Today I’m very excited to bring the Wired To Hunt Nation an exclusive interview with one of today’s most accomplished and highly esteemed hunter’s in the industry, Mark Seacat. Mark has his hand in the hunting industry pot in a lot of different ways. First and foremost he is an avid hunter and has been on successful hunts for many animals across North America.  His specialty lies in his ability to hike deep into the backcountry and find the animals that few other hunters can reach. In addition to being an avid hunter, Mark has received much praise and attention for his work as a professional photographer and mountaineer. Being such a successful hunter he has garnished the support and become sponsored by such fine companies as; Mystery Ranch Backpacks, Schnees Boots, Leica Optics, Sitka Gear, W.L. Gore Products, Optifade Camouflage, Hoyt, Bowtech, Elite Archery, Black Gold Sights, Tight Spot Quivers, Doinker Stabilizers, Trophy Taker Arrow Rests and Broadheads, Easton Arrows, Gold Tip Arrows, Field Logic Targets, Outdoorsmans Tripods, Weatherby Rifles, Brunton, Gerber, Yeti Coolers, Valandre Sleeping Bags, Pacific Outdoor Sleeping Pads, and Hilleberg Tents. Speaking of Mystery Ranch, for a day job Mark is the Marketing Director for this American made backpack company. As a byproduct of all of these great credentials, Mark has recently partnered with Outdoor Life to write an ongoing blog for Outdoor Life’s website, called “Live Hunt with Mark Seacat”. In 2009 the blog followed Mark’s hunts across Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Alaska. Without a doubt he is a model for all of us who aspire to be successful hunters and I know we can all learn a lot from him. So here for the Wired To Hunt Nation is my conversation with Mark covering topics such as his beginnings as a hunter, his favorite gear and his advice for the next generation of hunters. Enjoy!

W2H: So Mark, tell us how did you originally get into hunting?

  • Mark Seacat: Well I grew up in Montana. So I started hunting at a very young age. My mom was actually hiking in the mountains hunting elk while I was in the womb. So I’ve been doing this since for longer than I can remember! I’ve had the opportunity to hunt with my dad every year since I was a child. In those early years I really began to develop a passion, when I was 8 or 9 I can remember choosing between trick-or-treating or a hunting trip. I chose hunting. We hunted as a family and it was always about the meat, not the trophy. I killed my first elk at age 12 and almost every year since. For my family and hunting mentors it wasn’t about killing big bulls, it was about harvesting the first legal elk we found. Big 6 points or just cows, it didn’t matter. In college, I began climbing and mountaineering and this led to trips deeper into the wilderness.  I realized there was lots of hunting opportunity that other people didn’t seem to be capitalizing on. I ended up guiding elk hunts for 4 years and then eventually stumbled upon an opportunity with Mystery Ranch Backpacks in Bozeman.

W2H: How did you get started actually working in the hunting industry?

  • Mark Seacat: I had met a climbing partner and friend who worked for Mystery Ranch Backpacks the summer before my final fall of Elk Guiding. When I finished guiding we lived in a car together, saving money for climbing trips. Exhausting most of my savings on the climbing adventures, it was time for a job, so I approached Mystery Ranch. I wrote up a proposal and pitched myself to them, but they didn’t have a position like what I’d hoped available. I ended up begging with the owners until they thankfully created a position for me, letting me sweep floors to start.  Over the next four years I worked most every job in our company before landing in my Marketing position. When I started marketing in the hunting industry with Mystery Ranch, we didn’t have an extensive advertising budget, but creative thinking and new ideas led us to some exciting things. We began networking with other companies, so I started taking pictures of us hunting with other companies gear, while also wearing our packs. We eventually created great relationships with many companies that began to publish our work in their catalogs or magazines, while also getting our packs in the photos. Because we only sell direct we had to reach a lot of people online. With our work on the web, we could give people easy access to our product information, we started a blog, www.mysteryrants.com and wrote about exciting experiences our employees and our customers were having with their packs. It’s a neat job. I’m able to hunt almost every day during the fall. This year I hunted for Elk in Utah twice, Elk in New Mexico twice, Montana for Elk, Antelope, and Mule Deer, and Alaska for Dall Sheep. It really is a Win-Win relationship for me and all these partner companies. My blog with Outdoor Life provides great promotion for my sponsors and varied content for the readers of Outdoor Life. I feel really lucky and fortunate to be in this role in the hunting industry. I have a wonderful fiancé that does a lot of this along with me and it’s a great way to make a living together. I get to be outside all the time and I’ve had some amazing experiences. Outside of hunting, I’ve been able to climb Denali twice, climbed Aconcagua in Argentina, flyfish in New Zealand for 6 months, and climbed all over the world.  I knew I wanted to live an adventurous life and I wanted to do it while I was young, when I could still be active and do it right. I’ve had some harrowing experiences and I really think pushing yourself makes you more mentally tough and stronger, on some of these backpack hunts I go on that’s definitely a good thing.

W2H: How has hunting in general or your personal style of hunting evolved over time?

  • Mark Seacat: Well the hunting industry is changing very rapidly. A big change has been the association between big money and big animals. Tags are so expensive, property and leases are hard to come by or cost an incredible amount, and the prices go up each year. For me it’s a lot more self-satisfying to hunt on public land. I think it’s really important to protect these public land resources. Young hunters need to believe that you can still find great animals on our public lands, you can hike as far as the eye can see, have a blast, and its a great value. A backpack hunt in the wilderness is an awesome experience, without having to spend big money. It’s also really important to find a mentor, someone who can teach you and help you with all the information gathering. If I want to hunt a certain species in a place I haven’t personally hunted, I’ve got a crew of people I email and ask for advice, there’s so much to learn from other hunters. Also when planning your hunts, take advantage of today’s technology to learn and “virtually scout” new areas using tools like Google Earth combined with your topo maps.

W2H: Going along this line of thought, how has technology and high performance gear improved or evolved your way of hunting?

  • Mark Seacat: Wow, the technology just keeps getting better and better. Sleeping bags get warmer and compress smaller, backpacks are made of stronger lighter materials and can carry heavier loads. Optics get clearer and clearer and bows today are unbelievable. The technology is ridiculous. When I began to get my rifle dialed in to shoot 600+ yards I realized I wanted to make it more of a challenge. That got me into bowhunting.  I’ve bowhunted with compounds for 3 years now I’m hoping to harvest an elk with my traditional archery equipment someday soon.  I think with technology sometimes it can be even more valuable to you if you take a step back. When it comes to my specific gear, I really love my Mystery Ranch packs.  If I get an animal down in the backcountry, I can take out as much meat as possible with me on the first trip. I love the Leica Optics I use, when you’re looking for a specific animal it’s nice to have high quality optics. For young guys, I’d advise saving your money and buying some really good optics. If you go cheap, you will definitely be disappointed. Save up for the best gear you can afford, but don’t let the gear be the thing that stops you from hunting.

W2H: Continuing on the topic of gear, what would you say are your favorite pieces of gear or the most important?

  • Mark Seacat: I would say I have a variety of really important items for me from head to toe. I absolutely love the Patagonia R1 Hoody, I take that on all my trips. Working with Sitka Gear is especially vital for my hunts, their products make a difference, it’s really good gear. I really value the quality of their great gear and I especially appreciate the Sitka Ascent pants. I move around so much, so it’s important that my gear breathes really well and the Ascent pants really do that. They’re marketed more towards early season hunting when it’s warmer, but I’ve worn them in Alaska and even in Montana every day until I shot my elk during the last week of the season. One piece of gear I love that people always are surprised about are my Chaco sandals.  I use them religiously during bow season. I can really feel my feet and they breathe extremely well. I feel like I can sneak around very quietly wearing Chacos. It may sound odd, but one of my hunting partners and I have killed a few bulls wearing them.  As far as optics, I love the Leica Ultravid 10power binos. Big field of view, lightweight and unbelievable clarity. I like a nice small rangefinder, in particular the handheld Leica Rangemaster. For a spotting scope, I’d suggest the Leica Televid 82, it’s expensive, but if you can save up for it, you’ll thank yourself over and over! I’ve learned to hunt smarter, not harder in recent years and high quality gear allows me to do that. I would still save up to get the highest quality gear you can afford. Don’t let not having a set of binos keep you from hunting.  I personally didn’t even own binos until I turned 23!

W2H: How can we get more young hunter’s into the sport of hunting?

  • Mark Seacat: My personal opinion is to do your best to help out the organizations that are protecting and promoting hunting and the conservation of wild land and animals.  My personal favorite is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, but I’m active with many different organizations. Personally I also try to introduce as many people as possible to hunting. Rather than selling my used hunting equipment, I pass it on to friends that are interested in learning to hunt.   I’ve given away bows, rifles, tons of clothing, and camping equipment to people that are just getting excited about hunting!

W2H: If you had one piece of advice or a message for today’s young hunters, what would that be?

  • Mark Seacat: For me, I would say, get out there for the experience. Plan and go on trips that you think you’ll really enjoy, trips that would really push you. Don’t get caught up in the numbers. Just be stoked about the experience. You’re pretty lucky to be going hunting anyway, so be excited about the experiences out there you’ll be having. That’s what’s really the most important. There will be times where you put in a lot of time and it doesn’t work out, so you need to be able to say I put in my best effort and still had a great time. For me, it’s really the experience that is the most important. We’ve focused on the experience with our Advertising and Marketing efforts at Mystery Ranch. I think it shows in the photos we use.  It’s important to focus on the fact we do this because we just love getting out, from rock climbing to skiing, from ice climbing to hunting. Everyone gets to have the experience, not everyone get the opportunity to harvest a monster bull elk.  I think people get too caught up in numbers, go out there to HAVE FUN!

W2H: To close it out, what is your favorite or most memorable hunting story?

  • Mark Seacat: I guess for me, they’ve all been really great. I love backpack hunting and I’ve been able to go on some amazing trips.  This past fall I was able to experience a great hunt with my brother-in-law in Utah for elk.  On day 12 he harvested his first elk, which was also his first animal with a bow, and I was able to be there for the entire experience. Reliving the excitement of someone’s first elk never gets old.  Getting the chance to hunt with my dad every year has also been amazing.  I can count on a couple different trips with him each year and I find myself looking forward to these hunts all year long.  I feel really lucky that I get the chance to go on as many high quality trips as I do each year… with some amazing people.

For more information about Mark Seacat, his sponsors and his adventures, check out these links:

Mystery Ranch Backpacks

Mystery Rants

Live Hunt with Mark Seacat

Sponsors:  Mystery Ranch Backpacks, Schnees Boots, Leica Optics, Sitka Gear, W.L. Gore Products, Optifade Camouflage, Hoyt, Bowtech, Elite Archery, Black Gold Sights, Tight Spot Quivers, Doinker Stabilizers, Trophy Taker Arrow Rests and Broadheads, Easton Arrows, Gold Tip Arrows, Field Logic Targets, Outdoorsmans Tripods, Weatherby Rifles, Brunton, Gerber, Yeti Coolers, Valandre Sleeping Bags, Pacific Outdoor Sleeping Pads, and Hilleberg Tents