Wednesday, March 25, 2015

2015 California Big Game Hunting Digest Now Available

It's time to start looking for change under the couch cushions and saving some coin. The 2015 California Big Game Hunting Digest is out with new dates, changes to tags, and updated pricing. Licenses go on sale April 15, 2015 and I hope this give you time to really look them over. 

I have had quite a few people ask me for advice on what tags to get. I'll be honest, this is a personal decision you have to make. There are many factors to consider:

  • Amount of free time to scout and hunt
  • Rifle or Bow? 
  • Local or can you travel?
  • Spousal support ( I kid, but you know it's true)
  • Cash flow 
  • Public or private land?

These are just some of the things you must consider before squeezing the trigger. Like what I did there? Either way, YOU must ultimately decide. Review the options carefully and best of luck drawing that tag or tags!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

2015 CADFW Deer Conservation and Management Plan (Public Review Draft)

California hunters are trying to learn more, help more, and improve the quality of deer hunting in California. A frequent purveyor of excellent deer hunting information, fellow hunter Dave ( he is known on Twitter) shared this draft of the 2015 CADFW Deer Conservation and Management Plan. CADFW is requesting public comments on the California Deer Management and Conservation Plan. A big thanks to Dave for sharing this as I had a hard time finding it when doing a search.

Take some time to read through the plan. I mean REALLY read through it. There is some good information in there, but I also see some vague information that I would like to know more about. For example, the draft of the plan talks about managing deer populations. Why not think about the big picture and manage the mountain lion population to help increase the deer population? I am getting more and more pictures on my trail cameras of big cats and fewer and fewer deer. Coincidence? I don't think so.

One factor I don't see being addressed is spike bucks with antlers over 3" long. Some of our spike bucks we see on camera year after year do not grow any bigger, but we are not allowed to harvest them. That is one way I believe we can improve the herds. Thin out some of the spike bucks mentioned and allow better breeding.

The study mentions poaching and that is a major factor. I have seen rifle hunters take down does (completely illegal), gather up their 4 or 5 buddies, and then carry the deer out in a record time. Does it get reported? Sometimes, but not always. It's difficult to take pictures or get close enough when you are facing a poacher with a firearm and you are not allowed to carry a sidearm. It's also very difficult to wait on the line, give a description of the people, and have to wait for days before a warden will come out. Now, don't get me wrong. I know our wardens are spread WAY too thin and can't be everywhere, but this is a problem we hunters abiding by the law face every time we go out. Poaching is getting worse.

Have an opinion? Want to speak up? Share your questions, concerns, or thoughts on the subject. Comments may be provided to the Department by email or snail mail. Comments will be accepted until close of business April 30, 2015. If you decide to send via email:

Send comments via snail mail to Deer Plan, 1812 9th Street, Sacramento, CA 95811

Questions on how to comment on the plan may be directed to Stuart Itoga 916-445-3652.

I'll be sending this in for their review and offer to help in whatever way I can. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lessons Learned with Conservation: Hunters Helping Wildlife

If you have heard it once, you have heard it a thousand times. Let me say it once more.

Hunters aid in conservation. 

The truth is, we give back more than we take away. Last year, Brett and I hiked into the desert to clean a sheep spring, camp for the night, and enjoy the great outdoors. We wanted to help give back by cleaning up a sheep spring for the local wildlife. It turned into a disaster, but it also showed us what we could handle when faced with adversity. Best of all, we learned a great deal and decided this year we would correct our mistakes.

Last year, we hiked in anticipating we'd be camping overnight. We also anticipated with the drought that the sheep spring we needed to clean out wouldn't have much water. We packed our camping gear and water for two days into the desert mountains. We didn't mind the extra weight on the hike in as we were using this as a training exercise for Colorado. The issues arose when we turned into the wrong valley, nearly stepped on a rattlesnake, had to hike out five miles in the blistering heat, and then we ran out of water. Our packs weighed in around 75# each. What a disaster! It might be great for training and learning, but seventy-five pounds for eleven miles? I am all for gear testing, and I am a little nuts when it comes to testing gear. I love to do it, but wow.

We talked about that hike all year. Knowing we would be doing something similar this spring, Brett and I decided we would not be camping and would try for a different spring. In fact, we again are working with the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep and opted to check on a big game guzzler and a spring in the mountains. Our goal was to support the wildlife by making sure they have water, but also to learn more about our GPS units and focus on pack weight. Essentially, what do we NEED to take and what do we WANT to take.

By focusing on what I need to take, I reduced all the extras and insane equipment I might need. With water, binos, snacks, and a first-aid kit, I dropped my pack weight by 52#. Yes, that is like carrying my 6-year old on my back. Fifty-two pounds! I think I will enjoy this mission a bit more this year. What did I do to reduce the weight? I'll tell you! I will share some of the things I did to reduce the weight for the hike.

  • I swapped out packs for this trip. I love my Badlands OX frame pack, but I am taking my Teton Sports Summit1500 for this trip. This saves me a few pounds and reduces my chiropractor bill.
  • Enough water for the day and I packed Aqua Pure tablets if I ran out.
  • No camping gear. Whew!
  • No extra clothing like jacket and pants. This year it's as minimal as I can make it. All while remaining safe in the outdoors.
  • No JetBoil. All PROBARs this year. Why cook when you don't need to?
  • No heavy camera, spotting scope, or tripod. This year it's my little Nikon point-and-shoot. Saves me about 8 lbs.

Overall, I am excited about this adventure. We are heading into the desert first thing tomorrow morning and plan to have everything done in one day. My pack, with binoculars weighs in at 23# and that makes me happy! Here's to hoping we get to see some bighorn sheep in the mountains, but even if we don't we are going to have a great day away from the city. This will be an excellent test to see what we have learned in the past year about our gear and ourselves.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Did a Pterodactyl Just Land in that Tree?

When we finally reached the spot we wanted to hunt, we were ready. Pig had been on our minds all weekend and when we finally got to go after them, the temps were in the 80s and we didn't care. We split up and Brett took the right of the forest and I took the left. We decided we would walk through a small section of the forest, keeping the other in sight, to see if anything was bedding under the trees before we set up for the evening watch. 

Seeing nothing, I met back up with Brett to discuss the evening when I caught movement up ahead. Coyote! He was walking right around us and would give us a shot. As he came to my side, I drew and waited. I had an opening between two trees and waited. He stopped ten yards away behind a tree and then bolted. Swirling winds had given me up. It was exciting to say the least!

As we sat, squirrels we chasing one another and foraging in the trees. So much so that we thought trees were about to fall down. As we sat and watched, one squirrel kept taunting me and staring at me. It was up in the tree about ten feet and had it been squirrel season, I may have taken a shot. I immediately thought about the cost of one of my arrows and decided had it been squirrel season I probably would not have taken that shot. I'd never be able to get that $25 arrow back being high in the tree! If it were on the ground, I'd probably take the shot. 

As darkness fell, we packed up and hiked out. We chatted about the day, how much fun we had just being out there and enjoying nature. As we neared a clearing, I mentioned to Brett that the pigs usually like to come out in this spot and hang out at dark. We stopped and a minute or so later we heard the high pitch squeals of pigs fighting in the brush. OH YEAH! We both had huge grins on our faces knowing the pigs were there. We hiked out happy and hopeful. The ride home was filled with talk of our next hunt, scouting trips, and how many pigs we thought we could fit on a smoker. Yes, we must get after those squealers again soon.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Product Review: Bully Bull Grunt Tube

Whether you are calling in a cow or a bull elk, calling properly is vital. As I prepared for my 2014 elk hunt, I contacted Rockie and Rena Jacobsen, owners of Rocky Mountain Game Calls, and asked for their advice. When I explained I was planning on using diaphragm calls, they recommended the Bully Bull Grunt Tube for my hunt. They recommended three of their diaphragm calls to practice with.

All summer long I practiced in my garage. I also practiced in my car on my commute to work. I scared the heck out of my neighbors dogs and I am sure some of the pedestrians in my neighborhood walked just a bit faster when hearing my guttural atrocities. For about a week, I became a mediocre elk caller. I had the sound right and then moved on to combining that with the Bully Bull Grunt Tube. Utilizing the Bully Bull along with a diaphragm call was a challenge for me. The tube worked great, but my calling was bad. In fact, my daughter heard me using it more than once and asked if she could try. Five years old at the time, she walked around bellowing like an elk through the tube and I thought she sounded better than me! When she started using it, I got to hear how far the sound would travel for my ears and could only imagine how an elk could pick it up. The sound through the grunt tube is fantastic and my daughter constantly asks to use it. She loves carrying it around and pretending she is elk hunting. I foresee an elk hunt in her future.

As I am mediocre at calling elk using a diaphragm call, I could not do the tube justice in a video. Instead of sharing me butchering a call, I am sharing this video from Rockie Jacobsen. He does a much better job of showing the proper way to use the grunt tube.

The grunt tube is lightweight, has an awesome sound and you can adjust the end for different tones (which Rockie shares in the video). I brought it to Colorado for my elk hunt and tried locating a bull by using it. I tried hard before we hiked in to be sure I could do it. I'll admit, I was still terrible at using it, and it showed I needed more practice. I am continuing to practice with it as I plan on mastering at least one call through it. If I am going to hunt elk in the future, I must get a decent sound out of the calls if I want to be successful.

My only personal issue with the grunt tube is the sheer size and bulk. I say personal because the when I was packing in 3-5 miles, I found it cumbersome with all of the gear I had. The call is lightweight, but I packed way too much. I had wished the Bully Bull collapsed a bit, but that would take away from the incredible sound it allows. It does have a carrying cord that makes it easier to carry.

The Bully Bull Grunt Tube retails for $33.95 and if you are good at using a diaphragm call I highly recommend it. When I got a good tone on the diaphragm call, the sound coming through the Bully Bull was awesome! If I can master the call, I will continue to use it. I might opt to go with something like the Bugling Bulls Select-A-Bull Elk Calling System. This one might be better suited for my lackluster calling skills, but I haven't given up on the Bully Bull challenge yet!