Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vortex Razor HD Spotting Scope

About a month ago we welcomed Vortex Optics on board with Southern Utah Hunt and Fish as our latest sponsor!  As part of that sponsorship, I was trying my best to work out a deal with Vortex to get a discount on a Viper HD spotting scope in return for advertising.  Much to my surprise, the boys at Vortex opted to hook me up with a Razor HD spotter!  Needless to say I was like a 5 year old at Christmas again.  I got a couple of short scouting trips in with this gem before I disappeared for the summer on fire assignments, but you can bet I am now taking every opportunity I get to use it in the field!

Vortex is a fairly new player to the optics world, when compared to the likes of Swarovski, Nikon, Bushnell, and Leupold.  However, do not let this fool you or discourage you from thinking this is a lesser quality product.  Vortex prides itself with a fine product line that has been fine tuned and tested before they launched their company.  Drawing from a long line of military expertise, the finest materials, and packaging that all in a look and feel for not only hunters, but tactical shooters, competition shooters, emergency services, and just nature lovers in general will enjoy.  Wrap this all together with one of the finest warranty programs out there and Vortex becomes a must for any optics user.

In fact, lets talk warranty.  How about no product registration?  How about a warranty that covers everything except loss or theft.  Sounds to good to be true, right?  Check out www.vortexoptics.com and click on the "VIP Warranty and Service" tab.  There you will find these facts in print on their website.  Just days ago I was reading a testimonial of a guy that left a pair of Vortex binoculars on the bed rail of his pickup.  Once up to 65 mph on the freeway he looked up in the mirror to see them fly off of the bed and onto the pavement.  He stopped, picked them up, sent them in, and within days was back in the field with a great pair of binoculars once again (I can't remember if they were rebuilt or replaced, but either way the warranty was upheld).  What security for such a great investment.

Now, let's talk specifics on the Razor HD spotter.  What an amazing addition to my hunting gear!  This scope features selectable 20-60 X magnification, brought to your field of view by a 85mm objective lens.  The scope is available in either a straight or angled model (at the same cost to each), I went with the straight model which seems more comfortable to me.  The fog proof, waterproof design is supported by the ArmorTek coating for the lenses, that provides optimal resistance to scratches, as well as to oil and dirt.  The adjustable eye cup allows you to fit your eye to the field of view as you change power settings, and this scope also features a "coarse" focus adjustment, and a "fine" adjustment to really hone in on what you are trying to see.  Add with this the sunshade that slides out to provide you not only sun shading, but also protection from rain and snow, as well as an adjustable tripod ring, allowing you to rotate the scope while on the tripod, and there's just not a lot that this scope can't provide in the way of comfort and ease to your viewing.

Enough with the technical review, I imagine you want to know what I think after hitting the field.  I could go on for a long time about how much I love this scope!  I honestly think you are nearly getting a Swarovski quality product at over half the price of their products.  I have always been a Leupold fan, but (no disrespect to Leupold) I am sold on Vortex!  I think this is the best spotter out there as far as weighing out quality, price, and warranty together.  The scope is very compact for a spotter of this image quality and magnification, and lightweight as well.

Check out this short video clip of my first outing.  The elk on the backside of this lake were about 1/2 mile away!  This was taken through my video camera which was not at full zoom, and at about 40 X through the spotter (60 X was overkill!).  The video is a bit blurry due to heat waves rising, but it was easy to make out what was there.  I had trouble getting it on video, but upon turning the scope up to 60 X I was able to spot 3 very nice bucks just under the treeline...probably close to a mile out by this point!  Unbelievable!  I was also able to get a shot of this nice 3 point muley through the scope/camera combo at about 800 yards.  What a great shot, and I'm sure the clarity would have been enhanced if the kids would have held still in the car.  It was shot using a car window mount.

video

So, to put it simply, I am a huge fan, and this spotter will go where I go when it comes to hunting, scouting, and looking for sheds.  One very important note, with past scopes I have found my eyes getting very "tired" after staring through the scope for long periods.  Well, honestly, I would have to have a break after 10 minutes of glassing!  Not with the Razor HD!  I can glass for 30 minutes and have to worry more about my back cramping up than my eyes bothering me!  HD technology with spotters is amazing, and Vortex has sure made good use of that technology!

I usually break this down into pros and cons, but I haven't found a con yet.  I'm impressed, my friends are impressed, that's all there is to it.

So how am I rigging up the camera?  As a bonus for this post let me introduce you to the Tines Up Scope)Cam adapter.  I bought the adapter from their online store at www.tinesup.com.  The adapter for my camera was only $70.00.  Check out the site where you will find the adapter, provide the spotter model you wish to adapt it to, as well as the thread diameter of your camera, and bingo, you have your own custom "digiscoping" setup!  The adapter simply screws onto the threads around the lens, then slides onto the spotter just like the lens cap does.  A tight fit, no adjustments needed, this adapter centers the camera to the scope to give you a full field of view, no dark edges.  There is also a point and shoot camera setup available, which from what I hear is a better way to go than the camcorder anymore.  The reason being that camcorders almost have too much zoom when coupled with the scope!  Check out the point and shoot setup on their site as well, which runs about $270 to $340 depending on camera model (with the point and shoot the camera comes with the adapter).

As far as digital camcorders go, I use the Sony Handycam HDR-CX160, which is working great for me with or without this setup.  Check out my review:  http://www.suhuntandfish.com/2012/04/product-review-sony-hdr-cx160-handycam.html
I will say, if you plan on doing a lot of digiscoping, consider the angled scope.  The weight of my camcorder will often cause it to fall off of the scope when attached with the adapter.  The angled scope will allow gravity to do it's job, keeping the camera pulled down on the scope.


Where can you find Vortex products?  Well, check out their entire line of binoculars, spotters, scopes, red dots, rangefinders, tripods, monocular, and more at www.vortexoptics.com.  While you can't purchase from the site, check out the specs on what you want, and purchase at these locations:

Locally:
You can also now find Vortex at Cabelas (www.cabelas.com) and at Sportsman's Warehouse (http://www.sportsmanswarehouse.com/ )

I also want to recognize and thank Vortex for their contribution to our community here in Escalante.  Back in June, I hit up the guys at Vortex about cutting us a deal on a riflescope to couple with a Savage .17 HMR that we wanted to have for a drawing, the proceeds of which would go towards new little league equipment and uniforms for our youth baseball programs.  To my surprise, Vortex donated a Viper 3 X 9 scope for free!  With this, ad the donation of the gun, the little league program brought in a profit of $1,250.00!  Thank you Vortex!

You can also check out my review of the Vortex Diamondback 4-12 X 40 riflescope: http://www.suhuntandfish.com/2012/01/product-review-vortex-diamondback.html
and the Vortex Viper HD binoculars: http://www.suhuntandfish.com/2012/03/product-review-vortex-viper-hd.html

Friday, August 24, 2012

Trail Camera Pictures, and Hunting Conditions Update

This will be a quick post tonight, but I promised you all photos of another really good bull that I caught on my trail camera.  This bull has some unique character to him, that's for sure.  This bull, as well as the last set of photos I posted, each showed up only 1 day on the trail camera each.  I have noticed the past few years that the bulls really start to move about the time that they start rubbing the velvet from their antlers.  During my time hunting the area this week, I found most of the rag horns right where I left them, but it looks like the cows and bigger bulls have pulled away, and quite honestly I'm having a hard time finding them.

A lot of us were a bit excited about hunting elk this year, knowing that if it was dry it would be easier to concentrate on those old water holes that are constantly reliable.  For those that have been planning on that, the constant rains since mid July have resulted in numerous water holes, and rejuvenation to many streams that were mostly dry this summer.  Elk are once again fairly scattered, as are the deer.  Dry grasslands are now very green and lush with feed.

One silver lining is that with the storms has come a relief of the summer heat.  Temperatures in the high country have been very pleasant, and in fact most mornings you can see your breath, and evenings get very cool.  I have noticed that this seems to have the deer more active later in the morning, evening, and even prowling around mid day.  In fact, a few of the bigger bucks I have seen have been out and about around 10 AM, 2 PM, and 6 PM.  Many of the bulls strolling by my trail cameras have also been showing up during mid afternoon.  I have also heard reports that the elk are starting to talk.  I have only heard cows chirping so far, but I have been told by others in the area that they have heard the sound of bugles echoing across the mountains!  Hopefully this will help you elk hunters before long!

Hopefully the cooler conditions bring about a bit more success for hunters.  I am hearing of more smaller bucks being taken, but still only a couple of big bucks and I haven't heard of one bull being taken yet.  One thing I would point out, even with all the rain many of the twigs and pine cones on the ground are still very crunchy.  I think that really shows us how bad the hot and dry conditions were earlier this summer.  During the rainstorms yesterday we had very good success sneaking up on bucks, and the deer and elk were out enjoying the rain, that's for sure.  Still, we had to be very careful as the sticks were still snapping.

Good luck to you all!  Hopefully we start seeing some hunting success roll into SUH&F soon.  Until next time, I hope you enjoy the pics of this very unique bull!

These photos were taken with by my Wildgame Innovations "Red 6" trail camera.  Check out my review of this camera: http://www.suhuntandfish.com/2012/07/product-review-wildgame-innovations-red.html

I had to throw these pictures in.  I hope it gives you a laugh as he tries to get that hard to reach itch!


And how about this?  I know a lot of frustrated spike hunters that would like to stumble on to this spot!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Excited for Elk Hunting?

Hey there my friends!  Well I'm back from Idaho, and I'm getting back in the swing of things here.  It's nice to get back on the computer after a week of fighting fires on the Sawtooth National Forest of Southern Idaho.  Things are starting to finally slow down a bit, here's hoping that this post is the first of many to come your way as I try to get more consistent with writing again, especially with hunting season coming on.  On the plus of being gone, I did discover the unit that I want to put in for badly in Idaho for deer and elk now!  We will have to see what the future holds there.

I have a lot of photos that have been submitted by viewers, and that I have pulled from trail cams that I want to share with you this week.  There's WAY too many for one post, so I'll start this off by posting a couple of bulls.  One set (the night pictures) was captured and sent in by a viewer that would like to withhold his name from the post, but I do want to say thanks for sharing it with us on the site.  The second bull and the buck came from my trail camera that I brought in last night.  I also have pictures of another amazing bull that I will post on here in a couple of days.  Needless to say, as I'll be hunting elk with a couple of friends this fall, I am getting very excited!

On one last note before I wrap up, I'm not hearing of a lot of archery success yet.  In fact, I've only seen a couple of pics of smaller bucks posted to Facebook, or sent to me in messages.  How's the archery hunt going where you are?  Is anyone at least seeing good bucks?  I have managed to find 3 groups of really good buck...working in to get a shot is another story.  Hopefully that will change tomorrow as we hit the field again.  Just remember to send your hunting pics in so we can post them on the Bragging Board for you!  If you would like a post to go along with it, either send in a short write up of your hunt, or a few details and we will compile a post for you.  Email your pictures/information to: suhuntandfish@gmail.com
Remember, it doesn't have to be a southern Utah hunt!  A big part of this site is showing our viewers that there are also great hunting opportunities in other areas of the west.  Also, there is no need to mention details of where you were hunting. 

So, enjoy the pictures, and keep checking back for more to come this week!  Thanks for your continued support, especially as I have been gone so much this summer!  You all are the best!

Be sure to follow SUH&F on Facebook!  www.facebook.com/suhuntandfish































Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Product Review: Moultrie GameSpy M100 Trail Camera

I want to introduce you to another trail camera that I purchased this year, the Moultrie M100.  Back in June I started shopping around for a new model of game camera, specifically after a camera that featured more distance to activate the camera, and a built in LCD screen for viewing photos.  These were basically the 2 features that I was trying to improve upon from my Wildgame Innovations cameras.  Be sure to check out my review on that camera, as I will make a lot of comparisons between the two: http://www.suhuntandfish.com/2012/07/product-review-wildgame-innovations-red.html

So back to June.  I began asking friends what cameras they used, and began asking the questions on Facebook and Twitter.  If you ever ask the question I caution you to be careful!  This time I was willing to spend a little more money to get a very high quality camera, but I was still shopping for a good deal.  You will find that there is no overwhelming answer as to what is the best camera.  This is just like the Ford, Dodge, Chevy debate!  Don't say I didn't warn you.  After about a week of listening to different opinions I simply ended up more confused than when I started.  There are a lot of cameras out there now that all come with the same features now, and are in a similar price range.  So I took to reading product reviews and checking out prices to make a decision.  Easy enough?  Nope!  For every camera I found, I could find just as many bad reviews or "cons" as pros. 

So after about a week of beating my head against the wall, by friend Steve Barker called me up.  He went right in to telling me how impressed he was with the Moultrie M100, and keyed me in on where to look for a good deal.  At this point, this was just what I wanted to hear, and I was going to give this camera a shot just to be done with the search!

As for the deal, I checked into a site called Promotive (http://www.promotive.com).  Promotive is a site that offers great deals to emergency service workers, government employees, military, and other similar groups.  I found the M100 for a great price, but I was discouraged with the $20.00 shipping charge!  A quick Google and cruise of http://www.amazon.com and I found the M100 priced the same as what I could find at Promotive, but with free shipping!  I picked the camera up for about $140 with free shipping, and added a 16GB SD card to the order.  The best deal I could find tonight on Amazon was $135.49, and that includes the $5.49 for shipping.  Not a bad deal at all.

The camera showed up at the worst time ever, about 2 days after I left home on a day fire assignment that lasted about 10 days!  So, you can imagine that just as soon as I returned from the fireline I headed right out to set the camera up.  I headed out for an early morning scouting trip and lucked onto a great bull elk that I just had to get on film.  I returned about a week later just to see if by chance I had anything, and to see if the camera was actually working.  To my surprise I had about 250 pictures!  To my disappointment, all of those pictures were of moving branches in the background!  OK, I got what I wanted, the camera obviously had a great range.

So I moved the camera to a lower elevation location (and more sheltered from the fierce June winds!) and I set the camera up in a much more open area that I believed was being traveled by a group of 8 bucks.  The next day I headed out for another 2 week fire assignment, and when I returned home I headed right up to check it out.  The results?  Well, I never caught my group of bucks, but I did manage to snag several other small bucks, a group of turkeys, rabbits, and a raccoon.  The picture quality was great, and the range of the flash at night was amazing!  The only real disappointment I had was the hard time seeing the heads and antlers of the deer as they came too close to the camera.  A simple adjustment of my Buck Jam would prevent this next time.

What happened next time?  Well many of the bucks walked right by the Buck Jam, but at least they did come by, and now I know what time and from what direction.  The awesome part was that the biggest buck, a 30-32" 4X4 muley walked right by with his head lowered, providing a great look at the impressive span of antlers!

 The setup on the M100 was very simple.  The menu is easy to navigate, although it does provide many more options than other cameras I have used.  You can set the number of shots in a sequence, time between each sequence of shots, picture or video mode, picture/video quality, digital zoom (up to 3X), trail mode, plot mode (or a hybrid between the two), video length, and much more.  I also really like that this camera comes with security.  You can program in a 5 digit code to access the menu, and there is a loop in the cover for a lock.  The camera is also very small, and the camo pattern blends very well, in fact I walked right by it the first time in to check it!  The camera has decent battery life, and runs off of 8 AA batteries.  I love the LCD screen for checking photos in the field, and there is also a feature to play all of your photos back as a video for a quick view of what you have captured.  Overall I really like this camera, you just have to be careful with placement.  With the range (50 feet) and the sensitivity, it will take many unwanted photos of vegetation movement.  I actually bought a second M100 and placed it in what I thought was a very open area, only to have 200 pictures of grass blowing in the wind!

Pros:
  • Compact/lightweight
  • Built in LCD screen
  • Great detection range (50')
  • Amazing flash range (90') This is best in it's class
  • Good picture quality
  • Audio with video
  • Security
  • Digital zoom
  • Price!
Cons:
  • Blurry night photos
  • Some day photos blurred when animal was movement
  • Almost too sensitive.  Be careful where you place it
  • Can be hard to secure with only one strap.  Camera can twist and move a bit
  •  Slow recovery time on night flash
I am torn with battery life, as far as a pro or con.  I would say it is very average, but I do feel that the AA batteries make it a cheaper recharge than the C's I use in my other cameras.