Hunting & Fishing for Stories & Photos

Friday, January 28, 2011

Gear Review: Lynch’s Fool-Proof Turkey Call

When I started hunting turkeys a couple years ago, I asked around for opinions on box calls. Since there are so many options from so many companies, I didn’t even know where to start. Without fail, the hunters I trust all suggested Lynch’s Fool-Proof Turkey Call.

The Lynch’s call came highly recommended.

Two guys in particular, Jay Scott from Arizona and Matt Sheterom from Ohio, have killed more birds, and guided or helped on more turkey hunts than they can count. They both play the call like a violin maestro and I’ve watched them use it to locate birds, and then sweetly coax them into shotgun range. It doesn’t matter whether I was hunting Merriam’s in Arizona or Easterns in Ohio, the birds reacted to their calling just the same. I am probably one of the worst turkey hunting friends ever: I shot the wrong bird with Matt, shooting the jake instead of the tom, and then with Jay I wasn’t patient enough to let a big strutting Merriam's tom get closer. I took the shot too soon and knocked the bird off his keester, but he jumped up and ran off.

The Lynch’s Fool-Proof Turkey Call works just as well in the pinyon-juniper forests of Arizona…

…as the hardwood forests of Ohio.

My turkey hunting and calling skills may be lacking, but with the confidence of a good call and the help of a couple turkey hunting gurus, I have managed to take a couple birds. I drew another tag here in Arizona (yes, we have to DRAW our turkeys tags here!) so I hope for the opportunity to outsmart another wily Merriam’s. As I prepare for this year’s hunt, you can bet I’ll be on the phone with both Jay and Matt, perfecting my cadence, rhythm, tone, and volume. There is nothing better for learning and perfecting your calls than letting a couple good callers critique you.

One helpful hint Jay gave me: use Lynch’s Super Chalk, but only apply it to the lid!

Arizona Merriam’s from the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

Even though I shot the wrong bird, both Matt and I were proud of my first Eastern from Ohio!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Now I Can Count My Friends

If starting a blog wasn't enough, I decided to open a Facebook page, too. Since I don’t know about these things, I was surprised to already have over 50 friends in just two days, and I haven’t even plugged in my email address list yet. I will only “friend” people I know, and hope to use it as just another networking tool.

With a whole two days of Facebook experience under my belt, I am already surprised by the things people say. I understand that there a lot of people in this world with strong convictions and opinions; I just don’t understand why they think I care. I don’t want to alienate myself from my “friends,” but talk about vitriol! Holy cow! If I said some of the same things to my wife in the privacy of our own home, I would not only be embarrassed, but probably strung up by her, too. There is just no need to be rude, whether in person, anonymously, or on Facebook.

Maybe after a couple weeks I’ll lighten up. For now, I remain in shock.

Please, if I ever get too high and mighty, or stand on my soapbox too long, let me know. I want to share my thoughts and opinions, but I never want anyone to consider me rude or condescending…

On that note, search for me on Facebook. If I know you, I just might “friend” you and I promise not to embarrass you!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

All that is Real and Right in the World: SHOT Show 2011

I remember the first time I walked into the main hall of the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show vividly. It was as though I had been transported to a planet in a different solar system where only people who thought like me had been invited. I was enthralled by the huge booths and elaborate displays from all the major firearms, ammunition, optics, and hunting manufacturers in the world. Like a kid in a candy store, I just sat back, pinched myself, and took it all in. As a rookie, I collected a brochure or catalog from hundreds of booths… and then had to carry them around with me all day!

Now, as a “veteran” of a half-dozen shows, I don’t quite get the same feeling as I did that first day, but I still seem to feel a little more at peace while I’m there. I now know a ton of people in the industry thanks to attending each year with Chris Denham, my editor at Western Hunter, who has been to 23 straight SHOT Shows. Thankfully, now nearly all the companies post their information their websites, so gone are the days of packing around all those catalogs. However, I still seem to end up with a solid 25 or so from companies with new releases or something I’m really interested in.

I just opened an email from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) with some stats about this year’s show: overall attendance of 57,390 ranked it as the third largest SHOT Show ever, it set records for the most buyers (31,769) and the most media (2,074), and there were 1,600 companies taking up 630,000 square feet of booth space. Wow!!

Mainly Chris and I attend so we can meet with advertisers, explore new advertising opportunities, and check out all the new products. We met with all the premier optics companies and a few of the top clothing companies. Our days were spent running from one meeting to another, while trying to look over any new stuff anytime we could. Of course, we always make time to check out cool stuff, too. Chris always likes to look at the longrange tactical bolt guns; I always check out the new pistols. Overall, it was another successful show!

Here are just a few of the best things I found this year:

Badlands: In addition to their awesome pack line, Badlands is introducing a camouflage clothing line that should prove as technical and innovative as their packs.

Christensen Arms: Using their carbon-barrel technology, they now make a lightweight AR-10, and have just started building titanium-framed 1911s with carbon grips.

HiViz: Multiple new sights for shotguns, pistols, and rifles were on display. The MiniComp is their smallest shotgun sight, while the Two In One is a magnetic sight that allows you to quickly and easily change your sight to the current conditions – just rotate it 180 degrees!

Kel-Tec: The KSG (Kel-Tec Shotgun) is an ultra-compact personal defense shotgun. With two 7-round magazines that feed into an 18.5” cylinder bore barrel, this high-capacity pump shotgun should prove perfect for home defense.

Ket-Tec’s KSG loads great firepower in a compact package.

Kestrel: The top-end Kestrel Pocket Weather Meter now has integrated ballistic software from Horus. With just a few button clicks, it will estimate holdover and windage adjustments based on your current location and the environmental factors.

Kimber: My Ultra Elite 1911 feels like an extension of my hand and the new Solo 9mm feels the same only in a smaller package. It combines the feel of a 1911 with the mechanics and style of the striker-fired pistols.

Kimber entered the small carry pistol market with the Solo 9mm.

The small size and 1911-style ergonomics should make this a very popular carry pistol.

Kowa: This Japanese manufacturer has floated under the radar for over 40 years. This year, they introduced a 500mm camera lens that uses a series of adapters to mount it to any major camera body, as well as their standard spotting scope eyepieces. A hunter can now carry just one optic to cover longrange photography and trophy judging!

The new Kowa 500mm lens can be used for photography…

…or as a spotting scope.

Leica: The riflescopes they introduced last year are now available with custom BDC turrets.

Nikon: The new EDG binocular has a traditional look and design, but the high focus ring, innovative method for keeping objective lens covers attached, and superb optics should light up the western hunting market!

Realtree: The launch of should give Realtree the edge in online hunting video content. They also are in the process of developing widgets and mobile apps aimed at the hunting community.

Sitka: As the first clothing company to combine technical features found in mountaineering clothing with quiet fabrics and camouflage, they improve upon their previous designs every year. This year they updated their Core layers and added a Merino wool line. The coolest new product is a Traverse Hoody Zip-T that can be worn as a base layer or second layer, depending on temperatures.

Sitka’s line now includes a Merino wool base layer.

Sitka’s new Traverse Hoody Zip-T.

Steiner: A new binocular line with retail pricing under $500 and a high-end tactical riflescope line should make Steiner even more competitive with American, European, and Asian optics companies.

Swarovski: The industry-icon EL binocular is now available in 10x50 and 12x50 configurations, combining the excellent image quality with the lightweight dual-hinge design.

Vortex: I have always said that if you are unwilling or unable to spend the money for the “Big 3” optics, check out Vortex. Each year they seem to close the performance gap a little bit while keeping prices very competitive. This year, they are introducing the Razor HD binoculars, Viper spotting scopes, and Viper HS riflescopes.

Zeiss: The introduction into the American market of the Dialyt 18-45x65 spotting scope should prove a great option for hunters wanting a lightweight spotting scope with a price point around $1200.

The Zeiss Dialyt 18-45x65 is small, lightweight, and should retail for about $1200.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Turning Powder Into Noise: Media Day at the Range 2011

Each year on the day before the SHOT Show (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show), many of the manufacturers invite members of the media out to test-fire their products. With the Show in Vegas this year, the shoot was held at the Boulder City Gun Club. Everything from .17HRM bolt action rifles to .357 revolvers and from shotguns to full-auto submachine guns were available to shoot. It was a great opportunity to try new guns, shoot new calibers, look through new scopes, and generally have fun shooting someone else’s ammo. Chris Denham, my editor at Western Hunter, and I arrived just after one of the big tour busses, but preregistering made a big difference getting through the line!

After stopping by the Swarovski booth to visit with Rob Lancelotti and Tom Hogan, we ran into Craig Jamison and Ron Mason from We were all a little antsy to turn powder into noise so Chris and I headed to the Steyr booth to shoot a .338 Lapua. We checked out the green lasers from Viridian, shot crossbows from TenPoint, hit a 24” gong at 961 yards with a Zeiss riflescope atop a Blaser rifle, blew multiple holes in the paper with Winchester’s new personal defense shotshell load for a Taurus Judge, broke triples with a Beretta shotgun, and shot a muzzleloading shotgun.

Steyr .338 Lapua

Chris Denham shooting nearly 1,000 yards with a Blaser and Zeiss riflescope.

All-in-all, it was another great day that made me want to pinch myself! I shot more guns and more calibers at more targets and more distances that a guy should be able to. I tried new products (some that impressed me and some that did not) and got to rub elbows with some of the best-known writers and television stars of the day. The one thing I left with, however, was the question: who are all these so-called media people? I feel pretty well connected in the outdoor industry and I didn’t recognize half of the attendees. Someone said there were over 600 members of the media, but I think 450 of them just have a little website somewhere… wink, wink!!

Turning powder into noise with a muzzleloading shotgun!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gear Review: Patternmaster Chokes

Modern shotgunners rely on interchangeable chokes. It is far easier and more cost effective to screw a new choke into the end of a barrel than replace the entire barrel. A choke helps control the size of the shot pattern, typically based on its length and constriction. Shooters can use a choke suitable to the type of shooting they are doing: wide patterns for closer shots, tight patterns for longer shots. However, the folks at Patternmaster Chokes approach things a little differently.

You’ll have to check out the Patternmaster Chokes website for a full description of how and why their choke work so well, but I’ll give you a quick overview. Instead of standard chokes that constrict the shot and the wad as they leave the barrel to create more dense patterns, the Patternmaster Chokes have small studs inside the choke that slow down the wad for a split second. This allows the shot to leave the barrel unaffected by the wad, essentially keeping all the shot together in its already-dense pattern. In addition, the shot does not “funnel down” like it does leaving constricted tubes. The Patternmaster Chokes help keep a denser pattern both in terms of spread and more importantly, length. With a shorter shot string, more pellets arrive on target at the same time, which is very important when shooting anything that is moving.

My brother first started using a Patternmaster Choke quite a few years ago. After I bought a 12 gauge 3-1/2” Benelli Nova to use for sandhill cranes, waterfowling, and pheasants, I contacted Julie Leutenegger at Patternmaster. She graciously shipped me an Extended Range choke tube for the best patterning with 3-1/2” shells for the longer shots I expected on sandhill cranes and turkeys. After it performed so well, I also got the Long Range and Short Range chokes. I have used them all successfully on a variety of birds with 2-3/4”, 3”, and 3-1/2” shells.

They are available for almost every shotgun model available and come in silver or black and ported or unported. I chose black unported chokes to save my hearing and prevent glare. If you are looking at improving your patterning, take a close look at Patternmaster Chokes. Their motto is “The Science of Shot” and they have definitely taken shotgun patterning to a different level!

P.S. When you go to their website, check out the photo of the turkey hunter using a slate call in the “How Patternmaster Works” video inset. That’s a photo I took of my brother Erik! Then watch the video - it provides a great explanation of their chokes...

The black unported chokes don't cause as much glare and are safer for your hearing.

Patternmaster Chokes also come in silver ported versions.

Short Range Patternmaster Choke – (from top) Arizona Scaled Quail, Gambel’s Quail, and Mourning Dove

Long Range Patternmaster Choke – A limit of Kansas Pheasants

Long Range Patternmaster Choke – Kansas Bobwhite Quail

Long Range Patternmaster Choke – Arizona Greenwing Teal

Extended Range Patternmaster Choke – Arizona Sandhill Cranes

Extended Range Patternmaster Choke – Arizona Merriam’s Turkey

Friday, January 14, 2011

Close, But No Mule Deer

Overlooking Classic Northern Arizona Mule Deer Habitat

During early January in Northern Arizona, you can rest assured to find the mule deer rut in full swing. Swelled necks, flehming, posturing, and of course the disregard for their own safety marks just some of things you can count on seeing from the bucks. While chasing javelina, my friend Matt (you know Matt from Ohio) [Ohio Homes and Acres Real Estate] and I had already spotted a couple bucks, including a tall, thin 4x4 that I estimated to score about 160”, but neither buck was ever in a position to stalk. After whacking our first javelinas with bows, we headed to a new spot to look for deer.

Perched high over a large basin with our binoculars mounted firmly on Outdoorsmans tripods, we started picking apart the pinon-juniper. Low and behold, I spotted a big fork-horn buck nearly a mile away. As we watched him, we noticed he had a limp; his left front elbow would not bend and he put no weigh on that leg. Since Matt had torn open his hand on a fencepost, and then gotten sick on the painkillers, we thought this would be the perfect buck. A handicapped buck for a handicapped hunter! Matt quickly made his way off our hill and down across the flat as I watched the buck. The buck had moved a few hundred yards so I repositioned Matt and he snuck in to within 75 yards before the wind swirled and the buck took off as if he had four good legs.

Piggybacking Matt’s Badlands Pack on My Outdoorsmans Pack

We tried another spot that evening in the hopes of also seeing some of the elk that Arizona is famous for, but all we glassed up was another fork-horned buck heading the wrong direction, a herd of does, and a bald eagle. The hill we were on was covered in deer tracks, so we probably should have been glassing it!

Matt’s Arizona Sunset

On the last day of Matt’s Arizona adventure, we decided to cover as much ground as possible by driving and stopping periodically to glass. The first couple spots yielded nothing. I finally spotted a lone doe, but lost her around the curve of a mountain. At the next stop, Matt stared intently through my old Leica binoculars. He had readily accepted the value of glassing and after a week of practice had no trouble finding animals. He excitedly whispered to me that he found a deer so I rushed over to him and watched as two bucks slowly moved out of our view. We made a plan to get to a spot where we could see them again and set off with full packs. Once we made it to the next ridge, we spotted six deer in the bottom of a ravine leading down from the next ridge. After pulling out the spotting scope, we counted a doe, a spike, a 3x3, a small 4x4, and a wide, short 4x4 that I guessed would score 160”. He looked a lot different than the first buck he saw, but was plenty big enough for either of us!

A Better Way to Cross Fences

The deer moved north across an open slope before they ducked into the trees and shadows on the other side. We watched for a while but only saw two more does head into the drainage. Keeping the wind in our favor, we walked down, and then circled up and around them. I expected them to bed in the snowy, shadowed north-facing hillside so we slowly crept over the edge, glassing as we went. With no sign of them, we continued to the north and I finally caught a glimpse of the doe bedded on the south-facing slope in the shadow of a large bush at 139 yards. Closer examination showed the large buck right next to her and the spike and another doe just uphill. I stayed put as Matt snuck around downwind. When he got to about 90 yards from the big buck, an unseen doe stood up and busted him. The last we saw of them they were headed north, two ridgelines away…

The success of a hunt can’t be measured solely in inches or meat. Matt never flung an arrow at a deer, but he got much closer than he ever thought possible. It was his first trip to Arizona and he bought the tag over the counter. I don’t think he believed me when I told him we would just glass until we found deer, watch them bed, and then sneak up on them, but now he’s a believer. It was a great week and I’m sure Matt is trying to figure out how to come back later this year to use his unfilled archery deer tag!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Have You Seen a Javelina?

During the first week of January, my friend Matt (you know Matt from Ohio) [Ohio Homes and Acres Real Estate] flew out to Arizona for some warm weather and archery hunting for javelina and mule deer. The weather didn’t cooperate—it was 20 degrees colder in Phoenix than in Columbus, and single digits at my house up in Chino Valley. The first night we found both javelina and deer, including a 160” 4x4. All were too far to give chase, but it definitely proved to be a good omen. We owe debt of gratitude to another friend, Rich, for sharing his spot with us!

Glassing for javelina and mule deer.

High Quality Optics and the Outdoorsmans Tripod

The next morning we saw no deer, but as soon as the sun hit the hillside, the javelina appeared no more than 10 yards from where we saw them the night before. From 3/4 of a mile away, the Swarovski 15’s clearly showed the little buggers. We made our way down to them and with just a few hundred yards to go, we stopped to cross a fence. I made it over with no problem, but the barbed wire broke as Matt perched precariously with one leg over the top and his left hand on the T-post. I was able to untangle his leg from the barbs (he had borrowed my warm pants and was trying to save them) but I could do nothing for his hand. I didn’t realize that the rusty, jagged top of the post gouged a two-inch gash into his palm. I took one quick look as he peeled away his torn glove and we were off to the emergency room for a bunch of skin trimming and eight stitches. Mental note: it is best to go through or under fences, not over them! That afternoon Nichole used her Athletic Training and Physical Therapy skills to fashion a splint for Matt so he could still draw his bow, so we headed back out for the evening but saw nothing.

The Offending Post

The Gash (before)

The Gash (needles and scissors and stitches, oh my!)

The Gash (after)

I awoke early on the second day to find Matt’s face nearly as green as the Realtree Max-1 camo he was wearing. He had been prescribed a painkiller and took one before going to sleep, but reacted poorly to it and was up half the night puking. We stayed home that morning, but Matt cowboyed up and we headed back out in the afternoon. We found the pigs again and gave chase, but the best we could muster was a shot at 62 yards as they paused on a snowy hillside—I missed!

On the third day we found the javelina again and after pinpointing their location headed after them. We circled around, crossed a fence (Matt went under it), and snuck in close. We expected them to feed towards us, but they stopped just over a rise. We stalked even closer until the wind swirled and a pig started to “huff, huff, huff.” I told Matt to move around the oak in front of us. I whispered, “Fast but quiet! Fast but quiet! Fast but quiet!” I think he thought I was crazy, but he made it around the oak and drew on the closest javelina as I ranged him at 17 yards. The arrow struck home so I ran up a few yards to try to pick up a straggler. The only straggler was the pig Matt just shot, so he shot again but missed. We then ran over to the edge of the draw and Matt finished his first javelina off with a Texas heart shot. “From the tooter to the rooter,” as Matt put it!

Matt’s first Western big game animal.

I was able to help Matt on his first successful Western spot and stalk hunt.

Packing Out

Matt borrowed my Badlands 2200 Pack, which made easy work of his javelina.

We had a great lunch at a small cafĂ©, and then headed back to our glassing spot for a siesta before the evening glass. Late in the day we finally found the pigs—where there once were 12, now there were 11. They were near a herd of does, but too far away to make a play on them so we left them for the next day.

We made it back to our glassing spot before light the following morning to make sure no other hunters beat us to it. After a quick nap, we awoke to another bright morning. It didn’t take long to locate the javelina on the same hill. It’s a good thing they are so predictable! This time I directed Matt to a hill overlooking the pigs so he could glass and direct me to them. He had never used radios, and nearly had a coronary as I snuck in to within 50 yards of the entire herd. The closest pig that offered the first open shot was at 28 yards. I slowly drew, pressed my release, and missed wide to the left. I quickly nocked another arrow, ranged another pig, drew, released, and missed again to the left! With the pigs scattered to the winds, I sat tight as Matt picked them up again. He directed me to them, but his radio died before I made it. The only thing he could do was frantically press the call button, which registered as just a bunch of clicks to me, but made me stop and glass back at him. With archaic sign language he told me the pigs were right there. I moved a few yards downhill and shot the first pig that gave me a chance. It turns out the shot at less than 20 yards was on the pig furthest from me. There were a few less than five yards away that I couldn’t see! I hit her a little left, but she went less than five yards before breaking my arrow and expiring. I finally made my Hoyt Trykon do it's job! Where there once were 12, now there were 10.

This javelina marked my first with a bow. I have now shot them with a rifle, a pistol, and a bow. Maybe next year I'll try with my T/C Omega muzzleloader or my T/C Contender pistol in .30-30. With two pigs in the dirt, it was time for Matt and I to focus on mule deer.

My first archery javelina - with Matt's help!
(Yes, there's a pig in that picture and yes, it's bigger than a dirt clod but not by much!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bird Dogs, Roosters, and Babies

What more is there in life? We headed back to Nichole’s family farm in Kansas for the holidays and to chase the wily rooster pheasants. First, I got to warm up the shotgun and the dogs on a few pesky pigeons. Three shots led to three dead birds! Ruby retrieved the first, Lacey found the second on a blind retrieve, and Ruby picked up the third. It was a great start!

Warming Up On Pigeons

On Ruby’s first pheasant hunt and what I thought might have been Lacey’s last, a bunch of birds exploded from a field corner with both dogs in the heavy cover. After missing the first rooster, I connected on the next and watched with tears in my eyes as the dogs worked together to find the downed bird. With more energy and much younger legs, Ruby found the dead bird first and delivered it to my hand.

Swanson’s Prairie Red Gemstone aka “Ruby” - First Pheasant Retrieve

I had to throw it for Lacey, too!

Passing the torch from Lacey (right) to Ruby… their first pheasant together!

Swanson’s Laced With Gold aka “Lacey”

It also allowed me the opportunity to show Mattox his first pheasant. He loved the bright colors and soft feathers!

The next night a storm blew in that dropped a couple inches of snow, perfect for bunching up the birds and tracking. Heath and I headed out early and found one bird in the tree row south of his sheds. I dropped it in the middle of two nearly-impenetrable cedar rows, so by the time I forced my way through with snow cascading down my back, the bird was gone. There were dog tracks completely circling the spot in the snow where the bird fell, but no dog in sight either. Then from out of the dense tree row, Ruby came bounding with the bird held proudly in her mouth—her second retrieve of a pheasant was a runner! We hunted a few more spots and I ended up with three birds while Heath bagged one. Not too bad for three hours of hunting…

Kansas pheasants in the snow… I can’t think of anything better!

And for a little historical perspective: My Dad and his friends started hunting pheasants in Kansas in 1972 (the year I was born) when Nebraska shortened its season and lowered the bag limit. They have made it back nearly ever year since. I started joining them as soon as they would let me, and although I've missed a few years, it is still one of my favorite places to hunt!

My first pheasant hunting trip to Kansas as a bundled-up 6-year-old.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What Does Skydiving Have to do With Blogging?

Writing a blog must be akin to skydiving—the first step might be the hardest, but it should be all fun from there! I haven’t jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, but here goes the first step to my blogging…

As most projects in my life, this blog is a work in progress. I will continue to add photos, links, and other information over time. Not only do I foresee entertaining content, but also useful topics on subjects ranging from dog training to saltwater fly fishing and from the gear I use to hunting tactics. Please check back often to see the latest. Also be on the lookout for some history—I plan to recap many of the hunting and fishing trips of my past that helped shape why and how I do things today.

You will also see many of my friends and family throughout this project. NOTHING is more important to me than my family and close friends. My wife and I are raising our 6-month-old son in our own light, with an emphasis on exposing him to all the things we enjoy and anything else that might come along. Hunting and fishing will obviously play a prominent role in his life and I hope to chronicle his exposure to the outdoors. My friends and family have been an integral part of my outdoor experiences and they continue to humor me by allowing their pictures to be taken and to act as my “monkey” by pressing the button on my camera when I need pictures of myself.

Gear, gear, gear! I am lucky to be able to use all types of different products from many different manufacturers. When I find something that is useful to me, I try my best to promote it. I foresee this blog as an easy way to disseminate information about the products I use, and an opportunity to explain why I use them. Rest assured that if a link appears in my list, it leads to a company whose products or services I use, like, and trust. When I present info on a particular company, please take a moment to check it out!

Now that wasn’t so hard was it? No, I guess not. And to answer the question: skydiving has nothing to with blogging, at least not for me, but I thought it was far better than the typical "Welcome To My Blog" first post.

I look forward to hearing back from any and all of you about my various posts. If there is a question I can answer or a topic you would like me to cover, please let me know. Enjoy!

Happy New Year and good luck in all your exploits!

P.S. Thanks to Jay Scott (
Jay Scott Outdoors) for letting me copy his idea and to Matt Sheterom (Ohio Homes and Acres Real Estate) for convincing me to “Just Do It.”