Open Season

The guns are cleaned, the ATV is on the trailer, the truck is loaded, and the hunting ranch accommodations have been prepared. I’m out of here for three days and off to the Texas Hill Country to celebrate opening weekend of Deer season!

Even after almost 40 years of enjoying deer hunting I still get excited about opening weekend. This is the beginning of 2 and 1/2 months of deer hunting and spending time with friends and family in the awesome hill country. Lots of pranks, laughter, overeating, taking naps, and yes even some hunting. The drought may have stolen some trophy taking opportunities from the Armadillo Times crew but it can never take away our passion for hunting and enjoying the great outdoors.

I’m going to start this season the same way I start all of them… by trying to sleep more than 2 hours the night before opening morning. Some of the biggest deer I have taken have been on opening morning so I just have a terrible time getting to sleep the night before. This is a situation best described as having the excitement of a kid the night before Christmas. My wife is still hoping I will grow up some day… We have several products to review this season, so stay tuned in for new gear reviews and updates on our progress this hunting season. We want to wish you and yours a very safe and prosperous hunting season!

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Rocky Tan 11″ Original Ride Round Toe Boot Review

Good work and hunting boots are getting harder and harder to find, or maybe I’m just getting old and cranky. First of all I believe a good work boot should double for hunting duties too. I like leather, a little insulation, waterproof welt construction, non-aggressive tread pattern, and steel shanks. This list of features doesn’t seem to be overwhelming, but trying to find all these features consolidated in a boot offering turned out to be more difficult than I thought. That is, until I discovered the Rocky brand.

Rocky Tan 11" Original Ride Round Toe Boot

This original ride round toe boot from Rocky is a perfect blend of a complete feature set, great balance, and unbeatable construction quality. Full grain leather uppers and lining is a solid start to a durable boot and the Original Round Toe has both. Add in solid welt construction, a double ribbed steel shank, removable dual-density polyurethane Ride footbed, along with a dual density oil-resistant rubber outsole and you have one nice work boot that will double as an awesome hunting boot.

Dual density oil-resistant rubber outsole

Tread design is of the utmost importance. Really aggressive tread patterns, which are great for getting around in muddy conditions, also collect a tremendous amount of mud which makes them heavy and difficult to clean. I prefer a less aggressive tread pattern, which gives you enough traction but doesn’t collect great amounts of mud. The Rocky Original Round Toe is equipped with just such a tread pattern, which I consider to be perfect. They are also very durable! The boot in the picture on the right is two years old and is still in great shape. I use them for hunting and working on my ranch. They are extremely durable, waterproof, have a great tread design, and are highly recommended by the Armadillo Times Crew.

Rocky Tan 11″ Original Ride Round Toe WP – RY2733

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Texas Hill Country Deer Season Preparation

Rifle season for Deer hunting in the Texas Hill Country opens Saturday November 5th, so the Armadillo Times crew spent this last weekend at the hunting ranch in final preparation. We topped off all of our feeders with corn, cleaned out all of the deer blinds, trimmed some brush, finished cleaning out the cabin, and swapped the memory card in the Bushnell Game Cam.

The range conditions at our hunting ranch remain dismal, even with the 3+ inches of rain we received in October. One thing that has surprised me this fall is the amount of growth on the mesquite trees. In the midst of the worst drought in recorded history this native tree has somehow managed to not only survive, but sustain reasonable growth while the cedar trees (mountain juniper) are dying in great numbers.

Whitetail Deer and Rio Grande Turkey

I was pretty anxious to swap the memory card in the Bushnell Game cam. I set the cam up 3 weeks ago with a 16GB memory card and couldn’t wait to see what we had captured in memory. I was stunned at the number of pictures when I pulled the card… over 4000, but interesting enough my batteries were still showing full charge. This cam will likely last all season long with no battery swaps. As I suspected back in June, there is lots of game coming into the feeders.

Wild Hogs... here piggy, piggy

As you can see in the picture above, the deer are certainly not in top shape. With the lack of availability of native forage the deer are hitting the feeders at all times during the day and at night. I have many game cam pictures of deer and turkey feeding together, and of course just as many pictures of wild hogs. Usually when these guys come into the feeders everything else leaves. What was lacking in my pictures were trophy bucks. Over 4000 pics and no evidence of a trophy buck, but that’s OK, some seasons are great and some are not, but it’s still hunting season and the Armadillo Times crew will enjoy every minute of. Stick around and see how it turns out!

Bushnell 8MP Trophy Cam Brown Night Vision Trail Camera

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Bushnell Yardage Pro Scout Laser Rangefinder (20-1315) Review

When I first started bow hunting I simply could not accurately judge distance. I couldn’t even set up my targets for practicing and sighting my bow without measuring the distance with a tape measure. After a month of trial and error I finally decided it was time to add a good range finder to my bow hunting gear. I spent another month trying to figure out what to get and ultimately settled in on the Bushnell Yardage Pro Scout.

Bushnell Yardage Pro Scout Laser Rangefinder (20-1315)

I chose the Yardage Pro Scout as it was the best overall performer for bow hunting with the added benefit of being able to shoot long ranges which meant I could also use it for long range rifle hunting. This fine instrument from Bushnell weighs in at only 6.8 ounces, has a range of 10 to 700 yards, and 6 power magnification. It is the most compact laser rangefinder of its kind and is packed with additional features like built in rain and reflector modes which afford the user the most reliable means of getting accurate range readings in a variety of conditions. Oh, and did I mention… Mossy Oak Camo?

I’ve been using this tool for 4 years now and I have to say it has met every challenge I have thrown at it. The optics are crystal clear, the eye piece is fully adjustable for fine tuning your sight picture, and the accuracy is outstanding (+/- 1 yard). I use it while bow hunting and rifle hunting to get accurate range readings for proper shot placement. The instrument comes packaged with a nice carrying case, strap, and highly recommended by the Armadillo Times crew.

Bushnell Yardage Pro Scout Laser Rangefinder (20-1315)

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NIKON 7298 Monarch ATB 10×42 Binocular Review

Nothing beats a good pair of binoculars while hunting. They are invaluable for spotting game, sizing up deer in the field, and scouting. A good binocular should, at the very least, be durable, have adjustable eye pieces, be fog proof, and water proof. Multicoated lenses & Phase-Correction Coated Prisms are also very nice features, especially for ease of viewing with available light and accurate color reproduction.

NIKON 7298 Monarch ATB 10x42 Binocular

I have been using the Nikon Monarch 10×42 binoculars for several years now and they are just perfect for my needs. I consider the feature set to be complete as they are waterproof, fog proof, have adjustable eye pieces, multi-coated lenses, and phase corrected coated prisms. They are very durable with a rugged rubber armor coated body that makes for a very nice firm grip, even in the the worst of weather conditions. Add to this feature set the Team REALTREE APG HD camouflage pattern and you have an awesome set of optics. Equipped complete with a nice padded case, optic covers, and padded strap.

Multi-Setting Click Stop Eyecups

These binoculars ride around on the back of my 4-wheeler when I’m not in my hunting stand and they have really stood up to the beating. They are crystal clear, even in low light conditions, and lightweight enough not to be a burden. One of the features I really like is the adjustable eyecups. As an eye glass wearer, the adjustable eyecups mean I don’t have to take off my eyeglasses to obtain a good site picture. This is a key feature not found on lessor models. I depend on these binoculars to allow me to study deer at long distances and aid in trophy selection. They deliver… period! The lens caps and padded case round out a perfect binocular setup. When your hunting situation demands superior optics you can depend on the Nikon Monarch binoculars for years to come.

NIKON 7298 Monarch ATB 10×42 Binocular

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Battery Master Disconnect Switch Review

There is nothing worse than a dead battery on your travel trailer, especially when your tongue jack is electric. Unfortunately we found this out not long ago when we went to pick up our travel trailer for a quick weekend camp. The battery was dead and the tongue jack wouldn’t work. It was easy enough to hook up some jumper cables for a quick charge, but certainly not an ideal situation, especially if you’re in a hurry.

Today’s travel trailers have several loads on the battery, even when everything is shut off. The clock on the onboard stereo, the smoke alarm, and the carbon dioxide sensor to name a few. If you leave your travel trailer unattended and not plugged in, the battery will drain. It takes ours about three weeks. To combat this, I used to unhook my travel trailer battery during storage but that still meant I had to have a wrench to hook everything back up.

Side Post Battery Master Disconnect Switch

I selected this Master Disconnect Switch as a solution to my battery drain problem. This Side Post Battery Disconnect switch is a made in America, patented, and  designed to be used with RV style batteries or General Motors style batteries with the side connections. A simple twist of a knob provides a convenient way to quickly disconnect and reconnect power from a battery. This switch provides a clean, solid, low profile connection. It works great to eliminate battery drain if you’re storing a vehicle for an extended period of time. It’s tested to exceed a continuous 200 amp load.

Battery Disconnect Installed on my Group 27 Travel Trailer Battery

I use this switch as an in-line device on the negative side of the battery to break the ground connection. The switch makes it simple to disconnect your battery to work on your vehicle or the knob can be removed to prevent theft. It was very easy to Install: First, I disconnected the ground (-) cable from battery and attached the mounting flange side of the unthreaded hole on the switch to the battery. Then, I used the supplied bolt and attached the ground cable to the threaded end of the switch. Turn black knob fully clockwise to connect battery power. To disconnect power, turn knob 1/4 turn counter clockwise. Knob can be removed for anti-theft. This device also works well on motorcycles and vehicles that do not use conventional car batteries and they do make a model that will connect right to a standard automotive battery post. Very simple, very easy insurance to prevent unwanted battery drain and highly recommended by the Armadillo Times Crew.

Side Post Battery Master Disconnect Switch

Top Post Battery Master Disconnect Switch

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Teton Grilling Utensil Set Review

If you’ve been hanging out here for awhile you know we love camp cooking. Grilling is absolutely one of my favorite forms of cooking at a camp site. Gas grilling or charcoal grilling it doesn’t really matter as long as I can do it in style. After all presentation is everything!

Teton Grilling Utensils

I picked up a set of these Teton Grilling Company Utensils a little over a year ago and am very pleased with them. First of all, they are constructed with heavy duty 304 brushed stainless steel. They are fishing themed with vintage style wooden fishing plug handles and leather straps for easy hanging. The set is equipped with a long-shaft spatula that keeps your hand out of the flame, a natural bristle basting brush for slathering on sauces, a 2-tined meat fork for pulling your meal off the grill, and handy spring-loaded tongs for shifting strips of meat around your grill. There is a 3-pronged fishing hook etched into face of spatula and the presentation case is a work of art as well. We keep the set in our travel trailer and use them every time we camp. I even use the tongs to move charcoal around while dutch oven cooking. The stainless steel cleans up easily and I really like the simple heavyweight vintage style. These tools are built for a lifetime of use and are sure to add a nice touch to your grilling set up. Teton Grilling Company also produces a hunting themed version of the same tools which are next on our list of grilling items to purchase for the hunting ranch.

Teton Grilling Utensil Set in Wood Tray – Fishing Plug (4pc Set)
Teton BBQ Tool Set; Big Game (3pc Set)

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Buck 110 Folding Hunter, Lockback Folding Knife Review

Hoyt Buck made the first “Buck” knife in 1902 as a young Kansas blacksmith apprentice. He kept making knives by hand using worn out file blades as raw blade material and applying his own unique style of tempering the steel so it would hold an edge longer. In 1947 Hoyt Buck and his son Al moved to San Diego and opened up the H.H. Buck and Son shop. Al Buck revolutionized the knife industry in 1964 with the Model 110 Folding Hunter. The folding “lockblade” knife made Buck a leader and is still the standard by which all other folding hunting knives are compared today.

Buck 110 Folding Hunter Lockback

The Folding Hunter is equipped with a nail-notch lockback design that opens easily and closes safely during any activity, ensuring that this classic knife never goes out of style. The knife’s 3-3/4-inch 420HC stainless-steel clip point blade, meanwhile, is ideal for detail work, such as piercing and cutting in tight places. The Handles are natural wood grain handles and are smartly matched to polished brass bolsters, which add a classic touch to the design. The Folding Hunter, which comes with a black leather sheath for easy carrying, is backed by Buck’s 4-Ever unconditional lifetime warranty.

Buck Line-up, 110 Folding on Left

I have had my Buck 110 Folding Hunter since 1991 and it is still going strong. This is the one knife I always come back to. Shown here on the left hand side of the line-up, you can see it is larger than the Buck 55 and the 112. I use my 110 for field dressing white tail deer and hogs. Out of the box, Buck knives are razor sharp and ready to go to work. The 110 Folding Hunter comes complete with a black leather sheath to store your knife in, which can be worn on the belt or placed in a dry box, etc. Highly recommended by Armadillo Times.

Buck 110 Folding Hunter, Lockback Folding Knife

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Yogi Camps Texas

The Armadillo Times Crew headed out late friday afternoon for what will probably be our last camping trip of the 2011 season. Since the travel trailer needs to go in the shop for some warranty work and the start of hunting season is near we thought this would be the best weekend to wrap up our camping season.

We were totally scrambling to get the travel trailer picked up and get to the park before dark because I prefer to set up in the daylight, but wouldn’t you know it… we get to the trailer and the battery is dead! Not a huge deal, unless you have an electric tongue jack. I figured I would just hook the plug up to the truck, but that didn’t work either. It took some jumper cables and 20 minutes to get enough juice in the battery to get all hooked up. Travel trailers have parasitic loads on the battery which will slowly drain your battery and the only prevention is a full time battery minder or disconnect the battery. Geez, remind me to get a battery disconnect switch!

Yogi

Ultimately we did make it to Kerrville Schreiner Park and got all set up just after dark. Our last set up chore was to put Yogi out on guard. We picked up Yogi in Colorado and he’s camped with us in Colorado and New Mexico, but this was his first camping trip in Texas. Hand carved by a chainsaw artist in Colorado and full of character, he certainly added some charm to our dry Texas Hill Country campsite.

Relaxing in the Shade in Kerrville

Since we are still in the midst of a serious drought, there was a burn ban in affect. No campfires and no outdoor cooking at all, so we did breakfast in the travel trailer, had our other meals in town, and watched movies instead of hanging out by the campfire in the evenings. Despite the drought, this is still one of our favorite campsites, it’s close to home, and wildlife is plentiful. We saw whitetail deer, Axis deer, blackbuck antelope, and a jack rabbit. If you have never been to this park, I highly recommend it, especially in early spring and late fall when the temperatures are more moderate. All in all a very relaxing weekend and we still got back in time on Sunday for some afternoon pro football.

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Lodge Durable Polycarbonate Pan Scraper Review

One of the most frequently asked questions I get when I speak with people about the benefits of dutch oven cooking… How do you clean it when you done cooking? That’s a fair question. I remember when I first started cooking on cast iron years ago I was pretty paranoid about the cleaning process.

First of all I use a solution of 1 part apple cider vinegar to 4 parts distilled water in a sprayer and thoroughly cover the entire cooking area with the spray mixture. Let it sit about 10 to 15 minutes and then a little light scrapping with a proper tool and whatever food particles are left come right out. Rinse it out with warm water, dry it, and apply a little olive oil. It’s really quit easy.

Lodge Polycarbonate Pan Scrappers

Now don’t get the wrong idea, you don’t have to do a lot of hard scrapping, especially if your cooking with a properly seasoned piece of cast iron. I use these polycarbonate scrappers from Lodge. They are stiff enough to do the job and gentle enough not to hurt your cast iron or the seasoned coating. They have several different curves that fit all the angles in my dutch ovens making it possible to easily clean my cast iron. My lovely wife even uses them on her “non-stick” pots and pans, baking dishes, and loaf pans. I keep a set of these at home, a set in my chuck box, and a set in the travel trailer. They are inexpensive, easy to clean, and even easier to use. All in all a great tool for cleaning stuck on foods away.

Lodge Polycarbonate Pan Scrapers

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