Hunting and Fishing News & Blog Articles

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Hunting Early-Season Resident Geese in North Dakota is the Hottest Shoot of the Summer

A small spread of family groups, and a good hide will get the job done if you are on the X during North Dakota’s early honker season. (Alex Robinson/)

We had two geese dead in the decoys and a third was winged, waddling its way out of the oat field. My hunting partner was scrambling to reload his Remington 870 and I was trying to line up my Lab Otis (who was going berserk with all the action) on the escaping honker. I peeked out of the blind to see a flock of another dozen geese locked in on our decoy spread. I could hear a fresh batch of geese honking from behind us as well. There were distant flocks to our right and left. We were totally surrounded. This was the moment I had waited all summer for.

Lots of states have early resident goose hunting seasons. Canada goose populations have increased in many flyways to such a degree that resident honkers are considered nuisance critters by many folks. The estimated Canada goose population was around 6 million in 2019 (there was no 2020 waterfowl survey due to COVID-19). Early seasons often offer increased bag limits and opportunities to hunt geese that haven’t had any hunting pressure. But there’s no season that starts earlier, and is more fun to hunt, than North Dakota’s. It opens August 15 for residents and nonresidents, runs into September and allows hunters to take 15 birds per day. For a $50 license plus a federal waterfowl stamp, you can hunt in the mornings and evenings in cut fields or over water. If you’re a nonresident, the early season doesn’t count against your 14-day, or two separate seven-day, limit of hunting during the regular waterfowl season.

Hunting this season can be a fun-as-hell, barrel burning, freezer stocking, trip. But it can also turn into an incredibly frustrating hunt if you don’t understand the birds you’re hunting and the environment you are hunting them in. I’ve made the trek west from my home state of Minnesota the last four seasons, hunting with a small spread and no guide. Here’s what I’ve learned and what you should know if you decide to hunt this season yourself.

1. Understand the Birds

Brushing you blind in around a bale of hay offers total concealment. (Alex Robinson/)

You’re not hunting migrating geese. These are residents who have nested in the area and know it well. During this time the geese will be in family groups that gather in larger groups of 100 to 300 (though sometimes a little larger) to feed. The geese will typically roost on big lakes and feed relatively close to the roost. In some cases, I’ve seen lazy flocks walk from their roost lake about 100 yards to their morning feed (A quick side note here: I’ve been burned by hunting fields that are very close to the roost. The first flight will come in nicely, but the rest of the birds will skirt the field until later in the morning). Expect birds to feed in the morning and the evening, though not necessarily in the same fields. The geese will mostly be feeding on cut oats and alfalfa. Like most waterfowl hunts, scouting is critical. Find out where the birds are roosting, where they are feeding in the morning, where they go to loaf during the middle of the day, and where they feed in the evening. I recommend at least a full day of scouting before you hunt (but a day and a half is even better).

Brushing you blind in around a bale of hay offers total concealment.
Brushing your blind in around a bale of hay offers total concealment.
Early-season honker meat is more tender. Get it processed as quick as you can.

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Finally, a Fishing Kayak You Can Control While You’re Standing Up

Plugging a sod bank behind Fire Island’s new Old Inlet. (Matt Whelen/)

Sight fishing in shallow water is one of the most exciting ways to chase fish on inshore waters. Kayaks are ideal for fishing in such places. They have a stealthy hull and shallow draft, but some models are difficult to fish from while standing up.

It’s not a boat stability issue, but rather a wind problem. When you stand in a kayak, your body acts like a sail. You will catch any breeze and get blown off target. And the wind is always blowing when you’re fishing near the ocean.

The new Sportsman AutoPilot from Old Town aims to change this. It’s a large, stable kayak designed as a platform for a 45-pound saltwater-grade through-hull Minn Kota GPS-enabled trolling motor. You can control it with a remote (called a “CoPilot”) that you wear around your neck.

A high seat and a wide deck with lots of storage space fore and aft make this kayak very fishable. (Joe Albanese/)

The motor comes with GPS sensors and auto steering functions that let you follow a course, hold a position, and keep your bow on a heading, even in heavy winds and strong currents. Since you control all these functions with a handheld remote, you can maneuver your boat while standing, thereby opening up a whole new way to fish.

The AutoPilot’s motor weighs 45 pounds. (Joe Albanese/)

I tested this kayak in the back of a new inlet cut by Hurricane Sandy through a barrier beach on Long Island’s South Shore. Strong tidal currents there have since dumped several square miles worth of sand into the bay behind Fire Island, creating wide, shallow flats perfect for trying out the new platform.

A high seat and a wide deck with lots of storage space fore and aft make this kayak very fishable.
The AutoPilot’s motor weighs 45 pounds.
Long Island’s barrier islands split the Atlantic Ocean from the saltwater estuaries of the Great South Bay.
The AutoPilot comes in 12- and a 13.6-foot versions. Get the bigger model if you’re fishing bigger water.
It’s easy to stand up on a 37-inch wide kayak.

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How New Rifle Shooters Can Become More Accurate Inside 300 Yards

There’s no reason new rifle shooters should take a shot on game beyond 300 yards. (Leupold/)

Spend a Saturday afternoon watching outdoor television and you are bound to see a few “celebrity” bro hunters killing big ol’ bulls and bucks at extended ranges with a rifle. As cool as it may seem to see a deer tip over at 700 yards, it’s not a shot most hunters should take. It’s also irresponsible for the TV hunters to promote such a false narrative, because you should be able to stalk within 300 yards (or closer) of most game. I actually used to work for two outdoor TV networks, and can attest that the guys oozing machismo on those shows miss more long shots than they connect on—the whiffs just never make it to TV.

The kill shots they do air set a bad example for novice rifle shooters. It makes us think that long distance shots are the norm, when in reality, newer shooters like you and me should never pull the trigger on an animal past 300 yards. Because, truth be told, becoming precise with a rifle inside 300 yards requires a hell of a lot of practice. It takes real skill to make an ethical killing shot on elk or deer at longer distances, and many folks don’t put in enough time (or simply aren’t good enough) to make such a shot with any amount of consistency.

For the past two summers, I have gone to THE SITE Training Center in Illinois to try and become better with a centerfire rifle. I’ve learned quickly that shooting accurately past 300 is hard. You have to keep track of so many things at once: your shooting position, the wind, breath control, point of aim, and more. It all needs to be precise, and gets more difficult to coordinate the further you move away from the target.

Fortunately, there are plenty of practices, drills, and rules to know before you head out to the range and, later, a hunt. Here are the keys to becoming more accurate inside 300 yards.

1. Make Sure Your Rifle is Dialed

Sight your rifle in at 200 yards.
A duplex reticle is much simpler for beginners to use.
You need to practice dry-firing, so when it comes to the real thing, you remain steady.
Jim Kauber demonstrates how to remain steady on shooting sticks by using your pack.

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What’s the Best Distance to Zero A Hunting Rifle?

You shouldn’t just sight your rifle in at 100 yards and call it good. Zero the gun for your intended hunting and shooting purposes. (Ron Spomer/)

An annual question at shooting ranges around the country is “What distance should I zero for?” And the answer is…

The distance that gives you the most flexibility for putting your bullet on target quickly with minimum measuring, guessing, hoping, or missing.

And that’s rarely 100 yards.

The 100 Yard Problem

The old 100-yard zero is perfect if your longest shooting distance isn’t much beyond that. Otherwise a 100-yard zero wastes your bullet’s trajectory potential. By 200 yards you’re already needing to compensate for bullet drop. To understand this, let’s look at a trajectory that is considered “flat.”

Extreme shooters will often put 20 MOA rails under their scopes which results in the barrel pointing above the target at a huge angle.
Gravity is always going to factor into bullet drop no matter how fast a cartridge exists the muzzle of your rifle.
If you zero a rifle for 300 yards, it’s going to hit a few inches high at 200 or 100 yards, but for hunters, that still results in a kill shot at the shorter distances if you put the crosshairs in the vitals.
A 100-yard zero is ideal for hunting locales that limit shooting distances to 200 yards or less.
Since any hit in the vitals results in a dead animal, you should practice shooting from 50 out to 300 yards. If you shoot like this on steel plates, you’re good.

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The 8 Best New Spotting Scopes Put to the Test

Spotting scopes are a little like residential plumbing. When they work, you hardly notice their service. It’s when something goes wrong – a leaking pipe or a grainy image – that you start to question their utility.

This year’s collection of spotting scopes is a mostly serviceable class. There are no heart-stopping gee-whiz scopes in the mix but, with only a few exceptions, there are few leaky pipes. We had eight scopes in this year’s test, and the field was evenly divided between super-sized 80mm and larger scopes (based on the size of the objective lens) and those mid-sized and compact spotters that sport 65mm and smaller objective lenses.

What’s interesting about this year’s crop of spotters is the niche-filling presence of very affordable optics, decent spotters that cost under $600. Some of these, like Athlon’s Argos HD ($369) represent a howling bargain, and should be considered by any hunter on a budget. Others, like Maven’s new straight-barrel 65mm CS.1A, are fairly priced for their useful size and adequate image.

Because spotting scopes are expensive to make, and because the market is smaller than it is for binoculars and riflescopes, we tend to see robust numbers of spotters about every other year. It’s interesting to note that none of the leading European brands—Swarovski, Leica, or Zeiss—has a new spotter for the year. That’s allowed what I’d call the second tier of optics brands—Leupold, SIG, and Maven—to really shine in this year’s test. Here’s our take on the mix of submissions, ranked in order of their overall score.

For the rest of our Optics Test Reviews, click the links here:

Athlon Argos HD: 20-60x85 • $369
Leupold SX-4 ProGuide HD: 15-45x65 • $799
Maven CS.1A: 15-45x65 • $650
Hawke Endurance ED: 25-75x85 • $699
Celestron Hummingbird: 9-27x56 • $229
Bushnell Nitro: 15-45x65 • $599
Konus Konuspot-100: 20-60x100 • $349

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The 9 Best New Hunting Binoculars Put to the Test

One of the interesting trends in sports optics is how riflescopes have increased in sales over the last few years, and therefore in influence and innovation inside optics companies. Only a decade ago, we saw far more binoculars every year than we did riflescopes. But the rise of specialized shooting pursuits—each of which require a very specific riflescope—has eclipsed other optics categories.

That’s one reason why we have only a single binocular category this year. In previous years, we’ve had so many submissions that we’ve kept super-size binoculars by themselves, and tested compact binoculars as a separate category. But this year, we grouped all nine binocular submissions together.

It’s not as messy as you might expect. We didn’t have any binos with 12- or 15-power, or any wee little hyper-compact 24mm binoculars. But submissions did deviate along the price and quality spectrums. On the upper end of the field, we tested the new Zeiss Victory SF32, a stunning 10x32 binocular that will take its place with other heirloom-quality optics from Leica and Swarovski. Vortex’s new Razor UHD also impressed our testers. But we had plenty of useful budget-priced optics, too, led by Bushnell’s $129 Engage X and Celestron’s fairly priced 10x42 TrailSeeker.

The rest of the field sort of huddled in the middle, showing decent optical chops and selling at a decent price. Two standouts include Tract’s 50mm Toric Ultra HD and Meopta’s MeoPro Air, an open-bridge 10x42 that does everything you expect of a binocular, for an even $1,000.

For the rest of our Optics Test Reviews, click the links here:

Vortex Razor UHD: 10x42 • $1,499 • 32.2 ounces
Meopta MeoPro Air: 10x42 • $999 • 29 ounces
Tract Toric UHD: 10x50 • $744 • 32.6 ounces
Styrka S5: 10x42 • $399 • 22.4 ounces
Celestron TrailSeekerED: 10x42 • $325 • 23.5 ounces
Bushnell Engage X: 10x42 • $129 • 23.5 ounces
Bushnell Forge: 10x30 • $349 • 13.7 ounces
Celestron TrailSeeker: 8x32 • $229 • 16 ounces

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The 17 Best New Versatile Riflescopes Put to the Test

The way it’s going, you’ll have a specialized scope for every rifle in your collection. Your 6.5 Creedmoor will need an optic with a reticle tuned to the trajectory of the 140-grain Federal Fusion it shoots so well. Your .300 Win. Mag. will require a first-plane precision scope in order to place bullets beyond 1,000 yards. And only a primitive would shoot an AR chambered in .223 without a matching .223 riflescope.

Whatever happened to buying a scope that can fit a variety of rifles? Those versatile riflescopes are out there, and if our 2020 Optics Test is an indication, the category is healthier than ever.

Because of the rise in specialization—it’s been compounded with the explosion in the number of purpose-built precision target scopes—for a couple years we have divided our riflescope evaluation into two separate categories. Those scopes intended for long-distance shooting are considered in our Precision Riflescope category. Everything else, especially those scopes that are designed for hunting but which have attributes like bullet-drop reticles or turrets designed for dialing, are grouped in what we call our Versatile Riflescope category.

This year, we tested 19 of these cross-over scopes (you’ll see only 17 write-ups here because we combined multiple configurations of the same model in a single review). They included four short-range scopes—from Athlon, Bushnell, and Konus, and newcomer Skinner Sights—that feature low magnification and configurations that can be used on everything from a personal-defense shotgun to an AR or even a slug shotgun or straight-wall cartridge rifle.

At the other end of the spectrum, our Versatile category included scopes with large objective lenses and high magnification that would be just as at home on an elk hunt as on the long-distance steel range. That wide variety of attributes makes head-to-head comparisons difficult, but by keeping in mind the organizing principle of the category—versatility—we made sense of this highly functional collection of scopes.

Zeiss Conquest V4 6-24x50 • $1,249
Meopta Optika6 2.5-15x44 • $599
Leupold VX-3i CDS-ZL 4.5-14x40 • $649
Maven RS.3 5-30x50 • $1,600
Burris Signature HD 3-15x44 • $499
Primary Arms GLx 4-16x50 • $699
Bushnell Prime 3-12x40 • $229
Meopta Optika5 4-20x50 • $549
Hawke Frontier 30 4-24x50 • $799
GPO Passion 5xi 3.5-18x56 • $1,179CRED: GPO
Bushnell AR 1-8x24 • $349CRED: Bushnell
Athlon Argos BTR Gen2 1-8x24 • $379
Riton X5 Primal 3-18x44 • $699
Skinner SKO 1-6x24 • $249
Konus Event 1-10x24 • $519
Konus Empire 3-18x50 • $519

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The 13 Best New Precision Riflescopes Put to the Test

The best precision scopes get put to the test. (Andrew McKean/)

The explosion of participation in long-range target shooting has spawned an entirely new category of riflescope. I know. I know. Old news. But to appreciate how deeply the precision-rifle movement has penetrated the optics industry, consider all the resources firms are pouring into riflescopes that really have only one job, to help shooters engage steel targets at extremely long ranges.

Not many years ago, these optics companies would pour those resources into a flagship binocular or spotting scope, or into a riflescope with super-premium glass that might pair with an heirloom rifle. It says a lot about the ascendance of practical shooting games that now these companies’ flagship products are precision scopes built on hulking 34mm tubes with first-plane reticles that only a handful of shooters will ever use as intended. But it’s the influence of these shooters that is moving the market.

A representative of one scope company told me that he gets more requests for “MIL/MIL” scopes—riflescopes that have both turrets and reticle tuned to milliradian values, than for any other configuration, including the venerable old 3-9x42. Late to the precision-shooting game, this company scrambled to produce a 34mm, first-plane milling scope, which because of the precision components required by precision shooters, is priced well above $1,500.

“We don’t sell a lot of those scopes, but it confirms to the customer who buys our second-tier scopes that we’re serious about serving shooters,” said the representative. “As a result, we sell a lot more products.”

Any shooter who has run a PRS course understands the difficulty of acquiring distant targets, then using all the tools of their riflescope—precisely dialing the distance and windage solution with finely calibrated turrets, or using the fine references in the reticle to hold over or hold off—to make consistent hits at targets well beyond 1,000 yards. That task is aided by shooters’ ability to precisely focus the image, use illumination to highlight the reticle against the background, and rely on excellent glass and coatings to resolve small targets at far-distant ranges.

Leica PRS 5-30x56i • $2,699
Nightforce NX8 2.5-20x50 • $1,950
Tract Toric UHD 4.5-30x56 • $1,694
Maven RS.4 5-30x56 • $1,800
Bushnell Elite Tactical DMRii Pro 3.5-21x50 • $1,599
SIG SIERRA6 BDX 5-30x56 • $1,429
Athlon Cronus BTR 4.5-29x56 • $1,799
Steiner M7Xi with IFS 4-28x56 • $5,399
Horus HoVR 5-20x50 • $1,499
Brownells MPO 5-25x56 • $999
Athlon Midas TAC 5-25x56 • $849
Hawke Frontier FFP 5-25x56 • $949
Riton X7 Conquer 3-24x56 • $1,799

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8 Drills to Do Right Now to Get Your Gun Dog Ready for Fall

Jennifer Broome works a German shorthair. (Jennifer Broome/)

To keep upland and duck dogs primed for the fall, you need to train and exercise them all year long. But in the dog days of summer there are a few drills that can make a tremendous difference in your pup’s performance come opening day. Jennifer Broome is one of the best gun dog trainers in the country and her kennel QK Dogs is widely respected by hunters and dog handlers. She has some key tips for getting gun dogs primed for the season that won’t take much time out of your day. If you’re looking for smart and simple drills you can mostly do on your own, you’ve come to the right place. Stick to the basics Broome outlines below, and your gun dog will excel in the marsh or uplands this fall. —J.G.

1. Staying Cool

Don’t overwork your dog in the hot summer months. (QK Dogs/)

We all love having our dogs inside with us, but you need to acclimate dogs to the climate before exercising them, particularly during the hot summer months. I’m not saying you can’t bring them into the house, but a dog that spends all day loafing in the air conditioning can run into serious heat exhaustion problems if he isn’t used to the heat and humidity. Don’t just walk out of the house on a humid August morning and start throwing bumpers. Field dogs greatly benefit from living at least part of their days outdoors (with shelter and water) in order to better adjust to the temperatures in which they are required to work.

You really need to watch your dog in summer, particularly if he has packed on a few too many pounds. A dog that is one pound overweight is on par with a human who is 10 pounds overweight. Two of the tell-tale signs that your dog is tired or dehydrated is a low tail and a cupping of the tongue while the dog is panting. Keep an eye on his tongue. If it’s out and he’s breathing hard, it may be time to slow down the work. But if looks like you could pour a Dixie cup of water into his tongue because it’s cupped and curled upwards, he’s overheating and you need to cool him off. Get him to a stream or pond if you can. If one isn’t nearby, go to a shady spot and pour water on his belly, paws, or inside his ear flaps (not the ear canal). If you have only limited water, DO NOT pour it on his back, as it could overheat him even more. Getting into the air conditioning is a smart way to cool down, too. —J.B.

2. Staying Fit

Don’t overwork your dog in the hot summer months.
This whistle drill will emphasize steadiness.
This two-person drill will teach your dog to honor properly.
If your dog struggles with cripples, this is the perfect drill.

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Breaking: Trump Administration Withdraws Pendley as Nominee for BLM Director

The Bureau of Land Management manages one in every 10 acres of land in the United States, and approximately 30 percent of the Nation’s minerals. (Michael Campbell and Aaron Haselby, BLM /)

William Perry Pendley, the former oil-industry lawyer and vocal public-land antagonist, has been withdrawn as the Trump Administration’s pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management.

Pendley had been serving as the agency’s acting director since August 2019, but had been unable to secure a Senate hearing to confirm his role as permanent director of the federal agency that administers 245 million acres of federal public land in the West and manages 10,000 federal employees. In June, President Trump announced his intent to formally nominate Pendley as BLM director.

Because of his controversial stance on a number of lightning-rod issues, ranging from climate change to the sanctity of Native American ceremonial sites to the legal standing of the very public lands he was tasked with managing, Pendley’s confirmation as permanent BLM director has been serially postponed.

He was scheduled to appear before a confirmation hearing before the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee this fall to testify about his record, in which he has consistently stated that the federal government should not own or manage public lands, and to articulate his vision for the agency that manages the nation’s largest portfolio of real estate.

Instead of standing Pendley for permanent appointment, the Trump Administration extended his status as acting director for more than a year, a move that Pendley’s detractors said was an attempt to sidestep not only the law but the expectation of the millions of Americans who recreate and do business on the nation’s BLM lands.

William Perry Pendley, acting director of the Bureau of Land Management.

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3 Blacktail Hunts for the Earliest Fall Bucks

A stomper Alaskan Sitka blacktail on high alert in an alpine meadow. (Lon E. Lauber/)

1. California Blacktails

“There he is, moving through the Zinfandels. Wait. Wait. He’s heading toward the Cabernet block. We can cut him off in the old vines behind the tasting room.”

This may be the strangest hunting dialogue I’ve ever recorded. I’m in the back seat of Ryan Newkirk’s Ford F-350 pickup, which is raising a roostertail of dust as we baja around dirt roads on his family’s California vineyard to cut off blacktail deer moving through the vines. I’m a wingman on this particular hunt. My buddy Craig Boddington is in the front seat, and he’s ready to bail out the moment the pickup stops, his Mossberg Patriot sitting to his left, barrel down, bolt open on a full magazine. It might not be Alabama’s piney woods or Wyoming’s sage flats, but this is hell-yeah deer hunting, and I cannot wait to see how it plays out.

We’ve been hunting in this rolling blind for the past day—“trolling,” Newkirk calls it. We hit dust-raising speeds only in pursuit of a distant buck, or making double time to a glassing spot. Mostly, we’re idling past his family’s 4,000 rows of grapevines at about 2 miles per hour, straining our eyes to pick out the flick of an ear or the glint of an antler in a linear wilderness of grape leaves and clusters of heavy, hanging fruit, just a few weeks from harvest.

Ryan Newkirk (right) and Craig Boddington drag the latter’s buck out of the vines. (Andrew McKean /)

Satisfied that he’s outpaced the pair of bucks that have been jogging into the wind—not alarmed, exactly, but on edge in the long ocher light of a summertime Golden State evening—Newkirk stops his pickup at the end of a 200-yard-long trellis of vines and motions for Boddington to join him. They leave their doors open and hunch forward with the low-shouldered crouch familiar to hunters everywhere. Newkirk unfolds his shooting sticks, Boddington levels his rifle on a gap in the vines, and the sharp bark of the gun indicates that another buck is headed to the Steinbeck Vineyards skinning pole.

Ryan Newkirk (right) and Craig Boddington drag the latter’s buck out of the vines.
McKean's California blacktail.
Blacktails in Washington's High Cascades
Sunny days in the Cascades offer unparalleled views of ridges and volcanoes.

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They Everyman’s Approach to DIY Archery Elk Hunting

The author with a public land bull. (Michael Herne, Coffee or Die Magazine/)

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Coffee or Die Magazine on August 30, 2019. For more stories like this, visit

I’m a self-taught bow hunter with a passion for elk hunting. The first time I heard the bugle of a bull elk echo out of my computer speakers, I knew I had to go and experience it in person. So that’s exactly what I did.

In 2017, my first season, I made just about every mistake a new hunter could make. I still downed a bull, but it was hard fought. The next season was much different — and that success was earned by grinding it out, learning the land, and growing from my mistakes.

After two successful archery hunting seasons, people started asking me for advice. With an average 6 percent success rate in the units I hunted, how was a newbie hunter able to fill tags when more experienced hunters were eating tag soup? I attribute my success to six general rules that are adaptable and will evolve with your experience and knowledge.

This isn’t a typical “how-to” elk hunting guide — these are a collection of lessons learned in my two short yet successful archery seasons hunting elk in over-the-counter (OTC) units in Colorado.

Expect plenty of hiking (and rugged landscape) on a DIY elk hunt.
Sterilizing water on a backcountry hunt.

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The 2020 Deer Hunting Season Forecast

The author with a solid Wisconsin buck. (Brian Lovett/)

Although it feels as if 2020 has dealt us a giant collective gut-punch, take heart: Deer season is on the way. And opportunities abound from coast to coast and border to border.

Whether you plan to stalk the big woods of the Northeast, explore the piney timber of the South, stake out ag fields and woodlots in the Midwest, or explore the vast open range of the West, the deer are waiting. In fact, you can get after them in a few weeks.

But there’s much to be done first: planning, shooting, scouting, cutting lanes, checking cameras, tending to food plots and more. Better get busy, as deer season will open before you know it. Meanwhile, here’s an overview of 2020-2021 hunting options nationwide.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Great late-season tracking snow helped George Hamilton tag this New England buck.
Brian McCuin with a Northeast bow kill.
Heavy snow on opening day in Massachusetts, resulted in phenomenal deer hunting.
The author with an upper Midwest 8-pointer.
Muzzleloader seasons provide excellent opportunities to fill your tags.

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5 Tips for Hunting Early-Season Resident Canada Geese

As someone who grew up field hunting stubborn Canada geese in Illinois, there is never a better feeling than when Sept. 1 hits. It’s the kick-off to resident honker season, when young, uneducated birds typically fly the same pattern every morning. The first few days are often easy pickings, a welcomed reprieve from a fall and winter of watching anti-social geese give us the middle finger as they fly over our decoy spread to the safety of the refuge. During the regular season, migrating honkers are some of the smartest quarry (and most difficult to kill) east of the Mississippi River. We are talking old birds, many of which are 5 to 15 years old. Imagine trying to kill a teenage buck or tom. It would be damn near impossible. That’s why the resident season is such a great time to be in the field: birds, old and young, are much more predictable.

Local Canadas are overpopulated just about any place you will hunt. They particularly love urban areas and the green spaces that are interwoven among big cities. And they will also roost on manmade ponds in the suburbs, feeding on the grassy banks and fattening themselves into near record-sized geese. On the fringes of these areas are where I like to target resident geese, but they are certainly huntable in rural locales as well. There’s just something a bit more satisfying (for me) to set up in a cut wheat field across the highway from a neighborhood pond and shoot 15-pound honkers right in the beak.

You don’t have to wake up at an unseemly hour either or set massive decoy rigs to get the job done (as long as you’re on the X or hunting water). You just need to scout hard, hide well, and keep a few tricks up your sleeve. Here’s how to target these susceptible early-season birds.

1. Scouting

A good scout is always key to a successful hunt. ( Joe Genzel/)

I love to scout early season, because it’s typically a simple endeavor. The newer neighborhoods north of town all have ponds and the local birds roost on the water 365 days a year because those ponds are aerated and stay open even on the coldest winter days. I just have to watch the pastures in August to see where the birds are feeding. If some of the agriculture fields get cut right outside city limits, that’s an added bonus, but a rare one. Resident geese patterns are pretty reliable in September, so if you can get on the X, there’s a good chance the birds are coming back to the same spot as long as you don’t do anything to screw it up, like throwing out too many decoys or not hiding well enough. If you can’t get access to the feed field, you have to get under the birds. No amount of flagging, calling, or decoys is going to pull those birds off a line they have been flying for weeks or even months, unless you’re a very good caller. Your only real chance is to peel a few juveniles, but they have to be flying over the top of you.

Hunting from an A-frame is a great way to hide from local geese. Just don’t pie-face them like this.
Don’t overdo it on the decoy spread early season.
You’re not Fred Zink, but you can call early geese as smartly as he does.

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How Much More Antler Will Your Target Buck Grow Before Opening Day?

The author with an eight-point Kentucky buck in velvet. (Josh Honeycutt/)

Many of us want to shoot big deer. And every so often, a good buck with a head full of horn shows up on your trail camera. You’re excited, and start to wonder if this deer’s rack is as big as he’s going to get or if he still has some growing to do. The answers depends on a few different factors. By August, some deer are topping out, while others still have a little road left to travel, and their antler size could increase.

Antlers are among some of the fastest-growing animal cells known to man. How do they work? Studies show antler growth acts like a controlled form of cancer, says Kip Adams, director of conservation for QDMA. This regulated escalation allows deer to grow their racks quickly. Biologists understand certain aspects of antler growth, but it is still a mystery what triggers and halts the growth.

While the antler-growing process began months ago—soon after antler shedding—not all bucks dropped last year’s antlers at the same time. This puts deer at slightly different stages when it comes to new antler growth. For those bucks that dropped their antlers earlier in the season, their development is virtually complete by now. Interestingly, most bucks stop growing their antlers around the same time, regardless of when the growing process started.

“Unless they were a late drop, from now on, [growth] is rather minimal in comparison to the overall size of the rack,” says Terry Drury of Drury Outdoors. “[If] you are still seeing these dark bulbs on the end of their main beams and/or antler tines, they still have growing to do.”

But Adams and Drury say late bloomers are the exception, not the norm. By early August, for most bucks, there is little antler left to produce.

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How to Troubleshoot Your Riflescope Zeroing Problems

Your best shot is most often your first shot, so zero for a cold barrel. If your rifle puts subsequent shots an inch or two higher or lower, you’ll probably still be on target with quarry as large as deer inside of 250 yards. (Ron Spomer/)

You see it every year at the range. Some poor guy bangs round after round downrange, cussing and twirling his adjustment dials in confusion as shots scatter over a sheet of paper the size of a barn. I’ve seen people burn through 20 rounds, throw up their hands in frustration and go home, no closer to dropping bullets where aimed than when they started. That’s a pity, especially when you can sight-in a scoped rifle with as few as two shots.

1. Bore Sighting Isn’t Boring

Before you fire that first shot, bore-sight the gun. Use a mechanical or laser bore-sighter or just eyeball it. Eyeballing might sound rather coarse, but it’s cheap and it works. The trick is to mount the rifle in a vice or cradle so that it doesn’t move easily. (A cardboard box with notches on two top edges to hold the rifle works well in a pinch. Weight the bottom to prevent sliding.)

Remove the bolt from the action. Peer down the barrel and adjust the rifle to visually center a small bull’s-eye at about 30 yards. Now, without moving the rifle, turn the turrets until the reticle centers over the bull’s-eye. Barrel and scope should now be pointing to the same place.

Understand what each turret click means when adjusting scope reticle for shifting point-of-impact at your sight-in distance. But don’t assume every scope’s click adjustment movement will be dead on. (Ron Spomer/)

Now you face a small dilemma. Sometimes bore-sighting is good enough to put you on paper at 100 yards, sometimes it’s not. Do you risk a shot or start closer? I find it generally pays to take that first poke from about 30 yards where you’re sure to hit paper. After the first hole appears on the target, realign your rifle with the crosshair exactly where it was for your first shot (over the bull.) Again watch the reticle while turning the windage and elevation dials to move the crosshair over bullet hole. Bingo. The reticle is now pointed exactly where the barrel is throwing its shots. You’re zeroed for 30 yards but also for about 200 to 250 yards. But you’ll be high at 100 yards.

Understand what each turret click means when adjusting scope reticle for shifting point-of-impact at your sight-in distance. But don’t assume every scope’s click adjustment movement will be dead on.
High-volume cartridges combined with fairly light, thin barrels can lead to significant point-of-impact shift after just a couple of shots. Barrel heating changes stress tensions, causing the barrel to “wander” and scatter shots. It could still shoot consist and tight groups from a cold barrel. Since your first shot at game is usually your best shot, zero for cold barrel consistency and impact point.
A simple cardboard box notched to hold a rifle will suffice for initial bore sighting. Weight the box to minimize movement. Zero the target down the barrel from the breach with the bolt removed. Then adjust the scope turrets until the reticle centers over the bullseye.
For best results, shoot three before adjusting from the center of the group. Here the first group (at 100 yards) indicated shifting the reticle 4 inches right and 1-inch up. An adjustment of 16 clicks right resulted in a 5-inch move. This could have been due to barrel heating and subsequent shift in point-of-impact or an inaccurate turret. (No correction for elevation was dialed before the second group was fired.)
Many barrels change point-of-impact when squeaky clean. Since no hunting rifle bore can remain in that condition for more than one shot, it is recommended to zero for dirty barrel point-of-impact, then fire 2 or 3 fouling shots after each cleaning to maintain consistency.
Final zeroing should be done off the support device you are most likely to use in the field. Many rifles impact higher than zero if zeroed off a soft, padded rest and then shot off a harder surface in the field. One of the advantages of a sitting/kneeling height portable bipod or tripod is that it is a consistent support for most hunting terrain and habitat.
Heavy barrels are common on varmint rifles because they heat more slowly than light barrels and resist point-of-impact shift due to changing stresses within the steel. On hunting rifles, however, they prove uncomfortably heavy and more difficult to maneuver in woods and brush.
Laser bore sighters that fit muzzles are a simple device for rough bore sighting. They’ll get you on paper at 30 yards, but not always 100 yards.
It doesn’t have to be this cold for a cold barrel to shoot to a different point-of-aim than a warm barrel. A barrel at ambient temperature is considered a cold barrel. One that has been heated by one or more shots is considered warm or hot.
A workaround for a sticking erector tube/turret post connection is to rap the turret after the adjustment to jar it loose. Alternately or in addition you can dial way past the correction and then come back to the precise correction.
Because many rifles recoil differently and shoot to different points depending on the hardness of the support surface, it’s smart to make your final zero adjustment from that surface or one of similar hardness. Keeping your hand between the stock and support is a great way to be consistent.

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11 Specialized Survival Kits You Can Build to Live Through Any Disaster

A proper survival kit includes essentials like a compass, matches, knife, and food. (Tim MacWelch/)

Ask a hundred outdoor enthusiasts to write up a shopping list for a wilderness survival kit and you’ll get a hundred different lists. The same is true for preppers building disaster preparedness kits or picking which EDC gear to carry. We all like different products and worry about different scenarios (and there are specialized survival kits for a variety of perilous situations). Individually, we all have different skill sets and budgets. What we do have in common are the same needs. We all need shelter, water, and food every day. In an emergency, first aid, lighting, signaling, and navigation equipment are often a necessity as well.

The simplest “survival priorities” list (shelter, water, fire, and food) can help us build a kit for many situations (especially in the backcountry), but the more refined “10 essentials” list will give us the tools for all types of scenarios. The original list of the “10 essentials” was created by Seattle-based group called the Mountaineers in the 1930s. This simple list of supplies would help a mountain climber during an accident or emergency, and it provided a support system if someone had to spend an unexpected night in the outdoors (or stay out there even longer). In recent years, the group has revamped the list to focus on systems, rather than specific pieces of gear.

The original list had some indispensable items on it, like a compass, matches, knife, and food. Today’s system-based list, however, doesn’t limit you to 10 separate items. As I detail these different builds, I will look at some popular items for wilderness survival kits, disaster preparedness kits, budget kits, and kits for the little ones to carry. Whatever you pack, just make sure it contains the most critical elements for survival: hydration, emergency shelter, first aid, navigation, fire, and signaling.

1. Navigation

A simple compass and a map can make “getting turned around” into a minor inconvenience and prevent a major emergency.

For nighttime travel, signaling, working after dark, security, and comfort, a light source is a necessity after the sun goes down.
An important facet of any survival kit is your first-aid kit.
The author’s favorite resource is fire making equipment, and for good reason. Fire is your energy source for light, warmth, cooking, signaling, and many other survival tasks.
Extra food may be a little heavy in your pack, but when your stomach is empty, you’ll be very glad to have this extra weight in your kit.
Without a proper water supply, you’re doomed.
A whistle and/or lighter are smart items to bring along in case you need to be rescued.

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8 of the Most Underrated Over/Under Shotguns of All Time

Over/unders have almost completely taken over the double gun market. Good ones typically cost thousands of dollars because they are built to last for generations, functioning without fail even after tens of thousands of shotshell rounds have been fired through them. Beretta, Browning, Krieghoff, Caesar Guerini…the list of fine production gun manufacturers goes on. And there are still several bespoke shotgunmakers that sell custom doubles for more than most of us will make in a year; hell, 10 years.

But there are also quality O/Us that are far less expensive. Strangely, most were never highly sought after or have faded into obscurity. And though it’s difficult not to spend at least $1,000 in order to get a decent O/U these days, there are a few exceptions. So, if you are looking for a dependable field or clays gun that won’t drain your bank account—with the exception of the German-made Blaser F16—these are some of the best options.

1. Blaser F16

The Germans built a stout over/under in the Blaser F16. (Blaser/)

If you don’t want to spend $4,000 on a shotgun, I get it, but the German-made Blaser F16 is worth every penny. It’s a meticulously well-constructed firearm, something the Germans are well-known for. I shot this gun on skeet and trap several years ago when it first debuted, and although the recoil was a little on the heavy side for a 7.5-pound gun, it shot amazingly well from the high-gun position. But from low gun, I recall falling off a bit, which is to be expected, but also because the gun shot high. A co-worker patterned the F16 at the range and found that it shot a foot high at 25 yards. That’s just fine if you are a competitive clays shooter, but it’s not so great for bird hunters. The way you can remedy that is by buying the 2¼-inch drop buttstock, otherwise you will need to see quite a bit of open space below the target to be accurate with the F16. It’s an amazingly balanced O/U that has a weight system integrated into the stock that you can adjust for a custom fit. The 12-gauge has a crisp 4-pound trigger, but the one thing I am not a big fan of is the barrel selector is forward of the trigger. You may not find it bothersome, but if you’re used to a tang-mounted selector, it takes some getting used to.

2. Browning Citori Hunter Grade 1

Buy a Citori and you’ll likely never let it go.
The Instinct L is an easy-to-carry field gun.
Mossberg’s Silver Reserve II is a great buy for under $900.
The 3200 has distinctive barrels with no side ribs.
Ruger brought the Red Label to market as a 20-gauge first.
The Setter is one of the most affordable O/Us you can buy.
The Winchester 101 doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

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Essentials for chainsaw safety

Stay safe. (Abby Savage via Unsplash/)

Chainsaws are dangerous but necessary tools. Handling a machine that can easily cut down a ponderosa the width of a barrel should not be taken lightly. Fortunately, you can protect yourself from the most common dangers associated with chainsaws. We narrowed down four products sure to keep you safe so you can quickly finish this job and head onto the next.

Listen while you work. (Amazon/)

Those foam ear plugs are fine, but if you’re going to be sawing all day, you should consider an upgrade. These headphones not only have 24 dB of noise reduction, they also will play your music. In fact, they have blue tooth to connect to your phone or other music-playing system allowing you to stay entertained while working. An integrated microphone also allows you to make and receive phone calls through the headphones.

Careful of those wood chips. (Amazon/)

When it comes to keeping your legs safe, these pants aren’t messing around. Their 1000 denier polyester is coated with PVC with protective payers of Tek. They meet OSHA regulations and are UI certified. They’re also adjustable all over making for a perfect, safe fit.

Cover your most vulnerable areas. (Amazon/)

The majority of our most sensitive areas are on our heads. Your eyes, ears, mouth and nose are all critical to everyday function but fragile. Buy gear that keeps them safe. This helmet will shelter your ears and face while also allowing cool air to flow through. It fits well even when working in overhead positions, and each piece is adjusted to prevent snagging. If you don’t need a shield and ear muffs, just take them off.

Don’t just wear sunglasses. (Amazon/)

You may think that sunglasses or even safety glasses are sufficient for chainsaw work. They’re not. Consider these goggles made with anti-fog steel mesh that allow you to see through. They’re specially designed to protect you from wood chips and other fast-moving particles that could pierce or break a weaker material. For extra security, pair them with a face shield.

Listen while you work.
Careful of those wood chips.
Cover your most vulnerable areas.
Don’t just wear sunglasses.


9 Ways to Hunt Hogs in Mid-Summer

Some people will tell you that hunting hogs in the high heat of summer is a fool’s errand – and so it can be, especially if you shoot a big boar when it’s furnace hot in the bottom of some remote, roadless, hellhole of a canyon miles from anywhere. I have been there and done that. Unless you’re a slow learner, you probably won’t care to repeat the experience.

But summer can be a great time to hunt hogs because they can become easier to pattern. Determining the best way to hunt depends largely upon where you’re hunting them, when you’re hunting them and what the local conditions are. Methods that work in central California may not work in a Southeastern swamp or in the thick South Texas brush country. Most traditional methods of hunting hogs still work in summer (with modifications), and some will always work better than others depending on local circumstances. Here are some of the best ways to target summer hogs without breaking too much of a sweat.

Hunting slowly with the wind in your favor through bedding areas during the day can be productive. The author worked his way to this hog through the bottom of a mostly shaded canyon. (Mike Dickerson/)

1. Scouting Pays Off

Hogs hole up in thick cover on warm days, so finding them isn’t always easy—but it’s often easier in summer because hogs may be more concentrated in areas that satisfy their basic needs. In the cooler, wetter months, they can scratch out a living most anywhere and may range far and wide. They may eat a bit less during summer because they’re less active, but they still have to eat, and with many natural food sources drying up, they won’t be too far from reliable food sources such as agricultural crops and feeders. They still need water, and this, more than any other factor, can be the key to finding hogs when the weather turns hot.

Hogs may not move far, but when they do, they leave unmistakable sign in the form of tracks, droppings, rooting, rubs, wallows, and hair strands in barbed-wire fences. Guides and ranch owners usually have a good idea of where hogs may be hanging out. Maps can help you pinpoint sources of water, and trail cameras can be a great aid in discerning daily movements. When scouting, remember that the goal is not to bump and push hogs out of an area, but simply to pattern their movements in order to formulate a hunting strategy.

Water is a critical factor when hunting hogs in hot weather. They may not move much to eat during the day, but they will likely make several trips to water. This hog was ambushed near a ranch stock tank.
Hogs won’t move as much when the weather’s hot, but they still need to eat. The author shot this hog by stalking up on a feeder a couple of minutes after it was scheduled to go off.
Pigs can’t cool off by sweating, like humans, and will frequent wallows like this one to cool off.
This hog tried – and failed – to sneak past the author while a hunting companion made a one-man drive through a suspected bedding area.
Spot-and-stalk hunting still works in the hotter months if you’re in the right place at the right time. This pig was shot on a warm morning while working his way from a hillside of wild oats to bedding cover.

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