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. 

Follow Koomus on Twitter
Follow them on Facebook: Koomus

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.