Scott Oeth has always been an outdoorsman. From being in Boy Scouts as a child (including achieving the Eagle Scout rank) to becoming a master naturalist, he’s done it all. So, starting the wilderness guiding business, Bull Moose Patrol, seemed like a no-brainer for Oeth and his wife, Linda Hardin.
His passion for the wilderness began during his childhood in Madison, Wis., where the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum was practically his backyard. “Outside of my back door was this forest connecting to the arboretum, and that really was my playground growing up,” Oeth says. “I spent hours playing there and building forts.”
Blue Hills region of Rusk County, Wisconsin
He spent his youth in Boy Scouts, camping every month (even in the harsh winters), whitewater rafting and canoeing, and going on high-adventure and backpacking trips. And he admits that, though not many teenagers were in Scouts, the experience was highly formative and led to his love for the outdoors.
“I had a period through college where I was working and I’d go camping on the weekend,” Oeth says. “And I became an adult volunteer with the Boy Scouts … I thought, ‘I want to do more.’”
In the following years, Oeth honed in on his wilderness skills—taking courses from wilderness first response and survival instruction to the University of Minnesota master naturalist program. “It’s fun to do things in the woods and really learn,” he says. “It drives me to learn new skills and techniques, [and] it’s fun for me to keep building the skills.”
Kopka River, NW Ontario
Oeth and his wife made the decision to create Bull Moose Patrol in 2014—“[We started] going on trips and formed it with the dual mission of building a great digital resource and teaching classes, while also guiding trips.” The name stems from Minnesota’s iconic figure, the bull moose, and his days as a Scout (the most basic unit is called a patrol in Boy Scouts). “The name just seemed to fit,” Oeth adds.
The Bull Moose Patrol blog covers everything from trail-tested gear and great campfire recipes to their “bootcamp” section, teaching readers the basics, plus tips and tricks, to camping, hiking and anything outdoors related—think, how to keep your hands warm in the deep cold or survive the frozen tundra. The blog also features an expedition log, or travel guides, for their getaways.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of their most popular travel destinations, since it’s well-known and just a few hours north. “The BWCA is very popular, it’s phenomenal,” Oeth says. “You could spend a year traveling the BWCA.”
National Cold Weather Leaders School, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Although you may not consider winter camping in the northern woods, Oeth says that’s his favorite time to go— “It’s an incredible experience and a beautiful landscape … Seeing the Northern Lights, hearing the wolves howl across the lakes with temperatures 80 below with windchill,” he says. “I don’t like being cold, but I like the science behind winter camping.”
Backpacking the Denali National Park and Preserve was another demanding (and extremely cold) experience, and quite possibly one of his favorites; though there was an extensive screening process and extreme conditions. “It was an incredible experience,” Oeth says. “We saw grizzlies every day and it was a stunning landscape.”
“You have to be well prepared and understand how to keep yourself warm,” he adds. “[Winter camping] is like a chess match; you always have to be a couple steps ahead.”
Though Oeth has done plenty of solo camping, he offers group outings through Bull Moose, with group sizes from six to 12 people.
Justin Wilke had fairly modest camping experiences prior to going on Bull Moose excursions. “I had done some basic car camping and did one larger backpacking trip to Yosemite National Park,” he says. Years later, Wilke is proud to have taken seven trips with Oeth and Bull Moose Patrol, from lake canoeing in Canada to hiking through the North Cascades in the state of Washington.
North Cascades National Park, Washington
“Working with Scott [Oeth] is great,” Wilke says. “He does all of the organizing and planning—logistics, meals, equipment—and he makes sure everyone is prepared. If you might be missing a piece of gear, Scott will make sure you’re covered.”
One of Wilke’s seven trips was a week-long trip paddling the Allagash Waterway starting in Greenville, Maine, which he says was intense.
“It took a lot of travel to get there—we had to fly to the East Coast, then had a long car ride to our base camp,” he explains. “Then we had 6 or 7 days of paddling … It was a great experience, though, [and] I think we saw nine moose on that trip!”
Ted Nelson, an experienced paddler and outdoorsman, was also on the Allagash trip—calling it the most adventurous of his four trips. “[Scott] worked with a local canoe guide to run the trip, so all the logistics, meals and most of the equipment was taken care of,” he says. “All of the people on the trip were top-notch, good people … He recruits solid like-minded people.”
Prior to camping and canoeing with Oeth, Emily Knaeble had only taken day hikes through places like Arizona and Hawaii. “Scott is very experienced so everything runs smoothly,” Knaeble says. “I love that he teaches you about things as you go—whether it be how to utilize certain canoe strokes [or] how to chop wood.”
Though the Bull Moose blog and wilderness trips are the two main features of the company, Oeth also teaches several classes around the Twin Cities catering to groups of 20 to 30 people. “A few months ago, I did a talk in Alberta, Canada, and my whole talk was how to have a great trip and an enjoyable time,” he says. “I talked about the human aspect of camping … Helping people learn how to have a good time and be safe. Although there may be challenging moments, it’s all big smiles.”
Bull Moose Patrol will, of course, have summer outings and classes available—but they are still in the works. Oeth recommends reading up on the Bull Moose blog for outdoor tips and catching his interviews, plus signing up for the BMP newsletter to be the first to hear about upcoming trips and classes.
“[The wilderness] is a special passion of mine,” Oeth says. “I love the outdoors—it’s my passion. And it’s fun for me to take a group of people who have never done something like this and show them how to do it safely.”
Additional photos courtesy of Scott Oeth, Rob Kesselring and Sam Larson
Boundary Waters by the Numbers
Minnesota prides itself on the beautiful Boundary Waters (BWCA), but many are unaware of how astonishing it truly is.
- The BWCA contains more than 2,000 lakes, 3,400 miles of stream and 1,200 miles of canoe routes.
- The BWCA has more than 2,000 designated campsites, 12 hiking trails and nearly 150 miles along the international boundary.
- The BWCA is the eighth most visited forest in the National Forest System, and the fourth largest in total area (over one million acres).
- Both the highest and lowest elevation points in Minnesota are in the BWCA (Eagle Mountain and Lake Superior, respectively).