Thursday, October 30, 2014

Alternative Uses for Children: Spotters

In general, I STRONGLY prefer "up close and personal" hunting .  To me, it is much more exciting to be within 10-50 yards (and sometimes 10-50 feet) of an animal where you need to watch every step you take, monitor every movement by them and yourself and constantly be aware of the wind direction versus sniping away from 500 yards while having to take the curvature of the earth into consideration.  Plus, closer range usually ensures a quick, humane kill due to better shot placement and delivered energy.

It also helps to focus the mind if the creature has the propensity and ability to fight back.

At the same time, if you practice, our rifles are more than capable of "reaching out and touching" something.

Sometimes... you don't have a choice.

On a past weekend, I was in pursuit of the much-despised yet tasty feral hogs.  My 9 year old was VERY keen on going along with good ol' dad.  While she is always welcome to come along, this adds another level of complication since she is:

(i) loud,
(ii) slow,
(iii) prone to quickly becoming chilled,
(iv) still learning to avoid loud things while walking (i.e. sticks, leaves, forest floor debris, water, mud),
(v) missing the whisper gene,
(vi) prone to lose interest quicker than her 46 year old dad, and
(vii) very, very curious.

She is however VERY GUNG-HO which is one of the 1,000s of reasons I love her.

Since she was along on this trip, a change of tactics was in order.  For starters, we would be hunting the open right-of-ways versus diving off into the snake-filled, poison ivy choked overgrown woods.  Considering feral hogs are psychic and have the ability to appear well over 1/2 a mile away from where you are, a long range shot might be required.

We were in the same area where the weekend before, I saw 7 separate groups of hogs.  "This is going to be easy", I thought.  Well..... 2.5 chilly hours later we had only seen pigs from about... 1/2 a mile away.  After walking a bit, we returned to a likely intersection of a pipeline easement and a creek.  Visibility was superb in 4 directions.  We had been in this general area for several hours now and were both getting a bit bored.  I considered a change of locations when I glanced down a long right-of-way and saw these little black dots.

Binoculars transformed the black dots into black hogs and as luck would have it, there were no cattle near them.

Ideally, we would have closed the gap to the hogs to at least 200 yards.  They were waaaaaay down there but due to a swollen, impassable creek, a long shot would be required.  I shed my backpack quicker than a stripper angling for an extra $20 bill.  With the 9-year old in tow, we FLEW into action.

Finding a slightly higher mound to help give me the best vantage point, I laid down prone (facedown if you are from East Texas) behind the much loved .270/bipod combination.  There was a clear path to the right side of the right-of-way but taller brush to the left (the direction from which the hogs were coming) was blocked from my foot high view.  Plus, I could see the hogs were not hanging around eating in the clear, they were filing through the area and heading back into the woods on the right.  We had about 3-5 seconds before the last of them would be gone.

I tell my daughter to stand behind me to help protect her from the muzzle blast / pressure wave and for general safety.  But then I noticed that she had my binoculars.

Like a fine-tuned experienced sniper spotter, my 9-year old starts calling out details.

"There are two small ones in the middle."

"The red one is gone now."

and then...

"Oh dad... there is a big black one, walking to the others!"

I tell her to cover her ears as I wait for the "big black one" to enter the small clearing.  Holding about 3-4" over his back, I squeezed the trigger.

Keep in mind, we could barely see these hogs with the naked eye and I estimated the range to be 300-500 yards.  It was a stab in the dark at the range.

Actual stretch of woods where tale unfolded.

A check with the binocs revealed nothing.  The clearing was just that, clear.  It was just the two of us.

"Wow, that was loud!".  (She later confessed she had NOT covered her ears since she was curious and wanted to watch the shot.)

After a long trek down the creek to the bridge, a long walk back to our right-of-way and a long stroll to hog ground zero, there it was, a medium sized reddish hog, very dead, with a clean, humane hole in his temple.

I later paced the distance off and estimate it to be ~340 yards +/-.  My longest successful shot to date.

But as I cleaned the animal (much to my daughter's horror and anatomical curiosity), I started thinking more and more about the situation leading up to the event.

The hog I was shooting at was big and black.  This one was small and red.

I was aiming at the shoulder.  This hog was hit in the head.

I was aiming at the right side.  This hog has an entry wound on the left.

My daughter is thinking then entire chain of events is pretty cool and that good ol' dad is awesome and generally the best hunter on the planet.  I have not yet shared with her that good ol' dad missed and hit an unseen hog, probably in front of the one she directed me to.

As my wife is prone to say... "There is no glory to be had" in doing so.

I did however share these details with the guys at the hunting camp, a decision I soon regretted.


A Man in the Woods

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Product Review: Mosquito Magnet Liberty

Honestly, I'm a generally laid-back kinda a guy.  I give people the benefit of the doubt, assume most people are good and honest until proven otherwise and try to live and let live (unless we are talking about fire ants, protein-eating raccoons and feral hogs).

However, I've grow increasingly tired and less tolerant of poor quality products that do not perform anywhere near the expectations set for ME by the MANUFACTURER.

A few years back, I purchased a contraption called a Mosquito Magnet to help reduce these pests in the back yard.  The concept is simple.  Burn small amount of propane to (i) generate heat, (ii) emit CO2 and (iii) generally give the impression of a big, ugly, blood laden cow to attract hungry, female mosquitoes to their demise.

Below is the Amazon review I ultimately left after the 1,000 day experiment.  Using the Amazon rating system, I gave it one (1) star which is exactly two (2) stars too many.  Negative stars or anti-matters were not options.  On the AMITW's Irritation Scale, it receives the highest rating of five (5) Itchy Welts.

My unbiased, non-sarcastic, level-headed review can be found below or HERE at Amazon.


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Machine Stinks on the IceJuly 19, 2011
This review is from: Mosquito Magnet MM3200 Independence Mosquito Trap (Lawn & Patio)
I've owned this model for 3 years. 

Year 1 -- The original unit did not work at all and had to be exchanged for a new one. The replacement unit ran fine but was a challenge to get started on tank exchanges, etc. Sometimes it would take 12+ attempts to get it to fire up. 

Year 2 -- Unit was pretty much dead. I tried every trick in the book short of bribery and prostitution to coax it to life. No luck. Luckily, I kept the original box, had to go through the pain of requesting a return authorization code, packing and shipping it, etc. The main controller (brain) had to be replaced. Unit ran fine rest of summer after taking its summer vacation (while we were busy contracting malaria). 

Year 3 -- After praying to the mosquito gods, I was able to get it fired up and use two tanks of propane. Life is good, right. NO! The tiny, little, inconsequential ON/OF switch has become shorted out. IF I would press it on a certain side and while holding my tongue a certain way... maybe, just maybe, it would turn back on only to NOT have the machine fire up and start burning propane. If I hit the lid hinge a certain way while having pleasant thoughts, the start-up light / LED would flicker. If I hit it harder, it would stay on for a fraction of a second longer. Sensing I was on to something, I eventually put my hand through the lid.

A long list of adjectives could be used to describe how I felt at that precise moment but "pleased" was not among them. I will NOT point out the irony of being actually bitten by a mosquito WHILE I'M TRYING TO FIX THE DEVICE I PURCHASED TO AVOID BEING BITTEN BY MOSQUITOES.

1. WHEN you manage to get it running, it catches mosquitoes as advertised.

1. Mosquito Magnet management for continuing to sell a defective, poorly engineered device. Check out the other feedback here and elsewhere. My experience is not unusual.
2. Components are very, very delicate. I've had issues with electronics, plastics and metals.
3. If you can get it to run, set up a perimeter fence around it with armed guards to prevent it from being bumped or otherwise disturbed.

This is arguably the most delicate, finicky piece of equipment I have ever owned. I would not wish this unit on my most hated enemy. Its use would not be condoned by the Geneva Convention. This was a gigantic waste of money. Do yourself a favor and do not buy one. Please.


Of course, contacting the company prior to the above diatribe only resulted in me being told that it was no longer under warranty and, essentially, I was to bug off.


A Man in the Woods

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fanboy for Nikon Glass

Below is the note I was forced to write last year.


Hello Nikon,

I want to warn you, you are corresponding with an idiot.

Long story short:  On 11/22/13, I was hunting out of box blind in TX.  My Nikon 16X binoculars (along with my 8x Nikon Monach binocs and my Nikon 3x9 Buckmaster scope on a Ruger .270) helped me connect with a beautiful 5.5-6.5 year old buck 10 point buck.  I was excited after the shot and quickly  packed my gear and got out of the stand.  After dealing with the buck, I went back to camp to share the story with my fellow hunters and get the deer on ice.

I did not realize that I left the 16X binocs in the stand until 6 days later when I was packing up for a hunt with my 15 year old daughter.  It had rained and rained and rained in the earlier part of the week and the binoculars obviously got wet.  They are now fogged internally and I'm afraid they might be ruined.

Can I send these in for repair or service work?  You have my permission to make fun of me and question my intellect if necessary.

Many thanks.

Larry Hope


Nikon, for the princely sum of ~$15, took the binoculars apart, cleaned, serviced, repaired and returned them to me good as new!


A Man in the Woods