Texas Hill Country Deer Hunting Update 2011

As we approach the half way point of the Texas Hill Country Rifle season for Whitetail Deer I though it would be a good idea to update folks on what the Armadillo Times crew has been seeing this year in the field. If you recall I wrote an article last June speculating as to the possible effects that the drought would have on this deer hunting season. In that article I wrote that we expected to see lots of deer at the feeders (due to the lack of natural forage) and we suspected that perhaps antler sizes would be down along with the deer just not being in very good shape physically.

Whitetail Deer at Feeder

Normally we don’t have significant numbers of deer coming into the feeders until the deer have finished with the acorns and  the cold weather has taken care of the rest of their normal diet foodstuffs. Well I can tell you the deer have really been coming into the feeders. Morning and afternoon; just like clockwork… the feeder goes off and they come running. As suspected overall antler size is down from what we are used to seeing; not terrible though.

At the beginning of the season most of the deer just looked terrible. They looked skinny and rundown. Since the beginning of season we have received almost three inches of rain which actually “greened” up the pastures a little and as such the deer are looking better overall. The most alarming thing is the lack of fawns…. in 4 weekends I have seen a total of 1 fawn. This will really put a gap in the available mature deer 3 to 5 years from now.

We finally took our first deer this past weekend with 1 buck and 1 doe taken. The 2 deer shot were in OK shape, but when we field dressed them there was absolutely no fat at all. Fat is essential to carrying deer through lean times like the rut and winter. The drought has already subjected the deer to lean times which means we will probably have to feed year around until the drought totally breaks or risk losing significant numbers. Personally; this writer has not taken a single deer yet. I told the landowner last saturday “I’m either going to have to lower my expectations or just not take any deer this year”, to which he replied “better to take them now or they will starve to death before spring”. Ultimately he is correct… maybe I will take one next weekend…

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Top Travel Trailer Gear Picks of 2011

We bought a new travel trailer back in January and spent the best part of this year outfitting it and I’m happy to report we finally got it to the point where I can really relax when we go camping. We added upgrades from levels to wheel locks and as such, I thought it would be a good idea to share my top three gear picks for the new travel trailer owner. I’ve already written reviews on the items on my top three list and have included links to the full review of each item.

Husky 87489 3000 lbs. Brute Power Jack

First up is the Husky Brute Power Jack. This is probably the single best thing I have ever installed on any of our travel trailers. No more hand cranking to raise and lower the tongue of my travel trailer… just flip a switch one way and I can raise the tongue; flip the switch the other way and I can lower the tongue. Very simple, very easy and at less than $175 this is money well spent. I consider this item a must have for all travel trailer owners. Husky Brute Power Jack

Maxxair Vent Covers

Next up is the Maxxair Vent covers. All travel trailers have roof vents; some with fans, some with not, but the stock vents that come equipped in new travel trailer are susceptible to damage. Installing, or having these installed on your rig means you can open your vent and leave it open even while towing without worrying about damage to your vent or rain getting in. I believe these should be standard equipment on all rigs sold, but they are not, so I’m pretty happy they are available as stand alone upgrades. A solid buy for sure at just under $40 each. Maxxair Translucent White Vent Cover

Vortex High Velocity RV Roof Vent Retrofit Kit

Last, but certainly not least is the Vortex High Velocity RV Roof Vent Retrofit Kit. Just as good as the Fantastic Fan that everyone raves about, but at a better price point, with the added benefit of not having to change out the entire vent. This upgrade fan moves significantly more air than the stock unit and is a well designed replacement. Vortex High Velocity RV Roof Vent Retrofit Kit

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Thanksgiving Day 2011 Wishes

It’s official… holiday season is here. Tomorrow is the day, in the United States, we all give thanks for the blessings in our lives. I really enjoy this time of the year as it usually means our family gets to spend some quality time together while we eat to much food, watch football games, and catch up on the years happenings.

This year I will again be surrounded by my family and friends and, despite some obstacles we all had to overcome, the one thing we can all agree on is the fact that we have a lot to be grateful for. For this writer my gratitude includes the opportunity to bring this website to you and to have loyal followers who visit every week. I am very grateful for all who have stopped by to visit and be apart of the Armadillo Times extended crew.

From our house to yours, I would like to take this opportunity to extend a very heartfelt thanks for your support and wish you all a very safe and happy thanksgiving holiday!

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Petzl e+Lite Emergency Headlamp Review

Last weekend I had the opportunity to test the Petzl e+Lite Emergency Headlamp as a part of our 4 day, 3 night trek to the Texas Hill Country for a long weekend of deer hunting. I spent three nights testing the headlamp in the pastures of our hunting ranch and my deer blind. I must say that overall I am impressed with the operation of the headlamp.

Petzl e+Lite Emergency Headlamp

The Petzl Emergency Headlight is ultra-lightweight (28 g), it has 3 white LED’s & 1 red LED, operates  at 2 different lighting levels: economic and maximum, and the light source rotates 360° on ball & joint. The headband lock is actually a survival whistle capable of producing up to 100dB of very shrill sound and the whole unit is shipped complete with a set of CR2032 batteries and a very nice protective case to store it in when not in use. Rounding out the rest of the specifications… the headlamp has an operating temperature range of -30 to +60C as well as waterproof to one meter deep.

Petzl e+Lite Mounted on a Ball Cap

One of the things I really liked about the e+Lite Emergency Headlamp is the fact that you can clip it to a ball cap. It can also be worn around the head or neck with the adjustable strap. I used the headlamp on my ball cap most of the time and it is so lite you don’t even notice it’s there… except of course for the light beam. Inside a deer blind this headlamp is awesome. In the economy mode it produces enough light to see your way around without being blinded.

While out in the woods I couldn’t really see my way around unless I used the higher output and then the amount of light was respectable. Keep in mind, this is intended to be an emergency headlamp where shelf life (10 years) and functionality are the primary concerns, so it is not a blowtorch of a lantern, but I still found light output to be enough to walk trails on a cloudy dark night. The whistle worked remarkably well, even in the rain, and the red light function was another feature I really liked in close quarters as the use of a red light will actually help to preserve your night vision.

Bottom line… I liked it well enough to purchase it, a stack of batteries, and add the whole setup to my hunting dry box. Small, light weight, adjustable light beam, waterproof to 1 meter, integrated emergency whistle, and storage case all make this emergency headlamp a winner and highly recommended by the Armadillo times crew.

Petzl e+Lite Emergency Headlamp with Integrated Whistle

MasterVision 311 2032 Replacement Batteries

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Jawbone JAMBOX Review

How about a triple play bluetooth device? At home, at the office, and in the great outdoors is where we went to review the JAMBOX from Jawbone. This is a really cool piece of electronic equipment that performed flawlessly for us in a variety of different environments.

Jawbone JAMBOX

This is bluetooth technology at it’s finest. This device will pair to your phone, ipad, or home computer using bluetooth technology; just like a bluetooth earpiece… only lots better! You can use it as a wireless speaker phone or wireless speakers. Sound quality is unbelievably good as the JAMBOX is equipped with two highly powerful acoustic drivers and an ultra-small dome which produces a wide rich audio spectrum. Pairing to my iPhone was simple once I got the test unit fully charged. On the JAMBOX you will find the volume controls, a programmable answer button, and an on/off switch. At work I have used the JAMBOX as a speaker phone while on conference calls and in between calls I stream music from my iPhone to the speakers. The sound is rich and clean; no distortion what-so-ever. At home, in our travel trailer, and even in my deer blind while hunting I have used the JAMBOX to stream music from my iPad and my MACBOOK computer. Again, very easy to pair with all of these devices and the sound quality is truly amazing. The JAMBOX is also equipped with an internal rechargeable battery that lasts for roughly 10 hours on a full charge making this bluetooth device completely wireless for the ultimate in portable sound.

JAMBOX - In The Box

The JAMBOX is completely outfitted straight from the factory with everything you need.  In the box here’s what you get: Speaker, wall plug with cable, micro USB cables for connecting to wall plug or your Mac/PC for updating, unique audio cable for connecting audio devices that aren’t blue tooth capable (I used this cable in my travel trailer to connect the JAMBOX as an external speaker for my little TV for excellent sound), skin protective case, and a comprehensive user guide. The JAMBOX can even be updated with apps, software and new features via Jawbone’s MyTalk portal.

This little bluetooth device from JAMBOX is easy to use, produces great rich sound, and at only 6 x 2.2 x 1.6 inches its portable enough to take anywhere… yes I have even traveled on an airplane with it already and can highly recommend it for all your adventures in the great outdoors, or in the office, or in your travel trailer… just about anywhere.

Jawbone JAMBOX (Black Diamond)

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E-Z Up Sierra II 10×10 Canopy Review

Sometimes you just need a little shelter from the elements. Too much sun is never a good thing when your camping or at the beach and what about rain. Have you ever tried to eat at a pic-nic table while a rain storm is blowing in? On our last trip to Colorado it rained almost everyday, not all day everyday, but many small showers that had us running for cover with some regularity.

E-Z Up Sierra II 10x10 Canopy

We had a chance to take a long look at one of these E-Z UP Canopy’s recently and were so impressed with the product we purchased one. First of all, they will provide shelter from the sun and the rain, no problem. In fact we found this to be a perfect cover for a pic-nic table. The canopy was very easy to set up with two people. I tried to set it up by myself and I could do it, but it was a much easier task for two people for sure. The top is removable/replaceable and secured to the frame with velcro. The legs are easily adjustable for different height settings, and the foot of each leg has a hole in it for staking it to the ground. The stakes that come with the canopy didn’t work for us at all. We bent all four of the cheap aluminum stakes on our first trip out, but that’s OK with me anyway as I prefer to use the Ground Hog tent stakes. The whole canopy collapses and stores in a nice roller bag making it easy to move and pack away in your vehicle. The EZ-Up website also offers a full array of replacement parts. Bottom line – this is a great product… easy to set up, easy to store, and backed by a company that can provide replacement parts at reasonable prices.

E-Z Up Sierra II 10×10 Canopy

MSR Ground Hog Stake Kit

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Blackcat Catalytic Heater With Instastart Technology Review

I have been using Coleman propane heaters for more than 15 years now, so when it was time to add another one to our ever growing collection of hunting/camping gear I went right back to Coleman for a solution I could depend on for years to come.

Blackcat Catalytic Heater With Instastart Technology

I purchased this Blackcat Catalylic Propane Heater by Coleman a month ago and we put it right to the test on opening weekend of deer season during an unusual cold snap in the Texas hill country. The heater puts out a solid 3,000 BTU’s of heat and will operate up to 7 hours from one standard 16.4 oz. propane cylinder. It has Compact legs that integrate into the units collar for easy storage, is equipped with electronic ignition for quick and easy matchless lighting, and of course there is a nice (easy to get to) control knob that makes it easy to turn the heater on/off and regulates the heat output.

This is a very nice heater, and much easier to operate than my 10 year old unit as the electric ignition makes it so much easier to light. I always carry butane lighters with me to light up my cigars, but in extremely cold weather those butane lighters don’t always want to work… especially with thick gloves on. I found the electric ignition to work perfectly and really liked the idea of getting the heater lit without digging around for my lighter. I used it in a 4×4 and a 4×6 deer blind and the 3,000 BTU’s of heat was more than adequate to keep me nice and warm in 25°F weather. In fact, warm enough to take my coat off. They work very nicely in tents and campers also; some ventilation is necessary, but you don’t need much. Although I don’t recommend sleeping while the heater is running, I have done just that before and didn’t have any issues; although of course I placed the heater in such a manner as it was not where I could inadvertently knock it over. Easy to operate and moderately priced; this heater is a solid buy that will last you for years to come.

Blackcat Catalytic Heater With Instastart Technology

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Griffin Technology 1 Amp PowerJolt Dual Micro for iPhone and iPod Review

I have to admit it… I’m a gadget freak. Especially if the gadget is something that will enhance my outdoor experiences. Lets take the iPhone for example. I carry my iPhone with me everywhere, even in the kayak while fishing. It’s loaded up with several apps just perfect for outdoor activities… I have Solunar tables, kayak launch points apps, camping parks app, knots apps, even camp recipe apps, and top all of that off with a nice integrated camera and I have myself a great outdoor companion. The only downside is the fact that the iPhone will blow through a full battery charge pretty quick.

Griffin Technology 1 Amp PowerJolt Dual Micro for iPhone and iPod

I did have a car charger at one time, but I believe I left it in the old truck when we traded in for a new one a few weeks ago. That old charger was pretty bulky anyway so at the advice of a hunting buddy I picked up one of these Griffin Technology Dual Micro’s. It came equipped with a very low profile body and a separate dock cable for an iPhone or iPod. The body is rated at 1 amp, which is more than sufficient for an iPhone or iPod, and is equipped with 2 USB ports and a built-in resetting circuit breaker (SmartFuse). The 2 USB ports mean you can charge two devices at the same time and the smart fuse feature means no more replacing fuses. Just reset the circuit breaker if necessary. What I like most about it though is the physical size of the device. It is very small compared to the typical car charger. I plug it into the 12V receptacle in my truck and it almost disappears, leaving just enough sticking out so I can pull it back out if I need to. It just looks much cleaner and takes up less space than the long hanging charger I had before.

The dock cable that was included is a nice stout cable, well built and fully functional. This setup works exceptionally well and is small enough for me to pack in my backpack while on business travel. I have charged my iPhone and my kids’ iPod at the same time; no problem. The fact that the body has two USB ports also means I can charge my iPhone and a second device that uses a USB charging cable (Like my wife’s phone). I like it so much I purchased a second one for our car!

Griffin Technology 1 Amp PowerJolt Dual Micro for iPhone and iPod – Black

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Bussmann NO.44 ATC Blade Fuse Tester/Puller Kit Review

During one of our camping trips this last summer we ran into a fellow camper with a travel trailer whom had a blown fuse in his rig and, since we were somewhat remote, he was visiting camps to see if anyone had any spare fuses. We weren’t able to help him out but the short encounter did leave me wondering why I never thought to have spare fuses on hand for just such emergencies. I don’t even carry spare fuses for our automobiles. Jumper cables, fix-a-flat, flares, and a nice first aid kit, but no spare fuses.

Bussmann NO.44 ATC Blade Fuse Tester/Puller Kit

I took care of my problem as soon as I got back to the house after that camping trip by reaching out to a trusted name in automotive style fuses… Cooper Bussmann. These guys are headquartered in St. Louis, MO and have been around for more than 90 years. They are specialist in electrical and electronic parts, but probably best known for their fuse solutions, especially for the automotive industry. I found this very nice kit from them that has everything you need to service travel trailer or automobile fuse issues. First of all are the fuses themselves, the kit contains 7 each of ATM-5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 amperes fuses, for a total of 42 fuses. Then there is the Tester/Puller… a very nice device that will let you test a fuse in circuit (so you don’t have to pull the fuse out first) which speeds up the whole process of trying to find the bad fuse, and the unit is equipped with a puller which makes it easy to remove the bad fuse so it can be replaced. The plastic case which houses the kit is nice and small at 4.25 x 7.25 inches, weighs in at 16 ounces, and will easily store in your travel trailer or tow vehicle. I found the fuses and the tester/puller to be of typical Bussmann high quality and highly recommend this kit as some nice insurance for power restoration in your travel trailer, RV, boat, or automobile.

Bussmann Blade Fuse Tester/Puller Kit

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Rattlesnake Dinners and Other Adventures

It was a different kind of start to the deer season this year. We packed up wednesday night and headed out to our hill country hunting ranch after work on thursday. The drive up was nice as we missed most of the traffic and arrived with plenty of daylight left to get the truck unloaded and our hunting gear loaded into the deer blinds. After we got all the groceries put away it was time to settle in for dinner.

Grilled brats, chile, onions, and ranch style beans. Easy to prepare and just the perfect dinner after a long day of work and driving. Following the glutenous assault on dinner, we spent just a little while chatting at the table before things got interesting. Full on relaxation mode was starting to work it’s magic when one of the younger members of the Armadillo Times crew jumped up from the dinner table screaming “Oh My God… It’s a Rattlesnake!” Sure enough, there was a snake in the cabin and he was doing his best to get himself a seat at the table. There were bodies flying around, implements of destruction being hurled about, and just general pandemonium until we were able to get the foot and a half snake cornered and put to a permanent rest. I’ve been sleeping in that cabin since 1998 and this was the first time we had a slithering dinner guest, and that’s how the weekend got started.

Wild Hogs

Thursday night it got down to 25°F which is pretty cold for early November in the Texas hill country, but the cold weather sure got the hogs moving. We woke friday morning to a couple of hogs in the trap so we had to get right to work, not bad though… opening morning was still a day away and we already had meat in the ice chests. Friday afternoon we did some light chores and visited with some neighbors before heading out to the deer blinds for a sneak peek. All of us saw some deer, nothing much too impressive though and no hogs. What was unusual was that none of us saw a single yearling, even though we all had multiple does come into our feeders. More evidence of just how bad this drought is.

8 Pointer at Feeder

Saturday morning… opening day! We were up and in the blinds just before sunrise, and it was a pretty morning for sure. As I suspected, the deer were regularly coming to the feeders what with the lack of available forage and we even saw a few nice ones. We didn’t shoot anything opening morning, or that afternoon or sunday morning. Lots of deer, just not what we were looking to harvest.

The last hunt of the weekend I finally saw a yearling, a single female yearling hanging with one of the better does. Of course we had a great time, had lots of laughs, and experienced a weekend full of “firsts”… First snake in the hunting cabin and I hope that never happens again. First opening weekend with no deer taken by anyone on our ranch. First porcupine sighting and first time a bird ever flew into my deer blind… while I was hunting out of it… but then again it was just that kind of a weekend.

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