Monday, January 18, 2016

My Daughter the Archer

Years ago, my dad showed me how much fun shooting a long bow could be. Some of my favorite memories of early archery are of him stringing my bow and allowing my brother and I to fling arrows at straw bales. My daughter has shown a keen interest for a couple years. She had her little suction cup bow that she outgrew rather quickly and I knew it was time she graduated to a real bow. For Christmas, I got her a new recurve bow and arrow set that I knew she could use for many years. She couldn't wait to shoot it, but with busy weekends and school, the earliest we could do it was this weekend. It was go time.

Before she could begin shooting, I needed to go through the new rules associated with a real bow. As with any seven year-old, staying focused when you are that excited is difficult at best. To make it fun, I asked her if she would like to make her own target. An immediate, 'Yes! With a heart in the center!' was the response I got. So, out came a large piece of cardboard and a Sharpie. I drew the circle and allowed her to make whatever center she wanted. The heart was perfect.

As a dad, I urge caution to all the other dads out there when teaching your children. Be patient. I have learned the hard way in the past and after listening to my wife, seeing the disappointment on my daughters face, and reviewing my 'teaching' methods, I made some adjustments. As this was going to be new for her, I wanted her to have fun. The only thing I was strict about was safety. Other than that, I wanted her to shoot at the target, have fun, and have fun. Yes, I repeated myself, but it's true. The reason I bought her the bow was to be able to shoot with me and have fun. The best part - I was patient.

The arm guard was adjusted to her forearm, and the leather finger protector was placed on her right hand. It was overly large for her hands, but I wanted her to get a feel for it. Then, instead of telling her to draw, aim, open fingers...I simply helped her draw the bow and shoot. We repeated this five or six times before her independence took over. I was proud to see her wanting to do it herself. Did the first dozen arrows hit the 'heart' where she wanted? No. To be honest, I didn't care and neither did she. I saw the smile, heard the laugh, and saw the look of accomplishment in her eyes. Success! She was having fun and so was I.

She set the bow down for a couple hours and wanted to play. Later that afternoon, I picked it up and began shooting. Almost immediately she wanted back in the game. Like her dad, she wanted nothing to do with the finger protector. She wanted to shoot with her fingers. After two or three shots with me guiding her, she took over. The best part of the entire outing can be summed up in this nine-second video.

The best part was when she looked into my eyes and said, 'Now I'm an archer!' I could not stop smiling and right back to her said, "You are darn right you are! Great job, Munchkin!" I have a feeling we will be shooting a lot this year.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Product Review: SealSkinz Shooting Gloves

Cold hands will usually make for a miserable hunt. Keeping my hands warm and protected is a priority. In preparation for my Colorado elk hunt last fall, I thought the SealSkinz Sporting Gloves would be a great fit. I tested them, but wanted to utilize them while hunting with a firearm. I haven't done much firearm hunting in the past few years, but this year I finally broke that streak. When I started hunting for deer and bear in California, the temperatures had dropped and I needed to keep my hands warm. That's when the SealSkins Shooting Gloves came out. I had these for over a year and finally had the opportunity to test them out in colder weather while using a firearm. Throughout the season I have been using them and here is my review.

From the SealSkinz website:

These Gun-cut gloves feature a fold-back magnetic trigger finger enabling precise control.
  • Totally waterproof, breathable and windproof
  • Magnetic fold-back trigger finger cover is quiet and enables precise control
  • Coolmax® liner for moisture control
Material composition:
  • Outer Shell: 14% Spandex 20% Polyester Nylon, 66% Polyamide/Nylon
  • Micro-pourous Membrane
  • Inner: 50% Polyester 50% Coolmax
The gloves fit very snug, yet allow for mobility. That is a big plus. This is also a con as it is tough to get these suckers off when your fingers are cold. Even when they are warm it is tough.

They have a VELCRO strap on the wrist and if you know me at all, I don't like VELCRO at all for hunting. The long cuffs are great if you don't wear a watch (see photos above). I typically wear a watch while hunting, so this was an impediment as the cuff completely covers your wrist. I opted to test it with the watch on and then with it off. I definitely preferred the gloves with no watch on. Getting back tot he VELCRO, I actually think it works great for these gloves. I will only be using these gloves when hunting with a rifle or shotgun, so the noise the VELCRO makes isn't much of an issue. Plus, if you want them waterproof, you need something that will help cinch down on your wrist. This works very well.

The trigger fingers have a magnetic, flip-back cover that allows you to keep your fingers covered and warm until you need to fire your weapon. I prefer to feel the trigger against my skin, so this is a very cool feature. It is a bit difficult to get it off and flipped back quickly, so you have to practice. I had to figure out a trick to get mine off of my fingers. I do like this feature though. The magnets are strong enough to attach to other metal on you, so prepare yourself for that. I found that if I was crawling on my hands and knees I had to take time to get small bits of iron off the magnets each time. These will stick to metal items in your pocket, too. Be cautious of sticking your hands in your pockets too often during a hunt.

The gloves are waterproof and windproof when you first start using them. Keep in mind that if you dunk your hand or stay out in the rain for hours on end, the open spots (trigger fingers, as mentioned above) will get wet, but the enclosed, covered parts will remain dry, for a time. In my opinion, nothing that is breathable can remain completely waterproof, but these held up well. I hunted in the wind and my hands stayed very warm as well. I would much rather wear these in the wind than in the rain. Also, when you flip the finger covers over and over, they will stretch and leave large gaps where water can get in.

Not warm enough in extremely cold weather, the SealSkinz Shooting Gloves kept my hands warm in just about everything else. I used them when it was warm while hiking, cold while scouting, and cold while hunting. They kept my hands comfortable for the most part, but I wouldn't say toasty, except for the warm Cali days of hiking. My fingers did get cold at times in the cold weather which made for removing the gloves a challenge. Cold fingers don't allow for easy mobility. That being said, I didn't have issues with my hands getting overly cold or overly hot.

The SealSkinz Shooting Gloves retail for $75.00, which is a tough pill for me to swallow for hunters in SoCal or hunters on a budget. I plan on hunting more in the colder months, but it doesn't rain a great deal here, nor does the hunting involve cold temperatures for long periods of time.
I will continue to wear these when I hunt with a rifle. Every time I have used these I have been happy with the performance, but I haven't used them consistently for an entire year or two. If I paid $75.00 for a pair of gloves, I hope they would last for a long time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hunting Season Recipe for Tag Soup

Alright, so the headline is misleading. There is no recipe for tag soup as there are a million and one ways to make it. My 2015 California deer season was short-lived and was a great recipe for tag soup. I was able to get out only a few times with the bow and twice with the rifle, but saw very few deer and none in range. While I may be eating tag soup, it's not that the season wasn't successful. I was able to go scouting with a new bow hunter, hunt with some friends who I have been hoping to hunt with for a long time, and I was able to see some beautiful countryside. That ranks as a success in my book.

My favorite time to hunt deer in SoCal is during December with my A31 tag. It gets cold, frigid in fact, and the deer are moving a lot more. Unfortunately for me, my contractor flaked on me for a couple days and could only work one particular day. That day just happened to be the last day of the hunting season. I was pretty bummed that I couldn't make it out to hunt, but priorities had to come first.

So now that 2016 is here, my focus is going to be getting in Colorado shape, hunting some pigs, and hopefully doing some seminars again. I miss getting out to Bass Pro and sharing what I have learned, hearing your hunting stories, and meeting experienced and new hunters. With your help and requests I will put together a plan for this year to give a couple seminars encompassing archery, hunting, glassing, or anything else you want to learn about.

With all of the rain we are getting this week I will be out after pigs soon. They are going to be tearing it up. Anyone looking to get out and hunt some pigs? Anyone want to get together and shoot up some targets? Shoot me a message and we'll see what we can do.

I hope you all have a great 2016 and I look forward to meeting more of you! Happy hunting, stay safe, and enjoy the ride!