Benchmade 15400 Pardue Hunter Review

This spring at the 2018 ATA Show, Benchmade released the new 15400 Pardue Hunter.  The 15400 Pardue Hunter is the first custom collaboration knife in the HUNT line of knives for Benchmade.  Since you are reading this article, I’m fairly certain you’ve heard about the Benchmade brand of knives, and if you know anything about knives, you’ve certainly heard the name Mel Pardue.  Put the two of those together and you have yourself the development of one heck of a bushcraft blade with a primary purpose of hunting in mind.

The 15400 is an ergonomically pleasing fixed blade knife with a sub 3.5″ drop point style blade.  Similar to most of the HUNT lineup (the 15200 Altitude being the exception), the 15400 Pardue Hunter features CPM-S30V blade steel that is guaranteed to last through the toughest of conditions.  If you are interested in reading more about the benefits CPM-S30V blade steel offers over other types of blade materials, you can read more about it HERE.  CliffsNotes version: the CPM-S30V blade steel will give you great durability, excellent corrosion resistance, and outstanding edge retention.  All three are characteristics I look for when selecting a hunting knife I can depend on.

The 15400 Pardue Hunter features Micarta handles that practically melt – in a good way – into your hands.  Micarta is similar to G10 in that it is a laminate type material, except that instead of being made of fiberglass and resin, the Micarta material is actually layers of cloth/linen/cotton that are soaked in a resin.  The Micarta material is typically grippier than G10 when wet, but it also softer than G10 so therefore not as rugged.  I should also mention that the Micarta handles on the 15400 Pardue Hunter can easily be removed if you are looking to customize the look and/or feel of your knife.

Another great feature of the 15400 Pardue Hunter is the exposed gimping along the back edge of the knife which aides in providing traction in your grip.  The 15400 Pardue Hunter is made in the USA and comes standard with a stitched brown leather sheath.  I truly believe the 15400 Pardue Hunter knife will not only last you a lifetime, but will also perform flawlessly for you in the field this fall.  It is an extremely functional knife that can handle anything put in its way, and is an excellent addition to the already popular and ever-growing HUNT lineup of knives offered by Benchmade.  The 15400 Pardue Hunter retails for $225, and can be ordered directly from Benchmade’s website HERE.

15400 Pardue Hunter Specs:
Blade Length: 3.48″ (8.84cm)
Blade Thickness: 0.132″ (3.353mm)
Overall Length: 7.96″ (20.22cm)
Handle Thickness: 0.57″ (12.478mm)
Weight: 5.08oz. (144.02g)

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Kinex Systems – Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount

When it comes to filming your hunts, you really have two options: Option 1 – Find a second person to tag along as a camera man or Option 2 – Self-film your hunts. The great thing about the self-filmed option is that you operate on your own schedule, and you can pretty much hunt whenever you want. The bad thing about self-filming your own hunts is, well, just about everything else that goes along with it! All kidding aside, the self-filmed gig isn’t exactly a walk in the park, and it can be a real challenge to get the kill shot on camera, especially when bowhunting. The introduction of a secondary angle greatly helps reduce the risk of missing valuable footage when the moment of opportunity presents itself. However, I have never been a fan of mounting a heavy/bulky camera to my bow because I felt it messed with the balance too much. Enter the Kinex Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount.

In my opinion, the best thing about the Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount is the fact that it mounts in-between the split limbs on your bow. If you have a solid limb bow, obviously this won’t work for your setup.  The mounting system of the Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount positions the camera above the bow, without impacting the left/right balance. A huge plus in my book, and best of all, there is no hardware required to fix the Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount in place. In the example of my Hoyt RX-1, I simply swapped the factory installed Limb Shox from the top limb with the Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount base. Admittedly, getting the Limb Shox out from between the limbs was a lot easier than getting the Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount base installed. The limbs on my RX-1 are set pretty close together, so I had to slowly work the base in position. Once I got it where it needed to be, it was rock solid. The rubber base of the Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount also helps to provide vibration dampening for your bow mounted camera.  One of the biggest advantages of this mount over others on the market in my opinion. The vibration reduction of the base helps to steady the footage from the second angle camera, and actually provides you with usable footage. The composition of the base provides similar vibration reduction benefits as the original Limb Shox, and caused no deviation in my arrow shot placement when I tested it out to 60 yards (max distance I have tested so far).

Using an Allen wrench, the mount arm and Picatinny rail are attached to the base with the included screw. It just so happens that the screw that is shipped with the Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount is the same type of screw as a standard arrow rest button screw. As a quick upgrade, I utilized an extra Firenock titanium arrow rest button screw I had lying around to further reduce the weight impact my Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount would have on my setup, and also provide the additional vibration reduction benefits that titanium provides over steel. You can read all about the benefits of using titanium fasteners on your bow in one of my previous articles here.  With the mount arm and Picatinny rail in place, I shot my bow once more and I was unable to detect any difference in the feel, sound, or shot placement. So far, so good.

Now it was time to mount my GoPro to my Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount. Since GoPro doesn’t ship a Picatinny mount with the camera when you buy it, I had to order an adapter.  This 20mm rail mount adapter is the one I purchased from Amazon. The rail mount adapter fit well on the Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount rail and added little to no weight to the setup, all while also keeping my GoPro mounted fairly close to my limbs. The immediate impression I had upon picking up my bow was that it only felt slightly heavier, and the overall balance was not really affected. In addition to being able to rotate the Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount arm backwards toward you to film yourself, you also have the ability to slide the Picatinny rail back and forth on the mount arm to account for limb profile and make sure you are filming what you are aiming at. This additional adjustment also allowed me to better balance my bow without adjusting my stabilizer setup.

Last but not least, the Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount doubles as a bow hanger (must use the provided velcro strap), a feature that will no doubt come in handy this fall in the deer words.

For anyone looking for a quality secondary angle camera mount, I highly recommend you give the Kinex Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount a try. It’s unique placement is sure to provide a different camera angle that will enhance any hunt in the editing room. The Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount retails for $49.99 and can be purchased on the Kinex website at https://www.kinexsystems.com/product/kill-shot/.

All in all, I am very satisfied with the Kill Shot Bow Hanger Camera Mount and I feel that it solves many of the problems that other camera mounts present.

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YETI Hopper Backflip 24 Review

Let me start off by saying that when I saw YETI released the new Hopper Backflip™ 24, I was  a little bewildered.  A backpack cooler?  Who would ever have a use for a backpack style cooler? After seeing one in person, and getting a chance to use one for a couple of months now, I must say that I have found the answer – Just. About. Anyone.

Having already owned a Hopper 20 and Tundra 125 cooler, I knew the quality product I would be receiving.  I was intimately familiar with the puncture resistant, uv resistant, waterproof DryHide™ Shell; ColdCell™ Insulation; and waterproof, leakproof HydroLok™ Zipper that is common across the entire soft cooler line.  I’ve put my Hopper 20 through its paces, and it has held up to everything I’ve thrown its way. My only real complaint with the Hopper 20 cooler has been not being able to open up the top of the cooler large enough to easily place things inside.  My gripes were appeased whenever YETI released the Hopper Flip series of coolers.

The Hopper Flip series currently includes four different models of soft coolers; The Flip 8, Flip 12, Flip 18 and the BackFlip 24. I haven’t quite figured out what the “8”, “12”, “18” or “24” in the cooler names means, but in general, the higher the number, the more cans/capacity it is rated for. Each model includes a new top opening lid that “flips” (hence the name) completely open after unzipping the HydroLok Zipper.  The new wide-mouth opening allows for much easier access to the interior of the cooler for loading and unloading.  The Flip 18 and BackFlip 24 have very similar rated capacities, but the dimensions between the two are vastly different.  The design of the Flip 18 is more of a shorter/wider type cooler whereas the BackFlip 24 is taller/narrower to better fit the profile of a persons back.  The BackFlip 24 outside dimensions are 19-1/8″ tall x 13-3/4″ wide x 8-1/2″ deep.  These dimensions also makes the BackFlip 24 a great carry-on for flights!

The feature that sets the BackFlip 24 apart from the others in the Flip soft cooler lineup, and the Hopper Two lineup for that matter, is the addition of backpack style shoulder straps. Furthermore, the removable chest strap and waist belt add to the comfortability of carrying a fully loaded cooler.  I would definitely recommend using the chest strap and waist belt if you will be loading it close to its full capacity (approximately 20 cans of your favorite beverage at a 2:1 ice to can ratio by volume).  If you have ever backpacked with substantial weight on your back, you can appreciate the added stability and security the chest strap and waist belt will offer.  The backpack straps are wide and have just enough cushioning to carry the fully loaded cooler for long distances without it digging in.

Another feature that I really like about the Hopper series of soft coolers is the HitchPoint™ Grid (think MOLLE platform) that is attached to the exterior of the cooler.  The possibilities and uses for the HitchPoint Grid are endless.  Whether you use a carabiner to attach a Rambler Bottle to them, use them as a tie down point to secure the cooler to a vehicle, or you attach one of the several available Hopper accessories, I am positive you will find a use for them.  Speaking of Hopper accessories; The SideKick Dry™ is an absolute must-have with the BackFlip 24.  The SideKick Dry provides an excellent, completely dry area for you to store your cell phone, wallet, keys, fishing license, or anything else you want to make sure you keep 100% dry.  It securely attaches to the BackFlip and all other YETI items with the HitchPoint Grid.

I can honestly say that after testing out the new YETI Hopper BackFlip 24, I highly recommend it. It is now my families go-to cooler for any on the go trips.  The portability and ability to carry the cooler, completely hands free, has been a lifesaver for us.  Especially when we have other precious cargo that requires both of our arms to be free.

The YETI BackFlip 24 retails for $299.99, and can be purchased directly from YETI, with free ground shipping, by clicking here, or it can be purchased in store at one of YETI’s many other online or brick and mortar retailers. While you are there, be sure to check out all of the other great items YETI offers at www.yeti.com.

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onX Hunt App Review

Over the years I have fine-tuned how I scout a new property, however, my basic approach has always remained the same:

  • Step 1 – Determine Property Boundaries
  • Step 2 – Research the Terrain and Walk the Property
  • Step 3 – Scout Specific Terrain Features for Sign
  • Step 4 – Hang Trail Cameras to Inventory and Verify Wildlife Habits
  • Step 5 – Setup Treestands / Blinds
  • Step 6 – HUNT

Steps 1 through 3 are much simpler thanks to advancements in technology. When it comes to locating and scouting new hunting properties, onX is without a doubt the number one tool I have at my disposal.

My favorite feature about the onX system is that you can access your maps directly from a smart device, no GPS or cell service needed. Simply download the onX Hunt App and create an account to gain access. To get you started, onX offers a free 7-day trial to a premium membership which includes access to map data for 1 state.  If you don’t have a smart phone, don’t worry.  You can also use onX through your internet browser.

The paid membership structure looks like this:

Premium Membership
Access to 1 state and includes: Map Layers, Property Boundaries, Points of Interest, Custom Waypoints, and More.

If you currently own a handheld GPS, you can also purchase the Premium + Chip membership which allows you to access your premium membership data on your smart device but also includes a microSD card for use in compatible GPS units.  If you already own a chip, you can use your Premium membership to update it.

Elite Membership
The Elite Membership includes access to all 50 states and all Premium Membership features. This membership is by far the most popular, and when hunting many different states like I do, it is almost indispensable.

The great thing about the onX Hunt app is that it is packed full of great features, all designed to take your hunting experience to the next level. onX was also designed for hunters by hunters. At the backbone of the onX Hunt app is a panel of powerful tools/features: Map View, Map Layers, Off-Grid, My Content, Map Tools, Tracker.

As an individual who hunts multiple states throughout the year, I find the elite membership to be a great deal. I typically hunt Ohio and Indiana every spring and fall, and there are usually a few other states mixed in. But even if you are just planning a hunt, having access to data in multiple states can help you make a decision on where to next pursue your game.

Map View
The primary map view provides access to three main views: Satellite, Topo, and Hybrid(satellite images with topo overlaid). At the top of the map view is a “hamburger” menu-icon that allows you to you quickly manage your account and map settings. Within the map settings you can toggle the units from Imperial to Metric. You can toggle the coordinates between Decimal, UTM, and DMS. You can enable cross-hair visibility and you can also show off-grid area outlines.  I love the “Pinch to Rotate” feature which allows you to change the orientation of your map to view your location from a specific vantage point. I find that 90% of the time, I have the hybrid view enabled. I like having access to the satellite imagery, but the topographical information also plays a big role in identifying funnels and other pinch points prior to taking your first step onto a property. Despite the amount of time I spend studying maps prior to my hunts, I also find myself looking at my map data during the hunt. Especially when I’m turkey hunting and trying to figure out where a bird has hung up on me!

Map Layers
The Map Layers option allows end users to configure what they see on their map view. The main feature of this tool is the ability to enable data for the state(s) you have access to within the onX Hunt App. Each state has different features available, but most states at least have layers for private and public land information. Additionally, you can also see satellite imagery, 24k topographic layers, and national roads and trails for all states.

On top of the state layers, you also have access to many National Layers including precipitation maps, wilderness layers, US Forest Service motor vehicle roads and trails, NWTF Wild Turkey Records, and RMEF maps. Many of the national map layers are free, however there are a few that are paid, these include Prairie Dog maps, B&C Trophy Big Game Records, and Eastmans’ MRS. All of these maps are packed full of great information and really help in your efforts to find a great hunting location. One great feature about these layers is that you can reduce the transparency of layers to easily stack layers.

A note about the private land ownership; the ownership information is generally only updated once per year, and it is dependent on county records with the state. So there is a possibility that landowner names may be inaccurate if a property has recent changed hands.  However, the app shows you the landowner’s tax address in addition to the overall acreage for the parcel, so if they do not live on the particular property chances are you know where to ask for permission.

Off-Grid
The Off-Grid feature is one of, if not my favorite feature available in the onX Hunt app. With the Off-Grid feature, you can download your map content for a specific area and go offline. This is great if you are planning a hunt in an area that you expect to have little or no cell phone reception to access the onX content. Your phone’s GPS will still work even without cell service.  To use this feature, simply download your map content to your phone, enable GPS on your device, and you are ready to go! While you of offline, you can still access all of your waypoints which is extremely important. During this time, you can also mark new waypoints and continue using the other features of the application that do not require data transfer over a network. I have more than my fair share of hunting spots that I have poor reception, so not only does this feature help me out when reception is light, I find that it also helps preserve battery life when I can avoid my phone constantly fetching data from the onX servers. This can essentially replace the need for a GPS if you have a way to charge your phone.

My Content
The My Content feature enables you to disable the view of stand locations, and other waypoint markers that you have added to your account. I often times find that when I am looking at a map from a wider/zoomed out view, I like to disable the my marked locations so that I have a cleaner view of the map.  Another great feature I like to enable/disable as needed, is property outlines that I have created. Often times, farms that I hunt are made up of multiple parcels. In this instance, I like to create one large outline of the property and then disable the state layers. Like I mentioned above, this often times helps me view a cleaner map.  Last but not least, you can also share waypoints and coordinates with your friends/hunting partners from this screen.  Just be careful that you aren’t sharing your favorite honey hole!

Map Tools
The Map Tools screen is packed with great features. Through this feature, you can measure line distances, outline and measure area, add waypoints, and mark location with custom icons. The vast majority of the time that I am using my onX, I am using the Map Tools. This feature is invaluable with measuring the size of food plots. This is helpful to not only help me determine how much food I will be providing to the wildlife in the area, but determine how much seed will be necessary to plant a given plot.

Another feature I really like about the onX measurement tools is that I can measure a particular trail or path of entry to a given hunting spot, and based on having a known distance, I can come up with a more educated estimate of the time I’ll need to get set up for a morning hunt. I find this feature particularly useful when hunting an area for the first time. It’s easy to get to and from a stand in the broad daylight, but when you are suddenly plunged into darkness and trying to stay quiet to boot, it is nice to have a good idea of how long it will take you to get you and your gear to your spot. This can be a real life saver and help you avoid a prematurely ruined hunt.

Additionally, all of your content can be sorted by type and by date.  This is particularly helpful if you can’t remember what you named a location/waypoint, but you recall when you created it.

Tracker
The tracker tool is useful when you want to track a particular hike or path you have travelled. I often times use this feature to help me trace my steps when approaching a stand on public property in the dark that I might not be extremely familiar with. I also occasionally use this tool when I hike with my family or kids, and once or twice I have used it to track a bike ride. The use cases for this feature are endless.

If you are the kind of person who relies on mapping technology to assist you in your hunting experience, I highly recommend you give onX a try. They have without a doubt changed the way that I approach hunting and property scouting in general. To learn more about onX, you can visit them at https://www.onxmaps.com/.

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