My 2014 Elk Hunting Gear List

In just a few short weeks I’ll be headed West, toward the Colorado backcountry.  This “style” of this year’s will hunt will be much like I planned last year – we are going to backpack into the wilderness with a week’s worth of gear, and have no intentions of leaving the backcountry unless we are loaded down with elk meat.  We will establish a “backcountry basecamp”, but will move to a different area of the wilderness if needed.

Gear selection is obviously critical for this type of hunt, and I get a ton of questions about what I bring for this type of trip.  I have posted my list for this year below, but to learn more detail about the philosophy behind much of this gear, please refer to these previous posts…

My 2014 Gear List

View/Download Spreadsheet on Google Docs

What’s New?

Elk Decoys: Tips and Tactics with Fred Eichler and Montana Decoy

“Should have, would have, or could have…” – We often think that way when things don’t go right in a hunting situation.  After last year’s elk hunt I was left wondering if I should have brought an elk decoy along.  On one hand, a decoy is something that I don’t want to worry about packing, lugging up and down a mountain, or struggle to setup “in the moment”.  It would only complicate things, right?


But, there are numerous situations where a decoy could be well worth the hassle.  And if you can find a decoy that is light, packable, and easy to deploy, then the hassle virtually eliminated.

I spent quite a bit of time researching decoys over the off-season and ultimately decided to go with the “Eichler Elk” from Montana Decoy.  This decoy is lightweight, extremely packable, incredibly simple to deploy, and it looks great!  Another great benefit of this decoy is that it comes with a DVD from the man himself, Fred Eichler.  The included videos cover decoy setups, strategies, tips, and instructions.

The Eichler Elk decoy package weighs 40 ounces, but much of that weight comes from the stakes/poles.  Thankfully there’s another way setup the decoy, which is not only faster, but much lighter.  Since we I will be hunting in areas where we’ll have plenty of trees, I am going to leave the poles at home and bring the included string and alligator clips (as seen in the video above).  The weight of the decoy and clips is only 16 ounces!

FREE Guide & Discount

If you want to learn more about how to use a decoy for elk hunting, be sure to download this FREE decoy setup guide from Montana Decoy’s website.  In the guide you will get…

  • 5 proven elk decoy setups
  • Tips from elk hunting experts
  • Advice on where, when and how to use elk decoys

If you’re in the market for a new elk decoy, use coupon code “ELKGUIDE2014″ to save 15% off of any elk decoy from Montana Decoy!

Elk Decoy Guide - Sample Pages

Pursuing Something Greater

I celebrated my 30th birthday last week. I’m not in mid-life or existential crisis territory yet, but this new decade has caused me to reflect on my life – where I’ve been, and where I’m headed.

Every day we make choices – some big, some small – that shape our lives and influence those around us. These choices (even the small ones) matter.

Decision is action. Action is movement. Movement creates momentum. And momentum, when paired with direction, determines our life’s destination.

It all comes back to choice and decision.  What we chose to do, and whom we decide to become; that is the pursuit we call life.

In Pursuit Challenge

Along these lines, I want to invite you to join me in pursuing something greater than a successful hunting season this fall.

Pastor, author, and my friend, Zeke Pipher, has released a new book for sportsmen called, In Pursuit: Devotions for the Hunter & Fisherman. He has also put together a 90-day challenge for men to work through the book together throughout the upcoming hunting season – from September 1 to December 31.

In Pursuit Challenge

To learn more about (and JOIN!) the In Pursuit Challenge visit:

Decide to pursue something greater…

Food For Backcountry Hunting & Camping Trips

What food should you pack for a multi-day hunting, camping, or backpacking trip?  That’s an important question, and the answer shouldn’t be… “Whatever I can find in my kitchen right before I leave, or pickup at the gas station on the way to the trailhead.”

Last year I wrote a post entitled, Food for Backpack Hunting – Tips, Ideas, and a Lightweight Menu.  In that article I not only shared what I was bringing each day for my backpack elk hunt, but why I was bringing it.  I highly encourage you to read that post to learn about the key elements of Packaiblity, Ease of Use, Value, Edibility, and “The Magic Number”.

In that post I shared my meal plan, which I put together based on previous experience with backpacking trips.  But how did the menu work out for my elk hunting trip specifically?  Did I have enough calories?  Did any of the foods not work particularly well? What am I changing for this year’s trips?  Let’s answer those questions…

The Dietary Debrief

Overall, I was really happy with the food that I brought last year.  I looked forward to eating what I had with me, and felt satisfied and energized throughout the day.  I had more than enough calories (~2,900/day), and finished the trip with a decent amount of food leftover.  There wasn’t any particular item that didn’t agree with my stomach, or failed to be appetizing.  The strategy of packing all of each day’s food into its own zip-loc bag was perfect.  I loved the convenience of grabbing one bag per day for my daypack and quickly seeing what I had left to eat for that day.

What’s Changing

First, let’s take a look at my updated list for this year, and then we’ll talk about some of the specific changes…

View/Download Spreadsheet

New Numbers

I am bringing a bit fewer calories and have optimized the caloric density, so I’m saving a total of about 1.5lbs for 7 days of food.  The changes from last year to this year are…

  • Calories: Down to 2722, last year was 2915
  • Weight: Down to 1.45, last year was 1.65
  • Calories per Ounce: Up to 121, last year was 114

Modified Menu

Breakfast – Last year I only ate my planned breakfast of granola cereal on one or two of the days.  It was much quicker to grab a Probar Meal Bar for breakfast than it was to deal with adding (and sometimes heating) water to the cereal and dirtying a bowl and utensil. This year’s breakfast will be a Probar for sure; they are quick, convenient, filled with quality nutrients, and freaking delicious.  (My favorite flavor is Superfood Slam.)

Lunch – Almond butter, Wheat Thins, and Landjager = Perfection.  I’m not changing a thing here, except I am moving from Justin’s Nut Butter packets to PocketFuel Naturals Nut Butter packets.  They’re both quality products, but I like the larger serving and resealable packaging of PocketFuel Naturals better.

Dinner – I wouldn’t want to live off of Mountain House for much more than 7-10 days, but there is nothing better for a weeklong excursion into the backcountry.  I like to use the “ProPak” meals to save on space in my pack.  I’ll be moving from Snickers bars, which worked well last year, to Probar Base protien bars.  I love the Chocolate Mint flavor, and the extra protein helps get me after a the macronutrient levels that I’m after.  Not to mention, the Probar is made with higher quality and natural ingredients; Snickers, not so much.  I’ll also be adding some extra fat to my Mountain House meals by bringing along single-serving packets of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Snacks – The trail mix, jerky, and Honey Stinger Waffles are staying on the list from last year.  Last year’s Probar “snack” has become this year’s breakfast, and because I had more than enough calories last year, I’m not replacing it this year.  The Clif gel that I have listed with Breakfast will more often than not become a snack/energy shot for later in the day. The Nuun Hydration Tablets provide a light, refreshing flavor to filtered water and also help to replace electrolytes.

Let me know if you have any questions!

4 Requirements for Incredibly Accurate Broadhead Flight

Great broadhead flight is often attributed to the broadhead itself, but there’s a lot more to it than that. To learn what makes a broadhead fly incredibly accurate or frustratingly erratic, let’s examine the four main factors in broadhead flight.

If you have these four things – a good broadhead, the right arrows, a bow that’s been setup correctly, and good shooting practices – then your broadheads will be deadly accurate.

The Broadhead

There are dozens and dozens of broadheads on the market – some are bad, the majority are good, and there’s a few that are great. I’m not going to single out any particular model/style here; that’s not the point of this article. I’m also not going to dive into the basics, such as the fact that most mechanical broadheads tend to be more forgiving (not necessarily more accurate) than most fixed-blade broadheads.

I do, however, want to debunk the statement that a particular broadhead “flies like a field point”. This statement is sometimes inaccurate, and always incomplete. There are more factors to broadhead flight than the broadhead itself.

An Array of Fixed-Blade Broadheads

For example, consider three scenarios that will often yield different results. One, we could shoot the same broadhead out of the same bow, but use different arrows. Two, we could shoot the same broadhead and arrow combination out of different bows. And, three, we could take same broadhead, same arrow, and same bow, but have different people shoot it.

The downrange results most likely changed in these three scenarios, but did the broadhead itself change? Not one bit. In some cases the broadhead might have flown “like a field point”, but in other cases it wouldn’t have. In all cases, nothing about the broadhead changed.

On the flip side, I don’t want to completely rule out the idea that a broadhead does/doesn’t fly like a field point, because there are certain cases where broadheads won’t fly like a field point regardless of what arrow/bow/shooter is used. There are also broadheads which are inherently more accurate (it would be be better to say, more “consistent” and more “forgiving”) than others. This became very apparent in the numerous fixed-blade broadheads that I tested and reviewed.

So, yes, broadhead choice matters. If you’re checking or “tuning” your setup for broadheads, then your best bet is to shoot with several different models to see what results you get. Pick up some cheap (used even) broadheads that you keep just to test and compare with.

The Arrow

I can’t overstate how important arrow selection and arrow quality is for broadhead flight. Your arrows have to be spined correctly if you want great broadhead flight. Simple arrow selection charts are fine for field points, but when it comes to broadheads you need to consider all of the variables that affect arrow spine: the bow’s draw weight, the bow’s draw length, the arrow shaft length, the arrow component weights, the weight of the broadhead, and sometimes even the bow’s cam design/style. To learn more about all of that, check out this post…

Read: Understanding Arrow Spine

Once you know what arrow shaft you’ll be shooting, you need to make sure that it is built and assembled properly. Because broadheads are less forgiving than field points, little things like “squaring” the ends of the shaft becomes really important. You’ll also want to “spin test” your arrow assembled arrows to make sure there’s no sign of imbalance or wobble. To learn more about arrow shaft prep and assembly, check out this post…

Finally, in terms of arrows, let’s talk about fletching choice. In general, the greater the surface area of a broadhead, the more surface area you’ll need for fletching. So if you’re shooting mechanical broadheads with a really small profile, then you can get away with a smaller vane, too. But if you’re shooting a larger fixed-blade, then you might need a bigger vane in the rear to help with steering/correction.

Then there are the factors of installing the vane straight, with an offset, with a helical, or some sort of combination. (The greater the offset or helical, the greater the drag of the arrow, and the quicker the arrow will stabilize.)

Increased drag is a good thing for most “hunting distances”, but can have negative effects for shooting broadheads at longer ranges.  Drag slows an arrow which causes it to lose down-range momentum and makes it less resistance to outside forces, like wind.  That’s why, for example, if you’re interested in long-range accuracy, then you want to get away with as small of a vane as you possibly can.

You have to balance all of these variables, and I can’t address every combination of broadhead, vanes/fletching/feathers, and straight/offset/helical, (not to mention things like 3-fletch vs. 4-fletch), but I will say this: I have found Norway’s 3″ Fusion vanes with a slight offset and helical to be one of the most consistent and versatile setups that I’ve tested. It’s fun to play with other choices/configurations, but force me to choose one setup for anything and everything, and it’s going to be 3″ Fusions.

At Full-Draw With Broadhead

The Bow

We are finally to the section that most guys jump to first, and that’s bow setup. Before you ever attempt to broadhead tune, or check the accuracy of your broadhead flight, it’s important that you know the bow has been setup and tuned properly.

Make sure that your cams are “timed” or in sync with one another. To learn how you can check this at home, have a look at this…

Another critical aspect of bow setup for broadhead flight is your arrow rest. Your centershot and rest/nock height must be correct to begin with. Here’s how you can make sure that’s the case…

To confirm your arrow selection and arrow rest settings, its a good idea to do some “diagnostic shooting”. The two primary methods are paper tuning and walkback tuning. Here’s how you do each one…

We might need to make some adjustments from there, but we’ll cover that in our next post, which will be a step-by-step tutorial on the process broadhead testing and tuning.

The Shooter

Finally, let’s talk about you.

Because broadheads are inherently less-forgiving, flaws in your shooting form and technique are magnified. The most common shooter errors that cause problems with broadhead accuracy are grip, anchor point, and form/draw-length.

Yes, it’s true – maybe the problem with shooting broadheads is you.

There are some universal principles for “proper” grip (such as keeping loose pressure, letting the bow “cradle” in between your thumb/forefinger, etc.), and there are variables that vary from person-to-person, or bow-to-bow (such as using low/med/high grip, amounts of side pressure, etc).  Make sure your grip isn’t inducing any sort of torque into the bow at full-draw, and make sure you are not “grabbing” your bow’s grip upon release.

In terms of anchor points, you need to make sure that you have multiple anchor points that are identifiable, repeatable, and comfortable. Here’s how to make that happen…

Anchor Point Examples

Last in this article, but certainly not the last thing to be considered, is your shooting form. Things like feet placement and head position matter for all shooting, and weaknesses in form become even more apparent when shooting less-forgiving broadheads. The most common form flaws are derrived from incorrect draw lengths. Here are some resources to help you identify and correct form issues, and ensure that your draw length is set correctly…

Time to Broadhead Tune (Maybe)

Whew, that’s a lot of info – and we didn’t even talk about the actual process of tuning for broadheads yet! But here’s the thing, if you follow this advice, then you probably won’t need to “broadhead tune”. That’s what I was getting at when I said that Broadhead Tuning Is A Waste Of Time.  This information may not be a “quick cure” if you’re struggling to get good broadhead flight right before season, but if you consider these factors going forward you will dramatically lessen the time that you spend fiddling with things to get good broadhead flight.

If your broadheads are close to where they need to be, but not flying with your field points exactly, then we can make some adjustments and do some “tuning”. That’ll be what we cover next…