Ok, It's late August and It's still wet, very wet and of course hot and humid. Other than that its perfect scouting weather. Trails that are typically dry are soaked.
On public lands where we hunt, walking or biking is the only way in and out.
My favorite scouting gear has become my chest pack. Made by Hill People Gear.
It is comfortable and holds the essential gear you want close.
You can bike, hike, and shoot your bow or rifle with it on. The back zipper pocket also fits a full size semi auto pistol or revolver with an approx. 5-1/2" barrel. My Ruger Redhawk in .44 Mag with a 5-1/2" barrel fits well. I highly recommend this chest pack.
We have been collecting some deer and hog photos as well. here's a photo of a typical 100 pound hog. we are seeing lots of hogs all sizes and the deer are making a good showing as well.
The last weekend of August was typical, hot, humid, with a fair assortment of biting bugs. Max, a traditional bow hunter from Italy and I set out to scout a Archery Only Area in the Lower Suwannee NWR and a couple favorite areas. We only saw one deer and one turkey but we learned a good deal and found the evidence we needed to choose what may be good set ups. One of the pleasures and difficulties with hunting public lands is the understanding the changing habitat, food sources, finding out of the way places that may not receive hunting pressure and challenging yourself to find new areas as well as go back to favorites. It is not for the lazy, some would say it's for the crazy.
Plenty of hog sign in the usual places and game camera photos confirm there is no shortage of them. Can we kill them with our bows, that is another story. Last year, I shot two hogs with pass through shots, decent blood trails....at first, then no luck recovering them. This year I may simply have exercise more patience and wait for that quartering away shot, not easy in the thick woods and swamp on moving hogs.
The photo above is of an old logging trail that was bone dry in the Spring and now has a foot or more of water running over it in places. The wet weather has redefined many edges along creeks and hammocks. Personally, I prefer the swamps to be full, as the edges along hammocks, hills and other natural features are more heavily used by deer and hogs.
Max and I also took stock of the acorn growth. In the areas we checked, it looks like acorn production will be light this year. Light or heavy, on public land, as the acorns fall, the deer and hogs will find them.
Scouting Gear Used:
The "new" used Native, Manta Ray 14 along with the old faithful Wilderness, Tarpon 160i were transported to creek in the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge on a warm February day.
First, the Manta Ray is a good sized kayak and yes it can be carried and lifted solo but it is relatively wide and weighs enough to be challeging to handle.
Here are the specs: 14' 7" long / 28" wide / 69 lb weight / 375 lb capacity
First impressions on loading the boat is that the cockpit road holders and storage areas are well laid out and reasonably accessible.
Compared to the Wilderness Tarpon 160, the Manat Ray 14 has a more comfortable and slightly larger cockpit, a little more beam and perhaps freeboard. It also has gear rails on both sides of the cockpit a plus for those needing to attach more gear and electronics.
First paddling impressions:
What makes a great Archery Shop?...go to Alachua Farm and Lumber in Alachua Florida and see Terry to find out.
After a recent easy shot I took at a doe but missed @#$%!? and a session at the range where my groups were not consistent and with too many "flyers"...even for my middle ages eyes, I realized that my Mathews bow needed adjusting. I hadn't had it to the shop since being restrung more than a year ago and I had been shooting a good deal.
As soon as I opened the door and entered Alachua Farm and Lumber and when I could see Terry behind the archery counter, I knew there was hope left in the world.
I had emailed Mathews website support some photos and a narrative the day before and showed Terry their response. Terry looked it over, frowned and made a huffing noise that sounded like a combination of a deer snort and human sigh. He then put the bow in his vice and in a very short time had made the adjustments. While doing so he examined my fall away arrow rest and said bring in your arrows. I thought he wanted me to shoot to make final adjustments but instead he examined the fletchings and then showed me another issue I was having. Two faint lines on some of the fletchings indicated that my fall away rest was not staying in the down position but instead was at least some of the time "jumping" back up and making contact with the fletchings!!!! YIKES! Now I was the one snorting and wheezing like a buck sensing trouble. That, may have been the reason my arrow went under that doe!
After replacing my arrow rest we went into the indoor range and took turns shooting while Terry made some final adjustments. I immediately was shooting more accurate and tighter groups!
So thank you Terry and Alachua Farm and Lumber, for your expertise and all around good nature. If your in North / Central Florida stop in and deal with them or go to their website.
When you are hunting, camping, paddling, fishing, hiking in the backcountry what navigation tools do you take.....compass, handheld GPS unit, mobile phone, nothing??
My typical navigation gear set up is an old Silva compass, small Garmin handheld GPS unit and now an app on my mobile phone. Overkill...perhaps at least until you are in a dense fog, blown off course in a storm or needing to spend a moonless night making your way out.
I downloaded Gaia GPS for the iPhone and so far I have been satisfied.
One of the strengths of the app is the ability to sync waypoints and routs across devices such as an iPad and iPhone as well as accessing your maps and data on your desktop. This makes the app is a real field and scouting tool.
Below is a screen shot from my iPad with the USGS map layer turned on and with a couple waypoints I set.
When a waypoint is places a photo, and description / notes can be added.
So far my limited use in the field is positive. So far for me it looks like it is worth the $19.99 price tag. I will use the app through the fall hunting season and provide an update. There is both an android and iPhone app. Learn more at iTines.
Fred Bear (1902-1988) is an American legend and considered the father of bow hunting and founder of Bear Archery.
Bear Archery's manufacturing facility has a great archery range for those of us, like Hoginator and I that need lots of practice, enjoy shooting on a professionally set up range and having the occasional conversation with other archers.
We sincerely thank Bear Archery for allowing us to practice at their proving grounds range in Gainesville, Florida and encourage bow hunters and competition shooters to check out the high quality bows that Bear produces. I own a Bear long bow that is great quality and a pleasure to shoot.
Although Fred Bear didn't start bow hunting until he was in his late 20's he became an accomplshed archer and deadly bow hunter, killing small and big game including dangerous game around the world. Just about of us that bow hunt have been influenced by and benefitted from the talent and innovation that Fred Bear brought to our sport and industry.
One of the 40 yard shooting lanes at the Bear Archery Proving Grounds in Gainesville FL.
A weird grouping at the range...acceptable hunting group but I'm sure it can get tighter with more practice.
I've owned and used the Knives of Alaska Bush Craft Knife for a long enough to offer this review.
First the good: It is a versitle and reasonably priced, good quality American made knife with a full tang blade of D2 tool steel. The 6" drop point blade is a great shape and handles well for all the camp, scouting and hunting chores I have put its through so far.
The not as good: The fit and finish of the scales and the material of the scales is average. The non glare blade finish easily stains. Additionally, there are no sheath options except the standard leather but that is easily modified with an after market sheath.
The knife fits well in the standard sheath.
My knife after a few scouting trips. The stains did not wash off, even though I washed my knife within a couple hours of use.
UPDATE: After emailing customer service they requested I ship the knife back to them with the pre-paid label they provided. I was emailed back that the string is to be expected when certain species of wood is encountered. Specifically Pecan was mentioned. However, I was chopping through a number of species of typical Florida swamp and hammock brush and one or more of those species must have caused the staining. Bottom line is they shipped me back the knife as is. They did offer to refurbish the blade for $10 plus $10 shipping and handling but I declined.
Although the staining does not effect the functionality of the knife, the coating used on the blade is not the quality needed to hold up to typical scouting and hunting jobs without staining. However, I still like the knife and recommend it overall.
One of my requirements was a durable sheath that would hold the knife securely, adjustable and equipped with a fire steel, emergency light and some paracord.
After some homework it was an easy choice to select a kydex sheath from YELLOW HAWK CUSTOMS / OUTDOORS. Go to http://www.yellowhawkcustomkydex.com for more information and how to order.
I've now had the TZ-2220 pack out for three scouting trips. I've loaded it with between 12 and 20 lbs of gear and water on these trips. The July temps have been between 85 and 97 F (HOT!). The pack appears to be put together well with good quality materials. Strap, pockets, access are well thought out.
The Pack is comfortable and rides well on both shoulders and hip. The ventilated back panel does seem to work, at least as well as anything can in this heat. It does breath better than my ALPS pack or any pack I've had with maybe the exception of my around town Osprey day pack.
I have not hunted with the pack yet. I did strap my bow to it and it seems to carry it well but the the proof will be when I'm hunting and climbing with it.
Verdict so far: Highly recommended.
Ever since I nearly cut my index finger off with my grandfather's hatchet I have loves knives, axes, hatchets, etc. My early knives were made up of inexpensive military surplus and inexpensive pocket knives, in part because I didn't yet understand the qualities of a fine hunting knife nor could afford one.
Fast forward a couple decades and I was in the position to purchase a good quality hunting knife that would take care of most camp chores and perform well skinning deer and hogs. What I chose was the K-2 model, a knife made by Bob Dozier. I have carried, camped with and skinned with this knife for between 10 and 15 years and appreciate it as much as I do the first time I held it.
The steel Bob uses is D2 tool steel. It is a high carbon, high chrome tool steel which is often used for the steel cutting dies in tool and die shops. With 1.5% Carbon, 1% Molybdenum, 12% Chrome, and 1% Vanadium, this air hardening steel (at 60-61Rc.) takes a razor edge, and in my experience, holds it long after many other knives need sharpened.
The K-2 specs:
Overall Length: 7 -7/8"
Blade Length: 3 -1/2" at 60-61 Rc.
Blade Thickness: .135
Blade Specs: Full tang construction
Handle: Black Micarta® handle
Sheath: Dozier Kydex® horizontal sheath
Here is Bob Dozier describing how he made his start in the industry and his knife making values (from his website at dozierknives.com):
I began making knives when I was a boy, learning from my grandfather how to forge files and springs into useable knives. In the early 1960's I was making and selling roughly made knives that local hunters in central Louisiana liked. They like them because I made the steel harder so it would hold an edge even with rough use. In 1965 I began reading the articles in the gun magazines and Gun Digest by A.G. Russell and by Ken Warner, and realized that there were other people out there making knives. Seeing knives made by other people, led me to reach for new levels of fit and finish in all of my knife work. This was during a time when knifemaking was beginning to change; Al Buck had turned from being a knife maker to owning a factory; W.D. Randall had 15 to 20 men making his knives; Bill Moran, Harry Morseth, and a few others made up the entire world of handmade knives. By 1971, I was made to feel that I fit into the top levels of current knifemaking. Bob Loveless had come from nowhere to become the most respected name in knifemaking. Articles on knives were appearing everywhere, and I was mentioned in most of them.In late 1971, A.G. Russell, the leading figure in knife sales, asked me if I would be willing to come work for him and to help in saving the Morseth knife company from extinction. I saw this as an opportunity to learn more about my craft, and indeed, in the next three years I made as many knives as one man could be expected to make. I finally experienced what is now called "burnout", left knifemaking and went back to my work as an ironworker. As I traveled the eastern half of the United States doing ironwork, I carried my knifemaking equipment and managed to make a few dozen knives a year. Just a few years ago, I returned to make the Morseth knives for A.G. Russell, and now have my own knife making business. I find that I would much rather make basic hunting knives from the highest quality tool steels at very reasonable prices, for people who will use them, than spend expensive time hand rubbing a finish for collectors. I will probably make a few fancy knives each year, but my heart is with the knives you see online.
I hope that you will find a knife here that will help make you just a little better woodsman and hunter. I want you to have a knife that will hold an edge better than the most expensive knife in your deer camp.
Kryptek has designed and built a fantastic early season, warm weather lightweight hunting pant called the Valhalla. I tested the Valhalla in the heat of the North Florida archery and muzzleloader seasons.
Without a doubt they were the most comfortable warm weather hunting pants that I have ever worn.
Kryptek describes them as follows:
Simple, functional and perfect for the minimalist outdoors man. Kryptek's Valhalla pant is lightweight and breathable giving you the flexibility you need to conquer most Spring, Summer and early Fall conditions. Designed for high exertion to mild-to-hot conditions.