After photographing, filming and writing about 16 different sheep hunts, Sitka Athlete Mark Seacat got his own tag in the fall of 2012. Still, it wasn't solely his hunt, and after eight days documenting fellow Sitka Athletes Bobby Warner and Kiviok Hight's incredible successes, he had one day to make it happen. Using a borrowed left-handed rifle, he harvested a beautiful old Dall. As he and his companions were packing out in an icy rain, they couldn’t find passage through the steep canyon and raging river between them and camp. With much effort and luck, they managed to build a weak and smoldering fire with green willows to wait out the night, and their collective rushed and shivering woodcutting left Mark with a deep slice to his hand, followed by a proud scar to commemorate his first ram.
Later that year, while hunting with Sitka Athlete Adam Foss, his Montana elk season came to a close with a seven-day backcountry mission during the season's worst blizzard. when the blinding storm broke, and Mark harvested a fine bull. But by that point, the duo was dangerously low on food and supplies, and the ensuing 50-hour pack out left them stumbling with exhaustion, dehydration and malnourishment.
What makes Mark different from other overenthusiastic hunters is that he actually wants to hunt like this, while most of us want only to have hunted like this.
“I’m constantly looking at how to push myself further,” he says. “Like, how do I find an animal that would somehow define the effort I put into this?”
Before turning his full attention to hunting, Mark spent years living out of cars, tents and storage units as a climber chasing storied summits, steep icefalls and classic big wall lines around the world. His nomadic existence gave him something like a guiding principle: process, exertion, and personal experience mean more to him than accomplishments. That way of thinking has been bleeding from the edges of his photos ever since. In fact, Mark's authentic, experiential images are largely responsible for the hunting industry’s slow repentance from years of staged photos and contrived expressions of machismo.
Mark hunts now like he climbed then. On his last ascent of Denali, he didn’t take the well-trod West Buttress with its better odds at the summit. He took the Cassin Ridge – a strikingly aesthetic, technically difficult line that flirted with the threshold of his abilities.
"Pushing the edge of what’s personally possible requires gear at the edge of what's technically possible," he says. "Gear that’s truly better always opens up new possibilities, and that's what Sitka has done for me."
Mark's been a member of our Athlete Team since 2007.
Watch the full film here.