Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Smart Connect Reel and App

Lets face it, we live in a world where there is an app for almost everything.  Many of the apps I use are focused on the outdoors and helping me hunt or fish more effectively.  I use apps like OnX Maps, Weather apps, apps to keep record of how many fish I catch and what I catch them on.  The app and product I want to talk about is the Smart Connect App and the Smart Connect fishing reel!

This app and reel combo is a blue tooth connected device that links your phone to your fishing reel and sends an alarm/notification when you get a bite! I posted a review a few years about about the Smart Rod which has the Pole Tap technology that sets off an alarm when the rod gets a bite.  I loved the Smart Rod for many reasons as I take lots of people out fishing that benefited from having a alarm letting them know they were getting a bite.  I take a lot of older people as well as a lot of young people and kids out fishing which both have a hard time staying awake or sitting still :) With the smart rod the alarm is in the rod so you are limited to using that specific rod for fishing.  What I am excited about the Smart Connect Reel is that I can put this same technology on any rod I wish!  Products like the Smart Rod and the Smart Connect Reel have been great for me for many reasons!  I know some may dislike the idea of technology messing with their fishing and I know many of us get out fishing to get away from our devices, yet there is a time and place for all of it and it's not for everyone.

Let me give you a little more info on the Smart Connect Reel.  This reel is not only tech savvy, but it is also a great quality reel.  It is a light weight composite body with a aluminum spool and machined handle.  The reel has a 5 ball bearing 4.7:1 gear ratio which is very smooth and consistent.  The reel also included a large "power knob" on the handle that was a bit unique at first but I quickly began to love it.  On the back of the reel is the electronic bite alert system which can be easily disconnected and removed from the reel for charging or storing purposes.

To connect the reel to your phone you just have to download the Smart Connect App for Apple or Android phones then follow the simple instructions included.  To summarize, you turn on the bite alert on the reel, connect to the reel from the app on your phone, and customize the sensitivity settings.  Once you are connected then you can sit back and wait for the fish to bite.

Now I'll list some of the things I personally like about the reel and app while also touching on a few things I didn't love as much.

I have to say, the technology is impressive!  There are 5 different sensitivity settings which go from extremely sensitive to least sensitive.   When you use the most sensitive setting I have had the reel send the bite alert notification when my 4 year old son jumped on the ground next to where my rod was set up.  There isn't any doubt in my mind that the settings on the app/reel will work for you.

The app also includes a weather and GPS feature where you can check the forecast and mark your locations for future reference when you find a spot you absolutely love!

The app has the ability to connect up to four different Smart Reels which could expand your arsenal and the area you are covering!  I especially love this feature as I will now be able to throw these reel on my ice fishing rods and keep track of them better if I am hunkered down in my ice hut during bad weather.

I also love the quality of the reel.  I know I brought this up earlier, but I have to say they did not cut any corners on this product and have given us a very quality product.  This reel by itself without the bite alert technology has become one of my favorite reels to use while fishing.  I have even used it without the bite alert technology while fishing with spinners and rapalas just because I love the way the reel feels and works.

My busy fishing crew
Initially I had an issue with the reel and app disconnecting when I was fishing.  This didn't bother me to bad as I just left my phone next to my fishing rod which in the end helped me even have a better day because I wasn't on my phone the whole time!
When I contacted Smart Connect about the issue they helped me resolve this quite quickly.  If the unit is not fully charged, understandably, the distance it can cover is reduced.  When the reel is at a full charge I was able to get a good 150-200 feet while still keeping connection.  The distance is rated for "line of sight" which can be tricky at times with your phone in a pocket.  Even with your phone in your pocket or jacket, I was able to get 50+ feet when the item was fully charged. 

Overall I have to say I'm not only impressed with the Smart Connect Reel, but I am excited to bring it with me on future fishing trips! I know my nephew who I take fishing thought a fishing reel like this was the coolest thing he had ever seen! He kept asking me if I would let him catch a fish on my pole so that he could say he caught a fish with the Smart Reel! This is the type of situation I look forward to. I love seeing people who are not only passionate about the sport, but also get excited about gear, technique, and so much more!

Here are a few of the fish I caught on the Smart Connect Reel, nothing big but the bite alert system worked great!

I will be uploading a video showing the reel in action once I can coordinate me using someone else's phone to record the video and the time the fish bites :) I will also upload a video of the Smart Connect Reel on an ice fishing rod in a JawJacker set up and show you what I'm most excited about with this set up!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Unwritten Rules of Sportsmen

Oh the joys of social media :)

Now days it's nearly impossible to post a hunting photo or start a discussion without finding someone who disagrees enough to publicly "call you out" on something.  Often times these conflicts are exaggerated and perpetuated with works such as "ethics", "unethical", "sportsmanship", "fair chase" and many more.  Unfortunately these disputes do one of two things which essentially makes the problem bigger and bigger every day. 

The two things that often happen are:
1st - Some people stop posting about hunting or fishing as they are afraid/annoyed that they will be attacked by sportsmen.
2nd - Those who share the overly critical mindset of policing and correcting everyone on social media finds empowerment and belonging when they see others criticizing other sportsmen. 

Sadly the second consequence of this behavior perpetuates the problem to a younger generation that is on social media while still learning what is acceptable behavior not only on the internet but also in the field while hunting.  These young sportsmen need guidance in a positive direction not a negative outlook on anything and everything.  While those who are criticizing other sportsmen feel they are doing so out of an ethical obligation or way of preserving a sacred tradition, the truth is it is doing more harm than good. 

To combat this I wanted to create a post of some of these "un-written rules of sportsmen" that get debated on the internet and give some guidance and direction to those who may be on the fence on a few of these topics.  Of course you may not agree with what I write and that's completely okay.  The main point I'll be focusing on is being a law-abiding sportsmen who understands conservation and their role as a consumer of our natural resources.  These are not in any particular order so lets get started.

TreestandPersonal Property - regardless if it is a treestand, trail camera, land, or any other type of personal property.  We all need to respect others property not in the way we would want our personal property treated, but by the way we know that person wishes for us to respect their property.  Just like our vehicles, homes, and other personal items, we give people permission to use or handle our property.  You wouldn't want into someone's house uninvited and help yourself to their commodities they have available inside... The same respect needs to be given to outdoors gear or land/property.  Concepts such as "Public Land Owner" has created an entitled mentality that if someone puts their personal item on public land, such as a treestand, then that personal item is now accessible to all who wish to use it.  We hear the comments all the time such as, "well its on public land", or "He doesn't own the tree it's on so why can't I use it...".  The bottom line to avoid conflict is that if is not yours, don't use it and don't touch it.  If you feel so entitled to someone else's property, I have a masters degree in counseling and I'd love to talk to you about some of your deep seeded issues contributing to this entitlement...

GavelLaw vs Ethics - Many of us know that the laws are in place for a reason and that they should be followed at all times.  This is no exception in hunting, fishing, or public access.  Sadly I didn't say all of us when I mentioned that the laws are in place for a reason... Some people feel that the bag limits, hunting seasons, weapon restrictions, or the sex of the animal is all irrelevant.  Fact is that we are not mountain men who live off the land, regardless of how off the grid we tell our social media following we are!  These laws and restrictions are in place to protects the passions we all love and wish to enjoy.  Conservation at its finest looks at the bigger picture rather than the here and now.  So i'm sorry if you see the biggest buck of your lifetime a week after your hunt closes, the laws are set to give all of us a fair shot at that buck and that memory.  Laws are laws and they should be followed.  If you don't agree with them or don't like them, there are ways to go about them to get them changed rather than taking it upon yourself to disobey them because you don't agree... NOW getting to the ethics side of the conversation.  When I hear a sportsman start a conversation with, "Ethically speaking" I cringe because what usually follows is a personal opinion that is often set as a standard to judge another sportsman.  Now when it comes to a personal conviction to live a higher law and follow what you feel to be ethical, then that is a personal commitment that governs the individual.  These ethics and teachings can be passed on through generations and companionship between hunting partners but should not be used to judge another hunter.  As long as the hunter is following the law, your own personal views on what ethical is should be a personal conviction.  I do strongly believe however that every sportsman should be ethical in all that they do.  They should always follow what they have been taught to take an animal ethically.  Now I know for myself my "ethical compos" has changed over the years and has motivated me to change some of the ways I have hunted in the past to hunting in a way that I feel is more ethical for myself.  Once again this is a personal journy that all hunters should be constantly pursuing to better themselves as sportsmen, but when looking at other hunters the laws should be the standard of judgment while ethics become the higher law sought for individually. 

Trail Camera
Trail Cameras in lock boxes because we have trust issues
Fair Chase - Following the ethics discussion, the topic of fair chase is brought up a lot.  High fences, guided hunts, running dogs, archery vs long range rifle, shooting ducks on the water vs in the air, etc.  Whatever the game, every hunter has their own view of what fair chase is.  Each state has their own fair chase law and that is what should be followed.  If it is legal to shoot a duck while its on the water, then sorry if you disagree with it, a hunter has the choice to do so.  Idaho has been very clear in regards to using bait or salt blocks to "scout" for deer or elk.  Regardless if you remove the bait prior to hunting season, the area is considered to be a bait site and you cannot legally take an animal off that specific sight without it breaking the fair chase law.  They have stated that if the bait is removed and a season (year) has passed with no back at that sight, then the area is once again considered legal to hunt over.   Trail cameras that send pictures to a hunter is another item that gets brought up under this topic of fair chase.  Trail cameras, walkie talkies, lighted knocks, and so many other items all have restrictions and guidelines given by the IDFG.  Bottom line is, if it is legal, then it is allowed regardless of your personal opinions.  You can write into IDFG if you feel strongly about a item and they are great at listening and bringing concerns to the attention of other hunters and allowing public feedback on these issues. 

In conclusion many of these "unwritten rules" are really personal beliefs that can influence the way we all hunt.  Now there are items such as respect that we discussed when talking about a persons property such as trail cameras and treestands that there are no laws set in place that prevent someone from sitting in someone else's treestand.  We are hunters should have enough respect for the sport and other sportsmen that we respect one another's property.  Don't touch someone else's trail camera unless its to clear off some debris.  Don't take someone's SD card out of them camera no matter how mad you are they are in "your spot".  Don't sit someone else's stand unless you have permission.  Don't hunt on private property unless you have permission.  Pursue your game in an ethical and legal manner.  The laws are set to protect you, the game, the sport, and our future.  Be kind to others, if you feel you're standards are higher than others feel free to mentor younger hunters and allow them to follow your foot steps not your keyboard battles on facebook!

Now I'm sure some of you may have an opinion on this post or one of the items I touched on so I would love to hear your thoughts or rebuttals.  Comment on this post or on our social media as long as you do so respectfully and with an open mind.  I myself am open to any opposing viewpoints and would love to try and look at an issue from your perspective,  I only ask the same from you :)

Get out there and enjoy the outdoors!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Hawke Vantage 3-9X50 Rifle Scope Review

Many of us reflect on our past hunting season as ways to evaluate what gear is working and which gear is not.  We also try to find the items that we want to change--either behaviors or gear--before the next hunting season to hopefully bring more success in the coming season.   One of the things I have unfortunately neglected was my wife's hunting gear...  I had taken my wife on a few hunts and noticed she had struggled over and over again to hit the target or animals she was shooting at.  There would be many times I would point out an animal to her, but she could never find it through her scope.  I attributed it all to the fact that she was still fairly new to hunting and it was just a skill that she would acquire over time.  As much as I told myself that she just needed to practice more, or that she was flinching when she pulled the trigger, I failed to check her gear like I would have done with my own equipment.   After an emotional hunt where she filled her deer tag but was disappointed in other missed deer, poor shot placement, and having to shoot the animal more than once, I decided I would grab her rifle and give it a shot... (pun intended)

My wife with her 2017 deer before her new scope
It didn't take me long to realize that I also struggled shooting her rifle with the scope that was currently on it.   I told my wife that I would check into scopes and see what I could get her to help her have more success.  She was disappointed in herself, and didn't even want to explore the option of switching scopes, as she had convinced herself that she was the problem.  Below is her take on the scope, I will let you hear my wife's take on this rifle scope first, and then I'll add my input.

I love my 30-30, but I have always seemed to struggle being successful with it. Last year, I had a particularly rough hunting season. Any time I saw what I was going for, I’d quickly lift my rifle to aim and take a shot....but I was not quick enough. I couldn’t ever seem to get the deer in my scope soon enough. This happened time and time again. I was hard on myself and got easily frustrated with my lack of success. How hard could it be to aim and get the animal in site? I blamed myself for not practicing enough...or not being focused enough. I had a list of reasons as to why it was my fault for not being successful.

It took a lot for me to finally get a deer to add to our freezer last season. I didn’t want a trophy deer, but I did want a healthy full-grown deer that would provide a decent amount of meals. It is essential to have game meat for my children, as they have health needs. I had missed many opportunities to get full-grown deer because of not being quick enough. On the last day of the season, I saw a small deer, and was able to take it....finally. But even then, it was still quite a struggle to harvest it. I’m grateful for even that small amount of meat, but it hasn’t been enough to last us this year.

I started feeling like maybe I wasn’t cut out for hunting like I used to be with my other guns. I felt like I couldn’t trust myself to be out in the field. The pressure to practice shooting more that I already was really weighed on me; I’m already busy with raising a family, working, etc. I started to think that maybe I’d take a few years off from hunting until I could take more time to practice shooting.

Kevin encouraged me to try out the Hawke Vantage 3-9X50 Rifle Scope. I kept laughing to myself, as I thought there was no way a scope would make that much of a difference for me. To me, a scope is a scope. I was willing to try, but was not proactive about it. I put it off because I didn’t want to experience the feelings of failure again. I finally got the courage to appease Kevin, and we headed up to the mountains. 

Kevin gave me a target to aim for. I pulled the gun up, and I shot it. 


I pulled the gun up....AND SHOT! Quickly! I didn’t have to frantically look for my target. No! I simply pulled up my 30-30, saw the target, and shot. My target was right there in my line of site. BOLD AS CAN BE. No questions asked.

I had never experienced that solid and secure feeling before. When we realized I had hit the target spot on every time, I was shocked. The confidence I had to shoot took over. My plans to take time off from hunting disseminated, and I found myself craving being out there again.

I admit that I was originally reluctant to believe that a scope makes that much of a difference. I knew it had to be me or even the 30-30, as I seemed fine with my other guns. I drug my feet when Kevin asked me to try out the Hawke Vantage 3-9X50. But now, I cannot express enough how important it is to have a good quality scope. Being able to aim quicker is EVERYTHING. I do not want my children to experience the feelings I did when I had my old scope. I don’t want a low-quality scope to taint their memories toward such a great opportunity to learn about life through hunting. My children will use a Hawke Optics scope! They need to feel success…not just for the result of meat in the freezer, but also for their own confidence in themselves!

I have to say, watching my wife shoot consistently was not only impressive considering our previous experiences, but it was also reassuring to see her enjoy shooting again.  To give you an idea of her shooting, I had her shoot at a small aspen tree which was less that 3 inches wide at 60 yards away.  She shot three shots within 30 seconds and hit the tree with each shot! I don't know if I could have done that. :) Her confidence skyrocketed when she realized she could hit her target again!
I had to hold the tree up to get a picture to show where she hit it. 
Less than 3" wide

Now that you have heard her experience and can see what a difference the Hawke Vantage scope made for my wife, I'll share my take on it as well.

First off, this is a great quality scope for the price.  The Vantage 3-9x50 will cost you under $120.  As my wife mentioned, the clarity and quality are outstanding.  The warranty on all of the Hawke rife scopes gives you the assurance that if the quality and clarity are not up to par, you will be taken care of! When I got the scope, I got it in the 30/30 duplex reticle so that it fit our 30/30.  You can also get this scope in their Mil Dot Reticle.
30/30 Duplex Reticle
Mil Dot Reticle

I shot this rifle every other week for about 6 months while working on this review, and I have to say the Vantage 3-9x50 is undoubtedly consistent. Once it's mounted on the rifle and sighted in, I have not had to touch it or adjust it since.  It is light weight, simple, and effective.  The specs of the scope are shown below (be sure to enlarge the picture or visit the website if the font is difficult to read).
To sum up our experiences, switching to the Vantage 3-9x50 scope made a world of a difference.  It was unfortunate that I put my wife through a few years of poor quality scopes which tainted her hunting experience and made her question her abilities before I realized we needed to make the switch.  The most frustrating part for me was that the Hawke Vantage 3-9x50 was only $30 more than the cheaper and less effective scope that was on our 30/30.  I wish I would have gone with the Hawke Vantage 3-9x50 when I first got my wife into hunting, rather than waiting until now.