The Traveling Bowhunter. Pack Smart and Light.

The other day a guy came into the archery department and showed me a very disturbing photograph.  He had been on a 10 day hunting trip to North Dakota and on his return flight the airline ran over his bow case with the bow in it.  The bow case was destroyed and his bow took a little damage.  Imagine if this would have been on the arriving flight and not the returning home flight?

We hear time and time again about misfortunes that hunter’s experience when traveling to hunt a new area or state.  These hunters sometimes have put in for tags for several years to get the chance for a “Once in a lifetime” hunt.  On their way to the hunting adventure, the airline looses their baggage or bow.  Sometimes the gear shows up destroyed and unusable.  What do you do now?

Plan ahead!  Plan for the worst.

Many of us have driven to hunting locations and load our pickup to the gills with everything we “Might” need.  This unfortunately doesn’t work well when dealing with the airlines or even more so, a fly in trip to Alaska or Canada where you are limited to maybe 50 or so pounds of gear plus yourself and what you are wearing.

Pack Smart!  Determine what you “Need” not what you “Want” on the trip.

Use a scale to weigh what you think you need.  Find out from the airline and the bush pilot what your max weights can be and how many bags you are allowed.  Pack and weigh.

Clothing:

Layering is by far the best way to achieve all of your goals here.  Comfort, and weight reducing.  Today there are many choices of high performance gear.  Start with moisture wicking under clothes.  The are very light, compact and effective in keeping you dry.

Next layer should be a Cold Gear type of clothing.  Clothing that allows moisture to pass from you out away from your body and yet retains heat during those chilly sits.

A wind proof jacket with plenty of pockets.

Full set of high performance pants and jacket, rain gear.  Many of these will fold and stow within their own pockets.  These pieces of gear are light, compact and very effective in keeping out the rain.  Tip… Cut a ¼ sheet of chamois and place in your rain jacket pocket.  This can be used to wipe off your lenses on your binoculars and rangefinders.

Socks are often a shortcut that many hunters take or don’t think much about.  Even if the rest of your body is dry and comfortable, if your feet are damp, you will be miserable.  Purchase yourself moisture wicking liners and wool socks.  Just like you layer your body to stay comfortable, layer your feet too.  They need to breathe and release moisture to be comfortable.  In the event your feet do get wet the wool will keep your feet warm so the rest of you warm too.  Wool also dries very quickly so will be ready the following day or twos days at the most.

Boots should be very comfortable and broke in before the trip.  If you hiking many miles a day, consider a lower gram weight of insulation like Thinsulate.  This will keep your feet from overheating.  I prefer a nice arch support or cork bed to keep my feet comfortable.  Boots with replaceable liners are a good choice as you can dry out one set one day and wear the other the same day.

Gloves and hats now come lightweight and with very effective wicking and warm materials.  Your head is the primary heat loss part of your body.  Keep it warm and dry and most likely the rest of your will be warm too.

Equipment:

Purchase a SKB bow case.  They are extremely tough and take much abuse.  These cases may cost a little more but they also come with a $1500 gear insurance policy, and worth the few extra dollars in the long run.

Pack a dozen arrows with broadheads removed and store in an arrow tube.  Broadheads will pack easier removed from arrows and are less susceptible of damaging your bowstrings or gear in transport.  An extra bowstring and cables are very light and might come in handy if you or your buddy dry fires your bow or you accidentally damage the strings.  With so many different bows on the market now and each having different sizes of strings and cables, you most likely won’t find the proper set at a bow shop in any part of the country.  Carry an extra set of “shot in” strings and you will be good.

With my bow I will mark my cams with a permanent marker so that I can make sure my cams are in time at all times and if I have to change strings and or cables I can get it back in time quickly not wasting valuable hunting time.  I also measure key parts of my bow such as Nock Height, Peep Height, Brace Height, Tiller, Draw Weight and Rest locations.  I write them on a tape on my limbs so not to loose or forget them.

Binoculars, rangefinders, GPS units, SPOT units and cameras should be packed in your carry on.  You will ensure they will make it there and safely.  GPS units are a place you can save a little weight.  Garmin produces units that have GPS and cameras built in one unit.  The Rhino unit even has radio capabilities, check local laws though to see if a radio is allowed when hunting.

Now to pack it all up:

Your carry-on you should use your backpack.  Place all of your heavy items like cameras, binoculars, GPS units and rangefinders.  Pack your rain gear, gloves and caps in the pack as well.

In your bow case pack your bow, arrows and extra set of strings and cables, broadheads, a change of clothes including some socks and a change of camo.  If your other luggage becomes lost at least you still have some clothes to wear for the first few days of the hunt until your bags arrive and it helps protect your gear in the bow case.  Print on- a piece of paper, your name, destination, flight number and your contact number, as well as the hunting location’s address.   Print one of these for both the outbound and return flight and lay it on top of everything before you close your bag. This makes it really easy for airlines to know where the bag needs to go should they get misplaced.

Once you have everything packed up label your bags.  Put hard labels on the outside of your bags identifying who you are and where you live.  Before you leave on your trip print out on full sheets of paper your name, flight numbers, contact numbers and final destination.  This is true for your trip home too.  Just before you leave place the sheets that have your destination info in the bag so that if it gets lost the airline can open it and see where it needs to go.  Then do the same thing on your flight home.

The best practice is to plan for the worse.  Once you find a system that works for you record it down so that the next trip will be easier to pack.

Good luck and Shoot Straight.
 

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Base Layers - Not Just For Hunting

Winter is here and whether you hunt, work outside, hike or just shovel your driveway, the outdoor weather can make you feel cold right to the bone.  Here are a few different base layers that will help you get through that long day working or just enjoying your time outside.

The Redhead EnduraSkin Relaxed Fit Hunting Shirt is moisture wicking and has odor control.  The relaxed fit makes movement easy with a 4 way stretch.  It comes in Mossy Oak Break Up or Real Tree.  If you don't want camo we also have black.  Add the Redhead EnduraSkin All Season Pants for a complete set.

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The Scentblocker Super Skin Shirt made of merino wool and polyester fabric, is free moving and comfortable.  With technology to inhibit odor even under heavy use this shirt is durable and worth looking at.  Add the Scentblocker Super Skin Pants and you are all set.

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So remember in order to enjoy that time in the woods, or just stay warm while you are doing the essentials stop by and look at the base layers we have at Bass Pro Shops.

Robin Piedmonte - Events Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Outdoor Essentials - Winter Camping Basics

Boundary Waters CampingMention camping in snow and 32 degree temps and the first response you hear may be, "Are you crazy?" 

Bass Pro Shops Altoona Camping Associate Peter Maley has some tips for those who might want to give winter camping a try. His cold-weather camping started in Boy Scouts and has continued through the years, with winter camping in various Iowa state parks, Minnesota, and in Alaska, where he lived for 10 years.

Maley is a firm believer that people are adaptable, and some of winter camping is mental. It's mind over fear and overcoming the cold. His first major winter camp experience was in the Boundary Waters at 32 below - it snowed the whole time and their car didn’t start at the end of the trip. But, that's another story.

Maley offers up these Outdoor Essentials for getting started in cold-weather camping:

1.  Go with someone who has done it before. Cut back expectations - lose the preconceived notions based on summer camping.Gathering firewood

"Winter camping requires twice as long to do anything and you have half the daylight hours to do it, so you need to account for that," says Maley. "After 24-36 hours you begin to acclimate – it's amazing."

2.  Good preparation for clothing, menu planning and appropriate gear is imperative. Plan to eat two times your normal amount of calories just to keep your body fueled and remain hydrated. Your food should be heavy on moisture (liquid) and calories – one pot soups, high energy snack foods (chocolate-based granola), anything you can add butter to (fats). Carbs, fat, liquid. Don't worry, you'll burn them off! Maley can't emphasize enough the importance of staying hydrated. You get colder faster and you can't melt enough snow to stay hydrated.

3.  Clothing – think wool, fleece, layers. No cotton  – when it's wet it gets clammy. Even though its cold weather, you will sweat. Fleece-type materials wick the moisture away and help keep you dry and warm. Maley uses base layers of XPS Expedition Weight 3.0 and 4.0 thermals. Have breathable fleece insulating layers of medium to heavy weight – then a waterproof/windproof shell, pants and jacket. Sweating and wind will be your two biggest enemies. For hands, have three layers – a liner, then gloves, then mittens. Warm footwear – Use military quality extreme cold weather boots with liners. They'll keep your feet warm when you not doing a lot of activity.

4.  Sleep systems – An insulated Thermarest self-inflating mattress or closed cell foam pad won’t absorb moisture from the ground or your body heat...and a good-quality sleeping bag with a rating of -20...or even two. On that infamous Boundary Waters trip, Maley nested two sleeping bags, one inside the other. A bigger outside bag not only provides greater warmth, but also storage space. Use a large bag to keep boots or boot liners and clothes tucked away in the bottom of your sleeping bag, so they don't freeze.

5.  Sleeping Tips - Have a separate pair of polypropylene or fleece long underwear for sleeping, plus a balaclava, stocking hat, hot hands, and candy bars to tuck in your sleeping bag.  Remember, bears hibernate and you need the fuel!

Don't be alarmed if there is snow inside your tent...your breath contains moisture. Frost and snow flakes may form from your breath and fall down inside. But, beware! Burying your head in the sleeping bag is not good either, because that also forms moisture. Hang your sleeping bag each morning to dry.

Bathroom –  No doubt that all of the effort to stay hydrated will create the need for a midnight potty break. You have two options: A.  Use a holding device like a Go Girl or a bottle for the guys.  B.  Get dressed and go. Don't delay the inevitable.

6.  Cooking - If you're packing in to a camp site, your food needs to be easy to pack and prepare, like dehydrated food, MREs, and packaged soups. Remember, you'll need water to prepare. An insulated cup to be your coffee cup, soup bowl, and "dish" for your "camp cuisine," a Spork, and a one burner backpacking stove are all you need. Using butane or propane? Keep your fuel bottles warm in your sleeping bag. If you're using a liquid fuel stove, which Maley says is the best option, prime it with fire paste before use.Have a proper fire set-up
 

7.  Wood supply - Have access to plenty of wood. If you're not at an officially designated camp site with a fire pit, Maley suggests building your campfire on a base of logs and use bigger logs as a backdrop.

"Wood warms you twice....once when you chop it and then when you burn it. Plan on using double or triple what you would use summer camping." 

Still not totally convinced to brave the temps and try winter camping? Start small - try it out of your car at a state park. Take a warm sleeping bag, pad, fleece polypropylene clothing, winter boots (Pac boots), good stove and give it a shot.  One night, close to home, see how it goes. Take a walk and enjoy Mother Nature in her "winter dress."

Maley says he has primarily done winter camping for photography and it's also handy for hunting and scouting. The snow cover allows for better tracking of animals and their daily travels...on land and in air.

"I was hunting one New Year’s Day. I was tracking a small animal’s tracks and they just disappeared. But, in the snow there were brush marks where a hawk or an owl had flown down to grab their meal."

Above all be safe - go with someone and let others know where you're going. If it's a wilderness area, like the Boundary Waters, leave contact information for authorities and for someone at home. Visit with local outfitters about local conditions and topographical features, such as streams, warm springs under ice, etc. Have plenty of reserves for survival necessity...firestarters, candy bars, compass, and lighters.

Maley's three main reasons to winter camp?

No bugs
No people
No noise

Winter camping - a whole new experience making the outdoors available year round.

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Questions?  Ask here or connect with us at www.facebook.com/bpsaltoona or on Twitter @bpsaltoona!

 

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Before You Buy New Clothing for Hunting; Consider This!

 

Performance Features: Hunting clothing is specifically designed to provide concealment and/or comfort under tough outdoor conditions. Depending on your needs, here are some things to look for.  . 

  • Silent-Hide Quietness - Silent-Hide - For stalking or stand hunting, or any close-range work. look for soft, easy-moving cotton or polyester based material that don't "crinkle" or rustle when flexed.

  • Breathability - Free air exchange is important in any weather. Breathable fabrics allow perspiration to evaporate off your skin, eliminating the clamminess that makes you uncomfortable cold or warm.
  • Scent ControlScent Control - Some styles incorporate a layer of activated carbon to absorb human odors, keeping them contained inside your suit. The idea is to keep your scent off the breeze, so you can move in from any direction and get more shot opportunities. Though pricey, scent-control camo is very popular these days.
  • Temperature Control - Do you hunt in cold weather? then you'll want an insulated style designed to fend off those unwanted drafts.  But for warmer conditions, choose an ultra-light style that promotes enhanced air circulation; these are general made of polymesh.
  • Moisture Management - Waterproof styles prevent outside moisture (snow, rain, dew) from entering. Water-resistance styles slow moistures progress, but will keep you dry forever. Waterproof/breathable styles allow perspiration to escape without letting water in.
  • Abrasion Resistance - For hunting in heavy cover or upland fields, look for tightly woven synthetic-based fabrics such as Silent-Hide. there materials resist tearing and easily fend off burrs and thorns.
  • Insect Control - Mesh-based overclothing designed to seal off potential entry points. essential in some areas.

Construction Features:

  • Materials - Check the labels and hang tags. Synthetic fabrics (such as polyester and nylon) offer the greatest balance of performance features, and thus are pricier than natural fabrics (cotton, wool).
  • Stitching - For outerwear, look for double- or triple-needle stitching; this method of reinforcement virtually guarantees long-wearing durability.
  • Hardware/Closures - As with all things, brand names (VELCRO, YKK) command higher prices. In general, metal snaps are tougher and more dependable than plastic; 4-hole sewn buttons last longest; hook 'n' loop-type closures offer super-quick adjustability and seldom wear out over the life of the garment.
  • Insulation - Thinsulate insulation by 3M offers maximum heat with minimum bulk. Other synthetics (DuPont, Hollofil fiberfill) efficiently trap warm air, but end to loft higher. Natural goose down is unique in that it holds its warmth even when wet, but although it's extremely light in weight, it's also very bulky. Weigh your need for warmth against your activity level, and choose accordingly.
  • Pockets - Check not only the number of pockets and ouches, but also their size, placement, and types of closures. will you be able to easily retrieve an accessory while sitting in a treestand, without making a commotion?  Meanwhile, most hunters agree that the more interior pockets the better.
  • Fit, Comfort, Durability - You'll find a wide range of detailing on these types of clothing. Generally, you want a roomy, non-binding fit so you can move and shoot with ease.  Special features such as articulated sleeves, gusseted underarms and crotches, bi-swing backs and specially constructed hoods are designed to accommodate a hunter's need for comport and mobility.  Pants with snap-up or zip-up legs go on easily over your boots.  Draw cords and ties help seal out cold air, insects and debris.

Special Fabrics :

  • RedHead GoreTex JacketGORE-TEX - The standard for 100% waterproof, breathable performance in outdoor clothing.  Thousands of ting perforations per square inch keep water molecules out (they're larger), yet allow perspiration vapors to escape. Pricey, but proven-the best wet-weather protection available.
  • Durable Water Repellent (DWR) - A surface treatment that causes water to bead up and run off the fabric. Not necessarily waterproof.

General Hunting: Blaze - Most states require that you wear safety blaze orange during the gun deer season. Check local regulations. For economy, reversible styles (camo to blaze) are available at your local Bass Pro Shops.

 

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The September Issue: Fall/Winter 2011

As you may or may not know, the September issue of any fashion magazine is the largest and most important of the year. It highlights all the new Spring collections- the trends, the styles, the colors, the everything. So how does this relate to Bass Pro Shops? It's not spring and this isn't a fashion magazine.

I had a woman stop me a few days ago in the ladies apparel section. She had about 3 sweaters in her hand and her eyes were wide. I knew what she was about to say before she said it, because I had heard the same thing a few times before. "You have women's clothes? You have cute women's clothes?! I didn't know!" We do, and not many people know that. Lots of husbands get in trouble for leaving this detail out when going to pick up fishing or hunting supplies, so I hear.

So I wanted to share with you some our current collections modeled by two of our associates and some trends for this fall/winter season.

oversize sweaters

Oversize sweaters are huge this season, paired with leggings or skirts. Try mixing textures- soft knits with denim and corduroy.

On Natalie (left): Sweater, Natural Reflections Reverse Stripe Sweater, $59.99. Undershirt. Natural reflections rib panel long sleeve tee, $24.99. Pants, Bob Timberlake leggings in tea leaf green, $38. Shoes, Natural reflections Molly sweater boot $24.99. Bag, Bob Timberlake shoulder bag, $175.

On Caela (right): Sweater, Bob Timberlake Jacquard Fair Isle Sweater, $41.97. Top, Bob Timberlake denim shirt, $29.97. Skirt, Columbia Vapor Trail Skirt, $35. Shoes, Natural Reflections Delaney Ballet Flat, $19.99.

Blazers

Blazers are very popular right now- from super structured ones with exaggerated shoulders to relaxed boyfriend shapes. Try a blazer in nontraditional colors, like this wool blazer from Bob Timberlake in pumpkin spice!

On Natalie: Jacket, Lole Suitable2 Jacket $80. Top, Bob Timberlake double face long sleeve button down, $44. Undershirt, Bob Timberlake gathered Henley $40. Pant, Natural Reflections zipper side khaki pant $39.99. Shoes, Natural Reflections Brightness ballet flat, $19.99

On Caela: Blazer, Bob Timberlake Boiled Wool Jacket, $78. Shirt, Natural Reflections Plaid Woven, $24.99. Undershirt, Natural Reflections Thermal Henley, $17.94. Pant, Bob Timberlake Slimming Jeans, $54. Shoes, Natural Reflections Delaney ballet flat, $19.99

Dressier options

In Arizona, we're blessed with mild winters, so your summer dresses and skirts can transition into colder temperatures with a sweater or some opaque tights. Take this as a opportunity to layer on some jewelry as well.

On Natalie: Dress, Bob Timberlake cowl neck sweater dress, $64. Boots, Natural Reflections Wiletta boots, $34.99. Ring, mixed metal Many Flowers ring, $16.99. Tights, stylist's own.

On Caela: Sweater, Bob Timberlake twist neck sweater, $29.97. Skirt, Bob Timberlake chambray skirt, $35.97. Shoes, Brightness ballet flat, $19.99. Necklaces, from top, Matte gold leaf necklace, $29.99, matte gold rings necklace, $24.99.

Sweaters

Colors like wine and rust, even purples, are very big for winter in a number of different textures- from burnout jersey to chunky knits.

On Natalie: Top, Lole sheer long sleeve burnout top, $44.97. Undershirt, Ascend Mobility long sleeve tee, $30. Pant, Natural Reflections Heritage pant, $39.99. Shoes, Sanuk Holy Moly sandal, $48.

On Caela:  Sweater, Natural Reflection jacquard sweater, $39.99. Top, Natural Reflections Flannel shirt, $24.99. Pant, Natural Reflection Ashton straight leg jeans, $39.99. Shoes, Natural Reflection Wiletta boot, $34.99.

plaids


Plaids are everywhere, and for good reason. They can be casual, dressy, on top, on bottom, fitted, loose, anything you want. Caps are also making a comeback and offer some structure to your headwear without being constricting or uncomfortable.

On Natalie: Shirt, Natural Reflections plaid woven, $24.99. Pant, Natural Reflections classic straight, $39.99. Shoes, Natural reflections Molly sweater boot $24.99. Cap, . Bracelet, Crisscross leather cuff, $19.97.

On Caela: Shirt, Lole Cecilia Polo shirt, $70. Pant, Natural Reflections Emma Bootcut jeans,  $39.99. Shoes, Ariat Legend boot, $179.99. Cap, Scala boiled wool cap, $19.99.

Coats

Yay coats. I'm obsessed with coats, even though I live in Arizona and coat season only lasts a few weeks instead of a few months. So I've chosen a selection of jackets that will get you through the chilly season and a few coats that will keep you super warm if you travel or live somewhere where it gets colder. Don't be afraid of color or prints in outerwear. It's a great way to brighten up an outfit

On Natalie: Jacket, North Face Denali Jacket, $165. Top, Share the Care Cureageous Tee, $19.99.

On Caela: Coat, Columbia Kaleidaslope Omni- Heat Jacket, $120. Top, Share the Care Camo Ribbon Tee, $19.99.

more jackets

I love both of these jackets, because they're super lightweight and comfortable. I also like that the Columbia jacket is fitted and feminine.

On Natalie: Jacket, Columbia Cozie Cutie Shirt Jacket, $54.97. Top, Natural Reflections thermal Henley, $24.99.

On Caela: Jacket, North Face Denali Jacket, $165. Top, Columbia Greenway T long sleeve striped crew, $19.97.

even more jackets

I love this Ascend jacket, because of the texture of the wool and the motorcycle jacket feel it has. It's warm, it's stylish, it's slimming- what more could you ask for?

The Under Armour jacket looks so lightweight and like a summer jacket, but it has zone insulation and keeps you super warm without being bulky.

The best thing about this Under Armour jacket?

It does this....

zip off sleeves

With 2 quick zips, the sleeves come off and it becomes a vest!

On Caela: Jacket, Ascend Wool Bonded Jacket, $92. Top, Columbia Greenway T long sleeve striped crew, $19.97.

On Natalie: Jacket, Under Armour Semi-Fitted Choice Jacket, $129.99.

Thanks for reading! And be sure to Like us on Facebook here!

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Staying Warm While Hunting

When planning your hunting trips make sure you dress appropriately for the weather you may encounter. In addition to planning for potential rain or even snow, you also need a plan to just keep warm.

 

Being cold can make you miss an ideal shot. You don’t want to miss your target due to shivering from cold and excitement.

 

The general consensus on keeping warm is to dress in layers with good hand and feet protection. Depending on the area of the country you are in and how severe your conditions are, your layers may consist of the following: Base layer of Under Armour cold gear, wind stopper layer, Thinsulate layer, fleece-lined pants and possibly a parka. 

 

An Under Armour beanie or toboggan will help prevent significant heat loss through your Beaniehead. Socks and gloves made of wool, not cotton, are considered the best option. A variety of battery-operated (Redhead Extreme Heated Socks)or chemical-based heating elements (Coghlan's Disposable Hand handWarmers) are available to keep toes and fingers warm.   Boots should be insulated (800 grams or better) and you should wear a wicking sock liner under wool socks. Consider loosening up the laces, when you get to your stand, to allow better circulation in your feet.

 

Try to stay as dry as possible. You won’t be able to keep warm in wet clothing. When possible, try to pack or take some sort of rain protection with you. If your clothing does become wet, change in to dry clothing as soon as possible.

 

Don’t miss your target because you’re cold. Plan ahead and dress for the conditions you may encounter. This will help ensure a safe hunting season for you.

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Winter Fishing is Incredible if you Dress Correctly in your Goretex and ProLine Boots.

In 1996 I bought my first Gore-Tex rain suit and can honestly say it was the best fishing/winter gear I have every paid for or owned. That may seem unusual if you every get a chance to look in my closet at all my winter clothes. The weather where I live is usually pretty nasty for about a month in the winter. One of my best days fishing a few years a go was a cold/wet day in February with my fishing bud, but we were dressed for success that day.

 

 Once I started bass fishing seriously over 15 years ago I realized I was going to have to buy something to keep me warm and dry other than my Camouflage hunting clothing I use for deer and duck hunting. My hunting clothes that have always kept me warm in a deer stand or in the duck blind were to heavy, bulky and way to thick to wear in my bass boat. I need something comfortable and warm.

 Let’s talk about the best choice for winter clothing for us fishermen and fishing ladies. You can use the latest Bass Pro Shops catalog for a reference if needed. Bass Pro Shops' Pro Qualifier rain gear is the most advanced rain gear ever built for fishermen! Pro Qualifier rainwear is the finest in fishing outerwear I have ever worn. It features a revolutionary 2-layer gore-tex performance shell created in collaboration with W.L. Gore & Associates; they have developed the ultimate fishing outerwear system. This system is designed to handle anything you can dish out, without the weight or bulk you will find in other suits. This suit is guaranteed to keep you dry. Bass Pro Shops promises that no liquid from the outside will get to you on the inside of this clothing. Water from a driving rain you're caught in, a damp bench that you happen to sit on or grass that you kneel in can't penetrate gore-tex fabric. To be totally waterproof, a fabric must be able to withstand water entry in all active conditions and that means screaming down the lake in a bass boat at 70 mph. The Pro Qualifier Parka and pants have all the protection and features you could ask for and more! This suit is Heavy-duty, tear-resistant high-tenacity nylon; it comes with 2 fleece-lined chest pockets with waterproof zippers, 2 front bellows pockets with rear fleece-lined hand warmer pockets, adjustable cuffs, adjustable extended rain hood and drawstring waist. There is also a zip in liner that you can buy separately. I would highly recommend getting the liner.

 My choice for boots when fishing in the winter is the Pro Line® Woo Daves chukka: these boots were designed to provide top performance for fishing enthusiasts of any level. The boots are packed with features designed to enhance your experience and improve your performance. The chukka boot has water-resistant nubuck leather uppers with Breathable mesh inlays. A removable, cushioned orthopedic supports and EVA mid-soles soak up shocks. The soles have a Slip-resistant, heavy-duty vibram rubber out-soles. I always get my boots one size bigger so I can wear a high quality sock. You will not go wrong with the Bass Pro Shops – Redhead Lifetime Guarantee Hunting Socks for Men and if they ever wear out on you, just return them for a free replacement! Yep, that’s right take them back and they will replace them with no questions ask and they only cost $9.99. To say they are made tough is an understatement. They have a double reinforcement to all stress zones ensure a lifetime of faithful service. Fine grade merino wool makes these socks makes them softer than many other socks for outdoorsmen. Each pair comes with a flat toe seam for comfort; elastic arch support zone; elastic top with stretch from top to toe, for a snug fit; full merino lamb's wool cushioning throughout; double-reinforced heel, ball, and toe for long wear. Each sock has 88% merino lamb's wool. You can not go wrong with this sock.

 To keep warm you need more than just a good pair of boots, good socks and a nice Gore-tex rain suit. I always wear a knit or wool skull cap to keep my ears warm and the top of my head dry. The face, head and chest are more sensitive to changes in temperature than the rest of the body, making it feel as if covering them up does more to prevent heat loss. In fact, covering one part of the body has as much effect as covering any other. I added a hooded sweat shirt to my winter attire when going fishing. That hood pulled over my skull cap will keep my head and neck warm. That combo is great for keeping head, ears and neck warm.

 Now let’s talk long underwear, not the kind your Grandpa wore in the 50’s. I wear the Redhead Base-layer type which combines a frictionless poly-spandex blend for fast efficient moisture. This pulls the moisture away from your skin allow you to stay warmer longer. The soft spun yarn rapidly channels moisture away from the skin to reduce drying time and speeds vapor transmission. This type of clothing is ideal as a stand alone garment in cool weather or as a layering garment in cold weather. It is very lightweight and soft, yet durable poly/spandex blend allows freedom of movement. Look for a top that has a mock turtle neck to add warmth. A good set will cost you in the neighborhood of $40. What a small amount of money to stay nice and warm.

 
 The number #1 most important thing I do not go to the lake without is a good life jacket. I must admit, I will never go on the water without wearing it; I love my family too much. Remember if you ever fall in with all the above on, you must be able to swim. A life vest should be worn on top of everything else, is really hardly noticeable, and it could save your life.  I would recommend looking at the Mustang Survival Competition Inflatable PFD Vest; this vest cost $289.99. This type of life jacket inflates only under hydrostatic pressure. Only buy an automatic inflatable type vest, there is no substitute. This inflatable vest is stylish in the competition version. It features a secure zip closure that can withstand rigorous activity, heavy duty coated nylon for increased durability, and is very lightweight, comfortable, and compact. It will keep you on top of the water long enough to allow yourself to get back in the boat. Attach your kill switch to your life vest any time your gas motor is running.

Winter time fishing can be an incredible experience if you dress for success. It not rocket science folks! Have you ever seen the fisherman or group of fishermen back at the ramp that had a miserable day because they did not catch them and they are cold? Just think if that was you; you might consider another sport if that was you. Not me I will be on the lake this winter catching me some nice ones and all warm and dry.

 

About the author:

Tom Branch, Jr. is a Bass Pro Shops prostaffer at the Atlanta, GA store and a freelance outdoor writer, full time Firefighter-Lieutenant/Paramedic with over 25 years of service with the Gwinnett County Fire Service in Georgia. He has been working in the Outdoor Industry for over 15 years and has done everything from successfully managing and developing a pro fishing team, developing new products, designing packaging, participated in different radio and television shows and developing Writer’s Conferences. He and his wife Kim live north of Atlanta in Braselton, GA with there 2 labs Jake and Scout.

Check out my blog at - http://outonalimbwithtombranchjr.blogspot.com

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The Right Clothes for Camping

By Keith Sutton

The best items are not only warm, they're lightweight and non-bulky, too, and they "breathe" to let sweat and excess body heat escape.

Want to have fun while camping? Of course you do -- and you can achieve that goal by being certain you're always comfortable so you can enjoy the outdoors to the fullest. One way to do this is to select and wear the proper camp clothing. The right clothes help you get the most out of every activity by protecting you from the elements and by helping you keep cool and dry in summer and warm and dry in winter. Shorts, a T-shirt and tennis shoes may be fine for an afternoon hike in the sunshine, but if it starts raining and the wind begins to howl, such an outfit will lead to misery and even possible tragedy.

     

How much clothing is enough, and how much is too much? This depends on what we're doing and where. The clothing required for a beach campout in Florida during summer will differ considerably from that needed at a fall hunting camp in Alaska. Much also depends on the person. Some folks have metabolisms and body fat that allow them to remain comfortable sitting on a frozen lake during a snowstorm while others start shivering if a cloud momentarily obscures the sun.

     

Much of our decision-making will be based simply upon common sense. If it's winter, we'll need more clothes to stay warm, including a big coat or parka, gloves, a warm toboggan or other headgear, and perhaps some insulated underwear. On a summer outing in the desert, we'll want an outfit that protects our skin from the intense sun while helping us avoid overheating. If we're hiking a full day to our camp in the mountains, it's probably a good ideal to add to our pack a wool sweater, long pants, extra socks and some sort of hat or cap.

 

Assembling a Wardrobe

     

One way to assemble a good wardrobe of camp clothing is to choose various items of clothing that can be mixed and matched to handle different trips and different conditions. To do this, we'll need items of clothing in four basic categories: inner layer, mid layer, insulation layer and outer layer.

     

As the name suggests, inner-layer clothing (most of us still refer to it as underwear) is worn next to your skin. Its main function is wicking the sweat from your skin during high aerobic activity so you stay comfortable without being damp. It also provides extra insulation. Except for basic items of underwear worn every day, most of these items are used under moderate- to cold-weather conditions when you need some added warmth and you plan to be active.

     

Fabrics used to make inner-layer clothing include cotton, silk, polypropylene, MTS 2 (Moisture Transport System) and Capilene. Although cotton is comfortable when dry, it absorbs and holds sweat next to your skin and takes a long time to dry. It's a poor choice for inner layers when it's cold outside, but okay if it's moderate or warm. Silk is lightweight, comfortable, wicks well and insulates well, but it requires special care when laundered and is not as durable as the next three materials. Polypropylene is great at wicking sweat away from the skin, but sometimes retains odors and gets scratchy after washing. MTS 2 offers polypropylene's benefits without its drawbacks. It's as comfortable as cotton and available in a variety of weights for different conditions. Capilene also is a comfortable, wicking fabric, with a special chemical treatment to help spread sweat throughout the fabric so that it evaporates quickly.

     

Mid-layer clothing is basic clothing you wear every day -- long pants, long-sleeve shirts, shorts, T-shirts, etc. -- to provide protection in moderate to warm conditions. Mid-layer items often are worn alone on short trips in good weather. Each piece should be comfortable, lightweight and durable.

     

A wide variety of fabrics that offer varying degrees of water resistance and breathability are used in making outerwear.

Five commonly used mid-layer fabrics are cotton, nylon, MTS 2, Capilene and wool. Cotton is a common choice for warm-weather camp clothing because it's lightweight, comfortable and cool. Nylon is soft, lightweight and durable but non-absorbent. Clothing made from it is available in styles for both warm and cold weather uses. Some campers wear wicking mid layers made with MTS 2 or Capilene to insulate and keep the skin dry. And wool, which insulates well even when wet, is used in full-sleeve shirts, pants, over-shirts, sweaters, jackets and other moderate to cold-weather clothing.

     

Insulation-layer clothing (shirts, pants, vests, jackets, pullovers and sweaters) provides additional warmth whenever conditions are such that inner-layer and mid-layer clothing won't keep us comfortable. The best items are not only warm, they're lightweight and non-bulky, too, and they "breathe" to let sweat and excess body heat escape.

     

Wool is one commonly used insulator, but pile and fleece, which are available in a variety of styles and thicknesses, are the choice of many campers because they're comfortable, warm (even when wet), fast drying and lightweight (half as heavy as wool). Wind-proof liners are added to many of today's pile and fleece garments so they'll keep the weather out, unlike old pile/fleece clothing.

     

Outer-layer clothing (tops and bottoms) protects the wearer from elements such as wind, rain and snow. The best items are breathable, just like insulation layers, and keep the user dry and warm in harsh weather conditions or extended periods of rain.

     

A wide variety of fabrics that offer varying degrees of water resistance and breathability are used in making outerwear. Among the least expensive options are fabrics like PVC that are completely waterproof but which provide very little breathability. These can be extremely uncomfortable when it's hot or you're very active. Waterproof/breathable fabrics such as Gore-Tex are more expensive, but they're good performers in a wide range of weather conditions, making them the best choice for your money in most situations.

     

When selecting outer-layer clothing, considerations go beyond just the type of fabric to use. You also should consider if the clothes allow for a full range of motion during your usual camp activities; how easy or difficult it is to get in and out of the clothing when adjusting layers; whether or not the waist, cuffs, and neck can be sealed tight for bad weather but also easily opened for extra ventilation; and such features as the number of vents to enhance breathability, the number of pockets for storing gear items, and the presence or absence of a hood, storm flaps and sealed seams.

     

Lucky for us, today's campers can find a variety of quality camp clothing in many fabrics, styles and colors. There's something for every budget and every taste.

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Dressing for Ice Fishing

By Jason Akl

The time between the first snowfall and the first good ice is never long enough for sportsmen who transition from late-season hunting to ice fishing. It seems you barely have time to put away your rifle before hearing reports of fish being pulled through the ice.

 

Since ice fishing is one of those special sports where preparation is everything, having the right clothes for the early season can mean the difference between coming home with your limit and aborting your trip without a single catch because you weren't prepared for the cold. The following guide on dressing for the ice should help you prevent the latter from happening.

 

Choose a waterproof boot with a removable liner that's comfort rated for temperatures similar to those in which it'll be used.  

Socks and Footwear


One of the most important items for ice fishing is a quality pair of cold-weather boots. Many boots available in stores will keep your feet warm while  just walking around, but a quality pair of ice boots will keep your feet dry and warm all day.

 

Because lake water will splash around and soak your feet when drilling your fishing holes, a good pair of boots must be waterproof.

Additionally, a good pair of boots will have removable liners that can be taken out and dried after a hard day fishing. Boot ratings should also be considered; a boot's rating will tell you the conditions that they can be worn comfortably in. 

 

Socks are another key consideration for serious ice fisherman. Socks are the last line of defense when it comes to keeping your toes from freezing. Having one pair of heavy duty wool socks is great to insulate your feet from the cold, but having a second pair of wicking socks are key to keeping your feet dry. Wicking socks are great for ice fisherman because they pull perspiration that builds around the feet away from the skin.

 

Lastly, a pair of cleats or traction devices that slip over your boots might be necessary, depending on where you plan to fish. If the conditions are very icy and you are having a trouble keeping your balance, a good pair of ice cleats will make maneuvering much easier.

 

Coats, Sweatshirts and Pants
Layering is the key to keeping the body's core warm. Layering allows anglers to strip down should the body become too warm, either from excessive work or the heat of the sun's rays.

 

Expedition Weight Thermal Top

A breathable, moisture-wicking base layer is essential to stay warm on the ice. 

The secret to layering is to have enough clothes on to handle even the worst conditions and slowly remove them one piece at a time should it become too warm. Also, when layering, try creating at least one one-piece layer. The advantage to a single piece component is that there is no point where warmth can escape, keeping the body warmer longer. As for the torso and legs, these body parts never get directly exposed to the cold weather, so having clothes that hold heat in and move water out is essential.

 

Over the past ten years, winter coats have probably evolved as much as any other piece of equipment, if not more. New space-age fabrics such as Gore-Tex and Supplex are phenomenal at keeping the wind, snow and sleet away from the body while still allowing the body to breathe. Good coats will incorporate these types of fabrics along with waist and wrist cuffs to stop the cold weather from sneaking in. Purchasing a coat with a removable liner is another great idea since all days are not created equal; what you wear for zero degree weather is not what you want to be wearing when the temperature is in the teens.

 

Sweaters and shirts made of wool and fleece are great for under layers. These fabrics can keep the body as warm as anything else on the market. One or two layers of these fabrics will keep heat in for hours on end. A good idea similar to that of the socks idea is to have a fabric against the body that is a wicking layer to pull any perspiration away from the body.

 

For the legs, traditional long underwear is a good place to start with a second layer of fleece or wool leggings pulled over top. If you do not have one of these types of secondary underwear, then a pair of sweatpants pulled over the long underwear will suffice, but will probably be a little cumbersome to move around in.

 

To cover up the legs, a pair of waterproof coveralls is a must. When ice fishing, you're constantly on your knees tending to lines, so a pair of bibs that keep you legs dry are worth their weight in gold.

 

Gloves and Hats
Distal extremities are some of the more critical body parts to protect when ice fishing. Fingers are usually the first part of the body to feel the cold weather, and even the simplest of tasks can become a challenge with cold hands. Good gloves and mitts are a necessity, and, depending upon the conditions, both may be necessary.

 

Neoprene Fishing Gloves

Neoprene gloves protect your hands from ice-cold water.

Having a second pair of gloves is a good idea since everything you do while ice fishing will get your hands wet. Neoprene gloves are another good idea because they protect your hands from the icy cold waters; however, from past experiences they are a little lacking in overall warmth.

 

A stocking cap or toque is another key piece of ice-fishing attire. The body loses a major percentage of its heat through the head, so having a good hat that prevents heat loss is a must.

 

Glasses
When you are out on the lake, snow cover will reflect the sun's rays, making it extremely bright and unbearable for your eyes. A good pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes from the sun's dangerous UVA and UVB rays, while at the same time making it easier to see your tip-ups go off, especially if they are any distance away.

 

There's nothing worse than getting to your favorite ice fishing spot, dropping your lines into the water, and then having to leave early simply because you can't stand the cold. With a little planning and attention paid to what you're putting on, anglers can protect against almost any foul weather conditions they might encounter. With ice fishing, half the battle is staying warm long enough to stay on the ice and catch fish. Catching fish, on the other hand -- that's a topic for another article.

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Late-Winter Whitetails

By Monte Burch

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 Late-season whitetails offer some of the best hunting of the year. 

So what if you didn't collect a trophy buck, or even a supply of venison for the freezer during the regular gun season. There's still a chance -- a big chance -- with late-season deer. Most whitetail hunters concentrate on the regular gun season, which is held somewhere around the peak of the rut in most states. Serious bowhunters, of course, pursue deer early in the season. Many hunters, however, quit deer hunting after the normal gun season due to a number of factors. These include the opening of other seasons such as upland bird hunting or waterfowling, or they're just burned out on deer hunting. Those in the know, however, don't give up. 

Probably the most important reason for pursuing late-season whitetails is the number of hunters in the woods, and it's a better time to enjoy the hunt. This also means the deer are less hassled, and by the latter part of the late season are well into a solid winter pattern that's usually consistent. Late-season deer hunting means long hours in the stand with a bow, but a number of states are also offering late-season muzzleloading hunts, another great way to extend your deer hunting. 

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 Good choices for late-season whitetails include bedding areas near food sources. 

Late-season whitetails can be hunted during the second rut or on food sources. Over most of the country, after the frenzy and activity of the rut and the gun-hunting season, whitetails go into seclusion for a bit. They don't move around much except for occasional forays for food. This is particularly so with bucks that have been breeding for a month or more. It's a "rest-up," downtime period that can last from just a few days to almost a month. 

Approximately a month after the peak of the rut, however, a secondary rut occurs. "I call that December rut, the clean-up time," said Harold Knight. 

During this period, does that didn't breed, as well as some young-of-the-year does, are coming into heat, and another round of doe-chasing rut activity begins. I've noticed this pattern for many years on my farm in the Ozarks. About 28 days after the peak of the rut, rubs in breeding areas will again be freshened. I've actually seen this activity continue into January, possibly with a third rut period, although with much less activity. 

The primary factor in hunting late-season deer, however, is the availability of food. Even if you're hunting during a secondary or possibly third rut period, the bucks will be with the does, and the does will be looking for food. "Always remember the food chain in winter months," said Harold. "You can usually find deer easily by finding the food crops because the acorns are getting scarce at that time of the year."  

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 Wintertime scouting is generaly much easier than normal, especially with a fresh coat of snow on the ground.

Keeping Warm
One major key to successful late-season whitetail hunting is dressing properly. I dress in layers, a tactic that has kept me warm all day in weather from 15 below to a raging sleet storm. Lightweight polypropylene underwear is the first layer, followed by a turtleneck pullover, then a fleece or wool jacket and pants. The outer layer not only blocks the wind, but also repels water. If sitting on a stand for long periods of time, I may add a down vest under the fleece jacket. Pac boots, neoprene facemask and rag wool gloves or mittens complete the attire.

Deer are primarily browsers, utilizing a large variety of shrubs, bushes, grasses and forbs, especially during the winter months. It's extremely hard to pattern deer on these foods as they tend to wander as they forage. In some areas acorns might  be available, but even in the best of areas will be scarce by mid winter. The best food sources during the winter months are the agricultural crops, and this can vary greatly from region to region. Corn is a top choice, either left standing or waste corn from harvesting. Green fields such as alfalfa, clovers and especially winter wheat are good choices to hunt as well. Find concentrated food sources such as these, and you're going to have a pretty good chance at putting venison on the table. Deer will often travel miles to feed in these areas and, if there's nearby cover and they aren't disturbed greatly, they'll stay put. On the other hand in country with lots of food but little cover, you may discover just the opposite. 

I hunted one such area in Nebraska several years ago with the Modern Muzzleloading folks, and the area acted like a magnet. A thousand-acre island of trees, brush and a winding river bottom were situated smack in the middle of miles and miles of treeless, flat croplands. We estimated there were over 500 deer wintering in that particular area and saw a good number of record bucks. In fact, I missed a chance at the biggest rack in my life on that property, when the wary buck took an alternate route during a drive, that put him going behind me rather than where we thought he would go. I can still see that high 10-point rack, just as I did when I turned on intuition and saw him slip into a line of trees and disappear within seconds. He had been just 50 yards away, more than close enough for my Knight muzzleloader. 

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 A secondary rut, and sometimes even a third rut period, occur in late winter in many areas, offering last-minute chances at bucks. 

Hunting the breeding areas in the same fashion as during the normal rut can be extremely productive. Because most of the vegetation is completely gone by this time, careful attention to camouflage, staying absolutely still, and paying extra attention to scent is extremely important. "You can call deer in during the late-season," said Harold. "But I don't think it's nearly as effective as early during the preseason, and when the first rut comes in." 

Actually, late-season hunting requires what I call "ghost hunting." Instead of using the usual tactics involving calling, rattling and sex lures, you're better off if you can simply disappear in the woods. Though concentrated in food sources, and perhaps even with some rut activity, deer seem much more spooky this time of the year. Still-hunting is a good option during those days with a light rain or mist, or a soft powder snow. Slip into the woods as quietly as you can and still hunt the borders of the food sources. 

If you prefer to stand hunt, you can forget about rolling out of bed way before daylight. The best hours will be through the mid-day periods. For a number of years, once the last deer and turkey hunting seasons are over in Missouri, I've set up a Moultrie feeder I can see from my office and kept a diary of who, what and when. Most visits are between 9:30 and 11 a.m., then late in the afternoon. When a major storm is building, however, the feeder will be visited off and on throughout the day, particularly beginning three days before the storm. 

Don't quit this year when the normal hunting season is over. You may be missing the buck of a lifetime by not hunting late-season whitetails.

Late-Season Muzzleloading

Many states offer December or late-season muzzleloading hunts that are an exciting way to extend your deer hunting season. Hunting with today's muzzleloaders is a great deal of fun. They're extremely reliable and accurate. Good shooters can expect 3-inch groupings out to 100 yards with quality guns. Some states also allow the use of scopes, but check local regulations. 

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Caribou Hunting Basics: Part II

By Don Sangster

Caribou Hunting Basics
Once the velvet starts to peel off a bull's antlers it cannot be saved and must be completely stripped off.

In the minds of big game hunters, there is perhaps no greater icon of the Far North than the caribou. If you've ever dreamed of braving the last frontiers of North America in search of these tundra nomads, this two-part series covers what you need to know. Part I examined the distribution and ways of hunting the various sub-species. Now we will discuss the gear you'll need to pursue them, and what to look for in a trophy bull.

GEAR YOU'LL NEED

Caribou inhabit some of the most deceptively rugged country in North America. From a distance, the tundra looks flat and featureless; however, as soon as you set foot on it you quickly realize that there is hardly a flat spot. Every step is rough and uneven and will challenge the quality of your footwear. Tough, waterproof leather or rubber-leather combination boots with good ankle support are a must, and make sure they are well broken in. Unless you are planning a November hunt, these features are more important than heavy insulation, as you will likely do enough walking to keep your feet warm in all but the most frigid conditions. Bring a second pair if you have it and rotate them throughout your trip in order to allow them to dry.

Don't ignore the importance of good socks, too. I nearly had a recent Quebec caribou hunt ruined due to blisters resulting from socks that were slipping down and bunching up at my heels. A thin sock made of a wicking material combined with a thicker, wool-blend outer sock works best for most people. Just make sure that they all fit snugly and won't slip. Bring two sets, and a spare. And don't forget blister treatments such as medical tape, antibiotic ointment, gauze and blister pads -- just in case.

There is a saying in the Far North: if you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes. It isn't uncommon to experience cold, snow, rain, sun, heat and bugs during a hunt, and possibly even in a single day. Be prepared for just about any weather condition, but a base layer consisting of a modern, moisture-wicking fabric will suit them all. Top everything off with waterproof outerwear or a light rain suit. In between, layers of wool-based or fleece shirts, sweaters and pants will serve you well. Bring a small pack to carry certain essentials with you while out in the field, which will also allow you to add or remove layers as conditions change throughout the day.

Caribou Hunting Basics
Caribou hunting often means spending lots of time with binoculars glued to your face. Quality, clear optics will make the job easy without causing eyestrain headaches.

Most outfitters will provide a list of gear to bring, and you should pay heed to it. But a few small items that may seem unnecessary and are not often listed but can be worth their weight in gold are sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses.

Caribou are often spotted -- and stalks begun -- from a mile or more away, so good optics are essential. Don't leave all the glassing to your guide; two pairs of eyes are better than one. A quality 8x or 10x binocular will be your workhorse in this area, but a spotting scope can save a lot of wasted time and effort stalking a bull that doesn't measure up. Many guides carry spotting scopes, but many do not, so if you have one, bring it. Next to your weapon of choice, your optics will be the most important piece of equipment you bring. Because caribou are often spotted from a long distance, and because they can disappear over the next ridge in a matter of seconds, shots can occasionally be some of the longer ones you'll encounter in the world of big game hunting. As such, I consider a laser rangefinder to be essential too.

Despite the longer shots and the caribou's size, they are not usually difficult to put down. Flat-shooting, scoped, bolt-action centerfires ranging from the .25/06 Remington on up to the .300 magnums are the norm. Modern, in-line muzzleloaders of .50 caliber are also increasingly popular choices. Monopods, bipods -- whether attached to your rifle or not -- and tripods are a great aid for longer shots.

In areas at or below the tree line, or areas with lots of hills or rocks, bowhunting can be very successful, but make sure you select an outfitter who is used to bowhunters, or you may wind up with a guide that considers getting to within 100 yards of a caribou bull to be a good stalk. (Particularly for hunts in the more open tundra areas further north, bringing a rifle along in case the bowhunting proves particularly frustrating -- it can save your trip.) Bows, arrows and broadheads suitable for deer will do just fine.

Caribou Hunting Basics
Ptarmigan are common in much of caribou country and offer great sport, and table fare. If the season will be open, make sure you pack a shotgun and a box of shells.

Also, make sure you bring a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun and shells suitable for ptarmigan. Besides being very plentiful in much of the Far North and providing a great diversion when the caribou aren't cooperating, they are also one of the tastiest upland birds you will ever eat.

Finally, don't forget your fishing gear. Water is never far away in caribou country and, in season, some great fishing for pike, lake trout, brook trout, char and grayling is often available. A light-action, multi-piece travel rod with a selection of spoons, spinners and jigs can provide great sport should you fill your caribou tag early in the trip.

JUDGING BULLS IN THE FIELD

The first thing to know about a caribou bull's antlers is that it may not be a bull! Caribou are the only member of the deer family in which females routinely grow antlers. However, they are usually quite small and easy to differentiate from bulls. Nonetheless, although cows are legal in some areas, if you decide to take a small bull for the meat pole, it's worth learning to tell the sexes apart.

On that point, caribou is one of the finest wild game meats you will ever eat. However, all of the North American sub-species of caribou breed in October, and the meat of large, rutting bulls can be so strong-tasting during this time as to be inedible, so an August or September hunt is necessary if you are looking to bring the meat home for the freezer.

As with all members of the deer family, caribou drop their antlers each winter and re-grow them the following year. Because some caribou seasons open in early to mid-August, bulls are usually still in velvet during early season hunts. A full-velvet rack makes a very interesting and unique trophy, with rounded points that resemble fingers. If this appeals to you, book your trip as early in the season as possible, as once a bull has started to shed the velvet, the rest cannot be saved and must be stripped off. If you take a bull still in full velvet, it is important to preserve the velvet before you take the rack to a taxidermist, otherwise it will start to dry and peel off. Your outfitter should be able to do this for you by salting the rack and wrapping it in a breathable material such as cheese cloth or gauze, to keep it dry and free of bugs. If you are considering a hunt in an area that allows two bulls to be taken on one trip and you think you'd like to try to take one hard-horned bull and one in velvet on the same trip, think again. Bulls usually start stripping their velvet all around the same time, so you will likely need to return another year to complete this quest. 

Caribou Hunting Basics
Caribou antlers are like fingerprints: no two are exactly alike. If you can find a bull with a balanced rack consisting of nice tops, good bez and at least one substantial shovel, you have got yourself an impressive trophy for the wall.

Caribou display more variety in terms of antler development than any other specie of antlered game, and no two bulls are exactly alike. The good news is that most mature caribou bulls are impressive trophies that look great on the wall. The bad news is that if you are looking for a record book bull, caribou can be very hard to field judge. However, as many areas offer the opportunity to take two bulls on one hunt, many hunters opt to take the first nice bull that comes along, and then hold out for a real monster for the second tag.

While all five sub-species vary somewhat in terms of antler size, they all share the same basic antler configuration, consisting of the main beams, the brow palms, the bez, rear points and top palms. Let's discuss each.

The length of the main beams contributes directly to a bull's final score, so obviously longer is better. Bulls will stand about four feet high at the shoulder, so look for a bull whose main beams seem about that height; symmetry counts, too, so make sure both sides are roughly the same height. Because the racks curve backward, look for ones that are deeply curved as they will usually have longer main beams than ones that are straighter, and the longest ones tend to flare out before curving up. If you only have a side view of the animal, note that a bull with a narrow spread between his main beams will seem to have a taller rack, while wide racks will seem shorter, but usually just the opposite is true. The inside spread also directly contributes to the final score, but note that, from a scoring perspective, the width of the rack can't exceed the length of the longest main beam. There are also four circumference measurements taken along the length of each main beam, so good mass is desirable.

The brow palms project out just above the caribou's face and are commonly called shovels. One on each side, or "double-shovels," is highly sought after and will help an animal score well. These can be fairly common in some areas and quite rare in others. If the bull has such a shovel on just one side, he will have either a simple spike or nothing at all on the other side. When viewed from the side, look for a bull with at least one well-developed, wide shovel extending forward to the back of his nose, with as many points as possible.

The bez is the section of antler projecting forward just above the brow palms. Most caribou bulls will have one on each side, and this measurement is all about length and the number of points. Look for a bull with bez that extend at least as far forward as the shovels with lots of points on each side. The bez is frequently palmated and, although impressive, does nothing for the bull's score. The bez is also sometimes curved inward, which will usually add to its length. Symmetry from one side to the other counts too, with deductions for differences in length and number of points.

Rear points are often called "back scratchers" and are single spikes that project backward from the middle of the bull's main beams. They can be quite rare in many areas and are usually just a bonus. Their length counts directly to the score, with deduction for asymmetry of length between the two sides.

A bull's top palms are his crowing glory, and what really separate the men from the boys in terms of a caribou's final score. It is also the area in which many otherwise impressive bulls are weak. Look for palmation and lots of points, including at least two long points on each side, as the two longest points on each side are measured for length. Again, symmetry from side to side counts.

Very few bulls will have all of these attributes, but given the sheer number of animals that can be seen on a given hunt, they are out there. If you do find one that has a number of these qualities, you may have found yourself a bull for the books. If this is important to you, make sure you utilize the services of a quality outfitter with guides that are experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to judging trophy bulls.

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