Archive for April, 2007

Hunting camps make good friends

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

If you hunt a lot you have probably been in several different hunting camps. For me, a lot of the enjoyment of hunting is the camp itself, the people you hunt with.

I have been hunting with the same group of guys for over 20 years now. We have had new people come and go, but for some reason the same core group of people seem to stick together. I don’t know why this is. Maybe it is the way we all razz each other without anyone taking offense? Maybe it is because we all chip in when we are in camp? Maybe even because when we are in the woods and one of us has been fortunate enough to take an animal, our group starts materializing out of the woods to help each other out? I do know this: the people that I hunt with are some of the best hearted, good spirited, and most fun people that I could ever hope to hunt with.

This is one of the reasons that I cherish my elk hunting trips so much. It’s a time for friends to get together and enjoy each others’ company, share stories and basically rib the heck out of one another. For me, having enjoyable people in camp is essential to the overall satisfaction to the trip. You may not always be able to harvest animals, but at least at the end of the day or trip, you can look back and laugh at some of the things that happened and at the memories that will last a lifetime.  Like that time that Gary tried to hammer the 2’ long piece of wood into the 20” deep stove at 2 am. After a while of that, Dad hollered “Gary, I think I have a bigger hammer in the truck if you think that would help?” and the tent erupted into laughter.

Take your son and daughter fishing day!

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

With the weather turning nice and the ice melting off of the lakes, I’d like to suggest a “Take your son and daughter fishing day.” Before our hectic summer schedules suck up all of our extra time, remember to get out and take your kids fishing. Drown some worms, snag some rocks, hook some tree bass and maybe catch some fish! But most of all get out and share a great experience with your kids.

Growing up, my dad was not much of a fisherman, but he tried hard to introduce me to the sport and was always trying to teach me new techniques. From getting me signed up in a fly tying class, to introducing me to people that fly fished. He would milk any information from the guys at work that he could get.  Then we would go try it out on the weekends.  We may not have always caught fish, but it was always a good time and it was a good way to spend quality time with my folks.

Now I have children of my own and I have already started trying to get my oldest son introduced to fishing, the great sport that it is. If we can only get past the rock throwing – which I have to say, at the end of a day with no fish, is not a bad idea! – I am sure that he will become a much better fisherman than I am.

An important tip for fishing with your kids: Use barbless hooks! Not only do they make it easier to practice catch and release of fish, they also makes it easier on the catch and release of the fisherman.  How is it that the teacher is the one that is constantly getting caught on the hook instead of the fish?

Take your kids fishing. They will remember it for a lifetime.

Getting ready part 2: keeping yourself and your equipment in good shape

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

In my previous post I wrote about what I do to get my gear ready for the upcoming season. In this post I am going to write about what I do to get ready.

I am 37 years old. Not young and not old, but my body doesn’t quite perform the way it did when I was 18 and even though it may not perform as well at 67 as it does today, I still want it to perform. All types of hunting are very important to me and I want to be sure that when I quit hunting it is because I am ready and not because my body is failing me pre-maturely. For this reason I exercise!

I will put this disclaimer in just to CYA:

Please do not start any type of training routine without consulting with your doctor first!

Now that being said, I am tired of seeing people give up on the things that they enjoy because they are too lazy to get off of the couch and spend the hour a day that it takes to maintain a routine workout program. I am not a professional, but I think that a good work out routine should include cardio of some type. I prefer to run or walk, but bicycling is a good alternative. The reason I prefer walking or running is because you are giving your feet a good workout as well. You could be the strongest person in the world, but if your feet can’t get you there you are as handicapped as a person in a wheel chair (no offense). Next, I believe that you must lift weights. I am not talking about going to the gym and putting up as much iron as you can. I am talking about low weight and a lot of repetitions. You ask why do I need to lift weights when I am going to be hunting, not lifting cars? Well, if you have ever had to shoot off hand or had to carry your rifle for miles or even gut an animal, you have got your answer. Hunting is a physical sport and it takes a toll on your body. If you are not in shape, you will not enjoy your hunt. I hear people say “ Well if you shoot one down there, you might as well take a knife and fork with you, there is no way I am going down there!” Those are also some of the people that ride up to you on their ATV and say “I have driven all over this country and I haven’t seen anything.”  I hunt here in Colorado, and while there are elk taken right off the road every year, the majority of elk are taken in remote places that require a lot of effort to get into. So my advice is to be in shape, so that you will improve your chances of bagging your animal and enjoying your hunt.

Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more! Be an ethical hunter. Spend time at the range and sight in your rifle. Then practice shooting from various positions and at different distances. Make sure that your rifle is properly taken care of. Check your scope rings for dents and dings. Be sure and check that the screws are tight. Make sure that if you fell with your rifle last season that you did not damage anything. This is the time of year to do it. Your rifle is a tool for hunting and you want to be sure that when the moment of truth comes that you do not fail because of your equipment. I have missed shots on animals a few times, but I always know that the reason I miss is not because of my equipment, but because I was not able to come through with the shot. Most of the time it was because I did not follow my own advice and did not spend the time at the range to become a better and more accurate shooter. But at least I know that it was not my firearm. Also, if you don’t have one, this is a good time to put together a cleaning kit to take to the field with you. This is a good time if you reload to work up some more hand loads and try new bullets if you haven’t found the one that works as well as you would like it in your rifle. All that I have said applies to Archery and Muzzle loader hunters as well.

Go through all of your equipment and hunting apparel this summer and make sure that it is in good working shape and that it is clean and ready for your next outing. Doing it now, a little at a time will save you a lot of last minute hassles when your season comes around. I am sure that I may have missed some things. If you have anything to add that helps you get ready for the next season, please let me know.

Getting ready for hunting season – it’s never too early!

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

There are 140 days left until my first big game hunting season begins!  I count down to opening day like some count down to Christmas day. I haven’t heard back yet on which licenses that I got in the state drawings – and I am still waiting to apply for some.  But it is never too early to start preparing for the upcoming season!

At the end of every season, I make a list of things that I need to repair and new equipment that I want to buy. For example I would like a new water heater to attach to our big wall tent stove.

As spring rolls around I start to go through my lists and prioritize.  My first list is usually things that I need to bring or things that I own that would be handy to bring. My second list is usually those items that need to be repaired. Things like holes in a tent, new soles on my favorite hunting boots, carpet strips for the floor and the like. My third list is usually makes up things that I need to buy. I usually place things on this list in the order of importance, because being a budget minded hunter I need to make sure that the things that are on top of my list are things that are a must have for the upcoming season. By doing this early on, I am able to budget the must have purchases out over the remaining months before the season starts.  That way, I can get things one at a time and not end up short of cash when the hunting season finally begins. Also, during the off-season, most hunting equipment is on sale.   Sometimes things on the list of items to be repaired end up on the list of things to be bought.   

What’s on your list? What do you do to keep track of those things that you need to add or subtract to your gear to make your outing more enjoyable? Let me know.

Guns are necessary for our freedom

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Yesterday on the View Rosie O’Donnell was wrongly speaking about gun control and how our country would be safer without guns in it. To Ms O’Donnell I have got to say shame on you. You are using a terrible tragedy to try and market your own agenda.

Gun control laws are something that is very important to me. Every time lawmakers attempt to put a new gun ownership law into place, the only thing that it does is make honest people victims and weakens our country as a whole. I am not a soap box preaching, second amendment fanatic. However, I am a firearm owner. I am a shooter, a collector, and a hunter. I believe that one of the best weapons to control guns is education. I don’t believe that you need to restrict firearms, but I believe that you need to educate people how to use them and treat them properly. Growing up, I was always around firearms. I always had access to them, but never once did I ever feel the need to use one in a violent act. I was taught how to handle situations without the use of deadly force. I am not saying that I am a goody too shoe. I certainly had my share of confrontations as a young man, like most do.   There is no good reason for taking another person’s life: being hazed, beat up, called names, losing a girlfriend, not having any friends, not taking the right medication, the moon being out of  whack and all of the other reasons we come up with to make sense of these senseless acts are not good enough. There is never a reason to take another person’s life.

The tragedy that occurred this week at Virginia Tech is just that: a tragedy! But with all of the gun laws that you could put in place, this would probably still have happened. For as long as there are bad people out there, bad people will still continue to do bad things. As a citizen of the United States, not just a gun owner, I am deeply saddened by the events that took place. We as a society are responsible for this. Will putting more restrictions on people that are already law abiding citizens help prevent these type of heinous acts? I don’t think so. Our right to free speech – that Ms. O’Donnell so obviously loves – would not have been possible to obtain or to keep were it not for the firearms she so desperately wants to get rid of. Firearms are as much apart of our American Heritage as is apple pie and baseball. I want my children to be able to experience the same freedoms that I have as well as those that came before me. I do not want them to constantly be on the defensive from other American citizens trying to take those rights away.

To the families that had loved ones taken away so tragically this past week, I am deeply sorry and I hope that someday the pain will heal.

What’s the best backpack for hunting?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

A good backpack is a necessity for hunting in Colorado.  Up until a few years ago I always used the typical blue-light special backpack. You know the kind. The flimsy nylon kind with the shoulder straps that barely fit and they only hold about 1000 cubic inches of gear. At the end of the day it would feel like your arms were going to fall off because the straps had cut off almost all of the blood that was flowing through them. So last summer after reading reviews and fit testing a number of packs, I bit the bullet and spent the big money on a day pack. I am not necessarily trying to plug a particular brand.  I am really telling you what a great pack I show you that a quality pack can make a huge difference in your day in the field.  I had several “must have” qualities that my pack had to have before I would even consider looking at it:

  1. At least 2200 cubic inches. Size is important because I am a fairly big guy -  6’1” and 260 lbs.  I need something that I can wear over a fleece and a sweatshirt.
  2. Water bladder compatible (meaning it had a water bladder or I could add my own.)  Water bladders have become a necessity for me.   I was introduced to them back when I used a rudimentary homemade kind in the SFAS class in the service. There we just took some surgical tubing and stuck it through the top of our 2qt. canteen and then used a golf tee for a stopper. It worked fairly well, but after using the ones that are on the market today there is no comparison.
  3. Comfortable shoulder straps, a hip belt and a chest strap. I can not say enough good things about having these. I can wear my pack all day, with or without a load and my shoulders still feel fresh at the end of the day.
  4. Lots of exterior pockets. This is a must. I can’t speak for everyone else but I am constantly needing a place of easy access to put extra shells, compass, food, knives, and the ever important TP!
  5. Built to haul a load of meat out of the back country. Load bearing. If I am a few miles back in from camp, I need a pack that I can haul a load of meat out on the first trip.

After much research and budget minded searching I bought the Badlands 2200. It is 2200 cubic inches and it fits a 96oz. water bladder.  The shoulder straps and hip belt are molded to fit the contour of your body.  It has 5 exterior pockets.  I have used it now on 12 hunts and carried it more miles than I care to think with no problems.  If I got to talk to the designers, I would ask them to make the two exterior wing pockets full size instead of tapered.   Other than that, it is perfect for me.

I know that there are several other great brands out there such as Eberstock and Kifaru to name a couple.  I would enjoy hearing your views about them.

How to shop for outdoor gear on eBay

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Today I was reading a post by Kristine over at Hunt Smart, Think Safety about shopping on eBay for outdoor gear. Speaking from experience, shopping on eBay for outdoor gear is a great idea. I have found good deals on all types of gear from backpacks and knives to insulated underwear and even hunting blinds. I think that it is a great way for people to unload equipment they don’t want, outgrew, or never needed to begin with. For outdoorsmen and women that are budget minded, eBay provides a great shopping opportunity.

When I need something like a backpack, I research it online on stores like Cabelas, Sportsmans Wearhouse and blogs.  When I bought my last backpack, I found the best rated items online.  When I had narrowed my list down to three, and I went to local stores that sold them to check them out. I felt them, tried them on and then narrowed my list down to one.  Back home, I went to eBay and ended up buying the backpack that I had wanted for $75 less than I would have spent at the store. Now you say that “Wow, that took a lot of time.” Well it did take some time and granted my time is worth money, but I felt like I found a good deal. I had a heck of a lot of fun doing the research and I was able to purchase a very good product that had everything that I was looking for.

I am very particular in the hunting gear that I purchase. If you do not believe me ask anyone that has every tried to buy me a Christmas or birthday present! Do I spend what I can afford to get the best equipment that I want? You bet. Do I mind saving a couple of green backs in the process? Of course not! So far, shopping and price matching online has been the best way I have found to save money on outdoor gear.

Let me hear your experiences, good and bad.

The secret of picking the right caliber rifle

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Here’s why I recommend a .300 over a 7mm Mag.

The other day I sold a rifle to a co-worker. It was a beautiful Ruger .300 Win. Mag. with a Leupold 3×9 Vari-XII. with only about 10 rounds down the pipe. I won’t say how much it sold for but it was a really good deal. The fella that bought it was a first time buyer. He is one of those engineering types that has to read and research everything before he makes a decision. One of the decisions he had to make was what caliber rifle to buy.  He had been looking at a Ruger but until he talked to me he was dead set on a 7mm Rem. Mag. When I asked him why it turned out that another co-worker had said that a 7mm Mag. was the one caliber to have. (Because he used a 7mm Mag!). Now before people start getting on to me for not agreeing with his choice, I want to make it clear that I have owned and killed several animals with the 7mm Mag. and feel that it is a good cartridge. However, I now shoot a .300.

When my co-worker asked me which one I would choose of course I said “The .300, no doubt about it.” When he asked why I had to think about the reasons I had switched to the .300 almost 15 years ago. I hate to say it but the first thing that came to mind was that my dad shot the same caliber! (I didn’t tell my co-worker that!) Although that may have been the reason I switched to the .300, it is not the reason I still shoot that rifle today. After many years of experience with this rifle, I just simply love this caliber. One of the main reasons is that I can load different weight bullets.

  • I am able to load heavier bullets.  When I went on an African plains game hunt I loaded it with 200gr. bullets,
  • When I got back home I loaded some 150 gr. bullets and went on an antelope hunt in Wyoming.
  • If I want to take long shots or short shots I know that there will always be enough energy down range to get the job done.  Granted you can do that to some extent with the 7 mag. but bullet weights and availability are sometimes a problem. 

In my opinion, and for my needs, the .300 Win. Mag. has been perfect. Would I pass up a deal on one of the super fast .300’s or .338’s? Heck no! There is always something that comes along that may or may not get the job done and I am willing to give anything a try.

Let me know what your experiences have been with different caliber rifles – good or bad. I know that there are a ton of different calibers out there that I haven’t heard of or had a chance to try for myself, so I would like to hear your feedback.

Special hunting licenses for people that don’t have to follow the rules

Saturday, April 14th, 2007

Some states have started giving preferential treatment to celebrities or rich folks.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been issuing special permits to those that make large donations.  This is an appalling practice as hunting should be a sport that is available to everyone.  (See Black Bear and Hunting Sense for more details on the Illinois scandal.)

I apply for several out of state permits every year in Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota and it makes me sad how difficult it is to get an out of state permit.  In most states there are one, sometimes two, and even three drawings for in state hunters before an out of state hunter can even apply for limited quota licenses. To hear that if you are a celebrity or contribute a pile of money you can obtain such a license without going through the proper channels is disheartening. In my opinion everyone should have an equal chance of getting a license no matter who you are or how much money you dole out. I am also concerned that this might set a precedent for other states to start having there own “special” licensing practices. I hope it doesn’t come to that. Hunting is a sport for everyone.  It already takes a lot of money to get going and if we make it even more expensive to get an out of state license, we will cut a lot of people out of the sport.

Let me know what you think or tell me what you feel is wrong with licensing in your state.   

Dad, shoot the one with the big horns!

Friday, April 13th, 2007

2006 was a good hunting year.  The best part was that I was able to spend some quality time with my six year old, Jacob. I am trying to teach him that hunting isn’t always about the killing or the size of the antlers, but rather the time that you spend out in the field and the people that you spend it with.  I think that’s something we’ll have to keep working on next year!

Our first trip this year was to Wyoming to hunt doe antelope using their reduced price doe tags.  Jacob had been antelope hunting there last year with me and we were able to harvest some nice buck antelope.  So I figured this year would be fun as well.  While I believe he had a good time, I am not sure that it was what he was expecting.

We left early that September morning with my father and my friend Tony and headed west out of Laramie for what was supposed to be a day of fun. For those of you who have been antelope hunting in Wyoming, you know that it is not very difficult to find antelope. Immediately we were upon a herd of over 20 antelope.  Now remember we are using the reduced price doe tags … Jacob starts yelling “Dad, shoot the one with the big horns!” After twenty minutes of explaining that we were only hunting the females and the reasons why you need to shoot the gals as well as the guys, he turns to me with tears in his eyes and said “But I like the horns!”   We talked some more, got things straightened out (or so I thought) and continued on our hunt. Shortly after this, I harvested a nice healthy doe. When my son caught up I said “What do you think?”   His reply?  “Neat, but how come you didn’t shoot the one with the big horns?”

Lesson learned: Teaching a 6 year old that hunting is about more about the hunt than the size of the antlers may need some work. I am sure that most of you out there that hunt have interesting stories similar to this. Either as the one doing the teaching or doing the learning. I happened to be doing both teaching and learning that day and I am looking forward to many more adventures with my son Jacob and my 8 month old son Caleb when he gets old enough. So drop me a few lines and let me hear your adventures.