Arriving back in camp, packs were immediately prepared for the morning. Encouraged by our bull encounter that night, it was now time to get serous. No more FUNTS. Come morning, tennis shoes would be exchanged for boots, and packs would be strategically loaded with gear needed for hunting the DMZ. Everything was inspected and ready to grab in the early morning hour: water, rope, GPS, food, knives, rain gear, etc.
With packs neatly lined up by the camper door, we were restless but not quite ready for bed. One of the bonuses of hunting from a camper is having the luxury of watching movies in camp. I know, I KNOW... some may frown upon this, but honestly, it is sometimes nice to cozy up in your camper, and fall asleep to a hunting video or movie while the rain dances down on the camper ceiling.
So there we were, three hunters sitting on a couch, anticipating the next day, eating bowls of steaming soup, and watching a movie. You are picturing this in your head, right? The movie we were watching?
RED (Retired and Extremely Dangerous)
The levity of this movie was just what we needed. Rudy, Troy and I laughed until our stomachs hurt. During the last scene in the movie, Frank asks Marvin after shooting a bad guy, "Feel better now?" Marvin promptly responds with, "Yeah. You guys want pancakes?"
Heading to town for a hearty breakfast of chicken fried steak and eggs after a successful hunt is a tradition that has developed over the years. The one criteria ~ Whomever shoots the elk is buying! As we all went to bed this evening with thoughts of killing, pancakes and the sound of rain sprinkling down on the camper roof, a new tradition might be in the works. Mmmm... pancakes!
The next morning, rain continued to threaten our planned hunt, but we were determined to make something happen. We made our way to our familiar entrance to the DMZ. The hope was that we could catch some elk on the top section and maybe not have to test the strength in our legs. As the fog rolled through the top pasture, we found ourselves at the DMZ overlook waiting for a break where we could scan the section below.
If my memory serves me correctly, Troy was a little grumpy this morning. The deal he made with Rudy and myself was that IF we heard or saw elk in the bottom section, we would chase after them. (Confession: We may have prodded him a bit and encouraged the grumpiness.) So we waited for the fog to lift and strained to hear any answers to our bugles. Silence. While Rudy and I gave each other looks, we would tell Troy, "Bugle again." All was quiet. So we waited. Then without saying a word, we would give Troy puppy dog eyes as if to say, let's just go down there. We promptly received the answer, "NO." Troy is an experienced elk hunter and is often my voice of reason when I push him to do crazy ideas. If there aren't any elk in the area, there's no sense in wearing ourselves out.
After an hour or so, the fog lifted and we crept a little further down to where we could see the terrain below us and scan the trees. Troy ripped off a bugle, and we received an answer!
Rudy and I both immediately looked at Troy, and he replied .... "Let's go!"
We hustled down over a ravine, and through an open section to find cover in a grove of pines. We would set up, bugle and wait. Each time, an answer was received. Bugles were exchanged back and forth. In what seemed to be a stand off, this bull was stubborn and standing his ground. He wasn't getting any closer. After fifteen - thirty minutes in each set up, we would hustle to the next location to see if we could call him up. However, he was happy down in the bottom and wasn't going to budge. So we would advance further and further down the mountainside. Once we were near the bottom, there was one final large ditch between a line of aspen and a section of pines. We decided to make one more move. We could tell we were close.
Just as we crossed over to the section of pines that marked an entrance to a nasty sequence of beaver dams, the fog increased and the low-laying clouds couldn't hold the rain any longer. We were about to get soaked. A grove of three pines huddled together with a downed tree in front of them became our shelter. We had made it this far, so we decided to wait out the rain. As Rudy broke down his camera equipment to shelter it from the downpour, Troy and I took off our packs and settled in on the opposite side of the pines.
Just as we inched as close as we could under the shelter of the huge pine boughs, Troy mouthed the words, "Don't move!" Elk had ambushed us.
A cow elk was now practically sniffing Rudy's backside ... a foot or two away!
As we tried not to laugh at Rudy's expression, Troy found himself slowly reaching for his bow. A bull was not far behind the cow. The whole experience was comical to us because 1) Rudy had just put away all his camera equipment, and 2) everyone else had seen elk so far this year, except for Rudy... and now one was sniffing his neck! After what seemed like forever, Troy was finally able to get his bow. He quickly stepped up on the downed tree and drew his bow back. The bull was now at around 40 yards, but didn't give Troy a good angle. A quick warning bark from the bull was let out and the elk disappeared back into the dense fog as quickly as they ambushed us, leaving us with a reminder of why elk are often referred to as ghosts of the Rockies.
By this time, the hours in the day were building up. As the rain continued to come down, we made the decision to begin the long haul back up the mountain. It was a good hunt, and we now had a very good reason to try again in the morning. You see, what I didn't tell you earlier, is the fact that we had definitely heard more than one bugle response. There were multiple bulls in this hole, maybe four.
The story of the 2013 Elk Double Down ...
I'm not sure how or when the area was first coined this name, but we all know the area immediately whenever someone in our hunting camp suggests we drop down into the DMZ, aka the Dead Man's Zone. To some, it is an acronym that has military references, and for fire fighters it has a whole other meaning, but for us hunters ...
It's the place where the hunter finds himself looking down into a mountainous canyon, wondering if he can call the elk up instead of venturing down. Sometimes the call of the elk on the ridge beyond is too great a temptation, and the hunter journeys down. This is exactly where we found ourselves last September. Our "Dead Man's Zone" is a valley or hole in the mountain where we've found elk before, but crawling out of the area with an elk on your back will have you quickly wishing for a tow rope. Still echoing across the canyon from seasons past are the sounds of hunters with elk-laden packs ... thoughts of "one more step" and "elk steak, elk steak" seem to be burned into the hill-side with each footstep, as the hunter carries his quarry up and out of the canyon below. Like a fossil of previous hunts, these steps serve as both a warning and encouragement to the next hunter who finds himself peering down from the ridge. They beckon the hunter to move forward, yet warn of incredible fatigue. A choice has to be made.
Last September, we chose to venture down.
The evening before chasing after elk in the canyon below, we had located a bull. So we knew there was a good chance of having an encounter the next day. Here's what happened ...
All throughout the day, unforgiving rain continued to pour out of the heavens. We had become used to the conversation about the cold, wet, and mud. On a whim after a late lunch, as the sun forced it's way through the overcast sky, we decided to not waste the evening. We were restless and ready to hunt. Bows were grabbed, and hastily put together packs were thrown in the back of the truck. We named our stir-crazy attempt at chasing elk that night... a FUNT. Translation? Fun Hunt.
Making our way to the top of the canyon, we decided to follow a path down a couple hundred yards. It was a section that we hadn't become familiar with (yet), and often wondered if it would provide an easier way in and out of the "Dead Man's Zone." Since my boots were drying out in preparation for the next day's hunt, I had tennis shoes on. Remember, this evening hunt was to be a low-stressed FUNT; therefore, I carried a light pack, a few snacks in my sweatshirt, and a bottle of water. Of course, as if on queue the elk knew that we weren't taking them seriously. At the sound of the first locator bugle, we received an answer below. And we were off! Down we went a couple hundred yards and set up in anticipation of the bull making his way up the "hill."
Laid across the mountainside, fingers of aspen groves took on the appearance of a hand print impressed upon the slope, as if a giant leaned against the mountain and peeked across the ridge, leaving his mark. Meadows dispersed themselves in between aspen finger impressions. Settled in the edge of an aspen grove, we strained to locate the approaching elk, hoping he would make his way up our aspen finger cut against the ridge or make the fatal mistake of crossing the clearing in front of us. Bugling back and forth, he closed the distance. However, it wasn't meant to be this evening. The bull made his way up an adjacent aspen finger, giving us a brief glimpse of his existence and then slipping back into the shadows.
Our FUNT ended that evening, as we said goodnight to the bull and climbed back up the trail in now soaked tennis shoes. Even though an arrow wasn't released, this brief encounter wasn't for naught. We not only discovered a new path in and out of the area, but we went to bed with the knowledge of where the elk were located ... at least one bull.
A plan was formulating in our heads that night. Tomorrow, we would venture down.
We made it! The first month of 2014 has come and gone. As we launch into February it means that turkey season is quickly approaching. While thankful for the emergence of Spring in the next few months, I'm reminded of how quickly time marches on.
I posted an update on some of the products / companies that caught our attention while at SHOT Show last month, and promised a follow-up post. I'm afraid I got a little distracted with the excitement of a football team from Colorado headed to the Super Bowl and have neglected to wrap things up post SHOT Show. By now, us Coloradans are done licking our wounds and have fought back the urge to crawl back in the hole to hibernate with Punxsutawney Phil.
Usually I complain through the month of January ... it is cold, hunting seasons have ended, putting away all the Christmas decor is a chore, and did I mention it is cold? This year was different, I don't know what happened, but January came and went in a flash. I think the distraction of SHOT Show helped me get through my January blues, but now that it is February, I realized I haven't shared all the wonderful products that I discovered several weeks ago at SHOT. My initial post after the show highlighted a few of the new products for 2014. However, I have more to share!
While meandering through the miles of booths, we had the opportunity to see so many great products. As promised in our first SHOT Show post, here is our second list of products that deserve a shout out:
Lisa Looper started her holster business after a creating a unique holster design for herself. She simply wanted an accessible, safe way to carry her gun. After quickly realizing that holsters designed for a man's body rarely work well for women, she was on a mission to discover a place to hide a gun without compromising style in order to accommodate a bulky holster. As a result, Flashbang holsters were born which utilizes the space just below the bust line. Word got out quickly about this new, clever design and her desire to simply protect her family developed into a business in concealed carry options for women.
As I walked up to the Flashbang Holster booth, I immediately spied a friendly face. Britney Starr was hanging out showing off these amazing holsters. It was so fun to meet my friend that I've been chatting with online now for a couple years. One of the highlights of SHOT was getting to meet so many of my social media friends. She quickly showed me the Ava and the Betty holsters. I've had my eye on these holsters for a while now, and I can honestly say that after seeing them first hand, I want one for my own more than ever now. The soft leather back piece is amazing and am positive it would be comfortable as a concealed carry option.
Ladies, if you are looking for concealed carry option, I would recommend checking out the various Flashbank Holster options. Also, new for 2014 ~ competition holster belts and Glock42 holsters
As stated in their catalog ~ "It's a Heart Project!"
Emily and Britney ~ checking out the Ava Holster
My favorite feature ~ soft leather back piece
that conforms to the wearer's shape
Straight out of the catalog ~ "For outdoor enthusiasts, sportsmen, and nature lovers alike, the Grizzly Ridge line of outdoor meals and snacks is designed for those great adventures in the wild, or in your own backyard."
Troy and I are always looking for food options for our backcountry hunts. Grizzly Ridge offers a great variety of freeze dried meals and snacks. We snacked on the honey coated banana slices while walking around at SHOT, and let me just say ... AMAZING! I'm positive this light-weight, potassium rich snack will be found in our packs this summer during our scouting trips.
We are excited to try out their main meal options as well. One feature I really like about the packaging is the smaller bag size. While the serving size is comparable to other freeze-dried meal companies, the bag is smaller. Honestly, I've cut a good portion off the top of other packages and then freezer sealed the bag. If you've ever planned a back country hunt, you know how valuable every ounce is. Weight and space in your pack quickly become serious considerations.
Check out the full line of Grizzly Ridge products here.
A good pair of boots while hunting in the mountains is one of the most important pieces of equipment to have, in my opinion. If your feet are cold, wet or tired, it can quickly end a hunt. Both Troy and I promised each other after last year's elk hunt, that the priority for our 2014 hunting shopping list would be quality hunting boots. LOWA boots are currently at the top of our list.
After looking at these boots at SHOT, I'm especially excited about the Tibet hunting boot models made for women: Tibet LL WS and Tibet GTX.
We are fans of First Lite outerwear, merino wool and accessories. So navigating our way to the First Lite booth at SHOT was top of the list. Troy was excited to check out their new Sanctuary Insulated Jacket. Combining warmth and waterproof features, it is bound to be a favorite jacket for many hunters this Fall ... including my husband!
Also, included in the First Lite line up for 2014 is a new North Branch Soft Shell Jacket, Halstead Tech Fleece, and Boundary Stormtight Pant.
After attending ATA this past January, Aaron Farley offered a great review on his blog, Rustic Man, on the new First Lite products for 2014. I'd highly encourage you to check it out.
First Lite: Go Farther, Stay Longer
Sanctuary Insulated Jacket
As mentioned in a previous post, while in Las Vegas last week at SHOT Show, we had the opportunity to see some amazing new products that will be available in 2014. Some items I wanted to steal right off the manikin display on the showroom floor, but that was frowned upon, so I am subjected to wait like the rest of you.
Here is our first list products / companies that stood out to us at SHOT Show this year. There were honestly many more, and we'll offer another round of shout outs in a follow-up post.
Ladies ~ say, 'Hello' to the new Prois item available later this year ~ the Archtach Down Jacket. Archtach is Gaelic for Arctic. I think this beauty will live up to its name since it contains grey goose down, and offers durable weather resistance through down acrylic coating. This jacket is definitely on my wish list for 2014. Here's to staying warm on the mountain this year!
Here are the specs:
Archtach: Gaelic for Arctic
SOG - EXCHANGE KNIFE PACK
We loved this new SOG knife set! The SOG Exchange pack includes a large fixed blade knife with interchangeable blades - clip point blade with gut hook, double toothed saw, and fillet blade. This set would be a great addition to a back country gear list!
Here are the specs:
HAMMOCK SEAT & FAN TOM BLIND by DEAD RINGER
I didn't get a picture of the new 2014 Fantom Blind that goes with this fabulous hammock seat, but trust me there is a great turkey blind that goes with this set up. Sorry. I was having too much fun sitting in this chair. It is truly like sitting in a hammock. I want to shoot my turkey from this nifty little contraption!
Here are the specs:
HAWKE - SPORT OPTICS
New scopes and crossbow optic updates will be available in the 2014 Hawke Sport Optics line up. I have my sights set on one of the new Endurance scopes, which I'm hoping to use to take aim at an antelope later this year! Watch for this new line up on their website (hawkeoptics.com) -- coming soon!
Here are the specs:
The week of January 14-17 marked the dates for the 2014 SHOT Show. Each year thousands of people journey to the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, NV to experience the largest shooting, hunting and outdoor related trade show. This year had a record attendance of 62,371! Troy and I were fortunate to be included in that number. With a last minute decision, we decided to check into whether or not we would qualify for admission. The passes we tried to acquire were Media passes which would have given us a lot more freedom in taking pictures, receiving press releases, etc. However, since the media applications were sold out by the time we decided to make the voyage, we inquired if there were other options to get in the door. We ended up getting non-buyer passes. In retrospect, I'm glad we still attended since it was an overall great experience of meeting friends, networking and in a way enjoying a "non-hunting" vacation, but our hands were a little tied in obtaining material to write about.
I wasn't going to let that stop me ~ in a way it felt like a challenge.
The rules are strict about taking pictures if you don't have a media badge. Basically, don't. I wasn't able to carry my D3100 Nikon camera, but armed with my cell phone, I simply asked various booth owners if it would be okay to snap a picture or two. I quickly found that after introducing myself, chatting about their products, letting them know we have a website geared towards the hunting industry, taking a picture or two was welcomed. So.... I have a few to share with you all!
I was brave enough to take a picture of a drone ... just before it flew into the back of a girl's head.
Before diving into some of the new products we found and love I thought I would share a few of the lessons learned while attending SHOT Show. Follow up posts will highlight products / companies that stood out to us at SHOT
Lessons Learned from SHOT:
Tennis Shoes are Stylish: I thought I would be cool by wearing cowboy boots the first day. I have never been so not cool. While my feet may have looked fabulous, they didn't feel fabulous. If your feet hurt, you get grumpy. I'm afraid that I was grumpy some of the time in Vegas. As a result, I may have not been as friendly as I should have. I apologize to those you may have experienced my grumpiness. Once I found a spot to sit down, I didn't want to move. Honestly, this may have hampered the opportunity of meeting some fabulous people.
For example, we attended the Real Avid and Hawke Optics tweet up on Tuesday night and I also had the opportunity to attend the Women's Industry Dinner aka "Gun Girl Dinner" hosted by Britney Starr (managing editor at the WON) and Jacquelyn Kelly (Armed in Heals). I made the mistake of walking over a mile in heels to get to the Gun Girl Dinner. Troy, you were right. We should have taken a cab. I was in pain. In retrospect, I see now that I missed out on meeting a lot of great people simply because I was too tired to get up and mingle. I sat down and chatted with those within hearing distance of my seated position. In all seriousness, you are probably tired of people telling you to wear comfortable shoes. Well, if you are as stubborn as me, you need to hear it one more time. Wear comfortable shoes, with inserts preferably.
Plan Your Attack: These large trade show events are truly amazing, but it can easily be overwhelming. We had downloaded the SHOT Show app on our phones, which I highly recommend, and created an agenda that was easily referenced with a few clicks. However, even with reviewing the schedule and lay of the land, we found ourselves mimicking a pinball darting back and forth between booths, making a crazy path around the show floor. The booth displays are spectacular, designed to grab your attention. So instead of walking the aisles in a methodical manner, our footsteps zig zagged all over the place as we jumped from booth to booth. It would have been fun to track our steps somehow to see the path we actually walked each day. I'm sure it looked like a couple mice trapped in a maze. Hey... SHOT Show app people, maybe you could incorporate this option into the app next year? A foot step tracker at Shot Show. I'd like to see which booths I truly missed!
One day after roaming the show floor, out of pure exhaustion I think I told Mia Anstine that I had seen everything there is to see. She smiled at me and chuckled softly. I then said, "No really - I think I did." However, after looking at everyone's posts, I now keep telling Troy, "How did we miss that??" or "Where was that?" I stand corrected, Mia! I now know why you laughed at me.
Arm Yourselves: One thing we almost missed was the importance of bringing business cards. While it is a given that business cards are necessary if you are attending SHOT as a buyer or exhibitor, it is just as important if you don a non-buyer or media badge. The networking opportunity is huge at a trade show like this, and it is expected that someone will ask you for contact information via a business card, either to follow up, send product or simply for future reference. Be prepared and arm yourselves. Don't miss out on any opportunities.
Here's just one example of what I'm talking about. We had the privilege of meeting Will Primos. (btw - what a great guy!) We told him that we've watched practically all of their videos because we have 'free tv' and our form of entertainment is grabbing a bowl of popcorn and watching hunting DVDs. (In fact, Lars with @NRAblogpoked fun of me a bit b/c of the free TV thing ... that's another story.) Anyway, after chatting about some of their hunts, he asked if we had their latest video, which we had to be honest and confess we hadn't watched it yet. He was gracious and asked for our business card. Not long afterwards while hanging out in the First Lite booth, I received a phone call. Will Primos was calling me and wanted my address to ship his new video to. LOL! Thanks, Will! Apparently, having a shipping address on your business cards is helpful too.
Attending SHOT show was a great way to start off 2014. Putting faces to names that I've been chatting with on twitter for quite some time was really fun. We met so many wonderful people in the hunting industry that share our passion! If you have never gone, I would highly recommend it. If you have specific questions, please ask - this SHOT show novice is happy to lend whatever help I can provide, or point you in the right direction.
I'm still recovering, nursing a nasty head cold, and trying to quickly heal my feet so I can start training for my marathon. Overall, I'm thankful for new friendships and the opportunity to reconnect with folk I haven't seen for a while. Here's to a new year, new opportunities, and new friendships!
I'm excited to announce that my husband, Troy, will be contributing posts here on FromtheDraw. It will add a nice addition, so that you can hear about our experiences out in the field, from both of us. Now you will not only get my side of the story, but also his side.
He has written the below article on social hunting ... not the social media aspects that we now often relate to the word "social", but rather good old fashion, face-to-face friendly social hunting, and how it can have a positive impact on your hunting experience.
In the early weeks of August 2013, I packed up the camper and prepared to leave for the mountains. I was excited to be back up in the pines and aspens where the elk and deer make their home. This is a place where I go to shed the year of mental anguish of all the stuff I endured and experienced at the fire house. I love my job, but things seen on duty can really take a toll on you, from a fatal car accident to a structure fire where the family loses everything. You feel so sad for them, and yes, the calls involving kids seem to tug the hardest on your heart. Come September, I'm ready for the stress-relief of living in the mountains for a while where the only 'call' heard is from a bugling elk in the distance.
Back to my topic: Meeting new friends!
You see, I'm a social hunter. At least I think of myself as one and some people in my camp don't necessarily dig that I am. I spend 32-35 days in the mountains of Colorado hunting elk and part of this time I'm by myself. I think of the other folks in the mountains as my neighbors and I like to make sure that if my neighbors ever need something, they can call on me to help. And this year was no different. Upon arriving in the mountains on Wednesday night the 28th of August at 5:00 P.M., the area we always set up camp was still open. I began to set up our camp and settle in for the month.
The next morning, I woke up and started my usual routine of visiting abandoned summer camps, picking up the left-over fire wood. On the way back, I noticed a couple of archery hunters that moved in just above us and they had a motor home pulling three four wheelers. I, being a "Social Hunter," stopped in to welcome them. I had never seen these guys in the area and I always like to know my hunting neighbors. So, I pulled in and introduced myself. They said their names were Darwin and Mark from Michigan and offered me a beer. While talking, they stated there would be a third hunter, Jeff, joining them during the third week of the season.
That morning, we sat talking of seasons past, and figured out the reason I hadn't met them before. They had hunted the area in 2003 when we didn't draw that unit. After our talk, I let them know if they needed anything to come on over. They returned the same offer and I went back to finish getting camp set up for my fellow hunters that were scheduled to arrive on Friday, the day before opening day.
I have met some great people while elk hunting and would encourage other hunters to be friendly to your 'neighbors' while hunting. It doesn't take a lot of effort, but it is worth it for several reasons. A friendship could develop, especially if you hunt the same unit year after year. Or it could be that you simply end up helping each other out ... a flat tire in mountains, tips on the area, etc. (I'm not suggesting that you give away all of your honey-holes, but even coordinating where you're planning on hunting the next morning so you aren't "stepping on toes" - is a good thing.)
Jeff and his cow elk - taken during Archery season in Colorado
Here's a good example of what I'm taking about ... It turned out that I helped Jeff fill his tag by showing him an area to hunt and helping him know how to use his elk calls. I explained the importance of not just using the same call over and over. Elk calls need to be used to mimic talking like elk. Think about it... calling the same way continuously is as annoying as someone yelling to you, "Come here. Come here. Come here." I'd ignore that too. It is important to know when to call, how often, and to vary the calls used.
After our elk calling lesson 101, we made our way to an area not far from camp, but where we've frequently seen elk come through. After a sequence of calling, several cows and a really nice bull showed themselves to us. However, a shot wasn't presented for Jeff. The next morning, Jeff made his way back to the same area by himself, while I headed to town to wash some camouflage badly in need of becoming scent-free once again. When I returned, Jeff was in camp waving his arms up and down. He had shot a cow and was waiting for Mark and Darwin to get back to help him with the meat. Not knowing when they would return, I quickly told him, "Let's go get your elk!" We ended up packing it off the mountain before his buddies returned to camp.
I loved helping out my new friend, because I knew he paid a lot of money for an out-of-state tag in Colorado. I was thrilled to see him take some meat home! He only had one week to get it done during the archery season, and he did just that. I was glad I got to play a small part. If I can help one guy put an elk on the ground it's worth it to me!
This is what hunting is all about. Meeting great people, enjoying the country that God has given us to hunt, and feeding our families. Congratulations, Jeff!
After Jeff headed home, Mark (one of the other Michigan hunters) harvested his biggest mule deer ever. We were in camp that afternoon, when he came by with his Muley strapped to the front of his 4 wheeler. He was taking his time, one hand on the antlers and the other steering, making sure his buck would make it safely back. We saw him coming and all ran out to congratulate him.
I have a 50-yard picture of this very buck in full velvet from the year prior (pic below). Of course, we didn't have a deer tag that year, so we shot him with the camera. He truly is an amazing buck and we were thrilled to share in Mark's joy of arrowing this trophy. Congratulations, Mark, on dropping the hammer on this guy.
In looking back over the years, we've made some great friends out in the woods. I'd encourage you to do the same. Enjoy the hunt, be social and have a positive impact on fellow hunters in the field. I'm looking forward to getting back out there in nine months, to get some stress relief, catch up with friends and have a chance at re-stocking some freezers!
I'm going to let you in on a little secret of mine ---->> I have been using liquid smoke as one of my secret ingredients in wild game (elk, venison, etc) burgers for a while now. It adds a nice little kick to burgers, and I've recently started incorporating it in some of my other recipes also. Recently I threw away an old bottle of a non-natural version of smoke in my fridge because I was given the chance to try Wright's Liquid Smoke, which is the only all-natural liquid smoke brand on the market.
Oh. My. Goodness. It is deliciousness in a bottle.
Finding an all natural Liquid Smoke made me a happy gal! Wright's Liquid Smoke flavoring is truly natural liquid smoke in a bottle. It is made from hickory, applewood or mesquite wood that is burned in chamber. When the smoke rises it is captured in a condenser and it cools. Then the cooled smoke in the form of condensation is collected and filtered. How cool is that? And the extra boost you get when adding this flavor to your favorite recipes ~ let me just say now ... your welcome.
While adapting a venison meatball recipe that my friend in Kansas recently shared with me, I came up with the below Venison Meatloaf smothered in homemade smoky BBQ Sauce. It is to die for!
Venison Meatloaf Ingredients:
Smoky BBQ Sauce:
Mix sauce ingredients well and drizzle over uncooked meatloaf.
Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until meat is cooked thoroughly. Enjoy!
This November I arrowed my biggest whitetail to date. I had a blast hanging out with my husband, Troy, in Kansas for this hunt. I am blessed that he puts up with me in the tree stand, and is willing to follow me around with a camera to capture our hunts on film. Although just between you and me, I think he is trying to catch all those moments he is familiar with... the times I fall in holes, trip in the dark, and almost shock myself on electric fences. It's bound to happen! Filming is a new endeavor for us, and we are enjoying the challenge. He caught the kill on film and I'm thrilled to have it documented, so I can relive the moment over and over.
But before you watch this hunt, let me tell you the story briefly ...
Originally I had the 3rd week of November scheduled for my whitetail hunt in Kansas. Troy had gone out the last week of October to finish setting stands, check trail cameras, scout and do a little hunting. After seeing the deer movement and witnessing indications of pre-rut activity. Troy and Evan convinced me to move up my vacation time to get out there while the bucks were cruising through the area. They had seen some nice shooter bucks and it was definitely time to get in the stand. So on November 2nd I found myself sitting in a tree stand, and was excited for a week long of hunting.
After several days of hunting in crazy wind and rain, on Thursday morning we settled into our stands, and it didn't take long for the bucks to emerge from the woods. Troy worked a rattling sequence, and the first buck came running over the top of the hill straight towards us. We had the full attention of a little curious fellow, who looked around perplexed when the fighting bucks were no where to be seen. He began feeding below us. A few Muley Does then arrived and I watched as they leaped the fence-line 20 yards from our stand. Momma jumped over and her yearling, acting unsure of the springs in her legs, nosed the fence line and then ducked underneath. Perched twenty feet up in a huge cottonwood tree, I was enjoying spying on the deer below me. Better than a dollar movie on a Friday night with a bowl full of popcorn, I had a front row seat to my kind of entertainment!
It didn't take long for a few more bucks to make an appearance. A young 8 point that we had named "Movie Star" showed up and began feeding towards our tree. Another year or two, and he will be a buck worthy of his name. I'm not big on naming deer, but we couldn't resist ... because he loaded up our trail camera with not dozens, but hundreds of photos of himself. He had it coming. If you are going to be that much of a diva, then I'm calling you Movie Star. A pic from this angle, then the other ~ front, side, rear. We had it all. Camera hog!
As I sat watching Movie Star, I initially had a little debate in my head ... should I shoot him? Or let him walk? I knew I should let him walk, but he kept hanging around and tempting me. I quickly convinced myself that he needed a chance to grow up, so I quietly sat there just watching him. If he stayed any longer, I might as well grab a bowl of popcorn.
While Movie Star had my attention, there was something else going on in the field behind me, from Troy's view. He was hanging out on the opposite side of the tree, filming the buck I was about to shoot ... I just didn't know it yet. Due to the size of the tree, and not wanting to spook the buck heading my way, he was caught and couldn't reach around to give me a heads up. Instead he whispered... "don't shoot Movie Star, big buck coming." Yah... I never heard that. But it all worked out. He couldn't see me, so he didn't know I was at full draw .. until I let my arrow fly.
Grab a cup of coffee and watch how it plays out...
The first time I looked through a set of Hawke Sport Optics was during my 2013 Elk hunt. Rudy with Huntography.com let me use his set while we scanned the mountain side for elk movement. I was impressed!
I need to first tell you, that while I understand the importance of having a good set of binoculars out in the field, especially for scanning the mountain-side to figure out where the animals are located, I'm usually the one who either opts to forgo bringing them along, or has them buried at the bottom of my pack. My old binos are heavy and clunky. I hate having the extra weight around my neck and feel like there is something in the way when drawing my bow back. This means that when everyone is scanning the next ridge and oohing and awing over the elk they spotted, I'm left waiting my turn for a peek through my husband's lenses. He'll then have to unclasp his binos just so I can have a look. I usually get "the look" followed up by, "where's your binos, Emily?"
When recently given the opportunity to review a set of Hawke binoculars, I jumped on it. I already knew after using Rudy's optics that Hawke is a quality product. I was excited to have my own set that I could be proud of, put to good use, and also quit bugging my husband to "borrow" his.
I opted for the Endurance Phase Corrected (PC) 10x42. While I'm confident that you'd love any of the versions Hawke offers, here are the factors that helped me in choosing the Endurance PC.
The first thing I looked for is which versions are waterproof. A few Hawke optics are available in water-resistant versions, which are fine for some, but I'm tough on my equipment and knew that I needed something completely waterproof. I didn't want to have to worry about dropping them in the snow, or keeping safe during unexpected mountain thunderstorms.
Size and Weight
Weighing in at 25 oz, the Endurance 10x42 aren't the lightest binos Hawke offers, but they aren't the heaviest either.
I knew that the Frontier ED weighing in at 26.2 was probably a bit much for me ~ while that is light for the size and quality offered, I didn't need that much of a binocular. Rudy let us borrow his set of Frontier ED binos, and they are AMAZING, but I wanted something a little smaller.
Some of the lighter side binos that Hawke offers includes Frontier Compact and the new Endurance Compact (available soon - watch for it in 2014!), but they were a little too compact for me. I wanted something that I could easily hold and balance in my hand, but yet wouldn't weigh me down. It was beginning to look like the Endurance was more and more the binos made just for me.
Endurance PC: features fully multi-coated lenses providing crisp, clear
and bright viewing with high light transmission, ideal in low light conditions.
Exit Pupil Factor - 10x32 vs 10x42
Now that I decided on the Endurance, I needed to decide between model 10x32 or 10x42. I was leaning towards the 10x32 simply because it was slightly lighter and more compact. Both have a Field of View (FOV) ft. @ 100 yards of 340, so there couldn't be that much of a difference, right? I was curious what exactly was the difference, so I figured it would be best to ask the experts...
Trent with Hawke Optics explained the advantages of the 10x42 and urged me to consider exit pupil & low light performance, especially if hunting at first light and last light were important to me.
When choosing between a 32 and a 42, there are two major factors that work against each other ~ size vs. optical performance. The image quality or clarity won't vary greatly (within the same bino family) since they are built with the same optical system; however, as your objective diameter shrinks (e.g., smaller bino size), your exit pupil shrinks as well. If low light performance is important when choosing a binocular set, then you MUST consider exit pupil. All the extra things like coatings, glass, etc., is a distant second if you don't give yourself adequate exit pupil size, which then means low light performance will suffer. Here is a breakdown of how it works..
Exit pupil is determined by dividing your objective lens (32 vs 42) by your magnification (10). So, the 10x32 will be 3.2 mm exit pupil, while the 10x42 will be 4.2 mm. While this doesn't seem like much of a difference, Trent explained to me that keeping your exit pupil above 4 mm is the general threshold for low light performance. Depending on your vision, you may be able to go lower, but generally 4 mm is the goal. Keep in mind this really only is a factor if you plan on doing a lot of glassing at first and last light. If you plan on glassing during hours where there is more available light, then the 10x32 might be a better fit.
That was a good enough explanation for me. Since I would often be hunting in low light conditions, I opted for the 10x42.
Extras - Grip, Lens Covers, etc.
Here are some of the extra features the Endurance 10x42 includes...
Phase Corrected Optics - Helps with impressive image resolution
Fully Multi-Coated Lenses - This feature helps provide crisp, clear and bright viewing, with excellent light transmission
Textured 'high grip' - I LOVE this feature because it makes my binos very comfortable to hold!
Close Focus - I'm going to be honest with you ~ I have a hard time finding my subject when trying to use a set of binos. Using the focus feature has always been a struggle for me. However, I was able to easily adjust the focus to bring things into view. Often, I'm the last one looking at a subject on the opposite side of a ridge, but this time I found myself pointing things out to everyone else. That was fun! Plus, if you are wanting to bring something into view, that is up close and personal... no problem! I had my binos in my tree stand last month and enjoyed watching the woods awaken around me through the lens of my Endurance binoculars.
Padded Neck Strap - Awww! I was in heaven. I really like the strap that comes with the binos. Now, I know there a lot of options available these days for after-market bino straps / holders, but I honestly struggle with some of these. Yes, there are convenient for carrying around your binoculars and help with keeping the weight off your neck, but when it comes down to trying to raise your binos up to your field of view, I always struggle. I like the option of being able to sling my binos across my off-shoulder and having a little more range of motion. Having the padded strap was an extra bonus for me.
Stay-On Lens Covers - When they say, "stay-on" they aren't lying. I loose things ~ a lot. I never had a problem, hiking all over the mountains, in and out of a tree stand. My lens covers never went missing. Often, I'd find the lens cover hanging open when I forgot to tap it on tightly, but the rubber loop attaching it to the lens held it on safely. I was impressed!
Nitrogen Purged Fog Proofing - While fog proof doesn't prevent the physics reality of external lenses collecting condensation during temperature changes, or even breathing directly on the lens; however, the internal portion of the binos are nitrogen purged which prevents the condensation from occurring on the inside of the lens. It works ~ because I never had an issue with moisture / fog building up on the inside of my binos.
As mentioned previously, I was fortunate to have my Endurance binoculars up in the tree stand this Fall during my Kansas whitetail hunt. They played an important role in my hunt and I'm happy to say that I arrowed my biggest whitetail to date.
If you are in the market for a new set of optics, I would highly recommend Hawke Sport Optics. Visit their website, www.HawkeOptics.com or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know they would be happy to answer any questions you have on their products. They are extremely knowledgeable and helpful.
Thanks, Hawke Optics!
Disclaimer: The reviews on FromtheDraw.com are solely the honest opinions of Troy & Emily. The Endurance PC binoculars reviewed were provided by Hawke Optics for the purpose of this review. FromtheDraw.com received no monetary compensation in exchange for this review.
He now haunts my dreams and taunts me to try again, night after night. An unshakable vision, dangling on the edges of reality and cliffs of regret, permeates my memory of the hunt. When I close my eyes, I still see the bull running straight at me. Easily recalled, like an automatic replay button I have no power to stop, the experience has become tattooed on my heart, but the initial sting of a bloodless arrow wears off with each replaying. There is a whispered promise of encouragement to nock another arrow when September calls once again, because I know he is out there somewhere, running silently through the pines, occasionally letting a chuckle slip out.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, here's the story ...
Rocks, ruts, holes and aspen branches reaching across in attempts to intertwine and create a natural barricade, might leave you wondering if 'Road' was an appropriate name for what lead us down, down, down the rain-soaked mountain side. I hoped my gators would guard against weeds, dripping with liquid sunshine, threatening to soak me to the bone. Well-worn boots had kept the moisture out for the majority of previous days hunts, but they were tired of fighting the wetness and I wasn't sure if they would hold out for yet another evening hunt. Troy's boots had given in, and he now succumbed to the fact that his feet would be wet for the entirety of the hunt. Plastic bags wrapped around socks and then inserted into boots, were utilized in an attempt to prevent the squish. Wet.
If I could describe our elk hunting season this year in one word, that would be it. Wet. It rained most days. We attempted to dry out with one eye on the horizon, watching the sky for clouds threatening to wring out their rain-laden load on us once again. Dashes were made multiple times, through a muddy campsite, to rescue clothes airing out on a rope stretched between two aspen. The weather was relentless. Rain. Rain. Rain.
Working our way down a game trail on this evening's hunt, we told Dad to come along as far as he could. With a hip badly in need of a total replacement, Dad pushed on and I worried. Elk had frequently made an appearance just a few hundred yards from our unloading point, so I hoped it would pan out for him tonight. In fact, one of us filled a tag a couple of years ago in a pasture just above the initial part of the trail. Positioned strategically on the edge of a line of pine trees, Dad nestled in and once we felt comfortable that he had a good chance at an elk, we continued on down the trail. We would pick him up after last shooting light.
Designated as caller for the evening, Troy lingered behind as we snaked our way through the forest. Stopping every hundred yards or so, a few elk calls were let out, proceeded by a bugle. We have grown accustomed to hunting as a team and methodically worked our way over logs and streams to locate elk in the area. The "wolf pack," as called by some, was on the move.
The elk were silent that night, but that didn't mean they weren't interested. After a few unsuccessful calling sequences and reaching the point where it was time to turn around, we started working our way back to Dad. One last set-up was attempted. The plan was for three of us to spread out and cover an 'open' area just below a section of dark timber. Todd was on the left, Allen on the right, and I had the middle section. Troy could easily move below and attempt to convince any bull in the area to make his way past the hunters silently waiting.
Locating a small game path, I made my way up to the last sit of the evening. As I scanned the tree line above me, I guessed where an approaching bull might make an appearance. With the game path stretched out in front of me, I selected a spot next to a pine tree on my left, leading up hill. I had a shooting lane of 20-30 yards directly in front of me, which seemed perfect. *Or so I thought. Backpack unloaded. Arrow nocked. Distances ranged. Three quick cow calls were made to alert everyone I was set up and ready.
Showing off as it began to disappear and slip into the horizon, the sun splashed color across the canvas sky. I had visions of completing the picture with antlers in hand. My mind began to wander as my stomach reminded me it was empty. Focus, I reminded myself. The hunt isn't over yet. Troy was doing his best to sound like a heard of cow elk down below, sweetly calling to any interested bulls.
Then it happened. I caught a glimpse of antlers rushing toward me about 100 yards away. In a flash, bow was at ready and I had only a moment to realize I better draw my bow back - quickly! He was coming, silently running with a purpose and I was about to be face to face with a bull elk attempting to run me over in order to get to Troy. I knew that if I were to get a chance at a shot, I need to stop him. Without a mouth reed, I let out the best cow call I could just as he plowed through an opening. From a full run he stopped on a dime at the sound of my cow call. Here's the problem ... I didn't realize how fast a bull could put on his brakes! I should have allowed him to take a few more steps. I was now at full draw, looking through a hole in the pine tree on my left. I knew he was about 35 yards away, up hill. I had to take a shot. I was sure I could sneak an arrow through the opening. So I tried. Unfortunately, I caught a limb and my arrow fell short. A clean miss.
Playing this back in my mind, it sounds simple to wait for a few more steps before stopping him, but if you've never experienced a bull elk running toward you at full boar, while at full draw and attempting to stop him at the correct spot, then you probably won't understand. I now get it. Timing is everything and it is a learning experience. It is just another reason why I admire these animals and love pursuing them year after year. I loved every moment of it, even though it didn't result in a sunset picture complete with antlers. My unshakable vision of the silent running bull lives on in my dreams. Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, I know he is out there. Somewhere in the pines, there is a bull running silently through the woods, breaking the silence every so often with a chuckle escaping into the moonlit sky.
*I don't know why it happens this way, but it never seems to fail that when you least expect an elk to step out, he will. It is also a guarantee that no matter how hard you try to will a bull to make an appearance in the perfect shooting lane, at the perfect yardage, it's not going to happen. If it has, then consider yourself blessed! There is definitely a skill involved in picking your set-up location in preparation for an incoming bull. (That's a whole other blog post.) Basically, the number one rule ... don't sit BEHIND a pine tree. There is a reason why you wear camouflage. Trust it. Sit in front of the pine tree, opposite of your caller. Give yourself the best shooting lanes possible, knowing the bull is most likely going to hang up behind the tree you are expecting him to step out in front of. They are smart, trust me. I should have been above the pine tree to my left. Hind sight is 20x20.
From the Draw
We are devoted to sharing our bowhunting stories. We have a passion for passing on our hunting heritage to our kids. From the draw in the mountains to the draw on paper, the moments live on.