2017 ATA Show – Compound Bow Roundup

I can’t think of anything that gets gear freaks as worked up in the hunting world as the impending release of the new bows for the year.  Whether you shoot a Mathews, Hoyt, Elite, Bowtech, whatever your brand of choice…there is always plenty of debate each and every year about who makes the best bow.  Seldom do I hear an argument that is not almost entirely based on one’s own personal bias.  Well, maybe some people plead better cases than others, but I think most of us can agree that the flagship bows from almost every major bow manufacturer today are light years ahead of the bows we shot in the early 2000’s.

This year, for the first time, we decided that it would be fun to go around at the ATA show and check out some of the new bows available for 2017.  We didn’t have time to include every new bow from every manufacturer, and this is far from an all inclusive list of every bow manufacturer represented at the ATA show, but here were a few that caught our attention:

Bowtech Reign 6
Axle-to-Axle:     32 5/8”
Draw Length:    24-30”
Draw Weight:    50, 60, 70
Speed:                 350 FPS
Brace Height:    6”
Bow Weight:      4.3 LBS

Elite Option 6
Axle-to-Axle:      32”
Draw Length:     26-30”
Draw Weight:    50, 60, 65, 70, 80
Speed:                 342 FPS
Brace Height:    6”
Bow Weight:      4.3 LBS

Hoyt Carbon Defiant
Axle-to-Axle:      31”
Draw Length:     24-30”
Draw Weight:    40, 50, 60, 65, 70, 80
Speed:                 331 FPS
Brace Height:    7”
Bow Weight:      3.6 LBS

Mathews Halon 32 (6 inch)
Axle-to-Axle:      32”
Draw Length:     26-31”
Draw Weight:    40, 50, 60, 70
Speed:                 343 FPS
Brace Height:    6”
Bow Weight:      4.73 LBS

Prime Centergy
Axle-to-Axle:      33.25”
Draw Length:     24.5 – 31”
Draw Weight:    40, 50, 60, 65, 70, 80
Speed:                 333 fps
Brace Height:    6.5”
Bow Weight:      4.3 LBS

PSE Evolve 35
Axle-to-Axle:      35”
Draw Length:     26 – 31.5”
Draw Weight:    50, 60, 70
Speed:                 340 FPS
Brace Height:    6.5”
Bow Weight:      4.6 LBS

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2017 ATA Show – HECS

Last year, the folks at HECS released their new High-Performance HECS Base Layer.  Though it was new last year, the suit did not become available until much later in the year, and so it did not get as much exposure as it would had it been available sooner. This year, HECS is continuing to push those new Base Layers, as well as the HECS Sock they released mid year year last year.  I have always been a fan of the concept of the HECS Suit, but the fit of the suit has always been something I wish was a little more tailored.  Since using the HECS Base Layer, I can say that concern is a concern no more.  Not only is the fit much better on my lean frame, but the materials used to construct the suit are much more comfortable.

While there are no new products for 2017, HECS has announced that they will be manufacturing their suit in some new sizes for the year. Kids will now be able to enjoy the benefits of the HECS Camo Suit as they will be available in kids sizes X-Small and XX-Small.  The base layers will be available in these sizes as well later in the year.  Like many other companies, HECS recognizes the important of getting our youth involved in the sport of hunting.

Beyond integrating HECS into new materials and creating new garments, I’m not really sure what they could do to make a better product.  I have been nothing but impressed since the first time I ever put the HECS suit on.  For those of you who have not yet given one a try, I strongly recommend you visit HECS at www.hecsllc.com and order a set of the Base Layers or the original Camo Suit today.

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2017 ATA Show – Benchmade Knife Company

Over the years we have grown accustomed to seeing the many great offerings from the HUNT. series of knives by Benchmade, but this year Benchmade elected not to release any new HUNT. knives.  However, that did not mean Benchmade had nothing new to offer to its customers.

From the Blue Class of Benchmade knives, the all new 560 Freek is a particularly interesting knife.  If features a dual durometer handle, which is a first for Benchmade.  The handle is a created with a single mold, but has an outer edge which has more of a sticky feel, while the center of the handle is a much harder material to provide strength for the knife.

The 560 Freek is constructed with the same S30V steel featured on all of the HUNT. series knives.  Once considered to be a custom or high-end only steel, S30V has become the standard for Benchmade knives.  The blade is shaped with a higher grind than usual, which makes this knife a perfect slicer.  Despite the fact the knife is classified for outdoor and everyday use, the 560 Freek would make a perfect skinning knife. Furthermore, the 560 Freek is equipped with Benchmade’s battle tested AXIS lock mechanism. You will never have to worry about the blade on this knife closing unexpectedly no matter how much abuse you put it through.

The drop point blade on the 560 Freek measures in at 3.6 inches and the overall length of the knife is 8.46 inches making it larger than many of the folders I have carried over the years.  However, weighing in at only 3.72 ounces, this knife felt very comfortable in my pocket and will be a great knife for every day carry.

For more information on the 560 Freek and other new products from Benchmade Knife Company, visit http://www.benchmade.com today.

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2017 ATA Show – Firenock

Over the years, many Firenock customers have complained that the fit of their Firenock lighted nocks to their bowstring was to snug.  As a result, Firenock set out to investigate any potential issues connected to these complaints.  What they found out was that there was a lack of standards for bowstrings on the market, and there were a lot of consistency issues with the string serving process.  To get around this issue, Firenock set out to develop a solution.  That solution came in the form of the AeroBowString Serving Jig (ABSSJ).

The ABSSJ certainly isn’t your normal every day serving jig.  Like all Firenock products, it is made to perform at a level superior to other products on the market.  In order to do that, Firenock had to first identify problems with other serving jigs.  One of the common flaws they found was that most serving jigs did not possess the ability to provide a constant amount of resistance on the serving spool.  Instead, the amount of pressure the jigs provided was variable, and created inconsistent end diameters once the bowstring was served.  ABSSJ uses a 9 element drag system similar to what is found in most high-performance fishing reels.  Crafted with five graphite-weaved drag washers and four titanium drag washers, the ABSSJ is able to provide a constant tension up to 400% higher than what most other serving jigs can provide.

The ABSSJ also features a detachable thread spool, so it can be removed at will, which makes it even more user-friendly.  ABSSJ users will also be pleased to know they can use many of the serving spools that are available on the market today, or if they wish, they can purchase the Firenock spool. The ABSSJ is extremely lightweight in construction, thanks to a 7075 Aluminum body, and is very simple to maneuver around when in use.  This is critical when serving a string, as efficiency is important in order to maximize productivity.  More importantly, efficiency is important when trying to maintain quality while putting out quantity

In addition to the ABSSJ, Firenock has again expanded on their ever-expanding lineup of titanium bolts.  The bolts are lighter, which reduces the weight of your bow, but best of all, the Titanium Bolt Kit completely changes the harmonics of your bow.  This helps to make your bow more efficient and to better transfer energy into the arrow, thereby increasing down range speed and energy.  The Titanium Bolt kit is available for more bows than ever, and I highly suggest you check them out.  A full list of available bow kits can be found here.  Keep an eye out, in the near future I will be publishing an article outlining the installation of the Titanium Bolt Kit on my Mathews Halon.

For more information on the AeroBowString Serving Jig and the many other great products made by Firenock, be sure visit http://firenock.com/

 

 

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2017 ATA Show – Grim Reaper Broadheads

For 2017, Grim Reaper Broadheads has opted not to release any new broadheads.  Instead, they have refocused their efforts into improving and strengthening their already awesome mechanical broadhead lineup.

Starting with the blades; Grim Reaper has equipped their mechanical broadheads with a more durable blade that is also sharper than those found on previous years broadheads.  The extra durability these new blades provide are certain to provide the toughness hardcore hunters demand.  The blade retention system has also been supercharged and engineered to work more effectively.  Not only do to the blades open super quick and smooth, once they are open you can be certain they will remain open until you close them.

One of the great options of the new and improved blade retention system is that it allows archers to lock the blades open and shoot them as a fixed blade broadhead with pin point accuracy out of any bow or crossbow.

This image features three still shots from a video showing how the blades close upon exit but open on entry and remain open until the arrow has completely passed through it’s target.

Additionally, in the past, the blades on Grim Reapers mechanical broadheads have been known to close back up after a passthrough on a game animal once the arrow began to rapidly slow down due to inertia and the arrow swiftly coming to a stop.  This has caused some users to question whether their broadheads blades had actually deployed or not. With the improvements to the new blade retention system, this has become an issue of the past.

Grim Reaper Broadheads is one of the few remaining broadhead only companies in the archery industry and is still owned and ran by its original inventor Jay Liechty.  Along with the help of an awesome team of broadhead experts, Grim Reaper has grown to offer over 40 different broadhead models including both fixed and mechanical broadheads.  Best of all, they are 100% designed and made in the USA.  Grim Reaper puts the utmost attention to designing quality broadheads that offer unmatched performance and their customer service is second to none.

Grim Reaper also wished to offer an apology to anyone who had difficulty obtaining Grim Reaper brand broadheads in 2016.  There were some unforeseen delays in getting parts and in getting the broadheads exactly as Grim Reaper Wanted them.  However, 2017 is a different story altogether.  The new and improved broadheads are already ready to ship.  Be sure to visit www.grimreaperbroadheads.com to order yours today!

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2017 ATA Show – Sitka Gear

Sitka Gear continues to deliver! For the second year in a row Sitka has unveiled a new camo pattern.  Built on the same scientific principles as its predecessors, Optifade Subalpine is the next step in the continued evolution that is the Optifade family of camo patterns.  In 2016, Elevated II focused on the attack from above, and now in 2017, Subalpine focuses on bringing superior concealment to those hunting from ground level in the forests across North America and beyond.

The developers at Sitka say “We don’t design all-purpose gear, because all-purpose gear really translates to design to compromise”.  Instead, Sitka aims to develop gear that maximize a hunter’s ability to stay concealed in specific terrains and environments.  Whether you are hunting in the mountains of Oregon, or the hills of Pennsylvania, Subalpine is certain to keep you hidden from even the wariest of game animals.

The flagship of the 2017 Optifade Subalpine lineup is the all new Ascent series.  The Ascent series is the lightest system that Sitka has ever produced.  It is made specifically for the mountain athlete and is designed to help keep you cool on those early September hunts when the temperatures are still high.  The Ascent series consists of a shirt and pant made from high performance wet print nylon fabrics engineered to increase comfort and performance.  The Ascent series also features a vest that helps to keep all your gear close at hand, whether it be a call, GPS, phone, or release, you can be sure the Ascent vest will keep you organized and ready when you need your gear the most.  A new innovative gator featuring a no buckle design will help keep you quiet when you make the final approach on your stalk for an animal of a lifetime. Gloves featuring conductive thread technology make operating your touch screen devices a breeze without having to take your gloves on and off.  Finally, any woman will tell you no outfit is truly complete without a hat to cap it off.  And Sitka has you covered with two options, a standard style billed cap and a sun hat designed to keep the sun off your face and neck.

Speaking of women, Sitka Gear has at long last released a line of women specific clothing.  It’s a known fact that men and women are built quite differently, and thinking that gear designed for a man’s body would suit the needs of a woman goes directly against the design principles that have made Sitka the best in the business.  Sitka didn’t simply put out a garment or two to get things started though, ladies can now find comfort whether they are hunting late season for whitetail or chasing elk across the ridgelines of the western mountain ranges.  With added features such as Ground Shield Technology to help with warmth in frigid temperatures, added hoods and Wind Stopper technology to fight off the elements, and zipper placements specific to fit the build of a woman’s body, both the Whitetail and Big Game lineups have great gear designed for women, by women.

Sitka has again pushed the boundaries of what is thought to be excellence in engineering.  For those of you who have used Sitka Gear in the past, you already know everything they make is certain to meet and exceed your expectations.  For those of you who have not yet given Sitka a try, I highly recommend you visit www.sitkagear.com soon to treat yourself to a better hunting experience.

Last but not least, we were extremely excited to see a few boot manufacturers on board to begin offering footwear featuring Optifade camo patterns.  Both LaCrosse and Danner will have boots available this year for those of you looking to round out your Optifade experience with matching kicks.

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2017 ATA Show – Spot Hogg

In addition to an all new bow sight (touched on later in this article) and the new Edge Swap rest, Spot Hogg focused on improving several of their already top notch products for 2017.
Their multi pin sights have received a major upgrade in the form of the MRT Pin Guard which can be fitted to your favorite Spot Hogg sight. Multi Ring Technology was unveiled by Spot Hogg in 2016 with the Double Pin scope housing.  Multi Ring Technology drastically helps archers achieve proper peep to sight alignment in any lighting condition. Available in 3 and 5 pin configurations, the MRT Pin Guard features a more durable and versatile multi pin sight housing which is guaranteed to protect your pins on even the most rugged hunts.  The MRT Pin Guard is available with Small and Large multi ring options, and soon a 7 pin configuration will be made available.

Another great upgrade for 2017 is the yardage pointer available on the Fast Eddie and Fast Eddie XL sights.  Previous Fast Eddie sight models featured a single sight pointer like the one found on the Hogg Father and Tommy Hogg.  Very precise, but not very easy to see in certain lighting conditions, especially early morning or late afternoon when hunting.  This year, the Fast Eddie and Fast Eddie XL feature a more robust, purple yardage pointer.  Best of all, Fast Eddie and Fast Eddie XL sights equipped with the Double Pin sights have a double yardage pointer so that you can quickly see the yardage of the second pin.  The double pin head was already a great feature for hunters who desire a single adjustable pin, but the addition of the double pointer is in my opinion the best offering from Spot Hogg for 2017. The Fast Eddie sights also feature a new and improved yardage dial with a better grip and more relief from the yardage pointer.  Both enhancements will improve this already well-designed sight.

Aside from the improvements made to Spot Hogg’s already existing products, Spot Hogg has also released a new sight called the Grinder MRT.  The Grinder MRT is the perfect sight for the mountain hunter who is constantly on the go.  Both extremely durable and rock solid, the Grinder MRT is also light. In fact, it is the lightest sight in the Spot Hogg line up.  But make no mistake, this sight is built to last, and no matter what you put it through, you can be certain you’ll be able to use this sight year after year without fear of failure.

Spot Hogg has once again showed that they are constantly seeking to find ways to improve their product line, and once again they have delivered in 2017.  To get more information on the new 2017 products, be sure to visit www.spot-hogg.com.

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2016 Colorado D.I.Y. Archery Elk Hunt Success!!

What a whirlwind it has been the past couple months.  Much like last year after my first DIY elk hunt, it’s taken me a while to finally get the time to sit down and write about it.  It seems like the older you get, the more you have vying for your precious time – but I digress.  After the experience my Dad, brother and I had on our first DIY elk hunt in Colorado last September, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t ready to go back this year.

Instead of going the over-the-counter tag route this year, we decided to put into the lottery to potentially draw a limited tag.  We knew we eventually wanted to start building up preference points to draw a tag to hunt a good unit in the future, so we used our first draw choice for a guaranteed preference point and then applied for a limited tag in a unit as our second choice.  Spring turkey season came and went, and by June we were surprised to find out we had drawn our second choice tag.

Fast forward three months.  I had been doing a much better job than last year at getting to the gym and doing cardio to prepare for the hunt, but I still felt like I wasn’t quite there.  The closer it got to the hunt, the more other obligations were getting in the way.  The days until we left for our hunt ticked on by and we finally decided on what area we wanted to try first with only a couple of days left to spare.

9/2/2016-9/3/2016

My brother flew into Cincinnati Friday afternoon after work.  He spent an hour situating all his hunting gear he had shipped to me the weeks before, then we loaded up the rental and hit the road.  Much later than we had anticipated.  We headed to southern Indiana to pick up my Dad before finally hitting the road west to Colorado.  We drove through the night, stopping only for gas and to grab a quick drink or two on the way.  We finally made it to the Rockies about the middle of the day on Saturday and saw a very nice mule deer on the side of the road.  By the time we made it to our GMU it was already getting dark.  The drive in was quite interesting to say the least…a two-track trail that probably wasn’t intended for our rental car.  We made it several miles back into the wilderness and even saw our first moose before deciding it was about time we pulled off and set up camp for the night.

Sunday – 9/4/2016

We woke up the next morning eager to strap on our packs, grab our bows, and start hiking.  We walked for miles that first day to get into the area we had scouted online weeks before.  We saw sign, but never saw an elk or heard one for that matter.  The hike back to camp that night was less than enjoyable.  It was a short couple miles back from the area we were hunting, almost all down hill, but the route back to camp was through a mile of blow downs.  My legs were on fire by the time I got back to camp that evening.  A quick Mountain House meal and it was time to climb into my Tarptent for the evening.  I honestly don’t remember my head hitting my stuff sack full of extra clothes I was using as a pillow…I was out quick.

Monday – 9/5/2016

The next morning I slept in late.  My dad and brother headed off at first light to see if they could strike up a bugle but no luck.  When they got back to camp, they mentioned they had seen a few trout in a nearby stream.  Our elk tags included fishing privileges, so we grabbed the small packable fishing rod we bought last year and headed off to the streams.  It wasn’t long before we had hooked our first brook trout.  We spent a couple of hours fishing and after we had caught a handful of trout, we headed back to camp to cook them over a fire for a delicious campfire lunch.  Seasonings and some aluminum foil are now on the list for our next trip.  We killed time around camp before packing up the vehicle and making the trek partially back out of the wilderness.  We drove out roughly 3 miles when we hit an opening that looked pretty promising.  There were a couple old log cabins nearby and it just looked like there may be elk in the area.  We set up camp on a little knob overlooking the big opening and headed out shortly after to glass for the evening.  Again, no elk, but my dad did see a bull moose that evening.

Tuesday – 9/6/2016

That next morning we decided that the area just wasn’t working for us.  We spent some time arguing on where our next stop should be and finally settled on a spot roughly twenty miles as a crow flies from our current location.  We packed up and headed off to our new destination.  Our drive out was nearly fourteen miles of two-track road to the nearest paved highway.  We stopped in a nearby town to refuel and grab a bite to eat before continuing on to our final destination.  We arrived at the trail head of the new location about two to three hours before dusk.  Originally, we had figured we could drive to were we were wanting to hunt, however, after pulling up to a gate with a sign forbidding vehicles from passing, we parked and loaded up our packs for a couple nights stay.  The walk in was pretty easy.  We walked in for just over a mile when we noticed the unmistakable smell of elk.  It was getting dark and we knew we needed to set up camp soon. We backed out and setup camp further back on the trail we had come from to avoid spooking whatever was in the area.  Finally, we  felt like we were getting closer to seeing something.

Wednesday – 9/7/2016

We woke up before daylight the next morning, packed up our packs and headed into the woods with high expectations.  We bugled, cow mewed and raked trees in an effort to stir up a bugle.  A little after 8 AM, seconds after Calvin raked a small tree and a bugle sounded off nearby!  We split up, Calvin calling in back with Dad and I moving in to get set up – hoping to get a shot at the bull.  We heard a couple more bugles but they weren’t getting any closer.  Time slipped by and so did our hopes of the bull coming in.  Assuming the bull was long-gone, we continued on towards the area we had pinpointed on the map.  It took several hours to hike in and we stopped for a few photos and to take a quick nap while we waited for it to get a little later in the afternoon.  We worked slowly down a north slope; zig-zagging our way along game trails hoping to spot or smell another elk.  Calvin and I were a little ways ahead of our Dad when all of a sudden we hear a loud ruckus from his direction.  It sounded like my Dad had slipped and was tumbling down the hill.  Calvin and I look back to see a calf zip by my dad mere feet away from him…following closely behind was a cow elk.  The cow stopped just a few feet from my dad and turned to head off the other direction.  The calf stood only 15 yards in front of Calvin and I.  In the distance the cow mewed several times before finally drawing the calf her direction.  Talk about excitement!  After finally laying our eyes on some live elk, our enthusiasm grew.  We worked further down the hill and ended up jumping another elk without getting off a shot.  It was starting to get late in the evening, so we worked our way back to camp to prep for the next day.

Thursday – 9/8/16

I didn’t know it at the time, but this day would be the day I finally punched an elk tag. The morning started like all of the other mornings.  Get up early…throw on my Sitka Gear, lace up the boots, strap on my pack, and grab my bow.  It was another long and grueling day of hiking, calling, hiking, calling, and more hiking.  We covered a lot of ground that day and had our fair share of debates on what we should be doing differently to see some elk.  Were we in the right spot?  Were we calling too much?  Too little?  Should we be at higher elevation or lower elevation?  All of these things pass through your mind when you are physically and emotionally taxed from a week of “roughing” it and aren’t having any luck.  It was mid afternoon when we made it to a transition between a large clear-cut and a timber-covered north slope.  We hiked in just a few yards before pulling out the cow call to let out a few mews, honestly expecting the silence we had heard all day.  *mew* … *mew*….then we hear the unmistakable roaring bugle from only a couple hundred yards away!  The three of us stood there for a minute trying to decide what the heck to do.  After a few minutes we finally agreed on the next move.  My Dad and I worked our way east along the north facing slope for a few hundred yards, descending a little in elevation as we went.  I stopped roughly 100-150 yards before my Dad as he continued on before stopping at a good vantage point and getting ready for the action.  My brother stayed back near where we had struck up the bugle.  The north slope we were on was surprisingly very open so Calvin had to work his way up the slope to keep from being spotted as he moved around calling.  It seemed like an eternity of calling back-and forth when all of a sudden I spotted movement in the valley below at about the 10 o’clock position.  I pulled up my Vortex binos and spotted a couple of cows working their way west to east.  Having some idea of the direction they were going, I worked down to a lower elevation to get myself down within bow range of where I expected them to go.  They kept getting closer and closer until finally, at less than 40 yards stood three cows and a couple of calves.  I had my bow ready, but really didn’t have a shot except for one of the calves.  Knowing they were heading in the direction my Dad we set up – and hoping that the bull was following behind – I elected to pass on the shot opportunity.  The cows worked off to my right and out of sight.  Shortly after, I hear them coming back my direction looking over their shoulder.  Did they see or hear my Dad?  Did my Dad get a shot?  They were quickly coming back my direction on a trail I had previously ranged at 32 yards.  As soon as one of the cows hit my little shooting lane I drew my bow, quickly settled the top pin on my Spot Hogg Double Pin on her side and let it rip.  The hillside erupted as elk scattered down into the valley below.  I could see the green Firenock immediately after the shot and it looked like I had made good penetration with a 125 grain Grim Reaper Fatal Steel.  The arrow appeared to be buried almost to the fletching but the shot was further back.  Much further back than I had hoped.  I waited for a little while and finally got the attention of Calvin and my Dad.  I relayed the info on the shot to them before we headed down to look for blood.  Lacking a blood trail, we followed some deep tracks a little ways down the hill before we spotted a couple of cows in the valley below.  Long story short, Calvin snuck to within 40 some yards before sailing an arrow over a cows back.  Knowing the cows had run off down the hill and having a general idea of where the one I had hit went, we could follow the torn up tracks in the ground to help us trail her.  Once she got into the meadow, the tracks blended with the other cows and we were no longer able to follow the trail. Luckily, my father caught a whiff of elk as we made our way down the hill and we were able to pinpoint her location to a nearby knoll. We were elated when we finally found her!  High fives and hugs ensued as we celebrated finally sealing the deal on an elk.  Two years of the trials and tribulations of three flatlanders chasing elk in the Colorado backcountry had finally culminated in notching a tag.  We took plenty of pictures and started the real work of quartering her and packing her out.  Somehow, between the three of us we managed to pack her and all of our gear out in one trip.  We were a little over a mile from where our vehicle was parked and climbed a little over 1,000 feet in elevation.  A pretty “easy” pack out compared to some I’ve heard about, but challenging.  Definitely something I can use to help motivate me to work harder in the gym next year.

Friday – 9/9/16

Now that we finally had an elk on the ground, I had to figure out what to do with all of the meat.  We failed to think past the “let’s just find some elk” when we were doing our preseason preparations, and didn’t prepare for the “what do we do if we shoot one” scenario.  Calvin and Dad headed back out to hunt while I headed back to the truck early that next morning to load up the meat and head off back to town to find a local processor.  We had to head back home on Saturday, so I needed to find a processor…and fast!  A guy at the local gas station gave me a name and number of a wild game processor almost forty minutes away.  After not being able to connect via a phone call, and having no other options, I drove out towards the game processing place.  All I could do was hope he was available and could process the meat in time for us to head back home.  I had to pay an extra rush fee to the processor, but luckily was able to get it processed and frozen.  We were able to pick it up on the way home the next day.  I headed back to our camp that afternoon and met up with Calvin and Dad to go along with them to hunt the rest of the day, but we struck out again.

Saturday/Sunday – 9/10/16 – 9/11/16

Saturday was our last day.  My Dad and brother headed out close to camp to try to strike up a bugle in a last-ditch effort to fill their tags but like most mornings, no luck.  We had to be on the road somewhat early to get Calvin back in time to catch his flight in Cincinnati on Sunday.  Not to mention that we had roughly an hour and a half extra drive added to our trip to go pick up my elk meat.  The flat tire – and inability to get the spare unlocked from the bottom of the SUV – did not help matters either.

If I have any advice to the greenhorn elk hunters out there it would be to always keep a positive attitude.  Elk hunting is taxing on the body and equally taxing on the mind.  There were periods of time during this hunt when I failed to heed this advice.  It’s easy to get frustrated.  You never know when your opportunity to fill your tag will come, so you always have to be prepared.  I’d also highly recommend you check out Cory Jacobsen’s Elk101 site if you want to learn a thing or two about elk hunting.  My brother learned an immense amount of valuable information from the Elk1o1 online course, and likewise, I learned a lot from Cory’s University of Elk hunting DVD.  These resources are loaded with information for both novices like us as well as tenured, experienced elk hunters.

Brett’s Gear List:

  • Hoyt Defiant 34
  • Gold Tip – Velocity Pro 300
  • Grim Reaper – 125 grain Fatal Steel 1 1/2″ cut
  • Firenock – Aerovane II’s and Firenocks
  • Carter – Too Simple 3 finger
  • Kifaru International – Timberline 1 w/ bikini frame
  • Spot Hogg – Hogg Father with Double Pin scope (triple ring)
  • HECS Stealthscreen
  • Sitka Gear
  • Benchmade Knives – Nestucca Cleaver and North Fork Folder
  • Vortex Optics – Razor HD 10×42
  • Carbon Synergy
  • TightSpot Quiver
  • T.A.G. Game Bags
  • Tactacam 2.0
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Whitetail Pre-Hunt Organization and Setup

For those new to the hobby of self-filming your hunts, the added challenge of all of the extra gear to carry, set up and use can be a little daunting at first.  However, after several years of self-filming I’ve developed a system that helps me stay quiet and efficient, even while setting up in the pitch-black morning hours.

First, and most importantly, is organization in your pack.  Personally, I had to upgrade to a Badland’s SuperDay pack in order to house all of my gear, even for a morning hunt (I might over-pack just a tad). I like to keep my camera arm base easily accessible on the outside of the pack, lashed on with my compression straps given it is often the first thing I attach to my tree (after my fall arrest system, of course).  I will often keep the ratchet strap that secures the base to the tree in the same side-pocket of my Badland’s pack as my tow-rope so I remember to put it in my pant cargo pocket when I’m at the base of the tree.

Place the pivot point/horizontal portion of the base at seat level and approximately the two o’clock mark on the tree as you are sitting in the stand (ten o’clock for a lefty).  This not only enables you to control and view the camera with your bow in hand, but also allows you to shoot over your camera arm should the game approach from your camera side. With a standard length camera arm you are also able to video around your body to the offhand side if needed.

My camera arm and Manfrotto fluid head also are attached external to my pack by compression straps.  Part of this is for accessibility, but the main reason is that they are too large to easily fit into most packs.  The arm is then mounted to the base and a quick bubble-level check is performed before any weight is added to the arm.

I keep all of my camera equipment (secondary view GoPro with battery packs, main camera, shotgun mic, etc.) in the top portion of the main compartment on my pack.  This allows for easy accessibility for charging, footage download and setup when in the stand.  After you’ve attached your camera to the fluid head, make sure you adjust the drag on your fluid head so that your camera does not automatically pull up (or down) when you let go to draw.  You should have just enough drag so that your camera will not move when released, but should be easy enough to pan and move the camera up and down without much effort.  Also, DO NOT FORGET TO TURN ON YOUR SHOTGUN MIC.  It seems like 9 times out of 10 I remember to turn it on, but it is only when I forget that I end up getting a shot.  If you do happen to forget to turn it on, you can still use the footage to determine shot placement.

After my main camera is set up I will strap-on or screw-in my secondary cams to the tree.  I have had the privilege of having a custom GoPro battery pack that will allow my GoPro to film for about 24 hours straight for a few years before commercial extended batteries were readily available.  Nowadays, you can get a relatively cheap, and much smaller alternative from suppliers such as (Limefuel, Wasabi, Re-fuel and a few others) for less than $100.  As we’ve recommended before, you’ll want to have at least one secondary angle camera directed on you, showing you controlling the main camera, grabbing your bow, etc.  I’ll typically mount an additional GoPro on my bow’s riser as well for a good draw/aim view.  Extreme Outdoors makes a rock-solid aluminum version that works quite well and doesn’t break the bank.  Once all my camera gear is in place, I’ll setup my bow holder and hang my bow.

When the moment of truth comes, it is everybody’s first instinct to watch your quarry and not the viewfinder of the camera. Fight this urge if at all possible! Not only does this make it difficult to quickly get the animal in frame and in focus when your quarry stops in a shooting lane, but you will also miss out on precious approach footage that you won’t get a second chance to obtain.

Most importantly—even if you have had multiple seasons of self-filming under your belt—practice, practice, practice your setup before season.  What I find effective is to sit a lawn chair in front of a tree in my yard and practice as if I were in the tree stand.  This will allow you to fine-tune your pack arrangement in the daylight instead of fumbling in the dark on opening morning.  Self filming isn’t easy by any means, but when you are able to get all the pieces to come together, you’ll be glad you put forth the extra effort!

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Benchmade Hunt – Small Summit Lake

When it comes to choosing a pocket knife, there is no shortage of styles and sizes to hunt-1pick from.  Benchmade has a wide selection that varies in locking mechanisms, grip materials, blade steel type, etc., but it’s safe to assume that every last knife they produce is top-notch quality.  When it comes to making your selection for your every-day-carry, it’s really just about what suits your needs the best.

hunt-3For years I carried a Mini Griptilian.  For my daily needs, it was the perfect pocket knife.  The Axis Locking Mechanism was simple to use, it was extremely reliable, and I found that I rarely had to sharpen my knife to keep it working efficiently.  Despite those great qualities, I have always favored more of a traditional style knife, so when the Hunt series of knives were introduced, I was overjoyed to see the Small Summit Lake in the lineup.

Similar to the Mini Griptilian, the Small Summit Lake is small and light. I carry my knife daily, and while working in an office setting, I find a large/heavy knife is less hunt-2comfortable to carry in suit pants.  The overall size of the Small Summit Lake works right into my advantage.  As we’ve mentioned in previous articles about the Benchmade HUNT Series of knives, the CPM-S30V steel that is used on the Small Summit Lake is a great blade steel option.  I am able to get the same razor-sharp edge I have enjoyed in the past with 154CM steel on my Mini Griptilian, but I find the CPM-S30V holds a working edge much longer and requires re-sharpening much less often.

For those of you who share my love for a traditional lock back style knife, the locking mechanism on both the Small Summit Lake and it’s big brother the Big hunt-5Summit Lake is sure to please.  I’ve never had a folding knife that felt more solid.  When the lock is fully engaged, there is an audible click and there is no question that your blade will remain locked open until you intend to close it.  Like many other folding knives today, both the Small Summit Lake and the Big Summit Lake feature an integrated belt/pocket clip that will hold your knife in place when it’s not in use.

If you haven’t already checked out the Benchmade Hunt lineup of Knives, you will definitely want to take a look at them before making your next knife purchase.  And if you are in the market for a new traditional lock back folder style knife, you would be doing yourself a major injustice if you didn’t first consider the Small Summit Lake as your first choice!

http://www.benchmade.com/hunt/big-summit-lake.html

hunt-4

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