Archive for the ‘equipment’ Category

Are Game Bags Necessary?

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Do you use them? Growing up we always used them. It is just what we did. This year as I was skinning my elk in camp and then placing the quarters in the bags, I started questioning the use of them. I understand that they do a great job of keeping the bugs and most debris off. However, at 11000’ in the middle of October in Colorado, there are not a whole lot of insects left. As far as keeping the meat clean – we usually keep the hide on until we are back to camp and then skin the quarters out. This protects the meat when you are dragging or hauling the meat from the field to camp. Then we wash them off and set them on some cooling racks. Usually, they are frozen the next day. On the way out, we place them on a tarp and wrap it tight. I can see using the bags in the early fall when the insects are out. But I just cannot see using them in the situation that I described to you.

What do you do? Is it necessary?

The last days before hunting season starts!

Monday, August 20th, 2007

Well, I have less than a week left before my early season
mule deer hunt begins here in

Colorado

.
Yesterday I spent the day scrambling around trying to gather up all of the gear
that I am going to be taking with me on my trip. Once I rounded everything up,
I packed it neatly and put it into my rucksack. This was quite the adventure
because you have to be sure not to pack the things that you need in a hurry at
the bottom of your pack. Nothing is worse than having a fast moving
thunderstorm move up on you and you have to pretty much un-pack your backpack
to get at your hidden raingear! Therefore, after several hit and misses I think
I was able to get my gear packed into my ruck in somewhat of a useful order? I
guess, but the proof is in the pudding, so we will just have to see. I have a
few last minute things left to take care of this week such as loading some
extra shells and some grocery shopping, but for the most part, I think that I
am as ready as I will ever get. So wish me luck!

On another note. The other day I was able to pick myself up
a couple of leftover doe antelope tags in

Wyoming

. Now, for those of you who would
like to see some new country at a reduce price and a chance to stock your
freezer, this is the way to go. The tags only cost $29 and last time I checked
there were still plenty left. Therefore, I would encourage you to go get you a
couple if you are looking for a good excuse to get out of the house a little
earlier this fall. Good luck! 

What hunting knife is best?

Monday, July 30th, 2007

What is the best type of knife to carry when you are hunting? A sharp one! All kidding aside, I have read numerous articles written by experts in the field, all suggesting that you should have this type of knife for skinning and this type of knife for eviscerating the animal once it is down and yet a whole other type of knife doing the camp chores. Do you need all these different types of knives? Sure! It is like asking your wife if she needs all those shoes. Does she wear them all? Probably not and you probably won’t use all of the knives that you collect throughout your hunting career. Myself, I have started carrying three knives with me when I go to the field. Is that a lot? Maybe, but after a number of years of hunting I have decided that that is what works for me. If you have ever cleaned an elk you would know exactly how fast a knife can dull and how nice it is to have a good sharp knife at the ready.

Here is what I carry and why.

Anytime that I am hunting I always carry a folding lock-blade pocket knife. The one that I am currently carrying is a BladeTech Hunter.  It has a drab olive G-10 handle and a stainless steel blade. The knife itself is extremely light weight, with most of the knifes weight being in the blade. It is very balanced when open and the blade has a thick spine that adds to its
stiffness. Also, it is easy to sharpen and it holds a good edge. I use this for most of my everyday chores. I try not to use it on animals. Not that it wouldn’t do a great job, but just because when you are in the field, folding knives tend to be a little bit more
difficult to clean and if you have ever gutted an antelope, you will find out real quick how tough it is to get the loose hair out of the handle and folding  mechanism of the knife.

For the majority of my animal work I have switched over to using fixed blade knives. I carry these knives in my pack so I am not concerned with how they carry on my belt.

Mostly I prefer the drop pointed blades on these knives. However, I am currently using a Knives of Alaska Light Hunter that is a pure skinning knife. This knife features a non-slip handle and also offers a gutting hook, which I have become quite partial to. It isn’t the lightest knife that I carry. Even though it is an overall short knife. It has a very heavy blade and is very stout. The company claims that it could even be used as a mini cleaver! I haven’t used it for that purpose yet, but I am sure that you could use it to chop through the H-bone or rib cage of an elk if need be. I have only had
this knife for a season and I was only able to use it on a mule deer that I shot last fall. The knife performed superbly and held a good sharp edge throughout the whole process.  The other knife that I carry is a Spyderco Temperance fixed-blade, drop point knife.
Spyderco is more known for there unique designs and folding knives, but with this one they hit the nail on the head. What I look for in a knife, is a comfortable non-slip handle, a stiff spine and the
ability to keep and maintain a sharp edge. This knife meets all these criteria. Last year on an antelope hunt I was able to clean, split the rib cage and H-bone, quarter and skin three antelope before the knife needed to be resharpened. Then when I did resharpen it, a couple of swipes on the stone was all it needed to be razor sharp. This is a real meat and potatoes type of knife that has found a permanent home in my pack.

In all it doesn’t really matter what type of knives you carry as long as they are sharp! A dull knife is a sure way to get hurt and to make an easy job, a difficult job. Let me know what you like. I am always looking for something to take the work out of the work once the animal is on the ground. Good luck.

What type of shelter do you use?

Friday, July 27th, 2007

What type of tent or shelter do you use when you camp? Since this whole backcountry mule deer hunt has come up, I have been trying to decide what type of shelter to carry that would be comfortable and lightweight. If we were going to be doing a big right off the road camp, I would be using our large comfortable outfitter tent.
However, that is not the hunt that I will be doing and carrying a tent that weighs a couple of hundred pounds, just isn’t feasible. So, I have been doing quite a bit of research on the subject and frankly, I have become quite confused. There are three season tents, sill shelters, tee-pee style, dome style, bivi bags, modified bivi bags, and the list goes on. Oh, and I must add, the lighter you get, the more they cost! It is kind of funny when you think about it, because you always want the most for your buck, but in this case less is more. See, I am confusing myself just writing this down. Anyway, what I have decided to do is just to stick to what I know from back in the service days. The good old (not so glorious) Poncho Hooch! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the poncho hooch, all it is is a square piece of waterproof material, such as a tarp or rain poncho.
If it has grommets it makes it much easier to attach your guide lines to. No poles, but a few stakes may come in handy in areas that do not offer very many trees and that is pretty much it. The set-up is pretty much left up to the builder and the terrain. With a little imagination a person can build themselves quite the mansion! Well maybe not a mansion, but at least a place to stay dry and out of the elements.

Review: MSR Pocket Rocket Backpacking Stove

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

This weekend on our backcountry trip, I had the chance to use a MSR Pocket Rocket Backpacking Stove. I was a little sceptical that it would be able to perform up to my expectations. Boy was I wrong!

What the little stove lacks in size and weight it makes up for in efficiency  and user friendliness.

This little stove, weighing in at mere 3 ounces it really worked well. It was able to boil 30oz. of water in 4 minutes at 11000’ of elevation. I was able to turn it down to a low simmer while I was finishing up my cowboy coffee. Also it was extremely quite and easy to start. Even though it lacks the size of some of the
other stoves on the market, I was very pleased with its performance and will
continue to use it.

Badlands 4500, A Backpack Review

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Wow! Were do I begin? I chose the biggest of the Badlands hunting packs partly because I have had such great success with the Badlands 2200 day pack that I currently use when I hunt. However, for my upcoming backcountry hunting trip, I needed a pack that would be able to carry all of my gear and a boned out animal if I should be so lucky. After researching the various packs and reading as many reviews out there as I could, I chose the Badlands 4500.

When the pack arrived I was very anxious to get a chance to use it, but my trip was still a week away. So one night while I was hanging out with my 7 year old, I coaxed him into hopping into it so that I could carry him around. I was thrilled at the way the pack handled his weight.
Finally, this past weekend I had a chance to put it through its paces. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement! Although I have gone pretty light weight with everything that I carry, this past weekend I also was carrying all of my girlfriend’s gear – sleeping bag, clothes, food, and other assorted items as well as all of the clothes and assorted gear that comes with taking an 11 month old to the field with you. As you can see from the pictures, the pack was filled to the brim. First I would like to say how well the pack handled the extra weight and how comfortable it was to carry. The hip and shoulder straps are molded to fit the contour of your body. The pack also comes with a series of  tightening straps that allows you to really snug down the load as close to your body as possible to allow you to try and center the weight right over your hips. Never once did I feel like my load was pulling me back. It always seemed to be positioned right over my feet.

Badlands seems to have really thought of everything with this pack! You have one main cargo compartment that you can divide into two separate compartments to keep the heavier things in your pack higher up on your back  Also, the pack has several external pockets that are big enough to store just about anything in them. I was able to carry a fairly large set of binoculars and a water filter in just one of them, to give you an example. The top part of the pack, the part that has been designed to hold your water bladder, can also be removed and used as a fanny pack. I did not use it personally on this trip, but my girlfriend did and she said that it was very comfortable to wear. This pack also comes with a hidden zippered mesh bag that adds an extra 200+ cubic inches that you can attach to the outside of your pack to put your gear in, to keep it from getting bloody when you do get lucky.
Overall I would have to give this pack and its designers two thumbs up. With the no quarrel lifetime guarantee, I should get many years of use out of it.

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.

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.