In 2015, The Mule Deer Hunter set out on a mission to find the best gear available for hunting high country mule deer. This "Quest for the Best" as I like to refer to it, has involved evaluating every piece of equipment I use. During this evaluation process, much of the equipment stayed the same, while quite a bit of the older equipment has been replaced with equipment that is either lighter, new and improved, or simply more functional for hunting the high country.
When it comes to gear, I take it very serious and refuse to compromise with sub par equipment. With that being said, I feel that The Mule Deer Hunter has aligned with nothing but the absolute best companies in their respective categories. The 2015 partners are as follows:
I have had a longer relationship with Sitka than any other company. Other than trying a couple different manufacturers gear for a couple of years, I have essentially used Sitka since their inception. In my opinion, they undoubtedly have the best clothing lineup when it comes to functionality and selection for hunting the high country. No matter what I may need, they have it! I have used their clothing in the majority of the Rocky Mountain states in pursuit of mule deer, as well as hunting brown bear on the Alaska Peninsula. When it comes to comfort and functionality, Sitka can't be beat. Excited to work with Sitka again in 2015.
Anyone who has followed me at all in the past knows that I have used Kenetreks exclusively for my boots. Unfortunately, they changed their heel pockets which resulted in my heels not agreeing with the boots. I don't settle for second best when it comes to equipment and this is especially true when it comes to my footwear; therefore, I set out in search of the best boot maker in the world. Zamberlan was number one on my list. I absolutely love the way my heel locks into place in their boots. Although this is a new partnership for 2015, I expect it to last a very long time.
Mathews....I can't begin to tell you how happy I am to once again be shooting Mathews. Years ago, I was shooting Mathews and was forced to switch because of a sponsorship agreement that was out of my hands. Once that agreement was done, I utilized a Prime for a short period of time but always wanted to get back with Mathews. This year, in my "Quest for the Best" in my search of the best equipment made, I decided it was time to get a Mathews in my hand once again. That reunion will be in the form of the Mathews No Cam HTR. Very excited to be partnered with Mathews once again in 2015.
In years past, I have always been content with just purchasing a stock rifle. This year, since I have been seeking out the absolute best equipment made, I figured I had better upgrade my rifle as well. I decided on a custom rifle system made by Best of the West. Why BOTW? This year, they have begun to offer a new proprietary carbon fiber custom stock designed specifically for superior in-field accuracy. Other reasons include: the free floated match grade barrels are indexed on both ends, custom actions built by Stiller Precision Firearms and Defiance Machine, pillar bedded action, hand lapped and shot to properly season the barrel ensuring consistent muzzle velocity, proprietary muzzle brake, cerakote finish on all metal surfaces and top brand trigger selection. Additional features include full customization of stock colors, cerakote colors and carbon wrapped barrels from Proof Research. In the near future, The Best of the West will also be unveiling their “Signature Series Rifle Builder Program” on their website. This will allow you to build your custom rifle at home. Super pumped to be working with BOTW in 2015.
When it came to topping my 6.5 x 284 BOTW rifle, the clear choice was Huskemaw. Their Hunt Smart Reticle is very a very simple design, but yet extremely functional. Each hash mark represents 1 MOA of wind hold at maximum power of the scope. Their Customized Bullet Drop Compensating Turret is an elevation turret which is calibrated in yards. This turret is simple and precise because it has been validated with actual drop data that has been shot in the field in a known environment. The precision aspect of each turret is proven utilizing a number of factors to include elevation, temperature, “true ballistic coefficient” of the bullet and muzzle velocity. In summary, each turret is laser engraved to match the actual trajectory of an individual rifle and load based on the click value of the scope. Huskemaw is also the only scope that has a true wind hold engraved on the turret. This patented system is very simple and allows a quick solution for your shot. The interlocking turret system allow the discriminating shooter a different set of environmental conditions, a second revolution, a second load or a MOA configuration. And then you have the Huskemaw Optics Ballistic Program – This program was the first to use an online process for ordering a turret. They calculate a “True BC” in order to create the most precise turret available in the industry. By using actual drop data and a muzzle velocity, they engrave a turret based on the actual trajectory of an individual rifle and load in a known environment. Super excited to be partnered with Huskemaw in 2015.
Although I use several tents, Hilleberg is my "go-to" shelter when I expect to have inclement weather and need a bombproof shelter. The Hilleberg Akto has been with me on more hunts than any other shelter. I have weathered toad strangling downpours, several feet of snow and just about any other kind of weather Mother Nature can dish out. Do they make the best tents on the planet? I sure think so! I have been partnered with Hilleberg for many years and am so glad that partnership will continue in 2015.
I have used numerous packs made by multiple manufacturers over the years but recently decided to go with packs made by Stone Glacier out of Bozeman, Montana. Their packs are designed with the lightweight backcountry hunter in mind. Kurt Racicot, who founded Stone Glacier and has been designing packs for over 15 years, is a backpack hunter himself, and understands the importance of designing packs that have the perfect compromise between weight and comfort. Stone Glacier packs are 100% made in the USA. The packs utilize the Krux suspension which has a carbon/composite, four stay design that transfers loads very well to the hip belt. It also utilizes a hook and loop system that allows the user to adjust the shoulder harness to the exact height needed. All the bags are constructed of Cordura 500 and X-pac fabrics and 1” webbing and military grade buckles. In other words, they are lightweight packs that do not use lightweight materials.
I have used Carbon Express shafts for numerous years. In years past, the Carbon Express Maxima Hunter has been my favorite shaft and I have harvested several of my bucks with them. This year, I will be going with the Maxima Red. So excited to be partnering with Carbon Express again in 2015.
I have been partnered with Schaffer Performance Archery for several years. I feel that the Opposition rest made by John Schaffer is the best rest on the market. It is simple, easy to setup and offers full containment. Once your arrow is locked into place, it doesn't matter how you move your bow, it is impossible for the arrow to move. Although a lot of other rests claim they are full containment, none of them take it to the level that the Schaffer Opposition does. Glad to be partnered with Schaffer Performance Archery again in 2015.
HHA Sports is a new partner for 2015. It has been interesting seeing the evolution in my bow sights since I have taken up archery. When I first began, I had a five pin sight with all fixed pins. A few years later, I switched to a four pin sight that had three fixed pins and one adjustable. I wasn’t done yet, a short time later I switched to a two pin sight that had one fixed pin and one adjustable. Now, this year, I made the final move to a single pin adjustable sight. It became very clear that I prefer an uncluttered sight window. Simply put, the less pins the better. When I began researching single pin sights, the HHA Optimizer was the clear choice. Brian and Chris Hamm with HHA have did an amazing job with their continued development of their award winning Optimizer single pin sights and I am excited about partnering with HHA in 2015 for all of my bow sights.
Scott is the only brand of release I have used since taking up archery. I love everything about them. I have used several different models: Sabertooth, Shark, Wolf, etc and have been extremely happy with all of them. I will be running the double caliper Wolf again this year. Honestly, I wouldn’t even consider using anything but a Scott release. Glad to continue working with Scott Releases in 2015.
I was at the ATA Show the year Joe Jacks unveiled his new TightSpot quiver. The quiver was the first of its kind in that it not only held your arrows tight, it could be adjusted to help with improved bow balance, and helped to both reduce torque and vibration. It was generating quite a bit of buzz so I made sure I stopped by their booth and introduced myself. At the time, Joe only offered a five arrow quiver. Since I prefer a smaller quiver, I told him that they needed a three arrow quiver.....well, several years later, guess what? TightSpot has introduced their three arrow quiver. Although I have used their five arrow quiver on occasion, now that they have a three arrow, I am 100% TightSpot going forward. Look forward to the partnership with TightSpot in 2015.
I have always built my own arrows and there is only one name I trust when it comes to arrow building supplies – Bohning Archery. Bohning’s vanes, wraps, nocks, shaft cleaning supplies, insert and vane adhesives, are second to none. Their 2” Blazer vanes are one of the most popular vanes on the market and is the only vane I trust. I have partnered with Bohning for many years and look forward to many more years of working together in the future.
Hips has been making high density foam targets for over 35 years. Several years ago I purchased a used Hips target from an archery club that I was a member of in Wyoming. Although the target had seen a lot of arrows, I still managed to get approximately 8 years out of it. The target sat outside year round and this year I had to finally retire it. The weather, not arrows, had finally taken its toll. I'm excited to be working with Darrin Brown at Hips in 2015. His targets are second to none.
After losing a 190” class buck last year due to an expandable broadhead not deploying which lead to no penetration, I vowed to never let that happen again and began my search for the most accurate fixed blade broadhead I could find. In a conversation with my good friend Evan Williams who runs an archery shop in Pueblo, Colorado, he highly suggested I look into Ramcat broadheads. He stated he had used them and couldn’t believe their accuracy even at longer distances. Trusting Evan’s advice, I chose to run 100 gr Ramcat broadheads in 2015. Really looking forward to seeing how they perform this year.
Years ago I ran nothing but custom strings. The last two bows I have used I ran the stock strings because I got lazy and didn't take the time to switch them out. This year, I decided it was time to go back to a higher quality custom string. After much research, I decided on Piranha Custom Bowstrings out of Cortez, Colorado. The owner, Eddy Erautt, likes to use speckled colors of BCY 452X so that all of the string material comes off the same roll to ensure consistent stretch and wax content. Using the speckled color gives you a two color string from the same spool. The bottom line - Eddy provides his customers with top quality, durable strings with amazingly fast turnaround. Glad to be partnered with Piranha in 2015.
Never being satisfied and always looking for something better, earlier this year I began researching ultralight quilts. Ultralight quilts take lightweight to the next level by not only eliminating insulation on the bottom, they don’t even have a zipper. Getting rid of these features results in great weight savings and reduced bulk. After much research and talking with a few people that use quilts, I decided to partner with Katabatic Gear in Lakewood, Colorado. Katabatic manufacturers top of the line goose down quilts and arguably has the best pad attachment system available. Super stoked to be partnered with Katabatic Gear in 2015.
In my quest to reduce my pack weight by every possible ounce, I began researching ultralight stuff sacks. I prefer to use stuff sacks for pack organization rather than having a pack with a lot of pockets. Therefore, I knew I could shave at least a couple ounces by finding lighter weight stuff sacks. After much research, I came across Hyperlite Mountain Gear. They manufacture some of the lightest cuben fiber stuff sacks in the world. Not only are they light and strong, but they are essentially see through so I know what is in each sack. Very excited to partner with Hyperlite Mountain Gear in 2015.
This year I decided I would take the plunge into the world of trekking poles. For years, I have listened to friends and fellow hunters brag about their improved hiking experience because of utilizing trekking poles. After much research, I decided to try Easton's ultralight carbon trekking poles. Excited to be working with Easton Outfitters in 2015.
Last year Ted Ramirez with Caribou Gear was kind enough to supply the Idaho Invasion with several of his Muley synthetic game bags. After seeing the game bags in action at the Invasion, I knew they would be in my pack on all future hunts. Without a doubt, they are the best quality game bag on the market….on the negative side, at least when it comes to sales for Caribou, is that their bags tend to last forever. You might say that they make them too good! Very excited to be partnering with Caribou Gear in 2015.
This will be the second year I have used Neverded for all my mobile power source needs. Their Neverded Cell can always be found in my pack during my backpack hunts. It is the only cell I have found that can recharge my cell phone battery numerous times on a single charge. Having a very reliable power source is critical. Glad to be partnered with them again in 2015.
When it comes to making stabilizers for Mathews bows, nobody comes even close to Ktech Designs. Ktech is a small, family owned business that manufactures high quality accessories that are 100% made in the USA. Their stabilizers that utilize Mathews Harmonic Dampers, Harmonic Stabilizers and Gridlock design, literally make them look like part of the bow rather than an accessory. I have used Ktech previously years ago and am very excited to be working with them once again in 2015.