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Another Epic Journey in the Long Life of my Orion 25…

Another Epic Journey in the Long Life of my Orion 25…

I am hoping that my life is remembered as one of adventure, daring, and breaking new ground, while doing well for others and cutting new paths for others to follow. There are also things I am bringing with me on my life journey that are becoming part of the story. My wife, my kids, my kayak brand, and now my Coolers. We have a saying that came from Rolex, “you don’t own an Orion Cooler, you just keep it for the next generation.”  While we can’t prove that our coolers will last forever, they certainly are built that way and I am expecting mine to. What is happening to me now is that I am finding so many different adventures that I have used my cooler to be a part of, that they are becoming part of the overall story.
 
The latest chapter in this Orion 25 – Blaze, is one where it is strapped to the back of my Coosa HD fishing kayak on a whitewater kayaking expedition down the Ottawa River through the biggest rapids. The Orion is there to hold my food and beer for the trip which would last a couple of days. The concept of my trip was to run rapids to get to areas of the river that had side creeks, OxBows, and backwaters that held big fish.    
 
The trip started off by putting in where the whitewater rafters put-in on the High Adventure trips at places like Wilderness Tours. I loaded my Coosa HD for a three-day trip. The equipment for the trip was spread out to trim out my kayak for the whitewater.  My Big Agnes tent, pad, and sleeping bag were put in the front hatch because they were lightweight but took up a lot of room. If the bow of the kayak is floating high it will go over the waves better instead of through or under them.
 
My 4 fishing rods were stored in the rod tip protectors and strapped along side of the boat when running rapids.  The double bungee system on the side of the Coosa HD secures them well and I wasn’t worried about losing anything if I tipped over.    My Plano Guide boxes were stored in the seat pocket and were not going anywhere and were out of the way when I put the Seat in the low position.      
 
My only change of clothes, a Dickies sweatshirt and jeans, went in my dry bag that hangs on the back of the seat and would only be needed once it got cold at night and in the morning.
 
The cooler was strapped on with a cam strap through the tie down slots. The front strap secured it to the gear track metal bar and was likely all I needed to keep it in place.  I added a second strap, however, to the back and ran that strap under the rear hatch and even the worst whitewater beating would not be able to steal my cooler and food away from me.    
 
Heading down the calm, quiet lead-in to the river provides a surreal feeling. You are in your comfort zone, the river is like a lake, there isn’t a breath of wind in the morning, and it is like a picture from “on golden pond”. However, the river is about to explode into chaos and it goes from flat to massive all at once and the first rapid is a long one.      

Peter Holcombe paddled his whitewater kayak down and met me at the first rapid to take some photos, and I think he was hoping that I would provide him more action than I did. My line at “Phil’s Hole” was straight through the middle of it and while my sit on top Kayak was completely swamped and didn’t drain as fast as the big waves were filling it,  it still maneuvered well enough for me to paddle around the corner and out of the rapids without flipping. Four more rapids waited for me downstream, but not before I was able to do some exploring.
 
 
The exploring was about following side creeks up and away from the main river. Pulling my boat over beaver dam after beaver dam, I was able to get to crystal clear waters, filled with smallmouth bass, walleye, and pike for my first side trip.       Not sure how far I was going to go, or how long I would be there, I kept my boat loaded, and kept my cooler with me.    
 
Day 1 lunch was salami, cheese, ham, and pita bread with hummus. I didn’t drink any beer during the day as I didn’t know what was in store for me yet.   
 
The fishing was epic. I was primarily throwing the Rage Swimmer 3.25 on a jig head that David Dudley’s kids made for me.   I was pretty committed to catching fish on a wake bait as well but it didn’t  produce as many bites and even though there were more exciting, I wanted to catch lots of fish. I think I hit 100 fish by 1pm that day. Epic fishing is a great way to describe it. Nothing huge, but a few 3 pounders, and some 5 pound pike. 
 
I had to pull my boat all of the way back down that first creek, over all of the beaver dams and then out to the main river again, through a muddy creek that was too low to float my boat. My legs were muddy up to my knees.       
 
My next side trip was on the other side of the river downstream a ways and this would prove to be the highlight of the trip for fishing and camping. A small channel of the main river broke off and then back into the main river again. At the backside of that channel looked like a dead end, but it was a sand bar that had a little winding channel in it. I was able to drag my boat over a couple of shallow areas and then paddle the 5’ wide sandy bottom creek for about 1/2 mile. Two more carries over rocks and I got to a corner where the whole thing opened up to a hidden lake. The far side of this 60 acre lake has a circular sandy beach; perfect for camping. This time I decided to make camp and get my gear out of the kayak.  My Orion Cooler was put on the beach, while the beer became my beverage of choice for my evening of fishing. I set up my tent and collected enough wood for the night so that once the sun was setting I wouldn’t have to rush. Mostly I could pick up dead wood from the top of the island, but a stump that was just rotted enough for me to break big pieces off of was my wood of choice.     
 
Evening focus on fishing:  I didn’t have my Raymarine Dragonfly, and wish I did. This was a more complex bottom than I thought with water as deep as 40’, sandbars, rock piles, some wood, some deep grass, clams, etc..  However, I was very excited to explore this piece of water with my lures as I knew it would be full of great fish.
 
 
I started shallow with my Strike King Wake Shad and was able to get some bites from some 2 pound bass but I knew I was missing something.  After following a sand bar out I found a steep drop off with grass on the edge and hit a school of walleye. The first one I caught was a good 4 pounder and I was sure I had a nice pike. I was getting bit every cast with my Rage Swimmer 3.25 with a 3/8 oz jig head down at about 15’. The pike were hunkered down deep as well and I started pulling some of them up too! It was a great “soul night” with me just taking my time around the pond and finding what I could find. The sweet spot that night was around a sand island about the size of a car with grass and drop offs on both two sides.  The fish of all types were stacked up there. I was shocked at how I could throw my Rage Swimmer and let it sink to the bottom at 5’ and then slowly drag it over the tops of the short grass and down the drop off to about 15’. Somewhere in there a big pike, walleye, or bass would pick it up. The bigger pike were hunkered down in the deeper cool water and would just tap the bait, but the hook-up was almost automatic. Once the fight was on they really didn’t want to be landed. The walleye were fun to catch in that they were far from automatic. They would to a quick tap of the lure and you had to have the quick hook set or they would be gone.   The good news is that either the same one, or another one would hit it on the same cast if you missed the first one, most of the time. I was working on my walleye quick draw hook set all night and it kept me busy!      The smallmouth were also mixed in with the other fish down there. Their bite was more of what I am used to and the fight was easy to  recognize as well. They tried for about 5 seconds to stay deep and when that didn’t work they rocketed up for some big jumps.  I lost a few of them on the first jump as I wasn’t really trying to keep them underwater. Once I was getting near the 200 fish mark for the day it was more about getting the kind of bites I wanted then landing every fish.     
 
The sun got low and I was ready to make a fire, hang out, and eat dinner. The stars out here are amazing with zero light pollution, and crystal clear skies. Doing nothing but watching the stars is enough for me as an evening wrap up;  especially with a full stomach and a beer in hand.
 

 
I used my Werner Hooked Shuna fishing paddle as a shovel and made a big hole in the sand for my fire.  Kindling was plentiful so the fire started quickly and I was able to have a nice mix of beans, pasta, and bacon in the cast iron “Lodge”.      
 
The dew here in Ontario is amazingly thick, but every time you camp here it is tempting to sleep under the stars because the weather seems perfect for it. I have learned my lesson on this one before and set up my tent and rain fly as well.  By morning the rainfly will be soaked and dripping and everything will be as wet as if it rained an inch. I turned my Coosa HD seat upside down, brought all clothes in the tent or kept it in bags, and put bags on top of my Orion 25 so I would have a dry pad in the morning to sit on.  
 
My mind can focus on bigger picture things in these scenarios. I alternate between living in the moment, just taking care of what I am doing, and imagining the future, taking inventory of the present, and remembering the past. I think many of my best ideas come in times where I get away from everything and the noise is reduced to frogs and bugs, the visuals are a fire and stars, and the only questions I have to answer are the ones I ask myself.
 

 
The mornings are wet, but with zero wind and just a light fog on the water it is hard to not want to hit the fishing straight away.  The deep hole in the sand keeps the coals from last night’s fire centered and deep and it only takes a moment to get the fire going again. I left that burning for a welcoming back after the morning fishing. A few paddle strokes off of the bank and I am already in the target zone for some topwater action. First casts of each of my reels sprays the dew off of the line and makes the first ripples in the water. I can’t hold back a smile of pure relaxed joy and peace. Catching a fish will be nice, but there is nothing troubling my mind at that moment. An Osprey takes flight from her nest, a snake warms itself in the water, and fish are feeding along the banks. I forget that my bait is floating in the water, until the splash and sudden yank on my rod that brings me back into the moment as I suddenly go into tournament mode…crank it in, try to keep it from jumping, and land it fast without losing it. First fish of the day is a 3 pound smallmouth, didn’t seem to care that my Strike King Wake Shad had been stationary for a full minute or so.      
 
The sun came up and poked through the patchy clouds and quickly warmed everything up. Breakfast cooked over a fire, my tent dries, and it is time to find another adventure downstream. More big rapids, different types of water, bays, and fish.       
 
Packing is much easier the second time as everything I had on that island was going in my boat. No decisions to make on what to bring. I washed the cooking stuff in the water, using the sand to clean it. Covered the fire pit with sand and there was zero trace of my being there other than my footprints that will be washed away in the next rain. It was still a good 1/2 mile back to the river, pulling across rocks, over sand bars, and winding through the long shallow sandy creek.      
 
Getting to the river was just as exciting as getting to the hidden lake. The excitement of the river comes from the rapids that were just around the corner. My Orion cooler was a little lighter as I drank most of the beer, ate much of the food, and emptied all of the water that was in it. This made the rapids easier, and the portages easier. I had one rapid that I wasn’t going to run in my boat, Garvins. Perhaps if I fashioned some kind of thigh straps to hold me in the boat so I can crash through the big hole at the bottom and keep the boat right side up. I didn’t do that this time. I will come back and completing this rapid will be my next mission. I have been running it everyday in my Jackson Kayak Rockstar (whitewater kayak).     Portaging isn’t that hard as it is straight down the rocky cliff and the only real challenge is not getting run over by your own boat. Immediately at the bottom of the rapid you are in a special place in the river where the fish are stuck and can’t go up river anymore. There are fish stacked in that eddy, making fishing there like fishing in an aquarium. I never found anything too big, but there were “chubs”, walleye, bass, and pike all wondering what was upstream of that waterfall, or perhaps they were just waiting to see what washes over it.   
 
Lunch on the river is easy when your Orion Cooler is strapped on the kayak. The Lid opens and closes without removing any straps, a feature that makes all of the difference for convenience and keeping the cooler functional when tied down in trucks, on boats, or wherever. A local deli in Pembroke, Ontario, Ulrichs, makes the best salami, cheese, etc..   I had a brown bag full of linked salamis that kept me fed all day. Cold water to rehydrate after an evening of beers, cheese, pita bread and hummus for the flavor mostly made for a good 15 minute break, while sitting on a beaver dam looking at what should be another epic fishing bay.       
 
My RV is parked riverside just downstream of the main rapids of the Ottawa River at a place called “River Run”. Three more rapids to get there and one bay that isn’t too far off the main river that I have fished before and where I caught my only largemouth bass on this river. No largemouth this time, but a huge pike that broke my line in the lilly pads that completely destroyed my Strike King “Rage Swimmer” that I was fishing weedless and weightless on top of the water and lilly pads.        I didn’t tie another one one as the last mile of my trip would be fast water and I would stick with my spinnerbait.     
 
Another 10 fish or so on eddy lines just to assure my thumbs were well roughed up. Floating down the swift current is an easy way to travel. No motor, no pedaling, no paddling, just the liquid conveyor belt that goes to the ocean eventually after dumping into the St. Lawrence Seaway in Montreal. The entire length of it would be fun to fish. Perhaps that is a trip I’ll do one day.      
 
 
For now, I am content to beach my kayak and load it in the back of my Nissan Titan and drive it up the hill to my RV. I am back with my family and my kids want to go whitewater kayaking, yet my daughter announces to me that she lost a big fish on my rod that was at the RV. I see a future in her fishing as she is about as compulsive about it as I am. She also announces that she wants to go camping with the entire family on the river. I unpack from my trip, but leave everything ready to go, replacing my 2 person Big Agnes tent with a 4 person Big Agnes tent. I move my stuff to a 45 quart special edition Team Jackson Kayak Orion Cooler. It looks like we are doing a turn around trip! We won’t paddle the rapids with the family, but instead we’ll find a put-in below the first rapid, and paddle the flatwater to a good camping spot, and paddle back the next day.  Emily’s in-laws, Rick and Paula will come, and it will be a different trip full of games, stories, and likely lots of wine.     
 
My Jackson Kayak, and my Orion Cooler are both staples that make for awesome adventures. Just add a little sense of adventure, a little planning, some effort, and the rewards are memories of a lifetime.      
 
What’s Your Adventure? I want to hear about it!
🙂
EJ

Spearfishing Bluefin Tuna

Spearfishing Bluefin Tuna

 
After working a full week in Northern California, I headed my truck South and by Saturday morning I found myself 60 miles offshore from San Diego, sitting on the back of my good buddy Matt Lopez’s boat the Mojito suited up with a giant speargun in my hand!
 
Matt and Wyatt were driving the boat and looking for schools of tuna, and Jay and I were geared up waiting for the word of when to jump in and dive…
 
All of a sudden Matt kills the engines and yells “GO, GO, GO!”
 
I jump in, take one last breath and dive down into the bright blue water…
 
I kick down to 40 feet, level out and look up and see a school of Bluefin Tuna swimming by!!!
 
Take aim with the massive gun, pull the trigger…and my heart breaks when I see the shaft sail over the back of the tuna!
 
Come up and get back on the boat and apologize to everyone for blowing the shot…
 
7+ hours go by with countless dives on schools of fish that would disappear before we could see them…
 
Was getting exhausted physically and mentally as the hours went by and thinking I had blown my one shot at one of these beautiful fish….
 
Matt kills the engines again, and yells to me to GO and kick to my right where a flock of birds was crashing…
 
I jump in and kick as hard and fast as I can, scanning the waters for any sign of fish…
 
All of a sudden I see a flash, and another….could it be?!?! 
 
I take a quick breath and drop and all of a sudden the water beneath me is FULL of tuna…it was if the ocean floor had been replaced by fish!!  
 
I drop down some more until I feel like I am in range for a shot…
 
Pick one out and take aim but it is moving fast and I remember what Matt had told me about not trying to track one of these fish with the gun…
 
I stop and keep my gun aimed at one spot and another fish glides in, and as soon as it’s head is in front of my gun I pull the trigger…
 
In slow motion I see the shaft fly through the water and hit the fish…in the tail!!!
 
I see the fish veer off and head down followed by the breakaway floatline, and I kick back up to the surface with the gun and can see the float is vertical and bobbing up and down!!
 
I yell out to Matt and Wyatt that I shot one and tell them it is a tail shot and I am not sure how solid the shot was!!
 
Wyatt suits up to get in and help me, and I clip the gun off to the second float and start slowly pulling the floatline up through the tuna clip on the float…
 
I can feel the fish fighting down below and I am terrified that it will pull off and get away!!
 
I try and go as smooth and steady as I can and after what seems like forever the fish comes into view about 50/60 feet below…
 
Jay and Wyatt drop down and both see that the shot is actually super solid and the slip tip is toggled in the tail…Wyatt puts a shot through the head just to be sure and comes up and tells me the fish is secure. 
 
I work it up as close to the surface as I can, make sure that I am free from floatlines and cable and swim down and grab the fish by the tail, wrap my legs around it and get my hand in it’s gills.
 
I pull some gills, cut the membrane, and stab it in the head and enjoy the moment while the blood pumps out and surrounds us in a bright red cloud.  
 
After swimming the fish back to the boat, Wyatt cuts the heart out and I eat it (super tasty!) and we get all the guts and gills out.
 
Spend another couple of hours trying to get Jay on a fish, but we couldn’t make it happen and once it is dark we start heading back in.
 
By now the fish had cooled down (at first it was HOT to the touch!!) and we get in the kill bag full of ice.
 
Fish weighed 52.1 pounds bled, gilled and gutted….my previous biggest speared fish was a 31 pound Striper.
 
Don’t make it back to Matt’s house until 3am and I am BEAT.
 
Crash out and drive back to Watsonville in the AM after saying my good byes to Matt and his wife Suzie and their awesome daughters, and packing the fish on ice my Orion 85.
 
 
 
 
The Orion worked great and the meat quality was AMAZING even after driving all the way home.
 
My good friend Amadeo (www.abachar.com) comes over the next day and helps me fillet it up correctly, and Amadeo and my buddy Bryan and I scrape every bit off the carcass to make sure none is wasted.
 
 
 
After the fish was processed on Monday the feasting and sharing commenced, my daughters got super into making sushi rolls, and by Friday we had fed over 30 people from the one fish and it was all gone. : )
 
 
 
 
Incredibly grateful to Matt for giving me this opportunity, working so hard to make it happen, and to Jay and Wyatt for putting up with me all day. 
 
Here is a video of the amazing experience:
 

 
 
~ Jim Russell
Getting Started in Eastern Backcountry Hunting – What’s In My Daypack

Getting Started in Eastern Backcountry Hunting – What’s In My Daypack

Getting Started in Eastern Backcountry Hunting – What’s In My Daypack

Summer is here, and with the heat comes anticipation for the Fall. Now is great time to get in the woods to do some scouting, and it’s also a great time to get gear cleaned, inventoried, repaired if needed, breaking in the new boots, practicing with that new bow or rifle, and reviewing what goes in your pack. I get a lot of questions about what I carry, so I wanted to write an article for those Eastern backcountry hunters showing exactly what’s in my daypack, and explaining why.

For those looking to spend more time hunting the backcountry, I always suggest with day trips to start. Adding overnight gear adds another level of complexity and functional requirements, so I always encourage people to start with day trips, either half or full day. You’ll want to use these trips to learn what you need to carry just to hunt, and if successful, learn what it takes to field quarter an animal and pack it out. Once a few of those are under your belt, then add in carrying overnight and cooking gear.

On my day hunts I’m typically 2-5 miles from a road, with some type of terrain barrier whether it be steep country, a creek or river, etc keeping most people out, while also making dragging a deer out nearly impossible.

The empty pack pic above is from a November 2017 hunt in TN, from a rock I use as a natural blind to watch over a natural funnel corridor, before I packed a buck out. Let’s dig into my pack…..

  • 1) The Pack. A good backcountry day pack should be comfortable to carry with a light load, quiet when moving, but capable of comfortably carrying a heavy load from 60-100+ lbs if needed. I like packs that either have a dedicated meat shelf, or that have dual chambers where I can fill the main chamber with meat while keeping my clothing and other gear in another section of the pack away from the bulk of the blood. I also like outer straps to mount extra items that don’t fit inside, or can secure a rack for the pack out. There are a lot of good options on the market – find ones that fit your body, and don’t be afraid to test them in the store with some weight. In these pics I was using a Sitka Bivy 30. It has a large main chamber that I keep most of my gear in, while I keep camera gear and quick-to-grab items in the outer chamber or top floating pocket. Once a deer is down, that outer and top pockets are big enough for me stuff everything from the main chamber into, and the main chamber holds all my game bags. It has enough of metal frame system to support the heavy load for my pack outs of a single-deboned mature whitetail in one trip, if needed.

 

  • 2) Weapon. It’s your choice, based on legal season, competency level, and personal goals. Weight does come into play, so keep that in mind in your selection as a few extra pounds can start to weigh you down over time. In this case, it was muzzleloader season, and I was carrying my Thompson Center Pro-Hunter .50cal. The same one used in the premier of the Orion Chronicles. For optics on my muzzleloader I use a Leupold Ultimateslam 3-9, and in the terrain I hunt shots are typically 15 – 75 yards. I keep one load of a 250 grain Thompson Center Shockwave sabot and two Pyrodex pellets in the chamber, and a couple more stored in a carrier strapped to the butt of the rifle stock.

  • 3) Boots. Don’t skimp on boots or your feet will get mad at you. Find good ones that fit your feet well. They should be comfortable and fairly quiet to hike in, but supportive enough for the terrain you’re hiking in and carrying out heavy loads. My feet are narrow and low volume, and I like boots that fit that foot shape. I hunt off-trail in steep, wooded and rocky country, and have always preferred climbing and mountaineering boots. On this hunt I was wearing Scarpa’s R-Evolution Plus Gore-Tex boots. I find they have great fit and sneaker like fit on my foot, but enough support for hard, heavy miles off trail. I typically wear a mid to heavyweight merino wool sock from Farm to Feet depending on temperatures.
  • 4) Clothing system. Be prepared for long days and pay attention to weather forecasts and winds. I typically enter the woods around 4AM, a couple hours before sunrise, and may not come out until after dark. Temps could start in the 20’s-40’s, peak in the 40’s-70’s, and then drop again. I put a lot of heat out when I hike, and try to keep sweating minimal for scent management. I’ll strip down for the hike in, so I start off cold and build up my body temp as I go. Once I get to my spot, I’ll wait a little bit for my body heat to keep pushing moisture out, before throwing layers back on for a long, chilly sit. For this hunt I was wearing Sitka’s SubAlpine system, with merino boxers and tall merino socks that practically cover enough lower leg to be long underwear under Mountain Pants, and on my torso the Core Shirt, Traverse Shirt, and for an extra insulation layer once seated, the Kelvin Lite Hoody. I like thin merino gloves, a mesh facemask, and a warm hat as needed. With that setup I can usually manage my sweat on the way in, stay warm ‘enough’ until the morning sun hits the slope I’m sitting on, and be comfortable the rest of the day. It also packs small enough for me to stuff extra layers away if I have to for a pack out. Hunter orange is required in Tennessee, so that’s a blaze Orion hat and a Sitka vest.

  • 5) Sitting Pad. I don’t like having a cold, wet, or numb butt. A thin, light sitting pad goes a long way in keeping comfortable on ground sits which I generally do. I carry the Thermarest Z-Rest Seat Pad. It’s super light, waterproof, and adds just enough insulation and cushion for long sits on frozen or hard ground. When I do have a trophy to pack out, I put it between the pack and the underside of the skull to help keep blood off the pack. Bonus tip – if you are doing an overnighter in sub-freezing conditions and cooking with canister fuel, put it under your fuel canister to keep it insulated from the snow or cold ground and burning efficiently.

 

  • 6) Rattling antlers. Optional to carry, but there’s nothing more fun than engaging with whitetails during the rut. I like carrying the real thing, and I’ll bang them together and stomp around trying to make a ton of noise during certain times of the year when bucks are in the rut and extra territorial. I’ve never seen two bucks fight in mid-air, so I get up and stomp, kick sticks, and try my best to sound like 8 hooves getting after it. It helps to get the blood moving and take a chill off too.

 

  • 7) Grunt call. Along with the rattling antlers, I’ll try to talk to bucks when I can. I carry the Extinguisher call after seeing how well it worked for my friend Sean at Linehan’s Outfitting Company in Montana. It has a slider to change the pitch from fawn to doe to buck, making mixing up your calls easy. It can definitely help bring a buck in, or freeze one in his tracks. If or when I move from spot to spot mid day, I’ll often even sprint in short step bursts, or a consistent shuffle with it in my mouth, grunting as I go, just like a buck on a mission does. I’ve also used that technique to move in on wild hogs in swamps in GA and SC without spooking them. I think sometimes if you’re going to move and have to make noise, like a wind change, don’t fight noise, embrace that animals make noise too, and make it sound as realistic as possible.

 

  • 8) Windicator. AKA chalk dust, is always on me, sometimes two bottles, one in my pocket and one on my chest binocular holder. Use it often in the Eastern whitetail woods. A puff every half hour or so will help you learn the wind patterns in your hunting area, help you learn the thermals in steep terrain, and help you know when it’s time to move. I will move at any time of the day if the wind at the spot I’m hunting is no good.

 

  • 9) Optics. In the dense terrain I usually hunt it’s rare to be able to see more than a hundred yards, but I still always carry a pair of binoculars. They’ll help you see through the brush when needed, and watch wildlife. From the rock in the picture I’ve watched deer, a black coyote, a leucistic wild turkey, owls and hawks, and plenty of squirrels. I keep it in a Sitka Bino Bivy chest carrier where it isn’t taking up space in my pack, and is easy to grab when needed. When I’m sitting, I generally set it beside me on the ground in the chest carrier with the flap open to minimize motion and sound. These are Leupold 10×42 Pro Guide HD’s, which offer a nice balance of magnification versus weight in lightweight, durable package, with incredible optical clarity.

 

  • 10) Game Bags. If all goes well, that pack you’re carrying is going to be put to work hauling an animal out for you. A key skill to learn is field quartering (a process we’ll get into more detail on another time, but my friend Randy Newberg has a lot of good Youtube videos on the subject), and a key tool that’s always in my pack are quality, breathable, light game bags. I first learned to quarter and pack an animal on a carbou hunt in Quebec, and that one thing changed the way I hunt and become my preferred way to get an animal out of the field and into my Orion, and then my freezer. Good game bags keep bugs off the meat, help it cool quickly, and help keep your pack clean. I use TAG bags from Pristine Ventures in Alaska. They come in a bunch of sizes suited well for various game, and I keep a whitetail kit ready and marked with a ‘W’ for my Eastern hunts with 4, 14 x 22” bags for quarters (usually but not always deboned) , and two small 11 x 14” bags for tenderloins and backstraps and other random parts. I also usually keep a pair of disposable gloves and some alcohol wipes in the bag. They are washable and reuseable, and can double as snake carrying bags – if you’re into that sort of thing 🙂 Make sure you know the game laws for your area in regards to evidence of sex requirements before packing any animal out of the field.

 

  • 11) Water Bottles. Staying hydrated in the backcountry is key to your health, comfort and safety. I always carry two bottles, one in easy reach, and one in the pack as backup. Once one is empty, my ‘get water’ radar is on to refill them both. I like to carry one Nalgene bottle, and one Liberty bottle (see #15 as to why).

 

  • 12) Satellite Messenger. Where I hunt there is no cell service. To communicate with family and friends, whether it’s ‘I’ll be late for dinner cause I got one down’ or ‘I’ll trade beer for help packing a deer out’ or ‘I’m hurt and need help getting out’, the ability to communicate anywhere in the world via 2-way text is made possible by my DeLorme Inreach satellite messenger. It can send and receive texts, and is great for both safety and peace of mind. Various plans are available to fit your budget and needs, and you can turn them on and off by month to suit your hunting schedule and travel needs without spending a bunch of money during months you’re not out in the field.

 

  • 13) TP. Zip lock bag with toilet paper. If nature calls, I tend to answer it.

 

  • 14) Snacks. I usually carry enough snacks to last 1.5 days. One day of hunting, and enough to get me through a night and a morning breakfast if I had to spend the night out. That usually consists of energy bars like Epic, Luna, almonds, trail mix, and home made game jerky like moose or venison. I find a little bit of taunting, ironic humor by eating wild game while hunting wild game.

 

  • 15) Electrolyte Powder. Back to #11 above, of the two water bottles I carry, the Liberty bottle gets water only, but in the Nalgene I’ll usually have water and an electrolyte powder. I do that since I find the wider-mouthed Nalgene easier to clean. For the powder I’ll mix in MTN OPS Yeti or Enduro at home, and carry a packet of their Enduro powder with me in the field for flavoring filtered water and getting more electrolytes back into my body. I prefer to mix lightly, a half or third of a packet per bottle refill.

 

  • 16) Water Purifier. I know some clean springs with water coming out of the ground where I don’t even bother to filter, but usually I’ll filter everything, and a very, light and functional filter has proven to be Mountain Safety Research’s (MSR) Trailshot. It’s easy to use, not very expensive, fills a bottle quickly, and packs down to nothing. I’ll usually have some purification pills in my pack too just in case something goes wrong with the filter or it’s well below freezing, but pills take time to work and filters are instant.

 

  • 17) Paracord. 10-20 feet of paracord just comes in handy sometimes. Good for backup bootlaces, but usually intended to help me with field quartering. I’ll use it to help hold a leg out of the way if needed, or once a quarter is removed rather than deboning bent over, straining my back, I like to tie that quarter to a small tree or branch. Hanging it while taking the meat off the bone at a good height to do while standing upright helps keep your back ready for the packout.

 

  • 18) Knives. Take your pic, there’s a bunch of great ones out there. I like knives with S30V steel that is great at holding a sharp edge for a long time. I also like to have a smaller scalpel based knife. In this case I was carrying Benchmade’s Grizzly Creek, which is fairly light and easy to carry, with a combo gut hook that flips out on one side, and a nice blade shape for skinning and breaking the animal down on the other. I really like the feel and classic look of the wood handle scales on a modern hunting knife. I also carry a Havalon Piranta scalpel knife, with extra blades. I prefer it for fine work, whether deboning muscle by muscle, or particularly for caping skulls in the field, removing eyeballs from sockets, etc.

 

  • 19) Headlamp with extra lithium batteries. Going in and out in the dark means you’ll need to be able to see well in the dark. Headlamps keep your hands free, and make hiking in and out in the dark easy. My go-to headlamp is the Princeton-Tec Vizz. It’s waterproof, has a button setting that keeps it from coming on accidentally in your pack and killing your batteries, and has 3 settings – red LED, bright LED, and low LED. The red LED is the first setting, which game has a hard time seeing, so when you press it on you stand less of a chance of spooking any game that might be in the immediate area. It’s just bright enough for me to hike by in the dark. The bright LED, 200 lumen, are like hi-beams on your car – very bright and light up the woods and make hiking a breeze. The low LED is a good white light for working around camp and doing things close, and can be a good photography aid during low light. I always carry an extra set of lithium AAA batteries as they are not degraded by cold like alkalines are, are much lighter to carry, and last a lot longer.

 

  • 20) iPhone (Not Shown). Even though I don’t have cell service where I go, I still carry my iPhone for its camera, and for it’s mapping and GPS capabilities in apps like Gaia and On-X Hunt for finding public and private land boundaries, marking game sign locations, etc.

 

  • 21) GoPro (Not Shown). My field cameras tend to be an iPhone and a GoPro. These pics were all taken on a GoPro Hero 5. I use GoPro’s for still photos more than video. For a mount it’s usually their 3-Way which has a small built in tripod, or the Grip Mount, for clipping to trees or braches.They are great for up close shots, but not good for much at distance. Sometimes I will carry a Nikon D7500 DSLR with an 18-300mm lens which equates to around 20X optical zoom for wildlife photography. You see a lot of cool things in the woods, and sometimes shooting on film is just as rewarding as shooting with a weapon.

 

  • 22) Quick Clot (Not Shown). I usually don’t carry much for a medical kit. Maybe I should, but I’ve never been prone to common field medical needs like blisters since my boots always fit well and are broken in, and I guess I figure most things I can just deal with as needed on day hunts. One thing you can’t just deal with and need to manage quickly if it happens on your own is blood loss, so I do carry a packet of Quick Clot gauze pads under my pack’s top pocket. That way if a knife blade or broadhead or whatever somehow goes somewhere it shouldn’t, I am a bit more prepared to deal with stopping bleeding quickly. It’s also there for when I have my blood trailing teckel Jaeger on a recovery mission, in case he impales on something or gets seriously injured while on a track.

So that’s it, a complete summary of what’s on my back in Tennessee in the Fall. I’ll tweak that as needed based on weather and terrain. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them below or look me up on Facebook and I’ll do my best to answer them. If you’re looking to connect with fellow hunters interested in getting out in the Eastern backcountry, consider joining Backcountry Hunters & Anglers – an organization focused on protecting your public lands so opportunities to hunt like this are available now and always.

Good luck this season in the backcountry, or wherever your hunting adventures take you.

Damon

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Antelope Chili & Bluegill at -15º

Antelope Chili & Bluegill at -15º

Antelope Chili & Bluegill at -15º

The ladies of Women Ice Angler Project (theiceangler.com) cooked some amazing antelope chili on the ice in Otter Tail County while dialing in some slab crappies and big bull bluegills this winter. Temps were brutal at -15. They call this Minnesota county with 1048 lakes Panfish Paradise and the gals found out why! This bluegill, caught by K.J. Houtman, measured nearly 11” long! “I’ve never seen a bluegill this huge,” said Houtman. “What a blast.”

Otter Tail County is great for summer and winter fishing with resorts on hundreds of lakes. Check out all the resources for where to stay and what to do at https://ottertaillakescountry.com/. This trip the ladies booked with Garret Svir at Slab Seeker Fishing for the first day on the ice and stayed at East Silent Lake Resort.

Here’s the recipe for the chili:

  • 1 lb. antelope ground breakfast sausage (or deer venison ground)
  • 2 lb. mild Italian sausage (bulk ground)
  • 2 cans refried beans (traditional)
  • 1 can Bush’s mild chili beans (with sauce)
  • 3 cans petite diced tomatoes (with garlic and Italian seasoning)
  • ½ c tomato paste
  • 3 – 4 c chicken stock
  • Italian seasoning
  • Fresh ground salt & pepper

Brown meat and drain off grease. Stir in refried beans until mixed. Add chili beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken stock. Bring to hard boil and then back down to simmer low boil. Season to taste with Italian blend seasoning and fresh ground salt and pepper. Simmer/cook for as long as you’re able to wait—the longer the better!

Garnish options for the chili include sour cream, cheddar cheese and Fritos. Enjoy!

 

Find Your Track

Find Your Track

I enjoy the company of dogs immensely. A day of hunting, fishing, kayaking, hiking, socializing at a brewery or just relaxing on the couch, is made better by sharing those experiences with a well behaved, happy dog.

But not every experience is for every dog. I have two wirehaired vizslas who are very different. They both love to hike and ride in the car. My female is a wonderful kayak companion but is not comfortable around crowds. My male, a therapy dog, can calmly spend all day at a festival but will flip a boat if he spots a fish. They each have strengths and weakness, passions and preferences, and finding them is one of the most rewarding aspects of dog ownership. So we find ways to spend quality time together doing what they love most.

But they are getting up in age, so last year I decided to add a puppy to the crew. I’ve been watching litters of miniature wirehaired dachshunds coming out of Zoldmali Kennels in Hungary, premier breeders of wirehaired vizslas too. I’ve never been a small dog person, but these little guys seemed different. And not just in a Big Dog in a Small Body way, we have a Jack Russell for that. But this breed, particularly dogs of the European hunting bloodline, ‘Teckels’ as they’re called, are little badass, outdoorsy hunters.

A litter was born. A male was chosen. His wirehaired coat color is called wild boar. I named him Winslow before we even met, an homage to Winslow Homer, a favorite artist whose paintings of the wilderness and nature’s raw power have captivated me since I was a boy. And when he arrived from Hungary with his breeder, he terrified me. He was tiny, the size of a hamster. I wore out many pairs of socks sliding my feet around the house for those first weeks, terrified of stepping on him. How was going to be my rugged little outdoorsy dog?

But before long he was fitting right in with the other dogs, somehow convincing them all that he could do whatever he wanted to them without consequence. He grew to a lean, mean, thirteen pounds. He hikes steep trails alongside my big dogs and it’s fun to watch him work out obstacles and overcome them, never looking for help. His wiry coat came in perfectly and helps him push through grass and weeds and everything else a dog with a two-inch ground clearance encounters. And he is tireless. But what does he want to do? What is his passion? I needed to find it.

I read an article online about some folks in Vermont who track wounded deer using wirehaired dachshunds, who can be particularly suited for the task. As a deer hunter with many hunter friends, this seemed like an activity with a lot of potential to spend time with my dog in the woods during my favorite time of year. I did some more research, joined a great group called United Blood Trackers, and purchased what is almost universally considered the bible of blood tracking, John Jeanneney’s Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer.

But before I even got very far into the book, I wanted to do a simple test to see if Winslow would show any interest, enthusiasm or aptitude for the task. I tied a piece of deer hide to a rope and a long pole, and dragged it through tall grass, making a couple turns and leaving the hide at the end, about a hundred yards out. I put him at the start point and he RAN down the line to the hide. Tried again, longer with more obstacles and turns, through taller grass. He made quick work of that one too. Soon we graduated to just tracking a few drops of diluted deer blood every five or ten yards through the woods for hundreds of yards. He could do this, I thought.

But we both grew a bit bored of the practice tracks, so as deer season approached I put the word out that we would like to try a real track, even if it was to a known end. We got a few opportunities, a friend knew where his deer ended up but gave Winslow a chance to track it. He found the hunter’s arrow, then with just one trouble spot, located his first deer. He didn’t quite know what to make of it, but we praised him enthusiastically.

Then there were three more very different tracking experiences from which we both learned a lot.

My friend shot a big buck with a muzzleloader and the deer ran through “very thick cover.” It was dark out, but I really wanted to help my friend find this deer. When I got to the location, I couldn’t believe the cover. It was a huge field of six foot high honeysuckle, left untouched for many, many years to weave itself into a near impenetrable web of wickedness that I could barely walk through. I lifted Winslow over a hedgerow and placed him down so I could climb over. When I did he disappeared into the growth. We never even found blood to start, but I asked him, “Where is it?” and he excitedly bounded through the stuff on the trail of something. Or nothing, I never knew. But watching him disappear under the deer-trampled honeysuckle, then jump up like a dolphin getting a breath and disappearing again, over and over for hundreds of yards, was exhausting. We followed deer trails through that stuff for an hour until I was afraid of getting hopelessly lost just 200 yards away from my truck. On that night I learned this is one tough boy.

On another occasion, a man I don’t know got my number from someone and called me about a monster buck he put a good hit on with a compound bow. He had found blood, though only a few drops, in three different spots in a large expanse of sparse woods. The deer ran fast and bled little, and I saw no evidence of a fatal hit. But we were there, though the track was 60 hours old at this point with a small snow shower and melt in between. But the hunter found the first droplet on an overturned leaf and Winslow put his nose to the ground. In 200 yards he found a second spot of blood, and in 100 more he came to a creek. He crossed it at an odd angle and I asked the hunter if that seemed right. He said that was exactly how he saw the deer cross. On the far side was the last blood drop we could find. We tracked in the dark for another half mile or so, but then I just couldn’t tell from Winslow’s body language if he was still on the same deer, or a fresher deer that crossed the track, or if we were just out for a walk at that point. So I called it off. But on that night I knew he had the nose for it.

So he was showing some skills, but I didn’t have the experience to read him, and he hadn’t had much success to get excited about. The season was winding down and I almost dreaded resorting to more training tracks. Plus, my freezer was empty. I needed a deer for both of our sake. Then one day after work I spotted a spike buck on my property. I grabbed my muzzleloader and shot it from about 100 yards out. He ran less than a hundred more and disappeared into a creek bed.

I grabbed Winslow and put on his tracking collar and bell (he wears a bell so he can easily associate the equipment with the task). We approached the hit spot from the opposite direction as the deer ran, and we were still thirty yards out when Winslow got extremely excited. He pulled his tracking lead like a freight train straight past where the deer was shot. I tried to slow him down to look for blood, but he insisted with every fiber of his being that he knew where the deer was. I didn’t have to worry about finding blood. He brought me straight to the deer and proudly circled it, sniffing and tasting it. For the first time in his life he reached a deer before any human. And he had an absolute blast getting there.

Time will tell if he and I will make a good tracking team, we both have much to learn. But this season was cause for encouragement. And maybe a dog with two-inch legs standing on a little spike buck in the creek bed in my front paddock isn’t exactly the stuff of a Winslow Homer painting, but watching it all ‘click’ for him after training and trying and coming up empty, watching him run full of purpose and excitement to his first real deer, is a memory I will cherish forever.

~ Ed Felker

Top 3 Post-Hunt Packing Tips For Orion Coolers

Top 3 Post-Hunt Packing Tips For Orion Coolers

My top priority once I’ve harvested an animal in the field is meat care. That process starts with getting it off the animal and getting it cool, dry, and protected from bugs. Then it transitions to getting it processed and/or stored for transport. Followed by getting it home and into a freezer. If everything goes well, the process ends with delicious meat on a dinner plate.

Once you own and start using an Orion in your everyday life you realize that it helps getting to a hunt, during life in camp and the journey home. In this article I’ll focus on getting home, as that’s where the performance of an Orion really shows its value. These are my top three packing tips for keeping that meat cold and safe for a long journey home.

1) Pack It Cold.

I like to think of a cooler like it’s a rechargeable battery. A fully and optimally ‘charged’ cooler means that the cooler itself is cold when cold stuff fills it. Heat is energy, whether it’s cold energy or hot energy. If the cooler is hot when cold stuff goes into it, that means cold energy is going to leave the stuff and go to the cooler body to cool it off too, and some of that ‘battery’ is discharged. Ultimately when things stabilize (nature likes things to be equal), that means the overall sum of cooler and stuff will be warmer and the battery weaker. If the cooler is cold when cold stuff goes into it, no energy needs to transfer, everything stays equal, and the battery stays fully charged. It’s then the insulation’s job to keep that battery charged as long as possible from the outside.

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Shown: Orion 65

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Orion 65

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What all that means is if you can, get your cooler as cold as possible before you fill it. If there’s a walk-in freezer or refrigerator in camp, put your cooler in it the night before you leave with the lid open. If there’s no cooler or freezer but it’s cold at night, just leave it out, empty, with the lid open. If it’s hot but there’s a cold hose in camp, fill it with cold water and let it sit a few hours, then dump it before you head to the processor. If you have a bag of ice to spare, throw it in and close the lid and let that ice melt down and drop the interior temperature before you put frozen meat in it. There’s a lot of ways to get the inside of a cooler cold before you fill it, the important thing is to keep that in the back of your mind and do whatever you can.

The other important factor of packing it cold is the temperature of what you put inside. If you put hot contents in a cold cooler, and/or on ice, that’s still heat energy vs. cold energy and no matter how good your cooler is it can’t start insulating until the temperature of the internal contents stabilizes. Not all ‘cold’ is created equal – just because something is frozen doesn’t mean it’s not on the hairy edge of melting. Zero degree ice is just as solid as 32 degree ice but has far more cold energy stored up. The colder the contents, the more charge that battery is going to have.

2) Pack It Dense.

Now that we’ve done the best we can putting cold things into a cold cooler, the next factor is packing density. Dead air space is not your friend when it comes to maintaining cold energy. It counts as ‘stuff’ you’re adding to the cooler. If it’s 70 degrees out when you’re packing 10 degree blocks of meat into the cooler, it means there’s 70 degree ‘stuff’ in the cooler too, you just can’t see it. The more cold stuff you pack in, the less 70 degree air there is around it. Think of frozen meat packs like cold atoms in the battery. The more you pack in, the more charge your battery has. They help keep each other cold. They like to be cold. Help them be cold!

orion filled with meat packs

Once you’ve packed everything you need to pack and the cooler still isn’t full, fill that dead air space the best you can with ice. Ice as cold as you can get. ‘Wet’ ice is near 32 degrees and will want to slide out of your palm when you put it in your hand. Avoid it if you can. In ice machines that means digging down under a few bags to get the good stuff (that hasn’t been exposed to the warm air that comes in every time somebody opens the door to get a bag out and we’re trying to get rid of in our cooler). Good, cold ice is that frosty ice that sticks to the palm of your hand and almost burns it. That’s what you’re looking for in a perfect world.

If I’m packing meat that’s been sealed in plastic, I’ll use ice just because it’s usually the easiest to get and if it melts, things don’t get soggy. If my meat is wrapped in paper, I’ll use ice if I have to, but I’ll go the extra mile to find dry ice. Dry ice vaporizes as it melts, cooling air around it faster, and it doesn’t make anything soggy since no liquid is produced.

3) Don’t Open It to Check.

My third most important tip is to have confidence in your cooler. It’s designed to do a job, it’s good at it, let it do it. If the air outside is warmer than inside the cooler, every time you open the lid of a cooler you let energy out and discharge more of the battery you made. Cold energy from the contents will once again have to cool down the fresh air that came in until they’re equal and the cooler can go back to doing its job of holding that temperature (which will now be warmer).

For added insurance, do what you can to put coolers inside of a vehicle and out of direct sunlight. Pack coolers themselves densely against one another. Pack sleeping bags around the coolers. Think of the cooler as a giant meat pack of itself now.

No matter how much I say not to open it, it’s still tempting, and you’ll do it just to make sure everything is OK. That’s OK if it helps you sleep, and eventually you’ll build up confidence in your gear and you’ll stop doing it.

Real World Case In Point: Newfoundland Moose

bull moose on newfoundland tundra

Most of my drives home after a big hunting trip are only around 2.5 days -easy work for an Orion. My longest drive home so far was from Newfoundland back to Tennessee. It was seven days from the day I packed the Orions with moose meat in Newfoundland to when I opened them to unload them into my freezer in Tennessee.dropping Orions for processing at Butcher Girls

For that trip with Dad we brought seven Orions to fit two bull moose (Six Orion 65’s and one Orion 85). We didn’t know if they’d be processed or just quartered, and you always want to have enough cooler space. In the end, a processor was able to get them processed, but not fully frozen by the time we picked them up. The meat was in that pre-frozen crunchy to the touch kind of state. So off the start I broke Tip #1 and what I was packing wasn’t as cold as I’d ideally want it to be. That’s life. Luckily it was fairly cold at night in Newfoundland so the coolers themselves weren’t hot when packing the meat inside.

packing ice into Orion coolers

Since all the meat was vacuum-sealed in plastic bags, the next stop after the processor was the Esso station to get ice. Once nice thing about very cold but not frozen meat is that it packs very dense since it forms to the cooler body, leaving very little dead air space. In each cooler there was just enough room left on top for one 10 lb bag of ice. We spread a bag in each cooler and closed the lid. I had to stack and power-squat the coolers from the tailgate into the bed of the truck – Six 65’s in the back, two stacked under the cap up against the cab and one down in front of them towards the tailgate. The 85 went on a hitch haul – in the sun, not the best, but nowhere else to put it.

Orion power squat

loaded up and leaving Newfoundland

From there it was a drive to a ferry, overnight ferry ride, couple days of driving to Vermont, couple days to South Carolina and another to Tennessee. I never opened a cooler in the back of the truck, just the 85 on the hitch haul since it was convenient. This photo was taken in my driveway right before unloading the meat into our chest freezer. 90% of the ice loaded at the Esso station in Newfoundland was still there and the meat was still in that semi-frozen crunchy state.

ice loaded down in Orion Cooler

Even with the less than ideal condition to start with, a ‘cooler battery’ I’d put around 80% charged to start, by the time we got home a week later it was still 75% charged. That’s performance that’s worth every bite. Bon appetite.

moose filet mignon - yum

Quick video below:

~ Damon Bungard

 

 

Trekking Poles

Trekking Poles

On a day off from my tourism job in Juneau, Alaska, I sat on my front deck enjoying a cup of coffee, reading a book, and taking in the view of the beautiful Gastineau Channel and Mt. Bradley towering above. My solitude was abruptly interrupted by a tourist on the sidewalk, “Wow, so this is the last frontier.” I peered over my book to see a man standing on a sidewalk less than a mile from downtown Juneau. He was sporting an adventure hat, a safari vest, and a pair of trekking poles. While I did not doubt that this “adventurer” was far from his normal life in a cubicle, the only response that I could muster was a chuckle. Perhaps it was my jaded view of tourists after a long summer of catering to them, but this was my opinion of those using trekking poles. I figured that “yuppie sticks” were merely a marketing ploy to take money from these urban trekkers on vacation.

On a recent backcountry hunt I experienced a paradigm shift. On this hunt, I brought along my brother in law, Shane. Shane has no background in hunting, but is well versed in backcountry travel as a mountaineer and a rock climber. Shane brought along his trusty trekking poles and we took to the trail, up and over some nasty terrain. I was fortunate enough to harvest a deer several miles in, and after taking care of the meat, my load for the pack out approached 100 pounds. Shane cruised along as I struggled to climb. He volunteered his poles, and though I had my preconceived notion about them, I gave them a try. What I experienced on the remaining hump to the truck changed my opinion of trekking poles. When I got home, I bought my own set, and now I don’t hit the trail without them.

Many hunters who have the same view of trekking poles, as I once had are missing out. These tools give you two more contact points on the ground and increase stability. This comes in handy when ascending, traversing, and descending steep terrain. Anyone who has spent time in rugged country has likely lost his balance and fallen. Something as simple as a turned ankle deep in the backcountry can be detrimental. Trekking poles increase traction and balance.

The use of poles will also reduce impact on joints by sharing the load carried by the legs with the arms, and making heavy loads more bearable. The poles allow you to propel with your arms, maintain a rhythm, and increase your speed. They promote good posture, with your hands above the heart and increase circulation. Overall, trekking poles are extremely beneficial to the backcountry hunter.

There are many options available to one looking for a pair of trekking poles that can range in price from 30 to hundreds of dollars. The pair Shane loaned me had seen many years and miles on the trail, and made a monumental difference on my trip. I found an inexpensive pair at Costco; carbon fiber, telescopic poles with carbide tips. Even though I have not tried every option out there, I am quite satisfied with them. The gear list for a backcountry hunter is ever growing, with hefty price tags attached to each item. I completely understand the skepticism of adding another expense, and an additional cost of looking like a granola yuppie on a day hike, but from my experience, trekking poles are an invaluable addition to my backcountry load-out.

We would love to hear your opinion on the matter, and your experiences using trekking poles on your hunt. Please comment below.

4 Reasons To Choose DIY Over Guided Hunts

4 Reasons To Choose DIY Over Guided Hunts

1. Do it for the satisfaction and challenge it provides.

I have been on guided hunts in the past. They were fun. Yet, to me, hunting is my area where I go out and challenge myself; where I learn something about what’s inside me; where I put myself in situation where I get to decide the outcome. It is hard to get that from a guided hunt. You never know how far you can push yourself until you are in that situation. Be prepared; study all you can and then get out there and challenge yourself. I bet you will be surprised.
 

2. For most of us, it’s how we learned hunting.

Where I started hunting northern Minnesota, we all hunted on our own. I didn’t know any guides or outfitters; didn’t know anyone who had ever hunted with one until I moved out west. I was lucky that I grew up with public lands out my back door. If not for public lands, I would not be a hunter.
 

3. It is how I connect with people.

I look at how important the public lands, and the opportunity they provide, are to the future of hunting in America. Most of the hunting on those public lands is self-guided hunting; the family who heads out for a long weekend, hoping to find some winter meat and make some life-long memories. Those are the people I connect with daily. And hopefully by seeing my TV show, they connect with my message.
 

4. Do DIY because shrinking public land access is an issue we need to combat.

Every study shows “access to places to hunt” as the reason people quit hunting or do not get into hunting. The greatest threat to hunting access in my part of the world is the politician who thinks our public lands are some sort of currency for them to repay political favors. I get rather animated when politicians start messing with hunting access, especially public land access that has taken hunters over a century to acquire. If hunting access had cost a dollar a day, I would not have had the money to become a hunter.
 
When something of value is built, as is the case with America’s public lands and the hunting access they provide, history shows that people and politicians will try to make those assets their own. We see it happening today. If these privateers are successful, their efforts will destroy a critical foundation to our hunting future; the public lands of America.
 
Given the importance these lands hold for the future of hunting in America, divesting Americans of these public lands is a battle that will be fought with the last breath in my body. And, I suspect the same answer would be provided by the millions of American hunters who depend on these public lands for their hunting access. The lands are there – go use them.
 
~ Randy Newberg, Hunter

SUP Rigging for Summer River Fishing: Orion 25 vs Orion 35?

SUP Rigging for Summer River Fishing: Orion 25 vs Orion 35?

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Featured cooler: Orion 35
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Orion 35

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Southern summer fishing! Cicadas blast a raucous, chitinous symphony across the river and heat and humidity wrap around you like a wet wool blanket. An Orion Cooler is an essential piece of summertime gear!

 

One of my favorite parings is my Jackson Kayak SUPerFISHal with my 25 or 35q Orion Cooler. The SUPerFISHal is Jackson Kayak’s paddleboard – an open, super-stable and ultra-customizable platform for fishing. With an Orion full of ice, beverages and lunch, the paddleboard is transformed! A comfortable, padded top, six different tie-down points, elevated seating position, GearTrac for mounting additional rod holders and cold, refreshing beverages in the middle of a sultry southern afternoon… what’s not to love?

My personal preference on the SUPerFISHal is the 35 quart size. It sits half an inch lower than the 25 (11” vs 11.5”) and a broader footprint (21.25″ x 15.5″ vs 17.75″ x 13.75″). These two factors working in concert mean an increase in stability on the FISHal as a seat. Because the Orion sits significantly higher than the seat on a traditional kayak, you’ll be able to spot more fish and structure. Casting accuracy is increased from this elevated position, and your hook set (and hook up!) ratio will improve.

I added a 4” section of GearTrac to the side of my SUPerFISHal and use YakAttack’s Vertical Track Tie-Down to secure my Orion to the deck if I’m headed into some dicey water. For the most part, I don’t lash it to the board.

Adding 1.5” YakAttack Screwballs to the GearTrac on the side of your Orion will let you mount fishing rod holders. I personally use the RAM Tube Jr because it can be reversed to accommodate either spinning or baitcasting rods. These super-convenient holders for your rods can be used for trolling lures on spinning rigs while covering some water. Loosen the drag on your reel until its nearly wide open, lob out a crankbait or whatever you’d like to troll, set your rod into the holder, start paddling and wait to hear that drag start screaming!

As my teammate Chris Funk put it, your Orion Cooler truly is a “multi-tool of cool”!

– Bridgett Howard

Baked Wild Turkey Chimichangas

Baked Wild Turkey Chimichangas

As disappointed as I was that I missed my turkey last year (See The Hunt For Patience: Angie’s Story), I was more determined than ever and sure that this year would be my year. Day after day we got skunked by a group of turkeys and it felt like history would repeat itself. Fourth day into our season it was rough to even get out of bed and not being able to get my favorite breakfast sandwich in the morning at the local gas station made it feel like the worst day ever.  After sitting out for an hour we thought we got skunked again and just enjoyed the beautiful sunrise and being able to spend time together. Little did we know that half an hour later I’d be tagged out! 

It’s amazing how fast our mindset can change. The day started out all wrong but turned into one of the most memorable days of my life. After sitting out and not seeing or hearing anything, we just accepted the fact we might go home empty handed. We were completely at peace with it and decided to make the best out of the day and just enjoy the beautiful pink sunrise when all of the sudden a lonely gobbler sounded off…

Turkey in freezer, we wanted to find a simple receipt to enjoy it with friends and family without slaving in the kitchen for hours and having to cut up 25 different ingredients.

Baked Wild Turkey Chimichangas

  • 2 cups of cooked Turkey (we slow cooked ours for 8-10 hours and shredded it)
  • 1 cup of your favorite Salsa
  • 1 tsp ground Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano Leaves (crushed)
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Green Onions (chopped)
  • 4 (8 inch) Tortillas (we used flour or low carb tortillas)
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • Diced Tomatoes, Guacamole, Sours cream etc (optional) for toppings.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix Turkey, Salsa, Cumin, Oregano, Cheese and Green Onions together. Divide into 4 and place on the lower half of each tortilla. Fold sides over filling. Roll up from the bottom (like a burrito) and place seam side down in a (greased) baking dish. Brush with melted butter. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Since all ingredients are cooked it’s personal preference how dark and crispy you want the Tortillas to be. Garnish with desired toppings (our favorite is just diced Tomatoes and Taco sauce)

Enjoy!

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This is an example page. It’s different from a blog post because it will stay in one place and will show up in your site navigation (in most themes). Most people start with an About page that introduces them to potential site visitors. It might say something like this:

Hi there! I’m a bike messenger by day, aspiring actor by night, and this is my website. I live in Los Angeles, have a great dog named Jack, and I like piña coladas. (And gettin’ caught in the rain.)

…or something like this:

The XYZ Doohickey Company was founded in 1971, and has been providing quality doohickeys to the public ever since. Located in Gotham City, XYZ employs over 2,000 people and does all kinds of awesome things for the Gotham community.

As a new WordPress user, you should go to your dashboard to delete this page and create new pages for your content. Have fun!

 

This is an example page. It’s different from a blog post because it will stay in one place and will show up in your site navigation (in most themes). Most people start with an About page that introduces them to potential site visitors. It might say something like this:

Hi there! I’m a bike messenger by day, aspiring actor by night, and this is my website. I live in Los Angeles, have a great dog named Jack, and I like piña coladas. (And gettin’ caught in the rain.)

…or something like this:

The XYZ Doohickey Company was founded in 1971, and has been providing quality doohickeys to the public ever since. Located in Gotham City, XYZ employs over 2,000 people and does all kinds of awesome things for the Gotham community.

As a new WordPress user, you should go to your dashboard to delete this page and create new pages for your content. Have fun!

 

This is an example page. It’s different from a blog post because it will stay in one place and will show up in your site navigation (in most themes). Most people start with an About page that introduces them to potential site visitors. It might say something like this:

Hi there! I’m a bike messenger by day, aspiring actor by night, and this is my website. I live in Los Angeles, have a great dog named Jack, and I like piña coladas. (And gettin’ caught in the rain.)

…or something like this:

The XYZ Doohickey Company was founded in 1971, and has been providing quality doohickeys to the public ever since. Located in Gotham City, XYZ employs over 2,000 people and does all kinds of awesome things for the Gotham community.

As a new WordPress user, you should go to your dashboard to delete this page and create new pages for your content. Have fun!

 

This is an example page. It’s different from a blog post because it will stay in one place and will show up in your site navigation (in most themes). Most people start with an About page that introduces them to potential site visitors. It might say something like this:

Hi there! I’m a bike messenger by day, aspiring actor by night, and this is my website. I live in Los Angeles, have a great dog named Jack, and I like piña coladas. (And gettin’ caught in the rain.)

…or something like this:

The XYZ Doohickey Company was founded in 1971, and has been providing quality doohickeys to the public ever since. Located in Gotham City, XYZ employs over 2,000 people and does all kinds of awesome things for the Gotham community.

As a new WordPress user, you should go to your dashboard to delete this page and create new pages for your content. Have fun!

 

This is an example page. It’s different from a blog post because it will stay in one place and will show up in your site navigation (in most themes). Most people start with an About page that introduces them to potential site visitors. It might say something like this:

Hi there! I’m a bike messenger by day, aspiring actor by night, and this is my website. I live in Los Angeles, have a great dog named Jack, and I like piña coladas. (And gettin’ caught in the rain.)

…or something like this:

The XYZ Doohickey Company was founded in 1971, and has been providing quality doohickeys to the public ever since. Located in Gotham City, XYZ employs over 2,000 people and does all kinds of awesome things for the Gotham community.

As a new WordPress user, you should go to your dashboard to delete this page and create new pages for your content. Have fun!

 

This is an example page. It’s different from a blog post because it will stay in one place and will show up in your site navigation (in most themes). Most people start with an About page that introduces them to potential site visitors. It might say something like this:

Hi there! I’m a bike messenger by day, aspiring actor by night, and this is my website. I live in Los Angeles, have a great dog named Jack, and I like piña coladas. (And gettin’ caught in the rain.)

…or something like this:

The XYZ Doohickey Company was founded in 1971, and has been providing quality doohickeys to the public ever since. Located in Gotham City, XYZ employs over 2,000 people and does all kinds of awesome things for the Gotham community.

As a new WordPress user, you should go to your dashboard to delete this page and create new pages for your content. Have fun!

 

This is an example page. It’s different from a blog post because it will stay in one place and will show up in your site navigation (in most themes). Most people start with an About page that introduces them to potential site visitors. It might say something like this:

Hi there! I’m a bike messenger by day, aspiring actor by night, and this is my website. I live in Los Angeles, have a great dog named Jack, and I like piña coladas. (And gettin’ caught in the rain.)

…or something like this:

The XYZ Doohickey Company was founded in 1971, and has been providing quality doohickeys to the public ever since. Located in Gotham City, XYZ employs over 2,000 people and does all kinds of awesome things for the Gotham community.

As a new WordPress user, you should go to your dashboard to delete this page and create new pages for your content. Have fun!