by Karl Badger | Western States Regional Pro Staff Manager
By the end of August, a high wilderness hunter should be conditioned enough to hike the steep, climb over deadfall, bushwack new trails, boulder hop through fields of talus, navigate a mountain side of skree, and ford snow melt rivers all at elevations where only rarified air and trophy beasts exist .
The most basic of final preparations, should include evaluating your boots, socks and base layers.
Make sure your boots are broken in well!
For the first weeks of my hunting season, I'm going to be wearing the new Ridge Master Boot from Danner. Both Danner and LaCrosse have branded some of their best hunting footwear in Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity and the Ridge Master is already proving to be every bit as comfortable and dependable as the Pronghorn and Hawk for hunting in tough conditions. The platforms and insoles of these boots make them extremely comfortable, while the Gore-Tex lining pulls the moisture out of the boot. Vibram soles assure that you have a mountain goat grip on every step. The Ridge Master comes in both insulated and uninsulated.
Keeping your feet dry and comfortable in your boots is probably the most important consideration in preparing for a high mountain hunt.
Mossy Oak partner, First Lite, has developed not only some great merino wool base layers, but also offers the perfect high country sock. They call it the Mountain Athlete Compression Sock. These socks have progressive compression built into the lower leg which helps to promote blood flow, decreasing cramping and soreness. And because they're made of merino wool, they will wick moisture away from your foot protecting against blisters and hot spots.
Another great sock to consider is Fits Socks. These socks absolutely will not bunch up! Fits Socks have a full contact fit. This means that their technical design includes: a Dynamic Toe Cup, Heel Lock and Full Contact Cuff. This combination along with a 74-percent wool blend makes for one of the best hunting/hiking socks that you can put on your feet. Plus they're made here in the USA.
A good base and mid layer, for extreme mountain hunting, should always keep you dry, shouldn't smell after days of heavy climbing, shouldn't reflect any light, shouldn't flap in the wind, shouldn’t shear when you walk or crackle when it's cold.
First Lite and their merino wool products have proven to be perfect for long range extreme hunting. When they say “Go Farther. Stay Longer.” they mean it. Merino wool regulates body heat much better than synthetic fabrics and will keep you comfortable in a wider range of temperatures. When it’s warm the wool transports moisture and warm air away from the skin and disperses it into the air. When it’s cold the wool traps the warm air and keeps it close to the skin. Finally, there is no better fabric at buffering human odor than merino wool. You can wear this stuff for days and not have the rank smell that synthetic base layers develop. Most of the First Lite tops and bottoms come in Break-Up Infinity as do their mid and outer layers.
After you’re confident that you've got the right gear, get out and take one last hard hike into the area you're going to be hunting. Time yourself coming and going from your favorite trails. Test the wind in the morning and evening. Check the sunrise and sunset times. Do some final glassing.
Feeding your obsession is now only weeks away.
Karl Badger is the Big Game Western States Regional Pro Staff Manager for Mossy Oak. He helps coordinate ProStaffers in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Karl resides in Utah and is an experienced high country wilderness hunter who has packed over most of the Rocky Mountains in pursuit of mule deer, elk, antelope, moose and big horn sheep.