Hunting and Fishing News & Blog Articles

Stay up-to-date on hunting, fishing and camping products, trends and news.

3 Cheap Pieces of Gear You Need to Have in Your Backcountry Survival Pack

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.

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Let Your Kids Schedule Your Hunts, and Other Advice for New Adult Hunters

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.

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  1976 Hits

3 Shotguns That Defined the Early 20th Century (and One That Was an Absolute Blunder)

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.

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Best Gifts For Mom Under $200: Cool Gifts for Moms Who Love the Outdoors

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.

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Gift Ideas for Moms Who Fish: Gear and Fishing Gadgets to Help Her Catch the Big One

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.

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  2007 Hits

Video: Great White Shark Caught (and Released) From Florida’s Pensacola Beach

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.

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6 Most Common Mistakes Rookie Foragers Make

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.

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How Tooth Collection Helps Set Future Hunting Regulations

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.

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The 10-Gauge vs. 12-Gauge Shootout: The 10 is Still a Long-Range Hammer on Turkeys and Geese

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.

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How to Be a Casual (and Ethical) Snow Goose Hunter

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.

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This Pending State Record Is the Latest Big Walleye Out of the Dakotas

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.

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What’s the Best Fishing Hat?

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.

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This Ammo Shortage Can Make You a Better Shot

There's no substitute for sending rounds downrange, but you can become a better shot during this ammo shortage. (NSSF/)

I know you’re sick of hearing about the current ammunition shortage, but unfortunately it’s probably going to continue for months to come. Whether you have a stockpile of ammunition or not, you likely are going to be more cautious when it comes to expending ammo for the foreseeable future. In some ways, there is no substitute for sending rounds downrange. Time behind the trigger improves our shooting, but many of us can’t do that right now with the lack of cartridges available. But there is a silver lining to the ammo shortage: it can actually help improve your shooting.

If you’re used to ripping through ammunition at the range without a care in the world, a scarcity of ammunition can help you focus on each round and improve your accuracy. I don’t want to take the fun out of shooting, but I believe every round I fire now needs to have a purpose, to contribute to the betterment of my skills and confidence in a particular gun.

Shooting practice is only practice if you are getting better, and although it’s good, clean fun, shooting from the hip, burning through magazines as fast as you can, or other casual shooting won’t really help you when it matters most. You’ll just end up with a hot barrel and no ammo—not a great place to be right now.

If you want to improve your accuracy, there are many drills and techniques available. There are drills that don’t require much ammo, and training can often be done with rimfires if you do have the ammo for that. There are also plenty of dry-fire drills that will help develop and improve your fundamental shooting skills. A combination of live fire and dry-run drills can be very helpful and conserve ammo, even if they are simple. Drawing you pistol, target acquisition, transitioning, breathing, and trigger control can all be drilled heavily without using up any brass, and will reveal things like an anticipatory flinch you might not catch while live firing.

Even on the range, it is helpful to employ dry-fire exercises. When I’m going to zero a hunting rifle or check accuracy on handloads, I almost always spend several minutes dry firing at the target before I ever send a bullet downrange. It gives me time to separate myself from whatever else is going on that day, focus on my breathing, lower my heart rate, and cleanly break the trigger. By the time I’m actually shooting, I’m tuned up and able to make the most out of the ammo that I am using. I make it a regular habit to practice drawing and dry firing my concealed-carry handgun as well. There are some things like recoil management that you must shoot to get used to. But many of the components of a smooth draw, proper grip, sight acquisition, and a clean first shot can be drilled without ever firing a shot.

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New York Anglers Catch 81 Muskies In One Season

Katia Rivers with one of the 81 muskies that she and her boyfriend Zach Baker caught in the Finger Lakes region of New York State last year. (Baker Muskie Lures/)

Catching a giant muskie is challenging—they’re called the fish of 10,000 casts because old timers say that’s how many casts it takes to catch one. These freshwater predators are moody, persnickety and can be frustrating to catch for even the most experienced anglers.

Katia Rivers, though, appears to be a muskie whisperer. The 39-year-old phlebotomist and EKG tech from Rochester, New York, and her boyfriend, Zach Baker, caught 81 muskies in 2020. That’s right, 81 muskies, on the Finger Lakes of western New York and some smaller lakes around those well-known waterways. Using the “fish of 10,000 casts” math, that would be 810,000 casts, but who’s counting. They fished on weekends, she told writer David Figura, and stayed only on the inland lakes despite the allure of the St. Lawrence River’s big muskies.

Rivers and Baker released all the muskies that they caught. (Baker Muskie Lures/)

“I have two secret weapons: Baker Musky Lures and a great net man,” says Rivers. “I’m still kind of processing it. It was an overwhelming, magical experience.”

Baker is the founder of Baker Muskie Lures and the Muskie’s Inc. chapter in Rochester. To say they’re dialed in on the big fish would be accurate. Rivers caught her first muskie six years ago on Lake Chautauqua. Her personal best is 50 1/2 inches, caught on Waneta Lake. She and Baker troll his handmade cedar crankbaits and release the muskies.

Muskies and northerns thrive in the deep water, vegetation, rocky habitat and ample forage of the Finger Lakes and smaller impoundments. Also, a couple of hatcheries managed by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation are located in the area, one on Chautauqua. Biologists in spring collect and fertilize eggs from wild fish, usually Chautauqua, for rearing and release in 14 lakes.

Rivers and Baker released all the muskies that they caught.
Rivers with a fall-bite fish.
A big muskie trolled up with one of Baker’s cedar crankbaits.

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Becoming a Trapper Will Make You a Better Hunter

The author after a successful day on the trapline. (Skye Goode/)

I’ve run into quite a few hunters with preconceived notions about trapping, and their stance against it. Often, their viewpoints on the methods used and the reasons for those methods are born out of ignorance. But I was a lifelong hunter before I became a trapper. I’ve frequently told the story about how I got started in trapping, and I’ll tell it again.

I shot a buck one evening during archery season; when I went to recover the deer in the morning, it had been consumed by coyotes. I took an interest in trying to trap those coyotes in a selfish way—to get revenge—but quickly learned that trapping is an obsession that will keep a person forever striving to achieve perfection. Which is, of course, impossible to do when trapping. Even trappers who have been doing it for more than 50 years make mistakes. But the best trappers are also constantly learning and working to get better. After hunting for so many years, I had plateaued when entering the woods. But trapping lit a new spark. When I was faced with the decision to get in a deer stand or set more traps, I ended up putting hunting on the backburner.

One of the best reasons to take up trapping is that it makes you a much better hunter. This is a humbling thought for those who presume they’re already the world’s greatest outdoorsman. They already know everything there is to know, right? But in my experience, not many hunters can tell the difference between a raccoon track and an otter track, or bobcat scat and coyote scat, or a skunk den and a fox den. These are all important things to know when pursuing game. These predators are after the same prey that you are, whether it’s a whitetail deer or a grouse—and its nest of eggs.

Learning to read the sign in the woods will help you learn animal behavior, and once you understand animal behavior, you will ultimately be a much better hunter than someone who only focuses on knowing one species. I’ve also noticed that becoming a trapper has increased my ability to recover wounded deer with a much higher success rate. Even my shed hunting trips have produced many more antlers. This is because I now know how to study tracks and patterns; I notice every overturned leaf or swaying track that might go unnoticed by the average Joe hunter.

Another reason to take up trapping if you are a hunter is to help manage game species. Most land stewards know predator control can play an important role in wildlife management, especially when combined with habitat work. Game birds and waterfowl, such as turkeys, grouse, and ducks, are constant prey for furbearers such as fox and fisher. All the eggs in a nest can be consumed in one night by critters such as raccoon, opossums, and skunks. Turkey declines have been noted as raccoon populations increase. You can also use trapping on a property to manage beavers, who will chomp down mature oaks in one winter, and otter, who can decimate a stocked pond in one night.

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Stay Comfortable and Safe on the Water with the Best Fishing Life Vest

Life vests for fishing differ in style, sizing, and even how they keep you afloat in case you go overboard. (Spencer Gurley / Pexels/)

It’s a good rule of thumb to use a life vest whenever you’re on a boat. Also known as a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) or life jacket, life vests provide buoyancy that can save your life if you’re thrown overboard. You should wear a life vest whether you’re float fishing the Missouri River or kayaking for bass in central Florida.

While every fisherman should own a good life vest, not every life vest is ideal for fishing. A fishing life vest must allow ease of movement so you can fish, and contain storage compartments so you will have small items at hand. Beyond that, consider the water conditions you’re going to fish. Some life jackets are made to keep you alive in whitewater conditions, while others are better for trolling on lakes. Either way, we’ve got you covered. Below is a thorough guide to the best fishing life vests available today.

Best Inflatable Life Vest: Bluestorm Gear Stratus 35 Inflatable PFD

Best Kayak Fishing Life Vest: NRS Chinook OS Fishing Lifejacket

Best Fishing Life Vest For Float Fishing: Kent Type I Life Jacket

The Bluestorm Gear Stratus 35 Inflatable PFD is an ultralight fishing life vest.
The NRS Chinook OS Fishing Lifejacket is loaded with storage compartments.
The Kent Type I Life Jacket is built for whitewater.
The XPS Deluxe Hinged Life Jacket for Kids is a great option for little anglers.
The XPS Deluxe Fishing Life Vest is a general-purpose, versatile fishing life vest.
The Hardcore Water Sports High Visibility Life Jacket comes in sizes from child to 6x adult.

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Q&A: The President of Black Hills Ammunition on Making Ammo for the Military, Price Gouging, Shortage Conspiracies, and More

Jeff Hoffman, owner of Black Hills Ammunition in South Dakota, said there's no way ammo makers are stockpiling rounds waiting for the price to go up so they can make larger profits. (Black Hills Ammunition/)

In our coverage of the ammo shortage we’ve talked to the folks running the largest ammunition companies in the country. And while these massive ammo producers build much of the ammo that American civilians, military, and law enforcement purchase, there’s also an entire group of smaller, specialty ammo makers hustling to fill orders all across the country. To get a better picture of the challenges these smaller shops are facing during the craziest ammo buying surge in recent history, we caught up with Jeff Hoffman, president of Black Hills Ammunition. His company, based in South Dakota, has a number of contracts for providing specialized match and combat ammo to the military, but it also produces ammo for the civilian commercial market. Hoffman has 37 years of law enforcement experience. He’s known for his no-B.S. attitude, and his company is highly regarded for making excellent, precision rifle ammo. For example, their MK 262 is a well-known precision 5.56 round made for the military, and the civilian version of the round is accuracy tested at .64 MOA maximum in 10 shot groups—if rounds from a lot don’t meet those specifications, the lot doesn’t ship. Here’s Hoffman’s take on doing business during these crazy times.

Outdoor Life: Can you tell us what it’s like producing ammo for the civilian market (where there’s such high demand) vs. the military market? Is there competition between the two?

Jeff Hoffman: The only competition is the natural competition that occurs all the time. It’s no secret that the government is a buyer of ammunition. Patriotic companies support that... The way that I look at it is we’re making sharper swords for our warriors. We’re giving our guys a better capability to come home alive. There is no abuse of that system happening. What you’re seeing with the shortage on the commercial side is the ballistic equivalent of toilet paper, when there’s a run on it, everyone buys more.

Most companies do not produce only for the federal government. That’d be silly. You want to have more than one market to lean on… With Black Hills, we’ve got government business, we’ve got commercial business, we’ve got gun company business, we’ve got law enforcement business. But, the military [orders] have ratings on them which means we have to deliver. We’re not only morally and ethically bound to take care of the military, which I feel we are, but we’re contractually obligated to take care [of those orders]. The military has preferences along the way. So, there is some level of competition over machines with this stuff.

OL: Has anything dramatically changed with the military side of your business?

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Best Men’s Waterproof Boots: Outdoor Gear To Keep You Dry

This is not the place to find out that your boots aren’t waterproof. (StockSnap / Pixabay/)

Dry feet are happy feet. When hunting, hiking, fishing or working takes you into mud, creeks and wet grass, you need boots that will keep your feet dry. A good pair of waterproof boots is an essential piece of outdoor gear. Not all waterproof boots are equally waterproof, and as you read on you’ll realize you may need more than one pair to meet different field conditions and activities—after all, men’s waterproof work boots are different than waterproof, men’s hiking shoes.

What Features Should You Consider When Shopping for the Best Men’s Waterproof Boots?

Waterproof boots keep your feet dry, of course. But “the best waterproof boot” can mean different things to different people.

Rubber boots are 100% waterproof, as long as you don’t punch a hole in them. But if you hike or hunt in rough country, where toughness and ankle support matter, you may need waterproof outdoor boots that are more durable than rubber. Boots made of leather, or a mix of leather and nylon, with a breathable, waterproof inner bootie offer the best combination of waterproofing and support. Think of the waterproof membrane like a waterproof sock inside the boot: it keeps water away from your feet, but it doesn’t do much to protect the boot itself. The outside of such a boot will still need treatment.

If you need heavy, all-leather boots, you can treat them heavily enough with waterproofing and seam sealers to keep water out for a long period of time. But, invariably, you’ll have to retreat your leather boots if you expect them to continue to be water-resistant boots.

Rubber bottoms and neoprene construction make Muck Boots some of the lightest rubber boots around.
Zoned insulation maximizes warmth while minimizing weight.
The LaCrosse Uplander offers good ankle support along with a 100% rubber waterproof lower.
A good value in a waterproof hiker, the Moab 2 is a very comfortable ankle-height boot.
These Canadian-made boots offer no frills, just value.

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Best Soft Shell Jackets: Lightweight Warmth for Cold Weather

The best soft shell jackets keep you comfortable, whatever your outdoor pursuits. (Aatlas / Pixabay/)

A hunter looking for elk sign in the snowy woods. A hiker exploring above the treeline in the whipping wind. A cross-country skier working up a sweat. Different situations for different people, but all will benefit from a soft shell jacket. Such a jacket is an ideal choice for when you need warmth and some protection from wind and precipitation, but don’t want to sacrifice breathability and comfort—which many waterproof shells do. The best soft shell jackets provide all the weather protection you need in most conditions, while also remaining comfortable to wear even during high-exertion activities. Most are stretchy, making them ideal for active pursuits. They’re lightweight, so you won’t feel bogged down. And they can be an excellent choice year-round, from cooler alpine conditions in the summer to truly cold, snowy days when you need full ski apparel. Soft shells range from ultralight wind shells to coats made for extreme cold, so how do you know which one to choose? Our winter clothing guide will point you to some of the best options for a variety of uses and weather conditions.

Best Lightweight Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Kor Preshell Pullover

Best Tactical Soft Shell Jacket: First Lite Catalyst

Best Breathable Soft Shell Jacket: Rab Zephyr

Best Soft Shell Ski Jacket: Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid

This ultralight wind shell keeps the chill at bay and stuffs into its own pocket for easy packing.
Silent, breathable, and available in camouflage print, this jacket is primed for hunting.
This soft shell protects the shoulders and arms with more water-resistant material, but lets body heat vent easily with breathable fabric everywhere else.
A highly protective jacket that still breathes like a soft shell.
This windproof-on-the-outside, super-soft-on-the-inside soft shell delivers protection and breathability for $55 or less.

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Elk Management in Montana Shows the Blind Spots of Our North American Model of Wildlife Conservation

Elk populations are over objectives on many Montana private lands but there are too few elk on many public hunting grounds. (John Hafner/)

Montana has an elk problem. We have too few of them in the right places, public land where hunters can pursue them with an over-the-counter tag for our full 5-week rifle season. And we have too many elk in the wrong places, large private ranches where public hunting is generally not allowed.

This dynamic has been building, and brewing bad blood between hunters—who want access to more elk—and landowners, who want fewer elk but who also don’t want to open their ranches to public hunting.

Stuck in the middle is Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, which has tried any number of strategies to connect hunters with elk and reduce the number that eat ranchers’ hay and crops and wreck their fences. We have “shoulder seasons” that can start as early as Aug. 15 and run through Feb. 15. We have the Block Management private-land access program. We have special game-damage hunts. We have liberal cows tags in areas that are vastly over population objectives.

And now we have a bill percolating in Montana’s legislature—House Bill 505—that would add incentives to elk management. The bill, introduced last Tuesday in a House committee, would enable landowners to sponsor up to 10 non-resident elk hunters every year, but only if populations in their units came down to what FWP considers sustainable numbers.

The idea is that if landowners are serious about getting those sponsored non-resident hunters, who presumably would pay thousands of dollars for a prime private-land elk hunt, then they must work with resident cow hunters and FWP to aggressively reduce populations in their area.

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