Introducing Exo Mountain Gear

About a year ago, I found out that my buddy, Steve Speck, was starting a company to introduce a new line of hunting backpacks to the market. My first thought was…

“He really is crazy.”

We already have Badlands, Tenzing, Eberlestock, Blacks Creek, Kifaru, Mystery Ranch, Stone Glacier, KUIU, Sitka, and probably a dozen others.  Another hunting backpack? Really?

Exo Mountain Gear Logo on Lid

I had similar thoughts a couple of years ago when I found out that Steve was designing a new broadhead line. “Another broadhead? Really?” As it turns out, Solid Broadheads brought something unique and worthwhile to the market.  And I know that this new pack company, Exo Mountain Gear, will do the same – and even more – for the backpack market.

Steve and his long-time hunting partner, Lenny Nelson, founded Exo Mountain Gear to design a backpack that fit their needs perfectly. There are a lot of good hunting packs on the market, but most of them excel at opposing ends of a spectrum. There are great day packs that lack the structure to haul loads well. There are great load haulers that are horrible to wear all day as you hunt. And there are some packs that do pretty well at hunting and hauling, but they’re heavy.

Lenny and Steve set out to design a pack and frame that was the ideal balance of lightweight simplicity, durability, comfort, versatility, and had the ability to carry heavy loads well.

Exo Pack - Compressed to Fully Loaded

It has been fun for me, personally, to watch them go through prototype after prototype; to see them change design aspects, features, materials, and sometimes have “robust dialogue” (aka, arguments) about the backpack’s design. To get just a small glimpse into the level of detailed testing that they’ve gone through, consider what they did to select the foam for the harness components.

After years of experience with backcountry, backpack hunting, and over a year of prototyping packs – Exo Mountain Gear if finally a reality. The quality of materials – from the titanium frame, down to the USA-made zippers – and level of detail in this pack is pretty amazing.  And because they are selling direct to the consumer, without the overhead of a large company, they were able to keep the cost down while still building the pack right here in the USA, and offering a lifetime warranty.

The Exo Frame Design

This is the pack that I will be using this year, so look for a full review to come.  I have had a few opportunities to wear this pack, and I planned on writing up a “first look” review for you guys, but their website explains the features and design so well that I will just point you there:  be sure to explore the pack features, the frame features, and watch the product videos for more information.

If are in the market for a new pack this year, consider taking advantage of a special opportunity to pre-order before March 24th and save $50 on any Exo pack.

Review & Giveaway – The University of Elk Hunting DVD with Corey Jacobsen

DVD Cover

Would you like an opportunity sit down and “pick the brain” of an immensely successful public land elk hunter that has over 25 years of experience, numerous trophy bulls to his name, and is also a 7-time World Elk Calling Champing, as well as the 2013 RMEF Elk Calling Campion of Champions?

That’s exactly what it’s like to sit down and watch The University of Elk Hunting DVD. In this two-disc set, Corey Jacobsen shares how he is consistently successful across decades of “do it yourself” public land elk hunting.

Don’t miss the GIVEAWAY below!

This DVD set isn’t a sales pitch that makes any bogus promises. Corey isn’t pretentious; despite his impressive track record, there’s no ego. He doesn’t think there is a secret formula for success. In fact, he is quick to say,

“Unfortunately you can watch all of the DVDs you want; you can read of the magazines, and all of the books. You can watch all of the hunting shows you want to. Nothing is going to take the place of ‘in the field’ experience.”

The University of Elk Hunting DVD is all about building your confidence to be more successful. The material covered will help you shorten the learning curve, give you more perspective and understanding while in the field, and help you make more informed and effective hunting decisions.

Components of Success

Preparation & Performance

The first disc addresses Preparation. Topics covered include scouting, physical conditioning, gear, and the use of elk calls.

The second disc focuses on Performance. In this disc you will learn elk hunting knowledge, how to setup on elk, calling tactics, tracking, and what to do after the shot.

Studying Maps and Satellite Imagery

These DVDs provide a high-level, “A to Z” approach to elk hunting.  But at the same time, there’s plenty of “meat” to the content, too. For example, Corey doesn’t just tell you to look at maps as a scouting source – he actually shows you how to use them, what specific things to look for in satellite imagery, and how to read terrain and cover to predict elk behavior.

One of my favorite sections is “The Setup” on Disc 2, where Corey literally draws out common elk hunting “plays” – much like a football coach would with “Xs and Os” for his team. Corey makes it easy to understand how to effectively use the wind, setup with a calling partner, and use an elk’s instincts in your favor.

Elk Hunting Setup Diagram

Despite his impressive competition calling resume, Corey sticks to teaching what works for elk hunters – the necessary calling fundamentals. He takes the time to dissect how a diaphragm call works, where you should place it in your mouth, and how things like tongue pressure and air flow affect calling sounds.  The sections on physical conditioning and what to do after you shoot an elk are equally practical and helpful.

There is over 2 hours of content in The University of Elk Hunting DVD set, and I found every bit of it worthwhile. I purchased this set after my first two elk hunts last year, and I think it is a great addition to what I had already learned in my years of study and planning.

If you’re an elk hunter, or thinking about hunting elk one day, this is a must-buy!

Giveaway!

After purchasing this DVD on my own for the purpose of a review, I decided to reach out see if Corey would be willing to give one away to you – the reader.  He was happy to do so, and here’s your chance to win this two-disc set…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Confidence = Success

The Best Bowhunting and Archery Podcasts

If you, like me, are looking to learn more about archery and bowhunting, then I highly recommend that you consider subscribing to what we will be discussing today – The Best Bowhunting and Archery Podcasts.

Why Podcasts?

Podcasts have become my favorite, most effective method of learning about any topic. Not only are they free, but they can be consumed nearly anywhere, at any time, and on any pace. I often struggle to find the time (and concentration) to sit down and read, but with podcasts I can consume new information while I’m driving, exercising, or even doing chores around the house. Best of all, I don’t have to go searching for new content – it is automatically delivered to me. (Learn more about how podcasts work at Apple’s Podcast FAQ.)

Which Podcasts?

I wouldn’t have written this article a few months ago. There was, at that time, a lack of quality podcasts that focused on bowhunting and archery. In fact, as a humble attempt to fill that void, I considered starting a podcast myself. Thankfully, there are now 3 great podcasts that are well worth your time…

Nock On

The Nock On Podcast is hosted by professional archer, hunter, and the host of the Nock On TV show - John Dudley.  John’s vision for this podcast is to unite the two, often separate worlds, of target archery and bowhunting.  The first few episodes have already proven to be a treasure chest of valuable information for any archer (target or hunter) that wants to take their game to the next level.  I just recently finished listening to Episode 3, in which John interview the one-and-only, Randy Ulmer – amazing stuff!  If you only subscribe to one podcast, make it this one!
Subscribe in iTunes | Visit Website

Bow Junky

Bow Junky is quickly becoming the destination source for information throughout the archery industry.  The podcast is a newer addition to Bow Junky’s offerings, but it’s been one of the most valuable things that they’ve done to date.  The Bow Junky podcast is often recorded on location at archery tournaments around the country, and in addition to providing the scores and stories about the tournament, the podcast features candid interviews with all types of archers.  Even if you’re not a target archery junky, there is still plenty of good information and inspiration to be found in the Bow Junky podcast.
Subscribe in iTunes | Visit Website

Petersen’s Bowhunting Radio

Petersen’s Bowhunting Radio is hosted by the Editor of Petersen’s Bowhunting Magazine, Christian Berg.  This podcast excels in providing a variety of content, while always remaining relevant to bowhunters.  On one episode you might be listening to an in-depth, incredibly detailed discussion on arrow technology, while on the next episode you might enjoy a laid back, “hunting camp style” interview with a bowhunting personality.  New episodes aren’t posted as frequently as other podcasts, but they are always worth waiting for!
Subscribe in iTunes | Visit Website

Back In Time

If you’re looking for more quality podcasts, considering subscribing to Bowcast and Bow Dudes. Neither podcast is actively publishing new episodes, but both podcasts have older shows that are worth listening to.

Understanding Aim & Shooting Focus – Blurry Sight or Blurry Target?

Where is your visual focus when you are at full-draw, ready to release an arrow? Are you looking at you bow sight’s pin, or at the target?

Most bowhunters shooting a compound bow have three objects to their visual aiming system – the peep sight, the bow sight, and the target. The human eye will use these objects for alignment and aiming, but the eye cannot focus on all of these objects equally. It is natural for the human vision to have limited focus – If I stretch out my hand to arm’s-length I cannot focus on my fingertips, while at the same time focusing on a wall that may be 10 yards past my fingers.

Looking Through A Peep Sight

But before we get to the bow sight’s pins and the target, it is worth noting that the peep sight further affects our eyes’ ability to focus at particular distances. “Diffraction” is a scientific principle that has to do with light, vision and focus. What you need to know is that because of diffraction, a larger peep sight will have a shallower depth of field (the ability to simultaneously focus on objects at different distances is lessened), whereas a smaller peep sight will have a larger depth of field (the eye will more easily be able to focus across objects at various distances).

At this point you might be thinking, “I’ll just use a smaller peep sight and focus on both my sight pins and the target.” A small peep sight will lessen the focusing disparity, but you’ll likely still have some difference between the clarity of the sight and the target. Additionally, a smaller peep sight limits your field of view, and allows less light to your eye, making it harder to see the target some lighting conditions – two things that you don’t want to deal with in a hunting scenario.

Alright, science lesson over.

So what do you focus on – the bow’s sight pins or the target downrange? Have you ever paid attention?

Sights Pins In Focus

I just returned from Indianapolis. I was there with Elite Archery, assisting people in taking the “Shootability Challenge”. Over the course of three days I talked with dozens and dozens of shooters. I informally asked numerous shooters what they focused on when they shot a bow, and while the results were mostly split, I would say a slight majority said they focused on their sight pins. That’s how I used to shoot, too, but now I focus on the target and my shooting has improved.

Why Focus Matters

I think it’s often natural to focus on a sight pin. The mental process of, “Put this pin on the target, and that’s where my arrow will go,” can lead us to focus on the pin.  But…

That’s like trying to drive a car by looking at the steering wheel.

Don’t drive by looking at your car, don’t walk by looking at your feet, and don’t shoot by looking at your bow. Focus on the destination (the target) and your arrow will follow.

Another pitfall of focusing on the sight pin is that the minor movements in your bow are amplified, which can lead to target panic.  You inevitably end up trying to over-correct the movement and quickly fire off a shot as the pins intersect with the bull’s-eye. However, when you focus on the target’s bull’s-eye, it’s easier to let the pins “float” and you have less anxiety about being “on target”.

It Works, Try It

When you combine the old driving lesson “you go where you look” with the fact that less pin-focus = less apparent movement = less anxiety, then I feel that you have the most accurate and comfortable way to shoot.

Focus on the target, allow your pins to be blurry, don’t fight the “float” of the pins, and your arrows will go where you are looking. It may feel odd at first, but try it for a few weeks and see how it works out for you.

Other Considerations

Target focus is great, but you do have to pay attention to other visual indicators on your bow. You want to make sure that your bow is being held level, so you’ll need to check your sight’s bubble-level, and you also need to ensure that you are lining up your peep and sight consistently each time. Thankfully, while the human eye is only capable of focusing on one thing at a time, the human brain can interpret what is in the periphery of that eye. I can focus on the target, while almost subconsciously lining up my sight housing in the peep sight, keeping tabs on my sight’s bubble-level, and noting where my pin is on the target.

Finally, all of what I have proposed is what works for me. I know that there are plenty of extremely accurate shooters that focus on the sight’s pins. I also wonder certain levels of vision impairments – nearsightedness, for example – affect these different aiming philosophies?

What’s your take?

Gear Review – The Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT

The Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT is a 3-season, 2-person, tarp-style shelter that weighs just 2lbs, and costs a little over $100. I have said in the past that the perfect trifecta of characteristics for backpacking gear is – lightweight, affordable, and durable – and usually you can’t have all three at once. The Mountain Shelter LT is a rare item that meets all three of those criteria.

Mountain Smith Mountain Shelter LT

Performance

I used the Mountain Shelter LT last year on my week-long Colorado elk hunt, as well as on some shorter trips. The conditions for the hunt were what you might expect for September at 10,000′ in the Rockies – we saw daytime highs up near 70 in some instances, and the nights often dipped to around 20*. Despite the cold temperatures outside, and the release of our body heat inside, we didn’t experience any notable condensation.

We encountered some precipitation on the trip, and the Mountain Shelter LT kept us dry. The most challenging conditions on the trip were the winds. For a couple of days the winds seemed to never cease, and 60mph gusts blew through the forest with such force that we watched aspens fall over on numerous occasions, and listened through the night as we heard dozens more fall around us as we tried to sleep. Through it all, the Mountain Shelter LT was solid.

Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT

Size

The Mountain Shelter LT weighs just 2lbs., and provides usable space for two grown men. My hunting partner and I are both 6′ 3″, and around 200lbs. Many “2-man” backpacking shelters would force us to spoon with one another through the night, but the LT has 54sq-ft of floor space, which provided us with adequate room to sleep in our own space, and even store some of our gear in the vestibule area. It isn’t luxurious for 2 grown men, but it’s usable and relatively comfortable. We felt the most cramped at the lower end of the shelter, where our feet would sometimes touch the sloping roof, or our legs would brush against the sloping sides. As a 1-man shelter, the LT would be an absolute palace.

Setup

The Mountain Shelter LT is a breeze to setup. The most common configuration is to use 2 trekking poles, which is something that I carry for elk hunting anyway. It’s also possible to tie the shelter out to trees with the overhead guy lines, but I personally haven’t set it up that way. There are 8 stake-out points on the shelter body, and several more guy-out lines to provide increased stability and rigidity.

Setup is as simple as staking out the three rear points, then inserting the rear pole. Next you stake out the three front points, and insert the front pole. Finally you stake out the two middle points and the guy lines, if necessary.

Setup instructions are included on the stuff-sack, and the tent body has a printed “ruler” that shows you how tall the front and rear trekking poles need to be. Both are nice touches.

Materials

The body of the tarp is constructed of 40d sip-nylon. All seams come factory-sealed with seam tape, and the stake-out points are reinforced with extra stitching. Inside the shelter there are drawstring mechanisms to hold each trekking pole in place, as well as re-enforced “cradles” for the trekking pole handles to rest in. Thirteen 7075 aluminum stakes are included with the shelter, and all guy lines are made from high-quality, reflective 3M cord.

The Failure & The Fix

I did experience one problem with the Mountain Shelter LT. In a moment of frustration I tugged one of the side stake loops too hard and put a small tear at the seam of the tent body. While this was entirely my fault – truly it was – I did notice that the two side loops aren’t as reinforced as the 6 stake-out loops at the front and rear of the tent. I would like to see Mountainsmith add more stitching to those two loops. The small tear was easily patched with some tape, and the shelter worked well for the rest of the trip.

After hunting season I called Mountainsmith and asked them if they offered repair services. All I wanted to have them do was sew the small tear back up. The gentleman I spoke with at Mountainsmith was extremely nice and asked me to return the shelter to them for inspection. A few weeks later I received a package back from Mountainsmith and inside was a brand new Mountain Shelter LT. Even though the tear was small, and occurred because of my abuse, they replaced the shelter with no questions asked.  Not only that, but they also included this letter…

Warranty Letter from Mountainsmith

Overall

The Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT is an outstanding option for a lightweight, budget-friendly shelter. You would be hard-pressed to find a shelter that provides this much room for such little weight, and is also easy on the wallet. I have zero concerns with taking this shelter into the backcountry and will continue to use it for backpacking, camping, and hunting trips in the future. I would buy this shelter again in a heartbeat.

Mountainsmith Mountain Shelter LT

Questions & Concerns

I’m sure that many of you might be new to the idea of a floorless shelter, so I wanted to address a few things that are not necessarily specific to the LT, but apply to all floorless shelters in general.

Many people have asked me about getting wet in a floorless shelter. It’s nothing to worry about, as long as you choose a setup location that won’t funnel running water into the tent. Because the LT can be pitched so low, even a sideways driving rain won’t enter the shelter.

I do recommend using some sort of barrier as a “floor” between your sleeping bad/bag and the exposed ground. My hunting partner and I each used a lightweight (46g) Polycro Ground Cloth from Gossamer Gear. These thin plastic sheets are incredibly durable and make a great protective layer to keep your sleeping pad from getting pricked by objects on the ground.

Condensation is also a concern for single-wall shelters, such as the LT. As I mentioned previously, we didn’t encounter any significant condensation, but part of that has to do with our use and setup. To learn about how condensation forms and how it can be prevented, check out this guide from Easton Mountain Products.

Any other questions? Leave me a comment below…