Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reflecting on the Goals I Set for 2012

Resolutions are being made as I write this, but I have never been one for resolutions. No, I am one for setting goals year-round and being realistic about how I approach them. In a future post I will share my goals for 2013, but for now I wanted to reflect on the goals I had set for 2012 to share what I had accomplished. Here were my goals for 2012 and what transpired.

  1. Practice at a 3D target range. I have realized that in order to truly grasp what it's like to hunt and be successful out here I need to practice at a 3D range a few times. I have hit the flatland archery range countless times and have even thrown a 3D target up a few times, but I need more. If I want to be the best I can be when bowhunting I need to step it up. - I did not focus on this in 2012. Instead, my buddies and I set up our own 3D targets at the range. I am happy we did that, but disappointed that I didn't at least try to hit a 3D range. This is going on my list for 2013 because I know it will help in the long run and will bring it's own set of challenges.

  2. Practice out to 80 yards consistently. Time for a new sight that will allow me to shoot out to 80 yards. Once I get that dialed in on the bow I am going to consistently practice out to that range. I am really looking forward to it! - I set out for 80, but stuck with 70 yards this year. While I did practice out to 80 yards multiple times, the majority was set at 70. I felt comfortable there and may not switch that up.

  3. Drop another 20-25 lbs and get in better shape. I dropped 45 lbs. last year, gained a few back during the holidays and now I have my 2012 goals. This isn't for looks people. I aim to drop the cookies and pie weight and lose another 20-25 before the September elk season in Colorado... see below. - I hit this running! Literally! I started running (see #7) and also hitting trails with 80-100 lbs in my pack. I was able to drop 20 lbs and increase stamina and strength throughout 9 months of training.

  4. Colorado archery elk hunt.  - Not only accomplished this goal by going, but I arrowed my very first Colorado bull elk, too. You can read the story here.

  5. Arrow a wild hog. I have to get up to my buddy Jeff's place this year when the time is right. Jeff has been a super guy with letting me hunt the property and I owe him a lot. I hope I get to hunt with him a few times this year and arrow a hog on his property. - Went out a couple times in a different area, but this was put on hold due to unforeseen circumstances.

  6. Arrow a SoCal pacific-hybrid deer. This will happen! Going for the same tag again this year and aim to take a doe or a buck in my spot. I have 11 months to think about it! - I spent a great deal of time afield with my buddies Brent and Brandon this year and we had a heck of a time. The first was finding a spot to hunt, then getting the time to do it and finding the deer! It was super challenging to say the least. None of us arrowed a deer, but we will be doing some serious homework in 2013. We already have a plan.

  7. Do some outdoor trail running. There are many opportunities out here to run some trails and with Mark at SoleAdventure peaking my interest I just have to go for it. It'll sure beat running around the block or hitting the gym every time. - Trail running was super fun. I started doing this locally and plan to do more of it in 2013. I hope to avoid the rattlesnakes, but I do have a few trails in mind that would be challenging.

  8. Give a few archery hunting seminars. I am in the works to give a few seminars in 2012 and I'll let you know more when I have them locked down. - This was a great one for me. I was able to give a few seminars at Bass Pro Shops and meet some great people. Always learn a thing or ten from these seminars, too. I appreciated every question and comment at the seminars and hope you guys continue to share your adventures with me. I love hearing them!

  9. Save up for the 2013 ATA Show. I have to make this happen. I am going crazy watching all of the videos, listening to the podcasts and seeing photos of the new gear. I'm a gear junky and love to play, so this is a must! - While I really wanted to get out to ATA, this just isn't going to happen. It falls right around my daughters birthday and with going to Colorado this year my wallet was wrung dry. I do want to get out there in 2014, but this remains to be seen.

Setting goals is something that helps me focus and stay accountable. I hope you all set some great hunting goals for 2013 and if you do, please share them. I would love to hear what you set and how you plan to accomplish them. As we wind down 2012, I am excited for what 2013 what challenges will greet us. Take the bull by the horns and give it all you've got. Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tips on Starting an Outdoor Blog

Recently, I had a young man ask me some questions in his pursuit of writing an outdoor blog. While answering his questions and offering a few tips, I realized that they might be helpful to other aspiring outdoor bloggers. Plus, I had added to this list since our email exchange. If you have any suggestions or tips to add, please leave a comment. I am no writing/blogging expert, but I will offer any help I can and I encourage you to add your points as well.

The SoCal Bowhunter blog has grown over time. I started it as a means to share my hunting knowledge, adventures and news worthy articles. That blossomed into gear reviews, a great network of outdoor bloggers, giving seminars and Pro Staff positions with reputable companies. All in all, I still do it because I enjoy writing. If you don't enjoy it, don't do it. 

Tips on starting your own outdoor blog:
  1. Be sure the blog format is easily readable to the end user. Don't make it all glitzy and fancy just to do it. Have a purpose behind the design of it.  Take a look at some of the template that the free blog sites have to offer and test some out and see what works for you.
  2. Add relevant navigation topics such as an About me section, the gear you use, links to other sites, etc. Share as much as you'd like, but be honest in your About Me section. Share who you are and what you believe in. Share where you are from and what you like to hunt and fish.
  3. Go read other outdoor blogs and start leaving comments. Don't just lurk. If something catches your eye and you want to comment, do it! If someone writes something you agree with, comment and let them know. One of the best ways to meet people while blogging is to comment on posts and even the ones you do NOT agree with. Start a good debate by commenting, but do it tastefully. By commenting you will have more people coming to check out your blog. Your opinion matters to someone, but if you don't share it no one will ever know but you.
  4. Photos!! You must incorporate photos to catch the readers eye. Copy just won't do it these days. We like visual stimulation and adding photos will do that. Take your time and capture some great photos. The more you take the better you'll become.
  5. Do you like doing gear reviews? Do some gear reviews on your own. Share some thoughts on gear you like and why. Do you like to keep it simple? Be sure to share that!
  6. Add a header to your page with a photo or graphic with the name in it. Don't just leave it as text. It's way too cookie-cutter and boring. Make it pop!
  7. Add a photo of you on the blog someplace. On the homepage or in the About me is a good place to start. People want to visualize who they are reading about.
  8. Write often or at least consistently. Writing once a month or twice a month will not get you anywhere. You have to engage people over and over to keep them coming back. Engage them with interesting articles, reports on your adventures, or just something in the news related to you blog.Mix it up, too. Don't just write about the same old thing.
  9. You must engage people on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter! Get an account set up on both. I know a few bloggers who were dead set against it and now they are thanking me for recommending the interaction. Social Media is THE way to get in touch with people these days. Plus, you can have it work for you and you don't have to spend a penny.
Like I mentioned, I am no blogging expert nor am I a professional writer. This is by no means a complete list and I am sure I will continue to add to it. I just write my blog the way I always wanted it to be written and I share my thoughts, stories and ideas. I stay true to myself and stick to my ideals. You can agree with me, disagree with me or no have an opinion. I welcome it all. I wish you all the best of luck in your writing and I hope this helps to some degree! Cheers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Overcoming Obstacles Through Perseverance

It took me five long years to find what I consider my honey hole. I held off hunting it all this year to save it for the late season. Now that the late season was here Brett and I were excited to finally make it out there. The rain was pouring down as we drove up to the trailhead. We should have known that something bad was bound to happen. The gate was not only bolted shut, but it was completely blocking any access to the trail. To make matters worse it was also bordered by private property on one side and a fence line on the other. There was now way around it, we were not hunting this area today.

After contacting the local public works department later that week, and seeing no other access point on the map I started another search. I looked over my maps and decided to do some during-the-season scouting. Saturday afternoon I drove to the gated location to find it still bolted and locked. I drove around for a bit trying to find another access point when I decided to change strategy. Instead of focusing on this one trail, I got back on the main road and started searching the landscape for trailhead access points. After fifteen minutes of driving I hit pay dirt. I found a public trail that looked promising!

I have a great deal of confidence in me regulating my water consumption and I am proud of my hiking ability. Herein lies the challenge as I had not planned on hiking any trails, but when the opportunity presented itself I could not resist! In my hand was my only bottle of water for the hike. There were a few more in the trunk of my car, but there was a reason for the one bottle. The first was carrying space and the second is I have a rule that when I hike in to an area and get to my halfway point of my water it's time to turn back. Now this works within reason, but it was 55 degrees and the hike did not look overly strenuous. I had my binoculars, bear spray, water and a bag of sea salted almonds for a snack. After parking the car I hit the trail.

Careful to stay close to the base of the foothill, I stayed on the well-used trail. This past week brought lots of needed rain and the trail was very muddy. I did wear my Schnee's Wilderness boots for good traction and comfort though. I also dressed like an everyday hiker by wearing no camouflage and no hunting gear. Just some khaki shorts, wool socks, fleece and hat. The fleece was a good idea at first because of the cool air, but I found out fast that my pace had my core temp rising rapidly.

As I hiked up the trail, I stopped in multiple locations to glass for deer or sign. I found a plethora of game trails on a far canyon, but it was surrounded by private homes. I moved on and spotted a lone hiker at the peak of the foothill I was ascending. In his hand I noticed a leash and knew there was at least one dog with him. A few minutes later I spotted the dogs coming down the trail long before they spotted me, so I stopped and waited. Sure enough the lead dog locked on visually, then went back up the trail and suddenly there were two beautiful golden retrievers running toward me. Hand on the bear spray I called out to the owner who confirmed the dogs were friendly. They were indeed friendly and the older gentleman and I chatted for about a minute about the climb and being out of breath.

Not five minutes after our conversation, I reached the summit. It provided a fantastic view of the surrounding area. I logged into ScoutLook from my phone to see if the trail went any further. To the naked eye it appeared to dead end, but ScoutLook came to the rescue. Not fifty yards from where I was standing was a dirt road hidden from view. I hiked over and there it was. Not a footprint on it from the past few days either. It looked muddy, but it was time to really put my boots to work. I felt my feet sliding on the greasy soil as I continued down the road. Taking my time, I searched the ground and hillsides for animal sign. It didn't take long for me to find exactly what I had been hoping to find...deer tracks and fresh ones at that! Knowing there were deer here made my decision to hike feel so good!

Again, I got out my iPhone and pulled up ScoutLook. I marked the location and scanned the map to see where my old hunting ground was compared to where I was standing. You can imagine the surprised look on my face when I saw that it was only about 3/4 of a mile down the road and around a bend. Anxious to check it out I began hiking, but after a few steps I suddenly stopped. My water bottle was half full and I hadn't told anyone where I was going. Plus, it was now 3:00 PM, I was wearing my sunglasses (I left my eyeglasses at home) and it would be dusk in just over an hour. The decision to turn back was an easy one.

On the way back to my car I found plenty of these California sunflowers. They may just seem like pretty flowers to the naked eye, but to anyone hunting deer around here you would know that these are a favorite food of deer down here. The fact that there were so many told me that the deer were staying at a higher elevation or getting their food from another source. Most times, in my experience, when I have found deer they usually decimate these flowers quickly, but then again I am no expert.

The day turned out much better than I had even hoped! Now I just needed to get back out here with my hunting partners, a loaded pack, camera and more water. After sharing the news with the guys and explaining we had little time to waste we opted to hike and scout the trail this Saturday. We are on a mission to get us a deer and when obstacles are presented and walls blocking your way, well, you find a way over, under or around. I have said it before, hunting in Southern California is a challenge. Throw in some closed trails and only two weeks left in the season and the challenge intensifies. Personally, I thrive on challenges and I am excited for Saturday to get here!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Western Hunter Magazine Launches Western Hunter TV

My DVR has been yearning to record a new outdoor program for weeks (I think I just heard my wife cheer) and I just found the one that jumped to the top of my viewing list! Western Hunter Magazine and Elk Hunter Magazine today announced the launch of their new cutting edge hunting TV show, “The Western Hunter”. Be sure to read the press release all the way through as they will be doing some great giveaways!

Western Hunter Magazine Launches Exciting New TV Show

Western Hunter and Elk Hunter Magazines (WHM & EHM) are excited to announce the launch of their new cutting edge hunting TV show, “The Western Hunter”. The show will premiere on The Sportsman Channel’s “Big Game Wednesday” primetime lineup on January 2 at 8 p.m. Eastern.  (Watch a preview of the show on the link at the bottom of this announcement).

The Western Hunter will focus primarily on expert and self-sufficient backcountry Western big game hunting, with a strong, ethical message and high standard for content, filming, and editing. The show will feature three primary co-hosts – Nate Simmons (WHM and EHM’s Backcountry Editor and the show’s TV Producer); Ryan Hatfield (WHM and EHM’s Editor); and Chris Denham (WHM & EHM’s Marketing Director and the show’s Executive Producer). All three hosts bring many years of western hunting expertise to the table.

The show’s producer, Nate Simmons, stated, “The Western Hunter will show tough, honest backcountry hunting under extreme conditions, with quality animals earned through skill and sweat equity. Each hunt will be a test of will in big country.”

Ryan Hatfield added, “We’re very excited to show western hunting in a better light. This show will have the audience on the edge of its collective seat, and fill a major gap that’s too often missing in outdoor programming – the self-sufficient hunter who is willing to push his mental and physical limits in search of great trophies and high adventure. Even more importantly, we’re going to present it in a very respectful and thoughtful way.”

Chris Denham stated, “The chance to capture exceptional hunting in an excellent and ethical way is a dream, and we all feel fortunate to have been able to team up for a final product that will significantly elevate how people think about hunting. This is the show that hunters have been waiting for.”

So there you have it, everyone! We hear all the time about how there are so many shows on outdoor TV that “leave a little to be desired”. Our dream was to bring you a show where the hunters are REAL people, who subject themselves to the whims of Mother Nature’s toughest elements and wildest places, while showing how important and special hunting is to each of us. Our goal is to paint Western hunting in a good light, while showing honest, fair, and hard hunting for big game animals we truly respect.

Please head on over to our new The Western Hunter facebook page ( give it a like, and share with your friends, so that you can all hop on this fun, wild ride we’re going to be taking. This will be a show that you won’t want to miss.

We’ll be having a drawing for prizes for everyone who shares this announcement and likes our “The Western Hunter” TV show page, so help us spread the word on something that you’re all going to love!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Casting Call: NBC Bear Grylls Adventure Show!

I received this in my email again today and wanted to pass it on to you SoCal survival junkies! NBC is having their local casting call for the Bear Grylls Adventure Show! If you go try out, good luck to you. If you make it I want to hear all about it!

We're having our LOS ANGELES open casting call THIS SATURDAY - 12/15/12 from 10am - 3pm and we'd love for you to come!

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2012 • 10 AM - 3 PM 

2232 Lincoln Blvd 
Venice, CA 90291

Bring your completed contestant application (which can be downloaded on our website) and a non-returnable, recent photo of yourself (the photo is highly recommended, but is not required). We don't expect the wait to be longer than an hour but you never know so it is a good idea to bring water and snacks for your wait in line.

For more information on the casting call, check out the FAQs on our website -

If you cannot attend the casting call, we encourage you to submit a video to us so we can still consider you for the show! -

For updates & details, "like" us on Facebook
& follow us on Twitter @electuscasting.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Product Review: SOG Aura Fixed-Blade Hunting Knife

A few months back, I was contacted by SOG Specialty Knives & Tools and asked if I was interested in reviewing a couple knives. Being the knife lover and gear review nut that I am I happily said yes. As hunting season approached, my friend Brandon informed me that he didn't have a good knife for the hunting season. Knowing I would get an honest review from him, I asked if he would be interested in helping me out and testing out the SOG Aura fixed-blade hunting knife. Immediately he said yes and agreed to put it to the test. I mentioned that I would like to review the overall feel and design for myself before giving him the knife. I kept all of these thoughts to myself. Brandon was unbiased in his review and was given no direction from me. My impressions will follow Brandon's thorough review.
From the SOG website:
We studied the original bowie knife created by Rezin Bowie in 1838. We considered utility, ergonomics and comfort. The result... the Aura fixed blade. We used a high impact and tough glass-reinforced polymer handle that is overmolded with a more pliable material for non-slip comfort. We didn’t want a big clunky crossguard that isolated the hand so we adapted the blade design to provide the element of safety and allows greater control.

Brandon's review of the SOG Aura fixed-blade hunting knife.

First impressions are everything, no matter what the situation. Recently, I had the opportunity to review the SOG Aura Hunting knife and at first sight, this thing was sweet. Before I even gripped it in my hand, I could see that the blade had a razor sharp edge as well as the gut hook. As I held it, the entire knife felt sturdy and solid. This knife was definitely designed to take a beating while putting it to work.

While holding it, I noticed that the handle felt extremely comfortable. The handle has a slight curve and when in hand, it forms to the natural curvature of your palm. Along with the curve, the handle diameter fits just right, not too bulky or too slim. At the rear of the handle, there is a loop that can be twisted and pulled out to reveal a small sharpener. 

At first I thought the sharpener was a great idea, but when I pulled the sharpener out and simulated sharpening the blade I saw the downfall of the design… there is no guard and you can easily slip and slice your finger. 

The sharpener is about 4 inches long and the small handle is about and inch and half. That only left about two and a half inches of sharpening surface. No big deal, but I would have liked to have seen some type of a lip that will stop the blade in the event you slip or get too close to your finger. It's a great concept, but I was just not a fan of the small sharpener with no guard. This could result in a nasty laceration while miles from the nearest sign of civilization.

Although I did not knock down a deer this season so that I could test out the new knife [on a big game animal], I improvised and had harvested a limit of ducks shortly after the opener in Southern California. Now lets see what this knife can do! This was a simple task, but the Aura made it ten times easier. A couple quick slices on each bird and we had fresh duck ready for the BBQ. I was able to make a slight incision on the ducks chest and then flip the blade and utilize the gut hook. This made quick work of the skin and then flipped in once again to start filleting along the breast bone. There was no effort needed and the knife did all the work. I was able to clean seven birds without sharpening and the last duck went just as quick as the first. In total, it took me about a minute a bird (at most), and there was barely any mess.

Overall, I found this knife to be a great product and design. Like I mentioned, the sharpener is the only downfall I experienced, but it is not that big a deal. I would highly recommend this knife to my buddies and anyone else out there looking for a quality blade for your pack.

SoCal Bowhunter's thoughts on the SOG Aura hunting knife:
Right out of the box I felt that the knife was lightweight and ergonomic. At only 5.4 oz. it's a true lightweight among knives. The contoured grip fit my hand well and I liked the non-slip type of grip. 

Like Brandon, I originally liked the idea of the sharpener inside the handle, but once I actually started using it I was disappointed. I think it's OK for very slight touch-ups on the blade, but it doesn't work well for doing a great job of sharpening the knife in the field. It does, however, work well for sharpening fish hooks.

Priced for retail at $55.00, the knife seems a bit overpriced to me. I would be willing to pay $30 for a knife like this, but with the sharpener so small and a safety hazard, I don't feel it is worth the retail asking price.

You've read my thoughts and Brandon's excellent review. You can follow him on Twitter (@BrandonMahan519) for other products he recommends and his hunting play-by-play when in the field. He really liked the SOG Aura and recommends it, so consider that when searching for a new hunting knife.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Constructing Ground Blinds in the High Desert

It is essential to be hidden from plain view when trying to arrow a big game animal. They are smart and have lightning fast response time. We use camouflage, face paint, natural surroundings and blinds to give us an edge. For most of us DIY hunters, saving money is also essential in keeping our wallets full and our spouse happy. Instead of buying an expensive ground blind, you can reduce the cost dramatically by making your own ground blind when in the field. I will focus on deer hunting, but these practices can be used for other game animals as well.

First and foremost, you must know and understand the laws regarding hunting public and private land for your city, county and state. Believe it or not, there are laws in many places dictating whether or not you can trim a tree on public land. A common item you will find in my pack at all times are a set of pruners. On public land I will use them to trim dead branches or fallen branches. On private land, I will trim whatever the landowner allows me to. For the purpose of this blog I am going to focus on public land ground blinds.

This is my latest blog post for PSE Archery. You can read the entire post on the PSE blog.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

All I Want (to Give) for Christmas is...

The giving season is upon us. Is there anything you really want? I know that many of my blogging friends have posted lists with ideas for that hard to buy for hunter of yours. The question I hear asked each year is, "What do I get the guy or gal who has everything?" Well, what about that? And what about the lady hunter who seems to have everything. 

For me, I have been blessed and truly have everything I want. Could I use another gadget? Sure! If I found a PSE DNA, meat grinder, food slicer, vacuum sealer, or a KOWA spotting scope under my tree I'd be delighted, but I really don't feel like I need anything. (My gift ideas tend to get more expensive as I grow older!) Actually, it's quite the opposite. I want to give some stuff away. I really do, but first I need to know what YOU, my readers, want for Christmas. 

What gift(s) do you want to see under your tree this year?

You are probably wondering why I am asking. Well, instead of posting a gift idea list, I want to hear from you guys. What do you want? The reason is I have some items laying around that are just not being used and I would really like them to go to someone who can use them. Here's the catch... I am not going to be posting what they are. If I did that, far too many people won't post what they genuinely want or need, so I am going to keep it a secret. I genuinely want to know what YOU want!

Here's the deal. You share via a comment on this post something you would like to receive. It can be one item or five items, but let's not get too greedy. If I happen to have that item in my box o'goodies I might just send it out to you. Just like making a list for Santa, I make no guarantees, but I want someone to be able to use these for something other than  a box filler or dust collector. So ask away. Ho-Ho-Ho!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Product Review: Browning Yellowstone Sleeping Bag

On the cold, hard ground in the wilderness you want comfort and warmth when you are trying to catch a few Zzzzz's. In researching sleeping bags for my Colorado elk hunt, I was directed to ALPS OutdoorZ and I found they had some I was interested in. After some emails back and forth with ALPS, I was given the opportunity to purchase (at a discounted rate) and field test a sleeping bag, but the decision was tough! I wanted one that was warm, packable, and also lighter weight. After some calculations, weather checking and measurements I chose the Browning Yellowstone 20 degree sleeping bag to test on my Colorado elk hunt this past September. ALPS became the licensee of Browning Camping in 2009.

Back when I first opened the box and rolled out the sleeping bag, I knew I was in for some fun as my three year old daughter wanted to 'help' review it. Without hesitation, we set up a campsite of sorts and before I knew it she was inside the bag giggling like crazy. Even now it makes me laugh! She told me it was very cozy and that she really liked playing in it. Good to know! I asked her if it was warm and she said yes and that it was 'cozy'. She curled up and pretended to sleep as I reveled in the moment. I could only hope it was that cozy on my trip! The Yellowstone sleeping bag weighed in at 3 lbs. 14 oz.  (add 4 oz. for the Stuff Sack), which was the lightest of the bags I viewed with the warmth I needed.

From the Browning website:
The Yellowstone series sleeping bags are made with Techloft insulation. Techloft Insulation consists of multi-hole staple-length micro-denier fibers that have a siliconized finish for maximum insulation, loft, and compactness. The Yellowstone uses a 2-layer offset construction, sometimes called a "bag within a bag." The contoured hood and mummy shape helps seal up your warmth and keep you warmer. The Yellowstone is a great backpacking sleeping bag to take along on your hikes that won't take up all the space in your pack.


  • TechLoft Insulation
  • 2-layer Construction
  • Insulated Chest Baffle & Zipper Baffle
  • Contoured Hood
  • Compression Stuff Sack Included

True to claim, the Yellowstone sleeping bag is very lightweight and packs nicely. Inside the tent in Colorado it was warm until the fire died out. It sure got chilly after that, but the Browning Yellowstone was incredibly warm. I was able to move around in it fairly well, but don't expect to be wearing a hunting jacket and pants in there. Being only 5' 10" tall I didn't need a longer bag, but with broad shoulders I wanted something that I could fit in with my camouflage on if need be. The sleeping bag dimensions are 34" x 80" and it fit me with one layer on only. Even though I could not wear all of my gear, I was very comfortable in one layer.
Using the mummy feature was great because when it got really cold I was able to pull it snug and stay toasty! I have no hair on my head, so I wore a hat every now and then and when I mummied up I was very comfortable.

The only negative thing I have to say is regarding the zipper. You are supposed to be able to zip it closed from the inside and that was nearly impossible. So, I tried it from the outside and was able to close it about 3/4 of the way. I really wish it didn't get caught up so much in the fabric, but I dealt with it.

All in all, the Browning Yellowstone is a great backcountry sleeping bag. It packs well, is lightweight and very comfortable. It retails for $109.99 and for any backcountry hunter, I think it is well worth the money.