Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gear Review - Brunton Eterna Binoculars

On my last week of elk hunting in Wyoming, I was able to take along a brand new set of binoculars from Brunton. There's no better place to test the clarity, durability and functionality of optics than on a western big game hunt. I was able to use these binocs in a variety of light and weather conditions. 

Having grown up in Wyoming, I have been aware of the Wyoming-based Brunton Group for some time, but honestly it wasn't until I met up with Cody Winward from Brunton at a show in Raleigh, NC that I really started to find out what the company was about. Brunton makes excellent optics for hunting, but also navigation tools, solar power equipment, lighting, and a host of other products. In addition, their sister company Primus provides top-notch camping and adventure gear. Both of these are companies that have been around a long time and are committed to making quality gear for the adventurer and hunter.

The binoculars I have are the Eterna 11x45 in Mossy Oak Treestand camo. My first impression when taking these binoculars out of the box was how sturdy they felt. They do have a little weight to them, and that was my only concern heading on my trip out west to try them out. That proved not to be a problem when using a bino-harness system.

Here's what Brunton's website has to say about the Eterna binoculars:

The big-glass viewing power of 45 mm objective lenses, in a rugged, ergonomic polymer frame. Available in 8X and 11X, equipped with BaK 4 prism glass, state-of-the-art phase coating, well-armored waterproof frame, and nitrogen-filled fog proof barrels. When the going gets tough, this is the bino to go with.
- BaK-4 prism glass
- State-of-the-art phase coating
- AL reflective coating
- Emerald Fire full multi-coating
- Multi-step eye relief system
- Waterproof
- Nitrogen filled/fog proof
- Ergonomic body armor
- Tripod/monopod compatible
- Power: 8X, 11X
- Weight 28 oz.

During my week long elk hunt the last week of September, I encountered jut about every weather condition Wyoming has to offer. Varying temperatures and humidity levels can make using optics frustrating, if not impossible, but these Eternas held their own and were usable through all the conditions I faced. They are crystal clear and offered great definition when picking apart distant cover looking for the tips of antlers or an elk hide. 

The heft of these binocs let you know they mean business but they were never heavy or awkward feeling on my bino-harness. The Eterna is a great bino for the outdoorsman looking for quality glass at an affordable price. They definitely give you a lot of bang for your buck. If you're looking for a mid-prices binocular that is heavy on features, rugged and dependable but won't cost you your whole savings account, give the Brunton Eterna a shot. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Georgia Whitetail Deer Hunting

Man, there's nothing like the feeling of getting the monkey off your back. After misses, near-misses, and just not getting anything on the ground, I was finally able to relax a little about my season after an awesome morning of hunting with my buddy Roger Flynn.

"Movement up on the hill" was the first text Roger sent me. Without responding I stuck my phone back in my jacket and looked up the hill. Out stands are a few hundred yards apart, but we both have a view of the same hill, just different angles. Out of nowhere, a doe had appeared. I raised my rifle and watched her through the scope, waiting for a shot opportunity. I felt my phone vibrating as Roger sent me more texts, but I didn't check my phone. Next thing I heard the crack of his .243. The deer I had been watching never flinched. I pulled out my phone and he had several deer come out in front of him, so he picked out a doe and shot her. At the shot, one of the deer came toward my stand. She passed me broadside at 30 yards and I dropped her in her tracks. That time the first doe I had been watching ran off a ways. Two deer down, I'm thinking. 

BOOM! Roger shoots again and kills another doe. This time the first deer I saw runs toward me and gives me a shot at 60 yards! She ran maybe 10 yards and crashed. 4 deer down. 

Roger says he's coming my way. I almost told him we should just sit a while with this much deer movement going on. When he gets to my stand I begin climbing down, and as I make my way down we are recounting the fastest 5 minutes of hunting either one of us had witnessed. 

"Look, look, look, look!" was all I could get out to whisper as another deer walks past us 40 yards away, oblivious to our presence. Roger spins around with his rifle and shoots, and the deer runs up the hill and piles up. 5 deer down. 

This all took place in about 18 minutes, and made for some serious work getting them all field-dressed, hauled out and off to the processor. It was a fun kind of work though. It took breaking out the boom stick to finally have some success, this year, but it's been a huge pressure release for me. I've got some venison in the freezer, and now I'm free to hunt good bucks with my rifle or bow. The rut is just around the corner, and we're starting to see signs of bucks chasing, along with some scrapes popping up. It's a great time to be in the woods. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Hunting/Life Parallel

Or....Wyoming Elk Hunting Part II

This is a post I wrote for another blog site (details coming soon) but I also felt it was a good pretty good recap of my elk hunt in Wyoming so I wanted to share it here as well. More stories from my elk season forthcoming. 

The Hunting/Life Parallel

I had just got out of the truck and started to get my gear together when I heard the bugle of a bull elk on the ridge behind me. 

"He's right there!" I whispered to my dad as I hurriedly threw on my pack and grabbed my bow. It wasn't quite daylight yet so I used the cover of darkness to work my way up the hill to try and get into position, cow-calling as I went. As day started to break and I approached the clearing where I was sure the bull was, he was nowhere to be found. My gut instinct told me he was working his way down the ridge, so I took off through the timber, still cow-calling and hoping for a response. 

I came to another clearing, and heard him bugle just on the other side of it. I scrambled to find some cover to set up in, and had no sooner got settled when he came out of the timber headed straight toward me, bugling like crazy. At about 60 yards away, he turned and began walking parallel to the timber patch I was in the edge of. He had been expecting to see a cow elk, and when one wasn't visible where he thought it should be, he hung up. Just like an old turkey gobbler will do so many times. 

I was able to range him at 57 yards, and waited for his head to turn the other way. As soon as he turned his head, I started to draw. He caught my movement somehow, and just as he did, he let out a warning bark and bounded away without presenting another shot. 

My dad and I had a conversation a few days before about how hunting often parallels life. Successes, failures, almosts, lessons learned, sacrifices made. I believe the natural types the spiritual, and there is nothing more natural than...well, nature. And not only that, but many lessons learned in the field can be applied directly to our lives. One of the greatest skills a hunter can learn is patience, and that's something we all need to learn and apply to our lives as well. Apparently, I still need some work in that department, because the Teacher keeps administering the same lesson to me over and over in the deer woods!

On every hunt, as in life, there are peaks and valleys. On my elk hunt, I was literally hiking up mountains and down into valleys to chase the elk. The scenario I described above came toward the latter part of the hunt, and in the end I still didn't fill my tag. Time and the weather both played a role, and the whole hunt played out like life itself. There were sunny days when all was quiet. There were times it was so windy when I couldn't have heard the elk, even if they were bugling. There was one amazing morning when I had 4 bulls bugling at one time in response to my calls, I saw a huge mule deer buck, and one bad shot at an elk brought me from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Then it rained. Then it snowed. 

And it was possibly the best week of hunting I've ever had. That may sound strange considering I still have an elk tag to make a sandwich out of. But I spent time with my dad in beautiful country, got to interact with nature on it's own terms, was into elk almost everyday and I learned some lessons. If I'm blessed with the opportunity to hunt the area again, I know the lay of the land better, I know the elk better, and I'll have another year of practicing with my bow to make me a better hunter. Just like life, it's not all about getting "stuff" or a trophy animal to hang on the wall. It's enjoying the time you have, with people you love, in the world our Creator have us dominion over. If you keep it all in perspective, you can take as much away from the failures as you can from the victories. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Michigan Plans Wolf Hunt

After a long review period, the Michigan Natural Resource Commission announced the approval of a wolf harvest in the state's Upper Peninsula. The goal is to harvest 43 wolves from an estimated population of 658 animals. The state has established 3 wolf management units, with different harvest totals in each, and the season will from November 15 to December 31, or until the total harvest quota is met. They will be issuing 1200 wolf tags that cost $100 for residents and $500 for non-residents with a limit of one wolf per hunter, per year. Firearms and archery hunting methods are legal.

I've posted before about my views on wolf management. And while I don't feel they need to be eliminated like they were many years ago, a comprehensive management plan, like the one Michigan is adopting, that involves hunters is a step in the right direction.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Wyoming Elk Hunting - Part 1

We had a plan.

The plan was to go back to the exact spot I had several close calls with good bulls last year. This year I knew the pattern. I knew the location. All I had to do was hike up the mountain and stick an arrow in a bull.

As my dad and I were driving toward Dubois, WY on Saturday evening, we began to smell smoke. The closer we got, we began to see smoke a ways off the highway to the north. Knowing the smoke was in the general direction of my hunting area gave me an uneasy feeling as we neared the turnoff to Horse Creek. Sure enough, as it began to get dark and we drove farther, you could see the orange glow of a raging fire in the sky.

A forest ranger stopped us to inform us that the road was being closed. The fire had started the day before and grown from 4 acres to 400 in no time. It wasn't burning in the area I intended to hunt, but was closing in on the road, and homes and ranches in the area. Evacuations were in progress.

So with some disbelief that a fire had started the day before I landed that prevented me from getting to the area I wanted to hunt, we began to scramble to come up with a plan C. Plans A and B were out at this point. We stayed that night in Dubois and planned to find a new camping spot the next day.

We spent the first couple of days hiking some trail heads and looking for elk or elk sign, to no avail. As for our camping plans, there were signs posted in several areas that no tent camping was allowed due to recent bear activity. Tuesday night outside our room, my dad ran into a local who gave him directions to a few spots to check out. The next morning we headed out to one of the areas. Unfortunately the directions weren't crystal clear and we ended up trespassing for a while. Once we got out bearings, we got into a decent looking area and began to see some signs of elk.

About 6:20 that evening, I heard a bugle a few hundred yards away. I cow called but didn't get a response. I decided to head back down the mountain and try to locate him in relation to the logging road I had been on. I bugled and didn't hear anything. After waiting a little while I cow called. Within two minutes, I caught movement coming up behind me on my right. I could see the body of a dark animal coming straight toward me and thought it was a moose. As it broke out into the open, I realized it was an elk! If I had realized sooner, I would've had a shot at 5 yards! As he went behind a large spruce tree, I drew my bow and waited for him to come out. Instead he walked directly away from me behind the tree. When he came out, I guessed him to be about 45 yards away. I tried grunting to stop him, and when he hesitated fora second, I rushed the shot and punched the trigger. I heard the unmistakable smack of an arrow hitting a log as the arrow went right under him. A clean miss. Turns out he was closer to 60 yards away. A full blown case of bull fever had taken hold on me.

That proved to be my only encounter with a bull all week. I did get into some cows feeding in the middle of the day several times. I found a wallow that at least one bull had been using, and plenty of well-used game trails. In the end, the battle against the calendar and starting from scratch in a new area prevailed.

The good news is this was a bonus hunt for me. It was the earliest I've ever hunted elk and I'll be back in a few weeks to try and fill my tag. Hopefully by that time, there will be a little more bugling going on as the rut kicks in. A hidden blessing is by being forced into a new area this trip, I'll have more to work with when I come back. I'll put in some time with a topo map and between now and then and give it another go.

Can't wait to get back in the elk mountains!