New Mexico Elk Saga II – The Gear

I’ve been a student of the archery world for my whole life, but my world was quite small. I cut my teeth chasing whitetails in the Great Lakes States with bows and rifles. In recent years I’ve taken a particular and driving interest in big game. My world is slowly growing, and with every year, I keep trying to refine and try new gear.

As I wrote about in New Mexico Elk Saga – The Draw, this is my first time hunting Elk. There’s no doubt I lack in experience when it comes to Elk but I’ve turned into a sponge! Every lick of Elk intel I can pick up I do. Multiple forums, podcasts, books, videos, tv shows, talking with Elk veterans, I’ve been trying to do it all!

I wanted to hone in on my gear early in the year so I can take it all out on little trial runs, whether it be hiking around in the Sawtooth Mountains along the North Shore or the River Hills of the Missouri River, to shooting 3D tournaments, I’m trying everything short of flying to New Mexico, in order to test out the gear I’ve chosen.

It’s been a completely new ballgame for the most part when choosing Elk gear as compared to whitetail gear. Boots, packs, bow set-up, arrows, broadheads, clothing, it’s all a whole new deal. For the most part, I think I’ve put together a solid list of equipment.

I’m hoping if anybody reading has recommendations, that you email me or comment because I’ll take anything I can get!

This is a flatlander’s first go round at a western gear list!

Gear List


This year I am shooting the Mathews NoCam HTR at 73 lb. draw weight, which I’ve been extremely impressed with, even going as far as saying it’s probably the best Mathews creation I’ve shot. For the most part, my bow will be set-up as it would be for whitetail, minus a couple changes. Walking is the name of the game, and I’ve tried to reflect that in my bow to try to trim some weight. I’m shooting a VaporTrail LimbDriver Pro, which I’ve shot for 3 years now with no problems so I’m sticking with it. I’ll be looking through the HHA Optimizer King Pin, which is going to be great for some of the longer range shots, which people who have taken the same trip, said is a must. An average spot and stalk shot in this area is around 40-50 yards, and they said to be proficient out to 70 yards, in order to nail those 60 yard shots. I really like the single pin set-up for this application. Granted the King Pin is a little heavier than the HHA Optimizer but the functionality is a little improved over the Optimizer. For a stabilizer and sidebar configuration, I’ve changed my tune for this year. Last year I shot my rig pretty loaded down. I had a 7″ K-Tech stabilizer with a 9″ sidebar and 10 ounces of weight, all in all I had it quite heavy. This year I was shooting the NoCam so well I opted out of a side bar and changed my stabilizer. I’m rocking the K-Tech infinity DX 8″ Stabilizer with 8 ounces of weight on the front. To tell you the truth, there isn’t much of a weight difference between this and last year maybe only a pound but I’ve been told every ounce counts.


I’m still sort of rumbling around with this for a number of reasons. It’s the age old debate of speed, KE and weight. It’s a big old love triangle and for awhile, I was stuck right in the middle. The two arrows which were in the running are Easton’s Full Metal Jacket weighing in at XX and the Victory VAP at XXX. I really want the KE and weight with Easton’s FMJ but the other factor is weighing on me. Speed. I know, I know, speed doesn’t kill. If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard this cliche, I’d be rich. Here’s my reasoning. If I were to shoot a multi-pin sight there’s no doubt I’d go with the FMJs but with shooting a single pin, I want the ability to have a flatter trajectory in case the Elk moves at full draw and I cant adjust the wheel. So I did a little range forgiveness test. I first shot with the VAPs, with the 40 yard pin, if I shoot it at 30 yards it’s high XXX inches, and if I shoot it at 50 it’s XXX inches low. Repeating this test with the Easton FMJ’s, I’m XXX inches high, and XXX inches low, a definite game changer. I have a much higher margin of error with the Vaps. I also did the the KE calculations between the two set-ups with the same 100 gr. broadhead, the KE is almost identical. The VAPS are rolling in at XXX and the FMJ’s at XXX. So I’ll take some forgiveness.

Ready For another one! They say your bow is so much louder with a lighter arrow. Another one of those “they say” type of deals, who are they and where do they get this information? I wanted to see for myself, because if a faster arrow really was that much louder, I could see it being a game changer. I ran a decible meter in identical situations, and low and behold the difference was less than XXX dbs. In the end, the Victory Vaps will be in my quiver.


Now if this hasn’t been beat to death, I don’t know what has…but after reading and reading I couldn’t seem to wade through what was “sponsor driven” and what was the god’s honest truth. I really took to the forums, and did a lot of consulting with the archery guys over at Cabin Fever, my local sporting goods shop. I haven’t narrowed it down 100% but I feel all of my choices would be worthy. I won’t elaborate a ton but I’m definitely shooting fixed blades. A lot of guys online said go expandable. Now, I’ve seen some big time “TV Superstars” take down some huge bulls with expandables but the vast majority said penetration is the name of the game, and the nod goes to fixed blades. I love my expandables for whitetails but the Elk is a way different creature. In no particular order I’m thinking it’s between the G5 CS Montec, Silver Flame XL broadhead, Wac’em XL and Trophy Taker Shuttle Ts.

Anybody have some good suggestions?


I had a thread going on regarding the topic and I had a lot of very knowledgable guys contact me and give their suggestions. I learned a ton, and have some great allies in my corner for future questions. I ended up going with something a little different than I initially thought. It’s going to be a cross between the Lowa Tibet’s and the Merrill Moabs. I already owned a pair of the light hiking style boots which I’ve worn a lot hunting the steep river hills of South Dakota with good results. I went will the Lowa Tibets for a couple reasons. The first, I’m already hooked on Elk hunting, and I haven’t even been out yet. I can see this will be a lasting addiction and I wanted a pair of boots I could take in some rougher terrain for the future. Everything I’ve heard about the boots is they are built like a brick sh*t house for a lack of a better term. I’m hoping to get down there and decide based off of the terrain which boot will get the nod.


I’m a big fan of the Sitka Gear when it comes to the whitetail woods, it’s gear made for the hunting athlete. So when it came to buying gear to hunt deer out in the Western Dakotas, I looked right to Sitka. After the first full year of running the Sitka clothing both turkey and deer hunting in Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, I couldn’t see why I would need to change. I’ll be wearing a light Merino wool base layer with the Ascent Jacket and the Timberline pants which are awesome for crawling around in all the prickly plants of the west with the reinforced, padded knees. I’ve also taken a shine to the shooter gloves from Sitka. They are made for bowhunters and are tough, yet have a lot of dexterity.

Besides boots, socks was the number two thing I was warned about not skimping on. After doing some research, and after having experienced the benefits of merino wool, I bought a pair of the Ice Breaker Hike+ Lite Crew socks for the warm NM climate.


I’ll be carrying my Maven B1 10×42 binoculars for the trip. I’ve had great luck with them and you can check out the review on this month’s magazine. In addition, I’ll be playing around with the highly acclaimed Zeiss Victory RF 10×42 Range Finding binoculars which are enough to make you want to rob a bank to buy them, such an awesome pair of binoculars. The range finder is lightning quick, and a quick test out in the back yard, had readings as far as I could see….1,530 yards. Impressive. I’ll also be touting the Zeiss Victory DiaScope 65 with a 45 degree angle, another piece of glass worth drooling over.


Since the we are not doing any backpacking, and will return to a cabin each night I wanted something where I could carry my calls, extra archery tackle, game bags, etc.

It’s between the Sitka Flash 20 and the Badlands Super Day.  The Badlands pack is lighter at 3 lbs. 14oz. and the Flash 20 is 4.5lbs, offering a little more room.

Like I said before, I’m a total noobie, so if you have some good suggestions as to gear please get in touch with me! I’d love to hear your opinion.

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Ben Brettingen

Hailing from Waconia, Minnesota Ben grew up with some of the best metro waters right out of his front door. Ben was able to grow up on the fore front of the Metro Muskie craze, and learned quickly what it Full Bio ›

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