Monday, September 23, 2013

Grouse Hunting Through My Wifes Eyes

Rory and I met online back in 2008. Our first date was at a Starbucks, where I proceeded to shock him by ordering hot chocolate on a 100 degree day. I'm not sure if that is what prompted him to follow up and ask for a second date (a hike up nearby 'mountain' looking for Shorthorned Lizards), and then a third (another hike on another very hot day), but whatever the reason, a bit over a month later I found myself out hunting for basically the first time of my life.
September first for Rory means grouse hunting. And from the start of our relationship, I've tagged along - taking pictures, staying behind the hunters, and keeping a look out for grouse & where they fall once shot, and then more recently I've joined the hunt with a shotgun myself.

That first hunt we got up at what I (somewhat) affectionately refer to as stupid-o-clock, which basically means anytime far earlier than usual, generally well before dawn starts to make the outside world visible. Rory was living at his old house in town, and I was down visiting. We had a 30 minute drive just to get to where we live now, then further still on the forest roads to get up to the good grouse spots.
There was nervous excitement in the pit of my stomach, and chilly wind blowing on my cheeks, in part to alleviate the foul air that I've come to accept as part of the Jeep experience.  I quickly realized I was expected to peer sideways out my wide open window either upslope or downslope, depending on the road, and look out into the dawn light for grouse sitting on the ground, on logs, or on stumps, or perched on tree branches.
I don't remember whether he shot his limit that first time out or not, but I know I had a good time. Although by now I've hunted other animals with Rory - ducks, quail, huns, chukar, turkeys, and deer, my favorite by far is grouse. There is something about that first hunt of the fall. The cooler morning temperatures, the early dawn light, the scenic views from where we grouse hunt, the leaves starting to change color and drift to the ground, the first waft of smelly Jeep air.

Grouse hunting is something we do as a family, usually just Rory, the girls, and myself, with the hunting dogs bringing up the sides. We drive around looking for grouse, go on hikes with beautiful views, and have so much time to bond as a family - experiencing nature at its finest, while bringing home meat for the freezer.
As I looked back through 6 years of September grouse hunting pictures to accompany this post, family is definitely the center of the event. I can look and see Maddycakes growing up, from the first year I hunted grouse, when she was in my belly, to the following year where she wasn't yet walking, and on and on to this year, with new little Elsa just 3 months old.
That brings us to this year, these hunts with 2 littles, and a mama not yet back in shape from pregnancy. Rory's been just as interested in hunting every morning and night he isn't at work as ever, and hasn't been put off by us slowing him down. Ever the gentleman, he's instead adapted to our speed, accepting our limitations in stride. Too bumpy of a road for the baby? Nevermind mama, we'll just do this one over here instead. Too tired to be anything but cranky? Nevermind mama, how about I hike in and find you another grouse to finish out your limit and call you in when I've got it perched in a tree. Baby occupying your hands so you can't even help feather one bird? Nevermind mama, you just sit over there and Maddycakes and I will feather all your birds.
Although the first day this year we focused on getting him his limit, the second day was all about getting me mine. The daily limit here is 4 birds per person, and that second day we both limited out on our morning hunt. While the first day was a joint effort spotting the birds and finding where they lit up, the second day was all Rory. Bird after bird he spotted, and I'd move in for the shot. Five birds he spotted for me (the first one I would have gotten if I had been shooting high base not the low base that scared it off but didn't penetrate), and four birds he feathered and cleaned for our freezer for me.
With the baby this year, I'm not going to be duck hunting, and don't expect to be doing any deer hunting either. But grouse hunting was one thing that brand new baby or not, I was not going to skip out on this year.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Washington State High Buck Hunt 2013 Day 2

I heard Kevin's Alarm go off at 2:55 Am and again at 3, I asked him if it was time to get up even though I already knew the answer. We get dressed and I have some granola bars while Kevin has his cup of instant coffee.  We get our head lamps out and start our hike up the steep and nasty hillside. We had picked out a route the night before while it was day out and tried to start in that area as there is no trail heading up the mountain.

We found that our trail worked pretty good except when we would come to rock faces other wise known as cliffs. It just meant extra time finding our way around the rocks. We took a couple breaks while hiking up the monster. On one of breaks I told Kevin that I shoot my deer before 9 am so we should be getting back to camp before it gets hot. I was half joking, but I really do shoot most of my deer early in the morning.

 When we reached the summit everything was good. We had about 40 minutes until hunting hours so I broke out my camera and started taking some night time photos as the suns light was hinting over the far off mountains. We get our guns loaded and the contents of our bags situated for hunting. In front of us was a steep drop off that we didn't want to look over until shooting hours because there could be "The Big One" right below us.

We look at the clock and it was officially hunting hours. Kevin looks at me and asks me if I am ready to get my slay on, of course I was. We sneak up and look over the hillside and nothing was there. After sitting in our location for about 10 minutes Kevin says he is going to walk north up the ridge and I should walk south down the ridge and we will meet up back where we were in a few. I told him that sounded like a good plan and that I was not going to go past the next hill.

I start walking my way down the hill and dropped off the top of the ridge. Taking my time and looking around every few steps I took. I found a rock about 50 yards over the ridge and started watching all of the hill sides. I see Kevin about 500 yards away on the next point of land. After a few minutes of sitting there a grouse flush about 70 yards to my right and sailed around the hill, I said I was not going to go around. That grouse made me feel for whatever reason that I should go around that hill and follow it. After having a mental war with myself in my head I decided that Kevin could see that I was going around the hill.

So I walked down to where the grouse flushed from and started walking around the hillside. Right as I got to the apex of the hill into the next bowl I saw it. A big ol' white butt of a mule deer about 70 yards above me. I dive down prone behind a log and get my gun up into a good shooting position. I can tell it is a big bodied deer. It lifts it's head up and looks right at me. My heart starts to pound against my chest, I feel like every time it beats my body is jumping off of the ground. At this point I can tell it has wide, thick antlers, I just can't tell how many points it has. As I watch it though my scope for what seems to be hours it finally turns its head. I see the single tine behind a double tine so I know its a shooter. I take a deep breath put my crosshairs right behind the shoulder and squeeze the trigger. I didn't feel the gun go off, I didn't hear the gun go off but the deer just dropped.

Now the bottom of the canyon was about 2000 feet below us. The deer started to kick and roll down hill. All I could think about was I really hope it doesn't go down there. The deer came to a rest still kicking. I thought it was done at this point so I turned to where Kevin was and stared waving my hunter orange like he didn't already know what was happening. When I turned around the deer was gone. So I got up and started walking up the hill to where it was. I found it about 10 more yards down the hill. Again the first thing I saw was its butt up on a log. The bullet a 180 grain .30-06 entered right behind the left shoulder and exited just below the back on the left side in its mid sections. I assumed it was a lung shot as the blood coming out of the exit hole was bright pink.

Kevin got over to me and said that it was in the perfect position to bone it out. I have never done a butcher job in the field. We made a cut down the spine of the animal with our Havalon knives and skinned one side from the back to the belly and took all the meat off from one side of the deer placing it in plastic bags. We then flipped the deer over and did the same. I removed the head and we were done in a few minuts.

I took all of the equipment we had in my pack plus the head, Kevin took all of the meat. Kevin's bag was way heavier than mine and I owe him so much for his help. We take our time being safe walking back down the mountain. Every step we took was one closer to a nice nap. We get to camp sink the meat in the creek and eat some lunch. Our plan was to take a nap then pack up and get back down to the vehicles. I slept for about 3 hours which I really needed. We packed up camp, again with Kevin taking all the meat and I took most of the camping stuff and the antlers, which I cut off of the head to save about 8 pounds. Now the really hard work starts.

We figured the hardest part of the hike down would be the really steep first mile and  a half from camp. We took out breaks but made good time not feeling dead. We get down the mile and half to the main trail to take a break on a bridge. When Kevin takes his pack off the straps rip off of the bag. This is not good seeing as we still have a ways to go. after exploring the issues Kevin finds that his $400 pack was put together wrong. So Kevin put it back together the right way (We think) and we continue on.

We get to within a mile of the vehicles. My legs are shaking, my feet hurt and the shoulders are killing me and Kevin reports the same issues. Every time you kick a rock it feel like someone dropped a sledge hammer on your foot. O ya, it is now dark out and we are walking again with our head lights. When Kevin hiked in he found a "Short Cut" that knocked about a half mile and significant elevation from where my car was parked. So Kevin is looking for his short cut in the dark. He explains it as a slight up hill to the car and maybe having to walk around some down trees.  Finally Kevin finds the short cut and we are both dying.  As we start up this hill and get into the trees we end up crawling over and through numerous down trees it was awful. We finally made it to the road and to Kevin's car. When I took my pack off my legs shook from exhaustion. The whole hike was so bad we just couldn't stop laughing as he drove me to my car.

Now all I can think is "What A Trip".

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Washington High Buck Hunt 2013 Day One

Well it's that time of year again where we get a little over a week to try and get into a high mountain wilderness area and shoot ourselves an early buck. As I am thinking about my trip I have to try and think back to last year and what I learned from it.

A. I need better food then Top Ramen and Power Bars.
B. Have a hunting partner to go with so there is at least someone to talk to in camp.
C. It's likely going to take a little more work to find deer then sitting by the meadow next to camp.

So my wife mostly took care of A by buying me some rice and noodle packs that you just have to add water to. I also bought some instant potatoes, power bars, granola bars, beef jerky and some chocolate milk for the trip. The chocolate milk was for the hike up.

I made plans with my buddy Kevin to go with me. The plan was, since the season opened on a Sunday I would take Saturday off and we would hike up into the Pasayten Wilderness so we were ready to hunting opening morning.

Kevin had some time to get into the area we hunt a few week earlier and drop off a 50 lb salt lick with his game cam.  We decided if we did not see anything substantial on the game came we were going to hike up the steep mountain that climbs out of camp.

So the day before the hunt arrives I get off of work at 6 AM. My hunting partner Kevin wanted to spend half of the day with his family before hiking in. My two choices were to sleep at the trail head or hike into camp and sleep there. I decided that I was too excited to sleep at the trail head so I was just going to do the hike into camp and sleep there.

I took my sweet time getting to camp. A normal 3 hour hike took me 5 hours with all of my gear and lack of sleep. When I got to camp I had worked up a big amount of sweat. I went to the creek and washed down in the freezing water. I also rinsed my closes and hung them to dry. I found a place to hang my tarp and set my bed and went down for my nap to wait for Kevin.

Three hours later I woke up to an unnatural sound of metal knocking together. I looked over and there was someone putting up their tent in the same camping area. It was Karl the Swedish hunter I ran into last year in the same area. Karl asked if it was ok that he was camping there and I said of course. Ten minutes later Ray who was Carl's hunting partner arrived in camp. About 20 minutes after Ray, Kevin showed up. The first thing I wanted to do was look at the game cam photos he picked up on the way up. There were only 15 pictures and all of them were of doe's.

The Meadow Near Camp.
Kevin and I walked out to the meadow so he could look for bear's, since I saw 4 of them in the same meadow last year. We also talked about our next days adventure. And we decided to hike up the steep nasty mountain.

Without seeing a bear we arrived back at camp and sat around the campfire with Carl and Ray while we had dinner. We discussed our plans so we were not hunting in the same area and went to bed around 9 PM knowing that 3 AM was quickly approaching.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Operation Get the Wife a Limit

On day two of grouse hunting here in north central Washington my one goal was to get my wife a limit of grouse. I was not going to shoot any grouse until my wife had her limit. This time I got a few hours of sleep the night before and again I woke everyone up to get going at first light. I rode the lucky gate and we headed to what we call "The Lower Road."

We get to the top of one hill but before we drop into the next drainage we have to go through another gate which is old, heavy and not fun to move at all. As I was going to get out to open it my wife tells me she will get it. As she drags it open like a pro I give her a smile as I drive through. After a couple moments of waiting for her on the other side I look in my mirror to see her moving the old heavy gate about an inch at a time and with a very flustered look on her face. I get out to HELP her and she quickly returns to her seat with a 'hurry and get this gate closed so we can go hunting' look.

A short time later I see the first grouse in the grass along the road. It flushes into a tree and my wife gets out to shoot it. She shoots a 7 1/2 12 gauge low base shell. So I like her to get a bit closer than she was when she pulled up for the shot. When she pulled the trigger feathers floated down out of the tree and the bird set its wings for the bottom on the valley. There are three choices to choose from in this situation.

A. Positive feed back. "Hey don't worry, at least you got feathers, we will see more."
B. Silence. "..............................................sniff, sniff........................................."
C. Poking fun. "Hey Annie Oakley did you have your eyes closed?"

I tend to start with A and after getting the just shut up look move to B. And if we ever do get some grouse I might be brave enough to move to C.

So this time I give her some positive feedback. As we are looking for more grouse after a few minutes I realize she is not that pleased with herself so I move to silence.

A few corners later I spot the next grouse. My wife gets out and drops it. and I revert back to some positive feedback.

When we finished the lower road my wife had three birds. So I put my big boy pants on and went in for some Poking Fun. "Well I did my job, I showed you 4 birds." with a smile and after an "yeah, yeah" from the wife, I knew she was feeling a lot better now that she had three birds in the bag.

I again decided to take the big loop around, with the idea of stopping in one creek bed where we have had good luck with ruffed grouse in past years. I pull the Jeep over and my wife asks me what I am doing. I told her I was going to go find some grouse. We both get out of the vehicle and load our guns. I went straight in to the thick and nasty stuff and my wife stayed out on the road. ( sometimes I like having someone out of the thick stuff so they can see where the grouse flush to.) Meanwhile our two Wirehaired Pointing griffons start working the creek bed.

5 minutes into the walk the bushes explode with flight. I yell to my wife "Get in here". Her response is "I am busy helping Maddy go Potty". I knew what that meant. BANG, BANG, BANG. My wife yells to me "How many are there!?" I told her - well I just shot three. The dogs start coming out of the brush with birds in the mouth like worker bees bringing pollen back to the hive. They drop the birds at my feet and go back for more. When all the downed birds are back they go back to searching for live birds.  I see Remi get birdy and about 10 feet above her a grouse was sitting in a tree. I again yelled for my wife to get in to the bushes. She yells back and says she is on her way. She gets back to me, shoots the grouse, and I tell her I will get the bird and she can work the 70 yards back to the Jeep and kids. I retrieve her 4th and final bird of her limit. Remi flushes up another bird and I see the general area it went to. I have to crawl under some of the thick brush to get to it. I drop it with one shot and with 8 birds our day is done.

So peration get the wife her limit is complete. We sit on the side of the road and feather all of our birds. Maddy dances and plays in the falling feathers as part of a perfect grouse hunting morning.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Opening Day Grouse hunting 2013

The night before grouse hunting opened I had to work a night shift. I arranged my schedule to get off at 4 am instead of my usual 6 am. That gives me two hours to drive home, get ready and get the family up and awake for hunting. So I get home get both the car seats moved over to the Jeep. The best thing for me about getting the family up is waking up my three year old daughter Maddy by giving her a little shake and asking her if she wants to go hunting. I am always greeted with a big smile and a soft whisper of  "yes". The wife heard me get home so her and baby Elsa got up without any help. We loaded everything up and got going about 10 minutes late.

While I am grouse hunting I am very superstitious. Silly things like, I have to be wearing the right clothes, I have to ride the gate to our hunting road and when I am driving I have to hold two shells in my one of my hands. I don't know what to say but it work for me.

We get to the road we will be hunting and start the slow drive. Since we had the baby a few months prior my wife wont be doing any long hikes this year. We get all the way to the end of the road and did not see a simgle grouse. I figure its going to be one of those frustrating opening days. We tell ourselves that sometimes we see birds on the way out to make ourselves feel better.  So we turn around and start making our way out. A ways down the road I see the first grouse. As it starts running through the bushes it flushes into a tree. The wife offers me the first grouse of the year and I take the shot. The bird came tumbling down out of the tree.

A few minutes later I found my second bird. As I drove around a few corners all of a sudden there was a grouse running for its life in front of the Jeep. The grouse flushes into a tree and I get my second bird of the day.

A few more corners down the road I find one for my wife to shoot up in the bushes. So now the pressure is off and everyone is happy. Except now my wife has a bit of confidence and she tells me she would like to limit out in one of the up coming days.

We get to the main road and I decide to take the main loop around instead of the quick drive home. While driving down the main road I catch a flushing grouse out of the corner of my eye. I slam on the breaks walk back find the grouse and add my third grouse for the day.

We drive a few more roads and did not find any more grouse for the morning hunt. But we did see a bear with a funny yellow patch of fur on his right rear thigh. I was also able to get a rabbit in the bag as well.

We returned home so I could get some sleep since I had been up since 5 PM the day before.

My wife woke me up for the evening hunt. I was having a really hard time waking up, but then I remembered I only had one more grouse to go for my limit. We went to the same area but drove the upper road.  A mile in on the road I spotted a grouse running through the grass about 40 feet off the road. I chased after it and it flushed. I shot at it in the air and missed. I shot under it as it flew into a tree. I knocked it out of the tree and returned to the Jeep with my limit for the day.  We did not see another grouse for the night.

Five grouse for opening day was good enough for us and we went home very happy and content.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tree Stands for Beginners

Here is a guest post from Blake Anderson from I asked him t write an article about women who want to get into bow hunting and what they need to know about tree stands.

Beginner Women Bow Hunters

Bow hunting is a sport and hobby that can be enjoyed by many different types of women. This article will provide you with a lot of great tips and information about what you need to know to get started with bow hunting, and how hunter tree stands can help you be more successful in the woods.

Customize Your Equipment

Women and men all come in different shapes and sizes, and therefore require a bow that is custom tailored to their specific body. A bow can be customized to fit your height, strength, arm span and often comes in various lightweight and heavier models. Any hunting shop can tell your specific measurements and how much power you should place on your strings, so test a few out and see which one fits you best.

Practice Makes Perfect

Not only will practice make you more comfortable out in the woods, but it will also provide you with key movements that are necessary to make consistently accurate shots. One of these movements is having a relaxed bow grip. As a beginner, you will most likely want to grip the bow handle as tightly as possible. This however isn’t the best method for shooting a bow, because it will give you an opposite effect of instability. After you learn to relax your bow grip, you will need to focus on your anchor point. An anchor point is the perfect location of where your hand will rest at full draw. It’s important that this spot remains the same to ensure reliable accuracy. The optimum spot should bring your index finger directly below the chin where the string slightly touches the tip of your nose.

Tree Stands Enhance Your Game

There are a few products that will quickly jumpstart your successes in the woods, and tree stands are one of the best. Although women are generally quieter than men due to their lightness on their feet, it’s still quite difficult to stay quiet enough to sneak up on a deer. Hunter tree stands give women a significant advantage of elevation that’s necessary to see overtop of heavy areas of brush and vegetation. Not only is your line of sight improved, but it allows you to get out of the line of sight of the deer, which can quickly pick up on movement.

Being up off the ground in a tree stand also gives you the added advantage of focus. You can take your time when drawing your bow back and calmly focus on your target before letting go of the string. Take your time and relax your mind by allowing yourself a few deep breaths, and your accuracy will improve a great deal. A lot of what makes a hunter successful with bow hunting is experience. So be patient and keep on practicing, and before long you will be happy and excited every time hunting season approaches.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review and Giveaway: The Handy Sharp

This year at the Wenatchee Sportsman show I ran into Chad Ruseler at his booth for the Handy Sharp. I watched him do his demo of the small light weight blade sharpener. I spoke with him after his demo, and let him know I would like to test his product. A few weeks later I received two Handy Sharps in the mail. 

As I started to use the Handy Sharp around the house and farm I realized it did have a lot of good uses. I sharpened my kitchen knives with it, I sharpened my hatchet with it. It will do anything from garden tools to horse grooming tools. Doesn't matter if the blade is straight or serrated this will sharpen it.  For an instructional how to video visit The Handy Sharp web page.

The handle is blaze orange which makes it easy to find when looking through a crowded drawer or backpack. It comes in different sizes and shapes as well. The tool easily fits in your pocket or pack without adding much weight or taking up much space. Its great for the kitchen or to keep in your bag for emergencies. There is also a version that goes on your key chain.

Now I told Chad that I would have this review done last spring and here it is almost fall and we are just now getting it done.  That is what having a new baby will do to you!

At R-Dub outdoors if a product doesn't work we will let everyone know it doesn't work. But this product does work.  Deer season is right around the corner and everyone knows that you need a consistently sharp blade for cleaning your deer or other big game. So I want one of my readers to take advantage of this too -. I have one to give away and it could be yours.

All you have to do to sign up for this giveaway is follow our blog, like us on Facebook, share the giveaway on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. You can get up to 4 entries to get the Handy Sharp. Each time you do one of these make sure to leave a comment at the bottom of this post to let me know. On September 20th I will announce the winner and send them their prize. Good luck to all!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gearing Up for Grouse Hunting

So grouse hunting starts in a week here in Washington State. This is the first day of serious hunting for me and my family. The family and I decided to take a drive around the main road in our hunting area to see if we could find anything.

We start off just before dusk, I mentally gave us enough time to get home just before dark. Of course everything goes out the window when you have a baby, and of course I did not factor in feeding time for Elsa.

We get back on the road and start seeing some rabbits.  We get through some more of the popular grouse area's without seeing anything. When we get to the paved Forrest Service road where we normally would take a left to hunt, we took a right to take us back to the main road which will take us home.

At this point my wife starts telling me how she doesn't know where we are. I told her we never come this way because there is no grouse on this part of the road.  Just as I said that we saw four Ruffed Grouse on the  side of the road next to a small stand of aspen.  My wife chimed in well I guess we will be coming this way this year.

The rest of the drive home we just saw a bunch of rabbits, more than we normally see and 4 whitetail deer(No Bucks). My prediction for this year is that it will be a good grouse season in North Central Washington. I think the spring rain held off long enough for the chicks to get big enough to withstand a heavy rain. We then had some early summer rain which would of let the berries and other food for the grouse come in nicely. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Food Plots and Turkey's

This year while starting new food plots in my fields I found that just the tilled soil brought the turkeys in.  We watched the turkey all year starting in the spring, Of course they disapeared when turkey season came around. Then they came back with their chicks. When we first saw the chicks there were two hens with about 20-30 chicks. Now each hen has about 9 chicks each. Now that deer, grouse and duck hunting are getting closer the sun flowers, grass and clover have filled in and all,
I can't get hunting off my mind.  Good luck to everyone this hunting season and be safe.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Spring Coyote Kill

I hate it when I am lying in bed trying to get a few more minutes of sleep after my wife leaves the house for the day and the phone rings.  But this morning I ran out to the living found my cell and saw it was my wife calling. Since I was supposed to be awake already getting "The List" done I had to use my awake voice to say hello. My wife just called to tell me there was a coyote out in the field. Although she thought it was out of range she figured she would tell me anyway. So I quickly got dressed and got the Styre .308 with the bull barrel out. I got all set up on the back deck and started glassing looking for the coyote.  I finally saw it at about 500 yards walking through the alfalfa field.  It was slowly working its way from north to south, which was my right to left. I figured it was heading into the shady hillside where it was cool during the mid day heat. I noticed it was hunting as well so it was not moving quickly.  I folded up the bipod and slug the rifle over my shoulder and snuck to the road heading up the hill. Once I found some cover behind some leafy Aspens and walked up the road about 75 yards. I figured the sound of the creek and 200 yard of irrigation sprinkler between me and the coyote would cover any sound I make walking on the dirt road. From there I took an old cat track to where I thought the coyote would make its entrance into the woods. I found a small clearing between the trees that looked down into the field and proned out. I had to move multiple pinecones and had to put up with a few hundred pine needles  poking me . I could see the coyote about 150 yards in front of me with a 30 yard drop in elevation. I didn't take the shot at this point due to a ranch 500 yards behind it. Although the angle I was shooting down at and the up angle the ranch was from the coyote the shot would of been fine, but I decided to wait since it was heading my way anyhow. A few minutes later I watched the coyote jump the creek into some tall grass. I watched it pounce on a gopher or mouse then lay down and eat it. It was very hard to see while lying in the tall grass. Once it got up it moved to my right and behind the branches of a tree. At this point I was about 100 yards away still with about 30 yards of drop. I was just hoping that the coyote came back to my left giving me a shot. The coyote came back to the left turned and looked right at me and the 147 Grain FMJ boattail  center punched it at about 75 yards. The coyote just dropped like a sack of potatoes.

Add caption

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cannon Digi Troll 10 TS

The Cannon Digi Troll 10 TS down rigger is the Cadillac of down riggers.  The 10TS is definitely a top performer in every aspect with features to spare.  It makes every other rigger wish they could be like it.  Well that is until they see the price tag.  Even on sale you better plan on spending $1500+ to get it operational.  A standard electric rigger will run you around $500.  Why spend three times the cost?  It has features other riggers just don’t have, and it will help you catch fish.  Does a person need to spend the extra for a TS and its salt water rating?   To me the extra cost compared to quality gained is a great value.        


I had watched a couple other guides using Digi Trolls, and there were days they were catching fish and few others were.   Obviously I am in the business to catch fish, so it was a no-brainer I had to get one.  I have been running Scotty riggers for years, and they are one phenomenal rigger but they are not a Digi-Troll.  I wanted to run close to the bottom and target certain fish.  Using the Scotty to track bottom was pretty difficult in my situation.  Trying to run 3 riggers, 1-3 divers, driving the boat, netting fish, baiting gear, and interacting with clients makes it very difficult to run a rigger a few feet off the bottom.   


Photo By Char Harmier Photography
If you run an upper end Humminbird fish finder you can control it through the finder for either a Digi Troll 5 or 10.  Only the 10 operates by itself.  The features are pretty amazing, and everything is just at the touch of a button on the rigger.   I run Lowrance electronics so I adjust everything right on the riggers touch pad.   It is adjustable in every way possible.   It also will bottom track at a set distance off the bottom and cycle at two different depths for pre-set lengths of time.  You don’t need a black box with this rigger as it has Positive Ion built in.  These are just the main features it has, and if you run more then one rigger you can operate them all from the same rigger with each one doing different things.  Add in different cycle speeds, up down speeds, boom extension, etc. the list is long for features.


I bought it for one reason…BOTTOM TRACKING.  It requires its own transducer (if you don’t have a compatible Humminbird), and the transducer location is critical.   If you get any turbulence or even a tiny air bubble it affects how well it tracks.   The turbulence will cause the transducer to give momentary false readings.  This causes the rigger to continually adjust itself, and it will start running up and down like a Yo-Yo.   Other times it will drop it onto the bottom then snap up the slack in a huge slam.  It even jerked hard enough a couple times to cause the cable to jump the wheel at the boom end.   It took a while and mine is adjusted pretty good but not perfect.   I will have to have another bracket added to the boat this spring closer to the center line.   This should totally solve my false reading problem in rough or faster flowing water.    


Anglers all the time are asking me about it and what I think.   Like all anglers they are looking for the magic item to put more fish in the boat.   I reply back with a question “How many more fish a day would it take to justify spending three times the cost?”  Usually they think they should be getting double to triple the fish.  I tell them to save their money.   There is no doubt I have caught fish I never would have caught without the bottom tracking feature.   The difference for me is I have to catch fish (at least I think so), and if this rigger gets me the one fish I wouldn’t have hooked it’s worth it.  I also admit if I was not guiding clients I wouldn’t spend the extra money.   I still catch more fish at set depths then bottom tracking day in and day out.  I also remember two days where we boated 12 Salmon, and every one of them was bottom tracking.   I know I could have done close to the same thing with a Scotty if I was fishing with friends to help use my Scotty to bottom track.  In summary it is a great rigger with amazing features, but I don’t know if the extra cost is worth it for the average sport angler.  If that one fish in a trip is worth it then for sure the Digi Troll can help greatly.      

Friday, April 12, 2013

Walking Varminter Part 3

I am done with the first half of barrel break in.  This rifles bore is polishing up amazingly well.  I am getting almost no copper fouling already.  I use only one good soaking with Sweets and the copper is gone.  I am happy so far.   Now is the time to start three the
 shot break in, so I better mount up the scope.


 I can then get the scope zeroed very close to where I want it for load development.  I had two options for this rifle a Burris Fullfield II Ballistic Plex 4.5-14x, or a Leupold VXIII 4.5-14x with target turrets both matte finish.  The Leupold I think is the better overall scope, but the Burris is top quality and fits this rifles purpose better.  I rank the Burris Fullfield II line of scopes as probably the best value going today.  I want a 0-500 yard rifle with specific aiming points for a two inch kill zone.  I also wanted those aiming points quickly without having to turn the turrets, so the Ballistic Plex was the answer.  Sure I could have a custom reticle built for the Leupold, but that is more money and time.  Besides it has target turrets already.   I will just have to get another rifle that fits its design.  As many of you know you shoot a varmint the first chance you get or you may not get another one.  There is no messing around getting everything all ready and adjusted.


I have used Leupold standard bases and rings on 95% of my rifles without a single problem.  I went with the “High” rings to allow good head positioning regardless of clothing or shooting position.  I also went with reversible bases so it allows the most adjustment for the best fit.  I do not Lock Tite in the screws on the bases or rings.  I clean the threads with rubbing alcohol and air.  Then lightly oil (Tetra Oil!) the threads and tighten down tight.  The front is a twist in base, and I get it as close as I can by eye with the plastic wrench designed for this.   Then I clamp of an old straight tube (Balvar) scope in the front ring with nothing on the back.  I don’t trust any cheap adjustable scopes I would use as a wrench to maintain center so I used a fixed cross hair.  Using the Bore Sight and scope I make final adjustments to the base until the scope is perfectly centered.   Then I put the back base in place, and equally (1/16 turns) apply the rear screws making sure the center doesn’t change.  That is the best way I know to mount a scope to the bores center.  It doesn’t mean the reticle is level to the bore but the scope is centered.


Then I turn the scope to its highest power.  Holding the rifle like I will be shooting it with my eyes closed I open my eyes when the gun feels in the perfect position.   Then I move the scope forward or backward until I have the fullest view through the scope with no shadows.  It takes more then once, and it is obvious when you have it mounted correctly.  Because it is set on the highest magnification you will always have a full view on lower settings.  I line up the cross hairs with a straight line across the shop and tighten the rings again equally with small partial turns.  Final adjustments with the turrets on the bore sight and it’s now ready for paper.   I will make final adjustments with the 2nd and 3rd rounds as I go until close.  The Point of Impact (POI) will move slightly, but will be well within where I want it. 



Monday, April 8, 2013

Finally Some Fishing

After almost a year of talking about when we were going to find time to go fishing, it finally happened. My wife and Maddy were out of town on a trip and I didn't work so I had a free day, and R-Dub Outdoor Pro-staffer Ron Oules had a free day to do what he wanted. Of course Ron wanted to go fishing.

I asked him what time he wanted to meet in Pateros, WA and he said 6 which meant getting up at 5 am to leave the house by 5:30. I arrived right on time, threw my bag and camera in the truck and away we went. Of course the first thing I asked was "Are your friends still catching lots of fish?" His reply of "No" did not instill a bunch of confidence.

We make the half hour drive to Manson, WA and see that there are already plenty of fishermen on the water. We put the boat in the water at Old Mill Park. Of course the first thing I do is forget my lunch and snacks in my bag in the truck, oh well.

You could not of asked for a more beautiful morning on the water. It was glass calm with a gentle breeze.

We get the rigs set up and I get a quick lesson in down riggers. The lesson was simple - "don't screw up".

About 10 minutes later it was "FISH ON". Now catching any fish is fun, but I can't say that these Kokanee are hard fighters. They also have a soft jaw so you can't just horse them in or you risk ripping the hook out.

About two hours in and we had landed about 10 fish. I was happy with the day at that point. The best part was that Ron lost the first fish of the day.  Of course I did not let him forget it. But as the fish "Karma" goes around and comes around I ended up missing a bite and losing a hooked fish by the end of the day. But hey who's really keeping track?

Now out in this area there are plenty of boats in a small area. Although I am not a freshwater fishing expert I do know that asking how deep or what are you using is against fishing etiquette. So the good old adage of "If you are not lying you are not fishing." came to mind.  So of course some other fishermen could not resist asking how deep we were. Our go to answer was haven't caught anything above 90 feet deep.  In reality we were between 70 and 50 feet the whole day. When they asked what we were using we said green cut plug with sweet corn. In reality we were using a pink squid.

Now you all should feel lucky that I was able to divulge some secrets of the trade. I hope it will work out for you.

At the end of the day we ended up with 15 fish.  When we pulled out of the water the other boats were only reporting one to five fish caught. But, I did not see their fish to verify their stories.

If you ever get a chance to go to Lake Chelan for a Kokanee fishing trip I would highly recommend it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Walking Varminter Part 2


I picked up the new Savage 116FHSS the other day.  I looked at everything from metal work, stock fit, action fitting, sling studs, etc, and it all looks well put together.   I was a little bummed about how the muzzle crown looked.  I think it should have been smoother the entire edge to edge, but I don’t see anything that looks cut crooked.   I have worked with a lot of Savage rifles over the years, and they are just flat kicking the butt of the other makers.   I started out as Remington 700 guy, and then transitioned to Brownings.  Rifle to rifle the Savage has always been more accurate.


This rifle has the new Accu Stock 2 so I compared it to a new Remington BDL/CDS synthetic stock. The Accu Stock is 10 times the stock quality with an aluminum bedding system and much better molding and stiffness. The only thing the Remington has is a little better feel. I was frustrated with the Savage bolt removal process, but now that I have done it a few times it is pretty easy. Taking the action out of the stock was probably as difficult if not more so then a fully bedded rifle. While I had the action out of the stock I adjusted the Accu Trigger down from its factory 3# to 2.25#. I made some minor adjustments in addition to the provided set screw. After putting it back together I checked the locking lug engagement and it is acceptable.


I then start the cleaning process step by step:              


  1. With my home brew powder solvent of 50-50 Kroil/GM Top Engine cleaner.   I use a coated cleaning rod, bore guide, copper brushes,  and  clean the dirty solvent out with 100% cotton patches with a jag.
    1.   I don’t just sit and scrub with the bore brush until it is wore out.  I use five brush passes, clean patch, wet patch, dry patch and repeat if needed.  
  2. After I clean the powder fouling out I use Sweets 7.62 with a nylon brush to get the copper out.   Dry patches after letting the solvent soak a while to get the dirty Sweets out. 
  3.  I continue with Sweets until no more light blue shows on the first patch after soaking.
  4.  One more time with the copper brush, solvent and dry patches.
  5.  Finally I use JB Bore Past starting with blue “Cleaner” and finishing with red “Polish”. 
    1.  I wrap my cotton patches coated with paste around a nylon brush, and really work them back and forth for a long time.  
  6. Then I clean the bore with solvent and lightly oil with Rem Oil. 


The small bore of the 22cal takes more time and effort, but it has always been worth it for me. 


I load up three casings with a heavy bullet and moderate powder charge.  These are just for barrel break in.  I will shoot them one at a time making sure each casing has the same number of firings.  Luckily I can shoot within walking distance of the house, so I just go out and fire one round and fully clean the gun.  This will take some time as I will do single rounds for 50 times, and then will do three rounds for 20 times.  Every single time the barrel will be fully cleaned and polished before doing the same thing again. 



Saturday, March 2, 2013

Walking Varminter Project

The old heavy gun
I am tired of packing my heavy bull barreled varmint guns.   I love them for their insane accuracy, non-existent recoil, and dozen round capability.  I hate them for their poor balance, speed of movement, and heavy log weight.  I have been debating it and now is as good a time as any to buy a new gun.  I know the coyotes are hooking up and by the time I get it done it will be spring.  I promise I will show a picture of the first varmint killed with this gun but it may not be a coyote.

I wanted an easily available commercial round from a factory production gun in a 22 center fire cartridge.  It has to be 22 cal or I can’t use it during the big game season in Washington.   I would have preferred a 6mm caliber but it is not an option this time.  The gun must be Stainless Steel with a synthetic stock.   I am a velocity freak within my budget so the obvious choice is a 220 Swift.  Well heck I can’t find a Stainless 220 Swift, so I must go to the next obvious choice a 22-250.  I have one 22-250 that shoots in the high 1’s to low 2’s so I know this cartridge is accurate and fast. 

I call my local dealer and put together a “Group Buy” to get a discount.   You should put together a group buy with your favorite gun shop and save a lot of cash.  If your dealer won’t do a group buy I would find a new shop.   I order up the brand with consistently the most accurate rifle not specifically factory sorted available.  Yes, you got it right a SAVAGE in the 116 model.  The 112 is the most accurate…but it is still a Savage. I am telling you if you want a stock rifle that shoots super accurately then buy a Savage.  You can save some money by buying a Stevens…same rifle with the old trigger and stock system from Savage.  I have one old style Savage trigger set at 18oz….and the safety works!!  I don’t want to get in a debate because there are some great rifles out there.  My most accurate big game rifle is a totally stock Browning, but no one builds accuracy into every rifle like Savage. 

My rifle is in and I will pick it up next week.   I will walk you through the entire process I use with every rifle I have.  (I know it is only two, but I do this every time.)  I will cover everything from barrel break in to lube choice.  Just my opinions and experiences, and I hope I can help you save time and un-needed expenses.   Stay Tuned


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Misclipped Steelhead

This weekend brought up an important issue hopefully all Steelhead anglers encounter.  It is more and more common to catch fish with a partially or “Misclipped” Adipose fin.  We usually end up with 4-5 misclipped fish every year.  Not a huge number but I would say around 1 percent are misclipped.  I have noticed an increase now that the automatic clipping process is being used.   When the fish were clipped by hand there were very few, and any misclipped were still very obviously clipped. 

Misclipped Adipose Fin
I can usually tell pretty quickly as soon as I can see the fish for the first time - even eight feet under water - if it is a keeper or not.  Just one of those things that comes with experience and looking for it.  In this instance, I called it as a non-clipped well before it was netted, and the client was a little disappointed to hear he had to let it go.  When it was finally time to net the fish I could then tell it was worth a closer look.  The client commented that he could now see the fin, and he also believed it should go back.  I got a closer look after the hook was removed.   The fin had an obvious flat top and was more of a line from the back to the back edge.  The Adipose fin is normally rounded across the top, and the arch starts right at the back line. 

Wild Fish
I told the client he had his first keeper of the day and hoisted it in the boat.  There was a lot of concern from the clients, and I finally told him it was 100% my responsibility.  My accepting the responsibility seemed to settle his nerves a little, so I introduced the fish to the love stick.  Now I will admit only a very few people would have kept the fish because of the noticeable fin.   I will also tell anyone if you have any doubt at all turn the fish loose.  Do not ever keep a fish you are not sure is a clipped fish.  We have a mandatory keep fishery.  The more clipped fish we remove the higher probability of the fishery remaining open in the future.     

We ended the day with 9 boated and several keepers.  We headed in and the WDFW Creel Checking staff was at the dock waiting.  The client with the misclipped fish started getting nervous again.  It didn’t help with his buddy telling him he was going to jail because it was on his card not mine.  We saved the misclipped fish for last, and the checkers initially caught their breath.  As soon as the checker got a closer look though, the checker said it was a hatchery fish.  In addition to the misclipped fin, the checker could see another marking on the fish that indicated it was from the Wenatchee area.  The magic wand beeped (collecting the PIT tag number identifying the fish), and the head went in the bag.  Another great day Steelhead fishing and educating other anglers about is what it’s all about.


Editors note: Please remember we were 100% sure of the misclip through our experience. If you are not sure let the fish go. We are not responsible if you keep a wild fish thinking it is a misclip.