Saturday, September 12, 2015

3 Year Journy Ends With Unique Buck

It all started 3 years ago when I decided I needed to head down on the river bottoms south of the desert to look for sheds.  While walking on a game trail I ended up jumping a small white tail spike that took off immediately.  Shortly after it took off I heard a loud crash, sticks breaking, and then the sound of the young buck running off.  Seems how there was snow on the ground I followed the tracks to see what all the commotion was about.  Based on my assumption from the tracks I was following, I assumed that the deer attempted to jump over some fallen logs, landed in between two smaller snow covered branches and crashed... I continued to follow the tracks where the buck had hoped back up and continued to run away... This is when my heart sank and I automatically had a deep emotional connection with this animal...
When I began to follow the tracks after the spot where the deer crashed, I noticed that about every so often there would be a couple drops of blood in the snow on the left side of the trail.  I slowly tracked this buck for about 15 minutes attempting to catch a glimpse of him to make sure he was okay, at that point I decided to back out and just hope that the little guy would be okay.  As any hunter knows, even though we take the life of an animal, we all hate to see the animals suffer.  All I could think about for the next couple of days is how this area was know to have quite a few coyotes and other predators who loved to prey off weak wintering animals... I felt responsible for this buck and hoped that I would see it come next fall to see if it was alright.
Throughout that summer and into the first part of fall I was unable to get a picture of a buck that I thought was the deer I encountered that winter.  Then, luckily, I was able to catch a photo on my trail camera of a buck who was growing a odd antler on it's right side.  I had heard that if a deer or elk happened to break a bone on one side of their body, the opposite antler growth is affected.  I had always thought that was a myth, but when I caught this guy on camera I couldn't help but be convinced that this was my deer!
Sure enough, I was able to get another picture of it which confirmed my thoughts, while at the same time, made my heart sink more.  When I looked at this pic, I saw this deer's left foot completely busted, pointing in the wrong direction, and a huge bone growth cluster at the bottom of his leg... I could tell this buck had a rough life seeing how bad his leg was,  I told myself I wouldn't hesitate using my tag on this buck if I saw it during the season, but unfortunately these two pictures were the only evidence/sign I had that this buck was even still alive.  All season long, I looked for this buck with no avail.  I assumed that some other hunter had taken the buck, and I hoped that the hunter was smart enough to realize it was a broken leg rather than some random growth or tumor.  I was afraid that if another hunter took this animal they would leave the animal rather than pack it out because they were afraid to eat it due to the abnormality on his back leg as well as the odd set of antlers on this deer.
After the 2014 season I will admit, I didn't think about this buck much and pretty much called it off as dead or gone.  I spent the summer getting ready for the 2015 season as normal, and was even able to play a part in getting my cousin who is 23 years old into hunting.  This was a great experience for me as I was able to answer a lot of questions, coach/mentor him while practicing his archery skills, and just spend some quality time with him.  Of course, as any hunter would do, all summer long I was hoping more that my cousin would have success than I even hoped that I would have success.  I wanted this first time hunter to be hooked, and experience the amazing moments that hunting provides.  As the season got closer, my younger brother and I set out 5 different cameras looking to locate a few certain bucks in anticipation for hunting season.  The very first week we pulled the cards, I was not only impressed with how many deer we had on our cameras, but I was thrilled to see that my buck with the broken leg was back in the area!   This year,  the buck's leg was almost twice the size it was the previous year and the antler growth was looking a lot more effected by the broken leg.  The left antler grew decent yet was not a typical white tail antler, while the right side was more of a failed attempt at any shape at all..
For the next few weeks, we kept pulling our cards and getting more and more pictures of deer.  We were all getting excited for the season and felt that we would have a decent shot at a few of the bucks we were getting on camera.  As the season was about to start, like always, the deer started to become a lot more nocturnal and the number of pictures started to decrease.  Luckily, the frequency of "The Hoove" had stayed about the same.  We were even able to get a few early morning or early evening pictures before the dark set it.  Even though there were numerous other bucks with larger antlers in the area, I told every, I was seeking out to take that buck this year.

When the season started, I did what I typically do, and took off to chase elk the first few days of the season and then later that week decided to go after deer.  On September 5th, my cousin who I had helped throughout the summer decided to go back down where my younger brother and I had taken him a few days prior while looking for deer.  That night he was sitting in one clearing while his other cousin was sitting in a different clearing waiting for the deer to move around right before night fall.  Sure enough, at 7:48 P.M. my phone range... On the other end, my cousin Jeff was whispering to me how he had just arrowed his first deer at 28 yards away! The excitement in his voice and the adrenaline I heard running through his body was the moment I had anticipated all summer long when shooting bows with him in my backyard!
I hurried home from the errands I was running and headed down to help take care of the deer.  Jeff and my other cousin had waited until I showed up before they tracked it just to be safe.  I had Jeff be the one to lead the way and follow the blood trail.  By this time night had set in and we were using our lights to follow the trail.  In less than 40 yards from where this deer was first hit, there it lay taking a dirt nap!  When we first found the deer, Jeff was needless to say, overwhelmed with emotions, not knowing what to do or how to feel other than the surge of adrenaline and assurance that he had just successfully tagged his first deer!  As I looked a the deer, I realized that the deer he had just tagged was "The Hoove" who I was set on taking this year! I was ecstatic that Jeff not only got his first deer, but also his first bow kill, as well as tagged a very unique buck!
Without going into all the lengthy details of the pack out and taking care of the animal, I will just say that numerous times Jeff would say that now he knew why people say that hunting is addicting.  He stated over and over again how he couldn't remember the last time he felt this good!  He had work hard for quite some time practicing, learning, taking his hunter's education courses, and spending time getting ready for this moment.  All of his preparation came down to one moment and he was able to seal the deal on the buck I had been following for three years.   My emotional connection with this buck did not end after I was assured that he was tagged, instead, my respect and connection with this buck deepened as I could see just how strong and resilient this warrior truly was!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Game Gear Camouflage Review: Function and Durability

One of the main reasons I attend the Hunting and Outdoor expos are to find some outdoor gear that I haven't heard about yet through main stream media.  This past year I attended the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City and was introduced to some great new gear.  One of the new companies/gear I was introduced to was Game Gear's hunting clothes.  My first impression was that I liked the pattern that seemed close to a few other brands I was familiar with, yet different enough to give it a unique break up.  I sat and chatted with the people in the booth for quite some time and then moved on my way.  After the expo, it didn't take me long to decide I wanted to know more about Game Gear and their hunting clothes.  I checked into their company and decided I would do some research and share what I found with my followers!  One of the first things I will point out is that Game Gear has been making athletic clothing for over 72 years (Since 1943) so even though they may be new to the hunting/camo industry, they are well seasoned in making clothing built for active life styles!

I ordered me their Tala Mid Season System which currently runs at $230.00 for the following items:

Tala Shirt (BT3002LH50)
Tala Pant (SL3003H50) 
Tala Vest (WS3004H50) 
Heat Tech Shirt (H603S)
Heat Tech Brief (HT113)

Considering that some of the camouflage companies these days are selling their pants alone for prices between $150 - $650, the package deal from Game Gear is a great purchase considering what you get! The pants are polyester with a mesh liner and the vest is polyester with a fleece liner.  Both are stitched with 100 weight heavy duty thread to hold up to the elements while hunting.  The shirt is extremely soft and comfortable made out of a polyseter/lycra blend.

I received the Tala System around the first of May and have been hitting the mountains pretty hard testing out the gear.  I could have easily written a quick post in June stating that the camo was great and that I would recommend it to anyone looking for new camo, but I wanted to make sure to give the gear, and my readers, an in-depth review to make sure I wasn't just writing out of excitement of owning a new set of camo.

The pattern: 
At first I will admit I thought the pattern was kind of a knock off of the Kuiu pattern, but when I set them side by side to Kuiu, Sitka, and other brands of camo, I realized how all of them have similarities and distinct features which set them apart from one another.  As far as how it works in multiple settings, I will let the pictures do most of the talking while I just say that I'm glad that I finally own camo that I can wear in all of my hunting elements! I love how well the patter performs in everything from desert sage brush, cattails in the duck blind, and high mountain pines or aspens.  I would say the best performance out of the Game Gear pattern would be in the desert/sage brush, the aspens, and in the cottonwoods.   Be sure to click on the pictures to make them bigger. I also have lots of other pictures if you would like to see them in other settings please let me know in the comments and I can email you a few pics.

Aspen trees
Aspen trees with shadows

Rocky high country pines

Crawling in the desert
Kneeling shooting my bow in the sage

Sitting then standing in a tree stand


Standing in the cattails
Here is my 411 on the Tala Pants:

The pants were comfortable, durable, and as with the rest of the camo, I like the pattern.  The pant waist band is built structured in the front and elastic in the back to give them a comfortable snug fit.  With the the way the waist is constructed, I could wear these pants without a belt and they would sit right all day long while hunting.  The length of the pants seemed a bit long when I first tried them on but when I put on my hunting boots I loved how they stayed low while hunting and walking through thick brush.  On the Game Gear website, the state how the length of the pants is "generous" to keep ankles covered while squatting or kneeling.  I would say that their design and purpose behind the longer pants was one thing I wouldn't have thought about when looking for a good fit of pants.  Another feature I like about these pants is how the knees are sewn differently than any other camo pants I have ever owned.  They are sewn angled which is a lot more aligned with the stance and movement involved with hunting.  It didn't matter if I was walking, running, standing, kneeling, climbing into my tree stand, or crawling the pants never bunched up, crawled up, or became uncomfortable.

The pants also have a mesh liner to "optimize air flow and breathability" as stated on their website. They also have two back pockets, two deep hand pockets, as well as two convenient zipper pockets on the thigh.  I will say though, that if you plan on hunting in cooler weather, it would be wise to wear thermals, or a warmer base layer, rather than what comes with the Tala System.  I ended up getting caught in a snowstorm while looking for bear mid May and needless to say my legs were pretty cold.  The pants are also water repellent and wind resistant.  Don't confuse that with water proof... Hiking in wet cold conditions, my legs still got wet when wearing these pants after hiking for a while.  If you are hunting in such conditions it would be wise to wear gators (Just like with most other camo/hunting pants).  I myself would like to see Game Gear make some water proof gators that they would offer as accessories for hunting in such conditions. 
Now onto the Heat Tech Shirt:
The shirt is very comfortable and extremely soft.  I won't go on an on about the shirt; I will just state that the cut is very supportive of the movement of both bow hunting and rifle hunting.  The material was a great match for hunting due to how fast it dries when aired out.  As I would hike around either hunting or scouting I would work up a sweat, stop for a rest and let me gear air out, and within just a couple minutes the shirt was dry and ready for me to comfortably continue on my way.  When in the cooler conditions the zipper zips high enough to cover the base of my neck securely to help keep the heat in and keep my neck warm.

Next up is the Tala Vest:
The vest is a great piece of gear which I really enjoy hunting in.  The vest has two chest zipper pockets as well as two hand pockets down by the waist.  The zipper is a high quality quiet zipper with a sturdy rubber zipper pull.  The vest keeps your warm and protects you from moisture without restricting the movement needed when hunting.  I enjoyed wearing the vest on all of my outings even if they weren't always outdoorsy just because of how comfortable it was.

Now to be fair, I will post the few concerns I have/had...
I wore this system for quite some time and put it through some pretty good tests.  I feel the products are all built great and should hold up for any of the hunters out there.  The only thing I had a problem with was after about 3 solid months of wear and tear, I noticed that the fabric on my pants seemed to be bubbling or separating from the mesh liner.  When I contacted someone at Game Gear, they stated that they were unaware of any of their Tala Pants having this issue and that if I sent them in they would replace them if it looked like a manufacturer defect.  The customer service department was great to work with.  The camo has been great so far which is why I would hope this is just a manufacturer's defect instead of a flaw in the material.

Secondly, I wish the pants were a bit thicker/warmer... The polyester is a pretty thin material and it didn't seem to take much before my lower half started to feel the chill when the temperature dropped.   I'm not one to get cold while hunting so this was not a comfortable feeling for me while in the mountains.  The shirt and vest kept my upper body warm, while my lower half was quite cold.  This could easily be fixed by wearing the warmer base layer offered by Game Gear so I wouldn't say this would be much of a game changer when considering purchasing this gear, just something that is good to be aware of.  I want you all to know that I worked very hard to give the Game Gear as unbiased of a review as I could. If it wasn't for the bubbling on the pants, or the cold weather I wouldn't have much to say in this section.

Sooo... to wrap this all up:
 To me,  the Game Gear camouflage is a great purchase for what you get.  For a company who has been building athletic clothing for over 72 years, it shows in their new line of camo! This is not a company who looked around and tried to copy what someone else was doing.  These people are hunters, athletes, and outdoors men/women who know what works, and who have decided to start marketing their line to hunters!  If you see me in the mountains this year you can bet I'll be wearing my Game Gear camo... but then again that's if you see me...  

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Man's Guide on How To Get Your Wife Hunting

Couples Hunt Together
Alright folks,  as I spend some of my evenings browsing through (stalking) my friend's on Facebook or other social media sites.  Once and a while when looking back through someone's pictures I find a certain type of picture that just kind of gets to me...  The type of picture that I am referring to is a picture of one of my guy friends with their wife back when they were dating and/or engaged.  Often times, I see these guys smiling ear to ear as they are introducing their girlfriend/fiance to shooting skeet, target shooting, or just plinking around with a gun.  Sadly...  More often than not, this is often the last time I ever see a pictures of these women with a gun in their hands (as well as their husbands with as big of a smile on their faces).  My post today will be dedicated to all of those husbands who want to get their wives into, or back into, hunting and spending time in the outdoors with them.  Here are 10 rules/suggestions to help you get your wife into the outdoors with you!

Rule #1
This is BY FAR the MOST important rule to follow if you want your spouse to EVER get into the outdoors, let a lone hunting, with you.  Put your FAMILY FIRST!!!!! No spouse will ever, or should ever, have to convince their husband to spend time with their family rather than going hunting again... We all know that no matter how much time you spend at home, some times your spouse will never be happy with you heading to the mountains, but if your spouse knows that if it really came down to it, there would be no question in your mind that your family would come first, then your spouse will be more understanding and open.  When your focus is your family and the experiences WITH them, then your spouse will want to be a part of the memories you are making no matter where they are... even in the mountains!
My beautiful family
Rule #2
Don't set out to convert her to become an avid outdoors woman.  People, especially women, aren't stupid and can tell when they are being treated like a project.  We all know that guy who dated a girl just for the approval of his friends but never had any feelings for her... The same goes for you husbands and/or boyfriends who are getting your girl into hunting just to show her off to your outdoor buddies... DON'T DO IT!  If you ever want her to join you hunting you have to have your intentions set on meeting her needs!

Rule #3
Don't start with hunting, start with the outdoors.  I know there are people who feel it is a good way to teach a kid how to swim by throwing them into the deep section of a swimming pool, but as a counselor I can tell you that there are much better ways to ensure a happy ending than to throw your wife right into the trenches.  Get her into your hunting areas and show her the parts of the mountain that you find fascinating and beautiful.  When you go, make it special for her.  Plan it out, make a picnic, talk to her about everything SHE wants to talk about, make her feel like it was planned for her and don't go for your own agenda.  My wife said one of the things that got her to love the outdoors is to see my "soft side" while in the outdoors.  She says that even though it sounds cheesey, she loves knowing what my favorite wild flower is and remembers me stopping on our hike to pick her a bouquet of them. 

Rule #4
HikingCreate memories that are special for the two of you... not just for you.  Of course we all have a favorite memory of our first kill or our biggest buck/bull, but often your wife may not be able to relate to that.  Create memories in your hunting areas, or just in the mountains, that are special for both of you.  Take pictures of the two of you and take pictures of just her in the outdoors.  THIS IS A BIG ONE! I know you may think I'm stupid or crazy, but I can promise you that if you tell your wife you want to take a picture of her over looking a mountain range, next to a water fall, or in some other setting... She'll feel how much you enjoy and appreciate her being there with her.  THEN, take that picture and treasure it. Put it on your work desk, desktop on your computer, and on your cell phone screen shot...  BUT make sure you are doing it because you actually love her in that picture not just as some plan/scheme to get her to go hunting with you... (after all isn't that the type of stuff you did when you were dating?)

 Rule #5
Get her the right gear.  Anyone who has hiked knows that if you have the wrong pair of boots, if you are over dressed/under dressed, a poor fitting pack, or some other miss matched gear, then your time in the outdoors is tainted.  Be sure to get her gear that will help her enjoy her time out there rather than thinking about her blisters on her ankle the whole time. 
Also get her a bow or a gun of her own that she can feel confident with.  If she is new to them, borrow one and see what she likes.  I remember when my wife got her first bow... We set up balloons on targets all over our backyard and let her try to pop all of them.  This may seem childish but you can relate to the feeling of making a good shot.  The feeling of accomplishment is a genuine motivator to keep pursuing such adventures.  If she doesn't have the right gear (to high poundage of a bow, to large of a gun) then it is harder for her to feel this and get discouraged. 

Rule #6

Duck Kill ShotPatience!!! If you ever lose your patience with her while in the mountains, then is when you need to take all of the advice people gave you on your wedding day and keep your mouth shut... If you are anything but supportive of her, she will feel that.  If a women feels like a burden, a headache, or belittled... then she will shut down and let you know that she is everything but incompetent.  If sh e is out of her comfort zone in the mountains, she will want nothing more than to get into an environment where she is comfortable and stay there.  A very wise man once told me if it's worth the effort now, it's worth the effort later so don't be in such a hurry that you screw it up. 

Rule #7
When she is about ready to go hunting start of by taking her out with you without seeking to fill a tag. The feeling that she will get when you and her get close enough to an animal to seal the deal yet just sit back and soak it in, will be a feeling she will never forget.  I hear stories all the time of dads who get their kids in bow range of a bugling bull elk and enjoy getting lost in their kid's emotions of being so close to such a magnificent animal.   When your spouse witnesses such a feeling, it will not only start her own addiction to these interactions but it will also help her mentally prepare for this feeling before she had a weapon in her hand.

Rule #8
Mule Deer HornsWhen she is ready for hunting, help her feel good about what ever animal she tags.  One of the first years my wife went out hunting, I wanted to show her that we cared more about filling the freezer than we did about the size of the horns.  To prove this to her, I arrowed a young two point mule deer and was thrilled to share the experience with her.... little did I know that later that year she would drop a heavy 3x4 mule deer in it's tracks... but even then, that made her feel that much more accomplished and excited when the time came for her to pull the trigger.

Rule #9
Family Hunting
Remember she is a woman and has the right to change her mind any time... If she gets out and actually goes hunting with you, just remember that you have not "won" and the battle isn't over... My wife absolutely loved hunting when we were newly married but when we started having kids, of course her priorities switched to spending more time with them and less time in a tree stand.  That's okay! Let her do what she wants to do.  If you want her to eventually get back out there with you, support her and let her know you miss her but not in a guilt-trip type of way.  The more support she has when she chooses not to go hunting, the more likely she will be to return to it later. #Truth

Rule #10
Forget all of these rules and do what works with your wife! Everything I have written is really just a few things that worked for me, but as we all know every woman is different as well as every husband is different.  Do what works for you.  Do whatever you did when you were dating that got her out to shoot with you from the get go.  If it was just out of her own curiosity then rekindle that some how in a way that works for both of you.  Please once again don't treat her like a project and don't use her to impress your hunting buddies.  I asked a few women on social media what advice they had on this topic and this is what they suggested:

"Get her opinion - what does she like, what does she want, what does she want to see, what hasn't she seen"

"You can't make someone love something, but EVERYONE loves a good time so make your time with her one of the best times she has had" Krysten Michelle Twitter @Krys_Michelle

"Don't push her, or intimidate her.  Let her enjoy it at her own pace" - Samantha Bellamy Twitter @Sambellamy0016

"Start short, scenic hikes, low key outings in nice temperatures"

"Invite her on scouting trips, hiking, outdoors, seeing wildlife, possibly and bonding with  understanding your passion"

"Patience" @gaillynno

So in essence, good luck... When I first posted the question on social media asking how to get your wife hunting, I received plenty of responses saying "you don't", or "haha good luck" but as we all know, some of the best things in life don't come easy but are well worth it! As a husband who has a wife who hunts, I can say it is definitely worth it! One last thing to make mention... If she isn't into it and doesn't want to be a part of it... respect that and don't force her to be a part of it!
Bull Elk
My Wife's first hunt