Thursday, November 29, 2012

Henry Mountain Trip

It's the most coveted tag in the state of Utah, if not in the entire US when it comes to mule deer.  Southern Utah's Henry Mountains, located in some of the most remote and  isolated country in the lower 48 has become a legendary destination for big game hunters seeking trophy mule deer.  The mountain range is made up of several high peaks (near 11,000 feet) that are surrounded by vast expanses of red rock canyons, white and yellow ledges and mesas, and desolate blue clay plains, truly an mountain island oasis in the southern Utah desert country.  At first glance, it would be hard to imaging that a thriving deer herd, and additionally the largest free roaming bison herd in the US could be supported in such a harsh environment.

The high peaks of Mount Ellen, Mount Pennell, and Mount Hiller, as well as the rugged peaks of the "Little Rockies" to the south stand out high above the desert mesas and plains below, creating a site that can be seen for hundreds of miles in any direction.  Over looking Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon, our view even on a hazy day allowed us to see the red spires of Monument Valley in northern Arizona, the La Sal and Abajo mountains of eastern Utah, San Rafael Swell to the north, and the pink cliffs of Powell Point and the Aquarius Plateau to the west.  The Henry Mountains are also rich with history.  Legends abound of Spanish soldiers and gold miners that were among the first Europeans to visit the country.  Frequented by Native Americans, today you will find remnants of their lost culture, the signs of the old Spanish mines, and tales of prospectors, cowboys, and outlaws.  It is truly wild, untamed country, and quite honestly I found myself almost more wrapped up in the history and adventure of the remote peaks than focused on the mission of finding bucks to film.  Almost anyway.  Still, I don't know how many times I mentioned returning with a gold pan to give prospecting a shot, and who knows, maybe even stumbling on to the Lost Josephine Mine, a legendary Spanish gold mine lost ages ago.

Henry Mountains at sunrise

My day's travel started out at 4:30 AM, rolling out of bed and heading down to pick up my grandpa, Marvin Porter who would be spending the day with me.  Daylight brought us to the Sandy Ranch at the foot of the west side of the mountain, where light touched the desert we had no trouble finding dozens of deer, and several good bucks.  Anxious to get to the mountain itself to check out the trophies we see and hear about s much, we pointed the truck east, across another 30 minutes or more of desert, before we started the rocky climb up the foot of the mountain.

Things started out pretty discouraging, but no worries, we were more like tourists having a good time through country we had not been through before, as we decided to try an area neither of us had ventured into before.  The sign was more than we imagined, but nothing was out and about, either hid up in canyons from wind, maybe we were just to late in the day, or perhaps it was the full moon.  We pressed on, into the heads of several canyons where we finally had a change of luck and found several small herds of deer.

An old jeep near the ruins of an old mining mill
Well, we didn't find one of those legendary Henry's bucks over 30 or 40 inches wide, but we did find several decent bucks, and a couple of toads.  The Henrys genetic is alive and well still, as every buck we saw, even bucks ranging from 22-24 inches wide had incredible mass!  What a great day, and even better, I think we have a solid plan for our next trip, hopefully in 2 weeks.  I am hoping for snow!  The deer are extremely scattered right now with very little snow.

All total, we covered between 240 and 250 miles for the day.  It sounds like a lot, but we by no means took the most direct paths!  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  There's nothing better than spending time with family in the outdoors, and I had a great time with my grandpa exploring new country, telling stories, and having some good laughs!

Now, the depressing part.  Unless you are extremely lucky, or rich, I wouldn't get antsy to hunt the Henry Mountain unit.  Being one of the most sought after mule deer tags in the nation, it is taking individuals around 20 years or more to draw a tag!  In fact, some believe that if you were to start applying today with no bonus points, you will never draw before you die.  However, there's always chance, and it would be no doubt, the hunt of a lifetime!

Looking down the Burr Trail (Capitol Reef N.P.) and our route to the Henry Mtns.
I've put together some of our clips and photos for you to enjoy of our trip.  Before you play the video, let me say, we really need to teach our camera man a thing or two about filming!  You know what they say about excuses, but I'm going to give them anyway.  The wind was howling, the tripod was giving me fits trying to adjust it, and I just need more practice!  Please forgive the unsteady shots!  Once again, I was extremely impressed with my Vortex Razor HD spotter!  What a valuable tool to find the deer in thick oak!  I paired this up with my Tines Up video camera scope adapter to get the digiscoped video you will see.  Most of the bucks ended up being so close that the spotter was overkill, and I left all the work to my Sony Handycam.  I tell you, I am sold on this camera for the price and quality!  What a great zoom and steady shot!  A few of these bucks were at 300-350 yards and the camera did an outstanding job on it's own!

I hope you enjoy the video and pictures, and I encourage you to get out while the getting is good over the next couple of weeks to see big muleys while they are still in the rut.  Just FYI, this will be my last post for a week, as the wife and I are heading out on a cruise to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.  So, for those that entered the "Bucks, Bulls, and Fins" contest over on our Facebook page, be patient, although the contest closes on the 30th judging will not begin until we get home on the 7th.  I know, I know, everyone is anxious, it's just making for a great Christmas surprise! 

Monday is deep sea fishing in Cozumel!  I can't wait to bring some stories back!  I hope you all can get out and enjoy the outdoors as well with this amazing weather!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

We here at Southern Utah Hunt and Fish want to give heartfelt "thank you" to all of our fans and followers!  We started this adventure just a little over a year ago, and at the time I had no idea that this would be more than just a little hobby to occupy my time, and a way for us to enjoy networking with friends across Utah that share our passion for the outdoors.  Now, with over 500 Facebook fans and almost 800 Twitter followers, we extend those friendships to friends all over this great nation!  How humbling to be a part of such a great community of sportsmen and women!  We hit another great milestone this week, 50,000 views!  We are ecstatic to have accomplished this milestone in 1 year and 1 week!  Thanks again for your continued support, encouragement, and most of all, for sharing your photos and stories with us.  On behalf of my wife Dayna, our wonderful kids; Braden, Dallin, Jackson, and Ashlynn, and myself, we would like to wish you all a very happy holiday season from our family to yours !

Submitted by Zach Kunz
I've spent the morning thinking about all I am truly grateful for.  W hat a blessing to live in this great nation, where we can all pursue our dreams and ambitions.  Truly I am most thankful to raise my family in this great land, and that I can teach my kids the things I love, and hope they will find joy in sharing the outdoors with their children as well.  A little over 4 years ago we were privileged to be able to move back to Escalante, Utah, the place I have always called home.  I am so greateful to live in "the middle of nowhere"!  As I drove around the valley this morning, I realized that at times it still doesn't seem real that I am back here after being gone for nearly 10 years.  I am thankful for pioneer ancestors that came to this isolated valley to settle, and for the roots they planted here.  There's nothing better than raising your children in a place where heritage runs so deep, telling them the stories handed down to me by my grandpa.  It's quite something to be able to fish and hunt my favorite stomping grounds, just 15 minutes from my house!

In light of these thoughts, today I just want to share some random pictures and video from this place we call home, and share some more of the beauty of Southern Utah, and some great trophies as well.  Take a look at a couple of bucks and bulls we have filmed recently, as well as a few pictures submitted by our viewers.  I particularly want to thank Mike Woolsey for submitting to us a photo of his awesome whitetail buck that he recently harvested in Illinois!  Way to go Mike!  As well, I have been holding on to a few pictures of the fall colors of the Escalante and Boulder mountains from this fall.  I hope you enjoy, it was one of the most beautiful years I can recall for fall colors!  We also have a few video clips of our annual family "pumpkin shoot".  The kids are always excited to go out and take care of the leftover pumpkins.  Whatever it takes to get them excited about shooting!  They also asked me to include our "pumpkin man" that we created this year.  A little late, but we hope you like him.  It was a fun creation for Halloween this year!

 As we part for a few days, I'm excited to tell you that in a couple of days I will be heading out with good friends Zach and Spenser Owens, Mike Marshall, and Ryan Dastrup to Utah's amazing Henry Mountains in hopes of finding some huge mule deer in the rut to bring home on video!  We have been planning for a long time, I'm stoked that the day has arrived that we can make the long trip to these desert mountains to check out some real bucks!  It will be good times with good friends, my "pro-staffers" for sure!  Also, I am excited to announce that my first article I have written for Western Hunter/Elk Hunter Magazines is now on their blog.  I''m excited to write monthly one of the best hunting publications out there!  Please check out my post there:

Thanks again for a great year!  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I wish you all a speedy recovery from the food comas that are sure to come.  And remember as always with turkey day, set your scales back 10 pounds!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Vortex Ranger 1000 Rangefinder Review

When it comes to hunting or sport shooting, unless you are just beginning the adventure, you are probably well aware of the need to accurately judge or measure distance.  Most of us no doubt began shooting by guessing the yardage of our shot, most likely in comparison to a 100 yard range.  Many a shot has gone awry, many a buck or bull has bounded away due to inaccurate judging of distance.  To compound the difficulty of self judging the distance comes the added complication of rise and fall of elevation.  Being able to closely judge distance is, by all means, a very important and needed skill when it comes to hunting and shooting, especially in quick shot scenarios.  How fortunate we are to live in an age where we have the right tools to aid us in the game.

I've said it many times before, spending money for the best of everything when it comes to outdoor equipment will not make you the best in the business, as a great deal of success hinges on refining skills and the experience that time in the field brings about.  There is no substitution for experience.  However, I do believe that there are those products out there that greatly enhance our abilities to harness those skills and abilities to our advantage.  Back in August the boys at Vortex Optics sent me one such product to test and review, the "Ranger 1000" laser rangefinder.  While I have to admit I have never owned a rangefinder prior to receiving the Ranger 1000, I have been able to look through several rangefinders of various brands while on hunts and shooting with others.  One reason I have not purchased my own is that I have yet to look through that one rangefinder that really grabbed my attention.  Before I let you know what I think of the product, lets talk about some of the specs of the Ranger 1000.

Out of the box.  To start off, I have to say that the first impression upon taking the rangefinder out of the package was the size!  At 3" wide by 3.9" long, this is one of the most compact rangefinders that I have handled.  Initially, looking at the size and simplicity I was skeptical that this rangefinder would best other brands that I had used.  I was impressed with the carrying case that was simple and slides onto a belt easily.  Opening the case, I was quick to notice the rubber armored coating that covers the rangefinder, which is very characteristic of most optics products that Vortex has to offer.  I've always been a fan of the coating, which not only protects the product, but also provides for a better grip and feel to the surface.  
The rangefinder itself is also equipped with a belt clip that is interchangeable from the right to left side of the body for right or left handed users.  The battery compartment sits below the eyepiece, and two buttons, one for the menu, the other for the yardage control are found on the top of the unit, at your fingertips.  There is also attachments for a lanyard (included) and the bottom of the body is equipped with threads allowing the unit to be attached to a tripod or window mount.

 Operation.  This rangefinder is set to a default mode of HCD (Horizontal Component Distance).  This setting is what most of us would use for hunting especially, but also has a use for shooting in general.  HCD automatically compensates angles (slopes, etc.) to give the user a true distance reading.  If you prefer to make the measurements yourself, the easy to use menu allows the user to toggle over to the LOS (Line of Site) mode.  Vortex has also thrown in a field reference card to aid you in determining MOA if you prefer to use the LOS setting.  In the menu setting the user will also easily find the setting to adjust the brightness (3 settings) and can also change the units from yards to meters.
To measure distance, the operation is very simple.  Click the "measure" button once to bring the unit to power, click again to display the crosshairs, place the crosshairs on your target and click the measure button again to get your reading.

Specs.  Here's what you get with this rangefinder.  With a reflective range of 1,000 yards, and a game range of 500 yards, you will find the Ranger 1000 accurate within + or - 3 yards.  The 22mm objective lens gives the user 6X magnification, with a 17mm eye relief.  As always, this product's O-ring seals provide amazing protection from moisture and debris, and is backed by Vortex's limited lifetime warranty, one of the best warranty programs you will find in the optics world.

From the Field.  I picked up the Ranger 1000 and hit the road to the mountains back in August for the first of my 3 deer hunts, the archery hunt.  Three hunts this fall, and I had to be picky as I could only harvest 1 muley within that time.  I was fortunate to have plenty of opportunity to use the rangefinder during that hunt, but the use was only at ranges of less than 100 yards, and the rangefinder performed like a champ.  The true test was going to be the elk hunt, when we hit more wide open spaces.
The elk hunt surely brought the challenge I was looking for to put this rangefinder to the test.  During 2 elk hunts and a time frame spanning 3 weeks, the Ranger 1000 went with me through heat, dirt, cold weather, and the abuse I put it through in some very rough country.  Most of the elk we were ranging near the beginning of the hunt were again at relatively close distances, within 300 yards.  I had little trouble with the finder doing it's job.  However, later in the hunt as the elk began to provide us more of a challenge, it was time to start giving the Ranger 1000 a test at greater distances.  While it was nearly impossible to range an elk at over 500 yards, picking up bright objects such as tree trunks and rocks that were lighter colors would do the job.  At distances of 500-700 yards this was no trouble, however 700 to 1000 would take finding the right object and a few clicks to get a reading.  When it came to getting my elk, the bull only provided me a neck shot.  Using the Ranger 1000, and my Vortex Diamondback 4-12X40 riflescope I was able to dial right in on a 360 yard shot and drop him right in his tracks.  This was a hunt that I was no doubt very reassured to have a tool with me that took away the guesswork!
As the deer hunts continued, I had many more opportunities at ranging deer and elk.  I have to say, the Ranger 1000 never let me down.  I ended up taking my buck on a quick shot under 70 yards, but it was a reassuring feeling having the rangefinder with me for over 6 weeks of hunting and ranging a lot of game.

  • Lightweight, but very solid construction.  Armor provides a secure grip.
  • Easy to use (target acquisition and menu)
  • Crystal clear optics and display
  • Versatile carrying options
  • Great battery life
  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • Solid warranty program
  • Smaller field of view compared to other models
  • A bit of difficulty ranging over 500 yards
Overall I have to say that I would have no problem recommending the Ranger 1000 to others, especially hunters.  I didn't give the unit a lot of testing at the range, but when it came to the range I did find that the rangefinder did have more ease in picking up reflective surfaces over 500 yards, such as targets.  In fact, I did pull a 1,045 yard reading on a target.  The key to a good reading at distances over 500 yards is steadying yourself.  It is very difficult to do so off hand.  If you are hunting and looking for a good rangefinder for game at distances of 500-600 yards then this is the rangefinder for you.  After some time of using it, I am getting fairly good at picking up non-game targets at greater distances that will still help me range game.
When I compare the Ranger 1000 to other rangefinders I have used, I have to give this model high marks on clarity, ease of use, and compactness.  I have used several rangefinders that I have worried about how the unit would hold up to the abuse that gear takes in rugged country and harsh environmental conditions.  I am also not known for being one that is easy on his hunting equipment!  When you look at the simplicity and armor coating, I think most extreme hunters will really like the Ranger 1000 when compared to other rangefinders.

So, where does this rangefinder rate in comparison to others I have used?  Well, I will say that I have found a keeper for sure.  Keep in mind that this is Vortex Optic's first rangefinder that they have developed.  As impressed as I am with the Ranger 1000, I have to think that this is the first in a line of rangefinders that we will see from the optics maker.  I look forward to see the improvements that will most likely come along, but until then I would like to extend my appreciation and admiration of another fine product from Vortex Optics.  Turkey hunting is 4-5 months away, and I can't wait to put the Ranger 1000 to work for me again at that time!

You will find the Ranger 1000 at nearly all of your major sporting goods stores, including Sportsman's Warehouse and Cabela's.  Locally to Southern Utah (and online) you will find the item at Muley Crazy (Kanab, Utah), and Hurst Ace Hardware in Cedar City, Utah.  Also, be sure to check out Vortex Optics where you will find other great optics products, as well as information on locating a dealer near you.  MSRP is $499.00, however, a quick browsing online and I found the product for an average price of $379.00.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What's Happening in Southern Utah

Let's start things off by talking about an exiting upcoming annual event:
That's right, Jorgensen's in Richfield is about to kick off their annual coyote contest.  This is a great opportunity to get out and perform a little predator control, as well as participate in a contest where you can win amazing prizes and cash!  Be sure to register soon to save yourself $100 on the entry fee.  The teams are 2 man teams, so find a buddy and get signed up!

We are half way through November, and I'm excited to report that with the recent cold storms we are starting to see ice forming around the edges of the high country lakes.  In the mean time, with the hunts winding down, and ice fishing a few weeks out, check out the dozens of pictures on our Facebook page  We are just 15 days away from closing our "Bucks, Bulls, and Fins" photo contest.  Look under the "contests" tab at the top of the page to enter for a chance to win Vortex binoculars.  Also, stay tuned to the Facebook page for surprise giveaways for great apparel from our sponsors!  In fact, right now you can shoot on over there and "like" photos, the 2 photos with the most likes will win Vortex Optics hats!

Before we share a few of the photos from the contest tonight, I would like to announce something personal that is very exciting.  About 2 weeks ago I was approached by Elk Hunter Magazine to begin blogging for them.  I am very excited about the opportunity, and my first post will appear on the Elk Hunter Magazine blog on Monday.  Don't worry, I am not giving up on this site, and in fact I am hoping that the exposure to Elk Hunter brings us more followers.  I want to thank you all that have joined this site and been so loyal to us over the past year.  You largely made this popular.  Thank you so much for the support, and please visit the Elk Hunter blog, great staff and great information!

Also, be sure to visit our newest partner, i-video wildlife!  Check out their logo in the right sidebar, and visit their site for more great photos, video, and stories from hunting fanatics!  We are excited to have their logo on our site!

Now, check out a few photos from our contest.  I don't envy our judges, this is going to be a hard one to determine!  Thanks to all that have submitted photos to the contest!
Porter Evans, rifle mule deer
Brent Barnhurst, Utah black bear

Clayton Carter, Nebraska whitetail
The Howell family (Shane and Tyrissa) and their daughter's rifle bucks
Mat and Randy Houston's rifle bucks
Steve Barker's son with a fine catch

April Morrison's husband and son with nice rainbow
What a great bunch of memories!  Good luck to you all!  I wish every one of you could win.  Thanks again to all those that have made this contest exciting by submitting and commenting on pictures.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Trpohy Spike Elk?

A lot of hunts can be fairly routine, others can be full of surprise.  The spike elk hunt in Utah has always appealed to me for the "surprises".  From seeing big bulls, old friends that have returned to the area, big bucks, and a chance at that spike-by-six that everyone is talking about, it's just a relaxing hunt where the stress and worry of scouting doesn't factor in very much.

The 2012 Utah rifle spike elk hunt held a huge surprise for Scott Albrecht and his family.  Scott was able to harvest a true "trophy" spike this year, a massive spike by 7. 

Scott tells us "we found the bull one afternoon and could not believe what we were looking at.  We thought he would pass as a spike, but he had 3 tines coming out below the ear, at the base of the antler.  We took some pictures of the bull, and showed them to a DWR officer.  He told it was a legal spike, and we were OK to shoot it". 

Scott returned to the area the next morning with his 16 year old son and 13 year old daughter.  With a little work they were able to find the bull, and Scott was able to bring him down.  Great memories made with family, and a bull that will never be forgotten.  Congratulations Scott, it doesn't get any better than that!

Scott went on to tell me that this was a great learning experience.  It was tough to pass on the bull the first time they saw it, but he wanted to do what was right.  What a great opportunity to teach two young hunters about hunting ethics as well.  In fact, after they had taken care of the bull, the group took the bull into DWR officers to be checked again, just to be sure.  With a stamp of approval, Scott was able to take the bull home and snap a couple of photos of this unique bull.  Thanks for sharing Scott!

In closing, we are now up to 30 entries in our "Bucks, Bulls, and Fins" photo contest.  The month is slipping by us, and the contest will close on the 30th.  Be sure to get your photo into our contest for a chance to win Vortex Diamondback 10x42 binoculars!  Click on the "contests" tab at the top of the page for more details!

One last note, it didn't even dawn on me yesterday, but yesterday was our 1 year anniversary!  With 700 Twitter followers, and 500 Facebook fans, I just want to say you all are the best!  Thanks for the support and especially for submitting your content to share with fellow sportsmen from not only Southern Utah, but from around the country!  We have fans from all over this great nation now, and are proud and excited to be part of such a vast network and brotherhood of outdoor enthusiasts.  I never dreamed this would take off like it has and turn into what it has.  Thanks to all of our amazing sponsors as well who make so much of this possible.  Thanks again everyone!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mike Marshall's 2012 Last Day Rifle Buck

 I've said it many a time, there's nothing like the last day of a hunt.  So often does it seem like all your hard work, dedication, and effort is going to end in failure,with only a few hours left to hunt.  More often than not, the last day of a hunt rewards your sacrifice with some of the most amazing hunting experiences of your life.  Why do it any other way?  I mean, who wants to tag and go home early?

Well, maybe to save on costs, ulcers, and grey hair!  Well, however you prefer to do it, several last day bucks and bulls have graced the pages of Southern Utah Hunt and Fish over the past year.  This year's Utah general season rifle hunt rewarded several last day hunters, including Mike Marshall, of Panguitch, Utah.  While many last day hunters were just excited to fill a tag, the last day provided Mike with a true trophy mule deer buck.  Sit back and enjoy as Mike has written this piece about his hunting experience!

I was very excited to see the successful draw result on my 2012 hunt application for Panguitch Lake Rifle Deer.  My wife Mona, my younger sister Chrissy and her husband Jamie had also drawn the same tag.  We all camped together in one of my favorite areas on the unit.  I was optimistic about the new hunt boundaries but as the sun began to rise on opening day I wasn't sure if that optimism would stay with me.  We watched as more hunter's vehicles drove past camp than I had seen in recent years.

We spent 4 days in that area trying to hold out for a decent buck, seeing only about a dozen small bucks.  No shots fired.  On Thursday night of the hunt Mona made a sweet 225 yard shot on a two point buck.  With fresh meat soon to be in the freezer, I called my close friends Zach and Spenser Owens to let them know I was ready to go look for a big buck.  We weren't able to get together until Saturday night.  With just one day left to kill we put a game plan together.

Five thirty AM finally came and  into the hills we went.  As we hiked to the top of the ridge I was thinking to myself that I was more than likely going home without punching my tag.  A big smile and a series of butterflies reminded me that this was what it was all about.  We were sitting on top of the ridge glassing the distance when we heard some sticks break and rocks rolling direly below us.  I raised my gun to be ready in case it ended up being a deer, hopefully a buck.  Right then a deer's face peeked through the thick mahogany about twenty five yards away. I asked my friends, "is it a buck"?   No response.  Desperate for an answer I asked louder.  "Does it have antlers"?  Silence.  Just then the deer bound away.

 I could see a small clearing in the direction the deer had gone.  I ran towards the clearing, just in time to see a dandy buck bounding through the only opening on the hillside.  I raised up my Rem. model 700 with a new Vortex Diamondback 4-12 scope, aimed, and fired.  Miss!  Another shot.  Miss.  Another shot.  Hit!  We started to celebrate a little then quickly reminded ourselves to relax as the big buck did not go down.  If the buck made it out of that draw it would be a long day.

After a short time we walked over to look for blood.  No blood, no hair, no shuffled step.  My heart began sinking into an abyss of shame, sorrow, and regret.  I could not believe I had just turned a big buck loose on the last day of the hunt.  Spenser and Zach reassured me that they had seen a hit on the third shot.  With a ton of skepticism but absolute trust in my friends we began to track the buck.  Still no blood.  None.  Not a tiny speck and no hair.  The tracks headed into the thick timber.  Zach and I tried to get to a vantage point in order to be able to see the buck if he went out the top.  Spenser followed his tracks into the trees, as he did the buck jumped up and we could hear him going towards the top.  Unable to see him my heart begin sinking once again.  I took a few more steps walking up the hill, looked up and could see what looked like the biggest buck I'd ever seen staring at me from over a sagebrush.  With a lot of stimulating encouragement from my comrades, I fired off two more shots to finish him.  When we walked up I saw that he was a very nice buck.  Just under thirty inches four on each side with eye guards.  Then the celebration really began.  I could never have asked for a better way to end any hunt.  I'm very happy that my closest friends were there with me to enjoy such great time and memory.

Mike Marshall

Congratulations on one awesome buck Mike!  I had the privilege of hunting spike elk with Mike, Zach, and Spenser this year, and let me tell you, these guys work hard and definitely earn their success when it comes to hunting.  I want to thank you boys for all you have submitted and added to Southern Utah Hunt and Fish, and we look forward to seeing more trophies down the road!

We have Mike's photos entered in out "Bucks, Bulls, and Fins" photo contest, that ends on November 30th, 2012.  Have you entered?  Check out the details under our "contests" tab at the top of the page.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Shed Inc Shirt Giveaway.

Who would like to win this shirt?

We will run the giveaway for 2 more days.  The contest will close at 5 PM, tomorrow, November 13th at 8 PM MST.  To enter:
  • Leave a comment below
Shirt size is XL.

Good luck to you you all!  Remember to check out our anniversary contest, where you could win a pair of Vortex Diamondback 10x42 binoculars.  Details are under the "Contests" tab, or follow this link:  We have less than 30 qualified entries so far, be sure to enter today!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fall River Fly Rod Review

In the year that I have been writing posts on Southern Utah Hunt and Fish, I have been privileged to review quite a few items that are sure to enhance the success of the hunt, and items that make life a bit easier for those that love the outdoors.  This time is different.  Seldom does an item come along that just all around enhances the experience, where the item seems to bring more enjoyment than the outing itself.
7 Months of waiting, it's finally here!

Back in March, I came across a post that basically slapped me in the face on the Outdoor Blogger Network.  OBN had partnered with Fall River Fly Rods, Montana Fly Company, and RIO products to offer one amazing contest that would result in the ultimate giveaway.  Fall River Flyrods had provided a hand crafted bamboo 8', 5 weight rod, (valued at $1600.00), Montana Fly Company coupled the rod to their Madison II Reel (Rive Rock 5/6 weight), topped of by Rio's Trout LT DT5F Fly Line.  An amazing package, I was ready to hit the comment button to get myself entered in the drawing for this dream package for any fly fisherman.  I mean, who has a bamboo fly rod?  Most of the fly fishermen I look up to only dream about having a setup like this as part of their rod collection.  But there was a catch!

The package would not simply be given out as a giveaway, this was to be a one of a kind contests, and one that would be a thrill in itself to be a part of.  Sixteen lucky contestants would be chosen from around the country as "finalists" for the package.  The fly rod, reel, and line would make it's way around the country to each of the 16 finalists, each participant would have 2 weeks to fish with the rod before sending it on to the next in line.  After everyone has had their time to fish with the rod, all will reconvene via web cast, and 1 lucky person in the field of 16 will provide the final stop for the rod, it will finally have a home.  I wanted that home to be with me, so I signed myself up.

So, what's so special about a bamboo rod?  Most all rods in use today are graphite.  Bamboo is becoming a long lost tradition and art, this used to be about the only way a fly rod could be found.  Fall River Fly Rods are a step up from the past, however.  This is not your grandfather's rod.
Fall River uses only the best bamboo direct from suppliers in China, and where much care and concern go into making sure the bamboo meets tolerances of .001" after being split, tempered, and planed, before being attached to a fly rod blank.  From Fall River Fly Rods:

"Each bamboo fly rod is appointed with a natural agate stripping guide set in nickel silver, polished and hand fitted nickel silver ferrules and a nickel silver winding check and reel seat which holds a distinctive wood burl or inlaid wood spacer.

All threads used are the finest Japanese silk, hand wrapped with tedious attention to detail.
Cork handles are turned here in the shop from the finest Portuguese flor grade cork we can get in any profile you like including cigar, western, full-wells, or half-wells. These cork handles are left natural and any pits are not filled with wood glue and cork dust so as to look more authentic.

Each bamboo fly rod comes with hand turned ferrule plugs, a cloth bag and is fitted in a Presentation Grade hardwood hexagonal rod case custom built for the bamboo fly rod to insure your investment will be around for future generations. Custom monograms, engraving, inlays and thread work is available."

Here's a link to the original post on the Outdoor Blogger Network:  Check it out as you will learn how special Fall River Fly rods are.  There's not many companies out there making hand crafted bamboo rods, and the special craft is a real treat for any lucky angler that owns, or wishes to own one of these rods!

A week later I was ecstatic to find out if I had become apart of this journey.  Reading down the list, Host #7 Jason Porter!  Sometime in September or October the rod would find it's way to the mountains of southern Utah!   Here's the link with the announcement on the OBN: 

Now, the waiting would begin!

A busy summer's work during one of our busiest fire seasons ever kept my mind off of the rod for a good deal of the time.  Returning from fire assignments, I went straight into hunting season, and now began to worry about juggling hunting time and getting in some fishing with the rod before sending it along it's way.  As the elk hunt ended, the rod showed up just a day prior to my muzzleloader deer hunt starting.  This, however was perfect as I was camped near several good lakes, and I would have nearly 4 days after the hunt of my allotted 2 weeks of time with the rod to fish!  Timing was also perfect for good fishing, as cold weather had just settled in, and trout fishing in the high elevation waters of the Boulder Mountain (Aquarius Plateau) was just about to get good!

Now in my deer camp on the mountain, I finally found time to open the package the rod was shipped in.  I was like a kid at Christmas as I took the rod from it's wooden case and fabric sheaths.  What a gem!  I was now more excited to fish than hunt!  Taking the reel from it's cloth case I was stuck by the beautiful craftsmanship and detail that went into this amazing reel.  Yep, my own rod/reel setup was now a bit lame!  Digging deeper in the PVC tube that the setup had been shipped in, I also found a fly case that had been a part of the journey.  Each fisherman had placed a fly in the box to add to the nostalgia of the experience.  That nostalgia was topped of by a journal that had each fisherman's experience penned to it's pages from each stop along the rod's journey through our great country.  I lay in my bed that night for hours reading each angler's story of their time spent fishing with this amazing setup.  Photos, sketching, and even flies taped to the pages, it was a truly humbling feeling to be a part of this journey that brought together some truly gifted anglers and personalities from all corners of our nation.  What a feeling to be a part of something so great!  I was going to do my best to make the most of the experience myself.  My lofty goal?  To catch as many trout species as possible in my area; rainbow, brook, Colorado cutthroat, tiger, and splake trout.  Catching all 5 would be tricky, and it would require some travel, but I could do it.

I embarked on a hike for my morning deer hunt, thinking about the 3 hours or so I would have to fish during the middle of the day.  I probably rushed the hike a bit, and after a quick bite to eat headed for a nearby lake just up the hill from my camp.  Here I would be able to check off my list rainbow and brook trout, and who knows, maybe an arctic greyling.  On the shores of this beautiful lake, with the aspens beginning to turn that golden color that makes fall my favorite season, I put the rod together for the first time, tied on a bead head prince nymph, and pushed from shore in my float tube.  The conditions were perfect, now if I can just find the fly the fish want!

Out just past the weedline, I made my inaugural cast with the Fall River Rod, MFC reel, and Rio line.  It was a complete failure!  Thinking back to the instructions that came in the package, "this isn't your grandfather's rod".  In simple terms, older bamboo rods of the past took a good deal of effort to cast.  Heck, MY fly rod took a lot of effort.  I was trying to hard.  Relaxing the draw, and with more "flip of the wrist", the line spooled out and took an impressive glide across the water.  OK, I'm getting it now.  And Bingo!  First cast, not even out as far as I wanted and I had landed a nice 18" rainbow!  Check one off the list, albeit the easy one!

Fish number1!
 So now the truth, I'm not much of a fly fisherman with a fly rod!  I can't cast well at all.  But I found with a few tries I really had a lot more ease with this rod than my own.  However, I still opted for my traditional pattern of tossing some line out, and "trolling" it around the lake with my float tube.  Each pass along the weed line seemed to bring success!  The first couple of fish were almost a shock, as I felt like the rod was about to fly out of my hands, or that I had tied into a monster fish!  Words cannot describe how it feels to catch a fish on this rod.  So much play and action, I know those passing by had to wonder what the guy in the float tube was giggling about!  Hands down some of the most fun I have ever had fishing, and I wasn't catching anything more than normal as far as size goes.  In no time I had landed myself a brookie; small, but still another species marked off of my list.  The color of the young brook trout, highlighted by the stunning background of the fall colors topped it all of for me.  These are images that I hope will never leave my mind, one of the most incredible days of fishing I have enjoyed!  The 3 hours turned to 4, and when it was all over I lost track of how many I landed, and my little prince nymph looked more like a bead with a bit of mangled thread.
Boulder Mountain brook trout.

Hunting took my priority list again for a few days, however I was able to return to the lake for one more short trip.  The fishing wasn't nearly as good, but the fall colors were now brilliant and alive, and the day was just as relaxing and fun.

Fall's yellows contrasting with the reds of the desert below.
 A week later, it was time to get serious to land my three other species.  I loaded up my grandpa, Marvin Porter and headed to the other side of the mountains to a cluster of lakes that held the species of target.  Our hour drive was filled with laying out our plans, and telling stories of our past trips.  Arriving at the trail head, the rod was loaded onto my ATV where it began a nearly 2000' elevation climb to the alpine lakes.  Up the rocky trail, through several stream crossings, the blanket of aspen leaves on the ground, and the stunning view of the desert below, we rose to nearly 10,000 feet to begin fishing.  At our first stop, it took a while to get things going in our favor.  After trial and error, I finally found something they wanted, and I was able to land a cutthroat trout.  Not a native Colorado river cut, but a Bonneville cutthroat, at least it was another species, and another 18" fish!  After some "coaxing", I was also able to land the second species of the day, a tiger trout!  I could see some great tigers swimming around, they were stubborn however, and a catch of 3 small tigers and a few cuts would have to do.

The Aquarius Plateau looms at 11,000 feet, 1000 feet above this lake.
We bypassed our next lake, opting to take the hike into the largest and most beautiful of the lakes where surely we would hook our last and most difficult species, splake trout.  The mile-and-half hike took us under the stunning cliffs of the Aquarius Plateau, that reached over 11,000 feet above us.  Now fishing at 10,000 feet we had no trouble getting into the rainbows, and boy did they fight!  Some of the best rainbow fishing I have had in a while.  The splake were stubborn on flies however, and to land one I finally had to put down the fly rod, and opt for throwing a castmaster and little Jake's with the spin rod.  I did finally land my splake, my 5th species in a week, I just wish it could have been on the Fall River Rod.

Bonneville Cutthroat
Tiger Trout


  I guess this is also a "review", and here I am lost in the experience.  This has to easily be my longest post!  I have always tried to hook my viewers up with what is good, and affordable.  Maybe not top of the line, but what gets you by when you are on a budget.  I rarely say that something so expensive is worth the cost.  I have to say, if I had the money you bet I would buy a Fall River Rod, complete with MFC reel and Rio line!  I would encourage anyone else to do the same without regret.  This is truly one of those special items that does the job, and adds a factor that "creates" it's own wonderful experience.  I will admit that I often found myself more concerned with not breaking the rod and treating it with care, but even if it was mine, a hand crafted gem like this should be cherished and afforded top notch care.  Maybe I can't afford the rod right now, but I will definitely be out to get my own Montana Fly Company Reel, coupled with Rio line!  Check out some of these amazing patterns that MFC offers on their reels:  This is just a taste of the options they have available.  Rio also offers 3 new lines in their LT DT trout line series:  The reel was a piece of art in itself, and the fly line was so incredibly smooth and I had no problems with memory retention or anything like that.  The only negative to the entire experience is that it's not mine!  Here's for hoping!  We will find out within a month or so I imagine.

It was a difficult thing to do to package the rod back up and send it off to it's next stop, not knowing if I will see it again.  I will always cherish my time with the rod, as I still see the shine glimmering from the fine bamboo, the greens of the fine silk thread and golden eyelets reflecting from the water.  It looks like something you would rather have on the mantle above the fireplace, rather than in rough hands over water.  That may be true, but why do that when you could be on the water, having the experience of a lifetime with a beautiful Fall River Fly Rod!