Backpacking skills for
Aspiring Hunters


“It showed me that I can overcome more than I thought physically. The mental challenges I faced on my expedition were impactful for me showing the growth in myself and the crew. I feel more confident with going backpacking with friends in the near future.”
—Ashton, Backpacking Skills for the Aspiring Hunter Student

Expedition Overview

Dates: August 1-10, 2024
Age: 16-18
Group size: max 10 students/2 instructors
Length: 10 days
Tuition: $3,500
10-day adventure through a remote backcountry public land developing core outdoor skills in navigation, camping, backcountry cooking and wildlife knowledge.

*Note -This course does not involve active pursuit of game, or weapon use of any kind; and is focused on wildlife education and skill development as hunters

Packing List 
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Expedition Highlights

  • Backpacking both on and off trail in a remote wilderness area
  • Traditional map and compass and GPS-navigation skills
  • Expedition team-building, backcountry decision-making and communication skills
  • Understanding wildlife patterns and behaviors
  • Understanding the history and importance of public lands for recreational access now and into the future

Expedition Description

Sitka Gear is generously sponsoring this course through a Sitka Gear Ecosystem Grant! The grant support includes financial aid for students in need as well as clothing layers from Sitka donated to each student.

The MWS Aspiring Hunters course is all about learning to pursue big game animals like elk and deer in wild, public spaces. Over the course of this 10-day expedition, students will learn wildlife habits and behavior, explore hunting strategies for elk, and learn valuable skills related to backcountry hunting logistics.

This course aims to give aspiring hunters all the tools they will need to plan, prepare for, and execute ethical and successful hunts in remote and wild places.* Course curricula will include: navigation with map and compass + GPS technology, lessons in backcountry campcraft and cooking, Leave No Trace® land stewardship principles, and group communication and decision-making. There will be a heavy emphasis on learning about wildlife tracks, scat, calls, and behaviors—particularly those of the Rocky Mountain Elk—as well as best practices for hunting smart in bear country. Hunting regulations and field care of game will also be covered. Each student will have multiple opportunities to lead the group as the Expedition Leader of the Day to gain experience with newly acquired leadership skills.

This course is instructed by a graduate of the Montana Master Hunter program, and sponsored by Sitka Gear with support from OnXmaps. For more information about MWS core curriculum and expedition progression see Expedition Life. If you have additional questions, please check out our FAQ page or reach out to

Expedition Objectives and Learning Outcomes

Teamwork and communication skills

  • Learn positive communication skills with diverse group members to create a healthy community, build trust, and make sound decisions in the backcountry together
  • Develop an expedition philosophy, apply it to the course, and understand how it can transfer back to the student’s home environment

Safety and wilderness based decision making

  • Backcountry hazard evaluation and risk reduction guidelines and tools
  • First aid awareness for backcountry settings: identification and treatment of common backcountry illness and injuries
  • Learn to collaboratively make decisions in remote environments that prioritizes individual and group safety

Conservation Ethic

  • Use basic observational and interpretive skills to demonstrate an understanding and respect for the natural environment
  • Discuss the history, facts and potential solutions to pertinent environmental and social issues affecting the wilderness in the expedition area
  • Reflect upon and discuss the conveyance of wilderness conservation ethics into personal life and build a capacity for commitment and stewardship to wild places
  • Develop comprehensive understanding of Leave No Trace© ethics and apply them during the expedition

Backcountry camping and Cooking skills

  • Use safe backcountry kitchen practices to cook nutritious meals on a camp stove or fire
  • Demonstrate an ability to select an appropriate campsite and set up a shelter while minimizing the impact on the ecosystem
  • Understand and demonstrate how to stay healthy, warm, and comfortable in the backcountry
  • Understand and demonstrate techniques for camping and traveling in bear habitat

Technical Skills

  • Demonstrate the ability to remain composed and safe on exposed alpine terrain
  • Travel efficiently both on and off trail in the alpine environment using traditional map and compass skills and GPS-Map technology
  • Understand the backcountry hunting regions and how to identify public land areas of interest for future hunting pursuits
  • Learn specific wildlife tracks and scats and understand identified wildlife behaviors
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Montana Wilderness School
PO Box 1183
Bozeman, MT 59771

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