Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The SoCal Bowhunter Travels to Western NY for a Whitetail Hunt

Rocky Athletic Mobility boots and Badlands Approach camo make a great combination.

Patience and planning. Two things that make an out of state hunt much more enjoyable. Even though I am from NY and have hunted there my entire life, I still remain abreast of the new or updated laws and regulations before I plan. You don’t want to assume everything is the same as prior years. For my 2016 NY whitetail deer hunt, I opted to hunt with my 300 WM rifle and leave my archery tackle at home. This would be the first time I have hunted deer with a rifle. During my planning phase, I was in constant contact with my dad and brother. We were checking weather, the rut and if it was in full swing, and what I needed to travel with. I absolutely love the planning phase of a hunt. It gets me energized, excited, and makes sure I am ready.  

As I planned out my gear bag to hunt whitetail in NY, I knew that my boots were in need of an upgrade. I needed something that would not only be waterproof, but also be warm. In fact, they needed to be more than warm. I love my Rocky Broadhead boots for warm weather, so I contacted Rocky and asked what they would recommend for the area I was hunting and the crazy weather that comes with it. A new boot for Fall 2016 was at the top of their list, the Rocky Athletic Mobility Waterproof 800G Insulated Outdoor Boot and there were some available in my size ready to ship. Check that off the list!

I also knew that I needed to protect my rifle and wanted to find a new case to load it and my shotgun. After much research, I found that Seahorse Cases makes a solid firearms case that would be exactly what I would need. I'll post a review in the next couple weeks, but let me just say that it is now my favorite firearm case!

I decided for this hunt I would travel with my ORCA cooler and not buy a cheap one in NY. Usually what I do to save money is to fly with only a checked bag of clothing and my weapon of choice. Then if I am successful in killing a deer, I will hit up a store and buy a cooler. This time I had a good feeling and opted to bring the best of the best.

The weather on day one was supposed to be a high of 67 degrees with a light breeze. Perfect, but would it be enough the get the bucks moving? My answer came fifteen minutes after being on watch. I was up in ‘The Big Hickory’ as I had 250 yards I could shoot. My 300 WM was loaded and ready to eat. I knew I would be able to see far off with my MINOX binoculars, so I scanned the hedgerows. Bam! Right away I noticed a buck skirting the edge of a brush lot, nose to the ground, and on a mission. He was over 200 yards away. By the looks of him I thought he was chasing a doe, but I saw no other deer. As I looked at my watch, my heart sank. I still had fifteen more minutes before legal shooting time. I had to be patient, but he was heading off toward private property.

Earlier that morning (and I mean really early), when we packed our bags, he asked me if I had brought a doe bleat. Crap! I hadn’t packed it and when I looked for my grunt call I remembered I left it on my work bench back in California. A lot of good it was going to do me there! My brother handed me his doe bleat and said it might work that day, so I packed it to be easily accessible. Little did he know it, but he was my hero that day. I reached into my Badlands pack and pulled out the bleat. I bleated three times, all while watching the buck head further toward the property line. Once he heard that sound he stopped, turned, and bolted back 50 yards and stopped. He was looking right at me! Now I had a decision to make. I put the binoculars down and traded them for the rifle. I set the rifle on the shooting rail and that’s when I noticed the rail was super low! I wasn’t used to shooting like this, but I needed to improvise. With my hand like a fist as a rest, I placed the rifle on it and settled in on the buck. He hadn’t moved. A glance at my watch told me I had ten more minutes of waiting ahead of me. Argh!!! Looking back through the scope, I saw that he had started feeding and not moving much. Now I had to wait.

My 2016 NY six point buck taken on opening day.

Ten minutes on opening day with buck at 200 yards broadside is an eternity to wait, but wait I did. I heard a single shot from far off about a minute before I was ready to shoot, so I waited. The buck raised his head and I settled the crosshairs on his shoulder. CRACK! In a cloud of smoke, I watched him bolt downhill and he picked up in a heap 70 yards form where I shot him. I was shaking like a leaf! Not only had I never shot a buck with a rifle, I can’t remember if I had ever shot one on opening day at first light. It was a first for me! All of the time I spent sighting in my rifle and getting the MINOX Z5i scope dialed in just right had paid off! Walkie-talkies being a thing of the past, I texted my dad and brother with the three letters we all wanted to see…DRT!


The temps dropped considerably by the evening and light rain changed over to sleet. I watched doe after doe walk through brush to escape the wind. I had bundled up well and decided on the first day of cold weather I was not going to put foot warmers in my boots. I wanted to see how well they would perform in the cold weather by themselves. They were great all over, except for my toes. Extremities are usually the first to feel the chill, so I knew that was a big factor, but I also noticed there really isn’t much Thinsulate up over the toes in these boots. I am not sure why, but it would be a big benefit to have a bit more insulation over the toes to keep them toasty. As the sun set, I watched the far edges of the field and watched a nice buck appear and walk down to an apple tree to feed. What a great first day!

The 67 degrees dropped to about 7 with the wind chill and I felt it all over, even down to my toes.  Day two was brisk, to say the least. The morning had deer moving, but the winds were ever increasing and we decided to hunt BJ's property in the evening. The choice was a great one as I filled a doe tag with one shot. Two days and two deer. I was grateful, full of excitement, and thrilled!
 
By the third day, we were ready for some action. We just didn't see the bucks we were looking for. The winds were intense and bitter cold. After carefully watching the weather we knew a cold front was coming in rapidly. We had decided not to hunt the next day due to impending hazardous conditions. We started to get some heavy snow by the evening and we had to go rescue my mom in the middle of dinner. By the time we got her back to the house, we were beat. There were cars and trucks stranded all over, most in the middle of the road! Having a day off would give me time to butcher my deer and get everything vacuum sealed. Plans changed a bit when my brother got me up at 4:30 AM to help him plow snow. I didn't help much, but it was great to see him work and chat along the way for three hours. After a much needed nap, I spent the rest of the day cutting up deer meat. I have to say that I am glad we took a day off!

With snow on the ground and my last day to hunt, it was time to test out the Rocky boots some more, hike a bit and see what would happen. Not only were the boots waterproof, they kept my feet very warm all over (except for the toes after time) and they remained comfortable. The grip in the snow was exceptional! I climbed over logs, through brush and over slick areas of dirt to try and get the boots to slip. They held fast and true. I am super happy about that. 

Not to be outdone, my brother filled his buck tag with a beauty of an eight point.

We all ventured to our stands and waited patiently. It was cold and I was ready to meet up for some coffee after three and a half hours on stand. My phone buzzed and my brother informed me that we had deer movement and that he was staying put. The rush of adrenaline had me warmed up quickly and I decided to stay in my treestand a bit longer. A few moments later I hear a rifle shot, followed by another.  BJ texted us that he had a buck down. A short time later, my dad and I met up with my brother and drove down to the deer. He had filled his tag with a nice 8-point and the body was big! It was a dandy. Congrats BJ!

Quality boots and my first attempt (with BJs help) at a European mount.

Hunting with my dad and brother is something I love to do every chance I get. Between the jokes, the strategy, and success, we simply have a great time. This was one trip when I missed my girls, but I really didn't want the hunt to end. Even so, we had one of the best hunts ever and I cannot wait to start planning the 2017 whitetail hunt. The big question is do I hunt with my bow or my rifle. Decisions, decisions.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Gear Review: Rocky Athletic Mobility Waterproof 800G Insulated Outdoor Boot


As I planned out my gear bag to hunt whitetail in NY, I knew that my boots were in need of an upgrade. I have boots for rocky terrain, warm weather, wet weather, and so on, but I needed something that would not only be waterproof, but also be warm. In fact, they needed to be more than warm. I love my Rocky Broadhead boots for warm weather, so I contacted Rocky and asked what they would recommend for the area I was hunting and the crazy weather that comes with it. A new boot for Fall 2016 was at the top of their list, the Rocky Athletic Mobility Waterproof 800G Insulated Outdoor Boot and there were some available in my size ready to ship.

When the boots arrived, I quickly unboxed them and was surprised by the strong leather smell coming from the boots. I understand new boots have a certain smell, but these were almost overpowering. Temporarily setting that fact aside, I pulled some wool socks on and then the boots. They were oh so comfortable, but my test was going to be walking in them. I walked the yard, around my property, up and down stairs and was delighted that my ankles weren’t being rubbed raw. In fact, I felt like I could wear these daily if I wanted to. They are not lightweight boots, but they are certainly not heavy either. They are a mid-range and very manageable.

Back to the leather odor, and yes I said odor. Why? If I can smell that leather, then so can a deer. I needed to reduce the aroma as best I could. I first washed the boots in scent-free soap and let them air dry. That didn’t help too much. Once they dried, I didn’t have many options as I had to catch a flight out the next afternoon. I sprayed them with scent-killer and let that dry for an hour. Packed they got and I made my way 3000 miles to NY. I told my brother of the situation and how I wanted to get rid of that smell. He had an easy solution; earth scent dryer sheets and a plastic bag. The next morning most of the smell, to my weak smelling olfactory glands, was reduced considerably. I rubbed the outside of the boots a couple more times to keep the earth scent on there.


As I walked down to my tree stand, I noted the feel of the boots as I walked. The support in the heel and arch was quite good, but the heel was a bit stiff. I may end up using some slightly thicker inserts. I figured if I walked around enough that would break in a bit more. Through the field and lane way, I listened carefully for noises from the boots or any squeakiness. Ultra quiet was what came to mind. I was loving the boots! There was no bunching up at the ankles like many 800 gm+ Thinsulate boots do. Rocky did a great job with these. There was great traction across to plowed field and when climbing up the ladder to the stand. No slipping and the grip was true, but quiet.

The weather on day one was just peachy. 67 degrees with a light breeze made for an easy day on stand and for my feet. My feet were comfortable and warm. I was spoiled!


The next three days were the true test. The temps dropped 60 degrees with the wind chill and I felt it all over and down to my toes. I had bundled up well and decided on the first day of cold weather I was not going to put foot warmers in my boots. I wanted to see how well they would perform in the cold weather by themselves. They were great all over, except for my toes. Extremities are usually the first to feel the chill, so I knew that was a big factor, but I also noticed there really isn’t much Thinsulate up over the toes in these boots. I am not sure why, but it would be a big benefit to have a bit more insulation over the toes to keep them toasty. The next day I placed foot warmers in over my toes and that did help a great deal.


Then the snow hit and I am talking 10 inches of it overnight! Time to hike a bit and see what would happen. Not only were the boots waterproof, they kept my feet very warm all over (except for the toes after time) and they remained comfortable. The aggressive tread in the snow was exceptional! I climbed over logs, through brush and over slick areas of dirt to try and get the boots to slip. They held fast and true. I am super happy about that.

The boot material is very string and I found no punctures or tears. I kicked at things, caught them on the stand a few times, and they held up. Plus, they didn't dent when stepping on the toe. Some boots will dent and not conform back to their original shape. The Athletic Mobility boots held their shape and are very durable

One more key factor that I feel should be mentioned were the laces and how well they held. The laces were a great length and held fast throughout all my hunts. They never came undone. I do wish the boots had a lace-locking system to keep the boots from loosening up down at the ankle, but I’ll take what I can get. The lacing works.


The Rocky Athletic Mobility Waterproof 800G Insulated Outdoor Boots are priced right at $159.99 because right out of the box they are ready to wear. I would definitely recommend these boots to you guys and any other hunters out there. They have a great aggressive tread, kept my feet warm, and were very comfortable. With the weather in California being much warmer, I left my boots with my dad to continue too use during the 2016 season. He’s lucky we are the same size! I will follow up on this review with his thoughts on the boots as well.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Free Hog Hunting Seminar at Bass Pro Rancho this Saturday


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Solo Deer Hunt on Public Land in California (D14)

The two-hour drive to the San Bernardino National Forest was peaceful. I found my desired spot, parked, and had a full hour before sunrise. It was time for a nap. I slept on-and-off for about 30 minutes and decided it was time to get dressed. I knew there was bad weather coming in, but I hadn't anticipated the higher than normal wind speeds. Even so, I was there to hunt and was going to be on that hillside by sunrise.

The sunrise was anticlimactic as the cloud cover drowned any chance of seeing a bright, glowing orb in the sky. I settled in, locked in my MINOX BL 10x44 binoculars on my tripod and began glassing. I had quite the view from my vantage point. 700 yards in two directions and 450 in the other. For two hours I glassed and saw nothing, but I was incredibly happy. I had no one around me, no worries, and clean air to breathe.


At 9:25 AM I caught movement at 425 yards. Two deer had just burst from a row of pines. Binoculars up and I could see they were two doe and they were breathing heavy. I have to say, the 10x44 MINOX binos on a tripod are incredible. I was not only able to verify that neither was a shooter buck, but I could see their mouths open, breathing heavy, and looking behind them. They weren't on alert, so I figured a rutting buck was chasing them. He was smart though, as he stayed in the thick cover. I watched them amble along, slowly feeding, before they disappeared into a ravine.


Weekend off-roaders began to appear on the road. They spotted me up high and many waved as they sped up as not to disturb me. Then came the two yahoos in a white jeep. Not only did they slow down when they saw my truck, but they drove off road and directly into my shooting lane. Boy, do I have bad luck with inconsiderate people while hunting. Last year it's a guy walking right up to me and this year it's Tweedledee and Tweedledum. They park and decide it's time for coffee and breakfast. It must have been a good breakfast as they sat for an hour, not 100 yards from where the deer first appeared. I nearly packed up out of frustration, but I wasn't going to let them win. Instead, I waited until they started driving out before I stood up and made sure they spotted me glassing them. They moved on and I never saw them again. Public land hunting at it's best!


I glassed for three more hours. The wind got worse and the clouds rolled in lower, and lower, and lower. As I scanned the brush-filled landscape, I spotted a shape that was out of place. With the binos up I easily found the shape of a well-fed deer. Once it moved, I verified it was a doe and she had company. Two fawns were right on her heals. I watched them for a half hour as they fed on the vegetation, and then the young ones wanted some milk. There is something awesome about watching a mother in the wild and how it cares for her young. She let them drink for about 30 seconds and decided that was enough. They fed some more and when the wins picked up, they nested under a thick row of bushes and bedded down. It was a beautiful sight. It was also my cue to get out of the forest. You can tell a lot by watching animals and their actions. I knew the weather would be on me quick.

I drove out of the forest and the rain hit hard, as did the clouds. Driving down the mountain was slow going, but nice. I contemplated going to another area to hunt, but I knew traffic was going to be nutty, so I decided I had had enough for the day. Sure enough, traffic was brutal coming back (Californian freak out at a raindrop on the freeway). I was patient and couldn't wait to see my girls and spend a fun evening with them. Being tired wasn't going to win this day.

Public land hunting in California is tough, cutthroat, and can wear you down. I simply don't go in with high expectations and with an open mind. I want to hunt, but I don't always have to kill something. I love being out there, on the side of a mountain (or hillside) and scanning the vast area for wild game. Filling my freezer is great, too. It's all a matter of perspective.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Book Review: Long Range Shooting Handbook: A beginner’s Guide to Precision Rifle Shooting’ by Ryan Cleckner

Notice I have many marked pages. That's a good sign!

There is quite a feeling of accomplishment when you get your rifle set up properly and make a shot at long range. It takes some knowledge, some skill, and proper technique. For the past couple months, I have been reading the ‘Long Range Shooting Handbook: A beginner’s Guide to Precision Rifle Shooting’ by Ryan Cleckner. Ryan was an OK shot in the military (Army Ranger sniper) and has a little experience around a precision rifle (firearms instructor) and is also an attorney (specializing in firearm law). He’s also a family man and loves a good scotch. You get my point, the man has skills and takes great care in what he does. For those of you that know me well understand that I have been shooting firearms just as long as I have been a bow. That certainly doesn’t mean I know everything, in fact it proved quite the opposite. I learn something new every day and this book offered much!

My Remington 700 SPS in .300 WM that I am using while reading the book.

Earlier  this year, I began working on a rifle build for long range shooting, to prepare for a possible sheep hunt. I had done plenty of research and chose a Remington 700 SPS chambered in .300 WM as my base weapon. While I love the rifle, if I had spent more time considering my options, I may have gone with a .308 due to available ammunition for hunting in California. Even still, I love my .300 WM. After I got things put together and began sighting it in, I found this book. Yes, it is a beginner’s guide, but it is full of great information. While I knew much at the beginning of the nook, I didn’t skip anything. I wanted to find out where Ryan was coming from and learn as much as I could. I really like the writing style as it’s genuine, to the point, and not a holier-than-thou manifest. He covers safety, the rifle parts, elevation, wind, and so on. It was great!

Part of reading the book that I found great was my choice of stock vs. what Ryan recommends. He dislikes the pistol-grip handle for a precision rifle, which is, of course, what I chose. Ha! It was great to read WHY he disliked it and it made perfect sense. For me, my wrist has given me problems over the years and I wanted to use something a bit more comfortable. When I first began shooting it, I was all over. It just so happened that when I followed Ryan’s advice while using the pistol-grip I was dead on. 306 yard shot on a 12” target felt pretty damn good. I improved even more after reading more and learning to watch some of the things I wasn’t doing quite right. There is some sage advice and guidance, you just have to pace yourself and I recommend taking notes.

The top three shots were applying Ryan's techniques at 100 yards.

A second feature of note was the use or non-use of a bipod. In my mind I needed one and couldn't hunt without it. The practical application of using one in the field for hunting wasn't feasible, but I couldn't come to grips with leaving it off. WHat can I say, I am a gearhead and I love technical stuff. Once I read what Ryan had to say and why it wasn't a good idea, I removed it to test the theory. It turns out, once again, that he knows what he is talking about. He was spot on and if you look at the image above, this was the result of using my pack as a rest vs. a bipod. (Anyone want to buy a bipod?)

Now, some of you will say that much of what is in here you already know. That is probably true, but if you take the time to read it, let it sink in (knowing it or not) and applying the techniques, you will improve. Admittedly, some parts went slow for me, but I kept an open mind, as I recommend you do, too.

The book retails for $24.95, but it's on Amazon for $14.95, or you can purchase it directly from the LRSH website. I highly recommend buying one and reading it. 25% of the book’s proceeds will be donated to two military charities: the Special Operation Warrior Foundation and the Sua Sponte Foundation. 

Ryan also has a podcast called Going Ballistic with Ryan Cleckner. I highly recommend tuning in if you want to learn more about long range shooting, but also some great firearm tips.

If you are looking to get into long range shooting or long range hunting, I would recommend reading this book prior. Read it cover-to-cover and you might be surprised what you learn. Take it from a guy who has been shooting for 30 years and learned quite a few things from the book. You can find the book on Amazon. If you do read the book, stop back and let me know what you thought. Let Ryan know, too!

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