Monday, December 29, 2014

Product Review: DORCY Bicycle Head Light and Tail Light

Biking in and around Long Beach, CA is something I love to do. Often, the only time I can get out for a ride is in the late evening or late at night. In order for me to do that, I need to see and be seen. For years I have had front and rear lights on my bicycle. When DORCY, based out of Colombus, OH, reached out and asked me to take a look at some of their bike lights, I was reluctant. I already had lights that I thought worked well. Then I read up on the lights and decided it was worth it for me and for my readers that like to cycle at night to check them out.

Being seen is a priority out here, so I am going to share my thoughts on the DORCY tail light as many of my fears stem from being hit behind. It's rare to get hit from behind, but I fear it most because I can't see it coming. Easy to install, the DORCY red tail light is larger than most of your ordinary rear bicycle lights, but this is no ordinary light. This LED light is bright and any driver who is paying attention should be able to spot you from a long way off. (Just don't count on your fellow man to pay attention and ride smart.) The light takes two AA batteries and has three modes to fit any type of ride. The shell is really solid and feels like it could take a beating (I did not test that feature). Mounting is very easy and, like many bike lights, you can adjust it to be vertical or horizontal.  I opted to have it vertical, but now am rethinking my decision. Either way, I was very impressed at how bright the DORCY light is compared to my other tail light I have been using. The new light is brighter and looks more like a safety light. At $13.99, the tail light is a great investment, plus DORCY offers free shipping. I really like the versatility, brightness, and ease of use of the DORCY tail light.

The DORCY LED Headlight is unique in that DORCY claims it sends out a horizontal, rectangular beam instead of a circular one. I found the light to be closer to a square shape, than the advertised rectangle. (Yes, you can make the light vertical, but why would you do that?) It is nice to use a light that is horizontal and not a circle. This way you won't blind pedestrians or other cyclists as you are riding. At 220 lumens it is one of the brightest lights I have used. There are two modes that allow you see and be seen. The first is a constant beam of light and the second is a flashing beam. I used the steady beam at night and the flashing beam during the day. The lights are very bright, but I think the feature I liked best were the two angled openings on either side of the front of the housing. This allows light to escape and be seen from the side as well. It also shines light directly on and in front of your front tire to allow you to see potholes, branches, etc. while also illuminating what is up ahead. The head light has a competitive price point at $55.00.

There are a few things that I wasn't happy with on the DORCY headlight. It's very heavy, unlike my other headlight. Installation of the mounting system works alright, but I think it could be designed better. I also think that if you were to accidentally drop the light or you were to hit some rough mountain bike trails there is a good chance for damage.

I consider myself a strong guy and I had to pull really hard on the tab to get the mount to lock in place. Even then it didn't feel as secure as I wanted it to. I was able to rotate it on my handlebars with ease. I fear that hitting a few good bumps on a trail will knock it out of place. Fortunately, it is easy to shift back. There was a gap in the mount and in order to lock it in, you have to tighten a screw attached to a secondary piece of rubber. Seems like a lot of work to mount a head light to your handlebars.

Also, in order to remove the light (to keep it from getting stolen), you need to loosen the bolt holding it inside the sleeve to then slide the light out. When you set the light back up, you have to slide the light back in and adjust it to get it horizontal again. My other light has a simple clip that you can press and slide the light out and back in so that it is in the same position every time. I disliked this feature on the DORCY.

All in all, I truly like both lights, even with the recommendations I have. The headlight is a powerful light that could use some improvement, in my humble opinion, but really does offer some benefits that other lights I have used do not. A horizontal beam of light allows you to see on the sidewalks, roadway, and keeps you from blinding other cyclists and pedestrians. The tail light is excellent at keeping you seen from the rear. Please keep in mind, these are my opinions. The big question is do I recommend these for cycling? You wouldn't be reading about them if I didn't. I would recommend these to anyone doing some urban biking and hitting up city bike paths, but I am not so sure about dirt trails or mountain biking. Try them out and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

First Impressions: MINOX BL 10x44 HD Binoculars

Hearing a noise across the school yard, I grabbed my new MINOX BL 10x44 HD binoculars to take a look. I had them focused in no time and was scanning the fence line. I didn't see any animals, but some kid did leave a sweatshirt on a bench. Oh, and it was 12:30 AM. Yes, that is AM. I had a bit of help from the far away street lights, but these binoculars have awesome glass and let a great deal of light in. My first impression was two thumbs up! 

Photos courtesy of my five year old daughter. She rocks.

For over a year, I had been using the MINOX BL 10x44 binoculars. I thought those were awesome! Then MINOX went and improved the line, enhancing the German glass. They added the HD to the name and the glass is truly stunning.

Putting them to use in a hunting situation was going to be the real test, but they felt just like my MINOX BL 10x43s, but with better glass. It's just a bit sharper and the focus dial is very smooth. Using them in low light was great and they work very well with my glasses on. For the past three weeks I have been using them and I am continually surprised at how well they work before sunrise. Sunrise has been roughly 6:52 AM. I have begun to glass at 6:00 AM for the past two weeks and loved it. I am able to see well enough to relax and look for deer and it's been wonderful. Even my hunting partners have had to wait and once the sun comes up, I am the one finding the deer. 

Just last week, my friend Michael and I were glassing a series of ridges to our East in search of mule deer. We had been sitting for just a few minutes and I found three deer foraging on a South facing slope. They were a half mile away and I was trying to help him find them with his binoculars. Without hesitation, I handed him my pair of MINOX and he found them with ease. Sharper, clearer glass will make a difference! Four days later he ordered a pair. The clarity and power speak for themselves.

I look forward to using these each time I hunt and love the way they perform. If you have any questions or tests you'd like to hear about, please let me know.

Monday, December 22, 2014

SKB Cases: A Long-Awaited Visit, Tour, and Announcement

Protecting my gear is a priority for me and should be for you. When I invest money in my archery gear, I want it to be safe from damage when I am traveling or if it is sitting in my garage. For five years I have used the SKB Cases ATA Parallel Limb bow case and I love it. I have checked out their injection molded cases and have been more than impressed. When SKB's Creative Director, Brian Torres, contacted me and asked me to come out for a visit, how could I refuse? If you aren't familiar with SKB and their history, start here, but if you are a hunter and have been around for more than a few minutes, you know SKB Cases are the best in the business.

Having some free time with my daughter on vacation from school, I accepted and we took the drive out. I am very fortunate to only live about twenty minutes away. When Riley and I arrived, we were met by Brian and Vice President of Sports, Steve Kerpan. I give super props to anyone who introduces themselves to my daughter and both gentlemen were awesome. Many thanks to your hospitality and kind words!

Steve took us to the showroom and shared knowledge about the sport cases, music cases, and all new lines. It is incredibly impressive how SKB has grown, even in just the last five years. While I love my archery gear and case, I was really interested in the crossbow travel case. Steve showed me how it worked, how solid it was, and didn't hold back that it is a bit on the bulky side. That being said, if you travel a lot and hunt with a crossbow, this case is THE case for your crossbow gear. I don't travel a lot with mine, but if I start to, this case will be purchased.

I sat down in Steve's office and again, he was super cool with my daughter and made her feel like she was part of our chat and part of the team. When she turns down playing a game or a piece of candy, she's involved. I like that. We talked family, archery, and the future. I did feel bad that I took up so much of Steve's time as SKB was gearing up for multiple trade shows, ATA being one of the big ones! As Steve said his goodbyes and tended to his duties, Brian offered to give us a tour of the facilities.

It turns out, I knew very little about the entire injection mold process that SKB uses to make military-grade products. Not only is the process incredible, but the injection molded cases are Made in the U.S.A. and THAT is a wonderful thing. We were able to see the entire floor, the giant injection machines and molds, and the smiles on everyone's faces as we walked around. Everyone was courteous, said hello, and they were working their tails off! The process of the custom cases was really interesting to witness. Riley had great things to share with her mother about the tour that evening, too.

I am excited to announce that I am partnering with SKB Cases for 2015. I am humbled to have been asked and am proud to continue to show my support of such great products from a wonderful company. Look for reviews and photos (maybe some video) on the iSeries 4217 Double Bow Case and the iSeries camo wraps that they offer. My hunting gear won't be protected by anything else!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Obsession Bows Acquires Strother Archery

Rumors about this merger have been floating around for weeks, but now it's official. I am bummed that I had to find out on Facebook and not from Strother Archery itself, but now I know. Love my Strother bows and wonder if Obsession Bows will keep the staffers or go for new ones. I noticed that Obsession doesn't have a Southern California dealer in place either. Hmmm...

Copied from the Facebook post:

Dennis Lewis, CEO of Obsession Bows, is happy to announce the Strother Archery brand has been purchased and is moving to Jeffersonville, Georgia. The Georgia facility will produce and maintain Strother 2015 and beyond bows while products produced in 2014 and prior will be serviced by the Sandusky Michigan facility. This will provide the best service to all current and future Strother Archery Customers. Moving forward, Strother Archery equipment will be designed by the original company designer, Kevin Strother. Archers can expect nothing but great designs for the future.

Strother Archery: Georgia location for 2015 and forward
118 Magnolia St. N
Jeffersonville, GA 31044

Strother Michigan: (2014 and prior)
245 Campbell Rd. Sandusky, MI 48471

Obsession Bows delayed the release of this information to allow Strother Archery to notify their dealers and staff shooters of this change. Strother Archery will have a mid-year release for 2015 and current dealers may continue their dealer agreements. Web site contact information is being updated and the social media pages will be changing hands soon. Please bear with us as we make the transition.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The SoCal Bowhunter 2014 Christmas Gift Guide

This gift guide was printed in the December 2014 issue of California Sportsman.

Sportsmen and women tend to have specific wants and needs for their passion. Whether it is for hunting or fishing, there are some awesome gift ideas out there. My brain is full of ideas because there are so many cool new toys, gadgets, apparel, and quality merchandise out there for us. This guide is full of interesting gift ideas and many I have field tested myself (some items are too good to leave off). Some of you may want gear, some may want food, and some may want to go on an adventure. Overall, I think you will all be able to find something worth giving to your special man or woman this year.

Image provided by Raptorazor.
RaptorRazor Knife Set – I have been eyeing this set for a few months now and it just made its way to the top of my list. They share some great video footage on their website. It cuts through pig skin like butter and makes the job that much easier. I really want to test this out on a big boar hide this year. There is the original aluminum combo pack ($129.99), and as a big fan of lighter weight gear, I am looking at the injection molded pack ($59.99).

SuperFEET Insoles – Take care of your feet! Blisters, swollen arches and bruised bones are the LAST thing you want to be thinking about because they will totally ruin a hunt. A couple years ago, I didn't have the right insoles and my feet paid the price. I have been using the SuperFeet merinoGrey insoles and my feet are the happiest they have ever been! They retail for $45.99 and let me tell you, I am putting these on my Christmas list every year!

Wildlife Tags – Does your hunter have a mount that needs a little something extra? Wildlife Tags are great for showing off who took the animal, when they took it, and where. Prices for each Wildlife Tag are very reasonable. The 3"x2" retails for $9.99, and both the 4"x3" and custom tag are $14.99. Wildlife Tag donates one dollar ($1) of each tag purchase to Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry in support. What a great way to give back to the community!

Trail Cameras - A hunter can NEVER have too many trail cameras.

Pocket size Digital Camera - Almost everyone these days wants to share a photo of their hunting or fishing adventure. Most people I know do not want to lug around a DSLR and array of lenses. Why not find a great point-and-shoot that you can take with you hunting, fishing, hiking, or just use at home? They are a wide variety out there, so do your research first.

TightSpot Quiver – This quiver will be the last quiver you buy. Solid, adjustable, and the warranty is unbeatable. You can adjust it forward and back to eliminate the need for a stabilizer, too. For $162.95 they are worth the money. I own one for each bow I own, but if you wanted to use one quiver, you could swap them from bow to bow by simply adding a mounting kit to the second bow.

Fly Fishing Gear - Flies, a new reel, leaders, and basically anything a fly fisherman might go through over the course of the year. I am constantly going through leaders and looking for different hatches for different areas. Having a variety of flies at my disposal would be great.

Image provided by Brett Bumgarner.

3-day deep sea fishing trip - Many of the best trips leave out of Southern California and every one I talk to loves going on these. Plus, they come back with some of the tastiest fish I have ever had. With many of the fish like tuna and yellowtail moving north, the fishing reports have been great! This is one of the items on my list this year as I have never been on one and would really like to!

Havalon Piranta Edge Knife - This knife can do it all from field dressing, skinning, caping, and filleting fish. It has a blaze orange handle which I believe is critical for any backcountry hunter. If you have ever set your black-handled knife down on the ground, had to walk to your pack and turn around to try to find it again when it's dark you'll know. It is extremely lightweight so you'll probably never feel the weight in your pack or on your belt. This is a major plus! The $45.00 investment comes with 12 replacement blades and they fit right in the knife case so you won't misplace them.

First-Aid Kit - Now why would I mention this? Because most of my hunting buddies fail to put even a Band-Aid in their packs, let alone a first aid kit. This particular kit has saved me (and my friends) more than once and I pack one on every hunt I go on. On a hunt a couple years ago,, one of my friends sliced his finger nearly to the bone using the Havalon Piranta. Fortunately for him, I carry a first aid kit in every pack. These work great for fishing and family outings, too.

Real Avid Revelation Lighted Knife - Right out of the box, the Real Avid Revelation is sharp and I mean really sharp. It has a 4.0" drop point blade made of 440 stainless steel. The lights on either side of the blade are rad! This is a knife I really could have used on my elk hunt two years ago. I can't tell you how difficult it is to get a headlamp to cooperate when you are trying to gut an animal. The lights are very bright and the ON/OFF switch is right at the back of the handle. The handle is rubberized and easy to grip, which is a benefit in colder weather and with your hand covered in blood. I really like how the design allows you to grip the knife well, but also see down the entire blade as you are cutting. Retailing for $44.99, this is a gift that every hunter will love.

JetBoil Cooking System – Having a warm meal on a cold day will do wonders for you! These have been around for a while and I love mine. It's a simple and easy way to boil water in the backcountry. The JetBoil retails for between $75-100.

Image provided by HHA Sports.

HHA Single-pin Archery Sights - Quality products like this are worth every hard-earned penny. With the recent release of the new Optimizer Lite King Pin, the single-pin world is now looking at the best sight on the market. You can count on quality craftsmanship, solid construction and a well-performing single-pin sight that has certainly increased my confidence on the range. This is one archery product I highly recommend to any bowhunter looking to increase their ability of consistently hitting the center of your target.

MINOX MD 50 Spotting Scope(see first photo) You can expect quality German glass, with an emphasis on quality. I like the MD 50 because of its compact size and ease of use in the field. With a range of 15 - 30x, it works great for hunting in California and out of state. Retailing for $299.99, this is a great addition to any backcountry hunters’ pack.

BOG's Eagle Cap Hiker Boots - I have been hiking with these in moderate to high temperatures in SoCal. I have hiked six miles with 90# on my back with the Eagle Cap Hikers on my feet and my feet felt great! My feet were more comfortable in the BOGS than sneakers (most people call them tennis shoes out here, but I don't play tennis). I have worn them walking on concrete, sand, and rock. I have worn them in 50 degree weather and 100 degree weather and I have to say that my feet felt great. Sure, on the 100 degree days my feet do sweat, but my feet stayed very comfortable, slightly warm (never hot) and while they did sweat, I never had a blister or hot spot. Let me tell you, I have been putting these through some serious tests. They retail for $150.00 with free shipping and returns in the US.

SealSkins Waterproof Socks - The socks are incredible and have an investment value of $45.00/pr. For a pair of socks that will protect your feet in different situations like they do, I will gladly pay that knowing what I know now. I have used these socks for all of 2014 and I love them! SealSkinz offers a two-year warranty on the socks against defects. That's a pretty awesome warranty for a sock, don't you think?

Hi-Country Wild Game Jerky Seasoning – Have a hunter who likes to make their own jerky? These spices are top notch and full of flavor and kick. I liked it so much I am going to give some other Hi-Country Jerky Seasonings a try. At $8.29 a kit you can't go wrong. You don't need to be a psychic to see that there will be plenty of tasty homemade jerky in my future.

Jerky from House of Jerky – Don’t want to make your own, but love jerky? I can tell you firsthand, HOJ offers perfectly dehydrated and flavorful meat. I would recommend their products to anyone, especially outdoors men and women. Why? Beside the fact that it tastes great and is good for you, it packs extremely well and is great snack. The recommended serving size is one ounce. I think that should be changed to "Serving Size: One Bag."

Camp Dog Cajun Seasoning - Papa Scott sells it in different sizes and offers other products on his site. The 8 oz. canister of original Camp Dog Seasoning sells for only $7.50 and that seems like a steal to me. That's the one I buy every year. Like I said, a little goes a long way and this stuff is great. Everyone I know that tries it loves it! Be sure to get some!

KoolerGel - Now why would I put KoolerGel on a list like this? I use it each and every time I go out hunting. I have saved hundreds of dollars from not having to buy extra ice for my hunts. You can buy Kooler Gel directly from Trophy Bag Kooler, LLC, or from one of the retailers listed on the TBK website. For under $10 you get a six pack. Trust me, it's a sound investment.

OnXmaps - To me that is worth not venturing onto private land, getting a ticket or being shot at. Check out their website for more details on the mapping software and how it can work for you. The investment is worth it in my opinion. $99.99 gets you the map on an SD card. $129.99 for the BaseCamp download, but one of the best is the maps for Google Earth. They also release updates regularly to keep your maps current!

Snow Peak Mini Hozuki Lantern - It's compact, bright, and easy to use. My hunting partner used one this year and I was a bit jealous at how well it worked vs. my headlamp. This is something any hunter or angler could utilize, especially if you are camping out. I want one! I had a small metal lantern that costs half the price that I really liked because it works as a flashlight, lantern, and flashing beacon. The only problem is if you drop it, it's done for. This one is durable. I know what I'll be asking Santa for this year.

Gift subscription to California Sportsman - You get some great hunting and fishing information with the magazine and it'll only cost you $29.99 for 12 issues. Share the wealth and send your buddy a gift subscription. They'll be hooked!

Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener - The Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener is not like any sharpener I have used before. First off it gives you a 20° sharpening guide (in yellow) and a 25° honing guide (in black) to make certain you have the correct angle for your blade. It has a leather strop on one side and the ceramic rod feature is an added bonus. Not only can you use it to get a knife edge back, but it has a fishhook sharpener built in. The broadhead wrench is nice to have built in because then you know exactly where it is at all times. It retails for around $35.00.

Image provided by Pat's Backcountry Beverages.
Pat's Backcountry Beverages Carbonator Bottle Starter Kit - This is one of the coolest products I have purchased and it is certainly one of the most unique. There are different ways to combine the different products available for purchase. Brew your own soda or beer in the backcountry or on a fishing trip. I think that overall, the system is offered at a very reasonable price at $49.99. Just imagine how incredible it would be to hike into the backcountry and use cold spring water to make your own beer!

LENSER H7.2 LED Headlamp - The light uses the patented Advanced Focus System can be adjusted from a wide beam to a tight, focused beam of light. At 250 lumens it is very bright! There is a power adjustment lever on the back of the head strap that is designed to adjust the strength of the beam of light. They retail for around $70.

Believe me when I say I know how difficult it can be for someone to have to buy a gift for a hunter or fisherman. I am one of those difficult hunters to buy for! I usually feel I have everything I need for hunting and I really can't think of anything I want to have someone else buy me. Being picky when it comes to my gear is a fault, but a good one. I know many of you face the same dilemma and hopefully this list will help you make some great decisions this year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

This Little Piggy...Ended Up in the Freezer

My phone buzzed from across the room indicating I had a text message. 'Want to go hunting Friday?' Chris must have been reading my mind. The week prior it had been really windy and now, the temps were high, but dropping in the evenings. 'YES!' was my immediate reply. Weather and wind was checked and the plan was set on where to go.

On the way in to our set-up, Chris and I chatted about coyotes. We both had seen a few in the past and wanted to thin the pack out. Over the past month, Chris noticed something very interesting with the relationship between song dog and feral swine. The pigs would stay put during the warm part of the day, but once the temperature dropped they were active. The main thing he noticed was when the coyotes began howling in the afternoon, pig began moving. If we actively hunting the yotes in this area, would it affect the pig hunting? We didn't know, but we opted not to hunt coyotes this day.

Up in our stands, Chris and I scanned the area, listened intently, and laughed at how many birds were around. There were so many cool looking birds. Small, large, and colorful! I caught movement 300 yards out and when I checked it out through my binoculars I was surprised to see a dozen or so doves feeding. I laughed and watched as they moved around in the shade of the shrubbery.

At 4:10 PM, the coyotes began their evening chorus. It was intense and pretty cool to hear. There were two, possibly three, distinct packs howling back and forth. We knew we needed to be ready for the pigs to start moving.

Back in NY, squirrels would drive us nuts jumping around in the leaves making us believe a deer was walking toward us. Out here it's birds. They drive you crazy. I kept hearing movement behind my stand and looking down I saw a large brown bird going through the leaves and looking for seeds. I turned around and the noise grew louder. I again looked down and there was the same darn bird making quite a racket. I looked at Chris and his eyes were lit up. He pointed behind the stand and said, 'That's a pig'. I told him it was that bird. 'No way that's a bird.' Then the bird hopped, making a loud rustling sound. We had a hilarious 'disagreement' about the bird vs. pig and how I had been staring at this bird forever. I hoped I was wrong. As the noise turned to crashing, I knew I was wrong. Through the brush, two black legs appeared and a pig entered the zone. Game time!!

We had sprayed down every hour with Dead Down Wind scent elimination spray. It's been one that worked for Chris and I in the past. Today would be the ultimate test. The boar came in and every twenty feet or so, stopped, lifted his head to sniff the air, and waited a few seconds before moving on. He made his way 25 yards behind our stands, right in between them and stopped. I estimated him to be around 180 lbs from where I was at. As he lifted his head, I could see his snout wriggling around. Our wind was blowing right to where he was standing. I thought for sure we would get busted, but I was wring again! He was satisfied and slowly kept walking around to Chris's side. At 10-15 yards from his stand, the pig stopped. I had no shot, but Chris had one. He had enough time to turn back to me, ask me if he should shoot. 'Take the shot dude!'

The lighted nock looked like a vapor trail as it disappeared through the thick hide. The boar bolted to some thick brush and began wheeling around. We couldn't see him, but we could see the saplings and leaves doing a dance. He squealed loudly and then let out a death moan. Yes, I said a death moan. Even Chris had never heard one do that before! The pig squealed a long, 6-8 second, high pitched squeal that tapered off to silence. In a couple years of hunting, it was the first pig I had even seen Chris shoot. It was exciting for both of us!!

We gave it until last light and began tracking it. We had to Army crawl through the pig tunnel to find the dead pig. Let me tell you, that gets your adrenaline up. We had our lights on and knives ready, but were sure this pig was expired. Sure enough, about 50 yards from the treestand, there he lay. Congratulations were given and we began the arduous process of getting him back out into an area where the gutting could take place. It wasn't easy, but we did it. I loaded my stand, pack, Chris's pack, and both of our bows while Chris loaded out the boar on his back. It was a much longer, tougher hike for Chris I am sure. The hunt was exciting and quite the adventure. Now I have to get back out there and put a pig down myself. I eagerly await that opportunity!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Experience Brings Excitement in Deer Country

The crunching sand beneath our feet was soothing as we hiked in. We had two hours until sunrise and had 2 miles to cover. Our plan was simple, pair up and cover two main valleys that ended in one big bowl. Michael and I would head in first, covering the far ridge in hopes of cutting off anything that crossed the corridor. Brett and Dan would stay back and cover the ridge and hillside where we have seen deer on multiple occasions. Hunting plans are always great, but seldom do they work well when the wind doesn't want to cooperate.

Once situated, we waiting for first light and began to glass. The below 40 temps were a bit chilly with the breeze, but I was thankful for it. We were hunting deer on public land in November and we had no competition. That was until an hour after sunrise. We heard gunshots. I messaged Brett only to find out he had a bird hunter below him in the valley he was glassing. We knew that area was worthless to hunt now and anything in there was going to blow out of there. It was time for Plan B. I explained to Michael that I thought the bucks would be in the valley behind our location. It was my plan all week to glass this spot later in the morning, but I had a feeling. Gut feelings can sometimes pay off.

As we crept closer to the edge, I calmly motioned to Michael to drop down low. Then I saw motion on the ridge and hastily said, 'Get Down!' We hit our knees behind the brush. I got on my belly and pulled the MINOX binoculars out. On the ridge was a doe and a spike. This is where experience really paid off. I ignored those two deer. Sure, the doe was legal, the spike was not (thanks California). No, I was not interested in them. Instinct and experience told me to look BELOW the ridge, in the brush, for the buck who would be hiding. Sure enough, there he was.

From bush to bush, the wide forkie walked in the opposite direction as his group. He glanced in our direction each time he stopped. Had he spotted us? No.  We hadn't moved and the wind was perfect. In fact, he was walking right toward us. The excitement was almost unbearable as I explained to Michael we would wait to see if he walked right to us. The buck stopped, then began climbing the ridge and crossed a saddle. Nooo!! As he stopped, I experienced one of the most incredible sights ever. His wide antlers shone like shiny pieces of polished aluminum. I am talking serious reflection! It was crazy. Ten seconds later, he disappeared below the far ridge.

Found this on a ridge. Some hunter hasn't been following the 'lead free zone' rules during rifle season.

I explained my plan to Michael. I would drop below eye-level on our ridge and cut him off as he crossed. I hastily made my way across and no sooner had I set up, the wind changed. My legs were wobbly and now my hear sank. I needed to come up with a new plan and fast. I anticipated the bucks position, checked the wind and figured I had about a two-minute window to get high and look into the draw. Again, experience taught me well. As I hit the ridge line, I dropped and crawled to the only yucca plant in sight. I peeked around it and immediately saw movement. There he was, on a deer trail, 150 yards away without a care in the world. He hadn't seen me, hadn't spooked, but was focused on staying on that trail...that lead away from me. He was never going to cross into a shooting lane. As he made his was around the point, I saw the doe right behind him. Huh? Aren't the bucks supposed to be chasing the does? This doe was hopping around like a kid hopped up on sugar. She bounded behind him and they both disappeared over the ridge. The wind was blowing right at them, but I wasn't sure if they winded me or if the thermals were rising just enough. Either way, I backed away to allow them to bed down.

After hiking back to my partner, calling Brett, and having him meet us, we planned to hike beyond the ridge and glass for the buck. We had never gone this way before, but we always knew the deer liked to hide in here for some reason. We quickly found out why. As we crossed the ridge, we found a plethora of valleys and draws that made it impossible to see into the bottoms. This buck was smart! He also vanished. We glassed for a couple hours and saw nothing. The wind proceeded to blow right into those draws, so we got out of there. 

For the remainder of the day, we glassed the basins, valleys and ridges and saw nothing. Water levels running low, we packed up at last light and hiked out. It had been an exciting morning and now we had a buck to go after. We would be back to our spot in the hopes of getting closer to the buck I call 'Wide Load', as he is by far the widest buck I have laid eyes on while hunting public land in California.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Crossbow Animosity - What Gives?

As a hunter, I use many tools to get the job done. For years I have used firearms and archery equipment. Now that I am also including a crossbow in my arsenal, I find there is a great deal of animosity toward crossbow hunters. Do you feel crossbows are a legitimate weapon for hunting? Do you think they should be allowed? Do you think they should be scrapped? I would really like to hear from you guys.

Please comment below and let me know what your thoughts are. I have my own story I will share, but I really want to hear from both sides on this.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Product Review: Koomus BikeGo 2 Smartphone Bike Mount

Ever since I was able to get the training wheels off my bicycle, I have loved to ride! Whether it be road cycling or hitting some dirt trails, riding on two wheels is great fun for me. It's also great exercise. I use iPhone apps to track my progress and distance traveled, but always had to keep my phone in my backpack or in my bike-mounted pouch. That's good if you don't want to see or hear your phone. I like staying connected and when someone calls I want to know. A product I have been testing out for the past couple weeks is the Koomus BikeGo 2 Smartphone Bike Mount. It's a very easy to use, inexpensive way to have your phone available to you at all times.

The mounting directions for the BikeGo 2 are on the side of the package. They are simple to follow, but a couple steps are missing from the package that I feel should be included. You can find the steps listed on the website, but I think they should be on the packaging itself. The unit itself is very lightweight and secures tightly to the handlebars.

The Koomus BikeGo 2 mount will fit an iPhone by itself, or one with a slim, protective case. I don't know if an OtterBox case would work, but my phone, with FUSE case, fit very well. 

To secure the phone, you insert the plastic peg into the headphone jack. I didn't care for this for a couple reasons. The first is that when I used the peg to secure it the first time, it worked great, but when I went to pull it back out, the peg snapped. Fortunately, there was enough of the peg sticking out for me to remove it. The second reason I am not a huge fan of the peg is that it limits you from using your headphones. I don't use them all the time, but having the headphones in for listening to music or answering a call is great. The folks at Koomus were great about getting me another to review, complete with a new peg.

I did see there are four hooks underneath the phone mount. I am not completely sure what these are for, but my guess is that you can use two rubber bands to go over the top of the phone in a pinch to keep it secure. That's just an educated guess.

The testing was fun and a bit scary. I was afraid my phone would go flying, but I like torture tests, so I went with it. I mounted the BikeGo 2, attached my phone vertically (instead of horizontally), and I left out the peg on purpose. I mounted my phone vertically because the app I use for tracking is a vertical viewing app. Also, when someone calls, I like to read their name without having to cock my head.

The first time I rode was during the daytime. I loaded my phone vertically and inserted the plastic peg. (This is the time it broke.) I rode eight miles over rough roads, short hills, and bumps. The phone stayed put, but over some of the bumps, the entire top piece shifted due to weight on the ball head. I thought I had the phone weight distributed evenly, but I see why it shifted. I must have had my phone a bit off center, leaving the weight distribution off. Nothing to do with the BikeGo 2, but you will need to pay attention to that.

The second time I tested it was at night. I mounted everything the same, this time inserting the peg, shifted the ball head so the phone was more level to the ground (still vertical) and went for an eight mile ride. The phone stayed put and the mount worked well. Hesitant to remove the peg, I took my time, but did not feel comfortable at all removing in. There isn't much room for error.

The third test was where I needed to test the sturdiness of the mount. I mounted my phone vertically, left the peg out, and rode for 20 miles. I hit the brakes hard a few times, did some fast downhill and uphill, and the phone stayed put. For this trip, I attached my power cord to the phone and a charger. I wanted to see if the pull of the cord would make any difference. Turns out, it worked great and I was able to keep my phone at a full charge as I rode.

Overall, this is a great buy if you want to have your phone available to you while you ride. While I think there should be some improvements made, it is still an excellent accessory for your bicycle. They retail for $29.99 on the Koomus website, but they are offering them for $19.99 right now. 

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I received the Koomus BikeGo 2 Smartphone Bike Mount from Koomus as coordinated by Deep Creek PR an Outdoor Industry Public Relations Company in consideration for review publication. All opinions are strictly my own.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Product Review: PowerFlare® PF-200 Safety Light

Safety is always a priority with me. Whether it be when hunting the backcountry, around my home, or in dealing with my car, I want to be safe. Before I left for Colorado, I thought about the likelihood of shooting an elk and marking an area, beside using my GPS, to find it again. That's when I found the PowerFlare and gave them a call. One product in particular caught my eye - The PowerFlare® PF-200 Safety Light.

The PowerFlare® PF-200 Safety Light is made right here in the U.S.A. It is lightweight, has a 10 year shelf-life and won't leak in extreme hot or cold temperatures. It offers ten (10) flash patterns to choose from just by clicking a button to cycle through them. The best parts are that they are virtually indestructible and waterproof (up to 300'). Pretty sweet, right? It gets better! Each one has a feature built in that includes the  Coast Guard "SOS" Morse code for rescue. Plus, these can be spotted by helicopter from ten miles away. They come in a variety of colors, and because I hunt where there are yellows, oranges, and greens...I chose a pink one so I wouldn't lose it.

The PowerFlare® Safety Light was invented by an officer from a municipal police department in Silicon Valley with the objective of eliminating the danger, pollution, difficulty of use, and needless cost of old-fashioned road flares. 

Per the usual, I was skeptical when it came to some of the claims. When I spoke with Adam at PowerFlare, he shared that he ran his over with his car and it remained intact. Right. It turns out, he was telling the truth! I tried it, too and the light stayed lit, intact, and surprised me. So I dropped in on concrete. A few times in fact. Then I literally jumped on it, attached it to my pack and allowed my heavy pack to fall six feet with it attached. Still worked and had hardly a scratch on it. That was due to the outer protective cover (the colored part) that can withstand a beating.

The lighted portion of the field-test was fun. I played with all of the settings and they worked flawlessly. I didn't go up in a helicopter, but I did go a half mile away, by car, and the PowerFlare is VERY easy to spot. I am sure this will an excellent alternative to a flare and will last much longer. In an emergency situation, these work much better than flares. Simply put, flares burn. They can burn you, they give off smoke, and leave debris on roadways. The PowerFlare does none of that. Additionally, you can have your kids turn the PowerFlare on and off, whereas you wouldn't want them touching a flare.

The transportable pouch (shown above) holds two (2) PowerFlare units and extra batteries. The pouch is a little on the big side for one unit. It seems to have extra space inside that you don't really need for just one unit. A caribiner attaches the PowerFlare to a backpack, length of rope, or can hang from a branch. The case does come complete with belt loop attachments, too. You can attach the case in a few different ways. It's all up to you.

When I went hunting in Colorado, I thought it was a great idea to pack one in at the time, but I am not sure I'll bring one on my next trip. It was extra gear that I really didn't need and it took up valuable space. It all depends on where I am planning to go. My problem was that I packed the case and everything. When I hunt or hike on my own, I'll probably keep one in my pack (without the case and extra batteries) for my hunts.

Prices range anywhere from $54-68 each, depending on the style/ light color you choose. Keeping one or two in your vehicle is a great idea. I'll be getting another to keep in my wife's truck and this one will stay in my car. Knowing these are a great alternative to flares and can be used over and over is excellent and peace of mind. Used in an emergency situation, these can help warn motorists of your location or in the backcountry mark where you are at for rescuers to find you in the dark. Either way, I recommend these and would rather have them and not need them, than be stuck without them.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

SoCal Bowhunter Arrows His First Public Land Wild Pig!

My quest for a feral pig began four years ago on private land with a friend. I have been close to them, drawn on them, but have never had the opportunity for a clear, ethical shot...until November 1, 2014. That was the day my quest to put some wild pork in my freezer came to fruition!

Hunting pigs is incredibly fun, but is quite a challenge. Especially when you stink! I have sat numerous times in the past two years alone when I knew if pigs were around, they would smell me. Whether the wind was wrong or I was just plain sweaty, I wasn't going to get within range. Just a week ago, my friend Chris and I sat along a travel route that we were sure the pigs would cross through. As we sat, I began to smell the trees, earth, and then the odor coming from me. While faint, I knew a pig would smell it easily. I had taken the time to wash my clothes in scent-free soap, air dry, spray down, and still got sweaty enough on our hike in that I stunk. We didn't see a single pig that afternoon.

Chris knows pigs. In fact, he has made it his mission to help me learn pig behavior and set trail cams to find them. He had been disappointed that he hadn't been able to help find a pig to shoot. This week would change that as both of us went about our routines and then we saw it on TV - RAIN! There was significant rain being forecast for Friday evening into Saturday. Immediately we began to create a game plan. If I could make the drive up to meet him, we could be hunting pigs by Saturday afternoon. If I could make the drive on Friday night it would be even better, but it was Halloween and raining. Not ideal to be on the roads, so I passed.

When Saturday came, I was loaded up and hitting the road as early as I could. Chris and I both knew the pigs would be on the move. It was much cooler, the ground was wet, and the pigs would be foraging all day. That was our hope at least. It was just a matter of choosing the right spot to ambush them. We discussed ideas and paid close attention to the wind. We wanted our scent to be blowing in the right direction and not be swirling to give us up. The wind was perfect for only one location and we knew where we had to go. We began our long hike to a natural blind near a pig travel route.

I knew I wanted a pig really bad, so I was strict on my scent control. In fact, it's not really control because we are always going to stink. It's more like scent cover-up. My clothes had been in an ozone tote four an hour prior to me leaving. Then I sprayed everything down at the vehicle and brought extra spray in with me. Once we hit our ambush point we both sprayed everything down again. We probably overdid it, but we didn't care. I'd rather go over the top and increase my chances. It was now 2:00 PM. we sat down and waited.

Through the binoculars, we could see two sets of fresh tracks through the clearing. We made an educated guess that they were pig tracks. We hoped the rest of the group would come the same way. The wind was perfect and we continually sprayed down. It turned out we wouldn't have to wait very long.

I looked down at my watch. 3:06 PM. As I looked up, two black shapes silently appeared in the clearing. Both of us saw them at the same time and Chris said, 'You're on!' My body felt different than on other hunts. The adrenaline was controlled and I was focused! One pig stopped broadside at 12 yards. I ever so slowly raised up my crossbow and settled in on the pigs vitals. As the pig dug up the ground, I took the shot. It was less thirty seconds from when the pigs came in and I took the shot. The Scorpyd crossbow sent the bolt so fast that we didn't even see where it went. We heard the pig hit some saplings and then silence. Surprisingly, I was super calm and focused. I turned to Chris and smiled from ear to ear. We had done it! 

If I had waited a few more seconds, the other pig may have turned for Chris to get a shot, but after hunting wild hogs for so long I was not about to give up the opportunity. We talked about the shot and knew it was a kill shot. I pulled up the binoculars to look through the brush and could see blood on saplings and undergrowth. It was going to be a fun tracking job.

We opted to wait an hour to see if any other pigs trotted through the area. It was a shot in the dark as they probably busted out of there when I shot my pig. As predicted, nothing happened, so we set off to trail my pig. The blood trail was easy to follow as the broadhead had cut through both lungs and left a wide spray of blood. My crossbow bolt was ten yards behind where I shot her. Even with the excellent shot, the pig ran nearly 100 yards! Those animals are tough! We found her in a small clearing and estimated her to be around 80 lbs. A perfect eating pig and no matter what, a perfect public land pig for my first ever. 

I want to say thank you to Chris for sharing his knowledge and his hunting spots with me. He has been hunting pigs for a long time and could have easily said no when I asked him for advice. He and I have hunted numerous times together over the past two years and our patience paid off.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Announcing the New HHA Sports King Pin Sight!

October 31, 2014 will be the day when we remember that HHA Sports released the details on the innovative new King Pin archery sight. Yes sir, this bad boy is a keeper! I'll post the details, but if you want to hear HHA Sports National Sales Manager, Chris Hamm share the details, listen to this Optimizer Podcast.


For an unprecedented 11th straight year, HHA Sports struck gold with their Optimizer by retaining the prestigious Bowhunting World Reader’s Choice Award in the single pin category.   What more could they possibly do to enhance this already iconic brand?  The answer is simple: THE OPTIMIZER LITE KING PIN (MSRP $349).  20 years in the making, the King Pin marks the 3rd generation of archery’s #1 selling single pin and is loaded with features no other bow sight can offer.

The most notable difference is its wheel-forward design, making it compatible with virtually any quiver and extending it further in front of the riser than the Optimizer Lite and Lite Ultra.  With 2.1” of vertical travel and touting the industry’s most accurate yardage tape system, the King Pin’s silky smooth all-brass rack and pinion can be dialed from 20 to 100 yards in 1 yard increments.  Interchangeable yardage wheels can be swapped out in seconds for shooters that change their set-ups frequently, eliminating the need to retape the sight each time.  Enhanced with a crystal clear magnifier hovering over the yardage scale, adjustments to a fraction of a yard are now a reality.  A “Blind 20” feature allows the shooter to return the sight to their 20 yard mark while keeping an eye on the target and illuminated sight tapes, courtesy of an add-on Blue Burst light, are sure to be a hit with the ground blind crowd.

With the choice of a 1 5/8” or 2” sight aperture and available in .010 of .019 fiber diameters, the King Pin boasts an exclusive mechanical rheostat that infinitely dims and brightens the pin intensity.  Optional magnification lenses (manufactured by Feather Visions) are available in 2x, 4x and 6x and ideal for competition or hunters with aging eyes.  Fully integrated 2nd and 3rd axis adjustment top it all off to make the King Pin the most accurate and versatile Optimizer ever!

Designed for the target shooter or bowhunter desiring an extended sight bar, the Optimizer Lite King Pin Tournament Edition (MSRP $379) marks HHA’s first ever journey into the target and 3D world.  With all the features of its hunting counterpart, as well as sun shades and sight covers, the King Pin TE offers 4” to 8” of dovetail adjustment and is sure to be making an appearance at the top of the podium soon.

Like its predecessors, the King Pin is made in the USA and carries a 100% Lifetime Warranty.  To read more about the Optimizer Lite King Pin and other HHA products, visit  In the field or on the range, grab an Optimizer Lite King Pin today and Be The King…


Here is what I love about this sight:

The yardage wheel out front to allow for better weight distribution. This will also allow easier quiver mounting. I love that feature as I have always needed a separate mounting bracket.

There are 100 yard sight tapes instead of 80 yards.

It has interchangeable wheels for multiple bow use. This means you can have one sight for many different bows! All you have to do is swap out the sight wheel. This is very cool!

Everyone has been asking for this, and now it's there - 2nd and 3rd axis adjustment has been added.

The King Pin has a stop on the 20 yard mark to be able to move it to 20 without looking. YES!

Go check it out!!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Colorado Elk Hunt Days 5 & 6: Unfulfilled Success

A loud 'THUD' and the sound of something zipping across tent material woke me up at 2:00 AM. Was Brett OK? I thought he may have been having a nightmare and sat up too quickly. As I listened intently, I hear Brett call out to me.

'Al? Something just it me in the head!!!'

I started yelling, 'GO AWAY BEAR! GET AWAY!' I grabbed my bear spray, got my headlamp on, and escaped the confines of my tent. Brett was already outside of his tent, armed with his sidearm and ready for battle. We searched left, right, up, down, and could not see any eyes. There was no sound. There were no tracks. The only thing left behind was a dusty outline of a head imprint on the side of Brett's tent. It was too faded to really figure it out. Our adrenaline was pumping, our hearts racing, and there was no way we were going to fall asleep. We again searched the premises and were baffled. 

'What the *#&$#% was that?' I asked Brett. He had no idea and both of us were visibly shaken. Needless to say, we were also a bit cold from jumping into the cool night air in our skivvy's. We deemed the area clear and went back to our tents. It only took a half hour and Brett is sawing logs as I stared at the seams in the upper part of my tent. My mind was racing from being on high alert. I listened for a while longer and finally drifted off to sleep.

After we ate a small bit of breakfast at 7:00 AM, we packed up camp and proceeded to head back down the mountain. We opted to camp at a lower level in hopes of getting closer to the elk in the canyons. We were also sick of the heat, not hearing anything, and needed a change. As we descended, we enjoyed the view, but also commented on how nice it was to be going down the trail instead of up it. 

We found a great spot to set up camp, at the edge of a fast moving river. Pine trees, cold water, and a change of scenery. It was exactly what we needed. In twenty minutes we had camp set up. The setting was perfect. The aroma of pine needles and dirt. Shade. Ahhh, the shade was delightful! The sound of rushing water over rocks made us crave a cool drink. We pumped out 3.5 gallons of water and then the Pat's Backcountry Beverages kit made an appearance. There is nothing like filtering your own water on a hot day, making your own beer, and sitting next to a river in the backcountry. Then there is dunking your head in the water to cool off. It was invigorating!!

Over our tasty beverage, we contemplate the next two days of hunting. It is decided that we will hunt above the beaver ponds this evening and tomorrow morning above camp. If we don't see or hear anything, we will call it a hunt and pack up after the morning outing. It's just too hot and we are looking forward to being back a day early. Maybe our luck will change, but at this point we both have our doubts. Even I know that the likelihood of even hearing an elk is slim-to-none.

The evening hunt story doesn't change much. The heat drove the elk deeper into the canyons and they weren't talking at all. The most that happened was watching the trout surface in the pond as the beaver was busy foraging underwater. A half hour before sunset we called it a night. Hiking back to camp brought out the worst in us. The hills were uneven and hard to hike on. The irritation of working so hard to hear not a peep from anything was hard to swallow. We stayed silent almost all the way back to camp. I tried keeping up with Brett, but he hiked on ahead. I decided just to take it easy and hike at my normal pace. No need to rush back. It was already hot and I just wanted to try to enjoy the hike out as best I could. 

Dinner and a beer next to the river was a great way to end the night. After 5 days in the wilderness I could not wait to take a shower. My clothing was starting to have second thoughts about the morning hunt, but I persuaded them to stick around. Well, not literally, but it was cutting it close.

After our bellies were filled, we set off to the meadow behind camp. We looked up at the starry sky and stood in silence for a few minutes. I have seen the stars in the wilderness before, but this night just seemed better than all combined. The Milky Way was apparent and there were shooting stars all over. Brett spotted some eyes about 150 yards away and moving closer. Remembering the night before, we anticipated the worst. To our surprise, it was a mule deer buck feeding his way toward camp. We had finally seen an animal! We watched him on and off for twenty minutes as we checked out the stars. He fed behind camp to about 80 yards. We decided we may as well nod off and try to get some shuteye.

The next morning we saw and heard no elk. Camp was packed and we headed back to the truck, which just happened to be only a quarter mile away. Yes, we planned the morning well. On our way out, we ran into a father and son on horseback. The boy had his bow and you could just feel the excitement he was experiencing. We chatted with them, told them of our trip and how many people were in there. They were going to take a different route and try to fill their tags. Not only were they super friendly, but it was great to talk with the locals. Honest to goodness people with a willingness to talk hunting. 

As we dropped our packs, we let out a sigh of relief. We stowed our gear and dropped the tailgate. The only thing getting punched on this trip were cigars. While we hadn't filled our tags, we had hunted hard, covered more than 20 miles in five days, and we needed to celebrate that. It was a success in the fact that we had made the trip to Colorado and hunted elk on our own. We tried our best and that is all you can ask for. Hunting with friends makes the trip more memorable and this trip was every bit of that.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Colorado Elk Hunt Day 4: Movement in the Water

Napping. That's what I would call it. It sure wasn't sleep. I was thankful for a place to lay my head, but was not well rested. All part of the elk hunting experience sometimes. On our way up the mountain, we kept noticing these grasshoppers bounding all over. Even in the cold! It was crazy and we joked about some nuclear spill nearby and it had possibly affected these little jumping machines. 

We hiked past the outfitters camp and immediately the howls of coyotes erupted in front of us. We hiked and hiked up to nearly 11,000 feet. The scenery was again beautiful, but desolate. No animals were moving and coyotes were the only thing we heard all morning.

Back in camp, my water filter stopped working. I was thankful that Brett and I had thought ahead and each brought one. Mine was an attachment to your water bladder and after two uses completely plugged up. The problem was that there is no way of taking it apart and cleaning it.

Disappointed we hadn't seen anything and frustrated with the heat again, we hiked to a northeast section of timber behind camp. It was a pretty sweet looking set up. As we sat and glassed, Brett found a hidden pond about 500 yards from our location. We sat and glassed the meadow, the valley, and the pond for a long time. Again, there was nothing happening.

In the midst of the boredom I noticed ripples at the edge of the pond. We raised our binoculars and waited. For what seemed like five minutes, and in actuality was like thirty seconds, we watched and hoped an elk would materialize. Unfortunately, two foraging ducks appeared and dashed our hopes. It was the most excitement we had encountered in days. 

The 75 degree temperature drove us back to camp early. Cursing and commiserating about our experience to date, we made dinner and discussed our plan of attack. We decided that in the morning we would break camp, head down to the beaver pond area, and set up to hunt the remaining two days. It all sounded great and we turned in with anticipation of a great day ahead of us. 

At 8:25 PM we heard our first bugle of he trip and it came from deep within the canyon we would be hunting near. I was very happy to finally hear a bugle! It turns out that what happened overnight would overshadow any excitement we had and frighten us both more than ever.