What NOT To Do On Your Backcountry Hunts

Now more than ever, hunters are flocking to the backcountry chasing deer, elk and sheep. It’s what drives us here at MTNTOUGH, and we’re always counting down the days until we can lace our boots and shoulder our packs for the next adventure. As summer winds to a close, we wanted to share a couple things NOT to do on your backcountry hunting trip this fall.


Bowhunter in mountains

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

E-scouting, research platforms and internet forums have completely changed the way western hunters approach a season. These tools have revolutionized scouting and hunting more than anything else in the last decade. That said, they’ve also made it easier to plot routes, study maps and locate super-remote areas in order to avoid other hunters. 

It’s easy to get carried away looking at a map on your computer and plan to hike 7 miles into the backcountry. It’s happened to all of us. But lines on a computer screen are different than boots on the ground, especially once you have elk quarters in your backpack. In the early season, the ability to get meat out of the field quickly is imperative to prevent spoilage. 

Have a plan for meat removal and be realistic with yourself and hunting partners.  If you haven’t spent a bunch of time in tough country, or if this fall will be your first crack at a backcountry experience, plan accordingly.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Weapon Proficiency

Bull elk

Weapon proficiency is yet another critical piece of the western hunting puzzle that can be overlooked during the planning process. Familiarize yourself with your weapon and set parameters on the distance you’re willing to shoot at an animal in the field. If you’re rifle hunting, practice shooting in the field over rough terrain at realistic targets. If you’re archery hunting, spend time shooting 3D targets in realistic hunting situations. Practice shooting in the wind and at steep angles and learn how wind and topography effect your bullet or arrow. Get comfortable creating shooting positions and executing challenging shots. 

Before you go afield, set a maximum distance that you’re willing to shoot at an animal to eliminate having to make a split second decision in the field. If the animal is beyond your set distance, get closer. 

Don’t ‘Bonk’

Hunter eating nutrition bar

Going ultralight is awesome. And shaving ounces from your hunting kit can pay off when you’re covering rough miles chasing deer and elk. But skimping on calories to save pack weight can be a huge detriment on extended hunts. It can be hard to budget for enough calories without going overboard or selling yourself short. Hiking with a heavy backpack burns an incredible amount of calories in a short amount of time.
Shorting yourself on calories on a weeklong extended backpacking trip is sure you cause your more trouble than it will save you in weight. If you’re not eating enough, you run the risk of ‘bonking’. Or depleting yourself of calories and energy enough to completely run out of energy. 

More often than not, shorting yourself on calories is only going to cause you to cut your trip short. You’ll lose energy, lose focus and go home early. 

At The Lab in Bozeman, we developed a backcountry calorie calculator to help hunters see their caloric needs while not packing extra weight. Check out the calculator here: https://mtntough.com/pages/calorie-download


MTNTOUGH believes that mental toughness is just as important as physical strength and that the strongest muscle in the human body is the one between your ears. With a coaching staff comprised of former Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and renowned physical trainers—the workouts aren’t easy. The goal is to prepare clients for both the unthinkable and the everyday—to have the mental capacity and physical stamina to self-rescue in an emergency, or grind through a 12-hour workday and still play with the kids after dinner. Ara Megerdichian, MTNTOUGH coach and former U.S. Army officer and Ranger, believes the best way to harden the mind is by reaching and exceeding physical boundaries, by taking challenges once considered impossible and making them attainable and repeatable.