Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gear Review: Vargo Titanium Ascent Tent Stakes

The rage for backpackers and backcountry hunters in this day and age seems to be attempting to make your pack weight as light as possible on each hunt, without giving up quality. Some guys even go as far as getting the weight of each item to the ounce. I'll admit, it's fun to add it all up and see where you can shave weight, but I am not that dedicated to it. If you are looking to shave some weight on your next backcountry hunt try looking at titanium tent stakes. The Vargo Titanium Ascent Tent Stakes are lightweight, strong, and take up less space than most stakes (as minimal as that may be). I was sent eight (8) of the tent stakes for review.

The Vargo Titanium Ascent Tent Stake is an all-around tent stake designed for sandy soil or snow. Reflective cord offers increased visibility and easier removal. These would be perfect for California soil, but how about Colorado? My goal was to fully utilize the tent stakes in Colorado in the coming weeks, but for now my backyard was the proving ground. 

The Titanium Ascent stakes are very lightweight at just 0.3 ounces (10 grams), and the V-design allows the to butt up against each other for easier packing, less noise, and storage. They also have reflective cord on them, allowing you to see them better at night and also as a way to pull them out of the ground easier. Ordinary hook-style tent stakes can be difficult to get out of the ground.

In preparation for my Colorado trip, I set up my tent and rainfly to be sure everything was still in working order. The tent was up in a matter of seconds and carefully unrolled and placed the rainfly. The rainfly is where the Vargo tent stakes would be needed the most. After I set the fly on top of the tent, I rolled out the anchor lines to get a feel for where I needed to set the stakes. Be sure that the stakes are set into the ground with the grooved, cut-out area (at the top of the stake) away from the tent. This allows the anchor lines to have something to seat into. 

Some of the sandy soil was full of roots, so I used a small rock as a hammer to pound them into the ground. It didn't take much and to be honest I was glad. Fortunately for me, I didn't hit any rocks. The stakes did not bend or warp.

The stakes held well throughout the night and into the morning. In order to get them out I just pulled up on the cord. All but two came up easily, but that was fine in my book. A little wiggle and twist and they popped out as well. I want them to hold in the sandy soil and now I wonder how well they would work at the beach!

NOTE: These would also work as an eating utensil in the backcountry, too! They are 6.25" long and you can scoop up some Mountain House right out of the bag. It might be messy, but in a pinch it would work!

The Vargo Titanium Ascent Tent Stakes are not inexpensive. They retail for $3.95 each, so the 8-pack I was sent would be $31.60, plus shipping. The benefit is having lightweight, durable tent stakes for setting up camp. Plus, Vargo guarantees their products. Forever. So if you are unhappy, call them and they will work it out with you to make sure you are satisfied. 

Follow Vargo on Twitter: @VargoOutdoors
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I received the Titanium Ascent Tent Stakes for free from Vargo Outdoors as coordinated by Deep Creek PR an Outdoor Industry Public Relations Company in consideration for review publication. All opinions are strictly my own.

Friday, September 5, 2014

One Step Closer to a California Buck

Most of my year has been focused on hunting elk and black bear in Colorado. Although I can't wait to hunt the Rockies, I also have been scouring maps in search of a good deer spot in SoCal. Without having endless hours to spend scouting, Brett and I opted to use more trail cams this year. Fortunately for us, we have located a few legal bucks in the area we hunt. There are quite a few does, but we are after a buck. Here are some of the images from our two months of having the cams up. The D11 opener is tomorrow and we hope to get on a buck this weekend!

In California a legal buck is one with a fork in the upper third of the beam. So far we have a few that are legal, and for us each one would be a trophy.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Archers Unite! 3D Animal Targets Main Focus of LBPR Commission Meeting

One of the images of the 3D targets provided to the Commission by animal rights activists. Hard to tell what some are, right?

Yesterday, the Long Beach Parks & Recreation Commission held their monthly meeting at El Dorado Park Senior Center to discuss many things, of which were the separate renewal of permits for three archery groups to use the park facilities; Long Beach Bowhunters, El Dorado Archers, and Santa Fe Archers. Knowing that the subject of 3D animal targets would be brought up, archers assembled from all over showed up in support, filling every seat and leaving standing room only. 
Allow me to preface this article by informing archers, bowhunters, AND animal rights activists that I have been an archer and bowhunter for 30 years. I have also worked with the Seal Beach Animal Care Center in donating my time to aid in the care and welfare of the cats and dogs there. I own a cat, have owned many cats and dogs in the past and love animals in general. I also love to bow hunt.
When the topic of the 3D animal target ban was brought up, you could hear everyone shift in their seats. Director of Parks and Rec, George Chapjian began by saying the 3D animal target ban has been in place for two years, ever since LB Animal Care Services fell under the umbrella of Parks & Rec. 'We don't want to send the message that it's OK to shoot these animals. That's why we don't allow target practice of animal figures or likenesses of animals.'

My thoughts: This ruling takes away a cost-free opportunity for El Dorado Park. I am one of the few who brings my own 3D animal targets. Most of the time it is target archers using the bale targets. Again, it costs the park nothing for us to bring in our own targets to shoot and they actually make money. We bring them in and take them out every time. We do not do damage to the bale targets because we shoot our own foam targets and this prolongs the life of the bale targets.

The park did not inform the public of this 3D animal target change! I asked if I could see the official letter they sent out to people. The park did not draft a letter to go out and they didn't post notices around the range stating that archers couldn't use the targets in question. When a rule is changed like this, shouldn’t the public who use the facility be made aware through the posting of signs, an email, and website update? From what I am now hearing, there is an option to ban all paper targets of animals as well. Is this the case? We go from being able to practice and enjoy shooting at different targets to only shooting Olympic style archery?

Richard Grossman, an avid archer, archery instructor, and member of both the Long Beach Bowhunters and El Dorado Archers, spoke up to share why the targets are used. He also picked apart the propaganda packet that was sent to the Commission by one of the animal activists. It contained photos of animals shot with arrows and gave the impression that it was done here.
Richard spoke articulately, and based everything on facts, stating these images are found on Google and can be downloaded by anyone. It is obvious this woman is just trying to get an emotional (rather than rational) response from the Commission.

Val Rosas, an archer for 35 years at El Dorado park, also spoke his mind and shared facts regarding the use of targets. His response was passionate as he excitedly described the paper animal target he had and why we shoot at it.

One animal activist spoke up and began addressing the archers and not the commission. Was she taunting the group? I have no idea, but she was quickly informed to address the Commission. She went on to say that she 'appreciates what [we] do]', but fails to see why we feel the need to shoot at anything resembling an animal. It sounded like she was trying to say that archers are not animal lovers.

Lori Prichard, a state champion archer (in many categories) and single mom, debunked that. She spoke about 3D tournaments, like the one held in Redding, C.A., and how iIt is one of the largest around drawing more than 1200 participants each year. Archers from Long Beach do participate in this, including Lori. She continued to say she is also an animal lover with pets and even drove all the way out to New Mexico to rescue her current dog. Archers love animals, too!
We do not shoot at 3D animal targets that look like domestic CATS or DOGS. We shoot at 3D foam and paper pigs, deer, bear. These are animals we hunt for food and yes, we eat them and do not waste them.

Commission Vice-President Ben Goldberg spoke up and said, 'I am a hunter. I get it.' I think that surprised everyone in the room. It was great! He sees the need to practice and he proposed we shoot at something 'as large as say, a bear' to get the feel for it. While I see how is trying to mend the gap between the two sides, I don't see this helping. He as a hunter must know that shooting at a box the size of a bear looks nothing like the bear, thus it is not a proper way to practice to make an ethical shot on a bear.

Another animal activist (said she is 'not an animal rights activist, but an animal activist') also went on to say that the 3D targets are bad and that we can't hunt here in Long Beach so why allow hunting target practice. She said for us to go practice someplace else. I would share with she and the other activists that we can hunt within >30 miles of Long Beach and in order for us to make an ethical shot on a WILD GAME animal (not a pet), we must practice locally. The best part was when she said there is no need to hunt for your own food anymore. 'If you want meat, go to the store and buy it.' Yes, she really did say that.

As soon as she sat down, a fellow archer two seats away from her stood up. He is a 20 year vegetarian. He does NOT eat meat, but he made an excellent point validating hunting and the use of 3D animal targets. He said that the animal activist was wrong and that if you want to promote the 'suffering and inhumane treatment of animals' you can go buy your meat at a store! He continued by stating if you really want to eat meat 'hunt it yourself.' He is right on with that statement and the room erupted with applause.

A representative from the Santa Fe archers spoke and said that while they do not use 3D or paper animal targets, they fully support the people in attendance that do.

One activist stated that she was opposed to the animal targets because she didn't see the need for them. She also mentioned that in the movies you never saw Robin Hood shooting at an animal target. She continued to say that perhaps 'Hollywood has swayed [her]a bit'. I think the Hollywood mentality has blinded many and they react emotionally versus rationally.

A woman spoke at the very end stating that she is not an archer, nor is she a bowhunter. Her son, who was in attendance, is an archer at El Dorado Park and while he does not hunt and probably never will, not allowing the use of animal targets to be used is very one-sided.

There has been MUCH talk about the two cats that were shot by arrows earlier in 2014. LB Animal Services mentioned this and also went on to say that others in the past have also been shot with BBs and other weapons. Also, the cats were shot within a block of each other, which, to me, appears to have been done by one person. This is not what responsible archers do.

The motion to approve the permits was tabled as none of the archery clubs would agree to them the way they are written. The Commission referred it back to Parks & Rec and their lawyers to be discussed later. It was stated that the archers could continue to do what they are doing now until an agreement is reached, but that does not say we can use the 3d animal targets until further notice. What I understand it to say is we are still restricted and can shoot at the range, but cannot use 3D animal targets.

Many of us buy an annual park pass specifically to use the archery range. At $60 per pass or $7 per vehicle if you don't have a pass, it isn't cheap, but it is worth it to be able to practice out to long distances. By offering free classes on Saturdays, these archery groups generate more than $350 on a given Saturday as more than 50 cars enter the park with people looking to shoot. 

I have asked numerous people at the range, while I was shooting my 3D animal targets and my paper animal targets if what I was doing was offensive in any way. 100% of the people asked said they are not offended and many have commended my friends and I for practicing on such an interesting target to improve our skills. Some have asked if they can shoot with us and I welcomed it!

This is far from over. More information will be shared as it comes available. Keep shooting, have fun, be respectful, and be safe. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Gear Issues - Right Before Hunting Season

This off-season has been a trying time for me when it comes to gear, and it's not all faulty gear. Most of the time it is me! Recently, my peep was slightly rotated and before I took it to the shop to add a twist to the string I wanted to verify that my bow was 100% set-up properly. As I checked it over I noticed my arrow was sitting a bit high on the string. I mean really high, like 3/8" high. I hastily checked the rest and it was fine, but...but I hadn't marked where it should be locked in. Usually I take the time to use a silver Sharpie and make a tic mark where the screw and rest line up, but I was rushing. I had forgotten to do it. It was a mistake I would only make once.

In my haste, I hadn't checked the OTHER side of the rest. I have had my d-loop slide up before, so I tried sliding it back down and it wouldn't budge. Proceeding to remove it, as  I cut the last bit of the loop, I noticed movement in my Ripcord rest. As I picked it up, it slid down. All the way down. On further inspection I noticed the screw had come loose...AGAIN! This happened a few weeks back at the archery range, too. I had cranked it down pretty tight and it still came loose. So, I reset everything (whilst mumbling under my breath) and squared up the rest with the string. I then installed another d-loop and rechecked everything. I was ready to hit the range to sight in my bow - yet again.

At the range, I felt comfortable and confident. Within eight shots I had my bow dialed in to eighty yards. I was thankful to have an HHA single pin sight that is so easy to dial in, but I was mad at myself for allowing me to be in this position. Don't let this type of thing happent o you. Take the time to go over everything well the first time.

Perfect I am not. Patient? Most of the time, but now it's crunch time and my bow needs to be at peak performance. I will keep an eye on that rest. If it does it again I may just have to switch my rest...again. I say that in jest, but I know that from here on out I must check my gear after each practice session, prior to each session, and be sure it is all working properly. Have you ever had issues like this arise right before hunting season?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

3D Animal Target Issue - Long Beach Parks and Rec Commission Meeting - August 21

The 3D animal target issue is going to be discussed at the Long Beach Parks and Recereation Commission meeting on Thursday 8/21/14 at 9.a.m. at El Dorado Park West Community Center Senior Center Library, 2800 Studebaker Rd., Long Beach.

We need to get as many archers there that we can! Spread the word and get numbers up. The proposal I have heard is that the commission wants to govern what targets we can and cannot shoot. We have to let them know that we are fully capable archers and that 3D animal targets help us improve as bowhunters! 

Will I see you there?