Monday, March 31, 2014

What Bow Will I Be Shooting This Year?

This year I decided I needed a change in my archery set up. I felt something was missing and I couldn't put my finger on it. It wasn't just the bow, my rest, or my arrows. It was a combination of the three. I began shooting different bows, taking notes, and going back and shooting them again. I kept coming back to the Strother Archery line of bows and I have made my decision.

Image © Strother Archery

After shooting the Strother line over the past six months, I have decided on the Strother Wrath SHO as my go to bow for 2014. It shoots super sweet, super smooth, and there is absolutely no hand vibration after the shot. I have added no vibration reduction on this bow. No Limbsavers, no Sims stabilizer, nothing and it feels great! It has such a clean feel to it. 

Some of you will check it out and ask, why are you shooting a 2013 bow? The reason is that I shot many of the other Strother bows, even the new VITAL, but the SHO felt just right to me. It felt like it was made for me and I am shooting it with confidence.

I will elaborate a little on my complete set up in the coming weeks, but I can tell you this... animals had better watch out this year because I feel more confident with this archery arrangement than I ever have before!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

California 2014 Big Game Hunting Digest now available online

Many have been asking and waiting patiently and now it's available. The California 2014 Big Game Hunting Digest is now available online and soon it will be printed.

License fees are listed on page 8.

Specific Deer Tag info is listed on page 16.

Start reviewing the tags, fees, maps, and where you want to hunt this year. Competition will be fierce and land hard to come by. Start scouting, knocking on doors, and making new friends. Good luck this year! Happy Hunting!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Frustration at the Range

With some help from the time change, last Friday was the first time Brett and I were able to hit the El Dorado archery range after work. My excitement had been building all week and I couldn't stop talking about it. That was until I shot my first arrow. Then the second. Then the third. We started off at forty yards and every one of my arrows hit 8" low. That screwed with my confidence like you can't believe. Why? I've been shooting the same set up for nearly a year and I have been spot on. Brett and I usually make friendly bets on who is going to get closer to the X. 

I'll be honest, I complain about my shooting when it's bad and I'll bet Brett was sick of hearing me yammer on and on. I was frustrated and I usually talk about it instead of keeping it in. For an hour I checked and rechecked my bow and had to actually roll my HHA sight to 8 yards extra just to hit close to the X. For 30 yards I was shooting 38 yards on the sight. I thought my sight tape moved, so I checked it. Nope, still anchored tight. The sight hadn't changed and it hadn't been mishandled. What was wrong?

I went home very upset and ticked off. I was mad and told my wife I enjoyed getting out to shoot, but not how my setup was performing. Off to the garage I went to look at my bow carefully. After only five minutes I had the answer. Besides Brett, any of you archers have a guess as to what it was? Be specific and state exactly what it might be and what was wrong. You can guess ONE problem, so think carefully before commenting!

Any archers who submit an answer, I'll put together a little sticker/gear package as a thank you. Tell me what bow you shoot, too. I'll give you 48 hours to respond to this post.

Answer: Some of you were very close. The issue was due to the serving attaching the drop away rest cord to my cable. It had slipped up the cable as it was not tied in properly at the pro shop, thus not allowing the rest to come to it's full potential. As it sat lower on the riser, my arrows dropped.
I entered all three people who commented (Nate, Jerud, and Bill) into the RNG and Bill Howard, you are the winner. Shoot me an email with your shipping address and I'll get your prize out to you. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Product Review: Armytek Predator Pro v2.5 XP-G2 Flashlight

Imagine having the ability to use a flashlight that has programmable functions for lighting in different hunting scenarios. With a simple twist of the handle you can have a bright light and with another twist it is practically a lightsaber. That's what you get with the Armytek Predator Pro v2.5 XP-G2 tactical flashlight. It comes from Armytek Optoelectronics Inc., which is based out of Ontario, Canada. When they reached out to me about their products I did plenty of research before I said yes. For the past three months I have been field-testing this incredible flashlight and it has surprised even this skeptic.

ArmyTek does a great job of sharing product features and specs on their website. I was impressed at how detailed the information is. For example, the Predator Pro is made from aviation-grade aluminum and it feels like it. This flashlight feels sturdy in your hands right out of the box. I dropped it a couple times on concrete (purposefully) and it held up just fine. That tells me the interior is constructed well and is strong.

Inside the box you get:
  • Holster
  • Clip
  • Lanyard
  • Rubber Grip
  • Ring instead of Grip
  • Rubber Button (extra)
  • 2 spare O-rings

The Predator Pro boasts a brightness of 640 LED lumens. In case you don't know about lumen brightness, that's bright!! It's enough light to shine a beam out to a distance of 350 meters. Yes, 350 METERS! That's pretty incredible. I tested this out because I wasn't so sure that would be accurate, but it shone pretty far! I did a basic measurement by walking and estimating my steps and it was very close to the specs.

Like I mentioned earlier, it is fully programmable. It has the ability to reset the settings built-in by the manufacturer or to be customized by the user. I opted to adjust the settings (just follow the directions) and it was ready to go.

It is powered by one 18650 Li-Ion or two CR123A/R123 batteries. This battery lasts a long time, too. The specs say 640 lm (1h 20min), 190 lm (7h), 67 lm (20h), 6 lm (155h). My tests were hiking in and then out of my hunting spots with the light on 640 lms nearly the entire time. I tested the lower light settings each time I got back to my car. It stayed bright for four hunting trips before the lower light feature powered off, but the brightest feature worked well. Kinda odd, isn't it? Still can't figure that one out.

According to the website specs, at the distance of 300 feet (92 meters), the diameter of the light spot is 26 feet (8 meters). I didn't actually measure this, but I could see a lot further out through the darkness than I have ever before.

If you want the complete list of the specifications - go here. Trust me, it is a complete list, full of interesting specifications. Here are just a few I found very interesting.
  • The flashlight has a strong, difficult to break body, which is developed for a minimum weight with sufficient durability. The design of the body includes element design specifically to prevent the flashlight from rolling.
  • The flashlight is designed with the impact-resistant bezels from both sides in order to protect it from falling and allow utilization during combat situations. In the Gold and Black version the steel bezels are also covered by titanium compounds with a hardness of 2000-3000HV.
  • To ensure functionality in difficult conditions, the electronic driver of the flashlight is placed in a special aluminum capsule and has been completely covered with a durable compound. This actually protects it from both the environment and from mechanical damage.
The tactical rubber grip is a cool feature, but I opted to take it off. I wanted to see how easy it was to remove the grip, replace it with the o-ring, and screw the cap back on. It was relatively simple. There is a coating of a dense grease called NyoGel 760G to protect and provide extra water-resistance. 

If you look close, you can see the two O-rings and the grease on the grooves that aid in keeping it waterproof.

It is waterproof up to 50m, too. I didn't think I'd be diving with mine, so I decided to leave mine on my front lawn with the sprinklers going for ten minutes and the light still functioned well then, and the following day. It is supposed to be able to be submerged in water for a bit of time and still function as well. Just be sure that if you are switching O-rings or moving things around that you have everything sealed back up tight. I completed the sprinkler test AFTER I switched caps and back again, just to see how well the O-rings worked. They performed well and kept the water out.

If you hunt in a state where you can use lights at night (not California), or you want to try practicing at night, you can order colored filters and a trigger switch for the flashlight. While you cannot hunt in California at night, other states do allow it. Plus, I can target practice at night, so I opted to purchase a red and green filter, plus the remote (trigger) mechanism for the light. You merely remove the current cap and replace it with the new one with the coiled wire and push-button remote. I set it up to shoot in my backyard and it worked extremely well. I had a lot of fun shooting my target when it was pitch black.

What I liked about the Predator Pro:

  • It is small, compact, and easy to hold onto.
  • Has a cool look and feel. I like the tactical design.
  • It's super bright and the ability to adjust the brightness with a twist is nice. There is no noise when doing this either. 
  • The holster holds onto the flashlight very well as it has elastic sides. 
  • The battery lasts a long time.
  • The clip allows you to attach the light to a brimmed hat or pack. Strong clip, too.

What I didn't like about it:

  • I noticed that when the battery starts to go dim, you lose the low-light function of the flashlight, but it keeps the ability to use the high beam. Seems odd, right? I would think this should be the opposite. 
  • Putting the Predator Pro in or pulling it out of the holster can be tough with one hand. The design is good, but the holster isn't super rigid, so it bends when you try to put the flashlight back in. The good -  the elastic hangs onto the light like flypaper and it won't fall out.

It is built in China, but the construction is solid. It retails for $125.00 and for a well-built programmable flashlight, it's a bargain. You can find them for around $100 online. The other items I purchased - filters $7.95 each, and the remote switch was $17.95 can be purchased through a reseller online. It is lightweight and the light stays bright for a long time. Everyone I showed it to was impressed and I think it is a powerful flashlight. Heck, even I was impressed and this is one light I will keep on my belt loop in the foothills or the backcountry.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Tale of the Tape

In my quest to kill a feral pig, my buddy Chris and I set some trail cams about three weeks ago in hopes of catching a few on camera. It turns out, we caught only one pig and a bunch of those $@%#& coyotes! The yotes are coming in to this spot at all hours, too. Looks like one of these Saturdays I am going to have to sit in a stand all day and try to arrow one to send a message!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Did you hear? Elk season is rapidly approaching!

Elk season is a mere seven months away and the anticipation can make even the manliest of men giddy. In preparation for the Rockies, the weather, and the hiking, Brett and I ventured out this last Saturday on a pretty incredible hike. In case you hadn't heard, California finally got some rain and it was coming down in buckets from time to time. We decided that we would hit the Pacific Crest Trail in the rain to prepare ourselves for elk hunting. Colorado can bring on any type of weather at a moments notice and this might be our only time prior to hunting to hike in the rain. Plus, we had some gear we wanted to test out and we just needed some fresh air.

Parking at the trailhead roughly an hour after sunrise, we scanned the area to see if it was worth actually hiking because if there was any sign of flooding or mudslides we would be turning around and heading back. The weather was cool and damp, but perfect to do some hiking and GPS training. We had carefully packed first aid, food, water, and our Badlands packs only boasted 20# of gear as we wanted to keep our knees from being punished more than they had to.

I had three things I wanted to field test on this trip. My Badlands biothermic apparel, a Garmin Colorado 400t GPS unit, and the Pat's Backcountry Beverages system. The latter was reviewed on Monday and performed exceptionally *hiccup* well. Brett wanted to get a feel for a GPS unit and wanted to fully test out his rain gear. My goals in testing were to see how well the apparel layered and kept me warm, but more importantly how well it kept me dry.  The GPS testing is kind of a no-brainer as we plan on hiking into the backcountry this year after elk and we will need to know our GPS units extremely well. 

This was our first time on this particular stretch of the PCT. We had to cross a small stream that had turned into a larger one due to the extra rain we had been getting. Crossing was fairly easy, but staying on the trail was tough at first. Someone had pulled out the PCT signs making the trail marking hard to find. We eventually found the trail and began to tackle the journey.

Hiking this new country was exactly what we needed. We discovered some hidden canyons, caves, and it was downright fantastic. Along the way, we checked our GPS units and kept up on our progress. We also used the hike as a scouting mission to see if this country would be good for deer hunting. It turns out that the country looks very promising for deer, but we saw zero animals. We were mainly focused on hiking instead of glassing, so there may have been a few roaming around. We will venture back to this spot and spend more time glassing on a future hike.

The rain came down steadily from time to time, but never a constant, heavy downpour. We could see when the rain was blown our way, so we had ample time to put on our rain gear. The temps fluctuated and got as high as 59 degrees, but with the wind and rain it felt much colder. That didn't matter much though. We were on a mission and it was great fun!

Brett's rain gear held up well and my Badlands protected me. Not only was it warm, it was comfortable, allowing ample movement, and it kept me dry. I watched the rain bead up on the surface of the Enduro jacket and just fall off. That made me one happy hunter! The jacket and pants stayed dry and comfortable.
The GPS units performed well and we learned a great deal from our experience. The rain never fully stopped. It just took short breaks to allow the blue sky to peek through the clouds and then dump more water on us. The rain was such a blessing.

We hiked six miles in and decided to turn around. About two miles into our return trip, we both realized our quadriceps were beginning to hurt. All the up and down was taking a toll. Even though it hurt, the foothills were beautiful and the air was clean. It felt awesome to be out hiking it with a good friend who has the same passion for hunting as I do.

Overall, we hiked twelve miles and had an incredibly fun-filled day. We found some promising area to hunt and cannot wait to spend some time out there with a spotting scope. The deer have to be in there and the area won't be easy to hunt, but it will be a new challenge. We are first amping up to get after elk in September and this is just the beginning.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Product Review: Pat's Backcountry Beverages

Dry trail dust layered on your tongue. Sore feet. Aching legs. A tired body. Whether you have reached the summit of a mountain or completed a grueling hike in steep terrain. You did it! How do you cap it all off? An ice cold, carbonated beverage would be perfect! Even 12 miles deep in the backcountry, Pat’s Backcountry Beverages makes that a reality. Yes, you can make your own soda or brew your own beer in the backcountry, and it is surprisingly easy to do!

Two months ago, after reading about this unique system, I spoke with Pat’s Backcountry Beverages regarding the product and was intrigued. Founded by Pat Tatera nearly two decades ago, the company was built to produce an eco-friendly way to make beverages with a much smaller carbon footprint.

From their website:

Introducing the most environmentally-responsible carbonated beverage system on earth! This awesome little addition to your gear list is engineered with an emphasis on rugged durability and first of it's kind functionality. In it's more docile state, it functions as your standard, everyday water bottle (yawn). However, when you decide to kick it into high gear and unleash the technology hiding under it's cap, you get a burst of refreshing carbonation to energize any beverage of your choice. So no matter how far your wanderlust leads you down the trail, you can still enjoy a crisp, carbonated beverage anywhere on the planet. Cheers!
The carbonator bottle is lightweight and well constructed. It can be used to make your soda or beer, but also as an ordinary water bottle (but who wants to do that). It even has a carabiner clip attachment to be sure you don’t lose it on the trail (that would be a travesty). The activator packets are small and so are the concentrated beverage. Both will fit in your hand. I took two activator packets and two concentrated beverage packs and stuck them inside the bottle on the hike. It’s an excellent way to reduce space and protect the kit. I ordered two types of concentrated beer, the 1919 Pale Rail and the Black Hops because I had to do a thorough review for you guys. 

Let’s get down to brass tacks. How does it work!? The paper instructions that comes with the orange carbonator bottle are to the point, but can seem overwhelming as the paper is folded up like a giant map. There is an easy to follow demonstration on the PBCB website by Pat himself. I’ll be honest, I watched the video that Pat put together showing how to use it and I then watched it again to be sure I knew exactly how to do it. The second time was much easier to follow as I was sure to hold the bottle in my hands and repeat what Pat did.

After hiking 12 miles of steep terrain and enduring a barrage of rain, Brett and I were ready for a cold beverage. I chose to bring a 1919 Pale Rail and a Black Hops for us to share. PBCB highly recommends you use chilled or cold water to brew. I will be honest and say that while I had water frozen in my container, we hiked twelve miles and not only did the ice thaw, the water warmed up to slightly warmer than chilled. I only realized this after brewing the first beer, the Pale Rail. I won’t go through the directions in detail (you can get that from the video), but I repeated them and in less than two minutes we had a cold beer ready to drink. We split the 16 oz. and enjoyed it thoroughly. I made the Black Hops a few minutes later and when that was ready we split that, too.

Everyone has been asking me, how does it taste? The 1919 Pale Rail tastes great! Even with less than ideal chilled water, the flavor and aroma was excellent! We both agreed that if I had ice cold water it would have been even better. We both thought the Black Hops was ok, but not what we expected and it wasn’t as strong in flavor as the PR. Both were good, but the Pale Rail took top honors.

Overall, this is one of the coolest products I have reviewed and it is certainly one of the most unique. There are different ways to combine the different products available for purchase. I purchased the orange carbonator bottle for $29.99, the 12-pack activator for $5.99, and the beer concentrate was $9.99 for each 4/pk. I think that overall, the system is offered at a very reasonable price. Just imagine how incredible it would be to hike into the backcountry and use cold spring water to make your own beer? I eagerly await what new products the Pat's Backcountry Beverages team creates and I happily offer up my taste buds as test subjects.