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!