Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Melting The Day Away - Saturday Hunt Recap
After pulling up the weather app on my phone and reading the high numbers, I knew that I was going to need my 3-liter water bladder filled for my Saturday hunt. When Josh Adams and I had locked in the hunt, we decided to combine hog hunting and coyote hunting - all with our bows. All week long we had been preparing for this hunt and the weather was supposed to be one thing - HOT! Not only would it be hot, but we would have to hike in and set up and try to secure some shade right away as the area we were hunting had few trees. The scrub oaks and tall weeds were all we had. We welcomed the challenge!

Our game plan was simple; Find a spot, glass, hunt and scout out the area, but most of all enjoy the day. I made the long drive out to the hunting spot and met up with Josh at 6:00 AM. We were both raring to go, got his truck loaded up and hit the road. Almost as soon as we hit the trailhead we spotted a large coyote beating feet back up a side hill. The day was already looking promising!

I had been to this spot a couple times before, but this time I wanted to venture to the lookout point in a different way. We hit a high ridge and started hiking at a fast pace. At 6:15 AM it was already peeking into the high 70's and we just wanted to start hunting! Thank goodness I have been working out because Josh is like a mountain goat. We traveled a mile on the ridge in no time and that guy cruises. After stopping for some water and glassing the area for fifteen minutes, we stuck to our game plan and hit what I like to call Coyote Ridge. This ridge is loaded with coyote scat and the last time I was here we had spotted a yote making his way into the dense underbrush. Another eighth of a mile of hiking and we were overlooking a deep valley with fingers everywhere.

The morning was perfect. It was quiet, we had a great spot and we were hunting. Even the black flies and the heat didn't really bother us. We expected both to be nasty. Josh posted up in the shade of a bush and I about twenty feet away in the shade of the hillside. It was time to start glassing!

We hadn't been sitting for ten minutes when we heard a rustling behind us. I quickly turned to see ears and a tail of a coyote bearing down on Josh's position! He stopped a mere 10 yards away behind a clump of wild mustard. Here's the photo showing where Josh was and the red circle shows where the yote stopped.

What a start to our day as the coyote came within a few yards from Josh!

It was crazy! I told Josh and he got his bow ready, even though we figured the dog was long gone. After waiting for a few minutes, we knew he had disappeared, but it was an exciting start! As we glassing the valley below, we watched as the coyote made his way into an opening around 300 yards away. I let out a few fawn in distress calls and we waited. Nothing came in, but it didn't matter. We were having fun just being out there.

We sat and talked about married life, our backgrounds and the differences between NY and CA when it comes to hunting. We had great conversation and by 8:00 AM the shade was starting to disappear. We found one last bush to hide behind for another half hour while we strategically planned our next move. Instead of diving into the valley, we decided to hike an adjacent ridge to a spot where there was still some shade, and the birds were flying around snagging bugs. It was also where I had located hog sign before. When 9:00 AM hit, we were hiking and burning boot rubber.

As we made our way down the ridge, we found a few spots where the hogs had been rooting around the week prior. The great thing about seeing this wasn't just knowing that the hogs were here, but it was seeing the look on Josh's face when HE knew they were there. It was awesome! I probably have that same look. We searched and searched for a trail that they could be using and couldn't find one. We knew they had to be finding a way to feed under the scrub oaks and dropping off into the shade of the valley, but there were no trails. Josh ambled off ahead of me to look for sign and I stopped to think. In my experience of hunting hogs, I knew that they would want to find access to the lower canyon quickly. I turned around and low-and-behold not ten feet away was the opening of the trail. It was like the heavens opened and this trail was gifted to us. I called Josh over and our faces lit up. We had found the trail they were using! The week-old rooting, the bedding area and the zig-zagging torn up trail heading deeper into the small ravine all gave us hope.

A single track amongst others Josh found.
By this time, the heat was cranking and the sunshine made us feel like we were cooking. We hatched a new plan to see where this trail went, but also to figure out another entry into this ravine. The way we had come wasn't good because our wind was being blown straight downhill. If we came in the other direction we'd have  a chance. We surveyed the land and locked in a plan of what we needed to do. We dropped over a steep embankment and followed the path of least resistance. Hunt smarter, not harder, right? We hadn't been down there a few minutes when Josh let out a 'Hey, I've got tracks!' I scooted over and sure enough, Josh had found some very obvious hog tracks. There had been a heavy rain the week prior, so we knew these were fairly fresh tracks underfoot. Our mere hopes of hunting more often in Southern California were now looking more realistic.

Our water bladders were now more than half empty and we wanted to get out of the heat. The only obstacle facing us now was the hike straight up the foothill we were standing on. There was no shade and we had more than half a mile to cover. Josh took off first and I followed close behind...for a few minutes. I quickly realized that all of the hiking/walking I had been doing with a weighted pack was great for my quads and hamstrings, but my calves were weak. I mean REALLY weak. They were burning and my pack only weighed around twenty-five pounds. My weakness rapidly hit me and I had to stop more often, drink more water and pace myself. This was the reality that hunting provides and I was only hiking up a foothill in SoCal. I knew that my training needed to be improved because the Colorado mountains, with her evil sidekick, High Altitude, were going to be much tougher on my body. Even so, we made it out rather quickly and about ran out of water. We both had deemed the day a success and were already making plans to get out there again.

Back at the truck, Josh offered to buy lunch at a place up the road a piece. I accepted knowing it would give us a chance to process the day. I'll tell you what, if you are ever out in Oak Glen, CA you have got to hit up El Mexicano II. It's a very quaint restaurant that if you blink you will miss it. On Josh's recommendation, I ate THE best carne asada burrito I have ever eaten (and I have been known to eat mucho burritos). Washing it down with a Pacifico was excellent. We had burned up many calories on our hike and at that moment, I couldn't think if a better way to replace them. The food was superb, the service excellent and the conversation fun.

We had a great day and now that we know where to go on our next outing we will hopefully have an even better story to tell. With Summer fast approaching, it will be harder and harder to hunt these hogs. We have a few more weeks where we should get some rain and it'll be in our best interest to get out there right after. Once the desert heat starts cooking that spot, we'll have to wait until later in 2012 to hit the spot up hard. Even so, I am excited for what 2012 has to offer.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sitting The Bench During The Offseason
Ok, so I am not really sitting the bench, but I have been pretty slow this past week when it comes to posting. There has been plenty going on in Southern California, but I have just been focused elsewhere. My plan is to turn that around after this weekend. This year has been tough to get to the woods and I hope that changes soon. The problem is that it's going to only get hotter and tougher to hunt these intelligent animals. Here are some of the things happening at present for The SoCal Bowhunter.

    Headphones NOT made for exercising.
  1. My California hunting license and tags for 2012 have been purchased already. I am excited as I was able to pull both archery tags I was looking for. One for the specific area of A31 and then an AO tag, which just translates to Archery Only. This opens up what units I can hunt and should give me more opportunity.

  2. Lately, I have been focusing hard on training for the hunt. I have been running, hiking and just plain sweating my tail off in preparation for the Fall hunting seasons. I am dropping the fat, gaining muscle and improving my cardio. That alone has taken up a great deal of focus on my part. Some days I can't wait to run and other days I just want to sleep. I still get out there at least five days per week doing something.

  3. I have been testing out some great gear lately, too. Some reviews have been written and others are developing in my brain. I have reviews coming out on KOWA Sporting Optics coming and on the book, The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance, by Tovar Cerulli. Looking forward to sharing both! Doing the reviews on the optics has been great because my daughter is really wanting to use the binoculars on our outings. She might not understand the technical details, at only three years old, but she knows what they are used for. Glassing up birds puts a smile on her face and mine. I have truly loved spending time with her and seeing her use them. It's just one more step in getting her into the outdoors!

    Glassing up some birds at the park.

  4. I acquired a used bow and I am starting to slowly work it into a bowfishing rig. It is just a side project for fun. It's a challenge as it is an older bow with steel cables. One way or another, it'll give me something to work on in my downtime and will hopefully get me out bowfishing this year.

  5. With the surge in movies having archers in them, Bass Pro Shops has asked me to give a seminar on Getting Into Archery on May 5 & 6. I am excited for this one even more than the turkey seminars. I eat, breathe and sleep archery and an opportunity like this is exciting. It starts at 4:00 PM for those who can make it.

  6. I plan on going out tomorrow morning to do a little hog hunting with my buddy Josh. I sure hope we can get some good hunting in before the heat bakes us. Either way, we are going to get some good hiking/hunting in and have a great time. It's a New Moon and we are hitting the woods at sunrise. Wish us luck!
There is more in store for me in 2012, but I will keep those details to myself for the time being. Yeah, it's a tease and I promise to share more as soon as I can. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Paracord Survival Bracelet Winners!
Thank you to all who entered the giveaway! The original winners never got back to me, so I am choosing two new winners! Through the Random Number Generator, I have chosen the two NEW winners. 

Update 04/19/12 - Ben got back to me, but the second winner did not. That makes 3 people that missed out. I opened it up on Twitter and Facebook that the first person to email me about the giveaway would get the second bracelet. That winner is... Nick Viau!

Anyone else wants one, email me your wrist size and I'll make and ship one for $5.00. Want more than that? I'll give you a heck of a deal.

Congratulations go out to:

Ben from The Peavine


Nick Viau

You each win a paracord bracelet! You each have 24 hours to email me at thesocalbowhunter at Yahoo with your 1. color choice, 2. wrist measurement and 3. shipping address. Your choices are Olive green, Navy blue or Blaze orange. To measure your wrist, wrap a string around it and stop when the end meets the string. Lay it next to a ruler and this will be your measurement. Congratulations!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Paracord Survival Bracelet Giveaway
Last week, I posted about how you can make your own paracord bracelets. The process is quite simple and fun to do. I made a few and now I'd like to offer everyone a chance to win one for themselves. Two lucky readers will each win one bracelet!

To enter, leave me a comment below on why you'd like to win one. Please be sure to leave your FULL NAME or EMAIL ADDRESS in the comment. Anonymous comments will not be posted. The giveaway will run until 12 PM PST on Monday, April 16th. You can enter once per day. I'll pick the winners using the RNG. Winners will have 24 hours to respond back to me. If they do not, another winner will be chosen. Each winner will receive one bracelet in a color of their choosing. Your choices are Olive green, Navy blue or Blaze orange. U.S.A. only. Good luck!

Monday, April 9, 2012

California Deer Are Disappearing, But Where To?
The news constantly intrigues me and I am always on the hunt for articles regarding hunting, habitat, or the outdoors. I want to thank fellow SoCal hunter, Tony S., for sharing this link because it really hit home. I am going to weigh in on it and then I hope you all do the same.

The article is titled: 'California deer population declines as habitat disappears'
I recommend reading the entire article before reading my views at the end.
Between 1990 and 2000, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 75,000 acres per year were converted to low-density housing across California. A recent Bee analysis of housing data showed a similar trend over the past decade, at least until the recession began. The rate was even greater before 1990.

This land conversion eliminated food and migratory corridors vital to deer.
__  __  __  __  __

The species in question are mule deer and blacktail deer. Both species are lumped together in Fish and Game's 2011 population estimate of about 445,000 deer statewide, a drop from 850,000 in 1990.
__  __  __  __  __

Many hunters blame the deer decline on mountain lions, which primarily feed on deer. The claim is that a state law that banned mountain lion hunting, passed by voters in 1990, allowed the deer-hungry mountain lion population to grow unchecked.

I'll bet almost every Southern California hunter, especially bow hunters, that read the article will tell you that from our perspective it is more than just habitat that is causing the population to dwindle. I agree while it IS a major reason, there are others often overlooked or disregarded. For one, the article fails to mention poachers. We all know how that affects the deer herd. Why not mention that and offer up that if you see illegal activity call CalTIP (888 334-2258) and share the info. I know far too many hunters that give the excuse that they didn't have time to call, or they didn't have enough information. I could go on and on. Put on your big boy pants and make the call if you see something going down. It has an impact either way you look at it.

Also, I disagree with Randy Morrison regarding the mountain lion issue. While I don't completely blame the lions, I will lay a heavy bet in their direction. I have spoken with a few people regarding the lions, not just hunters, and just this Spring multiple lions have been put down in SoCal alone (legally by/through CADFG) because of them encroaching into urban areas or feeding on livestock. I am no expert, yet from what I have read and heard, the lions are killing off deer, sheep and working into livestock because they are heavily populated and need to feed. Great job on passing Prop. 117 people. <-- Note: That is extreme sarcasm for you all. The lion population is up, but there is not a balance which I feel we need. 

Another factor has been forest fires. There was another article published this morning regarding how the reforestation from the Station Fire hasn't exactly been as effective as experts hoped. 
Foresters estimate that just a quarter of the 900,000 seedlings planted across 4,300 acres are thriving. That is far below the 75% to 80% survival rate the agency wanted.  

On most slopes, instead of small trees, the ground nurtures dense shrubs and grass in the shadows of skeletal dead trees scorched by the 2009 blaze.
I think that is also a big part of it, at least for the folks in Southern California. The fires do help in building more food, in time, for the deer, but having that many tree and land get scorched puts a huge hurt on any animal population. It will take time to regrow the already weak population here, but we need a different plan.

The deer population is going down and hunter numbers are increasing. Land being developed for human use is on the rise and finding public land to hunt is tougher than ever. How long before we are all having to travel out of state to hunt deer because we just can't catch a break in SoCal? Unfortunately, I see that in our near future. More and more hunters are going elsewhere to hunt because of the strict laws, lowered population of game to hunt and places to go. 

I would love to hear you guys weigh in. Am I totally off base here or do I have a legitimate argument here? Right or wrong, I know how I feel about it all and despite the dwindling numbers, heat, snakes, ticks, poachers and price of gas... you WILL find me hunting deer in Southern California this year.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Product Review: True Shot Coach from Don't Choke Archery
This product review was written for and published in the April 2012 issue of BowAmerica e-magazine.

Learning how to properly grip a bow has been a topic of conversation in the archery world for a very long time. It's one of the biggest reasons archers ruin a shot. Take the jitters away and I'd be willing to bet that bow torque is one of the top reasons they miss the target or botch a shot on a wild animal. Up until a few years ago I was holding my bow incorrectly and torqueing it with each shot. Three years ago I came to find that I was torqueing my bow dramatically. I had a different bow then, but nonetheless, I knew what I was doing wrong.

We have developed what we believe to be simple but revolutionary new device called the True Shot Coach that will help archers of any level be more accurate.  The True Shot Coach will teach new archers how to properly grip their bow, while helping even the most advanced level archers eliminate human induced riser torque caused by grip variance.  By eliminating this riser torque, down range left and right groups are significantly tighter. 

The tool can be used as a training aid, or it can be used full time when competing or hunting.  We have spent a lot of R& D time with the device which has shown incredible results with a variety of archers across the country.  Several archers have already won National level tournaments while using the prototype!

The True Shot Coach from Don't Choke Archery takes the guess work out of holding your bow properly. When I first spoke with DCA owner Randy Peck, I was impressed with how he really wants archers to succeed. Randy is a bowhunter and inventor from Texas who is very relaxed and focused on his product. We discussed the benefits to the True Shot Coach, how many of the top target archers are using one, and he offered to send me a sample. By using the website, I was able to calculate what size TSC I would need.  I was able to determine I would need a large, so that was the one I requested.  A few days later a few different size samples arrived at my door.

My first impressions were that the True Shot Coach is a simple, yet very effective tool. It slid on my fingers very easily, slid off very easily and was comfortable. It is lightweight and comfortable to wear. To test it fully, my hunting buddy and I hit the archery range to following day. I brought the large and extra-large to the range. The instructions on the packaging (and website) are quite simple. I have listed them below.

True Shot Coach Instructions: 

  1. Place the True Shot coach on your bow hand with the pointy end towards your palm.
  2. Place the bow grip on the pad of your thumb with your fingers in the 10 o’clock position. 2 o’clock for a left handed archer.
  3. Draw your bow while maintaining this position.
  4. Relax your fingers onto the True Shot Coach.

To start our testing, Michael and I shot two rounds of five arrows without the True Shot Coach on our hands. The two rounds showed that while we shot decent, our arrow groups were not as tight as we would have liked. Once we placed the TSC on, we noticed an immediate improvement in our arrow groups. Mentally, I didn’t have to stress about whether or not my grip was correct. We then shot three rounds of five at different ranges. Respectively, our arrows were within three inches of one another on each round. We started at 20 yards and moved out to 60 yards. Both of us were impressed at how such a simple product could affect our shooting.

While the instructions say to be at a 10 o’clock position, I found that my grip was slightly different than what the photo on the website shows. I could not comfortably hold the TSC against the handle without pain in my wrist. I had to have it more toward my hand than the bow.

The only issue we had with the True Shot Coach was that after shooting 30 arrows, our grip hands were rather sore where the pointed ends were digging into our palms. For the last two rounds we took the TSC off and our arrows hit inconsistently. We figured that to be partly due to not having the TSC on and fatigue.

Here is an example of the pointed portion digging in. This is a slight exaggeration to show the result.

I spoke with Randy regarding our results and he mentioned that he had heard about this before. His suggestion was to slightly bend the point out away from our palms. His suggestion worked perfectly! Randy was more than willing to go over any questions I had and we spent some time over a few phone calls getting to know one another and discussing his product. He is passionate about the True Shot Coach and it shows.

I did remove the MADE IN U.S.A. tag on my True Shot Coach because it was bright white and sticks out. I don’t want to be hunting anything that could spot that, especially turkey.

After shooting for a while, or hunting in the heat, I found that with sweating that my TSC needed a slight washing. Just a hand wash with some unscented soap did the trick.

For target archers and bowhunters alike, this is a great tool that when used properly will keep your shooting consistent and drive up your confidence level. It’s great to know these are made in the U.S.A. and are reasonably priced at $16.95 each. You have to figure that it pays for itself when you stop losing arrows and are bringing down the animals you are shooting at and not eating tag soup. They are also making a different model with adjustable finger sizes that should be available soon. I am looking forward to utilizing this while hunting this year.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Making Your Own Paracord Bracelets
Over the past couple of years I have seen a rise in people making paracord items. Bracelets, bow slings, belts and many other things. I have seen some bracelets around $5 and all the way up to $35 for charity functions (which rocks by the way). They have all been really cool to see, but also very practical to have out in the field when you really need one. My buddy Tony, over at The Bearded Boar, had a need while duck hunting and was able to utilize his. Have you ever needed something like this on a hunting trip?

Last year I met a survival guy who offered to make me one, but it never arrived. I almost bought one from someone else, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I like making things like this on my own. I have had a nice roll of paracord in my gear bag for the past year and figured at some point I'd use it. On Friday, I received an email from Backpacker.com and in it was a tutorial about making your own paracord bracelet. So, I buckled down and made one... then two... and then a few more. Making these took a slight toll on my 'city' hands that lack the calluses that I used to have from working the farm, but I still had a blast making these.

Check out the photo and let me know your honest feedback. I am going to make a bunch more in case anyone wants to buy one. Right now I have olive green, navy blue and blaze orange. I can do one color or a combo of two colors. I am not looking to make an empire out of this. Instead, I'd like my fellow hunters to have a few extra feet of paracord available to them if they needed it.

The cellphone pics aren't the greatest, but you get the idea.