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Upset a griz with only a handgun at your side, and you have problems in your future. (Keith Crowley/Images on the Wildside/)
Hunters love to sit around the fire and argue about guns. When there's no fire, there's still social media, where people also sometimes argue. When I saw Freel and Towsley engaged in a Facebook pissing match over bear-defense handguns, I invited them to bring it to the pages of Outdoor Life. Enjoy. —W.B.
Wheelguns by Bryce M. Towsley
I’ve been hunting bears for 40-some-odd years all over North America and in Russia. I have learned a couple of truths. First, bears are tough, both in construction and attitude. They have thick hides, strong muscles, and big bones. When wounded, they rarely give up quickly.
The idea of using a semi-auto handgun in a cartridge designed for self-defense against humans is ballistic folly. I know everybody thinks they are going to go John Wick on a bear and overwhelm him with a multitude of bullets, but that ignores the second bear truth: Bear attacks happen very fast. You may get one or two shots, if you are lucky, before he is chewing on your skull like an hors d’oeuvre.
Mine is a custom 5-inch <a href="https://www.freedomarms.com">Freedom Arms</a> Model 83 .454 Casull ($2,421) that Ken Kelly at Mag-na-Port tricked out for me. I load 305-grain hard-cast bullets to 1,650 fps. The .454 Casull has killed everything I have shot with little drama, including a couple of bears. (Bryce M. Towsley/)
True bear-protection handguns use a big bullet with lots of horsepower behind it to get through the hide and muscle, and to break bones. Big-bore revolvers with heavy-for-caliber, flat-nosed, non-expanding bullets do that very well. Cartridges designed for defense against human predators do not.
The 10mm auto with the best 220-grain hard-cast bullet has a pathetic 703 foot-pounds of energy. In contrast, a .500 Smith & Wesson with a 440-grain bullet has 2,579 foot-pounds of energy. That’s double the bullet weight, 25 percent more bullet diameter, and 267 percent more energy (not to mention 170 percent more momentum, which many believe is a better measure of a bullet’s ability to penetrate than kinetic energy).
Semi-autos can jam. Revolvers rarely malfunction, and there is no magazine to fall out, as apparently happened during a fatal attack last fall on a Wyoming guide.
Another guy in New Mexico failed to stop a black bear quickly enough with his 10mm, even with multiple hits. The bear was gnawing on him when he tried a head shot. The gun jammed. He cleared the jam while the bear continued to dine on his leg and finally killed the bruin. Rescuers had to cut the bear’s jaws off his leg.
Contrast that with my friend, Alaska resident and guide Lucas Clark. A large brown bear attacked him. He shot it with his .500 S&W;, and the bear fell down and politely died.
Little-gun advocates have two arguments. One is for fast follow-up shots. It’s that John Wick syndrome again. But a revolver is just as fast as any other handgun for the first shot, and that’s the one that really counts. They are fast for follow-up shots too, even the big boomers. I can put five full-power shots from my .454 Casull single action on target in 2.8 seconds. I have video to prove it.
What’s the second little-gun argument? Proponents claim that most people can’t shoot a big gun. The recoil melts snowflakes or something. Anybody who can shoot a 10mm can very quickly learn to shoot a grown-up cartridge. I know because I have taught dozens.
This is your life we are discussing. What would you rather have in your hands when a 1,200-pound brown bear is directing his anger issues at you?
The <a href="https://us.glock.com">Glock 20</a> ($600) is the standard against which all others are measured. It's simple and reliable, and has a 15+1 round capacity. Companies like Lone Wolf Distributors are now producing their own customized 10s based on the G20. I should have mine by the time this magazine goes to print. (Tyler Freel/)
Auto Pistols by Tyler Freel
Nothing is certain in a bear attack. I’ve lived in Alaska my entire life, and I have killed and seen killed in the range of 45 black bears and 16 grizzlies and brown bears. Each bear is different, but typically, if one gets amped up, it’s painfully difficult to stop it.
If you're in a bear attack, you'll be wishing for a rifle. A big one. A handgun is better than nothing, but whether it's a 9mm or .500 S&W;, it's just punching holes. Some punch bigger holes, and some can punch deeper ones. But they all lack the trauma-inflicting velocity of a rifle. For perspective, an 8-inch .500 with a 440-grain bullet tops out with less muzzle energy than a .308. A brain shot is pretty much the only way to guarantee that you'll stop an attacking bear with any handgun. Something you can shoot quickly and accurately, and fire as many rounds on target with is a must. (And good luck taking follow-up shots with a single-action that kicks like a .454.)
But a gun’s worthless if it isn’t with you. Ease of carry and use are, in my opinion, more important than caliber. A Ruger Super Redhawk in .454 Casull will weigh more than 4 pounds loaded. A Glock 20 loaded with 15 rounds is just 2.5 pounds.
Many of us here in Alaska have quit carrying giant hog legs because, frankly, they’re a pain in the ass. But if you don’t carry it, it’s useless. The light weight, ergonomics, and increased capacity of a 10mm auto is something to take seriously. So is the potential for practice. Big revolvers vary from unpleasant to painful to shoot, and ammunition for them is too expensive for frequent practice for most people. The 10mm auto is stout, but recoil is manageable. You can find practice ammo for about $20 a box. Just be sure to switch to hard-cast or solid bullets for defense.
Some use this incident as an argument against the 10mm, but last summer, when a fellow from New Mexico put the final bullet through the head of a black bear that was clamped on his leg, he had already spent more than six rounds. His initial body hits with personal-defense ammo may not have stopped the attack, but it’s difficult to say whether better bullets or a larger handgun would’ve either. Ultimately, his gun was with him, the bear is dead, and he is alive. Bear attacks aren’t always as neat and clean as we imagine. Sometimes the bear bites you, and that’s going to hurt—but if you survive the attack, it’s a win.
Having a handgun that you can shoot comfortably, practice with regularly, and carry at all times will do more for your odds against a bear than a giant revolver that you might shoot a couple of times per year—and that’s so heavy that it’s stuffed into your backpack or left sitting behind in the truck anyway.
When it comes to bear attacks, there are no certainties. (photowest/depositphotos.com/)
Much like politics or religion, bear defense is a subject that will quickly segregate people into strongly defended ideological camps. For the majority of folks, it’s purely for entertainment purposes—like guys in their living room debating whether or not they would have made that Super Bowl winning catch they saw on TV. However, for hunters and anglers who live in or frequently venture into grizzly country, bear defense is very important.
The only certain thing about dealing with bears is that there are no certainties, but if you look to the folks who spend the most time around bears, you can learn to have the best chance at surviving an encounter.
Be Bear Aware to Prevent Dangerous Encounters
The hard truth about bear defense is that the most important things you can do are boring. In our heated debates, we all imagine ourselves stopping the bear, but of course not before he gets just close enough to make it an exciting story. The fact of the matter is, if it comes down to that, things have gone terribly wrong.
When you're in bear country, stay alert and aware of your surroundings. (jeffbanke/depositphotos.com/)
The best way to deal with a dangerous encounter with a bear is to avoid it in the first place. We've all heard the phrase "be bear aware," and likely most of you are as annoyed with it as I am, but it is the best way of avoiding a dangerous situation altogether. How you conduct yourself in bear country and (think: proper food and meat storage), will almost always play a larger role in your safety than your ability to stop a charge with lethal or non-lethal force.
That being said, the reason that people discuss bear defense tools so passionately is that, for a variety of reasons, bear attacks still occur. Sometimes it's due to a lapse in human judgment, and sometimes it's just bad luck—either way, we all need to be as prepared as possible. Bear defense tools can be segregated into tiers, or levels of force, and it's up to you to pick the one that best suits your needs. Consider the areas you'll be in, the activities you'll be doing, and the frequency of those visits to help gauge the likelihood of a bear encounter and the need to use force.
Essential Bear Defense Tools
Some of the most important things to remember about bear defense and bear defense tools is that every bear is different, every encounter or attack will be different, and there are no guarantees with any bear protection tool that you will survive. Do your best and choose wisely, but keep in mind that we live in an imperfect world, and sometimes the bear is just going to get you. Every encounter is a roll of the dice, and the best thing you can do is make a choice that loads them in your favor.
Bear spray, a more powerful non-lethal pepper spray, has become a very popular and arguably effective means of protection from an aggressive bear. It's lightweight, affordable, and relatively easy to use. Most of the time, it is highly effective, but there are several examples of spray failing to stop a determined bear.
Bear spray is effective, but it can also get you into trouble. Practice before using it, and be careful in windy conditions. (Todd Banner/Alamy/)
One story that comes to mind has to do with an acquaintance who was hunting black bears over bait from a tree stand. Often black bears are just curious, and some minor hazing will send them about their business, but that day, one bear got a little too close. The bear climbed into this guy's tree, forcing him to spray it in the face at literally 2 feet. The bear just coughed and huffed and then bit him on the boot. Luckily, the bear didn't bite all the way through to his foot. It only yanked the boot off before diving out of the tree and running away.
There are several other documented accounts of attacking bears not being deterred, and keep in mind that with an unfavorable wind, or in thick woods or brush, you can easily become a victim of your own spray. If you decide to carry bear spray, get an extra can to practice with so you know what to expect, and practice carrying, drawing, and firing it. It doesn't do any good if you cannot carry it all the time comfortably, and access it quickly.
A big bore rifle with a controlled-feed action like this one is your best chance at stopping a bear in his tracks. (Tyler Freel/)
When we’re talking about lethal means of bear defense, let’s just start at the top. All you have to do to get a picture of an adequate bear-stopping rifle is look at what seasoned brown bear guides here in Alaska use to back up their clients. There’s just flat-out nothing that compares to a big rifle when it comes to stopping bears. Under the right circumstances, a pissed-off bear can be incredibly difficult to stop, and the combination of energy, penetration, and catastrophic damage that a big rifle delivers is the best you can ask for.
How big is big? Most standard big game rifles in the .30 to .338 caliber range fall short of what I'm talking about here. A hot-loaded .30-06 with 180- or 220-grain bonded bullets in the hands of a cool-headed shooter will do just fine for hunting, but for a dedicated bear defense rifle, you'll want to go bigger. More typically, on the shoulders of guides who are hunting the biggest bears in the world, you'll find what I'm calling big rifles. When I say big rifles, I mean we start with the .375 H&H; and work on up to the .416s and .458s. Even though there are no guarantees when it comes to putting down a charging bear, these rifles can generally be depended on to stop one in a hurry.
Big bore rifle cartridges from .375 H&H to .458 Lott deliver a shocking amount of energy and stopping power. (Tyler Freel/)
As far as lethality is concerned, a big rifle is your best measure, especially if you're spending a lot of time tracking wounded bears, going to bait stations, or crawling through alder thickets. If you assess the situation and feel that a potential encounter is likely, I suggest selecting something along these lines, but if you're simply going about your day-to-day, and not in situations that get your hackles up, you probably don't need to endure the inconvenience of toting a rifle around.
Ideal Heavy Rifles for Bear Protection
Look for the biggest caliber you can shoot well in a rifle with a controlled-feed action like the Winchester Model 70 Safari Express, or the Ruger Guide Gun. While big bore rifles are ideal, even a .308 will work.
The velocity, penetration, and damage will be head and shoulders above any handgun as long as you pick some good bonded or monolithic bullets like Federal Trophy Bonded or Barnes TSX.
Probably the most widely promoted means of bear defense (for a good reason) is a shotgun. A shotgun with slugs is basically a poor man's rifle. They are much cheaper than a good controlled-feed dinosaur rifle, yet still reliable. They have a good capacity for ammunition, and anyone familiar with a couple of styles can easily adapt to just about any shotgun out there. A shotgun is typically what you’ll find issued to government agencies as a bear-defense weapon, and they have been used quite successfully to deter attacks.
A reliable Winchester pump-action shotgun and Brenneke Black Magic Magnum slugs. (Tyler Freel/)
A 12 gauge’s effectiveness can vary tremendously based on the ammunition used. You should be using slugs, and not just your average deer slug but hot ones, and you can forget about buckshot. Your average deer slugs might work, but they’re nowhere near as effective as something like a Brenneke Black Magic magnum slug.
The issue I have with the 12 gauge is that I'm personally not convinced of its effectiveness. Everyone takes it for granted because that's what they are told to carry, but for about the same recoil as a .375 H&H;, a hot slug performs more like a big-bore handgun cartridge than a rifle. It's essentially a big hunk of led going at medium speed, punching a clean hole. I didn't question the 12 gauge slug as an option until a buddy had several poor experiences on a few black bears and one brown bear with them. According to him, the bears just "soaked them up," and it took multiple shots to finally put them down. This was also reinforced by an Alaska State Fish and Game worker who had been assigned to a helicopter predator control operation targeting grizzly bears in a specific area. Even top-end slugs did not impress him with their performance and yielded poor penetration and damage.
Take all of that with a grain of salt though. I think that a shotgun is still a perfectly adequate defense tool when used with the right ammunition, and for some folks, it is the best option. They make a great camp gun, are easy to operate, and are easier to shoot more accurately than a handgun. It's a good choice for situations where you're in an area with a lot of bears, and there is a possibility of seeing some, but a dangerous encounter is unlikely.
Ideal Shotguns for Bear Protection
For a bear defense shotgun, go with an 18-inch barrel and a reliable pump action. The Remington 870, Mossberg 500, and Winchester SXP are all offered in versions with shorter barrels and extended magazines. Buy premium magnum slugs like the Brenneke Black Magic, and forget about the new birds-head grip short shotguns.
In the lethal category, handguns come in last, yet they are the most contentious and hotly debated tools for bear defense. To put it bluntly, any handgun is horribly inadequate compared to just about any high-power rifle when it comes to stopping a bear on the spot. There are some impressively powerful handgun cartridges and platforms out there, but they still aren’t rifles. Handguns are essentially just punching holes. Some of them punch slightly bigger holes than others, but none of them really have the velocity to do the catastrophic damage that a rifle can. Great penetration can be achieved with a handgun by using hard-cast or monolithic solid bullets. But because of velocity limitations, to get proper penetration, you usually will have to sacrifice the dramatic wound cavity that expanding bullets will give you.
The Scout Chest Holster by Northwest Retention Systems is a good holster to keep your pistol close and ready. (Tyler Freel/)
In a handgun hunting situation, this is just fine, as a well-placed shot with a big handgun and solid bullet will absolutely get the job done. However, in a defense situation, we are talking about stopping a charge or otherwise aggressive bear in one of two ways—either killing or incapacitating them with authority or giving them enough trouble to change their mind. You won't know which of those will work, so the former is the priority. The problem is that given the limited destructive capability of any handgun cartridge, shutting a charging bear down instantly can only be reliably done one way, and that's a brain shot. At times, the right body shot might spin them off course, or just the right one might drop them right into rigor mortis, but bears that have their adrenaline pumping are incredibly difficult to stop, and although hitting the vital organs will kill them, they can still have time to do plenty of damage. Any handgun is still just a handgun.
Considering that, your gains in selecting one of the bigger revolvers (.454, .460, or .500) are going to be relatively minimal compared to the big rifles that are actually adequate. You want a cartridge and bullet that will penetrate well and punch through a bear’s skull, which is not as difficult as lore might imply. Once you have that, you will see diminishing returns as you go bigger and bigger.
Another major consideration is how well you can shoot your handgun. Given the lackluster power, if you want to have a good chance at stopping a bear with a handgun, you need to be able to shoot quickly and accurately under stress. If you can shoot the big revolvers well, more power to you, but personally, having used both, I much prefer a smaller revolver in .357 mag or a semi-auto in 10mm. Both have been used multiple times as effective bear defense calibers, and even the 9mm has proven to be an adequate cartridge in the hands of a good shooter with the right ammunition. Another benefit of these smaller calibers is that practice ammunition is much more affordable, and there is no substitute for trigger time when it comes to handgun proficiency. I can't think of anyone I know who owns or carries a revolver larger than a .44 magnum and shoots more than one box of ammo per year through it. Many of them haven't been fired in years.
Ammunition capacity is a debatable point when it comes to a bear defense handgun, and it ultimately boils down to the individual situation. Most big revolvers hold five or six rounds. A factory double-stack 10mm will usually hold 15 rounds. Sure, in some situations, you’ll only have time to get one shot off, sometimes zero, but there are also very real possibilities of needing more than five or six rounds in the gun. I’ve seen several brown bears take between six and 13 rounds of .375 H&H; before finally expiring. Often, even with rifles, when bears are hit in the body, they will spin, sometimes recovering and continuing on their path, but it usually slows them down, giving more time for additional shots. It’s incredible how fast ammo can run dry, and if faced with that situation, I want to be able to pump as many bullets into that bear as fast and accurately as I can.
Finally, and probably the most important thing to keep in mind when using a handgun as a defense method is actually carrying it. It’s easy to become complacent and quit carrying your gun. While there are many variables that you have zero control over, you won’t be able to shoot a bear if you don’t have your handgun on you, loaded, and ready to go.
You should only be using your handgun as your primary defense tool in situations where bear trouble is very unlikely. If a handgun is all that stands between you and getting chewed on, things have gone very, very wrong, and it's basically just better than nothing. Carry your handgun in situations where a bear attack is the last thing you would expect.
This is a major drawback to big revolvers. They are a pain to have on you all the time. Sure, if you're John Wayne, and just stand around looking pretty with that big iron, that's great, but when you're hiking, camping, and going about whatever tasks you need, it is much easier to carry a smaller handgun. People here in Alaska are going that way in droves. There are chopped down models of big revolvers, that are easier to carry; however, they are still heavy, give you profound recoil, and send a good portion of the unburned powder out the barrel, losing much of the performance that the calibers would have in a un-modified model. Standard-sized autoloaders are just flat-out much easier and more comfortable to carry, with fantastic and convenient holster options.
An often-overlooked benefit of many polymer autoloaders is a built-in rail for mounting a tactical light. I'm frankly, surprised that I don't see them used more often, as many bear encounters occur after dark, especially if you have fresh meat hanging around camp. I don't care how good you are, you're not going to be fast or very accurate with your .454 Casull in one hand and a flashlight or kerosene lantern in the other. A Streamlight or Surefire is bright enough to give you plenty of visibility and actually shoot well if you need to.
Ideal Handguns for Bear Protection
For a shooter-friendly defensive handgun that has affordable practice ammo, the 10mm is hard to beat. There are lots of options these days, but for stock pistols, the Glock 20 and Springfield Armory XDM 10mm are great options.
It is very important to select your carry ammo carefully, and you will want non-expanding, deep-penetrating bullets, such as Buffalo Bore hard-cast, or Lehigh Defense Xtreme Defense bullets loaded by Underwood Ammo.
The author’s ultimate bear defense pistol. (Tyler Freel/)
My Personal Ultimate Bear Defense Pistol
Lone Wolf Distributors Timber Wolf Large. The TWL features an improved Glock-style frame and slide, but highly customizable. Other key features:
Aggressive slide cut pattern for reduced weight and easy front-slide cocking
Cut for a red dot optic and tall front sight
Arredondo magazine extension (20 +1 capacity)
Surefire X300 Tactical light
Kydex Chest Holster: Scout, made by Northwest Retention Systems.
The Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. (USFWS Mountain-Prairie/)
On June 5th, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced a proposal for new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 74 national wildlife refuges and 15 national fish hatcheries. This proposed legislation would give hunters and anglers access to over 1 million acres of public land and provide sportsmen and women with the chance to explore new areas.
At a time when access to good public hunting land is hard to find, outdoorsmen and women have something to look forward to with this new proposal. “Hunting and fishing are more than just traditional pastimes as they are also vital to the conservation of our lands and waters, our outdoor recreation economy, and our American way of life,” says Secretary Bernhardt.
This new public access for hunters and anglers is similar to a proposal we covered last year from former Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. In May 2018 Zinke proposed to open or expand hunting and fishing on 30 national wildlife refuges. Many of the refuges in Zinke's former proposal are also in Secretary Bernhardt's current plan–as well as even more opportunities for sportsmen and women on national refuges and hatcheries.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will increase the number of refuges that allow hunting from 377 to 382 and increase the number of refuges that allow fishing from 312 to 316. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also plans to open hunting and fishing on 15 new hatcheries where it was previously prohibited.
Since the release of the proposal, many conservation organizations have stated their support for the new expansion of outdoor recreation.
“Ducks Unlimited was founded by hunters, and Sec. Bernhardt’s balanced, thoughtful proposal to expand public hunting and fishing access is a great thing for sportsmen and women across the United States,” says DU CEO, Adam Putnam. “The expansion would allow even more people access to quality hunting and fishing and will help ensure that our conservation legacy continues for generations to come. We look forward to working with the Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help identify even more opportunities to expand public hunting and fishing access.”
Many of the refuges serve as critical habitat for migrating waterfowl and hold strong populations during the winter months. Various refuges and hatcheries are opening waterfowl hunting for the first time, such as Wisconsin’s Iron River National Fish Hatchery and Wyoming’s Hutton Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Other areas opening or expanding hunting and fishing opportunities include Colorado’s Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery, Minnesota’s Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, and Montana’s Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Delta Waterfowl Senior Vice President, John Devney was also pleased to hear about the announcement: “Duck hunters have been leaders in investing in the refuge system, and this action will provide them with new access and opportunities. We are sincerely grateful to Secretary Bernhardt and the Fish and Wildlife Service staff who have worked hard to create these new opportunities for hunters.”
Furthermore, Bernhardt's announcement was welcome news to the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), an organization committed to protecting public land and water, as well as providing equal access for sportsmen and women to hunt.
“This announcement will benefit America’s sportsmen and women by providing access to prime hunting and fishing areas,” says Christy Plumer, TRCP’s chief conservation officer. “As public access remains a challenge across the nation, opportunities like this are a shining example of what we can do to support our outdoor recreation economy.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comments on the proposed expansions and rules for a 45-day period. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to implement the changes in time for the 2019-2020 seasons.
Spring may be lunker time for bass anglers targeting shallow fish on spawning flats, but summer is the bread-and-butter season for most fishermen. With short-sleeve weather and balmy nights, more bass are caught by anglers during the heat of summer than all other seasons combined.
But summer bass can be fickle nomads–found shallow, deep, buried in weeds, living in flooded timber, prowling open water, hugging riprap and bridge structures, active at dawn, dusk, night, and even in the brilliant rays of mid-day heat.
For this reason, savvy anglers are well prepared with a wide variety of lures designed to fish every conceivable bass habitat, and at all depths. Here are the lure styles, types, and brands to carry to insure that no matter the time of day, depth of water, or fishing situation, you're prepared to catch summer bass wherever you go.
<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Yo-Zuri-R1168-CPNI-Popper-Floating-Sardine/dp/B014UX65JC/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=outdoorlife03-20&linkId=ce936618508007a38f66a76e21ce2307&language=en_US" title="">The Yo-Zuri 3D Popper</a> (Yo-Zuri/)
Virtually everyone prefers catching bass on top-water lures because of the exhilarating surface strikes. Truth is, top-water lures are often the most productive way to fish for bass. Surface baits cover a wide range of lures, and at times, each produces more and bigger fish than other styles. So, a well-stocked tackle box holds them all.
The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Lunkerhunt-PF01-Pocket-2-5-Inch-Fishing/dp/B00FPQVA7G/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=outdoorlife03-20&linkId=45d4368dc8ff5b632eb860876af7d1c9&language=en_US" title="">Lunkerhunt Pocket Frog</a>, "Green Tea". (Lunkerhunt/)
When summer bass bury into jungles of lily pads, duckweeds, hydrilla, and other vegetation, the best way to ferret them out is with an imitation frog, which resembles a choice hot-weather bass food. A weedless frog worked seductively across weed beds, and open pockets in vegetation can unnerve bass and trigger heart-stopping strikes.
The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Nichols-Lures-Sledgehammer-Swim-Bluegill/dp/B01LZ08RWN/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=outdoorlife03-20&linkId=0e8a95f7fbffe7200ebc42abbd2a0b79&language=en_US" title="">Nichols Sledgehammer Swim Jig</a>. (Nichols Lures/)
This is the oldest lure known to man, and modern bass anglers have refined it so much that it has almost become a one-lure arsenal for summer fishing. Jigs today are available in hundreds of sizes, shapes, colors, head, and hook configurations. They can be used effectively for summer bass living in lily pad shallows and from stump flats to flooded timber, deep rock piles, riprap, bridges, docks, and water of virtually any depth.
The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Zoom-037025-Trailer-2-Inch-Pum-Packin/dp/B0001BS15Y/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=outdoorlife03-20&linkId=6429e7d6e9567afb2bd95521a02f1aa3&language=en_US" title="">Zoom Super Chunk</a>. (Zoom Bait Company/)
While surely not mandatory, the majority of bassmen using weedless bass jigs attach some type of soft plastic trailer to the jig hook to add action and enticing “flutter” as the lure is worked. Many anglers match the trailer color to the jig, though some fishermen believe opposite hues (white on black, brown on chartreuse) can be most effective.
Many trailers are designed to imitate crawfish, although, frog and even lizard soft plastic imitations work well.
The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Gambler-Screw-Giggy-Hook-Pack-8-Ounce/dp/B004RDOSFE/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=outdoorlife03-20&linkId=99eb186ef43f221fac43d607cf6b4052&language=en_US" title="">Gambler Screw Giggy Head</a> (Gambler Lures/)
There's an infinite variety of finesse style jig heads, with perhaps the innovative "Shaky Head" design leading the pack for probing clear water with light line for shy fish. Most finesse jig heads are in the 1/32- to 1/4-ounce weight range, and are made for use with soft plastic lures, usually straight, slim profile finesse style plastic worms, lizards, and sometimes crawfish. Many finesse or shaky head jigs have a wire screw or head attachment for a soft plastic to be attached. Then it’s rigged weedless, usually in Texposed or "skinned" fashion to facilitate easy hook setting with light line.
The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Z-MAN-CB-EL12-03-Chatterbait-Elite/dp/B00ALM0E7Q/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=outdoorlife03-20&linkId=ab33111c82b861b1b63bf85a9b84a4a5&language=en_US" title="">Z-Man Project Z ChatterBait Weedless</a>. (Z-Man Fishing Products/)
Covering weedy, rocky, brushy, or stump-strewn water fast is the forte' of spinnerbaits and their cousins the surface-gurgling buzzbaits. They're available in many sizes, shapes, colors, and spinner blade styles (Indiana, willow leaf, Colorado, buzz, and more) with blades, skirts, and trailers of various hues.
Most spinnerbaits and buzzbaits are used around bass cover because the lures are very weedless. However, heavy, single-spin spinnerbaits have been used for generations by summer anglers who slow roll them off ledges and drop-offs to probe for deep, summer fish, often at night.
The Z-Man ChatterBait is an innovative bass lure that may fit into this class of artificials. It's not exactly a jig, nor a spinner-bait, but something in-between. Essentially it's a jig with an unusual flat blade that when retrieved wobbles and puts out a fish-attracting chatter that draws bass. It can be deadly when worked on deep summer weed edges, rock piles, and riprap.
The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Vudu-E-VFS45-219-Freshwater-Shad-4/dp/B06XKT4777/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=outdoorlife03-20&linkId=b1e943dc18f74aa49eec84c819e2678a&language=en_US" title="">Egret Vudu Shad</a>. (Egret Baits/)
The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Lunker-City-Electric-Watermelon-4-Inch/dp/B007MM7CPA/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=outdoorlife03-20&linkId=7f64004f0207fddaa594a4650be4dcc1&language=en_US" title="">Lunker City Fin-S Fish</a>. (Lunker City Fishing/)
This is a class of lures that bleeds over into some other summer bass styles, chiefly diving crankbaits, soft plastics, and jigs.
Jerk baits can be had in soft and hard models, but both essentially do the same thing–cover shallow water quickly (under 8 feet deep), and prompt reaction strikes from bass.
Angler rod action imparted to the lure is where the "jerk bait" name derives, with the lure cast, and a rather steady cadence of rod sweep (jerk), reel, and rod-sweep motion enacted. Strikes often occur during the pause as the jerk bait hovers, slowly rises, or falls.
Soft plastic jerk baits are perhaps best identified by the original Lunker City Slug-Go, which took the bass world by storm many years ago. Many imitations to the Slug-Go and innovations on the soft plastic lure design are available, with lures small and large. They can be fitted with a jig head, but a simple Texas style weedless hook rigging is more common.
Hard-body jerk baits are long, slender and minnow-shaped, fitted with treble hooks, and typically have a short lip for comparatively shallow dives of 2 to 4 feet. They're bass killers, especially when searching broad expanses of water looking for concentrations of fish. They shine in clear water, and take smallmouths, spotted bass, and largemouths, and are especially good for schooling fish, or when working over flats, weed beds or stumps where a shallow diving plug is productive.
School is out, summer is finally here, and camping season is upon us. Whether you enjoy pitching a tent in an assigned space on some roadside site, or hiking up and into the mountainous backcountry, you’ll need the toughest, most reliable gear you can get your hands on. To help you have all your bases covered, here is a short list of equipment you might want to add to your inventory of supplies. Before you pack up your rig and head out, take a look at some of the latest and greatest items that can help you make your overnight.
I'm a big fan of pack hammocks—they're easy to carry, great for bivy hunts, and the perfect tool for sneaking in a quick afternoon nap in the woods. But recently I've started to see new hammock designs, like the Trillium 3-person Hammock, that is both unique and useful. Made from a heavy duty webbing, the Trillium can support up to 880 pounds across 92 square-feet of space after anchoring the three hatchet straps to mature trees. This triangle-shaped hammock is great for relaxing near a river or under the shade of some dense trees and perfect for raising the "wow" factor when you're camping with your kids.
<a href="https://www.amazon.com/My-Outdoors-Lightweight-Sleeping-Pad/dp/B07C6636L5/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=outdoorlife03-20&linkId=6860826bd6239291e1f2c4fd2adb59af&language=en_US" title="">My Outdoors Lightweight Sleeping Pad with Pillow</a> (My Outdoors/)
One of my favorite pieces of camping gear is my sleeping pad. It's lightweight, easy to inflate, and it feels terrific on my back and legs after a long day of hiking or hunting. Not only does a pad make it easier to get some Zs, but it also provides that critical barrier of insulation between you and the ground on those cold nights. The high-density nylon pad from My Outdoors is inexpensive, tough (puncture resistant), lightweight (one pound), thick (2 ½-inches), waterproof, and because it has an inflatable pillow attached, that means you have one less thing to pack. If you need even more reason to invest in a sleeping pad, remember you can use it as a floating lounger when you're camping near a lake, or make the wife mad by showing your kids how to ride one down the stairs like a sled.
Accidents happen, and camping gear can sometimes fail, so it always pays to have a backup. I learned this the hard way on one trip when I forgot to put my camping stove back into my pack and had nothing (other than fire) to boil water. Since then, I've stashed a couple Etekcity camp stoves in places like my truck glove box, my hunting packs, and I even have one "on standby" in my storage closet should I happen to lose any of the others. I typically rely on a JetBoil to prepare my meals, but if it's ever not up to the job, I know I have a tiny stove that can attach to the same fuel tanks. Made from aluminum and stainless steel, it has a flame-control knob and push-button electric start, so no matches or lighter required.
While most people go camping to get away from technology, there's nothing wrong with a little music. In the appropriate setting, the right playlist can accentuate the experience of being outside and keep the mood around camp light and fun. The JBL Charge 3 is perfectly suited for such an occasion. You can connect up to three smartphones or tablets at one time and take turns playing music and it can stay loud for up to 20 hours on a single charge. There is a built-in microphone if you want to answer phone calls, and you can charge smartphones or tablets using a USB cable. But the best part about this little unit is it has a waterproof rating of IPX7, which means it's completely waterproof, so you can also take it into the shower at home when you're cleaning off the dirt and dust from your camping trip.
<a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072K4JPHJ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=outdoorlife03-20&linkId=9c36e8d08ee331ade6993874f3781fee&language=en_US" title="">CRKT Persevere Axe Head Kit</a> (CRKT/)
Designed by Chuck Cook of Dundee, Oregon, the Persevere Axe Head from Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) is a unique little implement, you'll be glad to have when you need it. This 5-in-1 tool acts as a splitting wedge, knife, axes, chisel, or adze. It's powder coated (black) with glass-reinforced nylon pins, and comes with a black cord, tie bead, and polyester sheath. If you're passionate about bushcraft or compiling a survival kit, this is one item you'll want to check out. It's light, easy to pack, and extremely useful in the right hands.
There's a running joke in our family about my poor fire-building skills. If there's a way to choke the life out of a flame, I'll find it—that's if I can get a blaze lit in the first place. If you struggle to get a burn started, check out the Folding Torch from Snow Blaze. It connects to any standard butane tank (like you'd use for a pack stove or Jetboil) and once ignited, produces up to 14,000 BTUs of heat—more than enough to get things started inside the fire ring. It's compact, easy to use, and also doubles in the camp kitchen if you need to do something like sear your steak.
Anyone moving from one body of water to another is encouraged to clean their vehicle, boat, or other gear to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. As an angler, I'm adamant about cleaning my wading boots, and a few years ago, I found a Rinse Kit portable sprayer helped make an otherwise tedious job, fast and easy. Once it's filled and pressurized (no pumping or batteries required), the hose nozzle sprays a steady stream of water every bit as powerful as water coming from a spigot at home. Each unit has a carry handle, on/off valve, hose bib adapter, and quick-connect hose. You can also use a Kit to rinse off sand after a day at the beach, give your dog a quick bath, clean dirt off a kid who can't resist mud puddles, or take a quick shower when no one is looking.
I can't stand mosquitoes, but I'm also apprehensive about spraying DEET all over my skin because of the health hazards. Thankfully, a few years ago, a friend turned me on to Thermacell. I'll admit I didn't believe the product would work, but the first time I used one, I noticed the bugs were gone in a matter of minutes. The devices themselves are light and easy to use. A small, internal butane heater warms a replaceable card that gives off a scent mosquitoes can't stand. Each card can create a bug-free zone for about twelve hours before it needs to be replaced and are available at grocery stores, sporting goods retailers, and just about anywhere else you'd also find bug-repelling sprays.
If there's anything I can appreciate when I'm camping, especially if I'm also hunting or fishing while camping, it's a good night of rest. I've slept on cots, foam sheets, inflatable mattresses, self-inflating mattresses, and hammocks, and of them all, I sleep best on a cot. Cots are fairly comfortable on my (sore) back, easy to pack up, and great for staying off the ground on an especially cold night. Therma-a-Rest has been making sleeping pads and mats for years, and their Ultralite Cot is a great option if you use also use some backpacking gear in the fall, say for a bivy hunt in elk country. The large version is 26-inches wide and 77-inches long and supports up to 300 pounds. Simply unroll the sleeping pad and attached the include ribs and feet and you're ready to rest. When not in use, it fits into a compact bag and is light enough to carry in a backpack.
I can't imagine life without my water-filtration pump. I drink a lot of water when I'm resting, and quadruple that amount when I'm out hiking and hunting, so if there's something that's light, easy to use, and effective at filtering out all the wee-beasties from my H20, I'll gladly hand over some frogskins. That's precisely what I did for the MSR TrailShot. It's a pocket-sized filter that's perfect for purifying water when you're on-the-go. Weighing just 5 ounces, it fits into nearly any pocket. When you need a drink, submerge the hose into a source, and squeeze and release the bulb like you're working a stress ball. The action pulls water up, runs it through the filter, and expels safe-to-drink aqua out the top. You can drink directly from the pump, or fill up a canteen. It takes about 60 seconds to siphon one liter, and the filter is good for up to 2,000 liters.
If you ever want to dictate the direction of the smoke from your campfire, position my chair at that angle and there's a good chance the sparks, ashes, and plumes will fly right into my face. It never fails—it's like I'm a magnet for smoke. Thankfully, over the years, I've learned the key to avoiding campfire smoke inhalation is to get low and let it all go over my head. If you're also needing a low-and-comfortable solution for sitting next to the fire, check out the Mountain Tech chair from Cascade Mountain. Made from a breathable mesh fabric over a steel and aluminum frame, it has padded armrests, a storage bag with shoulder straps, is 20-inches wide and sits just 9 inches off the ground. It just might be the most comfortable ground-level chair I've ever sat in, and works just as good at the beach or on the lawn as it does next to a campfire.
When I think a company like Gerber has created knives, tools, and implements for almost any situation, they surprise me, and new in 2019 is one of most unique eating utensils I've ever seen. The Onyx is actually four components—a spoon, fork, spatula, and multitool—in one combination. Weighing less than three ounces and just under 8-inches long, the set nests together for slim storage. Take it apart, and you can attach the spatula to the fork or spoon to create a set of tongs, and use the multitool to open cans or bottles, peel vegetables or fruit, or cut through thin materials or food packaging. The Onyx is a great little tool for backcountry treks and makes a terrific gift for birthdays or Christmas.
<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Camp-Chef-MS2HP-Mountain-Pressure/dp/B004S3HDBO/ref=sr_1_3" title="">Camp Chef Everest Two Burner Camping Stove</a> (Camp Chef/)
One of my favorite things to prepare in camp is coffee. Don't ask me why—maybe it's the propane flame, the seasoned inside of a kettle, or maybe the state grounds—but coffee prepared and consumed outside just tastes better, especially if I know its percolating next to a skillet of sizzling bacon. It's the perfect job for Camp Chef's Everest stove. Each burner can produce up to 20,000 BTUs of heat, there's a stainless steel drip tray, a matchless ignition system, and side panels to block out the breeze. Just pair it with a propane tank and you're ready to roll. Packed down, the stove is about the size of a briefcase and weighs only 12 pounds.
<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Gear-Aid-Tenacious-Repair-Fabric/dp/B005BLQTEE/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=outdoorlife03-20&linkId=c21668f328f35dcef8735491a9dcfbe7&language=en_US" title="">Gear Aid Tenacious Repair Tape</a> (Gear Aid/)
I can honestly say that in all the camps I've put up and taken down, I've never really encountered a gear emergency where something breaks or tears and leaves me wondering, "Well, now what am I going to do?" Part of that reason is that I take care of my gear, but the other key is being prepared for things to go wrong. A few years ago I tore the rainfly on my pack ten while elk hunting. Thankfully, I had some Tenacious Tape to suture the hole and prevent the cover from splitting in two entirely. Tenacious Tape has an incredibly strong adhesive backing, comes in numerous colors, has a waterproof coating, and works on natural fabrics, nylon, and plastic. You can buy it in 3x5-inch patches, but I recommend the 3x20 inch tape in..
An early-morning summer monster. (Brian Grossenbacher/)
One of the best things about northern pike is that they’re willing players practically 365 days a year. Drop a shiner through the ice and it’ll get nailed. Work a spinnerbait around a rocky point in fall and it’ll get crushed. It’s the summer months that can be the most challenging for the pike hunter. Hitting loads of little “hammer handles” isn’t difficult, but those aren’t what you want. You want a giant that breaks 40 inches. In spring, it’s not uncommon for those big girls to be posted up shallow all day, but that’s not often the case in summer. To score that goliath now, you need to understand how high-caliber northerns behave in summer. Whether you want to catch it on a big, meaty fly or a sexy custom glide bait, these tips will help you take a beast in heat.
Northern pike survive and feed in a wide range of water temperatures, though they prefer 60 to 65 degrees. If you live in Canada or the northern half of the U.S., your local pike waters might maintain those temperatures throughout the summer. If that’s the case, finding big pike becomes less of the challenge. In much of their range, however, assume the heat of the summer will bring the surface temperature well above that optimal comfort zone. Little fish may still hold shallow all day, but the trophies are going to seek more pleasant temperatures, and that means they’ll go deep. In summer, a quality fish finder can be a very useful tool, not so much to mark fish, but to locate deep weed lines. Whether pike are deep or shallow, they stay with the salad. The ideal scenario is to find a weed line growing up a slope or ledge, starting in approximately 15 to 20 feet of water and continuing up to the bank. This gives larger pike a place to hang by day, lounging in the cooler water at the base of the slope, and also quick access to the shallows that host all the bluegills, shad, suckers, and smaller pike the jumbos eat.
Once a pike reaches that magical 40-inch mark, it doesn’t really behave like a pike anymore. In many regards, it’s now a muskie, and it will feed differently from the ravenous little guys. A big pike’s metabolism is slower than that of a 15- to 20-inch fish, so while you may have a favorite jerkbait, spinnerbait, or streamer for racking up numbers of pike, ask yourself: Is this the right offering to tempt that one giant? Much like a muskie, a trophy pike might eat once every few days, especially in the summer, when it’s less inclined to move around. With that in mind, it pays to ramp up lure and fly sizes. A big pike is more likely to hammer a big meal in one shot and retreat to its comfort zone than spend a feeding session trying to catch a handful of smaller forage items. Jumping lure and fly sizes also helps reduce the number of little pike you’ll catch.
Straddle the Edge
Once you’ve located a good weed edge, how you approach it will vary based on time of day. Like many other species, large pike tend to move shallow in summer to feed during low-light periods early and late, so a dawn attack is always a smart idea. At first light, position your boat off the deep end of the slope. Cast lures and flies shallow and then work them off the edge. Water in the shallow weeds will be coolest in the morning, so that’s when heavy pike will be the most active. This is when a loud topwater, such as a Whopper Plopper, can draw some fierce strikes. Keep up the shallow-to-deep presentation until the sun gets high enough to light the water. At midday, reposition the boat so you can cast parallel to the edge, and switch over to lures and flies that work deep. A fly line with a heavy sink tip is critical here to get patterns down to the zone. For the conventional angler, lures such as bucktails and Bull Dawgs that can be fished at any level of the column are key. Don’t expect to catch numbers working deep, but if you get hit, there’s a strong chance it’ll be the pike you’re looking for. As the sun sets, move the boat inshore and start working deep to shallow, assuming the fading light will get the fish headed back up into skinny water for a late feed.
A jaw spreader is an inexpensive tool that helps ensure a quick release. (Joe Cermele/)
Regardless of size, pike can really scrap on the end of the line. During times of the year when the water is cooler, these fish recuperate from battle well, but in the summer, when the water is warm, a quick, clean release is more critical because oxygen levels are often lower then. Given that pike also have a nasty habit of inhaling lures and flies, it’s imperative that you keep the dehooking process short and sweet. These tools will help you make surgery swift, and our tips for proper pike care will bolster the likelihood of your catching that fish again, hopefully when it’s 5 pounds heavier.
Jaw Spreader: This simple tool costs about five bucks, but it's one of the most valuable items in any pike fisherman's kit. Northerns love to lock up those jaws after landing. You could try prying them open with pliers, or hope the fish finally opens up to let you work. Or you can prop that maw open with spreaders in one second, ensuring you don't get bit and you get fast access to the hooks.
Long-Reach Pliers: Most of the time, your standard-length fishing pliers will get the job done, but in the event a pike takes a bait or fly way, way back, long-reach needle-nose pliers are a must. Not only can they help you quickly remove a treble in the back of a pike's throat, but they'll let you do so without any of your fingers ending up in the fish's mouth. Jaw spreaders, after all, can pop free on occasion if the fish thrashes.
Rubberized Net: There are countless landing nets on the market, but serious pike fishermen usually lean on those that have a bag with a rubberized coating. These are designed to make tangling with hooks a less frequent occurrence—or no occurrence at all. They are also purported to remove less of the fish's slime coat, which promotes a healthier release.
With a rubberized net, most of the time you never even need to take a pike out of the water. Instead, you work on the fish while it's in the bag. Granted, using jaw spreaders hinders the pike's ability to breathe, but they should also allow you to get the hooks out faster, and a fish in the net is always better off than one lying on a hot, dry deck.
With the hooks removed, let the pike chill out in the net for a few seconds, which will help you determine its strength. If the fish is still fired up and thrashing, let it go by just slipping the net away so it can kick off. If it’s mellow and appears to be catching its breath, gently grab it by the tail with one hand while supporting the belly just behind the gills with the other hand. Clear the net and slowly rock the fish forward and backward to get more water moving over its gills until it kicks away on its own.
And if you’re in deep water, point the fish’s head downward so that when it swims off, it’s oriented toward cooler water below instead of the warmer surface water.
Asian lady beetles are lighter in color and more orange than ladybugs. (Ryan Hodnett (wikimedia commons)/)
When the news hit the internet, you could almost hear the collective: “awwwwwww, how sweet.” An 80x80-mile swarm of ladybugs, so vast that it showed up on National Weather Service radar, was about to hit the coast of Southern California. Thing is, there are more than 450 kinds of ladybugs in North America, and some aren’t quite as cute as those in children’s stories. Take the Asian lady beetle, for example (speculation is that the SoCal swarm consisted of Asian beetles). Whereas Ladybugs are non-biting, aphid-eating beneficial insects, lady beetles are invasives that bite, are foul-smelling when smashed, and enter your hunting camp and homes by the hundreds every fall. And so it is with the following list of bad bugs. Unlike ticks and mosquitoes, the ones listed here aren’t likely to make you sick or kill you. They are, however, the ones that make our outdoor lives the most miserable.
9. Stink Bugs
A brown marmorated stink bug. (dusan964/depositphotos.com/)
Depending on the species, stink bugs might be green, brown, or gray. Like Asian beetles, stink bugs reek when squished. The worst of the worst on the stink bug roster is the brown marmorated variety which was accidentally introduced in the U.S. in the late ’90s. According to the USDA, brown marmorated stink bugs have been found in 44 states and four Canadian provinces. They cause millions of dollars in crop damage and are masters at invading every nook and cranny of hunting camps, recreational vehicles, and campers as they seek winter refuge.
Eradication tactics abound from chemical traps to DIY homebrews, but many of those afflicted prefer to keep the nuclear option on the table.
8. Black Flies
A black fly. (US Department of Agriculture (Wiki commons)/)
Springtime turkey and bear hunters from New England to Canada know all about the scourge of the black fly. Although some species in Central and South America and Africa can spread disease, the ones in North America are more of the horror-film sort than the life-threatening type. As outdoorsmen know all too well, swarming black flies can torment to the point of near madness. They will attack all patches of exposed skin, and enter unprotected orifices such as nostrils, eyes, open mouths, or ears. Though diminutive in size, black fly bites are capable of raising large welts that itch for days. Although their cycle may last only a month, it is a ferocious month. Warm, sunny, still days in May until mid-June are typically the worst.
Over-the-counter insect repellents that contain DEET, are somewhat effective in repelling black flies. Hunters and anglers prefer Thermacell units, which seem to provide some of the best protection available—except perhaps for a complete body suit comprised of insect netting.
7. Deer (Triangle) Flies
An adult deer fly. (Bruce Marlin/)
Warm, humid summer days and damp coniferous forests create the ideal conditions for deer or triangle flies. These dive-bombing buzzers are capable of raising tremendous welts on any area of exposed flesh, but are loathed as much for their noisy swarming behavior as they are their bloodthirsty nature. Females bite to get blood for breeding, and when they do, they leave a cross-shaped bite. Then, these vampires lap up the blood. Deer flies are active when it's warm, they're attracted to dark colors, and they like wetlands. As we all know, it's illegal to spray chemicals in wetlands, which is why there are a lot of 'em around marshy areas.
Who the heck knows why they're called deer flies 'cause they head for humans just as easily as they do livestock. When you're around a deer fly, you'll wish you had a tail to swish 'em away, 'cause nothing much else works. Fortunately, they're the slowest of all biting flies and can be easily swatted. Here are two funny things. First, among the few predators of the deer fly is the wasp, which opens up a whole other can of worms. If you don't get bit by a deer fly, you might get stung by a wasp. And two, what's the bird that eats deer flies? The killdeer, that's what.
6. Love Bugs
Love Bugs. (Wikifrosch~commonswiki/)
So what can possibly be so bad about an insect called the love bug aka. honeymoon fly? Well, here’s one take.
"Love bugs are the spawn of Satan," says James Hall, the editor of Bassmaster magazine. "In the South, they emerge in the spring and summer for no other reason than to turn your boat's gel coat into a sticky splattered pile of bug remains while trailering to the ramp. And I'm pretty sure their intestines contain super glue because removal of the leftover chunks sometimes requires a chainsaw. A common method of cleaning a carcass-laden hull or T-Top is scrubbing with moistened dryer sheets. And the sooner you get to scrubbing, the easier the chore."
Although urban legend claims that love bugs are the result of a University of Florida bio-lab experiment gone wrong, it’s more likely that the first U.S. love bugs were shipboard stowaways in Galveston or New Orleans in the 1920s and migrated to Florida thereafter. Of course, none of that eases the minds of Floridians during lovebug season.
5. Horse Flies
A Horse Fly. (lifeonwhite/depositphots.com/)
You can tell the difference between horse flies and deer flies by their size, shape, and color. You can really tell the difference between the two once you’ve been bitten. Horse flies, the bane of inshore boat anglers everywhere in North America, range in size from ¾ to 1 ¼ inches long, and usually have clear or solidly colored wings and brightly colored eyes. According to entomologists at the University of Kentucky, they are attracted to movement, shiny surfaces, carbon dioxide, and warmth. According to former Louisiana charter boat captain Devlin Roussel, they are also attracted to legs and ankles which puts them atop his list of the most exasperating of all bothersome bugs.
“Horse flies are prolific and painful biters that are exceptionally adept at hiding under your boat’s gunnels,” says Roussel. “When you decide to get up to run to get away from them, they’ll only pop right back out as soon as you stop to fish again. They’re annoying, and they hurt like hell.”
The most effective repellent for horseflies, according to Roussel, is Avon Skin So Soft. Rarely will you find a boat that fishes the marsh in SE Louisiana that doesn't have a bottle stashed somewhere.
Sci-fi films that show a person's skin being turned into mush have got to be modeled after a chigger bite. They grab your clothes and wander around until they find some open skin. Once they find it, chiggers use their claws to make tiny holes into which they inject saliva that melts your flesh. Do they die after that? Nope, they feast on that mush which is partially digested tissue. And if that's not enough, chiggers can stay on a person for as long as a week. First comes an itch, then comes a rash, and lastly come welts or blisters. It can take up to a few weeks to heal, but the bad thing is there isn't much you can do if you get bit. Wash your clothes in hot water to kill any that are in the fabric. Take a scalding hot shower and wash everywhere, especially your hair, underarms, and groin. All you can do is use hydrocortisone cream to remove the itch and tough it out. Chiggers love warm climates where the temps are in the high 70s through mid-80s and moist. Anywhere there are woods, grasses, and waters you can find chiggers. Keep 'em away by using DEET or bug repellent clothing with permethrin.
A flea. (cosmln/depositphotos.com/)
"There's an old bird dogger joke that ruffles some feathers," said bird dog writer Tom Keer. "Why is it important to have a pointer in your kennel? To keep the fleas off of your setters." While that joke lights a fire in bird camp, fleas in a kennel are a problem. Fleas literally are parasites that need blood in order to reproduce. When they get blood, they'll lay thousands of eggs at one time. They'll move from one dog through your entire kennel very quickly. They always live in tough to reach spots such as a dogs' back, tail, neck, and behind the head. In mild cases, dogs bite and scratch the affected areas, but in severe situations, they can scratch an area raw until it bleeds. Not only can fleas distract dogs while training, but the open wounds that come from scratching can cause infections. The bigger problem is that fleas can transmit tapeworms, which is short-handle for a trip to the vet plus medication.
If you see your dog scratching, be sure it has fleas and not just scratching at a scab, burr, tine, mosquito bite, or skin irritation. Use a metal comb to lift up their hair and to look at their skin. If fleas are around, you'll see them moving. Inspect the comb for others. It's easier to keep them away with a monthly dose of flea powder, a flea dip, a topical flea/tick dressing or a wash with a flea/tick shampoo. A longer term solution is the commercially available collars that last for several months or more. In the event your dog has fleas, change the hay bedding in their boxes, and thoroughly sanitize the dog runs. If yours is an indoor dog, wash their dog beds, and thoroughly vacuum the house. Concentrate on where they lay down, and get under the baseboards and under furniture. Vacuuming usually removes about half of the fleas, so kill the rest plus any eggs by applying a dusting of flea powder. Vacuum that up, and you should be good to go."
2. Fire Ants
Fire ants. (SweetCrisis/depositphotos.com/)
They're called fire ants for two simple reasons: one, they're red and two, their bite makes you feel like you're on fire. Depending on the subspecies, some spray formic acid onto their prey while others inject an alkaloid venom. All of them start with a bite that also hurts, but the bite is just so they can get close enough to spray and inject the poison. And if you think fire ants can make you hurt really bad, some have it worse. A swarm of fire ants can kill small animals. You usually won't get bit by one but will get bit by hundreds. Their red welts look like a teenage kid with acne; the only difference is a fire ant welt itches like heck. Rinse off the area with a 50-50 mixture of bleach and water or apply some hydrocortisone cream.
Get this: fire ants can survive floods. They don't drown because they clump together and form a raft made up of tens of thousands of fire ants. They'll live anywhere, around rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, and in the woods and fields. They're sneaky mothers, and will usually set up hidden, underground lairs around deadfall trees, near rock piles, or tree stumps. If there is no cover, then they'll build mounds in open fields.
1. Stinging Caterpillars
A stinging caterpillar. (Forest and Kim Starr/)
You probably remember caterpillars from 7th-grade biology class. Your teachers showed you that ugly caterpillars can transform into beautiful butterflies. While that's true, there is nothing cute about the stinging version. Those soft, fuzzy whiskers conceal tines that contain venom. When they brush against your skin, the tines stick into your skin, and you're screwed. The way to avoid getting stung is to stay away when you see them. But in the event that one drops down your t-shirt or climbs on your leg while you're sitting down having a drink, here's what you can do: remove the tines by placing a piece of Scotch tape over the bite and rip it off your skin. You probably won't have tape if you're in the woods, so use the sticky part of a band-aid or a piece of duct tape which you probably have. If you have baking soda and water, make a paste and apply. If not, anti-itch cream will do. The best way to keep from getting bit is to roll down your shirt sleeves and avoid them at all cost.
It wouldn't be a day in the woods without a bite or two. While some of these might put a cramp in your day, they aren't bad in the scope of injuries in the woods. If they're too much for you, then you can always stay indoors with the air conditioner running and watch TV. But where is the fun in that?
Lever-action rifles can be fast, accurate, and tons of fun to shoot—if you know how to handle one properly. These video tips will help you tap into your inner cowboy and learn how to run a lever-gun like Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, or Annie Oakley.
Keep your hunting dog safe by identifying and avoiding the following plants. (Alex Robinson/)
Man’s best friend has incredible instincts. We often rely on our dog’s sharp senses and ancient impulses during outdoor pursuits (including everything from bird hunting, to blood trailing deer, to search-and-rescue missions). But any bird hunter with a Labrador retriever can tell you that dogs also have a tendency to eat just about anything. Sometimes the wild plants and nuts they eat can make them sick. These are the 10 wild plants you should make sure your pup does not chow down.
This weed is a vital host plant and food for Monarch butterflies, but it’s not so friendly or beneficial to dogs. (Wikipedia/)
Scientific name: Asclepias syriaca
Where found: Common milkweed is one of a hundred milkweed species found in North America and this one has the widest distribution. Found from Oregon to the East Coast, common milkweed often grows in fallow farm fields and sunny roadsides.
How to identify the plant: Milkweed has oval opposite leaves and large teardrop-shaped seed pods. The plant grows up to 4 or 5 feet tall. If you break off a leaf, thick white sap will ooze from the wound.
Harmful content: This everyday weed contains cardiac glycoside toxins. These poison the hearts of dogs, humans, and other creatures.
Diagnosing the poisoning: Noticeable symptoms include an atypical heart rhythm in your dog, as well as pupil dilation, seizures, intestinal issues and collapse.
2. Black Walnut
In late summer, newly forming black walnuts may look like a tree full of tennis balls, but these round greenish spheres are not safe for playing fetch. Black walnut is actually one of the most dangerous trees to large animals. (Tim MacWelch/)
Scientific name: Juglas nigra
Where found: Black walnut is common in fields, second-growth woods and old farmland east of the Mississippi.
How to identify the plant: Walnuts grow alternate branches with pinnately compound leaves. The husks that cover the nuts are rough and complete (no splits).
Harmful content: The leaves, bark, nuts, husks and wood of walnut contain the compound juglone. Worse still, moldy walnuts can be laden with mycotoxins (poisons created by fungal organisms). These can cause major neurological problems.
Diagnosing the poisoning: Poisoned dogs may exhibit excessive panting, drooling, foaming at the mouth, vomiting, muscle tremors, fever and seizures. If untreated or if they ate too much, the poisoning can result in death.
3. Hickory Nuts
Closely related to black walnut (they’re in the same plant family), hickory nuts can cause the same kind of trouble as walnuts. (Tim MacWelch/)
Scientific name: Carya, numerous species present
Where found: They grow well in forests and fields, various hickory species can be found from Texas to New England.
How to identify the plant: Hickories are in the walnut family, and as such, they also have alternate branching with pinnately compound leaves. The husks that cover the nuts are much different than walnut, however. These husks are typically smooth and they naturally split into several pieces to expose the nutshell underneath.
Harmful content: Although weaker than walnut, hickory can also sicken your dog with the compound juglone and harbor the molds that cause even worse poisoning.
Diagnosing the poisoning: Gastric intestinal upset or intestinal obstructions are common symptoms for hickory nut poisoning. Moldy hickory nuts can also cause seizures and various neurological symptoms.
With fun names like the “wild lemon” and “Indian apple root”, you might not expect this small flowering plant to be so bad. However, it’s also known as the “American mandrake” and is surprising toxic to almost every creature (including dogs and people). (Tim MacWelch/)
Scientific name: Podophyllum peltatum
Where found: Mayapple grows in shady forest areas throughout the eastern U.S.
How to identify the plant: The mayapple is a woodland plant that often grows in thick patches or colonies. They have two large lobed leaves per plant, a single white flower where the leaf stalks split, and a small fruit in summer.
Harmful content: Although the ripe yellowish fruit is edible to humans (safest if cooked, the seed must be removed), the unripe fruit, seed, roots and foliage are poisonous. Mayapple contains a unique toxin called podophyllin.
Diagnosing the poisoning: If consumed, mayapple can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, excessive panting, coma or death in dogs. Canines may also develop skin redness or ulcers.
5. Oak Acorns
Oak trees are found across the globe, and their familiar nuts pose a little known hazard to dogs. (Tim MacWelch/)
**Scientific name: Quercus, numerous species present
Where found: Oaks are found coast to coast in the U.S., and throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Depending on the species, oaks may be found growing in the thickest forests, swamps or open desert land. North America contains the largest number of oak species, with a surprising diversity of 160 species in Mexico.
How to identify the plant: With roughly 600 species of oak in the world, these trees show great diversity. Deciduous and evergreen oak species have a wide range of leaf shapes. Oaks have alternate simple leaves in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. The fruit of the oak tree is a nut called an acorn, borne in a cup-like "cupule".
Harmful content: Acorns are just the right size to cause intestinal blockage in small dog breeds, but a compound called gallotannin is the chief offender.
Diagnosing the poisoning: Eating acorns may cause your dog to experience diarrhea (possibly bloody), lethargy, abdominal pain, constipation, depression, frequent urination, discolored urine and jaundice.
In the Pacific Northwest in summertime, it’s hard to miss the golden yellow common tansy, but make sure your canine friends miss out on it. (Wikipedia/)
Scientific name: Tanacetum vulgare
Where found: Once used as a natural bug repellent, the common tansy can be found naturalized throughout the continental United States. Tansy prefers to grow in fields and pastures, but it does equally well along roadsides and streambanks.
How to identify the plant: Considered a noxious weed by many people, the common tansy grows to roughly three feet in height. In summer, it sports many yellow clusters of button-like flowers. Tansy is considered an invasive species to Washington state and neighboring areas.
Harmful content: Even though tansy is used as a natural insect repellent and sometimes as a culinary herb or alcohol flavoring, the thujone content of common tansy makes the leaves and flowers particularly toxic to dogs.
Diagnosing the poisoning: Dogs that have eaten tansy may have a rapid pulse rate, disorientation, stomach problems and convulsions. They'll also be suffering liver and kidney damage from ingesting this plant.
7. Horse Chestnut
Don’t confuse this shrubby tree with the chestnuts for eating. Horse chestnut is loaded with toxins. (Wikipedia/)
Scientific name: Aesculus hippocastanum
Where found: Often found in ornamental plantings and urban areas, horse chestnut is native to the Balkan forests in Eastern Europe. Because of its interesting look and apothecary uses, horse chestnut can now be found growing throughout North America and the world.
How to identify the plant: This can be a shrub-like woody plant or small tree, with opposite branching and palmate compound leaves. The nuts do resemble Chinese and American chestnuts, though the outer husk is far less spiky.
Harmful content: Due to its horrible taste, it's unlikely that you or your dog would eat enough horse chestnuts to result in death. The main toxin that affects dogs is aesculin (a glycosidic saponin), although other saponins in the nuts are also harmful to canines.
Diagnosing the poisoning: Eating horse chestnuts can cause severe vomiting, extreme thirst, weakness, twitching, dilated pupils and stupor. If enough were consumed, that stupor can turn into paralysis, coma or death.
8. Death Camas
This one causes more than a tummy ache, and the name alone should make you pay attention to this plant and keep your dogs away from it. (Wikipedia/)
Scientific name: Toxicoscordion venenosum
Where found: Death camas (also known as meadow death camas) grows in the fields, sagebrush slopes, meadows and prairies of the western U.S.
How to identify the plant: The death camas is a flowering native plant with cream colored blossoms in late spring. Overall, these plants grow in clumps and bear a resemblance to onions. And while every good dog owner knows that onions are toxic to dogs, these plants can kill both you and your dog.
Harmful content: There is a potent cocktail of poisons in the death camas and all plant parts are equally dangerous. If a creature consumes as little as 2% of their body weight in camas, the result can be death. This plant contains zygacine and toxic esters of zygadenine, which are neurotoxic alkaloids.
Diagnosing the poisoning: Dogs that chew or eat any part of a death camas plant can exhibit weakness, difficulty breathing, paralysis, convulsions or coma.
The first thing you need to do in a suspected pet poisoning is to get your dog away from the dangerous plant. If they still have some that they are chewing on, get that away from your pet as well. If you have phone signal, call your vet immediately or call an organization that helps pets (like the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661).
Next, observe your dog to ensure that they are still breathing and acting normally. If possible, take a sample of the plant they were chewing or eating. Keep your sample out of your pet’s reach, to keep them from ingesting more. If possible, take several pictures of the plant. Pictures should include close ups of the leaves and photos that show the whole plant. If there are flowers, fruits, pods, seeds or any other reproductive parts, snap some pictures of these too. These photos and plant sample can make all the difference in the correct diagnosis and treatment for your dog.
It’s vital that you NEVER give a potentially poisoned dog any home remedies. Some folk remedies for poisoning (like giving hydrogen peroxide, milk, salt or oil) will only interfere with your vet’s treatment.
Keep them comfortable, show lots of affection and get them to the nearest ER veterinary facility immediately.
Destination fishing trips can be hard to pull off when you have a family. Skipping town with the guys for even a few days is usually hung up by T‑ball games, soccer practice, and, of course, approval from your spouse. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck fishing where you live. Headed to a theme park this summer with the whole clan in tow? If you can manage to sneak away from the long lines and $20 soft pretzels for just one day, many of the major destination parks have some incredible fishing opportunities close by. Here are our top picks for roller coasters and rod bending. Build in one day to leave your family at the pool and you’re golden.
1. Largemouths: Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
This is the most popular theme park in the country, so chances are you’re going to wind up there at some point. Everyone knows the Sunshine State is a mecca for largemouth bass, and monster fish abound. Along with several other bodies of water, famed Lake Toho is minutes from Disney, and there’s no shortage of guides for hire. If you pack a travel rod and prefer the DIY approach, Florida is littered with tiny ponds and canals. All of them hold fish—yes, even the one that will probably be right in front of your hotel. You’ll catch largemouths galore and possibly hit some of Florida’s exotic species.
2. Blue Catfish: Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, Virginia
A big blue cat. (Keith Sutton/)
Busch Gardens is an easy drive from some heavily populated Eastern cities, which means it can be a zoo in the summer. If you’re stuck there and dying for a little space, a world-class blue cat fishery on the James River isn’t very far. Blues are active virtually year-round, and they feed extra hard in summer. The best part is that you’re almost guaranteed to catch fish, and most often a bunch of them. Cats over 20 pounds come frequently, and you have a legitimate shot at a 60-plus-pounder. Hunter Tucker (hawg hunterfishing.com) is a James expert and will get you on the bite.
3. Pike and Muskies: Nickelodeon Universe, Bloomington, Minnesota
Releasing a gator pike. (Brian Grossenbacher/)
There’s certainly no shortage of fishing opportunities in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, and being 15 minutes from the Twin Cities metro area during a Nickelodeon Universe visit isn’t a bad thing. Any lake in any city or suburban public park you hit is likely to hold bass, walleyes, pike, and probably muskies. Not to mention summer is a peak time for catching Minnesota ’skies. If you don’t want to set out on your own, muskie sharpie Josh Stevenson (mightymusky.com) can get you out for a day on the nearby St. Croix River or one of many local lakes.
4. Spotted Sand Bass: Legoland, Carlsbad, California
Legoland in California. (Christopher Bellette/Alamy/)
Kids into Legos? A trip to Legoland may be in order. Once you’re there, it’s an easy drive to San Diego Bay, which offers a variety of fishing opportunities. Both fresh- and saltwater anglers can take advantage of the thriving spotted sand bass fishery, known locally as bay bass. Fishing for them is identical to largemouth and smallmouth fishing, using the same light- to medium-action gear, and techniques like drop-shotting. If you’re looking for some larger quarry, the bay is loaded with leopard sharks. Capt. James Nelson (fishingguidesandiego.com) can get you on bass or sharks.
Dollywood is an American classic tucked into some of the most pristine natural forest in the country. The nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers unrivaled solitude and beauty, and a nice break from the hustle and bustle. The park is a traffic-free 25-minute drive away, and it’s home to numerous mountain-fed cold-water trout streams. Short hikes will put you in contact with a number of streams, but range deeper and chances are good you’ll find a spot with some wild brookies and browns that have never seen a fly or a lure before.