Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Camera Adds 20 Pounds
With the NY archery deer season opening in mid-October, my dad and brother set up some trail cams on some of the property we can hunt. All I can say is that it looks promising.

Take a look up in the tree to the right. They are roosting right behind my brother's house.

A beautiful doe who just couldn't get enough of the camera.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Knives of Alaska - Pronghorn Knife Giveaway!
Want to win me?
Want to win this quality knife for the Fall hunting season? Remember my latest gear review on the Pronghorn knife? It's a great knife and I am giving it away! Why, you ask? Well, I have plenty of knives and I know that there are some of you out there that really need a new one!

I am going to make this giveaway worth it for you, but you will need to do a little work.

First, I want to know what knife you are currently using. Are you using a soup can lid for field dressing your game? Describe it for us in detail! Better yet, post a photo of it on your blog with a link back to the contest. (I'll give you a bonus entry for that, but you'll have to post the link to your blog post back here as a separate comment.)

Second, I want you to tell me how badly you need this KOA Pronghorn Knife.

(Complete both entry requirements by leaving a comment on this post with your answers. The SoCal Bowhunter does not use forms. Please leave a comment with a valid email address for each entry you complete. This is how I will contact the winner. If you put multiple items in a comment it is only counted as one entry.)

(+1 for each - add one comment for each item you complete. Complete all or any. You must complete the first part before being considered for any bonus entries.)

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Tweet the following (can be done once per day - leave direct link):
RT #Win a Trekker Series Pronghorn Knife from Knives of Alaska & @SoCalBowhunter #giveaway #hunting (9/11)

Disclaimer: Knives of Alaska provided me with this knife to review, and I was under no obligation to review it 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. You must be 18 or older to win this prize. I will be asking for proof should you be chosen as the winner. Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm PST on Wednesday, October 5, 2011. I will choose a winner via Random Number Generator from all of the completed entries. Winner will be contacted by email and announced in a post after they respond. Winner has 48 hours to get back to me. Should the winner not contact me back in the 48 hours, I will choose another winner. I am not responsible for UPS shipment issues in any way.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Product Review: Knives of Alaska Trekker Series Pronghorn Knife

When I read a review on a knife or a blade of any sort, I want to know that it's going to cut 'like buttah'. Don't you? That's exactly what discovered when I used the Knives of Alaska Pronghorn Knife last year. Yes, I realize I have been a schmuck for not posting about this yet. It should have been posted a LONG time ago.

I have had great experiences with Knives of Alaska knives in the past. Each has been razor sharp right out of the box. It was no different when KOA sent me the Pronghorn last year to do a review on, but first, let me describe my findings from start to finish. 

First, the knife info from the KOA website:

Category:    The Trekker Series
Item Number:    00176FG
Metal:    D2
Rockwell Hardness:    59-61
Bevel:    18-20°
Knife Length:    8.25"
Blade Length:    3.25"

When I opened the box, the very first thing I noticed was the incredibly strong aroma of oil-tanned leather. My initial though was 'Damn! An animal could smell that from ten miles away!' It's an awful smell, and while I know it's common to have a leather sheath, I dislike this sheath just on the smell alone. The build and functionality of the sheath is awesome, but to put it plainly, it stinks.

The one benefit to the oil-tanned leather was that the sheath was soft and pliable. When I had it attached to my belt and took it hiking, well, it felt very comfortable on my hip. It is also very lightweight. Rarely did I notice the weight as I walked. I have owned plenty of knives that weigh a ton. Heck, i still do, but having a lightweight blade is something to consider when hunting the backcountry. A lightweight, strong blade that holds an edge is a must!

The KOA Pronghorn is made out of D2 steel (which is incredibly strong) and the blade, right out of the box was insanely sharp. As I looked over the knife, I decided to clean it using alcohol, as opposed to soap and water (this will prevent your blades from corroding quickly) and then I went to my fridge. Inside, I was thawing out a venison shoulder roast. It was only halfway thawed and that was perfect for me to test out the knife. I opened the package, took the meat out and sliced through it with the Pronghorn. It didn't take much effort and I was hitting the cutting board with a perfect cut through half-frozen meat. Impressive! (I then cleaned it with soap and hot water. Then a quick swipe on each side with alcohol.)

The Suregrip on this knife is a very nice feature for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is that it is blaze orange. I've set my go-to knife down while gutting a deer before and lost sight of it in the leaves and branches. If you have yet to experience that, it's a sinking feeling to say the least. The Pronghorn handle almost glows against the backdrop of leaves and dirt. Even in low light it stands out. Plus one for that! How do I know this? Well...

Last year, I went hunting with some friends and one of them was fortunate enough to kill a nice deer. He was all ready to gut it when I volunteered to do it with the KOA Pronghorn. The funny stares were priceless. 

'You WANT to gut the deer? Have at it!'

So I did! I don't mind it and I really wanted to test out the Pronghorn in the field. Remember how I said I want a knife that cuts 'like buttah'? Yeah, this one lived up to that and more. Sure, the blade cuts like buttah, but the Suregrip allows you so much more flexibility and confidence. The grip is non-slippery, even when it gets wet with blood and water.  Yes, I said water because it had been raining and the grass around the deer was covered in condensation. I was still able to field dress this deer very quickly and the knife stayed put in my hand. I set the knife down a few times, in the tall, wet grass and not only found it right away, but the grip was sure. I was able to finish cutting and gutting in no time. The blade stayed wicked sharp throughout the entire process, too. I touched it up when I got home, but for what was needed in the field it worked great. (Again, I cleaned it well before putting it away.)

The other feature associated with the grip that I found useful was the finger grip cutout on the blade. You wrap your index finger around that and it secures it even more to your hand. It's yet another great way to prevent slippage. 

The MSRP on this knife is listed at $99.00 on the KOA website. Other retailers have it listed for $80.00 and that's a fair price, but I think for many DIY guys that's a bit steep. Would I pay $99.00 for this knife? Probably not. Would I pay $80.00? Sure I would. I own a few knives that I have had for nearly 20 years that perform superbly and cost less than $50. I think you are paying for the Knives of Alaska name, but it does have the Suregrip feature which is nice to have if you are hunting the backcountry or just on the family farm.

Overall, I give the Pronghorn a 4 out of 5. The sheath doesn't count, but if I were to rate that I'd give it a 2 out of 5 - that leather smell is nauseous!  That being said, the Knives of Alaska Pronghorn would be a great addition to anyone's pack.

Disclaimer: The reviews on The SoCal Bowhunter are solely my honest opinions. These products were either provided to me for the purpose of review or I purchased them myself. I receive no monetary compensation in exchange for these reviews.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Quacky's Chunks O'gold!

2lbs venison chunk meat (stew meat in bite size pieces)
1 cup molasses
1/4 cup sesame seed oil
2 cups water
1 tablespoon of sea salt (more or less to taste)
Optional - 1/4 cup lime juice if meat is too tough. This will help tenderize it a bit.

Combine all ingredients and then add the meat. Marinade meat overnight - minimum of 12 hours. Be sure to use a closed container so you can shake up the contents every so often to ensure coverage.

Heat grill red hot and toss these little chunks o'gold on the grate. By the time you are done laying the last one on it will be time to start back at the beginning and turn them over again.

Once you have turned them all over it's time for them to come off. Now be prepared, if you are standing amongst friends, these will not make it to a plate. They taste best piping hot, right off the grill and into your mouth!

Friday, September 16, 2011 Pro Staffers Strike Early!
Congratulations go out to Team DIY for striking early and taking down some awesome animals already this season. All three of my friends have struck gold this season. I guess it's my turn now. Great job guys! Pro Staffer Nathan Welsh with his 2011 OTC Colorado bull elk. owner and Redhead Pro Staffer Eric Welsh with his 2011 Arizona mule deer buck.

Piranha Custom Bowstrings owner and Pro Staffer Eddy Erautt with his 2011 Utah mule deer buck.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Archery - The Ultimate Tension Reliever
Stress is something that hits all of us. While I haven't been stressed or even felt remotely tense this last week, I did get sick with a cold for a few days and didn't make it to the gym. I was bummed because I have stuck with my plan of keeping the weight off, but I hate feeling sick and drained and decided to take a few days to recuperate.

Once I felt better, I was back in the gym, but I knew the scale in my bathroom was going to be rough with me. What better way to relieve that tension than to fling some arrows! 

My new string and cable from Eddy at Piranha Custom Bowstrings came in last week and I had Connor over at Archery Outpost install them. The string on my PSE Bow Madness was the original string and while it was shooting fine, I knew that it needed to be replaced. What I didn't know was how much having that new string was going to improve my set up.

With my new strings and the peep adjusted, I was off to zing some arrows into the target. I cannot tell you how good it felt to start letting narrow pieces of carbon and aluminum fly. Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Therapy at its best! It was awesome. The bow felt like it was brand new! After 30 shots, the peep stayed put and I was satisfied. We locked it down and I was done. Thank yous go out to Eddy and Connor for setting me up right!

Not too shabby for my first group at 20 yards. A bit left, but tight!

Sunday came and my hunting partner and I decided to hit the outdoor range at El Dorado Park. It would be the last opportunity we'd have before the deer season, so we took full advantage of the afternoon. 

Instead of starting in close to the target, we jumped right out to 50 yards. Thwack! Thwack! This was awesome! Thwack! Thwack!

First group at 50 yards. Shooting for the far right, second dot up. A bit low.
Michael and I stayed at the range for two hours. We shot at the bag target, the 3D hog and I also attached a tennis ball to a string. The tennis ball was a major challenge from 50 yards! We both hit either side of the ball, but not once did we pin it to the bale. Not as good as we thought! Well, we both knew it'd be tough to hit at 50 yards, but we wanted to try anyway. I think we did pretty well. The 3D hog was so much fun. It's the smallest of the hog targets on the market and we like it because your window is much smaller.

We moved out to 60 and then 70 yards and it was great until we felt fatigued. That's when we took a much-needed break and then went back to shooting the hog at 40 yards.

As you can see from the photos, I shot the Easton Full-Metal Jackets. I sighted in my bow with them and I feel very comfortable shooting them. While I like the Carbon Express Aramid-KVs, I like the way the FMJs fly better. Plus, these have a narrower shaft, more solid build and stand a lesser chance of breaking. The other difference I feel I should note is that I fletched the FMJs with the AAE Max Hunter vanes and the Aramid-KVs come pre-fletched with Blazers. The Blazers are noisier in flight, so I'll be sticking with the FMJs this season.

We had a great time just talking, busting chops, and talking about deer season coming up. This will be our first year hunting together and we are confident in our abilities. Now we just have to go find the deer!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Product Review: KoolerGel™
The thermometer read 106 degrees last weekend and we were dead smack in the middle of archery bear season. If I was fortunate enough to kill a bear I was going to be pressed for time to get it cooled down. When you hunt and kill an animal, you have to get it cooled as quickly as possible and you also want to keep moisture off of the meat. I'll bet you didn't know that second part, did you? That's an interesting bit of information I got from Steve Glass, Owner of Trophy Bag Kooler, LLC.

We’ve all heard it a thousand times, “Wild Meat Tastes Gamey”. Not if you use a little common sense it won’t! Follow a couple of basic guidelines and you will never have a problem with “Wild” or “Gamey” tasting meat. Gamey tasting meat is the direct result of poor handling. 

Steve explains "The Silent Secret" in detail on his website, but I'll give you the short version. I still recommend you check out the full version. 

Heat, moisture, bacteria and flies all contribute to the meat deteriorating and rotting. That's what makes it taste gamey. You need to cool it down, but you should NOT clean it with water! I spray my venison with Game Fresh Spray which kills all surface bacteria. Cover it up and do all of these things quickly.

KoolerGel™ is an innovative new product that replaces using conventional ice in your Trophy Bag Kooler™, food coolers or any ice chest! Great for picnics too! Stays colder, longer than ice.

Mix one packet with water in a recycled 2-liter soda bottle, watch it turn to a gel, then freeze! Lasts 30-40% longer than conventional ice and doesn't turn back to water, stays a gel. Plus, it's re-useable many times, less waste and very economical; one 6-pack makes enough KoolerGel™ for six 2-liter bottles.

Many uses:

  • Use on your next fishing trip to keep your catch fresh
  • Use in any ice chest or food cooler
  • Lasts 30-40% longer than ice
  • Re-useable
  • Helps to keep waste out of landfills by recycling soda bottles
  • Use to keep your groceries cold until you get home
  • Great for camping and picnic

One individual packet makes a 2-liter bottle of KoolerGel™.
Now, I am a firm believer in what Steve says, as I have had some gamey meat. Steve sent me some samples of the KoolerGel and the Game Fresh Spray, and I put them to the test over the past year. The KoolerGel 'set-up' process is extremely easy to follow. Check out the video at the bottom of this page.

Admittedly, I was a skeptic and wasn't sure of what to expect. Allow me to say that this is a stellar product. The bottles will sweat, a little, but not as much as you'd think. Not like conventional ice. There is hardly any condensation build-up! Plus, these last for days. Inside a cooler they will last up to 5 days. I tested mine in the 90+ degree hear out here in California and they lasted 3 days before starting to get soft, but they still remained cold. Steve did make a recommendation that if you want the 2-liter bottles to last longer. He said to put a bag of ice over them at the start of a hunting trip and by the end the bottles should still be frozen solid. Excellent tip, Steve!

I tested these out last year on a friends mule deer and believe it or not, you can use these to age your meat, too, even if it is only for a few days. I had the meat in the cooler for two days. None of it got wet, which is very important. You want your meat to be dry on the outside to keep the bacteria from multiplying at a rapid rate - thus, the gamey flavor of the meat.

I know plenty of hunters who will swing by the Gas-N-Go, pick up a big bag of ice and just dump it in the cooler or over their meat. To be honest, I used to do the same thing years ago! I spoke with a few of my hunting friends and they told me that ice would work just as well as this KoolerGel stuff I had. Trust me, KoolerGel is no gimmick and it works better than ice!

They also said ALL venison or wild pork was gamey... that is until I busted out some mule deer steaks from my friends kill last year. I was the one who butchered the meat and used Steve's products. These guys ate the meat and declared it was THE best tasting venison they had ever had and I used no spices or salt. Interesting, no? I shared my secret and they were dumbfounded. Ok, it's truly not a secret, just information that I am happy to share via Steve Glass. Spray your meat with Game Fresh Spray and then get your meat cooled down using KoolerGel. If you have any questions, contact Steve. He's a wealth of knowledge and is super willing to help any hunter. He and I spoke several times and each time I learned something new.

You can buy Kooler Gel directly from Trophy Bag Kooler, LLC, or from one of the retailers listed on the TBK website. For under $10 you get a six pack. Trust me, it's a sound investment. Each bag of ice at the grocery store costs $2-5 depending on the bag size these days. Just think, you save money, help the environment by recycling some 2-liter bottles and you have convenient, reusable cooling for your picnics or hunts. Not only do I recommend KoolerGel, but I use it exclusively on all my hunts now, and even a couple times on family picnics, too. It works great!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Bear Woods Has Promise
Headaches and sore throats have been trying to keep me from posting this entry. I wanted to get this posted yesterday, but my annual day of feeling sick (I don't get sick very often) hit my like a 2x4 over my left eye. THWACK! I am still feeling like crap, but I wanted to share my Saturday bear hunt story.

If you read my last blog entry you know that I have been having a hard time getting out to hunt bears. It's not for lack of trying, but all of my buddies have had other things going on. Plus, it takes me 2 hours to drive to my hunting spot. With the archery bear season winding down, I wanted to hit the forest at least one more time before bullets filled the air.

My email and phone got a workout this past week as I tried to find someone to go hunting with me. Each answer was the same until my friend, John Buhs, said he could go. John and I met a few years ago via the North American Hunting Club forums and this was the first time we'd actually had the opportunity to go hunting together.

We were a bit delayed in getting into the woods. By the time we arrived there we only had two hours to collect my two trail cameras and get up into the stands. After collecting the trail cams, we started finding plenty of small bear tracks and they were all around the stands. It looked super promising!

We settled into our stands at 6:00pm, but time was not on our side. We sat for an hour and the only thing we saw was a covey of quail that sauntered under our setup. Had it been quail season I would have taken the ten yard shot. After they passed through, we watched the sun settle past the horizon. Abiding by California law, we gave it another half hour and then called it quits. 

We packed up, climbed down and hit the trail back to the truck. Then, merely 70 yards from the trailhead, the leaves and branches exploded in a fury of excitement. Something, I have no idea what, was ten feet from us on the trail and tore outta there when we got right next to it. To say that our adrenaline levels rose would be an understatement! With hands on our bear spray, and our free hands ready to pull knives we searched with our headlamps through the brush. The branches were moving back and forth, and we could hear whatever was just there running away. Talk about one heck of a way to end a hunt!

Little did I know that the trail cam would explain plenty. On the cameras I had 6,000 photos. One camera had 2,500 images while the second had 3,500 images. A few photos of me setting up the camera and then I finally hit pay dirt with this image below.

BEAR! She actually showed up on camera two days after we set it up. This bear got pretty cozy with the first camera. So cozy, in fact, that she pulled on it enough to skew the viewing lane. The time on the photo should be noted - 6:43pm. When John and I got to the stand it was just after 6:00pm. If we had been on stand an hour or two before we may have had a better chance to allow our scent to dissipate a bit. At least that's my theory.

I am stoked to get a photo of a bear near my stand! Eric Welsh and I scouted the area a great deal last year. However, I really do wish the bear hadn't been so playful. The camera snapped three photos of the bear and 2,497 photos of the sky and leaves. Awesome! <--- Note the sarcasm, but I really am excited to have finally photographed a bear on my trail cameras. Public land bear hunting is awesome!

I want to send a big thank you out to John Buhs for trekking out to the woods with me and helping me out. Thanks for taking the time out of your day, John. Also, I'd like to thank the Welsh brothers. Eric for helping me find this spot and Nathan for helping with get these trail cameras up. None of my scouting or hunting in SoCal has been without help from others and I am greatly appreciative of all of the assistance. 

Now, with proof on my computer screen, I am hoping to get back out again very soon. Deer season opens for me in a few weeks, but I'd love to have some bear meat in the freezer first.