Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Time of Thanks

As hunting season is in full swing, we sometimes forget to sit back and think about everything else around us. You all have probably noticed to reduced frequency of my posts lately. While I would love to attribute it to hunting all the time, it has little to do with hunting. In fact, it is mainly about my family and spending time with them. Life is great and I am not only thankful for what I have, I am grateful for the life I live. This year I am thankful for many things and I wanted to share some of them with you.

I am thankful for God's word, provision and guidance. I do struggle and sometimes do not agree with all of what the Bible has to say. It isn't easy, but I trust in God and have faith. If it was easy everyone would do it, right? The point is that I move forward, not backward. Keep moving forward.

I am thankful that I have a loving, awesome, kind, compassionate, and understanding family. This applies to my family here in California and throughout the eastern half of the USA. I wouldn't be the man I am today without the love and kindness we share. I am thankful I get to come home every night. To a home where I have a wife and daughter that mean everything to me. I am thankful I get to travel back to NY and hunt with my family whenever I want. I cherish my family time. It is truly a blessed life. 

I am thankful for my job that provides with the funds to live the life I live. The company that believes in me and allows me to be a provider. Working hard all my life has taught me to appreciate things like a job, good co-workers, and even health insurance. I used to take much for granted in these areas and as I grow older and wiser, I appreciate them each and every day.

I am thankful for great friends who I can get out and hunt with. The ones that work hard, hunt hard, and share ideas. While hunting solo can be fun at times, I love hunting with others as I like to share the experiences and hear the stories. We all chip in with helping the others out and I appreciate that.

I am thankful to have this blog as an outlet to share my adventures, opinions, and reviews. Even more than that, I am thankful for you. YOU! I am thankful that you take the time to read, comment on, agree or disagree, and share my blog. Without you guys this blog wouldn't exist and I am humbled and grateful that you take the time to read. Thank you.

I could go on and on for what I am thankful for, but one thing you will see missing from this post is 'stuff'. While I am thankful for the tools that allow us to get through each day, I am even more thankful for the experiences, adventures, and shared moments that fill my mind and heart. I hope that never changes.

What are you thankful for? Please share what you are thankful for and inspire someone today!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. May your day be fulfilled with love, happiness, and yes, a full belly.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Gear Review: DeLorme InReach Explorer Two-Way Satellite Communicator

Being stranded in the wilderness is not my idea of a good time, so I have a backup system in place for each time I head into the forest. After hearing about many hunters switching to the DeLorme InReach Explorer Two-Way Satellite Communicator, I contacted an industry friend who had much more insight into how it works. After discussing it with him and getting an introduction to the staff at DeLorme, I was sent a demo unit to test out for a month. It was right at the start of deer season, so I figured it was a great time for the full test. 

First off, want to thank Josh Moremen and Dan McFetridge for all of their guidance and assistance with information and getting me a unit to field test. You guys were awesome to work with and I appreciate you guys taking the time to answer each and every question I had. Thank you!

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, due to time constraints of my hunt, the demo unit was sent out quickly to get it to me before I left for my hunt and it wasn't cleared of the settings from the people who had used it prior. The staff at DeLorme said they would go over the setup with me to be sure I understood it, but I wanted to field test it as a typical user. (I am sure DeLorme doesn't walk each customer through the entire setup process over the phone and I wanted the review to be authentic.)

The InReach is an electronic GPS unit that you use in conjunction with your smart phone. You have to download the Earthmate app to your phone. Be sure to download the higher profile maps or you will find it difficult to find anything. On the low profile maps, you cannot see the elevation for each line until you zoom all the way in. 

Here the Technical Specifications and Important Information (as provided on the website):
  • Includes digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer
  • Includes an odometer and displays useful trip statistics while in the field, such as trip time, max speed, moving average, trip distance
  • 100 hours of battery life in 10-minute tracking mode with a clear view to the sky. Extended tracking mode can extend battery life even more for long-haul trips.
  • Color screen and virtual keyboard with predictive text for standalone two-way messaging
  • GPS accuracy to +/- 5 meters
  • Water rating: IP67 (withstands incidental water exposure; tested for submersion at one meter for 30 minutes).
  • Rugged, dustproof and impact-resistant (Mil-STD-810G for shock; IP67 for dust). 
  • Impact-resistant (Mil-STD-810G for shock)
  • Internal lithium polymer battery (2,450 mAh capacity at 3.7 V)
  • SOS messages are received by GEOS, a worldwide emergency response coordination center with 24/7/365 staffing
  • Weight: 6.7 ounces
  • Email, SOS and tracking functions work anywhere in the world; SMS availability may vary by country.
  • 100% global coverage via the Iridium satellite network, which is the world's furthest-reaching satellite communications network.
  • Maintains a satellite signal lock even in difficult GPS environments and embeds precise location coordinates in sent messages.
  • Pairs via Bluetooth with Apple iOS, Android, or Kindle Fire with bluetooth (smartphones and tablets)
  • A contract-free (minimum 30-day commitment) or annual satellite subscription plan is required for use; plans start at $11.95 per month. See plan details.) 
I tested this system out on multiple occasions. I tested it in high elevation, low elevation, and sitting inside a house.

The Cons:

Error Messages: Unit not connecting. In the parking lot, before our steep hike in, I confirmed the unit and my phone were paired via Bluetooth. After hiking in a couple miles, I saw a message saying they were not pairing. I tried to reconnect a few times and on the third try it seemingly connected. A half hour later, I went to look up a map and it wasn't connected again. I was sitting on a wide open hillside. When I got home, I connected the unit to my phone via Bluetooth at my house. More than a few times, I had error messages from the Explorer stating it could not locate my phone. The funny thing is, they were less than one foot apart each time. I am not sure what was going on there, but the DeLorme staff thinks I had a bug in the unit. No matter what, I wasn't thrilled with the result. My hunting partner was a witness to all of this, too and will back up my frustration.

Texting Issues: When texting, the messages come from a generated number, not your own. More than half the people I sent messages to didn't answer me because they had no idea who it was. You either have to set the unit up at home and test the feature (thus expiring one of your allotted messages) or you have to add a signature to each message.

Public/Private Land Boundaries: As a hunter in SoCal, I need to know where the public land stop and the private land begins, and vice versa. The InReach maps don't show public/private land boundaries like my current GPS added software. I put a lot of value on maps that show the boundaries.

Screen Size: In my opinion, the screen is too small for viewing. I am used to a larger screen where it is easier for a guy with glasses to see the screen and not have to hold it close to see everything. Like I stated, it's my own issue with the small screen.

The Pros: 

Service Options: You can set up a month-to-month plan or pay for an annual plan for service. This is really great for those of use who may only use the unit 4-5 months a year. You can suspend service without any extra fees or issues. I loved this feature!

Battery Life: The battery life was excellent on the Explorer. I was impressed with the internal battery and the ease of charging it.

Coordinates When Texting: You can text someone what is going on and it will attach your current GPS location with the message. That's a pretty cool feature, unless you don't want them knowing exactly where you are (i.e. giving up your secret spot). Something to consider before sending that text.

As you can probably figure out, I wasn't too thrilled with the DeLorme InReach Explorer. I also know I am one of the few who don't care for it. I did show the unit and my findings in the field with my hunting partners. They were witness to the issues I experienced. We all agreed that if two of us each had an InReach Explorer, we could probably locate one another very quickly. We did not have the opportunity ti test that out. At $379.00 for the unit and then having to pay for the service, I want something that will not only function as a standalone unit, but also is easier to use and update. I don't want to have to use and charge my phone and worry about a GPS unit, too. Personally, the current DeLorme InReach Explorer is not for me, but don't just take my word for it. There are plenty of other reviews that go deeper into the functionality and usage. Until I see an improved benefit and connectivity, I will not be buying one.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Blaser & Boone and Crockett #FairChaseContest

How many of you believe in Fair Chase? How many of you feel a passion for hunting? Check out what Blaser and Boone and Crockett are offering up right now. It's hunting season all over and YOU could be writing up or videoing your entry. Read on...

Submit a short essay up to 350 words or a video up to 2 minutes long telling us what Fair Chase hunting means to you and you could win the new Blaser R8 Professional S rifle, a Leupold VX-6 2-12X42mm rifle scope, and VIP passes for two to the Boone and Crockett Club’s 29th Big Game Awards in Springfield, Missouri. 

Official site: 

Social media submissions:
Tag Blaser USA and/or Boone and Crockett Club in your post or tweet
Use #FairChaseContest in your post or tweet ‘Like’ or ‘follow’ Blaser USA and Boone and Crockett Club on Facebook or Twitter 

Other methods:
Email submissions to:
Send entry by mail along with name and phone number to: 

Blaser USA Inc.
403 East Ramsey
Suite 301
San Antonio, TX 78216

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Product Review: Get Home Alive Medical Kit LITE

Staying safe in the backcountry is something I continually express to my fellow outdoorsmen. A solid first aid kit is part of that and is something that can help save a life in an emergency situation. A severe injury or trauma kit is one step up from that. I have packed the Wild Hedgehog Get Home Alive Medical Kit LITE in my pack for a couple months and while I have not had to use many items, it is a kit everyone should take a look at. This is not your 'run of the mill' first aid kit and deserves a thorough consideration for your backpack.

One of the things I did not address in the video is the cost of the Get Home Alive Medical Kit LITE. It retails anywhere from $45-84 and while that sounds like a deep pocket investment, consider needing the kit and not having it when you are eight miles deep in the backcountry. My other kits have basic first aid kits cost around $35.00, but they are full of things for basic first aid, not trauma situations. Personally, I think this kit has a reasonable price and remember, you can always add a few other items to the kit if you like. I think this is a carefully thought out kit that hunters who like to pack light will benefit from.

Great news! Wild Hedgehog has offered SoCal Bowhunter readers 15% off the kit if you buy from their website
Just use code socal15 at checkout!

Disclaimer: The reviews on The SoCal Bowhunter are solely my honest opinions. These products were either provided to me for the purpose of review or I purchased them myself. I receive no monetary compensation in exchange for these reviews.  All content © The SoCal Bowhunter. No reproduction, in any form, w/o explicit written permission.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Opening Day Etiquette and the Lack Thereof

My demeanor goes from enjoying nature, to disgust, to anger. Read on for the details.

Last Saturday was the firearm opener for deer in many of the SoCal units. Brett and I were hunting in D14 near Big Bear and we had a less than excellent day due to some inconsiderate hunters who lack hunter etiquette. This is a bit of a rant and if you are offended, you are free to move on if you don't like what I am saying, but as everyone knows, I speak my mind and I speak the truth.

First off, the rifle opener is almost always going to be packed full of hunters no matter where you go. I completely understand that and I am at peace with the fact I may have to adjust my plans if my spot is already taken. Now, if only everyone else figured that out, too. We made it to our spot at 5:00 AM and had only passed one other truck on the way up the mountain. It was pretty crazy how few vehicles we found. We were the first ones at our particular trail head. As we began pulling our packs and rifles out of the truck, another truck pulled up next to ours and asked us if we were with Larry or Lenny's group. We said no, he repeated himself, and again we said no. We turned our headlamps on and began walking into our spot. When we arrived at the location where we would split up, Brett took one fork at the trail and I took the other. 

By the time I arrived in the area I was to hunt, it was still pitch black. I saw no other headlamps and heard no other sounds except for a pair of small owls above my head. I still had an hour before sunrise, so I leaned up against a tree and let my eyes adjust. One of the owls flew off, but another flattened against a branch and rustled around. I turned my flashlight in low to view it and it was just looking at me. It flew to a closer branch and stared at me, cocking its head back and forth comically. Even though I have seen many owls in my years of hunting, it never gets old. It was such a cool experience!

The sun rose and by 6:35 AM the first shot rang out. At 6:45 is when the drama began. Down the trail about 150 yards, I see movement. With my naked eye I can see it's another hunter, wearing all black and blue, no orange at all. I am standing in plain view and he looks right at me. I turn on my flashlight so he there is no mistake that I am standing there. He evens raises up his binoculars to look at me and then proceeds to walk in my direction. I figure he is going to cut in at any time. Boy, was I wrong! He crept closer and closer and by the time he got to 60 yards, he climbs the hill and posts up behind a tree looking in the same spot I am. Really dude? So, I walk out on the trail so he can plainly see me and walk back to my spot. He comes back down to the trail and walks ten feet from me and starts asking questions. Unreal!

Mr. Inconsiderate: "Are you with Paul and Lenny? You are with our group, right?"

Me: "No. I am not with your group. I am not with Paul or Lenny." 

Mr. Inconsiderate: "Ok, so you are Paul, right?"

Me: "No, I am NOT Paul. I am not with your group."

The hunter doesn't even hear what I am saying and stares blankly at me as he describes that he ventured too far and needs to cut in behind me. 

Mr. Inconsiderate: "So did you come in with Lenny?"

Me: "No. I am NOT with YOUR group. I am in a separate group and the rest of my group is wearing blaze orange and is on the next ridge." 

Mr. Inconsiderate: "Oh, so you are not with our group? Oh, well sorry, but this is where I need to cut in. We have had this plan since last night and I need to follow it."

Mr. Inconsiderate. Enough said.

Where he decided to cut in was directly behind where I was hunting. Not down the trail, directly behind me, thus ruining any chance of a good hunt for the morning in this spot. Before I could say anything, he was off hiking behind me and what was I going to do? He was incredibly inconsiderate and showed no etiquette at all. Whether you have a plan or not, plans change due to unforeseen circumstances and you need to adjust. He should have hiked back to where he needed to go in originally.

If this were me hiking into an area where I was going to put on a drive and I found another hunter where I needed to go, I would find another way around. I would not go in and ruin their hunt! If it were the only trail head around and he needed to get into the forest that would have been a different story, but this is not that situation. Nor was it dark and he walked up to me. He walked right up to me in broad daylight. Unfortunately, that is the reality of inconsiderate hunters on public land.

I stuck around for another couple hours going up and down the trail as not to mess up Brett's hunt on the adjacent ridge. The best part of my morning was spotting a very large, and beautiful bobcat at 130 yards. He was a lucky cat as I still had 5 more days before he was legal!

When Brett and I met up at 9:00 AM, he talked about getting to his spot and hearing some noise right in front on him. He saw an ear flicker and knew it was a deer! Unfortunately, it was a doe, but she walked right toward him. She stopped at 18 yards and then two other deer came up behind her. You guessed it, two more doe and they just lingered around for a bit. I'll bet Brett's heart was racing! On our ride up the mountain I had cracked a joke about how the deer would be at 20 yards because it was rifle season. It turns out I was darn close!

He then proceeded to tell me about two guys from a hunting party who hiked in behind him (after the sun came up) and walked right by where he was hunting. He couldn't believe it. He was also wearing blaze orange and they were not. Go figure! Then I told him my story and he shook his head. This is why some hunters get upset and blog about things like this. People constantly say that we need to stick together as hunters, but I disagree when it comes to situations like this. Not only is it rude, but there is a major safety issue here.

Waiting out the afternoon while watching a distant hillside.

In the afternoon, our plan was similar to the morning hunt. We each hiked into a certain spot to sit for the night. I positioned myself above a canyon where I could see up the trail and the canyon. I felt like the evening watch could be productive, so I moved some rocks around, set up my rifle, and waited. About an hour later, here comes Mr. Inconsiderate again hiking up the trail. This time I was 150 yards beyond where I was in the morning and he spotted me right away. He lifted his binoculars to check me out and I did the same. I let him know I could see him, even if he was wearing black. I refused to look away and that's when he got on the radio and began chatting with his group. It took him about three minutes to decide that hiking toward me was a bad idea and not the right thing to do. So he hiked a different way, right? He walked toward me about 50 yards and then hiked up a small hill. I figured he would crest the hill and disappear, but I was wrong. He skirted the hill walking right towards me again. This time I made sure to get right out on the trail and walk toward him a bit. I wanted him to know how uncool it was what he was doing. Almost immediately he saw me, glassed me, and cut into the brush and disappeared. I noticed this time he had his orange meat shelf flap pulled over his pack. I watched for another 15 minutes and saw that he indeed was gone.

I slowly made my way back out the way I came in. I scoured the hillsides, the crevices, and under the trees. Nothing. No deer. The sun began to set and I heard someone coming down the hill. Sure enough, there was Brett with another story for me. He had set up on a point of the ridge and from down below, another hunter hiked up toward him. He looked right at Brett (you couldn't miss his blaze orange), and sat down right in the middle of the valley. He was directly in Brett's shooting lane! Needless to say, there wasn't much we could do at that point as it was time to head out.

We hiked back out to the truck and shook our heads the entire way. It was a harsh learning experience, but I know we will not only have plan A and B, but also C and D in the future. To the guys who disregard safety and etiquette, I hope you have a great season, but wake up and think of your fellow hunter. We are all out there to hunt, have a good time, and fill our freezers. Don't be so selfish and think about others. Time to go back to the drawing board and avoid people like that as much as we can.