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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 @ Amazon.com: $189
Eberlestock X2 Pack @ Cabelas.com: $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” @ Amazon.com: $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 NpTaxidermy.com! 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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2011 Photo Contest Winners

[singlepic id=225 w=320 h=240 float=right]Thanks to two of our great sponsors (Nielson Productions Taxidermy and Golden Valley Meat Snacks) our contest for 2011 was a huge success. We had a lot of great entries — here are the winners: (The winners were chosen by a panel of judges in early February):

Travis long went home with the grand prize – a free shoulder mount from NP Taxidermy, some jerky, and some huntaddicts swag. We felt this photo really portrayed the DIY hunter as many of us have been in similar situations. Thanks Travis! (Photo on right)

Initially we were only going to pick a couple of runner ups, but because we had so many great entries we picked six. Each of our runner ups get some Golden Valley Meat Snacks Jerky and HuntAddicts premium window decals. Thanks for all of your entries. Almost every judge commented on how difficult it was to judge this contest.

Keep in mind that we are doing this again for 2012. Nielson Productions Taxidermy is gracious enough to donate another mount, and we’ll be adding a few additional prizes this year as well! So keep your cameras handy this season. Happy Hunting!

Here are all of the winning photos:
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Public Land Elk Hunting: 5 Steps

By Brad Carter

I watched my Dad peer through the eyepiece of his binoculars. Barely old enough to keep up, I desperately wanted to take a look. I tried to search with my eyes in the direction that the binoculars were pointed, and finally could make out small tan spots in a meadow on the very top of the highest peak around. I finally had my turn to view what made my heart pound with anticipation. They were elk, and they were living at 9,000 feet where we had seen them several times before, and several times since. Now later in life, as I carry my own rifle, I have found myself climbing that same rocky peak in search of the elk I hunted with my father years before.

I have seen elk up close in that same meadow consistently year after year. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Elk have similar patterns that they follow every year almost to the foot. This is just one of the many things I have learned about hunting successfully for Bull Elk. By following the tips below, you can increase your success when hunting on public land for pressured Bull Elk.

1. FIND YOUR ELK: Elk are going to be found in the same places year after year, unless they have been moved out by an irregularity. For example, an area that I, along with my family and friends, had found success in just wasn’t clicking for us one particular year. As I glassed the opposite mountain side where I had previously seen elk nearly every time I went, there wasn’t an animal to be seen. To investigate further, I hiked to the top of that ridge. Sheep tracks littered the ground. This event ruined my hunt until I figured out that the herd had moved across the canyon, to nearly the same clearing that I was glassing from the day before. Nothing can replace pre-season scouting for finding where elk will be during the hunt. The most critical days are those right before the hunt. However, once an area has produced results during consecutive years, there is a good chance you will find elk in the same place the next year.

2. PATTERN YOUR ELK: Elk aren’t likely to stay in the same area year round. Several factors play into this phenomenon. Hunting pressure will move elk out of their summer areas and into areas where we are less likely to reach them—unless we’re just plain crazy. Frankly, I have been called crazy several times for killing elk where I have.

During a public land bow hunt in Wyoming several years ago, I was out of my tent well before the sun had even thought of rising. The elk had been bugling all night, and I knew exactly where they were. However, upon crossing the river that flowed between the elk and me, they had already begun to move off. I couldn’t get a shot at the bull I was after, so I started my trek back to camp for lunch. I met up with my father, and we took a shortcut on a game trail through a patch of heavy timber. We plodded along, not expecting, or thinking about chancing onto an elk that may be out late in the morning. I was looking through the timber, and caught some motion out of the corner of my eye. Realizing it was an elk, we dropped and crouched behind some brush. It was just a cow, so we waited and watched. Then another cow materialized out of the trees, and she slowly fed away from us. I looked up at my Dad, and I could see excitement in his eyes. He motioned with one finger as he leaned over and informed me that a good bull was bedded about 70 yards away. We huddled silently as the bull stood up and fed away from us and over the ridge. We didn’t have an opportunity to stalk, and we had to go home because of other obligations. We returned later in the season, and after a morning of hunting returned back to camp on the same game trail. We sneaked in and thoroughly scanned the trees for elk. There weren’t any there, so we continued through the trees back to camp. My father was leading and suddenly stopped. I froze in my tracks, he pointed with one finger behind his back. I looked ahead, and there was the same bull facing us at 80 yards. He had spotted us before we spotted him, and he scuffled off and over the same ridge he’d disappeared over earlier that season. This old bull had found a place very much to his liking. After he had the slightest hunting pressure, he moved into his favorite old hiding place and stayed there.

3. GET DOWN AND DIRTY: If you want to kill a trophy bull on public land, you’re going to have to get to places others just plain won’t. The peak I watched with my father as a young boy was one such place. As soon as the fist rifle shot was fired, these elk went as high as they could go—9,000 feet into the sky on the top of Elk Mountain. Elk, however; don’t always climb the mountain peaks; they often find the deepest and darkest patch of timber around. These big bulls only feed out at night, and when faced with any danger from a hunter can escape with a few quick kicks of their feet. One of the only ways to get a shot at these elk is to sneak your way into the timber after them. Usually these big old bulls won’t go to such extreme measures during an archery season because the hunting pressure isn’t as great and success is a lot quieter. I have been faced with this dilemma many times during my rifle hunt experiences. I have found that sneaking through elk-filled timber as quietly and slowly as possible creates results. By slowly, I mean very slowly—taking a step and studying the trees, then taking another five steps, and then stopping to search the trees. This method does often present difficult, running shots, which under some circumstances may question our shooting ethics. Other times, however, you can see the elk before they see you. I often sneak into timber along a worn game trail as the morning wears on, and have frequent sightings of mature bulls.

4. PRACTICE: I am a firm believer in practice. Of course going out to the shooting range and putting a few rounds through your rifle is going to help. But I think an important part of practice is stepping back and learning from your experiences. Decide what you could have done better in a certain hunting situation that would have made it successful. Feel comfortable shooting at distances that you have fallen short in real situations. Your surroundings will not always be perfect when that bull of your dreams comes around the nearest pine tree, but you need to be.

5. BE PERSISTENT: Even seemingly hopeful situations can end up falling apart. For instance, the sun had already fallen below the horizon when my father and I plucked an arrow from our quivers and pushed them back into our nocks. I cow called, and the brush began to crackle under an old bull’s feet. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest. I caught a glimpse of his ghostly silhouette; my release grasped my bowstring as I drew my bow. To my right, my Dad was doing the same thing. The bull froze; I set my pin behind his shoulder blade. But a lone branch from a deadfall log blocked my arrow’s path, so I informed my Dad that I didn’t have a shot. He decided to take the shot. The arrow clanked as it disappeared into the darkness. The bull circled us and holed up for the night, all the while still barking at us. I could no longer see the bow in my hand, and knowing that my father had missed, we returned to camp for the night. The next day we chanced into the same clearing. Wondering what caused the miss, I followed the bull’s tracks from the night before and froze in the very place that it had. My father stood where he had drawn his bow the previous evening. As we replayed our experience, my father spotted his arrow. It had lodged nearly six feet in the air in the same branch that had obstructed my way.

Things don’t always go as planned. Realize that it’s just part of the game, and continue to join me in being consumed in the passion of hunting elk.

Application Time 2012

Post season hunting blues can be cured — by preparing for next season. Here is a tentative application deadline schedule for the Western States. If your state isn’t included email me or comment on this post and I will add it. What are you applying for?

Coming up: Wyoming Non-resident elk applications need to be in by the end of JANUARY!  February has a few application deadlines: Arizona Elk and Antelope (pronghorn), New Mexico Oryx, and Wyoming Moose, Sheep, and Mtn. Goat.

Good Luck in the Draws!

State Website Application Deadline
Arizona www.azdfg.com Elk, Pronghorn – FEBRUARY
Deer, Sheep – JUNE
Buffalo – OCTOBER
California dfg.ca.gov/hunting/ JUNE
Colorado wildlife.state.co.us APRIL
Idaho Fishgame.idaho.gov Sheep, Moose, Goat – APRIL
Elk, Deer, Pronghorn — JUNE
Montana Fwp.mt.gov Deer, Elk – MARCH
Sheep, Moose, Goat – MAY
Special Deer, Elk, Pronghorn — JUNE
Nevada Ndow.org APRIL
New Mexico Wildlife.state.nm.us Oryx – FEBRUARY
Other Species – April
Oregon Drw.state.or.us MAY
Utah Wildlife.utah.gov MARCH
Washington Wdfw.wa.gov MAY
Wyoming Gf.state.wy.us Elk – JANUARY
Moose, Sheep, Goat – FEBRUARY
Deer, Pronghorn – MARCH