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How To/Pro-Tips

Staying Warm Starts at the Skin

Staying warm is about both keeping warmth in and the cold out. Your body generates its own heat and that's what properly insulated clothing retains. However, the body also generates moisture and that has to go if you want to stay warm. No matter how much you bundle up, if your underclothing absorbs and holds moisture, you will soon get clammy and cold.
"Breathable" insulation traps heat but wicks bodily moisture out and away from your skin. Windproof garments also allow you to get away with less insulation. For next-to-the skin comfort, silk is the traditional favorite. However the new generation of synthetic fabrics rival the classic silk and wool combination for both wicking and insulation ability.
Goose down is premium insulation. It wicks, it breathes and it is wonderfully warm. However, if it gets wet, it loses all its good qualities until it can be dried. If you are wearing down garments for insulation, make sure that you have some windproof and waterproof outerwear available.

Duck Boat Safety

Most waterfowlers consider themselves to be hunters first and boaters second -- if they consider themselves to be boaters at all. Nevertheless, much waterfowling involves boats, cold water and sometimes rough weather conditions. Both water and boating safety should be uppermost in the waterfowler's mind.
*Don't overload. We want our duck boats to be small, maneuverable and easy to hide. Then we want to load them with lots of decoys, big dogs and maybe a couple of buddies. Play it safe; make two trips.
*Carry a change of warm clothes in a waterproof bag.
*Carry a compass, fire-starting supplies and signal flares.
*Carry the correct number and type of personal flotation devices. Have one of them on about 50 feet of rope as a "throwable" float.
*Consider a hand-held two-way radio or carrying a cellular phone.
*Take a boating safety course to better understand both the rules and peculiar hazards of boating, especially in cold weather.

Patterning Turkey Guns

Patterning your turkey gun is like sighting-in your deer rifle. You find its true point of impact and determine its maximum effective range with a given load.

Do point-of-impact sighting in at relatively short range, say 20 to 25 yards. To raise the point of impact, build up the comb of the stock; to lower it, lower the comb. To adjust the pattern horizontally, build up or sand down the side of the stock, moving your shooting eye in the direction you want the pattern to move.

To avoid this hassle, many serious turkey hunters use adjustable rifle-type open or low-powered telescopic and "red dot" sights to center super-tight patterns on a gobbler's head and neck.

To determine maximum shooting range, move the target farther away until pattern density diminishes. Many shooters will be surprised by how quickly even "super-full" patterns fall apart. Fire several shots to get a real idea of your turkey gun's performance. Never depend on the fluke shot or that "lucky BB."

Last Minute Magic

Late-season bucks aren't dummies and they are seldom taken by hunters who don't pay attention to detail and cover all the bases of sound hunting fundamentals. The hunter's game plan needs to be close to perfect.

Some hunters go deeper and deeper into the dense stuff and that's not a bad play with the season on the wane. Big bucks "pattern" hunters and quickly learn where hunting pressure is heavy and how to avoid it. However, there are other options. In woodlot country, I often look for small pockets of dense cover in more open habitat. It doesn't take much cover to hide a bedded buck and by the late season, the bucks are pretty nocturnal anyway and bed most of the day.

A small but dense thicket or even a copse of tall weeds can be all the cover a cagey buck needs. If you find such a hideout, hunt it carefully. Small-cover bucks are sensitive. Spook him once and a second chance is unlikely.

Waterfowl Still Seasonable

Even with deer seasons winding down, much other hunting is still available. In particular, waterfowling at the southern ends of the migration routes is at its very peak in the mid-winter months.
Whether you are after ducks or geese, cover the basics with good camouflage, good waterfowling guns, non-toxic loads and effective calling. Newly arrived birds are somewhat easier to work but remember, these birds are at the end of a migration that took them over lots of blinds and decoy spreads and they've been exposed to lots of calling.
Cut back on the standard hail and comeback calls. Use them enough to get passing birds' attention but go sooner to confidence calls and be subtle. Particularly in flooded timber and swamp shooting, loud calling is not necessary.
The use of a trained retriever is highly recommended. Waterfowl are very tough and tenacious of life. Even hard-hit ducks will often dive or swim into areas where they are difficult for the wading hunter to find or retrieve.

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