Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Weekend Hog Hunt Recap

If you followed my tweets last Friday, you would know I ventured out on public land in search of the ever elusive feral pig. The day seemed to drag on as I could not get hunting out of my brain! Once I was out of the office, I met up with my buddy Chris and we hit the road.

Some close range practice the night before. (Sorry for the crappy pic.)

After getting stuck in Friday traffic we made it to our spot and set up. The blind was between a bedding area and a feeding area, so we were attempting to intercept them. There were plenty of tracks going to and fro, so we figured it would be a good set up. The full moon played with us though.

As shooting light waned, we put our bows away and began quietly packing up. As Chris packed up the blind, the trees in front of us erupted with the sounds hoof prints and squealing. The pigs had indeed been traveling from the bedding to their food source, but had stopped before crossing where we anticipated them to go. We figure they either spotted us or were waiting to cross after the moon had risen. Either way, we didn't release any arrows, but our hearts were pounding after they took off!

We know we have a good area to hunt them, but have to give it some time to allow them to settle down. It was an exciting evening hunt!

Monday, April 29, 2013

My Most Memorable Turkey Hunt...EVER.

The first time I hunted the Fordon farm in New York was nearly nine years ago. I positioned myself at the base of a hickory tree and set up. I had no blind, no mosquito netting and it was a very humid day. I stayed still, except to call and before long I spotted a red head peeking at me from thirty yards. Unfortunately for me, it was a hen and she had already spotted my movement. She locked on to me for a few moments, refusing to leave until my leg fell asleep and I had to move due to the tingling sensation. In retrospect, I wished I had stayed put in case a tom or a jake was with her, but I let my mind take over and she bolted. That was the only turkey I would see for weeks.

The second time I ventured into the hardwoods was a few weeks later. I made a makeshift blind, set up and began calling. I had a tom answer my calls for about a half hour and then it abruptly stopped. I figured he was either locked up with a hen or on his way to my location, so I patiently waited. After over an hour with the woods being silent I turned and sat down facing an alfalfa field where the edge was only 20 yards away. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a shape moving toward me and slowly raised my Mossberg 20 gauge. It didn't take long for me to see a hen walking the edge. This time I waited to see if a tom would be in tow only to be disappointed. That encounter was the end my season for that year.
Those were great encounters, but my most memorable turkey hunt took place eight years ago. For weeks, my friends Bill Fordon, Matt Laursen and I had been discussing how the largest tom turkey we had ever seen was appearing on a near daily basis. The only problem we had was that he was staying on private property and the owner of said property was afraid of hunters shooting up her property. (She was really scared of the sound of a shotgun.) That's a story for another day, and we followed the law and stayed off her property. Our only option was to drive to the back edge of Bill's family farm, hit the edge of the the adjacent field and hike a few hundred yards to the border of the property. In fact, I opted to stay about 75 yards into their property and try to call this big tom in. I called and heard him answer, but he was at least 300 yards away. For an hour, I would call and he would answer. All morning I waited to see a glimpse of a turkey, but the only movement I saw came from the Pterodactyl-like mosquitoes found in the Northeast trying to take off my head.

When I couldn't take it anymore, I packed up my gear and hiked right up to the edge of the private property. I searched the field and saw nothing. I KNEW he was over there, but how was I going to get to him? I reviewed my map and stayed just inside the property line to the South. I slowly crept through the woods until I found a vantage point. Over the edge I peeked and there he was. With him were quite a few hens, but they all stayed close near a point on this woman's property. They were EXACTLY where they had been feeding for the past few weeks. I called and tried to entice him, but he would have none of it. Frustrated, I turned around and hiked back to my vehicle.

Here is where the story gets exciting! On the way out, I decided to drive down the road and glass the field just to watch him. I pulled over and glassed through the passenger side window and saw nothing but green alfalfa. He had moved off and I thought he MAY be heading back into the woods from whence I came. So I put the car in drive and made my way to the road not 100 yards away to make a U-turn. That's when I saw him on my left in another field! I made a quick K-turn and drove back slowly so as not to spook him. He was there with a single hen and seemed to be protecting her. With the car off and knowing full well I could not shoot him from the road, nor from the other private property I decided to see what he would do. I
slowly got out of the car and made my way to the back with my diaphragm call in my mouth. I let out some soft yelps and he lost his mind! He charged toward the road and stopped 20 yards from me in full strut! He turned slowly from one side to another giving me quite a show. His head was a beautiful mix or red, white and blue and he was puffed out to the max. A few more yelps and he gobbled right back at me. All the while, the hen had stayed put. The tom walked an imaginary line of about 10 yards back and forth from left to right, gobbling as he strutted. It was amazing and I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to see such splendor. I toyed with the gobbler for fifteen more minutes just to watch his antics before I put the call away and let him be. He would live to see another day and I would have a story to tell for the rest of my life.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Eddy Erautt Arrows a Colorado Thunder Chicken!

As I sat down to read some hunting blogs and write a post of my own, I received a text from my friend Eddy Erautt, owner of Piranha Custom Bowstrings. The message was actually a photograph of Eddy and his tom turkey he arrowed last week. Here is his recap of the hunt. Congratulations, Eddy!


Opening day for the 2013 Colorado spring turkey season was Saturday, April 13th. I could not make it out for the first two days of the season due to the lack of time. Day 3 of the season was on a Monday, so I headed out to a place where I had previously scouted for turkeys. I got out there a little late to set up so I slowly started moving into the area while calling periodically.

Shortly after arriving at the spot I wanted to set up I caught movement! The first tom of the season moving my way looking for the hen. Shortly after I see more movement and realize there are four more toms! They were 20-30 yards behind the first and all fives of these toms were GIANTS!  The first gobble I got out of them was when I got real aggressive on the call. They started to strut, drum and I started to get the fever! I tried soft calls and aggressive calls, but could not manage to get them in range where I wanted to shoot a turkey at with my bow (under 30 yards).

After they moved off it was late so I headed back to the truck. I got to thinking about the encounter and the very next morning found me on the phone ordering a decoy. It was to be delivered the next Friday which was perfect because that was the next day I had free to go hunt! Friday gets here, decoy is delivered, and I am on way back to the same spot. 

Just like last time I am running late, so this time I do not call my way into the location. I get there, set up the new decoy and start calling. After about five minutes I hear a gobble then another, I continue to call and the gobbles continue to get closer.  After just a few short minutes I here all sorts of racket and then see red heads running toward me. It was a flock of jakes! The jakes came around a group of trees to meet up with three toms that I was calling. They see each other and quickly joined up as if they thought that is where the calling was coming from. None of these turkeys were the giant toms I had an encounter with a few days prior, but I was not going to be picky. 

At this time they were probably 60 yards out so I quickly made some soft calls. They looked my way, saw the decoy and came charging!!!  In no time I could hardly see the decoy which was 10 yards in front of me because the jakes were surrounding it making all sorts of chatter! The three toms came in slowly and kept their distance to about 20 yards which was all I needed! I drew back as slow as I could, raised my 20 yard pin straight up the leg to center body (trying to break the hips), and released my Gold Tip arrow tipped with a Wac'em broadhead!!!  It was a solid hit, but not like you see on T.V. The turkey did not start flopping on the ground and it was game over. Nope, it hobbled and even got off the ground and started flying!! I couldn’t believe it, I thought to myself I just hammered that bird there is no way he could go far.

After a short wait I got up from my stand and started to search thinking he would be laying at the edge of the opening where I called him into.  After a short search I found him dead just inside the tree line, about 60 yards from where I shot him, and my 2013 spring turkey season was over!!!  One thing I learned is I will never again try to call turkeys again without a decoy; it made the world of difference!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

California Turkey Season in Full Swing

My turkey decoys finally arrived and while I have yet to make it into the turkey woods, some of my hunting buddies have been out over the past few weeks and have found success. Some have found new areas to hunt while others have actually filled their tags! 

My hunting buddies Brett and Brandon ventured out to a new area in SoCal last week. After a long drive they found themselves in camp and three other hunters had each taken a bird. They spent a weekend scouring the hills calling and searching and could not get a turkey to come in. That's turkey hunting for you and I have been there. It's tough, but they had fun and are looking forward to getting out again soon!

My friend, Michael, was also out turkey hunting last week. You might remember Michael from a couple years ago on The SoCal Bowhunter blog. Michael was successful in arrowing his very first archery kill while I was hunting with him. On his turkey hunt, Michael opted for a shotgun and was successful in another first. He brought down his first turkey ever! The tom had a 4" beard and weighed 15 lbs. dressed out. He had to rub it in and also say that it tasted delicious! Awesome and a big congrats to you my friend!

More and more turkey stories are coming in that I can't wait to share!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Family Blessings in the Outdoors

This was an original post I wrote for the Pocket Ranger blog.

Family is a blessing that many take for granted, myself included. Ever since my daughter was old enough to walk, my wife and I have involved her in outdoor activities and it is amazing to see how much she learns and wants to be a part of. I am going to share some of the things I do as an outdoorsman that you can do with your kids to get them interested in the outdoors, too.

My wife shares wonderful walks at our local parks and the El Dorado Park Nature Center in Long Beach, CA. It is a wonderful way to ‘get away’ and just hike and see nature up close. While I enjoy a good hike with them, I also like to involve my daughter more in the aspects of hunting and fishing and what daddy likes to do. Should she choose to partake is entirely up to her, but so far it’s stuck. Here are some of the things that I like to do that she has grown to enjoy.

Product testing is something I truly enjoy. When I get a product to review, she is inquisitive and wants to see if she can try it out. Most times it’s either too big for her or something not safe for a child. Other items, like binoculars fascinate her and I love seeing her reaction when she first spots something through the eyepieces. Now when I go out in the backyard or even on a hike she asks to bring the binoculars so she can see the birds or animals up close. Before long, she might be by my side as my scouting partner in the national forests.

Image ©kymberli q. photography
As a bowhunter, I consistently shoot my bow and arrows. She observes this and also hears me talking about it constantly. Last year I bought my daughter her first bow complete with suction cup arrows. She would shoot it at her plastic target for a few minutes and then grow bored. Now that I have my 3D Rinehart deer target in the backyard she also wants to shoot it. The first time she asked to shoot the deer I was a proud papa! I showed her where to shoot, but also explained that no matter what she did she should have fun. The very first arrow was a well-placed suction cup shot to the vitals. She was ecstatic and I positively showed my excitement as well by giving her a big hug and having her shoot again. She shot a few more times and all missed the target, but I didn’t care. I encouraged her nonetheless and told her how proud I was that she was practicing and having fun. Always encourage your kids when it comes to things like this. Not only do they need it emotionally, but it helps build confidence!

Fishing is the same way, but daddy needs to get moving on this one. With her princess fishing pole in one hand and the backyard or driveway at her disposal, she casts over and over. She casts and pretends to land the rubberized fish on the end of her line. She has been asking me for months to take her fishing and it’s now time for me to put my money where my mouth is. The same park mentioned above has a stocked ‘lake’ (I say it’s a pond) with fish. Whether we catch anything isn’t the point. Spending time with her and seeing her enjoy the sport is what I am after. If she catches something, it’s just a bonus.

Tracking animals is something she picked up on her own. She wanted to go on an adventure and one day, I took her to Bass Pro Shops and immediately she started asking about the tracks. She amazed me by how quickly she caught on and the fact that she remembered what animal each track belonged to. Now when we go hiking or even in our own yard, she’ll eyeball the flower bed and if she spots a track she will follow it.

The best part in all of this is that I get to smile and enjoy my little girl growing up. She has been unknowingly applying all of what she has learned to her learning to read, spell and just have fun, too. My wife taught her how to spell a while ago, but now she is teaching her to read and spot words. She learns them from flashcards and now hunts through her books trying to find the words she has learned. She does a great job and she gets much encouragement from both of us. She is also rewarded for sticking to it and getting through an entire book.

As you can see, spending time with your kids in the outdoors doesn’t have to just be an outdoor activity. You can apply the knowledge and fun to other activities, too. Interacting with my family and watching how we all grow makes me a very proud husband and dad. Now I am going to show this entry to my daughter and see how many words she can spot. Time for us to go scouting… for hidden words that is!

Monday, April 15, 2013

First Impressions: HHA Optimizer DS-5519 Single-Pin Archery Sight

A full review is in the works, but I couldn't wait to share my first impressions of the HHA Optimizer DS-5519 from HHA Sports. Out of the box you could truly see how having more fiber optics really helped the pin glow. The directions were easy to follow and assembly was a snap. Before long I had it mounted to my bow and was ready to shoot. 

Digressing a bit, I am optically challenged. As a bowhunter who must wear glasses I need an archery sight that will work with me and not against me. For the past two years I have been shooting a 7-pin archery sight that quite honestly I like, but half of my sight window was cluttered up with seven sight pins. Not only was my sight window halved, but I also had to remember which pin was needed for each yardage. The reason I mention this is because I had the 7-pin sight on two different bows and one bow is much faster than the other. This resulted in different yardages for the same pin set up on each bow. It was frustrating.

Personally, I felt the need to improve my shooting and tighten up my arrow groups so I began my search for a new sight. Through the course of researching other outdoor gear I met David Diekmann, who just happens to be the sales rep for HHA Sports in California and Nevada. He introduced me to the HHA Sports sights and more specific the Optimizer Sighting Systems. I was intrigued! After my conversation with Dave, I then spent some time chatting with HHA National Sales Manager Chris Hamm. Never pushy, but full of information and know-how, Chris answered all of my questions and gave me some great tips on utilizing the Optimizer Lite Ultra Series DS-5519 sight for Western hunting. I knew the Optimizer was going to be worth a field test. 

The range was packed this past Saturday morning, but I was able to find a target that just happened to be next to a fellow bowhunter. Then the sighting in and adjustments started. It wasn't long before I was dialed in and feeling very confident in my shooting.

I am definitely impressed with how much more sight window I have and how I can focus better on my target using a single-pin. Now I am ready to get back out to the range and do some follow-up shooting with a rested arm and plenty of time to shoot.  I believe this sight is going to be a game changer for me this year.

Friday, April 12, 2013

2012 California Deer Harvest Numbers Are Available!

This is a follow-up to my post about the missing 2012 deer numbers from the 2013 CA Big Game Hunting Digest.

Through a flurry of emails and phone calls, HuntinDave contacted the CA DFW and was sent the updated deer numbers. Right on, Dave! They are supposed to be posted to their website, but seeing as the tags go one sale as of Monday I wanted to share them with you guys right away. That will at least give you the weekend to mull them over. Good luck!

Badlands Adds Newest Pro Staff Member

It's an honor and a privilege to announce that I have been added to the Badlands Pro Staff for 2013! For the past couple years I have been utilizing Badlands packs like the 2200, Hybrid and Sacrifice and putting them through countless trials. Between the pre-season scouting and long hunting seasons my packs have logged many miles in the field and at the archery range. They are reliable, durable and Badlands has the best warranty in the business. How reliable and durable? I used my 2200 for nine straight months hauling bags of sand while training for my Colorado elk hunt. Then I used it to carry my elk up and down the mountains last year and it was on my back on nearly every deer hunt in the Fall 2011 and 2012 seasons.  It has taken a beating in the sun, sand, snow, and rain. It is my go-to pack!

The 2200 on my Colorado elk hunt last year.

After I became hooked on the quality of the packs, I turned a few guys here in the Southland on to Badlands and they also swear by them. Not many days go by when people at the range or during a seminar don't stop to ask what pack I am using and why I like it so much. I am also sporting the Badlands Binocular Chest Pack and love it. Surely, the new Bino-X pack will be great as well! When a company wins seven consecutive gold awards by the readers of Bowhunting World you know they are legit.

The Badlands Hybrid is an exceptional day pack.
Not only will I be able to represent a great company with their older packs like my 2200 and Hybrid, but I will also be sharing about the new lightweight packs hitting the market this year. These lightweight packs will be a hit for SoCal hunters due to the long hikes we endure to get to our favorite hunting spots. I am looking forward to the redesigned 2200 that is a full pound lighter than the previous version. I will also be reviewing some of their apparel aiming the review at the warmer temperatures of Southern California.

Want to check out the Badlands line? Check and see if one of these fine dealers has what you want to see. If they are too far of a drive or you want to meet up at the El Dorado Park archery range in Long Beach, CA just shoot me an email. I'd be happy to share my experiences and let you see why Badlands is my pack of choice.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

2013 California Big Game Hunting Digest - Missing Information

A couple weeks ago the California Department of Fish and Wildlife came out with the 2013 CA Big Game Hunting Digest. I downloaded it immediately and quickly scanning through it. I tweeted about it when I received a Twitter message from HuntinDave @SD_9erzfan asking if I had seen the new deer harvest reports. He mentioned the lack of one particular column. I hadn't looked close enough, so when I did I saw he was right!

This is what we saw when we started looking at the reporting sections. 

Here are the 2011 numbers (note the columns in black)...

It seems odd that the total buck harvest numbers are missing for the latest harvest reports published in the 2013 catalog. Even one of the CA DFW biologists noticed that column was left out. Interesting that one column that could really help the deer hunters for applying for tags was left out. Was it done on purpose or inadvertently? I am not sure, but it sure would help us out. CA DFW do you guys have that data and will you be sharing it?

Anyway, Dave went to his local DFW branch in San Diego and mentioned the error. They said they would contact Sacramento and let them know. Where it goes from their is beyond us, but we both hope it was just an oversight on their part. I would hope they could update that column and publish the digital version once again with all of the data.

Great tweet from HuntinDave to me yesterday:

'They need to produce the numbers one way or another. Especially since they hold everyone hostage with premium deer zones and draws.'

I totally agree with him. I can't say it any better.

I also noticed that two of the primary Either-Sex units are now listed as Premium tags. Yes, the A22 (which was UNRESTRICTED in 2012) and A31 (was a restricted tag in 2012) tags are no longer so easy to get. Nope. Now you have to apply to get it. For those who don't know, we Californians cannot shoot a doe with a rifle or shotgun. You can't kill a doe during the rifle or bow season UNLESS you have an either-sex tag for archery. So now things are a bit more challenging. Don't have points built up? Good luck! How did they come to this action? Well, the tags sold out before (quota filled) before July 1, 2012. It seems like the guys who get to the DFW office or buy their tags online and do it early are being punished. What's up with that? So because we do our homework, buy our tags right when they go on sale because we hunt with archery tackle we get punished? Yeah, I don't see the logic in that. I seriously do not understand how an unrestricted tag in 2012 can jump to a premium tag in one year with no warning. 

Looks like I am going to be putting in for a different zone this year and keep my fingers crossed, find a 4-leaf clover, make a wish on a star and pray. I would love to hear what my fellow California bowhunters think about this new tactic.

Monday, April 8, 2013

What NOT to Neglect in the Off-Season

Last hunting season, I decided I wanted more than just plain water to drink when deer hunting. A few times, I added one of your average ten calorie drink mix pouches to 96 oz. of water. To be honest, the flavors weren't half bad and for the most part I drank them right up as it was blazing hot many days. Then came the day that it was cold, super windy and I put in a grape-flavored drink packet. I hardly drank any of the water and as it was our last day hunting, I went home and put most everything away...except for the 3/4-filled water bladder.

Fast forward two and a half months to when I needed to fill my water bladder for a hunt. I go to my plastic tote and look for an empty water bladder, but there is nothing in there that even resembles a H2O carrying device. I then open my Badlands 2200 and reach down to find there is some weight to the water bladder. 'Ahhhh, crap!' I knew I was in for some trouble. I reached into the bladder pouch and what I felt can only be described as very gross. I knew there was mold in the bladder just by how it felt. Imagine grease between two pieces of plastic sheeting. Yeah, that's how it felt. When I pulled the bladder out, this is what I saw.

This is what neglecting your water bladder will do.

Complete nastiness and I knew I had to do some serious cleaning. It was going to take some chlorine tablets, elbow grease and a few prayers to get this as clean as I needed it to be. After a few grumblings I ventured to the local sporing goods store

Back at home with a full box of cleaning tablets I went to work. Let me tell you, I paid dearly for my mistake as it took me nearly forty-five minutes to get everything cleaned the way I needed it. I had to cut off the tube by the mouthpiece just so I could have an opening to run the small tube-cleaning brush through. Even that took more than ten minutes of hard scrubbing! 

I still had fifteen minutes of scrubbing ahead of me after this pic was taken.

After forty-five minutes and two chlorine tabs I had cleaned it well and I vowed never to use a flavored drink mix in my water bladder again. I also told myself that I would empty out my water badder after each hunt so I would not have to repeat the experience! Plus, it could have been a health issue had I not cleaned it extremely well.

A word to the wise. Take great care of your water system because you always need water in the field. Mold is not something to take lightly either. Please let my mistake be a lesson for us all. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

2013 Archery Swap Meet - Woodley Park Archers (Van Nuys)

The Woodley Park Archers (Van Nuys) are having their 2013 Archery Swap Meet on May 11, 2013. There will be Recurve Bows, Compound Bows, Long Bows, Arrows - basically everything ARCHERY!! Sell your old gear & buy new or good used!!

Confirmed Demonstrations: 

  • KYUDO (Japanese Archery) - Marcus Bossett, 5th Dan Budo Kyudo Kai
  • KOREAN ARCHERY - Kuk Sool Won of North Hollywood
  • WOMAN'S SELF DEFENSE - Impact Personal Safety

Confirmation pending: Flint Knapping, Atlatl Making

Still seeking: Demonstrators for Bow Making, Bow String Making, Fletching and ArrowSmiths.

Woodley Park Archer's Bar-B-Que Free to Members - $5 non-members

Directions can be found here. Enter by Japanese Gardens - turn right...

This is the only swap meet for 2013!! October's meet had approx. 300 participants!!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The SoCal Bowhunter Joins the TightSpot Quivers Pro Staff

As I age (gracefully), I do get a bit wiser and I want to use the best possible gear I can while bowhunting. In my younger years I would use any gear I could could gets my chubby little hands on just to go out hunting. Now I want to go out with the best. Quality gear is what I focus on using these days. That's where TightSpot™ Quivers comes in. I have been using the TightSpot for two years now because it is hands-down the best quiver I have ever used. I have beat mine up, used it on multiple hunts and it seems indestructible.

I remember how enthusiastic the Montana bowhunters were when TightSpot first hit the market and now I am stoked to promote them as best I can here in Southern California.
It please me to announce that TightSpot Quivers has added me to their Pro Staff for 2013. I am honored to be a part of the TightSpot team. Bring on the hunts!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Archery Practice: Training For That First Shot

Picture this. You are running up or down the mountain and come face to face with a bull elk. Your arms are shaking with adrenaline. You can’t catch your breath and you are finding it extremely difficult to steady your pin. Now stop and think. How can you prepare for this situation without being in it 24/7? Actually, there are some good ways to prepare you for these specific situations. These different routines that I am about to share can be done in your backyard as well.

Having an Olympic archery range nearby is a blessing for me because I don’t have wide open spaces to practice. What this does allow me to do is to practice with my friends where we can all participate. It not only makes it fun to ‘compete’ against your hunting buddies, but it also helps you hone your skills as a bowhunter in a tough situation.

The first arrow is always the most important. In most hunting situations you will only get one shot and you need to make it count. So many archers tell me how they get frustrated when they shoot fifty arrows in a session and the last arrow flies off target. If you get to that point stop practicing! If your arm is exhausted or your shots are erratic, take a break. Poor practice will lead to bad form in the field. Instead of focusing on that last shot, focus on #1. Take your time and really focus and picture that arrow hitting dead center of the bullseye. That is your goal!

Stretch out your arms and back lightly before you take that first shot. Loosen up and then fire a half dozen arrows down range. After you pull the arrows and get back to your bow, drop the arrows and get ready to elevate your heart rate! Remember doing wind sprints during practice? That’s exactly what you are going to do. Let’s say you are 40 yards away from the target. Set your bow on the ground with an arrow next to it. Then as fast as you can run toward the target, touch it, and run back to your set-up.

Slow down and safely pick up your bow. Nock an arrow, draw and settle your pin, and let the arrow fly. Try to complete this step in less than five seconds. What does this accomplish? First off, it gets your heart rate up. It also helps you create a shot scenario and shows you what your body will be doing in that shooting situation. It also shows you what you can improve on when confronted with a high adrenaline type of shot situation.

For the next round, run the sprint, but before picking up your bow, slow down and do ten quality push-ups as quickly as you can. This will fatigue those arm muscles a bit, but that’s what you want for this scenario. Repeat the shooting sequence and record your results.


Work on these exercises for only a few times in each practice session. Mix them up from time to time, too. Over time it will make you more confident and allow you more flexibility in your shooting. It allows you to condition yourself (to a point) to ‘buck fever’ and to mentally focus on the target and NOT your shaking hands. It is not meant to be a cure for buck fever, but more so as a training tool to help you mentally and physically prepare for it. If nothing else, it’s a great way to practice!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Product Review: Alps Outdoorz Commander Frame Pack

Packing efficiently for a hunt deep in the backcountry or just off the beaten path takes time and some thought. Not only do you have to consider getting your camp in and out, but what if you are successful in killing an animal? That also must be factored in. It usually means you have to find some way to pack your entire camp out with the animal in a couple loads or you divide it amongst your hunting buddies. If you are hunting solo that decision is made easily - it's all up to you. For the past few months I have been reviewing the Alps Outdoorz Commander Frame Pack. It's light, solid, quiet and quite efficient.

Description from the website:

  •     Frame with Lashing System
  •     Unique Lashing System Secures Meat for Long Hauls
  •     Includes 3 Lashing Straps with Webbing Strap Extenders
  •     Freighter Shelf Supports Heavy Loads
  •     Shooting Stix Holder
  •     Adjustable Shoulder Harness
  •     Padded Waist Belt and Shoulder Straps
  •     Mesh Back Band for Better Ventilation
  •     Clevis Pin Attachment
  •     Flashlight and Knife Pockets
  • Weight: 5 lbs. 2 oz.
  • Torso Range: 17" to 23"
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Waist Belts: Standard Fits Waist 26" to 40" / X-Large Fits 40"+

Initially, my review was going to take place on my Colorado elk hunt, but I left the Commander in camp because we were only going out for a morning hunt. Word to the wise, if you think you will need it - bring it! So I decided to utilize it during the San Gabriel Bighorn Sheep Survey. 

I wasn't sure how well the pack would fit my shoulders with a heavy load, so in order to test the capabilities I piled everything on it. The Commander has a shelf that can be lowered and this is a great feature. I loaded camera gear, a spotting scope, tripods, food, water, etc. You get the picture. When I weighed the pack 3/4 loaded it was 57 lbs. I'll admit, planning to hike over a riverbed full of boulders, running water and thick brush may not have been the most comfortable way to test it out. On the other hand, I think it was one of the best ways because I got to see how it would feel and work in a crazy situation. After I lad it loaded, I was able to tighten the side straps attached to the shelf to tighten the fit. This was a very nice feature.

Once I loaded the Commander with my gear and separate backpack, I ran out of strap for two of the three on the back side. I wasn't sure I could secure everything, but Alps Outdoorz thought of that and included three lash extenders. Let me tell you, these worked very well. I was able to clip them in, cinch everything down and nothing moved.

Once on my shoulders, I was able to adjust the shoulder harness and belt with ease. The pack itself was very comfortable even with the extra weight. I was sure to keep most of the weight on my hips and that freed up my shoulders. There were a few times that my gear shifted on the frame and pulled me one way or another. A few minor adjustments and I was back in business.

The hike in was a true test, but I kept imagining having to pack out an elk in the backcountry. We hiked in nearly a mile and a half. Most of the terrain was rocky, no make that full of boulders. My legs were given quite a workout, but I managed. Some of the areas were tricky and it was good to have more people around to lend a hand when needed.

The pack was run through the gamut. I dropped it on rocks, sat down and dinged it up, and I even dragged it a few time just to make it over some major deadfalls. Some of the fabric tore underneath the shelf, but that was about it! It held up well through the beating.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the straps held everything down in the back. They didn't loosen up and were also easy to adjust if needed. Some pack straps lock down so tight that you tear flesh trying to release them. This was not the case as the Commander straps locked down easily and even with me going through thick brush they stayed locked down. Releasing them was super easy and required a little effort, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Loading the pack back up for the hike out was quick and painless. Everything had a place and I had confidence that my camera gear would stay locked down through the journey. That made the hike even more memorable. Everything stayed in place and while I drifted toward the back of the pack (my legs were super tired), I was able to truly enjoy the remaining quarter mile over semi-even ground. The weight was still manageable and my shoulders and hips did not ache.

The Alps Outdoorz Commander Frame Pack suggested retail is $129.99. When compared to other frame packs, the Commander falls right into the average price range for one of this quality. Well constructed and durable. I would recommend this frame pack to anyone. This pack would have been great to have on the mountain when I was packing out my elk. The next time I am hunting in conditions like that I will have the Commander frame pack on my back.

Originally posted to the Pocket Ranger blog.