Home > Outdoor > Hunt & Fish

Rad Course, Awesome Gear, Incredible People: Big Sky Total Archery Challenge 2024

Another trip up the mountain at Big Sky has come and gone. We're already looking forward to next year's Total Archery Challenge course.
Total Archery Challenge(Photo/Nick James)
Support us! GearJunkie may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

Total Archery Challenge (TAC) at Big Sky always ends up being a little work, a little play, and a lot of reunion for me. There’s a sense of community when you take the top folks from all the brands you trust in the field and toss them out onto a mountain to shoot together.

I know GearJunkie is usually all about the gear, right? But sometimes, it’s worth slowing down and noting the fact that behind that knife in your sheath is a guy who started in a garage. Behind that bullet in your chamber is a team of dedicated people who put a passion for hunting in every round. It’s the people that make this event one of my favorites.

Of course, awesome products are on display, and I have the chance to reconnect with brands like LaCrosse, GFC, Sitka, YETI, and more. But for many attendees, myself included, TAC is more about the person shooting next to you, rather than what they’re shooting. Unlike a trade show or true media event, TAC takes folks out of the office, off the show floor, and puts them on the mountain to send arrows and share laughs together.

I’ve bonded and created more friends on the wet ski slopes of Big Sky Total Archery Challenge than I ever have in any convention center.

If you’re a bowhunter, target shooter, or recreational archer, you should consider registering for a Total Archery Challenge course near you. They’re held all across the country, and you will not regret it. You may end up creating lifelong bonds while losing a quiver’s worth of arrows.

Big Sky Total Archery Challenge 2024

The Village

Total Archery Challenge Big Sky Village
(Photo/Rachelle Schrute)

The Big Sky ski resort looks a lot different when summer rolls around. The parking lot fills up for TAC, bringing incredible food and the best hunting brands out of the cold and into the summer days.

This public 3D archery shoot brings together the best archers in the industry and new folks just getting started. You may end up shooting with Joe Sixpack from Kentucky or Jocko Willink. That’s the beauty of TAC; it puts everyone on the same level playing ground.

Big Sky is a unique event in the lineup for TAC, and it all comes down to location. Not only is Lone Peak a formidable place to create a 3D archery course, but the proximity to some big brands and names in the hunting space also means this event attracts a who’s who of shoots.

Bozeman is just a stone’s throw away, so the Big Sky TAC event typically involves eating Dilly Bars with Randy Newberg, listening to Jason Matzinger discuss conservation topics, and chatting with the reps from all the Bozeman-based hunting brands.

Maybe I’m biased, but nobody does it quite like Montana does.

The RMEF World Elk Calling Championships

RMEF Elk Calling Championships
(Photo/Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)

Big Sky also plays host to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation World Elk Calling Championship. This is one of those events that I always look forward to, mostly for the youth buglers.

Competitors in the bracket-style competition battle it out, head-to-head, in three rounds: Cow & Calf Calls, Bull Bugles, and Freestyle.

This year, some of the world’s best stumbled with small errors that knocked them from the podium, allowing new challengers to take the lead.

This year had some upsets and surprises, as well as some seasoned winners taking home the top spot and prize money for another consecutive year.

The top honors in each division went to:

  • Professional Division: Tony Gilbertson — Vernonia, Oregon 
  • Men’s Division: Patrick Littrell — Florissant, Colorado 
  • Women’s Division: Marisa Pagano-Noteboom — Anaconda, Montana 
  • Voice Division: Sam Wolcott — Rexburg, Idaho 
  • Youth Division: Sam Jacobsen — Donnelly, Idaho 
  • Pee Wee Division: Hunter Littrell — Florissant, Colorado 

Shooting the Total Archery Challenge Course

Total Archery Challenge
The Pre-Sunrise TAC Crew; (photo/Riley Connell)

Total Archery Challenge consists of several different courses and more than 100 3D Targets placed all over the mountain. And it is big. On Day 2, my watch clocked us at 10 miles of hiking just to get through one of the courses.

This event is often one of the first times of the year that bowhunters pick up their gear again and get shooting. It sets the gauge on how tight your shooting is and where you need to step up your game. Fortunately, I felt good this year.

To say I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot with some of the best humans in the industry is an understatement. Each year, I find myself in awe of the incredible archers, industry geniuses, photographers, hunters, and makers in the biz.

This year was no different. I could wax on about every one of them, but I won’t bore you to death with my nostalgia about the people I consider my closest friends and family.

Instead, here are some of the faces and names in the hunting industry who serve as the backbone of the brands you love and who I consider pure gold, on and off the course.

The Nosler Team

Total Archery Challenge, Nosler
Madi Woodward and John Nason of Nosler; (photo/Riley Connell)

Madi and John from Nosler have become like family to me. Nosler embodies quality ammunition, and the people and brand are about as top-notch as you’ll find. For those unaware, Nosler is not an archery brand. That said, its dedication to hunters of all kinds is beyond commendable.

Even at an event such as this, where not one bullet is fired, Nosler supports the hunters in the field. I’ve yet to meet people who love the hunt more than these two. Madi can (and does) outhunt and outshoot every hardcore man I know in the field. And John is just a dang gem, all the way around.

You can tell a lot about a brand by the faces that represent them.

The Montana Knife Company Crew

Montana Knife Company Total Archery Challenge
Josh and Jess Smith, Brandon Hororo – Montana Knife Company; (photo/Riley Connell)

If we want to talk about a brand in the hunting space that has absolutely exploded in popularity, Montana Knife Co. (MKC) is it! MKC, headed up by Josh Smith and Brandon Horoho, has found wild success in the hunting industry. The knives are solid, and a combination of great products and incredible marketing has made them a staple in the hunt space.

Shooting with this crew is always a blast and consistently the reason I need one day of recovery after these events — not for the miles hiked, but the beers consumed and laughs had.

Teton Leather and the Skilled Hands Behind It

Teton Leather
Francesca Ritchie taking aim at Big Sky TAC; (photo/Riley Connell)

Here’s a nod to the makers. Francesca Ritchie of Teton Leather shot the course with a longbow, which is a feat I have yet to attempt. She’s rad, and so is her company.

If you took the plunge and bought one of MKC’s full culinary sets, the bison leather roll that keeps them secure came from her talented hands.

That’s a Wrap for Big Sky TAC 2024

Total Archery Challenge 2024
Rachelle Schrute (GearJunkie), Brandon Horoho (Montana Knife Company), Danny Bolton (Boarman), and Mike Gilliland (MKC); (photo/Riley Connell)

Total Archery Challenge is certainly different for everyone, but for me and my line of work, it offers the unique chance to do the thing we love with the people who keep this industry moving forward. Ironically, I had very little interest in attending these events as a bowhunter. It was only once I made bonds with the people that it became a spot on the calendar I look forward to.

I’ll continue to get excited, not only to test the gear that sends my arrows into foam but also to nurture these relationships with the hunting industry’s best. Let’s call it what it is: an excuse to hang out in a place that doesn’t suck.

We came together through our work, but I know that even if we all got fired tomorrow, I’d see these folks again in the field or on this mountain.

Until next year, Big Sky …

The Best Archery Release Aids for Bowhunting of 2024

Archery release aids are an indispensable tool for all but the most traditional bowhunters. Here we lay out the best releases of 2024. Read more…

Subscribe Now

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!

Join Our GearJunkie Newsletter

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!