Hunting and Fishing News & Blog Articles

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The 10 Weirdest Deer Of 2020

Whitetail bucks are known for their unique qualities. They’re like a fingerprint. While some might appear similar, no two are exactly alike. Still, some deer are so very different that they deserve a closer look. These 10 deer are the weirdest, ugliest, most interesting deer that were photographed last year.

A Bull-Headed Brute

Wisconsin’s Bull-Headed Brute (Josh Honeycutt/)

A young hunter from Jackson County, Wisconsin, shared this photo with Outdoor Life, and while its rack and body appear relatively normal, its head certainly isn’t. While it’s possible infection is the answer, that doesn’t explain the seemingly short nose.

Of course, the hunter who shared the photo wished he’d tagged the buck, but he didn’t.

“I did not kill this deer, unfortunately, but the neighbors did,” he said. “I just have a trail cam pic of it.”

Doofus apparently had a misaligned jaw.
Jason Say puts his weird buck’s age at 6.5.
A freaky buck from Missouri.
The velvet rack of the Pine Cone buck.
Another Missouri freakazoid.
Get those nails clipped!
Drops to die for.
Scraggly Joe from North Carolina.
Robert Campbell rattled up this buck in Canada.

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3 Key Questions From Deb Haaland’s Interior Secretary Confirmation Hearings

Energy policy will be a key issue for Deb Haaland, President Biden's nominee for Secretary of the Interior. (Deb for Congress/)

The themes that will likely frame public-lands management over the next four years were on full display as U.S. senators began confirmation hearings for President Biden’s pick to run the sprawling Interior Department. In her first appearance before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland was asked to reconsider her vocal opposition to fossil-fuel extraction, whether Biden’s “pause” on permits to drill for oil and gas on federal lands would be permanent, and whether she has an expansive or limited view of national monuments.

But if senators expected Haaland, a first-term congresswoman and the first Native American to be nominated as Secretary of the Interior, to give them clear answers about the direction she might take the department, they were probably disappointed.

Her background—as a Native woman, 35th generation New Mexican, single mother, small-business owner, law-school graduate, and one of the first Native women to be elected to Congress—didn’t factor much in today’s hearing.

Instead, Haaland repeatedly told the committee that her personal views on topics as polarizing as national energy policy and endangered-species management would be subjugated to the president’s. When asked about her public record opposing fracking, pipelines, and most fossil-fuel infrastructure, she noted that previous statements “reflected my one small district in New Mexico. My role as secretary would be highly different. I would defer to the president.”

Still, the themes that emerged are bound to be reprised in tomorrow’s second round of questioning and—should she be confirmed by the full Senate—will likely dominate her tenure as head of the agency that controls about a fifth of the real estate of the United States, much of it in the West.

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Best Hatchets for Camping, Wood Splitting, Survival, and More

A good hatchet is a classic camping tool, and has numerous applications in both the wilds and the backyard. (Pixabay/)

A hatchet is the one outdoors tool you just can’t live well without. Around camp, it can handle just about any cutting task, whether you need to shave tinder and split kindling for a fire, whittle a tent stake, or even pound cube steak. At home, hand axes and hatchets indispensable as a handy hearthside companion. And with the advent of modern survival hatchets, this is the one tool you don’t want to leave home without. A solid design made of tough, corrosion-resistant materials can ride in a toolbox or storage bin and be close at hand if you need to clear a trail or help someone in danger. To make the best choice, read on to find out about the different kinds of steel used in hatchets and how handle and head designs affect performance. Then learn why a handy hatchet has been among the world’s most useful tools for centuries.

BEST ALL-AROUND GENERAL-USE HATCHET: Husqvarna 13 in. Wooden Handle HatchetBEST STEEL-HANDLED HATCHET: Estwing Sportsman’s Axe - 12″ Camping Hatchet with Forged Steel Construction & Genuine Leather GripBEST HATCHET FOR SPLITTING LOGS: Gransfors Bruks Small Splitting HatchetBEST SURVIVAL HATCHET: SOG Survival HawkBEST CAMP HATCHET: Outdoor Life Camp Axe - 3-inch Satin Finish Stainless Steel Blade with Hammer HeadBEST CHEAP HATCHET: Fiskars 378501-1002 X7 Hatchet

The Most Important Consideration When Shopping for Hatchets

Hatchets may seem similar, but there are numerous differences among them. You’ll want to match the hatchet to the job, whether you are splitting firewood or chopping small branches or pounding in tent stakes. Think about what you’ll be doing most with the hatchet before you buy. There are lots of choices, which means there’s a perfect hatchet for your outdoor adventures.

Do You Just Want an All-Around Hatchet?

Hatchets are so useful, and they’ve been around for so long, that there are lots of styles to choose from, and lots of materials to consider when it comes to handles and heads. Some hatchets are designed to do a better job at splitting wood, or come with a hardened “pommel” that looks like a hammer head on one end, which is designed for pounding. Others have thinner wedge shapes to the cutting head, which do a better job of whacking off limbs and cleanly cutting through smaller pieces of wood for campfire or home hearth firewood.

With a hickory handle and a Swedish steel cutting head, this hand axe looks as great as it performs.
You’ll use a good general-use hatchet everywhere, from camp to home to carrying in your vehicle, so a steel-handled tool is a go-to choice.
A hand-crafted tool that will last for generations, this splitting hatchet is the perfect choice for turning rounds of cut firewood into fuel and kindling for any indoor or outdoor fire.
With special features designed to help you cut your way out of trouble—or rescue someone already in a fix—this survival axe is as much an everyday tool as it is a piece of your outdoor gear kit.
A great camp hatchet has to be a chopper, slicer, hammer, and knife blade all at once.
This hatchet is made to handle abuse, whether that’s from hard pounding or leaving it out in the rain.

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First Look: Outdoor Life’s New Line of Camping Knives and Tools

The new line of Outdoor Life camping knives and tools. From left: the Camping Folding Knife, the Camping Fixed Blade Knife, the Camping Chef's Knife, the Camping Axe, and the Camping Machete. (Outdoor Life/)

For 123 years we’ve been trying to give our readers an edge with stories on the hottest hunting and fishing tactics and the latest gear. Well, now we’re bringing you an actual cutting edge—a couple of them. Outdoor Life has partnered with Master Cutlery to introduce a new line of camping knives and tools with a set that includes a folder, fixed-blade, chef’s knife, machete, and camp axe. These knives are thoughtfully designed and moderately priced making them a solid option for car campers and weekend adventurers. They can also pull double duty at your hunting camp, ride around in your truck, and even hold their own in the kitchen. Here’s a quick rundown of each blade.

The Outdoor Life folding camp knife isn't a pocket-sized blade, but it's packable and sturdy, with a fixed-blade-like feel. (Outdoor Life/)

Camping Folding Knife

This hefty folding knife has a 3.75-inch 7Cr17MoV stainless steel blade. The nylon-fiber handle is wide enough for even the huskiest bushcrafter to comfortably hold in his hand. The handle also has a carabiner built into it, so you can easily attach it to a pack. It comes with a carrying pouch that you can attach to your belt. The knife is a little big for carrying in a pant pocket—unless you’re still rocking cargo shorts.

OL's fixed-blade knife comes with a sturdy sheath for carrying on your belt. (Outdoor Life/)

Camping Fixed Blade Knife

This full-tang knife has a 4.75-inch 7Cr17MoV stainless steel blade. Just like the folder, it has a nylon-fiber handle. The knife has a nicely shaped drop-point blade that offers a ton of utility. It comes with solid sheath sporting a multi-position clip. The blade locks into the sheath nicely, and won’t shake loose even when jostled around or flipped upside down.

The Outdoor Life folding camp knife isn't a pocket-sized blade, but it's packable and sturdy, with a fixed-blade-like feel.
OL's fixed-blade knife comes with a sturdy sheath for carrying on your belt.
With the included nylon sheath (not pictured), the Outdoor Life Camping Chef's Knife is a perfect option for hunting camp or stashing in a kitchen box.
The packable Outdoor Life Camping Machete comes with a sturdy nylon sheath that includes a belt loop, for easy carrying afield.
The Outdoor Life camping axe features a sharp blade and a protective nylon sheath (not pictured).

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Best Heated Vest: Great Outdoor Gear for Winter Sports or Hunting

Layer up to stay warm. (Andre Furtado/)

A heated vest can seem like a miracle. You slip it on, choose a warming level, and wait a few seconds to feel chill-busting warmth that will keep you working or playing outside even longer. For winter sports, for hunters, for workers who spend long hours on the job, a heated vest can mean the difference between time spent shivering and miserable and time spent being productive and happy. But you have to choose the right heated vest to get the benefits.

Fortunately, there are lots to choose from. Some heated vests are one-size-fits-all, suited more for work crews and situations in which multiple people will wear the vest. Others are designed specifically for men or for women. If you’re looking for peak performance, the best heated vest will be one cut and fit to your body type. That prevents cold air from sneaking into an ill-fitted vest—and warm air from sneaking out. But even affordable heated vests and one-size-fits-all vests can work very well. Look for heating elements placed across your torso front and back, and consider a rechargeable heated vest. Standing there in the cold, with a warm smile on your face, you’ll have the answer to the question: Is a heated vest worth it?

Best rechargeable heated vest: ActionHeat 5V Battery-Heated Vest for MenBest heated vest for work: DEWALT Unisex Heated Reversible VestBest heated vest for hunting and fishing: ActionHeat 5V Battery Heated Insulated Puffer VestBest heated vest for winter sports: ARRIS Heated Vest Size AdjustableBest heated vest for women: ORORO Women’s Lightweight Heated VestBest cheap heated vest: LIFEBEE Heated Vest

Things to consider when shopping for the best heated vest

Keeping your core body temperature warm is the top task for a heated vest, and these convenient, easy-to-use pieces of winter gear should be a part of your essential wardrobe. They’re built to wear under your favorite jacket, or as a smart outer layer. And a rechargeable heated vest can be worn at both work and play. Easily powered with either an internal battery system or a power bank like those used to recharge smartphones, the best heated vests are portable and easily cared for—many can be tossed straight into the washer and dryer. When you’re looking for the best heated vest, we have you covered with choices for hard work on the job site, hard play on the ski slopes, or easy living by the fire.

Heated clothing will turn away the most bitter cold, and keep you active outdoors when everyone else has called it quits. When you’re looking for one of these winter wonders, make sure to check off critical features.

Utilizing high-efficient carbon fiber panels, this vest is built for the long haul.
On the job site, keep a unisex heated vest handy to keep the work rolling smoothly.
Hunters and anglers often sit for long periods of time outdoors. Double up on comfort with a puffy vest for an extra dose of warmth.
This heated vest with multiple heating levels and heating elements will keep you comfortable all day long.
A tailored vest designed specifically for women not only keeps you warmer, but looks great doing it.
This vest is a great option if you have a USB battery pack in hand. Just plug it up, slip it into the battery pocket, and head for the outdoors.

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Shotgun Review: The New Browning Maxus II

Browning's Maxus II has undergone some serious upgrades. (Joe Weimer Media/)

I can remember goose hunting with a buddy one warm January morning. We set the decoys, climbed in the pit, and he unsheathed an original Browning Maxus. I think we saw one flock of honkers that day, so I spent a majority of the morning staring at his gun. I hadn’t seen the Maxus up close yet. I thought it was odd-looking. That square fore-end. No magazine cap; just some funky little latch you pulled on to field strip the gun.

“How do you put an extension magazine on that for snow goose hunting,” I inquired. “You don’t,” he said.

Smartly, Browning has fixed that problem with the 12-gauge 3 ½-inch Maxus II (Winchester SX4 extension mags can be paired with the new Maxus). Most waterfowlers snow goose hunt or like the idea of snow goose hunting, so they want a gun that accepts a magazine extension. Paying $1,800 and not getting that feature is a hard pill to swallow, and I’m sure it made some hunters pass on the first iteration of the Maxus when it was introduced in 2009. And honestly, it was never a widely sought after gun by waterfowlers or pheasant hunters (probably because the A5 and Citori are so popular). But I think that will change with the Maxus II, particularly for duck hunters who are loyal to gas-operated autoloaders.

“The most noticeable change on this gun is the fore-end cap,” said Browning product manager Tim Frampton. “One of the cardinal rules of gunmaking is to not give the consumer a reason not to buy the gun. And I think we accomplished that with the Maxus II.”

It’s also a much sleeker gun than the original. The old Maxus was blocky and kind of hard to get a comfortable grip on for those with smaller hands. I saw many folks having to hold the underside of the fore-end in the palm of their hand because of its shape. That made the gun a little more difficult to swing than some of its competitors.

The rubber overmolds on the pistol grip and fore-end make the Maxus II feel like it is an extension of you.
The Maxus II is available in this old-school vintage tan camo.
Most Maxus II models come with extended choke tubes.
Browning has made sure that its shotshells pattern beautifully out of its guns.

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Video: Potential World-Record Paddlefish Caught (And Released)

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There’s big fish magic in the waters of Tennessee’s Cherokee Lake, where yet another astonishing American paddlefish has been caught from the deep, clear reservoir.

Robert Livingston was fishing with a friend on January 23 when he snagged the giant fish and got it to the boat. Livingston estimated it to be 6 feet long and 150 pounds, based on the width of his friend’s boat and because he can lift 150 pounds overhead at the gym. Neither is 100 percent accurate, of course, but when eyeballing the big spoonie it certainly is a giant.

“This one, it just swam by and caught my hook right in the corner of its mouth,” Livingston told WBIR 10 News. “It was barely hooked, just a small portion of its cheek. (Got) it in the boat and I grab it, and the hook actually falls out into the water.”

The Tennessee record is 104 pounds, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The world record is 151 pounds, 14.4 ounces caught on Keystone Lake in Oklahoma.

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Quit Worrying About Genetics: How Successful Deer Hunters Think About Antler Growth, Cull Bucks, and Passing Good Deer

This year was the year we’ve been waiting for at the family deer camp. All summer and fall we pulled trail camera photos of more—and bigger—bucks than had ever been seen on the property. It was a far cry from the early 90s, when the bucks my dad and uncles did spot tended to have a signature narrow spread with tall, skinny tines. Now, nearly 30 years later, we’re finally seeing a caliber of deer we weren’t even sure the property was capable of supporting. It’s taken a lot of intensive habitat improvement and discipline, but it’s working.

Still, there was probably a faster way to get here. It should have taken years, not decades, to improve our whitetail habitat. And there are still things we’re trying to figure out—like how to kill those bucks now that we’ve got them. So, I decided to find out what a lot of whitetail hunters get wrong by talking to some hunters who having been succeeding at the management game for a long time.

You cannot accurately predict the size of a buck's antlers by looking at the antlers of his father. (Neal Lewis / NPS /)

Does Selective Culling Improve Antler Quality?

Typically, a cull buck is one that deer managers have identified as genetically inferior and should be removed from the wild herd. This might be a deer whose antlers are too small or too funky to keep in the gene pool. Studies show that killing these deer solely on the basis of selective harvest (rather than for the traditional reasons of fun, meat, etc.) is ultimately a waste of a good buck tag.

“Many hunters simply believe that you can influence antler quality through genetics in the wild,” says Kip Adams, chief conservation officer of the National Deer Association (formerly QDMA). “We know very clearly that yes, behind a fence—when you can pick which buck is doing the breeding and which doe is doing the breeding—[you] can absolutely can influence the genetics. In the wild, it’s very clear we cannot do that.”

The number of fawns any given buck sires is relatively low, as is fawn recruitment—yet another reason why culling bucks doesn't have any meaningful impact on antler growth.
A trail camera photo of the 4-year-old buck Brent Cearlock passed during the 2020 Illinois bowseason.
A photograph of the buck Cearlock called Will, because he didn't know if he'd have the willpower to pass the 4-year-old buck if he walked out.
Two of the big 8-point bucks Rick Dahl captured on a trail camera survey of the new hunting property.
Dougherty with a mature New York buck, on a property carefully optimized for habitat—and hunting access.

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Best Winter Boots for Men: Leather Boots, Insulated Work Boots, and More

Whether you’re heading out on a backcountry hike or spending the day on a snowy worksite, a good pair of boots is your best friend. (Annie Spratt/)

Don’t get cold feet, get a new pair of boots. A good pair of winter boots will keep your toes dry and warm, while providing enough traction to help you keep your footing in the harshest winter conditions. But not all winter boots are made alike. Nothing’s worse than buying a pair of cruddy winter boots that will leave your toes numb all winter. A high-quality pair of winter boots is an important part of every outdoorsman’s winter clothing arsenal. And in some cases, you may want more than one pair of boots in your chamber.

Winter boots are customized for an array of different outdoors activities. Some are better for spending frigid mornings mucking around swampy areas hunting winter geese, while others are better for strapping into snowshoes and heading deep into the backcountry, and yet others are stylish enough to don before hitting the town. Regardless of what you’re up to this winter, you need winter boots that get the job done. We did the hard part for you—the research. Here is a definitive guide of the best winter boots for men available today, as well as key factors to consider before making your next purchase.

Best men’s winter boots overall: Sorel Men’s Caribou Wool BootBest waterproof boots for men: The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Sport Extreme-Conditions BootsBest winter hiking boots for men: Salomon Men’s X Ultra Winter CS Waterproof Performance BootBest insulated work boots: Carhartt Men’s 10″ Waterproof Insulated PAC Composite Toe BootBest winter ankle boots for men: Timberland Men’s White Ledge Mid Waterproof Ankle BootBest cheap boots for men: NORTIV 8 Men’s Insulated Warm Winter Snow Boots

Get ready to find your new favorite pair of men’s winter boots

Men’s winter boots should be well-made, warm, waterproof, and durable. Before buying a new pair, you need to consider how much you’re willing to spend, which winter activities you’re planning on using the boots for, and how long you want your boots to last. Below is everything you need to consider when hunting for a new pair of the best winter boots for men.

Want stylish or practical cold weather boots—or both?

Sorel Men's Caribou Wool Boot is stylish and rugged.
The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Sport Extreme-Conditions Boots for Men live up to their name.
Salomon Men's X Ultra Winter CS Waterproof 2 Hiking Boot makes winter hiking fun.
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Can Hunting Be Used to Manage Urban Goose Populations? A New Radio-Collar Study Has Some Answers

Resident goose population have become a nuisance in many metro areas. (Dennis Bennett via Pixabay/)

It’s no secret that Canada geese love cities and golf courses. They have water, short grass in spring and summer, and they’re protected from hunting pressure. Sure, kids may run to scare them, as kids do, and a dog or coyote may nab a few goslings before the goose or gander gets riled up. But otherwise, cities are protection zones and geese take full advantage. The problem is that many of these resident geese populations are growing and becoming a nuisance. Can hunting be used as a management tool?

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is looking for answers. They recently completed a three-year study of Canada geese in metro Des Moines and the research will be used to revise the DNR’s goose management plan. The agency worked with Iowa State University to mark 71 urban and rural female Canada geese with GPS GSM transmitters, and then monitored movements from 2018-20.

Read More Waterfowl Hunting Tips.

“Modern urban development, specifically short grass adjacent to open water, is very attractive to geese,” Orrin Jones, state waterfowl biologist with the DNR stated in a press release. “It’s remarkable how geese have learned to exploit habitat in urban areas and how well they move through urban areas from May to August despite being largely flightless for most of that time.”

According to the agency, Canada geese were locally extinct in Iowa from 1907-64. The Iowa Conservation Commission, the agency that preceded the DNR, and other states within the Mississippi Flyway Council worked to restore Iowa’s breeding population. By 1993, at least one nesting pair of Canada geese was in all 99 counties.

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“Whoa Bear. Get Outta Here.” How to Talk Your Way Out of a Dangerous Wildlife Encounter

The author's close call with a grizzly. (Tyler Freel/)

If there’s one guarantee about encounters with potentially dangerous wildlife, it’s that there are no guarantees. Potential wildlife conflict situations can present themselves in the unlikeliest of places (as illustrated by the recent encounter a woman here in Alaska had with a bear under the seat of her outhouse), and some level of preparedness is always prudent. That preparedness comes in the forms of both knowledge and actual physical tools for dealing with dangerous situations. You don’t have to be miles deep into a wilderness area to have a dangerous wildlife encounter, and often, these encounters seem to happen when people least expect it.

If it does happen to you, you’ll want to have as many options at your disposal as possible. A backup option like a firearm or even bear spray can help you not only by providing a last-ditch defensive tool, but these tools will also give you the confidence to avoid panic and approach the situation thoughtfully.

Every so often, one of these wildlife encounters is captured on video and makes the rounds on the internet (this actually happened to me a few years ago, more on that in a minute). Both of the following videos involving mountain lions popped up last year. The first is an encounter where a hunter scouting for elk in Colorado suddenly noticed a lion staring him down, very close, possibly exhibiting some predatory behavior.

According to the caption, the man drew a handgun and began calmly talking to the big cat and standing his ground. The cat decides to leave, which is the best possible outcome.

The second video (that you’ve likely already seen) is from the phone of a trail runner in Utah, who encountered mountain lion kittens on a trail. The situation that followed may have been avoided had he backed away quietly rather than move toward the kittens. Either way, he quickly found himself being aggressively followed and swiped at for roughly 6 minutes by the agitated mother lion. The runner sees no option but to retreat, shouting frantically at times. He made a good decision by not running away outright, and he eventually picks up a rock and scares the lioness away. But the situation could have just as easily turned deadly.

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7 Surefire Ways to Ruin Your Spring Snow Goose Hunt

If you want to have a successful snow goose hunt, avoid making fatal mistakes. (Joe Weimer Media/)

No matter how good of a snow goose hunter you are, there will be times when you fail. It’s part of any hunting pursuit. I know this better than most. When I first started snow goose hunting, I made plenty of blunders. Luckily, since I hunt mostly on my own, very few folks know about them—until now.

Hunting spring snows is hard. It takes a ton of scouting, finding access, setting thousands of decoys, and ideal weather conditions. I’ve spent years battling the spring migration, and though most days I feel like I’m beating my head against a white wall, shooting into those huge tornadoes of geese keeps me coming back. But there are a handful of mistakes you simply can’t make. If you do, there’s zero chance of killing a single bird. Avoid these pitfalls, and you’ll have a fighting chance at stacking up more snows this spring.

1. Terrible Hides

If you’ve spent any time chasing ducks and geese, you know that concealment is king. With snows, multiply that by 10. I’d need a Master’s degree in calculous to add up the number of opportunities wasted by failure to properly cover blinds and conceal gear. Selecting a field with ample grass or stubble is the first step in getting the hide right, but that doesn’t automatically mean you will be hidden. Take the time to brush in blinds, whether you hunt on the ground in layouts or from A-Frames on an edge or hedgerow. If you’re in a pit, make sure the shooting ports are well covered. You can do this with a mix of natural stubble or grasses that extend over the hole (store-bought grassmats work too). Place your full-body decoys—or windsocks on stakes—around the shooting holes as well. Also, cover up the e-caller and tornado machine batteries, and make sure your retriever is well hidden.

2. Dirty Spreads

If you want to get snows in tight, better keep the spread clean.
The author has walked in plenty of snow goose gear. Don't make the same choice.
Snow geese are attracted to the sound of e-callers, but it must be quality sound.
The author's Lab is a well-trained snow goose dog.

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The Buck With The Hairy Eyeballs

The buck with the hairy eyeballs tested positive for EHD. (EHD/)

It sounds like something out of a horror movie: a whitetail buck with hairy eyeballs. No joke. That’s what the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency discovered when a hunter reported a deer on the agency’s “Report Sick Deer” button of its website. The TWRA added the feature so hunters and citizens could report deer acting strangely, in an effort to curtail Chronic Wasting Disease and other diseases.

Lindsay Thomas with the National Deer Association gives a pretty harrowing account of this deer on the NDA site. Blood or weird stuff usually doesn’t bother me, but I have to admit that these photos freaked me out. I’m unsure if Wes Craven or M. Night Shyamalan could come up with this.

Read Next: Weird Deer

The deer was spotted in August 2020 near Farragut, a suburb of Knoxville in east Tennessee.

“The individual stated the deer was circling (in a street), had visible bleeding, lacked awareness of the people around it, and had something on its eyes,” wildlife biologist Sterling Daniels of TWRA said.

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Best Snowshoes: Backcountry Gear for Any Level

A good pair of snowshoes will get you through a steep alpine hike or a snowy family outing. (Pcdazero / Pixabay/)

If you can walk, you can snowshoe. That’s how the saying goes. So it’s possible that finding the best snowshoes for you might actually be more daunting than the powdery terrain you plan to traverse. Sure, if you’re in survival mode out in the woods, you could fashion yourself a nifty pair of emergency shoes for snow and stomp your way to safety. After all, versions of wooden snowshoes have been around for thousands of years for the simple purpose of helping humans displace their weight when traveling through deep snow. But today, no matter if you want family fun or alpine adventure, you need not settle for snowshoes made of sticks or leaves. Whether you’re looking for the best snowshoes for beginners or top backcountry snowshoes, whether kids’ snowshoes or a pair of running snowshoes, we’ve done the legwork for you. Here’s all you need to know when shopping for the best snowshoes, so you can save your energy for your next climb.

Best Snowshoes for Men (Family Outings): Tubbs Flex VRT Snowshoes

Best Snowshoes for Women (Family Outings): MSR Lightning Ascent

Best Kids’ Snowshoes: Tubbs Kids’ Snowflake Snowshoe

Best Snowshoes for Beginners: MSR Revo Trail Hiking Snowshoes

These snowshoes have an ergonomic design, are simple to use, and are equipped for technical climbs. Tubbs
Built for big climbs, these MSRs are also perfect for moms who don’t want to lose a step on leisurely outings with the kids.
If you want to get your youngster excited about winter adventure, these colorful Tubbs are outstanding.
Rugged, durable and with just enough bite, these MSRs will give you confidence as you start your snowshoeing adventures.
At less than 3 pounds a pair, these Northern Lites can carry up to 250 pounds, while still floating above the powder.
Aggressive traction features give you all the bite you need for steep climbs.
The sleek shape and spring-loaded suspension in these Atlas snowshoes provide everything you need to sprint on snow.
If all you need is a set for short walks a few weekends a year, at less than $100, these are the best cheap snowshoes out there.

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The Best Machete to Cut, Slash, and Bash through Anything

Machetes are wielded in rough conditions, so make sure the one you get will stand up to tough use. (Traphitho / Pixabay/)

Take a look at the market for machetes and you’ll see just how many choices are out there. It can be confusing. What’s the difference between a Kukri and a Parang? What use is a curved end on a machete? Does it matter whether a blade is made of stainless steel or carbon steel? Do you need to use the machete in the event of a survival situation, or simply to chop through some tall weeds and brush in your yard?

The good news is, machetes in general are very affordable, so you won’t drop a bundle making a very good choice. The challenge is zeroing in on the right tool for the job.

Best All-Around Machete: Gerber Gator Machete

Best Machete for Tall Grass and Briars: Condor Tool & Knife El Salvador Machete

Best Machete for Camping: Gerber Gator Kukri Machete

A well-balanced tool, this proven machete has a perfect 18-inch length and multiple cutting surfaces.
Built on the lines of a classic Latin American machete, this perfectly balanced blade will eat through that yard you haven’t mowed in a month.
Campers need a high-quality machete that will work from sunup to sundown in a variety of tasks.
Machetes are hard-use tools, and while you should always take care of your machete, a corrosion-resistant blade will last practically forever.
Sometimes you just need to wade into the ugly stuff and start swinging. A parang-style machete is the perfect tool when paired with hand protection that will keep you working all day long.
When it all comes down to you, your survival skills, and the tools at hand, you’d better put your fingers around a serious survival machete.
Don’t be fooled by the edgy design, with the perforated blades and sweeping edge geometry. This is a solid performer at a great price.

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Why the Gauge of Your Shotgun Doesn’t Matter on Gamebirds

Quail, woodcock, and snipe can be harvested with any gauge. Lighter loads make the difference. (Tom Keer/)

In my younger days, my buddies and I always went to a bar after work. Every now and then we’d get into arguments with a bar fly—from politics to our favorite bird gun—and suddenly were all in a fight. If none of us got thrown out, then we’d all shake hands, pull up a chair, and have another drink. These days, those fights still happen, but they’re on social media—and they never seem to end well. Last fall, I saw a basic question go sideways. Someone asked, “What gauge shotgun should you use on grouse and woodcock?”

The initial responses were mundane, and tame. Some suggested a 20-gauge, others a 28 or even .410. Things heated up when someone chimed in about a 16-gauge, but heavens to Betsey did it pour over when someone mentioned they shot a 12: “How can anyone use a 12-gauge cannon for a such a small bird?” Venom spewed, and everyone got hacked off.

The truth is that the gauge of the gun you are shooting doesn’t make a difference. Shot size, the charge weight of the shotshell you are shooting, and how the shotgun is choked are what matter. This is going to get technical—and won’t have much application for a bird hunter who just wants to buy a box of upland shells off the shelf and get on with his life—buy I’ve been hand-loading my own shells for years and can tell you that shooting a grouse or woodcock with a 12-gauge is fine, as long as it is loaded with the proper ammo.

Although different gauges, these loads are all the same and deliver 307 pellets of #8 shot. (Tom Keer/)

Do the Math, with Help from Reloaders

You can shoot woodcock with a 12-gauge and wild turkeys with a 28-gauge if you use the correct load. A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look at the accompanying photo above of a box of 12-, 16-, 20-, and 28-gauge shells. Though their gauges are different, their payloads (the number of pellets in each shell) are identical. Here’s why.

Although different gauges, these loads are all the same and deliver 307 pellets of #8 shot.
Don’t just reach for a shell. Grab on to the right shell.
Lars Jacob will shoot any shotgun, but he's a fan of the 28-gauge.

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Huge Pennsylvania Crappie Nearly Breaks Record

Dan Wielobob’s giant Pennsylvania crappie weighed more than 4 pounds! (Darl Black/)

After getting his COVID-19 vaccination and returning home, Dan Wielobob almost decided to stick around the house instead of going ice fishing for a few hours like he normally does. As any angler knows, though, you can’t catch anything if you don’t go.

Wielobob’s decision to hit the ice resulted in a near-record crappie, the biggest he’s ever seen.

Wielobob lives in northwest Pennsylvania on Lake Conneaut, the largest natural lake in the state. He and his wife drove to a clinic in Ohio that morning to get their virus vaccinations. Conneaut is iced, but he decided to drive over to nearby Lake Wilheim. After arriving about 4 p.m. he cut a hole and began working a maggot-tipped tungsten jig near the bottom.

Read Next: Four Tips For Fall Crappies

Wielobob is no rookie on the ice or open water. In 60 years of angling he’s caught plenty of crappies, walleyes, and other species. The late-afternoon outing started off well with consistent bites from 9 to 10-inch crappies. Then, a 15-incher hit and came to hand. Not a bad trip, he thought.

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Want to Plant the Ultimate Survival Garden This Spring? You Better Start Planning Right Now

There’s a growing interest in the old-fashioned heritage skills of gardening, foraging and living “off the land” these days. (Tim MacWelch/)

It takes a lot more than a pack of seeds and a shovel to enhance your food security with a backyard survival garden. You need a solid, practical plan. Maybe you’ve never planted a single seed before, or maybe you’ve been working in the family garden since you were old enough to walk. Either way, there’s work you should be doing right now, even if the ground is frozen. You can start planning ahead.

Look Back to Gardening History Before Looking Ahead

Many Americans planted “Victory Gardens” during World War I and II, with the goal of increasing the nation’s food supply. In 1943, for example, there were more than 20 million war gardens in the U.S. The need and interest were there, and the citizenry responded. This patriotic planting produced an estimated 8 million tons of food, which was nearly half of the food consumed that year in the nation.

Jumping forward to last year, Americans responded to a crisis once again by rolling up their sleeves and getting dirt under their fingernails. For those who were paying attention to the self-reliance boom that took place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have noticed that a lot of stores ran out of basic gardening supplies and seeds. This spring, supply chains are in much better shape than those at the end of winter and early spring of 2020, but it’s wise to remember those empty shelves. Buy the things you need when they are available. Late winter is a great time to buy seeds and garden supplies. You can get them before the spring rush hits and you’ll have the best selection. If you want to grow the ultimate garden this spring, you don’t want to wait until the resources are “picked over” in late spring.

Scout the Best Survival Garden Location

Without the dressing and bacon bits, no one can survive on salad. Potatoes and other high-calorie foods will add value to your survival garden.
Nothing good grows in a hurry. Make sure your plan includes a realistic time frame within the growing season.
Don’t waste those edible weeds. When you learn about the local wild plant species that are safe for human consumption, they can become bonus food items in your survival garden.

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Best Neck Gaiter: Protection from the Neck Up in Every Season

A fishing neck gaiter for cool weather will block wind and prevent heat from escaping through your top layers. (Narciso Arellano / Unsplash/)

Neck gaiters are versatile pieces of apparel that can help you stay comfortable no matter the conditions you’re facing. During warm days, thin and lightweight neck gaiters can help keep you cool and block harmful UV rays. On frigid days, neck gaiters are an essential piece of winter clothing, keeping you warm by providing insulation that covers your neck, face, and head.

There are several types of neck gaiters on the market today. A traditional neck gaiter is a flexible tube of material that slides over your head and fits around your neck. Unlike a scarf, it has no endings to wrap and unwrap. You can pull this kind of neck gaiter up to cover your face and head. You can even wear it like a headband. Another popular version of a neck gaiter is a balaclava, which includes a built-in head cap. Regardless of which type of neck gaiter you get, the main differences you will find are the material that the neck gaiters are made out of, and the size.

Best Neck Gaiter for Cold Weather: Turtle Fur Double-Layer Midweight Micro Fur Fleece Neck Warmer

Best Merino Wool Neck Gaiter: Minus33 Merino Wool 730 Midweight Neck Gaiter

Best Neck Gaiter for Cool-Weather Fishing: Simms Gore-Tex Infinium Neck Gaiter

The Turtle Fur Double-Layer Midweight Neck Warmer is the standard-bearer for winter comfort.
The Minus33 Merino Wool Midweight Neck Gaiter succeeds in the coldest winter conditions.
The Simms Gore-Tex Infinium Neck Gaiter is windproof, water-resistant, and has specially designed breathing holes.
The RedHead Form Fit Spandex Scent Control Camo Three-Quarter Face Mask will keep you camouflaged.
The Buff Coolnet Uv+ Multifunctional Headwear offers superb sun protection.
This basic neck gaiter is cheap and functional.

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The Browning Citori that Killed 100 Gobblers

Ira McCauley with his Citori and tom No. 100. (Ira McCauley/)

For the better part of three decades, Ira McCauley was on a different kind of turkey quest. Most U.S. hunters are after a Grand Slam, which requires tagging one each of the Merriam’s, Rio, Eastern, and Osceola subspecies. But McCauley, co-owner of Habitat Flats, wanted to kill 100 turkeys with one gun: an old Browning Citori he bought in college while working at a Bass Pro. Most seasons, he shot two Missouri toms, but as he closed in on No. 100, the longbeards became elusive. From 2017 until May 2019, he remained stuck on 98.

“Every spring I would get my turkeys, but then all the sudden there were a few seasons where I didn’t get one,” says McCauley, who did shoot a mouthy jake he thought was a tom during that stretch. “I wanted to get to 100 with this gun. It had a unique story behind it, and I had gone through so much with that old double. I just had to make it happen.”

Read Next: The Ultimate DIY Turkey Gun

He bought the over/under, one of the first Citori lines Browning ever camo-dipped (which they have since stopped, thank God), with his employee discount in the late 1980s or early 1990s while attending the University of Missouri. For a long time, it was the only shotgun he owned, and though it was primarily his turkey gun, McCauley used it for hunting all manner of wild game. McCauley is a former duck and snow goose guide, and the double gun traveled with him from Alaska to the Canadian prairie, and across the continental United States.

Each time he shot a tom, McCauley would drive a brass nail into the stock of the Citori. In total there are 111 nails—now 108 on one side for McCauley, and three on the other for the birds his oldest son Kory, who he hopes will take up the gun one day and keep its legacy alive, has killed.

McCauley had bird No. 100 mounted next to many of the beards from other birds he has shot with the Citori.
McCauley shot bird No. 99 in 2019 after not having killed a tom since the 2017 season.
'McCauley and long-time friend "Big Gun" Bob Shultz with a pair of Kansas gobblers.' data-has-syndication-rights=1

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