Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Eve Angel

This past Christmas eve my wife and I headed out to get one last gift and stop by the grocery store. The last minute gift wasn't due to lack of planning. My middle daughter has been asking for a fish. For months she has bombarded us with the need for a fish.  We decided to surprise her for Christmas and I didn't want to kill the thing before Christmas, so I waited until Christmas eve to buy the fish.

After we got the fish and accessories, we drove to the grocery store. While pulling into the grocery store we saw a young man who was obviously down on his luck. As he walked across the parking lot, I noticed his shoes. The tongue on one was flopping, and as he walked past, I said to my wife, Susan, "his shoes don't have any soles." and we drove by.

I dropped Susan off at the door, and as I did, my heart was breaking for this young man who was walking around with no soles on his shoes. I circled the parking lot looking for him. As I neared the end of the lot, he was crossing the street - I was too late.

I circled back to wait for my Susan. It was during this time, that the picture of this young man pierced my heart. I could not get his image out of my mind. Living in an urban area, we see a lot of destitute people. Begging for money or food on a daily basis. Most of them, seldom catch my eye. For some reason this young man did not only catch my eye, but he caught my heart. I prayed for guidance.

Susan emerged from the store and I drove to pick her up. As she got into the truck I said to her, "bear with me, I need to do something."
"OK" she said. "What are you going to do?"
"I have to see if I can find that man we saw with the bare shoes." I replied.
"OK, What are you going to do when you find him?"
"I have shoes, I am going to give him my shoes if they will fit." I said.

So we drove in the direction I last saw him. As we neared a stop light I saw him walking on the opposite sidewalk. Driving past I pulled into a church parking lot in front of him, parked and got out of the truck.

"Hello," I said as I approached.
He looked directly at me, but never spoke or slowed down. It is not uncommon for people in his situation to be skeptical of everyone who approaches.
"Looks like you have had a hard time lately." I said walking towards him.
He stopped and I asked him a question. "I wonder if you would do me a favor?"
His skepticism increased, and he just looked at me puzzled and alert. I guess he seldom gets asked for favors.
"Will you swap shoes with me?" I asked.
He looked at me - questioning.
"What size shoes do you wear?" I asked.
"Perfect, they will fit me." I said as I slid mine off of my socked feet.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Pete, what is yours?" I replied.
"Derek." he said as we shook hands.
Derek then kicked off his shoes and revealed dirty bare feet inside the worn shoes. As he slid his feet into my shoes, I asked again, "Can I have these shoes?"
"There is no sole left on them." He said.
"Perfect! Already broken in." I said smiling at him.
I gave him some cash, shook his hand again and wished him a Merry Christmas and we left.

Derek has been on my mind and heart ever since. I am not sure why this one young man caught my attention. I am not sure what made me do what I did. But as I think about it, I want to be clear that I tell you this story for one reason.

I do not tell this story to bring attention to myself, but to bring attention to the fact that the world is full of "Derek's". It saddens me how many I choose to "not see". It pains me to think of how many other young men and women are out there with no soles on their shoes, no home or family, no hope. It breaks my heart to think of them. And it reminds me how blessed I am.

I know that many of us are simply products of decisions we make. But I also know that so many people are just one paycheck away from Derek.

As I sat in the truck praying I was reminded of a verse in  Mark 9:41 where Jesus tells us "anyone who gives a cup of water in my name will not lose their reward."

I knew I needed to offer a "cup of water" to Derek.

I also believe that Derek has helped me far more than I helped him. Hebrews 13:2 reminds us, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."

Is Derek an angel? I don't know, but I do know that he has blessed me, this brief encounter has changed me in a profound way. His shoes are in my office resting on my hearth where I can see then everyday and be reminded that there are many "Derek's" out there that need assistance. And that I need to be more aware of their plight.

God's speed Derek.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Hunting with a Handgun

Someone asked me recently, "what is the difference between a pistol and a handgun?" Technically they are both handguns. However the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau defines a pistol as "any handgun that does not contain its ammunition in a revolving cylinder." So, by definition, there are pistols and revolvers.

When it comes to hunting with handguns, I know there are those who will hunt with a pistol. Those choosing to use a semi-auto tend to use the 10mm since it is one of the biggest cartridge available for this action. Other than the Desert Eagle .50 Cal. Others will use single shots or bolt action pistols usually chambered in larger calibers. Some of the single action and bolt action pistols actually come in what are typically rifle cartridges including, .243 Win., .308 Win., and even .30-06 Springfield in some configurations.

But the very largest cartridges are reserved for wheel guns. The big .41 Rem. Mag., .44 Rem Mag, .454 Casull, .460 S&W Mag., and the .500 S&W are behemoth hand cannons that are a beast to shoot. .45-70 Magnum research (also available in a single shot) Colt .45-70 Peacemaker. Then there are the Freedom Arms available in .475 Limbaugh and the .500 Wyoming Express. Truly giant handguns. And at almost $2500 each a true investment.

Personally I really enjoy shooting big handguns. Some practice has taught the proper technique so as not to get hurt physically when shooting them. Having said this, I have never shot a .50 caliber handgun, so I may have to eat those words one day.

The rifle cartridge handguns pack a wallop on both ends, and the blast is extensive which is why they need long barrels and a good rest. None of these rifle cartridge handguns are intended to shoot freehand. A small bipod is a good idea for many of them.

And while I have shot a fair number of the single shot guns, my preference is towards the wheeled guns. The smooth cocking, easy trigger in single action mode and the ease of carry make them my preferred choice. Having said this, I just encountered a new Taurus Raging bull model 444 chambered in .44 Rem. Mag. (my personal favorite caliber for handguns). While it does not come drilled and tapped for a scope mount, that is an easy fix with my local gunsmith. The 8 3/8" barrel and built in muzzle brake make it a pure joy to shoot. I cannot wait to get it into the field for some hogs this winter and see the damage it will do on some swine.

I compare handgun hunting to bow hunting, only it is a lot louder. Handgun hunting requires you to get a lot closer than with a rifle, it requires you to focus on shot execution and recovery. Similar to bow hunting. When choosing a stand location for handgun hunting you have to consider different elements than rifle. Similar to bow stands.

One thing I can see as I get older, I enjoy more of a challenge to hunting. To increase the challenge, I took up the handgun several years ago and have really enjoyed the pursuit and limitations of the handgun. It is the perfect still hunting weapon. Easily portable, light weight and capable of killing big animals.

if you are looking for a greater challenge in the field, consider dropping the shotgun or rifle and picking up a pistol or revolver and see the joy of shooting a smaller gun with big rewards.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Who is My Audience?

Who is My Audience?

            I was listening to a podcast recently that sort of rattled my chains. During this podcast the interviewee made some comments that got me to thinking. He is an outdoor writer and he made comments like (and I paraphrase) “you need to identify who your target audience is and write to them.” And then he said, “Define your niche and write in that niche, too many aspiring writers are generalists and not focused enough.”
            As I listened to this, I became despondent. I have been writing for almost twenty years in the outdoor industry. I have published over one thousand articles, stories and reviews. My writing has been acknowledged by numerous agencies and groups with nearly forty respectable awards. Yet, as I thought about this, I could not for the life of me identify ‘who my audience is.’
            Then as I continued to think about it, trying to identify my niche was even more depressing. My niche has evolved, changed a few times and eluded me at others. My ability to write about a lot of different topics has been my niche. I have embraced being a generalist. The guy that can and does cover it all and does it all fairly well. I am not a whitetail deer writer, although I will publish a dozen or more stories annually on whitetail deer and how to hunt them. I have never been known as a gun writer. But this year I have written more stories about guns and reviews on guns than anything else. I do not believe I can be labeled a turkey writer, but this is perhaps my most favorite animal to hunt and write about.
            I have written stories on so many subjects and species that I cannot remember them all. I have written about Whitetail deer and mule deer, black bear, turkey, feral hogs, elk, moose, coyotes, bobcats, fox both grey and red. I have written stories on how to hunt squirrels, rabbits and quail. Many a story has been spun around ducks, geese and decoys. Stories about woodcock and grouse. Articles of dogs and how to select them and train them. Stories about knives, bow and arrow, target shooting, optics and accessories. I have written about the nuances of the bow and arrow. From selecting the best bow, arrow, rest, sight, release and quiver to why not to do so. There are stories about black powder rifles and handguns. Stories about crossbows, recurve, longbows and compound bows. I have written about catching largemouth bass, striped bass, spotted bass and smallmouth. If you look you will find stories on how to catch bluegill, redbreast, shell cracker and crappie. There are stories on catching walleye, northern pike in remote lakes and every catfish available. Then there are the trapping stories. How to catch coyotes, fox, bobcats and raccoons. I have written mostly about hunting, fishing, trapping and life outside.
            But of all of it, most of what I enjoy writing is not about the ‘how’, as much as it is about the ‘why’. I do not enjoy writing about the ‘how’. Although that is the only thing most magazines will buy. I do write about the ‘how’ – I just do not enjoy it nearly as much as writing about the ‘why’.  There are plenty of writers out there who are far better than I am about telling you ‘how’. I love writing about ‘why’ we are there in the first place. What is it that draws men and women into the distant wilderness or neighborhood creek? What is the allure? What is the essence of the why? I write stories about sitting around campfires, sleeping in tents far from civilization. I write about traveling to distant places or nearby woodlots. About floating rivers and wading streams. About climbing mountains and slipping into frozen ponds. It is my belief that the ‘why’ is far more important than the ‘how’.
            I can tell you how to catch a trout. But I long to tell you why you should want to catch a trout. I can explain the biology of the rut in deer, but I desire to capture the reasoning why we sit out in sometimes miserable conditions hoping for just a chance to see a buck. It is relatively easy to explain how to catch bedding bluegill. But to clarify the feeling of the fight from a panfish that causes grown men to tear up at the excitement is something difficult.
            I have written volumes on how to kill turkeys in the mountains, plains and everywhere in between. But trying to understand the man who is as transfixed by the sight of his two hundredth bird as he was on his first – now that is good literature. And that is what I aspire to write.
            So, who is my audience? My audience is everyone who understands that the why is far more important than the how. My audience are those men and women who crave for one more day, one more sunrise, and one more starry night. Those who inwardly smile at the perfect set of decoys, or the point of a setter. The man or woman who come across an old fence and marvel at the family that built it to survive. My audience is the little boy with his first BB gun. Or the girl on a pond bank praying her bobber will bounce.
            The outdoors is a magical place. It is a place where we can experience the perfectness of creation and the tranquility of our own soul. It is a place where we experience things that cannot be experienced anywhere else. Whether you are traversing ancient glaciers or sitting in your backyard, the majesty is everywhere.
            So I write for you. For everyone who dares to wonder and imagine. For everyone who looks out a frost covered window and dreams. For the upland hunter more interested in how his dog performs than he about his shooting prowess. For the big game hunter who enters vast wilderness in search of adventure. For the angler on a remote lake mesmerized by the loon and ripples. I write for you. For those who look into the flickering flames of a campfire and know. For those who don’t mind grounds in their coffee, or ice in their boots. I write for those who hunt the high country to go to sleep to the sound of bugling bulls and are transfixed by the millions of stars that are watching.

            My niche? It is the outdoors. My audience – well it is you. All of you, all of you who want, need and live the outdoors. I hope you enjoy the times I try to capture. For the moments in time that are stilled long enough for you to come along. I hope you can feel the breeze on your cheek, and smell the fresh pine and decaying leaves of the mountain stream. I pray that through reading my simple words, you will know you are part of something far bigger. Your life in this vast place has purpose and meaning. You are valuable. So, I will write for you, my audience who live the outdoors. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Proper Baiting Tactics for Whitetail Deer

Baiting is one of those topics that really bring out some heated discussions. Should you bait or not? Is it ethical? Does dumping a pile of corn on the ground change behavior? Is putting food out for deer the same as mineral licks or water holes?

The debate can go on for days. In fact it has gone on for years in many areas of the country. Today's post is not to debate the merits of bait. It is not to discuss whether it is legal, ethical or merited. It is simply to look at methods of baiting and how to do it in the most effective manner.

It has been my experience that baiting can draw deer from other areas to the bait station. It has also been my experience that baiting does not necessarily cause deer to alter their behavior. If anything, the only thing baiting has done is create a generation of hunters how do not know, nor care to learn woodsmanship.

Recently I was scouting a location for the upcoming trapping season. I was walking along the edge of a mature soybean field. Beautiful chest high soybeans. When I reached the edge of the field near a back corner I stopped in my tracks. There on the edge of the soybean field was a large pile of corn! My fist thought was 'what an idiot'. Who would waste their money and time pouring out corn along a soybean field? That is akin to dumping corn in the middle of persimmons, or along the edge of a ridge of white oak trees while they are dropping their acorns. The deer are coming to the soybeans anyway, the use of corn or any bait in this situation is wasteful, and ignorant.

Bait is best used when there are NO alternative native food sources available. Let me say that again. Bait is best used when there are NO alternative native food sources available. If there is a good acorn crop there is no need to bait, the deer will always choose acorns over corn or any other bait. When there is green soybeans, the deer will always choose soybeans over corn or bait. Bait for this discussion is the placed food source. corn, carrots, alfalfa, pears, apples etc. anything that is placed by hand, feeder or other methods and does not naturally grow or planted.

Bait is often not used well because of its location. Deer do not like to expose themselves during daylight. If you are putting bait out in the middle of a field, clear-cut or other big opening you will not draw bucks to that food during daylight except in extreme situations. Bait stations near cover or in the woods are best for bucks. They need to feel safe. In Texas for example they like to put bait along roadways that are cut through the middle of thick bedding cover. the bucks can come our feed and retreat and still fee safe. In the southeast, bait stations that are in the thick cover get a lot more attention than those in the open. The closer to cover the better the deer like it when it comes to placing bait.

Another mistake hunters make with bait is only baiting during the hunting season. The deer will get skiddish quickly when the pressure is on them. Begin your baiting regimen months before the season opens. One method we began that seems to work is to begin using our feeders in July before the opening of season on September 1. This allows two things to occur. We can get a good survey of the herd, and it conditions the deer to the bait and the location without much interference. It also allows them to begin to associate our interference as a positive. They learn quickly that the sound of the four wheeler means food. Many times when hunting bait. We will drive the wheeler into the area, let out a hunter, and leave. Fooling the deer into thinking new food just arrived. On many occasions this has resulted in a kill at the station shortly after the machine is out of hearing.

Using timed feeders or manually dispersing has advantages and disadvantages. For the absentee land owner, the timed feeder is excellent because it feeds when you are absent. It keeps things rolling while you are away. The downside of this is that it limits your options of what you can use for bait. it is hard to use carrots, apples or pears in a spin feeder. So if you use one of these you are limiting yourself to corn or pellets.

In our experience when using corn for bait, the cob corn tends to work a shade better. It seems that the deer take a lot longer to eat the cob corn so it last a lot longer then the shelled corn. There again, when using a feeder, shelled corn and some minerals is all that can be used.

Baiting can be effective at certain times of the year and under certain circumstances. Relying too much on the dumping of food to kill a deer is not the best use of your time. Finding the animals, locating their bedding, feeding and travel corridor is essential to placing a good bait station.

Baiting is legal in many areas, so if you are going to do it, do it well.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Best Place to Hunt and Kill Big Whitetails

I have been hunting whitetail deer now for forty years. ninety percent of this time has been spent in my home state of South Carolina. Hunting deer in the deep south is very different and in many cases much harder than in other parts of the country. 

For one, we have very large blocks of timber with very little terrain features. This is very different form the mid-west where agriculture fields dominate and finding funnels and trails is easy since the deer are concentrated into small woodlots. In the deep south, we have areas with very large blocks of timber that can stretch for thousands of acres. Tot op this off, this area may have an elevation change of only a few feet. This poses a great problem of where and how to hunt bucks and kill them consistently. 

The answer is pretty simple to state and difficult to accomplish. Will Primos, of Primos hunting calls says it like this; "You cannot hunt a buck where he is, you have to hunt him where he is going to be." This may seem obvious and easy, but in reality it is difficult to accomplish. The reasoning is trying to discern where he will be in hundreds or thousands of acres of a mono-culture can be daunting. 

Contrary to other parts of the country, we can walk for miles and not find a single trail. The deer just wander around feeding, grazing and moving from one place to another. This is where efforts to concentrate them into certain areas can make it easier. Whether your state allows baiting, or salt licks, minerals, food plots it doesn't matter. Whatever is legal in your state that you can do to concentrate the bucks into an area is your best chance to kill him. 

If baiting is allowed, then by all means use what the law allows and strategically place bait in a good location. If it is not allowed, find the core area of the bucks, and get a hundred and fifty yards from there and construct a small 1/4 acre food plot. Scratch it out in the woods, make something that will attract the deer to your location. Hang your stand and only hunt on the correct wind. Remember you cannot hunt a buck where he is, you have to hunt him where he is going to be. In this scenario you are controlling to some degree where he will be. 

If you are baiting, don't place your bait in the middle of a clearing. Make it comfortable for the buck to visit the bait during daylight hours. Place the bait near or in the woods. Near some thick cover, or some place he can hide and feel safe. If bow hunting your stand should be no more than twenty yards from the bait and high in a tree. Again, only hunt with the correct wind. Personally, when baiting, I prefer to gun hunt these locations and place my stand a minimum of eighty yards from the bait. This allows me the opportunity to get into the stand without disturbing the area. 

Killing food plots are small plots located in isolated areas typically these will be hourglass shaped with a stand near the center. The entire plot will be within range of a bow hunter. These plots need to have proper vegetation for all seasons. Warm season then top seeded with winter foods. Or a good combination from the beginning. Standing corn, soybeans, cow peas, clover, winter wheat or rye are all good. So too are crops like turnips or rutabaga.

The focus is to remember, you cannot hunt a buck where he is, you have to hunt him where he is going to be. Get your location set up long before you plan to hunt him and be ready when he arrives. Anything you can do to control where he will be is to your advantage. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Elk Hunt 2017

I just returned from a long anticipated elk hunt in north central Colorado. A group of friends and I drew tags for units 18/181. After a twenty four hour drive, we finally arrived and set up our camp. Consisting of a walled tent and a pop-up camper, horse trailer that served as our kitchen and three ATV's. The week started off great, cold a dusting of snow. Our anticipation of giant 6x6 bulls and elk running everywhere was very high. All five of us had either sex tags so we knew we were coming home with coolers full of elk meat.

As the week wore on, the temperatures soared! Temperatures in the middle 70's kept the elk away or in hiding. In short, only one of us even SAW an elk. I believe that had I been hunting Sasquatch or a Triceratops my odds would have been just as good.

We hunted from 11,500 feet of elevation down to just below 8,000 feet of elevation and could not find fresh elk sign, and no elk. Averaging eight miles a day and we could not find them anywhere. In total we were spread out across several miles of terrain and none of us could find any elk.

For four of the five days I rose at 4:30 and hunted past dark. Stalking, sitting and glassing. Watching open meadows, moving through dark timber. Calling, nothing seemed to work. We determined after a week of hunting hard that the Rocky Mountain Elk is extinct.

It is during these difficult hunts that I am reminded of why I hunt. Sure I am after a big animal, and some meat for my freezer. But more importantly it is for the adventure and friendships that are made.

I love hunting the high country. The Rocky Mountains have a hold on my soul and I love being out there in the high country. I enjoy chasing different animals in different areas. I am thrilled with the pursuit, the challenge of hunting and hunting hard for an animal I know little about.

So while I have hunted elk several times, and have yet to SEE an elk on a hunt. I will continue to hunt them and other animals. I will continue to pursue the passion. Continue to travel to the high country and the Rocky Mountains and other regions across this country. I will not be deterred. As Gene Hill once quipped "At home a friend will ask, “Been [elk] hunting?” You will say that you have, and when he asks,” Have any luck?” You will think of what you have held in your heart instead of your hand, and then answer that you certainly did—without a doubt." 

So yes, my heart is full if my cooler is not. I am thankful for the opportunity to hunt, to pursue and to live my passion. And the full heart is why I hunt in the first place.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

How Young is Too Young

My Son Ridge with his first Buck. He
was 11 years old. 

Increasingly, I am seeing pictures all over social media of children with big game animals. Recent photos of a five year old with a massive buck caught my attention and got me to wondering, how young is too young to allow children to kill big game animals?

First let me say, I do not have the answer, but I do have some thoughts that may help you with your assessment of deciding for your children. As a father of five children, three girls and two boys, I have made some mistakes along this road that I would like to prevent you from making. My oldest son killed his first buck when he was nine years old. I waited until then, because I wanted to make sure he understood the finality of killing something and to make sure he could handle the gun safely. My second son, I waited until he was eleven, and my middle daughter (the only one of the girls that hunts) she was thirteen. But in hindsight, I wish I had waited for all of them. And here is why.

In each case, the first animal they killed was either a whitetail or a turkey. In our home state of South Carolina, that is about the only 'big game' we have. In retrospect, I wish I would have started them off on small game. My dad was not a hunter at all, he preferred to chase white balls across mowed grass. I came to hunting naturally, and without a mentor. I began by hunting squirrels, then doves, a few rabbits here and there, but most of my time was spent chasing bushytails with my Sears and Roebuck .22 rifle. I was in my 20's before I ever thought of hunting deer. Back inn the 1970's there were so few deer it wasn't even on my radar. Once I began, I had to figure the whole thing out on my own, And it was many years later before I killed my first one.

There is something pure about hunting small game. It is easier for kids to enjoy the 'less stress' of chasing squirrels. More movement is allowed, talking is not a terrible thing, and you can walk around without fear of scent control, or full head to toe camouflage. .22 caliber rifles or small gauge shotguns, are not loud and do not have enough recoil to measure. It teaches some patience and marksmanship. Hunting small game teaching kids to be safe with their gun while walking through the woods. It teaches them how to cross streams, fences and blow-down logs. And how to ensure safety all of the time.

If we allow four and five year old children to kill big game before they loose their front teeth, are we not setting them up for disappointment later? What is there to aspire to if success comes so easy so early?

A  friend of mine likes to use the analogy of 'ratcheting up'. Meaning, you start at point 'A', and ratchet up one click to the next level 'B'. Then to 'C', and so on. Perhaps this is a good analogy for introducing kids to the world of hunting. Start with small game, teach them to sit quietly, stalk slowly, make good clean ethical shots. Show them how to clean the game and then how to prepare it for consumption. Show them how to clean the guns after the hunt. Let them face defeat with a squirrel, or groundhog, perhaps a jackrabbit or cottontail. Let them feel the success of developing good skills for killing crows, or doves. Help them to focus on the event, the splendor of participating rather than the size of the antlers at such a young age.

I am 53 years old, and I have been hunting since I was thirteen. So forty years of hunting animals all across the continent. Still to this day, getting my old .22 Sears and Roebuck rifle out and wandering into the woods after squirrels is one of my most favorite things to do in late winter. The leaves are all gone, the air is crisp, and the scampering of bushytails bring a sort of nostalgia to my soul.

After my sons and daughter killed their deer, and turkey and pigs, we started over. Now their favorite hunting is squirrel hunting. We can talk, walk around through the woods and get to shoot at some squirrels. Often we stop by the creek, build a fire and put a squirrel on a spit and have it for lunch. They are enjoying the outdoors in a way, that sitting in a ladderstand just doesn't do. For them anyway.

At the end of the day, it is up to the parent and the laws of your state to determine when you can and should take your children hunting. From my experience however, too young is far worse too old, because there is no 'too old'. One of the reasons I began so early with my children, is because as an older parent, (I was still having kids into my 40's) I wanted to introduce them to something we could do together when I am well into my eighties and beyond. Time has a way of sneaking up on you, as my children became teenagers, school, cars, girlfriends and boyfriends, jobs, sports all became more important than spending time with dad in the woods. That is fine at this stage, the seed was planted and hopefully it will grow. But we still find several times each fall to spend a day together in the woods, carrying guns, looking for game. But mostly, we spend the day together. More memories are built based on the adventure shared than of the bulge in the game bag.

Just remember, for them, it is not about killing big bucks or a limit of ducks. It is about spending time with mom or dad one on one. So when you take them, let them decide when you leave. When you take them, let them decide what your'll hunt. Make it more about spending time with them, than killing something. Because they will remember the days spent with mom and dad a lot more than they will remember what they killed.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Le Chameau Boots - A Review

Image result for le chameau
If you have spent any time afield, you have heard of the boot company Le Chameau. 
If not, you are missing out on the finest footwear built today.
It all started when master boot maker Claude Chamot spent the day listening to his customers of farmers, hunters and fishermen complaining that their boots were uncomfortable and unreliable. Mr. Chamot designed and built a natural rubber boot that was tested and stood up to the punishment his customers needed.

As his reputation grew, expansion followed but the craftsmanship remained. In 1950 a real breakthrough emerged with Le Chameau boots. Mr. Chamot merged his rubber technology and craftsmanship with that of the saddler and fashioned the Saint Hubert - the first rubber boot with a leather lining. This boot quickly became the standard by which all other boots were measured.

Image result for le chameau chasseurIn 1970 Le Chameau introduced a boot that has become the standard by which all rubber boots are measured. Created with the hunter in mind, the Chasseur was the first rubber boot to have a full length waterproof zipper. It even comes available with eight different calf sizes for an almost perfect fit. The Chasseur comes with Kevlar reinforcement on the front of the boot to protect against wear, premium leather lining and leather insole. Each Chasseur boot is hand made by a master boot maker after a long and rigorous apprenticeship. Each boot is unique due to the handmade qualities.

In addition to the high quality, Mr. Chamot believed in permium customer service and offers a full 2 year guarantee for all of his boots.

To make matters even better, if rubber boots aren't your thing. Le Chameau now offers a full hiking/hunting boot called the Condor.

Image result for le chameau condor boots
The Condor
An Ultra-lightweight Nubuck leather boot with some of the finest leather available. This boot has a multi-layer Le Chameau LCX® Technology. This technology guarantees waterproof and breathable. The full grain leather is made with environmental friendly Terracare®. The sole is deep forest green with Michelin Compound for superior durability, flexibility and traction. These boot are insulated and made for hunting, hiking and other activities down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Weighing in at a total of 4.6 pounds these boots are the lightest full size leather boots I have ever personally tested. The full speed lace is another plus. By removing all of the speed lace getting a foot inside with full wool socks is a breeze. Allowing the lacing to be quick and easy. The quality of the leather meant that from the initial fitting the boots 'felt' like they were already broken in and ready for a hunt.

Recently I received each of these boot to test and evaluate. I have to say the Condor is performing  above expectations. Which is hard to believe. The boots fit perfectly to my size requested. The leather is some of the finest I have seen in any quality boot. And the comfort is above par. The price of these boots is nothing to balk at, but after trying them, it is easy to see that for many, these are a lifetime purchase. These boots will hold up for decades. Barring an accident that could damage any boot, I am confident I will never need anther pair of boots. In two weeks I will be taking these Condor boots to Colorado for a high country elk hunt. It will be interesting to see how they perform basically 'out-of-the-box'. Thus far, testing has been positive and the over thirty miles I have placed on them have been comfortable.

The Chasseur full length leather lined rubber boot with a full zipper was quite the surprise. Reading about the leather lining, the first thought that came to mind is 'i bet they are some more hot boot'. Thinking my feet would sweat profusely being inside a leather lined rubber boot. And if you have ever worn rubber boots you know there is no way for your feet not to sweat in them. Add to that the leather lining and the initial thought was not positive. However after trying them on and wearing them for several hours, I realize just the opposite was true. The leather allowed your feet to breathe some and my feet were not nearly as hot an sweaty as other boots.
I love he full zipper for ease of entry and removal. To this point they have not leaked at all. Comfort is a difficult thing when it comes to rubber boots. The out-soles are typically hard and the support is terrible. However, I found that with the Le Chameau Chasseur, the opposite was true. The comfort and feel was outstanding. If you are looking for a boot that will last a lifetime, or even an everyday rubber boot, the comfort of the Le Chameau is worth the money.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Not All Scope Bases are the Same!

A few months ago, I was able to acquire a Weatherby Mark V in .308 for an upcoming elk hunt. THe Weatherby Mark V has long been THE one rifle I always wanted to own. Granted the specific configeration I have is not quite what I had in mind, but still, it's a great gun.

Like all good gun writers, I also try and put good optics on good guns. I have never had the budget for high end German glass, regardless of how much I coveted them. So a compromise was issued and I opted for a light weight Leupold scope. Specifically the VX2-3x9x40. (You can read here how I came to choosing the Leupold) To go along with the VX2 I also selected the Leupold Bases and Rings for the Weatherby Mark V. The packaging said; "For Weatherby Mark V". That was all it said, nothing else. Which is what leads me to this story.

After mounting the bases, rings and scope - as I have done dozens of times before, I headed to the range to break in the barrel and sight in the gun. (More about barrel break in later). After bore sighting the gun, I noticed the target was about four feet above the crosshair of the scope. A simple adjustment would fix this, I thought. WRONG. After several adjustments I could not ever get the gun to shoot onto the plywood target holder. We were still shooting several feet too high. A dilemma arose. Some investigation determined that something must be wrong with the scope and it was not allowing proper adjustments. Or the scope was not level.

I took the scope off, checked the bases, rings and remounted the scope - all total I did this over twenty times! and still count not get the situation corrected. Several gun smiths, expert shooters and still no resolution. Now I am three weeks away from my trip and still do not have a scope on my rifle.

Four phone calls to Leupold and two to Weatherby and we Think we have the solution. It seems that Weatherby makes two different Mark V guns therefore Leupold makes two different bases for each specific version. NOTE: There is nothing on the gun, or in the owners manual that indicated that I have the six lug version rather than the nine lug version. (I never got an answer to what that actually meant). The bases for the nine lug gun are shorter in the front because the action is taller. Therefore nothing I could have done would have fixed the problem short of discovering the proper mounts.

New bases and rings were ordered and should be in today just in time to head back to the range this afternoon to see if we can finally get the gun sighted in properly.

Point of the story. Check and recheck to make sure your bases match your gun EXACTLY or you will find yourself in the same situation I was in, shooting hundreds of dollars of ammunition to sight in your gun and still not be even remotely close to getting the situation resolved.

Stay Tuned - perhaps I will be able to report a beautiful target with holes blowing out the center at 200 yards.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Doing your Part to Control Illegal Hunting and Fishing

imageIn a recent conservation with a local Game Warden I was somewhat surprised by some of his comments when we were discussing game violations. This particular Game Warden transferred to my home state of South Carolina from a western state.  According to his experience in the western state the 'mindset' is so different when it comes to game violators. "In the west, everyone sees it as their responsibility to protect the game and if they see someone violating the laws, they will turn them in in a heartbeat." Using several examples, this warden commented that he has seen family members turn in one another when they discovered out of season hunting, hunting with the improper license or weapon, etc.

This same warden had this to say when discussing the attitude here in South Carolina. "The mindset is totally different. It is almost impossible to get a tip, or someone to turn in another person." He then shared with me a story of a night shooting of deer that was occurring. When the investigation unfolded, the officers began asking neighbors if they had heard anything out of the ordinary. one neighbor replied, "they've been shinning that field for years. all hours of the night and killing everything they see." When asked why the neighbor never reported it to the officers, the response was typical of what they hear. "That ain't my land, it's none of my business what they do over there."

In most states across the country, game animals belong to 'the people'. With the exception of enclosures, all free ranging game belong to all of the people regardless of whose land the animals occupy. A violation of these game laws effects all of us in a negative manner. Let's look at some of the consequences of ignoring violations of the game laws.

First, it paints all sportsmen in a negative light. When yahoo's are out there shooting deer at night, or trespassing, killing animals out of season. Catching over the limit of fish, etc. it makes all of us look bad in the public eye.
Secondly, every illegal animal taken is one that cannot be hunted legally. When someone illegally kills an animal, it prevents the ethical hunter the opportunity to hunt that animal. It hurts everyone in the process.
Lastly, When we ignore a violation, we are by default giving permission to the violators to do what they want when they want. If they are confident no one will turn them in, they will go about their unethical killing without remorse or recourse.

Many states have an anonymous tip line where the public can call and report game violations. Many of these offer monetary rewards to tips leading to an arrest. By calling Operation Game Thief here in my state, (1-800-922-5431) you can report a tip anonymously. There really is no reason NOT to call in or report a violation.

For many it is really an ethical situation. I remember in while attending seminary, we took a class on Christian Ethics. In this class we discussed in detail how to determine your position when something is challenging you standards or ethics. The formula was simple, 1. What does Scripture say about it? 2. What does the law of the land say about it,? 3. What does your experience teach you? 4. What is reasonable?
Granted game laws are not on the same level of Christian Ethics, however I believe this model can be followed regardless of your religious affiliation. From a secular manner in regard to game violations, perhaps you could use the following to determine your next course of action.
1. What does the law of the land say about it? 2. What does my experience teach me about such behavior? 3. What is the 'right' thing to do? 4. How will ignoring the situation make it better?

By looking at the situation through these lenses, perhaps we can see that our responsibility as sportsmen and women is to honor and guard our heritage and sport with integrity. To be vigilant in protecting the very resource we treasure. And to be willing to stand up and testify to the events as observed.

A few years ago while running my trap line, I ran across someone else's traps that had obviously not been checked in some time. The beaver set had a rotting beaver in the trap. Our law requires a check every 48 hours, this beaver had obviously been there for weeks. A little further investigating and I discovered several other illegal traps. I immediately called the local warden and showed him the situation and left it in his hands. To this day I do not know what became of that case, but one thing is for certain. I have never seen any more traps in that area, and I can rest at night knowing I did my part in turning in someone that was painting a bad picture of trappers everywhere.

This same warden also commented that the number one complaint they receive is trespassing complaints. But less than ten percent ever are charged because the land owner who reported it is not willing to press charges for the trespass offence. "it is such a waste of our time to pursue a trespass complaint if the land owner is not going to press charges."

Doing your part as a sportsman also means being willing to protect your passion from those who abuse the privilege of participating. It is as easy as a quick phone call and we can all reduce the number of cases where people are abusing the privilege we value.

Monday, September 18, 2017

OnX for Out of State Hunting

OnX app on your smartphone

I had finally drawn a tag in a coveted area of Idaho for Mule Deer. It was one of the highlight of my hunting career, or so I thought. As dawn broke, I found myself sitting on a boulder overlooking a long valley where I dreamed of giant bucks wandering through the backcountry. As the sun rose higher in the sky, I panned the distant ridges for mule deer. Instead my binoculars were being filled with orange. Blaze orange. Everywhere I looked I saw orange clad hunters wandering along looking for the same deer I sought. Angry and frustrated, I picked up my backpack and headed deeper into the wilderness.

This was many years ago, long before handheld GPS units and certainly before smartphones. As the day drug on, I knew I needed to start heading back. Taking my compass reading, I began heading back. Mile after mile and hour after hour passed with no sight of my camp. I don’t like to say I was lost, but I was confused for several hours. Finally after topping the eleventh ridge I saw a light in the distance swinging back and forth and I knew I was on the right path. My hunting partner grew worried and climbed a tall tree and began swinging the light in hopes I would see it. Dragging in to camp at 3:00 a.m. taught me a valuable lesson about orienteering. Today, I never go out of state, or on any unfamiliar land without a GPS and extra batteries. 

Many hunters like myself spend a lot of time and dollars applying for tags in mid-western and western states in hopes of drawing a tag for the animal of our choice.
When the day arrives and you get the notice that your dream tag has been drawn, the planning begins. Thankfully today’s technological world allows for detailed planning. Much of this planning can be done online. Selecting hunt zones, regions, or even specific creeks can be done with satellite imaging software. But what happens when you are not in the field.

Today’s GPS units such as my Garmin Oregon 650 are designed to get you into and out of the woods safely. But they are only as good as the mapping software installed. This is where OnX excels. (  

OnXmaps offers the user a variety of options that should suit the needs and usages of all different types of hunters, anglers and adventurers. From a micro SD card of specific states to an APP that can be downloaded onto any IOS or Android operating system. These maps offer the best of the best of information available today.

OnXmaps for IOS and Android
First the APP. The hunting app from OnX turns your phone into a high end GPS unit. OnX hunt 3.0 enables the full GPS functionality of your phone and combines it with the proprietary mapping tools. This allows hunters to use their phone as a GPS and know exactly where they are at any given time. But the best feature in my opinion is the detail it provides in property boundaries. Using this APP I can see precisely where I am and prevent me from accidentally trespassing onto land I do not have permission to hunt.
When hunting out of state in areas where seasons, legal animal requirements and boundaries change per species, it is vital to know exactly where you are at any given time. For example if I have a license to hunt in game zone 18, I need to know when I may cross that boundary line. Many of these boundaries are fairly random. A ridge top here, a valley there and none of them are straight. If for example, my zone allows for bulls of any size to be harvested, while the adjoining zone has size restrictions. If I inadvertently pass over into another zone, I can be in violation. OnX enables me to know exactly where I am at all times thereby considerably reducing the chance this can happen.
What if I do not have cell service? OnXmaps provides the option to cover this situation. The app for my iPhone allows you to download maps and features directly into the memory of your phone so that you can use it offline. Cell service is not needed which saves battery life. I simply place my phone into airplane mode to prevent it from searching and killing the battery and use the maps I have downloaded.

Another great feature of the OnX, is the ability to adjust layers. The NEW upgrade for OnX, includes more layers and more detail. Each user can determine how many layers they want to see on their map. Satellite images, satellite images with topo overlaid, migration routes of game animals, prairie dog towns, and other details are available with the app. These use a bit more storage but can make a huge difference when plotting your route.

Even if you do not have a GPS, the offline feature allows you to download onto your smartphone maps ahead of time to get you oriented. These maps are available whether you have service or not. 

Using your OnX on your Garmin GPS
Personally I love my Garmin Oregon 650. (unfortunately the 650 is no longer available but the new and improved Oregon 750 is available. ( It has saved my tail a lot of walking and wandering around confused. On many occasions I have arrived in states where I have never hunted before and gotten to predetermined locations in the dark using my Garmin Oregon 650. With the addition of my OnX micro SD card, I can make these travels a lot less stressful having the details of the terrain in my hand. With my Garmin loaded with OnX, I never have to worry about crossing into other game units, or onto private property. The area I hunt is loaded with BLM land, private parcels, and a national park within walking distance. The accuracy OnX provides means I never have to worry about accidentally crossing over into land not allowed. 
The accuracy of the OnX is so specific that it often is more accurate than fences. One truth about western fences is that they are placed by convenience and not as property lines. Fences can and often are off the property line by a great deal. Some are off by as much as several hundred yards because of the terrain and difficulty of erecting a fence along the actual line, the ranchers build the fence where they can. 

The added features of weather reports, radar maps, national trails, forest service roads, it all allows me to be the most efficient and the safest I can be in unfamiliar country.
As an old timer in many ways who still uses a compass for most of my orienteering, I also like the accuracy and detail of the compass OnX uses. Sure it is still electronic, but when I compare it to my exceptional floating compass the accuracy is excellent. It is nice to have a backup if needed. Add to this the tracking feature, it will trace my track and allow me to find my way back simply by backtracking.

My Assessment of the OnX
The OnX are definitely something I would never leave home without. Especially on an out of state hunt, scouting trip or hike. The features of this mapping software and app allows users the fullest benefits of the GPS units whether it is a standalone unit or on their smartphone. Any GPS unit is only as good as the software it is running and the addition of OnX enables the units to exercise the fullest of their capabilities.
Planning for an out of state hunt can be a daunting task. Spending thousands of dollars and precious vacation days to go hunting thousands of miles from home. The planning that goes into these hunts is very in-depth. Modern technology allows us to do a lot of scouting from our computers at home. The detail of programs like Garmin Basecamp or Google Earth allow us to see clearly locations that are worth checking out. Being able to load these into our GPS units or smart phones will save precious time and miles of walking.  There is no way I would ever consider an out of state hunt without my Garmin GPS loaded with OnX.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Top Five Rifle Calibers for Elk

In preparing for this article I talked with a lot of hunters about what they believed was the best calibers for elk and I got a variety of opinions. As one would expect there are as many opinions of proper calibers as there are calibers to choose from. Even Jack O'Connor who loved the .270 and believed it to be the best all around cartridge would argue about caliber choices.

To complicate things, nowadays we have a wide array of bullets to put inside the case that can make or break a choice of caliber. Knowing that this article will not please everyone and I will most likely leave off your favorite choice here are my top five calibers for Elk. In no particular order.

1. .30-06 Springfield is in my opinion (and many others) the best all around caliber for North American game animals. With bullet options from 90 grains to 240 grains, there is a bullet for whatever you are chasing. Available in any action made today, the .30-06 is perhaps the best choice available. When choosing the .30-06, make sure you sight in using the ammo you will use for your hunt.

2. .308 Winchester  Believed by many to be one of the best all around cartridges the .308 Winchester is an excellent round for elk. While some may believe it is on the light side, the .30 caliber bullet is more than capable of making clean humane kills on elk out to and beyond five hundred yards. The ballistic energy is fast fading beyond this but, let's face it, how many are going to take a 500 yard shot anyway? Most elk are killed inside of 200 yards therefore the .308 Win is an excellent choice for elk.

3 7 MM Rem. Mag. Perhaps the most popular cartridge for elk among locals. The 7 MM Rem. Mag. is capable of holding its performance for a very long way. Almost equivalent to the .30-06, the 7 MM Rem. mag. carries more energy down range making it a bit more solid at long ranges. Preferred by make plains game hunters, the 7 MM Rem. Mag. has a fairly flat trajectory and manageable recoil (read - it kicks like a mule but since you should only shoot it once at an animal it is manageable) that many western hunters prefer it over other options. Some modern authors have called the 7 MM Rem. Mag one of the best all around cartridges available today.

4. 300 Win. Mag. Another magnum round, the .300 Win mag is as heavy as I would go on an elk rifle. This is due not only to the overkill of the bullet, but also to the weight of the gun itself.  The .300 Win. mag is a great longer range gun for those who want to be able to reach out for the elk. Its heavy bullets will do significant damage and anchor the elk faster than other calibers mentioned with the same bullet placement. For those believing that bigger is better, the .300 Win. Mag is the best choice for them. The .300 Win Mag remains the most popular .30 caliber magnum with American hunters, despite being surpassed in performance by the more powerful .300 and .30-378 Weatherby Magnums and the newer .300 Remington Ultra Magnum. It is a popular selection for hunting elk, since it can deliver better long range performance with better bullet weight than most other .30 caliber cartridges. Military and law enforcement departments adopted the cartridge for long range sniping and marksmanship. As a testament to its accuracy, since its introduction it has gone on to win several 1,000-yard (910 m) competitions.

5. 6.5 Creedmoor On the lighter side, but fast becoming a favorite of all western hunters, the 6.5 Creedmoor is an excellent choice for elk hunters. Developed by Hornady in 2007, the 6,5 Creedmoor is based on the .308 Win. Designed mostly for target shooting, the cartridge quickly became a favorite among hunters and shooters alike. Listed by one recognized long range shooter as "boringly accurate." The 6.5 Creedmoor is capable of holding sub MOA groups at 1,000 yards using factory ammo with relative consistency. Moreover the 6.5 Creedmoor compares directly with the .300 Win. Mag when it comes to down range energy with a smaller bullet. the 6.5 Creedmoor shooting the 140 grain bullet at 2690 fps (which compares to .300 Winchester magnum data of 2,930 fps for a 200 grain bullet and 2,665 fps for a 210 grain bullet)

The debate can go on and on for years, and there is good argument for many other cartridges. however when making lists like this, there are always a few things I take into consideration. One is the availability of ammunition. I want to be able to find ammunition easily and secondly, the ability to afford the ammunition. Those listed here are readily available in most areas and the cost is relatively manageable. All are capable or putting down an elk with proper bullet placement. Shoot straight and be confident in your gun.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Breaking in New UA Hunting Boots

I am just a tad over a month away from an elk hunt in North Central Colorado. In preparation for his hunt, I got a new pair of Under Armour boots. The BrowTine Boots with 400 grams of insulation.
When i received these boots I was in the middle of my preparation of getting into shape for the hunt. I had been walking several miles a few times a week to get my cardiovascular in shape. Then the new boots arrived and I knew I had to get the boots broken in and my feet ready for the new boots.

When breaking in new boots the rule of thumb is to start slowly.  You never want to put on a new pair of boots and head off on a five mile hike. It is better to begin wearing them around the house for a few days. A routine I use is to wear them to work for a few weeks. As a trapper, I am always putting on and taking off my boots through out the day. From the UA boots to hip boots to check traps. This gives me a great opportunity to get used to putting them on and off and to get them broken in.

After a few weeks of this, I learned that the boots fit well and there should be no issue with using them for one of my hikes. The first hike was a simple thirty minute jaunt up a mountain near my home to see if I developed any hot spots or any blisters. To my delight the boots were working perfectly. Gradually I began adding miles to the boots and I noticed that they were getting more and more comfortable. As I continue to wear them, I know the boots will work great when it comes time for my hunt in the Rockies.

Before I head out on my hunt, I want a minimum of one hundred miles on these boots to ensure that I have them completely broken in and ready. It is just a good rule of thumb to have at least one hundred miles on your boots before you go on the hunt of a lifetime. The last thing you want is to finally get on your elk hunt that you have planned and saved for and your feet be killing you because you didn't break in your new boots. If you can put one hundred miles on your boots, you should have some confidence that your boots are ready for whatever you throw at them.

Secondly, always, and I mean always take a pair of back-up boots. If something happens to your primary boots, a tear, broken sole, you name it, you do not want to leave your hunt because you didn't bring an extra pair of boots. Typically my back-up pair of boots are the ones the new boots replaced. I know they are broken in and ready for whatever I put them through.

You hunting boots are some of the most critical pieces of gear you have on your hunt. If you can't get to the animals because your feet are hurting, you wasted your hunt.

Take the time to break them in. Take the time to get into shape and spend at least one hundred miles in your new boots before your hunt begins.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Why I use Trekking Poles

It wasn't that long ago that I saw someone using two trekking poles or walking sticks and wondered why they needed two. Decades ago, I began using a walking stick when hiking, scouting or walking around in the woods. It just made sense to me to have a stick in my hand.

As summer months roll around in my neck of the woods, spider webs are everywhere, and there are few things that give me the ibby-jibbies worse than a cobweb in the face. So I walk with the stick to knock down spider webs and for general balance.

A little research into the use of trekking poles, or walking sticks finds they are very beneficial. Even more than I realized in the beginning all of those decades ago. So what are the benefits of using trekking poles and which ones should I try?

First let's look at the benefits. The obvious benefit is balance. The poles offer greater stability and balance. Especially on steep and uneven terrain. Using the poles enables the hikers to maintain a sense of balance while walking over tree roots, blowdown trees, rocks, etc. They also are excellent in stream crossings. How many times have you had to wade through a stream and wish you had something to hold on to? The trekking pole is ideal for this function.

Other benefits include reduces stress on your joints. Sure there are mixed reviews on this, but experience tells me that using the poles makes ascending steep hills and descending steep terrain are easier with the poles than without them. Additional benefits include those mentioned in the opening. Knocking down spider webs, brushing poison Oak and ivy out of the way of the trail. Aid in standing with a heavy pack and in some instances double usage as a tent or tarp pole.

Should you use one hiking staff or two trekking poles? This is really a matter of preference. Part of me likes the feel of wood and the organic emotion tied to using a piece of wood for hikes into the woods. While other parts of me really likes the compact light weight element of the aluminum and carbon fiber poles. For short relatively easy walks, I still prefer the single wooden hiking staff. But for longer walks with heavier loads, it's two poles for me.

As a hunter, getting game out of the backcountry is always a big task. In most instances we have to pack out the animal one piece at a time. These trips can tale several days. When hiking at high elevation with heavy loads, I opt for two strong poles to help me with balance and to help with the hiking portion. I am using my arms to help carry the load up the mountain. Which may burn more calories, but it sure is easier on my legs.

Types of poles vary. Aluminum poles are a lot less expensive than carbon fiber and are very durable. Aluminum is also heavier than the carbon fiber poles. We are talking about ounces or fractions of ounces. Still, many aluminum poles can be purchased for reasonable prices. Big box stores have cheap poles that may be good for some, but are really only introductory. The locking mechanisms are inferior and will break within a few weeks. The grips will begin to deteriorate. If you are looking for a better product, here are some choices in both aluminum and carbon fiber.

Helinox.  offers aluminum poles for hiking that are extremely durable and resilient. These poles are high end aluminum and the price reflect this. But these are a lifetime purchase. They are light weight and durable but not cheap.

LEUPOLD Trek Carbon Fiber Poles (170592)If you are looking for a light weight composite version. Leupold offers a carbon fiber option for trekking poles that fits the bill. These Carbon Fiber poles can and do handle the stress of aluminum and a fraction of the weight. They are durable and virtually indestructible. Four sections of twist locking mechanisms and the Leupold Lifetime Guarantee.

If you decide for one staff or two poles, make sure they fit you properly. You will want your elbow at a 90 degree angle to the ground while at rest. Too mush or too little reduces the ability of the poles to help. Also something to consider is the shroud and removable rubber tip. Both of these items are necessary. The shroud is just as good for mud as it is for snow. It keeps the pole from sinking into the soft mud or snow. Lastly, the rubber tip protector. This removable protector is excellent for weekends in the neighborhood or protected trails. Personally, when in the woods, I remove the rubber tips and use the point for greater balance. 

If you haven't used them, borrow some, or get some from a thrift store or from a friend who upgraded and see if you like them. When you see you do, you will return here to order your first set or second, or even the third set of poles. It will make your adventure more fun and enjoyable.