ABOUT THE DESTIN SALTWATER AQUARIUM

The Destin Bass Pro Shops Aquarium holds some 10,000 gallons of water . . . about as much as a backyard swimming pool . . . or about as much water used in one month by a typical 3 bedroom, 2 bath home, containing one teenager.  The water is kept a a constant 74.3 degrees and between 500 and 1,000 gallons of water are changed out every week.  For every 750 gallons changed, some 180 pounds of sea salt mix are required.

The tempered glass surrounding the aquarium is 3 1/2 inches thick to hold the enormous pressure of the water.  At the bottom of the tank, that 10,000 gallons of water weighs some 83,500 pounds . . . more than is legal for a fully-loaded tractor-trailer rig on Florida's highways.

We feed our fish 4 times each week; on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 1:30 in the afternoons.  Usually, between 2 and 3 pounds of small fish and shrimp are fed to the fish on these days.  Like any home aquarium, introducing too much food can cause the water quality to suffer.  About once a week, a dry-suited diver enters the tank to vacuum and scrub algae and debris from the structures and the glass.

The largest fish we have in our aquarium is also our newest.  The approximately 85 pound Goliath grouper came to us in August, 2010 from a Bass Pro Shops' tank in Missouri.  Considered a critically endangered species, Goliath groupers are found in waters off the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, the Carribbean, down the coast to Brazil and toward west Africa.  Goliath Groupers can grow to some 8 feet and weigh over 800 pounds.

Our Red Fish or Red Drum is our second largest fish and ranges in habitat from Massachusettes to the Gulf of Mexico.  Red Fish feed in shallow water around grassflats and structures, eating small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks and can grow up to 90 pounds.  Fishing for red fish is very popular along the Gulf of Mexico and in the numerous bays.

Our three Jack Crevalle are often on the move, swimming together around and around our aquarium.  Jack Crevalle are preditory fish and inhabit tropical and temperate waters in the Atlantic and as far away as the Mediterranian.  They can be found migrating to warmer waters in the fall and winter.  Not considered to be a good eating fish, they are harvested commercially for fish oil and high protein fish meal.

Our Mutton Snapper, the one with the yellow fins, is found from the waters of North Carolina through the Carribbean to South America.  It prefers reef structures, is quite delicious, and is a favorite of spear fishermen.

Lastly, we have our Gag Grouper.  Considered a vulnerable species, they inhabit hard substrate, including reefs, ledges, and rocks in tropical waters.  Gag Groupers average 10 to 20 pounds and are considered delicious eating.

Destin Bass Pro Shops hopes you will join us for our fish feedings and trust you will have a pleasurable shopping experience today and every day you spend with us.

By Gary Feduccia

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AIRGUNS - AN ALTERNATIVE TO RIMFIRE

One of my fondest memories of childhood was having my own Daisy BB gun and plinking at tin cans and "other opportunities" in my backyard.  As I grew and became older, I enjoyed plinking and hunting with rimfire and centerfire rifles, revolvers, and shotguns.  Before I became aquainted with perfume and gasoline, there was nothing better than the smell of fresh fired gunpowder (including fireworks)!  Off to college and pursuing a career, I lost touch with the joys of hunting and shooting.  But not long ago, living in an area not condusive to using a rimfire rifle or pistol, I rediscovered airguns and took up plinking and target shooting again!

The oldest existing airgun dates from1580 and is displayed in a museum in Stockholm, Sweden.  In the 1600's airguns of .30 - .51 caliber were used for both hunting and warfare, since their accuracy, relative quietness, and lack of telltale smoke were a great advantage over the crude matchlocks of the time.  Lewis and Clark took an 800 psi, .46 caliber airgun with them on their exploratory trip to the west at the turn of the 19th century.

Today's airguns come in a wide variety of types, styles, uses, and power.  From the same reliable Daisy BB guns to the powerful and supersonic pellet rifles used for plinking, hunting, and competitive target shooting and the soft air and paintball guns used for mock combat, there is an airgun suited to most any purpose.  Air guns are operated with a spring piston, single or multi-stroke pump, or cylinders of compressed carbon dioxide. 

For simple target shooting or plinking fun, I like to get out my Crosman CO2 BB repeater pistol, but get more power and accuracy using my Crosman CO2 .177 caliber "357" pellet revolver.  Both use cylinders of carbon dioxide that are fitted within the pistol's grips and both attain a velocity of around 400+ ft. per second, with the .177 lead pellet having more mass than the .177 copper BB and thus more knockdown power.

For more punch, I opt for my Crosman "American Classic" .177 caliber pellet pistol or my Crosman "760" .177 caliber pellet rifle, both multi-stroke pumps with velocities in excess of 600 ft. per second.  A multi-stroke pump means that the more times the gun is pumped, the more pressure is provided and the higher velocity of the round.

For small game hunting, varmit and pest control, or target annihilation, I use a Gamo .177 "Big Cat", break barrel - spring piston rifle with a scope.  With special Gamo pellets, this rifle can reach supersonic velocities of over 1,250 ft. per second, making a loud "crack" like a .22 rimfire.  However, unlike a .22 rimfire, the smaller sized .177 pellet does not have the mass or the knockdown power of the rimfire, yet it is considerable.

For even more knockdown power, I turn to my Beeman RS2 break barrel - spring piston rifle that shoots a .22 caliber pellet at some 830 ft. per second. 

No airgun, including BB guns, air soft, paintball or pellet rifles should be considered a toy!  Each should be treated with safety in mind, just as any other firearm.  Municipal Codes may prohibit the firing of an airgun within their area of jurisdiction.  Check with your local Authorities beforehand.  Although eye protection if a must, hearing protection may only be necessary when shooting at supersonic velocities.  It should be noted that pellets shot at supersonic speeds suffer from instability when encountering the shock wave produced at the speed of sound and are somewhat less accurate at longer ranges than a sub-sonic round.

Many more people today, are taking to hunting and competitive shooting with airguns, Besides being just plain fun, they can be just as durable, accurate, and powerful as small caliber rimfires and yet may have a lower overall operating cost.  The rising sport of air soft and paintball mock combat meets attests to the airgun's versitility.  Airguns are a great tool for teaching youth the safety aspects, proper shooting techniques, and the proper handling of firearms.  Many Boy Scouts have earned their Rifle Shooting Merit Badge with air guns.

Bass Pro Shops stocks a variety of airguns with BB or pellet pistols and pellet rifles from Daisy, Crosman, Winchester, Beeman, Gamo and Benjamin.  Soft air and paintball guns are represented by major manufacturers such as Franchi, JT, Crosman, Tippman, and Spyder.  In addition to BB's, we offer a wide selection of .177 and .22 pellets in different configurations especially for plinking, target shooting, or hunting.  Air soft BB's, paintballs, cleaning kits, safety glasses, hearing protection, and a variety of targets are stocked for all your airgun needs.

By Gary Feduccia

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If You Don't Try INSHORE FISHING, You'll Hate Yourself Later

The inshore fishing all along the panhandle seems to get better and better every day.  The wind has been an issue but when the fishing's good, it's good.  The trout and redfish bite is great on the grass flats all the way to the river systems.  Redfish have been trailing the schools of mullet, so throwing a 1/4 oz. flats intruder weedless fold or copper spoon or a soft plastic, such as Gulp! 5" or 6" sardine or camo Jerk shad is a great way to hook into a nice redfish. 

The trout fishing has been great!  The management program has worked so well that the size of trout is just amazing.  It's not uncommon to catch a 3-5 lb. trout on a regular basis.  The common set up for this is an Offshore Angler insure extreme float at about 18-24" depending on the depth you're fishing with 15-20 lb. Offshore Angler fluorocarbon leader with a 1/8 oz. Offshore Angler jig head and a 1/0 Owner mutu light circle hook.  The common rod and reel set up is a 7' medium or medium heavy spinning rod paired with a size 2500-4000 reel, spooled with 10-12 lb. Sufix Elite monofilament or 10-20 lb. Sufix 832 braid. 

FWC regulations on redfish for the panhandle region are 18-27" and two per person.  FWC regulations for speckled trout for the panhandle region are 15-20" and may keep 1 over 20".  A maximum of 5 per person is allowed.  Check www.myfwc.com for updates.  Now get out there and fish!

By Dave Lockett

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Kayaking and Snorkeling in the Bahamas

Just came back from a Carnival cruise to Freeport and Nassau in the Bahamas out of Port Canaveral.  Our first day day in Freeport included a 6-hour trip in the Lucayan National Park, named for the pre-Columbian Indians who inhabited the area.  There we kayaked down a pristine tidal stream through a red mangrove swamp to the ocean.  One item I forgot to bring was a dry bag to keep our towels, cameras, and other necessities dry; however our guide provided everyone in our small party with one.  When I kayak around here, I always bring my Ascend dry bag, a Coghlan's waterproof pouch, or my Pelican water proof case, but didn't want to pack them in my luggage.

Kayaking through the mangrove swamp was both exciting and a bit of a challenge.  In the clear water through the tangled masses of mangrove roots were tiny crabs, young tropical fishes, and other sea critters.  The challenge came as the stream narrowed to a tunnel through the thick mangroves, where we had to disassemble our kayak paddles and use one half as if we were paddling a canoe.  I was glad that I had slathered on the sunscreen and had my hat and polarized sunglasses that I had purchased at Bass Pro Shops.

With the outgoing tide, our little stream picked up considerable current and ripples as it fell over limestone and coral ridges covering the shallow bottom.  We emerged from the mangroves where the stream made a delta into one of the most beautiful beaches I'd ever seen.

A day or two later found us on an 80 foot catamaran motor-sailing out of Nassau to a nearshore reef.  Upon anchoring we donned snorkeling gear and jumped in to the cool Atlantic waters.  While not like the warmer water reefs in the Caribbean, the reefs around the Bahamas held a variety of brightly colored corals and numerous tropical fish.  On both our kayaking and snorkeling adventures, we wore our Worldwide Sportsman water shoes, which proved invaluable while walking over the rocky limestone and keeping our toes and our feet safe while on the boat.  All in all, a most memorable vacation adventure and a great cruise (I didn't even mention the food!).     By Gary Feduccia

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Restoring That Scorched Pot

Ok, so you have scorched your favorite Bass Pro Shops pot and want to get that crusty burnt crud off the bottom.  Scraping it doesn't help much, but there is an easier way.  Simply sprinkle a couple of tablespoons full of Cascade dish washing powder in the bottom of the pan then add an inch or more warm water enough to cover the crusted on food and let the Cascade dissolve.  Set the pot on the stove on low heat and do not let the pot run dry.  After 30 minutes or so of simmering, the burnt food should come off readily.  If not, repeat the process again.  You may need to buff the bottom of the pan after removing the scorched food with some steel wool to bring back the shine.  If the pot is cast iron, you will need to reseason it.  This also works well with crusted up water pans used in smokers.

Gary Feduccia

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Fly Fishing Destin - March 2012

Fly fishing is about to bloom big time on all fronts in March (Gulf, bay, and fresh water).  In addition to the still present Bonito in the surf we are seeing good numbers of Pompano reported with lots of stories of limit catches from the two-hook fishers (even some of the clueless snow birds, bless them)!  Flies tipped with fishbites, pieces of shrimp, or sand fleas are producing well.  Also Clousers double rigged with gummy minnows, Pompers (poppers with bunches of crystal flash or flashabou, or neer hair), and little crab patterns weighted and fished on intermediate lines to keep the surf from animating the flies uncontrollably.  Short strips are best to mimic the sand fleas and coquinas as they bounce off the sand and fall or return to the safety afforded by their burrowing efforts.

Elsewhere in the Gulf the bluefish are storming the jetties and are destroying the gotcha plugs and white jugs.  Catch and release reports of up to forty fish per angler are not uncommon.  The casty fly guy should have similar results with clousers, deceivers, gummies, and hot flash flies.  By the way . . . by popular demand we have brought in the coveted sili skin for tying all your gummy minnows.  We at Destin Bass Pro Shops have a good supply of pre-tied gummies for a quick stop on the way to the venue of choice.  But don't forget the 30-pound shock (or wire trace, which may discourage some strikes) or be prepared to donate lots of flies to the "Pirhanas of the Gulf".  Do not let these guys get their faces anywhere near any body parts you might need in the future . . . they are aggressive and agile at the landing and their razor-sharp teeth have shortened many a fisherman's day.

Some Spanish Macks have already shown up but the onslaught of ravaging hoards will soon decorate many fly lines of those who can bionically retrieve.  More teeth to ravage your tippit require a short trace of wire or some heavy fluorocarbon to preserve your flies.  Sometimes it is best to tuck the rod under an armpit and strip with both hands to have a chance at these boys.  Some of these have been reported as huge; approaching small King sizes of three feet and twelve pounds,  Zing, what a pull on a six-weight.  Once again, "Beware the aids of March".  Band Aids that is.  Apologies to the Bard.

There is still some time for the abundant Sheepshead to be taken on small crab patterns like the rubber-legged flats critter or the several Merkins and small natural colored toads offered in the White River Fly Shop.  But get onto these pretty soon or you'll miss out on some great battles and excellent table fare (as long as you have a chain saw to clean them)!  The most successful techniques involve short casts along the edges of rock formations or pilings with oyster and barnacle encrustations; let the fly sink (sort of a drag-free drift approach in stream fishing), animate with slow tugs, not strips.  The dainty nature of these fish when stealing live shrimp or fiddlers is not experienced with the fly.  They slam it like seven hammers; hook setting is not an option, just hold on for a great ride!  Many times the run is AWAY from the structure rather than some retreat into the rocks and pilings as one might expect.

The flats will begin to repopulate with the reds and specks whose winter preferences are the creeks and shallow reed areas and bayous.  The warmer water and migration of the food sources from these areas to the grassy beds brings the predators along for the banquet.  Use topwaters in the early morning and you'll find some true Gator Trout lurking in the dusky dawn.  Later switch to your clousers and suspending Crafty Shrimp, deceivers, etc.  You might want to rig a dropper two-fly rig with a clouser and a small streamer.  Remember, you'll have to sacrifice your tightest loop casts and widen a little to avoid tangling this configuration, but the results can be astounding.  This is the time when you'll find thick schools of both reds and specks.  When the action starts it will last a while and strike will follow strike before you have to move around very much.  This is one of the most special seasons for fly fishing.

In the fresh water arena things are already warming up in exciting ways.  Local lake and pond fishers are reporting good numbers of panfish and crappie, and the bass have turned on big-time.  The crappie bite should last into April and everyone knows what the April full Moon does for bluegills.  The early start already portends an outstanding season to come, and when the salt water conditions get testy, it's time to turn around and pull out the poppers, sliders, bugs, nymphs, spiders, and other leggy critters and frog patterns and plan a kayak or trolling motor trip to the pond, lake, or river.

Don't forget, the Destin Bass Pro Shops still hosts the Panhandle Fly Tying Club every second Saturday of each month, so come on by and see some true talent and wizardry in action as these artists create their magic.

Remember, catch and release preserves our resources.  Please don't over harvest.

To the Peach of Fly Fishing,

Charles (Buddy) Leach, Fly Guy

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Outfitting a Cub or Boy Scout, Scout Patrol or Whole Troop

So, your son is asking to join a Cub Scout Pack or Boy Scout Troop, or is crossing-over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts and you are wondering what he will need for proper camping gear.  A Cub Scout normally tent camps with one or both parents only a few times per year, so the tent you already have or a new family camping tent with sufficient space for the sleeping bags and other gear is needed.  Be sure to use a tarp or ground cloth underneath the tent floor.  (See previous Blog on, "Choosing and Using a Family Camping Tent".)

A quality Ascend, Coleman, or other sleeping bag is necessary for the Scout and each camping parent.  Sleeping bags are rated according to the minimum temperature in which a sleeper should remain comfortable.  Mummy style bags are more suited to smaller campers and colder temperatures, whereas rectangular bags are great for general camping.  A padded/insulated Thermarest or Ascend sleeping pad is recommended for additional warmth and comfort especially when sleeping on the ground or tent floor.  Here in northwest Florida, with many hot, muggy nights, campers may prefer to sleep on top of a sleeping bag or pad with just a folded sheet.  A "Cocoon" can be made by folding a sheet in half, lengthwise and sewing up the bottom, just like a small, thin sleeping bag.  A good sleeping bag should last the Cub Scout well through his adventures and into his Boy Scout camping excursions.  Check out the huge selection of sleeping bags at your local Bass Pro Shops.

Depending upon the practices of the Cub Scout Pack, a new Scout may need nothing more in the way of cooking gear than a Coghlan's mess kit and a quality nalgene Ascend or Camelback water bottle or canteen.  He may also need a set of GSI eating utensils or at the very least, a spork.  Cub Scout cooking at Family Camp and other activities is always done group style by the Adults for individual Dens or for the entire Pack, using the Pack's camp ovens, stoves, or other cooking methods to introduce the young Scouts to the joys and challenges of outdoor cooking.  Bass Pro Shops has an extensive inventory of camp ovens, propane stoves, and other accessories used by Packs and Troops to cook for entire Scouting groups.

Once a boy turns 11 years of age, he is eligible to join or crossover from Cub Scouts to a Boy Scout Troop, where he may go camping as much as once every month.  He will no longer be camping in a tent with his parent(s), but he may want to camp by himself or with another Boy Scout for company.  In some cases, Boy Scout Troops provide tents for the Scouts.  Most of the time though, each Scout must provide his own tent.  I would recommend a  2 - 3 person Eureka, Coleman, or Ascend tent to allow the option of sharing with another Scout or for the extra space needed to store clothing and other gear out of the weather.

A Boy Scout will also need a mess kit, eating utensils, and a water bottle or hydration pack.  Cooking is usually done by each Patrol within the Troop, at their individually equipped chuck boxes, with each Scout taking turns as the monthly "GrubMaster", responsible for purchasing, preparing, and cooking the weekend's meals.  The chuck boxes contain everything needed to cook the various meals including a 2-burner stove, pots and pans, utensils, and cleaning materials.  Bass Pro Shops has everything needed to outfit a Patrol chuck box and more!

A good dependable flashlight is a must and I highly recommend a headlamp that leaves both hands available when working or setting up camp in the dark.  The newer LED flashlights and headlamps do not suffer from bulb burnout like lights of the past and have extended battery life.  When selecting an LED headlamp or flashlight consider the number of lumens indicated on the package.  The higher the number of lumens, the brighter and more useful the light.  40 lumens or above is just right for all camping activities.  I also like the lights that use "AA" or "AAA" batteries rather than the $3 each, 123 type batteries.  Check out Bass Pro Shops extensive array of Streamlight, Petzl, Ascend, and other lighting options.

Finally, a Boy Scout may need a quality backpack for hiking to primitive campsites or just to hold his weekend camping gear.  Bass Pro Shops carries a variety of backpacks from North Face, Jansport, Kelty, and Ascend.

Tent repair kits, compression sacks, closed-toed hiking shoes, cold weather clothing and rain gear, insect repellent, and individual first aid kits are just a few of the other camping items available at your nearby Bass Pro Shops.

If in doubt about the suitability or necessity for any camping product, first ask the Scout Leader.  When you come in to make your selection, our expert Bass Pro Associates can guide you towards the proper equipment for your Scout.  Successful and enjoyable Scout camping trips depend upon the proper equipment that is designed to last.  Bass Pro Shops has the right stuff at the right price to outfit an individual Scout or a whole Pack or Troop!  Remember, a Scout is always "Prepared"!

By Gary Feduccia, 11 year current Scouter

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Choosing and Using a Family Camping Tent

Basically there are two types of tent campers:  backpackers who hike into the wilderness with a minimum of weight and equipment and the rest of us weekend family campers who load up our vehicle with enough stuff to outfit an entire cross-country pioneer wagon train.

If you are new to tent camping or quite experienced, you should know that a successful and comfortable camping trip requires the right equipment.  Choosing the right tent to fit your needs should be your top priority, so don't skimp on quality.  Tents are described by the number of "sleepers" they are designed to hold.  A 4-person tent will have floor space for 4 average sized sleeping bags, and little or no additional space.  For family camping always get a larger capacity tent than the number of people who will be sleeping in it.  This will allow some extra room to store clothing and other essentials out of the weather.  Never store food inside a tent since critters may smell it and tear a hole in the wall to get at the food.

If you plan to use air mattresses or cots inside the tent, do some measuring and make sure there is adequate clearance on all sides of the inside of the tent so that nothing comes in contact with the tent walls.  Wall contact will often cause a leak.

Make sure the tent you choose has ample ventilation.  The more doors and windows with "no-see-um" screening, the cooler the tent will be on those muggy nights.  Likewise, make sure the tent has a rainfly of sufficient size to partially shelter the doors and windows from rain or dew. 

Another consideration is tent height.  I like to be able to stand up in my tent, but this is a matter of personal preference.  You can purchase the biggest tent available, but keep in mind that it will be heavy and take up more space in your vehicle.  Virtually all tents can be set up in about 20 to 30 minutes.  Before pitching your tent, make sure to place a tarp or ground cloth of similar size over the area where the tent floor will be.  This will add longevity to the tent and prevent moisture from seeping into the tent.

Finally, make sure to completely dry your tent before packing it away for storage.  If left wet or damp, mildew and mold will grow and destroy the fabric.

Bass Pro Shops carries a variety of backpacking, family camping, truck and SUV tents, as well as canvas outfitter wall tents.

By Gary Feduccia

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Everyone Should Own at Least One Dutch Oven

When I think of dutch ovens I imagine Walter Brennan in the classic John Wayne movie, Red River, crossing Texas on a cattle drive while Brennan cooks up beans and other vittles in his cast iron dutch ovens suspended over a low fire.  The dutch oven was as critical to the settlement of the west as it was to the colonial settlers of the Atlantic seaboard, who allegedly purchased them from Holland traders.

There are two basic types of dutch ovens, both made of durable cast iron.  The typical home use type of dutch oven has a flat bottom and a domed lid and is suitable for use on or inside a stove.  On the other hand, a camp oven, said to be invented by  metalsmith Paul Revere (yep, the same one), features stubby legs on the bottom and a flat, flanged lid designed to be used with wood embers or charcoal. 

Bass Pro Shops carries dutch ovens in 5, 7, and 9 quart sizes and camp ovens from 1 quart through 2, 4, 5, 6, and 8 quart sizes.  Even larger sizes are available.

I have 2 dutch ovens and 2 camp ovens of different sizes that I use at home and on camping trips.  Here at Bass Pro Shops, I use two 12" deep and one 12" regular camp ovens to put on demonstrations cooking cakes, cobblers, stews, and other chuck wagon treats using charcoal.

As Bubba Blue was explaining to Forrest Gump about cooking "S'rimp":  You can sautee, fry, steam, boil, bake, broil . . . the dutch oven can do all these types of cooking and more.  Whenever I am cooking a labor intensive dish like a Jambalaya or a gumbo, I opt for one of my dutch ovens instead of a lessor pot, since scorching of a roux or other ingredients is seldom an issue.  Nothing cooks better or distributes heat more evenly than cast iron.

Bass Pro Shops has a well stocked assortment of cookbooks for dutch ovens and cast iron.  Anyone can master the simplicity of dutch oven cooking and will appreciate that once purchased, at piece of quality cast iron cookware will last a lifetime or more.  There are numerous websites, books, articles, and recipes about and for dutch ovens.

Come see one of the largest collections of new Lodge cast iron cookware and accessories at your nearest Bass Pro Shops.

By Gary Feduccia

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Binoculars and Other Optics Make Great Gifts

A good pair of binoculars from Bass Pro Shops makes a great gift for hunters, birdwatchers, sports fans, beach goers, travelers, and budding astronomers.  Bass Pro Shops offers a wide selection of binoculars for every purpose, but you should understand the optical characteristics in order to get the binocular type that meets your needs.

All binoculars are described, for example, as 7 X 35, 8 X 42, 10X 50, etc.  The first number indicates the magnification.  Binoculars with magnification of 10 or more will usually require some support or a tripod to eliminate shaking.  The second number indicates the diameter of the objective (front) lens.  The larger the diameter, the more light will enter the binoculars and will perform better in low light (dusk and dawn) conditions.

Binocs with objectives of 35mm are good for general daytime use such as birdwatching, daytime sports and hunting, and other daytime activities.  Binocs with objectives of 50mm or more are excellent for low light and for night time astronomy.  One drawback to binocular size is weight.  Just as magnifications above 10 X may require support, holding a heavy binocular may lead to arm fatigue and induce shaking.

Another factor to consider when choosing a binocular is whether or not the lens to air surfaces are coated.  These are chemical treatments applied to each lens surface to reduce reflections and glare and to enhance contrast.  Lenses are made using groups of glass, some separated by air.  Lesser quality binocs will have no coatings.  Lenses that are "coated" will have one lens surface coated.  "Multi-coated" lenses means that two or more lens surfaces are coated.  "Fully multi-coated" means that every lens to air surface is coated, insuring the highest quality of light transmission.

Finally, consider the eye-relief of the eyepieces; the measurement of the distance between the eye and the eyepiece.  A higher measurement of eye-relief will insure comfort and a full field of view for eyeglass users.

Bass Pro Shops carries the Nikon Action, Redhead Ascent, Leupold, Redfield, Steiner, Bushnell, and other brands of quality binoculars.  The same characteristics described above apply equally to spotting scopes.  Check out the several models of Redhead and other spotting scopes at Bass Pro Shops.

By Gary Feduccia



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Disaster Preparedness on the Gulf

Every few years or so, we on the Gulf are subjected to a strong storm or other event that results in long lasting power outages and water shortages.  After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, we also experienced a shortage of gasoline!  There are some steps you can take now to get items that you will need during one of these times and Bass Pro Shops is here to help.

Many of the camping items and equipment you may already have are ideal for enduring the effects of storm outages and hurricanes.  If you don't have a clue as to what you might need during an extended emergency situation, we offer the following suggestions to keep you safe, informed, and comfortable.

During a power outage, you will need flashlights (BPS 2-Pack LED) and will appreciate having a headlamp (Ascend Cree LED) and a battery operated lantern (Coleman Pack-Away).  Also, a good quality battery operated weather radio along with a simple weather indicator/station is recommended.  Bass Pro Shops carries several types from such manufacturers as LaCrosse, Oregon Scientific, Midland, and the Weather Channel.  You can save money on stocking up on our BPS Extreme batteries and it is always a good idea to have plenty of extras on hand.               

For cooking outdoors after a storm has knocked out your power, you can't beat the versatility of a two burner propane camping stove.  Our BPS High Output stove can easily handle most cooking chores and don't forget several Coleman propane canisters to have on hand or the Coghlan's Waterproof Matches.

Bass Pro Shops carries a full line of very tasty Mountain House and Backpacker's Pantry freeze dried entrees with a long storage life.  The GSI Stainless Steel Coffeepot is a must for that cup of joe, but also doubles for boiling water for the freeze dried foods.  For storing potable water prior to a storm, we offer the Reliance Collapsible Water Containers or the Aquatainer Jugs.  We also carry water purification tablets and Katadyn Water Micro-filters.

Lastly, get a good quality first aid kit.  Out BPS Expedition First Aid Kit will meet your needs and last for a long time.

Disaster preparedness can be accomplished as easily as shopping for that next (or first) camping trip.  Stop by Bass Pro Shops and talk with our Camping Associates to get ready for that next storm . . . or to plan that first or next great camping trip.

By Gary Feduccia





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Emerald Coast Surf Fishing

Pompano seems to be the theme this time of the year for surf fishing all along the panhandle.  Locating the deeper holes and troughs along the beach is the key to success.  Incoming tide is ideal, and with north winds the surf is calm.  Getting to those deeper spots might require wading out to get that extra distance when casting.  Look for the cuts in the sandbars.  These are indicated by the darker blue color between sandbars where everything is getting flushed back out to the Gulf, and fish, including pompano, whiting, and redfish will populate these spots to feed.  Live sand fleas can be found on the beaches or purchased at local tackle shops.  Fresh frozen shrimp are also a good choice for bait.

Use a two hook dropper rig.  They are also called pompano rigs and are available at Bass Pro Shops.  These are rigged with or without floats.  Depending on the size rod and line you want to use 2 - 4 oz. pyramid weights.  Spider weights are also available that have extended prongs that help to anchor into the sand.  PVC or metal sand spikes are essential if you want to set up multiple fishing combos.  FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission) regulations for Pompano are between 11" and 20", measured to the fork, with a limit of 6 per person and only one allowed over 20".  Redfish must be between 18" to 27", with a limit of 2 per person (only in the NE and NW regions).

Essential gear should include:
  • 8' - 10' Rod (Offshore Angler Power Stick)
  • 5000 - 8000 Size Reel (Ocean Master)
  • 14 - 20 lb Monofilament (Offshore Angler Tight Lines)
  • 20 - 50 Braid (Bass Pro Premium Excel Braid)
  • Pompano Rigs or Gulf Coast Rigs
  • Size 1 or 1/0 Circle, Kahle, or J Hooks (Owner or Eagle Claw)
  • Live or frozen Sand Fleas (Gulp! or FishBites)
  • PVC or Metal Sand Spikes (Offshore Angler)
  • Needle Nose Pliers (Bass Pro Shops XTS)
  • Sand Flea Rake
  • Beach Cart
  • Cooler (Igloo Marine or Yeti)

Have fun and go fishing!

By Dave Lockett
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Weber Grills

Weber makes some of the finest backyard grills in the world and you can find them at Bass Pro Shops.  For durability, ease of use, and price, Weber grills are tops among competitive chefs and novice grillers, alike.

Weber's Silver and Gold model charcoal grills have been around for many decades, a testament to their durability and dedication to them by the grilling public.  They sport a powder-coated finish, inside and out, that resists chipping and is virtually rust-proof.  After years of use, just wash them out and if needed, replace the grilling surface and charcoal grate for an almost new grill! 

Weber's "Q" series gas grills are designed with simplicity, durability, and economy in mind.  The O-100 is just right for a single person or a family of 4 while the larger Q-200 can cook for a crowd.  Both can be easily transported to a park or campsite and set upon any table.  An optional wheeled carrier/stand is available.  Both grills can use 1 lb. propane cylinders or can be connected to a bulk tank.  Being very efficient, they use much less fuel than similar sized gas grills.  With a non-rusting aluminum body, one-button piezo ignition, and an easy to clean drip pan, these gas grills are sure to be a hit with your family or group.

Bass Pro Shops' Camping Department can supply your grilling needs, including, propane, charcoal, wood chips, chimney starters, seasonings, rubs, and marinades, as well as all types of grilling accessories.  Check out our Gift Department for exciting grilling recipe books and talk to our Associates about grilling tips and techniques.

By Gary Feduccia





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Historical Sites in the Florida Panhandle - Part 2

By: Gary Feduccia

Visitors to the Florida panhandle and residents alike should not miss the historical Old District in Pensacola, Seville Square, Pensacola Village, the T.T. Wentworth Museum, or the Pensacola Historical Museum.  Fort Pickens on the island across from Pensacola and at the mouth of Pensacola Bay, besides its very interesting military history was also the place of imprisonment for the infamous Apache Chief, Geronimo.  Back on the mainland, visitors may get a pass to the Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS) and tour old Fort Barrancas originally built by the Spanish.  Nearby is the Barrancas National Military Cemetery and the famed National Naval Aviation Museum featuring vintage airplanes from the dawn of naval aviation through the years to modern aircraft and missiles.  The adjoining I-Max theater frequently offers movies of the Blue Angles aerobatic team who consider Pensacola NAS their home base.

Driving east on Highway 98, just past Gulf Breeze, stop by the visitors' center at the Naval Live Oaks Area, now part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, that was set aside long ago to preserve the hardwood live oaks that were used to build our nation's first warships.  Farther east, as you come into Fort Walton Beach, look for the huge Indian mound on the north side of the downtown area.  Take time to visit the museum here and witness the many Indian and early settler artifacts and displays.

Travel a few miles north on Highway 85 and visit the renowned Air Force Armament Museum, where outside static displays of actual aircraft are on display, from a WWII B-17 through a cold-war B-52, to an SR-71 Blackbird among others.  Inside are more aircraft and displays of the evolution of modern weaponry.  Admission is free.

Heading northeast on Highway 85, past the modern airport (old Valparaiso Airport), enter the quaint town of Valparaiso and tour the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida in the old downtown center.  View heirlooms, tools, and personal effects of the early settlers of the area along with vintage photographs.

Lastly, don't forget to visit the Destin History and Fishing Museum off Highway 98 in Destin.  Offering fishing exhibits, antique rods and reels, and photos of fishing and settlers in the early years, this is a must see attraction! 

From thousands of years of Indian occupation through 400 years of European settlements, to today's fast paced and cosmopolitan atmosphere, the Panhandle of Florida truly reflects a broad and diverse history and culture.  We at Bass Pro Shops in Destin are proud to support all efforts to preserve and conserve our historical significance.

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Horse Creek Game Plantation

My wife once said “Walter, you never know when a really good time is going to sneak up on you.” I think this applies to a hunting trip that I had the pleasure of taking at Horse Creek Plantation in January.

This all started about five years ago. I was working in archery when a grandfather approached the archery counter with his grandson. He was frustrated because he had purchased a bow from Bass Pro and he could not shoot the bow very well. The bow was not set up right for his grandson, so I set the bow to the correct draw length and poundage. I took a considerable amount of time explaining how to sight it in as neither one had any experience. They thanked me and headed to the elevator. Two minutes later the grandson started running back and handed me a piece of paper with his grandfather’s name and phone number. He said “my Pawpaw said any time you want to hunt you call him.” Year after year passed and I never called. They would come in and shop and remind me of the invitation. Well, this year I decided to call. We lined up a three day weekend and I invited Dean Clark to come along. Dean works in hunting with me and we affectionately refer to him as Mr. Dean. We left work one Thursday evening and arrived at the so called “camp House”. These accommodations were unbelievable! This place had 4 bedrooms and fireplace, television, kitchen and a front porch with rocking chairs. It also had back decks facing a pond stocked with fish.

Camp House

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Camp House (inside)

 

Next door was a processing building with stainless sinks grinders and saws. Behind this building was a catfish pond. They took us out on the Polaris, an ATV, to show us a couple of shooting houses and food plots to hunt in the morning. They handed us keys to two ATV’s and said we could ride them to the stand in the morning. We could not believe how nice this was as we settled into our king size beds that night.

The next morning, as I sat in the shooting house overlooking a food plot, I heard the sound of a truck coming. I peered out the back window and saw Mr. Price, the owner, coming in. I got on the ATV and met him back at the lodge. He loaded Mr. Dean and me in the Polaris and he proceeded to show us the rest of the property.

As soon as we returned to the lodge we loaded up tree stands and blinds and headed out for the evening deer hunt. We didn’t have any deer sightings that day and returned to the lodge for a good meal and watched hunting videos. Mr. Price asked if we would be interested in shooting birds tomorrow after leaving the deer stands. We of course told him that we would love to shoot some birds.

The next morning we were up early and headed for the stands. This was another slow morning for me but Mr. Dean had a visit from a doe that after a lot of head bobbing at the blind left the food plot.

We returned to the lodge where Mr. Price was waiting. This is where it really got interesting. He instructed his care taker to go get some pheasant, chucker, and quail and release them. We then got in the Polaris with a trailer behind that had seats for hunters and kennels for the dogs. We drove over to the kennels where we collared three dogs and put them in the kennels on the trailer.

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Dog Kennels

After releasing the dogs they instantly went to work finding the birds. Not much time had passed before they were pointing the first bird. Our guide called us up on both sides and kicked the brush that the dogs were locked up on. A pheasant took flight and Mr. Dean dispatched him quickly. The dogs instantly retrieved the bird and went back to work. It wasn’t long before they were on point again. We repeated the previous process and a chucker flushed on my side. Much to my surprise I dispatched that bird. This was the first time I had done any kind of upland hunting. This process was repeated over and over. To say we enjoyed our selves would be an understatement. After we shot all the birds Mr. Price offered to clean the birds while we headed for the deer stands.

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Mr. Dean

 

That evening on stand I turned to the left in time to see a flash of whitetail and hear one blowing at me. They ran up and down the hill to my left and eventually grew quiet. Later on that evening as it was getting really dark I heard deer walking into the opening but it was so dark I could not tell what they were. We returned back to camp exhausted.

The next morning we were off to the deer stands and more sightings of does. We returned to the camp where we were treated to a lunch of Tomato gravy and biscuits, venison sausage, and grits. After lunch more birds were released and we were back in the field. This was a repeat of the first day and we shot plenty of birds. We saw a pheasant that was headed across the road. We took the dogs over and could not find this bird so we returned to the other birds and finished our hunt.

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Walter Andrews

 

We cleaned the birds from the days hunt and decided we were too exhausted to deer hunt that evening. We started packing for home and Mr. Price said that maybe we could come back in the spring for turkey season. I would be crazy not to take that invitation and told him I would love to come back. After we had loaded the last of our gear and were about to get in the trucks, we looked to the edge of the clearing and the pheasant that had crossed the road was looking back at us.  It seems a fitting end to a great trip.

For more information please call:  George L. Price (850) 537-3882 or (850) 543-0682. You can also find them online at http://horsecreekgameplantation.com.

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Historical Sites in the Florida Panhandle - Part 1

By: Gary Feduccia

The Florida Panhandle has a rich and diverse cultural history.  Thousands of years ago the panhandle was inhabited by indigenous tribes as evidenced by the numerous piles of oyster shells (middens) surrounding area bays.  Later period Indians of the Mississippi culture built mounds near their settlements and population centers.  In 1559, the Spanish established a short-lived settlement at what is now Pensacola, that pre-dates the settlement at St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast.  Spain, France, Britain, the Confederacy, and the United States at one time or another ruled over the panhandle.

Except for Pensacola, settlements were sparse and existence tenuous.  Early settlers in the mid and late 19th century brought in cattle, hogs, farmed sugarcane, fished, cut timber, and tapped into the vast oak and long leaf pine resources to be used in shipbuilding and naval stores.  By the end of the 19th century a few brave souls had made settlements around the Destin and Ft. Walton Beach areas and across the Bay at what are now known as Niceville and Valparaiso.  Roads were primitive trails or non-existent so supplies had to be brought by steamship from Pensacola.  During this time, Pensacola was continuing to grow and to develop its naval base and would soon become a focal point and training center for naval aviation.

In the 1930's, the Army Air Corps saw the need for a gunnery and bombing range and in 1934, the town of Valparaiso donated land adjacent to the Valparaiso Airport to the government.  In 1937, the airport was renamed Eglin Field.  Expansion of the base came with the acquisition of the Choctawhatchee National Forest in 1940, making Eglin, at 640 square miles, the largest Air Force Base in the world.  Even today, commercial flights to the area land at the site of the original Valparaiso Airport, which is also home to state-of-the-art military aircraft including the new F-35 Lightning.

Tourism and development of the sleepy little towns did not take off until the second half of the twentieth century, but has blossomed ever since.  Today, there is little left of the old way of life in the area, and what there is has been preserved at various museums and sites throughout the area.  Bass Pro Shops has walls full of artifacts and old photos of the area.  In our next post, we will explore the various "must see" sites in the panhandle.

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Emerald Coast Fly Fishing - February 2012

Most fly fishers (even here in Florida) do not seriously consider getting out much this time of year, content to sit near their cozy fireplaces tying flies for warmer days, and regaling each other with stories of conquests from days gone by and grandiose plans for engaging monster fish under more seasonable conditions.  None the less, while there are certainly periods of high wind and brutal cold, there is some beautiful weather and contrary to many opinions, lots of catchable fish available.

Redfish and spotted sea trout (specks) populate the grass flats and are most often found in and around the numerous mullet schools.  Poppers at dawn and dusk will produce well.  Streamers like shrimpy-looking stuff, Y2K's, clouses, gummy minnows, hot flashes, and crabs.  Sheepshead are all over the bridge pilings and can be taken with little crab patterns like the McFlea, Bone Toads #6, and rubber-legged Flatts Critters.

In the Gulf, the Bonito schools are ubiquitous and even run the beaches, approaching to within a couple of yards of the beach.  Gotta be quick on the cast because these fish come in pretty fast and you're likely to only get one chance.  When you hook one of these on a 9 or 10-weight, have plenty of backing and a decent drag, since these brutes can run-off 200 yards very quickly.  The best flies here are the small Gummy Minnows, but other small streamers no longer than 2 or 3 inches, like glass minnows and small clousers should work well. 

Mentioning the "dark side" (non fly fishing) where lots of good fish are being taken like Sheepshead on the pilings using live shrimp, fiddler crabs, and oysters scraped off the structure, catch some of the scrapings in a net, using the oysters for bait and throwing the shells into the water for chum.  Elsewhere, Bonitos can be taken with small spoons and sometimes little jigs (including bubble rigs, if you wish).  Flounders are near the piers and downstream of Gulf structures so try using slow moving bull minnows, Gulp on jigheads, soft plastics, even on drop shots with six-inches off the bottom or so.  Redfish and trout will eat live shrimp and low-slow Gulps, but they can also be taken with top-waters like Badonk-a-Donks, Top Dawgs, etc.   Dredging the holes with slow Gulps may produce large catches of white trout, a few specks, and of course some trash fish.  A few Pompano are showing up in the shallow Gulf around dusk, but this is sporadic at best.

By: Charles Leech
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Outdoor Recreation Near Destin, Florida

Okaloosa County along with neighboring Santa Rosa County are blessed with many little known opportunities for fresh water fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and camping.  Besides the numerous State Parks in the area, many State Forest Parks, rivers, creeks, lakes, and Eglin Reservation provide facilities or sites for the outdoor adventurer.  In addition, Destin's Bass Pro Shops provides everything you need for your outdoor adventure.  Google Bass Pro Shops, Destin, Fl or call (850) 269-6200 for more information.

Eglin Reservation contains hiking trails, secluded stocked ponds, and primitive campsites scattered among its 640 square miles.  Users must first obtain an annual Eglin Recreational Permit from Jackson Guard Headquarters in Niceville, for a nominal fee.  Contact Jackson Guard at (850) 882-4164.

In the upper reaches of the two counties, several State Forest Parks are worth visiting and are much less crowded and much less expensive than the highly advertised and promoted State Parks.  These parks offer clean restrooms, stocked lakes, hiking trails, and beautiful campgrounds ranging from primitive to fully equipped sites for your tent or RV.  No gasoline motors are allowed on any of the lakes, but trolling motors, kayaks, and canoes are welcomed.  Swimming is not an option due to the alligators and other critters in the lakes.

Karrick Lake in Okaloosa County is some 9 miles north of Baker off CR 189, and consists of a 65 acre lake with campgrounds on both the north and south sides of the lake.

Hurricane Lake, in extreme northwest Okaloosa County has a 318 acre lake with campgrounds on the north and south sides of the lake.  Hurricane Lake may be reached by driving west of Baker on Hwy. 4 for a couple of miles to the intersection of Beaver Creek Road.  Travel about 7 miles north on Beaver Creek Road, or if you miss the intersection, keep going west on Hwy. 4 until you see Hurricane Lake Road.  Take a right and travel north for about 8 miles.

Across the line in Santa Rosa County just a few more minutes west of Hurricane Lake Road on Hwy. 4 is another State Forest Park, Bear Lake.  It consists of a 107 acre lake with campgrounds, hiking trails, and a mountain bike trail.  The Sweetwater Trail runs about 1 1/3 miles to the Krul Recreation Area, a popular swimming and camping site, that is also accessible from Hwy. 4.

All of these areas are within a 2-hour or less drive from Destin and offer many opportunities for the outdoor adventurer.  For more information on these and other little known recreational sites, Google the "Blackwater River State Forest".
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The Amazing Orion Cooker

The stainless steel Orion Cooker available at Bass Pro Shops may well be the most innovative outdoor cooker invented in recent times!  It is almost foolproof with the only variations being in the cooking times and whether or not to use dry wood chips.

The Orion Cooker is NOT a smoker or a grill.  However, it allows limited use of wood chips to provide a smoky flavor.  It is a convection cooker that also builds up steam and a bit of pressure to cook foods to perfection in a remarkably short period of time.

The Orion uses approximately 20 lbs. of charcoal briquets per use.  Although the directions say to use Match Light or similar easy light charcoal, I find that using regular briquets soaked with lighter fluid works just fine.  I don't recommend using natural charcoal since it burns too quickly and hotter than briquets.  Also, make sure the charcoal is completely lit before closing the lid and timing the cooking process.  Nothing could be easier.  Close the lid and come back according to the cooking times listed with the directions.  Be sure to make a couple of copies of the cooking times for future reference in case you lose the directions.

It's also a good idea to cover the drip pan with foil for easy cleanup later.  In addition, be sure to place one of the three supplied grills in the bottom of the Orion just above the drip pan to catch any falling meat.  I've cooked whole racks of ribs that got so tender that they separated and fell to the bottom!  Everything that I have cooked in the Orion has come out moist, tender, and most of all delicious!  Ribs, turkeys, briskets, and more; all turn out wonderful!

After several uses, the stainless steel may become discolored due to the charcoal's heat.  This does not affect the Orion in any way.  When the outside and inside get really nasty, a simple application or two of Easy Off Oven Cleaner will usually do the trick.

Hey, don't just take my word for it.   Click on the Orion Cooker at the Bass Pro Shop web site and read the numerous reviews by enthusiastic owners.  You may never use that old smoker again!
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