Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sturgeon Through The Ice!!!

As many of you know, I am an avid ice fisherman.  I would go as far as saying I'm borderline obsessed with it.  Most people look forward to the summer/spring so they can get out of the house and explore the mountains, while I'm constantly watching the thermometer hoping for below freezing temperatures.  I have caught a number of large fish through the ice, and have caught a hand full of different species while ice fishing, but I recently had an opportunity which has never even crossed my mind.  Ice fish for sturgeon here in Idaho! Yes, you read that right... I had the opportunity to pull a sturgeon through the ice here in Idaho ON AN ICE FISHING ROD!!!

The Idaho Statesman posted an article on January 9th 2017 of a man in Parma Idaho who has a private pond stocked full of sturgeon and other fish.  After reading the article and watching the video on the post, I knew that I had to take advantage of the opportunity! From my home, Parma is close to a 6 hour drive across the state.  My buddy Lucas from work, who showed me the Idaho Statesman article told me that he wanted to go and that we could made a day trip out of it if we were dedicated enough.  We decided to plan on our next day off work to make the 6 hour drive, fish for 9 hours, and then drive back.  As crazy as that sounded to me, I am always focused on being with my family and being home with my kids, so I was all for making the sacrifice of sleep to make this trip a reality without being gone from my family any more than I had to be.

When January 16th arrived, my alarm sounded off at 2:00 AM.... I gathered my things and hit the road to my buddy Lucas' house.  When I arrived, we packed my gear into his vehicle and we headed toward Parma with high hopes of landing a fish we never thought would be a possibility for through the ice.  After the 5+ hour drive we arrived at the Poor Fish Ranch owned by Jim Schwartz.  Jim set us up with bait, tackle (including barbless hooks of course), and all of the info we needed to be successful on his pond.  We talked about how sturgeon have no bones or teeth and how we need to be super careful as far as how we handled them.  We had to drill at least 4 holes which all connected to each other in order to have a hole large enough to get the fish through the ice.

As we started fishing, it wasn't long before we had a bite or two.  The Sturgeon were lightly biting and we had to be paying attention or they would just suck the bait off the hook and move on.  It wasn't long before we had our first sturgeon on the ice! Lucas' kids pulled a few smaller (20"+) sturgeon in, and then one of his sons ended up hooking a pretty good one! The fight lasted a good 8 minutes before we were able to pull a nice 3+ footer through the ice.
We kept fishing, pulling an occasional 2 footer or so through the ice, when all of a sudden my Jawjacker went off.  I ran to the rod and grabbed it as the sturgeon at the other end decided to let me know it wasn't very happy to have a hook in it's mouth... Immediately my reel started losing line as the fish swam straight away from the ice hole.  Unlike any of the other fish I've ever caught through the ice,  this fish swam at a steady pace directly away from me and there was nothing I could do to even slow it down.  Once I began to gain some line back on the fish, the battle turned into a yo-yo game of who was going to give up first.  As soon as I reeled in a few feet of line, the sturgeon would decided to take it right back plus a little extra just to show me I was in for the long haul! This battle continued until I was able to get the fish up toward the hole and then a whole new dynamic entered my mind as I now had to figure out how I was going to get this fish out of the hole.  While fishing the fish and holding the pole in one hand, I was reaching into the water past my elbows to try and get the fish's head to turn up into the hole.  Just as I was about to give up and unhook the fish under the ice, I was able to get it's head turned and began up the hole.  Once the tip of nose came above the water, I reached down to grab the fish behind it's pectoral fins to lift it out onto the ice. By now the fish was out of the water up to it's front fins and it was close to 2 feet long just from the tip of it's nose to it's pectoral fin... just then my barbless hook popped out of the fish's mouth, nearly missing my buddies face, and my fish I had just spent the last few minutes fighting with slipped back down the hole and swam away...

As angry as I could have been that I didn't land that big fish, the fight I had was by far the most epic battle I have ever had on the ice.  I was still smiling ear to ear with the fact that I got a glimpse of how big this fish was, was truly amazing.  Everyone in my fishing party kept fishing as we were all on a high and a low from the recent events.  Shortly after we began fishing again, we started getting a few more fish on the ice.  Throughout the day, we all had battles that would make lasting impressions on our minds.  We all pulled in fish that were very large, much bigger than any other fish we have pulled through an ice hole.  We also lost a few fish that came unhooked or just came off at the tip of the ice that were absolute monsters! Throughout the day the 5 that were in our party ended up catching around 30 sturgeon + or - a few.
At the end of the day I look back on the experience and it all seems a bit surreal.  I was pulling sturgeon through the ice, lifting them out of the water, and then releasing them back down the hole.... I fought a fish so hard I could barely feel my arm afterwards.  I pulled a fish out of the water that was close to, if not older than I am.  This trip was well worth the drive, well worth the $25 to fish at the Poor Fish Ranch, and well worth the time.  I would encourage any avid ice fisherman, or any fisherman for that matter, to reach out to Jim Schwartz and take the opportunity to fish his pond for these amazing fish.

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