Hunting and Fishing News & Blog Articles

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There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Stopping Rifle’

We’ve all heard the stories. Hunter shoots Cape buffalo through the chest with a .416 Remington Magnum. Buffalo charges. Uh oh!

Staring black death in the face, the hunter pumps two more 400-grain bullets into it. His Professional Hunter (PH) slams it with two 525-grain bullets from a .505 Gibbs, each bullet carrying 6,200 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. Despite absorbing 27,000 ft.-lbs. of kinetic energy from 5 ounces of lead and copper, the 1,600-pound buffalo keeps coming, flicks the hunter into an arcing, 20-foot, three-and-a-half twist, double summersault. Then he bulldozes the PH to the ground, and grinds him into the dust.

Often overlooked in stopping rifle discussions is the hippo, which kills more people annually that do any other dangerous game species. (Ron Spomer/)

Stopping rifle? More than a handful of PHs have died while trusting what I call the " stopping rifle myth.” Maybe it’s time we adopted a more accurate description.

“Stopping rifle” is a term widely used to describe a rifle/cartridge/bullet combination supposedly big, strong, and deadly enough to protect humans from death and destruction at the claws, fangs, horns, and physical pummeling from a myriad of large beasts, most especially those of African dangerous game.

“Black Death” himself is probably today’s greatest inspiration for the stopping rifle. (Ron Spomer/)

Think lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, hippo, elephant. From North America throw in polar, brown, and grizzly bears. Let India contribute tigers and more leopards. I think we can agree these are all large, tough, and mean enough to reduce the largest, strongest human to a bittersweet memory.

An advantage with bolt-action stopping rifles is the ability to easily adjust them to put all bullets to the same point of aim.
Rifles built on the Mauser Controlled Round Feed action gradually won over traditionalists used to the side-by-side double rifle.
The .30-06 on far left gives perspective to the big bores chambered in stopping rifles.
The .458 Lott was created by stretching the .458 Win. Mag. back to the original case length of the .375 H&H and sticking to the 45-caliber bullet size. It adds a bit more speed and power to the .458, endearing it to many dangerous game hunters interested in maximum “stopping power.”
A controlled round feed action like this Kimber in .458 Win. Mag. has become quite popular with African PHs. While not the ultimate stopping rifle, it is realtively light, affordable, and quick for 4 or 5 shots.
A belt load of .470 Nitro Express rounds is only as useful as the speed with which a shooter can load them in a double rifle.
The .470 Nitro Express was created for double rifles, its rim ensuring plenty of surface area for the extractor to grab.
Big stoping rounds like the 470 NE in the breech of a double rifle look more like shotshells than rifle cartridges.
The .577 Nitro Express is one of the largest stopping rifles, bested only by the rare 600 NE and rarer 700 NE, neither of which is commonly used.
A look down the muzzles of a double rifle explains the meaning of “big bore.”
This Mauser bolt removed from the rifle action shows how its claw extractor holds cartridges like this .416 Rigby against the bolt face for straight-line push into chamber.
The only difference between a big bore dangerous game rifle and stopping rifle is the moment at which it is fired. Many sporting rifles work well as stopping rifles, but hard core guides can’t often afford higher grade guns like this Heym double.
Hiking through elephant country often reveals tracks that suggest your stopping rifle might be undersized.
Any stopping rifle’s power is enhanced by the addition of several more, usually carried by clients and assistant guides.
Practice and more practice can make the CRF bolt-action nearly as fast as any side-by-side for two shots and much faster for 4 or 5.
Even a starter double with intercepting sears and articulated triggers like these Heym M88s costs many times what a base model CRF bolt action costs.
The CRF Mauser perfected in 1898 slowly began showing up in the hands of professional dangerous game hunters in Africa because it was durable, reliable, and provided 4 or 5 shots instead of just 2.
Plain or fancy, the double trigger double barrel remains a popular option as a stopping rifle.
Engraved dangerous game heads do not a stopping rifle make, but they suggest the possibilities.
The Mauser CRF action in a properly fitted stock can prove more effective for multiple shots than the best double rifle.
Often overlooked in stopping rifle discussions is the hippo, which kills more people annually that do any other dangerous game species.
“Black Death” himself is probably today’s greatest inspiration for the stopping rifle.
A cow elephant is often the most dangerous, charging to protect her calf. Stopping-rifle bullets that miss the brain often do inspire elephants to turn away from the attack. This rarely works with buffalo, however.
The horns of a Cape buffalo are something you don’t want hooking or slamming you on safari. Thus the search for a stopping rifle.
Properly applied to the human torso, an elephants padded foot proves a better stopping device than the most powerful rifle cartridge.
When a young bull or old cow elephant is too much for the largest stopping rifle/cartridge/bullet to stop without a CNS hit.
Lion’s are not particularly hard to kill with smaller cartridges/bullets, but when a 300- to 500-pound ball of fangs and claws approaches at 35 mph or so, you want a stopping rifle to match.
Even a simple antelope can kill you. Sable are famous for skewering lions. A large bore cartridge can make the difference between dead and slowly dying.

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8 Natural Ways to Repel Insects Without Bug Spray

Unless you’re an entomologist (and on the clock), you probably hate being surrounded by bugs, especially if they bite. While these creatures play important roles in the environment, they can be a real nuisance to humans in the outdoors, and some of these bugs do transmit diseases. Your favorite store-bought bug repellent can keep them away for awhile, but what happens when the DEET can runs dry? Worse yet, what about when you’re in a survival situation and the bugs won’t leave you alone? Thankfully, there are some natural options to beat the bugs without all the chemicals.

1. Make Your Own Repellent

Before you venture into the wild, plan ahead by creating your own bug repellent with ingredients you can feel good about. (Tim MacWelch/)

While it’s not the strongest option in the world, you can make your own bug repellent from essential oils and other household products. Make a trip to a health food store or similar shop for the essential oils (or order them online). Then you’ll be ready to blend and bottle your own bug repellent. You’ll need:

A one-quart spray bottle1 pint distilled white vinegar1 pint water25 drops of tea tree oil25 drops of lavender essential oil

Add the ingredients into a clean spray bottle and shake well. Spray your boots, clothing and skin with a generous coating before heading outside. Reapply every two to four hours for best results.

2. Check Often for Ticks

Many of us put our stinking boots outside of our tents at night, but there’s a risk when leaving your gear out in the open.
Certain wild plants contain compounds and scents that discourage bugs, you just have to learn how to properly identify the plants and use them correctly.
Bug netting may be your best non-chemical defense for flying insects, especially in areas where the bugs are relentless.
From foul cigars to smoldering rotten wood or cattail heads, there are plenty of ways to produce smoke and most of these are effective at repelling insects and other pests.
It’s disgusting, but more effective at preventing bug bites than you can imagine.
Worse that poison ivy, chiggers can create itchy bumps that last up to two weeks.

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8 Survival Lights You Can Depend on in an Emergency

Just because a light looks cool or it says “tactical” on the packaging, doesn’t mean it can help you in an emergency. You want a flashlight you can depend on in the most critical situations, and these are some of the best new lights on the market. Each one was built to last and illuminate during the times when you need a light the most.

1. Klarus 360X3

Max Output: 3,200 lumens; Length: 6.2 inches; Weight: 4.94 ounces; MSRP: $80 (Klarus/)

Law enforcement agencies have been using Klarus tactical lights for years. Considering the multitude of features and the high quality, this flashlight is a great bargain. The aerospace aluminum alloy body has mil-spec anodizing and a comfortable feel. The unusual “Switch Ring” on the flashlight’s tail can be activated from any direction and offers six operational modes, with the maximum light output being a brilliant 3,200 lumens (lasting up to 45 minutes). In addition to high, medium, and low intensities, the 360X3 has an emergency strobe feature (flashing 3,200 lumens for 1.5 hours) and a low intensity SOS beacon (48 lumens for 48 hours). The tail ring and side switches can lock to prevent accidental activation (draining batteries in storage or blasting your eyeballs unexpectedly). This light also bears an Intelligent Thermal Protection System (ITS), which can prevent overheating accidents (which are always a threat with potent lithium batteries). Speaking of batteries, this model can take three different options: a single 18650, two CR123A, or two Klarus 16340 batteries. The kit includes a 18650 battery, which is micro-USB rechargeable and fully-charged in four hours.

2. Nitecore i4000R

Max Output: 4,400 lumens; Length: 6.25 inches; Weight: 4.76 ounces; MSRP: $120 (Nitecore/)

The Nitecore i4000R has all the usual features you’d expect in a tactical light, including the blacked-out paint job, crenelated strike bezel, multiple intensities, and a strobe feature. Look closer at the details and this light starts to get more interesting. The i4000R comes with a custom 5,000mAh rechargeable 21700 battery and a sliding port cover to protect the USB-C charging port. It can also take two CR123A batteries by using the CR123 adapter sleeve that is included in the kit. This light also has a built-in LED power indicator, so you don’t have to find out the hard way that your battery is almost drained. It also has 1-meter impact resistance, reverse polarity protection and IP68 waterproofing. More of a “flood light” than a tight beam, it’s still a blindingly bright light and has the highest lumen count on this list.

Max Output: 4,400 lumens; Length: 6.25 inches; Weight: 4.76 ounces; MSRP: $120
Max Output: 530 lumens; Length: 7.84 inches; Weight: 12 ounces; MSRP: $55
Max Output: 1,500 lumens, Length: 5.91 inches; Weight: 5.54 ounces; MSRP: $120
Max Output: 1,150 lumens; Length: 3.94 inches; Weight: 5.6 ounces; MSRP: $75
Max Output: 276 lumens; Length: 2.9 inches; Weight: 2.8 ounces (with battery and headband); MSRP: $59
Max Output: 1,000 lumens; Length: 5.43 inches; Weight: 4 ounces; MSRP: $70
Max Output: 600 lumens; Length: 10 inches; Weight: 4.48 ounces; MSRP: $59

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Mule Deer Can Now Be Hunted in Interior Alaska

The first confirmed mule deer sighting in interior Alaska came in 2017. (National Park Service/)

When a young buck was hit by a car near Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2017, the rumors were proven true—mule deer had arrived in interior Alaska. Before that, several pictures of mule deer in Alaska had floated around the Internet. But those pictures were often shrugged off as hoaxes.

However, there was no denying that this mule deer buck was killed in Alaska. Now that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game acknowledged there were at least some mule deer in the state, they needed to make an official ruling on the legality of hunting these critters.

Mule deer aren’t an introduced species, they have come to Alaska by expanding their normal range. Though there hadn’t been a flesh-and-blood, documented resident population.

The agency decided that hunters would be allowed to kill either mule deer or whitetails in Alaska, with no closed season. The only requirement is that the deer be brought to ADF&G for sampling. This decision presents an interesting situation for those of us that live here. We have the opportunity to hunt common deer in sort of a new frontier. It almost feels like hunting bigfoot.

It’s an exciting prospect, and the few people I know who have seen them here describe it as a surreal experience. I could only imagine what it might feel like to watch the crosshairs settle on a mule deer in the interior. I know that I would be second-guessing myself the whole time, wondering: Is this actually real?

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I’m an Immigrant, a Veteran, and Finally…a Hunter

The author keeps an eye out for coyotes on his first hunt last fall. (Joe Dickey/)

Editor’s note: If there’s one thing that’s certain after these last few weeks, it’s that Americans need to come together. To do that, we first must listen to those of us who have been ignored for too long. At Outdoor Life, that means black and other minority hunters and anglers who don’t often see themselves represented in the hunting and fishing community. We’re running a collection of essays to tell their stories and share their perspectives.

My neighbor Eric Dinger and I had been sitting in the blind for 15 minutes when I saw a young buck appear at 150 yards, walking right toward us.

“Ron, get ready,” Eric whispered. And then, a moment later, “Shoot it.”

I know a lot of hunters get excited when it’s time to shoot. Their heart rate goes up, and they start breathing hard. But last fall in Nebraska, I was steady. And when we found my first deer, 75 yards from where my bullet reached him, Eric was more excited than I was.

A black man in hunters camo and orange vest kneels behind a deer in the woods. (Eric Dinger/)

Don’t get me wrong—I was stoked. But I was also wondering, Is this it? Are we done?

A black man in hunters camo and orange vest kneels behind a deer in the woods.
The author with his mother and father at Fort Lee, Virginia, circa 1998.
The author watches his son and his wife's cousins during target practice.
The author with the notches from his Nebraska deer tag last fall.
The author's sons Isaac, 11, and Ian, 9 (right), examining a Nebraska buck.
The author breaks down a quarter with help from Reagan Dinger (left) and his daughter Isabella, 7.

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You Just Purchased a Handgun for Personal Defense, Now What?

Training and proper instruction are critical after buying your first handgun. (Chris Mudgett/)

If you’re reading this, you’re likely considering buying of a new handgun, or have already bought one. Good on you. You have your reasons for doing so, but most importantly, you’re taking responsibility for your personal safety and for the safety of those nearest and dearest to you. If statistics are any indicator, you’ve probably made the decision to purchase a pistol that is concealable, one that can easily be carried on your person, and one that can also be effective for home defense. That’s good. Your next purchase should be a quality belt and a comfortable holster.

Select the right holster

After purchasing a handgun, a holster and belt should be your top priorities. After all, you’ll need some way of comfortably concealing it. Wedging it in your belt doesn’t count. Holster selection can be a complicated process, even for experienced shooters. The style and size of pistol chosen, as well as individual body type all come into play when selecting the right holster for you.

Types of holsters can generally be narrowed into three categories; Outside the Waist Band (OWB), Inside the Waist Band (IWB), and Appendix Inside the Waist Band (AIWB). There are, of course, specialty methods of carry, such as shoulder, ankle, and pocket to name a few – but our focus here will be on the first three, as they are by far the most popular.

Outside the Waist Band carry is typically reserved for carrying larger-framed pistols that can be a challenge to conceal. This is a common method of carry for uniformed police officers and security personnel. This type of holster generally allows the quickest access to your pistol, however, it is the most difficult to hide. An open front cover garment, such as a jacket might be necessary for concealment when using this method of carry. I recommend using an OWB holster when learning to draw your pistol and for range use. It is also ideal for open carry, which makes sense when you might be out working on a ranch or farm, fly fishing remote water, or exploring the backcountry. Most OWB holsters are affixed to your belt utilizing either a quick attach/detach paddle or fixed belt loops constructed of either a high-strength polymer or leather. For right-handed shooters, the proper place to mount your holster is at about 3 o’clock (imagine your bellybutton is noon in this analogy) for righties, and 9 o’clock-ish for lefties.

This is what a good, stable stance looks like.
Taking a class from a reputable instructor will greatly improve your form and technique.
The author training at the range.

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Will a Decrease in Roadkill Mean More Deer in the Woods this Fall?

There has been a significant drop in roadkill since early March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Brett Billings/USFWS/)

Hunters know the risks of cruising down rural highways in whitetail country, and the deer carcasses lining our roadways are a not-so-subtle reminder. But during COVID-19 closures and social distancing, there has been a steep drop in the number of animals killed by vehicles.

Roadkill animal deaths fell in California, Idaho, and Maine, according to a study by the Road Ecology Center at the University of California-Davis. The study found that animals killed by cars dropped by 21 to 56 percent—depending on the location—from March to mid-April. The reason for the decline was directly tied to the reduced number of motorists on our roadways—traffic in the U.S. fell by 73 percent during peak lockdown, according to National Geographic).

“There is a statistically significant decline in wildlife deaths on highways in all three states following reductions in traffic this spring,” said Fraser Shilling, director of the UC-Davis Road Ecology Center in a news release. “This has not been the case for any of the previous five years for these three states. If anything, there is usually an increase in spring.”

So does a decrease in roadkilled critters mean that there will be more deer in the woods this fall? In short, yes, but you might not notice the difference. It all depends on where you hunt. For example, if you hunt in a county that’s had a historically high percentage of car-deer collisions, you might see a few more whitetails from your treestand this fall. Hunters in areas with lower car-deer collisions likely won’t see any difference.

“I think what it will mean is there will be a few more deer in the woods this fall, but not every hunter is going to see that increase,” said Dr. Michael Tonkovich, a deer program administrator in Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources. “We lose 22,000 to 25,000 deer a year to vehicle collisions, but a majority of those come in November, December, and January. There is some spring dispersal of deer, like does pushing out button bucks or does finding a new home range, but it’s not like the movement we see in the fall.”

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9 of the Most Underrated Semiautomatic Shotguns of All Time

There’s a long list of highly functional (and durable) semiauto shotguns that handle beautifully and shoot straight, but have never received the fanfare they deserved. Some weren’t brought to market correctly and faded. Others were taken out of production too early. And still others just never became popular, despite being great buys. Franchi, which is under the Benelli banner, largely falls into that category. Its guns are only a slight step down in quality compared to big brother. Franchi’s inertia-driven autos are some of the best on the market for the money, but I don’t see many folks shooting them. Which boggles my mind, since hunters are always looking to get the best performance out of our gear for the least amount of cash.

Many other shotgun makers have experienced a similar anomaly. For one reason or another, a great gun was lost in the shuffle or put out to pasture too soon. But I am here to shed light on those forgotten autoloaders. These are some of the best shotguns that never got the proper recognition. Many of them are very affordable, so if you come across one—new or used—snatch it up.

Browning Gold

Browning debuted the next generation of the Gold at SHOT Show in 2020. (Browning/)

One of my buddies who got me back into turkey hunting years ago always wielded a Browning Gold 12-gauge, which has long been overshadowed by the Auto-5, Maxus, and the newer A5. He shot rusty 3.5-inch lead No. 4s through the factory full choke, and it absolutely hammered spring toms. It’s still a superb gas-operated auto-loader that has relatively light recoil even with heavy turkey loads. Browning upgraded the gun in 2020—it’s only offered in 10-gauge—with a composite stock, Inflex recoil pad, and textured grips on the fore-end and stock. I had a chance to shoot it at SHOT Show in Las Vegas, and it’s a beast of gun (almost 10 pounds), which as a goose pit and big river duck hunter, I love. You won’t want to carry this hefty 10-guage anywhere but to the blind, but it’s one of a select few autoloaders I feel comfortable paying $1,800 for, because I know it will cycle reliably.

Franchi Affinity Elite Series

The Elite is available in Optifade camo finishes and satin walnut.
Beretta is known for its gas guns, but this inertia-driven shotgun was one of its best.
Tri-Stars are a working man’s Beretta.
Russia’s Baikal never gained much traction among U.S. hunters.
Inertia-driven, the two-shot Double Auto was developed by John Browning’s son, Val.
The 48 AL was in production for over a half-century.
The SA-08 is a gas-operated workhorse.
The B3.5SM is a close relative of the first Benelli Super Black Eagle.

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The 8 Best Hunting Guns that Double as Self-Defense Firearms

An Alaskan black bear taken with the Henry Model X in .45-70. (Tyler Freel/)

Most people don’t need a reminder that the world isn’t always a safe place to live, and the topic of self-defense is as relevant as ever. Although seasoned shooters and outdoorsmen and women tend to roll our eyes at the sudden realization by many that having a gun for protection might not be a bad idea, they need direction and good information. Even among our salty ranks, self-defense continues to be a hot topic alway up for debate.

Most of us are either shooters or hunters—sometimes both. A shooter may not have any interest in hunting, but loves guns and shooting, and will tend to gravitate towards selecting more tactical-style guns for self-defense applications. Hunters who are also passionate shooters will often go the same route, preferring a purpose-built gun for each intended task. I would say that the majority of folks fall into a hunting and general use category. Most are working with a budget and frankly don’t need enough guns to arm a platoon. They just want a reliable gun to hunt with, but that can also fill the important role of self-defense. Each person’s needs are unique, and one of these eight guns will do the job for both hunting and self-defense.

Henry X Model

Henry’s X Model is a proven lever-action built with a tactical flair. (Henry/)

Lever-action rifles may seem antiquated, but for some folks, they offer a great combination of hunting aptitude and self-defense effectiveness. The X Model from Henry takes their proven action and adds a bit of a tactical flair with synthetic furniture, a short rail at the end of the fore-end, and a threaded muzzle. Muzzle brakes or a suppressor can be easily added, and even for a camp rifle, being able to easily attach a light is a well-thought-out attribute. It’s a short, handy rifle that can be operated quickly and maneuvered well in tight spaces and cycled very quickly. Your caliber selection will depend on your needs. If you’re dealing with lots of bears as well as two-legged threats, the .45-70 will be the way to go. Otherwise, the .357 or .44 mag options offer plenty of power for hunting deer, and offer increased magazine capacity. Not to mention that the increased barrel length will give you better performance than a handgun will, with mild to little recoil. MSRP: $970

Browning BAR DBM

Henry’s X Model is a proven lever-action built with a tactical flair.
The BAR has been reliable and accurate for decades.
Pump guns, like the SXP rarely fail even in the most brutal conditions.
Short-barreled rifles are handy for self-defense and in the backcountry.
It’s tough to match the versatility of an AR-15.
The MSR 10 is available in .308, .338 Federal, and 6.5 Creedmoor.
The Glock G40 is a longer/heavier version of little brother, the G20.
If you’re thinking about getting a handgun in .22LR, try stepping up to the 5.7x28mm.

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How to Catch Monster Bass with a Frog

Major League Fishing’s Ish Monroe is the man when it comes to catching big bass with a frog. With nine majors and 51 top 10s, his career earnings total over $2.2 million. So we sat down with Monroe to find out the best ways to catch more monster largemoughs with this lure. Here is what he had to say.

Ish Monroe shows off a 5.1-pounder caught in the grassmats at Lake Fork in Texas. (Major League Fishing/)

1. Outdoor Life: What time of year/day is best for fishing with frogs?

Ish Monroe: The best season to fish with frogs is post spawn anywhere in the country. Right after spawning, fish are guarding their fry (offspring) and frogs offer lots of nutrients for their fry. The best opportunity is first thing in the morning or late in the day, but you will catch the biggest fish midday (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) fishing in super thick, heavy cover, and high sun.

2. OL: I keep missing fish while frog fishing. What am I doing wrong?

IM: Having the right equipment is number one. First, make sure you’re using a fishing braid, 50- to 60-pound class braid. Your rod needs to be an extra heavy rod; it needs to have a little tip so you don’t pull the frog out of the fish’s mouth. I designed the Ish Monroe Signature Frog Series by Daiwa for this very reason and it’s what I use on the Bass Pro Tour.

Monroe sets the hook with a frog.
An early morning takeoff at Kissimmee Chains in Florida.

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How to Hunt Ducks and Geese

An afternoon Alberta puddle duck shoot. (Andrew Klatt/)

Waterfowl is one of the smallest, most niche communities you can find in hunting. There’s only about 1 million of us waterfowl hunters, but we see more of each other than those who pursue whitetails, mule deer, elk, and other big-game species, namely because our quarry inhabits condensed areas for short periods on their annual fall migration. In many places, you will have to share wetlands with your fellow hunters and compete for birds. Sometimes you’re going to be hunting next to veteran waterfowlers who know what they’re doing—or think they do—and aren’t afraid to tell newbies to scram.

Don’t let those folks, or the unknown, stop you from chasing ducks and geese. Some of the best days of my life have been spent waist-deep in a marsh holding a shotgun and blowing a duck call. Those days are waiting for you as well—if you stick with it. This sport, like so many others, rewards patience and hard work. The more you go, the more you learn. So, let’s get started.

Learn the Basic Game Laws

Following game laws is an essential part of ethical waterfowl hunting. (Toe Tags, Inc./)

If you haven’t already, the first thing you will need to do is take a hunter’s safety course. Some states don’t require hunter education to buy a hunting license if you’re of a certain age, but it’s smart to take the class and get certified regardless. Because 1) you’re eventually going to travel to another state to hunt where hunters of every age are required to possess a hunter’s safety card, and 2) you’ll learn how to handle a gun properly and hunt in a safe manner.

You must also purchase a hunting license, state duck stamp, and federal duck stamp prior to hunting. Ninety-eight percent of all federal duck stamp money goes directly to help acquire and protect wetland habitat, and to purchase conservation easements for the National Wildlife Refuge system. It’s one of the most successful conservation programs in North America, so you can be proud that your dollars are helping to protect waterfowl habitat.

Following game laws is an essential part of ethical waterfowl hunting.
The 2019-2020 federal duck stamp.
Many U.S. hunters head north to Canada to take advantage of early duck and goose seasons.
Mallards typically arrive in large numbers later in the season after weather systems push them south, though you can shoot them starting on opening day.
A pair of yellow Labs retrieve snow geese in a southern Illinois cornfield.
Many state and federal refuges have excellent access to waterfowl hunting.
In places like North Dakota, ducks haven’t hit full plumage by the time season rolls around and it can be tough to identify them, particularly at shooting time.
Traditional hunts over decoys can put birds right in your face.
Just after sunrise at Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee.
Weather is the primary element that moves ducks and geese.
It takes time and practice to become an accurate wing shot.
Beretta’s A390 Silver Mallard is one of the best 3-inch gas guns the company ever produced.
There’s always more gear to buy when you’re a duck or goose hunter.
A dry field lesser Canada hunt in Kansas with a few adults snows in the mix, and Quill Lake honker, known for the patches of white on their bodies and wings.
Learning to run a short-reed goose call takes practice, but when it clicks, there’s nothing more satisfying than tricking wary honkers into the decoys.
A good retriever will become your best running mate.
Be mindful of the weather, especially high winds and fog, when you’re hunting big water.

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9 Tips For Building a Bow (and Arrows) in a Survival Situation

The bow and arrow have been utilized by hunters and warriors for thousands of years. A simple yet elegant weapon, it’s provided meat and aided in defending civilizations for centuries. Today, bows have gone high-tech, like compounds, crossbows, and carbon-fiber arrow shafts affixed to razor-sharp broadheads. But we shouldn’t forget the traditional bows and arrows of our ancestors. They can provide us with a bounty of wild game or defense from predators in a primitive survival situation.

If you find yourself alone in a perilous backcountry situation, here are the items you can use to build a traditional bow and arrows.

1. Choose The Right Materials

Flexible, but strong, wood makes for the best bow. (Tim MacWelch/)

Choosing the right materials is the first place to start when constructing bows, arrows, and other archery tackle. For the bow, you’ll want a strong yet flexible wood that wants to snap back into its former shape after bending. When it comes to arrows, you’ll need to select woody coppice growth, shoots, and saplings that are sturdy and close to the final diameter you want for your arrows. Drawknives, rasps, cabinet scrapers and sandpaper (and power tools) will allow you to make great bows at home, but in the wild, a good knife should be enough to carve the stave.

For same day shooting, pick a bow stave that is dead and dry, but not rotten. For future bow making endeavors, cut some live wood and dry it for a few months for best results. Choose hardwood species like Osage orange, black locust and hickory for bows (though many other hardwoods can work). Choose a bow stave that is relatively straight and generally free of knots, side branches, and twists, roughly 2 inches in diameter. Cut it to a length about 5 or 6 feet long, but err on the side of length. The longer the bow, the less it has to bend to reach your draw length, and the less likely it is to break.

A simple piece of charcoal from your fire can become a soft marker to lay out the lines of your bow and keep your carving on track.
Some branches and saplings are uniform enough to become a bow without any cutting or carving, but most sticks will require some trimming to become a “stick bow.”
To make the bow complete, you’ll need to notch it for the bow string, and this must be done in a way that avoids damaging the “back” of the bow.
Super glue is a great thing to carry in your survival kit for dozens of reasons beyond mending your archery tackle, but you can also make your own.
Carbon-fiber arrow shafts are fast and flexible, but when you run out, there are other options.
Duct tape can mend a torn arrow fletching, and replace one.
You can twist your own bow string out of strong plant fibers, but this takes a lot of time and the results are unpredictable. Instead, try 550 cord.
Trash, like beer bottles, can be chipped into surprisingly sharp arrowheads.

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Long Before the ‘Into the Wild’ Bus Was a Deadly Tourist Trap, It Was a Hunting Camp

The author's father after a successful hunt, with "The Magic Bus" in the background. (Tyler Free/)

A few days ago, the Alaska National Guard used a Chinook helicopter to lift and carry out “The Bus.” If you’re not familiar, this is the bus that the wandering Chris McCandless perished in after a short stint of trying to live off the land in 1992. The local perspective on McCandless’ story is that he was an ill-prepared squatter who tragically lost his life due to poor decision making. And this story might have faded into history if it were not immortalized by the book, (and then movie) Into The Wild. Since the book was published, scores of people have been drawn to that old Fairbanks City Transit bus No. 142 (commonly referred to as “the magic bus”) on the far side of the Teklanika River on the edge of Denali National Park. Many of these folks admired McCandless and wanted to see the site where he tried to survive in the wilderness.

Practically speaking, removing the bus was a good thing. There is nothing magic about that bus, and one unfortunate fellow’s poor decisions paved the way for lots more folks to get themselves into trouble by trying to follow in his footsteps. For decades, emergency rescuers had to save stranded and endangered tourists each season. Some have even died on their pilgrimage to visit “the bus.” Remove the bus, and the site will be swallowed up into the expansive wilderness. Its significance will be lost forever. After all, what’s the loss in removing what is essentially litter, a junked old bus that has become nothing but a literal tourist trap?

On the flip side, the bus does mean something to some of us who live here in interior Alaska. Turns out that hunters and outdoorsmen had been using that bus long before McCandless’ story made it famous.

“I’ve spent a lot of nights in that bus,” my dad would tell me, as it was their family’s hunting camp for several years in the 1960s. My uncle has pictures with moose and caribou by bus No.142. Those are fond memories from days when it was just a hunting camp. It seems that those memories will be taken back by the wilderness as well, and some Alaskans hold a little bitterness for McCandless and the unwanted attention he brought to that bus.

In the end, I think it was probably time to move the bus. If ever there were an effigy of unpreparedness and poor decision making in the Alaska wilderness, that bus was it. After McCandless, it lured only more ill-prepared people into danger. I know my feelings that oppose moving the bus are illogical. It is no longer what it once was, and it could never again be just a hunting camp. That bus was haunted by the story of a wanderer who never should have ventured into the wilderness alone, never should have taken up residence there, and never should have died there. So yes, the bus needed to go. Its plot of ground will be swallowed back into the wild—this time, for good.


.260 Remington vs. 6.5 Creedmoor: It’s All About Understanding Rifle Twist Rates

The 6.5 Creedmoor has proven itself many times over on deer, pronghorns, feral hogs, sheep, and even big red stags (like this New Zealand specimen) and elk. Anything the Creed can do, the .260 Rem. can do slightly better. (Ron Spomer/)

Why does the 6.5 Creedmoor outsell the .260 Remington when the latter throws the same bullets from the same short-action rifles, but about 100 fps (feet per second) faster?

The answer is in the twist rates of the 6.5 and .260.

To appreciate traditional rifling twist rates, we should perhaps revisit what rifling is and does.

Although the .260 Rem. fits the same action-length rifles as the 6.5 Creedmoor and pushes bullets about 100 fps faster, it languishes in the Creedmoor’s shadow. Credit a slightly slower twist rate as well as a rather limpid PR campaign for the .260’s poor showing. (Ron Spomer/)

Historically, all guns had smooth bores. They could be loaded with heaps of small pellets (birdshot or the larger buckshot) or a single ball (slug or bullet.) Beyond 50 yards or so, slugs hit harder and were deadlier than pellets because their mass retained energy better than did the smaller, individual shot pellets. But slugs weren’t accurate because surface imperfections—dings, grooves, flat spots and such—led to inconsistent planing in the wind. Even on a dead calm day, a slug stepping out at 1,000 fps faces a headwind of at least 1,000 fps. That’s 686 miles per hour! If that atmospheric pressure is even slightly more significant on one part of the ball than another, the flight path will be altered. This is why bird shot scatters ever farther as it progresses downrange. And it’s why single balls fired through smooth bores rarely go exactly where aimed.

Fixing this inaccuracy began in the late 1400s when German or Austrian gunmakers tumbled to the concept of cutting shallow grooves in bores, probably to offset carbon fouling. The grooves provided space in which the soot could lodge. Paper or linen patches around the ball would squeeze into the grooves to seal expanding gases. Soon enough someone familiar with curved arrow fletching added a turn to the rifling grooves and voila! Accuracy improved. This is because an object in motion tends to maintain that motion until acted upon by an outside force. Like a spinning top, a spun bullet resists air pressures pushing counter to this axial motion, helping the bullet stay nose forward on its original line of motion toward the target.

Although the .260 Rem. fits the same action-length rifles as the 6.5 Creedmoor and pushes bullets about 100 fps faster, it languishes in the Creedmoor’s shadow. Credit a slightly slower twist rate as well as a rather limpid PR campaign for the .260’s poor showing.
6.5 Creedmoor ballistic table.
6.5 Creedmoor ammo with long, sleek, high B.C. bullets is built and sold by many bullet makers.
Handloaders can take advantage of the same bullets for loading .260 Rem. and 6.5 Creedmoor, but a few of the longest, highest weight bullets might not stabilize in a 1:10 twist rate for 260 Rem. Virtually all 6.5 Creedmoors are built with 1:8 twist or faster barrels. (The misplaced box of .257 bullets in lower right won’t work in either 6.5)
These two 1950s releases are classic examples of the wrong twist rate dooming a cartridge. The 1:12 twist Remington chose for its then .244 Remington cartridge wouldn’t stabilize bullets heavier than 90-grains, convincing many hunters to go with the slightly slower .243 Win. because it’s 1:10 twist barrels would handle the heavier bullets. No deer hit with a 90-grain from a .244 Remington ever knew it wasn’t a 100-grain from a .243 Win. Regardless, the .244 withered. Even after Remington reintroduced it as the 6mm Rem. with 1:9 twist, it’s never gained a big following.
A side-by-side comparison clearly shows the .260 Rem. has more powder capacity than the 6.5 Creedmoor.
A .260 Rem, 142-grain ABLR ballistic table: (Both tables use B.C. and MV data from Nosler Reloading Guide 8.) Note that the 100 fps MV advantage of the .260 Rem. keeps it shooting flatter than the Creedmoor and delivering more downrange energy. Wind deflection isn’t significant at hunting distances.
Clearly the .308 Winchester contributed heavily to the designs of the .260 Rem. and 6.5 Creedmoor. Both 26-calibers shoot flatter a deflect less in the wind at longer ranges than does the .308 Win.
Both the 6.5 Creedmoor and .260 Remington can shoot a gamut of .264 bullets, but once a VLD bullet get much heavier than 142 grains, the slower twist rate of many .260 Rem. rifles makes stabilization problematic.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the .260 Rem. and 6.5 Creedmoor are the paucity of factory loads for the .260. Everyone loads many options for the Creedmoor, but its poor sister gets less attention. That is changing, however.
Cut away barrels show rifling. Barrel length has nothing to do with twist rate. It’s the rate or degree of turn in the rifling that determines twist rate, not barrel length. You can have a 1:14 twist in a 10-inch barrel or even a 2-inch barrel.
Cutaway barrel shows rifling just ahead of the bullet.

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Why The 10mm is The Ultimate Handgun Cartridge for Hunting and Personal Defense (Plus 8 of Best Pistols You Can Buy)

If you want a pistol that can take down a mountain lion but is also easier to carry than a .357 hand cannon for self-defense, the 10mm is the perfect option. Now, this handgun will likely never be an everyday carry gun in an urban setting (it’s not exactly a dainty pistol). But when you’re headed into the backcountry (or live there), the 10mm is ideal for a variety of hunting pursuits and to defend yourself from both animal and human predators.

The most powerful factory-loaded handgun cartridge that still fits into a service pistol-sized semiauto is the 10mm. The “big 10” has a stout reputation among Alaskan bear guides and hunters for its stopping power. It’s also capable of taking down medium-sized game at reasonable distances (out to 100 yards) with the right load and a steady hand. I won’t pit revolvers against semiautos, just know, it does take much more of a time investment and skill to become accurate with a big bore wheel gun than a semiauto. And though semiautos are not easy to shoot accurately, you do have the added benefit of more ammo capacity for multiple follow up shots and faster reloads.

If you’re going to hunt with a 10mm, the 1911s have manageable recoil and are supremely accurate. The downside is they can be unreliable if you don’t keep them clean and well maintained, which can be difficult to do in the backcountry. They also don’t have the magazine capacity of double-stack, striker-fired pistols and are heavy, so it’s best to buy a chest holster for wilderness carry if you plan to buy one. Polymer-framed pistols are going to give you more durability and are less susceptible to the elements. They have a higher magazine capacity, are easier to manipulate in all conditions, and they’re lighter. If you can mount a red dot and white light on one, that will make for a fine sidearm.

If you’re in the market for a hunting/self-defense handgun, these are some of the best 10mms you can buy. Plus, why you need a red-dot sight, and the right ammo to feed your pistol, so you can get optimal performance from your next 10mm.

Glock Models 20, 29, and 40

A 5.28-inch barrel on the OSP offers more bullet velocity.
The P220 is the platform all SIG handguns are modeled after.
The SR1911 is an affordable hunt/defense hybrid.
This 10mm list wouldn’t be complete without a Colt 1911.
You get what you pay for with a Les Baer pistol.
The do-it-all handgun in this 10mm roundup.
The Jagere comes topped with a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro.
Red-dots help shooters of all levels become more accurate.
Trophy Bonded Bear Claw 10mm offers deep penetration and reliable expansion.

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Alaska’s Bear Hunting Regulation Changes Aren’t as Sensational as They Sound

The author with a mature spring black bear in Alaska. (Tyler Freel/)

With all that’s happening in the world lately, it seemed like I was already living in the Twilight Zone. Then, in an episode of déjà vu, another unbelievable headline appeared on my newsfeed. It declared: “Trump administration makes it easier for hunters to kill bear cubs and wolf pups in Alaska,” with the tagline, “A ban against luring mothers from their dens with doughnuts and other treats will be lifted.” I remembered seeing these same articles back in 2018, so it didn’t take long to figure out what all the hoopla was about.

The actual rule change—and how it will play out here in Alaska—is pretty mundane. But I’ll admit that it sounds pretty bad when told by national media outlets with more spin than a Sandy Koufax curve ball. One story had a photo of a compassionate-looking sow brown bear with her cubs of that year. Another used a photo of two men celebrating over a dead sow they had just dug out of a den and killed. This photo had nothing to do with the rule changes, but was captured by an ADF&G trail camera set to monitor the den. The two men were actually poachers who illegally killed the sow and cubs on camera, and are currently facing charges.

In a nutshell, this rule change does one thing. It brings national preserve lands, currently under control of the National Park Service, back into step with Alaska’s state wildlife management regulations. It does NOT legalize general hunting in the national parks. Rather, it simply returns the rules to what they were until late in the Obama administration, when the administration established more restrictive rules with the intention of stunting the state of Alaska’s predator control plans in certain areas.

Now, the Trump administration is scaling back the expanded federal regulations to match the state regs. And that last round of these sensational-sounding articles—in 2018—was published in response to USFWS doing the exact same thing on the federal refuge lands that they manage.

In other words, state and federal policy are aligning on bear hunting regulations, and the situation is not nearly as extreme as these news sources portray it to be. Things like killing hibernating bears, denned wolf pups, sows with cubs, and cubs themselves are sometimes legal, but in very limited and specific capacities. These national articles would have you believe that it opens a free-for-all killing of all bears in sight by any hunter. In reality, not much is changing, and this portrayal will only rouse anger and resentment among the general public in the Lower 48.

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How To Catch a 50-Pound Striper From The Surf

Alberto Knie with a surf-caught cow striper. (Alberto Knie/)

“Crazy” Alberto Knie is nothing short of a fishing legend. The founder and president of Tactical Anglers, Inc. (Creative Innovative Fishing Products), Knie is a surf fishing savant. He holds the International Game Fish Association 8-pound-test record for striped bass with a 45.5-pound surf-caught giant that he took in Shinnecock, N.Y. on May 15, 2004. But that’s not nearly his biggest surf-caught striper. He’s taken an astounding nine stripers weighing more than 50 pounds and two that weighed more than 60.

1. Outdoor Life: What’s the best way for beginning striper surf fishermen to size up new water?

Alberto Knie: Studying new waters begins with understanding the striped bass migration and how it relates to local grounds. The second key is to pay close attention to the available baitfish and then learn how to utilize the match-the-hatch theories in ways of artificial lure presentations. Another item that I find invaluable is to keep a log book which allows both beginning and seasoned anglers to sharpen their skills to the max. Logging specific intel such as time, tides, moon, and conditions in an extended period of time will help a fishermen set positive patterns and strategies. It’s like having a personal report card if you will.

2. OL: What are your recommendations on rods and reels?

AK: The key to this question has everything to do with balancing the proper tackle with proper presentations. What I mean is it’s critical to understand the difference between chasing back-bay schoolies and chasing trophy cows under extreme jetty and ocean-front conditions. I use an array of St. Croix Rods from the light tackle Triumph to serious Avid rods, and up to the Legend Surf for demanding performance and power. It’s easy to promote those rods because they have the best rod warranty in the industry. As for the reel recommendation, I use an assortment of Penn and Abu reels. I use conventional reels for live bait or chunks, and spinning reels when casting artificial lures. Overall, it all depends on distance casting, positive line placement and leverage. Most importantly, these reels are easy to maintain with less downtime. I especially like new Spinfishers, Slammer and the new Torques for their ability to withstand extreme abuse and provide strength in performance.

Knie with an evening giant.
Another giant from a Long Island, New York, jetty.

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10 Tips For Growing Successful Food Plots (And Keeping Deer on Your Property All Season Long)

An over head photo of a well-designed, isolated food plot. (The Whitetail Institute/)

Jon Cooner is the Director of Special Projects for renowned food plot seed company Whitetail Institute. Outdoor Life recently interviewed Cooner to provide his 10 keys to growing more successful food plots. Here is what he had to say.

1. Don’t Procrastinate

While food-plotting isn’t difficult, the steps to a successful food plot should be followed in order and in a timely manner for the best results. Some processes start months in advance of the season to ensure optimum growing conditions and maximum plant yield once opening day rolls around.

2. Select The Best Location

Long, skinny plots are excellent for attracting deer during daylight hours. (The Whitetail Institute/)

If space and equipment are limited, then locate your food plots where you can or in existing openings. The best locations for plots include adjacent cover for deer traveling to the food plot and for escape cover (a thicket or sanctuary, or perceived cover such as a few rows of a tall screening crop) and low human traffic. Plots should never be visible to roads and neighbors.

Long, skinny plots are excellent for attracting deer during daylight hours.
L-shaped plots amid dense cover provide deer with security.
When possible, try not to forgo a soil test prior to planting.
Small plots can be easily seeded without a tractor or quad.
Mowing perennial plots such as clover keeps forage lush.
Perennial plots should be sprayed to keep weeds down and increase their ability to yield forage.

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8 of The Hottest New Hunting Cartridges for 2021 and Beyond

Adam Weatherby’s Montana black bear was the first game animal ever taken with the new Weatherby 6.5 RPM cartridge. (Weatherby/)

Recent years have seen the introduction of a stunning number of new factory rifle cartridges, with each being heralded as the “The Next Big Thing” for hunting or competitive shooting. This explosion in new-cartridge development was fueled by the phenomenal success of the 6.5 Creedmoor, which led ammomakers to focus on cartridges built around long, heavy-for-caliber, high-B.C. bullets delivering better long-range performance. There was also a demand for better-performing cartridges for AR rifles, again with longer, sleeker bullets. These trends came in response to, and coincided with, a big spike in interest in long-range shooting, creating a perfect storm in new-cartridge development that continues. In fact, several more new factory cartridge designs are on the way.

The last time the shooting world saw so many new cartridges introduced in a relatively short span of time was in the early 2000s, when the short-magnum craze arrived. Since then, with the exception of the .300 WSM, which was arguably the most successful of the short-magnum batch, many of those cartridges proved to be a flash in the pan.

The 6mm Creedmoor shares many of the attributes of its more famous 6.5mm sibling and is wonderfully accurate. (Hornady Ammunition/)

Will today’s newest cartridges follow the same sad market trajectory, or will some of them duplicate the success of the 6.5 Creedmoor? The odds are against it—the 6.5 is likely a once-in-a-generation cartridge that has become a global standard—but some of the newcomers may be poised to do very well. Of course, new cartridges come and go, and only time will tell, but here’s a look at some of the newer cartridges to keep an eye on in the years ahead.

1. .224 Valkyrie

With its heavier bullets, the .224 Valkyrie is a viable deer cartridge, as demonstrated on this Texas whitetail by Federal Ammunition’s JJ Reich. (Federal Ammunition/)

The long-range shortcomings of the .223 Rem./5.56 NATO cartridge have long left AR rifle fans wishing for something better in .22 caliber centerfire. Nosler took a swing at a solution in 2017 with its .22 Nosler, which improved upon .223 Rem. performance by sending bullets of similar weight, initially topping out at 77 grains, downrange faster. In 2018, Federal unveiled its own offering, the .224 Valkyrie, which was essentially built around a long, sleek, high-B.C. 90-grain bullet zipping along at 2,700 fps, and typically fired from rifle barrels with a fast 1:7 twist rate to better stabilize such bullets. That particular load, with a HPBT MatchKing bullet, remains supersonic to about 1,300 yards.

The 6mm Creedmoor shares many of the attributes of its more famous 6.5mm sibling and is wonderfully accurate.
With its heavier bullets, the .224 Valkyrie is a viable deer cartridge, as demonstrated on this Texas whitetail by Federal Ammunition’s JJ Reich.
The author double taps a target while testing the long-range capabilities of Federal’s hot .22-caliber cartridge, the 224 Valkyrie.
The latest in a string of new Nosler cartridge introductions is the 27 Nosler, which ups the ante over a .270 Win. by 400 fps with a 150-grain bullet.
One of the newer cartridges that’s gaining a lot of traction is the 6.5 PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge), which is basically a “magnumized” version of the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Weatherby’s 6.5 RPM delivers 1,500 foot-pounds of energy at 500 yards, and was designed specifically for the new superlight Mark V Backcountry Ti (titanium action) rifle.
The 300 HAM’R, designed by Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat, duplicates the terminal effectiveness of the .30-30 Win.—but with a far flatter trajectory—out of AR-15 rifles.
Borrowing design principles from the 6.5 Creedmoor and 6.5 PRC, the .300 PRC is superior in many ways to older .30-caliber magnum designs.
Winchester’s .350 Legend has been an instant hit in states where only straight-walled cartridges may be used for deer hunting.

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The Ultimate Guide to Fishing the Great Lakes this Summer

There's plenty of opportunity to catch trophy walleyes in the Great Lakes this summer. (Steve Quinn/)

The size and diversity of the waters we call “The Great Lakes” boggles the mind. This system contains 21 percent of the world’s fresh water supply and has 160 native species of fish, supplemented by many imports, arriving via stocking trucks and otherwise. Though they’re connected hydrologically, each basin is unique. In fact, a biologist recently told me the only thing that Lake Superior and Lake Michigan have in common is they both contain water.

Since anglers began to wrestle its bounty from commercial fishers in the early 20th century, its popularity as a sporting destination has grown, now estimated at over $1.2 billion in direct annual angler expenditures. Its economic impacts are far greater, not to mention historical significance and sociological attributes. But it’s not been an easy journey.

With many international ports, the Great Lakes have been a dumping ground for exotic creatures that crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the ballast water of freighters. The latest count lists 25 fish imports, 59 plant species, 24 algae, and 14 invasive mollusks. A few have been benign or possibly even beneficial. Others have threatened the entire ecosystem, most notably zebra and quagga mussels. Yet in the face of these assaults, the Great Lakes still deserve their name.

I credit their resiliency to the cohesion of aquatic systems and the leveling power of nature, coupled with the impressive efforts of state biologists and management agencies to help fishing thrive. They’ve learned to deal with fluctuating nutrient dynamics, which lie at the heart of aquatic ecosystems. While salmon fishing will never return to what it was in the 1980s, and perch have suffered an overall decline, steelhead, bass, walleyes, and muskies have never been better. And several exciting gamefish species have come onto the scene. The future fishing outlook for the Great Lakes is indeed bright.

Along the shores of the Great Lakes lie 32 cities with many tens of millions of potential anglers living within a short drive of its waters. And scattered along its shoreline, in communities large and small, are thousands of fishing guides who can dial in the bite at any time of year. No matter which species you’re after, you won’t be disappointed.

A coaster brookie caught in Lake Superior.
A stud laker caught on the Great lakes.

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