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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.

Radio Time!

Earlier this week I was a guest on “The Revolution with Jim and Trav.” They run a popular outdoor related podcast/radio show that is aired on over 400 radio stations nationwide. This week they are talking about whitetail hunting, and they had me run them through our famous “DIY European Mount” article. Be sure to check their show out this week.

To find out when and where it will be aired in your area, CLICK HERE.

Or you can download their podcast every week from Itunes.

For more information on this week’s program you can view the release on Outdoor Hub:
http://www.outdoorhub.com/news/this-week-on-the-revolution-with-jim-and-trav-late-season-whitetails/

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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Wyoming’s Second Chance Antelope

By Chance Thompson

It’s early in the morning, you get tucked in behind your keyboard and log onto the Wyoming Game and Fish website. Today is the day you find out your draw results. You’ve waited a long time for this. You just know that you drew that premium Pronghorn Antelope tag you applied for way back in March. You type your information in and read that magical word. UNSUCCESSFUL! How can it be? You had it all planned out; your first western big game hunt on the wind swept prairies of Wyoming. Now what? Wait another year and try again or give up on the idea all together? Absolutely not. There are still literally thousands of opportunities available this year for both residents and nonresidents to hunt antelope in Wyoming.

Every year after the preliminary draw has taken place thousands of tags are still available in units that are considered sub-par or that have private land issues. The fact is that a majority of these units offer excellent opportunities and have ample public land on which to hunt. It takes a lot of research and planning but it is entirely possible to hunt antelope on a yearly or bi-yearly basis. By purchasing these tags after the draw, your preference points are still yours to keep which allows you to build valuable points for a future hunt in one of the premium trophy units in Wyoming that may require several years’ worth of points to draw. Another great aspect is hunting these units is you are allowed the opportunity to study antelope behavior under real field/hunting conditions. This knowledge will become invaluable when you finally obtain the trophy quality tag.

There are several steps to get your research process headed in the right direction. The very first step would be to look at the leftover list and narrow it down to a minimum of 3 units that interest you. The units may share a border or they may be several hundred miles apart from each other. You need to see how many tags are leftover in each unit. Sometimes units may have only a handful, others may have hundreds. There is a narrow window from the time the leftover list is printed to the time when the tags actually become available for purchase. So it is important to get your research done and make a decision on which unit you would like to hunt. Some of these tags will be sold within minutes of being available. Others are available right up until the season starts.

An invaluable tool to help narrow down your search is a good map. BLM maps are very good tools to determine exactly how much public land is available in the units you are interested in. These maps can be purchased from the BLM field office in the area that you are interested in hunting. These maps are cheap (typically under ten dollars) and really help you get a feel for the land ownership status in the area. When looking at the maps you want to find blocks that are brown, green, or blue in color. Brown indicates BLM land, green indicates national forest land, and blue indicates state land. These three types of land are public and can be hunted by anyone. The white sections of the map indicate land that is privately owned and permission must be obtained from the land owner in writing before you can legally hunt these lands.

The next step would be to get on the phone and contact the Local Chambers of Commerce and the Game and Fish Department offices and request a list of private land owners in the area who allow hunting on their land for free, or a very small trespass fee. We at HuntAddicts.com are also available via email to discuss your plans and get you pointed in the right direction for your next hunting adventure in the high deserts of Wyoming. Stay tuned to the huntaddicts.com featured articles section for more in depth articles to help you make the most of your western hunting opportunities.

Chance's Antelope
Chance’s buck taken on a leftover license in Wyoming’s unit 25

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.

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 http://www.arizonabiggamesuperraffle.com/index.html

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 http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/superhunt/

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 http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/licenses/supertag.html

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 http://www.wyomingwildlife.org/ht/d/sp/i/19609/pid/19609%20

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 http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/auctions_raffles/instructions.asp

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. http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/permits/raffles/index.html

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 HuntAddicts.com. 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!