Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Gearing Up for SHOT Show 2017

In just a few days I'll be heading to Las Vegas, NV for the 2017 SHOT Show. After having been invited many times, I finally decided that this was the year to go. I want to see whats new and exciting, meet some folks, secure some relationships, and do my part in helping law-abiding California firearms owners make a stand.

For those who have asked, I'll be at Industry Day at the Range all day Monday and hitting the floor at the Sands Expo Center on Tuesday. I plan on getting some great information on reloading equipment, photos, and video of some of the new gear available. What do YOU guys want to see and read about? Leave me a comment here, send me a message on Facebook, Instagram, email me, or DM me on Twitter. 

I'm not staying too far from the Sands, so if you want to meet up, grab a bite to eat, or swap stories, let me know. I am only in town the 16th and 17th, so hit me up early. Only a few more days...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Gear Review: Bullseye Camera Systems AmmoCam Long Range Edition

Image provided by Bullseye Camera Systems, LLC.

The days of hiking back and forth, hundreds of yards or even a mile, to your target are over. In my younger days, I would have no problem running out to the target to mark off the latest rounds. These were the days before the popularity of spotting scopes and high quality optics. Those days are over. Now you can see your shot and adjust from over a mile away with only lifting your finger. The Bullseye AmmoCam Long Range Edition is something I have been testing out for a few months and I think you will like what you read and see.

Early last year, I emailed Bullseye Camera Systems, LLC (BCS hereafter) owner Nick Skrepetos and asked him a few questions regarding his two systems. Nick has a background in developing software and creating superior products. He has developed two BCS options, one for up to 300 yards and one for up to a mile (yes, a mile!). I wanted to see if there was a possibility of simply using the 300 yard model for what I was looking to do with my 300 Win Mag. He knew where I was going with the questions and was very up front with me, explaining the differences and need for each unit. He said I should use the AmmoCam Long Range Edition and I agreed because why would I want to limit myself.

Sighting in at the Angeles Range where even the safety officers were impressed.

For many months I used the AmmoCam Long Range Edition, but I was limited with the areas I was shooting. All of the areas limited me to 300 yards or less. So I tested it over and over. At 300 yards, I sometimes used the AmmoCam and other times I did not. Let me tell you, it was awesome to shoot, but simply put, not using it sucked. I was trying to figure out where my shot was, but worst of all I had to hike up the mountain to view the target to verify my hit (or miss). With the AmmoCam and my iPad I could see my shot right away.

The blue circle and arrow show where I had to set my target at 300 yards. It's a long hike up.

Here’s how the BCS AmmoCam Long Range Edition works. Yes, this is from the website, because this explains it better than I ever could.

The long range edition is ideal for shooters shooting at any distance up to, and over, 1 MILE, sighting in their firearm, target practicing or developing loads. Completely self-contained, the long range edition sets up in under a minute and is ready to use.
  •     HD Camera w/Night Vision
  •     Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack w/Fast Charger (12+ Hour Run Time)
  •     Works out to 1 MILE+ with Clear Line of Sight.
  •     No Cellular or Internet Service Required.
  •     Secure AmmoCan Style Carrying Case
  •     Completely Self-Contained  
  •     Bullseye Target Manager software app for iPhone, iPad, Android Devices, Kindle Fire/HD, Windows Vista, Windows 7, 8 and 10!
  •     Free Software Updates
  •     Fully Weatherproof
  •     Includes BaseStation Receiver
  •     14" x 8" x 10" - 7LBS

First off, download the Bullseye Camera System app on your phone, iPad, Android, or Windows device. I recommend more than one if you have them. I downloaded it to my phone and iPad. I prefer the iPad because it has a larger viewing screen, but the phone works in a pinch. I also wanted to be sure that if the battery on my iPad expired that I had a backup viewer.

I did not test the night vision aspect. I hope to in the future.

The batteries lasted a long time. I had the system on for six hours one day and three another (without a recharge) and I still had two out of three green lights showing me power. After I recharged the unit, I took it on two more trips and they battery lasted over eight hours each time, with plenty to spare. There was never any issue with power.

You don’t need Cellular/Internet Service to use it as the system has it all built in. Yes, it is built-in. The system generates its own WI-FI Hotspot so you do not need Internet or Cellular Service! It works anywhere and all you need is an iPhone, iPad, or Android Device. Plus, you don't have to worry about any monthly fees.

Setting up the view of the camera - part one.
Zooming in close on your target for a more accurate reading - part two.

After you shoot, you get to see each shot blink each time you shoot to easily identify the shot! No more spending time trying to figure out which shot was yours or having to hike out to record your shot. It’s all done for you! Be sure to save and review each shot sequence to analyze your shooting sessions. I forgot this the first time and was really mad at myself.

Marking different shot sequences and shooters was very easy and very helpful.

You can have multiple shooters and viewers. I tested this out at the range with another hunter. We were able to tag our own shots on the same target to see where they were and who was closest to the center. It was so cool and very helpful. Multiple users can shoot the same target, and multiple users can view the target (on different devices) at the same time.

I used the system for my rifle shooting and also my practice at the archery range. Yes, it works great for shots over 50 yards. When you have to wear glasses all the time this system was a huge help. The image above is at 60 yards and seeing the arrows on the screen helped immensely.

BCS surprised me in the middle of 2016 with a software update that was incredible. This one now had a way to record each shooting session and write details of the shoot for reference later on. There are also many new features that you can set and adjust for your scope, settings, wind, target, and more. Nick and his team know what they are doing and to be honest, there is probably more here than you might ever use. Don’t let that intimidate you! It’s a fantastic system and I still have much to learn.

The only issue I had were in the fact that the system is very lightweight. It's good and bad, and here's why. It’s great for hauling it out at a distance, but we had considerable winds a few days at the range. The stand that you set the AmmoCam on is great, but if a gust hits it just right it throws the camera view off. I figured out quickly that I needed to anchor the AmmoCam with some rocks and wood bits to secure it better.

Now, I ask you to continue reading after I post the price. The Short Range is $349 and the Long Range Edition is $649. If you plan to invest a great deal of time shooting and recording your data to improve, this system is a must have. If you are simply plinking and don’t care how close you get to the center of the target, then continue doing what you are doing. These systems are designed for the long range shooters that want to record their data, improve their shooting, and enjoy shooting more and more. These are great for hunters shooting different weapons, too. For those worried about accidental damage to the AmmoCan, you can buy the optional insurance for $29.95 from Bullseye Camera Systems that will cover your entire unit for two years. I am simply amazed at how well the system works and how well I was able to improve my shooting in the last year. This is, by far, one of the best products I have ever had the opportunity to field test. If any of you will be out at the ranges and want to see how it works, let me know because I won't hit the range without it.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Capping Off 2016 at the Range

Arriving at the desert shooting range was like a load had been lifted off my shoulders. I knew that I would be shooting some new weapons, shooting at longer ranges, and testing out some more gear. Plus, there is something about the smell of gunpowder on a 30 degree day that just makes you feel good inside. It was going to be a good day!

Piles of steel and brass littered the area. We left it much cleaner.

The first order of business was picking up spent cartridges all over the sand. It started off slow because the ground was frozen and we had to dig them out, but that didn’t deter me. I collected and deposited them on my tailgate. My three other companions were also collecting and they were also hauling in a heavy load. It’s truly sad to see so many people use these spots and not clean up after themselves. We pick up all of what we bring, our target debris and bras, but also the other brass, steel, and target remnants. Leave it cleaner than how you found it is how I was taught and hopefully we can teach a few others that same philosophy.

My co-worker Bill, his daughter Amanda, and co-worker Duane began unloading Bill’s truck while I unloaded mine. I grabbed my 9” gong target and my Bullseye Camera System and loaded them into my Badlands 2200. It was time for me to haul my gear up the hill to set up for some long range shooting. I was also reviewing the BCS AmmoCam and needed a final test before writing up my results. So I climbed, and sucked wind, climbed, coughed my head off, and climbed some more. Between all the Christmas cookies, my allergies, and the altitude, I was hurting. I finally reached my destination and set the target up, followed by the AmmoCam. 400 yards would make for a fun test of not only the AmmoCam Long Range Edition, but also my shooting skills.

The California desert bighorn ram playing peek-a-boo over the ridge while we set up.

This California desert bighorn ram was fearless as he fed down the hill.

Once I get back down the hill and continue unloading, I see Amanda walk over to her spotting scope and view something on the ridge. Now, I don’t remember her exact words, but it was something like, ‘There’s a sheep up there.’ Sure enough, there was a healthy California Desert Bighorn ram on the ridge looking at us. He was standing at 256 yards when I first ranged him, so we dropped everything and watched him. What a magnificent animal! I have been on multiple sheep surveys and sheep spring cleanings and have never seen a sheep. This was my first and he was a beauty! We got the optics out and my trusty MINOX 10x44 binoculars made the sight that much more enjoyable. He walked down the hill toward us, feeding the entire way. I snapped a few pictures through the handheld binoculars and stared in awe. It took him the better part of 45 minutes to make his way to the far side of the ridge and disappear. What a sight and experience!

We fired off round after round in the cold desert air. Between the AR-15s, the .270, and my .222 I was very happy to be out there. The big test was the AR as I had just completed building it in early December. There are some fine tune-ups to make, but overall I was happy with the results. What a fun weapon to get to know and to shoot.

The Bullseye Camera System software view on my iPad.

Three shots at 400 yards makes a guy feel pretty good.

When it came time to shoot some long range targets,out came the .300 WM. I had used it to take a whitetail at 200 yards in NY, but I wasn’t sure how well I would do at 400 yards. With my iPad out and everything loaded into the BCS, I fired off my first reload. Nothing. I viewed the shot on my iPad and saw what looked like a flier at the top of the target frame. Whoops! I needed to relax and focus. Four more shots and three hit the gong. There was a slight crosswind, so I took that into consideration and was very happy with the results! Three out of five hits on a 9” gong with 165 grain copper bullets, uphill, with about a 7-10 mph crosswind. I have a lot more to learn and will spend more time practicing, but this was a good day! The BCS AmmoCam worked really well for me. I’ll have a review up this week and for those of you who shoot out further than 300 yards, this will be a must have.

We finished off the day with some breakfast burritos with some homemade venison/feral pig chorizo. It took forever to cook, but they were delicious! After cleanup, we shot some more and started picking up. It took much less time to cleanup, until I remembered I needed to hike up the hill and retrieve my target and AmmoCam. This was after eating two breakfast burritos! Oh boy, that was a grueling hike and I thought for sure I’d be leaving the burritos on the ridge, but I held strong!

Back at the truck, we loaded everything up and began the drive home. It was a very long, tiring, traffic-heavy drive, but I made it home before dinner. The day had been a huge success all around and seeing some wildlife out there was icing on the cake. Now that deer hunting season is over, it’s time to focus on reviews, gear clean up, and hunting some pigs. I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be an epic year. Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Product Review: Work Sharp Combo Knife Sharpener

Every year, Work Sharp continues to raise the bar when it comes to knife and tool sharpening. In 2016, they came out with the Work Sharp Combo Knife Sharpener. It came out prior to hunting season, so I had plenty of time to test it out on my kitchen knives and my hunting blades. I also got to test it out after I got my deer and used the knives many times. I sharpened every knife I could with great results.

First off, it's smaller than most belt sharpeners. It's compact and stores easily. When you are sharpening, it doesn't take up a lot of counter space. That helps make things easy. It is easily half the size of my other sharpener and is less than half the weight. I have been able to store this easily, but more importantly, when I want to get it out to sharpen a knife I can do it quickly and with little effort. 

The Combo Sharpener is made for keeping an edge on knives and keeping them razor sharp. You can probably sharpen a very dull knife with this, but you'll eat away at your sharpening belt. Use this sharpener often with the blades you continue to use and you get  longer life out of them and you'll enjoy them more!

Work Sharp Combo Knife Sharpener from DAREX on Vimeo.
It works fast. I mean it. It works very well, and also very fast.

It comes with an extra P120 belt by 3M™, so if you have many knives you use, you may need the extra belt faster than others. The replacement belts are only $8, which is a small price to pay.

There is an easy to find On/Off switch.
The only bad thing I have to say is that the fixed 25° sharpening and honing bar has a slight lip at the end and if you go too fast, you will continue to catch your blade on this lip. I ran into this many times and had to really focus on where to place the edge of the blade. It caused some frustration, but I slowed down a bit and made it work.

The other side of the sharpener has a place for your forefinger and thumb to grab the sharpener to hold it down and in place. If you go too quickly, you will find the sharpener slipping out of your grasp, but if you take your time your knives will be sharpened before you know it!

Overall, I really like the Work Sharp Combo Knife Sharpener. It's very easy to use, works very well, and if great for people who are constantly using their knives. The Work Sharp Combo Knife Sharpener is a great buy at $59.95. If you need a sharpener that is quick and efficient, this will do what you need and is very efficient. Time for me to go sharpen some knives!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The SoCal Bowhunter Travels to Western NY for a Whitetail Hunt

Rocky Athletic Mobility boots and Badlands Approach camo make a great combination.

Patience and planning. Two things that make an out of state hunt much more enjoyable. Even though I am from NY and have hunted there my entire life, I still remain abreast of the new or updated laws and regulations before I plan. You don’t want to assume everything is the same as prior years. For my 2016 NY whitetail deer hunt, I opted to hunt with my 300 WM rifle and leave my archery tackle at home. This would be the first time I have hunted deer with a rifle. During my planning phase, I was in constant contact with my dad and brother. We were checking weather, the rut and if it was in full swing, and what I needed to travel with. I absolutely love the planning phase of a hunt. It gets me energized, excited, and makes sure I am ready.  

As I planned out my gear bag to hunt whitetail in NY, I knew that my boots were in need of an upgrade. I needed something that would not only be waterproof, but also be warm. In fact, they needed to be more than warm. I love my Rocky Broadhead boots for warm weather, so I contacted Rocky and asked what they would recommend for the area I was hunting and the crazy weather that comes with it. A new boot for Fall 2016 was at the top of their list, the Rocky Athletic Mobility Waterproof 800G Insulated Outdoor Boot and there were some available in my size ready to ship. Check that off the list!

I also knew that I needed to protect my rifle and wanted to find a new case to load it and my shotgun. After much research, I found that Seahorse Cases makes a solid firearms case that would be exactly what I would need. I'll post a review in the next couple weeks, but let me just say that it is now my favorite firearm case!

I decided for this hunt I would travel with my ORCA cooler and not buy a cheap one in NY. Usually what I do to save money is to fly with only a checked bag of clothing and my weapon of choice. Then if I am successful in killing a deer, I will hit up a store and buy a cooler. This time I had a good feeling and opted to bring the best of the best.

The weather on day one was supposed to be a high of 67 degrees with a light breeze. Perfect, but would it be enough the get the bucks moving? My answer came fifteen minutes after being on watch. I was up in ‘The Big Hickory’ as I had 250 yards I could shoot. My 300 WM was loaded and ready to eat. I knew I would be able to see far off with my MINOX binoculars, so I scanned the hedgerows. Bam! Right away I noticed a buck skirting the edge of a brush lot, nose to the ground, and on a mission. He was over 200 yards away. By the looks of him I thought he was chasing a doe, but I saw no other deer. As I looked at my watch, my heart sank. I still had fifteen more minutes before legal shooting time. I had to be patient, but he was heading off toward private property.

Earlier that morning (and I mean really early), when we packed our bags, he asked me if I had brought a doe bleat. Crap! I hadn’t packed it and when I looked for my grunt call I remembered I left it on my work bench back in California. A lot of good it was going to do me there! My brother handed me his doe bleat and said it might work that day, so I packed it to be easily accessible. Little did he know it, but he was my hero that day. I reached into my Badlands pack and pulled out the bleat. I bleated three times, all while watching the buck head further toward the property line. Once he heard that sound he stopped, turned, and bolted back 50 yards and stopped. He was looking right at me! Now I had a decision to make. I put the binoculars down and traded them for the rifle. I set the rifle on the shooting rail and that’s when I noticed the rail was super low! I wasn’t used to shooting like this, but I needed to improvise. With my hand like a fist as a rest, I placed the rifle on it and settled in on the buck. He hadn’t moved. A glance at my watch told me I had ten more minutes of waiting ahead of me. Argh!!! Looking back through the scope, I saw that he had started feeding and not moving much. Now I had to wait.

My 2016 NY six point buck taken on opening day.

Ten minutes on opening day with buck at 200 yards broadside is an eternity to wait, but wait I did. I heard a single shot from far off about a minute before I was ready to shoot, so I waited. The buck raised his head and I settled the crosshairs on his shoulder. CRACK! In a cloud of smoke, I watched him bolt downhill and he picked up in a heap 70 yards form where I shot him. I was shaking like a leaf! Not only had I never shot a buck with a rifle, I can’t remember if I had ever shot one on opening day at first light. It was a first for me! All of the time I spent sighting in my rifle and getting the MINOX Z5i scope dialed in just right had paid off! Walkie-talkies being a thing of the past, I texted my dad and brother with the three letters we all wanted to see…DRT!

The temps dropped considerably by the evening and light rain changed over to sleet. I watched doe after doe walk through brush to escape the wind. I had bundled up well and decided on the first day of cold weather I was not going to put foot warmers in my boots. I wanted to see how well they would perform in the cold weather by themselves. They were great all over, except for my toes. Extremities are usually the first to feel the chill, so I knew that was a big factor, but I also noticed there really isn’t much Thinsulate up over the toes in these boots. I am not sure why, but it would be a big benefit to have a bit more insulation over the toes to keep them toasty. As the sun set, I watched the far edges of the field and watched a nice buck appear and walk down to an apple tree to feed. What a great first day!

The 67 degrees dropped to about 7 with the wind chill and I felt it all over, even down to my toes.  Day two was brisk, to say the least. The morning had deer moving, but the winds were ever increasing and we decided to hunt BJ's property in the evening. The choice was a great one as I filled a doe tag with one shot. Two days and two deer. I was grateful, full of excitement, and thrilled!
By the third day, we were ready for some action. We just didn't see the bucks we were looking for. The winds were intense and bitter cold. After carefully watching the weather we knew a cold front was coming in rapidly. We had decided not to hunt the next day due to impending hazardous conditions. We started to get some heavy snow by the evening and we had to go rescue my mom in the middle of dinner. By the time we got her back to the house, we were beat. There were cars and trucks stranded all over, most in the middle of the road! Having a day off would give me time to butcher my deer and get everything vacuum sealed. Plans changed a bit when my brother got me up at 4:30 AM to help him plow snow. I didn't help much, but it was great to see him work and chat along the way for three hours. After a much needed nap, I spent the rest of the day cutting up deer meat. I have to say that I am glad we took a day off!

With snow on the ground and my last day to hunt, it was time to test out the Rocky boots some more, hike a bit and see what would happen. Not only were the boots waterproof, they kept my feet very warm all over (except for the toes after time) and they remained comfortable. The grip in the snow was exceptional! I climbed over logs, through brush and over slick areas of dirt to try and get the boots to slip. They held fast and true. I am super happy about that. 

Not to be outdone, my brother filled his buck tag with a beauty of an eight point.

We all ventured to our stands and waited patiently. It was cold and I was ready to meet up for some coffee after three and a half hours on stand. My phone buzzed and my brother informed me that we had deer movement and that he was staying put. The rush of adrenaline had me warmed up quickly and I decided to stay in my treestand a bit longer. A few moments later I hear a rifle shot, followed by another.  BJ texted us that he had a buck down. A short time later, my dad and I met up with my brother and drove down to the deer. He had filled his tag with a nice 8-point and the body was big! It was a dandy. Congrats BJ!

Quality boots and my first attempt (with BJs help) at a European mount.

Hunting with my dad and brother is something I love to do every chance I get. Between the jokes, the strategy, and success, we simply have a great time. This was one trip when I missed my girls, but I really didn't want the hunt to end. Even so, we had one of the best hunts ever and I cannot wait to start planning the 2017 whitetail hunt. The big question is do I hunt with my bow or my rifle. Decisions, decisions.