Thursday, July 28, 2016

Southern California Challenges from Fire and Government


A few years back, I talked about the 2009 Station Fire and how it affected hunting for me. For those who don't know or remember, the Station Fire burned 160, 477 acres, which equates to roughly 251 square miles. That was one of many wildfires that year. It took homes, people, and destroyed habitat. Due to the devastation and closures, I had to find new land to hunt. After finding some new hunting buddies and much scouting, we found a few areas to hunt. That changed with the major wildfires like the 2015 Lake Fire in the San Bernardino National Forest that burned 31,359 acres and the 2016 Sand Fire that has currently eaten over 38,000 acres. These fires have been intense and incredibly destructive. It's a tough pill to swallow seeing your hunting spots go up in smoke, but you have to deal with it.

While many of the areas opened back up from the Station Fire, there are still many key access points blocked. Access points that would allow hunters to utilize their tags. I said this four years ago and I'll repeat it now:

The deer population is going down and hunter numbers are increasing. Land being developed for human use is on the rise and finding public land to hunt is tougher than ever. How long before we are all having to travel out of state to hunt deer because we just can't catch a break in SoCal? Unfortunately, I see that in our near future. More and more hunters are going elsewhere to hunt because of the strict laws, lowered population of game to hunt and places to go.

I hunt out of state, from time to time, for many reasons. I have family and friends out of state, but that gets very expensive and can be a marriage hazard. We are in a drought and it's not safe to hunt in many areas. Many are going elsewhere due to the insane gun and ammunition laws passed by the California government. They are muddying up fact with opinion and it's a mudslide right into the crapper for legal firearm owners and hunters. We already face the strictest gun laws in the country, but they can't seem to see that taking away guns will help what is going on. That's a post or series of posts for another time and to be honest, my mind has become tired of the BS in our state government.

Back to the fire issues, Brett and I had found some excellent spots that held deer. We set trail cameras, scouted, and had found deer in the past couple years. I don't remember which one of us said it first, but we knew it was only a matter of time before the area we were hunting would succumb to wildfire. It was primed and we had little to no rain. Sure enough, when news of the Sand Fire hit the airwaves I knew it was only a matter if time before it rapidly spread. It didn't take long for the areas we had spent so much time scouting and researching to go up in smoke. Am I a bit dejected? Sure. I'm human and much time and effort went into finding these spots. Yet, I find myself deeply saddened for the people who lost homes, loved ones, and pets. I am saddened for the animals who couldn't make it out of the fire. I also find myself extremely grateful for the hard working firefighters busting their humps in this incredible heat and risking their lives to put a stop to the fires. Thank you to everyone out there fighting the fires! You guys rock!

So now we are back at square one...well, two. We know areas to go to and that we can scout, so we have that advantage. We will have to drive a bit further, hike much deeper, and camp out longer in more areas. It's tough to do for sure when you have a family, career, and people relying on you at home. It is a struggle many of us face, but we will persevere and we will hunt.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Gear Review: SunJack 14W+8000mAh Solar Charger & Battery

Folded up, the portable SunJack 14W+8000mAh Battery attaches to a backpack with ease.

Harnessing energy is awesome! The power of the sun gave strength to Superman, so why not use solar energy for our own transportable power in the backcountry? For years I have used my cell phone, GPS unit, and other electronics in the field and have needed to rely on battery power alone. More than once, I ran out of juice and it was tiresome. I needed a reliable source of power, and that is where SunJack comes in. I was given the opportunity to field test the SunJack 14W+8000mAh Battery for the past few weeks and living in an area with the sun shining all day long, I figured it was one I could not pass up. This is a solar charger and it comes with a rechargeable battery.

Unfolding the SunJack 14W is simple.

The SunJack zippered compartment holds the battery, carabiners and a little room left over.


Here is what came in the box:

  •     SUNJACK Portable Solar Charger with USB output port
  •     SUNJACK Fast-Charge Battery Pack
  •     SUNJACK Fast-Charge Cable
  •     SUNJACK Carabiners (2)
  •     Quickstart Guide
 
The website description states: Every SunJack provides wall outlet charging speeds in direct sun, and can charge a smartphone in just 90 minutes.

14W + 8000mAh Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 Battery - Ideal for the typical phone or tablet user. Fully charges SunJack battery in five hours of direct sun and holds enough juice for 4 smartphones or 1 tablet.
 
One of the things that intrigued me about the SunJack was the battery pack that comes with it. I found that the SunJack was actually more efficient that the website claims. That's a good thing! In fact, the first time I set the solar panels out, it was cloudy. The battery pack charged in nearly 6 hours. On a cloudy day in SoCal (there are a few), the battery charged and that was a good thing. We don't usually see many cloudy days, but they do come around from time to time. In full, direct sunlight the battery pack charges in just under five hours.

Usually, when I am hunting, I don't need to charge my phone until later in the day or evening after my hunt. When I charged the battery full a second time, I disconnected the battery and it sat for a few hours as I wanted to be sure it wouldn't lose the charge. It held a full charge for hours and then I plugged in my nearly dead iPhone. I was able to charge my phone and my wife's phone on one battery charge with plenty of power to spare. What impressed me even more was how quickly they charged up. The phones charged in just over an hour. That's from being near fully drained of power. Impressive!

There is also a built-in flashlight that works very well in a pinch. I didn't use it that often, but it's a great little added feature that can come in handy in the woods.

Here I charged the SunJack battery and my Action Cam at the same time.

There are two different USB ports that you can use at the same time. I attempted to charge up my Action Cam and the SunJack battery at the same time. I loved being able to charge two things at once, but that was short-lived. The issue with this is that you MUST keep the solar panels facing directly into the sun at all times, and it works much better when the sun is strongest. One of my tests was to try and charge the battery and my Action Cam in the evening. The sun was strong, so I connected both units and left them out for two hours. The battery charged some and the Action Cam only charged a quarter battery life. At first I was disappointed, but I figured out that at that time of day, you may not get a full charge. Plus, once I connected the battery to the Action Cam, it charged to full in less than 45 minutes with plenty of charge power left. The battery is where it's at! You can also charge up other battery units with the SunJack, which is another plus.

The claims for charging four smart phones or one tablet are pretty much right on. I charged four smart phones on one battery charge and still had a bit of power left over. I also charged up my daughter's Kindle from 10% to 100%, all while she was still using it, and I still had a quarter of the power left in the battery. I used that to charge my phone to full. Again, charging up the battery is the key, in my opinion.

Unfolded SunJack attached to my pack.
 
The SunJack takes up some real estate, but soaks up solar energy quite well.

The physical size and weight is not going to be for the ultralight backpacker, but for a hunter it should be no problem. The entire set up weighs nearly two pounds, but if you are planning on being in the backcountry for more than a day, it would be well worth packing to have power. Unfolded, it is REALLY long (31"), and while you can keep it on your backpack while hiking, I am not sure I would do that regularly because of the movement and also the need for direct sunlight. I would be afraid of sun glare for the folks behind you, or the solar panels being damaged. I am going to test out folding the panels in half, from four to two, and see if that works to charge the battery while I am hiking.

The unit is very rugged and took a beating. I dropped it, tossed it, and stood up to the torture. Everything is built well, too. The case and all is structurally sound and the zipper pocket works great.

I also wanted to mention that SunJack has a Full 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, which means if for any reason you are not satisfied, contact them and they'll take care of you.

Overall, I was pleased with the performance and usefulness of the entire kit. Would I recommend it to my fellow outdoorsmen and women? Not only would I recommend it, I highly encourage you to pick one up. The SunJack 14W+8000mAh Solar Charger and Battery retails for $150.00 and that's a reasonable price for what you get and how well it functions. I am considering an extra battery, too. The extra battery is $30 and would give my just a bit more power. That way I can have one fully charged BEFORE I hunt, just in case there isn't much sun on any given day. These are great for hunting, fishing, camping, and any other excursion outdoors where you need battery power. As always, if you have any questions, please leave me a comment below. Thanks for reading!

Want to buy?SunJack has offered my readers a 15% discount on anything in their online store
Just use the code " SoCalBowhunter " at check out! 

Follow SunJack on Facebook and Twitter.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the SunJack 14W+8000mAh Battery for free from SunJack in consideration for a gear review. The reviews on The SoCal Bowhunter are solely my honest opinions. I receive no monetary compensation in exchange for these reviews.  All content © The SoCal Bowhunter. No reproduction, in any form, w/o explicit written permission.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

SHARE Program Offers Big Game, Upland Hunts in Santa Barbara County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) program will provide public access for big game and upland game hunts this fall at several locations in Santa Barbara County.

For the fourth year, fall hunts for deer, bear, turkey, quail and dove at Jones Ranch and Sleepy Creek Ranch will be offered to the hunting public. These remote ranches in West Cuyama Valley encompass 1,000 acres between them and will offer separate hunting opportunities. The terrain offers miles of trails through oak savannah, riparian, juniper-sage woodland and chaparral habitats. The ranches are adjacent to public lands, providing additional hunting opportunities not easily accessible to other hunters.

For the first time, Baeke Ranch will offer deer, quail and wild pig hunts. Overlooking the Santa Ynez Valley just northwest of Solvang, Baeke Ranch is located in Ballard Canyon Ranches, known locally as "Hog Valley.” The property is approximately 20 acres surrounded by open space and encompasses maze of game trails winding through chaparral scrub and coyote brush with large oak and pine cover.

Hunters with a valid California hunting license may apply online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/online-sales. An $11.37 non-refundable application fee will be charged for each hunt choice. Successful applicants for each property will be allowed to bring a hunting partner or a non-hunting partner depending on the hunt.

These opportunities were made possible by the SHARE program, which offers incentives to private landowners who allow wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities on their property. Participating landowners receive monetary compensation and liability protection for providing limited public access to or through their land. The goal of the SHARE program is to provide additional hunting, fishing and other recreational access on private lands in California. For more information about SHARE opportunities please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/share.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Range Day Intruders Doing Fly-Bys

Weeks have passed and my rifle has been begging me to head back to the range. This isn't any normal range though. It isn't limited to 100 yards or specific targets. No, this range is out in the desert where we can set up our own targets and take our time sighting in. It is a fantastic place, but on this particular day we would experience something none of us had ever encountered before.

Let's review the past few months for a minute. I have been building a 300 Win Mag for hunting longer ranges and to learn more about long distance shooting. I am always trying to learn more when it comes to hunting. The rifle has been built for a time and the last time I ventured to the range, I spent a great deal of time sighting it in. It was a tiresome ordeal as it was difficult to see the hit marks and track them. I needed something that would allow me to track the shots, but also not force me to use a spotting scope or walk 100-300 yards each time to see my hit. After careful research, I contacted Bullseye Camera Systems (BCS) owner, Nick S. I asked him multiple questions, watched his videos, asked more questions (he is very patient) and decided I needed to get one to see if it was worth the money. Plus, I am not getting any younger and I wanted to be sure my rifle was zeroed in and that I could reduce my frustration. My Long Range System arrived two days before our trip to the desert and I was ready.

The drive to the range was full of hunting conversation between Brett and I. We were excited to sight in our rifles with our new MINOX long range scopes and that we would be testing the Bullseye Camera System. Unbeknownst to us, there was already an unwelcome party waiting for us.

'I've been here a minute and I already have a bee in my SUV,' was the first thing Mike said to us when we arrived. As Brett and I began to unload, bees began zeroing in on us. Within minutes we had a dozen doing fly-bys. It was 6:30 AM and we knew this could turn out to be a very long day.

Brett and I headed up the rocky hillside to set up the Bullseye Camera System. The camera itself weighed next to nothing and comes in a convenient plastic ammo-can carrying case. At 200 yards we began to set up when a swarm of bees appeared and were relentless! We left the target, but took the camera with us to set up at 100 yards. I have never seen bees so incredibly aggressive. Back at 100 yards, we quickly set the camera and connected everything. I had the foresight to turn on and connect the wifi back at the benches to save time with the bees. I sure am glad I did.

With the camera set to view the target, we began shooting. I cannot tell you how great it was to see our shot locations appear on the iPad. (I'll do a complete review of the system later.) We continued to shoot and verify our hits on the target via the BCS. This system is something people have been needing for years. I truly mean that!

We learned rather quickly that shooting shooting uphill to sight in was a problem and that we needed to shoot flat at first. Unfortunately, the bees took over and drove us out. My friend Mike got tagged twice by the bees and I got one in the hand and a miss on the leg. Thew damn bee attacked my leg, but he died tragically before he could deploy any venom. We could see that the swarm was growing by the minute and we decided to pack up and get out. We moved as fast as we could, but the swarm kept growing and the bees became more aggressive. We tossed everything into our trucks and took off.

Brett and I have plans to now hit one of the local shooting ranges to utilize the Bullseye Camera System and sight our rifles in properly. We will then video the process and share the experience.