CVA Accura V2 & the footage was outstanding.

Now off to Manitoba a couple weeks later. We get up to camp on Thur & we begin that night right after we get there. Not an hour in the stand & we have a bear come in & then another one 30 min later so I had high hopes because both bears were nervous & I thought it was because of a bigger bear but what I found out was the ladder stand I was in kept cracking & popping which was driving me crazy. I sit the stand for the next 3 days with not one bear coming in but after I would leave they would be in 30 min later so I knew they were onto us. Meanwhile the other guys were seeing a lot of bears & I had also had truck problems on Sat which turned into me staying in Canada for 10 days & $,4,000.00 later but we will get to that in a min. So its day 5 & I told the outfitter look I have to move these bears are not coming in because of that stand I am convinced of it now so we make plans to make a move to a stand that had no camera by it so we had no idea what was hitting the bait but I was willing to take the risk. We get settled in & several hours pass by & right before dark her comes a small bear he gets about 40 yds gets nervous & just leaves & I am like what the heck I know I didn’t move & he didn’t smell us but what I didn’t know is there was a bigger bear around & he was coming in behind us about 10 min later this brute comes in to our left makes a circle & comes right to the bait with about 4 cameras rolling I draw my bow & settle my pin & touch it off & down he goes 9 days of bear hunting & my first big game kill was complete.

Now what  I didn’t know is that my truck that was being worked on by the mechanic he was actually damaging the truck & when he couldn’t get it fixed I towed it 40 miles & 5 days later I was on my way home I had never been so glad to see the American border in all my life I was broke but I was alive with a bear in the truck.

Gear Used :

Bow : Mathews Chill R

Sight: Spot Hogg Hogg-It

Arrows : Victory Archery  VAP’s 350

Rest: Vapor Trail  Micro Elite

Broadheads: Dead Ringer Trauma

Optics: Vortex  Razor HD 12×50

Bowcase: SKB

Release: Tru-Fire Hardcore Max

Boots: Lacrosse Areohead 7.0

Backpack: Badlands 2200

Camo: Realtree

Harness: Gorilla

Trailcamera: Covert Scounting Camera

Online Tracking:

Scent Control: Dead Down Wind

Stabilizer: Dead Center Archery

Cooler: Grizzly 400


Rusty Jackson MB 14
Rusty Jackson with Canada bear

Story by Rusty Jackson

Last fall I was able to harvest my first black bear with Bloodvein River Outfitters and I experienced a great hunt with them once again this year. The hunt started off great as expected.  On the first afternoon we saw five bears and came to full draw on a great bear. Unfortunately my cameraman, Brad Faulstich, didn’t have the same angle as I had and he had to call off the shot. We had several good encounters with bears over the next several days, but were not able to close the deal until the final day of the hunt.

On the last afternoon the weather was perfect and we had already seen several bears when this bruiser showed up. He came right in then left quickly and unexpectedly, not giving me a chance for a shot. After wandering around a little he came back through offering a perfect quartering away shot. I drew back my bow and settled the sight right on the boiler room, pulled the trigger on my release and watched the arrow hit its mark. The massive bear only went 40 yards and the blood trail was phenomenal. Low and behold, the bear we were able to harvest was the same bear I came to full draw on the first afternoon! The bear has a scar on his nose so this is how we knew it was the same bear. It was an awesome experience and I can’t wait to get back to Canada!

Gear Used :

Bow : Mathews Chill R

Sight: Spot Hogg Hogg-It

Arrows : Victory Archery  VAP’s 350

Rest: Vapor Trail  Micro Elite

Broadheads: Dead Ringer Trauma

Optics: Vortex  Diamond Back 10 x 42

Bowcase: SKB

Release: Tru-Fire Hardcore Max

Boots: Lacrosse Areohead 7.0

Backpack: Badlands Super Day Pack

Camo: Realtree

Harness: Gorilla

Trailcamera: Covert Scounting Camera

Online Tracking:

Scent Control: Dead Down Wind

Stabilizer: Dead Center Archery

Cooler: Grizzly 150


Mike Burks Bear SK
Mike Burks


Story by Mike Burks

We were originally supposed to be in camp at Amyot Lake Outfitters in northern Saskatchewan to bow hunt bears on May 9th, but luckily our schedule was flexible and after waiting on the weather to clear, we arrived 9 days later. The winter was exceptionally long this year and Brad said the big boys were just now getting out of their dens. After a 2000 mile drive we pulled into camp, unloaded our gear, shot our bows, grabbed a bite to eat and hit our bunks. Up bright and early the next morning , we spent a lot of time during breakfast going over trail cam pics of different bait sights looking for the biggest bears we could find. After deciding who was on the bow first, we headed out to a bait called “Ricky Bobby” since it looked liked it had a nice big black coming in on a regular basis. We got setup around 3:30p.m. and within an hour had our first bear come in. It appeared to be a 18-19″ boar with a nice big body, but he styed out about 40yds never offering a shot. Every hour for the next 3 hours we had a nice 225-250lb black come in and grab a bite, just nothing that was big enough to shoot. Around 7:45 I heard a stick snap on the trail that we walked in on and we went on alert. My cameraman then whispered “Shooter bear, get your bow”…..without even offering a glance, I turned on the Go Pro and picked up my bow just in time to see a huge black blob walk by the blind at 12 FEET ! As the giant headed on into the bait, he offered me a perfect broadside shot at 10yds so I went to full draw. As luck would have it, he stopped behind the beaver cage, completely covering his vitals…..then sat down on his rump and stared right at me, still at full draw. My cameraman was whispering “let down” but there was no way without him seeing me. He finally stood and circled the bait offering me a 9yd broadside shot and I let it fly. After watching the footage I was at full draw for 70 seconds…..and eternity it seemed. The big bruin spun and ran into the swamp to our right, crashing a breaking limbs as he went. After a couple minutes the noise stopped and we waited till dark to sneak out of the blind and return to camp. After a sleepless night and a quick breakfast we went back and found the 450lb B&C bruiser after a short tracking job. 150yds and 3 hours later he was out of the swamp, tagged and headed to the skinning trailer. It was truly one of the most amazing hunting experiences of my life and I owe it to my hunting partner Travis Parker for his generosity.

Gear Used:

Bow: Mathews Monster Chill R, 72lbs…28″ draw

Sights: Spot Hogg Hunter

Broadhead: Dead Ringer Rampage

Arrow: Victory V3

Optics: Vortex Diamondbacks 10×42

Scent elimination: Dead Down Wind

Footwear: Lacrosse Aeroheads

Camo: Realtree

Backpack: Badlands Super Day

Rest: Vapor Trail

Stabilizer: Dead Center Archery

Release: Tru Fire Hardcore

The Sound of a Bugle – My First Experience Elk Hunting – Shannon Giusti – Badlands

The air was crisp, the ground wet, and my feet aching. It had been a long few days of climbing steep terrain, eating nothing but wild huckleberries and peanut butter, and looking for elk sign… any sign. It was my first time Elk hunting and at this point of the trip my boyfriend was defeated, fearing I would not be able to experience the joy and rush of a Bull elk in close proximity.

It was the 3rd evening of our Archery Elk hunt. I was exhausted. My body was worn down and my mind was getting blurry. Honestly I was bored. I had no idea why he loved Elk hunting so much because I had not seen anything exciting other than the beautiful country we had explored. I convinced him to sit down for a while and throw out some cow calls, and I just prayed that we would hear something so I did not have to get up for a while. At this time, I did not even know what a bugle sounded like, so I did not know what sounds I was praying for.

Shannon jogging

The sun started to set and the woods were increasingly getting darker. We decided to back out while we still had some light because we were in known wolf territory. Just for kicks, my boyfriend decided to throw out a few cow calls as we were making our way back to camp. Not before he even took his lips of the reed, I heard my first bugle. And it just so happened to be less than 100 yards away. The bull’s powerful vocals echoed through the trees and sent shivers up my spine. I can’t explain the way I felt, but anyone who has heard a bugle would understand.

We quickly set up as a monster bull made it’s way through the timber heading in our direction. His horns were thrashing against the trees and the ground was breaking underneath him. I hid up the hill, as my boyfriend drew back his bow waiting for the elk to come out of the timber into a small clearing. As luck would have it, the bull spooked. Still to this day, we don’t know why.

Shannon with elk

Although we did not walk away from that hunt with meat on our backs, I walked away hooked. Since then my heart starts pounding at just the idea of Elk season and every year I look forward to tearing down my body just for the chance of hearing that sound and possibly walking away successful.

He was right, there is nothing like the sound of a bugle.

Shannon Giusti

2010 Double with Henry Ferguson

It’s early one morning in September 2010 and it’s the kind of day that bow hunters dream of.  Cool crisp morning air and not a lot of wind.  I am heading out with one of my best friends to do what these two best friends love to do, hunt.  Before the sun had even come up, we spotted deer on the horizon.  Looking through the binoculars to see if there is anything worth shooting, our glance passes by a really nice old 3×3 buck feeding out ahead of us.  We both agreed that I would go make a play for him and try and get a shot on him.  Henry holds back and sets up the spotting scope for a front row seat to the action.  In my attempt to get the wind in my favor, I bumped him a bit.  He wasn’t too freaked out but he did move up and over the horizon.

Slowly, I made my way in the same direction I saw him crest the hill.  As I approach the top, I knock an arrow and get ready for what may be a quick shot.  I’m looking everywhere but don’t see him until I hear him blow out 15 yards behind me.  Disappointment was the word for the next hour or so.  Disappointment didn’t last too long as we spotted 7 nice bucks getting ready to bed for the afternoon.  As we make a move to get in range we came across the property boundary and realized that they are all bedded on private property.  Knowing that they will be bedded for the afternoon, we decide to pack up the scopes in our Badlands packs with the rest of the gear until that evening to see if they will feed back onto public land.  Just as we are about ready to put it all away, every head in the herd turns away from us and looks up the hill.  “Henry, if there is a coyote or something, they may bump this way”, I say.

Sure enough, next thing we know, all seven of those beautiful, barely velvet rubbed creatures are all bouncing over the fence heading right towards us.  “Buck grunt”, “Buck grunt”, (We both did it at the same time) stopping a nice 4×5 in his tracks (on the right side of the fence).  I have known Henry for a long time, and Henry doesn’t miss.  So, when Henry drew back on this buck, I knew his last breath of air was just a matter of seconds away.  Down he goes!  High fives all around, Henry lets out a yell of jubilation that I have never heard before from him, and the cleaning begins after his wife and young son Kyle come out for the photo ops.  What a great morning of hunting, we got on eight beautiful bucks and harvested a very nice, just rubbed, 5×4 buck.  A story for another time about our pack out on this buck.  Let’s just say that while we did fill the Badlands packs with meat, they rode out laying in a bed and not on our backs J. Because of our fortune, I decided to get back out that night and try and find one of those other bucks.


It only took about 30 min of hiking before that old 3 point made an appearance in my the view of my bino’s.  The wind was all wrong, so I had to make a loop of about a mile to get around him and in position for a shot.  I get to within 180 yards of him before I run out of cover.

Thinking I am going to wait him out and hope he feeds my way, the sun starts to set on what has been an already epic day.  It’s now or never, I start to crawl slowly towards him.  I had never known there were so many prickly weeds until I had to cover a hundred and forty five yards on my way on my hands and knees.  Now, being totally acquainted with the last cactus I had just crawled over, I made my way to shooting distance and set up for the shot.  At first he is feeding towards me, but then he turns and is quartering away.  I range him 4 different times to make sure I have a good distance on him.

47 yards it is and I dial it in, drop the badlands pack to the floor, and draw back.  Smack!!! This old 3 point is on the ground.  One day, 2 Pope and Young bucks within one mile of each, making this the best hunting day I have ever had in my years as a bow hunter.  Badlands made that pack out easy and we both had meat in the freezer and an awesome story to tell.

Tim with Buck