Archive for the 'Gear' Category

10 votes, average: 2.60 out of 510 votes, average: 2.60 out of 510 votes, average: 2.60 out of 510 votes, average: 2.60 out of 510 votes, average: 2.60 out of 5 (10 votes, average: 2.60 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...Loading...

Published by csinclair on 12 May 2008

Archer and Hiker does not equal Bow Hunter

(a.k.a. 10, (more), practice tips for new Bow Hunters

Last weekend I had the first chance ever to take my bow out into the bush for a long hike on 160 acres of farmland interspersed with forests and tree stands on some private property owned by my family, where I have permission to hunt.

I didn’t actually hunt on the property this time, (not being licensed to hunt in Ontario yet, (anymore)), I was however there to get some practice and experience in getting up early in the morning, (5 AM – 1/2 hr before sunrise), gearing up with all my camo and archery gear and going for a long stalk through the fields, as well as spending some time shooting from a tree stand, (pre-existing), in full gear just to see what it was like. Lucky for me one of the neighbours came by with a big old Tom Turkey (20+ lb’s), that he shot on the first morning with a 10 Guage shotgun, (nice looking bird) we shared an after the hunt drink on my father in law’s back porch while he told me the story. He called out this old Tom with a box call, and put two rounds into him, (which may explain why I’d heard lots of them clucking on the first morning and none on the second).

First thing that I did on the first morning was set up a distance string that I’d prepared with trail tape marker measurements on it the night before. I marked the 20, 40 and 60 meter intervals on it so that I could tune my sights for some longer distances than the usual 20 to 30 meter shots I practice at home. I set my pins for 20, 30, 40 and 60 meters, I won’t take a shot any longer that at this point, maybe later with practice.

I’m very glad that I did take the time to go out get the practice like this because as I’ve been reading the articles on this site and a few others like it, I’ve come to the conclusion that no amount of archery practice and hiking can get one ready to be a bow hunter and after this weekend I think I’m beginning to understand why.

I actually had a big old Tom walk right out of the bush towards where I was practicing from in the tree stand on the first morning out, he came out of the woods about 120 meters away from the stand and came closer until I think I moved and spooked him at when he got to around 80 meters away from me, he was gone in a flash not to be seen or heard from again by me.

Top things I learned on this weekends excursion into the world of bow hunting training & preparation:

1.) Be prepared, although it was early May, the mornings were cold, I forgot to pack gloves and my hands were quite unexpectedly cold on the second morning. Make sure to get all your gear together the night before, check it and double check it, triple check it, (the first morning out I forgot my field glasses even though I’d packed them with my gear, I left them in the truck, doh!).

2.) Humans are very noisy, Walking through the forest in boots it’s very difficult to be stealthy, hunt from a stand or blind and learn to call your prey, the chance of you sneaking up on an animal on it’s own turf are slim in most cases.

3.) Be patient, what better way to spend the morning than sitting out in nature, being silent, scanning for animals with field glasses, (which I did remember to bring on the 2nd morning).

4.) Practice shooting from your treestand in all directions and distances, I could shoot quite easily some in some areas but really had to shift my position and harness to shoot in other directions and distances, practice and be prepared for all scenarios.

5.) Shooting unmarked distances in the wild is very difficult, (it’s critical and quite difficult to judge distances properly this is probably why so many hunters use range finders), shooting from a tree stand is also very difficult, (due to the angles involved), until you get used to it, (I was much more accurate by the end of the 2nd day).

6.) Experience is the best teacher, reading about and watching videos on a topic is not the same as doing something, if you thing you want to be a bow hunter, get out into the woods and actually spend a few damp chilly mornings in the bush doing stuff for real.

7.) Always carry a compass or GPS device, even though I was on familiar land, it would have been easy to get lost at certain points, forests can be deceptive at times and it’s easy to walk the wrong way and become lost, (it happens).

8.) Hunters who get up early, (before sunrise), dress up in Camoflaged clothing, (I was wearing Real Tree HD head to toe), and spend hours in the woods being as quiet as possible see all kinds of wildlife, (during my 2 mornings out I saw: 2 raccoons, 2 groundhogs, lots of Canada Geese, (2 Canada Geese in particular at waters edge of a pond with a nest of 5 eggs), 3 or 4 Mallards, a Great Egret, a wild Turkey, a pair of yellow bellied sap suckers, lots of crows, red winged blackbirds, sparrows and yellow warblers, (although I spotted some droppings and tracks I didn’t see any deer this time out).

9.) Talk about Bow Hunting and your desire to be a hunter with others, (I was slightly surprised by the reception that my interest received from my family and friends), I’ve been invited out hunting with a few different groups now, to hunt for various game and I’ve got permission to hunt about 1000 acres of privately owned land if you totalled up the various offers from kind folks who I’ve talked to about my interest in the sport.

10.) Being out in the bush with the Bow is like nothing else, what a great feeling, memories in the field are irreplaceable. I can only imagine the high that comes with bagging big game with a bow after my brief taste of the sport and the tiniest bit of experience that practice in full gear could provide me with, I’m more eager than ever now.

I figure that I’ll spend a few more weekends this summer up at the same spot practicing and getting used to full camo hiking, stalking and tree stand shooting before next years season, at which time I’ll be licensed for small game and hopefully pull a ticket for turkey and who knows what else. In the meantime, practice, practice, practice.

Happy Hunting!

4 votes, average: 3.50 out of 54 votes, average: 3.50 out of 54 votes, average: 3.50 out of 54 votes, average: 3.50 out of 54 votes, average: 3.50 out of 5 (4 votes, average: 3.50 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...Loading...

Published by Bow on 08 May 2008

Bike for Deer

 

            My year has three seasons:  hunting, cross country ski and mountain bike season.  But the more I enjoy each activity, the more I learn they are not mutually exclusive.

            Six years ago I started racing my mountain bike in NORBA (National Off-Road Bicycle Association) and EFTA (Eastern Fat Tire Association) cross country races.  I’m not very good, but fighting to stay out of last place helped me enter hunting season in shape for long walks and hard climbs.  It also helped me get permission for multiple hunting trips because I race throughout the New England area and I combine out of state races with long weekends away with my wife.  In the fall I found it much easier to say I was going to hunt bear in Maine one week and deer in New Hampshire another week after we had three summer vacations together.

            Eventually I realized that my mountain bike could help me hunt by doing more than just whipping me into shape.  So last summer instead of taking long road rides on my easy training days, I started riding slowly through the management areas that I hunt in the fall.  The mountain bike easily handled almost all the terrain and it was a great way to get through streams.  Suddenly the object of my slow rides changed from just resting for a race to searching for new places to hunt while resting for a race.  Every slow ride I zig zagged along dirt roads and narrow trails looking for transition areas, new places to put my stand and, most important, sign that deer had bedded, eaten or traveled near my route.  When I decided to scout the thick stuff it was easy to chain the bike to a tree and take off.

            I’d like to say I took a deer from one of the new spots I found, but I didn’t.  I did, however, learn that a mountain bike is not just a pre-season hunting tool.  In November it is an ideal transport to most of my stands and it will take you and your gear into thick woods farther, faster and with less scent than any other form of transportation.  In the same twenty minutes that another hunter could hike a mile into the woods, I could be two to two and a half miles from my truck with a set of wheels that might help me roll out a deer others pushed my way.  All a bike needs is solid ground and a trail or opening at least as wide as the handlebars.  If you doubt that, go on line and type “Mountain Bike Deer Hunt” into a search engine and see how many Outfitters and Lodges run summer mountain bike trips over the same terrain they hunt in the fall.

            In just one hunting season, I discovered many more advantages of a mountain bike.  The fat rubber tires cross open ground scent free.  There is no need to hike by headlamp or flashlight.  Several manufacturers make lights that clamp onto the handlebars and brightly light up a remote trail.  They are not the dim, bulky lamps that were around when I was a teenager.  Modern bike lights are designed for serious off road riding (and racing) and they use bright halogen bulbs and longer lasting batteries.

            Mountain bikes are modern beasts of burden, too.  Today it’s not uncommon to read about someone riding a bicycle cross country.  With the lightweight packs and racks, it’s easy to carry a tent, sleeping bag and enough food for a week on a bike.  Bike packs fit on the handlebars, under the cross bar, under the seat or over either wheel and they are as strong as backpacks.  Mountain bikes also have attachments for water bottles.  Most bikes carry two but some hold three bottles and there are insulated ones that will let you take cold drinks or hot soups as far as you want to go.  And your gun or bow will fit on a mountain bike with the same clamps used on ATV handlebars.

            Buying a Bike

            Today mountain bikes range in price from about $75 at the big discount stores to over $3,000 at the fancy bike shops. Fortunately the things that make bikes expensive are not the things a hunter needs.

            Frames are the biggest part of a bicycle and what they are made from will largely determine the price of the bike.  Steel frames are strong but heavy and they are used on the cheapest bikes.  Generally speaking, bikes get lighter and more expensive as the frames progress from steel to cro-moly (an alloy), to aluminum to carbon fiber.  Bike shops will tell you that the frame material is important in the transfer of energy from your foot to the chain, but unless you consistently find yourself getting to the deer stand fifteen seconds too late, you don’t need to spend an extra $200 to get a stiffer ride.

            I recommend starting your search by looking at bikes with good cro-moly or aluminum frames in the $300 to $500 range.  Manufacturers load the lower priced steel frames with the cheapest parts to keep the price low (usually for a discount store) so the bikes are noisier and more likely to develop problems.  The expensive aluminum or carbon fiber bikes are more than you need, and their fancy coatings may deter you from dragging them through the thick stuff.  After you’ve ridden a $300 to $500 bike, try some cheaper ones and some more expensive ones and see what works.  You may find everything you need for much less than $300, especially on line, but trying these mid range rides will give you an idea of what you like and some knowledge of the components that fit you best.

            Like all good hunting tools a mountain bike must fit the hunter, which means there is not one perfect bike for everybody out there.  Again, the frame is the most important part of the fit.  Better bikes come in sizes, usually ranging from about 17 to 22 inches.  This number is the frame size but not all manufacturers measure their frames the same way so not all 18 inch bikes will fit the same person.

            To see if the frame fits you, stand over the cross bar with the seat behind you.  There should be about two inches of clearance between the bar and your body, maybe a little more to account for thick clothes.

            Next, get on the seat, put one hand on a wall or a car and place your feet on the pedals.  Your leg should be slightly bent when the pedal is all the way down and you should still be able to raise or lower the seat.  Racers will tell you that tube angles are important, too.  I say test ride the bike.  If it feels good, and if it fits, it will hunt.

            To hunt best, you also have to consider pedals and shifting.  First the good news.  The best hunting pedals are the cheapest ones because competitive riders don’t want them.  Racers want clip in pedals or light weight alloy ones with cages for their shoes.  Hunters need big flat pedals they can pump with heavy boots.  If your dream ride doesn’t come with them, you’ll find them hanging up at most discount stores.

            Shifting is a little more complicated.  Today’s mountain bikes have up to 27 speeds.  They shift by inexpensive (and least reliable) thumb or index shifters, or much better grip shifts or rapid fire shifters.  Grip shifts turn on the inside of the hand grip and are the easiest to use with heavy gloves but for some reason, they are getting harder to find on mid range and expensive bikes.  The more a bike costs, the more likely it is to have rapid fire shifters, which are levers mounted at and under the handlebars.  One lever clicks the chain into a higher gear and the other drops it into a lower gear.  They work fine but they take a little practice and they are not as easy to work with gloves.  I’ve found that bike dealers will switch rapid fire with grip shifts to make a sale so try both and don’t be afraid to ask for whatever works best.

            The Down Side

            Mountain bikes are a great hunting tool but they aren’t perfect.  They can be noisy and they can smell, but with a little attention, they can still get you into the woods quieter and with less scent than your boots can.

            Bikes make most noise when they are out of tune, which usually means that something is loose.  All cables stretch, so after the first month of hard riding, shifting will get harder and noisier.  That’s why most bike shops offer a free first tune up when they sell a bike.  Once they tighten the stretched cables, the bike should be quiet again.  Of course, when you change gears the chain will move and the shifter may click.  This is easy to avoid by riding the last quarter mile in the same gear.  Just make sure it is the lowest gear you need to cover that terrain and you won’t have to shift or dismount.  If this doesn’t silence the bike, you can always push it the last quarter mile or chain it to a tree a few hundred yards from your stand.

            Bike chains need to be lubed and chain oil, like gun oil, can smell.  When I race I lube my chain every week.  When I hunt, I don’t lube it.  If you keep the chain clean, whatever lube was on it in the summer will get you through November.  If it does get too stiff, you can always hit it with a scent free gun oil.  And handlebars are nice places to hang scent pads.

            Finally, I learned the hard way what to carry beneath my seat.  In that small bag I keep a patch kit and a chain tool and I bolt a small air pump beside my water bottle.  In six years I’ve broken one chain (by trying to crank hard through a stream in a race) and I’ve gotten two flats.  Heavy duty tubes and proper tire pressure minimize that risk.

            So next year I hope to throw a deer over the cross bar and wheel it from a new area I found in July to the same old truck.  Will it happen?  Who knows.  But I’m sure my chances will be greater with the long distance scouting I’ll be doing on two wheels throughout one of my other favorite seasons.

4 votes, average: 3.75 out of 54 votes, average: 3.75 out of 54 votes, average: 3.75 out of 54 votes, average: 3.75 out of 54 votes, average: 3.75 out of 5 (4 votes, average: 3.75 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...Loading...

Published by Bow on 08 May 2008

Staying Warm Means Hunting Longer

            Fifteen years ago on a February day when the wind chill was about 50 degrees below zero I turned 40 on the side of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington.  Almost every winter of the next decade, I climbed (or tried to climb) the highest mountain in the Northeast and twice I was beaten back by weather that made 50 below feel like spring.  Through these winter ascents on a mountain with the highest recorded wind on earth, I’ve learned how to dress for long days in tree stands when the mercury plunges.

Layers

            Layering is an art.  Piling on clothes until you look like the Michelin Man might keep you warm but it could also get you a role in the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial.  Whether climbing or hunting, three layers of clothing is the optimum combination for warmth, comfort and flexibility as long as the layers are the right material and the right fit.

            Many years ago my young son asked me a question that showed the science behind layering.  He came out of my bedroom holding a wool sweater and a cotton shirt and he asked why people say wool is warmer when they both feel the same.  The answer is that wool is not warmer than cotton.  In fact, no material is warmer than any other material.  Wrap thermometers inside your thickest down jacket and your thinnest cotton T-shirt and a half hour later they’ll both show room temperature.

            The science behind that youthful question is that certain materials keep you warmer than others by slowing the loss of the 98 degree heat your body produces.  Proper layering maximizes heat retention by utilizing different materials in each layer to trap heat and by limiting your body’s ability to sweat it away.

Base Layer

            The base layer is the layer against your skin and its primary role is to keep your skin dry to slow the loss of heat.  The purpose of sweating is to cool us off because sweat pulls heat from our skin faster than air does so to stay warm it’s important to stay dry by “wicking” sweat away as quickly as possible.

            First, forget the waffle pattern cotton longjohns your grandfather swore by.  Mountain climbers call cotton the death cloth because it absorbs sweat and actually increases heat loss by keeping water against your skin.  Seven years ago a new guy I took up Mount Washington wore his cotton briefs under his high tech underwear and mid way up the final headwall a sensitive part of his body chilled so much that the first thing he did when we got down was throw the briefs away.

            A good base layer should be a synthetic material such as polypropylene, thermax or comfortrel that fits snuggly against your skin.  These fabrics draw (wick) sweat from your skin to the far side of the fabric where it can evaporate without robbing your skin of heat.

            Although any polyester fabric can wick perspiration, the best synthetics are woven from hollow core fibers to help trap your body’s heat.  Like the hollow insulation in your sleeping bag, the hollow threads in base layers slow the transfer of your body heat by forcing it to travel through a layer of dead air.

            To understand how this works, picture a storm window with two layers of glass separated by an inch of air.  The heat from your home escapes quickly through the first solid pane of glass but the dead air is a poor conductor of heat and it slows the transfer to the outer pane.  To really appreciate how poorly air transfers heat, ask yourself how long you could hold your hand in boiling water, which is about 220 degrees.  The answer of course, is not at all.  Now consider how long you can reach into a 350 degree oven.  The answer is quite a while as long as you don’t touch anything solid.  That’s because it takes time for the dead air in the oven to transfer the much higher heat to your hand and it’s why eggs cook faster in boiling water than they would in a hotter oven.  Hollow fibers keep you warm on the same principle.

Middle Layer

            The second layer is your heat layer.  High tech long underwear slows heat loss by wicking sweat but the thick middle layer has to trap enough heat to keep you warm while letting you swing a rifle or hold a bow.

            While climbing, my middle layer is always a good polyester fleece.  Fleece cannot absorb water and a high quality fleece is lighter than any other material I’ve tried but will still retain more heat than heavier materials such as wool.  Less weight means more mobility and comfort. 

When hunting I’ll switch between fleece pullovers, insulated shirts and wool sweaters depending on how cold the morning is and how much I plan to move around.  One shortcoming I’ve found with fleece is that it’s never wind proof so if there’s a chance you’ll remove your outer layer on a windy day, you’re better off with another fabric.  I especially like insulated shirts because opening the buttons allows a lot of options to cool off as the temperature rises.  Wool shirts work the same way, I just don’t find them as comfortable.

Outer Layer

            Your outer layer is your defense against Mother Nature.  Like your base and mid-layers your outer layer helps trap your body’s heat, but it also has to stop the elements that can attack from outside.  Your outer coat has to withstand the harshest winds while repelling whatever the sky throws at you and still hold your body heat.  That’s the definition of fabrics like Goretex but many other fabrics, including tightly woven wool, offer protection from wind and rain.

            In the beginning I always wore a Goretex coat when climbing but in the past few seasons I switched to a heavy nylon jacket because it was more comfortable.  It works just as well at holding my heat in and the wind out but it’s too noisy for hunting.  My brother and I still argue about what’s the best fabric to climb in but even he has to admit that today there are many fabrics that are windproof, waterproof and warm.  If it’s quiet, too, it will be a good outer layer on stand.

Styling

            Choosing the proper materials for your base, mid and outer layer is not the end of the process.  To maximize heat retention you need to size the layers to optimize air’s insulating qualities.  The tighter your clothes fit the faster heat will transfer from one material to the next and the faster you will cool down, which is why thermal windows don’t touch and why down that lofts the highest keeps you warmest.  If your mid layer fits loosely over your base layer and your outer layer fits loosely over your mid layer, you’ve created two additional pockets of air that heat will have to pass through to get away.

            A few years ago I found this extra space was especially valuable in boots when I was forced to wear a pair a half size too large.  Since that day I’ve only bought hunting boots a half size larger than my dress shoes and my feet have stayed drier and warmer with a thermax liner and a wool sock inside an insulated boot, especially while walking.

            The style of your layers can also help regulate your body’s temperature.  A fleece top with at least a mid-length zipper allows you to vent excess heat while walking to a stand or if the temperature rises with the sun, which minimizes sweating, which also causes heat loss.  Today even base layers have buttons and zippers that let you regulate heat retention and wicking.

            Finally, through climbing and hunting I’ve learned that the reverse of my mother’s favorite winter lecture is true.  She always said to wear a hat because half of your body’s heat escapes through your head.  I have no idea if that figure is accurate, but I have found that removing my hat cools me off quickly.  Because I’m required to wear a blaze hat while walking to my stand I always have a thin baseball one in my pack to trade with the insulated one I wear on stand.  By switching back and forth, I stay legal and comfortable.

            A well planned three layer system keeps you warm and lets you cool off.  Just remember that all of your body feels cold so you may need glove liners to layer under heavy gloves or a balaclava to slip under a thick hat that might fit under a loose hood.  By opening, closing or removing layers you can stay comfortable to hunt harder and stay drier to spread less scent.

42 votes, average: 3.98 out of 542 votes, average: 3.98 out of 542 votes, average: 3.98 out of 542 votes, average: 3.98 out of 542 votes, average: 3.98 out of 5 (42 votes, average: 3.98 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...Loading...

Published by soularcher on 06 May 2008

Three Lessons

Three Lessons

By Joe Shuhay

(Soularcher on AT posts)

 

The first day had come, and I was up at 3:30 AM to eat, shower and dress.  Luckily my new spot was only 20 minutes away, and I could get in my stand at least an hour before daylight.  As daylight broke, the woods started to come alive with movement and sound.  I had spotted many doe and a small buck.  At about 10:00 AM a small doe came underneath my stand, and I let the Muzzy do its work, and work it did!  It was a very clean kill.  But this isn’t where the story ends…

The doe ran about 15 yards and fell.  While I waited for the animal to expire, I had noticed a very bad fray through the string serving right underneath my bottom cam!  It was obviously dangerous, and it had to be fixed.  I was lucky that I wasn’t hurt!  

LESSON #1:  Always inspect your bowstring and equipment well before the hunt.  This will give you time to swap strings and make repairs.  It will also save you from injury or a missed opportunity!

Instead of taking my Archery Research AR31 bow to the area expert, I took it to a local guy that ran a shop out of his house, to save money (a lot of money).  He was a very nice man, but I should’ve taken the hint when I entered his shop and saw that he specialized in traditional equipment (an art form in itself).  I returned that Friday afternoon for the bow, and $16.00 later I had a new string.  Sixteen Bucks!

I wanted to hunt the next day because I wouldn’t have another chance until the following weekend, and I knew there were a few nice buck cruising the area.  Needless to say, I didn’t get to shoot the bow before the hunt.  I know, I know…  I heard that little voice inside, but didn’t listen: “What if?  You didn’t shoot it, stretch the string, check it out…  Is this safe?”  Nope, I didn’t listen.   I was too worried about getting out the next day.

LESON #2:  Always inspect a repair or string installation when you get your bow back, and always shoot the bow and allow for string stretch.

I got out to my stand and opted to hunt the northern part of an oak flat, due to wind conditions, and I expected action.  There was still a little doubt in the back of my mind due to not shooting the bow the night before.  Any archer knows that reduced confidence in your form or equipment can definitely have a detrimental effect on your mindset for the hunt.  At about 9:30 AM, two doe came bursting from the laurel to my left at about 20 yards.  They stopped and then looked back.  That’s when I knew he was coming!  I waited, and saw a flicker, then a very wide eight came out into full view and paused sniffing the doe’s trail.  I drew and viewed the magnificent animal broadside at fifteen yards!  I pulled the trigger on my Scott release, the arrow flew, and…  Nothing…  Nothing!!!  I watched helplessly as the high-tined buck trotted away pursuing the doe.  I  climbed down and retrieved my arrow; it went right underneath the buck’s belly by at least a foot!

At noon I went home and shot at my target at 10 yards to troubleshoot the issue.  The arrow didn’t even make it to the target!  It was buried in the ground at about eight yards in front of me.  A closer inspection of my bow revealed that the string was not installed on the bottom cam properly which effected the whole setup.  

LESSON #3:  Pay the extra cash to get a job done by someone that knows the technology, or get the tools and learn to do it yourself, and you can rest easier in the knowledge that the job was done correctly (also refer to LESSON #2).

I don’t hold the bowsmith responsible, I knew full well that he had his specialty and, to his credit, he tried his best.  I hold my own impatience and thriftiness as the reasons that that hunt worked out the way it did.  Believe me when I say that I learned a difficult lesson that day.  The sign of a good hunter is the humility and willingness to learn and improve.

 

 

4 votes, average: 3.75 out of 54 votes, average: 3.75 out of 54 votes, average: 3.75 out of 54 votes, average: 3.75 out of 54 votes, average: 3.75 out of 5 (4 votes, average: 3.75 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...Loading...

Published by Gear Junky on 01 May 2008

Hardcore Hunter Must-Haves, volume II

Simple. Cheap. Effective. How many products with those attributes actually improve your quality of life?

Toilet seat covers come to mind. Not much else.

In the previous installation, I recommended a great backpack, backpacking stove, and lightweight bivy. In this blog, I’m going to highlight a few items that are less expensive and get less attention, but are worth their weight in gold. These items will make your next hunting trip more enjoyable, believe me. Simple, cheap, effective…you can’t go wrong.

Must-Have Blister Buster: Body Glide Anti-Friction Stick

Lightweight/Compact:10

Durability: 9

Cost-Effectiveness: 10 ($7 online)

Usefulness: 10

Innovation: 8

On the list of things I hate, blistering and chafing rank just ahead of rectal exams and just behind Kirstie Alley’s voice. I can’t do anything about the other two, but blisters and chafing are now a repressed memory with Body Glide. I found this magic stick when I was training for my first marathon. I thought a few days of wearing hunting boots over rough terrain was bad, but let me tell you, you haven’t experienced a hot spot until you’ve had a blister bleed through your sock and shoe on mile twelve. Of twenty six.

Runners, instead of doing the sensible thing (give up running), invented anti-friction sticks out of necessity. Body Glide is as good as any product out there, and is widely available for around seven bucks. You can apply it to feet, from the soles to the toes and the heel and everywhere in between, before putting on your socks. And it works anywhere else you feel hot spots, which can be a real life saver when each step burns your inner thigh. Ouch. And it works on existing blisters, so if you forget to use it, it isn’t too late – a thin layer eliminates friction, and since friction is the cause of irritation and pain, you won’t notice the blister the rest of the day.

All of those clever remedies – duct tape, band aids, Vaseline – are obsolete. Just keep this stick around or cut off a tiny slice and throw it in a plastic baggy for the backpack. It has the same consistency as clear (non-gel) deodorant, and just one stick will last years.

Must-Have Spotting Scope Accessory: Universal Digiscoping Adapter

Lightweight/Compact: 5

Durability: 9

Cost-Effectiveness: 8 ($45)

Usefulness: 8

Innovation: 9

What the heck is digiscoping? A long time ago, people asked what the heck were wheels, or compound bows, or iPods. And digiscoping is much cooler than wheels or iPods. Maybe I’ll write a separate blog on this later, but for now, here’s the quick story. At some point, most every one of us who own a digital camera and a spotting scope have tried to take a picture through the scope, usually with disappointing results. But like Dylan told us, the times they are a changin’.

As you can see, the adapter serves as a tool for positioning and stabilizing a compact camera on a spotting scope, either angled or straight. For $45, you can capture any images you see in your scope by taking a picture or video clip, and with impressive results. It takes some practice to get it just right, but once you figure out the proper settings on the adapter and the camera you’ll have some fun. Here are some of the photos I took through my scope (27x fixed eyepiece and 3x optical zoom = 81x magnification), which would have otherwise been impossible. This pronghorn probably scores near 90 B&C:

Here’s a link to a youtube video of the same goat, also through my spotting scope at 300 yards:

Now, had I come back and told my buddies that I had found a B&C monster without evidence, what would their reaction have been? Sure, Roger Clemens, an 88 inch pronghorn. But with digiscoping, scouting trips become photojournal excursions. Sure, your results will depend on the quality of your spotting scope and your photography skills. But even a rough image is better than no image, right? At twelve ounces, I bring my adapter along any time I’m not living out of a backpack.

Must-Have Bottom-Saver: Allen Gun Cases Self Inflating Seat Cushion

Lightweight/Compact: 9

Durability: 8

Cost-Effectiveness: 9 ($15 shipped)

Usefulness: 9

Innovation: 7

Nobody likes wet rumps in the field. I don’t like a wet rump anywhere. Nor do I like pine cones or jagged rocks jabbing my nether regions when I’m trying to rest my footsies. This self inflating seat cushion does the trick, keeping you dry and padded when you sit to glass those upper basins or relax and watch a Mariners game from the cold metal bleachers in the outfield. It straps around your waist (like a belt) and stays on all day, and after a few minutes you won’t notice it’s there. It doesn’t flap against you as you walk, and it sits below your backpack so it doesn’t get in the way. When you want to sit, just sit – it will be there. This one is not to be missed – it’s the most satisfying fifteen dollars I’ve spent since Safeco Field opened their cheap seats.

6 votes, average: 3.67 out of 56 votes, average: 3.67 out of 56 votes, average: 3.67 out of 56 votes, average: 3.67 out of 56 votes, average: 3.67 out of 5 (6 votes, average: 3.67 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...Loading...

Published by Gear Junky on 14 Apr 2008

Gear Junky: Hardcore Hunter Must-Haves, volume I

I love hunting. I love hunting like Jared loves Subway, like Mannings love endorsements, like Hillary loves taxes. I love hunting so much that I require a weekly hunting fix. That’s problematic, however, since fall refuses to come more than once a year. Other guys are able to scratch that itch with weekend fishing trips, but fishing strikes me as being kind of like the PGA tour – it’s available every weekend and usually keeps you entertained, but never builds to a yearly crescendo. Hunting progresses more like the NFL, the “Superbowl” of all outdoor activities. Like the Superbowl, my yearly big-game hunting adventure usually doesn’t live up to my expectations. But even when it’s bad, it’s still awfully good.

So naturally, I spend eleven months out of the year obsessing over the details of hunting season. I’ve become a gear junky, much to the chagrin of my wife, who tries her best to resist the temptation to tally up the piles of receipts from Sportsman’s Warehouse, Cabela’s, and Paypal that accumulate in my not-so-secret Danner boots box on the top shelf in the hunting closet. You may be thinking, “Hold on, aren’t you in like your eighth year of college? How can you possibly afford long hunting trips, let alone the latest gear?” Well, I’d like to say that I have a profitable side-business or online revenue stream, but the truth is, I just got lucky and found a sugar momma. Until I finish school and they call me Doctor, it’s my wife’s hard-earned cash I’m spending. Suffice it to say, I’m required to be as budget-minded as possible. So my recommendations are targeted towards people like myself who want the best gear for the best value. The Archery Talk community is a natural fit.

Before I get to my first set of hardcore hunter must-owns, here’s a few things to keep in mind when reading my recommendations:

1) These are recommendations, not reviews…and there’s a big difference. I can’t stand the way gear is reviewed in outdoor magazines. Inevitably, the magazine editor’s are given a new product by an eager manufacturer for review, and the editors either try it out for a few weeks, or (worse yet) give it to a subscriber to evaluate. What sort of credibility does that leave the review? Nobody wants to knock a product they received for free, and very few products are given a realistic amount of abuse before the review goes to print. Also, a review of the latest 2008 backpack by a specific manufacturer isn’t very valuable in and of itself. When I’m in the market for a backpack, I don’t care about one specific model of one specific brand in one specific year. Instead, I want to find the best backpack from any manufacturer from any year, in my given price range for my specific needs. A gear recommendation can do just that, if the author’s criteria and price range are comparable to the shopper’s. That’s what I’ll do here; instead of reviewing the latest gear, I’ll identify the best gear.

2) I am not brand loyal. I want the best gear for my hard-earned dollar (um, my wife’s hard-earned dollar) and I’ll go with whomever best meets that need. Loyalty is great in other realms of life, but not for consumers. Manufacturers need to know that if they slip and lose their competitive edge at all, we’ll take our business elsewhere. It’s good for the manufacturer and the consumer when competition thrives, and too much brand loyalty takes a company’s focus off of innovation and places it on achieving name-brand recognition. Fanboys have become too common and don’t give unbiased recommendations, so I’ll try my darndest to avoid being a fanboy…unless we happen to discuss Major League Baseball, in which case, Go Mariners! and Die, Redsox Nation, die flopping in the dirt like a gut-shot ground squirrel!

Only joking. Sort of.

3) I’m open to other great ideas. If you know about something that beats the heck out of one my must-haves, let me know and I’ll give it a chance. I’m always looking to improve my own gear, and I’d love to provide the best recommendations around, even if one of my favorite products gets the bump. Use the comments to our mutual benefit (for a better description of Mutual Benefit, please google “Supermodel weds Texas Billionaire”).

4) My focus is on light-weight, durable, cost-effective, useful, and innovative gear for the backcountry. What meets that criteria? The supermodel mentioned above would rate fairly well in all categories except cost-effective, but close is no cigar, so supermodels do not receive my recommendation. I live and hunt out West, and when you’re chasing mountain mulies or rutting bulls out of a one-man camp, your life depends on your equipment. Hunting whitetails deep in the forest is a similar game, I assume…but if you walk from your front door to your tree stand, some of what I’ll blog about won’t apply. Also, there are thousands of great posts around here about archery equipment, so my focus will be on other gear for bowhunting.

With all that said, here’s my first installment of Must-Own recommendations for other Archery Talk gear junkies. Hope you find this helpful…or entertaining, if nothing else.

Must-Own Camp Stove: The Jetboil

Lightweight/Compact: 9

Durability: 8

Cost-Effectiveness: 8 ($75 online)

Usefulness: 9

Innovation: 10

Like most of us, I often don’t return to camp until an hour or more after dark, and only two things are on my mind: food and sleep, the sooner the better. About ten years ago, dehydrated food manufacturers finally responded to consumer demand and began producing one-step freeze-dried meals that were actually tasty. I understand your reluctance to accept tasty and freeze-dried in the same sentence, since they sound about as compatible as Jessica Simpson and Harvard graduate. But believe me, some of the best meals I’ve had on the road were prepared in those little zippered pouches. The product only requires that you add boiling water, then re-seal and let stand for a few minutes while it cooks your dinner for you. I eat the meal right out of the package, so the only dinnerware needed is a fork. When done, I just seal the empty pouch back up, with no mess and no smell to attract bears or wandering mountain hippies.

How much does a full stomach and all that peace of mind cost? About six bucks for most brands. Mountain House is available everywhere, and has some great varieties. The desserts are fantastic, by the way, and although they aren’t cheap (around $4), they sure beat another lousy candy bar.

Where does the Jetboil enter the picture, you ask? The Jetboil, as Matlock would deduce just before the final commercial break, is the one responsible for the boiling. And how! I’ve clocked it firing sixteen ounces of glacier run-off to a boil in less than ninety seconds. And it wasn’t even trying. My kitchen stove can’t come close to matching that speed, and the story just begins there. As you can see in the photo, the Jetboil utilizes a specialized coil that maximizes heat transfer between the stove and attachable cup while reducing fuel demand. It’s lightning fast and efficient…two or three small isobutane cannisters (a few bucks each, available everywhere) will get you through most hunting seasons. And the stove and cannister fit inside the 1.0 liter companion cup, so the entire system (stove, cup, sipper lid, measuring cup, fuel cannister) takes up only slightly more space than a Gatorade bottle while weighing only 19 oz. That’s pretty impressive for a unit that can serve as a mug, pot, bowl (top ramen lovers can pour their $0.14 packages right in), and even coffee maker (with optional coffee press for those who don’t mind the less-than-stealthy breath). And the best part? The cup is wrapped in a neoprene sleeve so you can hold it firmly, no matter how hot it gets (even while the stove is on). No more metal pot grabber! Combine all of this with a slick little ignitor that works every time at the push of a button, and you have a great piece of gear, all for $75. No matter how light I want my pack to be, the Jetboil always makes the trip.

Must-Own Hunting Shelter: Outdoor Research “Alpine” Bivy

Lightweight/Compact: 8

Durability: 8

Cost-Effectiveness: 6 ($199 online)

Usefulness: 10

Innovation: 8

If you are anything like me (and you have my wife’s deepest sympathies if you are), you’ve spent a fair amount of time wondering what in Sam Hill a bivy sack is, but you have been too afraid to ask. Well, ever since Al Gore invented the internet (tee hee!) we curious types now have a venue for seeking answers without having to ask questions, which spares our fragile egos. Bivy sacks, I have since discovered, are one-man shelters that the mountaineering community developed to surpass the shortcomings of the good ol’ one-man tent. Those of you who have set up camp in a storm already know that a tent can turn into a liability; they blow over, collapse, don’t keep out ground water, and take time to set up. A bivy, on the other hand, succeeds where tents fail.

September bowhunting usually provides good weather, so I prefer to sleep under the stars wearing nothing but my crusty, er, trusty long john’s and a sleeping bag. I own an outstanding two-man tent, but I like to pack as light as possible in the backcountry, and late summer weather usually doesn’t pin you down for more than a day at a time, so a tent really isn’t necessary. But if a thunderstorm or blizzard strikes, a bivy is a life saver. And Outdoor Research’s Alpine Bivy is the best of the bunch for a hunter’s needs.

The Alpine is made out of triple-layer GORE-TEX so it’s waterproof, lightweight and breathable. It fits over your sleeping bag and sleeping pad like a sock, keeping your bedding safe from rain, ground water, and dew. What really sets it apart is one cleverly placed tent pole that arches above the shoulder area. The design lifts the fabric just enough to ditch that claustrophobic feeling that other models are known for, and it allows you to do a little reading or change your clothes without restriction. I slip my bedding into the Alpine even when there’s no chance of rain, because it’s mesh bug shield allows me to see the stars without giving blood. When hunting in the rain, there’s just enough room inside to stuff your pack and wet clothes to dry via body heat overnight. That scenario may be less than ideal, but it’s good option to have if you need it. If a prolonged storm does pin you down, a lightweight tarp (like the kind most of us already own to place under our tents) can be strung a couple feet above for a makeshift camp (thanks to Cameron Hanes for that tip). And the most unexpected benefit I’ve had is on early hunts when my sleeping bag is just too warm – instead of baking inside my bedding, I lay on top of it, and the bivy provides just enough insulation to keep the chill off while my sore muscles enjoy the extra padding beneath me. Because the Alpine is breathable, my wretched mountain-breath doesn’t turn to condensation overnight, so the interior stays fresh and dry.

It ain’t cheap, but very few products that compress to the size of a small loaf of bread can offer so many advantages to the backcountry archer.

Must Have Backpack: Jim Horn Signature Series “Canadian” by Blacks Creek

Lightweight/Compact: 7

Durability: 9

Cost-Effectiveness: 8 ($169)

Usefulness: 8

Innovation: 8

Yes, there are bigger and costlier packs out there, but if you want bang for your buck, this bad boy has it all. I met the designers at a trade show and was thoroughly impressed with their knowledge…they understand how the human body bears weight, and they have created a pack that partners perfectly with biomechanics. The entire line of Jim Horn signature series packs are outstanding, but I feel that the Canadian is the best for all-around hunting and backpacking purposes. Here are some pics and specs from their website:

Specifications:

  • Weight: 6.8 lbs
  • Dimensions: 22″H x 12″W x 11″D
  • Capacity: 2200 cubic inches (expands to 3850)
  • H20 compabitle
  • Carries bow and rifle
  • Spotting scope pocket
  • Orange safety flap
  • Adjustable torso (XS-XL)
  • Mossy Oak Breakup or Realtree Max 1
  • All heavy stress areas reinforced and bar tacked
  • Breathable mesh back
  • 13 pockets
  • Internal frame: high-tech H-frame

Now, that list may look pretty typical, but don’t be fooled. To begin, the concept that motivated the design was the internal H-frame, a lightweight innovation that provides the perfect balance of comfort and strength (the same features that I look for in a truck, hiking boot, and toilet seat). Basically, this pack can haul your meat with the best of them, replacing that annoying prerequisite trip back to the rig to retrieve an external frame once your game is down. The H-frame is surprisingly strong, and the pack is surprisingly expandable. It may not be ideal for elk, but I don’t care – I’d rather have a pack that is great for hiking and hunting elk (and spend a little more time boning and quartering) than have a pack that is perfect for hauling elk but less proficient at helping me kill one.

And man, does it have features – the spotting scope compartment, the integrated bow carrier, the integrated rifle carrier, the fantastic pocket design, the hydration pouch, the durable, quiet fabric and zippers…Santa must have read my list. Don’t get me wrong, most other high-end packs include those features, but none will fit you any better, and none will beat the price. The belt and shoulder harness are fully adjustable for most sizes, and they sell an expansion kit for guys over 6’3″ and 220lbs. (I’m 6’2″/205, and the pack fit great once I set it on the “top rung” on the standard shoulder harness).

I should take a moment to soapbox about two common misconceptions about backpacks. First, the weight of the load doesn’t matter nearly as much as how the weight of the load is distributed, despite what we’ve all heard. There are people out there who tell us that a day pack should be small and light. Not true. A pack that weighs seven pounds empty, yet fits the length and width of your torso perfectly between the hips and shoulders, will feel much lighter than a so-called “day pack” that weighs two or three pounds but isn’t long enough. The second misconception, one that I once believed, is that “a perfect pack should not touch your back, but instead should be an inch or two away for ventilation.” It’s true that none of us enjoy the feeling you get when you take off your pack to find that your back is soaked and ready to freeze with the slightest wind. But the reality is that you’re going to sweat one way or another, and it’s better to purchase quality clothing that wicks moisture away from the skin rather than rely on your pack to ventilate your back. Why? Because every inch that your pack moves away from your spine increases the load exponentially. You want the weight as close to you as possible (this can be demonstrated by placing a dumbbell in the main compartment of your backpack next to your body: note the perceived weight, then remove it, stuff a couple of inflated balloons into the main compartment, and place the dumbbell in an outer pocket with the balloons between your back and the dumbbell. The actual weight in the pack doesn’t change, but the difference in load on your spine is unbelievable). So avoid the manufacturers whose packs are too small or those that include ventilation systems. Like getting a wet kiss from your thickly-mustached great aunt, they mean well, but aren’t doing you any favors.

The Canadian pack distributes weight perfectly. And perhaps its best feature is its endless supply of compression straps, which maintain a solid, close-in load. The pack comes with a free DVD demonstrating how to use all of its features, with extra emphasis on utilizing compression straps. You can tell from the video that these guys will take care of their customers and stand by their product…buy with confidence knowing that the Canadian will handle six days worth of supplies and haul out your game, and still serve as the perfect day-pack to boot.

 

Bad Behavior has blocked 1059 access attempts in the last 7 days.