Friday, October 14, 2016

Year Of Success... Without Much Of My Own...

My hunting season has been full of ups and downs to say the least... Opening day August 15th, 2016 I was able to arrow an antelope doe! I have hunted spot and stalk antelope for 4 years with no success so notching a tag for an archery antelope was such a rush and rewarding hunt for me!  Little did I know, that was the pinnacle of my luck and from that point forward I was going to have one of the roughest archery seasons I have ever had.

From that point on, my luck has seemed to have a personal endeavor against me and my desire to get out hunting.  My vehicle has broken down not only once, but multiple times while on my way up to go hunting.  I can drive my vehicle all week long with no problem, but at 4 in the morning on the way up the mountain, it seems to have something against me... Aside from the vehicle problems, I have had numerous other conflicts that have frustrated me to no end this season.

With all the negative factoring into my hunting season, I have stayed persistent and have taken the back seat in some regards by unintentionally not expecting a lot out of my hunting trips.  Last year I helped get my cousin into archery hunting and helped him tag his first animal.  I got him out hunting once this year but due to my karma I must have rubbed off on him and the hunt ended unsuccessful.  Later that same week, my cousin said he wanted to get out hunting again and of course it was an evening that I had numerous conflicts and couldn't get out hunting with him.  Within an hour of my cousin letting me know he had made it to our hunting area, I got a text message saying that he had just arrowed a deer!  At first I didn't know if he was just pulling my leg or if he had really gotten out and got himself a deer.  As soon as I was free, I called him to get all the details and headed his way to help track and/or pack it out.  Sure enough he had a young whitetail buck double lunged and piled up when I got there.  As we sat back and talked about his hunt, we put together that one year ago to the exact date is when he shot his first archery deer less than 100 yards away from where he had just taken his 2016 buck! Hunts like this is what kept my fire going as the luck hasn't been on my side this year.  Sharing a small part of a memory like this is just as rewarding as filling my own tag... to an extent :)

As the month went on, my focus switched to elk as I was hearing about how many people were seeing and harvesting elk in my area.  I chatted with my dad and one of my brothers about chasing elk in an area we have always loved to hunt.  As I got into our area with my dad and brother I will admit, I had very little hope of seeing much.  I had gotten into this area just two weeks earlier and saw literally nothing yet covered miles of ground... This trip however started off quite promising as we started hearing elk bugle within the first 15 minutes of our hike in.  We talked and formulated a plan on how we were going to set up and then hustled to where we wanted to be just before daylight.  We were all set up and spread out to the three different locations we know the elk typically travel in this area.  I stalked in and had elk all around me.  I saw two bulls chasing a cow back and forth between some trees.  I snuck into bow range and ranged a tree at 60 yards.  Just as I set my range finder down, one of the bulls stepped out from behind the tree I had just ranged and stopped broadside!  I pulled back, put my 60 yard pin right on him, and let go! Just as if it was in slow-motion, I watched my arrow come out of my bow, soar through the air, and just as it got to where the elk was it flew right underneath the elk... Of course all the elk ran off as I could see my arrow in the dirt behind where the elk had been standing.  At that moment I kicked myself for not compensating for the fact that the elk had stepped out from behind the tree I ranged and was 8-10 yard behind what I had ranged... Luckily it was a clean miss and I didn't wound an animal.

Shortly after I picked up my arrow I got a text from my brother telling me he had just arrowed a cow elk.  I slowly worked my way through the trees in hopes of catching a straggler elk that may have stayed behind the others... I caught a glimpse of some elk walking though the trees just on the other side of a large clearing.  I sat and watched as the closest I could get was 200 yards with very little cover.  As I was watching the elk graze through the pine trees, I saw an elk dart out of the trees to the right of all of the other elk.  I turned to watch this elk as it stopped, rolled around in the grass as if it were wallowing in a mud hole.  I was super confused as I could see where the elk was, it was extremely dry and open... just as I started to put two and two together the elk stopped moving and lay motionless.  I grabbed my phone and texted my dad who was supposed to be on that same ridge.  Just as I clicked send on my phone, I got a message from him staying he had just shot a 5 point bull!  Shortly after this, we all met up and shared high fives, and laughed at how awesome it was that we had two elk on the ground.  After taking a closer look at the bull my dad had shot, I realized it was the same bull I had flung an arrow at earlier that morning!
With the close of archery season, my luck hadn't changed.  I got out a few times but didn't accomplish anything other than burning calories and wearing out my boots.  Through the month of September I was keeping an eye out for a good bull as my older brother had an early bull tag for the rifle season.  As I caught glimpses of a few potential bulls I wasn't 100% we had found one worthy of receiving the 300 win mag bullet.  As my brother's hunt started, we went back into the same area my dad and other brother had tagged their elk.  This is the same area I had come two other times without seeing a thing... Of course seems how I wasn't hunting, we were seeing elk left and right! We saw a few cows, a couple small bulls, and then... the big guy!

My brother snuck out from behind a tree and got ready for a shot.  I slowly moved in behind him to selfishly watch him shoot.  Just as I peaked over my brother's shoulder I saw a great 6x7 bull elk bugle while staring right in our direction.  The bull had us pinned and was getting nervous.  Just as the bugle ended I heard the safety go off on my brother's rifle... second after this, my brother sent a bullet in the direction of the bull immediately dropping the bull right in his tracks! The rush of excitement when the bull hit the ground was indescribable! As we walked up on my brother's bull, it's rack seemed to just keep getting bigger and bigger! Once again, the moment, the hunt, the rush, and the passion all compensated for all of the bad luck I had experienced up to that point this season.

So even though my season has been a frustrating one in regards to my own success, I have been involved in some amazing moments and memories with those I love.  It is a great reminder that any time spend in the outdoors is time well spent.  Even if your luck is as bad or worse than mine, there are always silver linings that help remind us of why we do what we do!
Remember that success in hunting isn't measured in inches, tags, limits, or even days/hours that are spent in the field.  Success in hunting is based solely on your experience and your interpretation.  Don't look at your hunt compared to someone else's hunt, or even compared to a past hunt of your own for that matter.  Each day is it's own day... you have an opportunity every day to make that day the best and most memorable day you can.  When negativity keeps swarming you and your plans, just look for those silver linings. Look for the positive in life.  I know this hunting season so far has helped teach me to take the focus off myself and my experiences and to focus on others.  Being selfless is never a bad trait to have... Now if I can keep that focus and perspective, then I may be getting somewhere :)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hawke Optics Enduranec 2.5-10X50 LR Dot IR Rifle Scope Review

With Idaho's hunt results out now, it is time to do all the necessary preparation to get ready for hunting season.  To ensure you make the best possible shot, like most hunters, you probably have things to do to make sure everything is set.  I got out recently to make sure my rifle was still sighted in for this next hunting season and was reminded about why I love this scope.  This past hunting season I have used the Hawke Optics 2.5-10X50 30mm Rifle scope on my 300 Win Mag, and LOVE IT! Here is my take on the scope. Before I get into the review, let me inform you that I have used this scope to a great extent including in the rain, wind, sun, snow, and it even rolled down a mountain with a log (not on purpose).  In all situations before and after all of this wear and testing, I will let you know how I feel this scope has performed!

When I first got the scope I was impressed with the size and weight of it compared to the scope I had on my rifle before.  The scope measures in at 13.4" long and weighes in at 22.5 ounces, which I feel is a great fit for my rifle.  It also comes with a 4" sunshade that you can choose to attach to the front of the scope--but of course that adds an additional 4" and a few more ounces. For my review, I used this scope multiple times with and without the sunshade to get a good feel for both.

When using the scope in the field, I loved how clear the optic was.  That is one thing I have to praise Hawke about--the quality of their glass has always been impressive!  This scope has the same amazing quality and clarity as all of their other products I have used.  It didn't matter if I was on the lowest zoom or if I was zoomed up to the 10 power; the clarity and lighting was always amazing.  The size, lighting, and overall view of the scope made looking through it such a breeze while hunting.  I have used a few scopes that were good, but when I cranked up the zoom the image clarity would get a bit fuzzy and blurred.  Hawke Optics puts a 16 layer multi-coated finish on their glass to maximize the clarity.  Attention to detail while hunting is an aspect that this scope is able to provide you in every situation.

LR Dot Reticle
The second thing I really like while using the scope in the field was the reticle.  On this scope, I chose the LR Dot reticle, which is for the long distance situations.  I absolutely love it because it takes a lot of the guess work out of things while in the field.  The reticle is set up so that if I sight in dead on at 100 yards, the lower aim points will be for 200, 300, 400, and 500 yards.  This is great for when I want to shoot at a wide range of distances without adjusting my scope in many of the unpredictable situations I encounter while hunting.  I was a bit skeptical that the lower aim points would be on, but after sighting in my scope, I can assure you that the reticle is set up perfectly for my rifle.

Another good thing is that you can download the Hawke Optic app, which will calculate where each aim point will hit based on your different load and caliber of rifle.  All you have to do is put in the following: 1) the info of the scope you have, 2) your caliber of rifle, 3) the load. This will tell you right were you will hit at each aim point according to the drop of your bullet.  One more plus about this scope is that it has a built in illumination that you can use to illuminate the etched reticles in the glass.  Of course, check to make sure this feature is legal in your state, but I can say it is a great feature for simply sighting in your rifle.  I take the battery out during hunting season so that it is not a temptation for me to use while hunting.
 Another great feature of the rifle is how easy it is to use.  The fast focus eyebell, the high torque zoom ring, and the no snag low profile fingertip turrets make using the scope super easy and convenient.  I love being able to focus the scope or zoom in with a easy adjustment while looking through the scope.  The scope designed so that you can make every adjustment while looking through the scope with ease.  Also, each end of the scope has screw-in metal flip-up covers.  This is awesome because you don't have to purchase any additional lens covers that add bulk to your scope.  Seems how I put this scope on my 300 win mag, I loved that the flip-up lens covers were very thin and didn't take away from my eye relief.  The eye relief on this scope is 4" which gives me some confidence that I shouldn't scope myself as long as I don't do anything stupid.  Even if you choose to attach the 4" sunshade I mentioned earlier, the sunshade also allows the screw-in lens cover to be attached to your scope.  These are great especially when hunting in the rain or snow, or just as a way to protect the glass.  I'll admit, I have used the 4" sunshade more to keep my scope dry than I have to keep the sun from creating a glare while hunting. 

I have heard that the only limitation to a a rifle is the scope you have on it, and the person pulling the trigger.  As I mentioned, I have tried a hand full of other scopes and even though I have liked some of them, I have never been as impressed or committed to any other scope as I am with the Endurance 2.5-10X50 Scope.  After using this scope for close to a year, I would have to say that this scope is a great addition to have on my rifle.  With Hawke, your products are covered under a Lifetime World-Wide Warranty, and the reputation of providing a quality product.  I will be honest, I don't know all of the details about how they build their products or all the science/engineering that goes into them, but I can attest that I have used some of their other products now for close to years and have been nothing but impressed with them.  I have put this scope through a lot of different conditions and situations, and it has performed flawlessly in every situation.  I have never had any problems with the scope fogging up, not functioning properly, or any other type of issue.  If you are in the market for a quality scope for a reasonable price you should do yourself a favor and at least check out the Hawke Optic rifle scopes.
Sunshield attachment
This scope comes in at $369.99 and is built to last. I'll admit, on a recent outing, I had my share of bad luck while cutting some firewood--I put my rifle with the scope leaning up against the down hill side of a tree.  Then, rolling down the hill at full speed, a log I cut caught my shoulder sling from behind the tree and took my rifle another 20 yards down the mountain with it... The event broke the stock of my gun... I ordered a new stock, replaced it, and without making any adjustments, my scope, it was STILL dead on.... That may be a bit of luck, but I can't help but be impressed when a scope gets thrown around, banged up, rolled over by a log, and STILL remains sighted in!  I definitely don't recommend going as far as throwing a log down a hill toward the scope to see if it stands up to the abuse, but I will attest to the durability and reliability of the Endurance 2.5-10X50 rifle scope!
A doe I shot last year with my Hawke Scope at 310 yards

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My First Steelhead Fishing Trip

Catching an Idaho steelhead has always been up toward the top of my "To-Do" list, but I had never even fished for them until a couple of weeks ago.  Year after year I would see my friends come back from their trips and talk about their adventures while fishing for steelhead.  I was envious of the stories, I coveted the fish they would bring back, and yearned for the adventure.

A couple of weeks ago I broke down and asked a buddy if I could tag along with him on his next day trip to chase after these fish.  We spent the next few days getting me set up with the right gear, and coached up on how to fish for these picky eaters.  These steelhead at this point of the run don't have huge appetites, but mostly eat something if it is put right in front of them just out of convenience and survival.  We put together multiple presentations and pre-rigged a lot of different items up to save on time while on the water.  The night before we took off my buddy said one thing that will stick with me about steelhead fishing... he said, "I just hope you don't get discouraged if you don't catch anything tomorrow, stick with it and it'll become a passion."
The next morning we took off at 3:00 a.m. and made it to the river around 8:00 a.m.  We both excitedly grabbed our fishing rods and enthusiastically cast out into the current hoping for quick hook up.  I'll admit, my hopes had been building for the past few days and had reached an all time high as soon as my line hit the water... Cast after cast after cast, I kept thinking this would be the one... I envisioned a large buck steelhead swimming upstream and grabbing my bait as it crossed in front of his face at just the right time.

Sadly my hope slowly diminished a little with every cast... hours passed with nothing but an occasional snag on the bottom.  I was starting to consider if waking up at 2:30 was really worth casting for hours and hours without even a bite on the other end, when all of a sudden my buddy hollered, "fish on".   I ran to get net and rushed to the side of my friend to help him land the first fish of the day,  He told me that it wasn't a big fish but it was at least a steelhead so he wasn't going to complain.  We netted his fish and made sure it was a hatchery fish before handling it too much.  Here in Idaho if you catch a native steelhead it will have it's adipose fin and needs to be released.  We snapped a few pictures, he notched his tag, and then we both set back at it in hopes of catching another fish... unfortunately that was the only fish of the day.  We fished for 10 hours straight and I hadn't gotten a single bite let a lone catch that big buck steelhead I was after...
On the long drive home I did a lot of thinking.  I didn't even see a lot of fish caught so it was hard for me to consider going back and giving it another shot.  A few days later I was chatting with my uncle about my experience and he told me that my experience was unfortunately not too uncommon when it comes to steelhead fishing.  I'll admit, even though this wasn't my first time hearing that many steelhead fishermen can go days without landing a single fish, I was hoping my luck would be better than it was.  Talking to my uncle didn't get me any more excited to get back out steelheading but something inside me made me view this goal as more of a challenge. I was determined to get back out there and prove that I wasn't just going to give up on my dream of catching a note worthy steelhead.

About two weeks after my first attempt at steelhead fishing, I was able to plan another trip to get back over there.  Once again I left at 3 in the morning and drove for hours before stopping at a local gas station close to where we would fish.  My uncle and I grabbed a few snacks and hit the road, before we could even get 2 miles away from the gas station, a dumb deer decided to run out in front of my car... We hit the brakes and tried to miss it, but before we knew it the deer and my car had a less than pleasant introduction to each other...

We pulled off the road to assess the damage and do our surprise the radiator wasn't punctured.  I had a lot of damage to the body of my car but it was still driveable.  My heart sank because this was the car my wife and I both use to commute to work every day to save money on gas.  I was already pinching pennies to justify going on another steelhead trip let alone make car repairs.  We gathered up a few of the random pieces of my car that were scattered all over the road and then drove to where we were going to go fishing.  Everyone grabbed their gear and headed right to the river.  I sat in my car and sulked in my own little pity party while beating myself up for driving all the way over here to try and catch a fish which I was probably going to fish all day for and still leave empty handed.  After feeling sorry for myself I finally got annoyed enough to just get out on the river and try to fish my problems away.

It didn't take long for a few people around us to pull in a few great fish.  The jealousy and frustration were getting a bit hard for me to hold in.  Soon, my uncle hooked into a good fish and hollered at me to grab the net.  I ran over and helped him pull in a great male steelhead! Watching him catch that fish lifted my spirits just a little to give me that sense of hope I was needing.
I hit the river again cast after cast in hopes of fulfilling my goal.  I cast out and let my line start drifting down through the current.  I felt my weight bumping across the bottom of the river and then I felt a slight tug on the other end! I set the hook and felt the other end start to pull back in resistence.  I took a step back to get on dry ground and begin my fight in hopes of landing the fish I was seeking after... as I took that step back, I stepped on a frosted over piece of drift wood that was sitting on the bank of the river... between my wet boots and the frosted drift wood I lost my balance and fell backward.  My tacklebox that was right behind me broke my fall but of course also broke open and threw all my beads, leaders, bobbers, and all of my other gear into the air.

Needless to say, with all this ruckus, I had brought a lot of attention to myself by this point and I now had a mixture of laughter and words of encouragement helping me land the fish I was still fighting... or the fish I thought I was fighting... As I rushed to get back on my feet, I heard a fisherman other side of the river say, "Sorry bud I think I hooked your line"... As if I wasn't already having a bad day, this was just the final straw.  I sat there muddy, sore, frustrated, embarrassed, and flat out discouraged.  If I hadn't have driven my uncle all the way over here I may have packed up and left at this point.  I spent the next 20-30 minutes cleaning up all my gear, re-tying my set up, and thinking to myself how this had been one of my worst days fishing I had ever had.

Eventually I decided things couldn't get much worse so I might as well start fishing again so right back at it I went.  Once again people around us caught a few, and then my uncle was able to land another good fish.  The discouragement started to sink in again so I decided to take a break and eat some food.  My uncle and I chatted a bit and he decided to take a break for a while.  He sat for about an hour or so while I fished in the same spot he had just caught two great fish.  Unfortunately my luck wasn't changing.  My uncle decided that after over an hour he was ready to give it another shot, he grabbed his rod, walked over to where I was standing and cast out... almost as fast as his line hit the water, he set the hook and yelled, "fish on!"  I wasn't even happy for him, all I wanted to do was throat punch him and steal his rod.  I resisted the urge to yell out profanity and proceeded to grab the net.  This fish was different, it was staying deep and fighting hard! He fought it for a good 20 minutes before we were able to land it.  Once in the net we realized it was a wild steelhead so we quickly unhooked it, snapped a few pictures, and then let it go.  My uncle apologized for catching another fish and told me that it was literally just luck.  I pretended not to care and quickly grabbed my rod to get back to fishing.

My second cast after my uncle caught his wild steelhead, I felt something bump my line.  I set the hook like I had done a million times before and expected the same result as if it were just my weight drifting into a rock or what not, but this time I knew I was into a fish.  As soon as I set the hook I felt the head shakes of a heavy fish on the other end of my line.  Quickly my drag started pealing away and I knew I had finally hooked into a steelhead.  My uncle grabbed the net and I began the fight to get this fish in.  The whole time I was praying that I wouldn't lose this fish and also praying that this may make my horrible day somewhat bearable.   Just as we were able to get my fish into the net, I finally let my guard down and started to show some real excitement.  The rush that went through me was amazing.  With all of the negative emotions I had been dealing with, landing this fish was the complete opposite feeling I had been juggling for the past 8 hours.  What a relief.  What a rush, What a fish... I took some photos, notched my tag, and sat down for a well deserved break from 18 hours of fishing before I landed my first steelhead.

I'll admit, if I had caught that steelhead on my first trip with the first few hours I don't think I would have appreciated it as much.  I have caught a lot of fish in my life but this fish is something special to me.  I can see what draws fishermen to keep going back to chase these amazing fish.  Not everyone has to go through the adversity of wrecking their car, breaking their tackle box, and public humiliation before landing their first steelhead, but every fish has a story to tell.  These fish are not fish you catch every day.  I'm hooked, I can guarantee I'll be back out there trying to catch a steelhead again.  I may make someone else drive, but I can't wait to get back out there to try my luck again with these great fish!
27 3/4" long and 12" girth