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Best Backpack for Hunting – under $250

Western hunting often demands long hikes, especially when day hunting. For hunts where leaving camp well before light and arriving back after the sun has set, you may want to look for a backpack that could work as a daypack, carrying  essential,s plus enough to stay overnight if need be, and also had the capability to carry a first load of meat if an animal is harvested. You’ll want a pack that is lightweight, small, and has the ability to carry heavy loads.

There are many great backpack companies who cater specifically to hunters. I found specifically what I was looking for in three packs, all from different manufacturers. I would consider the three packs listed below to be the best in their price range for their ability to carry heavy loads without being over-sized for day to day hunts:

Badlands 2200

The badlands 2200 is a do it all pack. At around 2200 cubic inches, it fits the bill of being a large day pack with the ability to pack heavy loads. I’ve had the opportunity to harvest several mule deer with this pack in tow. One of which was in a nasty timber basin. I was grateful to have a pack that could take out a load on the first hike back to camp. Between two of us, we boned out the buck, threw the meat in the packs along with all of our gear and had the whole deer packed home in one relatively easy trip. I’ve done this on several occasions since.

The Badlands 2200 has a fold out wing design, which is nice and makes the pack quite expandable. Badlands shoulder straps have always been very comfortable, and one feature that I really like about this particular pack is a zipper on the back of the pack (rests against your back) allowing you to get into your gear by either swinging the pack around while still wearing the waist belt, or accessing items in your pack when you have a load strapped on the other side. The 2200 also has the capability to be carry a rifle or a bow.

The Badlands 2200 was re-designed in 2014 and is the most expensive of the listed packs (the new price is actually more than $250). The 2200 is a very popular pack among western hunters and has been reliable with a great warranty.

For more information about the Badlands 2200 CLICK HERE

Eberlestock X2

The Eberlestock X2 is one of my favorites because it’s compact size. It is the smallest of the packs featured on this article, coming in at 1800 cubic inches. Don’t let the size fool you, this pack is solid. The only reason I would hesitate to throw a elk quarter in this pack and hike for miles, is because I’d wear out long before the pack ever did.  It’s compactness is what really sets it apart from it’s counterparts.  It has a lightweight aluminum  frame, with great organization pockets for your spotting scope, water, calls, and other items you might need quick access to. Most Eberlestock packs are compatible with a rifle scabbard, and the X2 is no exception. Or, if you’re an archery hunter who likes carrying your bow on your pack, it has the ability to do that as well with the added “ButtBucket.”

As far as size, design, and functionality goes, this pack is one of my favorite and is high on my personal wish list.

For more information about the Eberlestock X2 CLICK HERE

Links for Purchase: (View these links as prices change often)
Eberlestock X2 Pack @ $189
Eberlestock X2 Pack @ $189

Horn Hunter Main Beam

I’ve personally been using the Main Beam as my day pack for the past 3 or 4 seasons. While I’d love to have all of these packs and truly believe any of them would fit the bill perfectly — I chose the Horn Hunter for a couple of reasons. First, cost was a bit lower than the other two, and I was on a budget when choosing this pack. Second, I liked the design of this pack a lot. It has a wing type design, (smaller wings than the 2200) which allows me to access my spotter, tripod, bugle or any somewhat larger item quickly, without a zipper — while still protecting it from getting beat up as I hike. The Main Beam also has over 20 different storage pockets, so I can keep all of my gear organized. It has a fold out orange meat carrier that tucks away in a pocket on the bottom of the bag which is great for packing out a cape and antlers or stuffing your extra clothing, sleeping bag, or whatever else you may be carrying.

The Main beam is listed at 2800 cubic inches, but when carrying it alongside the badlands 2200, it actually  seems a bit smaller. It has more straps for compressing loads than either of the other packs listed in this article, which may be why. Regardless, the pack feels much smaller than the advertised size.

I’ve used my Main beam to pack out a lot of critters over the past few years and have been able to depend on this pack in every situation I’ve been in. I never really weigh my packs when loaded, but it has carried everything I could ever fit in it and has been a great pack for my needs.

For more information about the Horn Hunter “Main Beam,” CLICK HERE

Links for Purchase: (View these links as prices change often)
Horn Hunter “Main Beam” @ $147 – $179 (price varies)

If you’re looking for the best packs for the DIY hunter for under $250 and are wanting the ability to hunt light and still be able to carry out a heavy load, then take a closer look at the Badlands “2200,” the Eberlestock “X2”, and the Horn Hunter “Main beam.” I highly recommend all of them – each company has fantastic warranties, and they are all durable, dependable, and made especially for hunters.

Other packs you might want to check out that are under $250 include the Badlands Diablo, Eberlestock X1, and the Tenzing TZ 2200.

A few packs to check out that cost more than $250: NEW Eberlestock War Hammer, Horn Hunter Full Curl System, Horn Hunter Curl ComboBadlands Sacrifice, Eberlestock Just One (J34), Mystery Ranch Crew Cab, NEW Mystery Ranch Metcalf.

2012 Photo Contest

It’s that time of year again. We’re excited to get our annual photo contest rolling again this year. This year’s prizes will be bigger than ever. A special thanks to our sponsors: Nielson Productions Taxidermy, Wac’em Broadheads, and Quick Draw Decals.

Last year we had a great contest was a great success, so we’re ramping things up a bit this year. We have some great prizes to give away like Wac’em broadheads from Wac’em Archery Products, some awesome decals from Quick Draw Decals, and a free shoulder mount from! We’re adding more prizes over the next few weeks, so keep checking back.

In the meantime, we’d appreciate you sharing our contest with your buddies, and if you have some photos to share — send them in!

For more information about our contest, entry info, and contest details visit our Contest Page.

Here’s a few photos from previous contests. Good luck this season!

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Take Better Field Photos

by Brad Carter

“While photos of animals in the back of your pickup, or outside your tent can be very nice, it is hard to beat a good field photo…” The above pictures are a great example.

Everyone loves the old time pictures of twenty or thirty deer hanging on a skinning pole behind a bunch of hunters. Today those types of pictures, while impressive, are not suited all audiences. The best photos are taken in the field, where the animal fell (or near to it), before the animal is dressed for transport back to the truck or camp. While photos of animals in the back of your pickup, or outside your tent can be very nice, it is hard to beat a good field photo taken minutes after your trophy expired.

Today, we have a responsibility as hunters to show respect to the animals we harvest. A good impression must be made to other hunters, non-hunters, and anti-hunters alike. By taking a few simple steps, you can turn what would have been an average field photo into an exceptional photo, worthy of framing next to your shoulder mount.

Your Camera

The first step is finding a camera to fit your needs. With the recent transition from film to digital, a digital camera is your best choice. The advantage of having a digital camera is that images can be reviewed, on site, without developing. You can make sure you got the shot you want. While some hunters who are more into photography may carry expensive SLR style cameras, a simple “point-and-shoot” is better suited to most hunters. Today’s cameras are small enough to fit in a pocket, and rather inexpensive, while providing crystal clear images. A camera of 6 megapixels or greater is recommended, some outdoor magazines require very clear images that can be printed on a full page, and ask for a photo taken with a camera exceeding 8 megapixels (which isn’t hard to find today).

The best way to choose a camera is to test them out. There are a lot of different brands, by going to a department or specialty store, you can usually turn on every camera and tinker with it in the store. This will give you an idea of the operation and overall feel of different cameras so a good decision can be made. Today, waterproof and shockproof cameras are available. This may be a good investment as hunting, especially in bad conditions, can be very hard on gear.

Features you may want to make sure your camera includes are high quality glass in the lenses. Hunters understand the need for good glass in binoculars and spotting scopes, cameras are no different. Self timers are also important, as often times, a hunter will be hunting alone, or a hunting partner may be on the next ridge when your animal is on the ground, ready to be dressed. Other important features include a good flash and image stabilization. It may be a good idea to carry a small tripod, as balancing a camera on a rock or jacket may not be suitable depending on the terrain and angle of the shot.

Setting up the Shot

Use the sky, or other contrasting features to help your trophy stand out.

Setting up to take a photo takes time and thought, much like setting up for a shot with your rifle. Composition is key in field photos. While there is not a specific pose or stance for field photos, here are some tips for getting the “shot of a lifetime.”

Remove excess blood from the animal. Sometimes this is difficult, but by cleaning up the face of your trophy, your photos will be much cleaner and less repulsive to wives, non-hunters and anti-hunters. Carrying tissues or a small towel and a little extra water can go a long way in making your trophy presentable for field photos. Many times animals will bleed from nose and mouth, due to lung and vital shots. By stuffing tissue into the nostrils of the animal, and cleaning up the mouth with a rag or tissue, this problem can be fixed.

Take advantage of what is around your animal. Take the time to move your animal, or set up your photos to use the scenery to your advantage. Capture the natural beauty of the area as well as you can. This not only makes for great pictures, but can bring back memories and sense of “place” when reminiscing and looking at field photos.

Make the animal look as natural as possible; tucking legs under the body, and putting the tongue back in the mouth will show respect for the animal and make your field photos much more attractive. Perhaps you can compose photos so that bullet holes are outside the frame. Any items you want in the photos, such as a rifle, or bow should not detract from the photo. Keep unnecessary clutter, such as knives, ropes, wrappers or other items out of the photos. Simplicity is important when taking field photos, the animal should be the focus of the photograph.

Get Close, Use Contrast, and Change Camera Angles

By taking a few extra steps, you can make your field photos look their best. The above pictures are of the same Muley buck, by cleaning up blood and changing camera angles, the true size of this buck is shown.

Get close; wide angle lenses do wonders for turning average animals into trophies. Use contrast to your advantage, it will make your trophy stand out. Take pictures from different angles and take your time. The wonderful thing about digital photography is that images can be reviewed. Contrast this with film cameras; it was always a surprise what the field photos would look like when you got them back from the developer.

Using contrast in your photos is very important. Hold polished elk and deer antlers against a light sky, or white moose paddles against shadows or brush. Use lights and darks to help your trophy stand out. This may require moving your trophy a little bit–but will be worth it in the long run.

Take the time to change camera angles, and move the antlers/trophy. With digital cameras, you’re usually not limited to 24 pictures so take a lot. By experimenting with different angles and poses, you are sure to get a photo you will be happy with

By taking your time, taking photos from many different angles, and paying attention to the composition of photos, you can best record and remember your hunt. Field photos can be a great way to display your trophies, in addition to remembering the hunting experience. Photos capture things that taxidermy cannot. They take you back to the hunt, the surroundings, the mountain, and hunting partners, so you can relive your hunt again and again.

In it to win it! — Big Game Raffles

By Chance Thompson

Many of us in the hunting community have certainly noticed the trophy class animals that have been taken the last few years by hunters who have acquired auction or governors tags. As I’m sure you know these tags are often sold for tens and sometimes even hundreds of thousands of dollars, making them completely out of reach for the majority of hunters. However, these same types of licenses can be obtained by hunters without loads of extra disposable income. Every year many state wildlife agencies and conservation groups raffle off tags that offer the same hunting opportunities as the tags that are sold at auction, but for very minimal cost. The following is a list of raffles that I participate in yearly. Keep in mind however that these raffles are by no means a secret and the odds of winning a tag are very slim. But if you do get lucky and win one of these tags you are in for the hunt of a lifetime.

Arizona’s Big Game Super Raffle

I feel that this is without doubt the very best raffle program going today. This raffle includes tags for every hunt able species in the state. It includes Elk, Mule Deer, Coues Deer, Bison, Bear, Mountain Lion, Antelope, Javelina, Desert Bighorn Sheep, and Turkey. Also included is a raffle for an incredible optics package from Swarovski. This includes 2 pairs of binoculars, a spotting scope, range finder, and rifle scope. I like to purchase tickets for Elk, Mule Deer, Javelina, Desert Bighorn, Antelope and Turkey. Normally I wouldn’t be interested in participating in a Turkey raffle but Arizona offers the opportunity to hunt the rare Gould’s Turkey. The winner is allowed to hunt any unit they choose. Additionally the winner of these tags is allowed to hunt a full 365 days beginning July 31. This gives you the opportunity to harvest a trophy animal in full velvet. The prices for these tickets range from $5 to $25 each and can be purchased online. The deadline to purchase tickets is July 12. Get all the rest of the details at

Idaho Super Tags

This raffle is conducted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Available tags include Deer, Elk, Antelope and Moose. There are two separate raffles for two different tag options. The first raffle is for tags for individual species and the deadline to purchase tickets for the first raffle is May 31, the drawing is held June 15. The second raffle is for what is called the deluxe package where the winner receives licenses for all four species. These tags can be used in any open hunt unit during the established season. This deadline for this drawing is August 10 with the drawing being held on August 17. I purchase tickets for all species as Idaho is within easy driving distance of my home. However I do not participate in the second drawing as I feel it falls too close to hunting season and I typically have all my hunts scheduled and my vacation time accounted for. Prices for these tickets are $6 for the first ticket and $4 for each subsequent ticket. Tickets for the deluxe package are $20 for the first ticket and $16 for each ticket after that. More details at

Montana Super Tags

This raffle program is very similar to the one offered by Idaho. They do however offer a few more species. Available tags include Elk, Deer, Antelope, Moose, Bison, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, and Mountain Lion. These tags are valid in any open hunting district within the state during the established seasons. The deadline for this drawing is July 2 for Sheep, Goat and Moose, and July 30 for all other species. The price for these tickets is $5 each. I only purchase tickets for bighorn sheep as Montana has some of the biggest rams available. I choose not to purchase tickets for any of the other available species as I feel that they are comparable to what I have in my home state. Further details at

Wyoming Wildlife Federation Dream Hunt Sweepstakes

The Wyoming Wildlife Federation (WWF) holds 3 separate raffles, 2 of which are for guided hunts. I purchase tickets for the buddy hunt. This raffle includes 2 commissioners’ tags that the winner can either keep or give one to whomever they choose. These tags are for which ever species you would like to hunt (Deer, Elk, or Antelope) and you are allowed to only hunt one unit of your choosing. Additionally, the winner receives $1000. Prices for these tickets are $30 each. The drawing takes place on August 24. More details at

Oregon Big Game Raffle

This raffle is conducted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Game. Available species include Elk, Deer, Antelope and Bighorn Sheep. These tags are good for any open unit and offer an extended season. I like to purchase tickets for Deer, Antelope and Bighorn Sheep. I choose these hunts because Oregon has some incredible trophy antelope hunting. And the deer tag can be used to hunt the rare Columbian Blacktail Deer. And they also have good opportunities for Bighorn Sheep. Prices for tickets range from $4 to $11 and must be purchased by May 4. Additional information is available at

Washington Big Game Raffle

This raffle is conducted by the Washington Game and Fish Department. Available tags are for Elk, Deer, Mountain Goat, Moose, and Bighorn Sheep. Prices Range from $5 for deer to $10 for Sheep. I purchase tickets for Moose and Sheep as Washington has great trophy opportunities for both. Very little information is available about these tickets as you must purchase them in order to obtain any information.

In summary there are some great opportunities out there for guys who are willing to fork over a few bucks and roll the dice along with thousands of other people. If you do get lucky and win just one of these tags the experience will more than pay for the money that you spent to enter the drawing. And if you do win make sure you contact us here at We can help you narrow down a unit choice, and possibly even help you on your hunt. Good luck and remember you gotta be in it to win it!