Thursday, February 25, 2010

Going Hog Hunting!
It's been two months since my last hog hunting trip... two months too long! I am headed out to Parkfield again this weekend with bow in hand to see if I can bring down my first hog. I'll be going up there with Jeff again and this time he'll have two more guys in tow. Looks like again I'll be the only archer on site, so I am excited.

I spent 2.5 hours last night in the Archery Outpost pro-shop with Bernie and Conner getting my X-Force tuned. A big thanks to them for staying so late and helping me out. They got the bow shooting straighter, tighter and helped me with my form, too. Thanks guys!

The biggest thanks goes out to my wife. Without her continued support I'd be hunting the straw bales at El Dorado and not wild pork chops. She knows I have an obsession with bow hunting that is frighteningly passionate. She will say no, but she deserves a nice weekend to herself, too. I am thinking massage, pampering, dinner and maybe a concert of her choice - with no whining from me.

Hopefully I'll come back with some great video footage and photos of some nice hogs we've taken.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Concept Worth Acting On
In discussions with my good friend Chuck, who is active military, I know that getting a license to hunt out of state can cost an arm and a leg. He loves to hunt and usually only gets to when he's back in NY with his family. As I was getting my daily dose of my hunting blogs (bear with me on this one), Phillip over at The Hog Blog posted a link back to Holly's blog, NorCal Cazadora where she writes about a great concept. Why not offer the non-resident military hunting tags at resident prices?

Quoted from Holly's blog: 'The idea Maj. Darin Harper sent to me in an email last week was just as much of a no-brainer: Current members of the armed services should be able to pay resident fees to hunt in any state in the Union.'

Shouldn't be, too difficult, right? The military provides more than we can ever truly appreciate, so why not give back what we can to them. Well, it's more complicated than that and Holly shares the details on her blog.

I am following Phillip's lead and re-posting this. Do you think this is a concept worth pursuing? If so, follow Holly’s lead by posting up with a link back to her article:

I know I agree with it. Knowing that these guys and gals put their lives on the line for us is humbling to say the least. I also know that it won't be easy to just get states to accept the idea. What do you think? Share your thoughts and ideas.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Pro-Shop: Archery Outpost in Los Alamitos, CA
Two weeks ago I happened upon a brand-new archery pro-shop here in Southern California. Being in the market for some new Easton arrows, I did a search for local dealers. Was I ever surprised to see Archery Outpost appear in my results. Why was I surprised? First off, I had never heard of them and I check out a lot of websites for info on local shops each week. Second, well, they are three streets over from my house. I can walk there and had no idea they had set up shop. How awesome is THAT?

Debbie at the front desk greeted me with a huge smile and I knew I was home! The owner, Laura Kelly and Bernie "The Bow Whisperer", are super nice and make you feel like family. I met up with fellow DIY Bowhunter Frank (wingbone) and Laura graciously gave us a tour of the new facility. This place has 36 shooting lanes and can accommodate 144 archers. Impressive! Up the stairs is a wide-open kitchen area where you could have a birthday party or just eat your lunch. A bonus is the viewing area from up there. You can waltz on over to the balcony and watch the other archers honing their skills. At the bottom of the stairs is the pro-shop. I'll be sure to have Bernie go over my bow with me to fine tune it all. Even though I have hunted for 26 years and feel like I know my gear inside and out, there is always something that can be tweaked to be better.

Their product line is growing each day and the staff is great. Very welcoming and humble. Yes, I said humble. They don't knock what you are shooting or try to build themselves up to seem like better people. They are down to earth, very polite and really just want to help you be a better archer.

Range time is great value, too. You get 4 hours for $5. Add a 3-spot target for $1 more and you've got a fun afternoon ahead of you. I also found that many of the archers who are shooting are very friendly and just want to talk archery. I met Steve and another gentleman last night who were very enthusiastic about shooting. We just talked and if I had more time I probably would have swapped some stories.

Archery Outpost is having their Grand Opening Celebration and BBQ on March 20, 2010. It is going to be an all day event. They will be having raffles, games of skill, a bow raffle, special demonstrations, and live music. I am very excited that they are open and have such a great staff. I am looking forward to the grand opening, too. Who knows, maybe I'll win something. No matter what I am going! Here's their info:

Archery Outpost
10714 Reagan St.
Los Alamitos, CA 90720
Phone: (562) 598-3444

Store hours: Monday - Saturday 10am-8pm, Sunday 12-5pm. 

So bring your bow and fling a few arrows! Meet the staff and embrace a new local pro-shop. We hunters love the fact that there is a local shop with what we need to get the job done. You can be brand-new to the sport or have been shooting for 26 years like me. There is something for everyone and we can all learn from each other. I hope to meet some of my readers over there. Keep an eye out for the DIY Bowhunter members, too!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Product Review: Bushnell BackTrack

  • Store and locate up to three locations
  • Utilizes the latest digital technology:

    • High sensitivity SiRF Star III GPS reciever
    • Self calibrating digital compass
  • Weather resistant
  • Operates on 2 AAA Batteries (Not Included)
  • Compact size stores easily in your pocket or purse
  • Lanyard included for easy attachment
I had a need for a GPS that would be simple to use, get me from point A to point B and not have to search endlessly through mapping software. I used to own a GPS that worked, but it took forever to locate a satellite, the buttons were small and I had to squint to read anything. I hated having to read through 100 pages of documentation just to learn to use it. Enter the Bushnell BackTrack.

This small device is perfect for many hunters needs and the directions are super simple. If you have to go across rugged terrain and will be more than a couple of miles from camp you should still have a traditional GPS. For those short trips this is perfect. You can set it for home, vehicle or location such as camp and lock it in. You travel where you want and when you need to find your way back you just turn it on. It acts as a compass as well and will tell you the direction you need to go and the distance to get there. I tested it out a few weeks ago at close range and long range and it was fantastic. Short range is given in yards and longer distance in miles. It got me back to where I needed with no stress and it is very convenient. It has a lanyard attached, so you hang it around your neck and it won't get lost or fill your pockets.

It does run on 2 AAA batteries and it needs satellite reception to function like any other GPS. So far I love this thing and will be testing it out more and more throughout the year. Inexpensive at around $65.00 from Cabelas, too.
SCB TECH TIP: Look over your gear regularly
One of the common things I hear from other archers is, 'I wish I had spent some time to go over my gear before the hunt.' It's a common occurrence to practice over and over and get complacent. I have been guilty of it. Some time ago I decided to practice for the umpteenth time this year and did a check of my bow. I wasn't expecting to find anything out of the ordinary, but low and behold once of the U-washers had come off the rod anchoring my lower cam. It could have been bad if that had slid through on a shot. Fortunately I found it before I practiced. I ran right over to the hardware store and for $1.27 I picked up a 2-pack of replacement washers. Got it on the bow and now I am comfortable.

The second part of this is with my release. It's been working great for over a year, but I just watched Dead Down Wind's American Archer where Tom discussed using an odorless oil to lube your release in the drier climates. Being in SoCal and hunting in some of the driest air I had not done it. I had it on order, but that was it. Sure enough I got to the range this past Sunday and my release froze on me. I was ticked and embarrassed hat I hadn't checked something so simple, but I was also glad it did not happen to me while on a hunt. This weekend I'll be going over my gear, lubing everything and tightening what needs to be tightened so I have no issue in the field.

A couple of good tips that I hope help out my fellow bowhunters out there. Have a great week.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

SCB TECH TIP: Inexpensive Wind Gauge
Hailing from western NY, I have hunted whitetails all of my life. Wind is a factor in hunting any big game. I have judged the wind by my breath on a cold day, a powder mix and just watching the trees. I have switched to a new method that works great for quick judgment. I tied a piece of blue/green frayed string (very thin, like a yarn strand) to my stabilizer. Now I can see when the wind is blowing, which direction and how hard it's blowing. It's free, easy to install and you have a permanent wind meter.

The drawback is that you can't tell when the wind is swirling, so I still keep a powder mix in my pocket. Just a quick tip that might help you judge the wind quicker in the field.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hog Hunt in Parkfield, CA
December 19-20, 2009: I was up in Parkfield, CA for a day and a half archery hog hunt. It was a DIY hunt on private land. I have been very fortunate to have hooked up with a guy who owns some property and has been looking to share the hunting experience. Most of the guys he hunts with use a rifle, but I was up for the challenge of the stick and string.

We arrived on Saturday around 1:30pm, set up camp, geared up and set out for my orientation. It was my first time on his property and Jeff wanted to give me a map, a tour of the land and get me set up for the evening hunt. I also had my camera gear along to try and tape my hunt. That was a challenge. Camera and tripod in one hand, bow in the other and a backpack with enough water for a full day. What can I say, I loved it!

Along my orientation we spotted some single sets of hog tracks and found two different sets of them. Not great pickings for the size of the property, but Jeff knew that could change in minutes. His property is bordered by some great farmland, high hills and awesome oak groves. The hogs were tearing up the acorns, too.

I sat in a makeshift blind for the last hour of daylight and didn't see a thing. Boy, it's pretty awesome to be in the outdoors, middle-of-nowhere at dark in a place you don't know when the sun sets. Fortunately I followed his map well, had my lights working great and we met up for the hike out. It wasn't a hot day, but I got pretty sweaty and fortunately brought along enough clothes for the hunt and for hanging around camp. The temp dropped 20 degrees in that last hour and a half. Always think like a boy scout and be prepared!

We chatted over dinner of venison loin and baked potato's and we both passed out by 9pm ready for the morning hunt.

We both woke up before our alarms went off and were eating breakfast by 5:30am. We discussed the morning hunt and decided I would set off on the lower property and do a slow stalk East to West and he would go up to the top of the hills and spot for me. The wind was perfect for my stalk and I entered the river bottom and began my hunt. I found three sets of new tracks which got me very excited, but found no hogs. Most of the guys that hunt with Jeff are done in an hour. Being an archer I have a bit more patience and spent a couple hours spotting and found nothing.

We met back at camp, Jeff made a great breakfast and we ventured out to scout the upper hills. We discussed the maps and I ventured off alone. I knew that I had a lot of hiking ahead of me as the hills turned into deep ravines across the property. I had lightened my pack and dropped the tripod and packed the camera. I had about five hours to hike, get back to camp for a snack and be out for the evening hunt. I spent about three hours hiking, spotting, snapping photos and video taping before I made it back to camp. Got to use my Bushnell Backtrack for the second time in the field and it worked like a charm!

Yepper, I got to hike up and down these ravines and as the temps started to rise I loved it. It was tiring, but such an adventure!

When I got back to camp we talked about my excursion, the evening hunt and enjoyed a magnificent Kristoff Maduro cigar from Taylor's Cigar Lounge. I was chomping at the bit and wanted to get out an hour before our agreed time. Jeff told me to go ahead and I was off. I was on the trail to the river bed by 3:45pm. It took me a little longer to get ready than I anticipated. I hit the river bed by 4pm and in seconds I heard what I was listening for... a very loud squeal! It scared the crap out me! I didn't know where it had come from so i stopped to listen. I turned around to see a very large black shape moving up the hillside about 120 yards away. I watched and saw a red hog along side this one. Both were shooters.

Here is where the story gets interesting. Jeff and I had decided that if we spotted hogs that we would radio the other guy to give him a heads up. I got on the radio and he called back waiting for my response. He got nothing but static. My radio died in the field and it was my fault. I had put brand new batteries in the other radio and forgot this one. Being the new guy on his property and not being able to reach me, he got his gear one and ventured out to see if I was ok. I climbed up out of the river to spot more than 30 hogs!!! Seriously, thirty - black, red, spotted, young old and they were all 150 yards out. I kept calling Jeff and he told me he would go to the other end of the property to find me. Noooo!!!! I was so pissed with myself. I had been so consumed with getting my first aid, my archery tackle and food ready that I hadn't double checked my batteries. Not only that, but my radios didn't work well with Jeff's. I felt like an idiot. I got closer to the hogs only to have a car go by and scare them to the far end of the property line away from Jeff and I.

I hightailed it over to Jeff's location and gave him the run down. We rapidly made tracks back to my location and decided to hike into the river bottom to find their trail. Wow, did we ever! The bottom was torn up with hog tracks big and small. By the time we got there the sun had set and we had to walk back to camp with my head in my hands and muttering obscenities to myself.

I had to leave when I got back to camp. I packed up, thanked Jeff for an awesome hunt and he invited me back for another hunt. It was a very long 3.5 hour drive back to SoCal.

SCB Tech Tip - Not only do the obvious and put in new batteries and pack new spares, but really make sure that your radios are compatible. I thought they were as they worked in camp, but we never tried them out in the field as we hunted. Stupid mistake. I decided to buy another pair that are the same model as his!

Don't let my story trick you though, I had a great time! I consider it successful in knowing I went out with archery tackle for my first hog hunt, had a great teacher, great hike and spotted hogs! We found out later on that the hogs were heading for the grain that the cows were digesting. That's why we found scattered manure all around. Good thing to keep track of! I am looking forward to getting back out in the next month or two. Still with my bow and this time with a better set of radios and fresh batteries.
I realize I have a lot to learn when it come to editing video, but here's my first try at it. This is video of my first wild hog hunt up near Parkfield, CA.

I cannot wait to go again!

Product Review: Ultra-Rest Pro Series HD Drop Away Rest 

Quality Archery Designs has saved me! Some back story for you. I have shot the Whisker Biscuit now for about 8 years and loved it. I had an issue each year with my arrow fletching being torn up and my arrows never getting in a super tight group. I tried, tested, shot and re-shot and just couldn’t do it. The WB is used by many who love it and it IS a good rest. Know this, I am not putting the WB down, on the contrary I used it to tag many deer. I just needed something a bit better.

Now, I am not usually a big follower of products endorsed by big name pro-hunters, but this time there is an exception. I was watching Bone Collector when I saw an ad for the QAD ULTRA-REST PRO SERIES HD. I must have seen the ad run a dozen times before I decided to purchase one. Let me tell you this - one of the best investments I have ever made. I bought the HD model at first for my main hunting bow. It’s a bit more expensive than most rests, but you get what you pay for.

I got the rest and immediately popped in the instructional DVD that comes with it. The DVD was incredibly easy to follow. Step-by-Step you are shown the how-to and what tools to use. There are instructions on the package itself, but let me stress this - use the DVD. It takes the guess work out of installation! I had mine on my bow in a half hour. (I took a bit more time to double check everything). I took my bow to the range and fine tuned it with 2 Allen wrenches in less than 10 minutes and shooting less than a dozen arrows. No joke, in ten minutes I was shooting at 40 yards in a group the size of the bottom of a coffee cup.

The rest is a drop-away. It has a guard on the top that keeps your arrow on the rest at all times and your arrow will never fall off. That’s what swayed me from the WB. You add on the moleskin that is provided and the rest is super quiet, deadly accurate and easy to install. I purchased a second one for my other bow, too. This time I went with the regular version of the ULTRA-REST PRO SERIES. The difference is that the HD is camo and the other is black. I recommend going with whichever you can afford. They both function similarly and work well.

I can’t find anything negative to say about this rest. It’s more of an investment, but if you want to down your game with one shot and have pin-point accuracy - this is the rest for you.

You can bet that I’ll be using this rest for many years to come!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Welcome to the SoCal Bowhunter blog!

Greetings and welcome to the SoCal Bowhunter blog! My name is Al Quackenbush and I am a lifelong bowhunter. Whilst searching forums and the internet I couldn't find specific blogs dedicated to Southern California hunting, so I decided to start one. Let's call it an experiment of sorts. I want to try to share information I find, but also do gear reviews for us DIY guys who are on a budget.

For those of you who want it, here's little background on me. I was born and raised in western NY. I have been a hunter for 26+ years and I absolutely love it. I would say it's my passion and my wife would call it an obsession. I have hunted big game and small game, but my main target was the whitetail deer. I have hunted them since I was a young pup. First deer at 14 years old at about 10 yards and I was hooked for life. I come from a family of hunters and we all love what we do. I won't make an excuse for being a hunter. It is who I am.

I moved out to Southern California in 2006 chasing another whitetail - my wife! I think she hunted me down, but we could argue that point all around. Either way, I stayed and married her. I am a family man, I believe in God and feel truly blessed with each day I have on Earth.

Moving to SoCal was a tough decision and even harder to find places to hunt. I had to do a lot of searching, make a lot of phone calls and finally found a couple places to hunt. I dug in, met a guy named Steve and he helped get me accustomed to the rules and regs out here. Let me tell you, it is TOUGH trying to figure out all of the DFG rules and regulations! In NY it was clear cut, but out here they make your work for it ten-fold. I hunted mule deer for the first two years and although it is tough, it is also very rewarding. I wanted to hunt pigs and bear, but was stuck. I had no idea who to talk to or whom to approach. I tried the local bowhunters league and they were nice enough, but of course no one wanted to give up their hunting spots. I never asked where their hunting spots were, just a helping hand in the right direction.

Enter Great group of guys and gals willing to help out their fellow hunting neighbor and just share some stories, tips and get good insight on successful tactics. I have been given some great info, shared some and made some good friends off of the website. You'll see many of my posts under the name of Forest_Crawler.

So it begins. I will start to share info on my blog. Stories, tips, reviews and tactics I find work well in the field. I encourage each of you to write me if you have a suggestion for a topic, review or just want to leave a comment. I welcome them all. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, inf act I hope some disagree with me from time to time. It will only help make us all better hunters.

Thanks for checking out my blog and I hope to see you all soon.