Friday, December 9, 2011

Gear Review: Barmah Australian Hats

Every outdoorsman has their one ‘can’t do without’ item.  It is like a security blanket or teddy bear for a toddler.  As long as that one thing is with them, he can tackle anything nature throws his way.
For me, it is a hat.  I have always worn hats.  As a child and through my teenage years, you could hardly ever catch me without a ball cap on.  The only exception would be while hunting dove.  Then, you would find me with a green boonie hat with the draw string usually pulled over the top of the hat with one side snapped up.  I have always been a ‘little’ different.
Recently I was offered an item to review that was right up my alley.  After all, I had been wearing one for over 10 years!  Barmah USA makes Australian style hats.  Barmah is based in Australia and their hats are made from such leathers as bronco and kangaroos, are water resistant, and have that flare I look for.  They are also designed to be folded and spring back into shape.  They come with a nifty bag that has imprinted instructions on how to properly fold the hat for storage in the bag.


Gators at night in Georgia
with Barmah.

I have been wearing a Kangaroo Barmah hat in a hickory.  I have also owned one in a limestone green that was sent to retirement.  Barmah supplied me Foldaway suede in a sand color to try as well.  Like mentioned in the previous paragraph, the hats are designed to be folded and spring back into shape.  I have found there are a few tricks if you have a preference to the look of your hat, and I like the front of the hat to curl slightly down with the side curled slightly up.  Letting the hat rest on the edge of a table or desk with the front hanging off for several days will give this desired look.
The hats have been treated with Scotch-guard prior to shipping preventing stains and giving the hat the water resistance.  How water resistant is this hat?  Let’s just say Niagara Falls resistant!  While the exterior of the hat was soaked on a trip to the national landmark, the hat dried quickly and retained shape and fit.

Not even the mighty Niagara
can stop it!

Now I have been blessed/cursed with my father's and grandfather's genes.  This means my head lacks some natural covering.  The Barmah hat provides covering that can be worn in the heat of summer or the bitter temperatures of winter.  While I have not worn the suede during excessively high temperatures, the kangaroo hat does a great job of allowing my noggin to breathe in the heat.  As far as cold temps, both hats keep my head plenty warm.

Even the September sun and dust are under control.

The price points for the Barmah hat varieties are in the $75 or less range.  I’m pretty cheap when it comes to clothing and apparel, but I believe in the worth of the Barmah hat enough that I have bought two.  I can be pretty rough on them, as I wear them in the woods and in the field, and they continue to survive unscathed. 
In a recent interview with the Outdoor Blogger Network, I responded to the question "What is the one thing you cannot do without?" with "My Barmah hat."  In fact, my Barmah hat is not just a hat, it identifies me!

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gear Review: Fieldline Glenwood Canyon Backpack

About once each year I try to get away for a two to three day hunt.  I try to ‘rough’ it, camping beneath the stars and enjoying nature.  It presents a bit more of a challenge and separates myself from the ‘rest of the world.’  When I do this type of hunt, it is necessary to have a good backpack that brings comfort and functionality into the equation.  Hiking several miles into the wilderness can take its toll and you need a way to bring in the necessities.
I tested the Fieldline Glenwood Canyon pack recently.  I have other Fieldline products, including a backpack, and they do a nice job of combining low costs with nice workmanship to make their products a really good value.  The backpack I owned is comfortable and spacious but I had to strap my bow on the outside without any support.
First of all, the Glenwood Canyon pack comes in two camouflage patterns featuring Realtree and Mossy Oak.  I mostly use Realtree so that is what I chose for my pack.  The local stores that carry the G.C. pack only had Mossy Oak as a choice.  It has an internal frame for pack support.
The straps on the pack offer a waist belt and a chest buckle strap for better comfort.  The chest strap is attached to two straps located on each shoulder strap to allow it to slide up and down for personal adjustments. They are also well padded to prevent extra fatigue on the shoulders.
Over the left shoulder is an access port for a hydration bladder, which has a separated compartment in the main bag.  On top of the bag is a strapped rain cover with an extra zippered compartment.  It does not provide a lot of storage, but is nice for something like a wallet or map.
On both the right and left sides are zippered compartments that can be reached with the pack still on.  These hold items such as a rangefinder, binoculars, cell phone, and flashlight.  I found it pretty easy to reach in a feel for the items I was looking for.
An angled zippered compartment rests in the center of the pack.  I keep my Knives of Alaska knives there as well as my LED Lenser headlamp.  Snacks would likely fit there as well.  Two adjustable snap straps are located on the outside of this compartment for strapping something like a foam pad or small tent.  The straps can be adjusted to a diameter of approximately 6 to 7 inches.
To the left is another zipper that allows access to the main pack area.  This is nice as you do not have to open the pack from the top and can get to items located in the bottom of the pack without pulling everything out.  The zipper is about 12 inches long.
On the left side of the pack are 2 adjustable straps along the side and a small zipper at the bottom.  After unzipping the bottom, a boot pouch with 2 straps attached to it can be pulled out to accommodate the butt of a rifle or shotgun or the lower cam of a compound bow.  As a bowhunter, I naturally tried it out with my compound.  The boot pouch does not work well with a compound with parallel limbs, but if I strapped the riser with the straps on the side and strapped the string with the two straps in the center, it did hold the bow pretty steady.  It does not work will with the quiver on.  However, for a firearm, the boot works great and the pack held fine.
The access to the main pack compartment is under the rain cover.  There are two straps sown into the access material that are rolled and then fastened to prevent any water from entering.  It also can add several inches of storage.  Inside you also have access to where the hydration bladder would be located.
All the zippers have a rubberized material covering the closed zipper area and also have plastic lined pull strings with large loops.
Here is the best part of the pack; it can be bought for under $30.  As far as holding up, if it is like my other Fieldline Pack it will hold up fine for years if it is used for a few trips each year.  My other pack has been through some reasonable abuse and has held up fine for the last 5 years.  I do not like the absence of straps on the bottom or top to connect a sleeping bag for instance.  The inner compartment has plenty of room for use as a one to three day pack.
Overall, the price is hard to beat providing features of packs that are in the $150-$200 price range.  The functionality for a gun hunter or hiker is great.  I will continue to use this in the future for short multi day trips.

Glenwood Canyon Frame Pack

(Company Specs)

Dimensions : 20 in x 15 in x 8.5 in / 50.8 cm x 38.1 cm x 21.59 cm
  • Top and vertical pack entries
  • Front access scope pocket
  • Stowable rifle carrier pouch with zipper closure
  • Hydration compatible (2-liter Hydration Reservoir sold separately)
  • Top flap includes zippered compartment
  • 2 compression straps to secure your load
  • Ultra quiet zipper pulls
  • 2 large zippered side pockets
  • Gear-lock attachment points on waist belt
  • Yoked shoulder strap system with adjustable sternum slider
  • Adjustable waist and chest straps
  • Vertical front entry opening for easy access to gear
  • Top compartment has been designed with quiet roll-top closure
  • Stowable rifle carrier pouch with zipper closure

Want to read more reviews?  Bill Howard's Outdoors Reviews and GiveEmTheShaft Reviews

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Custom Built Bow in Progress

Lester Harper, owner of LH Custom Archery, is fashioning a custom take-down recurve for the staff (that would be me) at GiveEmTheShaft.com and BillHowardOutdoors.com.  Lester can be reached at stonepointak@yahoo.com if you have any questions about a custom bow for yourself.  You can also see some of his other works-in-progress at his website by clicking the photo.

The nice thing about a customer bow is you get to choose the look you want to go along with the draw weight you need.  With traditional bows (longbows and recurves), draw weight is measured at 28" draw length.  If your draw is longer, the weight would be greater.  Conversely, if your draw is shorter, the draw weight will be less than the weight listed.  This is important to know in areas where there is a minimum draw weight.  For instance, here in North Carolina, a minimum of 40lbs of pull can be used for traditional archery equipment when bowhunting.  If you purchase a recurve with 40lbs, but you only have a 26 inch draw, you will be below the requirements of the law.

Below is some pictures of my bow in progress of being built.  You'll see there is a lot of work put forth in the shape, look, and overall fashioning of the bow.  I chose zebra wood for the riser and limbs with a cocobolo accent.  Before it is finished, it will also have a partial copperhead snake skin on the risers.





Form for shaping the limbs.



Limb being placed in form.




Wood blocks to be used in the rise and limbs.




Blocks put together prior to cutting the shape of the riser.


Riser begins to take shape.





Riser and one of the limbs.
 
Here is a short video of some of LH Custom Archery's work featuring the Apostle bow.


Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Big Deer Coming In!

Here is a few of the antlers that have come in so far this season for me to measure.





Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

How Something Can Take Off...

Back in March 2011 I shot a video of my kids, their friends, and myself bowfishing during the annual redhorse sucker fish run.

A few weeks ago someone told my son they were watching us on youtube and I thought that it was pretty cool.  We pulled it up and BOOM! We had a ton of hits!  I checked the statistics and over the last couple of months it has started being viewed like crazy.  I have no idea why, but we'll take them.

Below is the video.  Enjoy.



Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Goal for Next Year

I have always wanted to learn to shoot traditional.  The reason I have nto up to this point is simple; I'm awful at it!  I taught myself how to shoot the compound.  Even bowfishing, I have become pretty good at instinctively shooting the heavier fish arrow with line attached.

But traditional...a completely different story.

So, as this year ends and 2012 approaches, I will chronicle my desire, successes and failures at mastering the art.

In the process, I would like to welcome and thank LH Custom Archery in advance.  Lester, owner and bowyer, has worked with me over the past few days on a custom take-down recurve that I will be proudly using in my endeaver.  I will post photos of the bow through the process of Lester's handiwork and maybe even throw some video together once it is finished and I begin the task of learning to shoot the masterpiece.

But don't fret, I will still shoot my compound!  If nothing else but to provide sanity and confidence to a surely soon-to-be battered ego!

Please visit LH Custom Archery and view some of the projects he has on hand now.

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's Award Time!

Each year, several websites/blogs will announce their top blog sites in various fields of interest.  I am proud to announce that both Bill Howard's Outdoors and Give Em The Shaft were recently selected as top hunting blogs for 2011.

While I know this is not the Emmy, Oscar, or Pulitzer award, it does still humble me to know that what I do is not completely lost in la-la land.  I appreciate all my readers both past, present, and future.  I hope that at some point I am able to strike a cord that inspires, teaches, reflects, or just provides a simple little grin.

Please share and/or comment on anything you see on these pages and I will continue to try to keep you informed and entertained.

Again, thanks!

Congratulations Bill,
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These days, you can find a wealth of hunting information online. The internet has become a treasure trove of valuable information that can help you improve your hunting skills and connect you with other hunting enthusiasts. From novice hunters who are documenting their journey into the sport, to expert hunters who are fully qualified to offer training and tips, a wide variety of people at different skill levels are now sharing their love for hunting with millions of others around the world.

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Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bowhunting Library

Recently I found something I had been looking for a while.  In fact, for over three years I have searched it at least once every couple of months.  When I found it, I jumped on it.  So, I hear the question; “What is it?”
Pope and Young Bowhunting Big Game
Records of North America 1st Edition
I just received a first edition of the Pope and Young Record Book.  The Pope and Young Club sold out a while back, and I finally found one.  The reason I was looking for this particular book is the bowhunting history documented in it.  There are pictures and stories galore of some of the real names of bowhunting.  Fred Bear tells of several accounts of his bowhunting records.  There are pictures of both Art Young and Saxton Pope that I had never seen before. 

This book is now a valued addition to my bowhunting library.  A small library of books and periodicals is a great tool for the bowhunter.  During those non-hunting times, it gives you something to study and focus on, which carries itself to the field.  Some books will offer valuable information to help plan future hunts.  Many will tell of the tales of successful hunts that both inspire and allow the reader to step into the situation, which in turn will help the reader if a similar experience were to present itself.
So, in order to help you get your library started, or to build on your existing library, here are some of the books I keep on my shelf:
Bowhunter’s Guide to Accurate Shooting by Lon E. Lauber
This was the first book I bought when I began teaching myself how to shoot a bow.  Lots of valuable information ranging from the equipment used, to shooting technique, to equipment set-up and tuning, to how to hunt and where to aim.
The Archer’s Bible by Fred Bear
Fred Bear bringing in a carp while bowfishing.
This is one of my favorite photos of Fred Bear.
A book by the legend himself, Bear goes over equipment, hunting small and big game, bowfishing, safety, foundations of good shooting, and the principles of bowhunting.  One of my favorite photos of Fred Bear is in this book with him holding a carp at the end of an arrow.  This was long before bowfishing hit the craze it has now.
The Pope and Young Club’s Measurer’s Manual
Scoresheets and instructions on how to measure each of the North American big game animals.
Whitetail Wisdom
An all inclusive book about whitetails.  It goes over where to hunt them, when to hunt them, and their habits and activity.
The Perfect Shot-Mini Edition for North America by Craig Boddington
The Perfect Shot: Mini Edition
for North America by Craig Boddington
If you plan on hunting, this is a great book.  It shows different angles of different North American game animals.  The book then creatively shows bone structure and organ location on the same photos so you can get an idea of where and when to place the shot.  There is also an African edition that I will be sure to purchase if I ever am fortunate enough to try my hand at hunting the Dark Continent.
Boone and Crockett Records of North American Big Game Animals 8th Edition
A record book that includes photos of record animals, as well as entries into the book, listing animal, owner, size, and area taken.  If you want to go after a musk ox, you do not hunt in California.  This book will show you where to go after the game you want.
Safari Club International World Bowhunting Record Book 1st Edition
Same premise as the B&C record book, bur for animals taken by bow only around the world.
Bowhunting Records of North Carolina 1st and 2nd Editions

1st and 2nd Editions of the
Bowhunting Recordsof North Carolina
 compiled by the
North Carolina Bowhunter's Association.

These books will show the counties in the state where the largest game animals are taken.  Through data research you can also find the counties that are the most productive of record book game.  In planning a hunt, this allows you to narrow your hunting area down.  Many other states’ bowhunting organizations put out a similar book periodically.
Pope and Young Club Bowhunting Big Game Records of North America 1st and 7th Editions
Same as the B&C and SCI record books, except only bowhunting and only North America.
The Bill of Rights, The Declaration of Independence, and The Constitution of the United States of America
The three books remind me of why I have the freedom to hunt in this great land.
The Holy Bible
This book is the most important to me of all the others.  This book not only establishes my freedoms, but my very existence.  If there is ever a question, the answer can be found here.
* * * * *
There are other books I intend on adding to the library.  For instance, I would like to eventually add each edition of the Pope and Young Record Book.  There are several books Teddy Roosevelt penned about hunting which I have in an e-book format that I would like to have in hard copy.  To build a foundation, you just have to start.  You would be surprised with the knowledge that can be shared and learned.


Would you like a nice fiction e-book based on a hunting setting?  Author David L. Samuel is providing two each of his novel Nightwolf and novella The Guilty as a giveaway.  That is FOUR lucky winners!  I have personally read both and they are great.  I downloaded them to the Kindle app on my smartphone, and then when I was sitting in the stand waiting for deer activity, I would read.  The reading time keeps you still and quiet, plus the books are so good, it makes you want to get in the stand more often in order to finish the book!  I won't giveaway details on the two books other than they both have bowhunting as part of the backdrop.  Rules are simple: follow either GiveEmTheShaft.com or BillHowardOutdoors.com and you are entered for your chance to win. Contest runs through November 30, 2011.


Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

LifeStraw Water System Winners

Thom Rauch of Ashland, Wisconsin and Moose McLaughlin of Raleigh, NC are the winners of the LifeStraw water filtration system.  Congratulations!

If you didn't win, don't fret.  Visit Eartheasy.com and you can purchase one for under $20!



Read the review here:  LifeStraw Gear Review

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gear Review: Scout Look Weather

So, here I am, 4:26pm on a Sunday, sitting in a climbing stand on the edge of the woods.  Typing on a netbook.  Crazy right?  Well, I should have about an hour before the first deer sneaks her way out of the darkened tree canopy and finds her way into shooting range for my quick and silent compound bow.
The reason I am working on this now is twofold.  One, I need to get this product review done, and two; this is the perfect time to write about what is going on with this particular hunt.
GPS systems became a great tool for the outdoors person several years ago.  Utilizing the array of satellites put in orbit by the government in order to help one find his position globally protected the hiker, hunter, or fisher from getting lost.  They developed from a display showing longitude and latitude so you could find yourself on a map, to displaying satellite and terrain images.  Along the way, the more bells and whistles the GPS system had, the more expensive the unit would cost.  Downloadable maps, some ranging several hundred dollars in cost, were neat features, but unless you were a diehard outdoorsman that traveled to exotic and unfamiliar locations, they were questionable as to whether they were worth it.
Now I like to have the tools necessary for me to be successful and safe, but I do not want to carry around a small army’s worth of supplies on my excursions.  With the GPS functions of the current smart phones, I quickly adapted to several applications available on it instead of carrying around excessive amounts of electronics.   Free mapping and weather programs were great, as I could not only pinpoint my location, but I could see weather as it developed so as not to get caught off guard on an approaching rain shower or storm.

Screen shot from ScoutLookWeather.com indicating
stand locations, expected deer movement, and scent cone.
The orange arrows were added by me to show movement.
A couple of weeks ago, I was offered the opportunity to test and review a website and smart phone application called ScoutLookWeather.  It seemed interesting enough, so I agreed.  Before downloading it on my Android based phone, I checked the website: ScoutLookWeather.com.  The website was easy enough to get a grasp of without a lot of instruction.  After the download, the application worked the same way as the website.  Also, I noticed it had immediately synced between the website and the phone application.


There she is!
After checking the app, according to my scent cone (a green cone that indicates where your scent will travel based on current conditions) I should hunt the northern stand on the property.  My scent would travel right into the path the deer usually take to the field from the southern stand.  So, that is where I am hunting.
(LONG PAUSE AS THE HUNT TIME BEGINS, THEN FAST FORWARD)

Blood soaked arrow does
not mean easy to trail!

Sure enough, I had a deer come out to my left about 6pm.  After the deer paused and offered a broadside shot just 15 yards from the stand, I released the arrow for the kill.  While waiting in the stand, 10 minutes later 3 more deer came out to my right but came no closer than 40 yards from the stand.  I also noticed looking back at the southern stand, several deer in the field where I expected them to come out also.  If I had hunted the southern stand, those deer would likely have caught my scent in the slight breeze.

Hard to follow at night with only this much sign spaced
several yards apart.

While the shot was true, the deer retreated hard into the woods.  I had a hard time finding bloodshed, but after a 20 minute or so search, I spotted small drops of blood.  The track was on.  I used the way marker feature on the ScoutLook app, using the GPS from the phone to indicate the blood trail.  I proceeded to do this each time I lost the trail so I would have a reference point to come back to.  This was extremely handy as I was in the thick brush and swamp, and light was non-existent except from my LED Lenser headlamp.  After following the trail approximately 150 yards, I lost the blood.  It was now around 9pm and I was crawling on all fours in order to track the blood I did find for the last 30 minutes.  I decided to resume the search in the morning, as the shadows from the brush limited my site lines.  Using the satellite imagery feature of ScoutLook, I made my way back out.  If not for that, this could have easily been one of those cases where the hunter gets stuck in the woods overnight.  Again, limited vision, a low concealing canopy of trees, and not so much as a single star shining through offered no help in keeping my bearings.

Blood trail way markers set
on ScoutLook.
The next day, I worked my way back into the woods, following the blood trail markers I had placed on ScoutLook.  This worked well, and I found the trail I needed to find.  After a couple of more hours, I finally found the deer.  This would never have taken place if I had not used ScoutLook for way markers the evening before.
  

Decoy set-up for incoming
waterfowlas indicated
by ScoutLook.
ScoutLook is not only good for the application I tested it for, but it offers a set-up style map for waterfowl hunting, it can be used for hiking and other outdoor activities, it has a drift-point for fishing, and even has a golf mode to help with wind direction on the links.  It provides a cache for photos while in the outdoors, and it will have a log book style feature in the future.  One feature I did not have to use on ScoutLook is a radar map of your area.  This is great for when inclement weather is in the forecast.  It will allow you the opportunity to enjoy your activity until the very last moment.

Screen shot of inclement weather on ScoutLook.

Overall, ScoutLook appears to be a winner.  ScoutLook is easy to use and figure out how to use (no manual-just help screens), is cheap ($1.99 over Android Marketplace, but is available on IOS also), and syncs automatically with the regular website so you can check your locations online and on your phone.  Again, $1.99 for what some GPS systems would charge $199.00 for.  The only thing I could not test, and could not find a direct answer on, was if ScoutLook will save your location maps in areas where only GPS (no cellular) service worked on the smart phone.  I know it will save your markers, just not sure if the maps must download through the cell service each time.  I will continue to use ScoutLook and I look forward to using the log book feature in the future.


This result would never had happened without ScoutLook.
Your results may vary!

 Want to read more reviews?  Bill Howard's Outdoors Reviews and GiveEmTheShaft Reviews


Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the blog site Bill Howard's Outdoors. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.