9 Texas Birds All Texans Should Know

   Birding is one of the fastest-growing outdoor activities in the U.S. With 639 species of birds documented in Texas, things really are bigger and better here in the Lone Star State. Birding in Texas is year-round, thanks to our location and diverse eco-regions, and can be rewarding in every corner of the state. TPWD's wildlife trails make it easier than ever to find the best birding hot spots.

   Learning to identify all our state’s birds can be a daunting task, so here’s a list that’s been trimmed down to some of the more ubiquitous and easily seen species.

   So, armed with this starter list and a helpful birding guidebook and a pair of binoculars, head out to your yard and see how many you can spot and identify. Once you’ve conquered your own little patch of green, try it at a state park. Bring family and friends and turn it into a contest. You’ll find being bird-brained is fun for everyone.

 

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Northern Mockingbird

Such a list, of course, has to begin with the state bird of Texas. This gray and white bird makes up for its drab appearance with a voice that could compete in any singing competition. The Latin name (Mimus polyglottos), which translates loosely to “the many-tongued mimic,” really sums up this songster. Instead of singing its own song, this bird performs like a tribute band playing an original band’s song note for note. A seasoned male mockingbird can sing the songs of dozens of other species found nearby and make a variety of other vocalizations, from frog sounds to car alarms.

 

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Red-Tailed Hawk

Known colloquially as the “chicken hawk,” this large raptor can be seen in just about any open habitat, with numbers reaching their peak in Texas during the cold winter months. Often seen sitting on a commanding perch along our highways, the hawks look as if they’re watching traffic pass by when, in fact, the grassy medians support lots of tasty rodents. This fondness for rodents makes them good neighbors for us. Instead of red, look on the top of the tail for more of a terracotta-orange color. While it’s perched, two of its best features are often visible on many but not all individuals: a dark belly-band across its white underparts and the messy white blotches on an otherwise chocolate-colored back.

 

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Great Blue Heron

More old-timers refer to this species as a “blue crane,” but this heron is not related to cranes. This tall wetland inhabitant will hunt for fish, frogs, crayfish and the like in just about any creek, pond, lake or roadside ditch. With an overall grayish color, this bird does have hints of blue-gray here and there. In flight, the great blue heron might conjure up beliefs that pterodactyls still fly our friendly skies. When waters freeze in winter, don’t expect these birds to chip away at the ice. Instead, watch them switch to dry upland settings in search of rodents. Who knows, maybe a switch from slimy fish to furry rats every now and then breaks the monotony!

 

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Barn Swallow

Some call it the “mud swallow” because it builds open, cup-shaped nests from mud on bridges, culverts, porches and patios. If a nest shows up on your front porch, you might have to deal with occasional dive-bombs from a protective parent and a small pile of poop you’ll have to wash off. These aerial insectivores are good neighbors, though, since they eat a lot of our yard’s pesky insects; in some cultures, it’s a sign of good luck if the nesting birds select your home. Watch for their deeply forked tail and, when the sunlight hits them just right, a beautiful iridescence of dark blue-purple on the head, back and tail. There are two other mud-nesting swallows in Texas, the cliff and cave swallows, but neither has a forked tail. Also, the cliff swallow sets itself apart in terms of architectural design with a gourd-shaped mud nest.

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Turkey Vulture

Early American settlers from Europe confused this carrion eater with the “buzzard” back home, but the two aren’t alike. Though the name “buzzard” is used in other parts of the world for hawks, it refuses to be erased from our vocabulary for vultures. When soaring, this vulture has a silvery tinge to the trailing edge of the entire wing. When they’re feasting on roadkill, notice their milk chocolate coloration and, in adults, a red featherless head. Only a mother could love a face like that. There is another species of vulture in Texas: the black vulture. The black vulture sports a gray featherless head and is dark black. During flight, black vultures also have the silvery tinge to their wings but only on the outer tips. If we didn’t have vultures, our roadways would soon be overrun with smelly, unsightly roadkill

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Killdeer

How great would it be if every bird were named for its vocalization, like this one? A resounding “kill-dee, kill-dee, kill-dee” can be heard not only in natural settings, but also in ball fields and parking lots. In flight, watch for the fiery orange rump and pointy wings and, when perched, watch for two distinctive black bands across the breast resembling wide necklaces. If you approach one and find it limping away with a drooped wing and loud cries, know that you’re being duped. This action — called feigning — is designed to lure you away from a nearby ground nest or nestlings, so tread lightly.

 

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House Sparrow

This species is not native to the Western Hemisphere. Introduced more than a century ago, it has spread from Alaska to Argentina and all points in between, including Texas. Our state’s first sighting was in Galveston in 1867. If there are a few houses or grain silos around, there will be house sparrows. They’re actually weaver finches; folks who have found their bulky nests constructed of wispy grasses can attest to this. Purple martin landlords who aren’t monitoring their nest boxes can get overrun with these pesky sparrows. The male has a black goatee; the female is very dull and plain, but her pale eyebrow is readily seen. In urban settings, this is the expected sparrow in parking lots, often gathering into huge, noisy roosts each evening.

 

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Eurasian Collared-Dove

This non-native dove first arrived in Texas via Texarkana in 1995 and quickly spread throughout the state. In urban settings, watch for a large pale dove with a black ring around the collar. More importantly, open your ears to the incessant cooing sounds of these doves, as they are prolific singers. A unique vocalization they make as they’re taking flight or about to land is reminiscent of a loud kitty’s meow. If you spot them at the seed feeder, you’ll see that these doves are larger than their native cousins, the white-winged and mourning doves. The collared dove has taken the place of the paler, ringed turtle-dove, another non-native dove, and appears to be calling Texas home for a long time to come.

 

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Cattle Egret

Sometimes referred to as “cow birds” for their fondness of following cattle, these birds are fairly new to Texas, making their debut here in 1955 on Mustang Island. They follow cattle because, while walking or grazing, big bovines flush insects hiding in the grass. Those insects are precisely what the egret desires. The egret is not plucking ticks off the hides of livestock, a common  misbelief. During the breeding season, watch for straw-colored  patches of  feathers on the head, breast and back of these otherwise white birds. These birds seek refuge in numbers. Their communal nesting colonies, called rookeries (or, more correctly, heronries), can be very large, with nests numbering in the thousands and often mixed with other species of egrets, herons, ibises, cormorants and more. There’s great safety in numbers — humans live in similar settings we just call neighborhoods.

You can find hiking and birding supplies by visiting your local Bass Pro Shop in person or online at www.basspro.com.

 

 

 

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Why NOT to Change Your Own Oil in Your Boat

Here is good reason you should have a qualified tech, such as Tracker @ Bass Pro, change the oil in your boat. Several years back, I had a person leave a flier on my boat which was located at a marina on Lake Ray Hubbard in Dallas, Texas. The flier offered to change the oil and filter for $150.00 while it stayed in the slip at the lake. I was taken back at the price of an oil change. This did prompt me to change the oil in my boat, but I decided to do it myself. After all, I had changed the oil in my truck numerous times and thought I knew it all. My boat is a large 30 foot cabin cruiser and the engine is below the main floor deck. This put the drain plug several feet below where I had to lay down and contort my body to remove the plug. I also had to do the same thing with the oil filter. Not wanting to spill oil all over the bottom of the bilge, I put some thought into how best to remove the oil without making a mess. 

Using an oil pan that had a replaceable cap seemed to be the a good idea. I also decided to drop the filter into a couple of plastic bags and tie them up so I did not get oil all over the deck of the boat. Everything went smooth just as I planned, or at least I thought. After I finished the oil change, I decided to take the boat out for a spin. As soon as I left the marina and throttled up, my make a funny noise and seized up. After getting the boat to the repair shop, the tech showed me what had happened. The "O" ring from the old filter had not come off when I removed the old filter. When I put the new filter on, it made a pinch point for the new oil to squirt out. Remember, when I removed the old filter, I dropped into a couple of plastic bags so I did not get oil on the boat. I had never even heard of this happening.

The tech stated he had heard of this occurrence, but had never seen it happen in his nearly 30 years of working on boats. This turned out to be a $2500 oil change since I had to buy a new engine. That $150 oil change seemed very cheap in hind sight. The main thing I took away from all this is if I had a reputable company change the oil, I would not have had to buy a new engine. And if something did go wrong, then someone else would have been paying for that new engine. To this day, I only have my boat serviced by qualified tech's, like the people that work for Tracker @ Bass Pro.

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July Outdoor Activity of the Month: Paddling

Paddling: July Outdoor Activity of the Month

Paddling Caddo Lake - Photo Contest WinnerKeep cool this summer and have fun with your family and friends! Go paddling in a state park or along a designated Texas Paddling Trail. 

On the water it’s easier than ever to experience a closer view of wildlife and scenery! Many state parks offer places that will rent you the equipment you need: canoes, kayaks, and life-jackets, as well as teach paddling basics.  

 

Glide Along Texas Paddling Trails

Over 60 designated Texas Paddling Trails provide well-mapped, accessible day trips in a variety of settings and for all levels of paddling experience. Visit the Paddling Trails website for trail maps and photos, info on canoe/kayak rentals, directions to designated access sites and fishing and wildlife information. Your local Bass Pro also has numerous styles & sizes to purchase. http://www.basspro.com/Kayaks-%26-Canoes/_/S-12225007000

Dallas/Ft. Worth: There are 8 Texas Paddling Trails within an hour of DFW. They include: Dallas Trinity Paddling Trail, Joe Pool Lake and Walnut Creek Paddling Trail (Grand Prairie), Lake Arlington Paddling Trail,  River Legacy Parks Paddling Trail on the Trinity River (Arlington).

Learn to Paddle

How to Paddle Video If you are looking for some paddling tips before you head out: 

Water Conditions and Safety

Open bodies of water (lakes, rivers, bays, bayous, ponds, oceans) are vastly different from neighborhood swimming pools and therefore warrant extra precautions. The key differences are that there are no lifeguards; water conditions can change rapidly; and underwater currents sometimes exist. Before you go paddling, tell a friend or family member where you will be and when you expect to return.

It is recommended that everyone who participates in boating wear a life jacket. In Texas, children under 13 years of age in or on vessels under 26 feet must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket. All vessels (including canoes and kayaks) must have a sound producing device and at least one Type I, II, III or V life jacket of the proper fit for each person on board.

Remember: The life you save may be your own!  

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June Outdoor Activity of the Month: Fishing

June Outdoor Activity of the Month: Fishing

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Fishing in a Texas State Park or local Neighborhood Fishin’ lake stocked with fish is fun, affordable and a great way for family and friends to be together in nature. Plus, there’s a good chance your fish will be keepers and end up as a delicious fresh-caught meal for all.

 

Boy with dad and catfish.

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Where to Fish

Texas State Parks: Over 70 parks offer fresh or saltwater fishing from shore, pier or boat. Everyone fishes for free (no licenses are required). Many parks offer tackle-loaner programs and special fishing classes and events.

Local Neighborhood Fishin' Sites: Lake Grapevine, Lake Lewisville, Lake Fork, Lake Ray Hubbard, Joe Pool Lake, Trinity River, Lake Ray Roberts, Possum Kingdom Lake, Richland-Chambers Lake, Lake Tawonkani, Lake Palestine, Cedar Creek Lake, Lake Granbury, Brazos River, Lake Whitney, Colorado River just to name a few that are great fishing spots in this area. 

Kids under 17 fish for free and no fishing license is required. A fishing license is required for adults.

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Beginner Fishing Programs

Want to go fishing or take your kids fishing, but don't know where to start? Bass Pro in Grapevine offers a kids fishing event every Saturday from 11am to 1pm. You can also find fishing tackle to meet all your needs. Please our website: http://www.basspro.com/

 

Boy fishing with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

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How to Support Healthy Fish Populations

Everyone plays an important role in maintaining healthy quantities of fish and fish habitats. When you purchase a fishing license, you are supporting fishery management, hatcheries, conservation and education. By learning to identify fish and respecting fishing regulations, you can help protect fish populations, ensuring that they will continue to be available now and in the future for all who want to go fishing. =============

 

What to Bring

 

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Coyote Hunting Tactics

If you want to maximize your productivity on stand you might be asking, when is the best time to coyote hunt? What effects does temperature, barometric pressure and moon phase have on coyote hunting and how can you use them to your advantage? If you have the luxury of choosing which days you would like to get out calling, then answers to these questions will help you know when the most productive times would be to be out in the field.

Think Coyote

Think like a coyote. Why does a coyote need to move? To hunt, defend their territory, breed, etc. Since they rely heavily on their nose or olfactory stimuli, the biggest factor that limits their movement is wind speed. Because of this, when the wind picks up coyotes lay low. Now, that being said let’s talk about other factors to consider when deciding when the best time to coyote hunt is.

Temperature

Coyotes are no different than any other animal. When it is hot, they like to stay cool. They will do most of their hunting after sun down when it’s cooler. This isn’t to say that you can’t call them in on a hot summer morning, because it happens, but when the temperature is cooler they are more responsive. So just what is a good temperature? I have found when the temperature stays below 60 degrees I can call all day long and still have success. As soon as it gets above this temperature coyote activity declines.

Barometric Pressure

What about barometric pressure? This is something that I haven’t taken the time to capture specific numbers on, but I can tell you that it does affect coyote movement. Just before a storm the air pressure will drop and after the storm the pressure will rise again. Mississippi State University did a research project on carnivore ecology and found that coyote activity decreases as the pressure decreases and increases as the pressure increases. So that being said, the best time to hunt would be after a storm instead of before. My theory is that the prey animals hunker down before a storm and come out as soon as it is over..

Moon Phase

And last, what about the moon phase? One thing I like to do is keep a log of the days I go out calling, how many I called in, shot, etc. I went back through the years of data with the moon phase in mind to see if there was a trend indicating which phase was the best for coyote calling. I found full moon was a little tougher due to the coyote’s eyesight. On a full moon he see’s almost as well as during daylight hours. It is harder to conceal and trick him into coming in during full moon phases.

So in answer to the question what is the best time to coyote hunt, I think if I were to describe the ideal day of calling it would be one that has minimal wind, cooler temperatures, overcast skies, and just after a storm. But since those days don’t come around all the time, just make the most of and enjoy those days when you can get out in the field.

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Summerization- What does it do for you?

The weather is warming up and spring is in full swing. This can only mean one thing here in North Texas, the fish are jumping and the lakes are calling! Before you head to the lake to catch that record breaking bass or catch monster air off the wakes be sure to have your boat summerized by your Tracker Marine Boat Center.

During the process of the Gold Summerization the Power Pro Technicians will go over 7 list items to insure your boat is 100% water ready for this year’s season.

  1. Hook up all hoses and install drain plugs on Inboard/Outboard engines.

During the winterization process, all the drain plugs and hoses are removed to insure that any water in the engine and boat will drain completely. In order to get back out on the water the hoses and plugs are re-installed in your inboard engine.

  1. Add fuel system cleaner.

Fuel system cleaner in added to insure that the fuel left in the tank through the winter is clean and wont gum up the fuel filter or carburetor when you start up your inboard/outboard engine.

  1. Run and check all dash mounted accessories.

Power Pro technicians check all the dash mounted accessories, such as your fish finder, to make certain that you will be able to find the fish you’re looking to catch and the depths at which they live.

  1. Replace water pump impeller.

Impellers are replaced to make certain that your inboard/outboard engine won’t overheat through summer use. The impeller is an internal component inside the engine that feeds the engine with cool water keeping the engine cool and running smoothly.

  1. Load test batteries.

In order to make sure you don’t run out of juice on the lake, the batteries will be load tested for quality and longevity.

  1. Run out and check throttle and shift operations.

Power Pro technicians will check the throttle and shift operations to be sure they are fully operational so you won’t be left without any way to get back to the dock after a full day on the lake.

  1. 34 point inspection.

Power Pro technicians give a full inspection from trailer coupler to engine prop, ensuring that you are 100% safe and in good running order for this summer’s season.

http://dallas.trackerboatcenter.com/service/scheduleservice.cfm

Once your boat has been summarized by a Power Pro technician, you will have the peace of mind and comfort of knowing your summer season on the water will be full of fun and excitement without concern!

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Tips & Tricks for Bow Fishing from the Pro’s

When shooting larger Carp, always have someone with another bow for a backup shot, or at least a gaff. Most large fish are lost at the boat. Connor Hankinson

Know your bow! Aiming low is a rule of thumb, but for longer shots you will need to compensate for the trajectory of your arrow (how far it drops). This is different for every bow. Jonah Powell - River Bottom Outdoors

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When shooting grass carp, aim behind the gills because there is a rock hard plate that covers their head, you have a much better chance of full penetration if you don't shoot this. Tyler Gerber -back country bow fishing

When you go bow fishing, take a friend or someone new to the sport. Your friend can back you up on a second shot if you miss or shoot the second fish. They love to travel together in schools. If you can't get your friend to go, take a person that is curious about the sport. It is a great way to make our sport grow and it is always more fun with others. - Dan Swearingin

You really can't aim low enough, especially if shooting in Deep waters. -- Austin Armstrong, Sand Lake MI

When shooting catfish, the best time is at night in between sunset till about one in the morning. -- Justin Dillon Lexington, SC

If you shoot a fish and it bleeds a lot go back to that spot later and there may be gar or bowfin that were attracted to the scent. - Austin Armstrong, Sand Lake, MI

Make sure you use the right point for the fish you're going after. This was a lesson I learned quickly when I lost a nice size Gar because I was using a Ray point. He spun and released the barbs. - Leo, S. Louisiana

I do a lot of shooting in deep water situations, and I have found that using an arrow point with barbs that fold down very close to the arrow shaft causes the arrow to move straighter in the water for those shots over a foot deep or so. - Brian

When shooting spawning carp, the Females are usually the larger in a small group and the males will chase her, shoot the largest in the group and don’t pull her out of the water. Let it settle down and your partners will shoot the rest of the remaining males because they won’t leave her. --Tyler

Don't bow fish on a very windy day. It’s almost impossible to see fish. - Rod

Do not over fish one spot; it will stay a good spot if you do not over fish it. - Rod

If legal in your area, chum with corn, bread, and dog food as much as possible to keep large amounts of carp in one area. - Rod

At night, walk along irrigation ditches with a spotlight. You'll be surprised at how many fish there are. - Rod

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Sometimes a fish can be just a slight discoloration in the water. - Austin, Sand Lake, MI

When fishing freshwater dogfish, just look for their fins. They do the wave. - Austin, Sand Lake, MI

When shooting anything from a boat make sure to use a gaff, easiest way i have found to get fish in the boat. ~ Zach Clausing WI

The best way to fish is at night time. You don't really have to worry about shadows and with a good spotlight you can find the fish more easily than they can find you. - Daniel Ballard

I have found that toward dusk or dawn you get a bad glare on the water and to help with the glare buy a nice pair of polarized sunglasses -- Aaron Black, Onsted MI

When bow fishing Southern Louisiana marshes, bring a big ice chest. --- Matt Weber, N.O., La

When bow fishing for big grass carp or anything big for that matter, DO NOT grab the line when the fish makes the first run. I learned that today....9 stitches going up my finger!!! - Michael

When bow fishing off of a dock or off of the bank, put some corn 3-4 feet out in the water and huge amounts of carp and buffalo will come. -- Chance Tuder

A tip for muddy water carp slayers: When going for buglemouths in mud-bottomed waters, keep a close eye for fins sticking out of the mud, as carp will often bury themselves in it when spooked, only to be revealed with a loud thrashing as you go by them in the boat. -- Andy "Carp Slayer" Waltman, Little Falls, MN

Learn How to make boilies, those carp baits used by carp fisherman. Drop them near a likely carp spot; they're great because most other fish ignore them. They are a carp magnet! - Bill Young

While shooting carp from the bank, move very slowly and look for the top outline of the fish in the water. It helps if you have polarized sunglasses. -Jared McCreary Durant

OK When fishing in deeper water for buffalo and you see the bubbles coming from the bottom where they are feeding. Try waiting for a minute or so before moving on, often he fish will feed for a few minutes and then rise and move over a few feet to a new place to feed. When they rise to move this will offer you a shot on them. Often times the bigger and faster the bubbles rise the bigger the fish will be. -- Mike Tubbs, Mississippi

Put a loaf of bread in a minnow trap and throw it within shooting distance. Tie it in place with a rope so it does not float off. Carp will come up and suck on the minnow trap allowing for an easy shot. (Put a rock in the bottom of the minnow trap so it does not roll around on the bottom) --- Chad

Look in shallow swamps connected to lakes about 5" to 10" of water with fallen trees and cattails I have found carp a month after ice out going to the shallows ---Aaron Black, MI

On hot days when you are not seeing any carp look under logs and brush piles. ----Luke, Minnesota

To get an easy shot on carp, put dog food in a metal minnow bucket (the ones with holes in the sides), and put it in the water. You can either let it drift or tie it to a tree or other cover sticking out of the water. The carp will come up and suck the dog food out of the bucket, allowing for an easy shot. ----Rusty Nace

We will drift from 50 or 60 yards out into the shallows, between two groups of carp while they are rolling. Some of them will get curious and move from one group to the other. Be patient, and watch both sides of the boat. If you miss a shot stay there and wait you will get another shot. I've shot at the same carp three times before connecting. - Jason

Often times when you shoot and miss a carp they will spook, but many times they make a circle and return to the same spot, as if curious as to what caused the commotion. If you do not disturb the shot arrow, your partner will get a shot at the same fish. They are on high alert then, so be ready for a fast shot. — Dick Bassetti

If carp are gathered in a submerged tree and you can't get a clear shot, then throw a few stones several feet away from the tree. Carp are curious and the bigger ones tend to investigate allowing an easier shot! — Timothy Fynn

When bow fishing in creeks or rivers, concentrate your efforts on deadfalls and other obstructions, as carp will consistently gather to feed on what builds up in front of the blockage. — John Alan Caddell

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When hunting carp in shallows, keep your shadow off the water. It will spook the fish. — Michael If you put the big fish on a stringer and let them swim alongside the boat, other fish will come and swim next to them, allowing for an easy shot.— Jeff Hogue, Omaha, Ne

When bow fishing for carp, you will usually find them in warm, shallow water around bushes, rocks and any other cover. — Joey

Look for carp in cattails at any time of the year. — Jeff, Stratford, WI

On Lake Michigan, carp will feed on seagull droppings. — Jeff, Stratford, WI

After shooting a large grass carp, don't put pressure on the line. They will sometimes stop after running a short distance, allowing you to get another arrow into it to ensure it doesn't get off. — Jeff, Stratford, WI

When shooting carp in rivers (from the bank) draw your bow before you get to the water allowing you to get a quick shot off before the carp spook off. — Morgan Longshore

After a successful hit on a carp, push the arrow down into the sand (or mud). With one hand on top of the arrow, dip the other hand into the water and grab the bottom of the arrow so your fish won't slide off! This only happened to me as a youngster!-live and learn. — Joe Roe

If you see a decent amount of carp holding in one spot, chances are they feed that area consistently. Even if they don't show themselves the minute you arrive, give it time. Hot spots and patience are the keys to successful bow fishing. — Dominic Coville

When wading for drum in creeks don't be afraid to chase a fish down, They tend to take off fast and slow down just as fast (unlike carp) making it possible to get in close for a shot. — Christian Goodpaster, Southern Indiana Bow fishing

Anytime bow fishing in shallow creeks look for pools; they may be only 3-5 inches deep in some cases, but these "holes" gather fish from shallower water and provide holding areas. — Christian Goodpaster, Southern Indiana Bow fishing

When shooting fish coming directly at you, shoot just below the mouth of the fish and you will hit just behind the head. — Michelle Moskala

When you think you’ve aimed low enough, aim lower and keep one sight pin on your bow for surfacing fish and turtles. .It’s a lot easier. --Wrightson, Christopher

I use a slightly modified quick shot whisker biscuit on my bow fishing rig. I coated the bottom bristles with a spray adhesive to stiffen them up. This allows for quicker shots because I don't have to worry about my arrow falling off. — Cody, Pinckneyville IL

Shoot a bit lower than where you want to hit, since water will make the fish seem higher than it is. — Josh De Guzman

If a fish is quartering towards you, wait for a broadside shot. — Thomas Aim low and let go!!!!!!! — Rick, Stevens Point, WI

When shooting off of large culverts, wait for the fish to get almost inside of the culvert and then shoot, giving you a perfect straight down shot. — Justin Marc Pelzer

Be careful on long shots in lily pads. Your arrow may skip on the lily pads. — Aaron Black

If you lose an arrow in a fish, keep your eyes peeled. My cousin and I lost 3 arrows one day and shot those 3 fish the next day and got our arrows back. — John VanDusen

When bow fishing from shore or boat, don't shoot the first fish you see. Learn the patterns that the fish are swimming if possible before sending that first arrow. Whether you score or miss, you will now know where to look for the next rising fish. Fish are very predictable. Once you find a hotspot, always a hotspot as long as they aren't disturbed. — Dan Swearingin

When fishing for gar, try using a container filled with blood to attract them where legal. -- Susan

When river fishing, look for gator gar in a deep hole by creek inlets.—Jeff, Stratford, WI

When you see a couple of big gar rolling throw four or five dead buffalo or carp around the anchored boat. Be quiet and still. The gar will mosey on up giving you an easy shot. If that does not work (which it will) throw some jug line out with a big chunk of buffalo on it about a foot deep from the jug anchor with a 1oz weight when the gar hooks on follow the gar and take as many shot as you like. Jay -- Palestine, TX

To have a more durable arrow, you can insert a fiberglass arrow into a 2213 aluminum shaft.—Tim, Georgetown, TX

If you lose an arrow in a creek or river bank or brush, come back when the water is low and get your arrow back. If you lose an arrow in the water, don't dive in after it unless it's your last one! It's not worth it, I know from experience. — Tyler Krukar

Keep a marker to throw if your arrow breaks off, it makes them much easier to find. — Kelby Scott

To get rid of the fish smell on your hands, take some toothpaste or a citrus soda like Mountain Dew and clean those smelly hands. It works great.—Tim, Georgetown, TX

When fishing with a trolling motor, set it as low as possible and drift into the school of fish, don't make any sudden movements and wear polarized sunglasses.—Scott

When shooting carp from a boat, make sure you put the plug in the back or it will sink, I speak from experience. —Scott

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Flippity Floppity

It is that time of year again, time for flip flops and sandals.  Several different types and brands are now out for your needs.  Men, women, and kids we have all sizes.  Check out some of these brands.

Natural Reflections

Enjoy a fun look and great comfort from a lightweight sandal with the Rainforest Sling from Natural Reflections. The Rainforest's uniquely styled synthetic upper provides the foot-hugging comfort of a stretch fit design. Combined with the sandal's comfort footbed, this easy-wearing slip on keeps your feet in comfort all day long.  Also comes in four different colors.

 

RedHead

We took everything we know about all-out comfort and put it into one sandal. Under the supple suede leather footbed lies a billowy, super-soft cushion -- like slipping your feet into a bed of cotton. Ultra lightweight stitch-to-sole construction with full grain quality leather uppers provide long lasting toughness without the leadfooted feeling. Hook'n'loop closures deliver a custom fit that's unmatched.

 

Sanuk

This is not a shoe. It's a sandal.
Featuring a shoe upper on a sandal bottom, Sidewalk Surfers™ combine the year-round style and protection of a shoe with the natural comfort of a sandal. We like the call this Barefoot-Un-Technology™. This sandal-shoe hybrid allows your foot to bend and flex the way nature designed you to walk. The loose upper allows your foot to spread so it can absorb shock naturally. This strengthens the small muscles which support your arch and encourages you to walk correctly. Sorry if there are no springs, coils, pumps, or air-bags, but after walking naturally you won't want to wear anything else.

 

Reef

 

Have you ever been strolling around looking for a bottle opener?  Well this pair of flip flops has got you covered.  Enjoy the airy comfort of a classic beach sandal with modern comfort technology in the Reef® Fanning Sandal for Men. The Fanning combines a water friendly synthetic nubuck upper with a compression molded EVA midsole with anatomical arch support, surrounding your foot with easy-wearing comfort. Reef's Icon Herringbone non-marking rubber outsole delivers sure wet-dry traction over various surfaces. The Fanning also features Reef's built-in church key in the outsole so you always have a bottle opener with you.

 

Cobian

This awesome pair of flip flops is the Sawman Signature Sandals from Cobian.  This has Cobain’s clear bottom featuring a U.S. serviceman graphic underlay featuring the signature of Former SEAL and counter terrorism expert Craig Sawyer.  The toe post is reinforced with Kevlar and is guaranteed not to break.  Also a good water shoe as it has great drainage in the footbed.  A portion of the sale also goes to OPERATION HAWKEYE.  To learn more about OPERATION HAWKEYE visit www.ophawkeye.com

 

 

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Did You Know Bass Pro has Soups?

Bass Pro has soups?

You can do the two step!  Uncle Bucks Two Step will add a charming touch to your kitchen before you make it.  And just wait ‘til you taste it.  Terrific for family gatherings, or a delicious heartwarming meal on a cold winter day.  Three different flavors of soup and one great black bean chili.  Below are the soups and the easy two step directions to make them.

http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Navigation?storeId=10151&catalogId=10051&langId=-1&searchTerm=two+step+soup

POTATO SOUP

Potato soup hits the spot on a cold day, but who wants to take the time to peel all those potatoes and chop vegetables? Uncle Buck's Two Step Potato Soup to the rescue! This soup mix is so simple to prepare, you'll have a hearty meal in a matter of minutes.

Just add chicken broth, milk, sour cream and a sprinkle of flour to the ingredients in this bag, and dinner is served. Great to have on hand for last minute, quick meals for the busy family on the go! This 4 oz. bag includes potatoes, red bell peppers, carrots, celery and onions.

Attractively packaged, Uncle Buck's Two Step Potato Soup mix makes a fun gift for foodies, tailgaters and pressed-for-time cooks!

 

                                  

WILD CORN CHOWDER

Move beyond boring chicken noodle soup with Uncle Buck's Wild Corn Chowder Soup mix! This quick and easy chowder is sure to please. Simply add chicken broth and whipping cream, heat and serve.

Ingredients include wild rice, corn, green split peas, carrots, red bell peppers, onion and seasonings. 8 oz. bottle.

The charming packaging makes it a great gift item for foodies and pressed-for-time cooks!

FIVE BEAN SOUP

With its charming packaging, Uncle Buck's Two Step Five Bean Soup Mix adds to the décor of your kitchen until you're ready to make it! This simple-to-prepare soup features red beans, navy beans, black beans, black-eyed peas and split peas. Terrific for family gatherings, this heart-warming soup is a great way to gather everyone around the table!

Makes a nice, one-size-fits-all gift for that hard-to-buy-for person!

                                          

TORTILLA SOUP

For a taste of the southwest, mix up a batch of Uncle Buck's Tortilla Soup! This mix makes it easy to prepare a heart-warming and filling meal. With just 2 quick steps, you'll have downright tasty soup that's a step above boring old chicken noodle.

Keep some on hand for last minute, quick meals for the busy family on the go!

The charming packaging makes it a great gift item for foodies and pressed-for-time cooks! 4 oz.

                                             

 

DON’T FORGET CHILI

There's nothing better than a steaming hot bowl of chili on a cold night! Uncle Buck's Black Bean Chili mix makes it easier than ever to whip up a batch of savory chili that will feed the masses. Just brown ground beef, venison or turkey, add the mix, water and tomato sauce and simmer. You'll be eating in no time!

Ingredients include black beans, red and green bell peppers, seasonings and jalapeno peppers for a little heat.

The charming packaging makes it a great gift item for foodies and pressed-for-time cooks!

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Use Crankbaits to Catch Pre Spawn Bass You Can Be Proud Of

Use Crankbaits to Catch Pre-Spawn Bass

When water temperatures range from about 40 to 55 degrees, bass will snatch a speeding shallow-running crankbait, yet ignore just about anything else retrieved at the same pace. These crankbaits let you quickly probe lots of water to locate largemouths that have moved from deep winter haunts to shallow pre spawn staging cover, including submerged wood, rocky banks, and early-season grass beds. This illustrated guide tells you how to choose the right shallow-running crankbait for each type of cover and how to make it irresistible to the spring lunkers lurking there. All you have to do is follow the instructions and keep the net handy.

KNOCK ON WOOD
SHALLOW WOOD COVER, especially if it's close to the deeper water of a creek channel or other drop off, is a prime place to find feasting pre spawn bass. Tie a fat-bodied craw-colored crank to 17- to 20-pound-test line and cast it to logs, stumps, and cypress knees. Run the crankbait along the length of downed trees, bumping it into limbs, branches, and roots. Be ready for a strike when the lure ricochets off the cover. If your crank hangs up, lower your rod to put some slack in the line; the lure should float toward the surface. Bass may need a little extra coaxing at this time of year, so make repeated casts to a promising piece of cover, particularly on its sunny side.

CRANK THE ROCKS
Pre spawn bass commonly stack up along natural rock or riprap banks. To catch them, position your boat over 8 to 10 feet of water along a rocky shore and cast a shallow-running crank with a wide, rounded bill at a 45-degree angle toward shore so it lands within inches of the bank. Then retrieve the bait at a slow to medium clip. Be sure to bounce it off the rocks and work it all the way back to the boat. The bass may hit anywhere from 3 to 10 feet deep. 

RAKE THE GRASS
Concentrate on grass in the deeper ends of reservoirs where clearer, stabler water conditions tend to keep bass biting this month. Use a depth finder to locate submerged vegetation in the lower reaches of creek arms. Work the edges of the weed beds, as well as the stretches of thinner grass extending from them. The border between new green grass and dead grass can also be very productive; identify such spots by purposely snagging some growth with your bait so that you can inspect it.

Target vegetation that tops out between 4 and 7 feet beneath the surface. Work a slim-bodied crank deep enough to tick the grass, ripping the lure through to spark strikes.

COLOR: Throughout much of the country, pre spawn bass are keyed in to crayfish. Make sure your red, orange, and brown cranks are the first ones out of the box.

 

BILL: A short, square shape protects a bait's hooks from snags in woody cover. For a lure that will dive in to and deflect off of rocks and riprap, choose a wide, rounded bill that angles slightly downward from the nose of the bait. To rip through submerged grass, go with a narrow, rounded bill.

Bass Pro Shops® XPS® Square Bill Crankbaits

http://www.basspro.com/Bass-Pro-Shops-XPS-Square-Bill-Crankbaits/product/10231317/

Body: Bass around stumps and blow-downs seem to prefer the wide-wobbling action of a fat body combined with a square bill. A medium-size body gives a medium wobble, best for bass in rocky cover. A tight-wobbling, thin body helps your bait maneuver quickly through the tops of weeds.

Bass Pro Shops® XPS® Lazer Eye™ The Egg

http://www.basspro.com/Bass-Pro-Shops-XPS-Lazer-Eye-The-Egg/product/51816/

HOOKS: Sluggish early-spring bass can be light biters. Your crankbait should have premium, sharp, round-bend hooks to cut down on missed strikes. Replace inferior hooks if necessary, sharpen dull ones, and check the points often as you fish.

Mustad® UltraPoint™ KVD Elite Triple Grip® Treble Hook

 

 

Hicks, Mark. "Use Crankbaits to Catch Pre-Spawn Bass | Field & Stream." Field & Stream. Field & Stream, 28 Feb. 2006. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.

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Colorblock Swim Trunks Have Arrived!

New Bass Pro Shops Colorblock Swim Trunks For Men!

http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Navigation?storeId=10151&catalogId=10051&langId=-1&searchTerm=colorblock+swim+trunks

 Let’s get geared up for Spring Break!

We have several colors and styles to choose from.  Your swim trunks start at $24.99.  Come on in and get them before Spring Breaks starts!  These swim trunks are 100% polyester for quick drying,  mesh briefs, 2 hand pockets, 1 cargo pocket, 9” inseam and a drawstring waist. 

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Awesome Professional Fishing Polos for Ladies

Come check out our bright fishing polos for Ladies!  We have just received our new World Wide Sportsman Bird’s Eye Polo Shirts!

 

http://www.basspro.com/World-Wide-Sportsman-Birds-Eye-Polo-Shirts-for-Ladies-Short-Sleeve/product/10211114/

An all-purpose polo that's great for fishing, hiking, golfing, and more. The 100% polyester bird's eye mesh World Wide Sportsman Polo Shirt is soft and lightweight with an easy drape. Moisture-wicking properties transfer perspiration to the fabric's surface, where they dry quickly. Antimicrobial properties, built-in sun protection.These short sleeve polo’s go great with all fishing pants or shorts. These polo’s are 100% polyester, moisture-wicking, soft, lightweight and have a UPF rating starting at 20 and go up to UPF 45.  They come in 6 great colors. Come on in and check out these great Polos.

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A Simple Guide to Bird Watching in the DFW Area

Bird Watching in the DFW area

The Texas State Bird: Mockingbird
(Photo courtesy Andrew Wilson)

 

 

There is over 385, species of birds in the area, from ducks to birds of prey.  There is several areas that you can visit in the area that are great spots for bird watching in the DFW.   Plus there is several organizations the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex that help and encourage this past time. 

 

All you really need to do this hobby is your eyes, but some other things that might be helpful are a pair of binoculars, to see far off birds, a note pad and pencil to write down when, where and what type of birds you find, hey maybe even draw a picture or two of the birds, or better yet bring along a camera. Maybe a field guide book, normally illustrated with drawings or photographs, which provides descriptions of birds that assists you in their identification  Of course you will want to dress appropriately for the day with a good comfortable pair of shoes.

 

Some other things you might look for is some organizations that do bird watching in the area.  A lot of these chapters will have walks and classes that they may offer.  Here are some in the DFW area to checkout.

Fort Worth Audubon Society - www.fwas.org

Dallas Audubon Society - www.audubondallas.org

www.birdingpal.org/tx.htm - List of local bird watchers in the state

http://www.birdingguide.com/clubs/texas.html - A good list of organizations in the state

 

If you want to trek out on your own, there is several spots in the area that you can explore on your own, easy day trips.

Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge – www.fwnaturecenter.org

Fort Worth Zoo – www.fortworthzoo.org  The zoo offers a Flamingo Bay, Raptor Canyon and Parrot Paradise.   Parrot Paradise is a walk-thru aviary that invites guests to get an up-close experience with wildlife. Inside the domed structure, hundreds of cockatiels and parakeets soar through the air, coming to rest on whatever looks like a comfortable perch – from tree branches to baseball caps to shoulders. Guests also have the option to buy a seed stick to feed the birds.

Fort Worth Botanic Gardens – www.fwbg.org

Colleyville Nature Center

Lake Grapevine

Cedar Ridge Preserve – www.audubondallas.org/cedarridge.html

 Trinity River Audubon Center – www.trinityriver.audubon.org

Dogwood Canyon – www.tx.audubon.org/dogwood-canyon-audubon-center

Another thing to consider is to start your bird watching early in the morning when the birds are actively looking for food and listen. You may here all kind of songs but not see anything but look to the tree for movement.

Set up feeders in your backyard and invite the birds to you.  Do some research to see what kind of food is best for your area and keep the feeders full of fresh food.  Also consider putting up a bird bath, birds do like that.

Make it a family activity, have games to see who can identify the most birds, or who can spot a mocking bird first.  This activity truly can be enjoyed by everyone and gets everybody out to the great outdoors, take a picnic, just have fun.

Most of all respect the birds, don’t stress the birds with recordings and artificial sounds.  Don’t bother nests, or nesting birds.  This may seem funny but do not advertise the location of a rare bird, it may result in habitat disturbance. 

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Concealed Carry: Not Going Through the Motions

Usually the phrase “going through the motions” carries a negative connotation—like feigning interest in hearing about Uncle Stanislaw’s commemorative spoon collection. Exciting as that may be, some of us would have to gen up a bit of enthusiasm to inspect his most recent purchase from the International Tea Set and Doily Museum.

When it comes to concealed carry, not going through the motions can be deadly.

What do I mean by going through the motions? The motions of practice! Practice drawing your concealed gun. Practice changing magazines. Practice clearing malfunctions.

Most people assume they will rise to the occasion with relatively simple and basic skills like drawing a gun, changing magazines, or clearing a jam. There’s a real easy way to disprove that notion. Enter a local shooting match; Steel Challenge, IDPA, or USPSA—it doesn’t really matter. The first time you have to perform an action under the stress of a clock running and crowd watching, you’ll most likely see how quickly you fall right back to the level of your most frequent practice—and that’s with an infinitesimal level of stress compared to any real armed encounter.

The first time you compete, I can almost guarantee you’ll mess up at least a little. Heck, in one of the training classes I took, the instructor was hollering at me (just for fun and to try to induce a little pressure while I was shooting) and I managed to dump a full magazine on the ground, eject two live cartridges and inadvertently engage the safety before getting off a successful shot. He and the rest of the class had a great laugh from that experience. It wasn’t unprofessional or malicious—just the opposite. I had been feeling kind of cocky because I was the guy shooting awesome groups at a whopping range of seven yards, so our opportunistic instructor saw a chance to teach us all a valuable lesson. By tormenting me, he showed the class how easy it is to revert to your lowest level of skill with only a little bit of induced stress.

Fortunately, developing some muscle and brain memory through practice is easy. And you can do it at home with your carry gun if you practice safe dry-fire procedures. After all, dry-firing is not as dirty as it sounds. Or, you can get fancy and invest in a practice gun like the SIRT training pistol. That’s money well spent as it provides visual feedback on where your practice shots hit.

Draw and evaluate

The most important part of draw practice at home, after observing ALL safe dry-fire procedures, is practicing with the exact type of clothing you wear when you carry. Practice with an exposed outside-the-waistband holster won’t do you much good if you’re an ankle or Flashbang bra holster carrier. Get used to sweeping your cover garment away, as appropriate to your holster choice, with every single draw motion until it becomes a habit. Experts say that you have to repeat an action 2,000 times for the movement to become habit. That sounds like a lot, but if you do 25 a day, it’s no big deal in the scope of life.

Draw and evaluate? Yes, evaluate. Remember how we talked about stress bringing out the lowest level of actual practice? There have been documented stories of police officers doing things like pocketing empty brass during shootouts with armed hoodlums, because that was their range practice regimen. I don’t believe you want to develop muscle and brain memory of pulling the trigger every time your draw your gun. After all, you may not need to shoot.

Draw and fire

Practice the full draw to shoot scenario too, because you might need that. By mixing draw and evaluate and draw and fire, you won’t be building a conditioned “fire every time” response.

Magazine changes

Here’s one we don’t always think about practicing while at the shooting range. Again, using safe dry-fire practices, start with your gun open and slide-locked, and pretend to fire a shot to simulate the magazine going empty. Now you can practice dumping your magazine to the floor and loading a new (empty) magazine. Make sure to complete the action by racking in an imaginary round.

Dry malfunctions

While you’re doing all this “normal operation” practice, why not practice the abnormal stuff too? While dry-firing, pretend there was no bang and go through a tap, rack, and evaluate sequence. You want to train your brain, eyes, and hands for that scenario too.

And the best way to practice running your concealed carry gun? Enter local shooting competitions! Such events won’t teach you beans about self-defense tactics, but they will teach you how to operate your gun under a little bit of stress. Granted, the stress of an audience, a running clock, and peer pressure is nothing like that of a life and death encounter, but it’s a start. Rather than optimize my rig, dress, and gun setup to “win” a Steel Challenge or IDPA match, I like to use my carry gun and carry clothes to get practice with the setup I use every day.

I might not beat those folks with Teflon rocket-assist holsters, one-pound triggers, and 47-round magazines, but I am getting valuable practice with the gear I bet my life on.

 

 

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Hey, Where Did That Come From?

Everyone who has used pop-up blinds for any length of time has had experience seeing deer spooked by them. Deer know every inch of their living area. Seeing a new structure where there hasn’t been one before is a cause for alarm. It takes about a week to 10 days for deer to become comfortable around a blind sitting in their feeding, traveling, or bedding area. I like to put blinds out early and brush them in well. It seems to really help calm the deer down if the outline of the blind is broken up by natural vegetation. You don’t have to totally cover the blind, just use plenty of cover so it no longer looks like a blind.

Only open the window on one side

Deer pick up any movement and if you have a window open behind you, they will see your silhouette and you will not be able to move at all. Only open the window on the side that you expect to shoot from.

To remain hidden in a blind, you must eliminate light and minimize movement. A deer will pick up on any movement inside the blind.

Wear black

Many hunters have spent good money on quality camouflage, but in a ground blind, nothing beats black and lots of it. A black shirt, black hat, and even a black face mask will help you avoid being detected. With little light inside the blind, black makes it nearly impossible for the deer to pick you out.

Put the blind near some “structure”

One way to get around the whitetails’ natural fear of the ground blind is to put it near something that the deer are already accustomed to. I have a friend who placed his blind near some abandoned farm machinery and killed a buck the first night out. Placing the blind next to a large brushpile, thicket, or heavy row of bushes can help it become a natural part of the landscape. Blinds that are sitting out in the open get the deers’ attention far more than those that are part of the landscape.

Use a decoy

Deer decoys are attractive to whitetails and often bring them in for a closer look or stop them for a shot opportunity, but decoys also serve the purpose of being a distraction. A decoy can cause a deer to settle down and feel more comfortable and the decoy becomes the focus of their attention so the blind is not.

 

A decoy calms deer down and focuses their attention away from the blind.

I like to use a buck decoy with one antler, so even smaller bucks do not feel challenged. Does settle down and larger bucks are likely to move in for a confrontation. I have had a lot of positive experiences using a buck decoy in association with a blind.

Get comfortable

Fidgeting is a killer when you are hunting at eye level. Find a comfortable chair and organize your gear in such a way that you do not have to make a lot of movements in order to get a shot once a deer does appear. I like to have my bow stationed on a holder so I can quickly access it with minimal movement. My rangefinder sits beside me on a small table attached to my chair. I can set a book down and be ready to shoot quickly without drawing attention to myself.

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Big Wheels Keep on Turning

The Big Wheel

 

Remember being carefree, footloose and fancy free, and willing to go anywhere on your Big Wheel?  Riding down the sidewalk, thinking you were going to break the speed of sound, then spinning out and doing a doughnut at the end of the road.  

The Big Wheel was introduced in 1969 by Louis Marx and Company.  This tricycle was had the big front wheel, made of plastic, built low to the ground and just loads of fun.  In the 1970’s it reached its popularity partly because it’s cost but also many consumer groups even said this was a safer alternative to the normal tricycle and bicycle.  Check out the old commercial.  This will bring back those memories.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzX9iRKrVvU

Well it seems the Big Wheel is making a comeback, as kids from the seventies are now all grown up and have kids of their own.  Of course now we are even safer, with helmets and knee and elbow pads, but the fun is still there.  Kids can still zip up and down the sidewalks, race each other and of course do the wonderful spin outs.  Surely this will be high on many kids list to Santa this Christmas.

 

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Making Sense of Sleeping Bag Ratings

Anyone who has shopped for a sleeping bag has become probably all-too-familiar with the temperature ratings of sleeping bags. Unfortunately, as many people have come to discover, the ratings used on most sleeping bags isn't always right. The reasons for this are many and are explored on this page.

What Temperature Ratings Mean

 
 
 

A sleeping bag temperature rating is at the end of the day, the "best guess" of the manufacturer as to how warm the bag will be for the "average person." They arrive at this number basically by giving bags to testers or employees, who then test the bags in various conditions or in an "ice box."

 

However, the "average person" is generally a rare person. You see, the reason a temperature rating will NEVER be fully accurate is because people sleep at differing body temperatures. If you are what is known as a "cold sleeper" - you are going to need a significantly warmer bag then someone who is a "hot sleeper" is.

Now, what are hot and cold sleepers? Best way to describe it is to use sleeping at home in your bed as an example in a house that is around 65 degrees or so.

  • Hot Sleeper - You are someone who sleeps most of the night with few if any sheets on. You may put the sheets on initially, but as the night goes on, the sheets seem to magically lighten up or disappear entirely. Additionally, your body itself will give off a LOT of body heat. If you have a bedtime partner and they complain about how warm you make the bed, then you are probably a hot sleeper.
  • Cold Sleeper - You are a cold sleeper if, when you go to bed, you sleep with and wake up with every single blanket piled on top of you - and often still aren't entirely as warm as you would like to be. What this means is that you have a slow nighttime metabolism - hence very little body heat being generated. Which is why you need all the blankets.

Sleep Temperature & The Bag You Buy

Once you determine whether you are a "hot sleeper", a "cold sleeper" or somewhere in between, you can now have a better grasp of what temperature rating to get in a sleeping bag.

Now, this is a rough rule of thumb here. This is nothing scientific - just my own experiences. But, I do believe it is a good gage to follow.

 

Hot Sleepers - Assume the bags temperature rating is probably fully accurate for you.

Cold Sleepers - Assume the bags temperature rating is at LEAST 10 degrees warmer than advertised. Thus, a bag that is rated to 20 degrees will likely only work for a "cold sleeper" down to 30 degrees or so. And 10 degrees may NOT even be enough, either, depending on other factors.

All Others - If you fall somewhere between "hot" and "cold", I would assume the bags temperature rating is at least 5 degrees warmer then advertised.


Other Factors That Effect The Temperature Rating

Getting the right bag to match your sleeping temperature, however, is only half the battle. You see, when the manufacturers come up with the ratings, they make several reasonable assumptions. These are:

 
 
 

Sleeping Pad is Used - A sleeping pad is mandatory. Without a sleeping pad, you are in essence sleeping on the cold ground. No matter how "hot" you sleep or how great your bag is, you'll still be cold. Moreover, the assumption is made you are sleeping on at least a midweight sleeping pad (R Factor of 5 or greater), which provides for substantially greater insulating abilities than a lightweight pad does.

Use of a Hood - If the bag comes with a hood (and most 3-season bags do), the rating assumes the hood is used and drawn up relatively tightly over the user. Remember, about 40-50% of your body heat escapes from the top of your head. If you have little or no hair up "on top", use of a hood (a good fleece hat also works) is crucial to get near the temperature rating of a bag. Even if you have a full head of hair, a hat or use of the hood is STILL needed to truly achieve the bags temperature rating.

Bag is Fully Zipped Up - This seems like common sense. But, all ratings assume you zip the bag up to the very top - not leaving it down a bit like many campers do in order to have a "bit more room" in the bag.

Tight Fit of the Bag Around User - This is another thing people forget about. When buying a bag, buy a bag designed for your height. If you are 5'10, do NOT get a bag that fits people up to 6'6. The reason is because a pocket of cold air will form at the end of the bag, keeping your feet (and thus you) cold all night long.

No Clothes! - Yes, that's right. Temperature ratings assume you sleep in the "buff", or at least in your undies. The reason is because sleeping with clothes on, and in particular cotton clothes, can actually make you colder! The cotton, in combination with the bags insulation, will make you sweat. The cotton will then absorb the water into your clothes - making you wet ALL NIGHT LONG! This will make you cold right along with it. By not sleeping with a shirt or pants on (or using fleece if you do), you can closer achieve the temperature rating. And NEVER sleep in cotton clothes.


Conclusion

 
 
 

In summary, I believe it is ALWAYS better to buy a bag that will provide you with at LEAST an extra 15 - 20 degrees of temperature rating. Doing so will allow you to use the bag in a wider variety of temperatures and also allows you to keep the bag partially unzipped or sleep partially clothed if you want to. Additionally, a warmer rated bag is really crucial if you use a lightweight and thin sleeping pad.

Remember, you can always "open up" a bag that is a bit too warm your environment to stay comfortable. But if you have a bag that is a "bit too cool" you are going to have a VERY long night! So it is always better to buy a bag that is a bit too warm than a bit too cold!

Thus, for general three season use, I suggest getting a bag rated down to a minimum of 20 degrees, preferably 15.

For four season use, don't chance around. Get a bag down to -40 degrees. -20 degrees sounds warm until that arctic blast comes through.

 

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Winterize Your Tent to Keep You Warm

Here Are Seven Tips to Help You Keep Your Tent Warm

Follow these seven tips to keep your tent warm and toasty at night. Whether you are camping during the winter or just for those chilly spring and fall nights, there’s something here that will surely help.

 

sleeping bag

Warm Tent Tip #1 

Make sure that you have a good quality temperature rated sleeping bag. To reach the maximum warmth, get a sleeping bag that is rated for zero degrees. You can also get a fleece sleeping bag liner to increase the temperature rating of your sleeping bag by about ten degrees. If you are in need of a good sleeping bag, you might want to check out the highest rated sleeping bags.

 

 

sleeping pad

Warm Tent Tip #2 

Use a sleeping pad. Sleeping pads offer more insulation than an air mattress does since air mattresses get filled with cold air on cold nights. An air mattress by itself doesn’t offer any insulation between you and the cold air in the air mattress. If you want comfort and warmth, you can put the sleeping pads right on top of your air mattress. Thermarest Sleeping Mattresses are an excellent choice.

 

 

coleman blackcat catalytic heater

Warm Tent Tip #3 

Purchase a heater for your tent. The Coleman Blackcat Catalytic Heater is a great option, for the reason that that they are made to use inside of a tent. We do not recommend however letting the heater run all night while you are sleeping. If you use one of these heaters, we suggest that you run it for a while before you go to sleep and when you wake up in the morning.

 

 

mylar thermal blankets

Warm Tent Tip #4 -

Use a Mylar Thermal Blanket to reflect the heat from the heater back down at you. Most people just think of these blankets as emergency blankets. Whether you use a catalytic heater or just your own body heat, this tip can really help a lot! Just attach the thermal blanket to the ceiling of your tent with duct tape and it will reflect much of the heat inside the tent back down at you.

 

 

knit hat

Warm Tent Tip #5

Wear a knit hat while you sleep. (You should know this one already!) A lot of your body heat is lost through your head so just by wearing a knit hat you can preserve a lot of body heat. Wearing a knit hat is better than putting your head inside of your sleeping bag while you sleep. When you put your head inside of your sleeping bag, your breath creates condensation inside the bag which can ultimately make you colder throughout the night.

 

 

warm socks

Warm Tent Tip #6

Make sure that your socks are completely dry. Even slightly damp socks can cause you to loose a lot of heat through your feet. We recommend putting on a clean pair right when you climb into your temperature rated sleeping bag. It’s also important to make sure that you don’t bundle up too much and start sweating. If you get so warm that you start sweating, you can be sure that you will end up cold and damp in the end! If you start to sweat, remove some layers.

 

 

warm rocks

Warm Tent Tip #2

Heat up a few 5 – 15 pound rocks by your fire for about an hour or so. After the rocks are hot, pull them away from the fire and let them cool down for a bit. Once they are cool enough to handle (but still very warm), wrap them in towels and put them in the foot of your sleeping bag. They can also be placed in the center of your tent and combined with the mylar thermal blankets on your ceiling. The rocks should keep your tent warm for hours!

 

* One other tip that is important that most people don’t realize is that you need to keep your tent ventilated at night. This may sound a little strange at first but there’s a good reason for it! The heat from your body and your breath itself inside your tent at night can cause condensation to build up and make everything in your tent slightly damp.

 

Remember: Dampness = Chillyness!

By keeping your tent ventilated, you can reduce the dampness and condensation, thereby keeping you and the inside of your tent dryer – which keeps you warmer throughout the night. Also equally important is that you keep yourself from sweating. If you wake up and notice that you are sweating, go ahead and remove some layers to keep dry. You don’t want to get too hot inside your tent.

Summary of How To Keep Warm In Your Tent

Wear dry socks and a knit hat. Bundle up in a few layers that you can easily remove if you start to sweat. Use a sleeping bag rated for zero degree weather. Sleep on a sleeping pad. Use a mylar thermal blanket across the top of the inside of your tent. Use a Coleman Catalytic Heater before you go to sleep and when you wake up in the morning. Lastly but also important is keep your tent ventilated.

Follow these tips and you should have a nice toasty night in your tent!

Do you have any other tips that you would like to share with us?

If so leave a comment below, we’d be glad to hear your tips!

Happy Camping, Take Care, and Keep Warm!

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I smell something, Is it you?

You stink. No, really, you stink. It’s not an insult for most of us because we can’t help it. You’re going to give off an odor no matter how hard you try. The problem for us deer hunters is trying to overcome that fact when we go hunting. There are ways to go about covering your scent and eliminating some of it.

The Nose Knows

When you communicate with others it is usually through talking or some other kind of gesture. Deer use smell to communicate. Deer have scent glands, make scrapes/rubs and generally greet each other by sniffing. Through smell, deer recognize other deer. They learn about the other deer’s sex, dominance status, reproductive state, and so much more.

How can you defeat such a powerful organ as a deer’s nose? It is a long and careful process. Let's look from the inside out, shall we?

Stand naked in front of a mirror. What do you see? Ok, stop laughing. If you really stood naked in front of a mirror because I told you to, you have bigger issues than smelling bad. Your skin releases scent and your hair holds scent. Every bit of you has some kind of scent even though you can’t detect it. So to start the scent-reduction process, you will need to take a shower. Use a good scent-eliminating soap to clean your body and hair. But know this, you still stink. Nothing can eliminate your scent. It will for a moment, but it’ll come back.

You also need to look at your breath. Scent-reducing toothpaste, mouthwash, or gum is a great idea to help in this area, but you’re still going to have some odor. I tried something new this year, the RZ Hunting Mask. This mask has a carbon filter that helps reduce some of the smells from your breath. It is pretty comfortable, but like any facemask, if you wear glasses, it can get tricky to keep them from fogging up.

 

While the rubberized outer coating on your binoculars and rangefiner will not technically hold smells, you really need to wipe them down with a scent-free wipe.

There are scent-reducing vitamins, plus, you can always look at your diet. Being gassy in the stand is not going to help your hunting.

One other thing I do is to keep a couple of towels that are washed with my hunting clothing. I only use these towels to dry off after showering with the scent-free soaps. There is no sense in showering and then drying off with a towel that smells like mountain lilies or some other fake-smelling pseudo-scent. Plus it is a really good excuse to buy some cool camo towels.

Scent-reducing clothing

Ok, so your body is clean and as scent-free as you can make it. Now you need to get dressed. There are a couple of ways to approach this. There are scent-reducing clothing lines that specialize in helping you not to stink. Or, you can use scent-reducing detergents and other products to help your hunting clothes not stink. Either way, there are some basic steps that are the same for both.

First, do a quick empty load in your washing machine and dryer so that there is no leftover smell from your regular detergent. That stuff leaves a residue on your washer and dryer. Doing a “cleanse” makes a ton of sense (but not scents) and it only costs a few cents.

After washing your hunting clothing, you need to be careful what you do. Regardless of what kind of gear you use, whether it be a scent-free specialty cloth or even just plain old cotton, you should make sure you follow the maker’s instructions to optimize the longevity of your clothing. This also helps keep the scent down. As fabric breaks down and gets thinner, it allows more of your scent to flow through it..

Once clean and dry, immediately place the clothing in a plastic bag, tub, or something similar. Wipe down the inside of the container first. There is no sense in going through all of those cleaning steps to remove the scent from your clothes, only to let it sit around loading up on all the smells around your house.

 

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Finding the Perfect Gift for Your Hunter

My husband is a hunter. He hunts for food, not horns just to let you know J So, I asked him what a hunter would want for Christmas. Would they want gifts pertaining to hunting? He told me they definitely would. Together we came up with the top items that hunters would definitely want for Christmas this year!

The main item a hunter wants is a good weapon. A shot gun, a muzzleloader, a bow. Most likely they'll want all three! Consider one of these items for this year, the next, and the next. The receiver will NOT complain...

Another thing a hunter wants for hunting season is to be warm. Hunters always wear camouflage. The Sportsman's guide is packed full of great two piece jacket and pant sets. They are available in many styles of camouflage and made by the top makers of hunting gear. You'll find Mossy Oak and the rest of the best through the Sportsman's Guide.

Hunters also love to get little items that keep them warm such as long johns and socks! Any man will appreciate a good pair of long johns on a cold day. Same goes for a nice, warm, fuzzy, thick pair of winter socks. Beware though, if you only get them one pair they may never take them off!

Hunters also need a pouch or small carrying bag of some sort. My husband has a waist one and loves it because everything he needs is right there and ready. This item is needed to hold the ammo, hunting knife, those little hand warmer packets, scents, etc. It is very handy and helps the hunter you love enjoy their hunting time to the fullest because they aren't wasting it searching for lost items!

Speaking of scents, hunters need scents. Doe scent, buck lure, etc. They smell absolutely awful to us but the deer come right too them. Hunters also appreciate the special scent remover spray the eliminates all human orders from their bodies and clothing which helps keep them undetected by the deer!

Hunters also love to collect calls. Turkey calls, doe calls, buck grunts, even squirrel calls are available. There are many other animal calls available too. These calling devices really do work very well. It's amazing. Any hunter would love to find one in their stocking or under the tree this year!

http://www.basspro.com/Hunting-Accessories/_/S-12425002000

http://voices.yahoo.com/top-ten-holiday-gifts-hunter-8372.html?cat=46

http://voices.yahoo.com/3-gifts-sportsman-gift-list-90308.html?cat=46

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