Tag Archives: gear

What’s in a Daypack?

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

The hike up the snow covered mountain wasn’t by any means easy. Each step crunched as our boots sank in the snow, and the steepness of the terrain made our leg muscles burn with each step. I turned to my hunter to see how he was doing, and he was absolutely winded.

“Are you all right?” I asked as we stopped for a break.

“Yeah,” he responded, slightly out of breath. “This pack is just sorta heavy.”

I looked at his daypack and quickly realized just how much he’d overpacked. The entire pack was bulging from all the gear that was crammed into it, and it was so full that the zipper actually popped off its track. Even the kitchen sink was threatening to fall out and slide back down the mountain to the truck.

I checked myself and realized I was completely comfortable. Recently I consolidated my daypack and lightened it up quite a bit. And it was at this moment that I was extremely thankful for doing so. Optimizing weight and taking only what’s absolutely necessary is vital when out in the field. It’s definitely important to take the essentials, but by catering what’s in your pack to the activity you’re participating in can really cut down on weight and make the whole day much more enjoyable. The following are a few tips to help you optimize exactly what goes into your pack every day.

The Essentials

There are a few items that always go into my daypack regardless of what activity I’m doing. These things practically never come out. One of the most important items is your standard compass.

Hand holding a compass from his day pack

Image: Alex Vail

If you’re as good at getting lost as I am, having a compass on you at all times is a must. It’s one of those things that you’d rather have and not need than need and not have. 

Inside my pack I also always carry a small kit with basic survival items in it, such as matches, a fire starting kit, a small extra pocket knife, fishing line/hooks, and an emergency blanket. There’s also a tiny basic first aid kit that’s secured inside as well. It fits neatly in a pouch on the pack and never really leaves unless I need something inside of it.

Man's hand holding a camo first aid kit from day pack

Image: Alex Vail

Water definitely makes the essentials list as well. I don’t care how cold it is or how short the walk is every day, water is a must. It’s necessary to try and plan out about how much water you might need over the course of the day since water is quite heavy, but it’s a good idea to carry a little more water into the field than you think you might need.

Finally I consider a good knife to be the last piece of essential gear. There are so many uses for a knife that the list could go on for ages, everything from starting a fire to cleaning an animal. A knife is another must.

All the Rest

green day pack on the floor

Image: Alex Vail

Everything else that is carried in your daypack can be considered “extra” or nonessential. These things might be essential for exactly what you’re doing each day, but they aren’t things you’d necessarily need each time you went outside. It’s important to make sure you’re taking exactly what you need each day, so you must consider what activity you’re doing. Look at binoculars, for example. Are you hunting pigs in the Georgia swamps where you can’t see beyond 50 yards? Then the binoculars aren’t necessary—leave them at home. Or are you hunting mule deer in the high desert in Colorado where you can see upwards of three miles? Bring them along.

The same thing holds true for clothing, food, etc. Are you going to be walking far in chilly weather? Then put that sweater in the daypack so you don’t get sweaty while you walk. Are you only going to be out until around lunchtime? You can probably leave the cook stove and food in the truck. I’ve had some hunters insist on carrying an entire extra box of ammunition, which of course adds weight, and I didn’t stop them. But there are alternative methods to cramming that entire box into the pack. Not everything needs to go inside of it. Use an ammo sleeve for the stock of your gun, for instance. Or rather than cramming that multitool inside, slip it onto your belt and help alleviate not only the weight in your pack but also the amount of time you spend rummaging through the pack in search of one item. 

So the next time you’re getting ready to head out into the field, ask yourself, “Will I really need this today?” Do this with each item, and you may be able to lighten up your daypack considerably and make it a much more efficient, better-suited pack for the day. Your back with thank you later.

The Evolution of American Hunting Attire

How has hunting attire changed over the last 300 years? Let’s take a look.

The Longhunters

Contemporary longhunter displaying some fine early 18th-century threads [Image: warriorstrail.com]

Contemporary longhunter displaying some fine early 18th-century threads. [Image: warriorstrail.com]

Longhunters were 18th century hunters and trappers who pushed into the Appalachian frontier in search of fur and game. By dress alone, they probably weren’t too different from ordinary settlers or pioneers. They wore a kind of knee-length linen overshirt, moccasins, leather leggings, and woolen garters in thick brush or snow. Since they operated for months at a time, longhunters carried a wool blanket for sleeping and an oilcloth that functioned like a modern tarp. They carried their items in a leather bag known as a haversack that was carried over the shoulder like a messenger bag. A smaller leather bag, known as a shooting bag, contained everything needed to prep, load, and maintain a flintlock rifle. As longhunters worked their way West, their style of dress became heavily influenced by encounters with Native Americans. They basically looked like A$AP Rocky.

Mountain Men

Image: en.wikipedia.org

[Image: en.wikipedia.org]

The mountain men were the peak of frontier fashion and the first true masters of cultural appropriation. The reached a fabulousness rivaled only by today’s tactical paramilitary soybean field hunters. Adopting the style of Native American hunters, they dressed head to toe in buckskins and wore either moccasins or heavy boots depending on the terrain. Coonskin hats were in the mix but probably not as often as people think. Unlike today’s ScentLok man, the mountain man was not afraid of a little odor. In fact, he probably reeked. But that really didn’t matter because he also probably understood the wind in a way that less than 1% of today’s hunters do.

Grandfather and the Golden Age

Image: www.wedoitoutside.com

[Image: www.wedoitoutside.com]

Ah, the era when brands like Filson, Sears, Ted Williams, L.L. Bean, and Woolrich were kings. When I think of my grandfather’s generation, I think of waxed canvas and ruby-colored Woolrich plaid. Since deer are colorblind, plaid will break up your outline as effectively as camouflage. But not too long after WWII, synthetics came along and changed the game. The result was cheaper and lighter, but it wasn’t always warmer.

The Baby Boomer

Image: www.deeranddeerhunting.com

[Image: www.deeranddeerhunting.com]

What exactly does dad wear when he hunts? It’s hard to say. It pretty much depends on whatever size XXL camo was on sale that week at Cabela’s. If he’s hip and takes after his son or daughter, maybe he’ll forego the baggy look in favor of some Under Armour. If he’s fancy and hip, he may lean toward Sitka’s style. If your dad’s a real badass, then he’s rocking Herman Survivors. If he wanted to look good and waste $250, then he’s lacing up a pair of boots from Danner.

Millennials

What are the kids wearing these days? [mage: jezebel.com]

What are the kids wearing these days? [Image: jezebel.com]

I once went rabbit hunting in skinny jeans. On the one hand, I was able to thread myself through the briars like a needle, but on the other hand, I had to stop and dig thorns out of my legs every five minutes. It wasn’t really worth repeating. So what does today’s generation wear on the hunt? Because nice hunting clothes are expensive and my generation is broke, I’ve seen an uptick in second hand and Salvation Army camo. In general, hunting clothing is getting smarter and lighter.

People spraying with insect repellant, tucking their pants into their socks, and checking their hair for ticks.

How to Avoid Tick Bites While on the Hunt

Nothing puts a damper on your day of serenity in the woods quite like an unwelcome tick bite and the looming possibility of Lyme Disease and other tick-related ailments. Plus no one wants to bring a pup covered in ticks back into their house. It’s important to remember that ticks are most prevalent in the spring and summer, usually from April until September since they strive in humid, warm weather. Here are five tips so you can have a tick-free experience in the woods and an overall more pleasant outing.

A tick.

Don’t let this guy ruin your day! [Image: http://fmcpestwire.com/tackling-ticks-and-fighting-fleas/]

1. Wear light clothing so you can easily see ticks crawling around or waiting to make their move.

2. Long sleeves, long pants, and hats are your new best friend. And don’t forget to tuck those pants into your boots! In fact, bow hunters will be happy to hear that tall rubber boots are the most ideal for preventing a tick bite.

A man tucking his pants into his socks to avoid ticks.

Dress the right way to protect yourself from ticks. [Image: http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/protect_yourself]

3. Avoid heading through dense brush or sitting directly on the ground. When walking down a trail, make sure you’re walking smack down the center of it.

4. Insect repellant (especially those with Deet in it or Permethrin) can protect both your skin and clothing. The most important spots to spray are your legs/pants, socks, and shoes. And don’t worry about the scent interfering with your hunt either—there’s plenty of scentless insect repellants available.

5. Most important is to check yourself (hair, underarms, under your knees, and basically all over!) and gun dogs frequently for ticks throughout your session. Intermittent searches can lead to finding ticks before they’ve bitten.

People spraying with insect repellant, tucking their pants into their socks, and checking their hair for ticks.

Check yourself (and your gun dog) thoroughly for ticks during your outing. [Image: http://www.northeastlandscape.com/Merrimack-Valley-Lawn-Tick-Control.htm]

These are just five handy tips to keep in mind when you’re out and pursuing your next big kill. A clear, calm mind that isn’t distracted by the thought of ticks is your best hunting tool, after all!

There’s Still Time for Furbearers

March: It’s the month where everyone can’t stop talking about spring. For anyone out there hunting coyote and other furbearers, though, March means this is your last chance to call in a decent, winter pelt. Here are a few tips from Jared McGrath of Goodhue Marina & Firearms on making the most of what’s left of furbearer season.

Bust out the Jet Sled

Man in winter camo hauling decoy in jet sled in snow [Image Credit: Jared McGrath]

Your jet sled isn’t just for ice fishing. [Image Credit: Jared McGrath]

With the warming temperatures, wet, heavy snow is a pain to slog through. Even on snowshoes, hiking in your gear can be a nightmare. Best way to get the gear out to your blind? “Use your jet sled,” McGrath says. That’s right – the same one you’ve been using all winter long for ice fishing. “Chances are, you’ve got it stored right in the back of your pick-up,” says McGrath. With the lake ice rapidly melting, now’s the time for your jet-sled to become your new hunting buddy. Don’t already have one? These heavy duty, deep sleds are perfect for hauling gear by hand, ATV or snow machine. Best part? Jet sleds skid along the surface of snow and ice, even when carrying a lot of gear. McGrath recommends buying a jet-sled in camo, perfect for ice fishing and hunting.

Pack It Down

Plan on coyote hunting this week, but there’s still snow on the ground? Take the time beforehand to scout and pack down a trail to your site. McGrath recommends using your snowshoes for this. You’ll be thanking yourself later when you realize how quickly you arrived at your blind.

Back to the Drawing Board

Man in white camo coyote hunting in NH [Image Credit: Jared McGrath]

Image Credit: Jared McGrath

If at this point in the season, you’ve been calling coyotes for three months, and still haven’t bagged one, it’s time for some new strategies. Like us, coyotes don’t like this wet, heavy snow either. They may be answering your calls, but will need extra convincing to step out from the treeline. Use this as an opportunity to try out new decoys or bait. (When using bait on private land, McGrath reminds hunters to get written permission from the owner.)

It could also be that the coyotes in your area are feeling some hard-hunted anxiety. Re-situate your blind downwind in some new territory and start calling. You may just catch some youngsters off guard.

Coyote hunting rifle with scope in winter field [Image Credit: Jared McGrath]

Image Credit: Jared McGrath

Switching up your tactics will further hone your hunting style and could make all the difference in the field. And if you don’t land that male coyote you’ve been sweet-talking for hours? There’s always spring turkey hunting.

Looking for hunting rules and regulations? Check out our free, state Fish & Wildlife apps. And don’t forget to share your hunting pics with us on Facebook, Instagram and through our free app, Trophy Case®!

The Things We Lose

Dark trees on a foggy day in the woods [Image Credit: Jack Kredell]

Image Credit: Jack Kredell

I’ve lost all manner of things in the woods including, but not limited to, the following: hats (so many hats), knives, rope, extra socks, a thermos, lighters, tobacco, rolling paper, my glasses, a glove (alas, to lose one is to lose both), prescription pills, smart phones, animals I might have shot, a salt shaker, bullets, gun powder, and my wallet. I’m not sure if my knack for losing things is a consequence of the way I hunt, which can be described as overzealous at times, or if I’m simply prone to losing things. Here are a few of the more unfortunate highlights:

Grandfather’s Gerber

image: uhrforum.de

Image: uhrforum.de

After my grandfather passed, his wife sent me a box of hunting gear and included was a little Gerber folder from the early 1980s. Though unremarkable and cheap looking, the knife was used for over a decade by my grandfather to dress elk and mule deer in Idaho’s West Mountains. Put in the hands of an amateur, its story would end unceremoniously on a frigid mountaintop in Pennsylvania. While deer hunting one winter, my feet became so cold that I had build a fire to get circulation back. After making the wood shavings I stuck the knife in a bed of frozen moss thinking I would eventually need more. But I forgot about the knife and walked away. I went back a few days later but the knife was either gone or I couldn’t find the original location. I picture it still out there, rusting defiantly in its grave of moss.

A Doe

The wind was howling so I decided to still-hunt a creek bottom that normally was too loud to walk during the fall muzzleloader season. I promptly walked up on a doe standing 20-yards away drinking from a creek. As I raised my gun she looked up, and I put the sight, which was set at 75 yards (mistake number 1), just behind her left front shoulder and fired. Through the smoke I saw the deer walk about 5 yards before lying down. I put the gun against a tree, reached into my backpack for a bullet (mistake number 2: keep your bullets in your pocket), and began to reload. When I finished, I looked up and the deer was gone. I spent the next 8 hours and the following day searching for a blood trail but found nothing. If I did hit the doe, then there is no excuse for losing her. There is nothing more distressing and painful to the hunter than failing to recover a wounded animal.

Android Smart Phone

I lost my first smart phone during a fall turkey hunt within a week of buying it. Rather than tuck it away in my backpack, I placed it in a bed of leaves at my feet in order to check the time without moving my arms around too much. After four or five hours of calling, I decided to call it quits and head home for lunch. As I stood up, I heard something behind me and turned to see a hen take off flying into the valley. I threw my hands in the air and sulked off, leaving my new Android under the tree for a more deserving hunter. The lesson: glass your surroundings before you stand up.

Thermos

Losing my thermos was a real shame. There was nothing I enjoyed more than pouring myself a cap-full of steaming coffee and watching as the morning sun splashed into valley. It is at that moment when I’m most aware of the beauty and possibility surrounding me, and more often than not, it is the best part of the hunt. The day I lost it I was hunting deer with a flintlock when it began to pour freezing rain. Since I could not prevent the primer from becoming toothpaste, I began the hazardous journey home. On my way down I slipped on the ice and knocked the thermos out of my jacket pocket. I only realized it was gone when I got to the bottom, and in those conditions I wasn’t going back up.

The woods giveth and the woods taketh away.

Casting Close: Why It’s OK to Get Tangled

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. You’ve readied yourself for a cast, the spot looks unbelievably fishy, and you simply know for a fact that a monster is about to take your lure as soon as it hits the water. You line up, make the cast…

And then your lure wraps itself impossibly around a tree branch three feet past your target.

It happens. And while on a recent fishing trip with a buddy, he executed the scenario above flawlessly. He apologized profusely about getting tangled, but I was perfectly alright with it. Why, you may ask? Simply because it’s part of fishing. The way I see it, it’s almost GOOD that someone gets tangled every once in a while. It means that you’re casting close to cover, and the closer to cover you can get your lure or fly, the better. Think of it as a risk/reward. Sure you’re safe to cast all day out into the open water and never lose your bait, but that’s not where the giant lunker bass is. He’s underneath the impenetrable thicket in the corner of the pond. You’ll risk losing that lure casting to him, but you’ll never get him if you don’t try.

Kayaker paddles through river lined with thick green vegetation

Image Credit: Alex Vail

With this in mind, there’s plenty of things to consider about fishing close to cover. The first is, of course, your lure/fly. I know for a fact that I’m going to lose tackle, but when it comes to fishing in areas where there’s an extremely good chance of losing that $12 lure, I tend to go the cheap route. Soft plastics, weedless worms, simple flies, and cheap topwaters.

Depending on the species you’re chasing, going the weedless route is the way to go in preventing getting tangled. Cast just a little too far and landed in the lily pads? It’s absolutely nothing to worry about when fishing weedless. Going weedless comes in handy, too when it gets caught in a tree or the fish are hanging out in underwater vegetation.

Fisherman holds up large bass

As the background suggests, weedless is the way to go. [Image Credit: Alex Vail]

Unfortunately, casting close to cover is probably going to mean switching up your line a little bit. A heavier leader or line will prevent fish from rubbing up against underwater roots or rocks and breaking you off. An easy way to tie a heavier shock-tippet is to do a simple back to back Uni knot. These shock tippets come in handy because you don’t have to spool your whole reel with heavier line, and you can get away with using just a little (albeit expensive) fluorocarbon as the leader.

Casting close to cover is also extremely good casting practice. An angler can quickly get to know his/her rod and reel and before long, getting tangled becomes almost a rare issue. But practice makes perfect. Try casting a few feet from your target first. Then slowly get closer and closer. Once you’ve got the distance dialed in, it isn’t impossible to get just a few inches from your target more times than not.

Man fishes from yellow kayak in river bordered by trees

Image Credit: Alex Vail

So, the next time you launch your lure miles into the nearby woods, try not to get frustrated. Losing tackle is part of the sport. And the only way to get better (and eventually catch those monsters) is to lose some tackle.

Great Gifts for Hunters & Anglers

Hunting for great gifts for the hunters and anglers on your list? We’re here to help! After scouring the Pocket Ranger® Gear Store inventory, here are some thoughtful (and useful!) gifts that are sure to make any outdoorsy person merry this season.

Winter Gear

Winter gear gifts such as red hat, black mittens, work boots

Image: pocketrangerblog.com/gear-store

Winter hunting? Ice fishing? Hunters and anglers need all the help they can get staying warm out there this winter. Hats, gloves, masks, socks, snowpants, jackets: we’ve got it all in our Gear Store. Our favorites include this classic red Coal Harbor Beanie and these supremely packable Glacier Glove Angler Mitts. We also love the Wolverine Marauder Boots that are both waterproof and insulated with 400-gram Thinsulate Ultra insulation. These boots have the kind of all-day warmth and comfort you need when out in the woods or on the ice.

Fly-Fishing

Fly-fishing gear such as dry flies, balaclava with fish pattern, and gear carrying case

Image: pocketrangerblog.com/gear-store

Not all rivers and lakes are frozen this time of year, but anyone fishing right now will want to have a balaclava like the Airhole Drytech one we have in the Gear Store. We have plenty of flies in our Gear Store, but giving fly assortments may be the best gift of all. Since there’s nothing like reeling in a largemouth lunker, we recommend the Umpqua Largemouth Bass Selection. Instead of your typical gift bag, why not tuck all those fly-fishing goodies in the Fishpond Stowaway Reel Case. Just put a red bow on top and you’re all set!

Flannels

No outdoorsman or woman can have enough flannels. From Woolrich to Pendleton, Horny Toad to Hurley, we’ve got a few more to add to their collection this season.

Six flannels in holiday colors and checks

Top Row: Men’s Loser Machine; Woolrich; Pendleton
Bottom Row: Women’s Hurley, Horny Toad, Discrete [Image: pocketrangerblog.com/gear-store]

Camping Gear

We have so much camping gear in the Gear Store, and it was hard to choose just a few things. This Primus C7H Food Vacuum Bottle is a favorite of ours; its wide mouth makes it easy to fill, eat from, and clean. After hours spent in the stand or in the bobhouse, there’s nothing like opening up this thermos and having a hot lunch. If you’re looking to give a big ticket item, look no further than Brunton Eterna Spotting Scope. This mid-size, waterproof scope has a magnification power range of 20-45x, with a multi-step eye relief system and a durable ergonomic body. Since it’s glass will never fog, you can be sure that this will be their #1 scouting tool.

Camping gear, including black thermos, scope, and wooden-handled hunting knife

Image: pocketrangerblog.com/gear-store

We hunters and anglers go through so many knives. They get jammed, beat up, lost, or borrowed and never to be returned. This is exactly why SOG’s Woodline Large Fixed Blade Knife will be a welcome sight under the Christmas tree. It’s the best of both worlds: beautiful and functional, fitted with a rust-resistant, stainless steel blade and a wooden handle with thumb and forefinger grooves for optimal dexterity.

Trophy Case® and Pocket Ranger® Fish & Wildlife Apps

Strapped for time? The most thoughtful gift of all may just be a download away! Download our free Pocket Ranger® Fish & Wildlife apps onto any mobile device, so the lucky recipient will have complete access to great features, like state regulations, license & permit information, species profiles, and our Advanced GPS Mapping technology. And don’t forget to join Trophy Case®, our free social networking site created just for hunters and anglers. Trophy Case® users can share photos and tips, and earn points towards great prizes!

Happy Holidays!