Tag Archives: trophy case fishing and hunting

Are Deer Hunting Cartridges Arbitrary?

How many times has picking the wrong rifle cartridge ended a hunt prematurely versus being unfit to hunt due to cold or poor conditioning? Nobody has ever gone into the woods to hunt deer with a .243 only to give up after seeing a big buck because they didn’t have a .300 Win Mag. Almost ritualistically, we continue to rehash the same arguments over guns and ammo at the expense of other items that have more bearing on actual hunting.

Type of hunting cartridges.

Image: 1source.basspro.com/

My point isn’t that big game rounds aren’t different, but that most white-tailed deer hunters are unable to take advantage of their differences. The task of deer hunting west of the Mississippi doesn’t really discriminate between a .243 or a .300 Win Mag. Because of modern bullet construction and the fact that most white-tailed deer are taken under 200 yards, a deer shot in the vitals with a .243 is just as dead as a deer shot with a .300 Win Mag. Yet we keep asking ourselves the same stupid question: What is the most effective deer round? The only answer to that question is, how much recoil can you stand? Everything else is basically meaningless.

Image: www.statesymbolsusa.org

Image: www.statesymbolsusa.org/

In my early 20s, I bought a 7mm Remington Magnum because I loved the look and feel of the gun, an older Sako Finnbear. It was an aesthetic choice. All I knew about the cartridge at the time was that it was plenty capable of taking a deer. Since then I’ve killed a couple deer with it, but never at distances greater than 100 yards. Where I hunt in Pennsylvania, it’s rare that you get a shot over 100 yards unless you want it that way or you’re hunting over an agricultural field. So what is a 7mm Remington Mag? At 50 yards, a 7mm Mag produces an obscene amount of energy—around 3,000 ft-lbf. What distinguishes a 7mm Mag from a .30-30 is that the 7mm Mag has the same energy at 500 yards that a .30-30 does at 50. They are vastly different cartridges. But again, I’ve never taken a shot over 200 yards, so I might as well be shooting a .30-30 (or any other deer cartridge for that matter) because I’m nowhere near being able to make use of its downrange energy. It’s not a problem, but it goes to show how arbitrary rifle calibre selection is when you’re shooting under 200–300 yards.

Most big game cartridges offer perfectly adequate performance under real-life hunting conditions. The constant hair-splitting over the ballistics of big game cartridges is mostly hypothetical nonsense that benefits gun makers but not hunters—it simply sells guns. To me, a discussion about the merits of different Vibram boot soles is more valuable and interesting than whether the .270 or .308 is a better deer round. We’ve somehow managed to equate hunting with shooting when, in many aspects, the shot is the least important component of the hunt. Guns don’t kill animals; smart hunters do.

New Year’s Hunting Resolutions

It’s time for the annual tradition of setting up unrealistic personal goals in order to thoroughly undermine them over the course of the new year. In terms of hunting, 2015 was a pretty good year for me. I gave myself ample time, hunted hard when the time came, and was fortunate enough to get a nice buck while still hunting (a first for me) during rifle season. But there is always room for improvement. Here are my five hunting resolutions for the 2016 season.

1. Go West

Image: hqworld.net

Image: hqworld.net

My grandfather was an Idaho elk hunter who died before I took up hunting. I can trace my interest in hunting and wild game to his stories of hunting the Idaho backcountry. Having hunted exclusively in the Northeast, I’ve always dreamed of going West for a backcountry elk or mule deer hunt. So this year I’m going to buy an Idaho mule deer tag and hunt the same mountains my grandfather hunted.

2. Farewell, Wood and Blued Steel

Tikka T3 Lite Stainless [Image: loomisadventures.com]

Tikka T3 Lite Stainless [Image: loomisadventures.com]

I love my pre-Garcia Sako Finnbear, but it’s nine pounds scoped and prone to surface rust during foul weather. It shoots cloverleafs all day long and has the smoothest action I’ve ever cycled. But it’s over nine pounds. One of the lightest rifles on the market, Kimber’s 84m, weighs just over five pounds. After a day of hunting with the Finnbear, I can barely lift my arms. It’s time to move on. Tikka T3 Lite Stainless, I see you.

3. Butchering

Image: guide.sportsmansguide.com

Image: guide.sportsmansguide.com

I’ve butchered deer and sent them to the butcher. The butcher charged me $70, which is very reasonable, but I didn’t get nearly as much meat as when I butchered the deer myself. While I appreciate the convenience of dropping a deer off at the butcher when you’re tired and beat up after hunting, doing it yourself yields more meat (usually) and gives you more control over how it’s processed. Butchering is also a great way to bring friends and family together. Sharpen the knives, invite some friends over, pour some drinks, and get cracking.

4. Take a Friend Hunting

Friends that hunt together stay together [Image: hdimagelib.com]

Friends that hunt together stay together. [Image: hdimagelib.com]

In 2015, I took my roommate (who had never fired a gun before) deer hunting, and he loved it. I truly enjoyed the process of sharing my knowledge with him, and in turn, was pushed to learn even more in order to better answer his questions. Maybe he’ll never hunt again, but at least now he has an understanding of the woods that he didn’t have before. My goal for 2016 is to take another friend hunting.

5. ALTADIFOY

Image: www.easttennesseewildflowers.com

Image: www.easttennesseewildflowers.com

ALTADIFOY stands for “Act Like There Are Deer In Front Of You.” I always seem to bump deer when I don’t think there are deer ahead. As everybody who hunts knows firsthand, just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. So if you act like there are deer ahead of you (pausing every couple of feet, being alert, scanning ahead of you, etc.), even when they’re not, you’ll have a much better chance at finding them when they are there. What’s to lose? If you’re out hunting you might as well be the best hunter you can be.

Go Hunting in a Local State Park!

There are plenty of hunting opportunities available at state parks where you can see gorgeous views, illustrious trails, and, of course, lots of local wildlife. The best part of getting involved in the hunting scene at a nearby state park is that you won’t have to travel too far to enjoy the great outdoors. State parks are one of our most valuable resources in this country, so make sure you utilize them! Here are just a few states that offer exciting hunting events that you might want to join in on.

Controlled Hunting and Trapping Events, Ohio

Hunting in Ohio.

There are an estimated 600,000+ deer and 200,000+ turkeys in Ohio. [Image: http://hunt-ohio-deer-and-turkey-on-public-land.com/]

Join the Ohio Division of Wildlife and traverse through various areas that are normally closed to hunters. Youths and adults are eligible to participate, and individuals will be chosen based on a random computer generated drawing. There are opportunities to take part in controlled trapping, controller waterfowl hunting, and controlled deer hunting.

Learn more here.

Open Hunting, Managed Hunts, and Hunting Workshops, Virginia

Top counties for hunting in Virginia.

Image: http://www.gameandfishmag.com/

Virginia is an obvious choice for hunting, and luckily they have plenty of options! Similar to Ohio’s style, they have a lottery system-based for managed hunts for deer and feral hogs. Additionally there are also specific hunts tailored to youths (ages 12–17) and the disabled. If interested, you can make a reservation for specific sites, even claiming a certain zone or stand. Or simply partake in Virginia’s open hunting areas, which can be found at Fairy Stone State Park, Grayson Highlands State Park, Hungry Mother State Park, or Occoneechee State Park.

Learn more here.

Reserved Hunts, Indiana

Pheasant hunting in Indiana.

Pheasant hunting in Indiana. [Image: http://www.indianapheasant.com/]

Although the application submission deadlines have passed for many of these, they’re useful to keep in mind for the future. There are chances to get involved in various state park hosted deer, pheasant, and waterfowl hunts. From January 31 until March 24, you can submit applications for adult and youth turkey hunts as well, so keep your eyes peeled for those!

Learn more here.

Before you head out hunting this season, make sure you download our Pocket Ranger® Fish and Wildlife apps to aid in your adventures. Happy hunting!

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.

Bag a Wild Turkey for Thanksgiving

Image: www.realtree.com

Image: www.realtree.com

It might not get the love and attention of its springtime counterpart, but unless you’re a gobbler snob, the fall turkey season is just as good—if not better, given the fitting Thanksgiving overlap. Things like snowstorms and charging through a flock of turkeys like a fullback just don’t happen in the spring. With a little grit and some new tactics, every spring gobbler fanatic can make the successful transition to fall. Here are some tips and tactics to help you come up clutch with a wild bird on Thanksgiving.

Be a Location Scout

Image: bestturkeydecoy.com

Image: bestturkeydecoy.com

As with spring, the key to success is locating birds. But without thunderous gobbles to go by, visual scouting takes on a bigger role. If the area you hunt is mostly deciduous forest, look for the large swaths of disturbed leaf litter created by feeding flocks of birds. Deer will create patches of upturned litter as well, but you know you’re onto turkeys when it looks like somebody drove through the woods with a John Deere. If it’s wet and green, look for an open field where birds can feed on insects.

Booze Cruise

Image: en.wikipedia.org

Image: en.wikipedia.org

For this particular mission, you will be unarmed because firearms and alcohol do not mix. Your mission? Locate the roost. Now that it’s fall, you have the distinct advantage of being able to see through the trees. Brew yourself a hot toddy with Wild Turkey (obviously), and then find a hill or ridgetop with a good view and wait for the birds to tuck themselves in. Hopefully you still remember the location of the roost the next morning. If not, just look for the tree with all the turkey fertilizer underneath it.

Not all who Wander are Lost

Image: picssr.com

Image: picssr.com

Calling in lost birds is one of the easiest ways to fill a tag in the fall. Lost hens and jakes will make singular, sad yelps until they’re right on your doorstep. Answer back with the same type of yelp until the bird is in range. Bad weather? Great! Snowstorms will work in your favor as young turkeys routinely get lost during the season’s first big snow. Humans also get lost during snowstorms, so bring your compass or some more recent technology to avoid having to tell the story at Thanksgiving.

The Bum Rush

Image: www.citypages.com

Image: www.citypages.com

By far the most exciting thing to happen in the fall is locating a flock of turkeys and running at them. Please, please—unload or leave your gun behind before doing this. The purpose of this time-honored tactic is to break up the flock in order to call them back in using your locator yelps and kee-kee runs. For this to work, you really need to give the birds the fright of their lives and get them going in all directions. Once you’ve done that, trade in your wolf mask for a mother turkeys, and let the games begin.

Mr. Clutch

Lakers legend Jerry West was Mr. Clutch because he hit big shots. You know what would be just as cool as Mr. Clutch under pressure? You showing up 15 minutes late to Thanksgiving dinner with a wild turkey under your arm and saying: “You can eat that Butterball if you like, but I’m gonna eat like a pilgrim.”

Tasty Wild Game Recipes for Fall

As the fall weather makes its chilly descent and hunting season (finally) starts back up, we find ourselves craving some of our favorite wild game recipes. There’s nothing quite like knowing you were involved in the entire process of catching, dressing, and finally cooking your own meal—the joy behind it is, at times, unexplainable. Plus there are no long lines out in the woods. Here are some recipes that we tend to lean toward once fall rears its head. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite among our list!

Grouse Northwoods

Courtesy of Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook

Cooked grouse.

Image: http://honest-food.net/

Ingredients  

  • 1.5 cups wild rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 4 grouse skinned breasts
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1-2 pounds fresh mushrooms
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup fruit syrup
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar

Directions

  • Salt grouse breasts and set aside at room temperature.
  • Simmer 1 cup wild rice in the grouse (or chicken) broth until tender, 20-50 minutes. When rice is done, drain and set aside in covered bowl.
  • Grind remaining wild rice in spice grinder into a powder (larger bits, are fine). Mix with flour and dredge grouse breasts in it.
  • Heat 3 tsp. of butter in large pan and sauté grouse breasts until they are just barely done (about 4 to 5 minutes per side). Set aside.
  • Put remaining butter in pan and turn heat to high. Add mushrooms until sautéed. Sprinkle with salt and add garlic and thyme. Let mushrooms sear for 1-2 minutes until brown.
  • Add cranberries and toss to combine. Cook until they start popping, then add wild rice, vinegar, and fruit syrup. Toss to combine, and serve with the grouse.

Pan Seared Venison with Rosemary and Dried Cherries

Courtesy of Broken Arrow Ranch

Pan seared vension.

Image: http://eat.snooth.com/

Ingredients

  • 1.5 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1.5 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (1lb) venison boneless loin
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup fat-free beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp. black-currant jelly

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Grind 1 tsp. rosemary with coriander seeds and garlic to make a paste. Stir in 1/2 tsp. olive oil.
  • Pat venison dry and put in bowl, then rub with paste. Season well with pepper. Cover and chill 20 minutes.
  • Add remaining olive oil to hot skillet. Season venison well with salt, then brown both sides (about 6 minutes total).
  • Roast venison until instant-read thermometer inserted diagonally into center registers 125 degrees (about 7 to 10 minutes). Transfer meat to plate and cover with foil.
  • Add wine and cherries to skillet and deglaze by boiling on moderately high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits.
  • Stir together broth, water, cornstarch, and remaining rosemary in a bowl and add to skillet. Simmer, stirring until thickened for about 5 minutes. Whisk in jelly and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cut venison into 1/4 inch thick slices and serve with sauce.

Venison Tenderloin

Courtesy of Field & Stream, contributed by Terrace Brennan (chef at Picholine Restaurant and Artisanal Bistro and Wine Bar)

Venison tenderloin.

Courtesy of Travis Rathbone [Image: http://www.fieldandstream.com/]

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1⁄4 tsp. ground star anise
  • 1⁄4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 cup and 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 4 venison tenderloins, 6–7 oz. each
  • 1⁄4 cup (packed) prunes, chopped in 1⁄4 inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp. Armagnac (optional)
  • 12 tbsp. softened unsalted butter, cut in tablespoon-size pieces
  • 2 cups peeled cheese pumpkin, cut in 1⁄4 inch dice
  • 10 minced sage leaves

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Stir together 1-1⁄2 tsp. salt, 1⁄2 tsp. pepper, allspice, star anise, and cinnamon in bowl. Whisk in 2 tbsp. of oil. Rub mixture on both sides of each venison loin.
  •  Put prunes in another bowl. If using Armagnac, pour over prunes and set aside to soak.
  • Heat 2 tbsp. oil and 2 tbsp. butter in sauté pan over medium heat. Add pumpkin and cook, tossing and stirring every few minutes until lightly caramelized on all sides (about 15 to 18 minutes). Toss in prunes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Put 2 tbsp. of oil and butter in 12 inch ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add venison loins when butter starts to sizzle and foam. Sear for 1 minute.
  • Turn loins over and transfer pan to oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted to the center of loin reads 120 degrees for rare. Remove pan from oven and let venison rest on clean, dry surface for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Heat sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add remaining butter and cook until it melts and turns brown (about 1 minute).
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in sage leaves. Set sage leaves aside once crispy.
  • Divide pumpkin and prunes evenly around plates. Top each portion with venison loin, drizzle of brown butter, and crisped sage.

Ducks in the Orchard

Courtesy of Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook

Cooked duck.

Image: http://honest-food.net/

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lbs. duck breast
  • 1 tbsp. duck fat or butter
  • 2 firm apples
  • 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar or maple sugar
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped mint
  • Hawaiian red salt or coarse sea salt

Directions

  • Salt duck breasts lightly. Let sit at room temperature for 25 minutes.
  • Squeeze lemon juice into bowl of water. Slice apples into quarter slices (about 1/4 inch thick) and put in lemon juice. Coat all sides.
  • Heat large sauté pan over high heat. Add duck fat or butter and coat the pan. Place duck breasts skin side down, turn heat to medium, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes until golden brown. Remove duck breasts and tent loosely with foil.
  • Spoon off all but about 3 tbsp. of fat. Cook apples over medium-high heat. Brown apples lightly on both sides.
  • Sprinkle brown sugar over everything and swirl to combine while apples continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour cider in pan and put heat up high. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and cayenne into pan. Boil down by 2/3.
  • Slice duck breast pieces roughly the same width as apples.
  • Make rosette of alternating duck breast and apple in center of plate. Spoon small amount of reduced cider on each piece of duck and one more spoonful in center of rosette. Sprinkle with fresh mint and Hawaiian red salt.

Fall Surf Fishing

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

It’s getting to be that time of the year again—the dog days of summer are beginning to wane (even here in Florida), and there’s a cool breeze in the air. Pretty soon the water temperatures will begin to drop, and that means different fish species start to pop up on the radar for fall. If you’re lucky enough to live near the coast, you may find yourself in the perfect position to do one of my favorite types of fall fishing: surf fishing.

Man fishing on the beach.

Image Credit: Alex Vail

I’m asked fairly regularly by friends of mine to take them fishing when they haven’t actually been before. When it comes to taking someone fishing for their first time, it’s generally best to pick something low-key. I’m not exactly about to go pole the tarpon flats with the fly rod with someone who has never even caught a fish before. So when I introduce someone to fishing for the first time, it’s almost always surf fishing.

Surf fishing combines two of the greatest things around: fishing and sitting on the beach. And honestly, it’s generally fairly action-packed. But before you go running off to cast some lines out into the water, take the time to plan properly to maximize your enjoyment and success.

Tackle

Generally speaking, the name of the game with surf fishing is long distance casting—you want to be able to get the bait out past the breakers and into deeper water. At least one long surf casting rod is a must with line and leader weight depending on the species you’re targeting. For species like pompano and whiting, I generally stick with 10-12 lb test. With other species, like redfish, it might be wise to step up the game a little. Fall (particularly down here in Florida) is when the big bull reds come in to spawn. It wouldn’t be surprising in the least to hook a 40+ inch fish from the beach, so plan accordingly.

Fish in a cooler.

Image Credit: Alex Vail

When it comes to leaders and bait, I almost always use a double or triple dropper rig with a pyramid weight. The pyramid weight will help keep the bait from rolling around in the surf, and the multiple hooks allow for more bait. And everyone knows there’s no such thing as too much bait.

Equipment

Rod holders (a.k.a Sand Spikes)! These are pretty much a requirement. No one really wants to hold onto their rod the entire time as sometimes it takes a while for the bite to pick up. Bury the sand spike into the sand, and make sure it’s secure before putting a baited line in it. The simple fact that you don’t have to hold onto your rod now opens you up to use multiple rods, which increases the amount of bait out in the water (yes, lots of bait is important). This also means you can cover more water, which is important because sometimes fish aren’t always present in every part of a hole.

A fishing rod perched in the sand.

Image Credit: Alex Vail

Coolers and carts are also fairly important in my book. Coolers for the obvious reasons of keeping fish and drinks cold, but the cart for its simple ease factor. Drop the cooler in a cart, put the rods inside of it, and suddenly you’re only making one trip from the truck instead of five. I’m also a HUGE fan of using folding chairs once I’m set up on the beach. I generally place the chair right in the middle of my setup so that I’m equidistant from my two rods farthest away from me, and then I sit back and enjoy a cold drink without sitting in the sand. Don’t get too comfortable, though; it’s not uncommon for three or four of your rods to get strikes at once, so you might not be doing too much sitting.

Tactics

The final and probably most important part of surf fishing are the actual tactics involved. They aren’t particularly complex, but you must always remember that not all parts of the beach are created equal. There are good spots and bad spots; holes that produce fish, and holes that just waste time. Look for areas of deeper water where the breakers aren’t, well, breaking. Deeper water closer to shore tends to hold fish. Also keep track of which direction your current is moving parallel to the beach. I like to set up on the down current side of certain holes to catch anything that may be chasing bait as it’s pushed along by the current.

Remember how I mentioned a longer rod is nice to have? Well it isn’t just nice because you can cast further. It’s important to try and place your sand spike as high as you can above the water line, because once you’ve cast out, the line is now at a downward slope toward the water. The longer the rod, the higher that point of entry is into the water, and the line doesn’t drag in the water as much. This is important because incoming waves tend to pull on the line, and it’s often easy to mistake a wave as a fish strike.

Fish.

Image Credit: Alex Vail

So if you find yourself with the chance to hit the beach this fall, consider giving surf fishing a try. If you’re also ever looking to take someone fishing for the first time, always give this type of fishing a go. It’s extremely low-key with easy clean up and is often times quite action-packed. Worst case scenario, their first time fishing includes siting on the beach and catching a good tan all morning, and that’s still pretty hard to beat. The only thing to make it better is a cooler full of pompano.

The Epistemology of Hunting

Image: artpassions.wordpress.com

Image: artpassions.wordpress.com

How exactly does one become a better hunter? Knowledge and experience, obviously. But while credible knowledge on the subject is readily available from a variety of sources, the greater question is how to make it useful in practice. While we like to assume that knowledge is powerful in itself, that’s rarely the case. In most fields, you need a certain basic level of understanding to make use of more specialized kinds of knowledge. Likewise, you need a certain amount of experience to make full sense of another’s experience.

Much like Freud’s tripartite theory of the individual psyche, there are three fundamental factors at play whenever you are hunting. First and foremost, there is you: the hunter, the person walking around the forest or sitting in a tree stand. Second is the version of you who is a better hunter than the current you. The thing about this person is that they don’t exist yet. Third is your quarry. If you hunt on public land or under the conditions defined as “fair chase,” then it is almost guaranteed that your quarry is better at evading you than you are at finding it. What this means for you—the current you, that is—is that in a perfect world, your quarry and the very best version of you as a hunter are nearly one and the same thing. The goal therefore is to become closer to the better you—the very best version of you that current you can imagine.

However, there’s a problem with this.

The problem is that the very best version of you is limited by what you currently know about hunting. Your idea of the better hunter is not the best possible hunter, but the best possible hunter as imagined by you right now. And the best version of you is nowhere near as good as the animal you’re hunting. So how exactly do you become a better hunter? How do you enable yourself to imagine ever better versions of you?

The answer is, I think, in mistakes—both your mistakes and the mistakes of your quarry (let’s just call this luck for now). Mistakes, depending on how badly you want to become better at what you do, will either work for or against you. Learning from your mistakes is difficult enough, but by far the hardest thing in today’s world is making enough time to make mistakes. In hunting, mistakes are wonderful because they let you know exactly where you didn’t have or failed to apply knowledge. When you can successfully apply knowledge to an endeavor, it becomes stored as experience. Thus an experienced hunter is one whose knowledge has been tested in the crucible of experience. It’s that simple. Knowledge can come from within, such as when you learn from a mistake; or it can come from without, such as when a more experienced hunter gives it to you. But unless you verify it in the world, it is only potentially useful.

To sum up: A person new to hunting is not a good hunter because they cannot imagine what a better version of hunting looks like. But in five years, that same hunter (hopefully) will have turned mistake into knowledge. And with that knowledge, they’ll have made even better mistakes, mistakes more advanced than any novice could make, which in turn becomes the new theses of an ever-refining dialectic of experience. To free the unicorn from the mind’s stable, one simply has to imagine unfastening the latch.

Five Kinds of Hunters

We all seem to know a hunter, typically an older gentleman, who walks into the woods wearing blue jeans and walks out two hours later with a big buck. He does this year after year, no matter the conditions. And then there’s his opposite—the guy who spends thousands on gear, but refuses to leave the house when it’s raining or too cold. He puts all his trust in pricey scent control products, believing himself to now be immune to the perfect sensory apparatus of a deer’s nose. When he happens to luck out on a big buck, he sends a group text to 40 people with the words “too easy,” and when he doesn’t get a deer, he complains that there aren’t enough hunters in the woods “moving them around.”

1. That Guy

Image: Jack Kredell

Image: Jack Kredell

This is the guy we talked about in the intro. He thinks that Under Armour is the key to any successful hunt. He also shows up to camp with a new rifle every year chambered in the fastest and trendiest round commercially available. He punches holes in the bullseye all day long from a lead sled and calls himself a deadeye. Don’t be That Guy.

2. Business Casual

Image: www.konbini.com

Image: www.konbini.com

He’s a bit lazy, a bit out of practice, but he hasn’t forgotten how to hunt. He just doesn’t get out of the city enough. When he’s in the woods he’s quiet, respectful, sometimes deadly—yet he doesn’t particularly care whether he gets a deer or not. He’s simply there not to disappoint dad. He gives That Guy the evil eye in camp.

3. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Image: www.michigan-sportsman.com

Image: www.michigan-sportsman.com

This type is almost always a younger person with an impressive resume for his age. His teenage years were spent apprenticed to a Jackal or Warlock (see below), and the only thing holding him back is that twinge of impatience that sometimes gets the best of him. What really sets him apart from other hunters his age is his desire to become a better hunter with each outing (hence the impatience). Nevertheless, all the essential tools are there for him to reach the next stage, and that little bit of impatience will fade with time.

4. The Jackal

Image: www.film.com

Image: www.film.com

Jackals, like coyotes and foxes, often figure as tricksters and pranksters in the mythological world. And this kind of hunter is just that: He’s brilliant, but sometimes his cleverness and skill leave him apathetic, so he tries more unusual and daring tactics that don’t always pay off. You’re surprised when he returns to camp empty-handed, but you also note the enigmatic grin he’s wearing. It means he passed on several deer that everybody else in camp would have shot.

5. The Warlock

Image: galleryhip.com

Image: galleryhip.com

What can we say about this guy? He’s so skillful that a band of Neanderthals would adopt him. When he walks into the woods, it’s like watching one of the baseball players from Field of Dreams disappear into the cornstalks. He has a no detectable body odor because he lets the weather dictate all of his actions. He’s a light breeze if the breeze could carry a .30/06. He knows more than a deer biologist, yet he probably couldn’t give you the name of the scent gland on top of the deer’s head. Like I said, blue jeans are sufficient combined with a rain poncho over a knit sweater. The biggest deer on the mountain is his for the taking. Sadly, his kind seems to be on the way out.

Women Hunt Too: Huntresses We Admire

Often there’s a misconception that only men hunt (or fish), but we want to dispel that myth. Getting down in camo in a hunting blind is not a gender exclusive activity, and there are more than a few awesome huntresses that we admire out there.

Women have been involved in hunting since the beginning of history. Cave drawings displayed women joining in on the hunt, mythological huntresses were depicted in ancient Greek and Roman culture, and ancient Egypt saw queens often hunting from the comfort of their chariots. It’s no surprise that in today’s society there are plenty of noteworthy huntresses paving the way for the outdoorswoman of the future.

Andrea Fisher

Andrea Fisher with a buck.

2011 Prois Award winner, Andrea Fisher. [Image: https://www.pinterest.com/]

Huntress and conservationist Andrea Fisher was the 2011 Prois Award winner, an award that honors women who are dedicated to hunting and conservation with involvement in their community. Fisher won a trip to hunt elk, mule deer, wolf, and whitetail in the Canadian Rockies alongside Diana Rupp, the editor-in-chief for Savage Encounters and Sports Afield.

Eva Shockey

Eva Shockey and a whitetail buck.

Eva Shockey and a beautiful whitetail buck. [Image: http://outdoorchannel.com/]

Canadian huntress and daughter of Jim Shockey, Eva was featured on the May 2014 issue of Field & Stream Magazine, the first woman to be featured in 30 years. Eva has grown up in the face of hunting media, following in her father’s footsteps. It’s no surprise that she is now a cohost of Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures, blazing the trail for huntresses worldwide.

Debra Card

Debra Card and her moose.

Debra Card and her amazingly antlered moose. [Image: http://www.wideopenspaces.com/]

In 1999, Debra Card snagged a number one Safari Club International (SCI) spot for an Alaska moose she killed right outside of Cordova. Its antlers spanned over six feet with 39 points and scored her 731 1/8-inches. This monster has held the number one spot for more than a decade now!

Mary Cabela

Mary Cabela and a bighorn sheep.

Mary Cabela and a beautiful bighorn sheep she shot. [Image: http://www.outdoorlife.com/]

Everyone’s at least heard of Cabela’s, and it’s not surprising that co-owner Mary Cabela is an impressive huntress. She has records for more than 200 animals, many of which are SCI trophies. Some of her kills include cape buffalo, caribou, Dall sheep, elk, and much more.