Category Archives: Product Reviews

Last-Minute Gift Ideas For Your Hunter!

Christmas shopping can be a little bit like deer hunting. You can spend weeks afield without finding the right deer, much like you can waste several hours in stores seeking the right gifts. As my 2010 hunting season can atest – sometimes it only takes a few hours to get the job done.

With that, I suppose it’s time to start thinking about Christmas gifts! I mean, there are still two solid afternoons to buy gifts. For those of you looking for ideas on the go, here are a few that can help make the hunter in your life very happy this year.

Socks … and I mean really good socks
Very few items you take hunting with you can be more important than a quality, warm pair of hunting socks. They’re easy to purchase, but here’s one where you can get what you pay for.

Warm socks are vital to a happy day afield in those cold November and December days

I hunt mostly with a wool/cotton combination and wear only one pair (no matter the temperature).

A quality sock will keep your feet warm (when coupled with the appropriate boot) at all conditions. Most quality socks run anywhere from $12-$16 per pair. And you can find them at any sporting goods store.

Boots … And I mean good boots
I purchased a pair of Irish Setter RutMaster boots with the ExoFlex system after doing a lot of shopping (trying on) earlier this fall. They’ve been a comfortable, warm boot for some of the cold conditions I’ve hunted.

Irish Setter RutMaster boots

There are other quality boots out there. I also have a couple pair of Muck boots that I like wearing. If your hunter is worried about scent control, be sure to focus your attention on rubber boots. Prices vary by level of Thinsulate insulation and manufacturer. A good 800 gr boot will run a shade more than $100 in most cases. The particular boot I referenced is usually $139. It’s expensive, but a hunter’s wheels are the root to having a positive hunt.

A handheld video camera to document all the partying at camp … I mean, all the hunting afield
I’ve talked in the past about how much I enjoy my Kodak Zi8 when I’m hunting. It’s a great little camera that captures HD quality video and takes pretty good photos to boot.

The Zi8

There are several manufacturers who make similar cameras (Flip being the most popular), but it is worth noting that Kodak is the only manufacturer I’m aware of that actively markets to outdoorsmen.

The Rochester, N.Y., company has a couple models that are designed for sportsmen. They look a lot like the Zi8 I purchased before they started doing that and I’m not sure I’d trade my camera for another now that I have gotten used to it. It fits on my hip in a case and has been a blast the last two hunting seasons. The price on these also varies, but be prepared to spend $150-$200.

A knife sharperner
This is another quality gift that is worth mentioning as a possibility each year. These range in quality, functionality and price. Chef’s Choice makes a wide array of sharpeners.

A popular Chef's Choice model

There are several out there, including a Cabela’s licensed brand that is very similar to the Chef’s Choice.

If you spend a little more than bottom dollar, you can get one that sharpens both straight edge and surrated. This makes a great sharpener for those kitchen knives too. The biggest difference is the number of stages the sharpener will run a knife through. Most are 2-4 stages. The price range of sharpeners is between $35 and $200. A good one can be purchased for $50.

The ‘uh oh, I forgot to shop and need the greatest gift to give’ idea
If you’re in the mood to wow your hunter and looking to find an awesome gift OR you have a future hunter that you’d like to provide a legacy for, giving a lifetime license could be the perfect gift.

Most states now sell Lifetime Licenses for residents and they can be pricey (most lifetime hunting licenses are $500 for adults), but pay huge dividends for a lifelong hunter. It’s a purchase I made years ago and have since made for my daughter. Many states offer a very attractive price to buy for young kids (sometimes infants under 1 year old).

Check with your local state department of natural resources or game commission for more information. All I’ve ever checked into could be purchased online.

Have a great holiday!
Kurt

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Limited Edition AHT Arrow Saw

My dad’s shop is a playground for people like me. With every tool imaginable at convenient disposal, there’s always stuff you can make. It’s one of the things I miss most about being nearly 600 miles away from that shop. Not having easy access to welders, grinders, hoists, vices, steam washers or the room to use any of them makes building stuff more difficult.

But still I try.

The cutting area plus a good shot at the cabinet clasp.

I’ve spent several years assembling my own arrows. And one of the challenges I face is not having an arrow saw. Instead of buying one, I decided to take a shot at building one. I’d seen mentioned one approach on the Archery Talk Forum (www.archerytalk.com) that included using a mini cut saw available at Harbor Freight. We recently ate dinner near a Harbor Freight and I decided the time had come to buy the saw.

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Realtree takes AP beyond its patterns and onto the Internet

The Internet makes life a lot easier for outdoorsmen to keep up with their favorite pastime – especially during the off season! I recently stumbled upon Realtree’s new website and was impressed with something so many sites are missing these days. Realtree had simplified the navigation of www.realtree.com!

Realtree is a camo company with a backbone in the fact it licenses its patterns to manufacturers for use on their products.

Realtree's new site is AP

Along with Mossy Oak, the company is at the top of the food chain in the camo industry. And their business model is one that continues to fascinate me. It’s very similar in principle to the model that made Coca-Cola one of the largest and most recognizable companies globally.

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Book Review: “Hunting Booger Bottom” by Michael Waddell

Michael Waddell is without question the biggest star in the outdoor world.

To my gun- and bow-toting brotheron, he’s sort of our LeBron James. Well, except when he was a big-time free agent in the hunting industry a couple years ago, he didn’t do an hour-long show on the Outdoor Channel to tell everybody about it. In fact, hardly anyone knew about it. He’s that kind of humble.

He’s gone from a part-time grunt with Realtree Outdoors to the most sought-after representative for every outdoor product manufacturer. He’s developed two brands that carry significant value in the outdoors. And he’s done it by staying true to himself. I respect that very much.

He kind of reminds me a lot of Marty Smith with ESPN. Smith is beloved by NASCAR fans because he is different by being normal. Does that make sense – different by being normal? The normal for both Smith and Waddell helped fit a niche that was needed in their respective industries.

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Finished art … with an outboard motor!

Skilled craftsmen have always impressed me. I’m no rookie when it comes to working with building materials and power tools, but seeing some of the work that a talented carpenter can do, reminds me of seeing a canvas filled with the aftermath of a fine artist’s brush strokes.

My hunting buddy Brad Taylor is one of these artists. Brad, a full-time school teacher, has been building duck-hunting boats for about as long as I’ve known him. And it seems like with each one he builds, his work gets even more impressive. Brad, under the name Toller Boatworks, spends his summers shaping marine-grade plywood into narrow vessels that any duck hunter would be proud to own.

Toller Boatworks No Fly Zone (NFZ) model

I’ve been fortunate enough to watch the evolution of several Toller Boatworks pieces from the first form being used to their first trip across water. I’ve even had the pleasure to take a duck or two from the confines of more than one of Brad’s creations. The time and detail that Brad puts into making everything perfect are the reasons why I’ve never heard one complaint from one of his customers. Because it’s a part-time gig, Toller Boatworks builds only a handful (no more than four, I believe) of custom boats a year.

The reason Brad and Toller Boatworks are top of mind for me in February (duck season closed almost a month ago) is because I’m hoping to get a shot at one of Brad’s boats next week at our annual Ducks Unlimited banquet.

The DH Mini is just 11' long, yet big enough to get hunter and pooch (plus a couple dekes) to a hunting spot!


This year will mark the second time that Brad has built a boat for our chapter to raffle during our event. The raffle this year, is for a DHMini and I’m hoping to win! It’s a one-man (and hopefully a dog too) duck-hunting boat that I can’t help but see visions of Sage and I sitting in.

For what it’s worth, tickets still remain for the boat. And you do not need to be present to win. If you’re not from these parts, though, you would need to arrange transfer. Tickets can be purchased from Brad directly – details available on his site. Catch up with Brad at http://www.TollerBoatWorks.com.

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Cat Tales

I’m looking forward to making my first trip to the Dixie Deer Classic next week. In addition to seeing what new hunting-related products will be on the shelves this summer and fall, I’ll get a chance to meet Josh and Tyler from Riverview Outfitters. I’ll be joining a small group to hunt with Riverview later this fall on an archery hunt during, what should be, the middle of the rut.

I’ll be sure to take some photos of anything noteworthy while at the Classic to add to AHT.


Fret no more … AHT’s 2009 Sportsman’s Gift Guide

I pity my poor wife. In fact, I feel sorry for any relative that’s tasked with purchasing a gift for me throughout the year. I’m not easy to shop for, I know that. And most of that is rooted in me already having just about anything and everything that’s associated with my favorite pastime.

Making it worse, I have a habit of simply buying the things I want, when I want them. Of course, it doesn’t help that my daily commute includes driving by the illuminated Bass Pro Shops in Concord, NC! Have you ever witnessed the attraction to a flood light that moths have? That’s sort of the same thing you can see watching my car on Interstate 85.

Thus, my family has grown accustomed to buying what many good-hearted Americans serve as gifts around the holidays … gift certificates!

In the spirit of ol’ Saint Nick, though, I thought I’d hammer out a few gift ideas for the outdoorsmen in your family this year. Send your wife, mamma, in-laws or siblings the link to this blog and you too can make sure the gift under the tree with your name on it will be something you can put to good use afield.

New Flashlight – Coming in all shapes, sizes and price ranges, the sportsman in your life can never have too many flashlights. I often think of my grandfather who had flashlights tucked in every corner of his life (Of course, he always had rubber bands available at every turn as well, but those would be a little cheap as a gift). I’ve found that you can get a great flashlight for a respectable price by doing the trip through the camping area of your local Wal-Mart. The key is to get something that’s LED and carries the highest Lumen rating as possible.

The polystinger is durable and throws a heckuva beam of light

I purchased a Coleman for under $20 that has been a great addition to my pack. For those of you looking to spend a little more than that, the Streamlight Polystinger has become a friend to this blogger as well. It comes with both wall and cigarette-lighter (AC and DC) chargers. They’re bright, but a little on the pricey side (around $75 if you shop around).

Custom Ear Plugs – I’ve just learned about a product that will make its way on my own Santa wish list this year. The Radians Custom Ear Molds (www.radians.com) run roughly $15 and include all the epoxy, etc. to form your own, custom ear protection without the hefty price tag.

Camera Tripod – As you’ve learned, it’s no secret that I love taking video and photos while afield. The gorilla tripod is a handy tool that can pretty much help steady your camera or camcorder to anything. Check out http://www.joby.com for different models and to learn where you can purchase.

Two-way Radios – Once a considerable investment, the price of many models have dropped out of the stratosphere to provide hunters with a great tool to communicate with their fellow hunting party members afield. My family purchased Midland 22-channel, rechargeable models this year to help get everyone on common channels that were different from the low-frequency common channels that half our county used! Do check your local game regulations to see if hunting with radios is allowed prior to buying these for your sportsman.

Knife Sharpener – Look folks, the hunter with the sharpest knife in camp is the coolest. It’s that simple. For several years, my brother and I made sharpening our knives with a Lansky sharpening kit the night before the deer opener an annual ritual. Then, of course, we’d brag to see which knife headed to the woods with the best edge! Time has had a way of helping us here too, as electric-type sharpeners that use technology to make sure your blade ends up with a 20-degree edge have come down to an affordable price (under $50). Visit http://www.chefschoice.com) to learn about several of that manufacturer’s models.

Kodak Zi8 – If you read my early-season reviews of new gadgets in my bag this year, you learned that I’m a big fan of having this alongside me afield. The handheld HD camcorder continues to impress. Trips afield are meant for making memories. Why not chronicle them easily to relive and pass on? The Zi8 is just one of the different types of cameras out there. This too is a little pricier, running in the $175 area this festive season.

Base Layer – Buy quality base layers for your hunter. There are several different manufacturers that make quality cold-weather lycra-based products. You can’t go wrong with Under Armour, but you pay for the name. Buying underwear for your hunter might seem a bit boring, but trust me when I tell you that he or she will thank you later.

Other ideas include: Shooting Stix, GPS, Boot Dryers and Smart Wool socks.

Finally, don’t forget the pooch when you’re picking out those outdoor trinkets. Santa will be getting Sage a warmer hunting vest for our trip to the coast this winter. We’re also considering getting her a teeth cleaning ($120) sometime later this month. If you’d keep that between us for the next few weeks, I’d appreciate it! The surprise is the best part.


2009 New Gear Ratings …

New Gear Performance Ratings: Accompanying me this year during the archery season have been a few new pieces of gear. Below are my reviews of their initial use.

• Kodak Zi8 video camera: Awesome product. I was extremely pleased with the performance of the camera.

DSC03651

It was not the Zi8 taking this photo!

The camera guy? He needed a little work. The HD video camera is small enough that it becomes a challenge to hold steady while your adrenaline is pumping hard with deer around! I got better at getting steadier the more I used it. The video was good quality in low- and high-light and the internal microphone did a great job picking up sounds. The one challenge is the stepped zoom. Instead of gradually moving in and out, the zoom jumps. It’s not a deal breaker for me. The hidden gem of the product: It doubles as an awesome tool for checking trail cameras afield. Just slap the SD card in the camera and get color photos from your trail cams. This product rates out as a booner in my book.

• Primos bow sling: This thing was a gift or I wouldn’t own one, but I’m kicking myself for never having one before hand. It’s sort of a hands-free device when you’re walking to/from your stand.

DSC03644

The Primos Sling keeps the Monster settled ...

I also underestimated it as a nice shield for your string and cams when in transport. It’s another booner.

• Manzella Ranger bow hunting gloves: These were replacements for a pair of Rocky gloves that I’d had for a couple years. I almost pulled the trigger on buying a pair of Under Armour gloves, but opted to try these. Overall, they did their job. That said, they frayed a large amount for just one week’s use. And they seemed a bit bulkier between the fingers than some of the other gloves I’ve used in the past. I’ll likely be replacing these. I’ll rate these as a 100” 8 pointer!

• Mathews Monster: It sure looked good in the tree, but I sadly didn’t get to fling the first arrow from it. Shooting the foam target at camp – not quite the same as shooting at a deer – showed that it should perform well when given the chance. Holding the rating until it gets the “true” test.