Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Dawn of a New Era for the SoCal Bowhunter!

It is the dawning of a new era for the SoCal Bowhunter. Prior to moving to California from New York nearly a decade ago, I utilized my archery equipment and firearms to hunt. I focused on bow hunting mainly, but I also loved using my rifles and shotguns. When I moved to CA, I left my firearms in the care of my family and focused strictly on bow hunting. That time has come to an end. My rifles are now here in California and it is time to get them prepped for hunting! (It only took me ten years!)

Many of you are probably asking why I am moving away from bow hunting. I'm not leaving bow hunting behind at all! I have chosen to also utilize my rifles in California because I want to fill my freezer. I am out of red meat. Plus, I have the opportunity, so why pass it up? I want to hunt as much as I can, the most efficient ways possible. Most of the time I will continue to focus on bow hunting, but I also want to improve my odds. I also want to enjoy the hunting experience more. With the drought and so many hunters out here, breaking out the boom stick is a viable option.

To get things rolling, I have have installed new Vortex scope rings and a new MINOX ZA 5 3-15x50 scope on my Remington 270 WIN. This will give me incredible clarity, even in low light conditions, and with the ballistic reticle, I can shoot out to 400 yards comfortably. I know on paper I can shoot out to 500 yards, but with a 34-37" drop I think I'll stick to closer ranges with this weapon.

Brett and I ventured out to Oak Tree Gun Club in Newhall, CA last night to sight our rifles in for this weekend. Yes, Saturday is the firearm deer season opener and we aim to be out there. Pun intended. Am I excited? You bet I am! I haven't hunted deer with a firearm at all in California, so this is going to be a new adventure for me. 

Brett and I drove an hour and a half last night to get to the only rifle range open past 5 PM. Brett was sighting in his .30-06 and I my .270 WIN. We were zeroing in for 200 yards. His first two shots were off the target, so we knew something was wrong.We spent some time with his scope and had a difficult time getting it zeroed in. When it was my turn, I was very high, but adjusted the turrets easily and I got a bit ahead of myself by adjusting too far. I feel like I wasted a couple rounds there. Our bullets have to be non-lead rounds out here, so as you can imagine they are not cheap. I shot nine shots total and got in a decent spot, and decided to let my barrel cool while Brett tried again. His shots went wide again and we then realized his turret locked up. It was a complete mess! Neither one of us could figure out what the problem was. Even the range manager couldn't get it to move. Talk about frustrating.

Back on the bench, I shot another 5 and got even closer while Brett tinkered with his scope as light was fading. Fortunately the range is lit up, but my targets were fairly dark at the center making it difficult to pinpoint the exact bullet hole. Then, by some miracle, Brett finally got his scope turret to adjust and was able to get closer yet. It was go time!

My next 3 shots put me in a great group. I adjusted slightly and my last 3 shots were exactly where I needed to be. I was ecstatic! I set my rifle down to cool and we looked over his rifle. I peered down his scope and saw that his lens was foggy around the edges and the clarity wasn't very sharp. I offered up my rifle so he could look down range with the ZA 5 scope and the smile on his face was priceless! He looked at me and said, 'I need to get me one of these scopes!' I completely agree!

We left the range in good spirits and talked hunting the entire drive home. We will probably be the only ones wearing blaze orange on Saturday, but we will be out there ready for a deer or a bear.  I hope everyone stays safe out there and fills their tags humanely. Enjoy yourselves and be aware of your target AND what is beyond it. I am looking forward to your successful hunting stories next week!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gear Review: Olight S1 Baton Flashlight

Over the years, I have tested out numerous flashlights and headlamps. I am always looking to better my hunting experience and want the best lights I can afford without breaking the bank. When Olight contacted me to review the Olight S1 Baton I looked over the tech specs and agreed to a review. After using it for a couple months, I can say the Olight S1 Baton is the most compact, ultra-bright flashlight I have ever used. I think I have finally found the flashlight I have been searching for!

Here is a short list of specifications (you can find the rest here). 
  • Cree XM-L2 LED. Maximum light output up to 500 lumens.
  • 3 standard modes: 8 lumens, 80 lumens and 500 lumens.
  • 2 special modes: 0.5 lumen moonlight mode and a 10Hz strobe mode.
  • 6061-T6 aluminum alloy body with anti-scratch Type-III hard anodizing
  • Body material:  6061-T6 aluminum alloy structure, Type III hard anodizing
  • Stainless steel pocket clip, stainless steel flashlight bezel, stainless steel binder ring
  • Dimensions:    Length: 61mm, Diameter: 21mm
  • Weight :  30g (excluding batteries)
  • Max beam distance:  110 meters
  • Waterproof:   IPX8

The first thing I encountered when looking over the flashlight were that you needed special batteries. Basically, you need a CR123A photo/camera battery to operate it. Most stores around me don't carry them. I had to resort to buying a pack of ten online for around $18.00. Pretty good deal, but I wish I had known that from the start. The great thing about the battery size is that you can pack extras and they don't take up too much space or add much weight. 

Operating the flashlight is very simple. The only drawback I found is that at first, you really have to play with the timing of the buttons for the strobe and moonlight mode to get the timing right.
  • Single click --- Turn ON / Turn OFF
  • Click and hold --- High brightness, select timer, or activate moon light mode
  • Quick double click --- Turbo brightness, or enter setting
  • Quick triple click --- strobe mode

The S1 Baton is very small. Smaller than a roll of pennies! So small, in fact, that it fell out of my hands and fell on concrete. Yet it still works fine! Other lights I have dropped have failed miserably. Everything stayed intact and in the proper place.

Let's talk about the brightness factor. I think the Mars Rover was getting signals from me when I turned this thing on to 500 lumens. Even Darth Vader might think I had a light sabre and challenge me to a duel. The moonlight mode is awesome for looking at a map or using a subtle light. The mid-range light is incredibly bright and the high range is super bright! DO NOT look directly into the light! It is common sense, but I see people do it and this will hurt your eyes! The strobe is a great feature for those emergency situations (or is you like to disco).

The S1 Baton has some awesome features like the magnetic back. You can place in on car hoods, metal tables, the stabilizer of your bow, and many more places, provided they have a magnetic surface. It also come with a lanyard and threading pin. This is handy to use to get the lanyard through the eyelet. You'll want to hang on to that pin though. If you want to use the hat clip for mounting to the brim of your hat, the lanyard is going to be in the way and you'll want to remove it. When I did use the Baton on my hat (less the lanyard) I found that I absolutely loved it! It works better than my headlamp and if I want to use it as a flashlight I can just take it off the brim.

The Olight S1 Baton retails for $49.99 and while it seems expensive, it really isn't. You get so much with this little powerhouse. In fact, I have already shared my findings with my friends and hunting buddies and they are all looking at purchasing one. This is seriously one of the coolest gadgets I have had the opportunity to field test and review. This definitely gets a two thumbs up from me.

For Sale: Nikon Archer's Choice Rangefinder

I have lowered the selling price on my Nikon Archer's Choice rangefinder. I have two cases for it (both camo). One is Realtree APG and the other is Realtree as well, but more light brown than anything. It's in great shape and works great. Only reason I am selling is that I am buying a new one that will go beyond 100 yards. No scratches and it's waterproof. Throwing in the retractable tether, too ($15 value).

You can read the specs here. It is selling used for $222.00. I am asking $125.00 (obo) for it with the two cases and lanyard. Email me with any questions of offers.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Time Has Come to Hunt Some Does in SoCal!

Anyone with an A31 deer tag will tell you that this time of year is exciting, and extremely hot. I plan on heading out with Brett to try and fill our A31 tags on Saturday. These special tags allow us to shoot a buck or a doe with archery tackle. We have scouted a few areas and we have the one picked out to hunt on Saturday. It is going to be a crazy hike in and the temperatures nearing triple digits. I just hope the deer have read the memo.

Anyone else heading out in search of a doe or a buck?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Feeling Like a New Man

Clean air. Dirt trails. Climbing high in search of mule deer. The Silence. This past weekend was just what I needed and I feel like a new man. I was completely at peace in the mountains and it was glorious! It was something I definitely needed mentally and spiritually.

LT and I got a late start due to me having to wait for the big brown truck to arrive. Once my package was in hand, we hit the road to Big Bear Lake. Brett had invited us up there to hunt and we jumped at the chance. We knew we would only have one day to hunt, but it was worth the 2.5 hour drive through Friday night traffic. It's easy for me to say as I didn't have to drive! (Thanks LT!) We arrived late, unpacked and went to sleep. The temperatures were in the 50s and I slept well. 

When the alarm went off, I was up and quickly showered. Once LT was up and dressed, we hit the road to get to a spot Brett had been checking out all week. We arrived early, but it was a blessing as many people drove by glancing at where we were. I think we found a good spot as there were many sad faces in the windows as trucks drove by.

The area we were hunting was vast, so we discussed the landscape and where to set up. Brett was going to head to where he had spotted a big buck a few days earlier. LT and I would hike in and set up near some ridges. Hiking in was heaven. The smell of pine, dirt, and a breeze free of smog. My lungs were happy. I dropped LT off at his spot looking over a ridge and hillside. I continued on to find more and more trees and valleys. I set up where I could glass two ridge lines, a valley, and a grove of burnt brush from a fire at least ten years prior.

Our plan was simple. We would sit and glass for a couple hours and then meet back up at the truck. I glassed and glassed and sat in awe of God's creation. It was so incredibly peaceful. After 45 minutes of seeing nothing, I decided to inch forward about 50 yards to get a glimpse of the valley just out of my view. Almost immediately I saw four deer bounding back down the ridge and one of them was a buck. I couldn't tell if there was a fork or not, but the antlers were 12-14" tall from what I could tell. It was a great start to the day!

After another hour of seeing nothing more than a random bird, I made my way back down the hill to meet up with the guys. After a quick chat with another local hunter and his sons, we hiked back up past where I was positioned and found some large deer tracks. We hiked to the edge of the ridge and glassed for a few moments. When I turned around, I glanced down, noticing something peculiar, and there resting under a bush was a young rattlesnake. Fortunately we were all a good 6-8 feet away. I snapped a couple of photos and was thankful I was wearing snake gaiters. We let it be and hiked back down to the truck after not seeing any deer.

The rest of the day we drove around, glassing, telling stories, and enjoying the beauty of the mountains. By the time evening rolled around, we were ready to enjoy the serenity of nature. I climbed to a new spot on an adjacent ridge and got up high. I was able to see both Brett and LT and they could see me. I cannot describe to you how refreshed, relaxed, and comfortable I felt sitting there on the mountain. Know that it was one of the best feelings in the world. It was so quiet, I could hear LT walking up the road from nearly a quarter mile away. I had a big jackrabbit come in at 40 yards, but he stopped when he heard my breathing. I'll admit, I got excited when I heard some brush moving. He hopped off and a few hummingbirds zipped around the Indian Paintbrush flowers while I waited for the sun to set. We saw no more deer that evening.

The next morning would be our last to hunt, so we set up similar to the evening hunt the night before. I hiked the ridge, but LT ventured to where I first sat the day before. After a half hour, I noticed he was stalking something. He crept closer and closer to a spot that I could not see clearly due to heavy brush. After a few minutes he gave up and went back to his pack. When the time came to head back down, we packed up and met on the road. It turns out that a large spike buck had suddenly materialized in the green growth at less than 40 yards. As LT inched closer, he saw that it was a spike, which are illegal to shoot in California unless the antlers are below 3". His excitement at seeing the buck and getting that close with a bow was clearly shown in his expression and smile. Now we just need to get him on a legal buck!

For me, it was a great weekend to be up in the mountains with friends. It went far too quickly as I could have stayed up there a week. As the rifle season creeps closer and the temperatures drop, I am hoping for a few more days out there to find my first legal Cali buck to send an arrow through. Until then, I will scour maps, practice, and daydream.