Friday, December 30, 2016

Product Review: Work Sharp Combo Knife Sharpener

Every year, Work Sharp continues to raise the bar when it comes to knife and tool sharpening. In 2016, they came out with the Work Sharp Combo Knife Sharpener. It came out prior to hunting season, so I had plenty of time to test it out on my kitchen knives and my hunting blades. I also got to test it out after I got my deer and used the knives many times. I sharpened every knife I could with great results.

First off, it's smaller than most belt sharpeners. It's compact and stores easily. When you are sharpening, it doesn't take up a lot of counter space. That helps make things easy. It is easily half the size of my other sharpener and is less than half the weight. I have been able to store this easily, but more importantly, when I want to get it out to sharpen a knife I can do it quickly and with little effort. 

The Combo Sharpener is made for keeping an edge on knives and keeping them razor sharp. You can probably sharpen a very dull knife with this, but you'll eat away at your sharpening belt. Use this sharpener often with the blades you continue to use and you get  longer life out of them and you'll enjoy them more!

Work Sharp Combo Knife Sharpener from DAREX on Vimeo.
It works fast. I mean it. It works very well, and also very fast.

It comes with an extra P120 belt by 3M™, so if you have many knives you use, you may need the extra belt faster than others. The replacement belts are only $8, which is a small price to pay.

There is an easy to find On/Off switch.
The only bad thing I have to say is that the fixed 25° sharpening and honing bar has a slight lip at the end and if you go too fast, you will continue to catch your blade on this lip. I ran into this many times and had to really focus on where to place the edge of the blade. It caused some frustration, but I slowed down a bit and made it work.

The other side of the sharpener has a place for your forefinger and thumb to grab the sharpener to hold it down and in place. If you go too quickly, you will find the sharpener slipping out of your grasp, but if you take your time your knives will be sharpened before you know it!

Overall, I really like the Work Sharp Combo Knife Sharpener. It's very easy to use, works very well, and if great for people who are constantly using their knives. The Work Sharp Combo Knife Sharpener is a great buy at $59.95. If you need a sharpener that is quick and efficient, this will do what you need and is very efficient. Time for me to go sharpen some knives!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The SoCal Bowhunter Travels to Western NY for a Whitetail Hunt

Rocky Athletic Mobility boots and Badlands Approach camo make a great combination.

Patience and planning. Two things that make an out of state hunt much more enjoyable. Even though I am from NY and have hunted there my entire life, I still remain abreast of the new or updated laws and regulations before I plan. You don’t want to assume everything is the same as prior years. For my 2016 NY whitetail deer hunt, I opted to hunt with my 300 WM rifle and leave my archery tackle at home. This would be the first time I have hunted deer with a rifle. During my planning phase, I was in constant contact with my dad and brother. We were checking weather, the rut and if it was in full swing, and what I needed to travel with. I absolutely love the planning phase of a hunt. It gets me energized, excited, and makes sure I am ready.  

As I planned out my gear bag to hunt whitetail in NY, I knew that my boots were in need of an upgrade. I needed something that would not only be waterproof, but also be warm. In fact, they needed to be more than warm. I love my Rocky Broadhead boots for warm weather, so I contacted Rocky and asked what they would recommend for the area I was hunting and the crazy weather that comes with it. A new boot for Fall 2016 was at the top of their list, the Rocky Athletic Mobility Waterproof 800G Insulated Outdoor Boot and there were some available in my size ready to ship. Check that off the list!

I also knew that I needed to protect my rifle and wanted to find a new case to load it and my shotgun. After much research, I found that Seahorse Cases makes a solid firearms case that would be exactly what I would need. I'll post a review in the next couple weeks, but let me just say that it is now my favorite firearm case!

I decided for this hunt I would travel with my ORCA cooler and not buy a cheap one in NY. Usually what I do to save money is to fly with only a checked bag of clothing and my weapon of choice. Then if I am successful in killing a deer, I will hit up a store and buy a cooler. This time I had a good feeling and opted to bring the best of the best.

The weather on day one was supposed to be a high of 67 degrees with a light breeze. Perfect, but would it be enough the get the bucks moving? My answer came fifteen minutes after being on watch. I was up in ‘The Big Hickory’ as I had 250 yards I could shoot. My 300 WM was loaded and ready to eat. I knew I would be able to see far off with my MINOX binoculars, so I scanned the hedgerows. Bam! Right away I noticed a buck skirting the edge of a brush lot, nose to the ground, and on a mission. He was over 200 yards away. By the looks of him I thought he was chasing a doe, but I saw no other deer. As I looked at my watch, my heart sank. I still had fifteen more minutes before legal shooting time. I had to be patient, but he was heading off toward private property.

Earlier that morning (and I mean really early), when we packed our bags, he asked me if I had brought a doe bleat. Crap! I hadn’t packed it and when I looked for my grunt call I remembered I left it on my work bench back in California. A lot of good it was going to do me there! My brother handed me his doe bleat and said it might work that day, so I packed it to be easily accessible. Little did he know it, but he was my hero that day. I reached into my Badlands pack and pulled out the bleat. I bleated three times, all while watching the buck head further toward the property line. Once he heard that sound he stopped, turned, and bolted back 50 yards and stopped. He was looking right at me! Now I had a decision to make. I put the binoculars down and traded them for the rifle. I set the rifle on the shooting rail and that’s when I noticed the rail was super low! I wasn’t used to shooting like this, but I needed to improvise. With my hand like a fist as a rest, I placed the rifle on it and settled in on the buck. He hadn’t moved. A glance at my watch told me I had ten more minutes of waiting ahead of me. Argh!!! Looking back through the scope, I saw that he had started feeding and not moving much. Now I had to wait.

My 2016 NY six point buck taken on opening day.

Ten minutes on opening day with buck at 200 yards broadside is an eternity to wait, but wait I did. I heard a single shot from far off about a minute before I was ready to shoot, so I waited. The buck raised his head and I settled the crosshairs on his shoulder. CRACK! In a cloud of smoke, I watched him bolt downhill and he picked up in a heap 70 yards form where I shot him. I was shaking like a leaf! Not only had I never shot a buck with a rifle, I can’t remember if I had ever shot one on opening day at first light. It was a first for me! All of the time I spent sighting in my rifle and getting the MINOX Z5i scope dialed in just right had paid off! Walkie-talkies being a thing of the past, I texted my dad and brother with the three letters we all wanted to see…DRT!

The temps dropped considerably by the evening and light rain changed over to sleet. I watched doe after doe walk through brush to escape the wind. I had bundled up well and decided on the first day of cold weather I was not going to put foot warmers in my boots. I wanted to see how well they would perform in the cold weather by themselves. They were great all over, except for my toes. Extremities are usually the first to feel the chill, so I knew that was a big factor, but I also noticed there really isn’t much Thinsulate up over the toes in these boots. I am not sure why, but it would be a big benefit to have a bit more insulation over the toes to keep them toasty. As the sun set, I watched the far edges of the field and watched a nice buck appear and walk down to an apple tree to feed. What a great first day!

The 67 degrees dropped to about 7 with the wind chill and I felt it all over, even down to my toes.  Day two was brisk, to say the least. The morning had deer moving, but the winds were ever increasing and we decided to hunt BJ's property in the evening. The choice was a great one as I filled a doe tag with one shot. Two days and two deer. I was grateful, full of excitement, and thrilled!
By the third day, we were ready for some action. We just didn't see the bucks we were looking for. The winds were intense and bitter cold. After carefully watching the weather we knew a cold front was coming in rapidly. We had decided not to hunt the next day due to impending hazardous conditions. We started to get some heavy snow by the evening and we had to go rescue my mom in the middle of dinner. By the time we got her back to the house, we were beat. There were cars and trucks stranded all over, most in the middle of the road! Having a day off would give me time to butcher my deer and get everything vacuum sealed. Plans changed a bit when my brother got me up at 4:30 AM to help him plow snow. I didn't help much, but it was great to see him work and chat along the way for three hours. After a much needed nap, I spent the rest of the day cutting up deer meat. I have to say that I am glad we took a day off!

With snow on the ground and my last day to hunt, it was time to test out the Rocky boots some more, hike a bit and see what would happen. Not only were the boots waterproof, they kept my feet very warm all over (except for the toes after time) and they remained comfortable. The grip in the snow was exceptional! I climbed over logs, through brush and over slick areas of dirt to try and get the boots to slip. They held fast and true. I am super happy about that. 

Not to be outdone, my brother filled his buck tag with a beauty of an eight point.

We all ventured to our stands and waited patiently. It was cold and I was ready to meet up for some coffee after three and a half hours on stand. My phone buzzed and my brother informed me that we had deer movement and that he was staying put. The rush of adrenaline had me warmed up quickly and I decided to stay in my treestand a bit longer. A few moments later I hear a rifle shot, followed by another.  BJ texted us that he had a buck down. A short time later, my dad and I met up with my brother and drove down to the deer. He had filled his tag with a nice 8-point and the body was big! It was a dandy. Congrats BJ!

Quality boots and my first attempt (with BJs help) at a European mount.

Hunting with my dad and brother is something I love to do every chance I get. Between the jokes, the strategy, and success, we simply have a great time. This was one trip when I missed my girls, but I really didn't want the hunt to end. Even so, we had one of the best hunts ever and I cannot wait to start planning the 2017 whitetail hunt. The big question is do I hunt with my bow or my rifle. Decisions, decisions.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Gear Review: Rocky Athletic Mobility Waterproof 800G Insulated Outdoor Boot

As I planned out my gear bag to hunt whitetail in NY, I knew that my boots were in need of an upgrade. I have boots for rocky terrain, warm weather, wet weather, and so on, but I needed something that would not only be waterproof, but also be warm. In fact, they needed to be more than warm. I love my Rocky Broadhead boots for warm weather, so I contacted Rocky and asked what they would recommend for the area I was hunting and the crazy weather that comes with it. A new boot for Fall 2016 was at the top of their list, the Rocky Athletic Mobility Waterproof 800G Insulated Outdoor Boot and there were some available in my size ready to ship.

When the boots arrived, I quickly unboxed them and was surprised by the strong leather smell coming from the boots. I understand new boots have a certain smell, but these were almost overpowering. Temporarily setting that fact aside, I pulled some wool socks on and then the boots. They were oh so comfortable, but my test was going to be walking in them. I walked the yard, around my property, up and down stairs and was delighted that my ankles weren’t being rubbed raw. In fact, I felt like I could wear these daily if I wanted to. They are not lightweight boots, but they are certainly not heavy either. They are a mid-range and very manageable.

Back to the leather odor, and yes I said odor. Why? If I can smell that leather, then so can a deer. I needed to reduce the aroma as best I could. I first washed the boots in scent-free soap and let them air dry. That didn’t help too much. Once they dried, I didn’t have many options as I had to catch a flight out the next afternoon. I sprayed them with scent-killer and let that dry for an hour. Packed they got and I made my way 3000 miles to NY. I told my brother of the situation and how I wanted to get rid of that smell. He had an easy solution; earth scent dryer sheets and a plastic bag. The next morning most of the smell, to my weak smelling olfactory glands, was reduced considerably. I rubbed the outside of the boots a couple more times to keep the earth scent on there.

As I walked down to my tree stand, I noted the feel of the boots as I walked. The support in the heel and arch was quite good, but the heel was a bit stiff. I may end up using some slightly thicker inserts. I figured if I walked around enough that would break in a bit more. Through the field and lane way, I listened carefully for noises from the boots or any squeakiness. Ultra quiet was what came to mind. I was loving the boots! There was no bunching up at the ankles like many 800 gm+ Thinsulate boots do. Rocky did a great job with these. There was great traction across to plowed field and when climbing up the ladder to the stand. No slipping and the grip was true, but quiet.

The weather on day one was just peachy. 67 degrees with a light breeze made for an easy day on stand and for my feet. My feet were comfortable and warm. I was spoiled!

The next three days were the true test. The temps dropped 60 degrees with the wind chill and I felt it all over and down to my toes. I had bundled up well and decided on the first day of cold weather I was not going to put foot warmers in my boots. I wanted to see how well they would perform in the cold weather by themselves. They were great all over, except for my toes. Extremities are usually the first to feel the chill, so I knew that was a big factor, but I also noticed there really isn’t much Thinsulate up over the toes in these boots. I am not sure why, but it would be a big benefit to have a bit more insulation over the toes to keep them toasty. The next day I placed foot warmers in over my toes and that did help a great deal.

Then the snow hit and I am talking 10 inches of it overnight! Time to hike a bit and see what would happen. Not only were the boots waterproof, they kept my feet very warm all over (except for the toes after time) and they remained comfortable. The aggressive tread in the snow was exceptional! I climbed over logs, through brush and over slick areas of dirt to try and get the boots to slip. They held fast and true. I am super happy about that.

The boot material is very string and I found no punctures or tears. I kicked at things, caught them on the stand a few times, and they held up. Plus, they didn't dent when stepping on the toe. Some boots will dent and not conform back to their original shape. The Athletic Mobility boots held their shape and are very durable

One more key factor that I feel should be mentioned were the laces and how well they held. The laces were a great length and held fast throughout all my hunts. They never came undone. I do wish the boots had a lace-locking system to keep the boots from loosening up down at the ankle, but I’ll take what I can get. The lacing works.

The Rocky Athletic Mobility Waterproof 800G Insulated Outdoor Boots are priced right at $159.99 because right out of the box they are ready to wear. I would definitely recommend these boots to you guys and any other hunters out there. They have a great aggressive tread, kept my feet warm, and were very comfortable. With the weather in California being much warmer, I left my boots with my dad to continue too use during the 2016 season. He’s lucky we are the same size! I will follow up on this review with his thoughts on the boots as well.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Free Hog Hunting Seminar at Bass Pro Rancho this Saturday

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Solo Deer Hunt on Public Land in California (D14)

The two-hour drive to the San Bernardino National Forest was peaceful. I found my desired spot, parked, and had a full hour before sunrise. It was time for a nap. I slept on-and-off for about 30 minutes and decided it was time to get dressed. I knew there was bad weather coming in, but I hadn't anticipated the higher than normal wind speeds. Even so, I was there to hunt and was going to be on that hillside by sunrise.

The sunrise was anticlimactic as the cloud cover drowned any chance of seeing a bright, glowing orb in the sky. I settled in, locked in my MINOX BL 10x44 binoculars on my tripod and began glassing. I had quite the view from my vantage point. 700 yards in two directions and 450 in the other. For two hours I glassed and saw nothing, but I was incredibly happy. I had no one around me, no worries, and clean air to breathe.

At 9:25 AM I caught movement at 425 yards. Two deer had just burst from a row of pines. Binoculars up and I could see they were two doe and they were breathing heavy. I have to say, the 10x44 MINOX binos on a tripod are incredible. I was not only able to verify that neither was a shooter buck, but I could see their mouths open, breathing heavy, and looking behind them. They weren't on alert, so I figured a rutting buck was chasing them. He was smart though, as he stayed in the thick cover. I watched them amble along, slowly feeding, before they disappeared into a ravine.

Weekend off-roaders began to appear on the road. They spotted me up high and many waved as they sped up as not to disturb me. Then came the two yahoos in a white jeep. Not only did they slow down when they saw my truck, but they drove off road and directly into my shooting lane. Boy, do I have bad luck with inconsiderate people while hunting. Last year it's a guy walking right up to me and this year it's Tweedledee and Tweedledum. They park and decide it's time for coffee and breakfast. It must have been a good breakfast as they sat for an hour, not 100 yards from where the deer first appeared. I nearly packed up out of frustration, but I wasn't going to let them win. Instead, I waited until they started driving out before I stood up and made sure they spotted me glassing them. They moved on and I never saw them again. Public land hunting at it's best!

I glassed for three more hours. The wind got worse and the clouds rolled in lower, and lower, and lower. As I scanned the brush-filled landscape, I spotted a shape that was out of place. With the binos up I easily found the shape of a well-fed deer. Once it moved, I verified it was a doe and she had company. Two fawns were right on her heals. I watched them for a half hour as they fed on the vegetation, and then the young ones wanted some milk. There is something awesome about watching a mother in the wild and how it cares for her young. She let them drink for about 30 seconds and decided that was enough. They fed some more and when the wins picked up, they nested under a thick row of bushes and bedded down. It was a beautiful sight. It was also my cue to get out of the forest. You can tell a lot by watching animals and their actions. I knew the weather would be on me quick.

I drove out of the forest and the rain hit hard, as did the clouds. Driving down the mountain was slow going, but nice. I contemplated going to another area to hunt, but I knew traffic was going to be nutty, so I decided I had had enough for the day. Sure enough, traffic was brutal coming back (Californian freak out at a raindrop on the freeway). I was patient and couldn't wait to see my girls and spend a fun evening with them. Being tired wasn't going to win this day.

Public land hunting in California is tough, cutthroat, and can wear you down. I simply don't go in with high expectations and with an open mind. I want to hunt, but I don't always have to kill something. I love being out there, on the side of a mountain (or hillside) and scanning the vast area for wild game. Filling my freezer is great, too. It's all a matter of perspective.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Book Review: 'Long Range Shooting Handbook: A beginner’s Guide to Precision Rifle Shooting’ by Ryan Cleckner

Notice I have many marked pages. That's a good sign!

There is quite a feeling of accomplishment when you get your rifle set up properly and make a shot at long range. It takes some knowledge, some skill, and proper technique. For the past couple months, I have been reading the ‘Long Range Shooting Handbook: A beginner’s Guide to Precision Rifle Shooting’ by Ryan Cleckner. Ryan was an OK shot in the military (Army Ranger sniper) and has a little experience around a precision rifle (firearms instructor) and is also an attorney (specializing in firearm law). He’s also a family man and loves a good scotch. You get my point, the man has skills and takes great care in what he does. For those of you that know me well understand that I have been shooting firearms just as long as I have been a bow. That certainly doesn’t mean I know everything, in fact it proved quite the opposite. I learn something new every day and this book offered much!

My Remington 700 SPS in .300 WM that I am using while reading the book.

Earlier  this year, I began working on a rifle build for long range shooting, to prepare for a possible sheep hunt. I had done plenty of research and chose a Remington 700 SPS chambered in .300 WM as my base weapon. While I love the rifle, if I had spent more time considering my options, I may have gone with a .308 due to available ammunition for hunting in California. Even still, I love my .300 WM. After I got things put together and began sighting it in, I found this book. Yes, it is a beginner’s guide, but it is full of great information. While I knew much at the beginning of the nook, I didn’t skip anything. I wanted to find out where Ryan was coming from and learn as much as I could. I really like the writing style as it’s genuine, to the point, and not a holier-than-thou manifest. He covers safety, the rifle parts, elevation, wind, and so on. It was great!

Part of reading the book that I found great was my choice of stock vs. what Ryan recommends. He dislikes the pistol-grip handle for a precision rifle, which is, of course, what I chose. Ha! It was great to read WHY he disliked it and it made perfect sense. For me, my wrist has given me problems over the years and I wanted to use something a bit more comfortable. When I first began shooting it, I was all over. It just so happened that when I followed Ryan’s advice while using the pistol-grip I was dead on. 306 yard shot on a 12” target felt pretty damn good. I improved even more after reading more and learning to watch some of the things I wasn’t doing quite right. There is some sage advice and guidance, you just have to pace yourself and I recommend taking notes.

The top three shots were applying Ryan's techniques at 100 yards.

A second feature of note was the use or non-use of a bipod. In my mind I needed one and couldn't hunt without it. The practical application of using one in the field for hunting wasn't feasible, but I couldn't come to grips with leaving it off. WHat can I say, I am a gearhead and I love technical stuff. Once I read what Ryan had to say and why it wasn't a good idea, I removed it to test the theory. It turns out, once again, that he knows what he is talking about. He was spot on and if you look at the image above, this was the result of using my pack as a rest vs. a bipod. (Anyone want to buy a bipod?)

Now, some of you will say that much of what is in here you already know. That is probably true, but if you take the time to read it, let it sink in (knowing it or not) and applying the techniques, you will improve. Admittedly, some parts went slow for me, but I kept an open mind, as I recommend you do, too.

The book retails for $24.95, but it's on Amazon for $14.95, or you can purchase it directly from the LRSH website. I highly recommend buying one and reading it. 25% of the book’s proceeds will be donated to two military charities: the Special Operation Warrior Foundation and the Sua Sponte Foundation. 

Ryan also has a podcast called Going Ballistic with Ryan Cleckner. I highly recommend tuning in if you want to learn more about long range shooting, but also some great firearm tips.

If you are looking to get into long range shooting or long range hunting, I would recommend reading this book prior. Read it cover-to-cover and you might be surprised what you learn. Take it from a guy who has been shooting for 30 years and learned quite a few things from the book. You can find the book on Amazon. If you do read the book, stop back and let me know what you thought. Let Ryan know, too!

Follow Ryan Cleckner on Social Media:

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Introduction to Archery Seminar Recap

Sharing knowledge with others is a passion of mine. What I mean is this, I love sharing what I have learned so that others may have more opportunity. On Saturday, I was privileged to be allowed to give an Introduction to Archery seminar at the Rancho Cucamonga Bass Pro Shops. I wasn’t sure how many would attend, but I am not in it for the numbers. I am in it to help others. It turned out to be a great Saturday.

The seminar attendees were of all ages. Some just starting out and some who had been archers many years ago and wanted to get back into it. As one who loves archery, I shared as much as I could in the hour I was up there. I covered everything from youth bows, to pro shops, and to becoming a proficient archer. There were some great questions and some that me thinking. One of which was where there were pro shops and archery ranges in the high desert. I was honest and let them know I wasn’t sure. My focus has normally been LA, OC, and Riverside Counties. For those, like Gary, that were asking, you may want to try High Desert Archery & Taxidermy, The Apple Valley Gun Club, or the Mojave Archers.

For those who stuck around and listened to me ramble on, thank you. For the young men I spoke with at the end, best of luck to you! I hope you are able to get out and shoot some bows, take some lessons, and enjoy it as much as I have. I warn you, it’s addicting once that first arrows flies, so enjoy!

My next Bass Pro seminar will be on November 5 at high noon. This one will be on hog hunting, so I anticipate a larger crowd. Arrive early to get a seat! I’ll cover things from weapons to use, where to look for pigs and pig sign, DIY vs. a Guided hunt, and meat care. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bass Pro Seminar - Introduction to Archery

On October 22, 2016, I will be giving an Introduction to Archery seminar at Bass Pro Shops in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. The seminar begins at 2:00 PM and will focus on archery, not hunting. There are many who are considering getting into archery, but do not know where to start and have many questions. This will be the perfect forum to get you all started!

If you have any questions or things you'd like to know, please email me before the seminar and I'll be sure to include them. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Badlands Announces Collaboration with Carbon Express Crossbows

West Jordan, UT – Badlands, an industry leader in hunting packs and apparel has teamed up with Carbon Express to offer the new Covert™ Tyrant™ Crossbow in Badlands Approach Camouflage. 

The Covert Tyrant features an advanced trigger box for a crisp and consistent trigger pull, while the adjustable picatinny rail systems allows for both adjustability and customization. Built with premium components, designed for balance and power, the Covert Tyrant delivers maximum responsiveness, and bolt speeds. 

“We’ve put over five years into developing our new Approach pattern and putting the pattern on cutting edge products is key for us,” said Blake VanTussenbrook, Marketing Manager for Badlands. “Carbon Express has once again come up with an amazing crossbow and we’re excited to have it available in Badlands Approach Camouflage. Performance, quality, and durability are key in everything we do and are qualities we share with Carbon Express and their products.” 

The Covert Tyrant featuring Badlands Approach Camouflage will be available early 2017. 

Now in its 22nd year, Badlands continues to focus on exceptional quality, continuing innovation, unmatched performance and as always the only unconditional lifetime warranty in the industry. 

For more information about this event, products in the Badlands line, or general inquiries, please contact Blake VanTussenbrook at 1.800.386.7839 or

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Sighting in Before the Opener

Brett reviewing his shot placement while using the Bullseye Camera System.

Waiting until the last minute is not something I am known for. In fact, I am more of a planner than anything else, but I was caught off guard this year due to finding time to hit the range and sight my rifle in. With the deer season opener in a couple weeks, Brett and I needed to go to the rifle range to be certain we were zeroed in.

A few months back, Brett and I spent time dialing in our rifles and figured we were pretty close before the bees took over. We couldn't be 100% sure we were ready, so we had to wait. I spent time with my friend Bill reloading my 300 WM ammo and prepping for range day. After doing my homework, I found a range that would work for Brett and I. We both got the day off and made our way to the Angeles Ranges.

After signing in, we set up at the far end. The range safety officers were really great and had no problem with me setting up my Bullseye Camera System at 100 yards. I saw so many guys with spotting scopes and watched their frustration of not being able to see which shot was which, and where there last shot went. I knew the BCS would be awesome for this.

I was the fortunate one to shoot first. As I tried to chamber on of my handloads, I noticed that the cartridge wasn't chambering properly. It would only go 80% of the way in and then stop. The first one stuck a bit, so I ejected the round and loaded a different one with the exact same result. I became increasingly concerned and wondered what I had done to my rifle! I had brought some factory rounds with me and decided to chamber one of them, and wouldn't you know it, it loaded perfectly! For some reason, my handloads wouldn't fit. Bill and I had taken a great deal of care in prepping the brass and loading them properly. I just couldn't figure out the problem. I brushed it off and shot the Federal cartridge, holding the rifle as I normally do. I was way off to my left. Before getting upset, I chambered another and fired. Then another and another. I disregarded the first shot due to the frustration of the rounds sticking in the chamber and making me upset. The next three were lower than I wanted and a bit scattered, but in the kill zone. I wasn't happy with the grouping, but I wasn't done shooting either. The Bullseye Camera System was fantastic in allowing us to see each shot with ease.

My target after shooting my Remington 700 chambered in 300 Win Mag at 100 yards.

For the past month, I have been reading The Long Range Shooting Handbook: A Beginner's Guide to Long range Shooting by Ryan Cleckner. Now, I am not a beginner shooter, but I am also no expert, so I read most of the book (still not done with it) as I would if I were a beginner. Ryan mentioned a few different ways of shooting and how he dislikes pistol grips on a rifle stock, but that if one were to use one to relax your hand and not torque the stock. There are also a few other tips he gave, so I applied them to my next three shots. I wanted to be 2" high at 100 yards to have my scope ready to shoot at longer distances. My next three rounds were exactly 2" high and two were touching, while the third was less than an inch away. Success! To be honest, I was ecstatic! I don't know if I have EVER had a rifle sight in that well. I was done, or so I thought. My next actions proved to be regretful. I took a different one of the reloads and chambered it to see if it would work. It was a tight fit, but chambered well. I shot and then attempted to eject the shell. The bolt was jammed! I pulled as hard as I could and had no luck. My heart sank and I got upset at first, but that quickly turned to questioning why this happened. I set the rifle down and helped Brett out while I considered my options.

Brett sighting in his hunting rifle at the Angeles Ranges.

We spent the next half hour on Brett's rifle and getting his shots tighter. After a half hour of shooting, he took a break. I tried ejecting the shell again and pulled with everything I had. When the shell gave and the bolt came back, it was so quick i didn't have time to react. My fingers became jammed between the scope and bolt handle. Not just stuck, but pinched tight enough to tear skin and not allow the use of my fingers. I had to use my other hand to push up on the bolt to release the tension. Yowza! That hurt, but it was totally worth it to know that the shell was ejected successfully. I checked the chamber for damage and saw none. The shell, on the other hand, showed exactly what had happened. The tolerance in my chamber is really tight and these shells were off by just a minute amount, but it was enough. Whew! To be sure my rifle was still shooting properly, I shot one of my lead rounds with success. 

Jammed my fingers in between the scope and bolt while extracting a stuck shell. Elbow is from the kick of the Win Mag.

Brett and I spent the rest of the afternoon dialing in his weapon. When we were finished, we were exhausted, but thrilled that we were ready for opening day of rifle season. With the opener less than than two weeks away, we are now packing and preparing for our hike into the backcountry. With any luck and hard work, we will be hauling one or two deer out of the woods next weekend.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Recap: Bowhunting Deer in SoCal Seminar at Bass Pro

Last Saturday morning, I prepared for my Bowhunting Deer in SoCal Seminar at Bass Pro Shops like I do any seminar. I collect my thoughts, make some notes, and set up in preparation for a few people to discuss hunting in SoCal. Normally, I try to keep my seminars to 20-30 minutes and save time for questions after. What I didn't prepare for were the number of blog readers that actually showed up! (Thank you all!)

The chairs filled very quickly and more hunters showed up to stand and listen to what I shared. I won't go into everything I covered (you can come to a seminar for that), but it was a great experience. I had the great pleasure of sharing my knowledge and fielding numerous questions from new and experienced bowhunters alike. My one hour seminar was extended and continued on for several hours. Yes, it went over three hours! I wanted to be sure each question was answered as there were many great questions! I do apologize to the wives and girlfriends that had to wait patiently. I hope the attendees got as much out if it as I did. Thank you all for showing up and participating!

I want to thank Bass Pro Shops for inviting me to do the seminar. It was a pleasure and I always have a good time! I also want to thank Raptorazor and Badlands Packs for providing some top-of-the-line giveaway items. Many walked away with a brand new Raptorazor Mako or Big Game Skinner. Raptorazor went above and beyond with these items and for those that won, please go over to their Facebook page and thank them. One lucky bowhunter walked away with a Badlands Calor 1/4 zip in the new Approach pattern. He emailed me and mentioned he will be using it this deer season. Great to hear! I would guess that he's going to get hooked on that pattern. I hope all of you get to use the prizes you won and I hope to hear the stories of your success!

Next month, on October 22 at 2 PM at Bass Pro, I will be giving an Intro to Archery seminar. I'll have more details soon, but in the meantime mark those calendars!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Opening Weekend Success! Deer Season is Here!

Opening day! The words just sounds sweeter when you say them out loud, right? For months, Brett and I have scouted, set trail cameras, and researched an area we wanted to hunt deer in the D14 zone. It's an area untouched by recent fire and we had high hopes. After seeing a couple bucks on camera and having opening weekend off, we made the trek and began our three day adventure.

Day one was simply a travel and scout day, as it was the day before the opener. On the way up the mountain I got tagged a few times by a hornet. Dang thing flew on my arm and I brushed him out the window only to have him fly back in, behind me, and land on my back. Brett pulled over and I ripped my shirt off as fast as I could. I think I may have blinded a few people by the sheer whiteness of my back! Fortunately, the hornet flew out the window, never to be seen by me again.

Once we had our gear settled into the cabin, we opted to glass our hunting location from a half mile away (as the crow flies) from a high vantage point. The area we sat was incredibly beautiful, quiet, and held deer. We spooked two doe when we set up, but they bedded 100 yards from us and watched us for over an hour. Those telltale ears gave them away as they lay on a hillside behind us. Glassing was great, but turned up no movement at all. Back at the cabin, we ate a good meal and hit the hay.

When the 3:00 AM alarm went off, I was grumpy. I had slept awful and the only reason I was thankful to get up was to turn the coffee maker on. Twenty minutes and two cups of coffee later I was ready to rock. It didn't take us long to gear up and head out the door.

The drive to our spot was a decent one, but worth it. We were at the trailhead before anyone else and it was at least a half hour before we saw other headlights on the road. Unfortunately, the wind was kicking up more than we expected. Long before sunrise, Brett got out to check the wind and thought he smelled smoke. It was faint, but present. A half hour later, we got out and began prepping to hike in when we both exclaimed that the smell of smoke was not only present, but strong. The sun now rising, we hiked up to a point and glassed for any sign of a plume. We couldn't find any and with the speed of the wind, and direction, we were on edge. We made a fire plan and set off about 200 yards apart to hunt the morning. We saw nothing and both of us, in our respective separate locations, noticed that around 9:00 the smoke was much stronger and began to fill the valley. I made my way back down the trail and met with Brett. He got up to talk and pointed behind me. Not far off, across a few ridges, was a plume of black smoke. Immediately, we headed for the truck with a plan to get out of Dodge, if we had no other choice.

Back at the cabin, we got online, made some calls, and within an hour the fire was out. It was called a 'trash fire', but we both think some twit got cold and started a campfire. We know the general location where it started and it's a tough to get to area. Then again, we are no experts. With the fire out, we gathered our things and made our way back out for the afternoon and evening hunt. 

A new area had been shared with us and Brett and I decided to scout it out midday. We hiked about 3 miles, over very rocky terrain, and found limited sign. According to Brett (and I agree), it was simply another area we will check off as an area we will not be hunting.

Back at the truck, with our options dwindling, we drove back to our original hunting spot. We split up and I decided to hit up some new, unexplored ground. The wind was still a factor, so I figured I wouldn't see much, but wanted to see what was over the ridge. The moment I crested the ridge and saw what was below, I knew we had been limiting ourselves. I double-checked the OnXmaps and topo map and the area was public land, legal to hunt, and beautiful! There were lush pines, cedar, and brush that would make any deer feel comfortable. I found deer tracks all over and surprisingly, tracks from a young bear. 

I was ecstatic! We had never seen a bear in this area before. I slowly hiked/hunted the area for over an hour and then made my way back to the ridge. I knew that the majority of the deer we saw were moving in the morning. I decided to glass from the ridge for the last couple hours and then meet up with Brett. I saw nothing but chipmunks and birds, but it was a pleasure to be outside. The new Badlands Approach camouflage worked great! The chipmunks and birds couldn't figure out what we were the entire weekend. Brett had a chipmunk sneak right up to him and a hummingbird attacked him. I had a wren do a few fly-bys to see what I was, but decided I wasn't worth the trouble after a while.

The next morning, we made plans to hunt one side of the property in the morning and the other in the evening, provided the wind played along. Mother Nature had other plans and the wind actually picked up. Hunting the first side was going to produce nothing but frustration as the wind was all wrong. We decided to head into the spot I scouted the day before. As we sauntered up the hillside, I pointed out the deer trail and how you'd never see the deer moving from the trailhead. Brett was equally as excited to see the new area as I had been. We explored and decided to hunt two ravines for the first hour. We saw nothing, but felt energized from how amazing the area was. Deer tracks, rabbit tracks, and dense brush for both to hide in. A gem for sure!

As we made our way to a wide-open clearing, we stopped to discuss our next move. As we talked (rather loudly, I might add), I noticed the distinct ears of a deer coming over the ridge toward us. She was actually heading WITH the wind and not into it. 'Stop! Deer! On the ridge!' were the only words I could get out quickly. We stopped talking and moving. Then a buck followed the doe, followed by another even larger buck. He was a shooter! They had come in on the exact trail we had walked in on. They walked directly toward us and the first buck, a spike, knew something wasn't right as he gave us the stink eye. Brett and I were in the worst position imaginable and there was no way to get to cover without spooking the deer. We nocked our arrows and patiently waited as the deer found a large scrub bush and began feeding. They were only sixty yards away, but we had a large branch in our way. Our only option was to wait for them to come in on the trail ten yards closer.

Numerous times, we watched as the mature buck chased the doe around the bush. I was surprised to see them rutting so early, but it was great to watch. Then the doe chased off the spike for a few moments while they continued to eat. After about fifteen minutes, they took a distant trail into another section of forest. We needed to get out ahead of them right away. I wanted Brett to get the shot, so I positioned him ahead of me. I knew there was a chance they would pass through a small window and for him to get ready. Sure enough, the two younger deer went right by it, but the mature buck stopped in the clearing, right behind a tree that completely covered his vitals. The five second stare down was too much for him and he bounded off.

While we were disappointed that we didn't get a shot off, we had a great encounter and a successful hunt. Our encounter brought back the hope that we will indeed fill a tag or two this year. Finding time to get out there again will be tough, but once we do it will be awesome.