This year, I worked exclusively with Hogue Knives. Because both fixed-blade and replaceable-blade knives have their place, I used the Hogue Extrak Fixed-Blade Knife and the Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife on all my hunts.
While both fixed-blade and replaceable-blade knives have their advantages and disadvantages, there are several reasons why a fixed-blade knife might be considered better for mountain hunting:
Durability: Fixed-blade knives are typically more durable than their replaceable-blade counterparts. They lack the additional moving parts that can potentially fail, making them better suited to handle the rigours of mountain hunting.
Strength and Reliability: Fixed-blade knives are usually more robust and reliable than replaceable ones. They are better equipped to handle heavy-duty tasks like cutting through tough animal hide, bone and other materials typically encountered during hunting. If you need to work with wood for any reason, you’ll appreciate having a “real blade.”
Safety: In terms of safety, fixed-blade knives are generally considered to be more secure because they do not have any moving parts that might break or malfunction during use. This can prevent accidents that may occur when a blade unexpectedly detaches from a knife during a critical moment. The fact that a fixed-blade knife can be sharp without being as crazy-sharp as a scalpel is a positive. For this reason, I let my daughter cut with the Extrak but not with the Expel Scalpel knife.
Versatility: Fixed-blade knives are often more versatile in terms of their applications. They can be used for various tasks beyond just skinning and field dressing, such as splitting wood, building shelters, or preparing meals in the wilderness.
However, it’s essential to note that there are also advantages to using a replaceable-blade knife, such as the convenience of quickly changing out a dull blade for a sharp one without the need for sharpening tools. This can be particularly helpful when maintaining a consistently sharp edge during extended hunting trips.
Ultimately, the choice between a fixed blade and a replaceable-blade knife for mountain hunting depends on personal preference, specific hunting needs, and the individual’s comfort and familiarity with the tool. I prefer to carry both knives to ensure I have my bases covered. Because both knives are built with the mountain hunter in mind, the weight penalty for carrying two knives is negligible.
I’ve created a downloadable guide to my tripod setups for glassing and shooting.
I love the expression, “if you know better, do better.” I’ve followed this approach in my evolution as a hunter, and I hope this guide can help you skip some of the poor techniques and gear selection decisions I’ve made over the years. The tripod is a keystone item I use continuously, from the long glassing sessions to the moment of truth. Thus, how I build out my tripod system is one of the most critical aspects of gear selection. I hope this simple guide will help you become a better hunter. Head to my YouTube channel for more videos about this gear and how to use it.
I cover all aspects of my system:
Tripod glassing head
Mountain hunting tripod
Picatinny to ARCA adapter for rifle mounting
Moose and bison hunting tripod
Moose and bison hunting tripod head
Bincolar adapter for tripod glassing
Mountain hunting tripod head
Download my guide now to see all the items I use, links to the product pages and my YouTube videos (where available).
Every piece of gear plays a pivotal role in ensuring success and safety when embarking on a challenging mountain hunting expedition. Among these essentials, a reliable and precision-engineered knife is an indispensable tool. Enter the Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife, a cutting-edge companion for mountain hunters that combines cutting precision, durability, and versatility to meet the demands of the rugged outdoors. In this blog post, I’ll explain my thoughts on this knife and how I use it on all my mountain hunts.
Safety What separates the Expel Scalpel from other replaceable blade knives is the integration of a dual-action switch that functions as an ejector and blade lock. When using the knife, lock the blade and don’t worry that it will slip out. When it’s time to replace a blade, retract the lock and push it forward to pop the blade off with no other tools needed. The switch makes this replaceable-blade knife exceptionally safe to use.
Precision Redefine At the heart of the Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife lies its exceptional precision. This knife’s design draws inspiration from medical scalpels, incorporating a slim, ultra-sharp blade that effortlessly slices through tough materials. Whether you’re field dressing game, preparing campfire meals, or addressing unexpected challenges, the scalpel-like edge provides surgical precision, minimizing effort and ensuring clean cuts. This precision is crucial for maintaining the quality of harvested meat and safety in the field.
Durability for Demanding Environments Mountain hunting environments can be unforgiving, subjecting gear to extreme conditions. The Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife rises to the challenge with its rugged construction. Crafted from high-quality stainless steel, the blade resists corrosion and maintains its edge, even after extended use. The knife’s minimalist design eliminates unnecessary components, reducing the risk of failure and enhancing its overall durability. This means you can confidently rely on the Expel Scalpel Knife to perform flawlessly in the harshest mountain conditions.
Lightweight and Compact Design Mountain hunting demands that gear is practical and easy to carry. The Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife excels with its lightweight and compact design. Its slim profile allows it to slip into a pocket, pouch, or sheath without adding bulk. This portability ensures the knife is readily accessible when needed without hindering your movement or adding unnecessary weight to your gear loadout.
Versatility in the Wilderness A successful mountain hunting trip often requires adaptability, as situations can change rapidly. The versatility of the Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife shines through in its ability to handle various tasks beyond just dressing game. Whether you’re cutting rope, fashioning a shelter, or preparing food, the knife’s sharp edge and precise control make it a versatile tool for a wide range of outdoor tasks. This adaptability streamlines your gear setup, helping you travel lighter without compromising utility.
Ergonomic Grip for Comfort Extended periods of field use can take a toll on your hands. To combat fatigue and provide optimal control, the Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife features an ergonomic grip that fits comfortably in your hand. The textured handle material ensures a secure grip even in wet or slippery conditions, reducing the risk of accidents. This comfort factor translates to increased accuracy and a more pleasant overall experience during your mountain hunting expedition.
In mountain hunting, where precision, durability, and versatility are paramount, the Hogue Expel Scalpel Knife is a reliable and indispensable tool. Its scalpel-like precision, robust construction, lightweight design, adaptability, and ergonomic grip make it a worthy companion for the challenges of the wilderness. Investing in a high-quality knife like the Hogue Expel Scalpel can significantly enhance your mountain hunting experience, ensuring you are well-equipped to conquer the unpredictable terrain and conditions these adventures entail.
Every hunter should understand and prioritize taking care of their rifle and optics in the field. When the time comes to take a shot, knowing that the rifle has been cared for through adverse conditions will bring you peace of mind and lead to better shooting. I protect my optics and action with a specialized scope cover. Covering the muzzle with electrical tape before and after shooting is also a best practice. Watch this video to see my system. I’d love to hear if you have any tips or tricks, so leave a comment on YouTube with your feedback.
The Vortex Optics LHT riflescope hits the sweet spot between magnification and weight. A maximum zoom of 22x will be sufficient for most realistic hunting situations. It is built with the quality, durability and reliability we have come to expect from Vortex Optics. If you are looking for a riflescope, look no further than the one I have selected for my own rifles.
The Vortex Optics LHT 4.5–22×50 FFP Riflescope is a lightweight hunting scope with a first focal plane reticle and a 50mm objective lens. It is designed to provide clear and bright images in low-light conditions, making it a good choice for hunting in mountainous terrain where visibility can be limited. The scope also features a long eye relief, allowing for comfortable and accurate shooting even with heavy recoil.
My previous scope was the Vortex Optics Razor HD AMG 6–24×50 FFP scope. Compared to the LHT, AMG is a more powerful scope designed for long-range shooting. It features a first focal plane reticle, a 50mm objective lens, and a wider magnification range, making it ideal for shooting longer distances. However, its heavier weight may not be ideal for mountain hunting, where a lighter setup may be more comfortable for carrying and maneuvering.
Ultimately, the best scope for mountain hunting will depend on your specific needs and preferences. It’s essential to consider factors such as the terrain you’ll be hunting in, the distances you’ll be shooting at, and your personal shooting style when selecting a scope.
Field shooting while hunting poses numerous challenges to new and experienced hunters alike. The biggest challenge will be the hunter themselves: “buck fever,” stress, nerves, pressure, whatever you want to call it. Seeing the animal of a lifetime within shooting range raises the adrenaline, unlike anything else. Taking the shot you’ve trained for with an elevated heart rate and everything that comes with stress is a topic for another day. Today’s topic is about getting a good rest and ensuring your rifle is steady before you take the shot.
“If you can get closer, get closer. If you can get steadier, get steadier.”
Jeff Cooper, The Art of the Rifle
Mountain hunts offer all kinds of difficulties: elevation to climb, inclement weather, remoteness and a lack of cover (there are lots more). This last item can also be an advantage to the rifle shooter. Mountain environments are often relatively clear of high vegetation to block your line of sight. Position yourself on a spine or ridge overlooking your quarry, and you may have a clear trajectory for your bullet. More often than not, the ground feature where you’re laying will be far enough that an off-hand shot is impossible. The answer: get low and get steady.
Mountain shooters need to be prepared to take long shots. Shooting out past 300 yards will introduce much complexity into your ballistics and require all your skill. Now, what if this shot comes on day 10 of your once-in-a-lifetime sheep hunt? You’ll wish you had a better rest. What if this shot comes on day 3 of your only hunt of the year? You’ll wish you had a better rest.
The goal is to keep your rifle still while shooting. Your bench rest or a sandbag is a superb option at the range. These allow you to test your ballistics as far as your optics are capable and reduce the shooter’s error.
On the mountain, things are a bit different. The ground may be sloping. You are likely hugging the ground to remain hidden. Winds can be swirling, and your heart will be pumping. So how do you stay steady on your mountain hunt? I’m going to go over the different kinds of rest.
The bipod is a convenient method to steady your rifle. Most bipods have independently adjustable legs and possibly even additional adjustment capacity to ensure your rifle is horizontally level. Canting the rifle to one side will result in a missed show. I often hunt with my bipod on the rifle at all times, requiring just a few flicks of the wrist to open the bipod and have a good rest. Bipods allow the shooter to raise and lower the muzzle quickly, which can also introduce instability. The use of a rear bag will provide additional steadiness to the muzzle. You can use a rolled-up jacket or another article of clothing under the butt of the rifle to act as the rear bag.
Bipods offer the disadvantage of requiring the hunter to lie prone on the ground. While lying prone does provide the most stability, it also requires a clear line of sight from the ground. When grass or other low vegetation blocks the line of sight, you may need another method to stabilize your shot.
According to the Precision Rifle Blog, “92% of the top shooters said they owned a tripod they use with their rifle.” Hunters and match shooters have similar, though different, needs. The tripod’s size and weight are less important to a match shooter but critical for hunters, especially on backpack hunts. However, if 92% of the best shooters agree on something, it’s worth consideration.
Tripods are a serious upgrade from bipods in two main ways: maximum height and stability. Tripods can be easily adjusted to various heights, even as tall as required for a standing shot. The bipod will win for a shooting position very close to the ground, though most tripods can accommodate this in a pinch.
For seated, kneeling or standing shooting, the tripod will give you a steadier rest resulting in more accurate shots.
Downsides of Tripods and How to Manage These Costs
Additional cost: If you already use a tripod for glassing, it would be ideal for the same unit to be functional as your shooting rest. Also, some pieces of gear are worth a proper investment. The tripod is one of them.
Challenges at shallow height: You may not have the room to spread the tripod legs out as far as needed to get your rifle close to the ground. Often there are workarounds to the requirement of being at ground level. With a bipod, the best position may be very close to the ground and not from behind vegetation or a terrain feature. With the tripod, you have the flexibility and stability to move backwards for a more extended shot or behind a bush or boulder.
Time Requirements: Setting up a tripod takes time and energy, and you may be doing this when you have little of either. The flip side is that you’ll gamble with inadequate rest, like your buddy’s shoulder, a tree or your pack. Do you want to take the time to do things correctly or not? Your choice.
Shooting off Your Pack
We all carry packs, so a pack is an obvious option as a rest. Unfortunately, backpacks offer limited support to the rifle, leaving the shooter to control the muzzle’s direction. Further, you are limited with a very low shooting position or contorting your body to shoot from the pack you are propping up with your knee. Should your quarry move out of your shooting lane, you must pick up your pack and move it to a new shooting location, taking precious seconds. This time requirement is similar to what you will encounter with a tripod but without the tripod’s superb stability. Conclusion: your backpack can act as an impromptu shooting rest, but it’s not the best choice.
Shooting off a Tree
Many of us hunt in wooded areas. Tree trunks and branches can act as your shooting rest. I have used this in a pinch, but clearly, you’re leaving a lot to chance if you depend on a tree in the right location for your shot.
Bonus: Fill the Space
At Gunwerk’s Long Range University, I learned about “filling the space.” When you consider all the space between your limbs, your trunk and the rifle as you prepare to take your shot, you will see the places where your body and rifle can move. Closing this space with a different body position, a jacket, or other items can make your shot more stable.
In a seated position, you have lots of room under your arms. Can you stuff something in there to tighten things up?
A bag under the butt of the rifle or between the butt and your body can also make a difference in a prone position.
As Jeff Cooper said in The Art of the Rifle, “If you can get closer, get closer. If you can get steadier, get steadier.” The tools and techniques I describe above will help you make the best shot possible when it matters most.
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Every hunter should understand and prioritize taking care of their rifle and optics in the field. When the time comes to take a shot, knowing that the rifle has been cared for through adverse conditions will bring you peace of mind and lead to better shooting. I protect my optics Read more…
Field shooting while hunting poses numerous challenges to new and experienced hunters alike. The biggest challenge will be the hunter themselves: “buck fever,” stress, nerves, pressure, whatever you want to call it. Seeing the animal of a lifetime within shooting range raises the adrenaline, unlike anything else. Taking the shot Read more…
When selecting what optics to bring into the field, the first thing to know is that a spotting scope is always required. Spotting scopes provide the ability to properly evaluate an animal’s calibre and help you decide whether getting closer is necessary. You will also spot bedded or well-hidden game Read more…
As mountain hunters, we go to great expense and effort to access remote areas. Some of us pay an outfitter to take us in pursuit of game that would be otherwise unattainable. As passionate hunters, we wait months, years or even decades for a single opportunity at a Dall’s Sheep, Read more…
I find an opportunity on almost every hunt to practice dry firing. If you don’t know what dry firing is, it’s simply firing the weapon without any ammunition in the chamber. Always ensure that the weapon is not loaded and that your magazine is empty. Dry firing is very common Read more…
I’ve been hunting moose for more years than I can remember, but it’s only recently that I’ve started to use a tripod for shooting. How well does the tripod lend itself to hunting moose in the Yukon? Can a moose hunter use a tripod to improve hunting success in terrain with high brush and other obstacles?
When selecting what optics to bring into the field, the first thing to know is that a spotting scope is always required. Spotting scopes provide the ability to properly evaluate an animal’s calibre and help you decide whether getting closer is necessary. You will also spot bedded or well-hidden game much easier with a spotting scope than with binoculars.
I’ve seen people take two spotting scopes. In most cases, I would recommend against this approach. A mountain hunt with two hunters will not benefit much from having two spotting scopes, and the additional weight and bulk will be more of a hindrance than a help. When I am hunting with someone else, we spend most of our time on binoculars. If something is of particular interest, whoever needs the spotting scope will grab it to take a closer look.
My favoured setup for Yukon mountain hunting is to have each hunter with a pair of 10×42 binoculars. I use Vortex Optics’ Razor UHD binoculars with outstanding optical clarity and brightness. I spend a lot of time with these binoculars and can cover a lot of country with them, whether seated or standing. When two hunters use binoculars like these, they can cover much ground to a reasonable distance.
Ultimately, it’s not rocket science to decide what optics to bring. Minimizing weight while maintaining your capacity to hunt effectively would be best. Bringing a single spotting scope/tripod setup and two pairs of binoculars is the sweet spot for spotting power and weight for a pair of hunters.