Thursday, March 28, 2013

Product Review: MyTopo Custom Topos and Aerial Maps

While a GPS is an essential tool in my kit, I also want to have a map I can refer to that does not need batteries to function. Through the North American Hunting Club and their StuffStuff program, I was given the opportunity to test out the MyTopo mapping system.  I tested out two different maps from two different areas. I ordered a waterproof folded topographical map and also a waterproof rolled topographical map. You can also order aerial photos of the areas if you'd like.

The MyTopo mapping service worked extremely well. You can search for a particular location or you can upload a GPX file from you GPS system. Pretty handy if you want a specified map of a place you have been researching and scouting. I opted to do a grid search through the website of a hunting spot I frequent. I also added the Public Land Boundaries feature for an extra $5.00. This was well worth the extra money in my opinion, but keep in mind that these borders can change in a moments notice.

I would recommend the folding maps over the rolled maps because they pack better and are very easy to use. The rolled maps are great to hang in the hunting cabin or man cave, but not practical when hunting. The waterproofing is great, too! A definite must for anyone hunting vast areas in different weather patterns. Plus, the shipping is much lower on one of the folded maps.

I utilized the 24" x 36" folded map on numerous occasions during the latter part of the 2012 hunting seasons. They fit well into my pack and also took a beating. The material that is used is tough and built like a thin plastic. I sprayed it down with water and it held true - no ink smearing or running and it dried quickly. 

After countless opening and folding, packing and unpacking the map held up very well and looks practically new. The 24" x 36" folded map with the public land feature costs $19.95. Shipping was fast and the map came well protected. If it's an area you are going to hunt often the need for a map from MyTopo outweighs the cost considerably. I will be using my topo map from MyTopo this year and probably ordering another for a different area. Money well spent in my opinion!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring DIY Public Land Pig Hunt

This past weekend was great! I went on a great archery DIY, public land pig hunt in SoCal. When I found out Chris and I could hunt, I wanted to hit the range and get some new broadheads dialed in. I hit the El Dorado range at 7:30 AM on Sunday morning and had it pretty much to myself. Now, most people will look at these photos below and say I was shooting too far back. Not true, especially if it's a big boar. You want to shoot behind that protective plate they have. I shot a few dozen arrows and felt great about my set up. Now I just had to wait until Monday morning to head out!

Before you flood my email with inquiries, no I will not disclose where we were hunting. We had to put boot rubber to the ground to find this spot.  

Monday finally arrived and after a long drive we made it to our spot in time to gear up and start hiking. We hiked our tails off and it wasn't too long before we jumped a very small hog from the shade of a bush. It was at three yards! It took off and we couldn't find it again. Once we reached the end of the property we turned back and decided to check out the far side of the property after some lunch. As we hiked back to the car, Chris spotted another small red hog feeding along some foliage. We split up and I took off up the trail 50 yards. As Chris approached the little guy to spook him up the hill, it took off into some brush in between us and vanished. Not only are those things fast as heck, but they can disappear quick, too. We couldn't stop laughing at how fast it was running!

After lunch we began our scouting and hunting of the opposite side of the property. Pig sign was all around, but the pigs were staying far away from us. We glassed for a while and spotted birds, but no hogs. It was pretty hot, so we searched the shade of the trees and found no hogs. We hiked quite a ways and shared plenty of hunting stories along the way. By the time the sun set we had seen plenty of ground squirrels, but no hogs. I also found out chocolate Oreo's and peanut butter sandwiches go great together. I put a few of the Oreo's in the same bag knowing they would soften up, but I hadn't planned on eating them together. After one bite I think I now have a favorite sandwich for hog hunting. It was fantastic!

We made the long drive back to Chris's house. Between the hot sun and the hiking I was whooped. I was looking forward to a cold beverage and a good nights sleep. Even though we didn't see many hogs, I had a great time and I can't get hog hunting out of my head! I guess it's because you can hunt them year round and my archery set-up is begging to taste some blood. Let's hope we get a crack at them again soon!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Because I am a Man

Laughter is a great way to relieve stress and I love to laugh! I have had this in my email for a long time and just had to share it (heck, I may have shared it before). Most of you men will totally understand it. Now, this is all in good fun so enjoy and laugh!

Because I'm a man, when I lock my keys in the car, I will fiddle with a coat hanger long after hypothermia has set in. Calling AAA is not an option. I will win. ________________________________________________________________

Because I'm a man, when the car isn't running very well, I will pop the hood and stare at the engine as if I know what I'm looking at. If another man shows up, one of us will say to the other, "I used to be able to fix these things, but now with all these computers and everything, I wouldn't know where to start." We will then drink a couple of beers and break wind, as a form of holy communion.

Because I'm a man, when I catch a cold, I need someone to bring me soup and take care of me while I lie in bed and moan. You're a woman. You never get as sick as I do, so for you, this is no problem.

Because I'm a man, I can be relied upon to purchase basic groceries at the store, like milk or bread. I cannot be expected to find exotic items like "cumin" or "tofu." For all I know, these are the same thing.

Because I'm a man, when one of our appliances stops working, I will insist on taking it apart, despite evidence that this will just cost me twice as much once the repair person gets here and has to put it back together.

Because I'm a man, I must hold the television remote control in my hand while I watch TV. If the thing has been misplaced, I may miss a whole show looking for it.....though one time I was able to survive by holding a calculator... (applies to engineers mainly).

Because I'm a man, there is no need to ask me what I'm thinking about. The true answer is always either sex, cars, sex, sports or sex. I have to make up something else when you ask, so don't ask.

Because I'm a man, you don't have to ask me if I liked the movie. Chances are, if you're crying at the end of it, I didn't....and if you are feeling amorous afterward....then I will certainly at least remember the name and recommend it to others.


Because I'm a man, I think what you're wearing is fine. I thought what you were wearing five minutes ago was fine, too. Either pair of shoes is fine. With the belt or without it, looks fine. Your hair is fine. You look fine. Can we just go now?


Because I'm a man, and this is, after all, the year 2013, I will share equally in the housework. You just do the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the vacuuming, and the dishes, and I'll do the rest...... like wandering around in the garden with a beer wondering what to do.

This has been a public service message for women to better understand men.

Friday, March 15, 2013

San Gabriel Bighorn Sheep Survey - 2013

Last Saturday, many volunteers gathered at the orientation for the San Gabriel Bighorn Sheep Survey. To me there looked to be well over 300 people in the room. A brief history was shared and instruction on what to look for. We then divided into groups near the map of the location you wanted to go to. Brett, Ryan and I decided we would go to the same place that I got skunked last year, South Fork of Lytle Creek.

The plan was to have everyone meet at 8:00 AM and then head out. Turns out, a bunch of people couldn't follow some very simple directions and we ended up running an hour behind schedule. I figured this trip would give me an opportunity to do a gear review on the Alps Outdoorz Commander Frame Pack, so I had it loaded with my camera gear, optics and water. In total it weighed 57 lbs. Was I crazy? Probably, but I know I could put mind over matter and do a solid review.

Hiking with the Alps Outdoorz Commander Frame Pack - all 57 lbs. worth.

The riverbed was full of boulders. Big, little, oblong and downright mean. They take no prisoners as one unlucky surveyor found out. We had hiked in about 500 yards and she twisted her ankle pretty bad. It made us all aware we needed to be cautious when putting our weight on the rocks. I was using two trekking poles to help with balancing my extra weight of the frame pack and she needed one to assist in her hiking back out, so I lent them one. She was helped out by her companions and went to see a medic. Now I was praying I could get by with only one.

The menacing boulders were everywhere.

Jeff Villepique points out some great areas to look for sheep.

The treacherous hillsides the sheep call home.

We pushed on and went through some gnarly country. As gnarly and ominous as it was, it was awesome! With all the snow and rain I had figured the water level would be very high in the stream. There may have been slightly more water, but to me it looked the same. We hiked over more boulders, through parts of the stream, up steep embankments and through some nasty whitethorn. Along the way we dropped a group off to scan one area and one guy decided to bust my balls a bit about my pack. I explained I had optics and was reviewing the pack frame. When he asked how much everything weighed his response was, 'You shit!' I nodded and said the pack was living up to my expectations. I was ready for the ball-busting with a smile as it was my choice to go in heavy.

Through the next deep patch of whitethorn, one of the branches shot forward into my calf and instantly I knew I'd be digging out a thorn later. It's all part of the experience.

When we arrived at my groups drop-off point it was further along than we had traveled last year. There were the three of us and three others who split off. Our leader, CADFW Biologist Jeff Villepique and his group ventured ever further down the stream bed and then up a steep mountain side to glass from above. That guy is a mountain goat and loves doing what he does. By rough estimate, I figure that my group hiked in 1.25 miles. I had 57 lbs. on the frame and my quads and hammies were screaming at me. When I dropped the pack I felt like I was on a ship and it was listing to one side and then the other. It was crazy!

My camera setup had to be adjusted due to high winds.

Brett searching the far hillside with the KOWA TSN-661 spotting scope.

Ryan scanned the steep rock face using the KOWA 10x50 binoculars.

The winds were whipping between 10-35 mph and making it difficult to glass. We had set up our tripods with our cameras, KOWA spotting scopes and KOWA binoculars. The wind kept blowing them over, so we adjusted our positions a bit. Then we started glassing. For four hours we sat and glassed and glassed and glassed. For our group, well most of our group, it turned into the San Gabriel Riverbed Hike and Boulder Climb. 

Using the KOWA iPhone adapter, I was able to photograph the far mountain through the spotting scope.

The snow was beautiful, but the sheep stayed hidden from view.

About three hours into our sit, we received a radio call from Jeff stating his group spotted four rams for about a minute on a nearby ridge to their location. That was exciting news! We all hoped to get to see some, too. That wouldn't happen though as Brett spotted the only animal we would see - a chipmunk.

By the time Jeff and his group met back up with us it was nearing 4 PM. I spotted three shapes on the ridge near where Jeff and his group came from so he quickly set up his scope. We glassed the shapes for a few minutes and reached an agreement that they were stumps in a shadow of a large bush. It may not have been sheep, but it added some excitement!

Our view as we started our hike back out to the trailhead.

We hiked out all smiles. While a small percentage had seen sheep, we were all thankful to be part of the experience. On the way out, my quads were feeling the burn and I was sure to plant my feet in the proper spots to get out safely. I did not want to risk an injury that far from our vehicles and with that much weight.

As we neared the last quarter mile of riverbed, the majority of the group took off leaving me just ahead of Jeff and another group member. The gave me a bit of solace to reflect on the experience, sort through my thoughts and just enjoy the last bit of walking out. I took note of how I felt, how the pack had held up and what I would do next year. I have no idea how many other groups saw sheep, but I anticipate many fared like we did. I had a great time and I know that I will participate again next year. After getting skunked in the same spot two years in a row, I am thinking that a change of scenery is in the works for 2014. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My First Elk Hunt – What I Did Wrong, What I Did Right

Last year, elk hunting was very new to me and in many ways it still is. There is still so much for me to learn and I look forward to getting back out there chasing them up and down the mountain. My buddy Mark, who authors the Sole Adventure blog, asked me to write an article for his series on his upcoming elk hunt. You see, Mark is right where I was a year ago. He is going to be going on his first ever elk hunt and he is researching, writing and asking the right questions. My article offers some insight into what I did wrong and what I did right on my trip. I hope you enjoy reading it!

This time last year I was planning my Colorado elk hunt. While I planned well and had a successful four-day hunt, I learned many things along the way. Many things went quite well and some not so well. I am going to share a little of both in the hopes that your elk hunt will be fun, exciting and successful.

Instead of flying, and with taking one of our family vehicles being out of the question, I opted to rent an SUV. My trip was a solo trip and that cost me dearly in fuel and muscle fatigue from driving. It would have been in my best interest to do the trip with a friend so that we could split the cost of the SUV and the fuel. On top of that, with a partner we could have divided up the food and necessities costs for the trip.

Always bring everything you might need every time...

You can read the full article over on Sole Adventure.

Monday, March 11, 2013

California Young Archers - UNITE!

The title might be a bit dramatic, yes, but if you have children or you are a young person looking to get into archery this is for you. This press release appeared in my inbox today and it's a great opportunity for SoCal archers, especially those further east to participate in a youth archery clinic. There is a clinic in NorCal and one in SoCal.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will offer two beginning archery clinics this spring for young archers between the ages of 8 and 17.

The first clinic, the Youth Archery Spring Fling, will be held Saturday, April 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Maya Archery Range, 750 Galleria Blvd. in Roseville (Placer County).

The second clinic, the Mojave Youth Archery Blast, will be held Saturday, June 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Mojave Archers Range, 10500 Eaby Road in Phelan (San Bernardino County).

"Archery is a sport that motivates youth to spend time outdoors, and California has some of the best and most scenic outdoor ranges available to the public," said Lesa Johnston, CDFW's coordinator for the California National Archery in the Schools Program. "We hope that by offering archery opportunities, youth will be encouraged to explore the possibilities and participate in this lifelong sport."

Each clinic includes a safety orientation, fundamental archery instruction, an introduction to various types of equipment and plenty of actual target practice. Clinic participants will be supervised by adults as they practice shooting at the outdoor stationary bull's-eye targets.

Separate instruction will be provided for youth (8-12 years old) and teens (13-17). Participants of both age groups must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The cost is $15 for all ages, and includes the use of the equipment, snacks and lunch. Parents and guardians will also receive a lunch at no additional charge.

CDFW will co-sponsor the clinic with the California Bowmen Hunters and the State Archery Association. Pre-registration is required and space is limited. Online registration is available on the CDFW website at For additional information, please call the program coordinator at (916) 322-8933.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Product Review: SOG Woodline Skinning Knife

Right out of the box the SOG Woodline fixed blade knife separated the elk hide from flesh like it was warm butter. It was sharp, fit perfectly in my hand and was a comfortable weight. Even though I had bloody hands, the SOG Woodline fixed blade knife is an excellent skinning knife with a perfect grip that stayed put in my hand. I used it to skin out my very first elk this year and it worked great.

Now it is no secret that I like knives. No, I love a good knife! I love the looks, different contours, feel of each one and I love to see how they work in the field. When SOG contacted me about reviewing some of their knives how could I resist. I have owned a SOG Field Pup for years after a recommendation by a fellow bowhunter. It is a great knife that is still one of the best knives I own and it stays attached to my pack at all times.

The gear I packed for my elk hunt in Colorado was carefully chosen and the SOG Woodline was one of the knives that made it into my pack. The knife weighs 8.3 oz. and seemed rather light compared to the size of the knife. The overall length of the knife is 10.4" with a blade length of 4.8" that helps immensely when cutting large surfaces. When my bull elk was down and the work started, the Woodline came out and made the butchering that much easier. (I did not get any photos with the knife on my elk hunt due to bloody hands and being focused on the task of butchering the animal.) The knife felt contoured to my hand and the weight of the knife was balanced. I first thought the knife was going to be bulky and cumbersome because of its size, but I was very wrong. It fit into my hand well and my hand never tired from the knife being off balance.

The handle of the knife is beautifully made from hard wood that feels vastly different from a plastic handle. The wood handle offered a solid grip without feeling synthetic, plus it gives it a rad look!

The sheath that protects the blade is well-built and works well. I have found some leather sheathes that stink from the leather or oils used to protect it from the elements. This one didn’t stink and performed very well in the field. It secured the knife perfectly without any play.
The one negative thing I have to say is I did find that the blade dulled rather quickly. I did take into consideration that when skinning a 600 lb. beast with a thick hide, your knife will dull rapidly. After a dozen or so strokes on the knife sharpener I was back in business. Yes, the knife is made in China, but I feel it is still a good blade and does the job it is meant to do.

The suggested retail is $60.00, but many places have them on sale for $35.00 or lower. That's an excellent price for a knife built like this one. Quite honestly, I would pay the $60.00 for this knife. It is solid, works well, and I think it works extremely well as a skinning blade.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

SoCal Bowhunter Tech Tip: Carrying Your Bow Properly

One thing I take note of is how people care for their gear and I try to learn from it. No one is perfect and I love it when I can get extra life out of my gear. I am sure that this of you who watch bow hunting shows on television have seen this. A bow hunter walking down a trail or skirting a ridge while carrying his bow by the string. Even I have been guilty of it on more than one occasion. Did you know that you can throw off the way your bow shoot because of that?

Imagine that you are running a ridge in pursuit of a giant mule deer buck. You have spent an entire year practicing, getting in shape, and focusing your efforts into this one moment. Your bow is bouncing up and down as you cradle it by the string. As you crest the ridge, the buck is turned away from you, so you draw and settle in. Only now, your peeps is off enough where you can’t see the pins. You twist and turn it as the buck turns, spots your movement, and bounds off. Your hearts sinks. Frustration gets the better of you and you sit down in disgust. What happened?

Most people wouldn’t be able to tell you right away what happened. I only recently learned why this happens because my friend, Eddy (owner of Piranha Custom Bowstrings),  knows bow strings very well and he busted me carrying my single cam bow by the string. What was I doing wrong? I had seen so many others doing it. The information I received was invaluable. I was carrying my single cam PSE Bow Madness by the string when Eddy shared with me how the constant bouncing up and down of the bow which I walked could cause the string to rotate on the single cam bows. This would cause peep rotation and throw off all the work I had invested in sighting in my bow. After all that I had done to prepare for my Colorado elk hunt, I didn’t want my peep rotating at the worst possible moment! I am very thankful he pointed that out!

Carrying my bow buy the string, over time, could also cause it to stretch prematurely, especially when hunting in the hot California weather. I certainly didn’t want that happening as like every bow hunter, I want to get the maximum life out of my bow string that I can. I also don’t want it to happen to you!

For those that have to hike in a long way and are carrying their bows in their hands, I know how difficult it can be to find a comfortable way to carry it. My recommendation is to not only practice shooting the bow, but practice different ways of carrying it as well. This will help you on those days when a bow hunt leads to long walks and where you want your archery gear at peak performance.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Giveaway for PROBAR Meal™ Bars!

Last week I posted a review on the PROBAR Meal™ Bars and the fine folks over at PROBAR have offered up a giveaway to all of my readers!  Best of all, they are going to give away a full package of PROBAR Meal™ Bars to the winner. How sweet is that? Best of all, the winner gets the choose which flavor.

The giveaway is easy to enter! I am going to run it through Rafflecopter to make it easy to track. Once you enter the first question it will unlock the rest of your opportunities. You can enter as many as you would like!

Disclaimer: The giveaway starts March 4, 2013 and goes until midnight on March 10, 2013. Winner will be chosen through Rafflecopter. Winner will be contacted by email and announced on this post. Sponsor is responsible for shipment of product to giveaway winner. The SoCal Bowhunter is not responsible for shipment of prizes. Odds of winning prize is dependent upon the total number of eligible entries received.

Here is the question to answer for five entries into the giveaway:

What PROBAR Meal™ Bar do you want to try the most?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 1, 2013

Product Review: PROBAR Meal™ Bars

Originally posted on the blog.

A good hike burns plenty of calories. Burning calories makes you hungry. You have to put fuel in your body to get energy out of it, right? It's a simple equation really, but a more refined equation would be if you put good, clean fuel in your body you get even better energy out. At least that is my theory. With PROBAR you get that clean fuel going in and the energy to go with it.

The PROBARs are 100% vegan, certified organic, certified non-GMO, and mostly raw.

PROBAR Meal™ bars are available in over 15 flavors and are PROBAR’s original and most popular whole-food, meal-replacement bars that are guaranteed to satisfy your hunger and deliver plenty of clean-burning natural energy.

These bars pack nearly a meals worth of calories into one of the tastiest and most fulfilling foods I have had the pleasure of eating. Averaging around 370-380 calories per bar, these are a vegan supplement for hikers, outdoorsmen and hunters. Not only do they have great flavors like Koka Moka, Chocolate Mint and my favorite Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, but they have essential nutrients and fat. Yes, I said fat. Most people try to avoid fat in their daily meals, but when you expend a great deal of energy your body will actually crave fat. After a long hike recently I ate one of the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars and it hit the spot! With each bite I was thankful for the texture, flavor and fat as it made eating the bar quite enjoyable. Each 3 oz. bar retails for around $3.29. It may seem high, but for a lightweight, easily packed meal supplement it is money well spent.

PROBAR Fuel™ bars - Every 150-calorie, fruit-dense, superfood snack bar in the fruition line is designed to deliver one serving of fruit. Chia seeds serve as one of the key ingredients, providing a between-meal boost of Omega 3. It's soft, chewy, and it's a full serving of fruit – a scrumptious snack for action packed days. We balanced this blend with chia seeds to regulate hydration and raw oats for easy-to-digest energy. 

These gluten-free bars have fewer calories, around 150, and have two full servings of fruit in them. I wasn't a big fan of the Fuel™ bars. I tried the Strawberry first and the flavor was better than average, but I couldn't get past the texture. While I didn't like them, my four-year old LOVED them. When we were out for a walk and she asked for a snack, I figured I'd try one out on her. She's very picky and will usually only eat a few bites of whatever 'nutritious' snack I bring. I opted for Strawberry for her. She surprised me when she told me she liked it and wouldn't put it down. After eating the entire thing she said she'd eat more of those. There you have it right from a child's mouth. A few days later I ate a Blueberry and also tried the Cherry. Both taste tests ended with the same result – not for me. The Fuel™ bars retail for $1.59 each, which isn’t a bad price especially if you have finicky children. If my daughter will eat them I think any child would as well! These are worth paying for in my book!

PROBAR Halo® bars - HALO bars are the ideal, healthy alternative for anyone craving a candy bar. These snack bars come in four sweet flavors, such as Rocky Road and S’Mores, and are packed with oats, flax seed and dark chocolate.

I love a good candy bar and these were a nice little treat to have in the pack. I was afraid these would melt in the high heat of SoCal, but they don’t contain nearly as much chocolate that your average candy bar does. These have a nice blend of natural ingredients that taste great, pack well and give you the boost you need. I found them to be very tasty and love the Rocky Road and Nutty Marshmallow. After eating one of these (as compared to a candy bar) you won’t feel the sugar crash. Instead, you’ll feel fuller and ready to hit the trail again! Each bar retails for $1.29 and I think they are a great buy, but I'll be honest - I probably wouldn't buy too many. Instead, I would opt for the higher calorie, more bonus for your dollar Meal™ bars.

Overall, I really enjoyed this review. Sure, it has to do with food, but I truly like being able to have a packable replacement meal in my pack that is lightweight, tasty, and nutritious! PROBAR has something great here and these offer a healthy form of energy on the trail. These are a healthy alternative to sugary sweets or plain nuts. There are so many flavors to choose from that you can pack a variety of PROBARs that the entire family will love.