Sam Holot Bus Hunting Lodge Night sky
Sam Soholt

This Guy Is Living Out of a Custom School Bus for a Year to Hunt Public Land

Bowhunter Sam Soholt turned an old bus into a mobile hunting lodge to chase elk all season long

I had the idea to turn a school bus into a mobile hunting lodge a few years back, and it had been hovering in the back of my mind ever since. But I finally decided to pull the trigger on the project when I realized I might be able to help in the fight to keep public lands accessible and open to the public. The bus seemed like the perfect portable billboard as I traveled between public parcels and raised awareness about the current political battle. My plan is to travel for one year, spending time on public lands and taking part in many of the recreational activities these lands have to offer, including hunting and fishing. It’s shaping up to be one hell of an adventure. I hope you’ll follow along with me, and that we both learn something about the value of public land.

open country bus sam soholt
The Open Country Bus the evening the new paint had finally dried and the journey was just about to begin. The paint job was inspired by old school pickups with the two-tone. The saying goes, "You don't know what you don't know," and I certainly had no idea what I was getting myself into. Gutting a school bus and building a living space inside it was both way more work and way more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.Sam Soholt

Although I'd like to think the build will never be done, and I'll keep adding and improving as I go.

open country bus interior sam soholt
The bus when it was finally filled with gear—organized chaos at best. The paper towels on the floor were collecting rainwater from a leak I didn’t know existed until that day.Sam Soholt
open country bus sam soholt floor mat
The perfect floor mat, custom-made for the bus.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus camp
This is the first time I had the camp completely set up. Originally I had planned on just erecting an awning, but the additional enclosure made camp with more than one guy a whole lot more comfortable.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus lewis and clark national forest
This trip to the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana was my first truly solo elk hunt. It was both daunting and rewarding to be out there making all of the decisions on my own. When I took this photo, I had a great 6x6 in the middle of the spotter.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus
There’s something amazing about just sitting in the woods in the middle of nowhere. To know that this is all free and wild to walk through, and you may just happen to find a 800 lb animal with a giant set of antlers. Hard to beat!Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus cold night
September usually brings cool nights but I shot this photo under an almost full moon and it had to have been 65 degrees. The 15-degree sleeping bag was not needed that night.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus winter hunting
A two-day, 70-degree temperature swing found me on the other side of the mountain in a foot of snow. After striking out on my own hunt, I headed to meet up with my hunting buddies. Below, Andrew Whitney and Katie Henebry, make their way along a snow buried game trail headed for the next basin.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus elk crew hunting
We snapped a quick mountain selfie to pretend we aren’t cold and wet and not hearing or seeing elk.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus andrew glassing
Andrew Whitney trying to locate a bull to chase.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus hunter glassing
It may seem like just a photo of Andrew glassing a basin that has held elk in the past, but if you look closely, there are a pair of boots that belong to someone trying to stay warm during the mid-day lull.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus camp fire
Getting a fire rolling to keep warm. We figured there had been enough fires in Montana all summer that a little smoke wouldn’t affect any elk in the area.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus camp hike
Marking a massive rub on the hike back to campSam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus massive bull spread
Andrew Whitney taking it all in. We were able to run in on 2 bulls fighting and Andrew got a shot at the winner of the fight. The most amazing part is the bull had broken off a tine on the inside of the beam during the fight, and we found the tine. It was about a 20 inch wizard wand looking thing that followed the inside of the main beam.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus andrew pack
Andrew checking that the pack is set right to make sure the load rides as nicely as 90 pounds possibly can.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus ridge
The feeling you get when your buddies crest the ridge on their way in to help.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus elk camp
After Andrew tagged out in Montana, I headed to the Black Hills National Forest to meet up with my family for a hunt. This is the first night in elk camp in South Dakota.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus crew
The crew that made the hunt. There was only one tag holder, but a lot of extra eyes to help glass and legs to help carry.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus hunting
Walking down a sloppy logging road just a few minutes before spotting the herd that Tom’s bull was in.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus elk hunting
The hunt in SD was almost more about Tom Jensen and his dad Gene getting to spend time in the woods together than it was about getting an elk. Both uttered the phrase “This is just fantastic,” more times than I can count.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus tag filled
There are few feelings better than filling out a tag on a successful hunt.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus tom elk hunting
Tom takes a good look at as his first elk, which is a great representation of the bulls found in the Black Hills of South Dakota.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus
Every hunting camp should have a mascot. This is Ralphie, the wolf. We found him at a gas station in Montana, but on more than one occasion he brought good luck to the hunt.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus camp morning
The final morning in camp.Sam Soholt
sam soholt open country bus camp
The bus as a base camp worked better than I even imagined it would.Sam Soholt