Hunting and Fishing News & Blog Articles

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The Tale of Jake and Belle: A Hunting Dog Story You Haven’t Heard Before

The author at a field trial in Georgia. (Wil Sensing, Project Upland/)

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.

I’m a diehard bird hunter and dog man. I love everything about it: The discipline and patience it requires, the glorious days in the field, and the long, storied history behind it all. But as an African American dog man living in Georgia, I know that there’s a large hole missing in the history of bird hunting and dog training. That hole is created by stories unheard and untold to the general public.

I got into bird dogs after my introduction to hunting, and immediately felt the loneliness of working by myself to train my dog to hunt. Being from Atlanta, I did not see many black folks with bird dogs, and it’s not often that you’ll pick up a magazine and see us in there. There had been little to no minority representation in the hunting community and even less so in the bird dog world. That, however, seems to be changing. One day I flipped through a magazine that I usually read for the Southern culture and stumbled across images of a world hidden deep within the depths of the South Georgia’s piney woods: the world of black bird dog trainers.

This sparked my curiosity, and for the last four and a half years I’ve been on a journey to better understand my connection to bird dogs, and my natural love for them. I’d been trying to figure out why I’m so drawn to the images of Neal Carter and Curtis Brooks Sr. riding horseback, pointers on their tailgates (below, you can watch the feature film Project Upland created to see what I’m talking about). When I look at those photos, I get those same feelings that young black athletes have when they see clips of Michael Jordan playing basketball or watch Tiger Woods take the lead at the Masters. Those feelings resonate within our community as we tell ourselves, “I can do that too!”

I’ve always felt the need to have a dog. Years ago I kept pit bulls and trained them to do all sorts of things, from basic obedience to protection. This was out of necessity as I grew into adulthood and started living on my own in areas where random door knocks happen at 2 a.m., unwarranted and unexpected. My dogs would bark back loudly, the hair on their necks raised. As I transitioned from pit bulls to bird dogs and connected with the images of little-known black dog men who were few and far between, the question haunted me still: What is it about a dog?

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Frog Gigging is Cheap, Hot, Muddy Fun

Bullfrogs are the ideal summertime target. (Pixabay/)

It couldn’t be a frog. The eyes were spaced too wide. But as I edged closer, the headlamp illuminated a bullfrog that looked as big as a rabbit. It squatted on a thin bank surrounded by brush and across a deep hole of water.

There was only one way to get him.

Sulfurous smells of what the swamp had been digesting for millennia met my nose as I waded in. Two steps later, my rubber boots were compromised. Soon, I was waist-deep in black water as mosquitoes and other night bugs swarmed despite a copious slathering of DEET.

My buddy held the frog, seemingly hypnotized, in the beam of his headlamp while I slogged through the boot-sucking mire to within striking range of my target.

After positioning it to get behind the frog, the five-pronged gig hovered just below the broad, batrachian head. Summoning the spear-chucking form humans have been practicing since, well, we became human, I drove the gig deep into the bank where the frog had been just milliseconds before.

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The Most Iconic Rifles and Cartridges from African Safaris

Dangerous game, like the Cape buffalo, drove development of big bore double rifles. Dangerous game keeps them relevant to this day. (Ron Spomer/)

Just as the lever-action .30/30 is iconic in the North American whitetail woods, certain rifles and cartridges are African safari icons. But which are they? Which define the long, rich tapestry of safari hunting on our greatest big-game continent?

A surprising many.

The surprise is as much the variety of calibers and cartridges as the makes and models of rifles. Seen through the lens of the modern safari hunter, classic Africa rifles would all seem a tight knit family of side-by-side doubles and beefy bolt-actions with oversized holes at their muzzles. That is only partially true.

The 7x57, .7-08, .280 Rem: Traditional U.S. 7mms have proven effective in Africa for more than a century, but none is more classic than the 7x57mm Mauser, aka .275 Rigby at left. (Ron Spomer/)

The double-barrel big bores evolved from double-barrel muzzleloading shotguns first used to slow down large and cantankerous animals. A .50-caliber Hawken might have sufficed for a Rocky Mountain fur trapper and even a bison market hunter. But not an ivory hunter. Or even a voortrekker in pursuit of Cape buffalo or cameleopard (giraffe) skins. Even when firing 1/4-pound balls from 4-gauge guns, hunters usually needed multiple hits to bring prey to the ground. The process of reloading a muzzle loader, of course, meant one hired a gun bearer or two to stay at heel with backup guns loaded and ready. The second barrel of a side-by-side double was often the last line of defense.

The .30-06 has been an Africa classic since president Teddy Roosevelt’s infamous 1909 safari. (Ron Spomer/)

Hardened and elongated bullets (Maxi balls) improved terminal performance in the mid-1800s, but the real leap forward came in the 1890s with the advent of smokeless powder. The concentrated energy of nitroglycerine boosted velocities significantly. Doubling bullet mass doubles energy. Doubling velocity quadruples energy. This made lighter bullets more effective. Nevertheless, tradition dies hard. So do buffalo. Bore diameters certainly shrank during the 1890s and 1900s, but they seemed to settle between .40 inches and .577 inches.

The 7x57, .7-08, .280 Rem: Traditional U.S. 7mms have proven effective in Africa for more than a century, but none is more classic than the 7x57mm Mauser, aka .275 Rigby at left.
The .30-06 has been an Africa classic since president Teddy Roosevelt’s infamous 1909 safari.
'Classic Africa rounds include (from left) the Goldilocks .375 H&H, .416 Rigby, .458 Lott, .470 Nitro Express, .500 Nitro Express, and the "little" .30-06.' height=1125
Rigby’s manifestation of the Mauser M98 started the switch from double rifles to bolt-actions in the early 1900s.
Two classic African rifles are the PH’s Rigby double barrel in .470 Nitro Express and the client's Rigby Mauser in .416 Rigby. One shot from the .416 handled this buffalo, but the big bore was there as backup if needed.
Rather typical push-feed bolt actions in common calibers like .30-06 are still taking down game in Africa.
Blaser’s R8 push-feed modular rifle is too modern to be an Africa classic, but it is widely used and effective in various switch-barrel configurations, including this .458 Lott that settled this swamp buffalo with a single 500-grain Barnes TSX bullet.
Dozens of plains game species make smaller calibers highly popular and effective in Africa. A Blaser R8 in .308 Win. accounted for this bushbuck ram.
The falling block single-shot rifle is an Africa safari classic that remains a solid choice for sport hunters backed up by doubles and repeaters in the hands of their PHs. This Dakota M10 in 7x57mm Mauser proved perfect for a South Africa ranch hunt with Fort Richmond Safaris.
All-American lever-actions like this Marlin 1895 in .45-70 are growing increasingly popular in Africa.
The .375 H&H Magnum is arguably the classic of all classic African cartridges.
The splendid red lechwe is another of the many African antelope that can be successfully addressed with common push-feed actions and smaller caliber cartridges like this Sauer 101 in 30-06 Springfield.

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B.A.S.S. Fishing is Back Live This Week on ESPN

B.A.S.S. goes live all week long on ESPN2. (Chris Zaldain/)

While professional sports leagues are in the beginning stages of restarting their seasons in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns, bass fishing pros are already at back to work.

Major League Fishing (MLF)—one of the last pro sports standing back in March—ended an 80-day COVID-related pause last week with their biggest live event yet, Toyota Heavy Hitters presented by Venmo, featuring a $753K purse.

B.A.S.S. has raised the stakes.

If you’re done binge-watching Netflix and Amazon Prime—as you should be by now—tune in to ESPN 2 and ESPN 3 all week and their live on-the-water action Elite Series event from Lake Eufaula.

Live coverage of this highly anticipated tournament pits 87 of the top bass anglers in the world against one another as they compete for the $100,000 first-place prize and a total purse of more than $700,000.

ESPN2 B.A.S.S. fishing live schedule.

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The Senate Is About to Pass a Bill That Will (Finally) Fund Public Lands and Ease Maintenance Backlogs in National Parks

The Great American Outdoors Act is a win for hunters, anglers, and outdoor-lovers all across the U.S. (Steve Hillebrand / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/)

In a rare and much needed piece of good news this week, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act. This landmark bipartisan legislation will fully—and permanently—fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million annually. The second major provision of the GAOA will address increasingly dire public-land maintenance backlogs.

“If this gets passed, it’s absolutely gigantic for conservation and access in this country. The LWCF has been used in 99 percent of the counties in this country, and these are projects that can happen right now,” says Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

Originally introduced in March, the GAOA has since gained momentum with 60 total cosponsors. The LWCF is a critical tool for conservation and access in the U.S., and one that doesn’t rely on taxpayers to foot the bill. Trouble is, Congress has only partially funded the LWCF over the years, siphoning more than $20 billion of its funding over the decades to other projects. The LWCF only received $495 million in fiscal year 2020—the highest amount allocated in 15 years. On top of the repetitive annual appropriations battles, the LWCF expired in 2015 and 2018, requiring renewed efforts to keep the program afloat.

Read Next: Love Public Land? Thank the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Enter the Great American Outdoors Act (S.3422), which would provide permanent, full, and dedicated funding for the LWCF. This means the LWCF would receive, indefinitely, the full $900 million needed annually to fund the program. It also means funding can’t be diverted.

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The Ultimate Truck Gun Build (Plus 14 More Guns for Your Pickup)

John B. Snow’s MK107 Mod 2-M by Primary Weapons System. (John B. Snow/)

Recent uncertainty and social unrest caused me to reevaluate the firearms I travel with for personal protection. I had many different types of guns chambered in a variety of cartridges and while reviewing my collection I came to the old realization that less is more. While the .45 ACP, 10mm, .300 Blackout, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, .380 and a host of other cartridges are fine in and of themselves for personal protection, for the sake of simplicity I narrowed my selection to two: 9mm and .223 Rem (and chose the latter). The complexities of relying on firearms chambered in a many different cartridges in the event of an emergency just didn’t make sense. This meant effectively “retiring” a number of guns and, happily, picking up a couple new ones.

My first acquisition was this AR pistol, a MK107 Mod 2-M from Primary Weapons Systems (PWS) in .223. The company was among the first to bring dead-nuts reliability to short-barrel ARs, and they still excel at that mission.

The MK107 Mod 2-M uses PWS’s long-stroke piston system which has a three-position adjustment on the gas setting so you can tune the pistol to your needs and liking. It has excellent ergonomics. The handguard can take both M-Lok and Picatinny accessories, the magazine well is flared for easy reloads, the ambidextrous safety is buttery smooth to operate, and the length of the SB Tactical brace can be adjusted in a flash.

I added a Surefire Scout Light Pro to the handguard, and topped the rifle with a Trijicon SRS sight. I have it zeroed at 100 yards using 55-grain polymer-tipped ammo and have no problems getting hit after hit on 8-inch steel at that distance. The Surefire kicks out 1,000 lumens of light that is activated by a switch pad that sits under my left thumb making the system ready to use in the dark or low light. I attached a single-point sling to the QD at the base of the buffer tube to complete the setup.

Because it is so compact and portable, the pistol is by my side most of the time. It is an excellent truck gun and is unobtrusive. Most importantly, however, is that the PWS runs like a cat on fire and is built to withstand extreme abuse. I’ve put hundreds of rounds through it to date, and not once has it failed to fire, cycle, and eject. —John B. Snow

Accuracy International chassis system.
Henry Lever Action X Model .45/70
Rock River 7-inch A4 Pistol
Colt Python
CZ 527 American Synthetic
Ruger Security-9
Winchester Model 94 Short Rifle
Marlin 1895SBL
Rossi R92 Triple Black
Ruger 10/22 Takedown
Savage A22 FV-SR
Mossberg Patriot Predator
Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard

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6 Tips for Becoming a Crack Shot with Your Shotgun Inside 40 Yards

Becoming a crack shot inside 40 yards takes a tremendous amount of practice. (Howard Communications/)

Imagine spending hard-earned money on shotguns, shells, clothing, a pointer or retriever with champion bloodlines, plus the rest of the gear we “need” to pursue wild birds each fall…and then not being able to kill one because you haven’t put the time in practicing. All that financial investment, and you didn’t make time for shooting clays at the range over the summer? A lot of hunters make this mistake—I certainly did—and it stops us from fully enjoying the hunt.

If you’re tired of embarrassing yourself (and getting frustrated) in front of your heckling buddies, it’s time to do something about it. Namely, practice. The first and most important thing you need to understand before starting down the long road to becoming a good shot is that your effectiveness with a shotgun is going to fall off markedly beyond 40 yards. There’s a bevy of reasons for that, the main one being that leading a bird properly at longer distances is damn tough. But also, the effectiveness of most shotshells starts to decline beyond 40 yards.

So, once you understand your effective range, the real work begins. Here’s what you need to do in order to become a crack shot inside 40 yards…and shut those hunting buddies up for good.

1. Take the Bead Off Your Barrel

Leaving the front bead on the barrel of your shotgun can draw your eyes away from the target. (NSSF/)

Any new shotgun you purchase is either going to have a fiber-optic sight or front bead on the end of the barrel, and the first thing you need to do is get a pair of pliers, unscrew it, and remove it. Don’t throw it away—you may want it for turkey season or other pursuits. But in wingshooting, a front bead isn’t necessary, and it actually draws your eye to the end of the shotgun barrel and away from the bird you’re trying to hit. If you remove the front bead, your entire focus is on the target, and nothing else.

Leaving the front bead on the barrel of your shotgun can draw your eyes away from the target.
Throw clays straight away to see if your shotgun is shooting true.
Shooting skeet is a great way to stay sharp in the offseason.
Trap offers the best presentations for upland hunters.
Creating presentations that mimic real shots will help your accuracy.

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How to Choose The Right Hunting Bullet

Even when hunting big, open country like this caribou tundra, an effective hunter can usually stalk close enough to make high B.C. bullets irrelevant. But if they are constructed for good terminal performance, using them provides a nice fudge factor against wind deflection and poor range estimation. (Ron Spomer/)

“What’s your B.C?”

The B.C. (Ballistic Coefficient) question seems to have displaced “what caliber are you shooting” as the most common if inconsequential question a hunter could ask. The “caliber” question should really be “what cartridge are you shooting?” And the B.C. question hardly matters over the distances at which most North American big game animals are shot.

Fifty years ago, when hunters argued over which cartridge was best, they focused on muzzle velocity. The .30-06 Springfield was better than the .30-30 because it spit the same .308-inch bullets 400 to 500 fps (feet per second) faster. And the .300 Win. Mag. was better than the .30-06 because it bested that venerable round by another 300 fps. It was the era of muzzle velocity and may the biggest magnum win.

And then shooters got smart. Somewhere along the line someone figured out that if a race car could go faster when built low and slim and slippery, so could a bullet. And sure enough, just as the military had discovered in the late 1800s that an elongated bullet shot flatter than a round ball at the same MV (muzzle velocity), late 20th century shooters tumbled to the reality of long, slim, sharply tipped and boat-tailed bullets also shot flatter. Much flatter. With much less wind deflection and much more retained energy. And it works like this…

The fast, flat-shooting .25-06 Remington can perform adequately to 300 to 400 yards with any bullet shape, but it would be silly to stick a round nose slug atop this case. (Ron Spomer/)

Bullet Savvy

The fast, flat-shooting .25-06 Remington can perform adequately to 300 to 400 yards with any bullet shape, but it would be silly to stick a round nose slug atop this case.
Portrait of a high B.C. bullet. Berger’s 156-grain EOL Elite Hunter shows most of the form that boosts B.C. Long, sharply pointed nose; minimal full-diameter shank length; long, tapering boat tail. Not shown is the dense lead core that adds mass for a higher B.C.
Trajectory Chart
Trajectory Chart
All three of these images show a 75-grain Swift Scirocco beside an 80-grain Nosler Custom Competition. The Nosler will provide slightly better extreme range trajectory, but a competition bullet may not be the ideal for terminal performance on game. One must choose carefully and balance terminal performance with ballistic performance.
The Federal Premium .300 Win Mag with 180-grain Nosler Accubond (left) will shoot flatter, deflect less in wind, and retain more energy than the old round nose (right). But inside of 300 yards, the differences will be so minimal as to be a wash. For more reasonable distance hunting, B.C. hardly matters.
Just a bit of careful stalking can negate the B.C. advantage.

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How to Prep and Cook Largemouth Bass Fillets for Fried Deliciousness

Fried bass nuggets taste as good as they look, as long as you prepare them properly. (Hank Shaw/)

Green carp. Ditch pickles. Largemouths. Black bass. No matter what you call this fish, it ain’t good eats. Or is it?

The cultural taboo against eating largemouth bass is not wholly a matter of tradition, but bass can make fine table fare with a few specific considerations.

Native to the Eastern and Central parts of the United States, and introduced pretty much everywhere else, the largemouth is hardy and full of fight, an icon of pro fishing in America. And as such, catch-and-release is the rule.

But no one ever told me that.

I did not grow up with largemouth bass. I grew up with striped bass. I am a born-and-bred saltwater angler. I didn’t even catch my first freshwater fish until I was in my 20s.

Fried fish, tatar sauce, and lemon make for the perfect summer entree.

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How to Hunt: A Step-by-Step Guide for New Adult Hunters

There are plenty of reasons to hunt. Best of all? It's fun. (Dustin Lutt / Rockhouse Motion/)

There are plenty of reasons to learn to hunt. The most ancient and trendiest modern reason for hunting are actually the same: it’s a great way to secure lean, free-range meat for yourself and your family. Wild game meat reduces your reliance on the commercial food chain and helps you know exactly what you’re eating in our age of processed foods. Hunting is also a great way to learn more about the natural world, and to support wildlife habitat and conservation in the U.S. Best of all? Hunting is fun.

But getting started isn’t always easy. Hunting is a commitment that takes time, interest, specialized gear, and lots of leg work. But it’s worth it. That’s why we pulled together this step-by-step guide to help you navigate all the essential stages and skills of becoming a hunter, from signing up for a hunter safety course to cooking your hard-earned venison, and everything in between.

Let’s get started.

Navigating this Post

Because there’s a lot to hunting, there’s a lot to this article. Here’s a handy list to help you find the information you’re looking for more quickly. Read straight through, or click on a chapter to jump right to it.

The best mentors are patient, experienced hunters who are happy to help coach you at the range and in the blind.
If you don’t know anyone who hunts, there are lots of learn-to-hunt programs that will teach you everything you need to know to start hunting.
While many hunters prefer to wear all-camo clothing, others simply wear jeans and other durable clothing. More important than what you wear to hunt is how you hunt.
Ducks and geese require a lot of gear to hunt, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying it out. Waterfowling is also one of the more social types of hunting, which means you can easily tag along. Many hunters are happy to have an extra pair of hands to help set and retrieve decoys.
There are tons of choices when it comes to rifles, shotguns, scopes, and ammo. This lightweight Weatherby Mark V Camilla rifle was designed as a women's backcountry big-game rifle, but it works just as well for Eastern whitetail hunts or open-country antelope.
Scouting for sign (tracks, game trails, droppings, etc.) is critical for learning what properties hold game and how they use it. These turkey tracks are a helpful indicator that there are birds nearby.
Wild animals, like these whitetail deer, have incredible senses and survival instincts. To get close, you’ve got to be stealthy enough to slide in under those senses, undetected.
Using terrain to your advantage is a fundamental tactic for any hunt, especially in the wide-open spaces out West. Take particular care not to skyline yourself by standing at the top of an open hill or ridge.
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How to Catch a 100-Pound Catfish

Zakk Royce with his state-record blue catfish. (Zakk Royce/)

Zakk Royce, 29, lives on Lake Gaston in Gasburg, Virginia. He held consecutive North Carolina blue catfish state records for catching a 91-pound blue cat on December 20, 2015 and broke his own record the next day with a 105-pound blue cat. He owns and operates Blues Brothers Catfish Guide Service, LLC, on Lake Gaston and Kerr Lake.

1. Outdoor Life: Many of the biggest blue catfish are caught in winter. However, what’s the best way to catch them in summer?

Zakk Royce: The summer can actually be an excellent time to catch trophy blue cats, as they come off the spawn and are very aggressive. In a lot of bodies of water, a thermocline also shows up as the water temperature rises. This concentrates the bait and fish to whatever depth the thermocline forms. The best way to target the blues during this time is to fish around the thermocline, either over deep water using floats and planer boards to suspend baits, or by fishing areas where the thermocline meets the bottom, or shallower. With the warmer water temperatures, drift fishing or trolling is effective. Although I still try to stay around 0.5 mph in the summer just like other times of year, I have caught them in the summer trolling as fast as 3 mph.

2. OL: What’s the best bait to use—live or dead?

ZR: Both live and cut bait work great for blue cats. The advantage with cut bait, especially when drift fishing or trolling, is it puts off a constant scent trail that the blue cats can really key in on. However, in the summer months I usually do have a live bait out in the mix as well.

The record Lake Gaston blue.
There are cats bigger than this in Gaston, according to Royce.
A Lake Gaston giant.

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4 Things You Need to Concealed Carry a Handgun (Comfortably) in Hot Weather

For when it's hot. (Amazon/)

Carrying a defensive handgun is a major responsibility, but frequently lost in the discussions over the best guns, calibers, and training is this reality: concealing a firearm every day is uncomfortable, and especially so in hot weather. We can’t stop the sweat or control the forecast, but we can help you make it more manageable with these items.

For the hip. (Amazon/)

The Clip Draw is one of the easiest ways to carry in hot weather. It’s an add-on clip that allows you to secure your firearm to a pocket or inside your waistband, just like a modern folding knife. It is a permanent fixture on your gun, and you don’t get the security of a holster—but the clip works quite well, especially with small autoloaders (though it’s available for most popular handgun models).

This is the ideal accessory for secure carry in a pair of cargo shorts. (Amazon/)

This is one of the safest—and least expensive—ways to carry in summer. The holster protects your gun from sweat and pocket lint, keeps the trigger covered, and secures the weapon for an easy draw. There’s no need to overthink this one. The classic, soft Nylon model is available in four sizes to fit most carry pieces, it does everything you need it to do, and it doesn’t cost much money.

A compact flashlight is an essential item. (Amazon/)

Statistics show that most defensive encounters happen in low light—meaning that if you’re going to carry a gun, you need to be able to see, too. A weapon-mounted light makes sense for home defense, but it creates a package that’s too bulky to conceal in the usual summertime attire. For that, you need something small enough to fit in the pocket, bright, and reliable, like this flashlight.

Use this to keep your mags clean, handy, and concealed. (Amazon/)

Many autoloader malfunctions can be traced to the magazines. Dropping your reload into a pocket means that debris and sweat will eventually find its way onto springs and followers, and that’s no good. Keep your mags clean and hidden with these IWB carriers. Sold two per pack, they’ll work fine with most popular single-stack autoloaders.

For the hip.
This is the ideal accessory for secure carry in a pair of cargo shorts.
A compact flashlight is an essential item.
Use this to keep your mags clean, handy, and concealed.


4 Off-Season Waterfowl Projects that will Improve your Decoy Spread (and your Home)

For the die-hard waterfowler, there is no off-season. Sure you can only hunt for a precious few months, but the rest of the year still revolves around ducks and geese. Here’s a selection of projects to keep you busy until the 4 a.m. wake-ups start again.

1. Waterfowl Foot Hat Rack

A duck foot hat rack is the perfect addition to duck camp. (Joseph Albanese/)

Hanging your hat on a rack made from waterfowl feet is a unique way to show off your passion. I’ve always been fascinated by the different kinds of feet I find on every species of waterfowl I hunt, so this season I decided to take some to display. Coot have some really cool feet, so I wanted to make them the centerpiece. I flanked them with a foot off a Canada goose and one from a snow, which are sized right for larger hats.

There are a few different ways to go about this, but here is the quick and dirty method. This project takes several months to complete but most of that is waiting. Over time, the feet will likely fade, especially if they are in direct sunlight. If you want taxidermy grade, you need to inject the feet with Master’s Blend or a similar preservative.

Waterfowl feet after they’ve been dried and lacquered. (Joseph Albanese/)

Once you have a few examples of your favorite species in-hand, cut the feet off at the knee. Bend the leg and cut between the joint; once you get through the tendon it should separate easily. Position the feet as you’d like them to appear later on a piece of cardboard and pin them in place. Use rubber bands or bits of string to angle the leg as you want. Then bury them all in Borax, and wait. Borax is a desiccant and will draw all the moisture out and preserve the feet eventually.

Waterfowl feet after they’ve been dried and lacquered.
Getting ready to finish the plaque.
Attach the feet with clear epoxy.
The finished hat rack.
This floating decoy stand uses four decoys to prop up a MOJO spinning-wing decoy.
PVC is easy to use and makes a great waterproof frame.
After you heat the PVC, mold it around the base of the MOJO decoy.
The finished decoy about to go into the water.
Backboards are classic waterfowl hunting tools that still work great today.
After cutting out your shapes, paint everything with a matte spray paint.
Use hinges to make your backboard more mobile and cut teeth in the bottom board so it sticks into the ground easier.
It takes a lot of down to make a pillow but after a good season or two, you might have enough.
Canada geese have a good amount of down underneath their breast feathers.
Use a ziplock bag to save down and store it in the freezer until you’re ready to make your pillow.

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How to Catch a Giant Bass this Weekend

Spinnerbaits get slot No. 1 in any beginner’s tackle box. (Major League Fishing/)

A graduate of Clemson University with a degree in engineering, Andy Montgomery is one of the most proficient anglers in Major League Fishing history in the “every scorable bass counts” format. He has two tour-level wins and 35 top 10s in his professional career. We caught up with him recently to get his take on how to catch great bass in tough conditions.

1. Outdoor Life: What are your best tips for fishing small ponds?

Andy Montgomery: I grew up fishing small ponds; it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had fishing. It’s best to head out at daybreak or an hour before dark with a buzzbait and only one rod. (Using just one rod forces you to throw it and keep throwing.) If you do that at daybreak or an hour before sunset for a solid hour, you have a high, high percentage that you’re going to catch some fish…some good fish.

2. OL: What would you put in a beginner’s tackle box?

AM: The number one thing for a beginner’s tackle box is a spinnerbait. They can throw and wind and they don’t have to set the hook real hard to catch a fish. That makes the fishing more fun for beginners and helps them naturally learn how to set the hook. Then I would add a small squarebill crankbait. The third thing would be a buzzbait. Again all things that are simple “chuck and wind” type lures.

Beat cold fronts by fishing late in the day.
Andy Montgomery

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Teach a New Hunter to Shoot a Rifle More Accurately with a Red-Dot Scope

The author’s son with a spruce grouse. (Tyler Freel/)

At one point or another, every hunter or shooter who has kids ponders the question of how and when to begin teaching their children to shoot. Each person and situation is unique, so there’s no one right answer. If there is a universal truth, it’s this: If we want new shooters—especially kids—to stick with it and develop their skills, they need to see some success. And it needs to be fun. That’s why I used a red-dot scope to teach my son how to shoot his first rifle. Many traditionalists think learning to shoot iron sights is the best way to get started, but that’s not my preference.

Before you start teaching, the most important factor to consider for young shooters is recoil. For any new shooter, discomfort or pain (or the apprehension of either) will almost certainly deter them, or encourage flinching if it doesn’t. For a kid, recoil can easily create a negative memory that can take years to overcome. So you should pick out a gun that is easy on the shoulder.

Simplicity is another ally when teaching a kid to handle and shoot a rifle safely. There are plenty of options out there, from air guns to .22s, but single-shot rifles are always a smart choice. The action type itself is trivial, but a single-shot will give your new shooter plenty of practice at manipulating the action and safety practices, and you’ll both only need to worry about one live round at a time.

As with any discipline, there’s an “older way of thinking” that applies to teaching youngsters how to shoot. A traditionalist may think new shooters should always learn to use iron sights before progressing to optics. Learning to properly use iron sights promotes better positioning and other fundamental shooting skills, and is something every shooter should eventually learn. I don’t buy, however, that it’s always the best way to start. It’s not necessarily wrong, but a new shooter isn’t going to enjoy the immediate success he or she will with a red dot. And by success I mean hitting what they’re aiming at—consistently. Though to begin with, they may not be accurate. And that’s okay. Patience is key for both of you.

When I could no longer resist the urge to buy a .22 for my 3-year-old last fall, I was confronted with this very issue. One look at the iron sights on the little Savage Rascal, and I knew he would be frustrated despite his desire to shoot. With a youngster, you’re going to be dealing with someone who doesn’t understand sight picture, alignment, or head position. You can bet all three of those are going to add up to wobbly at best. They just want to hit what they’re shooting. So I asked myself: What sight will work, and be accurate, regardless of sloppy alignment with unlimited eye relief?

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A New Hunter’s Perspective on How the Old School Can Help

Erin Hutchison with her first mule deer. (Danner/LaCrosse/)

Erin Hutchison didn’t spend much time in the woods growing up. She was a competitive tennis player that loved the game so much, she woke up early each morning and hit the courts in suburban Portland, Oregon, before school. Deer hunting was the furthest pursuit from her mind. But after college, Hutchison took a job in media relations at footwear company Danner and LaCrosse and that opened the gates to the outdoors.

“The first day, I was sitting at my desk, and the sales guys came up to me,” she said. “They asked if I liked to hunt. I said that I would try anything once. Here I am years later and it’s completely changed my life.”

In 2017, Hutchison met photographer Nicole Belke at a deer camp in Kansas. It was the first time she had hunted with another woman. Belke had all kinds of advice and tips for her, and it was more comfortable having another female in camp to share the experience with. Hutchison arrowed her first whitetail days later. The following fall, a friend canceled on her last minute for a morning cow elk hunt, but she decided to go alone. With her experience level, Hutchison figured it would be a nature hike, but it turned into her first solo spot-and-stalk. She killed an elk and her friends returned to help her pack the meat out.

Hutchison has since traveled the world on duck hunts in Argentina and axis deer in Hawaii, with plans for an Alaskan drop camp caribou hunt. She is still learning, and also trying to help others who want to learn to hunt. Whether you’re a traditional hunter or newbie, you should listen to what she has to say. Her insights will only help bring more hunters to the table.

Outdoor Life: Why did you decide to start hunting?

Finding the right group to support you as a new hunter is tough, but essential to your growth as an outdoorsman or woman.
It’s intimidating for new hunters to break into the sport, so traditionalists need to be as welcoming and helpful as possible.
Hutchison relies on other women who support one another.CRED:

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Four can’t-miss items for panfishing

Catch as many as you can. (John Sekutowski via Unsplash/)

Right now in farm ponds, oxbows, and shallow lakes everywhere, it’s bluegill season. And when you get on a fast-and-furious panfish bed, the last thing you want to do is to spend time fumbling around your tackle box looking for just the right rig or counting fish in the bottom of your cooler. Wasting time like that means your buddy will out-fish you for sure.

Serious bream anglers come prepared, and they know the most overlooked gear can also be the most important. That’s why, if you see a bream fisherman on the water without these things, you’ll at least know this: He’s not all that serious.

A small hair or feather option tipped with a wax worm is deadly medicine on bull bluegills. (Amazon/)

Sometimes panfish demand a little more of your presentation than just a wire hook and a cricket. A tiny feather jig tipped with a wax worm, meal worm, or maggot can be suspended under a float or “dipped” around shallow stumps and cover, where it looks like something small and tasty and alive. There’s not a bluegill that swims that can pass up such a thing—and you’ll probably catch more than a few bonus crappies this way, too.

Balsa wood floats provide the sensitivity you need for light-biting panfish. (Amazon/)

Yeah, the round, red-and-white bobbers of your youth will still work, but a sensitive balsa-wood float is the better way to go for light-biting fish. You can almost detect a bluegill’s bad intentions with a bobber like this. Most bream fishing is done in less than 4 feet of water and for that, a clip-on spring bobber like this one is easy to cast and fast to rig up.

Keep your catch lively and fresh. (Amazon/)

If you don’t have an aerated livewell handy, a fish basket is the best way to keep your catch lively and fresh. It’s way faster than a stringer, and will keep marauding turtles from robbing you blind, too. This classic fish basket has a one-way, spring-operated lid that also helps keep the basket afloat. Unhook, drop a fish in, and fire off another cast within seconds.

A small hair or feather option tipped with a wax worm is deadly medicine on bull bluegills.
Balsa wood floats provide the sensitivity you need for light-biting panfish.
Keep your catch lively and fresh.
Helps make sure you don’t keep over the limit.

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First aid kids that help you stay safe outdoors

Be prepared. (Carlos Hevia via Unsplash/)

Anytime you leave the house for the woods, you should have a first aid kit. It’s the best way to know you’ll be safe even if accident strikes. Most should have some of the basics—bandages, painkillers, antibiotic ointment. But after that, what you need may well vary depending on what you do. We’ve got you covered with a kit for nearly anything.

Go light, but take what you need. (Amazon/)

Rarely will you find something that could save your life in the woods and weighs less than a pound. The Medical Adventure Kit is one of those. It’s water resistant and organizes everything by injury in clearly-labeled pockets. It’s made to solve many of the basic wilderness injuries for one-to- two people for up to four days. Hopefully you won’t need it, but if you do, you’ll be thankful to have it along.

Know you have what you need. (Amazon/)

If you need an all-around medical kit for sports activities or car camping, consider this one. It includes everything basic you’ll need from burn cream and alcohol prep pads to sting relief prep pads, antiseptic pads, and antibiotic ointment. It also has gauze, finger splints, scissors, and an instant cold pack. Lastly, it has a bilingual first aid guide.

Never leave home without it. (Amazon/)

You may not think you need disposable gloves or an emergency blanket until you do. That’s why this is the best medical kit to throw in your car and know you have what you need. In addition to basic supplies, it also contains a CPR mask, trauma shears, Moleskin, and a variety of bandages. The medical kit also contains a mini first-aid pouch if you need supplies to throw in a bag for a day hike.

Get wet. (Amazon/)

Throw this first aid kit in your boat and go. The waterproof case has 163 items and is multipurpose for just about any minor disaster. It has a hand-pressing flashlight, safety pins, a whistle, and a complete array of bandages. It also comes with stainless-steel tweezers, saber card, and cotton sticks. Refill when needed.

Go light, but take what you need.
Know you have what you need.
Never leave home without it.
Get wet.


Four shirts that look good, feel good, and protect your skin while you enjoy the outdoors

What to wear on your next fishing trip. (Greysen Johnson via Unsplash/)

Gone are the days of spending 12 hours in a drift boat in a cotton t-shirt. They’re not sun proof. You will get burned. And when you sweat, they cling. Fortunately, options for shirts that protect you from the sun and keep you cool are endless. We found four great options for whatever your fishing needs.

Fish well. Look good. (Amazon/)

This collared shirt blocks UVA and UBA with UPF 30. It also has two chest pockets with Velcro closures and hidden vents in the shoulders for added breathability. It’s 100 percent nylon, promising a quick dry and breathability. And when you’re on the water all day, and you don’t have time to change before dinner, you’ll look good enough for the lodge table.

Protect yourself. (Amazon/)

This quick-dry shirt is the answer to those days that fluctuate between wet and cold and hot and dry and back again. Secret to the shirt’s success are “hydrophobic” fibers that transport sweat away from your body to keep you warm. It’s flexible and stretches for when you’re reaching over the side to net the big one. It also feels soft and smooth.

Protect your neck. (Amazon/)

It’s easy to forget about the back of your neck when you’re on the water, until you get to the truck and realize your neck is red as an apple and painful to touch. Don’t worry about it again with this long-sleeve, hooded shirt. The fabric blocks UVA and UVB rays to prevent sunburn and the hood fits easily over your head. It’s also lightweight, breathable, comfortable, and wicks moisture away from your skin.

Put this on and then focus. (Amazon/)

This shirt has it all. The hood protects your ears and neck from the sun. A UPF rating of 50 keeps harmful rays from your skin. Wicking material keeps you warm (or cool) and dry. And it looks good. It’s also treated with an extra shield of water and stain repellency. Nothing beats practical and attractive.

Fish well. Look good.
Protect yourself.
Protect your neck.
Put this on and then focus.


10 Bass Mysteries Solved

MLF pro Ott DeFoe often customizes his baits on tournament days. (Major League Fishing/)

Tennessee bass pro Ott DeFoe only seems like he’s been a bass pro for decades because of his consistent success: he finished in the top 20 in over half of the B.A.S.S. tournaments he fished in eight years, and finished in the money an astounding 79 percent of the tournaments he has fished. DeFoe has more than 45 career Top 10s and over $2 million in career winnings. He is the winner of the 2020 Bass Pro Tour Stage Three and 2019 Bassmaster Classic.

1. Outdoor Life: How can I catch bigger bass from shore?

Ott DeFoe: Find out-of-the-way places that other bank fishermen won’t go to. Just like it is in boat fishing, you have to be willing to go the extra mile!

2. OL: What’s your approach to fishing a lake you’ve never fished previously?

OD: The short answer is to look at four things: season pattern, type of lake (natural, highland reservoir, river etc.), weather, and finally water levels. Take all these factors and go from there. GPS mapping is a huge part anymore and helps once on the water to develop a pattern of where bites come from.

DeFoe is known for his fast-paced fishing style.
DeFoe was the tournament leader after the first three stages of the 2020 MLF schedule.
DeFoe has finished in the money in 79 percent of the tournaments he has fished.

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