Archive for the 'Gear Reviews' Category

SoCalHunt Gear Review – StepDaddy Truck Ladder

Today SoCalHunt will review the StepDaddy Truck Ladder.

If you’re like me, especially if you own a full size 4X4 pickup, the StepDaddy Ladder is a real handy accessory to have for your truck.  As you get older, (like me), it can be even more important to have a way to climb up into the bed of your truck.

The StepDaddy Ladder is a very strong and sturdy steel ladder that is attached to the tailgate of your truck and actually stores on the inside of the tailgate so it’s ready for use at any time.  The ladder, when needed, swings around and extends to the ground, and even has a grip handle that folds out, so you can easily climb into the bed of your truck.

Also, a trait of the ladder that I really like, is that you can remove it from the tailgate of your truck in seconds without any tools.  To remove the StepDaddy Ladder you just open your tailgate, rotate the ladder 180 degrees and lift.  The videos on the StepDaddy Ladder website explain it much better than I can in a few words here. (Link to website below)

www.StepDaddyladder.com

Now, a few words of caution and/or suggestions.  My truck is a full size 4X4 and is not lifted and does not have super big tires.  The inside of my tailgate is about 41 inches off the ground on level ground.  With the StepDaddy Ladder on my truck, when I use it, I have to extend it out to the last hole for it to reach the ground.  If you have a lifted 4X4 and/or larger tires on your truck the StepDaddy ladder may not work for you.  There appears to be some room on the top of the section of the ladder that adjusts that you might be able to drill some additional adjustment holes to get a couple more inches but you’d have to determine if that’s something you need or want to do.  Also, as you can see in my pictures above, in my case the lip on my tailgate cap had to be notched to accommodate the ladder.  This is not a real common problem as that lip on my tailgate is due to the shell I have on my truck and the design of my trucks tailgate.  That lip is an aftermarket tailgate cap to give my shell door (rear window) something to nest against when it’s closed.  Most trucks and shells won’t have that problem to deal with.  Also, if you don’t have a shell or a locking tailgate it would be possible for someone to jack your StepDaddy Ladder.  If your tailgate locks (as long as you lock it) or if your bed is enclosed with a shell I don’t believe there’s any way someone could make off with your ladder.  Although, if you don’t have the mounting plates for the ladder I don’t know what use it would be to someone.

The price for the StepDaddy Ladder is currently listed on their website as $219.00 plus shipping fees.  Yes, there are cheaper tailgate ladders but this is a case of you get what you pay for.  I’ve had one of those cheaper ladders and I think I used it twice and then decided that it (the other ladder) was almost useless as it did feel stable and the “steps” were something like 1/2“ square steel. I didn’t feel safe on it and the design, which had you climb in from the side of the tailgate, caused interference from the tailgate cables.

If you want to order a StepDaddy Ladder for your truck I would strongly suggest you call their number (877-477-7154) and chat with Kay Fisher about the StepDaddy Ladder if you have any question about how or if it will fit on your truck.  You can also email Kay on the “email us today” link at the top right corner of their website.  Kay will give you great customer service (as she did with me) and is very responsive to any questions you might have.  They do have two designs of the StepDaddy Ladder.  The standard one adjusts to the length you need and then is bolted together so it is always at the same length.  The second type (the one I have) is adjustable with pins you pull so you can adjust the length of the ladder as needed.  This is a necessity if you need the longer ladder as it would be too long to store on the inside of the tailgate if it wasn’t adjustable.  If you have a 2X4 truck the one that bolts together will probably work for you, if you have a full sized 4X4 you’ll probably need the adjustable one (which as far as I can tell isn’t listed on their website yet – Ask Kay about it – I believe it costs a little more too, but not a lot more).

Anyway, if you want a great easy way to get into your truck bed check out the StepDaddy Ladder at the above website.

 

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SoCalHunt Gear Review ReDo Reusable Hand Warmer

Today SoCalHunt will be reviewing the ReDo Reusable Hand Warmer.

I hate having cold hands. I also hate wearing gloves while duck hunting as I’ve never found a pair that don’t feel, to me any way, cumbersome and make it hard to reliably feel for the safety and the trigger on my shotgun. I know, this is Southern California, so how cold can it get? But, hey, being born and raised here, and being trained from an early age to think that anything below 60 is cold, I’m a wimp when it comes to cold temperatures.

I’ve tried many of the disposable chemical hand warmers, which, in my opinion, don’t put out enough heat to do much. I’ve also tried the Jon-e hand warmer, which I’ve reviewed a while back, and I love that one. However, since it needs to be lit with matches, or a lighter, it can be problematic on a windy morning to light it and to keep it from blowing out. Also, you have to keep it dry, another problem if it happens to be raining. In addition you have to have fuel for the Jon-e Hand Warmer so you need to have a bottle of lighter fluid in your blind bag.

(See the Jon-e Hand Warmer review at: https://socalhunt.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/socalhunt-gear-review-jon-e-hand-warmer/).

The ReDo Reusable Hand Warmers is a “chemical” hand warmer which will generate a nice, hand warming heat for an advertised duration of about an hour. I tried to measure the warmth put out by the ReDo Hand Warmer using a meat thermometer, which starts registering at 140 degrees, but the needle never moved so I’ll just hazard a guess that its putting out something like 110 to 120 degrees (of course I could be off a few degrees one way or the other). The hand warmer is approximately 3 x 5 inch plastic pouch with a reddish liquid and a small metal disk sealed inside. Instructions for use and reactivation of the ReDo Hand Warmer are printed right on the pouch so you’ll never loose them.

ReDo Hand Warmer Package

IMG_0352

ReDo Hand Warmer before activation

IMG_0351

I say it’s a “chemical” hand warmer as the heat is generated by a chemical reaction when an internal metal disk is “snapped” or flexed. This causes the liquid Sodium Acetate to crystalize, and become a solid, which generates the heat. To get a good even reaction of the Sodium Acetate they recommend you kneed the pouch to distribute the reaction more evenly through all the Sodium Acetate. The “chemical” is supposed to be entirely non-toxic food grade Sodium Acetate and water. Reading up on Sodium Acetate one of its food uses is to give potato chips a salt and vinegar flavor, although I don’t think I’d poke a hole in the pouch and drink it.

Activated ReDo Hand Warmer

IMG_0354

One of the great advantages of the ReDo Hand Warmer is that it is truly reusable. Once the heat has dissipated from the “chemical” reaction the pouch can be reactivated by placing it in boiling water between 10 to 20 minutes, which turns the crystalized Sodium Acetate back into a liquid. They recommend wrapping it in a cloth when you boil it so it doesn’t come in direct contact with the bottom of the pan you’re boiling it in. Once it cools back down from the boiling process it is “re-set” and ready to use again. Also, you don’t need anything additional to use the ReDo hand Warmer. No matches, no lighter, no fuel, just the hand warmer its self. Also, no matter how hard the wind is blowing or how much it is raining this thing is going to work, no doubt about it.

One disadvantage of the ReDo Hand Warmer is that they don’t last too long. The one I tested while writing this review was nice and warm as soon as I activated it by snapping the metal disk inside. At the 50-minute mark it was still making some heat but had cooled down somewhat. Out in the blind on a clod morning I’d probably start up a fresh one at that point. At an hour and 10 minutes it seemed to be right about at body temperature (98.6 degrees for the non-medical types) and cooling down fast. I suppose if you were cold that would still help some but I’m sure I’d already be on my second one by then.

The other disadvantage is that, because they don’t last too long, to get through a cold morning will take more then one of them. I do have 4 of these in my blind bag, so that should give me nearly 4 hours of usable warmth, which should get me far enough into the day that I shouldn’t need a hand warmer.

I had a similar hand warmer several years ago but I only had one, as it was pretty expensive at that time. I seem to remember spending something like $12 or $14 or more for it at the Fred Hall Show in Long Beach. Apparently, since that time, the price for this technology has dropped and you can pick up a two pack of the ReDo Hand Warmers for as little as $4.99 at Emergency Zone. (Free shipping!)

Cautions on the package include:

Do not place the Warmer directly on skin after boiling

Do not puncture

Do not flex metal chip until the Hand Warmer has cooled down after boiling

Do not bend the metal chip

So, in my opinion the ReDo Hand Warmer is well worth it to carry in your blind bag for those cold mornings. I will probably continue to use my Jon-e Hand Warmer as my first choice, mainly because it seems to put out a little more heat and, also, because it will last (assuming its full of lighter fluid) for several hours. The ReDo Hand Warmer is an excellent reserve hand warmer for days when you can’t use the Jon–e warmer due to wind or rain. Also, if its not too cold, the ReDo Hand Warmer would be great just to take a little of the chill off your hands if you don’t want to go to the trouble of lighting the Jon-e warmer for around an hour or less.

Here’s some links to sources for the ReDo Hand Warmer. (Emergency Zone was the cheapest with free shipping):

http://www.emergencyzone.com/ReDo-Reusable-Hand-Warmer-2-Pack-p/125.htm

http://eartheasy.com/redo-reusable-hand-warmer

http://www.amazon.com/Reusable-Wamer-Emergency-Zone-Brand/dp/B00BFWKGI8

 

Gear Review (Update) – Cartblind (Formerly Duck & Bucks Cart Blind)

Today SoCalHunt is revising an old gear review for what used to be called the Ducks & Bucks Cart Blind.

SoCalHunt originally posted this review in December of 2010 and it is still one of the most clicked on reviews or reports on the SoCalHunt blog so I felt an update was in order.  There have been a few changes over the years at the company, including some updates to the carts and a change in the name, so I figured it would be a good time to revise the review.  As far as the performance of the product it is still living up to everything I said about it in the original review so there won’t be a lot of changes in this review, just more of an update as far as the name of the product and the web address and such.  I will say that it is some of the best money I’ve ever spent on any hunting equipment for the marsh and I still feel that way.

Look! Out in the pond! It’s a boat, no it’s a cart, no it’s a blind….no it’s the Cartblind!

The Cartblind is a great combination of what a waterfowler needs out in the refuge marsh. It consists of a large decoy sled with wheels attached (which are easily removable) and a telescoping pull handle to pull the whole contraption with. There are also shoulder straps attached to the pull handle and to the sled that allows most of the weight to be carried on the hunter’s shoulders as the cart is pulled. Once to the hunting site there is a full camo cover that makes the cart into a very comfortable hunting blind.

The real beauty of the Cartblind is that you can load it at home, bungee everything down and the next time you have to take anything off of it is out at your blind or hunting site. Gone now are the days of loading everything in your truck, including the folded up decoy cart, arriving at the parking area, taking out the decoy cart and putting it together in the dark, loading all the decoys and equipment on it, bungeeing it all down, walking out to your hunt site, taking everything off the decoy cart, humping the decoys, guns and other equipment across the pond (usually 3 or 4 trips back and forth across the pond) and then repeating this in reverse order to go home.

The way we have used the Cartblind over the last few years is that we load it up at home with decoys, two smaller decoy sleds (which we find handy in putting out and picking up the decoys), blind bags, seats and whatever else we’re taking and then it goes in the back of the truck. When we arrive at the parking area for our hunting site we pull the cart out of the back of the truck, tuck the shotguns and camera box in under the bungee straps, extend the telescoping pull handle, throw the shoulder straps on and off we go to our hunting site. The 18 inch diameter, 4 ½ inch wide, airless tires make pulling the cart very easy.  One tip we’ve learned over the years is to cross the straps over each other across the chest so they don’t slip off your shoulders.

When we arrive at our hunting site, if we have happened to draw an island blind, instead of taking everything out of the cart and schlepping it across the water in 3 or 4 trips back and forth, the cart becomes a boat. We just push it into the water and it floats, even with all the equipment loaded on it.  It is rated to float about 200 pounds. We have found that, once it is in the water, it is easier to get out of the pull handle and push it from behind.

This has a couple advantages. First you can keep the (now) boat stable, even if it is loaded a little unevenly. Second you can push down on the rear of the boat which keeps the bow of it high so no water splashes in, and third, it actually assists you in wading through a muddy pond bottom as, by pushing down on it, it takes a lot of your weight off your feet so you don’t sink in the mud as much. Once you get to your hunt site, whether you had to cross the water or not, if it is a free roam area or there is no adequate prepared blind, when the cart is empty, with a few minor adjustments, it becomes a very comfortable blind.

To make the cart into a blind there are 4 “feet” that pull out and adjust for height at the end of the cart (which will become the bottom of the blind). Once these are adjusted (between 15 and 22 inches) to the proper height the cart is tipped up on end. When this is done the camo blind cover falls into place. The only other adjustment that is needed to complete the conversion is to adjust the telescoping pull handle to become a rear support for the blind. When used as a blind there is a back and butt cushion which makes it very comfortable to sit in. Our blind also came with a middle camo cover (not shown in our pictures), which you wouldn’t want to use for duck hunting, that would make it a good deer/turkey blind. In addition, if you move the top camo cover to the bottom and lay the cart/blind down it can be utilized as a layout blind also. If you find yourself in a shallow pond and the wheels are digging into the bottom the wheels can be easily removed by pulling a spring steel pin (no tools necessary) and just pulling the wheels off.  It might be a good idea to buy a couple more of these pins at the hardware store and carry them in your blind bag just in case you drop one in the field.

The only real disadvantage I have found with the Cart Blind is that it will only accommodate one person when utilized as a blind (so you’d have to take turns or flip for it I guess, LOL).  Although, in an area like San Jacinto, which has mostly prepared blinds, you normally wouldn’t need to use it as a blind.  Also it would be a two man job to load it or unload it from your truck, which is the way we originally handled it, but I solved that a few years ago by making ramps, such as a gardener uses to get his lawnmower in and out of his truck, which makes it a snap for one person to handle now.

The Cartblind comes in five different configurations now, which is a change for the original.  There are configurations for a “Buck-Cart” (for use a a ground blind for deer or turkey), a “Duck-Cart”, obviously for duck hunting, an “Ice Fishing-Cart”, for use as an mini ice fishing house (which I don’t think we here in Southern California have to worry about), a Goose-Cart”, for use primarily as a layout field blind, and a “4 Season Cartblind” which, near as I can tell by the illustration on their web site, looks like the old style “Bucks & Ducks Cart Blind”, which is what SoCalHunt has.  The “4 Season Cartblind” is going for $399 and the others are priced at $499.  It appears, as of the writing of this update, that only the “4 Season Cartblind” is in stock as they are asking a $199 deposit on the other four to “pre-order”.  Check it out at…

www.cartblinds.com

…for further information or to order one.

SoCalHunt Gear Review – Avery Green Head Gear Pro Series Decoys

I’m going to actually call this a preliminary gear review, as I haven’t had an opportunity to use these under hunting conditions…yet. Obviously the season hasn’t started yet, but after breaking them out of the box I was so impressed with these lifelike decoys I couldn’t wait to post a review.

After last season I decided to retire some of my old worn out decoys, some of which were over 30 years old, and get a few of the new Green Head Gear (GHG) decoys by Avery. I bought a dozen of the GHG Pro Grade teal, a dozen GHG Pro Grade Widgeon and a dozen of the GHG Pro Grade mallard resters. These decoys are sold in sets of six and with each set of the teal and the widgeon there is 1 high head drake, 2 rester drakes, 1 surface feeder drake, 1 rester hen, and 1 surface feeder hen. The mallards, also sold in sets of six, being the “resters” came with 3 rester drakes, 1 rester hen, 1 sleeper drake and 1 sleeper hen.

One of the great things about these decoys is, as you’ve already read above, the fact that they are posed in different positions. No longer do you have a pond full of decoys with every decoy looking exactly like the next and all posed with their heads high as if the whole flock is on alert. Avery also touts what they call their 60/40 keel, which is supposed to make these decoys float in a more realistic manner on the water. The detail on these decoys is amazing and the color so realistic that it appears they will jump up and fly away if you get too close to them.

I took a couple of the teal and widgeon out to San Jacinto Wildlife Area on the last volunteer workday just to see what they looked like under actual field conditions. I tossed them out into one of the ponds and they just seemed to come to life. (Click on the below pictures for a full sized view).

So, there you have it…so far. I am just so impressed with how these decoys look that I can’t help but think the ducks will treat them as real. Of course, time will tell and I’ll have to post a follow-up gear review on them after a few hunts when we see how the ducks actually respond to them.

A couple of tips for anyone considering these decoys or, for that matter, for any decoys new or old. Over the years I’ve gone away form that thick, heavy black or green decoy cord. You have to remember that the birds are seeing your decoys from the air and looking down into a pond I would imagine a coil or two of thick black cord floating around or just under each decoy has an unnatural look. For a while I used monofilament fishing line, however, under certain conditions you can get some shine off of the mono, especially if the pond is shallow and some of the mono floats to the surface. I have recently gone to 15-pound test spectra fishing line. This stuff is green and is about the diameter of 2-pound test mono. It is just about as invisible as any decoy line you could get. The only word of caution, well, actually two words of caution, is that spectra can cut, so if you have a dog going back and forth through your decoys to retrieve birds it might not be a good choice and it is extremely hard to manage if you happen to get a tangle in one of the lines while putting them out at o-dark-30. It is almost impossible to see what the problem is in the dark. It would probably be smart to carry a spool of it in your blind bag to replace any lines that you might tangle in the dark and have to replace (a little later in the day when you can see what you’re doing).

A second tip, which will help your decoys last longer, is to give them a couple of light coats of Krylon 1311 clear matt finish spray paint (or similar clear matt finish). This will, in effect, “lock on” the painted finish of your decoys and help keep them looking new even after banging around in a decoy bag all season. Just be sure you use a matt finish, as you don’t want bright shiny gloss surface on decoys.

Good luck to all in the coming season.

SoCalHunt Gear Review – Jon-E Hand Warmer

This week’s gear review at SoCalHunt is about the Jon-E Hand warmer.

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, depending on your point of view, in Southern California we don’t normally have to deal with sub-freezing temperatures during our waterfowl hunting forays. Unless you head up north you’re probably not going to run into any temperatures under about 30 degrees except for some exceptional days in December and January.

Having said that I’m going to admit I’m a wimp when it comes to cold. Being born and raised in Southern California makes me think that a 35-degree morning is way cold! Okay, all you guys and gals from the northeast can now laugh at me.

I have yet to find a pair of gloves that I really like to wear when I’m hunting. I just find them cumbersome and they make it hard to reliably feel for the safety and the trigger on my shotgun, which to me is a little disconcerting.

My solution to this dilemma, either freezing my hands (or at least feeling like they’re freezing) or trying to safely operate my shotgun with bulky gloves, is the Jon-E Hand Warmer.

I’ve tired several brands of those cheap chemical one-time-use hand warmers and, to me anyway, they just don’t seem to get warm enough to make a bit of difference. I’ve also tried those gel type hand warmers; the type you push on a metal button inside the gel pack to activate; but they only stay warm for about a half hour or so and then you have to boil them when you get home in order for you to use them the next time.

The Jon-E Hand Warmer is a cigarette lighter fluid powered chrome-plated metal hand warmer. It is made from metal and has a small platinum catalyst heating element on the top of it with a metal cover. It comes in two sizes, the #700 model “standard” size, which is about 3 ¼” x 2 ¼” x ¾”, and the #701 model “giant”, which is about 4 ¼” x 3” x 1 ½”. The standard sized warmer holds 6 tablespoons of lighter fluid and the giant holds 14 tablespoons of fluid. This is supposed to translate into 8 to 12 hours of heat in the standard model and up to 36 hours of heat in the giant model (although in my experience it goes much faster then that).

Each Jon-E Hand Warmer comes with a cloth carrying bag. This bag is not only for carrying and storing the Jon-E Hand Warmer but you must have the warmer inside the bag while it is in operation. Using the bag you can somewhat regulate the heat that your Jon-E Hand Warmer produces.

Remember with the Jon-E Hand Warmer you are dealing with fire so caution is a must! I will quote directly from the Jon-E Hand Warmer instructions regarding their warning on the unit:
“WARNING! A Jon-E Hand Warmer is made to generate heat. To avoid a skin burn always keep it in the carrying bag and change its position frequently. When removed from cloth carrying bag and left uncovered in the open air it can get HOT! Do not allow uncovered operating Jon-E Hand Warmer to come in contact with your skin. Do not use while sleeping; or with an unattended handicapped person or small child.”

To use the Jon-E Hand Warmer you must first fill it with lighter fluid. Each model of Jon-E Hand Warmer comes with a plastic fill cup, which fits on the bottom of the unit. Caution: Do not leave the plastic cup on the bottom of the unit while it is operating or you may find it melted to the unit at the end of the morning. To completely fill your Jon-E Hand Warmer takes two of these cups of lighter fluid. One of them is probably plenty for your typical Southern California morning. The first thing to do is remove the unit from the cloth carrying bag and put the bag well away from where you’re filling the unit. You don’t want to get lighter fluid on the carrying bag. To fill the unit, remove the heating element, being careful not to touch the actual element material. Pour the lighter fluid into the cotton material inside the unit. Be careful to not spill the lighter fluid on the side of the unit or around the blind or your other equipment in the blind. If you do spill some wipe it up as good as you can and let the unit sit for a short while for the fluid to evaporate.

Again, because we are dealing with fire here, I’ll quote the Jon-E Hand Warmer instructions:
“WIPE OFF any fluid on outside of case! WIPE UP spilled fluid too! CAUTION: Spilled fluid is highly flammable! Do not ignite a match or cigarette lighter flame near spillage, clothing wet with fluid, or napkin/rag used to wipe up spillage because it will flame up! Anything wet with spillage should be allowed to air out and evaporate the fluid completely before any flame is ignited nearby.”

In the Jon-E Hand Warmer instructions it says to fill and start it indoors but, for waterfowl hunting, I’ve not found it practical to start the thing at one o’clock in the morning at home and keep it running all that time until you’re actually in your blind and hunting at six in the morning.

Once you have the unit filled with fluid pop the heating element back on, once again being careful not to touch the actual element material. Right next to the heating element is a wick. Set the unit on a flat surface and carefully light the wick. Let the wick burn for one minute then blow the flame out. Replace the chrome cover over the heating element. Let the unit sit for four or five minutes to warm up and then, with a gloved hand (yes, even though I said I don’t like gloves I do carry gloves – mainly for this purpose) place the unit inside the cloth carrying bag.

You can somewhat regulate how much heat the Jon-E Hand Warmer gives off by how much of an opening you allow in the top of the bag. If you want a little more heat out of the unit open of the top of the bag a little to give it a little more air. (Just be careful not to burn yourself on the metal inside).

Once the day warms up somewhat and you want to turn off your Jon-E Hand Warmer it is a simple matter of taking it out of the bag, again with a gloved hand, removing the top cover and, with the edge of the top cover, prying the heating element off the unit. Let it sit for a minute and it should be cool enough to handle. You can then put the heating element back on it, it won’t re-light until you actually light it again.
Now, for the pros and cons of the Jon-E hand Warmer:

Pros:
Gives off a good amount of heat. It’s the only hand warmer I’ve found that gives off enough heat long enough to make a difference.
Absent extreme wind or rain it is actually pretty easy to use once you’ve done it a couple times.

Cons:
It is hard to light sometimes. If it’s windy it may be impossible to light. It also requires you to carry matches and keep them dry.
It uses lighter fluid, which means you have to cart a small bottle of lighter fluid around in your blind bag.
It is a source of fire. If you’re not cautious with it you can get burned. You could even start your blind on fire if you’re a real klutz. Just because of this it may not be a good choice for some.
You have to be careful with the heating element. If you drop it in the mud in the bottom of the blind you’re done. You might be able to clean it off at home and let it dry out but you might have to get a new heating element if that happens.

All in all, even though the “cons” list is longer then the “pros” list I would recommend the Jon-E Hand Warmer for any body that gets cold hands in those early mornings in the blind. It may not be for everybody but if you can deal with the “cons”, in my opinion, the short list of “pros” actually outweigh the “cons”.

The Jon-E Hand Warmer seems to be getting harder to find lately but I did locate both the standard #700 and giant #701 at Mountain Plus Outdoor Gear: $17.56 for the standard and $22.60 for the giant. (You also might want to check ebay for these. There are several up for bid right now, although most of them are used units.)

http://store.mpgear.com/jon-e-handwarmer.aspx

Gear Review – The LeMaster Method Waterfowl Identification Book

This year the following where the regulations we had to deal with in the Southern California zone for waterfowl:

Ducks (including Mergansers).
From the fourth Saturday in October extending for 100 days.
Scaup: From the first Saturday in November extending for 86 days.
Daily bag limit: 7
Daily bag limit may include:
• 7 mallards, but not more than 2 females.
• 2 pintail (either sex).
• 1 canvasback (either sex).
• 2 redheads (either sex).
• 3 scaup (either sex).

….ah, ya think it was important to be able to identify birds on the wing in the field this year? And, I’m sure, the regulations will be just as complicated, if not more so, next season. Gone are the “good old days” where we could go out there and bag a 7-bird limit and it didn’t matter what species they were.

Due to these regulations a book on waterfowl identification is an essential piece of gear to carry in your blind bag. In fact, it should be an essential piece of equipment to carry on scouting trips or just occasional jaunts to the local marsh, ecological reserve, park-lake or whatever waterfowl habitat might be close by were you can brush up on your duck ID skills off season.

The best waterfowl ID book I’ve seen, bar none, is The LeMaster Method Waterfowl Identification by Richard LeMaster.

The LeMaster Method covers al the waterfowl you might run across in California, as well as other areas of the country. The book is spiral bound, which makes it easy to lay flat and keep it opened to whatever page you like to look at no matter if you’re looking at it on a table at home or laying it on top of your blind bag in the field. The pages on each bird show you a profile of the bird in flight, male and female, a profile of the bird’s head, showing the different plumages at different times during the season and a life-sized picture of the male and female bills.

Another great aspect of The LeMaster Method book is four pages of side-by-side duck and goose bill pictures for comparison to help ID the bird in hand. In fact, the check station at San Jacinto Wildlife Area uses these four pages out of The LeMater Method at their check in table to help ID the birds hunters check in.

The great thing about these bill picture pages is that all you have to do is lay the bird’s bill on the page and if the size and color match you have your bird identified.

Also included in the book are two pages of duck feet pictures to assist with identification of the bird once it’s bagged.

In addition, LeMaster has included four pages of “flight levels” for the ducks. These pages illustrate the likely of four “flight levels” that each species of bird is likely to fly at in non-migratory flight which is another assist in identifying birds on the wing.

The LeMaster Method Waterfowl Identification is available directly from the publisher, Stackpole Books, for $10.95 at:

http://www.stackpolebooks.com/productdetails.cfm?sku=2982&isbn=9780811729826&title=waterfowl-identification

This is, in my opinion, required reading for any waterfowler in the Southern California area, or anywhere else for that matter.

SoCalHunt Gear Review – California Game Warden Stamp

Today’s gear review at SoCalHunt is the California Fish and Game California Game Warden Stamp.

Well, is this really “gear”? Maybe not. But it is something that I feel strongly about and something I think important for all law–abiding hunters and fishermen to consider purchasing. I have four of the 2010 version stamps myself. The new version, for 2011 is now available for purchase from and DFG regional or licensing offices or by sending in a check with the DFG Warden Stamp form, found at:

http://www.dfg.ca.gov/WardenStamp/fg373a.pdf

The Game Warden Stamp isn’t really a “stamp” for your license, such as one of your duck stamps, as the name might lead you to believe, but rather it’s a roughly 4” x 4” decal. The 2010 version (which is still available, if you like that design better) is a green shield with an elk silhouette on it. (see picture below).

The new 2011 version has a light blue background and a silhouette of a trout or salmon on it. (see picture below)

The stamps are $5 each and the funds go into a special account. The money is used to provide our Game Wardens with additional equipment, training and new programs, such as the Fish and Game K-9 program, to assist them in their duties.

Due to State budget cuts, non-hunting / fishing politicians feel that the DFG is a “painless” way to cut back on the budget by giving the DFG less to do more with.

Quoting the DFG web site on the Warden stamp:
“Game Wardens are responsible for protecting more than 1,000 native fish and wildlife species, 6,300 native plant species and 360 threatened or endangered species California’s 159,000 square miles of land (414 square miles per warden) 1,100 miles of coastline, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, 4,800 lakes and reservoirs and 80 major rivers. Game Wardens patrol on foot, by plane, boat, all-terrain vehicles, snow mobiles, and even on horseback There is one game warden for every 200,000 constituents.

Game Wardens work hard to educate those they encounter in the outdoors, as well as school children in the classroom, about the importance of resource conservation, pollution prevention, and the importance of a healthy natural environment. These men and women dedicate their lives to ensuring our resources are here for future generations. You do not have to be an outdoor enthusiast to help, just someone who cares about protecting California’s wildlife populations and conserving the habitats in which they live.”

Now – back to me…
As “gear” the Warden stamp leaves a little to be desired as one of the ones that I had just plain fell off the gear I had it stuck on and the one I have on my truck’s shell rear window has faded from that nice “Game Warden green” to a light blue color. So, the actual stamp, or decal as it probably should be called, could use a little more UV resist ink and have some better adhesive, but, the important point here, in my opinion, is getting the money to the “boots on the ground”. If your $5 (or more, if you can afford it) results in some equipment or what have you that helps catch a poacher in your area the payoff may be more game or more fish for you and yours to legally harvest. And, the bottom line is, that’s what’s important. As for the “stamp”, throw the darn thing away if you want, stick it in a drawer, do whatever you want with it. The important thing is to help give Fish and Game the tools they need to protect our hunting and fishing heritage.

Now, excuse me while I print up the pdf form and mail in for my 2011 Game Warden stamps.


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