Gear 101 – Warn Factor 55 Close System Winching

It’s late season. A good snowfall just hit on your favorite hunting spot, and you know you can cut a track. You’ve just got to get there. Except, your rig gets stuck in the snow on the way. You decide to winch out, but the load shifts, and a metal winch hook goes flying. Not a safe, or ideal situation.

Every time you connect your winch to a load, you want to feel confident in your setup no matter what you’re up against. It could be the difference between making it to your favorite elk spot, or even life or death. With a conventional winch hook with a spring-loaded metal safety gate, you can’t be sure it’ll perform well in any but the simplest situations (and winching in elk country usually isn’t simple). That’s where closed system winching comes in hand, and that’s where FACTOR 55 products shine.

What is closed system winching?

Uses all the same components of traditional winching (drum, cable/rope) except it features all closed-link hardware rather than a typical metal winch hook with spring-loaded safety gate.

Why closed-system winching?

First, it’s a lot safer: the metal gate on a traditional winch hook is a weak point. The safety clasps on conventional winch hooks are easily bent making it hard to contain whatever rigging you use. Like the ends of straps or shackles.

If a load shifts or a strap loosens and tightens again, that safety gate can become a point of failure.

Closed link hardware has no weak points because it features solid connection points at both ends

Sometimes a winch hook can’t effectively hold both ends of a safety strap and you would need to use a steel or synthetic shackle anyway, which interfaces effortlessly with FACTOR 55 closed link hardware. FACTOR 55 products have a screw pin shackle that have a much higher working load limit than the standard winch hook Plus, it’s good for use with synthetic winch rope or steel cable Easy to switch to: Just replace standard hook with one of FACTOR 55’s American-made, highly engineered, and tested products

Oh yea, did we mention it looks nicer too? If you have a rig that looks nice and you’re proud of it, you can color-match it to your vehicle. It also protects the end of the winch line and fairlead during the 90% of the time your winch will not be in use. The integrated rubber pads on F55 products protect the fairlead surface and allow the winch line to be stowed and protected until the winch is needed.

Quieter: Doesn’t rattle around and make a bunch of noise while you’re in motion All have rubber pads to keep them tight to the surface of the winch billet aluminum and titanium construction = very light

With all the benefits and no real downside, why not switch to a more reliable, safer way to winch? Try closed system winching with FACTOR 55 products and enjoy the peace of mind it gives you.

Learn more –

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Gear 101 – Eberlestock Recon Modular Harness System

For many hunters, a binocular harness is a hunting essential. It stores important tools where you can easily reach them when seconds mean the difference between elk steaks and tag soup, and if you drop your pack for a last-minute crawl to your quarry, you can still have your base essentials strapped to your body and right at your fingertips. It can take trial and error to find a harness that fits you comfortably and holds the essentials where you want them—like your binoculars, rangefinder, bearspray or sidearm. That’s why the Eberlestock Recon Modular Harness System is such a great solution.

Just like many of their modular packs, you don’t have to agonize over the different bino harness options to determine which one has the right setup for you. The Recon bino harness forms the base, and you customize it with any combination of six compatible accessories that attach to the sides and bottom of the Bino Harness platform using either MOLLE webbing or the Eberlestock hook and loop attachment. If you don’t think you’ll use a certain accessory, you just don’t buy it.

Another convenient thing about the Recon is how easily you can change up the configuration of harness accessories after you put them on. If you’re rifle hunting and you want your extra ammo easier to reach with your right hand, it’s no problem to move one of the small item storage pouches from one side to the other. Or, if you’re bowhunting and you need to make sure your rangefinder pouch doesn’t interfere with your draw, it’s easy to readjust. The flexibility helps you prepare for geographic and seasonal changes in your hunting.

If you’re an Iowa whitetail hunter coming West for your first elk hunt, you can easily add an 8oz bear spray canister to the side wings of the Recon Harness with the Recon Bearspray Pouch. On those chilly fall mornings glassing slopes for elk, you can try out the hand warming pocket accessory, to warm your hands between glassing sessions without wearing heavy, cumbersome gloves (and maybe you won’t lose your gloves since you’re not taking them on and off and forgetting where you set them).

The attention to the detail on this harness is remarkable and really puts it in a class above. It’s built to be comfortable for wear with a backpack (you can see how the straps have a nice low profile and so does the back). The Hangar Zip-Pouch, made to store snacks, knives, survival kits and more, comes in three different sizes for additional flexibility. It also has semi-transparent, nylon ripstop fabric so you can see inside with a quick glance. With the MOLLE panel accessory, you can MOLLE anything MOLLE-compatible to the harness, including handgun holsters.

The ambidextrous lanyards and magnetic closures on the bino pouch and rangefinder pouch allow quick-yet-secure one-handed operation—about as quiet and efficient as it gets. Tightening or loosening the harness is as easy as pulling the straps forward while wearing the harness. Even with multiple attachments, this harness rides close to the body and isn’t too bulky.

The Recon comes in small and large sizes to accommodate most optics, and a handy online chart allows easy identification of which size is right for you. Available in Dry Earth, Gray, Green, and Eberlestock’s proprietary Doppel:Ganger camouflages. It’s hard to find a more convenient, flexible harness system.

Learn more at

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Gear 101 – Swagger QD42 Bipod

If you’re looking for a way to increase the odds of filling your tag this year, the Swagger QD42 bipod is a good tool to try. Everything about the QD42 is designed to help you adapt to changing field conditions.

Game animals move, terrain isn’t flat, and shooting setups aren’t perfect when you’re hunting. The ability to be versatile and adjust quickly to make your shot can mean the difference between a missed chance and a full freezer.

The QD42 is a shooting aid that’s much more than just a bipod. With specially designed springs in the top of both bipod legs, you have the ultimate maneuverability while still maintaining a steady shooting platform. It has easily extendable legs from 14″ to 42”, making it great for shooting from a seated position, a kneeling position, set up in a tree stand or seated in a ground blind. With the bipod legs pushed all the way forward and spread out, it can even be used prone. You can also pull the legs back against your hip or shoulder to stabilize the gun if you need to shoot standing offhand.

Once you find that solid base, the springs let you move with your target, tracking game animals as they move, up and down, left and right without needing to move from your position. The QD42 can handle any terrain with rubber feet that can be removed to reveal aggressive metal feet that dig into uneven ground and prevent the bipod from slipping.

The QD stands for “Quick Detach,” so it’s easy to take the 15oz bipod on and off your gun with the push of a button when you use it with one of several adaptors. Not only is this bipod set up for rifles, it’s also great for many muzzleloaders, shotguns and crossbows.

The newest available adapter for the QD42 is the Universal Adapter built specifically to attach the QD42 to shotguns. As the name suggests, you can use it to attach the QD42 to any shotgun 20 gauge to 10 gauge and even some .410, depending on the exterior diameter of the barrel. Need to steady your favorite Turkey gun? If you’re out turkey hunting, you can use the QD42 to Keep your shotgun up in a ready position, while keeping your hands free to use your turkey calls.

The QD42 comes with a standard sling swivel adapter, but you can get a QD magazine cap adapter that will pair with many different shotguns or the Universal Adapter.

Get the QD42 for $129.99. Add the QD Universal Adaptor for $19.99.

Learn more at:

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Gear 101 – Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD

Glassing long and well enough to catch a glimpse of an ear, antler tip or bedded bull is the first and most crucial step to spotting an elk before it sees you. To make that happen you have to have the best glass you can get. And Leupold’s BX -5 Santiam HD is a binocular made to outperform the competition. 

During that first and last hour of shooting light in thick timber, you need a bino that will pull in all the available light. This bino gathers light in the most challenging light conditions with unmatched light transmission. You’ll quickly find yourself using these binos to see where your eyes cannot.  

You also need a bino that will cut through glare in harsh light, and the BX -5 Santiam HD is built around Leopold’s professional grade optical system. It leads the industry in reducing glare, giving you a clear image in those direct light conditions. (any anecdotes here). 

The BX -5 Santiam HD is perfect for the backcountry elk hunter, because it’s built to stand up to hard use. It’s waterproof, fog proof and guaranteed to perform for life. Dirt and water shed off the lenses with the special Guard-ion lens coating. It’s got a rugged but lightweight, armor-coated waterproof body, and the high-definition lenses are scratch resistant, so if you’re heading way out to an elk camp, you can hunt in all weather conditions, and you don’t have to worry about treating your binos with kid gloves when you’re busting through brush or tight trees. (any anecdotes here). The aluminum eye cups are even replaceable in the field—no need to go to the hassle of sending the binos in. Just twist off the old ones and put the new ones on. 

This bino is made to perform while beefing up comfort and ease to the user. The eye cups are large, and the great resolution and clarity goes all the way to the edge of each lens—there’s no need to find the sweet spot in the image. The open bridge dual hinge design is comfortable in your hands and easy to adjust during long hours spent glassing. You can also mount the binocular to a tripod using a 1/4-20 threaded tripod adapter if you need extra stability. Ditch the eye strain and fatigue in favor of longer, more comfortable glassing sessions, because the more time you spend behind the glass, the more likely you are to spot that well-hidden quarry.  

No matter your type of hunting, there’s a magnification for you in the BX-5 Santiam HD. From 8×42 for tight timber, to 15×56 for glassing the far slopes without the added bulk of spotting scope (and many magnifications in between). This bino comes with a rugged case and strap but also fits perfectly in any of Leopold’s premium bino harnesses.  

Make sure when you’re putting in all the effort to get out into elk country that you aren’t fighting your binocular when you get there. Instead, make sure you have a binocular you can trust to come through in any hunting scenario. 

Learn more at:

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Gear 101 – Trail Camera Guide – Stealth Cam, WGI, Muddy

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the different types of game cameras on the market today. But you can cut through some of that noise when you look at it this way—all types of hunting are different, and there’s a good game camera for each of those situations. 

If you’re lucky enough to be the hunter chasing that monster midwestern whitetail on your back 40, you probably know right where you could place one or two high-end game cameras to capture a lot of action. For you, the Stealth Cam DS4k Transit cellular camera is one to check out. This camera lets you see in real time what’s walking around on your property even when you aren’t there, when you pair it with the Stealth Cam Command Pro app. For $299 plus a super affordable cellular Data plan, 100% certified through Verizon or AT&T, you’ll have the ultimate in cellular game cam quality and reliability. If you’re planning on tracking antler growth from year to year, the photos from this 32-megapixel camera and 4k video of the Transit will show enough detail that you should practically be able to estimate a Boone and Crockett score right from your device. Plus, there’s a .2 second trigger speed and 100-foot detection range. If it’s out there, you’re not going to miss it with this camera. One of the best parts – if you’re only interested in putting out a camera at certain times each year, that’s not a problem. You can freeze your cellular subscription when you aren’t using the cameras, so you won’t be billed for what you don’t need.  

Maybe you’re listening to all this info on cellular plans and thinking, “my hunting spot doesn’t even have cell service.” If you’re a backcountry public-land hunter headed off the grid to hunt miles and miles of mountain, there’s still a game camera for you. There are plenty of non-cellular game camera options out there, and a good model to consider is the Muddy PRO CAM 24MP for around $90. When you’re venturing into the deepest areas where you think the biggest bull elk hide, you probably need to put out a half-dozen or more noncellular game cameras that’ll cast a wide net and let you scout what’s out there, without stressing about your bank account balance. This reasonably priced, 24-megapixel camera takes 720 videos with an 80-foot detection range and a .5 second trigger speed. 

Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle and you’d like to have a handful of options that won’t break the bank, but still give you a great quality photo or video. For you, Wild Game Innovations’ Encounter 2.0 or Mirage 2.0 would be great to check out. These two cameras offer quality cellular and noncellular options at a moderate price – average prices are $150 for the Encounter 2.0 and $120 for the Mirage 2.0. The WGI Encounter 2.0 is a 26-megapixel cellular camera with a .4 second trigger speed and 80-foot detection range. With this camera you can take 720p videos and upload HD photos and video when you pair the camera with the HuntSmart app, and you can still get photos of the back 40 with the available cellular data plan. The Mirage 2.0 is a good middle of the road noncellular camera for those who might want a bit higher resolution photo or video on that wallow. With a 30-megapixel camera, 720p video capabilities and a .5 second trigger speed, this camera gets the job done for a judicious price.  

Remember, picking the right game camera option is different for every hunter and every type of hunting. Hopefully this has given you a good place to start. 

Learn more at: Stealth Cam, Wildame Innovations, Muddy

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Gear 101 – Leupold RX-FULLDRAW 5

Your bow is fully customized to your preferences. It’s got the right draw length, your preferred sight and the perfect stabilizer. It seems only logical that your rangefinder should be the same way. And with the Leupold Full Draw 5 laser archery rangefinder, that’s exactly what you get.

The Full Draw 5 is an advanced ballistic archery rangefinder. If you enter in your bow’s velocity, your arrow weight and peep height, it will calculate a personalized ballistic trajectory. The new model 5 is an upgrade from the Full Draw 4, allowing you to enter a wider range of velocities from 170 to 550 fps to accommodate a wider range of archers. Everyone from traditional archers to those who favor the fastest compound bows should be able to get excellent results with it.

You can range reflective objects up to 1,200 yards and trees out to 1,100 yards with unparalleled accuracy, thanks to the Digitally eNhanced Accuracy (DNA) laser engine. Calculate arrow drops out to 175 yards for those long-distance practice sessions and 3D archery courses. The Full Draw 5 also shows you your flight path, illustrating where your arrow will fly and whether it will clear the obstacles between you and your target within 85 yards.

Not only is the Full Draw 5 rangefinder personalized to you and your bow, but it’s also equipped to face any weather conditions. If it’s spitting sleet and foggier than a glass shower door, as we all know it can get in the mountains during bow season, you don’t have to worry about not being able to range your target. The Full Draw 5 is 100 percent waterproof and extreme weather tested. The Full Draw 5 is fully capable of ranging accurately in snow, rain and fog with Last Target Mode.

You don’t have to worry about this rangefinder slipping out of your hand in bad weather, either. It’s got easy-grip rubber armor and a housing designed for efficiency and comfort in the field. (Have on-camera talent tell a story of using this rangefinder in difficult weather conditions-or maybe consider putting it in a creek and doing a 5 min timelapse with a clock? Then picking it up and ranging.) When you’re hunting in the early morning and late evening, when the light is low, the Full Draw 5 display will remain bright and clear, with its high light transmission red OLED display.

At $499.99, the Full Draw 5 is the perfect tool to help you dial up your accuracy, and it performs through the toughest conditions you could imagine as a bowhunter. If you want to make sure your rangefinder is a reliable and personalized tool to help you handle whatever comes your way when you’re out in elk country, this is one worth checking out! Learn more a through in any hunting scenario.

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RMEF Helps Expand Montana’s Largest Wildlife Management Area

MISSOULA, Mont. — Montana’s largest wildlife management area offers more room to roam for hunters, anglers and others thanks to a collaborate effort led by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.  

RMEF teamed up with private landowners with a history of conserving and opening public access to elk habitat by acquiring and conveying 829 acres to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), which added the land to the now 56,980-acre Mount Haggin Wildlife Management Area. 

“Buyers noted the beauty and potential of this acreage and reached out to Roger and Gayle Burnett about it, but they chose wildlife and conservation over development. We salute and thank them for their conservation ethic and values,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO.  

About 30 miles west of Butte, the property features open grasslands with sagebrush and bitterbrush foothills as well as aspen, willows and forestland. It supplies elk with winter, calving and summer range as well as important habitat for mule deer, moose, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife.  

Because portions of Willow Creek and Mill Creek cross the property, in addition to various springs, the resulting wetlands and riparian habitat are vital for brook trout, westslope cutthroat trout, other fish species, beavers and more bird and animal species. 

In 2016, the Burnetts worked with RMEF to see their 800-acre property near Georgetown Lake acquired and conveyed to the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. That transaction conserved and opened access to the land while also improving access to 5,500 acres of adjacent public land. 

Project partners include hunters thanks to Pittman-Robertson excise taxes, Habitat Montana, Heart of the Rockies, and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust. RMEF also committed $37,000 to help FWP with set-up and future property management improvements including fencing, invasive weed control, signage and maps.

(Photo credit: Kevin League)

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: 

Founded more than 38 years ago and fueled by hunters, RMEF maintains more than 225,000 members and has conserved more than 8.5 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at or 800-CALL ELK. 


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Helicopters, GPS Collars and Big Game Animals

Below is a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

To most folks, the notion of riding in a helicopter to locate, capture and place a GPS collar on a deer, elk or moose seems like something only seen in movies or nature documentaries. For many of our staff, it’s another day on the job, and it’s all done with the goal of understanding and managing big game populations to provide continued hunting opportunities for sportsmen.

When asked why the information is important, Barb Moore, Regional Wildlife Biologist in the Panhandle Region replied, “When an animal has a collar on it, we learn so much about habitats it uses, when and where it moves and if it dies, what caused it to die. All of this allows us to make informed decisions when it comes to season setting, tag numbers and predator management.”

A recent example of how information gained from collars guided season setting and tag numbers is the general cow season on or within one mile of private land in the Panhandle.

“From our collaring information, we learned that front-country elk populations, which reside mostly on private land, have higher survival rates than their back-country counterparts, which live mostly on public land. As a result, front-country elk populations are better equipped to withstand more cow harvest,” Moore explained.

Here in the Panhandle Region, collars will soon be deployed in Units 1 and 6, with a particular focus on moose calves beginning Dec. 19. Collars will also be put on elk calves in those units.

Why focus on moose calves, you may be asking? Collar data on moose cows and calves over the past three years have indicated that across the state, survival of adult cow moose is around 90%. The story is quite different for moose calves who survive at a much lower rate, so our staff are trying to understand why that is. Getting collars out this year will be a big part of answering that question.

Mark Hurley, Principal Wildlife Research Biologist, said, “The biggest piece of information we are missing relative to declines in moose populations is how well calves survive from 6 to 12 months of age. If we can understand what happens in that six-month time window, we hope it will shed some light onto what is limiting moose populations in Idaho.”

Biologists in Region 1 are planning to deploy around 50 collars between moose and elk calves this year. Getting collars out isn’t easy and doesn’t always go according to plan. Depending on weather conditions, the effort may take several days and up to a week, so if you see or hear a chopper in the mountains, you know our staff are still at it!

(Photo credit: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

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Idaho Begins Elk Feeding Operation to Reduce Human-Wildlife Conflicts

Below is a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Idaho Fish and Game staff from the Magic Valley Region will begin feeding elk at the Bullwacker feed site in mid-December 2022 as deep snow begins to accumulate throughout the Wood River Valley. Over 125 elk are fed in a typical winter. It is anticipated that feeding will continue until April 2023.

Residents and visitors are asked to stay away from the feed site in order to not disturb the elk.

Located west of Ketchum, the Bullwacker feed site is the only Fish and Game Commission sanctioned feed site in Idaho. Depending on winter conditions, feeding typically begins in late December or early January.

Feeding at Bullwacker has occurred on an annual basis since the 1980s, with periodic feeding beginning in the 1950s.

The feed site was established with the intention of keeping elk away from the communities of Ketchum and Sun Valley. While many think of feed sites as a way to supplement food on winter range, the Bullwacker feed site’s purpose is to lure elk away from local communities where conflicts can occur.

A large number of deer and elk have become year-round or seasonal residents within communities throughout the Wood River Valley, leading to an increased number of human-wildlife conflicts in the winter. Big game that remains in and around communities run a higher risk of getting hit on roads and highways, caught in fences, falling through thin ice on decorative ponds and into household window wells, as well as getting chased by off-leash dogs, and tangled in swing sets and hammocks.

Feeding wildlife by residents is strongly discouraged since unauthorized feed sites can lead to unintended consequences of attracting wildlife into close proximity of towns and neighborhoods. (Please read Feeding elk and deer in town does more harm than good.)

For more information about how to reduce human-wildlife conflicts and suggestions on how to live and recreate safely around wildlife visit the Wood River Valley Wildlife Smart Communities website.

(Photo credit: Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife)

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Minnesota Unveils Updated Wolf Management Plan

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released its updated wolf management plan that will guide actions for the next decade.

The plan calls for a minimum population level of 1,600 wolves. The current population is estimated at about 2,700. In the DNR’s 2019 attitude survey, livestock producers and deer hunters preferred fewer wolves, while Minnesota residents, as a whole, preferred more or the same number of wolves.

Updated since 2001, six goals in the plan are designed to support Minnesota’s vision for wolves. The goals are to maintain a well-connected and resilient wolf population, collaborate with diverse partners to collectively support wolf plan implementation, minimize and address human-wolf conflicts, inform and engage the public about wolves in Minnesota, conduct research to inform wolf management and administer the wolf program to fulfill agency responsibilities and the needs of the public and partners.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation maintains that state agencies, like the DNR, should manage wolves just as they manage mountain lions, bears, elk, deer and other wildlife.

Go here to view the plan.

(Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

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