On to the meat of the series– the gear. Remember, we are full backpack hunting for big game at 8500-10K elevation in late fall. I will start with the weapon system. Most of my rifles are heavy barreled, long range shooters. I love super accurate bolt guns with big scopes that can reach out there. I can totally nerd out on long gun stuff, but I will refrain for now and just stick to pack methods.
Years ago, a mountaineering instructor showed me a sling setup that puts the rifle cross ways on the FRONT of the person. After tuning it for my needs, I think it works well carrying the heavy guns as well as the lighter ones. I use trekking poles as often as I can. Work sometimes precludes them, but when it is my choice, I definitely prefer them, unless it is flat and low elevation. More on poles in a later article. A front sling keeps the gun out of the way as I am slogging up and down the hills. I included some pictures to show how it all looks.
I have a normal sling on the rifle, but on each end is a fasttek connector release. The front fasttek (on the rifle) connects to the upper left pack strap. The rear fasttek connects to a piece of bungee (as a shock absorber) connected to the bottom of the right pack strap. Some stocks have side sling mounts—they are good, but you can also sew up a strap stirrup if not equipped. They are sold by various companies for use with M-16 rifles too. They work fine. My rifle has the side mounts, but I also use a sewn stirrup for the buttstock end because the side sling mount is a little off center. Consequently, the gun tries to roll when using it. By keeping the bungee/ fasttek/ stirrup attached to the top side of the buttstock, it keeps the gun flat against my chest.
Definitely practice undoing both fastteks with the gun in position. I found one orientation released quickly, even with gloves, while the reverse orientation snagged up and was very touchy. For the upper fasttek (on the left pack strap) the female end should be on the pack and the male end on the gun. On the bottom, the reverse is true: Female on the gun and male on the bungee. That routing worked best for me but try it out for yourself. You may prefer the reverse. The point being, fasttek orientation makes a difference in your efficiency of getting from sling to shooting position (I have a future article on real field shooting positions in the works).
As for the sling, I made it out of a padded strap top, an old military ALICE pack strap adjuster (shown below left), and some 1 inch flat webbing, long enough for adjustment. H-Bar style friction adapters are all you need to secure the two ends and mount the fastteks in the loops. I included a picture to help decode my description. The whole thing works like a backpack strap. Larue Tactical and Viking Tactics make the exact same sling as well. It adjusts with a pull and doesn’t move once adjusted. A sling comes in handy for the times I drop the pack to go scout and want the gun with me. Hopefully the pictures answer any questions but if not, hit me up. I will be happy to elaborate on it or shoot more pictures.
During the Long Range Hunter Course, I actually like to take everyone on a short hike down range with all our shooting gear. This accomplishes two things. First, it gives folks the chance to walk the shooting area with a wind meter and see what is really happening along the bullet path. Second, they get to see how their gear system is riding with all the new items needed for long range work. They also get to shoot after the walk, simulating field conditions. Lots of good lessons from the event! Next week we will look at the rest of your gear and how to pack it on the mountain. Thanks for reading so far!