There is nothing fun about carrying a heavy pack during your hunting trip. Here are a few creative tips and tricks to cut some of that extra weight off of your pack this archery season.
Pack, Shelter, Sleeping Bag, Pad
Let’s start with the obvious. These four items are typically the bulkiest and heaviest items you carry with you. Do your research and find a meat hauler pack that is light but doesn’t sacrifice strength. Find a light one-person tent or bivy rather than packing that four-person tent you use on family camping trips. If you’re not going to get wet, down filled sleeping bags are lighter than synthetic filled bags at the same temperature rating. There are plenty of sleeping pads that are super light and very compact compared to the pads from just 10 years ago. You can easily shave 5-10 pounds from your load by finding the lightest versions of these four essentials.
A pump and a bladder are a very powerful combination to allow you to remain hydrated and safe. But both add weight and use quite a bit of pack space. Consider taking a couple Lifestraw bottles to alternate between. You can store these in either interior or exterior pockets on your pack. Another great option is a steripen and a basic plastic bottle. And a third option (and one I would bring anyway) would be water treatment tablets or drops. The other inconvenience of a bladder is that you have to take everything out of your pack in order to refill it. If you know that there are consistent water sources where you plan to hunt, then there’s no need to carry three liters of water with you all day.
I don’t know about you, but after a long day of hunting there is nothing better than a hot meal waiting for me at sundown. For me, it is better for to cut weight with my daytime food. Instead of powerbars and sandwiches I pack the small one-ounce 100 calorie packs of gels and nut butters to provide enough calories through the day. Focus on calorie-dense and lighter options to cut a pound or so off your week-long meals without sacrificing calories needed for energy.
My favorite knife I own, and the one I carry on every non-backpack hunt, is one my father made 40 years ago and gave to me my first hunting season. Unfortunately the fixed-blade knife is too large and too heavy for me to take in my pack. I’ve since switched to the replaceable blade knives and bring a half dozen extra razor replacement blades.
If you have batteries, take them out of their blister packs. Knife, leave the sheath behind. Ditch the manufacturer first aid kit bag and use ziplock. Only bring just enough contact solution, scent spray, toothpaste, wet wipes etc that you need. You typically don’t need to bring the entire package of these items.
Share the Load
If you’re hunting with a friend, there are many items that you simply don’t need to double up on. Consider bringing only one of the following items if you’re hunting with a partner: Water filtration pump, stove, tent, spotting scope, tripod, tools, and fire starter.
This is a new trick for me this year. I hate sleeping cold, so I tend to take a colder rated sleeping bag on my trips, especially late in the season. But this year I’m taking a sleeping liner along with my lighter sleeping bag. This will cut over a pound off of my pack weight this year.
Nylon game bags
If you’re still using those heavy cotton game bags, it’s time to upgrade. Several companies now offer very lightweight and strong game bags that cut the weight and volume of space needed for the game bag in half. Synthetic or nylon bags also do a better job keeping flies and fly eggs off of your quarters when you have to make several trips back and forth to retrieve your meat.
Ditch the unnecessary items
If you find that you typically pack three pairs of pants but usually only use two, then leave behind the other pair. The extra ammo for your sidearm, tube of toothpaste, spare knife, quiver full of arrows, the arm guard you never wear. Leave these items at home or in the truck. Additionally you can shave some weight by just bringing the allen wrenches that fit your bow rather than the entire set. If you’re already scouting an area, and you know you’ll be back to hunt that area, stash some non-perishable food where you’ll find it on your next trip.
I hope some of these tips help you lighten your pack and help you hunt longer and stronger. Good luck this upcoming season!
If you’re like many hunters, you had taken the last few months off from shooting your bow. Now that you're back into your shooting routine with season right around the corner, you might find that your arrow groupings aren’t quite as tight as they were just a few months ago.
There are many ways to help tighten up your groupings; your stance, your technique, your equipment settings, your breathing. The list goes on and on. However, let’s discuss one strategy in particular that has always helped me tighten up my groups when other strategies have failed.
A technique called “Floating the Pin” is an effective strategy to get your arrows to form much tighter groups at the range. It also works well in the field when your first arrow is the only arrow that counts. Some might think that this goes against one’s natural shooting instinct of aiming small and missing small, but surprisingly it works.
Many shooters think it’s best to hold your pin steady on the bullseye. However we forget that we as humans are not machines. We can’t hold perfectly steady because nerves, physiology and the natural movement and fatigue of muscles won’t allow that to happen. Yet we try to fight nature, try to hold tight on our spot, and that’s when we become less accurate.
When you’re focusing on aiming so tightly on a spot, your muscles (especially the smaller stabilizing muscles) tighten to make sure you stay on that spot. Ironically it is those extra tight muscles that cause you to also pull off target when the arrow is released.
Instead of trying to hold tight on your target, focus on your pin floating around the bullseye. As you get the hang of it, focus on tightening the movement of the float of your pin so that it floats in a much tighter area on the target. This approach allows you to relax a bit more and it keeps you from yanking a shot.
There is a tendency among archers to hit the trigger at the exact moment the pin is on the spot they want to hit. This causes many shooters to pull off target at that moment trying to time it perfectly.
This strategy of floating the pin, though counterintuitive, always tightens my groups more than when I try to hold rock steady on my target. This has become even more evident as the years go by. Muscles break down, strength diminishes, stabilizing muscles don’t stabilize like they did in the past. Therefore, floating the pin is even more important as you get older.
Archers also tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves, especially at competitive 3D shoots or when practicing with other archers. Relax. You will be surprised that when you allow your muscles to relax as your pin floats around your target, you will become a more accurate shooter. By floating your pin around your target, the arrow somehow more consistently finds the center. Even when you feel you pulled your shot a bit, the float somehow keeps things tight even when you think your shot will be off.
If you think about it, the fact that floating the pin creates tighter groups, makes perfect sense. If you are anticipating the shot, or focusing on holding on center, instead of using a fluid motion to squeeze the trigger, you tend to quickly yank the trigger at the moment you feel your pin is directly on the bullseye. This ultimately pulls your arrow off target. This is exaggerated even more so the farther away your target is.
There is also a theory that suggests if we are so focused on holding steady on a small target (I.e. a hair on an elk or a small spot on a target), we subconsciously want to move the pin out of the way during the release of the arrow so we can see the arrow hit that tiny spot on which we’re focused and on which we’re trying so hard to hold steady.
Floating the pin eliminates these issues. It allows you to remain relaxed as your pin finds its mark on the target. It doesn’t matter if your float is in the form of a figure 8, tiny circles around the target, or simply allowing your pin to float as it wishes. All of these methods work just fine. Again, ironically, the only system that won’t work is simply trying to hold the pin rock steady on your target.
Intuitive? No. Effective? Yes.
You still might not believe that floating the pin around the bullseye will result in more consistent shots than holding steady on the bullseye, but I encourage you to try it the next time you’re at the range. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
It's that time of year again. The effort you put into the next few months will help determine how successful you will be this upcoming archery season. Many of us are planning to hunt areas we've never explored before. Below are some tips to give yourself the best chance in unfamiliar territory.
Plan from Afar
This should go without saying, but you should expect to put in many hours planning your hunt. Even if you are unable to visit your hunting area prior to the season, you should take advantage of all of the web-based tools available to hunters. As the old adage goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Personally I begin my research online using Google Earth, the resources available through your local Wildlife agency, and a variety of other online mapping programs from third parties. Before I set foot in a new hunting area, I try to get a solid understanding of the terrain and habitat online. I find images such as dark timber, funnels, water sources, pinch points, saddles and other landmarks that "appear" to be good starting points to explore.
Talk to the Experts
Once I have a better understanding of the topography and lay of the land, I will call the local wildlife office and get contact information for local offices, field agents, and game wardens in the area I plan to hunt. I talk to as many people as possible about my planned starting points, I ask their opinions and observations, and discover their recommendations based on their experience in the area. Keep in mind the information they share with you is the same information they have shared with others planning to hunt that area too. Use the information they provide you, combined with your online research, to determine your best plan of attack.
Put Boots on the Ground
Once you have your starting points, you should visit the area you plan to hunt prior to season. Even though animals won't necessarily be in the same spots in July as they will be in September, you can still learn a lot about how to hunt your area by visiting it. Spend a few days with your binoculars and spotting scope. Hike all around the areas you determined should be good areas. Take lots of notes, pin everything you see on your GPS device, and determine where the animals are during the summer months.
At this time you can also place a few trail cameras in the area. On public land you run the risk of someone stealing your camera, but most decent cameras can be bought for under $100. The reward of patterning animals definitely outweighs the risk of having a unit stolen.
Re-configure Your Starting Points
Now that you've seen the area, you can adjust as necessary the starting points you determined prior to visiting the area. Even though you saw animals as you explored the unit, they likely won't be in the same area during archery season.
Plot all of your points on a map and come up with a new game plan. I select half a dozen starting points on a map and draw a circle around each point of 1-2 miles. Then I look at all of the terrain, topography, landmarks, and aerial views on Google earth in order to determine the best spots within the circumference of those circles. Again you'll be looking for funnels, water sources, pinch points, saddles and other landmarks in the newly identified areas.
Head Back in for Another Hike
Now that you have your revised starting points, visit the hunting area again and explore those areas you feel the animals will be during hunting season. When scouting, look for sign where the animals were last year. Rubs on trees, bones from animals that were harvested in previous years, dried scat, wallows, and game trails. Pay attention to the easiest routes to your determined hunting areas, camping sites, trails, and other landmarks that will help you find your way in the dark on opening morning.
You now have a plan that will give you your best opportunity for success. One last point about hunting a new area, is that your first year hunting there offers the least likelihood of success. Once you hunt a unit a few years, you learn a lot about the animals in the area, where they are during season, their patterns and habits, and you'll increase your likelihood of success in subsequent years. If you fail to fill your tag the first season you hunt in your unit, don't immediately think you need to hunt somewhere else. Your chances for success increase every year you hunt the same area. So be patient and try to stick with one area for at least a few years.
"In just the first quarter of 2016, the NRA Blog has surpassed some big milestones! Our staff works around the clock researching, writing and reviewing all the latest and greatest to bring you the best content possible. We try to cover a wide-range of topics, as well as give you some insight into the NRA. And it wouldn't be possible without our readers, and those who interact and engage with us! We love to hear what you have to say. Your feedback is invaluable, and anytime you have a suggestion, please don't hesitate to contact us. We also encourage you to share your stories with us - you could be our next feature!
Unfamiliar with the Sportsman's Box?
The Sportsman's Box is a monthly delivery of gear and supplies all catered towards the sportsman's lifestyle. All items are been carefully tested and selected by a team of sportsmen, and will meet keep your mud room stocked for seasons to come. From hunting in the fall, to fishing in the spring, to everyday life, these boxes will satisfy anyone. Whether you have been an avid Sportsman for years or are just getting started, this box is a necessity and a time saver when it comes to having a steady supply or discovering new products for that upcoming pursuit. It’s like your birthday every month!
A monthly Sportsman's Box subscription starts at $39/month, or you can subscribe for a 3-month, 6-month or 12-month period - SUBSCRIBE TODAY and receive 10% off any subscription with the code "NRABLOG"
What’s Inside April’s Box?
American Buffalo Knife and Tool: Gun Cleaning Kit: This gun cleaning kit has everything you need to keep your shotgun clean and functioning properly.
Drymate Gun Pad: You now have American’s #1 selling gun cleaning pad! Use this pad to protect both guns and surface from scratches or other damages while cleaning your firearms.
Freedom Juice: Free your weapons! This stuff is your new odorless lubricant that cleans your firearms while repelling dirt, sand and other debris in the field.
Drymate Camo Coaster:No more rings, scratches or dings! Protect your tables and other surfaces from damages in style with these!
Rugged Meat Sticks: Here to power your pursuit and provide superior nutrition – anywhere, anytime, no matter what the outdoors throw at you!
And your NRA Gear: NRA Gadsden Hat, NRA Shooting Glasses, Neon Green Survival Bracelet and NRA Ear Protection"
This article is written by NRABLOG Staff
See below for Real Comments by Real Members
"Box subscription services, a concept popular for grocery, pet, and personal grooming products, has caught up to the hunting and fishing industry. Sportsmans Box is a new monthly service that delivers a steady supply of hunting and fishing goodies to the doorstep.
The program began March 10 for the boxes, and will ship on the tenth of every month thereafter. Subscribers or gift-givers can choose one, three-, six- or 12-month packages. Sportsmans Box states each box contains approximately $70 worth of tested, reviewed gear for a variety of sporting outings. An occasional bonus is included, i.e. vendor gift cards. Boxes are priced from $39 for one month to $35 per box for a 12-month subscription. Single-month Gift cards are $39.
The boxes contain an item each of apparel, gear, food, and a “discovery” item of a new brand or new gear. January’s box, apparently from the company’s test market activities, included a Stanley 16-ounce One Hand Thermos, an Outdoor Edge Knife, AquaSeal, Tenacious Tap, and Pork Clouds (Fried Pork Skins). That box’s valuation was $68. (See Previous Boxes)
Sportsman’s Box says box contents “have been field tested and approved by field tested and approved by our team of experienced Sportsmen that are scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada.”
The company’s blog shows the intent to reach the up-and-coming set via this group of testers. Lengthy profiles and cheerful pictures portray a mix of young- to-middle-aged hunters and fisherman, about evenly split between male and female. Some are parents of young hunters and some are surely protégés of more experienced outdoorsmen. There’s an active solicitation for new testers, too."