The author's son after his first time shooting a .410 shotgun. (Joe Genzel/)

My grandfather was an avid reloader. He would toil with rifle cartridges downstairs every night after dinner while my father and his siblings finished their homework at the kitchen table. Sometimes in the middle of their studies, a loud bang erupted from the basement and they would all gasp in panicked surprise. My grandfather built his own 25-yard range in the basement so he didn’t have to venture outside in brutal Illinois winters. He shot into a coiled lead catch that stopped his handloads from penetrating the concrete foundation, or a ricochet.

I tell you this story because that’s how many kids in rural areas grow up. Well, maybe their father didn’t have a rifle range in the house, but most country boys and girls are around guns and ammunition from an early age, and begin shooting when they are young. That makes them far more comfortable with firearms than kids in suburbia.

In the last few years, I’ve introduced my own son to his first hunting gun—an H&R Pardner .410. My family lives in a city of about 90,000 people where you cannot legally fire a gun inside city limits. My son, who is 7 years old, knows there are guns in our house, and has held many of them under my close supervision. But since we are city folks, he had never fired a gun until recently.

That’s a far cry from how my father’s generation—and much of my generation (I’m 40)—were introduced to guns. When I was a kid, my friends and I were allowed to shoot BB guns in the backyard while our dads tipped tallboys and grilled steaks. My father showed me how gun powder burned by dumping lines of it on our driveway and lighting it on fire from the lit end of his Marlboro Menthol. This all transpired while neighborhood kids played stick ball and rode bikes on the street in front of our house.

But that’s not how it works today. My son is learning to shoot much differently than I did. Since we live in an urban area, and in a time where gun culture is under heavy scrutiny, he cannot plink at empty soda cans behind the garage with a Red Rider. Living in the city makes it harder to get your kids comfortable with guns. So, I had to think of other ways to introduce my son to his first hunting gun, while still leaving him with the same confidence a farm kid, who grew up shooting guns, would have. It’s an ongoing process that will continue for years to come. Here is how I got him started.

Teaching your child to properly handle a firearm is the first step to gun introduction.
Don't add any pressure to your child's first time at the range.
Let your child determine how much or how little they want to shoot.


Iniki Vike Kapu, 27, can longer legally hunt in 47 states. (Colorado Parks and Wildlife /)

Poaching is a serious threat to wildlife and the bane of game agencies all over the country. Unfortunately, that’s because poaching is all too common. But every once in awhile there’s a case so egregious that it deserves national attention, like the case of Iniki Vike Kapu. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials recently dropped the hammer on Kapu for multiple violations related to illegal hunting. Kapu also had his hunting license revoked forever after multiple incidents spanning several years involving multiple species.

Kapu, 27, of Colorado Springs, pleaded guilty to illegally killing 12 deer, two turkeys and a bighorn sheep in three counties. The poaching began in 2019, and the investigation started shortly thereafter thanks to a poaching hotline tip to CPW.

Read Next: The 50 Biggest Poaching Fines in History

Kapu pleaded on Dec. 27, 2020, in Teller County, Colorado, and again on Feb. 3 in Fremont County to illegal possession of three or more big game animals and illegal possession of a bighorn sheep. He was sentenced Feb. 11, 2021, in Fremont County to six months in jail and three years supervised probation. Kapu got 111 days credit for the time he spent awaiting trial but was returned to finish the remainder of his time behind bars. He also was fined $4,600. Kapu was fined $900 in 2019 in Chaffee County after pleading guilty to illegal possession of wildlife.

Kapu forfeited all the weapons he used while poaching the animals. A special hearing examiner with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission also revoked his hunting license permanently. Because Colorado is part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, that means he cannot legally hunt in 47 other states that are part of the IWVC. The investigation began in October 2018 thanks to a citizen’s tip about Kapu’s vehicle being stuck and abandoned in Pike National Forest. It had a dead deer in the back that had spoiled.



Without the right data tools, we can't know what's actually going on with hunter numbers in the U.S. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/)

Did COVID-19 send more hunters into the field last year than any previous season? Or was the pandemic spike more like a bump? Are recent efforts to recruit younger, more diverse hunters working?

It turns out, we don’t know the answer to any of those questions, and might not know for years. That’s because the mechanism used to tally license sales in any given state, let alone on a national basis, is clunky, inefficient, and complicated by agencies’ reluctance to share their customers’ information or buying habits.

The result is that journalists like me use whatever data we can find to report on hunting-participation trends. We often turn to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s annual census of National Hunting License Data. But it turns out that even those austere federal numbers aren’t particularly reliable.

“Even though the USFWS reports show ‘Calculation Year 2020 and Calculation Year 2019,’ they are in fact using sales data from 2018 and 2017,” says Jim Curcuruto, a consultant to the outdoor and conservation industry. “I bet less than 10 percent of people know those are 2-year-old data.”


Hunters who purchase lifetime licenses are not usually counted as participants in subsequent years—only in the year they actually shelled out for the license. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/)

License-sales numbers are further confused by the crazy quilt of license types that each state sells. For instance, Pennsylvania sells a lifetime license, but the hunter who buys it is counted as a participant only in the year of purchase, even though they’re probably going afield for many years afterward. And if a fishing license comes with a bonus hunting license, the sportsman or woman who bought it is often not counted in the national census.

Hunters who purchase lifetime licenses are not usually counted as participants in subsequent years—only in the year they actually shelled out for the license.
Our knowledge of hunting license data is incomplete and often outdated, in part due to the variation between how hunting licenses are sold from state to state.
Data managers have a better sense of fishing license trends, and therefore fishing participation, than they do hunting participation.
With more reliable data available for participation in the fishing and boating industry, some businesses are choosing to focus their investment there—rather than the hunting sector.


It takes gear to get a bird this close, and a good turkey vest will carry it all. (Shoeib Abolhassani / Unsplash/)

Successful turkey hunting requires specialized turkey hunting gear. None of it is big or heavy, but you’ve got lots of little things to carry and keep track of: Calls, clippers, shells, snacks, water, decoys and more all help make hunts more successful. A turkey hunting vest gives you a place to organize and carry your hunting gear so it’s at your fingertips when you need it. A vest can also carry a dry, soft cushion to sit on, or even function as a chair. Some kind of vest is an essential part of your turkey hunting apparel, and certainly the most important item of hunting clothes you have to choose. Here’s how to find the best turkey hunting vest for your style of hunting.

Features to Consider When Shopping for the Best Turkey Vest

Finding the best turkey hunting vest begins with taking an inventory of the turkey hunting gear you carry, and considering where and how you hunt. If you’re a run and gun type hunter you’ll want a lightweight turkey vest, while gear junkies who carry as many calls as they can may prioritize storage space over all else.

Regardless of how you hunt, there are some features you’ll want to consider whenever you shop for a turkey hunting vest. Be sure it has enough pockets to carry your gear. Some hunters insist on a vest with a game bag for carrying decoys and blind material and as a place to stash extra layers as the day warms up. Dedicated pockets are a nice feature, especially box call pockets that carry a call securely enough so it doesn’t squeak when you’re walking. Fitted pockets that hold and protect fragile pot calls are very useful, too.

The best turkey hunting vest for you is the one that lets you organize your essentials in such a way that you can easily find them, even in the dark.

Twenty-two pockets hold everything you need for a morning in the woods, plus extras.
Think of it as a folding stadium seat, except it has pockets and you can wear it.
A cool strap design and pockets only for the gear you really need keep this vest from becoming a burden on a warm day
This vest won't weigh you down during all day hunts.
Two main pockets and a box call pocket offer plenty of room for all your turkey hunting gear.


Life packed with winter adventure? A puffer jacket keeps you warm and travels well. (Olya Adamovich, Pixabay/)

People have been looking to the animal kingdom for clues on how to keep warm for millennia. Thankfully, we’ve moved well beyond bear skins—but we still owe our warmest technology to waterfowl. The best puffer jackets get their coziness from stuffing that’s either made from or inspired by the fluffy plumage found under the feathers of geese and ducks. The insulation inside puffer jackets works because it traps tiny pockets of air between your body and the elements, so your body heat actually becomes the source of warmth for these coats and jackets. Puffer coats come in a wide variety of styles, but they’re all designed to keep you warm when the weather turns chilly.

Best Down Puffer Jacket: Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down Jacket

Best Hooded Puffer Jacket: Flylow Roswell Insulated Jacket

Best Packable Puffer Jacket: Eddie Bauer CirrusLite Down Jacket

Best Lightweight Puffer Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2

This do-it-all down puffer jacket strikes the perfect balance of warmth, weight, and price.
The Roswell is a shield from snow, rain, and cold, thanks to a membrane and midweight insulation.
This down-filled midweight jacket hits the sweet spot between packability and coziness.
This airy down jacket features recycled fabric and responsibly sourced feathers.
This streamlined puffer has useful features and moderate warmth for $65 or less.


Shawn O'Shea's Alberta bull is the new archery elk non-typical world record. (Pope & Young/)

Shawn O’Shea is the new Pope & Young archery non-typical elk world record holder after his Alberta bull was officially measured 449 4/8 inches on March 20. O’Shea killed the bull on Sept. 14, 2020 in Minburn County, Alberta. According to a press release from P&Y, O’Shea first had the 8-by-7 bull on trail camera in 2017.

“The few pictures caught by the camera served only as teasers,” O’Shea told P&Y. “You only had to but look at the photos to realize the massive potential of this animal.”

O’Shea heard the massive bull fighting with another bull on Sept. 13, but could not get close enough for a shot before running out of legal shooting light. He set out the next morning, but never saw the bull. During the afternoon hunt, O’Shea came across fresh elk sign, and with his target bull in the same area, he was hopeful this would be the opportunity he had been waiting on for three years.

O’Shea tried calling, but the bull never responded. So, he decided to wait him out, setting up a ground blind near a well-used game trail that was full of fresh elk sign. The bull eventually came in from O’Shea’s left and stopped at about 30 yards, but he couldn’t get a shot off right away. He waited about five minutes, and the elk walked inside 20 yards of his blind.

“He closed the gap to 18 yards, and I was able to draw back and make the shot,” O’Shea said.



Phil Duracz of Chesterson, Indiana with his state record whitefish. (Indiana DNR/)

If you’ve ever wanted to hold a state fishing record, targeting whitefish in Indiana might be like going all in with a royal flush at a Vegas poker table. Indiana’s whitefish record has been broken eight times since 2012. Phil Duracz of Chesterson, Indiana, is the latest to hold the title of Hoosier Whitefish King. Duracz caught a 9.34-pound whitefish from Lake Michigan near Portage while fishing on March 6. That toppled the record set in 2019 by 1.65 pounds.

According to Michigan Outdoor News, Duracz spotted the fish on his Garmin Electronics in about 50 feet of water.

“I dropped down my bait (a Berkley 3.5 Power Swimmer rigged on a half-ounce jig head) down there, popped it off the bottom and she ate it,” he told Michigan Outdoor News. “I thought it might be a small lake trout because we caught several of those and lakers tend to fight harder.”

Duracz and his buddy Clint Marler are experienced anglers who have caught several whitefish that were close to breaking the record. When they saw this fish near the boat, they knew it’d be a record breaker.

Read Next: Wisconsin State Record Whitefish Caught in Lake Michigan



Your turkey spots are going to be crowded this spring. Don't let that stop you. (John Hafner/)

Last year I was caught off guard by how many other hunters I encountered at my usual turkey hunting spots. Coronavirus lockdowns lead to increased turkey hunting participation in states all around the country, but also more hikers, mushroom hunters, and anglers. While I personally and professionally love to see more folks getting outside, I know that it also means there will be a whole bunch more people out there who could accidentally mess up my morning turkey hunt.

It’s too early to compile complete turkey license sales data, but anecdotally I can say that in Wisconsin (where I do most of my turkey hunting) tags are already almost sold out in all but two zones. I can’t remember a recent season when tags went so quickly. So this year, I’m not going to be surprised by the crowds in the woods—and you shouldn’t be either.

I mostly hunt public land, but I don’t like competing with other hunters for turkeys. Besides the safety aspect, turkeys that are pressured are way harder to kill. The research on this is pretty concrete: highly pressured toms are less likely to gobble. Hunting silent turkeys is just not that fun to me. So in these next three weeks before the season starts, I’m working hard to find public and private land that I think will see fewer hunters and hold more birds. The real key here is to create a lot of options. I can’t fully predict where other hunters are going to be, and I can’t predict where the birds are going to be, either (more on this later). So the plan is to identify as many promising properties as possible and then start narrowing them down during the season. That way if I pull up to a prime spot and find it’s already crowded with hunters, I can just roll to the next one. No blood-vessel popping frustration needed. Here’s how it works.

Come Down Off the Public-Land High Horse

I get it bro, we’re all public landowners. I’ve got a #keepitpublic t-shirt too. Last spring I killed four turkeys on public ground, but man did I have to work hard to scratch them out. I hunted a lot, including during weekdays, and not everyone has that option. If you don’t have the whole spring to grind away on public-land birds, or if you’ve been let down by your regular public spots (which were likely crawling with people last year), then you need to start locking down some private land hunting access.

The author with a public-land gobbler during the spring lockdown.


Fill your pack with the essentials for your individual pursuit. (TIM MACWELCH/)

Whether you’re hunting deep in the backcountry or the back 40, you need a day- or multi-day pack full of gear essentials that suit your individual needs. For a turkey hunter, that may just be a hand saw, water bottle, and a few snacks. Mountain hunters are going to need more cumbersome items, like rain jackets, a small tent, and freeze-dried food pouches to stay dry, comfortable, and alive for longer periods of time—because they might not return to the trailhead for a week or more. But no matter if you are 10 minutes or 10 miles from the truck, there are three cheap items that you should always carry with you. They could save your life.

1. Cut-Down Road Flares


Cut down road flares make starting a fire a snap. (Tyler Freel/)

Fire starters are any bushcrafter’s bread and butter. Between tinder and igniting methods, there are a plethora of options out there for your kit. I have found road flares to be extremely effective fire-starters. The average road flare burns at 2,650 degrees for around 10 minutes. They are water-resistant and built to burn in wet, cold, and otherwise poor weather conditions. They burn hot and long enough to ignite just about anything that will catch fire. Flares are also easy to light when your hands are frozen.

You can usually find road flares for less than $2 each. If you don’t want to carry around a full-length flare, cut them in half or thirds. They will still provide several minutes of burn time for starting a fire or emergency signaling. Cut the flare down to your desired length, but be sure to leave enough to not burn yourself when you ignite it. I like using a utility knife to cut all the way around the outside, and finally through the flare. You’ll want to seal up the back end with hot-melt glue or wax, followed by a layer of duct tape. If you want an extra layer of protection, you can vacuum seal your flair in a small food-saver bag and cut notches on the edges for easy-open, water-tight protection.

2. Reflective Tape

Cut down road flares make starting a fire a snap.
Microcord is lighter and less cumbersome than paracord.


If your friends or family show interest in your new pursuit, great. If not, don't push them. (Cliff Cadet/)

Maybe you’re middle-aged, married with children, and holding down a full-time job. Or you’re from a big city and, other than strolling through your local parks, you’ve never spent a day in the great outdoors. Neither your family nor your friends have any hunting experience. Some of them are confused by, and might even be upset by, the idea of you hunting. So how do you navigate the murky waters of family and friends who A) don’t hunt, B) have no desire to hunt, and/or C) are against hunting altogether? It’s possible, but it takes some diplomacy. Here’s some advice to help you minimize headaches while falling down the rabbit hole of becoming a hunter. Just be sure to do as I say, and not as I did.

Your Spouse

I had never shared my childhood fantasy of shooting archery with my wife. She had no clue. In my defense, I didn’t ever believe archery or bowhunting would ever be activities I’d take part in. So, you can imagine my wife’s surprise when I arrived home with a new bow. To be honest, I never actually walked into the apartment with the bow. When I got home that day, I left the bow outside our front door. My forgetful self didn’t bring it in that night, and she found it in our hallway the next morning. Rookie mistake.

Not too long before this purchase, we had agreed to curb our spending to save for a home. We live in a tiny, two-bedroom apartment, and my purchase showed a lack of commitment to our shared endeavor. Saying she was “surprised” isn’t the appropriate word. She was pissed.

First step? Keep an open line of communication with your spouse. If you’re truly passionate and committed to the idea of hunting, state your case. Even if they don’t agree, it won’t be too big of a shock and you’ve respected your spouse enough to not make hunting purchases that weren’t mutually agreed upon.


By the late 19th century repeating shotguns had gained favor among hunters and target shooters alike. But some game-changing innovations came along from 1900 to 1920. Single and double-barrel break-action shotguns were still flying off hardware store shelves. But the genius of John Browning would once again change shotguns forever. The development of the Auto-5 put a stranglehold on the shotgun market and it became the most iconic autoloader ever produced. Winchester’s Model 12 was no slouch either. It was arguably the most widely sought-after pump gun for decades, until the Remington 870 came along.

Here is a look at the shotguns that defined the first 20 years of the 20th century, plus a shotgun that would have been better left on the cutting room floor.

1. Browning Auto-5


Belgian gunmaker FN was the first company to build John Browning's Auto-5. (Rock Island Gun Auction/)

Talk about someone who never rested on his laurels. Browning had just designed the first highly successful pump-action shotguns with the models 1893 and 1897 when he began working on the semi-automatic shotgun in 1898. With patents accepted in 1900, a new era began with the Automatic-5.

Browning’s shotgun would show the world that new technology was coming fast and everyone best be ready. Winchester Repeating Arms had first crack at the gun because of their long-standing relationship with Browning. In what had to be the greatest mistake in firearms history, Oliver Winchester would not grant royalties to Browning. He only wanted to buy the design outright, as he had in the past. Browning knew what he had, and wouldn’t budge on the terms. You can hardly blame him. The Auto-5 revolutionized wingshooting and is still a damn accurate deer gun.

Over 2 million Model 12s were sold.
The Remington 10-A was put into service during WW-1.
The Winchester 1911 SL was an ill-conceived shotgun.


Find gifts to make Mom’s life a walk in the park. (Jill Wellington / Pixabay/)

Go ahead, spoil Mom for Mother’s Day 2021: We all know she deserves it. Sometimes it’s tough to know what to buy—but we have found that, especially for active moms, some of the best gifts are the ones that’ll get her outside. Want to help Mom stay warm around a campfire? How about a great-looking puffy jacket. Does your mother have a green thumb? A functional garden cart could be your go-to gift. Maybe your mom deserves to relax wherever she goes? Consider a camp chair that doubles as a comfy rocker. Outdoor gear can be pricey, so we put on our bargain-hunting glasses and—regardless of how your mom likes to spend time outside—we think these are some of the best gifts for Mom under $200.

Best Gifts for Mom to Be: Ergobaby Omni 360 Baby Carrier

Best Gifts for Mom to Be, Runner Up: Graco Dream Suite Bassinet

Best Gifts for Elderly Moms: Bass Pro Shops Eclipse Rocking Chair

Best Gifts for Elderly Moms, Runner Up: Rumpl the Original Puffy Indoor Outdoor Camping Blanket

This perennial favorite safely and cozily cradles baby in four different positions to accommodate her as she grows.
This sleeper on wheels keeps baby close anywhere she snoozes—including outdoors.
This lightweight-yet-durable camp chair packs up easily so Mom can rock anywhere, from the campfire to the backyard.
Stay cozy under this lightly insulated blanket, which has a durable water repellent coating to protect it from spills, dirt, and drips.
Large enough to fit a family’s meal (including a bottle of wine), but compact enough to be stashed behind the driver’s seat of the car, this tough cooler lets Mom take goodies anywhere.
This sturdy outdoor fire pit lets Mom host a bonfire safely in the backyard and comes with a cooking grid for grilling.
This durable utility cart hauls up to 1,200 pounds yet remains easy to handle, steer, and dump.
Store soil and fertilizer, hang tools, and keep Mom’s planting work organized with this attractive and useful potting bench.
This lightly insulated jacket is just the thing for cooler weather in fall and spring, or in combination with other layers for colder conditions.
This ultralight quilt works just as well for an ultralight backpacking trip as it does for typical travel.


Line up the right gift for your fishing mom. (Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash/)

If a mom in your life loves catching fish and spending time on the water, then your Mother’s Day gift list better include fishing gadgets that’ll help her reel in her next big catch. The unique fishing gifts below cover a wide range of anglers and interests—no matter if your mother loves to fly fish, cast for bass, or chase salt-water monsters. Having the right equipment increases your chances of success and makes your experience more comfortable and enjoyable. These gift ideas for moms who like to fish might help your mama hook a whopper.

Best Fly Fishing Gifts for Mom: Orvis Battenkill Reel

Best Fishing Waders for Women: Simms Freestone Stocking- Foot Waders

Best Wading Boots for Women: Simms Freestone Wading Boots

Best Gifts for Moms Who Saltwater Fish: Buff CoolNnet UV Multifunctional Headwear and Face Mask+

An effective and aesthetically pleasing reel.
A strong pair of waders to use for seasons to come.
A strong pair of waders to use for seasons to come.
Don’t get burnt by the summer rays and stay protected.
Keep your grip on the fish when it reaches the kayak.
No matter the weather, keep on fishing.
Make an accurate cast with this Pflueger reel.
Keep all of your gear and tackle dry in the Panga pack.
A perfect layer for warm fishing days.


A screen capture from the video of anglers landing a great white shark on Pensacola Beach. (Big John Shark Fishing Adventures/)

Just 20 or so years ago I couldn’t understand why the tourism departments at the Gulf of Mexico beaches weren’t helpful with my requests to find a guide to catch sharks. It seemed like a reasonable request—especially for a body of water that large and popular. Sharks live there along with the glory species: tuna, redfish, tarpon, and red snapper.

The “Jaws” factor never hit me. Call me dense. I was the Narragansett-slugging Quint to their Amity Mayor Larry Vaughn, who wanted peace and calm for the sun-starved beach tourists. Finally, the light shined one day and I got it. But I still wanted to catch sharks because the Gulf of Mexico isn’t just a big, shallow pool. It’s a breeding ground for sharks, tarpon and more.

I caught a big hammerhead fishing south of Venice, Louisiana, for tuna. My guide said I could cut the line but I wanted to see it. The small sharks I finally caught off the Alabama coast only whetted my appetite for more. Once, while fishing in Florida Bay, I had fun with a bull shark that smashed a big topwater popper and zoomed a bazillion yards before the line snapped.

But seven guys from Idaho topped all those experiences with their March 3 trip at Pensacola Beach, Florida. While fishing with retired professional ice hockey player John McLean, who now is a fishing guide (Big John Shark Fishing Adventures), the Idaho group hooked and landed a great white shark.

Yep, a great white. Off the beach. It’s nothing new, though. Great white sharks have been in the Gulf as long as anyone knows. Tracking monitors to help with research ping when they get into the Gulf. They’re not found as frequently as in the colder waters of the Northeast. But they are there, and sometimes show up in the northern Gulf.



Raw pokeweed can make you sick and even kill you. Forage carefully. (TIM MACWELCH/)

Foraging for wild edible plants became popular last spring as more and more folks were concerned with food security during the coronavirus pandemic. Identifying and utilizing wild edible plants is an ancient skill set that in modern times is a fun outdoor activity that provides food and solace away from everyday life. For many reasons, this can be a productive and fulfilling pursuit, but don’t jump to the conclusion that foraging is a risk-free outdoor activity (especially if you are a beginner). There are plenty of skills that you can learn the hard way, but foraging should not be one of them. Let us guide the way, so you can avoid these novice mistakes.

Miscommunicate Plant Names

The common names that we use for our local wild plants are sometimes colorful and memorable; but these names can also be vague, confusing, and misleading. When chatting with other foragers and discussing plant uses, it’s vital that you make sure you’re talking about the same plant. You might end up collecting some bad information otherwise. For example, two different edible plants can have the same common name. Both may have edible parts, but the uses are not interchangeable. So how do find out if you are talking about the same plant or two different ones? The best way is to go find the plant to make sure you’re both on the same page, but that isn’t always possible. Option two is to use the plant’s scientific name. The scientific names of plants (and all other life forms) may seem boring and nerdy – but there is no better way to properly discuss plants. Unless you’re using an outdated book or resource, the names used today will be consistent and provide you with a powerful tool for cross referencing and research. Don’t worry about pronouncing them perfectly.

Read Next: 5 Edible Plants for Urban Foragers

Don’t Bring the Best Foraging Books

For starters, eat only a few acorns at a time, incase you have allergies.
Wild lemon balm. When plants grow in close proximity, the resulting closeness can lead to confusion.
Wild hickory nuts. For those with food allergies, it pays to know which plant families can cause trouble for you.


Tooth analysis helps biologists study big game populations. (Nate Libal/Wis. DNR/)

Wyoming Game and Fish wildlife researchers are taking a big bite out of the state’s hunter harvest data. With more than 4,000 teeth from big game animals submitted by hunters in the 2020 season, the ongoing research will be used to compile information on population dynamics and decisions about management strategies.

Hunters submit teeth from elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, moose, black bears, mountain lions, and bison. The WFGD biologists then study the teeth via cementum annuli analysis, which is similar to counting the rings in a tree. An annulus, or dark ring, is formed each winter between the cementum formed in spring and summer growth periods.

Read Next: Tag of a Lifetime: Hunting Bighorn Sheep in the Wyoming High-Country

Deer hunters likely are familiar with the cementum annuli method. It is frequently mentioned in discussions about aging by state agencies and organizations. It is similar to aging fish by counting the rings on the otoliths, which come from a fish’s ear. Wyoming Game and Fish biologists use both first incisors for mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, moose, bison, and other ungulates. Other species studied include pronghorns, bobcats, mountain lions, and black bears.

Teeth collected at hunting areas, check stations and via random field checks are sent to the agency’s Forensic and Fish Health Laboratory in Laramie. Some are recovered by Game and Fish officials from animals that died by natural causes or roadkills. Molly Bredehoft coordinates the program for the agency.



The Browning BPS 12-gauge (top) and Browning Gold 10-gauge go head-to-head on the pattern board. (Joe Genzel/)

I grew up hunting in the goose pits of Fulton County, Illinois, a place once noted for its huge Canada geese. Those days are long gone, but there are still a few groups of massive local honkers with white asses the size of five-gallon buckets cruising the skies here. And old timers in sunken field blinds wait to ambush them every January with trusty Ithaca Mag-10s or Remington SP-10s by their sides. These days, there are few dedicated 10-gauge enthusiasts that remain.

Still, there are enough folks shooting 10s for Browning to continue to produce the Gold Light and BPS pump in that gauge (Harrington & Richardson also makes a single-shot Pardner in 10-gauge). But this niche shotgun club has become smaller as the years have ticked by. The reason for that is the advancement of non-toxic shot. Bismuth and tungsten are making smaller-gauge guns more lethal on waterfowl. Turkey hunters have really embraced sub-gauge shotgun culture—the 20-gauge and .410 are becoming popular because of the performance of TSS loads. The advent of the 3½-inch 12-gauge shotshell in the late 1980s also dropped the hammer on the 10-gauge for a time. It essentially made shooting a 12 and 10 one in the same. And since 12-gauge ammo was (and remains to be) cheaper than 10-gauge shotshells, it was a no-brainer for most hunters to make the switch.

“Right now it costs us about 50 cents per 10-gauge hull, versus 15 cents for a 12-gauge hull,” said Nick Charney, co-owner of Apex Ammunition. “That adds up to a box of 10-gauge costing as much as $45. You can buy 12s for half that in some cases.”

The 3½-inch 12-gauge load made the 10-gauge shotgun obsolete, but the big gun made a comeback in the 1990s when steel shot was required to hunt waterfowl. The first 12-gauge steel loads were not very effective at killing birds cleanly, so many core hunters went back to the 10 because it patterned larger shot so well. There were also a small number of shooters that hand-loaded 10-gauge shells, ramping up the velocity with larger shot to make the loads more potent.

“That early steel was terrible, and so we picked up the 10s again,” said Randy Hill, who guided in southern Illinois, a once iconic location to hunt Canada geese. “It wasn’t until they started speeding steel up that we went back to the 12-gauge. I still think the 10 is a great gauge for big geese, especially late season when you have to take longer shots on hardy birds that have a thick layer of down feathers and fat.”

There's a noticeable difference in bore size between the 12-gauge (left) and 10-gauge.
You can see the size difference between the 10-gauge shotshell (left) and 12-gauge.


You don't have to be a hard core snow goose hunter to enjoy it. (Joe Genzel/)

Serious snow goose hunters make up a strange subset of the waterfowling world, which is already its own weird subset of the greater hunting community. Everything is taken to the extreme in snow goose hunting. Bigger spreads, more shotshells, massive flocks of birds flying north on a shorter migration window, and yes, sometimes larger piles of dead geese at the end of the day. An outsider might look at snow goose hunting and assume that he needs a trailer full of 3,000 decoys, an extended magazine tube that holds six extra rounds, and an expensive electronic caller—and then spend a month during the spring conservation order scouting and hunting to actually kill snow geese. In some ways, this assumption is true. If you want to be a consistently successful snow goose hunter, then you’ll have to go all-in on the lifestyle.

There are no limits on snow geese during the spring conservation order in the U.S. (because the birds are overpopulated and damaging their arctic nesting grounds) and a sort of kill-em-all mentality has seeped in. In an inevitable quirk of human nature, because there is no limit on the number of birds you can kill, people get obsessed with the numbers of birds they shoot—especially after seeing 100-bird days posted on social media. This pushes some folks to call longer shots, scrapping a few birds out of a high flock even if others might get wounded. At worst, there are the roost jump shooters who waylay 100 geese (or more) on water in matter of seconds, even when ducks, Canadas, and specklebelly geese might be mixed in as collateral damage (breaking federal game laws). All of this often gets rationalized because the birds are overpopulated. But in reality, even increased harvests of light geese isn’t having the desired impact on populations.

To be fair, this type of bad behavior is often conducted by the most undedicated and under educated snow goose hunters. Many of these folks haven’t put the work in, they don’t understand the birds, and they don’t fully understand the ramifications of their actions.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Even if you’re a newbie, snow goose hunting can be about enjoying the birds (the spectacle of a massive continental migration), enjoying the challenge, and enjoying good times with buddies. In other words, spring snow goose hunting can be about what all waterfowl hunting is about—if we let it. And so, here we offer you the moderate’s approach to snow goose hunting. If you have reasonable expectations and just want to get in the game, there are a few different ways to enjoy the spring snow goose migration. Take it from two casual snow goose hunters who like chasing white geese for a couple days each year—a little snow goose hunting goes a long way.

Just Hire a Dang Snow Goose Hunting Guide

If you want to see big flocks of snows, go with a guide.
Find a die-hard snow goose hunter and tag along.
Get your dog some extra work on spring snows.


Jared Shypkoski’s walleye weighed 16.39 pounds and is the unofficial North Dakota record. (Jared Shypkoski/)

Giant walleyes are hitting the scales in the Dakotas, continuing a trend that kicked off three years ago when a longtime and controversial state record fell.

Social media blew up last weekend with photos and reports about Jared Shypkoski’s rumored 16.39-pound walleye. He reportedly was fishing on the Missouri River south of Bismarck and trolling a crankbait—a custom-painted Smithwick Perfect 10 by friends Alex and Christine Gorske. Nothing official has yet been released by North Dakota Game and Fish, which maintains the state records and has seen a flurry of big walleye catches in the last three years.


Shyposki’s walleye hit a trolled crankbait. (Jared Shypkoski/)

The agency’s fisheries chief, Greg Power, told the Grand Forks Herald that a big walleye was caught March 13 and the weight was confirmed by a state game warden. If the record is confirmed, it would break the existing benchmark of 15 pounds, 13 ounces, set by Neal Leier of Bismarck in 2018, also on the Missouri River.

Read Next: Record 20-Pound Walleye Caught in Washington State

“Not a state record officially,” Power told the newspaper. “We’ll make that determination in the weeks ahead.”

Shyposki’s walleye hit a trolled crankbait.
An armful of walleye.
Derek Stahlman of Selby, South Dakota with his unrestricted state record South Dakota walleye.


A fishing hat should provide sun protection, keep you cool (or warm), and not interfere with your fishing. (Nick Dunn / Unsplash/)

For almost every angler, a fishing hat is a must-have for a long day on the water…and not just because you might think your favorite fishing hat gives you a boost of luck. Whether you’re a superstitious angler or not, a fishing hat will serve you well by shading your eyes and protecting you from the sun.

There’s no one definition of what a fishing hat is, but there are some qualities that you should look for when you’re on the market for a hat that you want to take on your next fishing trip. Primarily, you want a hat that protects you from the sun. Because it can get windy on the water, you need a hat that’s sturdy and will stay on your head. You also want a hat that’s lightweight and keeps you cool while protecting you from the sun. And of course, you should get a hat that you will enjoy wearing. (One angler actually used his hat to help him land a sailfish, but most of us won’t be using our fishing hats for that.)

Best Fishing Cap: Repyourwater Silhouette Trio

Best Straw Fishing Hat: Huk Camo Patch Straw Hat

Best Fishing Hat With Sun Protection: Kastking Sol Armis Boonie Hat

The RepYourWater Silhouette Trio depicts three trout.
The Huk Camo Patch Straw Hat harnesses all of straw’s best qualities.
The KastKing Sol Armis Boonie Hat offers superb sun protection and is available in nine color styles.
The Van Caro Warm Baseball Cap is ideal for cold weather anglers.
Look out fish! The Home Prefer Kids UPF50+ Safari Sun Hat is available in 10 patterns, from sharks and whales to crabs and seahorses.
The Bass Pro Shops Mesh Cap provides eye shade and ventilation at a very low price.