BUILDING KUIU

Upgrade your Sleep System

With hunting season just beginning for most of you, it may be time to upgrade your sleeping bag. Those of you that backpack hunt, your sleeping bag contributes more to the weight of your pack than any other single item. There have been recent advancements in sleeping bag design, construction, and fabrics that allow sleeping bags to cover a wider range of temperatures and conditions. Below is some information about our sleeping bags that will give you some insight into the materials and design.

EN 13537 Test

IDFL Down Certification

We use the International Down and Feather Laboratory based in Salt Lake City for all sleeping bag and feather testing and certifications. This certification of temperature rating guarantees our customer the performance and quality that we claim from our bags. Our Super Down Sleeping Bag ships out with two certificates, one guaranteeing the temperature rating with the other guaranteeing the fill power and down to feather ratio.

We do not recommend buying a bag that is not certified. Without a testing certificate the bag’s temperature rating is an opinion and there is no guarantee that it will meet your expectations.

Founded in 1961, The Committee for European Standards developed tests in various business sectors to build a strong market for goods and services. One of these tests, EN 13537, was designed to create a standard to temperature rate sleeping bags in Europe. While this test is not required by United States manufacturers, it has now become a standard worldwide. This test ensures an accurate temperature rating for your bag.

Water- Repellent Down

Water-repellent down is the most recent development in insulation. This highly specialized down has all the benefits of synthetic insulation and traditional down combined.  Water-repellent down coated on an individual fiber level is the best long-term fill option available. Treated down holds its loft when wet without altering compressibility and durability features. The best water-repellent downs keep their original loftiness after washing.

The quality of water repellent down varies. After long exposures to water, most repellency starts to fail. TORAY Quixdown ™ has been scientifically proven to perform better than other treated down. Because of the durability and longevity of TORAY Quixdown ™ it is the only water repellent down we feel confident using. All of KUIU’s Super Down Sleeping Bags and Jackets are made with TORAY Quixdown.™

Sleeping Bag Fabric

Sleeping bag fabrics also affect the durability and weight of your bag. Lower performing bags use polyester fabrics, whereas higher performing bags use nylon. Nylon is known for its lightweight durability that provides wind and abrasion resistance.

A new advancement in fabric technology is stretch, down proof nylon fabric. We use TORAY Stunner Stretch,™ which stretches without adding heavy and moisture absorbing Lycra. This allows sleeping bags to stretch with your body, significantly increasing the comfort of a mummy style bag. These fabrics are a unique breakthrough in down proof fabrics and remain incredibly lightweight and durable.

The outer fabrics of high-quality bags are treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish to protect your bag against moisture and condensation. DWR is a critical component in a sleeping bag because it protects your down fill.

Sleeping Bag Construction

There are two common baffle types: sewn through and true baffles. Sewn through baffles are created by taking the outer fabric of the bag and sewing it to the inner fabric. This compresses the down, creating cold spots around the stitch line. The most efficient way to construct a baffle is to create a true baffle. Down constructed with true baffles have several mesh walls that enclose down and prevent it from shifting.

Baffles can run vertically or horizontally. Because they are easier to construct, most bags are designed with horizontal baffles. This allows the down to shift to the outside of the baffle, creating cold spots at the top of the bag. Vertical baffles, however, utilize flow gates to keep down from shifting. Despite being more expensive to produce, this has proven to be the warmest and most efficient design. The Super Down Sleeping bag uses vertical baffling with additional robust zipper, shoulder, and halo baffles to minimize heat loss. This allows you to utilize your bag in a wider range of temperatures.

We chose all the most advanced ingredients and construction technologies to make the most advanced sleeping bag on the market. We use water repellent 100% Polish Goose down,  TORAY Stunner Stretch™ Micro Ripstop 12 D Nylon fabric, and true vertical baffles to create such a high performance bag. This bag is designed by the hunter, for the hunter.

Choosing a Rain Gear to Stay Dry

The introduction of two new sets of rain gear in 2015 has rounded off KUIU’s line of rain gear, making it the most comprehensive in the hunting industry.  Earlier this year, we released the Teton Line, included is the Teton rain jacket and pant.  The 3-layer constructed Teton made with Toray Sports Division fabrics will outperform most lightweight rain gear on the retail market at a price every hunter can afford.  Recently, we released the ULTRA NX rain jacket and pant featuring Toray’s Dermizax NX waterproof breathable membrane. The Dermizex NX membrane has an industry leading waterproof breathablity rating of up to 50,000 g/m2/24h/40,000mm.  The Dermizax NX membrane is also featured in our Chugach and Yukon rain gear.

Below are guidelines to help make a decision on selecting the correct set of rain gear.

Hunting Conditions?- What weather conditions will you encounter on your hunt? Is it an early season archery hunt and the chance of rain is minimal, or will you be hunting up north and will likely encounter some sort of precipitation everyday? Will you be glassing from mountaintops or busing brush? The more often you wear your rain gear, the more durable it will need to be.

Hunting Style- What style of hunt are you going on? If you are backpacking into a remote area for an extended period of time, and will be constantly on the move, weight is most likely a huge factor for your decision. If you are hunting from camp or being dropped off by boat or plane, and the weight of your pack is not as critical, then features and comfort should be a deciding factor.

Longevity- How often do you use it? Durability doesn’t just have to do with how well it holds up to brush, but also how well it will hold up to everyday wear and tear. For someone who spends a majority of the later season in the field, durability should be something that tilts your decision.

Weight VS Durability- Typically, as weight increases so does durability. The ULTRA NX is our lightest set, but not designed to be used for busting through thick brush.  The Yukon is our heaviest weight set, designed to be worn every day in wet and rough conditions. Finding a balance between weight and durability is a key factor in the decision making process.

After taking the above guidelines into consideration, reference these to help you make the decision on what rain gear best suits you.

Below are the four rain gear sets that we offer:

Yukon

          

Jacket: 29.2oz / Pant: 25.8

Fabric Weight: 256 g/m²

The Yukon is an extremely durable 3-layer hard shell that is designed to be worn all day, keeping you completely dry and protected throughout your entire hunt. Reinforced elbows, knees, and seat protect the vulnerable parts of the gear. Since these are mainly worn all day, we added cargo and hand pockets on the pants, and two chest and hand pockets on the jacket for additional storage.

Chugach NX

         

Jacket: 18.9 oz / Pant: 15.5 oz

Fabric Weight: 161 g/m²

The Chugach NX Rain gear gives you the perfect combination of weight, durability, and breathability. Using a lighter Primeflex face fabric the Chugach NX still offers 4-way stretch for less restricted range of motion. Minimizing the features to keep the weight down, the Chugach pants have no pockets, and the jacket has one chest and 2 hand pockets. Being our mid-weight rain gear, the packable Chugach NX is a perfect blend of lightweight and durability.

ULTRA NX

         

Jacket: 8.9 oz / Pant: 7.5 oz

Fabric Weight: 106 g/m²

The Ultra NX Rain gear was designed specifically to reduce weight for hunters that rely on keeping their pack as light as possible, and worn primarily when waiting out sudden storms.  With a 30 denier nylon face fabric, the ULTRA NX was not designed to be worn regularly while busting brush.

TETON

         

Jacket: 8.1 oz / Pant: 8.1 oz

Fabric Weight: 92 g/m²

The Teton rain gear offers what we feel is the perfect balance between performance, features, and price. At just over 16 ounces, this is an impressively light and packable set for a true 3-layer construction rain gear. Using Toray’s Sport Division fabrics, we have created a high performance rain gear that is affordable to most hunters. Using TSD’s membrane with a waterproof breathability rating of 10,000mm/10,000g/m²/24hr, the Teton rain set should be used in a similar manner to the ULTRA NX.

No matter which rain gear you choose, all breathable membranes need routine maintenance to keep it performing year after year. The below link is to an article from “The Hunt” page of our website explaining in detail how to maintain your KUIU rain gear.

NWT Dream Ram


Hi Everyone,

Finally hunting season is here!!!

I wanted to share some photos of a ram that I have always dreamed about harvesting from my first hunt of the year.

I just returned from a great hunt with Nanhanni Butte Outfitters in the NWT. My guides found this old broomed warrior on the fourth day. Our stalk took us three hours and three thousand vertical feet in some really steep nasty stuff. My shot was at a very steep angle from 200 yards below the small rock perch he was bedded on.

The ram’s teeth were completely worn down to his gums. He was literally starving on his feet.  He had no fat and was really really thin, you could see his hip bones and vertebrae.

It is hard to tell exactly how old he was because his growth rings get really small at the base. I have him at 13 1/2 but he could be 14 1/2. I am going to send in his teeth to find out. His mass as you can see is unbelievable. His thirds measured at 8 1/2 inches!!

I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to have harvested such an amazing trophy. The guides made it all happen and I can not thank Brady and Jeff and Jim Lancaster enough for an amazing hunt. One I will never forget. 

We captured this hunt on film and we will be releasing it on kuiu.com in a few weeks. Look for the announcement.

I wish you all luck this up coming season. Please email us your photos and success stories. We LOVE to read them and post them up in our album.

Jason

Solid Color Merino for Everyday Wear

Our quest for the finest Merino Wool in the world led us to “The Merino Company”, based out of New Zealand. For the last year we have been offering our ULTRA Merino base layers, and have been unable to keep it on the shelves. With all the natural attributes of Merino Wool, plus the added benefits of Nuyarn technology, ULTRA Merino has taken the hunting market by storm. Nuyarn is not a different fabric, but a different way of making the fabric, eliminating the twist from traditional ring spun yarn. Nuyarn lays the Wool fibers parallel with Nylon giving it all the advantages shown in the chart below, comparing Nuyarn to traditional ring spun yarn.

Why take advantage of this incredible fabric and comfortable clothing only during hunting season? We offer a wide range of colors in all of our ULTRA Merino pieces that are ideal for everyday wear. Our 125 SS and LS are perfect for your hot summer days, and our 210 Zip-T for those cool winter nights. We even offer our Zip-Off Bottoms in solid colors for the guys who have to wear base layers to work. Don’t let your KUIU gear sit in the closet while you wait for next hunting season to come around. Invest in some solid color ULTRA Merino to help keep you warm, dry, comfortable, and stylish while out on the town.

GIVEAWAY OF A LIFETIME!!!

Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to win a complete hunting package valued at over $7,000.oo.  You are one click away from entering and there is no purchase necessary. We have teamed with Weatherby, Cogburn Outdoors and Petersen’s Hunting to give one incredibly lucky person the chance to walk away with everything needed for a complete set of the best gear on the market.

Share with your friends through Facebook and Email and for every one of them who enters via your shared link, you receive an additional entry in the giveaway, giving you better odds of winning. There is no purchase necessary to enter. Just input the required information and click enter, share it with your friends, and the winner will be drawn after the deadline on August 31st 2015. Below are the included prizes that one lucky winner will receive.

                                                                                                                                        

Weatherby® Mark V® Arroyo™ RC rifle

A new product for 2015, the Weatherby® Mark V® Arroyo™ RC rifle includes a hand-laminated Monte Carlo composite stock and features the popular KUIU® Vias camo. Metalwork contains a two-tone Cerakote™ finish with Desert Sand and Flat Dark Earth flutes. With a fully adjustable trigger and “Range Certified” accuracy assurance, the Mark V Arroyo is a shooter’s dream. All SUB-MOA guaranteed rifles include a factory-shot target signed by company President Ed Weatherby or Executive Vice President Adam Weatherby. Range Certified rifles are guaranteed to shoot SUB-MOA (a three-shot group of .99-inch or less) with specified Weatherby factory or premium ammunition. This Mark V Arroyo RC rifle is chambered in the flat-shooting .257 Wby. Mag.

Cogburn CB4

This human-powered, all-terrain vehicle is built to take hunters deep into the backcountry quickly and quietly. The 3.8-inch wide tires run at low pressure to provide amazing traction on the roughest of terrain. Capable of carrying a rifle or bow securely and gear in the frame and fork bags, as well as the rear rack, the CB4 is your silent go-anywhere pack mule.

KUIU Gear

Here is a list of what KUIU is including for the lucky winner:

- Ultra Star 1 Person Tent

- 30° Super Down Sleeping Bag

- ICON Pro 3200 Full Kit

- Chugach NX Jacket

- Chugach NX Pant

- Alpine Pant

- Super Down Jacket

- Peloton 240 Full Zip Hoodie

- ULTRA Merino 145 Zip-T

- ULTRA Merino 145 Zip-off Bottoms

- ULTRA Merino 145 Beanie

- ULTRA Merino 145 Neck Gaiter

- KUIU Pro Hat

- Guide Glove

- ULTRA Merino Crew Sock

- Bino Harness

 

This Giveaway begins at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Standard time (PST) on August 4, 2015, and ends at 11:59 p.m. PST on August 31, 2015

NEW Redesigned Guide Glove

For the first time since we opened in 2011, we have taken our original glove and redesigned it for better fit, function, comfort, and durability. Using the same Pittards Oiltac Leather and Toray’s Primeflex Soft Shell fabric, we have added features that will make this glove even better than it was before. Still coated with Toray’s Kudos DWR for water resistance, this glove is still KUIU’s premiere all purpose glove that is perfect for a wide range of hunting conditions, and the ideal choice if you only are going to buy one pair of gloves.   Below are pictures and brief explanations of why we added additional features to an already perfect glove.

Leather Forechettes- We have added Pittards Leather between each finger for added durability and increased grip.

 

Hypalon Reinforced Cuff Tab- We introduced a Hypalon cuff and closure tab for a stronger and more durable closure.

 

Webbing Loop at Lower Cuff- The addition of a webbing loop at the cuff allows you to easily pull your glove on when your hands are wet, or you are wearing your Guide Glove over the top of one of our baselayer gloves.

 

Single Piece Leather Palm-Eliminating the seams in the palm means a more durable and comfortable fitting glove.

 

Improved Thumb Fit- A redesigned thumb fit allows for improved range of motion and less constriction.

 

Reinforced Patches- Adding an extra layer of leather to the outside of the palm and between the thumb and index finger, adds durability to vulnerable parts of the glove.

Comparison photos of the original Guide Glove next to the New Guide Glove.

   

The redesigned Guide Gloves are now available at  KUIU.com

Available in – Vias, Verde

$59.99

-

ICON Pro Packs

The ICON Pro Packs have now been used in the field by Professional Guides and Customers for over a year in some of the toughest conditions around the world. The feedback received has been overwhelmingly positive, proving the ICON Pro Packs live up to the goals of the design: Durable; Light Weight; Modular, Functional and Capable of hauling heavy loads;  All while coming in at a fraction of the cost of the competition. With the 2015 addition of the 3200 cubic inch bag, the ICON Pro line can now be used for any duration; from single day hunts to 10+ day expeditions.

The modularity of the Pro packs is one of the many features that set these packs apart. Only needing one frame and suspension allows you the ability to quickly change bags giving hunters the option to tailor their bag size for their specific hunting needs. For further compatibility the ULTRA bags can also be used on the ICON Pro frame and suspension.

Icon Pro 1850: Our “go to” day pack for any hunting conditions. With the perfect amount of space for single day use, this pack is also load sling capable which adds an additional 2500 cubic inches of space to help haul out the first load of meat. With the capability to be used with out a frame, the 1850 with suspension only (no frame) is a great set up for your short day hunts with minimal equipment.

Icon Pro 3200: This pack is ideal as a large late season day pack for when the weather requires you to carry more gear, or as a 2-3 day pack when the weather is warm and minimal equipment is necessary.

Icon Pro 5200: The 5200 bag has enough space to carry a weeks worth of gear for your backpack hunt.

Icon Pro 7200: KUIU’s largest bag, with enough space to carry your gear for 10+ days with some room to spare.

Sizing and Fit

With a completely customizable fit, the KUIU packs are the only packs in the industry to be built off of a Carbon Fiber Frame. With our two different frame sizes (Tall, Regular) and two waist belt sizes (S/M & L/XL)  our packs can fit torso lengths from 15″- 22″ and waist sizes from 28″ to 44″. Using micro adjustment with the T-Lock track system, the ICON Pro can be adjusted to a perfect fit.  Pictured above is a Tall frame, on the left is the lower setting 17.5″ and the right is the higher at 22″

Regular – 15″ – 17.5

Tall Frame – 17.5″ – 22″

S/M Belt – 28″- 33″

L/XL Belt – 33″ – 44″

With a total of 14 total pockets on the larger packs, the layout of the ICON Pros help you keep your gear organized and well managed. Besides the pocketing, the the ICON Pros come with many features that may be overlooked, but are well thought out and make this pack incredibly versatile.

Internal Lashing System

The 3200, 5200, and 7200 all come with an internal lashing system pictured above. The lashing system is designed to keep heavy gear or meat high and against your back, stopping the weight from falling to the bottom of the pack, and causing an uncomfortable load. An XL roll top dry bag fits into the lashing system perfectly.

Vertical Side Pockets

The 5200 and 7200 have two vertical double zippered side pockets that are not only for extra storage, but can be used to secure and protect your rifle. With top and bottom zippers you can completely encompass your scope and action to keep debris from damaging your weapon and compromising your hunt.

External Flap

When your pack is full and you still have extra gear, the external flap on the lower front of the pack can be a great place to lash one last item. With straps long enough to go around a XL Dry Bag this area has more room than it appears and is a great place for extra storage.

If you want more in-depth information on the ICON Pro Packs, below is a video from last years Brand Live Release with Jason and Shaun.

Catalog Imagery & Riding in Ashes Short Film

I always love the feedback and passion that our customers show in every aspect of our business.

Since the release of our newest catalog we have received quite a few questions surrounding the image on the back cover.  The responses have been mixed, wondering everything from why we would have a man smoking in print, where it was from, what the image has to do with KUIU, to why we would choose this image.

I very much appreciate the questions and am glad many of you found the image stirring and thought provoking.  This is the exact reason we chose it.

The image was taken by acclaimed photographer Paul Bride on a recent red stag hunt in Argentina in which he accompanied KUIU Professional Services director Brendan Burns on a week long horseback hunt into the fabled Andes Mountains. It was a grueling trip in which they experienced many challenges both from weather and game activity.  In the end, the hunt turned out to be everything you could ask for in an adventure. In case you missed it, here is a link to the full write up on the trip. KUIU In The Andes.

Below is more information from Brendan on the image and a link to the short film Riding in Ashes.  Enjoy!

~ Jason

Brendan

I’d love to share a little behind the photo on the back cover of our catalog. Its an amazing image that instantly brings me back to the hunt.  It was taken on the last day as we ascended up a rocky pass in the rain on the long ride out. The hunt was a grind in which not much went our way.  Weather was unusually terrible, stags were few and far between, and the distance covered  was far more than anticipated.  The difficulty made this a hunt I will never forget.

While the image may not be a traditional posed photo that you are used to seeing in hunting, it is an authentic image taken on the tail end of an unexpected and challenging adventure.  This trip was incredibly difficult and tested me both mentally and physically.

The gentleman on the back cover and in the photos below is Argentinean gaucho and guide Felipe Chandia. He is an amazing person and one of the most rugged, tough, mountain savvy individuals I have ever had the pleasure of hunting with. Hands down the most skilled horseman I have ever been around.  He had personally built or modified every piece of tack we used.  The hat he is wearing is a traditional hunting guide hat from Argentina called a Boina.

While the image may not be politically correct, its true to life.  Felipe does smoke, has never owned a vehicle other than his horses, has never surfed the internet, and has been in this particular area since he was born.  His family has been working the mountain range for well over a century, and he is the last remaining person allowed to live in the national park where we were hunting. Spending time with him is a glimpse into a time and lifestyle that no longer exists.

Hope you all enjoy the film as much as I enjoyed the adventure.

Good Hunting

~ Brendan

European Dream Season: Chamois, Boar, Black Grouse, Capercaillie, Brown Bear

Loyal customer Lionel Berthault writes about a series of once in a life time hunts.  Enjoy!

Into The Mountains: Isard

The Pyrenean chamois (what the French call “isard”) is a goat/antelope found in the Pyrenean Mountains along France’s border with Spain. Hunting them in the remote, high-mountain wilderness areas they inhabit offers one of the most demanding hunts in Europe.

Last year, when I first began telling friends about an ambitious four-hunt tour of Europe I had planned, the biggest topic of discussion around the chamois was my level of physical preparedness followed by the type of gear I had chosen to take on the trip.

The name KUIU kept coming up. Living on the remote African Island of Mauritius, I had never heard of the American company or their clothing. But then a chance meeting with KUIU European Sales and Marketing Manager, Jorge Amador, led to conversations about the various demands of my upcoming trips—particularly the hunt for free-range chamois.

Funny to admit now, but I had always thought that technology in the outdoor clothing industry had advanced to a point where all of it was pretty much the same. Amador asked me if he could try to change my mind with a few KUIU items selected specifically for the terrain, unpredictable weather and demanding physical conditions I would experience.

But not even I had expected the -10 degree weather and 80 km crosswinds I would encounter during the trip. My guide, Loïc, was a young but experienced professional hunter working for Acteon (www.acteon.com), a hunting association I have been affiliated with for well over a decade. Acteon commonly helps hunters in pursuit of such species as Roe Deer, Chamois, Mouflon, Red Deer in the most remote areas of the Pyrenees.

Missed Opportunity

Day 1 found Loïc and I high on a mountaintop in the blistering wind and cold searching for a heard of what he described as “nice males.” Snow was swirling in the incredible crosswinds, and it seemed inconceivable to me that anything would be out in such weather. But after two hours of climbing a huge male “isard” suddenly appeared high above us on a barren rock outcrop some 280 meters distant.

In the fallen snow, the animal had not seen us. Or if he had, he felt safe from harm. A tremendous ravine stood between us, so there was no chance of stalking closer.

Loïc considered the animal through the binoculars and excitedly told me this was one of the largest chamois he had ever seen. I had a good rest and confidence in my equipment, but at the shot we both looked on with great pity as the bullet struck just a few centimeters too low. Loïc would tell me later that, had I killed this particular animal, it would have been the biggest one of the 45 Pyrenean chamois his guests had taken with him that year.

Beware: Falling Rock

Day 2 dawned with more climbing and worsening weather. I hadn’t really noticed how my KUIU gear was performing—only that I was extremely dry and comfortable while Loïc was not. Not the sort of man to complain, Loïc did make mention of the gear and was clearly curious. During a one hour glassing session when the snow literally covered Loïc and me, he began asking where he could find some KUIU gear of his own.

The discussion was cut short, however, when a strange and thunderous crashing drew our attention. Crashing down the mountainside came a boulder the size of a small house. It rolled and tumbled and there was no place for us to go. Thankfully, it steered 100 meters to our right, falling some 200 meters at an incredible speed, before crashing to a stop and exploding—a thousand pieces of rock flying in every direction—like a bomb.

Late that afternoon, Loïc and I were considering heading back to camp, when we spotted an old female chamois running, dancing and jumping from rock to rock. It was as if she were playing in the snow. She was only the second chamois I had ever laid eyes on, but she looked beautiful—a fine trophy in my estimation—so I decided to try for her.

Quartering away at some 180 meters, the doe was slightly above us. I took a prone position as Loïc reminded me to compensate for the wind. The wind never stopped blowing in two days on the mountain. I had to guess on the speed of the crosswind and how much it would cause the bullet to drift. Making a quick compensation, I fired and as if by magic the animal drop cleanly in its tracks.

Looking back, the shot was more luck than skill. Snow completely covered us, and the wind was blowing so bad—causing the snow to swirl in great, white gusts—that I could hardly even see the animal in my Leica scope. Given the extreme conditions, taking the doe so cleanly was like a gift from the mountain, one Loïc and I were overjoyed to receive.

SLOVAKIA: WILD BOAR

A couple weeks later I flew to Budapest, Hungary, and then drove three hours east to reach the Slovakian hog hunting grounds owned by a friend, Miroslav (www.abcentrum.sk/en/).

A long-time acquaintance as well as a good agent, Miroslav sends me some clients every year in Mauritius. He is also well known in European hunting circles where you’ll only hear good opinions about his organization.

This particular hunt was going to be very unique for two reasons: 1) it was a management hunt and 2) we would be using night vision equipment; a first for me when hunting wild boar.

Night Ops

Being responsible for herd management, Miroslav believed night-vision technology provided the cleanest and most effect method to cull the largest boars from the population. We would only be targeting the largest boars and, if successful, Miroslav promised a glass of pàlinka, a traditional alcoholic drink, to celebrate.

That night as we headed out, clouds hid the moon overhead and a crusty layer of snow covered the ground. It made for noisy walking—so loud I could not imagine that any animal would let us get close. But the view through the night-vision binoculars showed otherwise.

It seemed as if everywhere we looked there were little white spots—animals of every size and sort—and only after about 20 minutes we came to a clearing in the forest where a group of at least 20 wild boars were rooting in the snow for food.

The range was 130 meters, and Miroslav immediately pointed out a big male. I took a rest and readied my rifle, a nice R93 Blaser equipped with a 3x night vision scope. The big boar stood broadside as I took a rest and fired.

At the shot, the herd scattered, the boar going one way and the rest of the herd going the other some 300 meters before disappearing into the forest. Miroslav was convinced that I had missed.

Boar Down

But we only traveled a short distance along the boar’s trail before finding him quite dead. Miroslav guessed the animal’s age at three years and its weight around 200 kilos. Some great genetics here, I thought.

The next night I shot a smaller boar after a short stalk. But the first night’s hunt will always remain the highlight of my trip to Slovakia.

SWEDEN: Black Grouse and Capercaillie

I had always heard that hunting in the magical country of Sweden is a fantastic experience, and after spending some days with Camp Lapponia, I can say that it is more than magic: It is pure, white, unique, fantastic, intense and very, very cold.

Some years ago, I met Emil Nicklasson (camp-lapponia@passagen.se) and promised to do this trip with him and his company. When considering what and where to hunt, I have always been drawn to challenging species that inhabit remote and inhospitable terrain. When planning such a trip, choosing the guide is also of the utmost importance. The guide or outfitter’s passion—his way of speaking, his way of listening, his way of being—has always weighed heavily into my decision.

For me, Emile is the perfect professional hunter: a local with strong ties to the area he hunts; a strong man and musician who can play accordion; a kind man who listens to his clients and always does his best to make you feel comfortable.

Big Birds on Skis

Lapland’s Vhilemina airport is so small that it looks more as a bus station than an airport. When I arrived, the temperature measured -18. Everything was snow covered: white, white as far as the eye could see and nothing moving anywhere over the barren landscape.

The picture reminded me of my first trip to Alaska. But that was 20 years ago and the animal I was looking to check off by bucket list was not a grizzly, a big giant moose or a black bear but rather the biggest of the small game: the European Black Grouse and the Giant European Capercaillie.

An interesting wrinkle to the plan came when Emile explained that we would be using skis on the hunt. I had never skied before in my life), and to do it in such blistering cold and with a rifle—a 6.5 Swedish, of course—the plan seemed challenging to say the least. But at least with my KUIU outfit I felt confident that, if nothing else, I would not be cold.

The skis did prove an awful challenge for me when the actual hunting began. After three hours traveling over soft snow, I felt like I was doing more falling than skiing. I began to question what I was doing and why I had signed on to hunt one of these black, evil grouse.

But after another hour of drudgery cutting a snowy path through the forest, a group of black grouse suddenly lifted up in front of us. They streaked away toward a mountain looming up many kilometers ahead, and for a moment I was deflated, thinking we had spoiled out only chance. Emil, however, looked thrilled.

“Ok,” he said, “Now the hunt begins! Are you ready, Lionel?”

Barely able to stand on the skis, I was confused. The birds were headed up the mountain. Did he expect me to climb a mountain skis?

“Don’t worry,” Emil said, “If you have the black grouse in your mind you will succeed.”

And succeed we did. After climbing, falling, skiing, climbing and falling again and again we found the birds sitting in the top of a tree at some 150 meters. Only the male can be legally taken, and we quickly spotted one there in the top of its perch.

Laying the rifle across my KUIU pack in the snow, I chambered a round in the rifle, took an aim and slowly squeezed the trigger. At the shot, the bird crumbled and fell. I was so happy. The bird proved magnificent, both in the hand and later on the table.

One More to Go

But there was little time to celebrate as Emile reminded me that we had one more trophy to find. The capercaille were likely close, he said—just a few more miles. I nearly balked at the thought. The snow seemed to be getting deeper the higher up the mountain we traveled.

But Emile was confident and urged me on, one kilometer at a time. His prediction paid off when, four hours and three kilometers later, we came upon a large capercaillie also roosted it a tree. The second shot was a repeat of the first. Two of the most rare and elusive birds in Sweden! The feeling of joy I had was palpable.

CROATIA: BROWN BEAR

March found me traveling, at last, to Croatia where I planned to hunt one of the most difficult and dangerous animals in Eastern Europe. Only 125 brown bear tags are offered to noncitizens each year in the country, and I managed to secure one through a longtime friend and guide, Grgur (www.lovag.hr), I met at the airport in Zagreb after a two-hour flight from Paris.

Typically, baiting is the only option for hunting brown bears in Croatia. Like hunting black bear in much of Canada or when hunting leopard in Zimbabwé or Tanzania, baiting is often the only viable method for hunting brown bears in the forests of Croatia.

But I enjoy a hunt when it is tough. So after talking with Grgur, we decided to do it by spot and stalk. The fact that I was hoping to get the entire hunt on video made the prospect of success even more difficult, but Grgur felt confident we could pull it off if I was up for the challenge.

The Hunt Begins

Day 1 we saw little in the way of actual bears but plenty of sign that proved the bear population was very high in the 11,000 hectares of open forests we had access to. Traveling some 12 kilometers on foot that day, we spotted red deer, roe bucks, chamois and a set of huge wild boar tracks that likely came from a male weighing 150 kilos.

Day 2 was more of the same—more walking and seeing plenty of bear sign but no bears—while the other hunters in camp were reporting seeing bears almost every hour while comfortably waiting in their blinds. One hunter from Germany saw six bears in six hours while on stand. But I stubbornly refused to give in.

My hunt was scheduled for only five days, and we guessed that during the first four days we logged over 45 miles hiking and glassing with nothing to show for it. By the last day, every other hunter in camp had taken a bear. The biggest one was aged at 18 years—a real monster—that weighed well over 300 kilos.

Despite the success of everyone around me, I decided not to waiver from my plan. I had one day left and was prepared to go home empty-handed. It would not be the first time.

Last Chance

Every day brings new opportunity. So I began the last day hopeful for a change in luck, and I was almost immediately rewarded when we found a nice set of fresh tracks in the snow. We set off after the bear, moving as silently and as quickly as the conditions would allow.  For nearly two hours we followed the tracks until, like magic, the bear appeared.

The beast was magnificent. The fur on his shoulder danced in the slight cross breeze. At less than 100 meters, I could have easily took a shot from where we stood but decided to move closer for the sake of getting the encounter on video.

The bear never moved while I quickly situated the camera and readied the rifle. My guide had had just about enough and was begging me to shoot, but just as I readied to squeeze the trigger the bear began walking away. I adjusted the camera to get the animal in the frame. But again, as I readied to shoot he moved.

This process repeated itself at least one more time. Silently, I vowed to bring a cameraman with me the next time and, at the risk of missing my opportunity, I decided to simply place the camera’s view finder well ahead of the animal, hit record, and hoped for the best.

Amazingly, it worked. The 30-06 boomed and the bear rolled, biting at his side. I reloaded and shot again. The second bullet struck, too, but it was probably unnecessary. The bear was down, and the feeling at that moment was pure elation. After a week of hard hunting, I had my bear—not the biggest one ever shot in Croatia but likely the only one killed by spot-and-stalk in the last 25 years, according to my guide.

That concluded an unforgettable series of successes. The severity of the weather, combined with some of the most strenuous hunting I have ever experienced, all made for the kind of hunting most people never dream exists in Europe. Truly an experience I will never forget

Light Weight Versatile Soft Shell

The Chinook Jacket and Pants have become one of our favorite pieces at the KUIU office. We have worn it from mid season Elk hunts in Wyoming, to late season Mule Deer hunts in Idaho, to Caribou hunts 180 miles into the Arctic Circle. The versatility of the Chinook sysem comes from the technical features of the fabric. With a 30 Denier Stunner Stretch face fabric that provides the ability to cut the wind, bonded to a micro check fleece backer that provides the temperature regulation, the Chinook is an incredibly light weight versatile Soft Shell set. These pieces can cover you from the latter part of the early season all the way into late season.

The Chinook Jacket is one of the most versatile pieces that we offer. It is light weight and breathable enough to be worn as an early season Jacket, but can be layered underneath when the weather starts to cool down. With well thought out designs such as strategically placed hand pockets for easier access when wearing a pack, and a dropback hem to provide full coverage while sitting and glassing, the Chinook Jacket is full of product features to help keep you comfortable while hunting.

The Chinook Pant utilizes our Yukon fabric on the face of the knee pads, it not only adds durability to a vulnerable part of the pants, but also allows your knees to have a waterproof cover while kneeling in wet conditions. For when you drop your pack to make a stalk, or for items you need readily available, we provided dual zippered cargo pockets that can be easily accessed while on the move. And to further the versatility of the Chinook Pants we added hip vents to help release heat and cool you down when you are on the move.