Wednesday, March 31, 2010

SoCal REI Stores Offer Classes
Just recently I invested in a high quality handheld GPS unit. I have a couple of friends who are going to help me set up the maps and show me the best ways to use it. Reading the instruction manual got me to thinking, where could I go to learn how to do some of this stuff on my own? After an online search and an email I found that REI offers a few classes that would benefit any DIY bowhunter. (There may be other stores and classes being offered in the area. If you know of any, please share!) There is a fee for most of these classes, but the instructors need to get paid and I am sure the information is very helpful. There are a few that are free. Yes, I said FREE. Check the REI website for more details.

There are many classes and events listed. I have posted links to each store local to me below, so be sure to check the ones in your area. If you are interested in getting together and going to one, let me know. I am going to attend the Pack Light and one of the GPS classes. You can register directly from the REI website. I am only posting four classes that that I think might benefit we DIY bowhunters in the field. Each store offers plenty more, so if you want to see the full list, go here:

Huntington Beach REI - www.rei.com/stores/88
Santa Ana REI - www.rei.com/stores/17

At the Huntington Beach REI:

4/6/2010 - 6:30 PM PDT 
Class investment: REI Members $30, Non-members $50 
  • Learn the basics of how to read a map and compass in this interactive and hands-on class. Our professional navigation instructors will teach you features of a map, how to identify your position and plan routes. Maps and compasses provided, bring your own if you prefer.
4/8/2010 - 7:00 PM PDT
Class investment: FREE
  • Getting ready for a trip has never been easier, let REI show you how to pack for adventure travel and backpacking ultra light.
4/20/2010 - 6:30 PM PDT
Class investment: REI Members $30, Non-members $50  
  • Learn about the online tools available for GPS users. Working with various software tools, you will learn how to load maps and waypoints, create a trip and download it to a GPS. This class is a must for all GPS users wanting to integrate interactive mapping software to improve their trip planning!
5/29/2010 - 9:00 AM PDT
Class investment: REI Members $45, Non-members $65  
  • On this course You'll learn to read map contour lines and translate them to the actual terrain. With your compass we'll teach you about magnetic north, true north and declination. Then we'll put it all together to pinpoint your location and plan your route.
At the Santa Ana REI:

4/18/2010 - 9:00 AM PDT
Class investment: REI Members $45, Non-members $65
  • On this course You'll learn to read map contour lines and translate them to the actual terrain. With your compass we'll teach you about magnetic north, true north and declination. Then we'll put it all together to pinpoint your location and plan your route.
4/21/2010 - 7:00 PM PDT
Class investment: FREE
  • Getting ready for a trip has never been easier, let REI show you how to pack for adventure travel and backpacking ultra light.
I am constantly learning and I am a technology lover. If you have any suggestions or know where other classes like these are being held, please share them. There are quite a few bowhunters out there that would truly benefit from some hands-on demonstration and instruction. I know because I am one of them.

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010

    Elk Hunting University - Colorado DOW
    If any of you hunters are thinking about doing any Colorado elk hunting you should check out the Colorado Division of Wildlife's Elk Hunting University page. They have some great information including videos and photos to help get you started. Over the next few weeks they will be sharing basic info on up to inform more people about elk hunting in CO.

    Here's an excerpt from their page by Jim Bulger, Hunter Outreach Program Coordinator:
    ...Elk Hunting University (EHU) [is] a framework to pass along skills and knowledge to aspiring elk hunters. As we move through this course together, realize we are walking new ground that we have not walked before. We hope we can find innovative ways to teach you basic elk hunting skills, coach you to develop those skills to a higher level, and mentor you through articles and videos, responding to your questions and sharing with you the experiences of others.
    I know that I will be following this very closely as I am looking to go on my first elk hunt by next year and Colorado is my choice spot.

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    Arizona Releases 2010 Big Game Draw Results
    For those of you who put in for a big game elk or pronghorn tag in Arizona, you can now find out if you were successful in drawing a tag. AZGFD now has those results available. For those who didn't put in and still want to, there are 394 tags still available. You can hunt some awesome game in Arizona. Talk to the members of Team DIY over at DIYBowhunter.com if you have any questions. Many of those guys love to hunt AZ and would be happy to share some hunting stories.

    This is from the Arizona Game and Fish Department website:
    There are 390 leftover elk and 4 leftover antelope tags that will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Individuals who were unsuccessful or did not submit an application in the first draw can apply for leftover tags beginning on or after 8 a.m. (MST) on Monday, April 26, 2010 by submitting an application by U.S. Mail. Any leftover permits will also be available for purchase at all department offices after 8 a.m. (MST) beginning Monday, May 3, 2010.
    Good luck to those who got a tag and to those who are going to apply. This year is not the year for me, but possibly next year. One of the 2011 tags might have my name on it!

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    Whitetail Fever - A Bit Too Early?
    I know it's only March, but I am already getting excited about my annual whitetail hunt with my brother, BJ,  and my dad in western NY. I grew up hunting the farms and woods of central and western NY and it is more than addictive. It is most certainly my passion.

    A little back story for you... When I moved out to California four years ago, one of my biggest fears was that my hunting would be non-existent. For the first year it was as I got settled into the concrete jungle of Southern California. Then I met up with some guys who were more than vague when it came to discussing hunting and it was then that I realized that the competition out here was fierce. Where was I going to find some area to hunt without knowing anyone? I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I met up with a guy to purchase some arrows from him and got to talking about hunting. Long story short, we decided to hunt together and if I drove he'd help shoe me some public land spots. He was good to his word and showed me some amazing public hunting land.That was three years ago and I still have yet to harvest a SoCal mule deer. It's a lot of work, but to me it's rewarding knowing that one day my hard work will pay off.

    I tell that story because hunting Southern California is hard work and it lets me appreciate hunting with BJ and my dad even more. Taking things for granted can be easy. One example is the fact that I don't have to scout at all. They do it for me. They have stands all set up and BJ provides the lodging, food and a hot shower. It's going on a guided hunt for the expense of a plane ticket. They have turned into my guides and for that I am very thankful. I know the areas we go to better each year so they have to guide less and less.

    As I wrote this I went to the CA DFG website Q&A section and found this regarding whitetail hunting...

    Hunting in NY is very different from SoCal. I have more viable property to hunt. My hunting partners are family and always willing to go hunting.  The laws are easier to follow and you didn't have the gov't fighting you at every turn. The travel is minimal and the scenery always beautiful. It's truly amazing.

    Last year I went right before the rut and had a great time. I had a buck walk 20 yards in front of me, but wouldn't stop. I was bummed because I wanted it on film and BJ was taping the entire time. Of course the deer stopped in front of him while he was armed with the video camera. We had a great hunt, saw some nice deer, and had fun as the three of us always do. If you don't get some good-natured ribbing then it isn't a fun hunt.  I didn't get a deer during last years hunt, but I walked away with fond memories. That's what I love about hunting: memories and backstraps. This year I am thinking of going at the same time, bringing the archery gear and trying to put some meat in the freezer.

    It's still 8 months away... but I am excited about going back and doing some whitetail hunting with family. Maybe we'll get a shot on tape or maybe a miss. Either way, any hunt I get to go on is successful in my book. November... here I come!

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    Archery Outpost Grand Opening
    Yesterday was the Grand Opening of Archery Outpost in Los Alamitos, CA. This is a new archery shop in SoCal and it's great because it's close by, the people are fantastic and the place is just rockin. A group of us DIY guys showed up to offer support and to partake in the festivities. Laura Kelly and her crew put on a stellar opening. They pulled out all of the stops with a band, all the food you could eat, a bouncy house for the kids and the range was open all day. It was nice to see so many of the local youth out there shooting, too. What a great showing!

    Fair warning to everyone - this blog is a bit long due to the many photos I am posting. That and I am feeling a bit long winded.

    One of the things I was looking forward to was meeting up with Mike M. from the DIY Bowhunter website. It turned out great. Mike and I swapped hunting stories and even got to meet a couple of older traditional hunters who were a blast to talk to. They even had an interest in DIY and what it was all about. I had a great time talking about the site, but truly enjoyed hearing their hunting stories. I am looking forward to hitting the range with Mike and flinging a few carbon missiles. Turns out we both have a lot of experience, but on different animals and terrain. We already figured out we can help each other out and hopefully get some hunting in this year.

    A few of us had the opportunity to shoot two of Martin's new target bows. Now, I have no idea what bows they were because I was taking photos and was disoriented by the aroma of BBQ ribs coming from the grill. I was actually pretty cool with shooting the photos instead of the first bow because I got to see good shooting form. Eric and Eddy both said this bow was fun to shoot.

    One of my biggest issues throughout the years has been my form. I used to have good form and then all of a sudden it stopped. I never knew why. Here is me shooting the second of the Martin's. The peep was pretty low and I hung my head over the string. Not good, but I figured out my problem. Due to an old rugby injury to my shoulder I haven't been lifting my bow high enough in the front. The photo shows the bow straight, but I need to lift it another 2-3 inches vertically and everything will line up. My back arm needs to come up, too. Now it's going to take some work, but I'll be getting my shooting form back in shape.

    Eric and Eddy got involved with shooting the second Martin bow, too. Check out Eddy doing his best to hold back the extreme 38lb draw weight...

    Look closely at these two shots of Eric. The first is just him lining up his shot. The second is at the point of release. It's tough to see, but the arrow hasn't even left the string yet!

    Another product we all checked out was the Alpen 20-60x60 spotting scope. I was very impressed at how well that focused without distortion. DIY team member Logan had a blast checking out a blackbird on a wire a few hundred yards away.

    They had a great raffle, too. They gave some great prizes including hats, a release, a spotting scope and a brand new compound bow. We got involved and had a nice spread of DIY gear that was given out, too. Some of us won some great gear, but the best part was when some of the other archers won the DIY shirts. They were all happy and were very thankful for them.


    I stopped over to Archery Outpost today and Laura said that the opening was a huge success and that was great to hear. They will be getting a lot of support from me personally and from the DIY team. It's always nice to see a new shop open with so much potential.   I am truly looking forward to seeing them grow.

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Proper Care For Your Waterproof Clothing
    During my years of hunting I have had many gear discussions with my fellow hunters and one topic has come up more often than I would have thought. Waterproof clothing. More and more people are buying lightweight, waterproof gear these days and for good reason. It packs well, it breathes and it's a must for the backcountry hunter. Many people, including myself have had issues with our gear losing their waterproofing ability and I wanted to find out why. I exchanged a few emails with Ajay over at GameHide last week to see if he could help. I had a feeling I knew the answer, but I wanted a more expert opinion. Turns out he was definitely the guy to talk to.
    SoCal Bowhunter: I wanted to ask you, do you have a generic care guide for your waterproof items? I have had a few people mention to me that that they have waterproof items that once they wash it in [regular laundry] detergent they lose their protection. Have you ever heard that before?

    Ajay: We generally say to wash in cold water and dry on low heat. But after years of doing this, I have found that commercial detergents are not friendly to laminated fabrics over time. A hunting sport wash is now what I try and recommend. Another nasty culprit is an older dryer. Some still get too hot and cause the taping to peel and sometimes the lamination will "spread." Hang drying is best, but in the day of instant gratification, people just can't wait!

    SoCal Bowhunter: I had heard many years ago about [regular] detergents and have not used them on my gear. I hear they eat it away and leave a nice bright UV stain. I use the hunters detergents and always air dry. I cringe at the thought of my gear going in the dryer! Funny, but true.

    I figured that Ajay might tell me about regular detergent and how it could be abrasive to the fabric, but I didn't consider an old dryer. I remember using an older dryer when I was younger and it never crossed my mind that the extra heat could damage it. Call it being young and apathetic, but now I certainly take better care of my gear.

    What I want to know is do you guys have any additional insight into the waterproof clothing issue or is yours working perfectly? I'd love to know what gear you guys use and what improvements you'd like to see made. I have my own ideas, but before I mention them I would really like to hear what you have to say. 

    On a side note: The customer service over at GameHide is great! It's not very often that a company will deal with you in a personal manner, but also taking the time to give insight into caring for your gear.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Follow-up to the Fred Hall Show
    If you read my Fred Hall Show post, you know that I was disappointed about one of the seminars. I emailed the guys at Fred Hall and was surprised when Tim Baker at Fred Hall and Rich Baker from Garmin wrote me back on Tuesday, March 9. Here is what Tim had to say:

    Thank you for attending our Long Beach show this year. You are correct, we should have made some adjustments to the schedule. To be honest, I was not aware that Chuck Folker was not present, and for this, everyone here at Fred Hall & Associates apologizes to you and to all that were left waiting to hear the seminars on getting more from your GPS.

    Garmin is a great company with phenomenal products and I am certainly glad to hear that they took the time to answer your questions while you were there.

    We are building the hunting category and in time you will see this grow to a much more significant part of the Fred Hall shows. Developing a new category within an existing show always takes time to develop, we appreciate your patience with us while this transformation occurs.

    I have known Jimmie Rizzo for 20 years and you are right, he is just as passionate now as he was the day I first met him. Jimmie does a great job and we were happy to have him as well as the other great speakers we had all week...

    Tim, thank you for the quick and understanding response. Apology accepted and I am sure many of my readers feel the same. It's not very often we'll get an apology for something such as this. Soon after I received Tim's email, Rich Baker from Garmin wrote to us and said:

    ... Chuck was at the show and we looked on the schedule in the paper in the program booklet and couldn't find the seminars scheduled so we thought it was left off.

    ... as you know when the show starts everything goes crazy.

    Sorry if there was a mix up.

    Rich, thank you for writing back, too. It's nice to know our concerns are listened to and responded to. Mix-ups do happen and I know how crazy it can be when a show like that starts and you have to wear many hats.

    It's too bad that there was a mix-up, but it happens. I give these guys a lot of credit for owning up to what happened. To me that's a stand up thing to do. 

    SoCal Bowhunter GIVEWAY: To help make things right, Tim sent me a 4 VIP tickets to giveaway to the Fred Hall Show in San Diego (Del Mar Fairgrounds) held March 24-28, 2010. I am going to give them away in pairs, so I have two pairs to give out. If you'd like pair of tickets here's what you have to do to win. First, sign up and follow my blog. Second, post a comment here as to who you'd like to take to the show and why you are looking forward to the upcoming hunting or fishing season. I'll randomly choose the winners on March 17 and post them here. Be sure to sign up so I have a way of contacting you if you win!

    UPDATE (March 17): No one entered the contest, so I'll be giving them away this weekend at the Grand Opening of Archery Outpost in Los Alamitos. See you there!

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    Product Review: SOG Hunter Revolver Knife
    One of the products I have recently had the opportunity to review through DIY Bowhunter was the new Hunter Revolver knife/saw combo from SOG Specialty Knives and Tools.

    Testing this knife in the field was great. I noticed immediately how lightweight the knife and sheath were. I had recently purchased the SOG Field Pup and although that knife is smaller, it weighs more. I was pretty impressed with the weight of the knife for its size. I thought it'd be heavier, but this was great!

    Here are the knife specs on the Hunter Revolver from their website:
    Blade Length 4.75" x .15"
    Overall Length 10"
    Weight 6.0 oz.
    Edge Straight/Double Tooth Saw
    Steel 440A
    HRC 56-58
    Handle Glass-Reinforced Nylon
    Finish Satin
    Sheath Nylon

    To switch blades on the knife you have to press and hold a button on the grip as you rotate the blade around. I wondered if I pressed too hard while cutting something if I would trigger the rotation. No worries here folks, it worked like a charm. You actually have to push and hold it and have other hand out of the way for the blade to actually move. If you are in the field and need to rotate the blade quickly for trimming branches and such it works great.

    The knife was very light, but the grip didn’t seem very strong. It actually felt kind of flimsy. I mentioned this to the guys and handed the knife to each of them. They quickly reminded me that it was designed that way to be light in the field. I had to agree and decided to test it out. It was raining and I wanted to try to saw through some wood for the fire. I picked a piece of wet Manzanita to zip through. Let me tell you, this thing had sharp teeth and the grip was great. I felt that my hand my slip off of it from time to time, but it never did. It cut through the thick log with ease. It is a very efficient tool. I then wanted to test out the cutting blade. I cut up our venison after it came off the grill and it was such a smooth cut. I was very happy with how sharp it was and how easy it is to clean. I did like the fact that the handle is satin and not shiny. I have used many knives in the direct sunlight where the blade and handle reflect into your eyes and it's difficult to work. This knife was great to use in the sun. I didn't have to squint using it.

    It was a bit chilly when I was using the saw blade and I noticed that my hand never got too cold from the knife handle. Major bonus points! How many times have you guys been field dressing an animal in sub-zero temps and the knife felt like it was welding to your hand? I believe this knife will help with that. The grip is strong, not metal and non-slip. I think using this knife in the colder temps would be a benefit. The one thing I do wonder is how durable the handle is. If it were really cold and you dropped the knife, would the handle stay in one piece? I think that chance is rare, but I will test that theory this fall in NY.

    We had a brief discussion in camp about carrying a knife on your hip. One of the guys mentioned he hated having a knife there because it caught on things and got in the way. Once I had the Hunter Revolver knife on my belt I hardly ever felt it. I actually had to check a few times to make sure it was still there. It was quite a contrast to my BUCK knife that I have carried for years. My BUCK has a leather sheath and the knife is all metal. You definitely know it there, but it’s also a great knife. The Hunter Revolver is light and the sheath, being nylon, bens and moves with you. When Howard and I were trudging through the thick Manzanita and scrub, the knife never caught on anything. Anytime it hit a branch it just bent and slid out of the way. It was nice not having to stop every few steps to dislodge my sheath.


    One suggestion I have for the folks at SOG is to do something about the Velcro strap holding the knife. The strap is 100% Velcro and is low on the base of the knife in relation to the sheath. The SOG Field Pup has Velcro, but it also has a snap button holding it in place. I always knew my SOG wasn’t going anywhere, but a few times the Velcro on the Hunter Revolver tore open and I was afraid of losing my knife. I was constantly checking to see if it had fallen out. I would hate to be backpacking and have it fall out. If it had the snap it would hold tight and I wouldn’t worry. You can find more photos here: Hunter Revolver Knife.


    The one part of the knife I did not have the opportunity to test out was the gut hook. I guess I would actually have to harvest an animal to test it out on first, huh? That day will come soon, I am certain of that. I have no doubt that it will work well. I am fairly new to using a gut hook, too. I have always field dressed my game with the blade it self. The hook on this knife looks very sharp and useful.

    I have carried a knife (or two) and a folding saw in my pack for years. I am now going to be switching to the Hunter Revolver. Not only can I reduce the amount of gear I am packing, but the weight is drastically reduced as well.

    I think the team over at SOG did a very nice job with the knife and that the sheath needs minor improvement for extended use in the field. At $40.00 I think the knife is a great deal. It's lightweight, you get a saw and a knife, and it's durable. It's perfect for hikers, backpackers and sportsman alike. I’ll be using this knife on my future hunts and it’s already been added to my current Gear List.

    One of the bonuses to testing this knife out is that SOG has given us one to give away over at DIY Bowhunter. Be sure to register on the site and check out the contest page in the next couple weeks to enter (I'll be sure to let you know when).

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    Fred Hall Hunting and Fishing Show
    Yesterday I was able to get get out to the Fred Hall show in Long Beach. If you are a big time fisherman then this is the show for you. I know that they have been growing the hunting side of the show for a few years, but it's still got a long way to go.

    I go to the show for the hunting gear and the seminars. I am not a big fisherman. I fly fish and love it. Never been deep sea fishing and will definitely try it, but I LOVE hunting.  My goal this year was to attend the 'Getting the most from your GPS' seminar with Chuck Folker and the DIY Elk Hunting seminar put on by Jim Rizzo. I always hope to meet a few ranch owners or hunters and that I did. Be sure to read about them after my next thought.

    First off, I have to say that I am rather disappointed in the Fred Hall organizers. I specifically made it a point to come to the Chuck Folker 'GPS' seminar. He was scheduled each day for a one hour seminar. He was scheduled twice on Saturday, the day I was there. I sat there watching the seconds turn into minutes after 5pm, which was his scheduled start time. After 5 minutes turned to 10, a gentleman behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was waiting for the GPS seminar. I answered affirmatively and he explained that Chuck hadn't been there all week and he hadn't shown up that morning either. Here is what it looked like at 5:15pm when everyone up and left.

    This gentleman waited ALL DAY for this guy. The thing that really upsets me about the Fred Hall guys is they NEVER updated the schedule! The fine print says schedule subject to change. That is understood, but you can at least cross out the guys seminar on the big 4' x 2' schedule in front of the seminar area. I am very disappointed that they want to grow the hunting area of the show, but fail to realize that by leaving us behind in this way they are going to lose us. I sure hope they realize the mistake that was made here. $10 for parking, $15 to get in and many of the guys I talked to came here for THIS seminar. I sure hope they were able to attend another seminar or get a great deal on some merchandise.

    Now, before I get to the other seminar I attended, I was also told that the GARMIN guys had a booth and I could stop down there and ask any questions I had. I did have a few questions, so I walked down to the other end of the Long Beach Convention Center. The gentleman that helped me was not only super polite, but extremely helpful AND he never once made me feel like an idiot. I have dealt with some people in the past who have treated me horribly in regards to GPS questions. This guy was fantastic. I had my GARMIN etrex legend HCx with me and asked the questions on my mind. He took a look at it, explained what I was doing wrong, what I could do to fix it and did it with respect. GARMIN, you have a great staff, keep it up. He also answered my questions about other GPS units and I was only in the booth for 5 minutes. I feel much better about using my GPS now. Thank you, GARMIN guy!

    I also made my way around to meet with a few ranch owners. I only stop at the ones I am truly interested in talking to. The biggest sell for me is the guy who ISN'T trying to pitch something or sell me on his one-of-a-kind price. This brings me to Ron and Sandy Adams of 7R Guest Ranch. I first met Ron by just asking him about his land. Ron spoke in a very quiet tone and you could tell this guy loves what he does. He talked to me like a good friend. Listened to what I had to say and ask and then he responded with much thought behind his words. His wife Sandy then showed up at the booth. She and I hit it off talking about the animals, the fact that I am a passionate archer and family man. I asked her what my wife could do if we came up together as she is not a hunter. I was so happy to hear her talk about the entertainment, the lodging and the fact that the meals are prepared and that my wife could relax while she was there. Most of you guys know that one of my personal hunting morals is that I will never hunt a high-fenced ranch. Just a personal thing everyone. Ron and Sandy both explained they have no high fences and that they hunt many ranches. I asked her about bring a DIY team and she seemed thrilled at the thought of it. Heck, I was thrilled just talking about it. The hunts she described were great and the one thing she focused on was not big deer or trophy elk. She talked about youth hunting and how a few of their young hunters had taken elk and deer on their property. That made me want to talk to them even more! I think we all need to get a youngster out there hunting with us at one point or another. We need to keep our heritage alive. I know a few of the DIY guys do it. I have yet to bring out someone younger than me. I have brought out guys who are new to the sport or older, but I look forward to getting a young hunter in the field. The other reason I loved talking to these two is that they never once talked price, nor did they try to get me to buy anything. Period. I hope a group of us gets the chance to hunt with these folks sometime soon. Thank you Ron and Sandy for some wonderful conversation and being one of the reason my trip to the show was worth while. If anyone is interested in talking to the ranch you can find the info at www.7rguestranchllc.com.

    By far, the best part of the show was the elk calling seminar put on by Jim Rizzo of Bugling Bull Game Calls. Jim gave a great seminar on how and when you should call elk and what calls to use. I knew he was passionate about it. I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. You really knew it when you saw his hands shake when he gave a mew on the call. Like all of us he didn't want to mess us. He had us all hooked on every word. Jim went on to talk about the fact that he is a DIY hunter (bonus) and how he hunts. His presentation covered calf calls, cow chirps and mews, and bull bugles and growls. This guy knows his stuff! He talked about scent elimination, how he hunts and answered every question we threw at him. He helped me a great deal. I shared with him that I hope to get the chance to go elk hunting in the near future (with my friend Jeff from DIY and with my brother). He was super cool and if I am ever to buy a call from a guy, it'd be him. Jim, thanks for being so open and helpful to everyone in your seminar. Who knows, maybe I'll be fortunate enough to hunt with you someday. I'll keep my fingers crossed. If you have any questions on calls you should stop over at the Bugling Bull website. I may have to get practicing soon on my calling! Here's a shot of me with Jim at his booth.

    I'll definitely be back to the Fred Hall show next year, but I sure hope they take the time to update the schedules so the people that pay to go to these events will get their monies worth.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Back From My Hog Hunt
    I am back from my weekend hog hunt up in Parkfield. Despite the weather, we had a great time. It just goes to show you that if you get the right group of hunters together you can make any hunt successful. Be warned, it's a lengthy post!

    After a 3.5 hour drive through the wilds of Southern California I made it to Parkfield. We had four hunters for this trip, which made it even more exciting and improved our chances of harvesting an animal. I met up with fellow hunter Howard in Parkfield around 1pm where we briefly shared some hunting knowledge and decided to head on up to camp while waiting for Jeff and Mike. I took him up to camp and we started getting things set up as we watched the black clouds roll in. Fortunately for all of us, Howard brought his easy-up for cover. Jeff arrived a short time later and we got moving quickly to beat the rain. We got a tarp over the fire to keep the rain off of us and little did we know how important that would be in the long run. Mike arrived in camp, we had our introductions and I knew our weekend was going to be fun. With shelter up, a fire started and a weather pattern looking to bring the pain, we started planning for the evening hunt.

    Well, we were in for a bit of a baptism. We got to our designated spots and started glassing when the sprinkling began. The sprinkling then turned to a downpour. Seeing as I was the only archer in camp, I was also the only one to stay out hunting until dark. My fellow sportsmen made it a short night and went back to camp. I ventured back at dark to constant rain. Was I ever glad they had the fire roaring and that we had put up a decent shelter. Little did I know that it would rain for 24 more hours!

    We all had clothes to be dried around the fire on night one. Between cooking some venison backstraps, baked potatoes and snacking on some turkey jerky we shared hunting stories around the campfire. That's one of the best things about hunting. You get to find out about one another, share your hunting experience and learn a great deal about different tactics for hunting your targeted animal. I learn a lot each time I hunt. I wouldn't have it any other way.  I have to say a big thank you to my wife for not only giving me the weekend to go hunting, but for making some of the BEST cookies for us. They didn’t stand a chance with the four of us staring them down.

    The following morning came and the rain was still steady. We gathered up and the rain stopped. Hooray! We geared up and ventured into the hunt zone. Our happiness was short-lived as the sprinkling started again as we hit the river. The river was also running quite quickly. We split up and decided to meet back at camp for breakfast. I found a safe place to cross the river and settled in behind some fallen trees. I am so thankful for good rain gear. Even though it began raining buckets I stayed dry... for about a half hour and then my gear soaked through. I should have dug out my poncho, but I was stubborn and wanted to test out my GameHide gear. Lightweight, but I still got wet. After 45 minutes of waiting for a hog to appear I made my way back to the river. I was dismayed when the spot I had crossed at was now under six more inches of flowing water. I hiked upriver and then downriver and could find only one possible crossing spot. I radioed back to camp to let them know I was on my way so they would be expecting me. I tested the depth of the water with a thick branch, said a prayer and began my 20 foot river crossing. The water was ok to cross in the spot I tested, but it suddenly dropped to about 16 inches of water. I was anticipating the worst as I slowly dug into the gravel and made it safely across. I thanked God and looked back to see the spot where I had crossed now deeper and moving faster. Yep, time for breakfast.

    Let the above paragraph about crossing the river be an example to all. I was rash in my decision. I should have radioed the guys, asked them for some help and waited it out a bit longer. I did have my 100' of line in my pack. Or I should have never crossed in the first place thinking that the river might rise. A lapse in judgment on my part could have made for a messy situation. I was fortunate by having the man upstairs keep a watchful eye over me.

    The rest of the day was on and off steady rain. The morning was spent talking, stoking the fire and figuring out what we should do to pass the time. Around noon the weather seemed to break. Jeff and Mike decided to head up to the far reaches of the property to blaze some trails, while Howard and I planned on hunting the lower property for a couple hours. Jeff and Mike sauntered off, Howard geared up and I patiently waited for my clothes to dry by the fire. I told Howard I would meet up with him in 20 minutes, so he ventured down the trail. 15 minutes later the rains unleashed on us again.  A short time later Howard was back in camp and we waited word from our friends on the mountain. Over an hour passed and two soggy hunters appeared at the base of the draw in camp. They shared their story of blazing the trail and seeing a sow with piglets close by and the lone black hog disappearing into the thick brush. It was great to hear they had seen some

    The rain stopped completely and a plan was quickly devised. Howard and I would hike up and around to the top for the evening and Jeff and Mike to the lower portion. Howard and I filled our water reservoirs, geared up and hit the trail. We trekked for a bit and decided to try a shortcut between two draws. The hike was steep (near vertical according to my tired legs) and muddy. When we got to where an opening in the brush line was expected we found thick scrub. Perfect for a hog to bed down, but nasty for us to try and get through. We stayed below the thick brush and hiked east. We snapped some photos and glassed the property.

    What an amazing landscape after a rain! It was beautiful and unforgiving. We picked a game trail to make our way down hillside. Halfway through we had to go right through the thick scrub. Howard’s long legs pretty much made it over them. My stubby ones had to go through it. Both of us laughed at our situation and we both expressed how out of shape we were. I don't think it would have been much easier had I been in shape. We found some fresh hog tracks down one of the draws on our way back to camp. At least our hike showed some promise!!

    Although we took a wrong route, we talked about it with everyone and learned a great deal about the property, the map and how each of us deals with adversity and one another. We made a great team of four out there.

    Mike busted out some great sausages for dinner and Jeff had more taters. Howard home-fried them up for us and we enjoyed a fantastic, warm meal. I have to give props to Mike for bringing the bag of Hershey’s Miniatures, too. I love my chocolate and they hit the spot! Thank you, Mike!

    I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so by 9:15pm I was out. I slept like a baby until 4am when I woke up freezing my butt off. I opened my car door (yes, I slept in my car) and I had ice covering the car! It was frigid. I quickly walked to the fire, stoked it, added some wood and watched the flames reach for the stars. Ahhh, fire… it’s amazing what can make a guy happy in the middle of nowhere.

    Howard and I were up before dawn, geared up and hit the hot spots. Nothing.

    The morning was not productive. We went back to camp to help break down Howard's gear and for a bit of clean up work. After another manly breakfast of eggs, sausages and home fries Howard hit the road. I geared up for one last trek up the hill. It was getting progressively warmer, but I kept my gear on. I knew I’d be sweating anyway, so I constantly made myself aware of the wind. I decided to spot and stalk the draws. I had a southeast wind, so I had to walk to the far draws, hike up to the top and hunt back towards camp. I decided to video tape some of the day. I couldn’t do it during the rain, so this was my opportunity. I’ll be posting the video later this week.

    I quietly made my way a third of the way up the hillside and across the draws and found nothing but fresh coyote sign. Honestly, I truly enjoyed the hard work of hiking up the hill and working to find a hog. It gave me a satisfaction of knowing that when I do harvest a hog it’ll taste that much sweeter. Once I got back to camp I traded some sweaty clothes for some dry ones, wet boots for hiking boots and said my goodbyes to Jeff and Mike.

    To me this hunt was successful because I was able to meet some great new hunting buddies, hike some hard terrain and got to breathe super clean air.

    On Monday I got an email from Howard saying that the evening I left, Jeff harvested a nice boar in the spot both Howard and I sat in. It was a 20 yard shot, too! It would have been a sweet set up for archery.

    Congratulations, Jeff and what a great hog. I was happy knowing that Mike and Jeff stuck it out and came away with an animal for the freezer. For me, I saw every animal BUT a hog - elk, bald eagle, mule deer, condor, coyote, jackrabbit, cottontail, hawks, lots of birds… and no hog. Next time Mr. Piggly Wiggly, next time.