Monday, August 13, 2018

SHARE Program to Offer Wild Pig, Waterfowl, Pheasant, Quail and Dove Hunts this Fall

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) program will provide public access for hunting on properties in Colusa, Merced, Santa Barbara and Solano counties this fall.

For the first time, SHARE will offer deer, quail and dove hunts on a new property in Santa Barbara County. Harrington Farms is 785 acres of farmland and rolling hills consisting of oak savannahs and juniper-sage woodlands east of Hwy 33. Deer hunters must have a valid D13, D11, D15 or Archery Only (AO) deer tag. Only non-lead ammo will be allowed on this property. The hunts will take place September 2018 through January 2019.

SHARE is offering nine archery-only wild pig hunts at East Park Reservoir located in Colusa County, approximately 45 minutes west of Maxwell. SHARE hunters will have access to 600 acres of oak woodland on the south side of the reservoir for these hunts. CDFW will randomly draw one permit (good for two hunters) for each hunt period. The hunts will take place October 2018 through February 2019.

SHARE will also offer seven wild pig hunts from November to December at Rush Ranch, located in Solano County. Rush Ranch is a 2,070-acre open-space area bordered by the Suisun Marsh. Two permits (each good for two hunters) will be randomly drawn for each period. SHARE hunters will have access to 1,000 acres of the ranch for these hunts and will be able to camp in a designated area for no extra fee.

SHARE is also offering waterfowl, dove and pheasant hunts on the wildlife management area at the city of Merced’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. The property is located five miles south of the City of Merced and is tucked between sloughs and agricultural fields. The seasonal pond and wetland on the property provide cover and forage for waterfowl, dove and pheasant and 300 acres will be open to hunting. Successful applicants will be allowed to bring a hunting partner or non-hunting partner.

Hunters with a valid California hunting license may apply for these hunts through the Automated License Data System. An $11.62 non-refundable application fee will be charged for each hunt choice. Application deadlines are 17 days before each hunt.

To apply for these hunts, please visit, log in to your account and select “Purchase Licenses.” Then select “2018 – Hunting, 2018 - SHARE Hunts Multi Choice Application,” then select specific hunt periods.

These opportunities are made possible by the SHARE Program, which offers private landowners liability protection and compensation for providing public access to or through their land for wildlife-dependent recreational activities. 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

Friday, August 10, 2018

Your Chance to Help California's Bighorn Sheep

This came through my email tonight and I thought it wise to share. Please read and if you can help, please do! Feel free to share with others.

The California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW), the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep (SCBS) and the National Park Service (NPS) are requesting help from volunteers to haul water to three big game drinkers (Kelso, Kerr, Vermin) within the Mojave Preserve during the weekend of August 17th-20th. All three drinkers are used by desert bighorn sheep along with many other species and due to the lack of rain this year all three drinkers are at risk of running dry before the end of summer.

We can use all the help  we can get to help layout hose, man the pumps and shuttle trucks with water tanks from the water truck to the drinkers. We'll have plenty of pumps and hoses but if anyone can bring a pickup with an empty bed, or an off-road water trailer, we can sure put you to good use as well. The Preserve is providing a water truck and water buffalo which combined can hold 3000 gallons. SCBS will have some 250 gallon cage tanks for the back of pickups but if you have your own, we'll use it. Extra ratchet straps are always helpful too.

If you have a large water trailer (or water truck!) that is best suited for on-road use, we can use you at the staging area to avoid tripping all the way back up to Baker for refills.  If you don't have a 4x4 but want to help, we can fit you in another truck as a passenger/spotter - be sure to let us know so we can make an effort to arrange it that way.

NPS and CDFW folks will start laying out some of the hoses on Friday (Aug 17th), if you're available to help please contact Debra and Ashley (emails below). Otherwise SCBS folks will be meeting at Camp Cady on Friday evening to prepare equipment, load equipment onto Big Red and cage tanks into volunteer trucks so that we are ready for an early start on Saturday to beat the heat. Show up in the afternoon or any time before 6 am Saturday. There are a few rooms in the bunkhouse but it will be hot and you might prefer camping out on a cot. There is plenty of space to spread out. On Saturday morning we will head from Camp Cady to Baker to load up on water (thanks to Baker Community Services.) Timing can be subject to delays but we should be at Baker around 7 am or so. If you are not inclined to camp at Camp Cady or you're a real early bird then you should plan to get to Baker about 7 am at the latest and watch for us.

Thank you for your time and if you are available to help all or any of these days (Aug 17-19th) please RSVP to the email addresses below:

Steve Marschke (SCBS):
John Roy (SCBS):
Ashley Evans (CDFW):
Debra Hughson (NPS):

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Product Review: GreenBelly Meals

When it comes to food to pack for hunting I like to have variety. I hunt hard and I like to eat, so I want something that will fill me up, be nourishing, and it has to taste good. A good balance of protein, carbs, and needed salts are a must. For the last few scouting trips I have packed Greenbelly Meals for my meals with some interesting results.

I tried out all three flavors:
  • Dark Chocolate Banana
  • Cranberry Almond
  • Peanut/Apricot

Each 650+ calorie, ready-to-eat meal is divided between two bars in one convenient pouch. They are made from all-natural and gluten-free ingredients. Each pouch contains 1/3 of your daily nutrition, so planning out meals is easy. What I liked right away is that I didn't have to pack anything to heat up water in order to eat. I could tear open a pouch and eat right away. The packaging is excellent for keeping the meal secure and to allow it to close (zip lock shut) if you don't finish the meal.

My first impression of the Greenbelly meals is that these taste really good! I started off with the chocolate banana. I knew I'd be scouting in 85-100 degrees and I didn't want the chocolate to melt. The aroma is great and flavor is excellent. These taste really good (did I say that already?). They are a bit salty for my liking, but I understand you need to replenish the salts in your body when exerting yourself like I was. Even still, I'd like to try some that weren't so salty.

Side Note: While the pouch seals well and is a great size to fit in my pack, they are noisy! If you are hunting you'd likely consider a different way to bring these out. I'd suggest taking them out of the original packaging and vacuum sealing them as individual bars (I'll get to why in a second). That would allow for a quieter experience. I also think these crumble very quickly inside a pack. I found that if i did not put these at the very top of my pack, they bars got a bit crushed into more of a granola and not a bar. That's why I think I would vacuum seal individual bars the next time out. That being said, these do take up less space that your typical backcountry meal pouch and that alone is a major plus.

These are made to be a meal, but I found that while biking or hiking longer distances, eating an entire meal was not a good idea. These are REALLY filling! Along with the salts, you need to drink plenty of water to get these to digest properly. I was better off eating one bar vs. two. If it was the end of the day and I was back at camp then I would slowly eat both. I nearly lost my breakfast a few times due to eating an entire pouch while glassing and then biking a few more miles. I learned the hard way so you don't have to.

Once I had reached my destination (or end of my one way bike/hike trip) I parked under a tree with some shade and ate the peanut/apricot. This was a great combo of flavor. I ate in half-hour increments as to not fill my stomach too quickly. I was able to seal the bag, take a nice nap, and eat the rest when I woke up. I knew I was going to be climbing uphill for a few miles and needed the energy.

Some of the best things about the GreenBelly meal are that they are great for hunting in SoCal. You can't have a fire right now, so it's great to have a meal like this to open and eat. They taste great and fill you up. Gluten-free means more people can enjoy them. They don't melt in the heat like a candy bar or trail mix with chocolate, and they are easy to eat! I can see these being great for a 2-3 day hunt, but I would get bored eating the same thing everyday. I plan to pack some other snacks like jerky and nuts as well.

Overall, I was impressed with how good these taste, fill you up, and keep your energy level up. I did not have a favorite because I liked them all! I will take these out again for sure. A three-pack will cost you $22.99 which is really good considering what competitors will charge you for a meal that you have to prepare (and these taste better!). If you plan on hunting for longer periods of time and need more meals, you are better off buying a bulk pack and dividing it up accordingly. I would certainly recommend these to hunters looking to pack lighter, not have to cook anything, and who want good nutrition while hunting. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Trail Cams and Trash - A Saturday Story

Out of shape. I must have repeated those words a dozen times as I biked up the mountain incline. The benefit was that each time I had to stop, I glassed the hillsides and ravines. In a short time I glassed up two bucks, one legal, and watched them go where the others had gone a month before. It was a successful trip yet again!

Ramon and I biked in to where we had set our trail cameras. We picked up some trash we found and then grabbed our cards from the cameras. We were excited to have plenty of images of deer (many doe with fawns), one medium-sized cat, a two-legged mammal in plaid, and squirrels. With plenty of battery life left, we downloaded the pictures and reset the cameras. We then hiked up a bit further and set another cam along a cervid highway. I have high hopes of seeing something legal!

We came down the hill to find trash in odd places. When Ramon said he found a recent sardine can I about puked. Who the heck would eat sardines in this heat? Either way, he picked it up and I continued to find more trash. We both filled bags and pack out what you see below. We found even more down a steep drainage to be removed at a later date.

It makes me sick to see such disregard for our public lands. If you bring it in, TAKE IT BACK OUT! I kept laughing when I looked at the "YOU'RE #1" balloon and kept thinking that isn't the finger that comes to mind with all of this trash. We will continue to clean up after others as we want the land to be clean and free of man-made debris. 

The season is looking promising and we are eager for opening day in two months. I hope the temps drop a little, but the deer are moving! What has your scouting looked like? Any good news to report?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Gear Review: Impact Sport BOLT Electronic Earmuffs

What's that? Say again? What'd he say? Huh? These are words you don't want to have to repeat over and over because you didn't use hearing protection at the range. Your hearing is important and if you have ever fired a rifle and not used hearing protection you know what I am talking about. I have used hearing protection all my life and I am always looking for improvements as I grow older. For about six months I have been field-testing the Impact Sport BOLT Electronic Earmuffs from Howard Leight by Honeywell. 

When it comes to hearing protection, I am a bit picky. If it covers my ears, it had better block out the excess noise and work with my rifles with a cheek riser. I also want something that is not bulky, easily adjustable, and it must be comfortable. 

In the package are the BOLT earmuffs, 2 AAA batteries, 3.5 mm auxiliary cable (for MP3 players and scanners), belt clip and extra pads. They come conveniently packed with easy to follow instructions.

The BOLT earmuffs turn on easily with one rolling switch (shown in the image above). You can adjust volume up or down depending on your own personal hearing needs.

Adjustment on these is easy and I was able to fit them to my rather large head with no issues. They cover the ears fairly well and are not too tight. The benefit to that is that your head won't sweat terribly with them fitted properly. Plus, these work well on kids smaller heads. Most of the time my daughter complains at how tight the earmuffs are. She didn't complain with these. The not-so-good part is that they can slip or pull away from your ear if you aren't careful. They don't fit very snug. I was shooting my Remington .270 with a high cheek riser and when I fired the shot, I had the riser too close to the earmuff, thus lifting it from my ear and having my ear take much of the blast. It was my own fault, but I want to urge caution with that. You better believe I only made that mistake once. Even still, I wish these hugged my head a wee bit tighter.

The Impact Sport BOLT Electronic Earmuffs function very well as hearing protection and also as a means to hear when your buddy tries to have a conversation with you while everyone is shooting. The volume can be adjusted up or down to minimize or maximize volume and protection. You can adjust it for different calibers to reduce the volume, but if you choose, you can also turn them right off. These worked very well when tested with four shooters. I was able to converse with my friends while shooting and my hearing was protected.

These will turn off automatically after four (4) hours of non-use. This helps save battery life.

Storage of the BOLTs is easy. Pop the actual muffs back inside to the headpiece and they fit in your hand. They easily pack into a range bag or a backpack. This also helps from them accidentally turning on.

Should you choose to invest, the Impact Sport BOLT Electronic Earmuffs can be found online for around $84.00. For me, that is a sound investment because once your hearing goes, you cannot get it back. Protect your hearing! Even though I wish these fit tighter to my head, I would recommend picking up a pair as they are an excellent hearing protection device.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Helping a Friend Properly Mount His Vortex Rifle Scope

Months ago, I was at the shooting range having a casual conversation with my friend Bill G. about rifle scopes. Seeing the Vortex scopes I was using, he mentioned he had never really had a great scope nor had he really thought about it. At SHOT Show 2018, I had him check out the Vortex Strike Eagle scopes and he loved them. In fact, he had quite a smile on his face after. I told him that we would have to get him set up when he purchased his next rifle.

Fast forward a few months when his new rifle arrived. He decided to transfer an old scope to it and wanted a Strike Eagle for his .300 BLK. I had him look at the specs and offered my recommendations. He enthusiastically decided on a Strike Eagle 4-24x50 and was itching to mount it properly. *Hint, hint, Al!* Unfortunately, I got really busy and had to postpone. Bill is a patient man and last week I finally made the time to go to his house.

Bill mentioned that he had never properly mounted a scope, so I brought over my Wheeler Manufacturing scope mounting kit and got to work. Bill had already compared the glass in his other scopes and the Vortex. He said he was surprised at how crisp and clear it was.

We first got a rough idea where the rings should go and tightened them finger tight. I laid the scope in the rings and we tightened the bolts down to get an idea if we needed to lap them. We determined they need to be lapped slightly, so I walked Bill through the process and had him do the work. Once I was satisfied, we cleaned up the rings and set the scope in, locking it lightly in place.

Next, I wanted to be sure we got proper eye relief set up. Bill is a lefty and shoots a little different than I, so I adjusted the scope while he held a shooting position. Within a few seconds were at a good place. You seriously couldn't wipe the smile off his face!

Once the proper eye relief was set we got to the leveling portion. I am a pretty thorough guy when it comes to things like this. Bill also falls into this category, so we spent the better part of our time verifying level, torquing the rings down, loosening them back up, adjusting the scope once again, and by now I am sure you get the picture. We spent a considerable amount of time getting it just right. We nailed it and were thrilled!

We torqued the rings to 25 in. lbs. and rechecked the eye relief. We both gave the rifle a once over and had to check the optic range of the Strike Eagle. To say it was incredible doesn't give it any justice. Clear, sharp, and when we dialed it up to 24 power it felt like you could hit a sparrow at 400 yards. Who knows, maybe we will have to get this set up shooting that far.

Bill may not smile much for pictures, but that is the face of a happy rifleman! With his new Vortex Strike Eagle 4-24x50 scope mounted properly, he is eager to get to the range in a couple weeks and sight it in. Heck, I am eager to get out there! I am stoked for him and can't wait to see what he is able to do with that set up. I'll bet he is going to be the happiest guy at the range! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Hog Hunting Seminar at Bass Pro Shops!

For those of you asking me when the next hog hunting seminar is... Wait no longer! Hog hunting experts Ron Gayer and Durwood Hollis will be presenting a wild pig hunting seminar at Bass Pro Shops in Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday, July 21 from 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM. I've attended this seminar and it's worth every penny. The seminar will be held in the fine gun room (top of the stairs to the right of the fish tank and hang a right). Hollis and Gayer have decades of wild pig hunting experience with much of it on public land.

The seminar will cover a wide range of wild pig hunting topics, including: how-to use maps to locate the best spots, reading sign, calls/calling, gear and gadgets, appropriate weaponry and a free set of public land hunting hot spot maps.

This in-depth presentation will be held in the upstairs seminar room at Bass Pro Shops and will begin at 10:00 AM, Saturday, July 21st. Cost is just $40 per person (cash only) and as always, junior hunters are FREE with a paid adult.

Seating is extremely limited and the spots are filled first-come, first serve, so get in line early!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Bass Pro Shops Hunting Seminars Recap (and links)

Our minds are constantly learning and yearning to know more. As a hunter in Southern California, I completely understand that there are new hunters, as well as many seasoned hunters who want to learn more about how to hunt, where to find the animals, and what to do when the animal is down. I was blessed to be able to give five seminars yesterday at Bass Pro Shops in Rancho Cucamonga, CA on topics just like those. The seats were filled and the questions kept coming! I started at 10:30 and didn't stop answering questions until 4:30 - six hours of great hunt stories, questions, and learning.

First off, I would like to thank all of the attendees who came out from far and wide. You guys made every seminar fun and I learned some great things, too! Some of the folks came out from as far as 29 Palms and others from Santa Clarita. You guys rock and I appreciate you all coming out to listen to me all day. Please let me know if there was anything I didn't cover or something you want to learn more about. I'd be happy to share!

Here are the topics I covered and the times:
10:30 AM - Introduction to Bow Hunting
11:30 PM - Scouting For Deer In SoCal: Tactics and Optics  
1:30 PM - Effective Scent Control  
2:00 PM - Packing for a Day Hunt vs. a Multi-Day Hunt 
3:00 PM - Proper Field Care: Tips and Tools

We talked everything from traditional bow hunting to hunting with a compound. The topic of shot placement and tracking came up, too. The most asked questions were where to find the deer and how to find them. My Vortex Razor HD 12x50s came out along with my Viper HD 20-60x85 spotting scope. We discussed biking and hiking into areas, why I wear Rocky boots for both, and I recapped my 22 mile scouting trip from a couple weeks back. Along those same lines, I was able to go for a ride on a Rambo electric bike right before I started my seminars and let me say that I can see why they are a game changer. Very impressive!

Here are links to some of the gear I highlighted yesterday. I have used many of these for years and if you have any questions, please give me a shout!

Badlands 2200 backpack (my favorite and the one I had in store)

Bass Pro BlackOut S3 compound bow

TightSpot Quiver

PayDay Candy Bars - You know you wanted this one!

For those who were looking for the links to the maps:

I use the National Forest Atlas (Quadrangle Maps) from the national forest and they are very helpful. Scroll down and find the one for the area you want to hunt. 

For maps on my GPS I use the onX hunt maps.

Giving five seminars was a challenge and it worked out great! Offering a few more seminars for those traveling from long distances worked well. During the Bass Pro Shops Fall Classic I will be in the Rancho store August 11-12 and 18-19. I'll be giving seminars, but I will also be walking around and available to answer any questions you might have. I look forward to meeting you all! Thanks again for making the day fly by yesterday with some great questions! I loved it!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Gear Review: Mission First Tactical 10 Round Polymer Magazines and Battlelink Minimalist Stock

For over a year, I have been testing out new equipment on my AR-15. I wanted to find the best parts that made it comfortable for me to shoot, but also effective when hunting. Two of the items that I have tested extensively are the 10PM556 - 10 Round Polymer Mag and Battlelink Minimalist Stock from Mission First Tactical

Let me preface this review by saying that the folks at MFT have been very helpful when it came to these items. They have been very patient and allowed me to fully test these out over time where I could shoot with them, beat them up, shoot some more, and now I get to share my findings. Thank you, MFT!

To start, I'll go over the magazine(s). I have been using both the short 10PM556 - 10 Round Polymer Mag and the long 10-round magazine. They both lock in very well on the first try and feed extremely well. Personally, I like the short magazine because it allowed me to swivel the rifle left-to-right easier and I didn't have to rest all the weight on the corner of the longer mag. They functioned the same, but I focused on the short version. When changing magazines, they both function very well and pop right out the same way. I inserted and removed empty and loaded magazines over and over to try to find a malfunction. I did this close to fifty times with zero issues.

When I still had the magazine quick release installed, I tested out changing out magazines in different types of situations. The texture on the outside of the magazines is great and allow an easy grip with or without gloves. I tried tactical gloves, leather gloves, wet hands and dry hands. There was no slippage and I was able to load and unload easily. In fact, these worked the best out of any magazine I tried. I did not have any malfunctions with the magazines, nor was there any issue with it locking into place when loading. I then tried loading the magazines and removing them with a fixed magazine scenario. Again, they performed extremely well and I had no issues whatsoever. Two thumbs up from me! 

The Battlelink Minimalist Stock is something I think every AR owner in California should look at closely. MFT put some though into this design and it really shows. It weighs in at only 5.8oz and installs quickly and easily.

You should know by now that an AR-15 in California must have a fixed stock. The scope I tested is a telescoping stock and MFT thought it through for us in California. They put a hole in the bottom of the stock to allow you to put a pin (provided with the stock) to secure it, thus making it a fixed stock. Once locked into place I took it to the range to shoot. It functioned very well, stayed locked in place and was very comfortable when shooting. 

The design of the stock is pretty cool as it has a hook-like function on the back end. This allowed plenty of comfort when shooting, but also allowed me to hang my rifle on a branch or hook if I needed to. Having a dual function made me appreciate it even more as a hunter. I did have to be careful not to allow the lower portion to catch on anything, but other than that I was very happy with performance.

Both the magazines and the stock are excellent designs and function very well. They allowed me to shoot my AR-15 at the range and hunt with ease. The 10PM556 - 10 Round Polymer Mags
have an MSRP of $14.99 each and MSRP on the Battlelink Minimalist Stock is $59.99. I recommend both of these upgrades to your AR-15, especially if you live in California. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


West Jordan, UT – Never known to “take it easy,” Badlands is ready to release the second pattern in the Badlands Approach camouflage series, dubbed Approach FX, along with an entire new apparel line for 2018. Designed using a hardwood color palette that features Badlands Adaptive Coloration Technology, Approach FX is extremely effective concealment for Midwest or Eastern hunting as well as the Western or Southern hunter.

Not content to merely add a new pattern option to the already robust Badlands lineup, an entire new apparel collection will accompany the launch of the Approach FX camouflage pattern. The 2018 apparel lineup in Approach FX will include:
  •     Six base layer/mid-layer pieces
  •     Eight outer layer jackets ranging from fleece to fully waterproof pieces
  •     Four outer layer pants including silent fleece and waterproof pieces
  •     Two glove options in Approach FX camouflage
  •     Multiple accessories including neck gaiters and multiple hat options

In addition to the more than twenty new apparel pieces, the majority of Badlands packs and binocular cases will now be available in either Approach or Approach FX camouflage.

“With the new Approach FX line, we really listened to our customers about what pieces were missing in our lineup,” said Badlands Sales Manager Dominick Murphy. He continued, “We knew the whitetail hunter was looking for a new color palette as well as features such as completely silent clothing, tree stand safety harness ports in the jackets and an overall warm and comfortable lineup. We feel like we checked off every box with the new camo pattern and product offering.”

Badlands Approach FX packs are available now with the new apparel line coming in June/July of 2018.

Now in its 25th 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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Successfully Scouting the SoCal Backcountry

Did you hear the one about hunting in Southern California and how easy it is? Yeah, I didn't think so. Knowing the draw results were days away, my buddy Ramon and I were finally able to get out and do some scouting. It was a spot I knew well and we had lofty goals of getting back as far as we dared go on our bikes. That all sounds great when you talk about it, but when you actually do it and your bike won't cooperate, well it makes for a challenging day. I am thankful for my Rocky boots, Vortex optics, ibuprofen and plenty of water!

Right away we saw deer. In fact, as we drove to the trailhead, a healthy doe trotted across the road in front of us in no particular hurry. It got us both excited! After assembling the bikes and gearing up, we hit the trail. The first two miles are uphill, which actually worked out in our favor. I wanted to go in quiet and slow because I knew where I had seen deer before and where the best spots were to glass. Slowly and methodically we walked our bikes up the hill, all the while looking for deer. 

As we crested one of the curves in the road, I mentioned to Ramon that we should drop our bikes and glass the other side. In a few seconds I locked onto a fawn with a doe. I pointed them out and immediately said that if there were fawns there were bucks around. Excellent! We didn't glass this side very long and moved on another few hundred feet. I saw movement right away and spotted our first buck! He was bedded with a doe and they were facing us. He was up and heading for the ridge long before the doe got up. She stretched and followed him over. He was a nice forkie with a short, but wide rack in beautiful velvet. Our day was off to a great start!

About a mile up the road, I peeked over a burm to find the youngest, most spotted mule deer fawn I have ever seen. Oblivious to her surroundings, I motioned for Ramon to slowly inch toward the edge to view her. I knew a doe was close by, but she was invisible. A few minutes of watching the fawn and she decided she was off to play and follow her momma. We eagerly hopped on the bikes to get around the ridge to see if we could spot them. Ramon found the fawn quickly in the shade of some scrub brush looking right at us. She was so little! I saw the doe moving away slowly and eating along the way. A few more minutes of watching them disappear and we saw the fawn dashing up a trail with the doe close behind. We had already seen seven deer and it wasn't even 7 O'clock yet!

The next few hours were riding, hiking, glassing, and repeat. Unfortunately, my bike would not downshift on the high side, so I was stuck in high three all day. My quads were on fire, but we pushed on. 

After six hours of grueling exercise, we made it to an old hunting spot 11 miles in. I checked my water bladder to be sure I had enough for the ride out. I knew it would be close, but I had two extra bottles packed. I grabbed a bite of my greenbelly meal (which was excellent) and then drank some water. I settled in for a quick snooze while Ramon roamed around looking for sign. Two curious hummingbirds decided i looked like a chunky flower as they buzzed three feet over my head over and over. So much for sleep!

We packed up at 1:00 PM and decided to head back from whence we came. The temps were going to get a bit higher, but there was a 5 mph cool breeze that felt great when it kicked in. I knew we had two miles of uphill before there was any chance of a break. While it was tough, I was grateful to be out there and working hard. When we hit the downhill area we were stoked! We started cruising and Ramon ventured ahead when I heard a "POP" followed by a hissssssssssssssssssss as my tire deflated. I hopped off and hiked down the hill, all the while looking for Ramon. It dawned on my that while we had a great plan for our wives, we didn't discuss connecting with each other if we were to get separated. I always wear a whistle, so I blasted on that twice and again twice a few minutes later. Finally, I just hollered, 'RAMON!' and about a half mile down the landscape I spotted him riding back toward me. We met up, laughed, and changed the tire (I am thankful he had a spare as I opted to leave mine home due to carrying extra gear.) Never again will I leave without my spare(s)!

The ride back down was uneventful and while painful at times, was one of the best bike rides ever. The day was full of excitement, challenges, and deer! The entire ride back we couldn't stop talking about electric bikes and how this area would be ideal for one. Let me tell you that I am doing some deep research into purchasing one for hunting. It would help immensely and make it much more enjoyable. That being said, we had a great day all around and we can't wait to get back out and do it again!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Projectile and Powder Testing for Hunting in California (.223 Remington)

California hunters wanting to hunt deer, bear, and many other animals with a firearm must use legal copper ammunition. With our government officials doing a dance on our regulations and laws, purchasing ammunition has been made more difficult and many companies simply do not want to deal with California at all. In order to find the right ammunition for my rifles I have to find the approved ammunition list, see if a local business or FFL-01 or FFL-07 carries it, and if not see how I can get it through them. Why must it be so difficult? In my opinion, that is precisely what our legislators want. Instead of feeling deflated, I began hand loading again and now I am working on developing loads that I can use while hunting. 

My friend Bill and I spent the better part of three hours developing our test plan for loading up hunting ammunition for the .223 Remington. We carefully developed these loads because many people have AR-15s and many like to hunt coyotes. We decided to come up with some test loads with different components to see what worked best. We compared the copper rounds to the common FMJ to keep things fair. I cleaned, resized, trimmed, and primed the cases myself. Bill and I completed the rest together.

Here are the loads we worked up and tested at the range using a Caldwell Chronograph. I fired five (5) rounds of each load and took the average for the result shown in the velocity column. I highlighted (in red) the fastest rounds to help narrow it down. We loaded the low and high recommendations for each of the Shooter's World powders. The Winchester 748 powder at 24 grains is what we have been loading for years, so we used that as our base.

As you can see, we came away with some great results. Our next step is to shoot each round at a 100 yard target to see how they group. Again, I will be the only one shooting. I am eager to see how they perform at distance. I will give my full report and opinion on which powder, load and projectile I found to be the best performing in a future post. I'll compare the availability of the powder, cost, and performance for the California hunter. This is only scratching the surface of what I would like to accomplish and share with you all. If there is something you'd like to know more about or have a question, please ask. Time to go load up some more for range day!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Bass Pro Shops Free Seminars - I Need Your Help

Hi everyone! I am planning my upcoming free seminars for Bass Pro Shops in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and I need your help. I would like to know what seminars you are interested in and what topics you want me to cover. Here are some of the seminars I plan to give, but please let me know if there is some other topic or more information on a specific topic you would like to cover. These are brief examples and the topics are subject to change to cater to the audience. (I encourage questions!) I would also like to know what day works best for everyone - Saturday or Sunday.

Scouting for Deer
  • Trail cameras
  • Optics
  • What to Look For
  • Footwear

Proper Optics for Hunting in Southern California
  • Binoculars
  • Spotting Scopes
  • How to Use Both Effectively

Introduction to Bow Hunting
  • Traditional vs. Compound Bow
  • Choosing the Right Gear
  • Practice
  • Scouting
  • Where to Hunt

Reloading Your Own Ammunition
  • Review Current Ammunition Restrictions
  • Where to Start
  • Safety
  • Components
  • Proper Equipment

Deer Hunting in Southern California
  • Bow or Firearm
  • Packing for a Day Hunt
  • Packing for a Multi-Day Hunt

What else would you guys like to hear about? Please comment below, on the SoCal Bowhunter FB page, or email me. Send as many comments as you like!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

California Big Game Drawing Deadline Approaches

The Big Game Drawing deadline to get your tag applications in to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is June 2, 2018. In case you haven't been paying attention it's coming in fast! Have you considered everything for hunting this year like the use of unleaded ammo, bow hunting vs. firearm, forest fires and time to spend in the field? These are all major considerations and you really don't have much time left to make that call. Decisions need to be made and you have less than two weeks to do it. I'll share some of my own obstacles and processes in the event they can help you narrow down your choices.

First thing I think about is family time and along with that my vacation time. Will I have enough vacation set aside for my family? Will I then have enough time set aside for the hunts I want to go on? Most times that isn't an issue, but those older my daughter gets, the more I find myself wanting to also spend more time with her before she grows up. It's a conundrum and a choice I have to make myself. 

Another factor to consider is the unit I apply for or the tag(s) I go for. Do I want to only bow hunt? Do I want options like being able to use a firearm? Do I stay close to home or am I willing to travel to go after that animal? Will my hunt partners be able to hunt the same units and are they willing to? Then comes the question of, do I have enough money for these tags? With this decision comes the non-lead ammunition factor and if you are using the allowed projectiles. Be certain you have non-lead ammunition on you and in your firearm when hunting in the non-lead zones. Next year it won't be an issue as you won't have a choice. You could be like me and already be utilizing non-lead projectiles when hunting. It takes the guesswork out.

Right along side of deciding which tag to go for is the closure of lands due to forest fires. I have heard from some hunters saying that while areas have been closed to fire, hunters are allowed to hunt there. They insist that DFW has informed them of this. Take it as you will, but verify it for yourself. I make no claims to that statement, but it would be nice to not be locked out of a region you hunt due to fire closure.

These are just some of the obstacles we face as hunters when it's time to go in for a California tag. Other things come into play, but don't be like I was last year and wait too long. I missed out because I was on vacation and thought my tag wouldn't sell out. Unfortunately it did sell out and I was left hanging. If you want that tag, put in for it and give yourself a shot! Good luck!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Gear Review: Vortex Razor HD 12x50 Binoculars

One of my favorite pre-season activities is scouting. Glassing for animals to be more precise. I began scouting last year with a pair of Vortex Diamondback 10x42 binoculars and loved every second of it. Great glass for the price. Then, in between two of my seminars at Bass Pro Shops in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, I made the best mistake ever when I tried out a pair of Vortex Razor HD 12x50 binoculars. I liken it to watching an action movie on TV in color on a 30" screen to then viewing the same movie on a flatscreen 72" 4K HD TV in full color. The view was crisp, stunning and immediately I knew I had to have a pair. If I have said it once, I have said it a hundred times, "You get what you pay for in optics. Buy the very best you can afford and if you can't afford them now, save up for them and buy excellent glass once." I did exactly that and purchased my own pair of Vortex Razor HD 12x50 binoculars without hesitation.

Out of the box these were easy to use and worked great for me. My normal issue with larger, more powerful binoculars is the interpupillary distance. To be frank, I have narrow set eyes and it is often difficult for me to find high quality binoculars above 10x. The Vortex Razor HD 12x50s allow for a wide range of motion and I was able to get them adjusted perfectly to my eyes with a little room to spare. Finally, a pair of high power, high quality glass that I can use in the field!

Focusing was fast and easy due to the diopter knob adjustment being wicked smooth. You can fine tune on a subject very quickly and easily. I allowed my daughter to try them out and it took forever to get them back when she realized how easy they were to adjust. 

Eye relief with these binoculars is great. I have sat behind these for hours and never had eye strain or a headache. As you can see on the image below, the dirt and grit on the eye cups show plenty of use from last season, but in no way did that affect the sharpness. And yes, I do clean these with the cloth provided (sometimes).

The Razor 12x50s are lightweight, not bulky and fit very well in your hands.They also fit well into nearly any binocular chest harness. That's a big plus for those who hunts out west.

Set the binos on a tripod and it's like you have two spotting scopes doing the work for you. These are the only 12x50 binoculars I have been able to use handheld or on a tripod with great results. Utilizing them on a tripod is the best way to go, but if you like to go back and forth from handheld to tripod (as I do), pick up the Uni-dapter tripod adapter from Vortex for $35. The new design is great and allows you to pull the binoculars off the tripod with no buttons or levers, thus eliminating noise and reducing movement.

I found that the Vortex Razor 12x50s work incredibly well in low light conditions. Just before sunrise and after sundown, these worked great and you are able to spot not only movement, but the actual animal outline at quite a distance. Two thumbs up for that right there! 

Many times at the beginning of my scouting seminars, I start out by passing around the two sets of Vortex binoculars. I have the attendees tell me which they like better and why. Nearly every person, whether man, woman, adult or child preferred the Razor HD 12x50s. After using these for an entire season, it was easy to convince them why the price shouldn't matter. The MSRP is $1499.99, which is a great price for the optics you are getting. The best part is you can find the Vortex Razor HD 12x50 binoculars at Bass Pro for $1099.99. You get great binoculars along with the Vortex VIP Unconditional Lifetime Warranty. You can't beat that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ammunition Confusion: What Are California Hunters To Do?

Hunters in California wanting to use their firearms to hunt deer, bear, and many other animals must use legal copper ammunition. With government officials doing a song and dance with our ammunition regulations and laws, purchasing hunting ammunition has become increasingly difficult and many companies simply do not want to deal with California at all. (IMHO, I believe that is EXACTLY what our CA government wants.) Confusion, ambiguity, harsh restriction, etc. (I am not a lawyer, nor am I so hard-headed that I cannot learn. If you have a better understanding of the regulations and laws, please share.) 

Hunters, like myself, have a big issue with this whole fiasco. In order to find hunting ammunition for your rifles you have to review the approved ammunition list. Then you must see if a local business with an FFL-01 of FFL-07 carries it, and if not see how you can get it through them. Why? Not all of the local companies want to carry all legal hunting ammunition for all calibers. That would involve carrying more inventory which takes up more shelf space and it doesn't move as quickly as target ammo.

According to the CA DOJ FFL regulations and the CA Penal Code, I can order ammunition and have it shipped to my FFL-03. You can read the entire section of code by clicking the link below.

CA Penal Code 30312 section 6:

  ( Part 6 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )
TITLE 4. FIREARMS [23500 - 34370]
  ( Title 4 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )
  ( Division 10 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )
CHAPTER 1. Ammunition [30210 - 30395]
  ( Chapter 1 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )

ARTICLE 2. Other Restrictions Relating to Ammunition [30300 - 30340]
  ( Article 2 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )

(c) Subdivisions (a) and (b) shall not apply to the sale, delivery, or transfer of ammunition to any of the following:
(6) A person who is licensed as a collector of firearms pursuant to Chapter 44 (commencing with Section 921) of Title 18 of the United States Code and the regulations issued pursuant thereto, whose licensed premises are within this state, and who has a current certificate of eligibility issued by the Department of Justice pursuant to Section 26710.

My FFL-03 (which is what the above is referencing) has his license and all paperwork up-to-date and in order in the state of California. Technically, he is able to order and accept ammunition. Even still, I cannot find a single manufacturer who is willing to do that. As a hunter, I have contacted companies asking about purchasing ammunition and having it shipped to my authorized FFL. One such company, MidwayUSA, refuses to send purchased ammunition unless my name and the FFL name matches. Originally, I was asked to send my FFL info or my order would be delayed. I scanned and sent MidwayUSA the documentation and this was the correspondence that followed. I am sharing my correspondence with their customer service staff as they refuse the CA Penal Code and CA DOJ rules and regulations. 

Dear Albert,

Thank you for sending us a copy of the FFL-03. I apologize, but we are not able to accept this FFL, as the FFL must be in your name and must be either an 01 or 07. You may have the FFL Holder create an account with their FFL and place the order for you. The order will only ship to the FFL Holders address.

Please send us your FFL-01, FFL-07 or your Ammunition Vendor License so we may release your order. If we have not received this information within 48 hours, we will cancel your order. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-243-3220. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST. You may also email us at
Thanks for Your Business!

Customer Support Representative 3 | NRA Life Member
5875 West Van Horn Tavern Rd. | Columbia, MO 65203

Good afternoon,

Thank you for the email. To purchase online, CA DOJ requires ammunition to be shipped to an FFL. There is no specific requirement that it go to an FFL-01 or FFL-07. Simply a valid FFL. It also doesn't say that the FFL must be in my name. I am the person making the purchase and having it shipped directly to my FFL. 

Why is Midway USA unwilling to honor a valid FFL with paperwork up to date and validated by the CA DOJ?

Al Quackenbush
The SoCal Bowhunter

Dear Albert,

Thank you for your email regarding FFL's. I apologize for any confusion or inconvenience. It is MidwayUSA's policy to only accept and ship to an FFL-01, or FFL-07 holder. 

Please send us your FFL-01, FFL-07 or your Ammunition Vendor License so we may release your order. If we have not received this information within 48 hours, we will cancel your order. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-243-3220. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST. You may also email us at

Thanks for Your Business!

MidwayUSA Customer Service

I then responded with my FFL-07, per their request…


My FFL-07 is [FFL Name left out as not to drag them into a public discussion]. 


[FFL Address has been removed, but was included in the email]

Can I have my order shipped to them?

Al Quackenbush
The SoCal Bowhunter

Dear Albert,

Thank you for the email concerning shipping.  I apologize that only the actual 01 FFL holder can purchase ammunition from us as we are not able to do FFL transfers as you're suggesting.  I apologize for the inconvenience this causes you.

If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-243-3220. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST. You may also email us at

Thanks for Your Business!

Larry G.
MidwayUSA Customer Service

What are we legal firearm owners to do? I followed the regulations and laws. I sent them the proper documentation. I reached out multiple times and was shot down (pun intended). I understand the companies have lawyers telling them one thing and then policies are changed. That doesn't change the fact that it's wrong.

Even reloading components are being held back by companies. Barnes and Nosler will not ship bullets to me at my home, but they will ship to an FFL-03. CA regulations allow components to be delivered, but companies don’t want the hassle. My best guess is these companies simply do not want to be scrutinized or sued by the state of California and honestly, I can appreciate the frustration. 

My suggestion for my fellow firearms enthusiasts, hunters, and reloaders is to start purchasing your ammunition now, while you can. If you reload, start ordering components and get a good supply going because the regulations are constantly changing. If things keep going the way they are, we may not be able to get components to reload either. There are people and organizations out there who want to end hunting, firearm ownership, and our constitutional right to own a firearm. Think hard and let that sink in. It’s on our doorstep and we need to fight.