Monday, October 25, 2010

Review: Magnum Boots Work Horse 6.0

Before I get into the review, I want to take care of some business first. I'll start by saying I am an official field tester for Magnum Boots USA. I am not employed by Magnum Boots, however they do send me products to evaluate. In exchange, they want honest feedback on their products to include the good, bad, and ugly. They do this so they can provide the best possible products to their customers. 

The two major careers I've had in my lifetime have required me to wear boots. I've worn many styles of boots from many different manufacturers. Over the course of my life, I've spent more time in boots than any other kind of footwear. At this point, I know what to look for in quality boots and what is required for a pair of boots to work for me. I've had Magnum boots in the past - long before I became a field tester.

I say that so you know I'm not promoting Magnum boots just because I'm a field tester. The folks at Magnum are seeing this review for the very first time just like everyone else. It has not been proofed, edited, or approved by anyone except me.


Magnum Boots Work Horse 6.0 Review

I have been wearing the Work Horse boots for several weeks. If I had to pick a single aspect of the boots that really stands out to me it would be comfort. I can say without hesitation that these are the most comfortable boots I've ever worn. As with any kind of footwear, if they aren't comfortable you aren't going to enjoy wearing them and probably won't keep them for long. The padding on the tongue and around the ankle is very, very good. The cushioning in the foot bed is top notch. To me, walking in these boots is like walking in a good pair of tennis shoes. They are also quiet. They don't give off that loud "clomping" sound that some boots do.

Work Horse 6.0

Here are the ingredients in the Work Horse 6.0. The boots have a full-grain leather upper. They are waterproof with a breathable membrane. They have a Cambrelle® moisture-wicking lining and an Agion™ antimicrobial treatment. The boots are made with Coats Barbour anti-fraying stitching thread and durable non-metallic composite hardware. Inside you will find a lightweight compression-molded EVA midsole and a M-PACT contoured sockliner with memory foam. They have an X-Traction outsole and are electrical hazard resistant. 

Waterproof boots are pretty standard nowadays, but some are better than others. I like to test the waterproof capability of all my boots. To test these boots, I stood in a cold creek with the water covering the top of my feet. I knew if there were any "leaks" it wouldn't take long to feel the cold water. I'm pleased to say my feet stayed bone dry.

I haven't just worn the Work Horse boots for general everyday wear. I've hiked in them in the woods at our cabin, worn them while working a new food plot, and most recently while doing construction projects. They are lightweight and have excellent traction. The sizing of these particular boots is spot on. I wear a size 11 in boots and these are neither too wide nor too constricting.

Because I have been testing these boots to provide feedback to Magnum, I have really been looking for something to disappoint me. So far, I haven't found anything. There has been no fraying of the stitching. The soles have held up perfectly. There are no gaps in the seams. And I already mentioned the waterproofing.

As with any tool, you have to use the proper tool for the job at hand. For example, these boots are not insulated so I would not wear them to sit in a tree stand for hours in sub-freezing temperatures. I have hunting boots for that purpose and that's not what the Work Horse boots are designed for. They are intended for work and everyday wear. They would be perfectly acceptable as a warm weather hunting boot if you chose to wear them for that purpose.

Footwear is a very personal choice. What fits good on me won't necessarily fit well on everyone else. Just like when you go into a shoe store to buy new shoes. You see something you like and try it on. You know immediately if those particular shoes feel right. If they don't feel good, you put them back and move on. For me personally, these boots beat anything else I have in comfort. I enjoy wearing them. If they weren't comfortable I wouldn't wear them. Period. And if I wouldn't wear them myself, I would never recommend them to others. That's not how I conduct business.

If this is the style of boot you like, you would do well to take a close look at them when making your next purchase. They are well made and, if I haven't already mentioned it, comfortable!

Magnum boots are available at many dealers online. To find a dealer near you, check the Magnum Boots website.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: Redfield Rebel Bino's

For the past year, I've been on the hunt for new binoculars to replace my aging Bushnell's. Not only have they been used heavily, but technology has advanced so much that it was simply time for a better pair. After doing a lot of research, I settled on the Redfield Rebel 10x42 bino's. Hunters know Redfield for their quality scopes and now they're making binoculars and range finders.

Let me get the technical spec's out of the way first. The Rebel's are 5.9" long, weigh 26.4 oz.'s, have a field of view of 341' at 1,000 yards, and a close distance focus of 4.3 feet. They are a roof prism design utilizing BAK4 prisms and fully multicoated lenses. The Rebel's are fogproof, waterproof, and have an armored aluminum body. They are black in color and come with lens covers, neoprene neck strap, and a carry case. 

Redfield Rebel 10x42 binoculars

My criteria for new binoculars included a set price range, roof prism design, and ten power magnification. The roof prism design is more compact than porro prism designs and I wanted a higher power than my previous pair. Obviously, the higher the power the more "shake" you will notice when looking through a pair of binoculars. That's something to keep in mind if you don't have steady hands. 

The Rebel's lenses are fully multicoated which means every lens and lens surface has been coated multiple times. Generally speaking, there are three types of coating: coated, fully coated, and fully multicoated. Coated is the least extensive type and means only certain lens surfaces are covered. This is normally used on cheaper quality bino's. Fully coated is the next step up and covers all lens surfaces once. Fully multicoated covers every lens surface with several coats, as I mentioned, and is used on high quality binoculars. These coatings help with light transmission, anti-reflection, and glare. 

In addition to the high quality coating, the Rebel is built using BAK4 prisms which are made from higher quality glass. BK7 prisms are made of lower quality glass and are found in cheaper quality bino's. BAK4 prisms provide much clearer, sharper images. Most manufacturers will specify what kind of prisms and coatings are used in specific binoculars, but if you find some that don't, you can bet they're probably cheaply made. 

I've used my Rebel's while hunting and I am more than impressed with the quality of these binoculars! The view is sharp and crisp from edge to edge. Light transmission is exceptional. They feel solid and well built. The focus wheel turns flawlessly - there's no catch or looseness. The eyepieces adjust for people who wear glasses, but unlike older binoculars where you folded the rubber eyepiece down, these eyepieces twist up and down. The armored finish provides a very secure grip and I can attest that they are indeed fogproof. 

I watched two bucks from my stand this past weekend and was very pleased with the image these binoculars produced. I have a pair of Steiner binoculars that I don't use for hunting because they are too large. Anyone who knows anything about binoculars knows Steiner produces quality stuff. I literally cannot tell a difference between the Redfield's and the Steiner's just by looking through them. And my Steiner's cost four times as much. 

In addition to the 10x42 model which I have, the Rebel is also available in an 8x32 version. If you prefer a porro prism design, Redfield makes a Renegade line consisting of a 7x50 model and a 10x50 model. Now for the cool part...the Rebel 10x42 will run you $150. That's it. Try finding quality bino's with the features of the Rebel in that price range. They are few and far between. 

I am extremely pleased with my choice of binoculars to replace my old Bushnell's. Binoculars are very much a personal preference item, but if this is the style of bino you like, you should have these on your short list the next time you're shopping for a new pair. 

I know Cabela's and Bass Pro sell the Redfield's. Gander Mountain does not as of the time of this review, but I'm sure there are several other places that do. You can see the Redfield binoculars on their website: Redfield Binoculars. They did it right the first time with these optics.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How NOT To Hunt Bears. For Real.

I wanted to start this with "once upon a time", but unfortunately, it's no fairy tale. I will try to keep it as condensed as possible while still hitting the highlights...or lows. You see, my best friend, Marc, and I hatched this plan to go bear hunting in the heart of West Virginia. And when I say "hatched" I mean the plan, when executed, was still in the infancy stage and should have been allowed to grow a little more. But hey, when two tough guys decide to hunt bears, having a detailed plan is immaterial and irrelevant, frankly.

We decided to hunt an area in the mountains where Marc and his father had trout fished many times. This particular area was known for having a good number of black bears so we figured it was as good a place as any. 
On the appointed day, we made the drive and arrived at our destination fairly early. The only drawback so far was that it looked liked it was going to rain. No matter. We weren't going to let a little rain stop us from bagging a big ol' bruin.

We parked along the river where Marc and his father had fished in the past. While the parking was easy, we actually intended to hunt on the other side of the river. However, there were no bridges in sight. No big deal. The new addition to our "master plan" was to simply wade across the river. How hard could it be? 

We gathered our weapons and packs, locked the vehicle, and began looking for an easy avenue across the river. We would have preferred one with large rocks we could walk on, but due to the rather high water, those were in short supply. After a few minutes of looking, Marc finally decided to take the plunge and just cross, using a few visible rocks along the way. I don't recall if he used a stick to help himself across, but the current was a bit swift. When I stepped in, I do recall thinking perhaps this wasn't the best way to start the hunt. Now we were getting wet and it was a chilly, overcast day. After several minutes, we finally made it to the other side. I needed to remove my boots to wring out my socks. Evidently, if the water gets over the top of your boots, they are no longer waterproof. Who knew. The conversation went something like this: 

Me: "Hold up a minute. I need to take my boots off and wring the water out of my socks." 

Marc: "Say what?" 

Me: "My feet are soaking wet. I need to get the water out." 

Marc: "Your feet got wet?" 

Me: (No reply. Just a look.)

Now that the river crossing was complete and I had dumped a couple of gallons of water, it was time to execute the hunting phase of our plan. What was the hunting phase of our plan? I'm glad you asked! Our carefully thought out plan for shooting a bear was to "still" hunt our way through the forest until we, quietly stalked, up on one - and then shoot it. Easy. In fact, as my daughter would say, "easy peazy, lemon sqeezey"! 

Did I mention neither one of us had ever been in these woods before? First time. I'm sure I mentioned that neither one of us had ever hunted bears before. No? First time. Minor details. So, anyway, off into the woods we went. With any luck we'd find a bear soon enough and be back at the vehicle before dark. Master plan. 

Fast forward a couple of hours and I was sitting against a tree in a fairly open area of the woods as was Marc some distance from me. I was beginning to get a little disappointed that we hadn't come upon a bear yet. Not a single sign even. No tracks. No bear crap. Nada. Puzzling. Not to mention I was getting hungry. And a bit cold. Especially my feet. On top of that, it had lightly rained on and off throughout the day. I decided it was time to break out my lunch - a.k.a. Ding Dongs. Yes, the Hostess snack cake. Don't judge. 

At this point in our quest for a Mountain State black bear, the only critters we had seen were fairy-diddles. In fact, while I was sitting there munching on Ding Dongs and Marc was eating who knows what, there had been several fairy-diddles scampering around the forest floor. It was then we amended our master plan with plan B. What was plan B? Why, shoot fairy-diddles, of course!

Marc was armed with a Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 magnum. If Dirty Harry said it was good enough for shooting bad guys, it was good enough for shooting a bear. I elected to bring a rifle in the off chance we ran into an especially angry bear and we needed extra firepower. That is why I wisely chose my Marlin 336 in bear-stopping .30-30 caliber! Master plan. 

Now, granted, these weapons were probably a bit much for fairy-diddles, but it was all we had. And we were bored. Hence, we commenced Operation Fairy-diddle! For several minutes the woods came alive with loud booms as we tested our skills on the small and very fast critters. When it was all said and done and the last fairy-diddle with half a brain had gone into a hole somewhere, I can honestly say I don't recall us hitting a single one. More importantly, if there had been any bears around, they were easily in the next county by now. So much for sneaking up on one. 

Marc and I were now growing weary of our quest. I know, this surprises you, right? We had walked a lot, we were wet, we were cold, and the bears were obviously not cooperating. Not to mention we had sent some lead downrange and had nothing to show for it. After a careful discussion that lasted about three seconds, we decided to make our way back to the vehicle. All we had to do was cross the river again and we would be home free.

After a lot more walking, we finally reached the river late in the afternoon. The problem was it did not look like the same river we had crossed initially. It really was the same river, but since our first crossing, it had risen considerably and now there were chunks of ice in the fast-moving current! 

We stared at the river for quite some time shocked at how much it had changed - or perhaps trying to make the water level go back down through the use of Jedi mind tricks. Even though neither of us said anything at first, it was apparent we were not going to be able to cross the river again. It had truly reached a dangerous stage. We were now separated from our vehicle with no way to get across. We had no cell phones, no GPS, no extra food or water, no dry clothing, and no plan for dealing with our situation. 

In fact, we had done no research on the area prior to the hunt. Marc had fished the river before so that was good enough for us. We had done no research on bears or proper bear hunting techniques. We had not planned to get wet at the get-go by crossing the river. We had no communication capability other than our guns. Now reality hit us that we could be stuck in the woods, possibly overnight. We were not at the panic stage yet, but things had quickly become serious. Or at least semi-serious. 

After several minutes of attempting to find a way back across the river, we decided the best course of action was to follow it downriver. We had no idea how far we would have to walk until we found a way to cross, but it was better than standing there looking like Dumb and Dumber. Although, we had already managed to pull that off quite well. 

It wasn't long before we noticed someone on the other side of the river and it appeared they were trying to get our attention. I mean, if you consider yelling and waving your arms wildly as trying to get someone's attention, then okay. We couldn't hear because of the distance and the noise of the water, but there was no mistake they were signaling us. I even turned around just to make sure there were no other hunters standing behind us. Everyone has done that awkward wave only to realize the person was waving at someone near them. I just didn't want to feel awkward. That produced a conversation that went something like this: 

Me: "I think they're waving at us."

Marc: "Don't acknowledge them. Just keep walking." 

Me: "What if they need something? I wonder why they're hollering at us?" 

Marc: "It doesn't matter. Let's just keep walking. We'll be fine. Pretend you don't see them." 

You see, there's a certain pride among hunters (and men, in particular) and very few people like to admit when they're lost or in some kind of trouble. We were fairly certain these people, whoever they were, were trying to assist us in some way. But we decided to play it off and make a show of knowing exactly what we were doing. 

We continued walking downriver for a while still not knowing where we were going. Then, suddenly, we met a group of what I presumed to be locals walking upriver toward us. As we got within speaking range, I couldn't help but have thoughts of Deliverance. It turns out those thoughts were completely unfounded as this group of locals was our rescue party! I mean, you could tell they considered themselves our rescue party. We considered them a thorn in our pride. 

Long story short, they asked if we were stranded and needed help getting back to our vehicle. It's difficult to describe how you go about acknowledging that fact while still appearing to be competent and in control. Actually, there isn't a way. We needed help and we looked like pure virgin amateurs! And to have mentioned that we were bear hunting would have invoked outright laughter. They guessed we had crossed the river earlier in the day and had not anticipated the rise in the water level. We sheepishly followed our rescuers downriver where we finally came to a small bridge and a waiting vehicle. Apparently, the person we saw earlier waving and yelling was trying to inform us of said bridge and waiting vehicle. It was a quiet ride from the bridge back to our car. 

It was now late in the day and we had absolutely nothing to show for our hunting effort. We were wet, tired, hungry, and humiliated. Marc and I decided to spend the night in a local motel and head home the next morning. The motel was nothing to write home about. It was pretty much a dump. We spent the evening eating take-out pizza and watching videos on MTV. It turns out the highlight of the trip took place while we were watching television. Because of the crappy day we'd had, Marc decided to inform me early that he had scored tickets for us to see Cheap Trick and House of Lords in concert in Columbus, Ohio! 

Man, a bear hunt doesn't end much better than that. 

The Back Story

If you've made it this far, you're probably thinking, "Gee, Brian, I thought you were something of an outdoorsman. I'm beginning to wonder." Well, this story took place over 20 years ago while we were in college. Even though Marc and I had both been hunting deer and other game for many years, we had never been bear hunting (obviously). We didn't have cell phones, GPS units or home computers back then. Researching a hunting area at that time was a completely different ballgame. Marc and I literally did not speak of this hunt to anyone for a long time. We only discussed it between us. And even then, we spoke of it rarely. It wasn't exactly a masterpiece of planning.

Some of you may have caught on to the time period at the end of the story. I mean, after all, how long has it been since MTV actually played music videos?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blog of the Week: Massanutten Game Trails

This week's blog of the week belongs to Joe and is called Massanutten Game Trails. Joe lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his wife and their dog, Dawson. He is an electrical engineer by trade and enjoys hunting, fishing, sports, and the outdoors in general.

Several years ago, Joe bought his first trail cam and since then has enjoyed using the cameras for getting wildlife photos as much as he has for hunting. A couple of months ago, Joe decided to start a blog to show off the photos he was getting. His subjects have included deer, bears, coyotes, foxes, turkeys, squirrels, and even turtles. Joe has captured some really nice wildlife images. 

I've enjoyed visiting Joe's blog weekly to see what has walked in front of his game cameras. Take some time and check out Massanutten Game Trails for yourself. Joe has a nice photo-featured blog happening over there in the Shenandoah Valley!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

RIP My Friend (Steven Flint)

Steven Flint 
March 23, 1961 - October 1, 2010

I'm deeply saddened by the recent passing of my long time friend, Steven Flint. He lost a hard fought battle against cancer. Steven was not only a friend, but one of the very best anglers I've ever known. His skill at reading the water and his instinct for finding fish were incredible! Those of us who knew him gave him the informal nickname "MA" for master angler.

Steven was originally from Ohio where he was working for The Nature Conservancy when we first met. He was a tireless advocate for rivers and streams. Not only did he love to fish them, but he was very active in trying to clean them up and rid them of sources of pollution. Steven later moved to the Adirondacks of New York where he continued to work for The Nature Conservancy and also operate a fishing guide service. 

Over the years, I fished with Steven twice in Canada. He was also a guest in our home in Kentucky where I took him fishing on our local lakes. Most recently, I had the pleasure of spending a week at his home in the Adirondacks where he took me fishing on Lake Champlain as well as several other beautiful lakes. When he started his guide business he asked me to design, build, and maintain his website which I did for many years. I could write many, many paragraphs about Steven's accomplishments and activities, but I find this hard enough to complete.

Steven loved the outdoors, loved to fish, and had a way of understanding nature that I've rarely seen. He named his guide service Beyond the Banks. As of 8pm, October 1, 2010, Steven Flint has truly gone Beyond the Banks.

Rest in peace, my friend. You will be missed.