Training for Mountain Hunting in the Off-Season

We consider having a high fitness level to be an absolutely essential part of the Wild Yukon team. Mountain hunting can be very physically demanding with many variables. If you prepare yourself physically for the challenges ahead, you’ve set yourself up for success by taking care of one of the variables you can affect. We can’t control the weather and visibility or where the game is, necessarily. We can ensure we’ve got the fitness to climb as many mountain blocks as necessary to find that ram and that capacity for a long pack out with full packs.

People often ask me what we do for training in the off-season. Mountain hunting requires a  high level of cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength and endurance, so our team works on all of these things in the off-season. As the season gets closer, we ramp up the trekking with a heavier pack. If you’ve got a mountain hunt planned for the season, you’ve got to be prepared to trek over steep and rugged terrain for days on end, and the following off-season training principles that we follow will get you there.

HIIT and Tabata workouts

These are great off-season full-body workouts that are time efficient and allow you to train functionally for the mountains with minimal equipment required. Both HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and Tabatas are interval-style work-outs that will give you a great cardio and strength workout. HIIT workouts are interval sessions that last between 30–90 seconds that blast the heart rate repeatedly with short rest sessions in between exercises. Tabata workouts are similar (always 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest, for eight sets) and fun to mix with shorter work and recovery intervals and higher repetitions. Doing these types of workouts 3x’s per week will help you build a strong foundation for the mountains.    

Sample HIIT Workout

HIIT 9×3 – Workout description

A mid-week HIIT workout, this session consists of 9 exercises with 45-second work intervals and 15-second recovery, which we’ll repeat three x’s each. We target the whole body with longer work sessions and shorter rests, keeping the heart rate up.

Equipment required:

Mat, water, light to medium dumbbells

Warmup: Easy 3–5 minutes of light walking, jacks, squats etc.

ExerciseIntervalModifications
Mountain Climbers45sec/15 secIncrease tempo
Squat jumps45sec/15 secLow impact or Increased plyo
Plank – (shoulder tap)45sec/15 secOn knees or toes
Alt. Reverse Lunge45sec/15 secAdd plyo
Push press shoulder press 45sec/15 secIncrease weight
Reverse curl crunch45sec/15 secBring head/shoulders off the ground
Broad jumps45sec/15 secIncrease plyo
Push-ups45sec/15 secOn knees or toes
Bicycle crunches 1-2-345sec/15 secChange tempo

Endurance workouts

Endurance workouts are a cornerstone of mountain hunting fitness and an area that often gets forgotten. Trekking in the mountains requires maintaining a steady heart rate for hours on end. Incorporating regular endurance running, hiking, biking, or paddling sessions is crucial to building this endurance base.  I recommend adding a couple of sessions during the week, alternating between your HIIT workouts and then a more extended session on the weekend.  

Sample Workout

Begin with 30 minutes of steady-state running or 60 minutes of cycling. Each week, increase the previous week’s longest session by 20%. Build up to 2-hour runs or 4-hour rides.

Pack/Rucking workouts

If you want to run a marathon successfully, you’ve got to spend a lot of time doing long-run sessions. It works the same for mountain hunting – if you want to be ready to hike in the mountains with a pack for multiple hours/days, it just makes sense you’ve got to spend time training your body specifically to do that. As your training progresses, this requires building a progressive plan with distance, elevation, and pack weight.

Sample Workout

Begin with a 30lb pack for men or 20lb for women. Load up your pack with weight (preferably something without hard corners) and select a route that will take you 45 minutes. If your fitness is minimal,  choose something less challenging. If you’re ready for a challenge, find a hilly route. This kind of training is the perfect opportunity to break in your new boots. Each week, extend the distance and slowly increase the weight. Don’t worry about carrying a very heavy pack, but rather focus on getting the mileage under your legs and avoiding injury.

A quick way to maintain some of this fitness in the off-season is to build yourself a bench step and add some step-up workouts with a light pack. Adding a ruck session to the end of your HIIT workout once or twice per week will make the transition to the mountains that much easier.

My wife and I have created a Fitness/Nutrition/Mindset program called the Power Hunter Fitness program. The program is based on the principles I described above and includes three weekly exercise videos to follow along with us, a meal plan and some motivational videos and tips from me. If you’re interested in checking it out, you can find us at  https://phf.powerhunterfitness.com/the-program.

Whether you follow along with us or not, here are my top five tips for fitness training in the off-season:

  1. Find a plan or make yourself a fitness plan and schedule it into your day – make it non-negotiable.
  2. Get out of bed in the morning – morning exercisers are proven to be more adherent. Shut off the late-night Netflix and set yourself a sleep schedule that allows you to get enough rest and get your workout done early.
  3. Create yourself an accountability system – include your family, a friend or a co-worker in your plans. Tell the world: whatever you need to make yourself accountable.
  4. Mix it up and keep it fun – hunting can provide many obstacles and challenges, so vary your fitness routine and challenge the muscles in many different ways.        
  5. Set yourself a goal – post that picture of a beauty ram on your phone screen, sign-up for a half marathon or mountain bike race, whatever it takes!

Nutrition for Mountain Hunting – Eating on the Go

I’ve had a lot of questions over the years about what we eat when we are mountain hunting. When it comes to mountain hunting, I have one priority: coming out of the hills with the best ram or billy I can. All my decisions are made with that goal in mind. I am not out there to relax or have Smores over the campfire. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Smore and a little Forty Creek around a campfire now and again as much as the next guy, but these are bonuses and saved for after a successful hunt (the Forty Creek) or with the family (the smores). Much of what to eat on a hunt depends on personal preference, but for our team, eating is all about keeping the machine fueled to be ready for whatever is coming at us next and keeping the packs as light as possible. We rarely stop for food breaks specifically but rather fuel on the go. Typically, we refuel and hydrate while glassing, as refuelling then won’t take away from the hunt. We are not out for a picnic when we are hunting but rather work under a well-thought-out plan that usually doesn’t include the pleasantries of other hunting styles.

Breakfast and dinners are usually the same – oatmeal/granola/coffee to start the day and some high-calorie freeze-dried meal to get some of the calories we’ve burned replenished after a long day. During the day, it is an ongoing feast of lightweight, portable snacks, electrolyte replacement and occasionally a protein powder or meal replacement powder. I aim for about 1500 cal of snacks per day. We usually pack some sandwiches for the first day or two, followed by a buffet of your typical trail mix, jerky, and bars. In all honesty, our team has consumed a lot of Snickers bars and Cheetos over the years, but we’ve replaced much of that with some healthier pre-packaged bar options (Pro-bar, Picky bars are favourites) and snacks we make at home that fuel us much better. I have noticed that the more processed junk I eat while hunting, the harder it is to get off the sugar when the season is over! The more sugar we eat – the more sugar we crave.

When picking snack foods, there are a few critical criteria:

  • the items must travel well and not fall apart in your pack.
  • they should be edible at the temperatures you will be hunting at
  • they should provide a variety of flavours
  • give you the energy you need to keep going.

I’ve included three of our team’s favourite snack recipes. These are high carb, high fat snack bombs that will get you up that next mountain – because you never know whether that book ram is waiting for you on the other side!

No-Bake, Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars

*Makes 8 bars

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup peanut butter  
  • 1 ½   tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup flaxseed 
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • ½ cup Stoked Oats, Run of the Mill 
  • Quick Oats or regular rolled oats
  • ⅓ cup chopped nuts of choice
  • ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Optional toppings;

  • 2–3 tbsp of chopped nuts of choice, chocolate chips, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds etc.
  • ½ teaspoon coconut oil

Instructions

  1. Add peanut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon into a medium saucepan and place over low heat. Stir frequently until the mixture is smooth and creamy. 
  2. Remove from heat and immediately stir in flaxseed, chia and oats.  Fold in chopped nuts and shredded coconut and stir until combined.
  3. Line a 9×5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and pour granola bar mixture in. Spread mixture out evenly and press down in the pan very firmly. Press remaining toppings on top.
  4. Place bars in the freezer for 15 minutes or until the mixture has hardened. Remove bars from pan and cut into 8 bars. Bars will last up to 1 week in the fridge.

Monster Energy Balls

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup nut butter of choice
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ cup Stoked Oats, Run of the Mill Quick Oats or regular rolled oats
  • ¼ cup flaxseed meal
  • ¼ cup finely shredded coconut
  • Splash vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup M&Ms or Smarties

Instructions

  • Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and stir well.
  • Roll into balls – you may need to dampen your hands, as these can be sticky!  Store in an airtight container for several days, or freeze for up to one month.  

Power Hunter Muffins

Power Hunter Muffins

*Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1.5 cups Stoked Oats, Run of the Mill Quick Oats or regular rolled oats
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch sea salt
  • ½ cup dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, seeds of choice
  • 3 eggs or 3 flax eggs
  • 2 cups grated apple, carrots, zucchini, beets (your combo choice)
  • ⅓ cup melted butter or coconut oil
  • ½ cup maple syrup

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper muffin cups
  • In a large bowl combine almond flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, dried fruit etc of choice
  • In another bowl whisk together the eggs (or flax eggs), melted butter/coconut oil, maple syrup, grated apple/carrot/zucchini/beet mixture
  • Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined
  • Scoop into muffin tins and bake for 25–30 minutes

NOTES:

  • *1 flax eggs = 1 TBSP ground flax + 3 TBSP warm water and let sit for 5 minutes.
  • *Regular whole wheat flour or spelt flour can be used but requires a little more butter or coconut oil and reduce the oats slightly. Highly recommend trying the almond flour though – super moist and flavourful! 
  • *Adapted from Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow

A good opportunity to snack.

My Mountain Hunting Tripod

When I’m packing for a mountain hunt, there are a few items that I will never forget at home and which form the basis of hunting style. Binoculars (10×42) and a binocular case, spotting scope (27–65×85), rifle, bullets. You get the idea. The final component of the necessary hardware is my tripod.

Ever since I first used the Ascend-14 in the field, I’ve been able to adapt the tripod to my hunting style and focus on what is most important: finding game.

I used a cheap little tripod for my spotting scope for the longest time. It was tiny and light but didn’t allow smooth panning, and even a light breeze was too much for it, forcing me to stay very low to the ground and find a windbreak when I was glassing far off. Additionally, the aluminum legs weren’t strong and were too short for any glassing where I wasn’t seated, making using binoculars to glass over bushes impossible. Shooting off this unit was totally out of the question.

My new tripod for mountain hunting addresses each of these shortfalls. The Really Right Stuff Ascend-14 with the Anvil-30 ball head allows for smooth panning, letting me focus on what I’m looking at instead of trying to get a good sight picture. The Ascend is built with premium carbon fibre tubes, offering incredible stiffness in a lightweight package and can withstand a stout breeze before I have to look for cover from the wind. The 1/4-turn sealed twist locks make extending the legs a breeze.

The Ascend-14 adapts beautifully to any glassing situation, including this rocky position where I wish to sit but not extend myself above the skyline.

The Ascend’s legs extend the tripod’s maximum height is 59.9″, allowing for all kinds of flexibility. I can extend the legs out at a wide-angle in windy conditions to give a huge footprint and outstanding stability in all but the worst conditions. In rocky terrain, extending one or two legs out quite far may be necessary to keep the tripod level and allow me to sit in the place that gives me the best glassing. I had to choose my position to suit the tripod with my old tripod, rather than the other way around.

Weighing in at 3.2 lb, the Ascend is strong enough to handle any optics I own. Paired with the Anvil-30 ball head, I can also shoot from the tripod, which has been a revelation and transformation of my shooting capabilities. This configuration is suited for flat, downhill, or uphill shooting, whether prone, seated or kneeling.

Paired with the Anvil-30 ball head, the Ascend-14 is an incredible shooting platform. Moments after we took this image, I took a 400-yard shot on a Dall’s Sheep ram in the McKenzie Mountains with Canol Outfitters. After days of hard hiking and a big investment in the hunt, my shooting platform was as comfortable and stable as any bench rest at my local shooting range.

An additional feature that I really love is the extendable quick column. The centre column allows me to raise the height of my optics even higher but is also easily removed to save weight. I tend to remove the column in the mountains as the tripod has sufficient height for the vast majority of my use cases.

The Ascend-14’s quick column allows maximum flexibility when choosing a glassing position. In this image, I am standing to gain height over the low bushes in this location.
Watch my discussion of the Ascend-14 in this video. I will walk you through how I use the tripod and show it to you in the field.

If you’re in the market to upgrade your mountain hunting tripod, the Really Right Stuff Ascend-14 should undoubtedly be at the top of your list. Investing in a premium tripod like this will make every future hunt more enjoyable and more successful.

Field Tip: Tripod Shooting for Yukon-Alaska Moose

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?

Off-hand shooting ability is admirable, and we should all aspire to be confident shooters in many shooting positions. Whether prone, seated, kneeling or on the tripod, we should be able to adapt to the situation presented to us when it’s time to take a shot on a trophy animal. However, certainly, an off-hand shot will seldom be the best possible shot. That’s where the tripod comes into play.

I’ve been using the Really Right Stuff Ultralight TFC-33 tripod with the BH-40 ball head for my moose and bison hunting. The strength and stability of this tripod are superb, as is its light weight and quick deployment.

I hunt moose during and after the rut and face high brush as a serious obstacle. Prone and seated shots are rarely possible, and if they are possible, they are likely very long shots. A tripod will be the best approach in these cases, and I will have plenty of time to set up and choose my shooting position. Even in tight timber, the tripod provides outstanding support, which I can move as I move through the bush.

A moose hunter glasses for moose with his binoculars, with his rifle and tripod standing at the ready.
I face chest-high brush from my shooting position or between the moose and me more often than not. Using a tall tripod like the Really Right Stuff Ultralight TFC-33 raises my rifle above the brush and provides benchrest-quality stability.

I’ve previously broken branches to use a tree branch as a rest, but this creates a lot of noise and requires luck to find a suitable tree and branch. Additionally, relying on a tree for rest means you are pinning your success on whether Mother Nature has put a tree in a convenient place. That doesn’t make any sense to me! If there happens to be a good tree, but the wind is blowing, your shooting rest will be moving as well.

Getting the rifle above terrain and vegetation obstructions is critical, as is stability. If you’ve never hunted moose with a tripod while hunting moose, please do give it a try.

A hunter looks through his tripod-mounted rifle in the alpine.
The tripod provides outstanding support if a high-country shot allows me to shoot from a seated position. Here you can see how I am bracing my elbows on my knees, making for a very stable platform to take a longer shot.

The BEST Tripod Head I’ve Used for Mountain Hunting

What should you look for in a mountain hunting tripod head? Is this a piece of gear you should ignore, or can it be a link in your hunting chain that improves your odds of success? The answer to this question is an emphatic “yes”. There is no point putting your expensive spotting scope or rifle on a wobbly tripod or lightweight head that can’t handle the weight and wear and tear.

My wife Denise glassing rams before opening day off the Ascend-14 tripod and the Anvil-30 tripod head.

I need a tripod head to allow smooth glassing with the spotting scope and binoculars and act as a linkage to my tripod that performs when it’s time to take that shot. I’ve been using the Anvil BH-30 ball head from Really Right Stuff. It ticks all my boxes, including some I didn’t know I had.

The Anvil-30 is lightweight and is designed and built with incredible machining in the USA. The craftsmanship and forethought that Really Right Stuff puts behind all their products, including this unit, are second-to-none.

The Anvil’s lever release allows me to quickly attach my optics or rifle, and I have complete confidence that my Gunwerks ClymR rifle will remain locked in there until I decide to unlock it. The pan/tilt locking lever allows me to control the swivel of the head with my non-shooting hand, adjusting to a moving animal or allowing me to bring my sights to bear.

Moments after I took a single shot on my Dall’s Sheep ram while hunting in the Northwest Territories with Canol Outfitters.

The Anvil-30 allows the use of the standard Arca-Swiss plate on your optics or rifle, or even the Picatinny rail on your rifle. If you don’t have a rail, head over to your trusted gunsmith to have him install a Picatinny rail.

I have this head mounted on my Really Right Stuff Ascend-14 tripod, which is a superb and compact tripod that is perfectly suited for backpack hunting.

Tripod, or Bipod, or Both?

Should I leave my bipod behind if I have a great tripod? That’s a new question for me, as I’ve only been shooting from a tripod for a few short years. I’ve always carried the bipod with me. I’ve loved shooting sheep and other mountain species off the bipod as stability is so important when taking anything longer than a short shot. For the weight, a bipod is a no-brainer when contrasted with shooting off a pack or some other improvised rest.

I’ve always glassed from tripods and carry one on every hunt. Shown: Really Right Stuff Ultralight TFC-33 with the Anvil-30 head.

The tripod changes the equation. I definitely need a tripod for my spotting scope and, sometimes, binoculars. Now that I have a rifle and tripod system that allows me to shoot with ease, I’ve fallen in love with the outstanding versatility and performance of this new system. So where does this leave the bipod?

The main challenge with the tripod is that it requires a bit more time to setup up. You’ll need to fasten the rifle to the tripod and set the leg lengths to match the particular context. This takes a few seconds, there’s no denying that. However, you can mitigate the negative impact of this by getting your rifle and tripod set up before you expose yourself to the animal’s line of sight. Further, in the vast majority of situations, I absolutely have time. Yukon game animals are often bedded when I come across them or are feeding, and thus it’s not a matter of split seconds, in most cases.

Watch my video where I walk through the strengths and weaknesses of the tripod versus the bipod.

An additional benefit of this slight delay is that it allows me to be more calculating and patient, making the most of the shot opportunity. A calm, deliberate shooter will be more successful than a rushed and tense shooter.

A fantastic bull moose I took off my Really Right Stuff Ulatrlight TFC-33 tripod. This setup allowed me to contend with the tall brush at my shooting position and down where the moose was.

Because the stability offered by a tripod is so good, the tripod will allow me to select shooting locations that are better, whether behind better cover or that provide a superior field of view. If the superior cover is 50 or 100 yards further from my target than where I would choose to use a bipod, I will still have a better shot.

If you’ve always used a bipod, check out the tripods from Really Right Stuff and I promise you that you’ll be glad you did.

Tripods for Shooting

I’ve been hunting for a long time, but it’s only been in the past couple of years that I started looking to my tripod as a shooting platform. Tripods are standard equipment for military, law enforcement and precision shooters, and hunters don’t appreciate how much steadier a shot from a tripod can be. If you’ve never shot from your tripod, watch my video to learn more.

On a recent bison hunt, I had only a few seconds to prepare for my shot. I was able to quickly lock my rifle onto the tripod and take a steady shot. Had I not had the tripod, I would have been left with an offhand shot, which is not something I want to do, if I can at all avoid it. I credit the tripod for helping us take this fantastic bull bison in a difficult situation.

I took this bull bison off my Really Right Stuff Ultralight TFC-33 tripod, fitted with the BH-40 tripod head.

Until now, I’ve looked to tree branches to provide support for shooting, but since I carry a tripod on every hunt already, for my spotting scope and binoculars, I can now shoot from the tripod, allowing this single piece of gear to work double- or triple-duty. Even on a machine-supported hunt, reducing how many pieces of gear I have to bring and worry about is of paramount importance.

In this video, you will see my Really Right Stuff Ultralight TFC-33 tripod, with the Anvil BH-40 head. This is the perfect set-up for moose and bison hunting, and since it’s very light for the features it has, it can work really well for mountain hunting species like Dall’s Sheep and Mountain Goats.

A tripod is indispensable for shooting in moose country. More often than not we are faced with tall brush, making a seated or prone shot impossible. Also, it’s rare to find a good branch for shooting, if trees are available at all.

Tripod Selection

There are many tripods out there, and selecting one is not an easy decision. Which type of tripod will work best for you will depend mainly on the type of hunting you do, and the conditions of a typical shot. If you’ve never used a tripod for shooting, you are missing out on an outstanding asset. I have come to love shooting off my tripods, and a quick survey of competitive, military and law enforcement shooters will reveal that tripods are considered to be standard equipment for shooters.

In this article, I will compare two tripods. In essence, one is lighter and more compact, which is advantageous for mountain hunting with large elevation to travel but with little vegetation to shoot over, and the other is a larger, more steady tripod well-suited for standing shooting to reach over vegetation, and when you will require enhanced stability.

I’ve been using tripods from Really Right Stuff, a premier tripod manufacturer. They build some of the best-built tripods in the world right in the US, so the craftsmanship and design are second to none. The tripods are super smooth, and that’s important when you’re out in the field and you’re trying to move across the landscape being smooth and not missing anything. That’s where the RRS products shine for me. Additionally, they are light.

I use the Ascend-14 for mountain hunting and the Ultralight for later season hunting. At just 18.5″ when folded, the Ascend-14 fits on or in any backpack I use, even a smaller daypack.

Both of these tripods will work very well for glassing, whether you are using binoculars or a spotting Both of these tripods will work very well for glassing, whether you are using binoculars or a spotting scope. Both are simple to set up to get the height you need, whatever the terrain from which you are glassing.

Ascend-14

Now the Ascend is compact, where I can throw it in my backpack, and it’s out of the way. The Ascend is my go-to in the mountains. If I need to travel miles with a heavy pack, I’m always carrying the Ascend, and I don’t need to extend it to an excessive height in the mountains. I’m never having to stand and shoot off of it, which the Ultralight shines in that category. The Ascend-14 is an excellent backpacking unit. It’s just smooth, lightweight, quick to deploy, which you want to get set up and have the ability to get your optics or rifle on it quickly.

Whether you’re using it with gloves on in cold conditions, it’s a joy to work with.

This past year, I was hunting Dall’s Sheep, and the Ascend-14 made a downhill shot highly straightforward. I was able to switch out my spotting scope and have my rifle locked and ready to go in a few seconds, all while choosing a shooting location that suited me in terms of remaining hidden and comfortable.

Ascend-14 with the Anvil-30 ball head on a Dall’s Sheep hunt.

The Ultralight

The Ultralight is slightly longer and bigger than the Ascend-14 but still fits easily on the side of my packs. The Ultralight offers additional height for standing shots and extra stability at any height due to its larger-diameter legs. All of this comes at only a nominal weight cost. I think if you’re a competitive shooter and you’re looking for the most stability that you can get, the Ultralight is the way to go.

I am carrying the RRS Ultralight tripod, paired with RRS’ BH-40 tripod head. The setup is just under a pound heavier than the Ascend. The long legs of the Ultralight perform well in a situation like I had this past winter where I was hunting moose in the snow. You can see the brush in this image, which is quite a bit smaller than the brush I faced when taking my Yukon-Alaska moose off the tripod.

Learn More

How I Carry my Rifle

I want to talk about how I carry my rifle on a mountain hunt. My technique is likely slightly different from what I see most hunters doing. Keep in mind that I am speaking specifically about mountain hunting, which involves days and days of hiking and only a few moments, if we are fortunate, of handling the rifle.

Every hunter is looking to carry the rifle to address three considerations, and it’s going to be a matter of personal preference and the terrain and type of hunting in question that will determine the best method. The three considerations are:

  • Weight and balance of the loaded pack
  • Protection of the rifle and optics from dropping, scratching and compression
  • Quickness of access

I describe my approach for the mountain situation below.

Both Denise and I carrying our rifles in the centre of our packs.

Weight and balance of the loaded pack

 For me, the best position for my weapon is directly in the centre of my pack because it’s generally speaking the heaviest piece of equipment that I would have. I don’t want to be out of balance at any time when I’m rock hopping when I’m just hiking through the mountains; I want to be as stable and have my weight distribution as solid as I possibly can.

If you choose to put your rifle on one side or another, balance the weight with a spotting scope, water or tripod.

Some people find that the rifle disrupts their front-to-back balance. I don’t, but this is something to consider. If you have your pack loaded with heavier items closer to your spine, you can minimize the backwards pull of the gun.

Protection of the Rifle and Optics

Taking off your heavy pack, often upwards of 80 lbs, introduces the risk of scratching or seriously damaging whatever you have on the exterior of the pack. No matter where your rifle is, you will face the risk of damage. With the rifle in the centre, I don’t have to worry about which side of the pack hits the rocks because I know my rifle is on neither side.

My rifle and optics were protected when I lay my pack onto the ground.

Quickness of Access

Removing the rifle is quick and easy.

In the mountain hunting environment, access speed is a very low priority. Some hunters have commented that the threat of a bear encounter necessitates easy access to the rifle. I have been fortunate to have avoided such encounters, so it’s not something I worry about very often. I’m unwilling to carry a gun in my hands or on a traditional rifle sling for such a low-odds risk. I would much prefer to have a bear spray at hand that move my rifle from its place on the rear of my pack.

I’d invite you to consider these factors the next time you head into the field. Having spent hundreds of days mountain hunting, I’ve been very pleased with this approach, and I think you might be as well.

My Three-Step Process for Successful Execution on a Mountain Stalk

I follow a simple, three-step process to help myself stay calm and execute on fundamental aspects of a successful mountain hunting stalk. By mountain hunting, I’m referring to the pursuit of sheep, goats, Mountain Caribou and often bears. These principles apply to all kinds of spot and stalk hunting where the game is stationary and not constantly on the move. Still, they are more critical in the mountain environment with the species I mentioned above. By repeating this process every time, I maximize my chance of having Lady Luck on my side.

This ram remained bedded for about an hour after we go into position.

My first step is to find a shooting position on the hill that maximizes my chances of keeping eyes on my target if it moves or if my first shot doesn’t anchor it. More often than not, stalks occur when mountain game are bedded and resting during the middle of the day. I will likely have an extended period between getting into a shooting position and having a shooting opportunity. I also want to select a shooting position to move from while remaining unseen. This concealment could be finding a bush, a change in the terrain, rocks or an exposed position with a backdrop that means I will not skyline myself. Suppose the game remains bedded for hours, and I command an unobstructed view above the animal. In that case, I may wish to have a position where I can sit up and move away from my rifle.

This grassy knoll provided the perfect location for me to remain out of sight of the spectacular Dall’s Sheep ram, giving me plenty of room to remain comfortable while maintaining my view of him.

The distance I will set up will depend on numerous factors, including:

  • my capability as a shooter with the rifle and optics I have
  • the wind and weather conditions at the time
  • the type of game (the size of the vitals)
  • the kind of shooting platform available to me (prone, tripod, tree branch, off-hand?).

My second step is to build the shooting platform. When possible, I will use a tripod. Tripods provide the stability we all know from the best shooting rest at the range in a package I don’t mind carrying up the mountain. Tripods also allow me to be more flexible in my shooting position selection. Due to the added stability of the tripod, it’s no big deal to pull back 100 yards to have better cover and coverage.

I will do my best to get prone, whether I have a tripod, a bipod, or an improvised rest. Laying my entire body on the ground gives me the best steadiness and control possible.

Once I have established where my rifle will lie, whatever rest I am using, I ensure that my body is sustainably behind my Gunwerks ClymR. From the prone position, that means to have my body lying parallel to the gun. My body is comfortable yet strong and stable for a seated or standing position.

The third step is to dry fire. With the crosshairs trained on the animal (don’t forget to range!), I practice my trigger squeeze, working through my breathing routine and settling my heart rate. I’ll do this for a few minutes while the sheep or goat is bedded. After a week of misery in the mountains, finally pulling the rife out and training my reticle on a good ram will get my heart beating. We all know the feeling! This dry firing is the perfect therapy to give me the confidence and calm I need to make the shot that counts. Exercise caution to ensure you don’t load the rifle and make an unplanned and unsafe shot throughout this process.

Dry firing is a perfect technique for calming the nerves, checking your body position, and loosening your trigger hand’s grip on the stock.

This process is something you can integrate with your own. I think, by slowing yourself down and not selecting the first shooting location you see, you will set yourself up for success on your next mountain hunt.