Hunting and Fishing News & Blog Articles

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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 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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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 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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Planning to Hunt Alaska Someday? Here’s Why Caribou Should Be Your First Trip

Hunting caribou is a smart choice for your first trip to Alaska. (Tyler Freel/)

The hunting opportunities in Alaska are as diverse as the people living here. And choosing the species to pursue on your first hunt in Alaska can be daunting, because there is such a variety of wild game to pick from.

Each hunter is different, and you have to decide what you want to get out of your first Alaskan hunt. There are no right or wrong answers, but there are specific things you need to consider in your planning, contemplation, and research.

Most folks will be looking at a DIY hunt (due to the expense of an outfitted hunt), so we need to eliminate the species that require a registered guide for non-residents. Dall sheep, mountain goats, and brown or grizzly bears are off the table. That leaves moose, caribou, black bear, Sitka blacktail deer, Roosevelt elk, and muskox.

You will need to consider factors like the type of hunt you want to do (i.e. drop camp, road system, hiking, floating, etc.) You’ll also need to consider the region you would like to hunt, the weapon you want to hunt with, the availability of tags, and the level of logistical complication that you are willing to deal with to not only go on the hunt, but to get your meat, cape, and antlers back home. There is a lot of nuance to each person’s decision, but when considering all factors, I think that caribou are generally the best first animal to hunt in Alaska, and here’s why.

Pick Caribou for Simplicity Sake

Caribou are one of the most manageable animals to hunt in Alaska.
Caribou hunts can take place in a wide variety of terrain.

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How to Take Your First Overland Hunting Adventure this Fall

The more you get into overland hunting, the more gear you will likely buy, but you don't need much to get started. (Damon Bungard/)

Overlanding and hunting go together naturally. Many of us take trips each fall, staying in motels or renting a cabin, so we can have a warm home base at night after a long day of chasing roosters or sitting in a treestand. But for some, it’s smarter financially (and during these unprecedented times when social distancing is still a part of everyday life to remain healthy) to turn a truck or SUV into a mobile hunting home. And it doesn’t take loads of cash to make it happen. In fact, you will likely save money in the long run since you won’t have to pay for a room anymore.

Overlanding on its own is a pursuit that has grown in popularity. One of the most well-known events is the Overland Expo, which showcases all the new gear you can buy to outfit your rig each year. And if you don’t know much about overlanding it’s a great resource to get you started.

Overlanding is a niche industry (much like hunting), full of tricked out off-road vehicles that you can spend infinite amounts of money on. But you don’t need tens of thousands of dollars to overland. Hell, you can do it out of the back of your grandma’s station wagon, though that will limit how far off the beaten path you can travel. I have comfortably lived for a month in the back of a rented Chevrolet Traverse in Alaska, but know I can go more places in my Jeep Wrangler Rubicon back at home. It’s just a matter of picking the right vehicle for the destinations you will frequent most.

1. Choosing the Right Vehicle

The author’s overland vehicle of choice is the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (Damon Bungard/)

Overland travel tends to be off-pavement in remote, wild places (like the locations for good hunting), so having a capable four-wheel drive vehicle is essential to getting to and from those venues safely. Part of self-sufficiency means using the right tools for the job, and being prepared to tackle treacherous conditions. You need to choose a vehicle that is capable of handling the terrain you will be hunting in. Typically, that means a 4x4 truck or SUV. Jeeps are some of the most common vehicles used by overlanders. My personal vehicle is the Wrangler Rubicon, and I have found it to be a durable and capable machine.

The author’s overland vehicle of choice is the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Everything the author needed for a trip to Alaska fit in the back of this rented Chevy Traverse.
Try a nearby state park or campground to test the overland waters.
Public lands are an ideal place for overland hunters to target.
Don’t wait until you shoot an animal to figure out how you will transport the meat, cape, and antlers home.

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11 Strategies For Growing The Perfect Deer Food Plot

A picturesque hunting plot of brassicas in the fall woods. (BioLogic/)

Bobby Cole is an expert at growing food plots and works at Mossy Oak BioLogic. He loves seeing people have success with their own plots. We recently caught up with Cole to ask him 11 critical questions about growing a successful whitetail food source.

1. Outdoor Life: What steps do I need to take to establish a new food plot and what’s best to plant in the first year?

Bobby Cole: When establishing a new food plot, after you clean the area out thoroughly, I would strongly suggest taking a soil sample. This will tell you exactly what’s needed to make the soil perform for you. It will provide your pH and fertility levels. Some of the best tests make available precise recommendations according to the plot you hope to plant. These tests are typically under $10 and a bargain. I try and clean my plots up as best I can and if it’s in a wooded area, I definitely want to open up the area as much as possible to allow sunlight in. New food plots are fun, they are full of promise and hope. But the soil generally needs some help in the form of lime and fertilizers.

2. OL: What’s the best way(s) to quickly increase the quality of my food plot soil?

BC: As I said, soil tests are critical in order to let you know how much lime and fertilizer you will need to raise the nutrient levels of your soil. There is also a product called Soil Solution from Deltag that I love to apply to new food plots which also helps soil health. I really believe in this product.

Prepping a summer plot with a tractor and disc.
Soil samples are critical in determining the proper amount of nutrients to add to your soil.
Clover plots are ideal summer and early fall plots. They will, however, need mowing and weed-control measures.
Deer radishes will be heavily browsed by deer once the weather turns cold.
Exclusion cages help determine how heavily deer are browsing your plots.

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A hunter’s guide to awesome food plots

Gear for your food plot. ( Peter Neumann via Unsplash/)

Right now, serious hunters everywhere are thinking about improving the wildlife habitat on their hunting properties with food plots. If you want to grow a field that’s green and good for deer, this is the list for you.

This is made for breaking dirt with an ATV. (Amazon/)

A four-wheeler is never a substitute for a tractor and real farming implements, but not everyone has the budget for that. This compact disc (not to be confused with your favorite late-'90s soundtrack) attaches to a 2-inch receiver hitch on an ATV or UTV, and can be carried in a transport mode between spots. It uses the weight of the machine and the rider to cut, and it’s just about perfect for creating small hunting plots in those hard-to-reach areas.

This giant ladino variety is highly nutritious to whitetails. (Amazon/)

The original seed from the Whitetail Institute was one of the first commercial food plot plantings available, and it’s still among the best. Yes, it’s expensive but a well-made stand of this perennial forage will last for years with regular maintenance, and deer simply hammer it. Stock up on it now so that you’ll have plenty to plant later on.

Living up to its name, this stuff grows about anywhere. (Amazon/)

If you’re just looking to green up woodland trails and small openings with minimal equipment, this blend is about as easy as it gets. It’s heavy on the rye grass—stuff that will grow almost anywhere—but it includes some clover and brassicas, too. You can clear a quarter-acre spot with a rake, water it with a backpack sprayer, and expect to see deer activity on it within a month.

Create a natural food plot with a small-scale prescribed fire. (Amazon/)

The eco-friendliest way to manage land might be to clear away old leaf litter and duff with a controlled burn. Be smart, be careful, and ask for help—but don’t be afraid, because fire is good for the ground, and a steady rain following a burn will leave a flush of green growth that attracts wildlife of all sorts. No extra planting, fertilizer, or chemicals required.

This is made for breaking dirt with an ATV.
This giant ladino variety is highly nutritious to whitetails.
Living up to its name, this stuff grows about anywhere.
Create a natural food plot with a small-scale prescribed fire.


The Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest is Vital for Both Hunters and Brown Bears

A male brown bear fishes for salmon at the mouth of a stream in the Tongass National Forest. (Bjorn Dihle/)

In the mid-1980s an old, dying bear hunter named Ralph Young sat in the back of a skiff, squinting through the rain at the ocean and mountains of Southeast Alaska. In the bow, huddled against the wind and rain, sat a teenager named Klas Stolpe. The two would be out for a month or two, until most of the salmon had spawned and the bears had left the streams for the high country. The old man didn’t especially enjoy the kid’s company but, due his to declining health and old age, he needed his help for basic things like getting in and out of the boat. They motored past once pristine bays, where years ago the old man guided legendary hunters like Warren Page and Jack O’Connor. Now, those lands were clear-cut logged. He pointed the skiff toward Admiralty Island, the heart of rainforest grizzly country, and opened the outboard’s throttle.

Young was making his last journey into the wilds of the Tongass National Forest. Established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, the Tongass is nearly 26,500-square miles of temperate rainforest, mountains and glaciers. Roosevelt, during his first year of presidency, unsuccessfully campaigned for Admiralty, Chichagof, and Baranof Islands, which compose most of the northern third of the Tongass, to be turned into a brown bear preserve. The President loved hunting bears and, believing that America could have both economic development and wilderness, saw the incredible opportunity the Tongass offered for hunters and for preserving a piece of the nation’s wild heritage.

Young came to Alaska during the first half of the 20th century, when many of Alaska’s leaders and prominent citizens wanted the brown bear eradicated. In 1929, when a timber cruiser who was mapping a giant pulpwood sale on Admiralty Island shot a bear and then was killed by it, the anti-bear rhetoric reached a boiling point. The Forest Service’s designated bear expert, Jay Williams, recommended exterminating all Admiralty’s bears to make resource development easier. This sort of thinking was common across Alaska at the time. Then, in the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt, a burgeoning movement of hunters banned together in defense of the bear. Harry McGuire, the editor of Outdoor Life, penned an extensive editorial about the importance of conserving the brown bear. Other naturalist hunters wrote books, articles, and campaigned across the country. Young joined the fight in the 1960s, after seeing what happened when one of his favorite watersheds on Admiralty was clear cut—salmon streams had been destroyed and the bears and other wildlife had been displaced. These sort of detrimental logging practices were occurring all over the Tongass. Young devoted the last quarter of his life fighting tooth and nail to save Admiralty Island and its bears. In 1980, after a 50-year battle that was led by Young, Karl Lane, and other bear hunting guides, much of Admiralty was designated as wilderness. Today, in large part because of the conservation efforts of many hunting guides, there are more brown bears in Alaska than during any other time in the last 150 years.

Roadless Rule on the Chopping Block

But today, hunters and brown bears still face an uncertain future in the Tongass. There’s a huge push led by the government and timber interests to open up much of the remaining old-growth forest to be clear cut logged and crisscrossed with roads. In 2001, the Forest Service established the Roadless Rule. Under the Rule, inventoried roadless areas all across America are protected from old-growth logging, new road building and, to a limited extent, other resource development. In the Tongass National Forest, about 9 million acres were protected. The Rule does allow exceptions for hydroelectric projects, mines, and community interties—every project applied for has been permitted. What the Roadless Rule does not allow is more logging roads and clear-cut logging, which protects much of the Tongass’ remaining old growth forest. These old-growth forests are the most important habitat for brown bears, spawning salmon, and other wildlife.

Atlin Daugherty with a happy hunter and a nice bear taken in the Tongass National Forest.
Vista of the Tongass National Forest taken from the high country of Admiralty Island.

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Reel in more trout with these ideal lures

Lures for when your trout and about. (Taylor Grote via Unsplash/)

An angler could spend his or her entire life trying to perfect trout fishing and still not quite arrive. For many, that’s the beauty in the sport. Fortunately, you don’t need to be perfect to catch fish, but the right lures sure help. We’ve narrowed it down to four good options whether you’re a beginner or one of those career anglers.

Grab their attention. (Amazon/)

This Panther Martin boasts a unique shaft through the blade design that creates the “easiest and fastest spinning action in the world.” We can’t verify if, indeed, it’s the fastest in the world. But it is definitely fast. The heavy weighted bodies go deep and the super sharp hooks will ensure the fish stays on the end of your line.

Dive and rise. (Amazon/)

The original Rapala was carefully crafted to dive and rise when you need it to. The nose carries it down to depths where fish are hanging. The floating body means it also comes back up, allowing you to constantly cruise through a series of water levels. Two treble hooks, one on the belly and one on the tail, ensure when that big brown trout bites, it can’t let go.

Keep this one with you. (Amazon/)

Cast epic distances and create plenty of flash underwater with these solid brass lures. The company lists them as ideal for salmon, steelhead and other salt water species. We tend to agree. And better yet, they come in a wide variety of colors and patterns giving you plenty of options.

Bring them up from the deep. (Amazon/)

This miniature-sized fishing lure is the perfect size for ice fishing for big trout. It perfectly mimics a forage fish, especially when jigged aggressively through your hole. It flashes and it flutters, sure to bring trout from nearby expecting to find a wounded minnow. The strong treble hook at the bottom keeps the trout you catch on your line.

Grab their attention.
Dive and rise.
Keep this one with you.
Bring them up from the deep.


Catch more walleye with these lures

Gotta catch 'em all. (Colman Byrne via Unsplash/)

Walleye fishing isn’t easy. But what it lacks in ease it makes up for in entertainment. And fortunately, there are some lures that will help you along the way. Not sue where to get started? We broke down four perfect lures for four situations. Go ahead, catch fish.

A hole in one. (Amazon/)

You may think a jig is a jig, but walleye don’t. These Lindy Slick jigs, which come in a variety of colors, should be a go-to in your tackle box. They’re made to imitate natural bugs and have a unique weight-forward design. Slip on a worm or a minnow and reel those walleye in.

Don’t lose your minnow. (Amazon/)

This complicated series of hooks and line will be the ticket in waters where it’s legal to fish with live bait. Each lure has two hooks with three inches between the hooks. It comes in three blade styles and is tied with #17 monofilament line. Choose a few colors to maximize your chances of success.

Go deep. (Amazon/)

Why mess with perfection? The Wally Diver Lure has a perfectly designed nose to let you keep your bait exactly where you need it. It comes with two treble hooks for maximum effectiveness. And it also has nearly a dozen color and pattern options giving you plenty of choices if nothing bites the first time.

Fish for success. (Amazon/)

This jigging lure might look a little gnarly—with a hook at the nose and tail and treble hook hanging below—but to a walleye it likely spells doom. It’s flashy enough to attract attention and has plenty of hooks to hang bait and catch a lip. The lure’s environmental zinc is weighted and it has a balanced design.

A hole in one.
Don’t lose your minnow.
Go deep.
Fish for success.


New Hunting Gear is Great, But Confidence is the Real Key

The author after a successful Dall sheep hunt, where confidence and a positive attitude made all the difference. (Tyler Free/)

There are discussions in every hunting camp about what gear actually gives us an advantage. Just the other day, I found myself in a debate with a buddy over which type of bear baiting lure was best. Each hunter has their own personal recipe for what they like to bait bears with. And over time, our opinions deepen to an almost superstitious level. Every hunter swears by what they use, because it’s worked before. But the truth is that a wide variety of lures and baits work, and there’s much more to a successful bear hunt than what lure is used.

This basic premise is applicable to almost all hunting and fishing gear. When I was a kid, I was also a chronic lure changer. A few casts with no action, and it was time to change up. My dad would grumble “You can’t catch them if your line isn’t in the water.” I probably would have caught more fish if I’d spent more time casting and reeling rather than tying knots.

People tend to use (and spend money on) the gear that gives them confidence—whether that confidence is rightly earned, or comes from something like the placebo effect (having faith in a piece of gear even though there is no real evidence that it works). And debates over gear are only amplified by the new flavors of gear and technology offered from the hunting industry each year. Some hunters and anglers embrace everything and anything new, looking for any advantage they can get. Old-school guys scoff at the unnecessary new junk that is shoved in their faces each season. The rest of us are somewhere in the middle.

The outdoor gear we have available today is far beyond what hunters used throughout history, and in general, it helps make us more effective. We have rifles and bows that weigh less and shoot more accurately, tents and clothing that can withstand the worst weather, lightweight, comfortable treestands, and a million other gizmos and doodads. Many of the things we use present a true game-changing advantage, but how much of the equation is really just a boost in our confidence that makes us more effective?

One of the most valuable assets a hunter can have is an unrelenting persistence. It’s an attribute that all successful hunters have, and it’s also an attribute you cannot buy. But, you will stay persistent when you have confidence. So if a new product gives you a little more confidence, and that leads you to be more persistent in your hunting, I could argue that product is effective (whether it’s actually doing the the thing it’s advertised to do or not). When you are confident in a hunt you will work harder, glass more carefully, and stay alert longer. That little bit of extra effort is the real key to more punched tags.

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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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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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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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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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