The Nexus of Solitude and the Hunt (Chris Mann)

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For many outdoor users, heading into the backcountry is about finding that awesome solitude that brings both peace of mind and peace of body. Hunter and videographer Chris Mann pairs that pursuit with hunting as part of High Range Hunting, which takes veterans, first responders and families of fallen military personnel out on hunts nationwide. 

Hear how Chris uses the outdoors for himself and what he’s learned through the act of solitude on this episode of the Humans Outside podcast.

Some of the good stuff:

[1:39] Chris Mann’s favorite outdoor space
[2:05] About Chris’s military service and what he’s doing now
[4:33] About High Range Hunting
[8:01] How Chris became a hunter
[12:07] Why hunting is therapy
[14:44] Why veterans like hunting
[19:50] Why Chris hesitated to hunt after his service
[23:10] The solace of hunting
[32:11] How to support veterans through hunting
[36:47] Chris’s favorite outdoor gear
[38:38] Chris’s most essential outdoor gear
[42:09] Chris’s favorite outdoor moment

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Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

Amy Bushatz 0:01

It’s something we talk about a lot here on the Humans Outside Podcast: how spending time outside can bring you back to center and teach you to sort through the tough stuff and heal what’s been busted on the road of life. There’s one group of outdoor users who have been specifically focused on learning to leverage those things over the last 20 years: our nation’s veterans. As those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan link up with those who served in the Gulf War in the 1990s, and those who spent time in Vietnam, they are experiencing all of the healing nature has to offer in incredible ways. But it’s not just hiking or camping. A large group of these veterans find added solace in hunting. Marine Corps Veteran Chris Mann is one of those and today he’s going to share with us the lessons the outdoors have taught him, what he sees hunting teaches others, and why you can benefit from the same. Chris, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast.

Chris Mann 1:26

Hey, thanks for having me.

Amy Bushatz 1:28

So we start all of our episodes here imagining ourselves in our guest’s favorite outdoor space, just hanging out and doing whatever we do. Where are we with you today?

Chris Mann 1:39

Well, if it was my ideal day, I would definitely be either in the mountains of central Washington or central Idaho, elk hunting,

Amy Bushatz 1:51

Elk hunting, awesome. And you can teach me to elk hunt while we’re at it?

So you’re a Marine Corps veteran and a hunter, as we just mentioned, so first talk to us about your service. When and where did you serve?

Chris Mann 2:05

Yeah, so I was in from 2004 to 2012. I was stationed in Hawaii with First Battalion, Third Marines. And then in Camp Pendleton with Second Battalion, Fourth Marines. I did deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan throughout the years.

Amy Bushatz 2:26

I have never been to Iraq and Afghanistan, but I’ve heard my own husband, who is also a veteran, talk about the incredible outdoor landscapes in Afghanistan, specifically about seeing the stars at night. Is that something you experienced?

Chris Mann 2:42

Yeah, it was. I mean, I was, you know, obviously young, and it was a completely new style of mountain terrain for me. So I was up in northern Afghanistan. And I mean, the high mountains, these I mean, these are you know – New Mexico is about the closest thing I could say compared with just those, you know, rock mountains. It was amazing. With no ambient light to distract, the stars are just lit up in the sky.

Amy Bushatz 3:16

And what are you doing today?

Chris Mann 3:18

So right now I am a full time college student at Washington State University. I’m in my senior year pursuing degrees, both in psychology and criminal justice. And when I’m not here, I guide and film, hunting trips all around the country.

Amy Bushatz 3:40

Why film?

Chris Mann 3:44

It was just something you know, I’ve liked, it was just something to do. But as I kind of learned and started upgrading my equipment, I started being able to kind of tell stories of a lot of the times, who I’m taking out are vets and new hunters, and it almost gave me a reason to tell their story with them in it. And it also gives a memory for them that they can look back on. If it was something, maybe a once in a lifetime opportunity for them, they can go back and you know, look back at it and remember those times

Amy Bushatz 4:22

Do you find that the filming of it adds a connection to the experience that you wouldn’t otherwise have? I mean, both for you and for the person who’s watching it later?

Chris Mann 4:33

Yeah, I enjoy the filming aspect of it. It’s a totally different – you have to take yourself out of the actual hunt and live in that moment through this four inch screen. But I also enjoy the editing side of it, getting back, looking back and just remembering — Oh, man, that was that was a cool angle; or — Oh, I remember that. That’s got to go in the video. You know, and kind of building the narrative with your story. And then I’ll go back and look, you know, rewatch old videos that I cut when I’m cutting new videos and seeing what can I do different, what did I not like about this, what did I like about that.

Amy Bushatz 5:16

Your organization is High Range Hunting. So talk to me a little bit more about what you do there. You said you guided all over the country. Of course, we’re up in Alaska and I did not see that you have done guiding up here yet. Am I wrong about that? Have you made it up?

Chris Mann 5:33

No, not yet. I think you have to be Alaskan native to guide up there. Like an Alaska resident, not native. And I haven’t made it up there to hunt yet. It’s on a very short bucket list for me. Within the next probably three years. I’ll be going up there probably to do a 14 day, in the Brooks Range is kind of the plan. It’s gonna be beautiful. I’ve loved Alaska. It’s in my opinion like that last frontier. There’s so much just unexplored and you know, just raw nature. It’s always called to me but it’s never been in the cards for me to head up there just yet, but it’s coming.

Amy Bushatz 6:23

You know, I think we forget that I think we get I kind of want to use the analogy, see the forest for the trees. Right. But in some ways, I think that that’s true and that we obscure that the cities distract us. But I mean, I’ve driven through all sorts of the US, right, and it’s, it’s wild in so many ways that are just under-appreciated. Do you find that?

Chris Mann 6:52

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I’ve traveled a lot of the country with hunting and seeing the different sides: the Rural city or not even cities, towns or villages in the Midwest, even in parts of Idaho, you know, there’s still areas that don’t even have good cell service. It’s surprising that you know, you can drive through this mountain pass and go through these little towns, and then pop over the next ridge and you’re driving down the hill into Boise and it’s this big metropolis city.

Amy Bushatz 7:24

I have driven there and I am envisioning exactly what you’re talking about there in Idaho. That’s funny. I’ve got like this mind picture of that. Because that’s exactly right. It’s very arid, right. And then you’re winding through the mountain and all of a sudden, boom, Boise.

Chris Mann 7:43

This little big city, hidden.

Amy Bushatz 7:47

Yeah. And on a river, so it’s all of a sudden, well, a lot of the year, all of a sudden very green, right. So funny. Okay. So talk to us about the hunting, talk to us about how you got into that and why.

Chris Mann 8:01

So, I’ve always hunted. My dad, my grandpa, I mean, they’ve all hunted – I come from a family of hunters. So that was just in, you know, it was in the blood. But when I got out of the military, I didn’t have a lot of direction, and it was kind of my dad who pulled me back and was like — Look, you need to come hunting. It didn’t appeal to me and I was dealing with my own things. And eventually I started getting back into it and it just felt right. It was that call, you know, turn the cell phone off, get away, you know, decompress. I made an Instagram account called High Range Hunting. It started out as just kind of a memory book for me, you know, pictures and stuff of what I was doing. This was about two and a half years ago when I really started to, you know, take pictures and upload what I was doing and, and it took off like wildfire. It was well received.

And from there, I got linked up with a, at the time a nonprofit organization that’s based out of Washington but has chapters in I think 40 or 45 states to include Alaska. It’s called the Fallen Outdoors and it’s a nonprofit run for veterans and active duty military, by veterans and active duty military and its sole thing is just hunting and fishing. So I mean, guys will go on and be like — Hey, I’m going fishing here. I have two seats in my boat, who wants to go? It’s just a really good way to network and, you know, spend some time with guys and girls who have like minded experiences and have you know, similar passion. So that’s where the guiding and the give back started and I, you know, started bringing over guys and having them come hunting with me and realized it was something that I really enjoyed. And as my social media was really starting to get some traction. I linked up with another vet named Ryan … And he’s filmed in the outdoor industry for years – filmed for TV shows, been on TV shows, hunts all around the country, and has the same passion where we wanted to do stuff with veterans, first responders, terminally ill children, and Gold Star families. And so we’ve really linked up and we got linked up with a third gentleman named Robin Anthony, and he founded his own 501c3, so we can actually fundraise and do trips all around the country now.

Amy Bushatz 10:59

Very cool. How much of your time do you spend doing that instead of your business?

Chris Mann 11:05

Ah, they go hand in hand. So the High Range is more the brand. And Ryan has his social media which is called Ryan Off the Grid. And then we have come together for High Point Adventures. And so everything we’re doing with our social media somehow comes back to support High Point Adventures.

Amy Bushatz 11:34

So, I’m in Alaska, as we’ve talked about, where hunting is, at least for those who lived here, less a sport and more a matter of putting food in the freezer for the year, right? Although it’s certainly an enjoyable sport for many, many, many people as well. But it’s, you know, you have to eat in most ways, right. So just like heading outside for runner’s high can be both fitness and therapy, hunting doesn’t have to be food or health, it can be both. At least that’s what I found to be true. And I’m wondering if you find the same thing?

Chris Mann 12:07

Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I used to rifle hunt a lot, and it got old for me and so I branched out to archery. My first year archery hunting in Idaho, I was not physically fit to be climbing those mountains. We went in for a 21 day backcountry, you know, we had our camp, our base camp, and we were going for four or five, six days at a time, then come back out, restock, go back in. And I think I lost like 23 pounds just from hiking these steep northern Idaho mountains. And I realized that — Oh, man, you got to get back in shape if you’re going to do this. So the fitness aspect of it’s very important. Not only being physically fit, but even mentally fit. I mean, you’re out there with yourself and your thoughts at that point, but it’s also a really good time. You know, I think some of my favorite times are just sitting up on the hill with a buddy, my dad, you know, anybody that I’m hunting with and just, you know, chatting, and it doesn’t even need to be like up in the mountains. Tuesday, I was with a first time hunter and navy vet who won a turkey hunt. And we went up to this property and it was just a really amazing time sitting there waiting for turkeys to come. And just chatting and, you know, learning about his experiences in life and helping him learn more about hunting and seeing his drive to learn more, and he asked good questions and it was a good conversation.

Amy Bushatz 13:55

So I’ve talked to some veterans who don’t like hunting because they’re tired of it. Killing things, which is, I think, a very gruesome way to refer back to service and not accurate. I want to make sure that people know that that’s not accurate for many, many veterans, right? Not everyone who serves is in a position of shooting, or being boots on the ground, and that I don’t want to create a stereotype here for veterans whatsoever. But I have heard people say that, so I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about that. Why is hunting different? I don’t know if that’s your experience or something that you had to move past. I’m wondering if we can deconflict that a little bit. Yeah, I mean,

Chris Mann 14:44

Everybody has their own thoughts and feelings about hunting. You know, love it, hate it, indifferent to it. I’ve met a few vets that kind of said the same thing. I was like — Alright, well, let’s find something that does interest you. Maybe you know, fly fishing, you know, something like that. There’s always something in the outdoors that somebody can do. But they need to, I mean, in my opinion, they need to get over themselves at that point. Because like you said, I would say roughly, maybe 20% of the military is actually, you know, boots on the ground kicking doors in –

Amy Bushatz 15:23

I think, like 14%.

Chris Mann 15:25

Is it? Yeah, it’s not a big number. It’s called the tip of the spear for a reason. Right? And, you know, and if they’re having, you know, those issues with you know, as saying it so roughly is, you know, killing things, then that’s, that’s something that they’re dealing with internally, so I know there’s really nothing I can do to help them with that. I can offer the opportunities coming, you know, even I mean, backpacking, but a lot of what I try to teach people and show people is that It’s not about the hunt, necessarily. It’s not about the kill. It’s about the experiences that lead up to that moment. You know, all the hard work you put in the miles you’re on your feet hiking, you know, the time you’re spending with good people. That is really, in my opinion, the most important thing when it comes to the hunting trips that we do. It’s the fellowship, the camaraderie, just the good times that you can remember. I’ve got lots of hunts where we’re, you know, we’ll be out there for two days, three days and don’t even see a single deer or elk. It happens, it’s hunting. But you could most likely go back to that person and say, — Did you enjoy your time? And they will definitively say yes, because the people we bring around, we vet who we’re taking out because there are some vets that are having some serious issues, you know, we have to protect ourselves. But we have noticed that people will come down and the people that we take on trips, they still stay in touch with each other, with us, with the outfitters that we go with. So I mean, it’s more than just killing an animal. It’s a whole spectrum of, you know, experiences.

Amy Bushatz 17:30

It’s so interesting that you said that because I was talking to my husband about our conversation before we were recording this today, and I asked him — What do you think it is that veterans like about hunting? And he said exactly what you just said, which is that it’s not about the kill. It’s about what leads up to it. It’s almost like you coordinated. That’s weird.

Chris Mann 17:58

He sounds like a very smart man.

Amy Bushatz 18:00

There you go. So, one of the things we actually do in my family is that my husband helps lead a veteran focused organization called Remedy Alpine, which takes veterans into the backcountry to have outdoor experiences, but focused on hiking and camping and backpacking. So not focused on hunting, and it’s just their preferred flavor of outdoor experiences. But it’s the same thing, right? It’s not about the destination. I mean, getting to the glacier is cool and all right. But it’s not about that. It’s about getting there, as cliche as that sounds.

Chris Mann 18:39

Yeah, absolutely. It’s totally the experience from start to just before the end that really will leave the lasting impact.

Amy Bushatz 19:38

So earlier when you were talking about how you got back into hunting after getting out of the military, you said that you hesitated to do that. Why?

Chris Mann 19:50

I was not in a good mental state. You know, I was dealing with some inner demons and just separated from the military. So that was a total culture shock. I mean, I joined a couple days after I turned 18. And I was gone within 30 days. I mean, it was my whole entire adult life. And so I was just, it just didn’t seem like something that was in the cards at the time. But once I got back into the mountain, I mean, it was it. It filled the void that I needed and enabled me to, you know, kind of open up and let some things go and just kind of learn to enjoy myself again.

Amy Bushatz 20:37

Do you think veterans in particular find hunting to be good for their mental health? Because earlier you mentioned that many, many, many of the people you guide are veterans and so much of what you do now is veteran centric and there are so many organizations that take veterans hunting and fishing. Why?

Chris Mann 20:58

Honestly, I think it goes back to the camaraderie side of it. I’m blessed to be up in the Pacific Northwest where we have amazing opportunities for hunting, fishing, just outdoor recreation in general. You understand it, you’re in Alaska, it’s very similar. There’s salmon fishing, there’s always something to do. And I think that because of where I’m located, and it’s kind of, even without them being vet, it would more than likely still have been either something they were raised doing. But I think the camaraderie side of it was – like, for duck hunting trips, we’ll bring out three or four vets who, you know, want to come duck hunting, and it’s fun to shoot ducks, but standing there in the blind during the lulls, you know, laughing joking, catching up, making new connections, realizing that you’re not necessarily going through the same thing alone, but there’s others who are dealing with it as well. I think that’s the side of it that a lot of people miss, once they leave the military. It’s that close knit brotherhood or sisterhood that you had in the military. And that’s kind of something that outdoor recreation in general, when it comes to what we do is, is key.

Amy Bushatz 22:26

I think that a lot of what you’re describing is one of these things that if you know, you know, right? Like if you’ve been there, if you’ve experienced the solace that comes with going outside or with being in that completely isolated place, you know, it’s a universal understanding that you develop with people who’ve also experienced that, not unlike understanding service, right? But I think a lot of the people who are listening to this may not have ever had that opportunity. Perhaps their outdoor time is city based or in a park and where they live. Can you describe that solace for us? Can you give us some context for that? And what that’s like?

Chris Mann 23:10

Yeah, I mean, everybody has it – the day to day hustle, the cell phone, the notifications, you know, your phone’s going off every five seconds, you’re checking social media to see and hear what the, you know, the latest gossip is or what somebody else is doing. I love going to a place where there is no cell service, turn the phone off, and just decompress. I mean, you know, I’m not necessarily a huge reader by any means. But I always take a book with me to elk camp, because if we’re just sitting around camp, in between hunts or something, it’s really nice to turn your brain off, read a book, you know, just decompress. It’s quiet so you hear the sounds of nature and there’s something about it that just is really calming to the soul in my opinion.

Amy Bushatz 24:04

I am listening to you talk and I’m envisioning myself in that space.

Chris Mann 24:10

There are a lot of people, their outdoor recreation might be going to a city park and walking on a trail next to a pond. But I mean, if you have the ability to go to the woods, go for a day, go to you know, even if it’s just a, you know, a national forest campground, like an established campground, go up, take the family, you know, turn your phones off and just kind of enjoy nature. You know, you will come back with this refreshed attitude.

Amy Bushatz 24:52

I have had a certified forest therapist on this show before – Michelle Abbey – and one of the things she taught was the value of just spending time noticing your surroundings. And one of the practices that she developed as part of her training was going back to the same spot over and over and over again. She called it a sit spot if I remember correctly, and purposely noticing different things in that spot every time you’re there, and there’s a temptation to think that this sounds a little bit fruity, but I tried it. Okay, so I have this path behind my house. That is part of a cross country running course for local high schools. Okay, it’s wooded, it’s fairly scenic, but I spent a lot of time going over the same exact trail, because it’s very, very convenient to me. And in the wintertime, it’s gloriously shielded from the wind. So that’s a big benefit when things are like negative 20 outside, right. So I thought — well, if I’m going to do this and go back to the same spot every day, I might as well, you know, make this habit of noticing things around me. And so I spent a little bit of time, just one day purposefully looking down, one day purposely looking up, you know, and so on and so forth. And, and noticing those things, and I gotta say, like, that was very beneficial. It brought me into that space in a way that I was not before because I was distracted, right? Let me tell you what, my cell phone works perfectly well back there, right? I’m not turning that bad boy off. I’ve got it with me. So I just see such a value in that. And I want to encourage people who are listening, like you don’t have to go super far away. You don’t have to go somewhere without cell service, although that certainly helps you turn it off. If you don’t have the access. You can just go in your own backyard and use a little bit of purposeful control to notice where you are and what’s around you. Do you find that? Have you ever experienced that Chris?

Chris Mann 27:07

Oh, yeah. Anytime I’m outdoors, I’m usually hunting. So we have spots that we’ll go to, you know, we call glassing spots, you know, high points you can see down these valleys. And it’s funny you said that because every year, at least once will go to the same spot and it’s so interesting to see what’s changed. What trees have fallen, what new growth is coming in, you know, everything. It’s very common to just sit and stare and just be in the moment and be totally aware of everything that is around you. It’s very common.

Amy Bushatz 27:54

I’ve described it as a brain reset. Like if you did a Ctrl Alt Delete on your mind and just power that bad boy off, turn it back on again, and things were a little bit easier. That’s how it feels just to have that moment of just spacing out. I find that when I’m running, I know a lot of people don’t love running and instead of thinking about nothing, they are thinking about how they cannot breathe. I totally get that. That’s totally fine. But I bet you are way better at hiking and carrying heavy loads than I am. So there’s that.

But I find that when I’m doing that, a lot of people find that just staring at a fire right? Or like you said, just waiting for the hunt to get going.

Chris Mann 29:00

Just sitting and being quiet, listening for anything that would not be considered like a natural sound. So I mean, a twig breaking something like that. It’s in that moment. It’s very quiet, and very calm. Every night, I sit and I stare at our campfire. And I just vegetate, and, you know, just sit there, almost like catatonically staring at fire.

Amy Bushatz 29:39

Yeah, it’s a great moment. So there are a lot of organizations that help veterans in the outdoors, right, like we’ve talked about. Some of our listeners may have military life experiences like you and I do – me as a military spouse and you as a service member, but many of them might not even know any veterans. Can you give us some advice on how outdoor minded folks might reach veterans and help them get outside? Because, like we talked about earlier, we don’t want to have that poor veteran thing going on. We don’t like that. But we also don’t want the ignore that guy because he’s a veteran thing. There has to be a middle ground. So what’s your advice?

Chris Mann 30:24

There are a ton of great organizations that are all about getting veterans in the outdoors. A lot of them aren’t necessarily run by veterans. They’re just people who want to give back, there’s, I mean, I can think off the top of my head, a few really good organizations. One of them is up in Wisconsin called the Horicon Duck Hunt. And the town of Horicon, Wisconsin, completely shuts down for this entire weekend and they open their doors to this giant city wide supported veteran duck hunt. I think they do like 170 or 180 vets come through, the local guides all donate up their boats, the local towns folk, you know, cook the meals. And I mean it’s a totally incredible thing that their city just wanted to do. The Fallen Outdoors, like I said, is a nonprofit for vets. They rely heavily on non veteran partnerships who want to take guys out who want to do all that. And I mean, if you, I’m sorry, they can be found on their Facebook page if you just search the Fallen Outdoors, All Community or Community Partners page. There’s a whole group where you can go on and there are teams all over the country that are doing really good things with vets and they can always use more help.

Honestly, if you want to reach out to High Point Adventures, we’re always looking for people that want to help. Even if it’s just — Hey, I’ve got a boat and I want to take some guys fishing. Let us know we can link people up. Between myself and Ryan and the Fallen Outdoors, we have a very wide net that we can find people. Yeah, I mean just those organizations just sending them a simple message on social media say — hey, look, I want to help. How can I help? Easiest thing to do.They will. Some organizations are a bit slower to get back, they’re very busy, but you know, they’ll get back to you. What I’ve noticed is I’ve gone out and I’ve filmed trips, where non veterans are taking veterans on like deep sea fishing trips. And you know, interviewing the boat captains in the first minutes after that, you know, asking them — why did you want to do this? And it was their way of saying thank you. I think it’s good, it’s good for them, it opens them up to these new experiences with people who aren’t necessarily their cookie cutter clients who, you know, might be a little weird and a little rough around the edges. But I think I think, not even just from a veteran perspective, everybody can benefit from doing some sort of outdoor rec, you know. I’m a huge advocate for it.

Amy Bushatz 33:45

So what I hear you say is, if you’re a civilian who wants to get involved in this is just, I mean, volunteer, right? Just get out there and put yourself out there. In your experience, do you find that That veterans who are involved in these organizations feel like the people who are doing the volunteering sort of have a poor you veteran attitude, because I think that’s maybe one of the fears among veterans, but also, that it’s one of the reasons people don’t volunteer, right, that they don’t want to be seen as doing that. They don’t know what the right thing to say is or do so they don’t say or do anything. Do you find that?

Chris Mann 34:26

Not in my experience. I suppose it would be case by case, individual person to individual person. But I mean, when we’ve, you know, utilized non veteran volunteers who have wanted to just do something, it’s never been this — I feel bad for these guys or this or that. It’s that they are doing something that they love doing and they’re sharing it with someone who may not have that opportunity all the time. Case in point, we were in Texas in November, an outfitter named Cadillac Creek Outfitters. down in Texas. They do sandhill crane, duck, and goose trips, and they are world renowned. They are very well known. And their owner Toby just wanted to do something and just give back. You know, he didn’t have this poor you mentality. It was just something that he knows that this is a specialty that he has, a passion that he has, and it was a way that he could share it with other people. If you’re feeling like you’re going to get — oh, he’s just helping us because he feels bad for me — I would put that thought out of your mind because that’s maybe a one percent chance. I think anytime you volunteer and not just to a vet, but to anybody, most likely they will be appreciative because it’s a new experience for them that they might not have the opportunity to do ever.

Amy Bushatz 36:13

Hmm that’s really good advice. Thank you. So we’ve come to the part of our show where we talk about some of our favorite things. I like to call it the leftovers round. So talk to me about your favorite gear. What’s your favorite outdoor gear?

Chris Mann 36:34

Can’t live without or can’t get anything done without?

Amy Bushatz 36:39

Let’s go with can’t live without and then we’ll reserve can’t get anything done without for your most essential option.

Chris Mann 36:47

So my can’t live without, must-have his trail mix.

Amy Bushatz 36:54

Yeah, yes. My trail mix tends to be less trail, more chocolate. What about you?

Chris Mann 37:01

I am a trail mix addict, which is why I’m so blessed to live near a WinCo because they have about 47 different trail mix options. They really

Amy Bushatz 37:14

They really do! I do not have a WinCo, but I can testify.

Chris Mann 37:17

I will go there and stock up on three to four pound bags of multiple different styles. And then when I’m prepping for a hunt, I’ll take a cup, put it in a freezer bag, like an airtight bag, air seal them. I have to have trail mix. It’s just something that, I want to get up to the top of a mountain after I hiked it. I want to sit there and I want to just eat trail mix. So that’s what you will always find that in my bag.

Amy Bushatz 37:46

I said chocolate but the truth is I like Swedish Fish in my trail mix. Is that weird?

Chris Mann 37:53

No, because I really love Swedish Fish because you can sit and chew on one for like three minutes. And then spend another five minutes getting it out of your teeth.

Amy Bushatz 38:03

That’s right. I actually joke that my favorite fish is a Swedish red. It’s a salmon joke. Anyway. A very bad salmon joke, but it’s a salmon joke. I like a Swedish red. What can I say?

You prefer it for hunting and hiking. I prefer my trail mix for running but again, less trail, more fish or chocolate. So there you go. All right, most essential gear.

Chris Mann 38:38

My bow, obviously. Nothing happens without my bow. But I think the next one is a comfortable backpack. I mean, a bag. We’re carrying everything all day on our backs. And if you don’t have something that fits you properly, you are going to be miserable. And then boots, as well. Boots and bags are musts.

Amy Bushatz 39:08

So boots and bag are very individualized. But what do you use?

Chris Mann 39:13

Well actually, it’s funny, right before we got on this meeting, I treated myself to a brand new set of Italians that are hunting boots.

Amy Bushatz 39:29


Chris Mann 39:30

Yeah, I’ve been looking at them for about four years and I’ve tried a bunch of different companies. Every company has their — Okay, this is good. This is bad. ‘ve always wanted to try these boots. So I pulled the trigger after I finished my final. I said — You know what, treat yourself. And so I’ll let you know how I like them. I might hate them. That would be an unfortunate situation. But as far as my bags go, I’m partnered with a company that I do genuinely enjoy their bag. It’s called Wilderness Packs. They’re based out of the Pacific Northwest. I’m a bigger guy, I’m, you know, six, three 270 you know, I’ve got very, very wide shoulders and a lot of the mainstream bags were too tight on the chest, and wilderness came up with a wider pack frame, pretty much for a larger barrel chested individual, per se. And then their bags, you can get different size custom bags, that strap to these pack frames. So it’s a two piece that links to one. I’m actually looking at my bag that’s half loaded, I’m heading out turkey hunting as soon as we get off of here. We’re going to go spend a weekend with some great vets and do some turkey hunting. So um, my bags are packed.

Amy Bushatz 40:53

Awesome. And it should be noted that a backpacking backpack and a bag you use as a hunting pack are two different things.

Chris Mann 41:02

Yeah, absolutely. For the first few years that I was hunting, I was using an old kelty backpacking bag. It was, you know, it was green. But it was very, it was tall and taut, like so you could I mean, I could load it up above my head, but it was almost too bulky. But they’re very similar. I suppose if kelty made one that was camo, it would sell very well.

Amy Bushatz 41:34

Yeah. No doubt. All right. Tell us finally, if you close your eyes and envision your most favorite outdoor moment ever, something that you just harken back to, where are you and what are you doing?

Chris Mann 41:50

It would probably be last year. I had a buddy call me and say that he drew a certain unit elk tag in Washington, which happened to be in my backyard, pretty much. It’s the unit right outside of the town that I grew up in. And he called me and said — I’ve never shot an elk in Washington, will you guide me? I filmed it all so I mean, it really made an amazing film, but I think being there with him and seeing the raw emotion on his face after he shot his first elk. Then we snuck into 62 yards and he shot it with a muzzleloader, which is a black powder musket. Seeing the raw emotion on his face. I think that was probably my favorite moment, at least since I’ve been guiding and hunting post military. That’s probably my favorite moment.

Amy Bushatz 43:16

Chris, thank you so much for being on the Humans Outside Podcast today.

Chris Mann 43:20

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

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