Saturday, November 14, 2015

Love is in the Air! Big California Mule Deer!

With November brings the rut at our place. Here are some of the visitors to the neighborhood today. Cruising for does!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gear Review- Alpen Teton 10X50 Binocular Review

After purchasing the Alpen Super Compact spotting scope I decided to look into what other products the ALPEN company had to offer. After much debate and research I acquired a new pair of 10x50 Teton binoculars. The 2015 season was a dream to put these optics to the test. I had open season mule deer hunts, Africa Safaris, and numerous deer and pigs hunts in CA. Having used many economical pairs of optics in the past I have to say that I am thoroughly impressed with the Tetons!!!
I usually go with a 10x42 base model for optics but decided to take the plunge and go with the 10x50 since I wanted to see what added visibility in low light conditions they might offer. When testing them side by side with my Vortex 10x42, the 10x50’s really stood out when it came to counting antler points at dawn and dusk.
The Specs
I always focus on four things when looking at the specs on binos. Weight, magnification, clarity and Warranty. These four things can are my decision makers when I am opening my wallet to for a pair of glass.
Specifications for the Alpen Teton 10X50:
Magnification: 10X
Objective Lens: 50mm
FOV: 262ft @ 1000 yrds
Weight: 28oz

The 10x50’s are a bit on the heavy side coming in at 28 ounces (1.75 lbs). This weight is added due to the larger objective lens. Compared to most 10x42’s (22-24 ounce) this really isn’t a major jump. They fit perfect in my bono harness so the added weight isn’t a factor.

So this all depends and comes down to what your hunting conditions are. I chose my magnification based on what is the most versatile. I want a binocular powerful enough to see detail at distance, however I want a good wide field of view (FOV) so I can see more when hunting thicker areas like the coast for blacktail deer. This narrowed it down for me to a 10X binocular. Powerful enough for open country Mule Deer yet a decent FOV for those close quarters areas. So again this is all personal preference and what you like to hunt.

Wow, now this is subjective. So the only way to do this is to look through the binos, a lot of binos, not just in the store but take them out to the parking lot and really look through them (make sure the sales associate knows you’re doing this). Also look through the expensive stuff! I cannot afford a $2500 pair of binos but you bet I’ve looked through plenty of them. It is a good way to get a baseline for clarity and sharpness.   I don’t like to admit this but I have even bought a pair of binoculars to give them a test. If I didn’t like them, they got returned. I am not advocating this but it is really the only way to check the clarity. Also you can read at past reviews. If the bino have an established name and you see them around a lot of hunters necks then they probably are a decent brand. Go out and test drive them, you won’t be sorry.
The Alpen Tetons were in my price range and were by far the best glass I looked through when comparing to others in that same category. They were very sharp and crystal clear when viewing objects at distance (1000+ yards) and even clearer when picking out details at 150 yards. During a pig hunt earlier in the year I spotted a nice large pig at about 200 yards. I didn’t really want to take a pig unless it had nice tusk. When I put my binoculars up, I could immediately see the vivid white tusk protruding from the hogs jaws and my decision was made.

This is a big selling point for those of us that may be hard on our gear. Will it last? Will the company back it up? Alpen has it right. The back there product with a full “No Blame….No Fault…No Problem” Warranty. They have full confidence in the durability of their product and back it up with this warranty.
There it is folks, the vast majority of us cannot afford the big boxes however that shouldn’t preclude you from getting a great pair of optics. Alpen has achieved this and will continue to be around my neck for the next hunt season. Let me know if you have any questions. Or feel free to contact Alpen directly as I did. When I called them, I was in touch with a person who helped me though the whole process and answered my questions. They can even point you to dealers so you can go try them out.

10329 Dorset Street
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730

909-978-8370 or 877-987-8370

Gear Review- Federal Premium® Trophy Copper Muzzleloader Bullets

So I’ll start this off by stating that I am by no means a muzzle loading expert. I have drawn two mule deer tags for a smoke-pole and that is the extent of my experience. However on both hunts I took my T/C Triumph 50 cal. out to the range and put numerous holes through the paper with many types of bullets and was also successful in taking two beautiful Mule Deer, not an expert but some knowledge!

Fist Mule Deer Taken with the Muzzleloader

For the first tag I drew, I was hell bent on trying them all. I tried at least 5 kinds of bullets with various powder charges.  The bullet I decided to go with was the Powerbelt brand. I decided to go with this brand since they grouped nice and loaded fairly easy, especially after a few shots and a fouled barrel. The hunt went great and I was able to take a great buck at 175 yards. The Copper jacketed lead bullet performed well and I couldn’t be happier.
Tag number two that came to me this past year left me in a predicament. California, where I drew the tag recently outlawed the use of lead ammunition for hunting. Well that narrowed the game as far as bullet selection went. After much research I found that there were two different bullets on the market that I could use with my gun….And they were pricey. Around $25-$35 per 15 bullets. I decided that I would choose one and adjust my powder to make sure everything grouped well.

The bullet I decided to purchase was the Federal Premium Trophy Copper bullets.  These bullets were new to the market and claim 200 yard accuracy. Well with open sights I wasn’t going to be shooting 200 yards but they seemed to be a worthy bullet.
Price: I could only find them online at Cabelas and Midway and they ran about $25 per package of 15 bullets.
Loading: This was where the rubber met the road for me. How easy would it be for this bullet to be loaded after 2-3 shots and a fouled barrel….Well this bullet is by far the easiest bullet I have ever loaded. From the first shot to the 4th, the bullet would go down with ease and always seat perfectly.
Grouping: So with open sights, you have to take my groupings with a grain of salt. I started at 50 yards and shot a consistent 3 inch group. When I moved back to 100 yards, the grouping expanded to 6-7 inches. All within the kill zone, however with open sights I was pleased. Not like shooting a high powered rifle where if your not in a 2 inch circle at 200 yards, your not happy!
Performance: Well the proof is in the pictures. As you can see the bullet did just want it said it would. The shot was at 90 yards and put a substantial hole in the deer. The petals on the mushroomed bullet stayed intact and the 270 grain bullet retained its weight to a 250 grains. Talk about weight retention!  The bullet broke both shoulders and was lodged just under the skin on the deer.
This bullet is a breakthrough in engineering however I am no engineer, all I know is the bullet performed flawless.

I was more than pleased not only because I was able to take a nice buck, but was able to see the bullets performance from start to finish. I would highly recommend this bullet for anyone and will continue to use them for future tags that I get!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Final Tag of the 2015 Season

In June I was lucky enough to read my name on the successful list for drawing a premium tag for California Mule Deer. I drew this same tag in 2012 so to draw it again in the random pool was extremely lucky!

The season started in late October, after the archery and general season, so the deer had been hunted quite a bit making them difficult to pin-point and pattern. I spent nearly 10 days, pre-season scouting and really focused the entire week prior to the opener, finding the deer concentrations. I found some great areas which held good deer numbers. With bad drought conditions, the deer were really concentrating still on feeding areas near reliable water sources. The deer were hammering the bitterbrush flats.
The first 4 days of the season found myself with a whole entourage of followers. I had my wife, her dad, my best friend J.P., as well as a master student conducting research for his thesis on hunting. Those 4 days were amazing. We were seeing 20-30+ does and bucks everyday as well as 1-2 mature bucks including one 4x4 that was around 22” wide with deep forks. It was a great buck but I decided to pass.

 It was one of the hardest hunts to be on since I felt the constant stress to take one of these great bucks. Not from anyone on the hunt but from my internal self, since I was used to just taking the first legal or nice buck I could find. I am a meat hunter! The main thing keeping me from pulling the trigger was that I wanted to keep hunting. This isn't a tag I can draw every year, this is my last deer hunt for the year, and I wanted to see what each day would bring. I knew that with every day the season grew older, the bucks got closer to rutting. I personally don’t care about score or width but I was looking for a buck that when I looked through the binoculars I had no hesitations about going after. I was looking for a buck that turned me on!


After Day 4, the masters student and J.P. had to go home, however my father came up to join the party. Day 5 was uneventful, seeing the same bucks from previous days. Day 6 brought us to an area where we had been seeing a large group of does and younger bucks. At first light we spotted a great 5x2 that had great mass, I mean lots of MASS! His points were rounded they were so heavy. He was the first buck of the season that there was no question whether I was making a stalk. I made the stalk however he gave me the slip when I was within 75 yards. I was only able to see his massive rounded antler tips as he trotted off. After the failed stalk, I did some more glassing and turned up two other great bucks. A 24” 3x3 with a 5-6” cheater on one side and a wide 28-30” 3x3 with great eye guards. Both bucks were in impossible areas so they had to be passed until the next morning. Three shooter bucks in one day, this is what I was waiting for!


Day 7 took us to the same spot. We started to pick apart the basin with our optics and turned up a group of does and a couple young bucks that were really going at it. We watched them spar for about 15 minutes until my dad said, “Big Buck”. The big wide 3x3 stepped out behind a pine tree and started to push one of the does. After watching him for 15 minutes, I started my stalk. Long story short I was able to get within 110 yards of the giant, rested my sights right behind the shoulder and squeezed the trigger, after the smoke cleared the buck was bounding off, unscathed and healthy to live another day. After checking his tracks for blood, it all sank in that I just missed my opportunity at a big one.

Sad and a little depressed we regrouped and made our plan for the evening hunt. We decided we would hunt the same area however, split up and go in three different directions to cover more ground. I sat down at my glassing post for the next few hours and immediately saw some does munching on a small oak tree about 90 yards away. I continued to glass until I heard some more rustling near the does. I peeked over to catch sight of a heavy 4x3 joining the does evening meal. I did a quick 2 second look through my binos to confirm that I wanted to take that buck and got set up. It was about 2-3 minutes before the buck presented a quartering away shot and I squeezed the trigger. The air filled with smoke and I could barely catch a glimpse of the buck scrambling downhill into a deep drainage. After reloading I ran down the hill to see him piled up at the bottom.

The buck was one of my best yet. A beautiful heavy 3x4 with eye guards. I sat down next to the buck, had a moment of silence, soaking it all in and thanking nature for its bounty. I had taken a great 4x4 three years earlier only a half mile away from where this buck fell. I felt so lucky and privileged to be able to hunt this mountain again and to have a group of family and friends that were willing to take time off to help me with this hunt. A great hunt to go in the books and a great way to end the 2015 Big Game season!


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Emily's Nevada Mule Deer Hunt


I was lucky enough to draw a mule deer tag for Nevada this year. I was thrilled to have the tag as this would be my first true mule deer hunt. My parents, Dan and I headed out to the desert and set up camp on Saturday before the season started a spent the weekend scouting before the season opened on Monday.

We spent the next 5 days covering lots of country on foot and in the truck checking out new areas to determine where we wanted to focus our efforts.  We spent countless hours glassing hillsides, canyons, and open plateaus. We saw lots of beautiful country and animals during that time.

All of this effort paid off on day 5 when we spotted a nice buck at first light about a mile and a half from where we were glassing. My parents stayed at a high spot where they could keep an eye on the buck while Dan and I made the sneak. There was another group of 4 bucks on the same hillside as the one we were after, we had to move slow down a long drainage so we didn't spook them. The group of bucks finally fed up and over a saddle, we were now in the clear to move in closer to the buck we were after. During the sneak the buck had bedded down near a rocky point. Dan and I were able to sneak around behind the buck while he was still bedded and hide in some rocks about 300 yards behind him. The buck got up and fed over the hill toward us about 20 min after we got into position. After watching him feed for a short time I decided to take the shot and he went straight down! A 318 yard shot using a 300 Remington Ultra Mag topped with an Alpen Apex 4-16X44 scope. The plan worked out perfect and I couldn't believe it had all come together. My furthest shot at my biggest buck! I couldn't be happier.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Closing Weekend!

So Emily and I just got back from a very successful California A-zone hunt on Wilderness Unlimited Leased Lands and a old deer club Emily's family belongs to. The trip was amazing since we not only “Tagged Out” but we were able to spend quality time with family in the outdoors.
We hunted Wednesday through a Sunday and were able to take two nice respectable bucks and a pig. Emily harvested hers on the first evening we were there. The rain poured all day and the deer were all over. Her buck was a nice little fork which weighed around 130 lbs. The buck was in the exact same spot she took a nice fork two years earlier. She made a great 60 yard shot with her Savage 243 with 100 grain hand loads.  This marks year number four she has been able to tag out on the first day of the hunt. She is too dang lucky.
On Thursday we decided to head to a Wilderness Unlimited Ranch nearby. We made some great hunts including one where I got within 50 yards of one of the largest Blacktails I have seen while hunting. Unfortunately while at full draw a small 2x2 stood right in front of the buck’s vitals. They finally got spooky and both bolted at the same time leaving me with the image of his rack burnt into my imagination.  On my way back to the truck I spotted a nice 3x3 about 250 yards away. After about 10 minutes, I closed the distance to 48 yards and slipped an arrow into the buck. He was a dandy archery buck with a great cape and meat. The deer this year have all been in great body condition due to the extraordinary acorn crop.  
Getting ready to shoot.
 The Limbsaver Proton, Victory Arrows and Ulmer Edge Broadheads did the trick again. I love this setup!
Friday brought us on the hunt for Pigs at a ranch near Hopland, CA. We were able to get on some pigs but were never able to get within bow range. That evening we all split up to cover some likely areas where pigs were crossing that morning. I picked a fence line that had some good rooting earlier. Toward the very end of my hike I heard pigs rooting under an Oak tree about 100 yards ahead of me. I closed the distance and put an arrow in the boiler room of a nice 80lb boar at 26 yards. Pigs are sometimes so oblivious (when they are feeding) that with the right wind you can literally walk right up to them! Pork Chops for Dinner!

The rest of the trip was filled with hikes and laughs around camp. We felt so fortunate to go home with happy hearts and heavy coolers. Another A zone season is in the bag and we cannot wait for our next hunts in October for Mule Deer. Now the Butcher work begins!

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