By Pete Rogers
As the sun cast its last rays across the valley, the sound of bugling bull elk echoed in all directions. Finding the ability to sleep amidst the excitement was difficult. Opening day of the Wyoming archery elk season was a few hours away. My mind raced as I imagined encounters with trophy elk that kept my rest uneasy.
The sound of Allison Krause singing “When You Say Nothing At All” crept into my consciousness and woke me at three thirty. Getting a good meal into my system was priority one. A long day of chasing elk was ahead, and I knew I would need the energy to endure the rigors. A hunt like this takes a lot of planning and organizing. Getting the tag is only one small portion of the hunt. Once the tag is awarded, the detailed planning for the hunt begins. Gathering and sorting gear, planning lodging and camping locations, and preparing for the thirty hour drive are all part of the adventure. Having gear you can depend on is essential for a pleasurable experience. Thankfully, experience has taught me that the gear I wear should be the best available and enable me to pack only one set of hunting clothes.
Having hunted for many species in many different states with a variety of people, I have seen a lot of different scenarios. Rarely do I find another hunter who carries only one set of hunting clothing. When I do, it is Sitka Gear. For almost twenty years, Sitka Gear has produced the finest hunting clothing in the industry. Their slogan of “Turning Clothing into Gear” suits the brand perfectly. In fact I would argue that it is more than a slogan, it is a challenge to the designers and manufacturers. Gear is never more tested than when on a backcountry hunt in the Rockies.
Knowing that your clothing will not fail puts your mind at ease when other pieces of equipment are suspect. The Sitka Gear clothing I wore on my elk hunt was not suspect at all.
The hunt was scheduled to have a host of different weather conditions, not uncommon for an early season hunt in the Rockies. Temperatures from the teens to the upper 70’s were forecast for the ten days we were in the hunt zone. For this hunt I chose to wear the early season Sitka Gear Ascent Pant in their new Subalpine pattern along with the Jetstream Jacket in the same pattern. Never a doubt crept into my mind about the ability of the Ascent pants or Jetstream jacket to hold up to the task regardless of the conditions. Ten days later, the Sitka Gear Ascent pants were dirty and smelled but were none the worse for the wear.
It isn’t often that I am able to pull on a pair of pants and know from the onset that they will be comfortable. Hunting pants are one of the more often overlooked pieces of apparel. Hunters place more emphasis on boots, base layers and jackets over the comfort of pants, but when walking miles and miles in rough terrain at all elevations, the comfort and fit of a good pant is a must. It is one of those items that when it works, you don’t notice. But when it doesn’t, you spend your day fighting comfort, chaffing and binding.
Thankfully, Sitka Gear has once again designed a pant that exceeds the needs of hunters. For years, the designers at Sitka Gear have developed clothing that is far beyond what hunters thought they needed. Some things I look for in a good hunting pant include ruggedness, dependability, and stretch in the right places, insulation, and toughness.
The Ascent pant in Subalpine is designed for hot days spent during the early season when the temperature rises. Hunters who spend time actively chasing elk or deer during the early seasons will be thankful for the features of the Ascent pant, the number one selling pant in the Sitka Gear lineup. At a mere 12 ounces, a pair of Ascent pants feels like they are barely there. Like the rest of the Ascent line, these pants are lightweight and ultra-breathable. The pants feature a quick-drying, four-way stretch brushed nylon fabric and anti-stink Polygiene® treatment to keep you cool when the heat is on. Being able to expel heat during the critical times is essential for early season hunters. Thankfully the Ascent pant breathes and allows moisture to escape, making the hunt more comfortable.
During one hunt, we spotted some elk in a stand of timber one and a half miles away. The descent into the valley was some of the steepest terrain I have ever traversed. After forty five minutes, I made it to the bottom and began my move across the meandering valley floor. What appeared to be a flat valley floor was full of ravines, hills, and washes. A full two and a half hours after beginning the move, I was standing at the edge of the timber the elk wandered into earlier that day. Sliding down the mountain, scrambling over blowdowns trees, wading washes and creeks, the Ascent pants were put through the test. Not once did I notice undue noise, chafing, binding or excessive heat buildup. The fit and feel of the pants were as if they were not on at all. At one point, I remember saying to a hunting buddy on the trip, the pants are so comfortable they “feel like pajama pants.”
The elk were never found and after the sun set, I was faced with a three mile walk out of the valley in the dark – mostly uphill. This was without question one of the hardest days afield I have ever experienced, and the confidence I had in my Sitka Gear clothing was refreshing.
Whether you are crawling or bushwhacking through blown down timber or on your belly crossing a prairie after antelope, the comfort and fit of these pants offer zero restrictions. One of the key features I love are the articulated knees. This shape prevents the gathering of material behind the knee when squatting or sitting for long periods. Knee pad pockets offer optional protection if desired, and all pockets are mesh backed for added ventilation. A gusseted crotch provides full range of movement. The knee pads do not come with the pants, but having hunted in the rough terrain of the west, I believe hunters would be remiss if they ordered the Ascent pants without the sealed foam knee pads that fit into the provided pockets of these pants. I cannot count the times I have said to myself, “I love these kneepads!”
The Ascent pant is designed for early season, but as hunters of the west and north know, the weather is very unpredictable. On this hunt, we experienced temperatures from 14 degrees to the high 70’s. Having a pair of pants that would fit the need of both conditions was invaluable. Layering under the Ascent pant was easy. There was enough room to wear a merino wool base layer and not restrict movement.
Hunters preparing for an early season hunt, whether in the Rockies, desert, or sweltering Southeast, should consider the Ascent Pant from Sitka Gear as one of their choices. One thing is for sure, if you choose these pants, you will never go back to another brand. These are the finest made.