Thursday, February 19, 2015

Product Review: SOG Jungle Warrior Knife

Through the dense underbrush, the blood trail was thinning out. I looked up and saw a set of eyes glaring at me. Seconds later, the boar charged! 

Those three sentences are fiction, for me, but it could happen. Many of the areas I hunt do not allow me to carry a firearm as a sidearm. What do I do instead? I carry a large hunting knife and the SOG Jungle Warrior fits the bill. Beside using it as a weapon, there are other great uses. Many times I need to hack through brush and branches, and I find a machete doesn't feel as tough, or work as hard as the Jungle Warrior.

The full tang, fixed blade Jungle Warrior weighs in at a little over a pound (19.4 oz) and with a 9.75" blade it is so much more than a machete. With a Kraton handle, the knife stays firm in your grasp when hacking into a branch or vines. The blade was already sharp straight out of the box, which has been my experience with most of my SOG blades. They come out wicked sharp and ready to use. That's the way you want them. Was it as sharp as it could be? No, but this knife is more of a chopping blade. While I don't plan on skinning any animal with it, I'll bet I could. As far as chopping goes, the Jungle Warrior worked better than any of the machetes I have ever used. That includes the machetes from SOG. This knife allows you more control than a machete and doesn't feel flimsy.

This knife appeals to me as a 'sidearm' as it has a spearpoint to it and that is great for thrusting. If I have to defend myself against an animal, this knife would be excellent for it, but I truly hope I never have to use it defensively. It is easy to get out of the sheath quickly and feels great in your hand. It does, however, feel a bit unbalanced with most of the weight being draw toward the front of the knife. The weight forward works great for chopping though!

The thumb grip is very aggressive and a bit much for me. I like having some area for my thumb, but it's a bit uncomfortable and over-the-top for me. I wish SOG had made the thumb grip 'teeth' a bit closer together, shorter, and duller. I honestly don't think I will be using the thumb grip that often, but it could use improvement.

The heel of the handle has a toothed edge made for breaking glass (at least that is what it looks like to me) or a could have a more practical use in a survival situation. Maybe cracking into clams or breaking into bone to get at the marrow. Use your imagination when it comes to survival and the SOG Jungle Warrior.

Retailing for $80.00 and coming with a lifetime warranty, the SOG Jungle Warrior is a great survival knife to utilize in the woods. Now that I think of it, I'll bet it would make a great butcher knife in the kitchen, but I think my wife might frown on it. It has helped me chop through dense brush, thin vines, and clear out some branches that would have taken a long time with clippers. This knife is the real deal for clearing a path and I can't wait to use it again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Is Scent Control A Gimmick?

Originally printed in the October issue of California Sportsman

It’s a brisk morning with a slight breeze and the sun is peeking over the horizon. It’s a beautiful day for bowhunting! You are set in your stand waiting for that big buck to walk by when the wind shifts and you get a whiff of something funky. ‘That can’t be me, right?’ Then you watch as a deer walks downwind, sniffs the air, and then looks directly at you before he bolts. Face it, you stink! We humans give off some funky odors that animals can smell from a great distance. No matter what we do, we will always stink, but there are ways to reduce your scent to get you closer to the animals you want to hunt.

Here’s a simple rule when it comes to being less stinky in the woods: don’t eat things that might make you stink, like onions or garlic or drinking a few beers for two days prior to heading out. It stays in your system and you sweat it out. Trust me, if you or your wife can smell the garlic, animals are cringing and running away. Think smart and eat foods that may not have much of an odor the next day. My family thinks I am a bit extreme when it comes to what I eat a day or two prior to a hunt, but if I am to get as close as I can I want to try to increase my chances. Don’t drink any alcohol the night before a hunt. I am not judging here as I love a good stout, but the night before a hunt I refuse to drink anything alcoholic. In the past, I have had a hunting partner or two that if they are upwind, you can tell they threw a few back the night before. It really does stink and if my inadequate human nose can pick that up imagine what an animal will smell. Avoid food and drink that is going to stink stick with you.

As a man, if you feel the need to shave your face prior to a hunt, do so before you bathe, but honestly, why would you need to? Shower right before you leave the house with scent-free soap, or earth-scented soap (depending on where you hunt) and dry off with a towel that hasn’t been doused with fabric softener. Why ruin what you just started? Then be sure to use some unscented antiperspirant. 

Halitosis, or bad breath as it is commonly known, affects us all. We all get it and probably have it when we hit the woods. Do I worry about it that much? Honestly, not as much as some say I should. Even if I brush my teeth with charcoal and chew on apple flavored gum all day I really have never had an issue with my breath and an animal winding me. Could it play a factor? It sure could and just might be one fraction of the scent you are giving off, but I normally shy away from breath sprays unless I am going to be sitting within 20 yards of a trail or waterhole. Why? Probably because it’s one more thing in my pack to worry about and I don’t treat hunting like a first date. I am not going to spray some breath-spray on my tongue right before letting an arrow fly. Instead, I will probably just close my mouth, focus, and then shoot. One of the guys I shoot with mentioned that your breath is 90% of what animals smell. When I asked him if that was science talking or word-of-mouth, he mentioned a guide told him that. To each his own on this one and in fact, if you have evidence to the contrary please share it! I would love to hear it.

Have some compassion for your hunting buddies, too. Lay off the baked beans at the Friday night BBQ if you are headed out first thing in the morning, especially if you are the passenger in THEIR vehicle. I may or may not have tested these waters in years passed. All I know is that it makes for a very long truck ride when it’s 20 degrees and you have to keep the windows down to keep from dry heaving.

Wash your hunting clothes in baking soda or scent-free soap after each outing. Yes, I said each outing, but I don’t mean every single hunt. Who has time for that and with the drought that we Californians are in, we need to conserve water where we can. The baking soda will absorb odors in a pinch, but I prefer some of the scent-free soaps like Scent-Away, Hunter’s Specialties, or Dead Down Wind. All work well in my book. I don’t like to use the dryer in any way because I feel that any scented fabric softener residue will transfer to your clothing. I have no proof of this, but it is a personal preference. If you choose to use your dryer, use an earth-scented dryer sheet in your clothes dryer, or you can do what I prefer and that is to hang them outside until dry.  If you hang them up like I do, be sure that before taking them off the clothesline you haven’t just sprayed down with cologne or taken a shower with scented soap. It defeats the purpose!

Ozone use has been increasing in popularity over the years back East and in the Midwest, and slowly creeping into California. I have used the LOG6 ozone machine for a couple years and while I have no scientific proof, it seems to kill the scent of my personal odor temporarily. Ozonics makes a unit that is portable and proven effective by many people, but it costs upwards of $400. Many hunters have used it and continue to do so in the Midwest, but not so much in California. I think one of the reasons is that it’s an extra piece of gear that you have to haul around all day. I know people that use it for spot-and-stalk hunting, but for me it seems like more of a treestand or hunting blind application. It might be worth a try for sure.

An often overlooked item to be washed thoroughly is your pack. While I do not wash it after every outing, like I do my clothing, I do wash it thoroughly at the beginning of the season and a time or two through the season. Your back sweats…a lot…and your backpack acts like a wick. If nothing else, wet the back with water and scrub it with scent free soap. Do this often because I know it is going to stink. Once it has dried, I usually drop it in my ozone tote for an hour and then bag it to keep it as scent-free is I can.

One tactic to mask odors is to leave your clothes in a plastic tote with dry leaves or a scented wafer to mask any other scent on the clothing. Do not place wet leaves in the tote or you are asking for a mold colony. When I started out, my dad armed us with trash bags and had us gather up fallen leaves of the maple and cypress trees to help mask the scent on our clothing. We would hang our clothes outside to dry and get the farm air blowing through them. We just had to watch out for bees and other bugs you didn’t want crawling down your neck while in your stand. Be sure to shake them out prior to putting them inside the bag. Then we would add some leaves to the bag, along with our clothing, and cinch it up prior to a hunt. This is very effective and your clothes take on the scent of the areas you are hunting.
Another tactic I use is to fill an old sock (washed prior in scent-free soap) with baking soda, knot it off, and then leave that inside the bin with my hunting clothes. It will soak up some of the odors on the clothing and works better than nothing if you don’t have time to wash before the next day of hunting.

Scent reducing sprays have been around for as long as I can remember. Scent reducing sprays are different than a cover scent. These are produced to truly kill off nearly 100% of the odor causing bacteria on your clothing gear. No, they don’t kill it all off, but they help. Once I spray down with scent reducing spray, I use a cover scent. Cover scent spray is a great option for me, but they do exactly what the name says – cover. They don’t eliminate your scent, they just perfume it. Final Step Cover Scents is one that I use in California because they offer sage, juniper, cedar, and rosewood. The sage is great for Southern California.

Cover scents can also be found in the wild. Some of the areas I hunt hold large sage plants and if you snap off a piece or two, rub them in your gloved hands and then rub that onto your clothes (especially your armpits, back of the knees, even your crotch) that may help mask your odor for a short time. Whatever will get you closer to that animal. Just be sure you KNOW what plant you are using. Do this with poison oak or sumac and you are looking at covering your body in Calamine lotion.

You will notice I left footwear as the last item. Footwear care is an integral part of fooling an animal’s nose. You hunting boots track around your scent, the scent of the last place you were, and are notorious for giving away a hunter’s location. Why is that? Think about a deer walking through the woods. Most of the time deer are walking with their nose to the ground and eating. The scent of your boots is going to be all over that ground. Spray your boots as soon as you get out of the truck and are heading into the woods. Spray them well! I will even scuff them through dirt, sand, and weeds a few times to pick up some of the local scents. I remember one hunt where I forgot to spray anything on my boots and I figured I was safe to hunt. After I was set in my treestand, I watched a doe from a long way off start sniffing the air and soon the ground. She was sniffing the trail where I walked and it didn’t take her too long before she bolted. That gave me the idea to use cover scent, but my dad had a better idea. After I sprayed my boots with scent killing spray, he squirted a little bit of buck lure on the inside heel of my boot. That way as I walked through the leaves, a little would be given off each time. I have seen this work well as bucks have crossed the trail I walked in on, picked up the scent, and walked right to my stand. It doesn’t always work, but it sure is worth a try.

There are plenty of products that claim to keep you scent-free or close to it. You can reduce odor or cover it up a bit, but you will never be scent free. If a bear stick his nose up, he’s going to smell you…up to five miles away. Do what you can to reduce your human aroma and get in close to that animal.

Overall, the best method to an animal not smelling you is to be downwind, plain and simple. If you are anyplace else you are likely to be winded and the animal will bust out of there fast. When a hunter tells you to play the wind, you now know what they mean. It will make you think more and get you closer to the animals you wish to hunt.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2015 Spring Turkey Tune Up at San Vicente Reservoir

The 2015 Spring Turkey Tune Up Lottery for Turkey hunts at Sutherland will be held at San Vicente Reservoir on February 21, 2015 at 8:30 a.m. Rain or Shine!

Location: San Vicente Reservoir, 12375 Moreno Ave, Lakeside, CA 92040

Sponsored by:
The City of San Diego Public Utilities Department and The San Diego Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

$10 entry fee gives you access to seminars, vendor booths, raffle chance for prizes and entry into the lottery draw for the Turkey Hunts!

Schedule of Events:
8:30 a.m. Gates and vendor booths open
9:15 a.m. Seminar: Shawn Hunkins pro-staff of Hooks Custom Calls
10:15 a.m. Lake Sutherland Hunt Rules and Procedures
10:30 a.m. Raffles, Vendor Displays, Demonstrations
11:20 a.m. Deadline for entry into all draws
11:30 a.m. Hunt draws: Youth, General Season

Sutherland Reservoir and its surrounding property (located just north-east of Ramona) offers some of the best turkey hunting in the County of San Diego

Rules and Requirements: 
Only one entry per person, duplicates will disqualify your entry. Winners may register one partner who must be registered as well; both parties must present a valid California hunting license when registering.

General Reservation lottery entries will only be issued to those of an age to purchase a hunting permit (8 years of age or older). Winning minors MUST be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian only, no exceptions!

Hunts will be on each Monday, Wednesday and Saturday during the Spring season. Corral and Brown Creek locations may require 4-wheel drive to access them. No Camp Hope access on Saturdays. Lake gates will open at 4:00 am and all hunters must exit by sunset each day.

Fees to be paid upon winning are: rowboat and blind area reservation $20.00, adult hunting permit $10.00 and youth permit (8-15 years of age) $5.00. Motorboats may be purchased on the day of the hunt and paid for at the reservoir for $29.50 each. ALL FEES FOR CITY PERMITS MUST BE PAID BY CASH OR CHECK ONLY NO CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED! There are no refunds, switching of dates, name changes or exchanging of permits allowed!

Draws will occur in the following order:

Youth season then general season; undrawn youth tickets will be added back in to the general season draw.

First drawn will have first pick of date and location, second drawn second pick until all hunts are taken.

*This announcement is for general information only; events and schedule may change without prior notice.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

RaptoRazor Knife Set - First Look

Friday, February 6, 2015

Seeing is believing: Quality optics for bowhunting

Bowhunter Michael Giudici glasses for pigs in rugged terrain.

Originally printed in the November issue of California Sportsman

Wisdom sometimes comes at a price. For me it was being stubborn and trying to apply only whitetail hunting tactics to hunting mule deer. Sometimes they work, but often they do not. Utilizing optics, for example, is one I learned the hard way. When I was younger, and hunted primarily whitetails from a treestand, I hardly ever used binoculars. I have truly grown to appreciate the benefits of quality optics for bowhunting. I have been bowhunting for 30 years, but I never truly grasped the importance of good optics until roughly six years ago. That's when I started hunting the foothills and high desert areas of Southern California. The value of my optics far outweighs the price tag and it took some convincing.

Back in NY, I didn’t feel the need to routinely use binoculars or a spotting scope. I was 20 feet up in a tree waiting for a deer to walk by. I rarely used binoculars to locate deer in the farmers’ fields in hope I could set up a stand or ambush them from another direction. I was after meat first and antlers second. After my move to California, I found out most tags required me to shoot a minimum of a forked-horn buck. I figured any binoculars would work for glassing up these bucks. Deciding to continue to use my $25.00 pair, I couldn't figure out why I would get headaches all the time. The simple truth is you get what you pay for and there is a reason why quality binoculars are more expensive. I was experiencing eye strain and eye fatigue due to the poor quality of my optics. I learned quickly that the binoculars I had were useless for hunting out West. Out here it's about spotting your animal from a long distance (sometimes two miles or more) and then making an approach to spot and stalk. Plus, like many states, we have an antler restriction and having a quality binocular or spotting scope will help you determine if that buck is legal or not. Let your optics do some of the walking for you!

Although not a legal California buck, spotting this spike was exciting.

As I have grown older and wiser, my choice in optics has improved. Most are fairly lightweight, crystal clear and are an incredible tool in helping me effectively spot animals. There are many high quality binoculars to choose from; Swarovski, MINOX, Nikon, Vortex, KOWA and Leica, just to name a few. At a minimum, I use a high quality 10x42 binocular because I don’t get eye fatigue and often glass for hours with them. They can reach out and give you a wide area to scan. Be sure to try out binoculars before you buy to be sure you are comfortable with them. Carefully consider your optics before you buy. If you try a few pair out and the one you like is out of your price range, save up for them! You do get what you pay for and you will be thankful you waited for the right pair.

It should come as no surprise that I hold my MINOX optics in high regard.

For long range acquisition, many California hunters find a quality pair of 15x56 binoculars mounted to a tripod work best. Most hunters I know find them extremely useful and they can help you determine the legality a deer from a long way out. Unfortunately, the interpupillary distance (distance between the centers of the pupils of your eyes) doesn’t allow me to comfortably appreciate 15x56 binoculars. That being said, most of my long range viewing is through a spotting scope. I know plenty of other hunters that prefer spotting scopes. While I am a believer that you can judge an animal better by using two eyes vs. one, in this case genetics forces me to make an exception.

Once acquired, caring for your optics is extremely important. Next to your archery set-up, care of your optics should be next on your priority list. You want them to last for a lifetime! If you are like many who use the manufacturer provided neck strap or a simple harness to carry your binoculars, you should use the lens covers the manufacturer provides. If you are like me and find them cumbersome, you can remove them for each hunt, but be sure to protect them when in the field. I prefer to use a fully-enclosed chest pack that allows easy, quiet, zipperless access to the binoculars, but also protects them when kicking up sand and dirt. If you do happen to get sand on them (especially in the eye cups), be sure to clean out the dirt and grime after each hunt. Sand will scratch up your lenses fast! Don’t use a cloth and try to rub the dirt off! Instead blow out the debris, before using a cloth as it will help protect your investment.

Instead of using high powered binoculars, due to my genetics, I use a small MINOX MD50 15-30x50 spotting scope. It is smaller and lighter weight than most spotting scopes. It packs easily and is great for verifying the legality of a buck or finding that hog bedded under a distant tree. There are other great ones that are 20-60x60 or 20-60x80 power that are excellent, too. They just weigh a bit more and take up more room in my pack. You need to decide for yourself what power and brand you will use. Another factor to consider in buying a spotting scope is will you use a straight eyepiece vs. an angled one? If you are atop hillsides looking across or down most days, a straight eyepiece is best. If you are in a valley and scanning the rocks and mountainsides up high, then you will want an angled eyepiece.

Utilizing a tripod with your binoculars is a key component when scouting for animals out West. Mounting your binoculars to a tripod reduces the ‘shake’ to nearly zero and you can keenly focus on more things.  Hand holding your binoculars are fine, but not entirely steady, causing your eyes to dance around. It is a must have for hunters having to glass long distance and for long periods of time. A tripod will turn a decent pair of binoculars into a much better pair of binoculars.

Tripod choice is up to the individual, but as a hunter and photographer, I prefer a carbon fiber tripod. First off, it is a quiet material and doesn’t make a clanking sound if you accidentally hit it. Second, there is little to no glare when the sun hits the legs. Aluminum (silver or black) will cast a glare, allowing animals to spot you easier. The drawback is that a carbon fiber tripod weighs more and can be more bulky than aluminum, but I love how it performs in the field. 

The best advice I can offer to any hunter looking to purchase quality optics is to try out many different brands. Buy the best optics you can afford! Don’t settle on something cheap. If you have to save for a couple years, do it. You do get what you pay for and purchasing a high quality binocular and spotting scope will drastically improve your ability to clearly view animals while hunting. Take good care of them and they will last you a lifetime.