Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Getting a Good Education - For Bowhunters
Recently, I have had a few new bowhunters ask me where they can find out about taking the CA Bowhunter Safety Course. Back in NY we had to sit through a Saturday class. It seemed long when I was 14, but in reality it was great. I got to hear some great stories, I learned an incredible amount from the two guys giving the course and we got to 'follow a blood-trail' in preparation for hunting. Nowadays you can go online and take a course. The National Bowhunter Education Foundation has some great information and the site will show you what courses are being given locally.

Here's an excerpt from the About Us on the NBEF website:
"Over 25 years ago a group of bowhunters met who were all members of the National Field Archery Association (NFAA).  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss New Jersey native, Bill Wadsworth’s bowhunter education program.  In 1969, Bill had written the course for the New York State Field Archers and Bowhunters Association and now wanted to take the program nationwide.  After intense discussion, the group decided to follow Bill’s advise and help take the program nationwide.  Originally, bowhunter education functioned as a separate committee of the NFAA.  This committee was known as the Bowhunting and Conservation Division of the NFAA.  Ten years later, bowhunter education was larger than any other single organization of bowhunters and with the blessing of the NFAA, the NBEF became a totally separate and independent 501 c 3 nonprofit foundation.  On October 13, 1979, the first volunteer board of directors for the National Bowhunter Education Foundation met at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky.  It was during that historic meeting that the group formally adopted the course (known as the International Bowhunter Education Program) which Bill had started 10 years earlier."
You can take the California Bowhunting Safety and Bowhunter Education Course where you can take a practice test before the real deal. They give you this info right on the first page:

Online Bowhunter Education Home Study Steps

  1. Study the Today’s Bowhunter material in each chapter and then complete the chapter review questions. Re-study any material you may have answered incorrectly.
  2. When you have studied all eight chapters, take the Practice Test as many times as you like—free of charge—to ensure you've mastered the course material. A different set of questions is presented each time you take the Practice Test.
  3. Then if you wish to qualify for admittance to a Field Day, take the Field Day Qualifier Exam. There is a $20.00 charge for taking the online exam. The $20.00 is collected whether you pass or fail. A score of 80% is required for passing this exam. (This fee covers use of the online course materials and costs of administering the online exam. The entire fee is retained by Kalkomey, Inc. and the NBEF.)
  4. Upon passing the Field Day Qualifier Exam, you can print out your official NBEF Field Day Qualifier Voucher. To determine locations and dates of Field Day events as well as contact information, visit the California Department of Fish and Game bowhunter education web page.

I highly recommend that any new or upcoming bowhunter head over there and soak up as much as you can. Ask other hunters about their experiences and maybe they'll help you out getting started. Feel free to ask me, too. I don't know everything and I am always learning, but I'll share what I can to help anyone. Shoot straight!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Black Bear Encounters On The Rise
As we get into camping season, summer vacation and day trips, we will start to see more and more encounters with black bears. For me, I hope to encounter a few when I have my bow in hand during early September. I just read the article below (direct from the Outdoor Pressroom) about a man getting bit on the ear while he slept in his tent.


I used to bike down this path by the Erie Canal where a bear was spotted just last week

I have my own bear story for you that will hopefully help you plan a safe camping or hunting trip. As many of you know, I was born and raised in western New York State. We didn't have too many bears in my area. There were always rumors, but we had never seen one nearby. I went camping with a former girlfriend years ago in the Adirondack mountains. It was a primitive camp, at least to her, but to me it had too many people. We set up camp, hiked around the lake and then cooked a wonderful meal. When we got ready to go to sleep I asked her if she had any food in her bag. 

'Just had a granola bar,' she said.

"Take ANY food out of the tent and put it in the trunk of the car."

'Why?' was her only question.

I proceeded to scold her for not thinking clearly and then I realized she probably had no idea what the dangers were. So I explained the dangers and we went to sleep.

I awoke at 3am by the sound of our neighbor chopping wood for the fire.

"Who the hell is chopping wood at 3am? WTF! Doesn't he realize it's 3am. I am going to give that SOB a piece of my mind." 

The guy was also cussing and yelling at his wife. At 3am, dude? Really? Come on! He loudly told her that she left a loaf of bread on the cooler and should have put it away. I didn't think anything of it at first. Ok, the guy was pissed and he'd get over it. I got back in the tent figuring he'd shut up.

It was then that I heard these frightening words, 'Git! Git out of here bear! Go on, git!' That's when I realized the chopping wood sound was actually a black bear lifting and slamming the cooler in the back of this guys truck. 

"We need to get to the car now. We shouldn't be out in the open with that idiot next door."

The next 5 seconds will always make my hair stand on end. Even as I write this line and think back on it I have goose-bumps. I opened the tent door, looked around with the flashlight and there she was. Glowing eyes not 20 feet from the tent door. The growl she let out scared the hell out of me and turned my legs to jelly. The bad news for me was all I could make out was the shape of the bear and that was it. Oh, there was plenty of light from the fire he had going, but I had forgotten my glasses in my haste. Fear now turned to survival mode. I told my tent-mate to get up and get to the car. I will never forget the next words out of her mouth. 'I can't find my flip-flops!' The fear I had turned to disbelief. "Forget the f'ing flip-flops and get your ass to the car NOW!" I hissed. I got out of the tent and started making noise and praying that the bear was leaving or gone.

We sat, wide-awake for the next 3 hours as I waited for the bear to come back. I was tired, pissed off at our neighbor and happy that we were both safe. Seeing as we were both up we decided to take a drive around the area. Wouldn't you know that a mile away from camp we ran into a sow and her cub coming from a camping area. I drove to the ranger station and explained what had happened the previous night. I could tell this guy was either a newbie or a total lazy-ass because he just sat there and told me it happens. He said I had nothing to worry about. Now, I know I was frightened, but I knew that bears come back if there is food and I didn't want to be there if they weren't going to do something. Reluctantly, the park worker decided to call the ranger and said he would talk to the neighbor. 

We got back to camp, cooked and ate breakfast and cleaned up. I was on high-alert the entire time. As I put the food away and the ex-girlfriend dried the dishes I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I quickly drew myself to my full 5' 10", 220lb frame as the bear crested the lip of our camp which was only 40 feet from our tent. The bear had actually been a little closer to me that I thought the night before. Wouldn't you know that the neighbor was cooking bacon and she had her nose right up in the air looking at his campsite. I knew this was the same bear. That's when I saw the cub appear. No bigger than a small dog, the cub walked up to the sow and started playing. I start yelling at the bear and clanging pans. The bear stands there and gives me time to reach in my pocket and get my camera. My hands were shaking and the shots were blurry. I look over and what does the ex do? She obviously learned NOTHING the night before as she walks toward the sow, squeeking her lips and saying 'Come here little guy.' I lost it and won't share exactly what I said as it'll sound pretty rough. I was fuming at her. She said they were cute and she wanted to see them up close. To this day I can't believe that happened. I continued to clang pans and yell at the bear as she and the cub took off. I watched the cub climb a tree about a two-hundred yards away and the mother stopped to look back at me.

In the next 3 hours we packed up and headed home. I was not about to encounter the bear again the next night and I knew I wouldn't sleep a wink anyway.

Now every time I camp and hike in bear country I bring a can of bear spray, an airhorn (pocket-sized) and think about what food I have and where it's at. I think about the safety of whomever is with me, my own safety and I have the ranger station phone number in my phone. Just like a Boy Scout, be prepared. It could save your life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Product Review: Midland GXT950VP4 FRS/GMRS Radios
Hunting in Southern California doesn't lend itself to easy-on-the body hunting, like driving to your spot, putting up a treestand and sitting all day. Out here you have to drive around, spot and stalk, and do plenty of hiking to find your game. I knew I would need a pair of walkie-talkies to keep in contact with whomever I was hunting with. I had a pair of Motorola FR60s, but I needed something with a bit more range. I did some searching and came across the Midland GXT950VP4 5-Watt 42-Channel 30-Mile Waterproof GMRS Radios. They had good reviews, good range and were in my price range so I purchased a pair.

When the radios came to my house I read the instructions cover to cover. I thought my brain was going to explode with all of the steps you had to go through to get them to work the way I needed them to. I decided to test them in California and in New York. I figured the terrain would be different and the results should be accurate for a review.

In NY, I set the channels on both and took them hunting with my dad and my brother. We hunted a parcel of farmland and were not more than an eighth-of-a-mile from each other. I was in a treestand, on the edge of the woods and my partners were in their stands – one through the trees and the other across an open field. We had set the radios to the same call channels on all radios. We had checked them before we left and they transmitted and received perfectly. In the field was a different story. We had planned on turning on the radios at 9am to figure out a game plan for the remaining time in the woods. My dad had his FRS radio, my brother had his FRS radio and I had my high-tech static box. I could receive their transmissions loud and clear, but my dad couldn’t hear a word I was saying. I turned the volume up and nothing. He turned the volume up. Nothing. My brother could hear me crackle in and out and that was it. They grew frustrated and told me to meet them at the trail – about a 5 minute walk. Once out of the woods and in clear sight of them at 100 yards I tried again with the same result.

Back at the house, I charged them up overnight. I checked the radios twice the next day before we left. They sounded great. They transferred and received with one another. I figured I must have had a low battery. Nope. The same exact thing happened! We didn’t have a mountain in between us interfering, just a few trees and an open field. I was very disappointed.

When I got back to California I wanted to test them out in a different setting. I went on a hog hunt in Parkfield with my friend Jeff. We are both meticulous about our gear and we checked and double-checked our radios before we left camp. Out there it’s us vs. rattlesnakes, hogs and who knows what else. We wanted to stay in contact should something happen. Jeff warned me that they never had good luck with Midlands, but I wanted to try. My mistake, he was right. The radios did the same thing here as in NY. They wouldn’t talk with an FRS radios like I was told they would by all of the reviews. Needless-to-say, I got rid of them and purchased another brand (watch for the review).

Here are the Pros and Cons as I see them.
Pros: Solid construction with a good camo pattern. Battery life was good and they had some cool features like wildlife tones and such.
Cons: They don’t talk to other radios, and that's following the instructions. They are very bulky and heavy. You can only clip them onto something as they do not fit well into a breast pocket. They were hard to figure out for this DIY bowhunter.

I certainly would not recommend these to anyone. I don’t feel they were a good buy at all. Most of all I would not feel safe in the field using them to contact my hunting party. Maybe they have improved in the past couple years, but I will be sticking with my new pair that I know work well. Good luck this season and be sure to test your gear out before you hit the trail.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Calling In A Bull Elk: Is There Such Thing As Too Much?
I read an article in my email from Bowhunting World today where Ralph Ramos says:
I’ve found that “excessive” cow talk, combined with immature-sounding, non-intimidating bugles is the preferred conversation for many of today’s “educated” bull elk. This technique can be most effective when working a bull to your favor during the rut, when most average males will normally buy into the sweet voice of females. My experience in the field has proven elk are greedy lovers in search of many cows for their harem. As a result, they can be enticed with lots of syrupy-sweet cow talk. When excessive cow calling is used properly, your odds of success will increase.
I prefer cow calling excessively, using various types of calls to entice the bull within bow range.
Now, I have never hunted elk, although I plan to next year, but I have been told just the opposite of what he is saying. I have heard that you CAN call too much and that it can drive the elk away. Obviously Ralph is having success with his approach, but what do the rest of you elk hunters think?  I attended a seminar a few months ago where we were told that you don't want to call excessively. This brings up an interesting dilemma - to call or not to call. I would love to hear from you elk hunters what you think of the article and what you would recommend. 

I have no room to judge, and just look at the size of the bull in the photo with Mr. Ramos. Incredible!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gearing Up For The Season
July is coming fast and so is deer season. I have been doing some gear reviews lately and testing out plenty of other equipment. Some of the gear tested was spectacular and some show little promise. You'll be seeing more reviews soon, but until then I am getting excited for mule deer season. 

I opted for the Archery Only tag and an A31 tag for this year. It allows me more time to get out and hunt, but gives me more options, too. I can take a doe or a fork-horn buck and that makes me happy. I have a new area I am going to scout and I am sure to scout one or two more areas with some of the DIY guys. I can't wait! 

So what am I doing to prepare? First, I am reading Backcountry Bowhunting: A Guide to the Wild Side by Cameron Hanes. I'll give a report on it when I am finished, but so far it has been full of great stories and tips. I have been practicing as often as I can, but not as often as I want to. I would love to everyday, but having limited time and area to shoot puts a damper on that. I am ever increasing my range time to be sure I get my arrows in that sweet spot. I inventory all of my gear, pack my pack and decide what it is I want/need to take hunting. Most of the gear is essential, but depending on how far I am hiking will determine the weight of my pack.

Here's what I still need to do before I get out there and try to bring down some freezer meat. I need to cut my new arrows down, fletch them, practice with them and get comfortable with the Easton FMJ's. I will also need to tune the bow with my broadheads. One of the major things I need to do is lug my arse to the gym at least two times a week and hit the StairMaster and weights. While most of the hunting might be glassing from the truck, once I do spot my quarry I will need to hoof it to have a chance at a shot. I want to be prepared not only for the hike to the animal, but also when I have to pack it out. It's only fair to the animal that I get the meat packed out and on ice as quickly as possible. No hunter wants spoiled game and I am hunting way to hard to want that to happen. I need to print out a few more maps of the area and tighten up my GPS skills. I have been testing out some maps for the Garmin and so far they have been on the money.

It's going to be hot when I am hunting. No doubt about that. I know I will sweat and I also know it will be worth every second if I am able to put an arrow into some venison. I'll be sure to post a few more gear reviews soon and give you the play-by-play of my preparation. I have a bear tag and a pig tag, too. That means I can do lots of hunting this year. Time to break in the X-Force and finally bring down a SoCal animal.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Half of Hunters Facing Access Restrictions Spend Less Time in Field
I was reviewing some older emails from outdoor sources when I came across this article from The Outdoor Wire. It's based on a survey about hunting access.

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. - Nearly half of the hunters who were restricted from places they tried to hunt reported they hunted less as a result, according to a recent HunterSurvey.com poll.

HunterSurvey.com results show 26 percent of those surveyed said access to where they hunt has been restricted in the past year. Of those respondents, 49.5 percent said they spent less time hunting while nearly 13 percent stopped hunting completely. This online poll also showed 36 percent of those who were restricted from where they hunt lost no time afield.

The majority (31 percent) of those polled at HunterSurvey.com reported the reason for restricted access to their hunting spot was the landowner gave or leased or sold hunting rights to others. Another 25 percent of survey takers said the land was sold to a new owner who closed access.

Restricted access occurred mainly on private lands, according to 73 percent of those who participated in the HunterSurvey.com poll while 22 percent reported restricted access on public land.
Being restricted sucks, but it isn't an end-all. While I hate the fact that people, government and companies are constantly trying to block our way I see it as a challenge. By doing some research I found some public areas around SoCal that are great for hunting. What's the catch, right? Well, you can't glass from your truck, that's what. You actually have to get the boots on,  bring good optics and trek in. It can be a long, boring hike or you can make it your own personal adventure. I recommend the latter. Make it fun! Think of it this way, if you make it fun, take notes and photos and find a great spot you that much closer to bagging your animal. If you do get your animal, think of the story you'll have to share. We all love to tell them and we all love to hear them!

If you let the brick wall stand in your way you will never achieve your goal. (For some good reading and a boost to get you motivated for your big hunt or doing what you love, read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. This book inspired me. It's an easy read and I don't let obstacles stand in my way anymore.) 

Get out there and plan your hunt. You can do anything you put your mind to. Hunting public land is hard, but the reward is that much sweeter.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Women's Outdoor Skills Workshop Scheduled For Western Colorado
As I was going through my morning emails I found this one from the Colorado Department of Wildlife (DOW).  I love seeing women (and our youth) get involved in outdoor activities. This is one way that Colorado is helping women learn about the outdoors and to get in the thick of it. I hope California will do something like this, too.

MONTROSE, Colo. -- Women who want to learn about wildlife, hunting and fishing should sign up for a weekend of expert instruction sponsored by the Colorado Division of Wildlife, July 23-25, at the Jim Olterman/Lone Cone State Wildlife Area.
     
At this "Cast and Blast" event, women will learn the fundamentals of archery, fly fishing and shotgun shooting. Participants will also learn about wildlife and wildlife management.
     
No experience is necessary and novices are encouraged to attend. All equipment and ammunition will be provided, but participants can bring their own shotguns, fishing rods or bows. Participants age 16 and older must have a 2010 Colorado Fishing license.
     
Food also will be provided. Camping is available on site, but participants must bring their own tents and sleeping bags.
     
The registration deadline is July 2; a $40 refundable deposit is required. The workshop is limited to 15 women ages 14 and older.
     
The event will start at 5 p.m., July 23 and conclude at 1 p.m. on July 25. The state wildlife area is located 25 miles south of Norwood.
     
To register, contact Dawn Bresett at the DOW's Montrose office, (970)252-6000, or by e-mail, dawn.bresset@state.co.us.

Monday, June 7, 2010

For Sale: Royal Bull Hunting Waist Pack

I have a barely used Royal Bull hunting waist pack in RealTree MAX1. It has two pockets, two 1-pint water bottles and has adjustable Conforma Stretch shoulder straps. It's 17" x 7" x 5" and weighs 2.5 lbs. I decided I wanted a pack with a Camelback in it and want to amke some room in the garage.
 
I am looking to get $50 for it. Shoot me an email if you are interested.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Outdoor Life names the best towns in America for hunters and fishermen

Ever wonder where the best places to go for hunting and fishing in the US are? Outdoor Life just released their third annual ranking of the best towns in America for hunters and fishermen. I wasn't surprised that I had to scroll... and scroll... and scroll to #137 before I saw California on the list, but it's there. You won't see any Southern Cali areas on the list, but you will see Northern and Central CA and some in Arizona.

This is from the Outdoor Life article:
Our rankings are based on the performance of hundreds of towns in various socio-economic and outdoors-related categories. Socio-economic subcategories, which make up 40 percent of the overall score, include population percent growth since 2000, median household income, median home value, cost of living, unemployment rate, population density, mean commute time and amenities. Outdoors-related subcategories, which combine to account for 60 percent of the overall score, include the gun-friendliness of each town’s state, huntable and fishable species nearby, proximity to public land and waters, and the potential for taking a trophy-caliber animal or fish nearby.

To me it's more than a ranking. It's an elaborate chart that gives a lot of information, such as population, huntable species and proximity to water. All in all I would say it's a very usable chart for planning a future hunt.

Here's the complete listing of all 200 towns in detail. Now I am going to be daydreaming of all of the places I should be looking at hunting. Thanks Outdoor Life.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Angeles National Forest To Open Some Areas Closed By The Station Fire
Good news for those who hunt or plan to hunt D11 or A31 this year. It's not much, but it's something. We all have to remember that they are trying to allow the forest to recover. It'll take quite a few years. We can volunteer to help out with the recovery efforts and can take care of the land we DO get to hunt on.

From the Angeles National Forest website...

Angeles National Forest will reopen about a dozen areas previously closed since the Station Fire last year. The reopenings set for May 26 will offer the public recreation including hiking, picnicking and camping.

Locations accessible include the Magic Mountain Wilderness, and vast majorities of Pleasant View Wilderness, West Fork of the San Gabriel River, Rincon Shortcut Road, Millard Campground, Chilao, Bandito, Horse Flats, Meadow Loop, Manzanita Loop and Coulter recreation areas. Additional areas are reflected on the attached map.

The bulk of the burned areas remain closed for rehabilitation and public safety, until further notice. The Forest Service intent is to reopen areas severely damaged in the fire over the next few years as conditions allow.   news release     forest order
ThermaCELL Contest
I wanted to thank those of you who entered my referral code in the ThermaCELL contest.

You all helped me win a $300 gift card to Bass Pro Shops just in time for Father's Day. Thank you guys! I love that place like a fat kid loves cake. Ok, I am the fat kid who loves cake, but I also love me some hunting superstore!

I have a few items still missing from my pack for those overnight backpacking hunts, so I'll be looking into them, but I am going to hold out for at least a few days.

Have a great week everyone!