Hunting & Fishing for Stories & Photos

Monday, February 28, 2011

Arizona Wildlife License Plates

Photo courtesy AZSFWC.

For those of you who live in Arizona, you can show off your love for hunting and fishing while supporting a great cause at the same time by purchasing the “Conserving Wildlife” license plate. The new plate is very colorful and depicts nine species of popular Arizona wildlife including elk, antelope, desert bighorn sheep, pintail, Apache trout, Gamble’s quail, Merriam’s turkey, Coues whitetail, and mountain lion. The plate costs an additional $25 per year, $17 of which goes to Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation (AZSFW). For another $25 per year, you can personalize the plate.

Last year, the Wildlife Conservation Council merged with AZSFWC and now the group represents nearly all the wildlife conservation organizations in the state such as the Arizona Elk Society and Arizona Deer Association. If you live in Arizona I urge you to show your support for wildlife by getting the wildlife conservation plate the next time your vehicle comes up for renewal! By the way, for those of you who already have a standard personalized plate, when you go in to renew, the MVD will give you a new, unpersonalized plate while your wildlife plate is being made. It took them about three weeks to get my personalized wildlife plate done.

Click here for more information on the "Conserving Wildlife" license plate.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wild Game Cooking: Javelina & Antelope Kabobs

Most people dislike javelina and don’t care much for antelope, but this easy recipe makes both of them taste great! I used a marinade that is my ‘ol stand-by for wild game, and then skewered the meat with red peppers, mushrooms, and onions, topped it with a pesto cream sauce, and served it with lemon pasta. My mom and step-dad were in town; neither had any idea what to expect and both were pleasantly surprised. Try it - I bet you'll like it too!

Trent’s Secret Wild Game Marinade
1-2 pounds Wild Game Meat (cubed or steaks)
1 cup Teriyaki Sauce
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Honey
2 teaspoons Garlic Salt
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Basil
Salt & Pepper to taste

2 tablespoons Sesame Oil
1 tablespoon Asian Red Chili Sauce

Mix all ingredients and pour into a plastic container. Add wild game meat and poke repeatedly on both sides with a fork to tenderize and allow penetration of marinade. Cover and place in refrigerator for 6-8 hours or overnight.

HINT: When cooking wild game, always cook it to one temperature lower than you cook beef (example: if you enjoy beef medium, cook wild game to medium rare). Basically, cook wild game to the lowest temperature you can possibly stand. It will retain more moisture, feel more tender, and taste less "gamey."

Javelina Kabobs on the left, Antelope Kabobs on the right. Be sure to cook wild game as rare as you can stand it!

The kabobs topped with pesto cream sauce, served next to lemon pasta, and paired with a nice cabernet sauvignon.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pursuit Channel Now on Dish Network

I was enlightened today… the Pursuit Channel is now part of the basic package for all Dish Network subscribers. I thought Pursuit was only available on cable networks and DirecTV, but if you have Dish Network, tune to channel 240.

With my Dish Network package, I now can watch Versus, Outdoor Channel, Sportsman’s Channel, and Pursuit Channel. There is also still a little outdoor programming on ESPN and occasionally on FOX. With that many channels showing hunting and fishing shows there will never be a shortage of things to watch.

I recognize a couple programs on the Pursuit Channel such as Obsession Revealed and Wingshooting USA and I’m excited to watch some shows I haven’t watched such as TNT Outdoor Explosion and MOJO Outdoors.

Check out Pursuit on Dish Network channel 240 or DirecTV channel 608. Both use the four-letter call name HUNT. If you get cable, just check with your local provider.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Loperoni 2010

What in the world is a loperoni? Well, my friend Rick tends to make up all kinds of new names and nicknames for just about everything we chase. For example, a pheasant is a “phesantry,” an elk is an “elakaloe,” and an antelope is a “loperoni.” So in honor of Rick, I thought I would tell you a couple loperoni stories from last year…

Antelope epitomize the wide-open spaces of the American West. Their tawny backs contrast with their white bellies, with multiple stripes along their necks. The yellow coloring allows them to blend into their grassy surroundings, but their white belly and butt often stand out, especially when glassed from afar. The bucks also have a dark black throat patch, and since some females also have horns, the throat patch is the best way to distinguish bucks from does. They occur in huntable numbers in nearly every western state and I have hunted them in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. In a given year I apply in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. In 2010, I was part of five different antelope hunts.

The first took place in Arizona. (No, I wasn’t the lucky one! I have yet to draw an antelope tag in Arizona, but have 18 points going into this year’s draw.) My brother Erik drew a tag in a premier unit, and since Arizona is arguably the best place to shoot a huge speedgoat, he contacted arguably the best antelope guide, Tony Grimmett, owner of Pronghorn Guide Service. Tony and his crew had been watching a few big goats in his unit for many years. One in particular, FX, was a contender for the Commissioner’s tagholder in both 2009 and 2010.

Towards the end of the first day of the hunt, I glassed behind us on top of a long mesa and spotted a doe and a buck with my Swarovski 15x56 binoculars. I quickly pointed them out to Tony and he instantly recognized FX. As another friend of ours, Michael Sisk, and I kept watch, Tony and Erik headed down a long valley. They calmly climbed the edge of the mesa, but due to the undulation of the terrain, they had to backtrack and move up one of the small cuts bisecting the mesa. Michael and I watched as Erik took a rest on Tony’s tripod, and then heard the echo of his shot, but we could not see the buck from our vantage point. Once we made it down to them, we all walked up on the buck—and what a buck he was! With only 15-1/8” and 14-4/8”horns, his mass was well, massive! According to the SCI scoresheet, his bases each measured 7-0/8”, his 1st quarter measurements were 7-6/8” and 7-5/8”, and his prongs measured 6-5/8” and 6-6/8”. In all, he grossed 88-4/8” SCI and netted 87-4/8” B&C. He was one of the biggest antelope killed in Arizona last year.

At just 15” long, FX proves that when it comes to scoring antelope, it’s all about the mass!

Nothing beats hunting antelope with friends and family. From left: Tony Grimmett (Pronghorn Guide Service), Trent Swanson, Michael Sisk, and Erik Swanson.

The next week, I met up with Barton Dobbs of Zeiss Sport Optics for a New Mexico antelope hunt. We hunted the T4 ranch with Scott Bidegain, whose family has ranched the land since the early 1900’s. Also in camp were Scott’s father-in-law and ex-Oakland Raider, Randy McClanahan, and a first-time hunter, Cody Bassett. Cody was accompanied by his father Jeremy.

On day one, Scott, Barton, and I found a buck that Barton nicknamed Curly for the distinctive shape of his horns. Barton gave me first dibbs and I was tempted to use them on Curly, but it was still early in the hunt. Throughout the morning, we found a bunch more antelope, but none as good as Curly. Around lunchtime we met up with Randy, Jeremy, and Cody just as a nice buck pranced toward us. Jeremy got out of the pickup and calmly dropped the buck with one shot, like it was his tenth antelope not his first. After a lengthy photo session, we separated, but didn’t get far before we heard two shots. Randy had his buck down so we went back to take more photos.

Cody Bassett made a great shot on his first antelope with the help of his dad Jeremy.

Randy McClanahan found his buck in the same area Cody found his.

We moved on and found a buck that had the classic look and shape of a mature antelope, but he just didn’t have wall appeal or much size. After reaching the top of one of the many steep mesas, I set up the tripod-mounted binoculars, and began to glass for other antelope. It wasn’t long before I located a great buck with the Zeiss 10-45 RF binoculars. A quick look through the 65mm Diascope FL confirmed what I saw through the binoculars. We moved closer and snuck over a hill to look down at the buck as he tended his does. The rangefinding binoculars read 267 yards so I cranked up my scope to 14x, found a comfortable shooting position with the SnipePod, and slowly pressed the trigger. A second shot put the buck down for good.

I used great optics from Zeiss, a Christensen Arms rifle, and the help of Barton Dobbs (left) and Scott Bidegain (middle) on my New Mexico hunt.

With three bucks in the freezer, the second day allowed us to concentrate on finding a buck for Barton. He chose to go after Curly and we found him at first light. He moved off with a herd of does, but we got in front of him. As we walked closer, he chased a smaller buck right by us, and then stopped within rifle range. Barton shot, Curly dropped, but then jumped up and ran off. He finally stopped in the middle of a large mesquite flat where we were able to sneak over the top of a mesa. Barton and Scott crawled to the edge and Barton made a great finishing shot from a prone position.

Scott and Barton crawled to the edge of a steep mesa to make the shot on Curly.

Antelope hunting requires great optics, and Barton utilized some of the best from Zeiss in his hunt for Curly.

With Barton’s shot, Loperoni 2010 came to an end. I watched my brother shoot the antelope of a lifetime, helped a young hunter shoot his first big game animal, met some great new friends, explored new country, used some awesome optics, and came home with a cooler full of tasty meat. Antelope provide one of the easiest, low-stress, most fun hunts in the West. They are plentiful in many areas, easy to draw tags for in many states, the weather is usually nice, and you typically see a lot of animals. My loperoni hunts in 2010 fit that description perfectly, even if Rick's nickname for them is a little silly!

P.S. If you get Western Hunter Magazine, check out the full story of my New Mexico hunt and a recap of all the great Zeiss optics I used in Volume 9 Issue 4.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Always Pack Your Pack

I just watched a hunting show on TV where the guide did one of my biggest pet peeves – he dropped his pack before making the final stalk. I know there are many hunters who do this, but I think it is one of the worst choices you can make. I can guarantee EXACTLY what will happen if you drop your pack… that’s right, go back and pick it up! At the very least, it costs you time and effort to return to your pack. At the most it could cost you an animal or your life. Let me give you a couple exampes...

Scenario 1: You’re sneaking up on a big 6x6 bull. His huge back end rocks back and forth as he feeds across the hillside. With just 50 yards to go before the edge of the trees where you can get a clear shot with your bow, you decide to drop your pack. You are one sneaky predator! You make the 50 yards undetected, but by the time you do, the bull feeds just over the hill and his antlers slowly bob out of sight. What do you do now? Should you press on across the open hillside without your pack? Or should you retrieve your pack?

If you move on, you’ll have that much farther to go without your pack, leading into the unknown without your water, your survival gear, your extra clothes, your knives, your GPS, on any of the other tools you carry in your pack. What if you get there and he’s moved over the next hill, and then the next, and then the next? When do you stop to go back?

If you retrieve your pack now, will you miss a shot opportunity as he continues to feed away from you? Will you completely lose track of him? Will you ever find him again?

Scenario 2: After making a pre-dawn climb to your glassing point with your optics, you spot a huge mule deer buck running along the base of a not-too-distant cliff. Did you inadvertently spook him on your way in? He slows to a walk as you focus your spotting scope on him. He’s a great buck, definitely one worthy of the tag in your pocket for this well-known trophy unit. You grab your binoculars, rifle, and rangefinder, and run to intercept him with nothing for warmth but a chamois shirt.

Once you make it around the buck, he somehow gives you the slip, but you know he is right below you so you decide to wait him out. The sun isn’t even up yet, but you’re determined. You sit under a juniper all day, just waiting for the buck to stand. The day only warms a few degrees and there’s a persistent wind blowing. With no coat, you spend the longest, coldest day of your life on the side of the hill. Luckily, when the buck finally shows himself you make the shot, but then your brother, who stayed up on the glassing point with your coat snugly wrapped around his legs all day, piggybacks your pack down to you.

(By the way, this is a true story from my brother’s hunt on the AZ Strip... I was the brother who stayed snug on the glassing hill, not the brother who froze all day! It is one of the personal situations that indirectly taught me the value of always taking your pack with you.)

This scenario turned out okay when my brother shot a monster mule deer, and then my photo of him graced the cover of Trophy Hunter, but my brother still talks about how cold he was that day!

Scenario 3: With a trophy ram bedded just one more ridge away, you stash your pack under the last small pine tree and crawl to the edge. Since the mountain is relatively steep with little curve, the sheep can nearly see you when you crawl so it takes almost an hour to cover 100 yards. Over the hour, the snow really picks up and you can barely see the bedded ram. You wait for the weather to clear, and luckily it doesn’t take long. The ram is in a perfect position for a shot and you make it count—he dies in his bed. You head back to your pack, but slip and roll down the mountain, sustaining a broken femur and a concussion. As you lay at the bottom of the hill with your sheep at the top along with your pack that holds extra clothes, firestarter, survival gear, a satellite phone, and a PLB, you wonder to yourself why did I ever drop my pack? The snow falls gently around turning the world white as you slip off into black…

Obviously, each one of these scenarios could have turned out differently. They each could have had a happy ending without any problems or discomfort at all. However, in hunting as in life, you never know what’s going to happen so why hamstring yourself by requiring that you or someone else return to pick up your pack? You have already determined your pack (and its contents) is important enough to carry otherwise you would have left it at camp. If it is important enough to carry 99% of the time, why not carry it ALL the time? I’ve heard the arguments before: I can’t shoot as well with my pack on (I guess you need more practice), My pack’s too heavy (Get a lightweight pack and take some stuff out of it), I can slip through the brush better with my pack off (Get a smaller pack constructed with quiet material).

I just can’t think of a situation where it is better to leave your pack behind. I feel you should always be thinking forward, not thinking backwards, but by dropping your pack, you are forced to think backwards. On your next hunt, when you are making critical decisions that may lead to success or heartbreak, always pack your pack!

Okay, so I let my friend Matt break my rule when he was hunting mule deer with me, but coming from Ohio, he had never worn a pack in the woods and he had not practiced shooting his bow with a pack on. When he went on a stalk, we agreed that he would feel better without the pack, but guess what? Yep, I had to piggyback it down to him afterwards! I carried the Badlands 2200 on top of the Outdoorsmans Pack.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Winter Dreams: Saltwater Fly Fishing and More Part III

Our Hawaii vacation was more than just a fishing trip. Nichole and I celebrated our fifth anniversary and our “babymoon.” It was our last big vacation before Mattox arrived! We spent a week on Kauai, home to more chickens than you can imagine. Our timeshare had an awesome view of the harbor, and its location in Lihue gave us easy access to all parts of the island. We hiked, kayaked, surfed, fished, read on the beach, went to a luau, explored the island, and ate awesome local food including laulau, saimin, and shave ice. One staple of our diet for the week was the huge avocados, nearly four times the size of what we find in grocery stores on the mainland. It was one of our most relaxing trips, even considering the one safety inspection I had to complete while there!

This wraps up my winter dreaming... I know I am a little warmer inside, and I hope you are, too!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Winter Dreams: Saltwater Fly Fishing Part II

If you fly due south from Hawaii, you’ll run across the furthest-most eastern country in the world, Kiribati (pronounced kirr-i-bas). Kiribati is made up of 33 islands spread across 1.3 million square miles. One of those islands is Kiritimati (pronounced kirr-i-sa-mas or “Christmas”). Christmas Island is the world’s largest atoll and part of the Line Islands. It’s time is the exact same as Hawaii’s, only one day earlier. The three-hour flight from Hawaii, while jumping you forward an entire day, transports you back in time to a slower, easier pace punctuated by living off the land and the sea, and lacking many electronic gadgets and basic medical supplies.

But who needs that stuff? We were there to fish! Christmas Island is mostly known for the bonefish found in the island’s lagoon and along its outer shoreline, but there are also many other species to chase including giant trevally. We chased the GT’s in the lagoon with flyrods, and along the rocky breaks in the deep blue with huge “meat sticks.” The large spinning rods proved just barely adequate for the hard-fighting fish, and entertained us for hours. After a week exploring the far reaches of the island and catching more fish than we could count, we reluctantly boarded a plane back to civilization, but not before discovering what Christmas Island truly has to offer: gifts unlike any Santa can bring, but just as full of wonderment and surprise.

Enjoy Christmas Island, and then check back for some photos from Hawaii. I’m determined to help everyone get through this cold snap! Also, you can check out a few more saltwater fishing photos in my Fishing Gallery.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Dreams: Saltwater Fly Fishing Part I

When winter sets in with single-degree temperatures and a cold wind that chills you to the bone, it’s only natural to start thinking about someplace warm. Thanks to my best friend Rick Messmer, every February I start dreaming of the salt. The salt is where winter dreams turn into a heated reality; where hot sticky days are followed by hot sticky nights; where the tug on your fly line may mean a new species of fish, and that same fish may run you to your backing… a few times. It’s also where the sun rises and sets over the water with all the glory and intensity of Fourth of July fireworks. By the end of the week, your shoulder is so sore that you can hardly cast, your lips are chapped, and the equatorial sun has burned at least three parts of your body. You’ve drank too much local beer and way too many rum and Fantas. Above all, though, you’ve experienced a new part of the world, immersed yourself in a new culture, made great memories with new friends and old, laughed until you couldn’t laugh anymore, and staved off that winter chill for a couple more months.

Over the past few years I travelled to Belize, Christmas Island, and Hawaii. The Belize and Christmas Island trips were “boyz” trips and we were there specifically to fly fish. My wife and I visited Hawaii for our five-year anniversary so we surfed, kayaked, hiked, and sat on the beach, but we made some time to cruise the flats, too. Of course, my camera was never too far away! With no salt trip planned this year, I can only look back at photos and remember the warm ocean breezes, the flash of the bonefish, the colors of the coral, the taste of freshly-caught blacktail tuna sashimi melting in my mouth, the smell of saltwater mixed with fish slime mixed with sweat, the beauty of the love of my life reading on the beach, and the heart-pounding excitement of landing a fish that ripped my 9-weight line through the surf as if it was thread.

Here are some of my favorite photos from Belize. I will follow them up with some pictures from Christmas Island and Hawaii in subsequent posts. Keep dreaming… summer will be here soon!!