The Brotherhood of the Traveling Pack- A Journey - Initial Ascent

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Pack- A Journey

1 Pack. 12 months. 12 hunters

This amazing project was concocted by our own Steve Opat of Alaskan Odysseys Podcast. He brought the idea to Joe and I, and together we refined the idea that has taken on a life of it's own.

Here's Steve to talk more about it.

"Maybe you've seen some of the initial postings about "The Brotherhood of the Traveling Pack" (maybe not) and wondered what we were yammering about. Well, Dennis and I sat down the other day and recorded a talk about it so now you can check it out by listening to my Alaskan Odysseys Podcast.

      If you need more of gist regarding the concept, you can watch the inspirational movie "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants", but I think Dennis would suggest that you just find the Cliff Notes about it instead of watching the full movie because, well... it's hunting season and we have higher priority tasks to complete."

Here's the scoop on the 'Brotherhood of the Traveling Pack':

For the next year, one IA4k pack will be traveling the country (and hopefully the world) to spend a month with 12 lucky hunters. These men will come in all shapes, sizes, and experience levels. Along the way, these fine folks will document their experience with the pack. All this should serve to demonstrate how versatile the Initial Ascent system is and allow us to enjoy the stories and experiences from these adventures. Along the way, we'll all be following these 

Rules of Engagement:

1. Document your hunt adventure in the provided journal

2. In the journal, list your favorite feature of the IA pack system

3. Capture pictures/content of your hunt with the IA pack

4. Write a personal note in the journal to the person to whom you send the pack

5. Take a selfie with the Mountain Dude atop the highest peak on your hunt.

6. Send something useful with the pack to the next person

7. Using a sharpie marker, write your name, first species harvested, and the state you were in; on the inside of the pack.

8. Wash the pack and accessories before shipping to the next person

"We're hoping this pack can travel the world this year. If you have a big or important adventure planned in the months ahead, reach out to myself or Dennis and let us know that you're interested in being a part of the Brotherhood and hosting the pack. DM on IG or FaceBook @AlaskanOdysseys, @initialascent or send an email to Dennis and I will work with the current host to pick the next one and most Fridays, we'll be sharing a post about the adventures of the pack and its hosts.

(Ladies, we're scheming something for you as well, so follow along!)"

The Journey Begins

Initial Ascent hunting pack in boxAfter lots of planning and discussion between Steve, Joe, and myself, the journey of The Brotherhood of the Traveling Pack began at Initial Ascent HQ in Middleton, Idaho in mid-August 2020. After carefully putting it together by hand, inspecting it for quality assurance, pre-fitting, and packaging, it was on it's way to the first destination and adventure, Alaska.

It was then shipped out to Steve Opat (@alaskanodysses) up in Alaska for the first leg of this 12-month journey. Steve and his buddy, Todd Bumgardner (@BumTodd) from the @HumanPredatorPackMule Podcast, decided to use the pack to chase Caribou.

Back to you Steve!

"This was very much a "Brotherhood" hunt for me. I had assembled a group of people with whom I had met through my network of outdoor industry friends. These are the kind of people you meet and realize right away that you're great buddies with them.  I knew we needed to get together and just hunt/camp to solidify that fact.

Todd Bumgardner @HumanPredatorPackmule came in from Virginia and @GoodTimeCharlieCharters came up from Florida. Charlie knew that he would be selfish to come alone, so he brought along his fiance Chelsey and also his good buddy Steve.

I knew this would change the dynamic of the hunt from my normal style where I pack light, travel fast, and chase down giants. The right mindset was now: relax, have fun, and help other people discover how grande Alaska is - get them hooked. And also, along the way, help them all harvest a caribou. All this made for a perfect scenario for this pack; the pack that can fit anybody and haul anything. 

It was really fun to field the barrage of questions ahead of this hunt. Each of the people joining came from a different background and level of experience. What was even more fun was how each person said, "This is not rocket surgery. We've done hard shit before. We can learn. We can handle this." They all engaged in the planning, asked whatever questions they had - even if they thought I may think it was "stupid". They all listened. They all prepared with diligence. 

Through the early phases of the trip, there was a lot of "You don't know the things you don't know until you get there and start doing the thing" but, as a result of good preparation, obstacles became minor and we were able to overcome them all. Everybody went home with a bull. Charlie harvested his on the last evening of the last day. He and Todd had spent the full afternoon stalking that bull. As well worked together to cut and pack that bull, the concept of "Brotherhood" shone through. I look forward to our next adventure. But also, I look forward to spending more time solidifying friendships by helping people accomplish goals in the backcountry."

Caribou with Initial Ascent hunting pack Man with his Caribou

 What useful item did Steve add to the pack for the next user?

Initial Ascent hunting pack with travel journal"I added a velcro patch to the bottom pocket of the pack. That way, each user can velcro on patch of importance to them and give the brotherhood pack their personal touch." (shown above)

What did Steve love about this pack?

"There's a point where you need to let people experience things for themselves. And there's a point where extending help is essential - we had reached that point." Steve Opat

"What I love about this pack is that it only takes a few seconds to adjust the straps and make it fit anybody. Three different people used it to pack out a bull on this trip because it was easy to say "Here. Use this pack. It will carry weight better." 

Here's a good story of how a pack that is quickly adjusted/assembled is invaluable to making a trip successful (both in harvesting an animal, and in actually enjoying the experience of doing so):

On Day 4,Todd and I harvested a bull. It was the first animal to go in the "Brotherhood Pack". He and I split the small bull between two packs and easily packed it the 1.5 miles back to camp. When we reached the tent, we had officially eclipsed 10 miles of tundra stompin' for the day. We were tired, but had prepared, had paced ourselves, and still had some legs left. We knew the other three had harvested two bulls that day. Steve is a physical specimen. He had packed his bull back to camp alone. It was the first meat ruck trip he had EVER done and his response to it was, "It was hard. But it wasn't as hard as skinning up a mountain all day while mountaineering."  (Hunters, eat your shorts out.) Steve felt that Charley and Chelsey shouldn't be too far behind him. Further, he knew them well enough to say, "Also, they will appreciate accomplishing the task with just the two of them." 

So Todd and I settled into camp to rest our feet and start celebrating. But after an hour, we still couldn't see the two love birds on the horizon. We could see the sea fog starting to roll in and knew we had about 20 minutes of any visibility left. There's a point where you need to let people experience things for themselves. And there's a point where extending help is essential - we had reached that point.

I slid on my token Vivo Barefoots, shouldered my empty "Brotherhood" pack, grabbed my trek poles and started my patented - and oh-so-graceful - jog across the tundra. 

I intercepted Charlie and Chelsey about a half mile from camp. They. Were. Gassed!! 

Chivalry is not dead in Charlie's world. He had done A LOT of work that day to take care of his team. As much of a beast as he is, the tundra had taken its toll through the day. He looked half-dead and could barely talk. My experience took over and our great gear shined. 

I shoved a bottle of water in his right hand and some Heather's Choice Packaroons in his left hand and said, "Down these. It's not negotiable." 

While he and Chelsey were re-fueling and telling the story of their epic day, I started re-distributing the weight of the packs. As a reward to their successful day, I transitioned a hefty portion of weight into my pack. In less than a minute I had clipped eight buckles and cinched eight straps to secure half their bull in my pack. 

Clip. Clip. Clip. Cinch. Cinch. Cinch. In another minute, Charlie's IA pack was reloaded. I'd reward Chelsey on her first bull by just carrying her pack on my front for a while.

Knowing where they were, and now replenished, the three of us only needed those few minutes of rest before we started back to camp. The fog was so thick you could chew it but we found our way straight home because Todd and Steve stayed behind to hang a beacon light from the top of the tent. They also did the critical jobs of making a hot fire and food. Charlie and Chelsey arrived to someone to help them take their packs off, warm quarters, and hot chow.  More importantly, the entire team was back together for a night of tenderloins, tall tales, and big lies."

Once this hunt was complete, Steve decided he would send the pack on to our good friend Johnny Mack of The Soulful Hunter Podcast in Washington for the month of September. As stated in the Rules of Engagement, Steve wrote Johnny the following note before sending the pack:

"Dear Johnny,
        This pack will take care of you if you love it and treat it like of member of your tribe or family. 
Look for the magic: Keep your head clear, you lungs full of fresh air, some 80's rock playing in the background, and your legs pumping; and the magic will lead you to success.
Good luck on your elk hunt and all the soulful hunts in your future!!

Happy Hunting,
Steve Opat" 

The Journey Continues- Washington in September

In September, The Brotherhood of the Traveling Pack continued on to the state of Washington in the eager hands of our friend Johnny Mack.

As you may or may not know, Johnny Mack is the host of The Soulful Hunter Podcast and founder of Washington Backcountry, an organization focused on hunter recruitment and mentorship. Founded upon the idea of "Mentorship is Conservation" and that hunting has the power to transform lives through primal adventure.

When Johnny is not hunting, he is a middle school physical education and health teacher. He is a husband and father to three young boys (5, 3, &1).

Johnny is using the "Brotherhood Pack" for a backcountry deer and bear hunt in the heart of the Cascade Mountains in the state of Washington.

Things got going immediately for Johnny. When he received the pack, he fitted it to his body, packed his gear, and took off in search of a buck that he'd seen earlier in the month while scouting for elk.

He sent me the following text:

"Toughest hunt I've ever been on. Never even made it up the mountain for that buck. So we threw a plan together quickly and hiked further in. Rain and fog the entire time. The paper with the face (Mtn Dude) got ruined (sorry, gonna need a new one to ship with the pack.)
On the last morning finally something popped out at 65 yds."

Johnny's Hunt:

"I got beat down by the mountain like never before. Battling smoke, fog and relentless rain it was one of the toughest hunts I’ve ever been on.  The morning after the storm let up, the magic finally happened, as a black bear stepped out at 65 yards. A decisive shot to the heart and a death moan later, it was all over."


What did Johnny love about the pack?

"Packing out heavy, I was blown away at how comfortable the IA4k was. I’ve always had major pain and pinching in my spine and in between my shoulder blades, and after a 7 mile pack out, I felt great. The feature I loved the most on the pack was the huge lumbar pad and how it helped the pack ride on my body."

What item did Johnny leave with the pack?

"The item that I left to travel with the pack is something I always bring with me on all my hunts, and that is a small American flag. The flag represents freedom, along with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All things that we pursue in the wild on our journeys. I fly it proudly at camp and use the hashtag #patriotsinthewild."

Where is Johnny sending the pack for October?

"For the month of October the Traveling Pack is heading south to the state of Oregon to Christian Armstrong for a blacktail deer hunt."

Note to Christian:

May the wind always be in your favor and the sun upon your face. May you stay humble and reflective on your pursuit and be blessed on your journey. As Steve said to me, if you treat this pack like a part of your tribe, it will take care of you. Aim small miss small brother. And as always, freedom on and stay soulful!

Johnny Mack"

The Journey Continues- Oregon in October

Meet Christian.

"Hello everybody,
My name is Christian, but most know and refer to me as “Rev”. I was honored to be chosen as a candidate to operate in the project of the traveling pack, by my good friend Johnny Mack. I am an avid hunter and outdoorsman, born and raised in the state of Oregon. I am an Army veteran, and currently a Journeyman Electrician. The story of my fatherhood and the journey it’s taken me on, has bonded me with some outstanding people within the hunting community, and I am privileged to now call many of them friends.

During my segment of ownership, I will be hunting my home state of Oregon with a general season rifle buck tag on the western side of the state in the Cascade range. I have chased many blacktails during late archery season, and decided to shift my hand to a rifle tag this year to hopefully increase my odds and opportunity at harvesting my first true blacktail buck. The season opened October 3rd and will run through October 16th, with an intermittent break before returning for the second segment between October 24th and November 6th.

I am excited to be a part of a creative opportunity to get involved with the hunting community, and a great company that I have grown to respect and appreciate greatly over the last year. First impressions of the pack are strong, and I am excited to see how it performs in the field, hopefully utilizing the load shelf. Throughout my time of possession I will document aspects of the hunt, unique experiences, as well as thoughts on pack performance for the next candidate to review, and expand upon.

I will check in weekly to give updates on the hunt, and you can tune into my Instagram feed for more insight @rev.Armstrong

- Rev"

October 13, 2020

Steve Opat took a little time to get to know Christian as well. Here's what Steve sent me today:

"I am one of those people you might know who has a brain that doesn't ever shut off and a hard time sleeping as a result of it. Next to this computer is a notebook with a bajillion ideas, all of which are probably taking time away from one or two truly great ideas. But somewhere amidst all that insomnia and idea chaos, came this idea of the Brotherhood of the Traveling Pack. When I pitched it to Dennis, he said, "I love it. But can you take the lead on this?" And, (admittedly reluctant on account of all those other great ideas I have percolating) I said "yes".

Yesterday, I finally got caught up on my priorities enough to really start giving this project energy. I made 10 minutes to talk to the current host Christian Armstrong. As a result, I am more aware of the fruits that this project can bring to us all and why it was important that we give this project effort. It's enchanting to speak with a man who can talk with you as a brother or best friend after only exchanging introductions. It's humbling to hear him speak about the challenges of trying to maintain an identity as a male role model at a time when he's been furloughed due to a pandemic. Also, it's motivating to meet somebody who does it with Grace. 

When Christian told me that he has four boys at home and another on the way, I immediately laughed to myself at the amount of wrestling that must occur in the house. I can only imagine the number of cuts and bruises that occur in the Armstrong home. But a man that can raise a large family and still find time to hunt is a man that understands how to manage his resources and act in line with his values. I knew we could all learn from his opinions and experiences with the pack.

Christian and I share a commonality: We have both experimented with just about every pack maker in the country and have a "Like but not Love" relationship with them all. His comment about the IA packs were genuine, "That's what drew me to this pack. I want a 'go to work' setup. Minimalist. I want a pack that helps me hunt instead of one where I'm constantly organizing my gear."

We had a conversation about how we've each learned that "If a feature isn't quick to deploy, you won't use it." This mostly pertains to being able to use quick clips to cinch in your gear or switch bags as opposed to straps that you have to weave in&out. 

His first test with every new pack is the "80-pound sandbag test". I told him I was confident he would appreciate how wide the frame is compared to his previous packs. That expanded base allows us to keep a load flat and the weight close to our core. When considered along with the eight easy to use attachment points of the panier, I was confident the IA pack would impress him during its trial run.

"I've never thought about how much a difference a wider pack would create. That makes perfect sense" He replied (*something similar to that. It was not a recorded conversation). 

Christian replied later the next day that the Brotherhood Pack excelled during his test. 

And now, he's out in the Oregon backcountry trying to harvest his first true Blacktail deer. 

When he's back, he'll share about his experience with the IA system and pass on some new found or confirmed wisdom. He loves the Brotherhood of the Traveling pack because he's eager to help us all shorten our learning curve and create better experiences in the outdoors. Those great experiences turn into lessons that we can teach our kids, our buddies, our significant others, or just other like-minded people who follow the Brotherhood project. That call to serve is truly why this project is worth His, and Mine, and Dennis, and Joe's time. That's why 12 of us will be taking the pack on a Journey. And that's why we hope you'll follow along and participate. 

Happy Hunting

Steve Opat"

OCTOBER 29, 2020

"Hey man, Just checking in and letting you know I'm gonna be shipping the pack off soon I think. I really don't have any time to hunt with my move coming up, and with everything going on I don't think I'll get back out before we leave. Didn't get to do much for the project but it was fun getting to get the pack in hand to check it out. Able to give some pretty solid comparisons and feedback on it from the little bit of time I've had with it..."

This was the message Christian sent me last week. As I type it now, it makes me laugh. It also humbles me and helps me acknowledge that maybe I cast this project in the wrong light.

Why does it make me laugh? Well, because (in the the same paragraph) a person claims that they "didn't get to do much for the project" but  is also "able to give some pretty solid comparison and feedback". I hope this post can help Christain feel happy that constructive feedback is an amazing - and all-to-rare - gift. Further; that with his breadth of experience in all things related to hunting packs, any insight from him is invaluable. I believe that a guy like Christian having the pack for an afternoon hunt may provide as much insight as the same pack in the hands of a novice for a month full season. If you think you have a keen eye for a good pack, send us a message and let us send you the pack for month. It doesn't matter how sexy your hunt is. (that pack could hold a limit of pheasants AND a limit of rabbits.)

Ultimately, this project is not about grip'n grins, horn porn and sexy content. It's actually about helping our tribe. And in this year of the COVIDs, a year where a guy like Christian doesn't get much time recharge in the woods because he must teach kids/cook lunches/relocate his family/etc, a little help from our friends goes a long way. I'm going to take some more time this weekend to reflect on that. And I have an idea for you...

If you really want to help your tribe, your community, your family, etc., spend the weekend preparing to be an AWESOME Voter! In essence, do as Christian did by choosing not to go hunting: act in line with your values.

Study your values, examine every candidate as an individual and not as a party, and courageously vote for a leader that can take the best care of your people, our country, and this Earth! 

Here's my improved tagline:

Take care of each other. Take care of the Earth. Happy Hunting,


and also Dennis, Joe, Johnny, Christian, and the IA Team.

NOVEMBER 6, 2020

Looking back and Looking Forward.

We had Christian mail the pack to Idaho HQ so that he could focus on moving. Meanwhile, a gentleman by the name of Mike Wells reached out and - pretty much - described himself as an ideal candidate. Mike is a man who understands the concept of "brotherhood" very well as he's been a first responder, paramedic, firefighter, Deputy Sheriff and Police officer; all institutions where you and your co-workers all take extra care to look after one another. Mike is involved with an organization called Second Chance Outdoors which concerns itself with the mental health of our nation's veterans and first responders. We are stoked that organizations like this are now a part of our brotherhood and eager to see what positive impact this relationship can create.

A little on Second Chance Outdoors:

Second Chance Outdoors, is a Veteran owned, LEO (Former) owned and operated 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to get Veterans and First Responders Outdoors, to combat the staggering number of suicides in these professions. Our team is completely comprised of volunteers and non of our teammates  receive a paycheck; we put our money where our mouth is. We want to provide opportunities to help those, who have given their all for us.

Here's a note from Mike.

"I am Mike Wells,  I was born and raised in the four corners area of New Mexico which is an outdoors paradise! I grew up hunting and fishing with my family and have always loved the outdoors. I have been in Emergency Services since 2006 and have served as a Volunteer Firefighter, Fire/EMS instructor, Deputy Sheriff, and currently as a Police Officer and a Paramedic. I have worked closely with many veterans and other first responders and have found that PTSD between both groups is a very real issue. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for much of my adult life. That is where my involvement with Second Chance Outdoors (@Second_Chance_Outdoors) comes in. Logan McKinney and I worked together on the streets as Deputies, me as a Paramedic and him as a Deputy, and as partners as Police Officers. Logan created SCO to promote the mission of getting veterans and first responders outdoors in an effort to promote mental health. As a first responder who has struggled with mental health issues, his cause hit home - hard! I have supported the cause by promoting his foundation any way I can. When Logan set up the elk hunt raffle, my amazing wife Samantha bought me some tickets and gear that got me more tickets. Then came the day for the drawing...

I was working as a paramedic in the height of COVID response and was having a terribly busy and eventful day (not a good thing as a first responder) when Logan called. I won! It was unbelievable!! I won the hunt with one of my best friends on this earth! I’ve never had a bull elk hunt or a guided hunt and here it was - both in one plus with Logan!

So here we go! Logan and I are going to be hunting bull elk in northwestern Colorado! I’m very excited to try such a high quality pack out because - as a side effect of nearly 15 years as a first responder, and having had a hobby of racing motocross - I have a constant battle with back pain thanks to two herniated discs and arthritis in my lumbar spine that was diagnosed at the prime age of 30, (I’m 33 now). 

Thank you so much for such a great opportunity! I’m looking forward to this adventure more and more as the days pass especially with the addition of this pack project! 

Let me know if you need anything else from me!

Mike Wells 

NOVEMBER 19, 2020

"This is truly a great time of year. It seems that everything anybody could want to hunt is in season and that those are prime seasons. If you peruse all our fellow Western Hunters on social media, you'll see late season elk are painting the snow red, Mule deer are rutting hard and falling to hard working hunters, and the whitetails from people's trail cams are now being framed next to grip'n grin photos of the buck. In short, it's hard to decide what to be hunting this time of year. 

Well, maybe we have a little bit of that going on too. Mike Wells is our current host and he's on an elk hunt that he won from @Second_Chance_outdoors. It's a dream hunt for him and we are so excited to partner with such a great organization. This is the time of the month when we would be releasing more news about Mike, his Mission, and his adventure. That being said, we are also dealing with a huge stir of excitement over the release of the new INVICTUS FEMALE FRAME for the IA system. Check out the podcasts that Dennis did this week along with IA female athlete Kate Small. Kate had a significant role in helping the team develop this exciting offering and the way she shares her experience is genuine. It would be great for any aspiring female hunter to lister to her tale. 

All the while our boy Johnny Mack has my pack and is keeping it full of meat. He harvested a great buck in a wonderful snowstorm this week.

It truly is, the most wonderful time of the year!

Happy Hunting.


"Take Care of Each Other. Take Care of the Earth."

Johnny Mack's 2020 WA buck

NOVEMBER 27, 2020

Mike's Pic with the Mountain Dude on his Colorado Hunt.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. I truly mean that. If there's ANY reason why I'm a member of the IA team and of this Brotherhood, it's because of the word "Gratitude". 

The word entered my ear early last winter at a time when my brain was finally primed to process its significance. The last two years of my life have been ones of dramatic personal growth. Once I was aware of the concept of gratitude, I could notice how often people say, "Thanks" but how rarely people truly express and reveal to one another how grateful they are for someone's presence/service/relationship/etc. The same goes for how often we hear the word "sorry" but how it's rare for others to act apologetic when they've wronged another. 

Too often with "Sorry" and "thanks", we say the word and go on about our day, content/hopeful/assuming that the simple spoken word was enough. Gratitude is different. It's a concerted action and as such it creates an energy that can be felt and that reveals its unmistakable genuineness.  So when (a couple months after I first took notice to the word) Hollywood Dave-o and I were sharing a conversation at the Western Hunt Expo, and he expressed how grateful he was for the conversation and our new-found friendship, I felt it. I was energetically impacted by the action of demonstrated gratitude. 

For Dave's expression, I myself have much to be thankful for and am paying it forward by sharing this project with you. While at the same show, I met our new buddy Johnny Maack; a man often quoted as saying, "you can't outdo kindness." I also sat down at the IA booth with Brandon Waddell from Mountain Archery Fest and shared a packaroon with Michael Battese from elk calling academy; two men who are running businesses that aim that serve their fellow outdoorsmen. And today, Together, as a team at IA, we are all saying, 'Happy Thanksgiving. We are carrying out the Brotherhood of the Traveling pack project because it's about much more than schlepping meat and camp gear. The brotherhood is about taking care of one another; life's 'Golden Rule'. " 

In light of the Thanksgiving weekend, take notice of the difference between simply saying 'thanks' and expressing gratitude. Then, if you feel you could have done a better job of it yesterday, reach back out to all your people today and double down on your expression - your action - in letting them know how much you appreciate them. 

As for the progress of the Traveling Pack, take a listen to our latest podcast with November's host Mike Wells. Listen all the way to the end. I sincerely mean that.  As he signed off, Mike said something truly impactful. It hit me right in the gut and my response was genuine and guttural. Twelve hours later I could hear that advice playing in my head.  It encouraged me to push through a crowded door and give a co-worker a hug... 

Alaska's rugged beauty is in true balance with it's raw brutality. Listen to the podcast episode and hear an example of why. 

Happy Hunting,

Steve Opat


"Take Care of Eachother. Take Care of the Earth." 


DECEMBER 9, 2020

Introducing December's BOTTP recipient,

Jim Huntsman

I’ve filled some tags and freezers this year, but elk have evaded me at an embarrassing rate, even for 2020!

I’m a lifelong hunter located in the wild country of the Idaho Panhandle. After hunting much of the west, my home range proves year after year to be my biggest challenge against my arch nemesis; bull elk. I’m the host of The Western Huntsman Podcast, a conservationist, and am raising a family centered around the hunting and outdoors lifestyle.

I’m honored with being selected to take this IA4 pack on my December late archery hunt. Where I’ll be hunting, I will either find elk or I’ll find wolves. My pack is loaded to pursue both. My elk bugle tucked into the side pouch is not for show, if I determine wolves are in the area I will use it to call them into range. With a bit of luck, some tags will be notched.

I spent the evening transferring gear from my old, brand I won’t name, hunting pack to the IA4. This storied pack was easy to adjust, and is much more user friendly than what I’m used to. The terrain and animals that I’ll be pursuing leave me with a bit of hesitation. This will be a tough hunt with extremely low odds. However, I feel really good about the opportunity to go into the field with a big league pack, especially in these temperatures and promise of snow!

I’ll be documenting each day on our Instagram page, @thewesternhuntsman if you care to follow along. Thank you Initial Ascent!

JANUARY 2, 2021

Well, Jim Hunstman hunted hard the month of December for both elk and wolves. Unfortunately, after a whole lot of effort, he was unable to fill a tag this time.




January 15, 2021

Introducing January's BOTTP recipient,

Rudy Nunez

Hey guys, again grateful to be a part of this. Note: I have received the pack and have a big hunt with some out of state guys  weekend after next. So Thursday the 22nd I'll have the pack loaded and ready to go and I'll start my documentation and content creation. 


Short Bio:

My name is Rudy Nunez and I am the brand manager for TACTACAM LLC. I was born and raised in small town Arizona. I grew up fishing and hunting small game. My father did not do much big game hunting and I was content spending my weekends on the water. But there was always something missing and I knew it at a young age. One November while still a youngster we spent Thanksgiving in Northern Arizona. As we pulled up to the local sporting goods shop a pickup truck with a nice 5x5 elk pulled into the parking lot and attracted a crowd. I watched those men intently as they stood around the bed of that pickup truck laughing, smiling and beaming telling their story. I wished that could be me some day. 

It wasn't until 2011, many years later as an active duty Soldier that I was finally introduced to a compound bow and some target rich environment in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. My early age suspicion about hunting was correct. I had caught the bug, the sickness, the obsession. While I am an adult onset hunter, I've worked extremely hard to perfect my craft these last 10 years. Now, like many of you, it has become one of THE most integral parts of my life behind God, family and country. Now fast forward to 2017, I have my first Arizona archery bull elk tag in hand. My uncle and I double up on opening morning. As we left the woods and stopped at the service station for ice a crowd grew around my pick up truck. One, then two, then a half dozen men standing around the bed of my truck as I beamed telling our story. A childhood dream came true that day. I am honored to be involved with this amazing community and participating in the Brotherhood of the Traveling Pack, thank you! 

Where and what will I be hunting:

January is one of the best times of year to archery hunt deer in Arizona. I'm after a sub-species of whitetail, the Coues deer and mid to late January is when they're in prime rut. I also have a Javelina tag in hand and will be putting this Initial Ascent pack to great use. We hunt from the low desert up to high altitude mountain ranges also known as Sky Islands. It is a demanding environment and we expect a lot out of our gear. I can't wait to take the traveling pack into the Arizona wild. 

Rudy Nunez

FEBRUARY 7, 2021

On February 1st, Rudy sent this email:

"Dennis, I managed to put the pack through some tough paces. A buddy or mine came in from Colorado and we hunted Coues deer in the high desert to mule deer in the low desert. I managed to hunt a tree stand and ground blind with the pack. I ultimately wrapped up my time with today on a predator hunt. You can see I had my bino tripod, shooting sticks and AR strapped to it. 3 liters of water and various gear was no problem at all. The pack itself is quite comfortable on the back. I like the material, it reminds me of the old aviator kit bags we used to use in the army. I like the pocket lay out and the double access to the main pouch. The rifle stirrup and carry system is very easy to use. A nice feature as some pack companies have a hard time simplifying that.

The hunt went pretty good. Got on some good deer and just couldn't close the deal this January."


That's hunting folks. Rudy went out and hunted hard but just didn't fill a tag. The pack went on another epic journey in Arizona. Here are a few pics from Rudy's January hunts.

FEBRUARY 19, 2021

Greetings everyone. It’s been a couple months now since I’ve written for the Brotherhood Blog. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about the project and I’m grateful that Dennis has done the heavy lifting. I’m also grateful for Jim and Rudy for carrying the pack into the wilderness. Rudy, unfortunately got COVID so we had a bit of a struggle getting the pack to a guest in February. All these things just feed the mystique of this project. They all emphasize the great cliché “It takes a village…”.

I decided to start grad school. For the last five years, I’ve become increasingly enamored by the romantic idea of running my own business - and one that’s focused around a life spent outdoors. I’m actively putting that plan in place. But before I can quit my ‘career’ and start my ‘vocation’, I have to accomplish a few things. That’s why, as I write this, I’m staring out the window at the arctic tundra.

I’m doing medevac work back up in Deadhorse Alaska, the place where the Brotherhood Pack went on its first adventure. Even though the caribou are far south in their wintering grounds and the bears are nestled into their dens, I’m still finding this place to be endearing. Today I finished my first grad school class and got such a rush of euphoria that I just had to go play outside. Wind chills have been below negative 40 f this week, but I take this as opportunity to get outside everyday just to test my gear and layering systems. There’s always something I can tweak and learn so I can share it with you all.

On that note…

When I was done playing outside, I came back in and edited a podcast. It’s the first time in two months that I’ve had the bandwidth to work on my show. I edited an episode with Jim Huntsman and I really hope you listen to it to think about two concepts that we stumbled into.

  1. “Let suffering tell you what gear items to buy next; not anticipation”
  2. “Write a letter to your congressman about how much you appreciate hunting and public lands. Do it before there’s a big issue. It’s like sending your wife flowers when you didn’t even f*ck up….way more impactful than “sorry I f*cked up” flowers.

You can listen to the podcast episode here.


Alaska draw results came out today and my entire clan got skunked. This just means my existing plans have not changed. I’ll be spending the month of September driving my inflatable jet boat into Alaska’s backcountry and then loading up my IA pack with moose and caribou meat. Next month I’m going to California for a bit of a “rust buster” hunt in pursuit of turkeys, coyotes, and pigs. I’m so excited. I think I even get to have a bit of a reunion with the brotherhood pack too! Stay tuned.

We’re eager to hear what you all are up. Drop us a line and let us know what you appreciate and what you’d like to see more of.

Happy Hunting,

Steve Opat


We love good stories and great causes. Let us know if you have a wholesome trip planned in the weeks ahead. Maybe it's a trip with your ageing father, maybe it's a hunt you won from a Conservation organziation, maybe it's your first hunt; regardless, click here to put your name in the hat.

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