Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mountain Lion Killed Near My Bear Spot
When I am hunting for bears, one of the things constantly on my mind, especially when leaving my treestand is the threat of mountain lions. Where I hunt, there is an abundance of lions, but I have yet to see one. Turns out, one of the local farms has been visited by one and thirteen animals on the farm were killed. Here is the story on the lions demise.

A mountain lion that took a heavy toll on the animals in an Oak Glen petting zoo was killed on Christmas night when it returned to a sheep carcass to feed.

The 7-year-old female lion had been raiding the petting zoo at Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho apple orchards. In all, 13 goats and sheep died, said Devon Riley, who owns the business in the mountains east of Yucaipa.
 You can read the rest of the story here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Deer Season: One Day Left. Will It Happen?
Today was the second to last day to get out and fill my California A31 tag. We got an early start and began hiking in well before sunrise. The temps were higher than expected and we were perspiring quite a bit, but the hike felt great.

On the way in we spotted a few sets of eyes. My guess is coyotes, but they quickly disappeared. As we headed up the foothill we encountered another set of eyes that did not move. We watched it as we climbed and soon we figured it out to be a bedded deer. Then she got up and walked slowly away from us. I had a feeling we'd see her again just by the way she wasn't startled by us.

When we got in position, an hour before sunrise, was when the fun started. I set up my turkey blind for cover and put a couple of rewetting drops in my eyes. My contacts were acting funky because of the dry air and they needed some moisture. As soon as the drops hit my eyes I felt something crawling on my eyelid. As I grabbed it, thinking it was a tick, I heard it clicking. I quickly flung it to get it away and that's when it hit me. It dawned on me, as it was leaving my fingers, that my contact had popped out and THAT was what was flying through the air. I then spent three minutes searching the dirt and grass for a brand new contact. I eventually found it, cleaned it and popped it back in. All while feeling like a complete twit.

Forty-five minutes before sunrise I noticed a dark shape off to my left. As I focused through the darkness, I noticed it to be a single doe. Very, very dark body and I knew it was the doe from earlier. She spent a few minutes walking down the trail and stopped at sixty yards. She was broadside, but it was still long before shooting light, so I sat back and watched her. She didn't stick around long and walked back over the ridge. Good stuff!

We glassed up five other deer over the next couple hours. Michael watched a group of four doe bed down off a steep cliff. He shot me a text and I loaded my pack and sauntered over to his position. It was getting very warm and I was getting hot. We discussed where they were and how hard a stalk would be given their position, the wind and the dry grass. I thought about it for ten minutes and then figured that I had to try. Game on.

I spent the better part of thirty minutes slowly creeping down the steep hillside. My foot placement was carefully planned because I knew rattlesnakes would be out. Slowly and methodically I stalked. I got to the cliff and peered over. There was one fo the does locked on to me. She turned her head and I ranged her at 31 yards. If she turned broadside I was going to release an arrow. She turned, but away and moved behind some grass. I waited five minutes for her to move, but she took off. I couldn't see the other does. That is, until they got spooked and took off in the same direction. They had been around twenty yards, right below me, but I couldn't see them due to the sheer face of the overhang. Even though it didn't result in a shot, I was still pumped for a good stalk. This area is super hard to put a stalk on and it felt great to get so close!

I hiked back up the steep hill and met up with Michael. After guzzling some water, downing some grapes and chatting, we decided to hit the trail. It was getting hot and our experience in this area had the deer moving only in the mornings. Our hunt for this day was over, but tomorrow will be the test. It's the last day of my deer season and I am hoping to get out there and go after them again.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Magnum to Donate $1 to Operation Gratitude for Every Facebook LIKE on Christmas Eve
MODESTO, CALIF. – For the past 11 days, Magnum Boots USA has been giving its Facebook fans gear from not only Magnum, but its partners like ITS Tactical, Tru-Edge Custom Calls, Bass Brigade, Panther Racing and Women’s Tactical Association. For the 12th Day of our 12 Days of Christmas celebration, the Magnum team has decided to change it up a bit, and give back to an organization that is doing incredible things for our troops serving overseas instead -- but we need your help.

On Christmas Eve until Midnight, Magnum Boots USA will donate $1 in your honor to Operation Gratitude for every "like" to our Facebook page and/or for the 12th Day of Christmas image featuring Operation Gratitude (up to $1,000). Then, tell all of your colleagues, friends and family who use Facebook to "like" our page and the image, too. Every “like” counts! 

Operation Gratitude, which has shipped more than 750,000 packages to American troops deployed overseas since 1993, aims to lift morale of U.S. Armed Forces, bring a smile to a service member’s face and express to our Armed Forces the appreciation and support of the American people.

With this goal, all previous rules and entry regulations from the 12 Days of Christmas giveaway are thrown out the door. Whether you live in the U.S. or not, anyone and everyone can offer up a "like" to help raise funds for this worthy charitable organization.

“We realize that not everyone is blessed with being able to be home and spend time with their families during the holidays,” said Brett Weitl, Magnum USA’s marketing director. “We hope that our humble donation will help touch some of those folks, and bring them a little piece of home and serve as a reminder that we truly appreciate their support.”

ABOUT OPERATION GRATITUDE
Operation Gratitude annually sends 100,000+ care packages filled with snacks, entertainment items and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed in harm’s way and to Wounded Warriors in Military hospitals and Transition Units. The organization’s mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member’s face and express to our Armed Forces the appreciation and support of the American people. Each package contains donated product valued at ~$125 and costs the organization $15 to assemble and ship. For safety and security, assembling of packages occurs at the Army National Guard armory in Van Nuys, California. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude volunteers have shipped more than 750,000 packages to American Military deployed overseas. Learn more about Operation Gratitude by visiting www.OperationGratitude.com.

ABOUT MAGNUM
Since 1982, Magnum has been providing high-performance tactical and service product with credibility second to none. It is the mission of Magnum to be the best in class by delivering unsurpassed product designed for its end user. Distributed in over 100 countries, Magnum attacks the marketplace with unmatched comfort, technology and value in uniform footwear and apparel used by law enforcement, military, fire/rescue, emergency medical, and service agencies around the world. For more information, visit us online: www.magnumboots.com.

###

Contact: Alexis Nascimento
Public Relations Manager
209.543.3348
anascimento@magnumbootsusa.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dealing With An Idealistic Non-Hunter
'Tis that time of year for Christmas parties, which usually include conversation fueled by cheer and possibly an adult beverage. I had the pleasure of attending a Christmas party hosted by my hunting partner, Michael, and his wife last Friday and there always seems to be a story when I attend something like this.

Now, the story starts off kinda funny because while I read the invite, and spoke to Michael, I had no idea it was a 'Christmas' party. We had discussed the party while hunting and Michael had mentioned that they moved to a new place, were going to have some friends over... yadda yadda yadda... so I figured a few friends to relax and have a housewarming party. "Survey says... EHHHHHNT!" I read the body of the email, but the subject line said Xmas Party Invite. I failed to see that! Now, my wife had a feeling it was a Christmas party, but I, being of sound mind and stubborn spirit decided to wing it. I threw on the black jeans and a Realtree MAX-1 camo button up. Little did I know my attire would be a nice topic of conversation. (ok, so I figured it would be. That's why I wore it!)

Now, I am going to skip all of the party bits and such and get right to the meat of this post. Literally. Michael had mentioned that he was making a vat of venison chili with the deer he killed. I was stoked to try it! While hanging out and eating, one of the guests approached me and asked if I was a hunter and friend of Michael's. Was it that obvious? <-- That's sarcasm for you straight-laced folks. I'm known for that. Anyway, the gentleman introduces himself and we get to chatting. Immediately, we get on the subject of hunting and it takes a dark turn. See how I handled it and would you have handled it different?

I am paraphrasing, but the conversation went something like this...

Party Guest: "So, are you a hunter, too?"

Me: "Indeed I am. I am Michael's bow hunting partner."

PG: "OH! So were you with him when he killed his deer?"

Me: "The doe he shot? Yes, I was. In fact, I watched it all go down. Pretty cool stuff seeing a guy take his first deer with archery equipment!"

PG: "Wow, so he shot a doe? My family hunts, too. We are full of hunters. I am not a hunter, but my family hunts and if you went out and shot a doe they would have your ass."

Me: "Why would they 'have your ass'? Shooting does is good to keep a healthy population and you have to keep them in check."

PG: "I guess it's a manly thing. You really aren't a man unless you hunt for big buck."

Me: "What makes you say that? Are you saying that you aren't a real hunter if you shoot a doe and don't shoot a big buck?"

PG: "Well, my family is full of trophy hunters. They won't shoot does. So, you aren't a buck hunter?"

Me: "That's not what I said. What I said was that I will gladly shoot a doe if she comes into range. I will also shoot a buck if it comes into range. I am not picky and my tag allows either one."

PG: "Like I said, you aren't a man unless you hunt for a buck."

Me: "I am curious, why would you say that when you told me you aren't even a hunter? Your family is, but you aren't, right? [with a smile on my face] Are you an expert on manliness?"

PG: "That's true, I don't hunt, but this is what my family tells me."
[Long Pause...]

Me: "The meat from a buck or a doe, no matter how you cut it, is venison, no matter if it has horns or not. Have you ever tried eating the horns? You can't eat the horns and a doe tastes delicious."
PG: "I am sure it does."

Me: "By the way, how did you like the chili? Pretty good, right?"

PG: "It was very good."

Me: "Yeah, I guess it doesn't taste too bad considering that it's made with the doe that Michael shot last week. Tasty stuff right there."

At this point, PG shakes my hand and walks away. I never raised my voice, got angry or backed down. I am a hunter and I will not apologize for shooting does. You don't like it, too bad. To the PG and anyone else who doesn't believe in shooting does, if there is ever a famine or you are just downright hungry, please feel free to set your trophy horns aside and come sit at my table. I am not knocking anyone who hunts just for the trophy horns. On the contrary, if you choose to hunt for horns, go nuts! Hunting is hunting, but don't EVER try to put me down for sending an arrow through a doe. Ever.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

RedRam Merino Wool Base Layer Giveaway!

The Winner of the RedRam Merino Wool Base Layer set is:
Comment #33 - Tovar Cerulli.

Congratulations, Tovar!

My recent review of the RedRam Merino Wool Base Layers prompted plenty of comments and questions. Many of you said you wished you had your own set of base layers for your hunts. Well, RedRam has stepped up to the plate and is giving you a chance to win a set of your own! One lucky reader will win a top and bottom base layer set! 


Actually, there are MULTIPLE ways to enter and you can do all to increase your odds of winning! Add ONE comment for each item you complete. Complete any or all!
  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me if you have used RedRam or Icebreaker products and what you like about them, or just tell me what base layers you are currently using.
  2. Facebook Entry #1 - Like Icebreaker - (RedRam doesn't have a FB page, but you could say they should 'like Icebreaker because it's the parent company).  Then leave a separate comment telling me so with your FB username. 
  3. Facebook Entry #2 - Like The SoCal Bowhunter on Facebook - If you already follow me just leave a separate comment telling me so with your FB username.
  4. Follow The SoCal Bowhunter on Twitter - If you already follow me just leave a separate comment telling me so with your Twitter name.
  5. Tweet the following (this can be done once per day - leave direct link in the comment):
    RT #Win a RedRam Merino Wool Base Layer Set from @Icebreakernz & @SoCalBowhunter #giveaway #hunting http://socalbowhunter.blogspot.com/2011/12/redram-merino-wool-base-layer-giveaway.html (12/11)
The SoCal Bowhunter does not use forms. Please leave a valid email address for each entry you complete. This is how I will contact the winner. If you put multiple items in one comment it will only counted as one entry.

A winner will be randomly selected on Tuesday night (December 20th) at 6:00 PM Pacific Time, and will be contacted via email. The winner will have 24 hours to respond or I choose another winner. Once the winner contacts me, I will announce who won on the following day’s post.  Best of luck! 

Disclaimer: RedRam provided me with base layers to review, and I was under no obligation to review them if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product. Please include your email address or make it easy to find so that I may contact you. Open to USA only. Giveaway ends at 6:00 pm PST on Tuesday, December 20, 2011. I will choose a winner via Random Number Generator from all of the entries. Winner will be contacted by email and announced in a post after they respond. Winner has 24 hours to get back to me. Should the winner not contact me back in the 24 hours, I will choose another winner. Shipment to the winner will be handled by RedRam. I am in no way liable for any shipping issues, I am only hosting this giveaway.

Monday, December 12, 2011

SoCal Hunter Arrows First Deer With Archery Tackle!
A well laid plan, plenty of hard work, practice, sweat and patience. All of those things finally came together this past Saturday as my hunting partner and good friend, Michael Giudici, dropped his first ever deer with archery tackle!  The headline is misleading as Michael is well versed in deer hunting and has taken multiple deer using a rifle, but prior to Saturday he had never taken one with a bow and arrow.

Now, I have to begin this story with the conversation Michael and I had a few days prior. After getting on watch late the past two times, I wanted to be certain we were at the top of the foothill well before sunrise. That after my calculations, I knew we would need to be leaving the trailhead at 4:00 AM. Michael did NOT want to arrive any earlier than 4:15 AM, thus leaving at 4:20 AM. We went back and forth on the time. I argued that fifteen minutes wasn't going to make a difference in his sleep, but it would for us getting to our spot in time to cool off and relax. He said he wasn't sure, but he said he would try to meet me by 4:00.

The next morning, I was waiting at the trailhead at 3:50 AM. Five minutes later Michael arrived. He made it and early to boot! Awesome! I told him I had a great feeling about today and that we were doing the right thing. We had learned much this year and we were ready to make it happen.

At 4:05 AM we hit the trail with determination. We decided to take breaks only to catch our breath. We wanted to walk quickly and cool off before the sun came up. I don't know about Michael and his pack, but with my bow attached, my pack weighed in at 46 lbs. Three liters of water, optics, tripod, extra clothing, and my bow made the pack heavy, but I was ready.  We made tracks and were at our spot in record time.

While I can go on and on, this was Michael's first ever kill with archery tackle and this is the story in his words...

We got to the bottom of the hill at 4:00 AM, hiked in 2 miles up the hill, got on stand, and were ready to go at 5:30am. The sun rose at 6:30 and we started glassing. It was only a few minutes before I got a text from my good buddy and hunting partner Al. “Deer behind you coming from your left”. I turned around to catch them passing behind the bush I was sitting in front of. 25 yards out, came a yearling and 2 mature does. I drew back my Mathews solo cam and the deer startled and ran up the hill a little ways. I figured they were right about 50 yards. I put my 50yrd pin right above the shoulder of the biggest doe and let the arrow fly!

With much anticipation and adrenalin flowing through my veins, the arrow went high and the deer ran off… No dice. I sat back, shaking like a dog sh$(%*ing razor blades, that was awesome! My first opportunity to shoot a deer with an arrow. Although a failed attempt, I believed it could be done!

Now let me say, no matter how much time you put on the range, or how many arrows you can put in a tight group in a hay bale, when the moment comes, that adrenalin kicks in and your shot is now put into god’s hands.

Just as I was calming down I looked to my left and saw a doe on the skyline staring directly at me. I couldn’t move for fear of spooking her. This went on for 10 minutes until another doe came out. After 15 minutes of a staring contest, she began to feed again figuring I was no threat. The does followed down the trail coming closer and closer as if I was pulling them in on a string. At 24 yards short of my stand, they moved behind the big bush I was parked in front of just like the last does had. I again spun around to intercept them then they came out on the other side.

As I turned I noticed 2 more does coming from right at me from the opposite direction! There were deer everywhere!!! This one saw my movement and again the staring contest was on. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed movement through the bush and out walks a deer 8 yards from where I was sitting! Following her, 15 yards up the hill were 2 mature Pacific Hybrid does. I slowly reached to pull my bow around and the doe at 8 yards took notice, took a dump, and then proceeded to stare. I drew back and she ran to about 45 yards.

Startled by the movement the 2 does above her moved up to see what the commotion was about. I didn’t have a clear shot because the bush I was hiding behind blocked the path between the deer and my arrow. I leaned left, put the 30 yard pin right on the vitals and let my second arrow of the day fly. CRACK!!!! The deer dropped dead in her tracks! Success!
 
Michael and his first deer with archery tackle!

We gutted, skinned, quartered, and packed the deer in my pack and we off on our 2 mile walk back to the car. It was one of the most exciting, rewarding hunts I have ever been on.

I am super proud of Michael for his dedication and determination. I have met plenty of guys who 'want' to be bowhunters, but don't have what it takes to go the extra mile. Michael certainly does and I want to send out a big CONGRATULATIONS to him for filling his A31 tag and getting that first bow kill under his belt. Oh, and Michael - I have a few cubic feet open in my freezer and can help you store some of that venison.

We have been hunting this spot hard and have seen deer every day. I still have a couple of weeks left and we plan on hitting this spot one or two more times to help me try and fill my tag.  

We have had great success already and we'll try to make this a first year for both of us... you see, I have never taken a SoCal deer in the four years I have hunted out here. I still get a thrill out of helping my buddies fill their tags and to me THAT equals success.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Bucks Are Finally Chasing The Does!
Last Sunday, Michael and I were able to get out and do some more archery hunting for Pacific-Hybrids. We hit the ridge early, but once again not as early as we had hoped. We left the trailhead fifteen minutes later than we had planned due to some issues with a product I am reviewing. We made tracks, but were sure to stop frequently so as not sweat profusely.

Once at the base of the foothill, I took the lead as we climbed ever-so slowly. I mentioned a few times to Michael that we had to go even slower. I know it's hard for guys who are used to rifle hunting to slow it down, but Michael definitely caught on when we spotted the does standing right in the spot he was going to hunt from. No sooner had we spotted them and they spotted us. We sat down, glassing them for ten minutes and they moved on. The sun hadn't even fully risen and we had spotted a small group of does. The day looked promising!

When we got up, I glanced to my left and spotted movement a quarter mile below us. Coyotes! Two of them we making a beeline for a thicket. More wildlife, but not the kind we WANTED to see.

We split up and I ventured over to the far side of the ridge. That way I could glass anything moving up the hill towards Michael and he could do the same for me. I sat down and looked over to my right and in the spot where I have seen the bear was a well fed bobcat. He was incredible! Stalking through the brush at an assured pace. Once he disappeared I figured it would be a long morning. Again, I was mistaken.

A grainy pic of a hunting coyote.
We spotted deer here, there and everywhere. Then we spotted more coyotes hunting near where the bobcat had been. There has to be a rabbit colony or quail in there for that spot to be so popular! I am going to dub it Predator Knoll because that's all I see up there. Then, a mile away on a bare hilltop I spot another yote. Then another, and another and wow, FOUR yotes in a pack! I have never seen so many together during the day before. I watched them hunt for a little while and then got back to glassing for deer.

Michael located a doe and two yearlings bedded on a nob. All three were extremely dark deer. As I turned to my left I noticed an ear twitch. As I focused, I realized that there were two does feeding up towards Michael's position. He was hidden from their view for the time being, so I sent him a quick text to get ready. I mentioned where the deer were and that they were only 50-60 yards away. They fed for another minute and then they stopped suddenly. The gig was up as they spotted Michael looking over the bush. They turned and made their way into the deep valley where we lost them. That's hunting!

Shortly thereafter I got a text from Michael saying that two deer were on a ridge to my right. I scanned the hillside and spotted them. Two does. Then, the second lifted her....er HIS head! It was a buck! I quickly shot him a message that the second was a shooter forky and that he had some size to him. He couldn't see them, but I was watching them as they made their way down a well-worn trail in his direction. They were still 500 yards from him, but we were ready. The wind was perfect and we were just patiently waiting for it to happen.

As they crossed the ridge I was standing on I lost sight of them. Between texting and resting my eyes they had vanished. *Buzz-buzz* Another text from Michael confirmed they had dropped a bit lower than I could see, so I cut the distance by ten yards and there they were. The doe started to get out ahead and the buck slowed his pace. Pretty soon, she headed through the thick stuff on the far, side-hill and the buck stayed low. He fed along a grass patch and the doe sauntered up and over the ridge and disappeared into a large cactus patch. The buck didn't give chase, nor did he seem to care. He walked a few yards closer, fed some more and then looked up the hill.

Quickly, I called Michael and told him the buck was looking up the hill and that he should head to the next ridge as fast as he could, but to stay out of sight. He had a nice row of bushes in the way so he'd be safe. The buck was feeding, so he had time. Once he made it over there I began relaying info to Michael. Then, the buck bedded down.

Taken through my binos at 300 yards.
Most times I would be super excited that a buck bedded down. That way we could put on a stalk. This time was very different. This buck was smart. He bedded beside some brush that covered him on three sides. He faced uphill in my direction, which gave me no way to stalk down the hill as there was nothing for me to hide behind. Remember my story of our hair-brained scheme to cut some time via shortcut? Well, This guys was bedded right down on the edge of it. We didn't give up, but after watching him feed and bed for two hours we decided it was time for a sandwich and some water.

My head was starting to tighten up and I was roasting. I knew I needed to hydrate. I slowly scooted over to my pack, hidden behind a bush, and gulped some water. I also decided to lose a base layer to cool down. What a difference that made! I felt rejuvenated and ready to get back to glassing. I gulped down some more water and sat back down.

Glancing over, I noticed Michael was already napping under a bush. It was warming up and I can understand why he'd want some shuteye, but I was all about focusing on that buck. The best vantage point was directly in the sun and I couldn't find my sunscreen to save my life. No matter as I was determined to stay on this deer.

I watched him for two more hours. He would get up, feed, mill around, and bed down. Over and over again. I had no way to get down to him. The closer I looked at the buck I realized that it was his sheds that we had found earlier in the season. He had definitely grown a little and that was promising.

The buck we were after.
By the time Michael woke up, we had been watching this buck for four and a half hours. We wanted to put on a stalk, but the buck had other plans. I went to my pack and then when I got back to my spot the buck was gone! I searched high and low and could not find him anywhere! I called Michael and asked him to start looking. My heart sank and after what seemed like an eternity I spotted him. He was heading back from where he originally came from! I beat feet about thirty yards to my right so I could glass the valley where I though he'd go and there, in the shade of a large tree, were two doe... staring right at me. I was busted, or so I thought. The buck wandered over towards them and they started making a fuss. Snorting, stomping, whirling around and walking away from him. He got right on there tail and started sniffing and chasing them. I thought for sure I'd see him try to breed one of them.

Michael couldn't see what was going on, so I relayed the info over the phone. The buck pursued the does and at one point turned them around and they were walking back towards us. The does had other plans and they stopped in the shade and refused to budge. The persistent buck chased them and they started walking the opposite ridge away from us. I mentioned to Michael that we should pack our bags and skirt around the foothill, a brisk mile and a half walk, and cut them off. He agreed and by the time I had reached my pack the deer were back down in the valley to stay.

The three deer stayed put and refused to move. They were down on the edge of the Valley of the Poison Oak and I wasn't about to track a deer through it. So, we decided to stick with our plan to skirt the foothill in case they decided to come over. 

One out way down the side hill, Michael stepped over a little hump and I followed suit. What happened next was a reaction out of self-preservation. I stepped over just as a snake reared up and lunged at my boot. A few choice words slipped out as I jumped up and over the snake. When I landed I was turned and facing a small snake who had just scored a huge meal. I searched for a rattle and saw none and realized that it was only a gopher snake. His belly was the size of a roll of quarters and he wasn't too happy that I had almost stepped on him. I have no idea if the snake made contact with my boot, and if he did I didn't feel it. I was VERY thankful to be wearing my snake boots. Hiking mile after mile in them may not be ideal, but at least I was protected.

We only had about an hour and a half left of daylight, so we hiked around the hill, spotted some coveys of quail and chatted about the day. We knew the deer were likely going to bed near where they were, so we set up for a little bit and glassed the far hillsides. No deer were spotted, but we rehashed the day. We had spotted 14 deer, 8 coyotes, a bobcat, countless quail and one of those deer was a decent buck. Another successful DIY outing for us! We discussed and solidified our plans for the following Saturday. It was going to be a long week, but we knew we were going after that buck.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Product Review: RedRam Merino Wool Base Layers
Keeping warm is something you must always think about when hunting. No matter if you are hunting the high desert of Southern California or the hardwoods of Western New York. When I was given the opportunity to review the new RedRam Merino Wool base layers I couldn't say no. For one, I had never heard of them and two, I had been looking for a decent pair of base layers for a while.

Right out of the box these felt soft. RedRam sent me the long sleeve and short sleeve tops, and the long pants and boxers. They fit true to size and left a little room to stretch if needed. After losing the weight over the past year I am now able to comfortably fit into a large. They fit very well and were even ever-so-slightly larger than I figured, but that means they are just a bit loose. These felt different than other base layers I have tried and immediately I knew why. Others I have tested use a wool blend, but RedRam uses 100% Merino wool. That made a huge difference!

I first tested these out on my trip in November to the farmland hunting grounds of Western NY state. I knew I could be hunting in anything from 25 degrees to 70 degrees, so I had to be prepared. The Merino wool base layers do not feel itchy. It's actually quite the opposite. They feel like a soft shirt going on, but with plenty of warmth. They are not tight to the skin like Spandex. No, these are slightly loose and allow movement. That was a welcome benefit that I hadn't though of.

In a tree stand for two to four hours at a time, I needed to keep warm. The RedRam base layers did keep me warm on those long sits, but keep in mind that if you are not moving in some way you WILL get chilly. When I was stationary for a long period of time I was chilled and had to get up, move around a bit and get the blood flowing.
These are not a constant source of heat and are not meant to be. When I was moving to and from my stand or just milling around the base layers kept me very warm and kept the moisture away from my skin. That's what we all want, right? Keep warm, keep the skin dry and have a product that's durable and long lasting.

Back in California, I have used the RedRam base layers countless times on our hunts. They actually keep me so warm on our hikes in that I have decided to only wear the top shirt on our hike in. The temps have been as low as 35-40 degrees in the mornings, but hiking 2-miles up a California foothill will have your body putting out some serious body heat. The wool wicks away the moisture really well and I couldn't be happier. When the temps were reaching 65-70 degrees, well, I had to lose a layer or two. When you are sitting in the sun, even on those cooler days, the RedRam layers retain the heat well and I felt extremely comfortable.

As far as durability goes, I have not one bad thing to say about these. I have worn them over, and over, and over and there are no holes, no seams opening and they feel as comfortable now as the first day I put them on. There was no chaffing, no discomfort whatsoever. I have never worn a better pair of base layers and the Merino wool is a huge bonus for my hunts.

Caring for the base layers is simple. Follow the directions and wash in warm or cold water and line dry them. I did that each time and found them feeling new each time I put them on. I wouldn't recommend putting something like this in the dryer.

Some of the basic info from their website and some good testing guideline:

Breathable: I want you to be perfectly warm, not hot and sweaty. That's where RedRam shines. Merino thermal underwear stays drier because it naturally absorbs perspiration from your skin and releases it into the air.

Natural Fibre: I like people warming, not global warming. So RedRam couldn't be more natural. The ingredients are grass, water and sunshine. I grow it and it's woven into your thermals. Unlike polyprop underwear which is made from petrochemicals.

Stinkiness: You can ski, hike, or fish all day, or run up and down the sideline, whatever the weather. No matter how active you get in your RedRam, it won't get smelly. Synthetic fibres stink to high heaven but Merino is far more efficient than other fibres at releasing sweat and moisture.

Comfort:
Put on a silky smooth, super light merino garment and you'll enjoy the warmth of a heavy sweater. But you'll have none of the bulk. That's because of merino's finely crimped fibres, which create millions of air pockets to capture your body heat.

Sustainable: No use making men's and women's thermal underwear if there's not going to be a world left to wear it in. Fortunately RedRam merino wool is renewable and biodegradable. We merino are shorn each year, then we return to the mountains to grow more underwear. Merino is biodegradable and unlike cotton and synthetics it uses very low-energy production processes.

Pure Merino Wool: I am pure merino. And we merino spend our days roaming high in the spacious Southern Alps of New Zealand. Our coats are designed to naturally handle all extremes of weather. And that can mean -20 degrees Celcius in winter.
My only performance issue was the claim of not being stinky and I feel that claim can be misleading. I wore my base layers for five days without washing them. After two days the armpits were definitely emitting an unpleasant aroma. The claim they have is that 'it won't get smelly,' but I disagree with that. From my testing it WILL indeed get smelly depending on your scent and how much you perspire. I have never known anything to be 100% scent-free.

There is issue of availability at local stores. Down here in SoCal you can't get them unless you place an order through the mail. Hopefully, very soon, you will see these in more retail stores around. RedRam is currently available at Gander Mountain and www.dogfunk.com, and will be available at many more stores from Fall/Winter ‘11. The RedRam website says you can find them at Sportsman's Warehouse, but I was unable to locate them on their website. 

Now for the question you all want to ask, 'How much are they?' The long sleeve shirt retails for $57.99, the short sleeve for $47.99, the long pants for $57.99 and the boxers for $29.99. To me they are worth every penny. They are not cheap, but they are not super expensive either. For base layers that will last, I would highly recommend getting the RedRam Merino wool base layers. They will keep you toasty warm and last you a long while!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Harnesses For Hunters Program




Have you ever fallen out of a tree stand? Know anyone who has? I want to help spread the word on a great program that Will Jenkins started over at TheWillToHunt.com. It's called Harnesses For Hunters. There's an entire write up over on his blog. Here's an excerpt:

I started this project after pulling up my hunting news feed on Google News and the top 3 stories involved hunter injuries or  deaths caused by falling from a tree stand. Then I went to Twitter and someone had tweeted a link to a story mentioning the same thing. So I decided to do something about it!  

I know a lot of people use what I consider a premium fall restraint or harness whether it's a Hunter Safety System, Summit, Muddy or other brand, but as we build up our gear stock pile most tree stands come with what I'll call a generic harness. They may not be the most comfortable or they may be slightly bulky but they will save your life. So if you are a person that has a harness premium or generic and has accumulated some extra harnesses as you've gotten tree stands why don't you give back to the hunting community and give it to someone that needs one?

Go check out the program. Why am I promoting this so much? I know a few people who have fallen out of stands because they were too 'macho' or 'safe' to have to wear one. Two guys I went to high school with broke bones. They were lucky. For an incredible true story about why you should wear a safety harness, head over to Bill Howard Outdoors and read his post.

I didn't start wearing one until 10 years ago and even then it was tough, but I knew I needed to be safe. I cannot count the times I have missed a step, slipped on some ice of just nodded off on stand (it happens). I won't go in a stand without a safety harness now. In each seminar where I am discussing gear I am sure to mention it. You can be sure I'll mention this program.

If you are a person that has a spare harness (premium or generic, it doesn't matter) or has accumulated some extra harnesses that came with your tree stands would you consider giving back to the hunting community and give it to someone that needs one? You could help save someone's life!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Product Review: Hawke Optics 12x50mm Nature Trek Binoculars
Hunting here in Southern California is extremely challenging. There are miles of ground to cover and precious time to do it in. What's the best way to find your prey? Gain some elevation, get yourself a good vantage point and scan the land using quality optics.

For the past few months I have been using Hawke Optics 12x50mm Nature-Trek® binoculars on my hunts and scouting trips in the high desert of Southern California. Being a DIY hunter and having a limited budget for gear, I always want the best quality I can find for the lowest investment. I am a firm believer in that you get what you pay for. How would these optics hold up?
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KEY FEATURES of the 12x50s:
  • BAK 4 roof prism design to be compact
  • Fully multi-coated lenses for maximum clarity
  • Lightweight, durable polycarbonate body for lifelong durability
  • Close focus from 6.6'-8.2'
  • Carry case with adjustable neck strap
  • Stay-on objective lens covers
  • Waterproof and Fog Proof
  • Hawke® Worldwide Warranty
Nature-Trek® binoculars come in a shock resistant polycarbonate body, providing a robust yet lightweight casing. All models are nitrogen purged to avoid fogging and they are sealed to be fully waterproof. The inner-focus optical design produces stunning optics.

The high resolution image ensures no details are lost when viewing at long or short distance. Close focus distance is 6.5' - 8.2'.

The effortless focusing and impressive depth of field makes these binoculars quick and easy to use. Twist-up eyecups make viewing easy with glasses or sunglasses literally as simple as the twist of your fingers. Diopter adjustment is smooth to operate making set-up easy.
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The first thing I noticed is that you can't download the user manual and specifications from the Hawke Optics website. There are icons there, but Hawke tells me they are in process to get that updated. Personally, I think they should remove it so that it isn't confusing and so aggravating. Consumers dedicated to finding the best products want to read about a product, in detail, before buying and having a dead link on the site raises concerns with consumers.

When I first received the binoculars to test, I noticed the diopter was very loose. It was almost to the point that it felt like someone had over-greased it. I thought it was just me, so without telling them the issue, I had two other hunters check it out (at different times) and they also agreed that it felt loose. I spoke with customer service at Hawke and they explained that that was not supposed to be like that. I sent them back in exchange for a different pair. The new pair arrived and the diopter worked as it should.

Regarding Hawke's customer service, they are quick and efficient. Before I agreed to accept any product from Hawke, I spent some time on the phone with the Hawke staff discussing their product line. I was very impressed with them taking the time to listen to my ideas, concerns and past reviews.  They took the time to go over the 12x50s with me and when I had to return them they made sure I was satisfied. I appreciate good customer service and Hawke Optics has some of the best in the industry!

The 12x50 pull of the binoculars work well. On a recent hunt, I was able to locate a deer from a 1/2 mile away and determine that it was a buck. The view wasn't as clear as I would like, but they did work. I couldn't tell what the rack looked like, just that it was indeed antlers on the deers head. It was a bit on the cloudy side, yet they still performed.

The interpupillary distance (distance between the eyes) was a major issue for me. In order to properly use the binoculars I had to remove the larger 'Stay-on objective lens covers' to get each side as close as possible. The far ends of the binoculars had to be touching in order for me to look through them. It was disheartening to know that I had to do all of that just to see through them. This time I had three other hunters try these out to get their take. Two of the three said that was an issue for them. The other hunter had no problem as his eyes are set further apart. That is something to consider when making a binocular purchase.

The issue of parallax also comes into play with the 12x50 Nature Treks. Both sides never seem to truly focus on one spot at the same time and there is definitely some difficulty in locking on to your target. The depth perception is a bit off when using these. When I tried with other binoculars I did not have that issue. I tried countless times to get it spot on. I was able to get very close and that had to suffice.

These binoculars are not super-heavy, but because they have more glass they do have a bit more heft to them. This wasn't an issue hiking or sitting down because they don't weigh a ton. I wear a binocular harness so the weight didn't factor in much. It was balanced. When I used the strap that was provided I definitely noticed a difference. You have to factor that in when going to higher powered glass.

Here I utilized the tripod mount for a steady view of the high desert in Southern California.

I initially thought there was no spot to mount a tripod adapter with the 12x50 Nature Treks, but after further inspection I found it! I was able to use a tripod adapter that I had already purchased. I mounted it on a mono-pod for easy transport and tested them out. While in the rain and wind, I was able to keep steady with the binoculars mounted. That's a big plus when you are hunting the terrain I hunt. I would love to see Hawke come out with their own tripod adapter for their optics. Who knows, maybe they'd like to work with The SoCal Bowhunter to come up with a great one!

The warranty on the Hawke Optics concerned me, so I did some research. The Hawke warranty covers everything except user damage for the life of the product. I reviewed several of the competitor 'No-Fault' policies thinking they were better. I was wrong. While they do a no fault warranty, most require you to pay shipping to them, and some charge a fee for the repair or return, and ask that you send money to cover return shipping. Those optics come at a higher price tag as well. The Hawke 12x50s come at a very reasonable price of $199.99 and the warranty, at this price, is very reasonable. I take good care of my binoculars, but I want to know that if I pay good money for optics and something goes wrong that I can replace them without having to resort to buying a brand new pair. The Hawke policy is totally without charge, except for return shipping to them. With the fees and return shipping charges this could easily add up to a $50 savings on a valid warranty claim. This also saves on the product retail mark-up. Other products of this magnification easily cost twice as much and many are well over three times the cost.

I know that Hawke Optics has a few different lines and that I was only reviewing one make from one line. That being said, I feel this is a fair review. They do reach out and help you spot game from a distance and are easily carried. They are durable and waterproof (they withstood heavy downpours and held up). The investment is excellent at $199.99. Be sure to pay attention to the interpupillary distance as that was the biggest physical drawback in my review. Beyond that, for the hunter on a budget who needs good optics without breaking the bank, you definitely get your monies worth in the Hawke Optics 12x50 binoculars.

Follow Hawke Optics on:
Twitter: @hawkeoptics

Monday, November 28, 2011

Running My First 5K = Success!
Beachside before the 5K.
Anyone that knows me understands that I am not a runner. I am not built to be a runner, nor do I enjoy it. I have always been a sprinter and that came in handy when playing rugby, but endurance running has never been my strong suit. After watching my wife run as hard as she has for the past few years and then seeing an 85 yr. old man running the Long Beach Turkey Trot, well, I had no excuses!

I had no expectations going into the 5K. My two goals were to finish the race and to try to do it in less than 40 minutes. I also wanted to challenge myself in the fact that I did not go get new running shoes. Instead, I opted to run in my year-old cross-trainers. Heavier, bulkier, but still a good shoe that I was comfortable wearing.

Our start time was at 8:00 AM. There was hardly any sun, but the day was great. How many people can say that they went running, in Long Beach, CA on Thanksgiving Day in shorts? Sure, it was 50 degrees, but with a base layer under my The Will to Hunt shirt it was great.

There were over 6,000 people running/walking during the Turkey Trot, but I wasn't concerned. I was going to run at my pace, my way, and enjoy it. That's exactly how I did it, too.

The first mile wasn't so bad. I ran the entire first mile, but without having too much time to stretch my back started to tighten up. In the past, this is what has caused me to not go running. My back tightens to the point where I have to limp to walk. Not today! I was not about to let that stop me, so I slowed my pace and ambled along. After a short time it subsided, to a degree, and I was able to pick up the pace. 

At a mile and a half I started walking/running. My wife and I kept passing one another along the way. She's the one who encouraged me to run more and it was great to be able to participate this year with her instead of just cheering from the sidelines. It was great to support each other along the way!

When I made the turn at the halfway point I felt invigorated. I knew that if I kept pushing at the pace I was at that I'd be doing well. Steady as she goes!

I was entertained throughout the 5K by the great costumes people wore and by a few kids who kept running ahead and zipping in and out of people on the path. What energy they had! It was actually very inspiring and it kept me pushing a little bit harder. I only walked when I had to and jogged more and more.

The last leg of the race has an uphill climb, followed by a downhill slope and then a flat finish. I paced myself up the hill, walked the first part of the downhill to level out and then kicked in the afterburners. It felt so good to sprint that last 1/16th of a mile. Sprinting is what I do best and it felt fantastic!

As the time clock crept into view I could see that I was well under the 40 minute mark. Tick-tick-tick... 36:45...36:46... I started to run even faster. I was NOT going to let the clock hit 37:00. I crossed the finish line at 36:51 and it felt great! My adrenaline was pumping, heart was racing and my mind was clear. I was even handed a pumpkin pie at the end. Score! Always hoped to get one, but never expected one. (I love pumpkin pie, so this was a bonus for me!)

My wife followed me by only a few seconds (she is a much better runner than I am, I just love to sprint) and we were both full of smiles. We had done it and had done it together! It wasn't even 9:00 AM on Thanksgiving Day and we had run a 5K, collected a pie and it felt great. We both felt like we could run another one we felt so good!

The gratitude I have for my wife for inspiring me to run the Turkey Trot this year is beyond words. With us working hard to lose the weight we lost, well, I couldn't wait to get out there and run this with her. I saw first hand how hard she works at the gym and how dedicated she is to staying fit. Awesome job, babydoll and thank you for the inspiration and encouragement!

You can bet we'll be doing this again next year and I hope I can step it up to a 10K. That will be one of my goals for 2012 for sure. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

FMP Bowcast Blast - The SoCal Bowhunter Reporting
Helping others is something I live for. I also like checking out the archery podcasts from FMPBowcast.com. Last week I was asked if I'd be interested in occasionally offering up a report of what's going on locally in regards to archery hunting. When an opportunity to reach out and help the local bowhunters comes along like this, well, you don't say no. I still have a lot to learn, but this was my first crack at it.

The Bowcast Blast is a combination of hunt reports from across the nation. Fellow bowhunters gathered around their phones last week to report on their areas from Colorado, Southern California, Pennsylvania, and Iowa. It was recorded earlier this week and runs right before Lee and Tiffany Lakosky give their whitetail tactics.

Without further rambling on my part, click the banner below to go to FMPBowcast Episode #154 How to Kill a Whitetail w/ Lee and Tiffany.


Friday, November 25, 2011

The Drainage Ditch Of Dreams
The setting is a farm in rural, Western NY. The cool, Fall morning was peaceful. A light fog was lifting and the trees were starting to materialize. It was archery season for whitetail deer and I was standing beside a drainage ditch because my gut told me that this is where I needed to be. I stood, unmoving for a half hour after the sun rose, waiting and watching. Suddenly, it appeared one hundred yards away, upwind and walking straight towards me.

I was fourteen years old and I was out hunting by myself. My brother wasn't yet old enough to be hunting with me and my dad was at the house because of a prior commitment. In order to hunt, I had to go out on my own that morning.  

I knew the farm well as I had been helping out here for two years and knew every nook and cranny for the deer to hide. My dad had taken me out multiple times hunting with him and had shown me how to hunt the elusive cervid known as the whitetail deer. He had spent countless hours showing me how to properly shoot a bow, breathe properly and just when to release my fingers off the string. Up until this day I had always been accompanied by him on our hunts, but this day he felt I was ready to hunt on my own.


As the deer continued toward me I felt my heart thumping in my chest along with each hoof as it hit the ground. I saw that the deer was a large buck and that made my heart beat even faster. Steam shot out of the bucks nostrils as he breathed and then smelled the air. He had no idea I was there, but I was extremely concerned. I was not in a treestand, nor a ground blind. No, I was standing in an open field, right in his walkway as he walked closer and closer. I froze.

Would the buck see me against the backdrop of our overgrown pasture? I was only wearing my camouflage coveralls and boonie hat picked up from one of the local department stores. I had no pack, no rangefinder or handy gadgets like we have today. I had my antlered-handle hunting knife on my belt. In my gloved, left hand was a Bear compound bow given to my earlier that year by my dad. I have no idea what the draw weight was set at. My sight pins, all three of them, had a little dot of paint at the tip of each one. Fiber optics were not something widely thought of in 1989 for bow hunters. Even a release was a new topic of conversation. Adorning my right hand was a well-worn leather glove covering three fingers just waiting to grip the bow string.


Baling straw on the farm.
 
My target all summer long had been a paper rifle target on straw bales, stacked three high, with the barn as a backdrop. My dad, my brother and I took turns sending $3 aluminum arrows into the paper pretending that each one was a kill shot on a deer. The hot, humid summer did not deter us. Neither did working long days of baling the straw we were using and stacking it in the barn. This was our stress reliever and bonding time. My dad was already an accomplished hunter and all I wanted to do was to make him proud.

What seemed like a lifetime, the deer closed the distance. Fifty yards, forty...thirty...twenty. I drew my bow and he abruptly stopped at ten yards facing me head on. I saw points, but was taught not to count them. Instead, I was taught to focus on the animal itself and not take anything for granted. Our stare down lasted only a few seconds as I anchored, found the crease in his front leg and sent the arrow on its way. It buried itself in the exact spot where I had aimed and then the buck bolted West, up the hill.
I watched the deer run away from me and suddenly drop sixty yards from where I shot him. One kick in the goldenrod and he was done.

The intensity of the moment had my mind whirling. Had I made a clean shot? Did I really see my arrow hit like it did? I stood in my spot stunned and in awe of what had just happened. To be honest, I was in disbelief. I had just killed my first deer ever and it was a buck. Best of all, I had done it with archery equipment while on my first hunt alone.

Having no idea how to field dress a deer I didn't even walk up to the buck. Ten yards forward I marked the start of the blood trail with an arrow. I knew I would need the help of my dad, so I said a quick prayer and began the long walk back to the farmhouse. I had about a half mile walk back and the entire way I tried thinking of the best way to tell me dad about what I had just done. Every scenario in my head disappeared when I walked in the kitchen and he asked me, "So? How many arrows do you have left?" I just showed him and then proceeded to tell the story. His eyes lit up, huge hugs and cheers erupted in that small farmhouse kitchen. I'll never forget my little sister asking me, "Did you catch a deer?" I could only respond with, 'Yes, yes I did!'

We hopped in the truck and drove to the drainage ditch. Even though I knew where my deer had dropped, I brought my dad to the spot of the kill. The blood trail was like a super highway. We followed it, so I could learn how to follow a blood trail, but it didn't take long to find my buck. My dad reached down, gripped the antlers and raised him up. We counted the points together and I couldn't stop smiling. There were seven, perfect tines pointing up and I was thrilled. Not that it was a buck, nor that it was a seven-point buck, but that I had made a quick, clean kill and that my dad was proud. The look on his face said it all. 


Together, we field dressed the buck and brought him back to the house to show my siblings. My brother was just as excited as I was. After seeing the look in his eyes, I knew he'd grow up to be a hunter himself.  He helped us hang the deer in the barn as I told the story once more. We started a continuing tradition that day as we feasted on the tenderloins for dinner that evening. To this day, we continue to enjoy the fruits of our labor on the day of a kill.

Of all of my hunting memories, this one is one of my favorites. There is nothing like being alone in nature and bow hunting whitetail deer with the scent of corn and apples filling the air. Feeling the cool mist as it is lifting off the ground and seeing a mature, whitetail deer appear. The anticipation as he walks towards you, the moment of truth when you make every second of the time you spent practicing count, and the feeling of sheer happiness when you see the look on your dad's face when you tell him your hunt was a success.

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–This is my submission for the Sportsman Channel Writing Contest for Hunters hosted by the Outdoor Blogger Network.