Outdoor Life https://www.outdoorlife.com Expert hunting and fishing tips, new gear reviews, and everything else you need to know about outdoor adventure. This is Outdoor Life. Wed, 06 Apr 2022 20:02:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.1 https://www.outdoorlife.com/uploads/2021/04/28/cropped-OL.jpg?auto=webp&width=32&height=32 Outdoor Life https://www.outdoorlife.com 32 32 Tennessee Angler Won’t Let Cancer Stop Her from Catching Giant Catfish https://www.outdoorlife.com/fishing/woman-fights-cancer-catches-giant-catfish/ Wed, 06 Apr 2022 20:02:44 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=186304
giant catfish
Paula Curtis Smith with a stud blue catfish. Paula Curtis Smith

Paula Curtis Smith recently landed a huge 69-pound catfish on the Tennessee River

The post Tennessee Angler Won’t Let Cancer Stop Her from Catching Giant Catfish appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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giant catfish
Paula Curtis Smith with a stud blue catfish. Paula Curtis Smith

Paula Curtis Smith has been catching giant blue catfish for years, and she’s not letting a recent cancer diagnosis slow her down. On April 3, she landed a 69-pound blue catfish (one of her biggest ever) from the Tennessee River, according to the Tennessean newspaper. Smith is from Waverly, Tennessee, and was fishing in Humphries County west of Nashville when she hooked the big cat. The fight and the landing were recorded on video and posted to Facebook.

Smith hooked the catfish in 45 feet of water using a cut skipjack herring bait. In the video she is seen fighting the fish deep in the middle of the Tennessee River, using stout catfish tackle.

At one point she has to maneuver her rod with the hooked catfish around another rod in a stern holder, and she jokingly says that maybe the fish is “just a 5-pounder.” But it’s obvious that she’s hooked into a giant. It takes Smith about 10 minutes to beat it.

Eventually, she works the fish to the surface where it slashes and splashes. There’s immediate urgency from her fishing companion as he locates a landing net and Smith struggles to lead the catfish into the hoop of mesh.

She tries to lift the net, but it’s too heavy, and for a moment the fish almost pulls the net back into the river. Smith’s companion grabs the net and hauls the fish aboard their boat, showing the cat’s enormous size and stomach.

As Smith works to unhook the fish, she says: “You have made my day – don’t bite me.”

Read Next: Two Kentucky Anglers Pull a Massive, 94-Pound Blue Cat Out of the Ohio River

She grabs the cat with both hands in its mouth, and struggles to lift it, getting its head and most of the body up for a final look before the video ends.

After the blue was weighed, it was released alive back into the river. While the 69-pounder is a giant for anyone, anywhere, Smith has caught bigger catfish, including a 70-pounder last May, and an 88-pounder four years ago. Her goal is to catch a 100-pound catfish. Smith started fishing again recently while undergoing treatment following her diagnosis in October, according to the Tennessean.

“No one should ever give up regardless of what they are facing,” Smith told the Tennessean.

The post Tennessee Angler Won’t Let Cancer Stop Her from Catching Giant Catfish appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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The Best Shot I’ll Ever Make: Fred Bear’s World-Record Stone Sheep, from the Archives https://www.outdoorlife.com/hunting/best-shot-ill-ever-make-fred-bear/ Wed, 06 Apr 2022 19:49:20 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=186245
Fred Bear Stone sheep art
A photo of the original artwork depicting Bear's shot. Illustration by John Floherty. Tyler Freel

Sometimes you look back and marvel that a certain shot connected—like this one, on a big Stone ram

The post The Best Shot I’ll Ever Make: Fred Bear’s World-Record Stone Sheep, from the Archives appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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Fred Bear Stone sheep art
A photo of the original artwork depicting Bear's shot. Illustration by John Floherty. Tyler Freel

It’s easy to forget that many of the people whom we consider legends were indeed just that: people. Iconic stories from the likes of Fred Bear have been told and retold, but much of the pith gets lost over time—and our heroes become more myth than human.

This particular story is one I’d heard many times. I’d even seen a small excerpt in a 100-year anniversary book published by Outdoor Life that I received as a Christmas present when I was a kid. It wasn’t until I picked up the April 1960 issue of Outdoor Life that the story really came to life. The printed words and the sweet smell of aged magazine paper transported me back in time then, and so does rereading it again here.

The story of Fred Bear’s world-record stone sheep is an amazing tale, but it also allows the reader to connect to the humanity of Fred. He was a legendary bowhunter, but he also had worries and doubts like the rest of us. He was also a salesman, who made sure to mention his then-new Bear Razorhead broadheads.

Product mentions aside, Bear still had a code of ethics in a time when such things were often looked at very differently. Some of the shots he took and things he advocated for would have him tarred and feathered by his self-proclaimed followers on the internet today. In fact, the shot that’s the subject of this story was reckless, and based on how he described the wound, Bear was extremely lucky to recover his sheep. He talks about his misgivings about taking that shot, and that he’d had to make a choice—fast. Its seems to me that doing so bothered him, even though everything worked out. And that says a lot about the man, and how he became a legend. —Tyler Freel

OL April 1960 Cover
The cover of the April 1960 issue of Outdoor Life, where this story was originally published. Tyler Freel

Best Shot I’ll Ever Make

By Fred Bear

As Told to Bryon W. Dalrymple

Knick was making his stalk below us, and it looked as if he’d get a goat. I grabbed my camera gear and told my Indian guide, Charles Quock, to stay here on top of the mountain with the horses. Then I hurriedly started picking my way toward the action. When I reached the spot I was aiming for, I couldn’t see Knick, but the goats were in plain sight. The two of them were bedded in a draw far down the steep mountainside, and one appeared to be an excellent trophy. To cover the scene, I set up a tripod for the camera with its telephoto lens. 

Now I waited, watching, and presently Knick emerged below me. He was doing a beautiful job. The goats lay placidly dreaming as he stalked closer and closer. They were just below a big rock-a perfect set-up. 

Now he was within 35 yards. A gunner might have shot from atop the mountain. But for Knick and the three others of us in our party, getting close to the target was a must. We were all archers. Our party included Elisha (Bud) Gray, a Michigan archer of wide experience and chairman of the board of R.C.A. Whirlpool; Ed Henkel, a bowman of similar experience and one of several owners of Lamina Tool & Die, Detroit, and Kenneth K. Knickerbocker (otherwise known as Knick), who has hunted with a bow for years and is chairman of the board of Acme Visible Records, Crozet, Virginia. I’m in the business of manufacturing archery equipment. To all of us, the stalk to within bow range was at least half the sport. 

Suddenly the goats were aware of their peril. As they rose, Knick drew the bow and let fly. It was a beautiful hit, dead center. I forgot to keep track of the other animal, but I saw this one run as I operated the camera. It covered possibly 200 yards. Then it fell, got up again, and disappeared into some buckbrush. 

Knick didn’t follow. He came back up and we talked excitedly, rehashing the incident, giving the animal plenty of time. We ate our lunch, and finally we worked down to the thicket. Knick’s trophy was waiting. It had died quickly-a fine specimen with 10-inch horns. 

I stood looking at it and thinking what a shake-of-the-dice business hunting is, especially big-game hunting. And particularly, right then, sheep hunting. I’d come several thousand miles after a Stone ram, and I wanted a good one so badly I could fairly smell the chops cooking and see the mounted head on my office wall. We were in an area of northern British Columbia that without question was one of the best spots on the continent for Stone sheep. But, though Charles and I had seen every other imaginable creature from ptarmigan to grizzly and caribou to moose, we hadn’t spotted a sheep. We had not seen so much as a single toothless and rheumatic old ewe. But instead of bemoaning my fate, I should have been remembering the axiom that patience is the hunter’s most valuable asset. 

The Stone ram, as most hunters know, is one of the truly great trophies among North American game. The horns are unusually long and graceful. In fact, the longest sheep horns ever taken were those of a Stone, and each measured over 50 inches. The Stone sheep is also intriguing because color patterns vary widely among individual animals. They vary so widely, in fact, that for many years there was-and still is in some quarters-much scientific uncertainty about just how many sheep species there are on the continent. 

Sportsmen, particularly for purposes of record keeping, recognize four species of North American sheep: 1. Bighorn. 2. Desert. 3. White (or Dall). 4. Stone. Scientists, on the other hand, tend to regard the bighorn and the desert sheep as parts of one super-species, and the Dall and Stone sheep as parts of another super-species. Some scientists even go so far as to lump all North American sheep under one super-species. 

Dall sheep are found mainly in Alaska and the Yukon, and the very dark Stones from central British Columbia north into the Yukon. Where the two colors overlap, most of the sheep are varying shades of gray, sometimes with dark saddles. Years ago these “saddle backs” were thought to be a full-fledged species, and were called the Fannin sheep. But now, in this section of the continent, all but the pure white ones are called Stone sheep by sportsmen. I was hoping to get a fairly dark animal, but I was concerned mostly with trying to get a very respectable head. And while I wasn’t dead set on a record, no hunter can help hoping one will come his way. 

I had come out from my home at Grayling, Michigan, by United Airlines to Seattle, thence via Canadian Pacific Airline to Vancouver and far on north to Prince George, about 400 miles above the Washington-British Columbia border. The last leg of our journey was a four-hour flight northward from Prince George in a chartered Norseman. Finally our pilot eased us down upon the mirrorlike surface of Coldfish Lake. What a fabulous sweep of wilderness!

Fred Bear Climbing Sheep
Artist’s depiction of Stone sheep climbing the “stairway” and Fred’s guide trying out his bow. Outdoor Life, April, 1960. Tyler Freel

Coldfish Lake is about 150 miles east of Telegraph Creek, which has long been an outfitting area for big game hunting in northern British Columbia. Before there was much flying, the only way to enter the area was out of Telegraph. It took seven or eight days by packtrain, and few hunters got in. Most of those who did were interested in caribou; the region is noted for its big heads. 

When the plane taxied to the dock, all of us were pleased to see that base camp was really a solid-looking haven in this far wilderness. By the looks of the crowd on the camp dock, we were having a regular homecoming. Out there to welcome us were Tommy Walker, our outfitter, his partner, Rusty Russell, their wives, and help galore-wranglers and guides, both Indian and white. 

On the brink of the hill above the well-built camp was a corral, its fence lined with the wives and children of the Indian men. Behind them was their small “village,” and from back beyond it could be heard the defiant barking of sled dogs. Now that we were down and looking at the surrounding country from the dock, it was even more awe-inspiring than it had been from above. Here were towering peaks as far as we could see. We were only about 200 miles south of the Yukon border, and roughly halfway between the Pacific and the Alberta line. 

Every irregularity of the high mountains seemed to be filled by glaciers, and in these were born cascading streams that tumbled down through the spruce and jackpine of the valleys. Here we would hunt in thousands of square miles inhabited only by Stone sheep, goats, grizzlies, moose, and caribou. I could hardly get unpacked fast enough and ready for tomorrow’s start. 

Shortly after daylight Ed Henkel, Knick, and I went with Tommy Walker down to the east end of Coldfish Lake to do some fishing. I’d brought tackle along at Tommy’s urging, and I wanted to give it a try before starting the hunt. Otherwise, I knew, I’d likely not take time. It was arranged that we would fish while the pack outfit was made up and got under way. It would pass us later, on the way to our first outpost camp. Saddle horses would be dropped off for us for our trip to camp later. 

I unraveled a cast and laid a small dry fly on the calm, frigid water. Instantly there was a swirl, and I was tied to one of the most wild-eyed rainbows I’ve ever seen. It came out in a long leap, fell back, tried again, then bored down and fought stubbornly. It wasn’t large, by wilderness standards. In fact, we found that most of these trout averaged between one and two pounds. But they were beautiful specimens, fat and hard-fleshed, their meat brilliant red and delicious. It was hard to lay down a cast and not get a strike. Time passed quickly, and in my excitement over the fishing I even forgot about sheep. We caught many rainbows, kept all we thought we could eat, and that night the cook heaped our plates with them. I turned in full and content, certain that tomorrow I’d see sheep galore. 

Charles Quock and I set off at daylight, riding slowly and glassing the mountainsides carefully. The weather was far from congenial, but right then my spirits were high and it didn’t seem to matter. Presently we spotted a good moose. 

“You want this moose?” Charles asked. 

I shook my head. “Sheep,” I said, grinning. 

Charles grinned, too, and nodded. “Sheep.” 

Not long after that we spotted another moose. And later, my horse shied as a small flock of ptarmigan flushed. But stare as I would at the peaks, I could see nothing that remotely resembled a sheep. 

During the afternoon it seemed that everywhere we looked there were white patches high on the steep mountainsides. Goats. Charles and I would pause to have a look. I had already taken a goat with my bow on a previous hunt, so I wasn’t anxious to try for another. When Charles looked at me and grinned questioningly after we’d spotted an especially good one, I just shook my head again. I felt this pleased Charles. And I was anxious to please him, for often a bowhunter is a bit handicapped with a wilderness guide. Many of them have never guided archers. Some guides are inclined to take bowhunting as something of a joke, or to be disturbed for fear an arrow can’t do the required job. I had purposely given Charles some instructions about the bow, and I’d let him shoot it to prove what it could do. He was, I felt, an excellent hunter, and I knew he’d hunt all the better if he respected my singleness of purpose and my weapon. 

But none of it did any good that day. After many hours in the saddle, Charles and I came in bushed. We had spotted numerous goats, four moose, six caribou- and no sheep. I didn’t want to be discouraged after just one day at it, but I felt that my guide was also a bit disturbed at no sign of sheep. I crawled into my bag that night with a little bit of the buoyancy worn off. 

On the morning of Friday, September 13, I came close to putting sheep in No. 2 place. I was looking absently across to the mountain opposite camp when I realized something was moving there. It was a grizzly, and a beauty. He was a big, black one with much silver up his back, neck, and head, and with black rings around his eyes. If there is one animal that gives me a thrill, it’s the grizzly. The previous year I’d shot a grizzly in the Yukon with my bow, the second one ever taken by an archer. That one had given me a few bad moments (“Arrow for a Grizzly,” OUTDOOR LIFE, October. 1957) for I had stalked it very close. I was not sure I wanted to crowd my luck too far on this superstition-clouded date. But the more I looked. the more I itched. 

“Tommy,” I said to Walker, who was also glassing the bear, “I’ve just got to try him.” 

It was 10 a.m. by the time we were ready to leave camp. We rode part way, then left the horses and climbed to a spot well above where we had last seen him. But it was no good. He was nowhere to be seen. We stuck with it until 3:30 p.m. and then gave up and went back to camp. I took a careful look but still couldn’t find him. We ate a bite and I tried again—and there he was, on the next mountain. I got out the spotting scope and began watching him. He was stuffing himself with berries—blueberries, cranberries, mossberries. 

After a while, someone set up another scope and said, “There’s a billy goat over this way.” But I kept watching the bear and thinking about all the game we were seeing, yet no sheep. This grizzly was one of several that had tempted me so far. It was ironic. The previous year, in the Yukon. I had set my heart on a grizzly and a goat, and finally got both. On that hunt I was almost always in sight of Dall sheep, yet never took time out to hunt one. And, that time, the grizzly was tough to locate. This year I could see grizzlies and goats all over the place, but no sheep. I began to wonder if possibly I should just hunt each animal as it came along, rather than lose out on everything by singleness of purpose. 

Then came the day that I think would have been worth the trip, just because of what we saw. Charles and I rode over a modest range, and suddenly there across a valley were rams—Stone rams. Nine of them! 

I was hypnotized by what we were witnessing. I don’t believe I even thought about my bow. We were much too far off for a shot, anyway, and a stalk at this moment would have been impossible. But we were compensated by seeing a sequence that very few persons have ever been privileged to watch. 

The rams were hurrying head-to-tail along a shale slide. They were moving up toward a sheer cliff of what appeared to be an insurmountable outcropping of rimrock. We swung down and got our glasses on them and were amazed to see the lead ram, followed by the rest of the band, enter a crevice. In the distant past a glacier-fed stream had cut a vertical slit in the face of the cliff. The slit was about eight feet wide, 60 feet high, and jagged all the way up. 

These jagged edges made only the smallest protrusions on each side of the vertical slit. Obviously neither side could be climbed, and I was puzzled about what the sheep would do. They didn’t pause, or even slow down, and suddenly I saw the lead ram bounce from one small foothold on the right side of the slit across and upward. He hit the tiniest outcrop on the opposite side, finding a precarious foothold for only a split second. From an off-balance position, he bounced again, back across and up. 

Behind him came the others, bouncing back and forth across the eight-foot-wide cut, up, up, up, until one at a time they topped out on the flat rim above. The great naturalist Seton described this breathtaking ability of mountain sheep. He called such crevices habitually used in this fashion “sheep stairways” or “sheep ladders.” I do not believe any other animal except the goat could have followed those rams. 

We examined this area further with a scope, and we discovered a well-beaten trail along the slide to the bottom of the “stairway.” The trail picked up again at the top of the “stairway” and ran along the top of the rimrock to the safety of the peaks beyond. There was no possible way for us to follow. Nonetheless, I somehow had a hunch that this was going to change our luck. 

Fred Bear Sheep Spread
A photo of the opening spread for the story. Outdoor Life, April 1960. Tyler Freel

Next day Charles and I rode a long way up a creek, intending to work up into the higher elevations. We saw a moose, and on impulse decided to try for it. All we got for the effort was a lot of lost time. It was now noon. We stopped on another small creek where we’d abandoned the moose chase, and ate our lunch. As we were eating, we saw a white spot on the mountain above. It was a mile away. 

“Goat,” I said. But I got out the scope anyway. It was not a goat. It was a rock. 

But now something happened that was totally unexpected. As we examined the whitish rock with the sun reflecting from it, we saw something beside it-a Stone ram! What a fluke. 

Charles studied it intently through the scope, and there was subdued excitement in his voice when he said, “Full curl.” 

Neither of us said another word. We simply forgot lunch and got going. 

With utmost care and patience and an agony of hard climbing, we came at last to a spot where we thought we might be in position. The ram had been turned away from us. But now, when we eased our heads over the ridge, he was lying there facing us about 50 yards away. My heart almost stopped. He was a beautiful specimen. 

He didn’t take time to study us. He simply bounded up, whirled, and raced away over the shale. I rose and drew as swiftly as I could, and let off the arrow. By then he was at least 60 yards off—a long shot in this game. The arrow never caught up with him, and he disappeared around the mountain. 

We took off in hot pursuit, desperately hoping for another chance. The ram must have climbed straight up the rocky peak, for when we next glimpsed him he was at the top, about 400 yards above us, standing and looking our way. I think any rifle hunter can understand how frustrating it is to an archer to get within easy range and then have something like this happen. We continued swiftly along the slant, planning to circle over the top to see if we could find him on the other side. 

After crossing the shale, we came to a grassy, rolling, steep hillside. Charles was ahead and I was following as swiftly as I could, panting from such vigorous exertion in this altitude. As I loped along, I happened to look back, and was startled to see that we’d passed three more rams in a depression. One was lying down; the other two were feeding, unaware of all this. For a moment I was undecided, but Charles beckoned insistently. The first ram was far larger than any of these. 

Just before we reached the top, I glimpsed the big fellow crossing the next draw. I signaled to Charles, who was still ahead. He came back and we watched the ram go over the next ridge. Then we moved over the top and right into a group of seven rams. They scattered like quail. We were as startled as they were, but we had no time for them. Both of us were now doggedly determined to somehow catch up to Mr. Big. 

We circled back and peeked over a ridge. With a sick feeling, I saw our ram at a full 150 yards below. just going over yet another ridge. My heart was hammering, and I couldn’t get enough air. For a moment I wondered why a man will punish himself this way. But I also knew I was going to keep following that ram until I either killed it or had to quit from exhaustion. 

The successful hunting of both sheep and goats, as most hunters realize, requires a tremendous amount of grueling work. Before previous hunts, I had usually been able to train for several weeks so I could look at a mountain without dread. This time, however, I had flown straight from my office chair, and even after having been here a bit, I still wasn’t in very good shape. 

Many people have asked me if bowhunting for sheep doesn’t make the job doubly severe. The longer I hunt and the more experience I gain, the more evident it becomes to me that the species of animal hunted is of little consequence. The big problem is always to come within bow range. Any deviation of tactics or any extra labor comes about because of the terrain, with little emphasis on the type of game. 

Sheep of course spend a great deal of time in the roughest of country. The more broken the terrain, obviously, the better chance a hunter has of getting close. Some sheep, because of their location, simply can’t be approached closer than rifle range. Sheep have very good eyes, and take alarm at seeing a man, even from long distances. But patience and work, together with the law of averages, will sometimes present the proper situation. 

When you come upon a sheep suddenly at close range, for instance, he is apt to be confused, like the goat, and to just stand and stare in amazement while you shoot. 

There’s another important factor that should be considered by the sheep hunter whether he’s an archer or a rifleman. Although a sheep is likely to take off fast when he spots a hunter at a distance, dogged pursuit will sometimes turn the trick. And dogged ours was, as we skidded down over fine shale, then up to the ridge the great prize had disappeared over. Still it was no use—he was then just going over still another rise. 

We ran. It seemed crazy, but we hurled ourselves down the slope. Charles knew that sometime, somewhere, that ram was going to pause to look back, to make sure if he’d shaken us. The question was-where? And could I make it that far? 

We were gasping for breath as we came up toward the top of the next ridge, and we slowed down. Just as we could barely see across the ridge top, we spotted the ram. He was standing about 40 yards away, and from where we were, we could see only his head. He was looking at us; he knew we were after him. 

I never like a head-on shot, for just a few inches either way will only wound the animal. The hole down into the chest cavity at the entrance to the rib cage is no larger than a baseball. Not only that, but if I now made a full draw and shot high enough to clear the ridge, the only place I could hit the ram was in the head, which wasn’t good. Had I been alone, I know I would not have shot. But Charles barked, “Shoot! Quick!” 

In that split second, the realization flashed through my mind that if I hesitated- after all this agonizing labor Charles would be disgusted. I’d lose face with him and probably my hunt would be ruined from there on. There was only one course: I drew the 67- pound bow short, and let fly, trying to lob the arrow over the ridge and drop it below our line of sight into the brisket of the ram. 

The shaft with its vicious razorhead—carrying an insert blade at right angles to the main one—left the string and went up and over the ridge. It disappeared in its downward flight, continuing the lobbed arc. All of this sequence, from the moment we’d sighted the ram’s head to the instant the arrow vanished, had taken no more than a second or two. As the head of the sheep disappeared, I got the sick feeling that the arrow had dropped too low after clearing the ridge. That would put it harmlessly between the ram’s forelegs. I knew that a shot of the kind I had tried wasn’t possible. 

I was still gasping for breath, and I didn’t want to go to the ridge top to look. But Charles bounded up there, and then I saw him look back with a wide grin. 

“Blood,” he said. Red trail ahead, too.” down the other side. “Blood all over. He waved a hand down the other side.

I forgot I was bushed and winded. I raced up the ridge and looked; Charles was right. Looking down more carefully, we saw the ram. He had run about 60 yards, and had died on his feet. He was jammed against a rock halfway down the shale slide. He had rolled until he hit the rock. 

We hurried down to him. What a beautiful animal! He would dress out well over 250 pounds, and his horns were not broomed. They had a 41-inch curl (40 inches after shrinkage), and a 27-inch spread. I was a very lucky fellow to get a ram this big, and would have been happy with a smaller one. It’s believed to be the first Stone ram ever taken by a white man with a bow. 

Fred Bear's Stone sheep
Fred Bear with his magnificent Stone sheep,—after rolling it down the mountain. Outdoor Life, April, 1960 Tyler Freel

I examined the arrow wound. It was a gaping hole right in the middle of the brisket. I had never seen a more devastating wound. The arrow had cut one or more large neck veins, skidded between the rib cage and the shoulder blade, shed its insert blade, and passed out through a slit behind the front leg. We looked but never did find the 28- inch fiberglass arrow. 

Undoubtedly I was lucky in bringing off this shot. But lucky know this was probably the best shot I’ll ever make. 

We had left our hats back some distance, with rocks on them to keep them from blowing away. Charles went back after them. 

As he left he said, “Roll him down the mountain.” 

I was most reluctant. “That’ll break the horns,” I said. 

Charles chuckled. “Goat horns brittle, sheep not,” he said. 

Read Next: Miracle on the Tundra: How One Caribou Hunter Survived a Five-Day Blizzard

He left, and I rolled the ram, fearing the worst as it tumbled about 400 yards down the slope and finally came to rest on a bench. Presently Charles returned and we worked our way down. Sure enough, the horns were undamaged. I was greatly relieved. Charles grinned and gave it another nudge. This time it rolled a quarter of a mile, down to where we could get it with the horses. 

Charles dressed out the ram, and we took some pictures. It was 4 :30 p.m. and had started raining. We went back to our saddle horses and headed for camp-four hours away. We’d come up next day with a pack animal to take the sheep out. 

Next morning, shortly after the sun was up, I looked across from camp and saw a good grizzly on the mountainside. I got the scope and watched him. 

Charles came up beside me and said, “You want to hunt grizzly bear?” 

“Just want to look, Charles,” I said. “Sheep is enough. I know I’ll never be able to repeat that shot of yesterday.” 

THE END 

The post The Best Shot I’ll Ever Make: Fred Bear’s World-Record Stone Sheep, from the Archives appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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FX Maverick Review: Out-of-the-Box Precision https://www.outdoorlife.com/gear/fx-maverick-review/ Wed, 06 Apr 2022 19:20:04 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=186230
A black air rifle on a wooden stand
The author’s FX Maverick hunting rig with Element Helix Scope and DonnyFL suppressor. Jim Chapman

The FX Maverick has benchrest competiton accuracy in a hunting platform

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A black air rifle on a wooden stand
The author’s FX Maverick hunting rig with Element Helix Scope and DonnyFL suppressor. Jim Chapman

I tested the FX Maverick on everything from small game to small feral pigs. And while this bullpup is a deadly and accurate hunting air rifle, it also surprised me by how well it performed at the range. Out of the box, this gun is accurate, and it doesn’t require much tuning but still has the capability to do so. It’s not as adjustable as other FX models, but the Maverick utilizes two dual AMP regulators, which allows for more consistent accurate shots. This means you can feel confident shooting this airgun in the field or on the bench. So, if you’ve been looking for one that excels at both, then the FX Maverick merits serious consideration.

FX Maverick Specs and Features

FX Airguns

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  • Configurations: compact, sniper, VP
  • Cocking system: sidelever
  • Calibers: .177, .22, .25, .30
  • Barrel lengths: 19.7, 23.6, 27.6 inches
  • Weight: 6.4, 7.3, 7.5 pounds
  • Trigger: adjustable match
  • Removable high-cap magazine

The FX Maverick is a bullpup configured precharged pneumatic airgun, available in several calibers. The stock is based on an aluminum frame with a tactical design that accepts several standard third-party components, which allows for further customization. There’s a Picatinny scope rail and another mounted between the trigger assembly and the air bottle for mounting a bipod or other accessories.

One feature on the Maverick that stands out is the two adjustable AMP regulators that work in tandem. The first regulates the air delivered to the second regulator, which improves consistency. It depends on the configuration, but one option includes the 98-cc Power Plenum, which allows an even higher energy output, and this gun works particularly well with the FX Hybrid Slug. The use of the FX Superior STX Standard Liner in the shrouded barrel facilitates a high degree of intrinsic accuracy, and along with the ergonomic stock design and the adjustable match grade FX trigger, helps the shooter maximize the gun’s potentials.

While not as adjustable as the FX Impact, the Maverick utilizes an easily accessible power adjuster that’s situated behind the breech that the FX Wildcat MKIII utilizes. This is coupled with an adjustable hammer that allows you to easily dial in the gun. You can then adjust the Dual AMP Regulators for the various caliber options or to optimize performance for a specific projectile.

The tactile cocking handle and buttery smooth sidelever action permits rapid follow up shots when needed. And the positioning of the sidelever makes this possible without breaking your cheekweld. You can also set the adjustable match grade trigger at a low weight that’ll break like a glass rod, and the ergonomic post and blade configuration provide excellent contact for the finger pad.

Testing the FX Maverick in the Field

I’ve been shooting the FX Maverick for over a year and have taken it on many hunting trips ranging from rabbits to (small) feral hogs and have a great deal of confidence in it as a field gun. Recently, I sat down at the bench with howling North Texas winds and shot a few groups before heading out on a hog hunt. I decided to shoot the FX Hybrid Slugs, a purpose-designed airgun slug. I believed they would perform well enough to penetrate the thick skull of a hog and suspected they might be more stable in high winds.

A man wearing camo holding a black air rifle
Dialing in with the Hybrid Slugs before a hunt. Jim Chapman

After re-zeroing the gun, I noticed that the POI (point of impact) of the slugs sat about two inches from the JSB Exact pellets’ POI. I put a 10-shot string across the chronograph and averaged 840 fps with an 8-fps variation for a power output of approximately 70 ft-lb. This is excellent consistency, which contributed to accurate shooting, and allowed me to put five slugs into a one-inch group at 50 yards in high winds.

A cardboard box with a black target and bullet holes in it
The maverick produced a 10-shot 50-yard group with the Hybrid slugs in howling winds. Jim Chapman

In the field, I had the opportunity to drop the crosshairs on a 30-pound pig early one morning. At 45 yards, I aimed just behind the ear and let the pellet fly. On impact, the hog dropped like the proverbial brick and didn’t move. This gun is a proven shooter in the field and at the range.

What the FX Maverick Does Worst

This is still an expensive rifle, so you’ll have to lay down a significant chunk of change to own one. And once you’re in this price strata, it’s worth the extra couple hundred bucks to invest in the Impact. If you really want the adjustability of the Impact and plan to focus on competitive shooting, it’s the better option. Even though the FX Maverick is easier to set up than the Impact, if you start to fiddle with the settings a certain amount of finesse is required to keep the two regulators in balance.

While I’m just nit-picking at this point, I wish the safety was further forward. Everything else on this gun has an ergonomic design, so it bugs me to reach back into a blind spot to operate the safety lever. Still, this isn’t a major issue, and I had to stretch to find something I’d change about this gun.

What the FX Maverick Does Best

This is a high-performance rig for those that want to shoot rather than tinker. What I mean is that it performs well out of the box in several applications, and you don’t have to spend time tweaking it to perfection. At the same time, you can fine-tune it within limits. However, if you’re a benchrest shooter that weighs and resizes your pellets, times your shots, and sets up wind indicators along the shooting lanes, you might prefer the Impact over the Maverick. But if you want to grab the gun and go hunting, and maybe shoot a competition now and again, the Maverick is the way to go.

In my experience the FX Maverick excels as a small game gun but has the shoulders to lean into longer shots and bigger quarry when necessary. It’s compact and ergonomic, which makes it easy to carry and deploy even in tight shooting spaces. But it also has the accuracy for competitive shooting if you decide to test your marksmanship that way.

A man in the field carrying a hog he shot
A feral hog taken with the author’s Maverick and the FX Hybrid Slug. Jim Chapman

Final Thoughts on the FX Maverick

The FX Maverick has just about everything you want in an ergonomic and extremely accurate bullpup. While it’s expensive, the gun does have the ability to add additional calibers, specialty barrels, and third-party components, which might negate the need to buy multiple guns and save you money in the long run. I think that If I was limited to one gun, the Maverick would make my short list.

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Miracle on the Tundra: How One Caribou Hunter Survived a 5-Day Blizzard https://www.outdoorlife.com/survival/caribou-hunter-survived-blizzard/ Wed, 06 Apr 2022 15:58:36 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=186193
Illustration of caribou, hunter, and blizzard
Illustration by Kako

When a caribou hunter sets out from his small village in Nunavut, a snowstorm turns his day trip into a fight for his life

The post Miracle on the Tundra: How One Caribou Hunter Survived a 5-Day Blizzard appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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Illustration of caribou, hunter, and blizzard
Illustration by Kako

A crude shelter in a vast winter landscape, the conspicuous lump on the tundra resembles a misshapen, man-made boulder. Its bright blue shell luffs like a loose sail and shudders in the wind. One end of the tarp is fastened to a broken-down snowmobile. The other ends are pulled to the ground and anchored by the snow and rime that have accumulated over the last few days. Inside the makeshift dwelling, two frozen fists clench the tarp.

Curled in the fetal position, the man cannot feel or move his two bare hands, but the rigid muscles in his fingers hold fast, gripping the tarp in bunches and holding it tight to his body. He is dressed, like the hunters who came before him, in traditional clothing made of bearded seal skins and caribou hides. He’s lying on top of a plastic sled with his knees drawn to his stomach, and except for the subtle rising and falling of his chest, he hasn’t moved in days.

He doesn’t see the cloud of snow swirling all around him, and he doesn’t hear the wind howling as it tries to rip the tarp from his body. Instead, he dreams.

He sees white humans and black humans standing over him in a fog. He hears angels singing gospel songs. Alone on the Arctic tundra with a blizzard burying the landscape in white, the man awaits the arrival of ukpik, the snowy owl that, tradition says, shepherds the spirits of the dead to the afterworld.

The People and the Caribou

Before they had snowmobiles and high-powered rifles, the Caribou Inuit who lived nomadically on the west shore of Hudson Bay hunted caribou using canoes and spears. They relied on their knowledge of the terrain and the migration routes the herds used each year. The hunters would float patiently on rivers and inlets, ambushing herds when they were in the middle of a deep crossing.

Read Next: The Survivor’s Mindset: The Latest Digital Edition of Outdoor Life Is Here

Much like the tatonka, the buffalo that nourished the Plains Indians farther south on the continent, tuktu provided a way of life for the people of the Arctic Rim. Caribou were the single most important food source on the tundra, and every part of the animal was appreciated and used. Their skins became material for clothing, tents, blankets, and sleds. Their bones, antlers, hooves, and tendons were used to make thread, needles, nets, knives, and other essential tools. Over time, the species came to symbolize endurance and regeneration, and caribou became the spiritual life force of the People.

This sense of reverence that the Inuit held for the caribou was also bestowed on the caribou hunters themselves, who would set out with pride, confidence, and the simple knowledge that hunting tuktu is what they were put on this earth to do. They hunted caribou to survive, but more importantly, they lived to hunt caribou.

They still do. And aside from their tools and tactics, which have allowed them to take up a more sedentary lifestyle, not much has changed for the caribou hunters who live in the Kivalliq region of Canada today.

So when a modern-day subsistence hunter named Ernie Kiinaalik Eetak left his home in Arviat on a solo mission in late November 2021, he carried with him the same fire that his ancestors carried in their bellies. He would need it too, for it was about to get cold.

The Hunt Breaks Down

On this same remote permafrost landscape, well north of the treeline, lies Arviat. It’s one of a handful of small native villages located in the northernmost province of Nunavut on the west shore of Hudson Bay. During the warmer part of the year, this country holds more water than land, and the lack of a proper road system makes traveling inland from the bay difficult or, at times, impossible. But when the snow begins to fall and the rivers and lakes freeze over, the region becomes accessible via snowmobile.

Navigating this flat and seemingly barren landscape is no simple task, however, and without a GPS to guide him, 42-year-old Eetak depended on his wits and memories as he rode his machine across the tundra, following the same routes that his elders had used. The old Polaris two-stroke let out its high-pitched whine as it zipped across the snow, headed west.

Eetak had left his wife and two children after breakfast that morning. He did not plan to be gone for longer than a day, and aside from the double-barreled shotgun slung across his back, he carried little gear. On the small plastic sled that he towed behind the Polaris, there were an extra parka, a bolt-action rifle, a rolled-up tarp, a satchel with a few basic tools, and a can of gasoline. Tucked away in the pockets of his parka he had a knife, a lighter, a pack of cigarettes, a fistful of .243 cartridges, and some 12-gauge slugs. He carried neither food nor water—just a small thermos of coffee.

He rode with the hood of his parka pulled up, looking straight ahead through his caribou-antler sunglasses. Only a sliver of tundra was visible through the two slits carved in the narrow bone, and that was enough. They had already helped him spot five caribou.

It was lightly snowing and slightly foggy, which was typical for late November in that part of the world. The hidden sun hung low in the sky; it was just past noon, and it would set in a few hours.

Illustration caribou hunter and snowmobile
Illustration by Kako

Eetak knew that if he didn’t catch up to the caribou soon, he would have to turn back empty-handed. They were still a ways out, and he was now roughly 50 miles from home. He raced the sinking sun anyway.

On a different day he might have caught them. But the caribou never turned, and Eetak’s machine wasn’t fast enough to close the gap. Still the hunter searched and squinted in the fading light. He marked the last place he had seen the animals, then finally turned around for home.

By the time he could see the village lights, he was maybe 20 miles away. A couple hours’ ride, tops. But then his snowmobile died.

Eetak turned off the engine, opened the gas cap, and saw enough in the tank. Then he got off the snowmobile and walked back to the small sled, where he took off his caribou-hide mittens and rummaged around in the tool satchel until he found a spare spark plug and swapped it out.

The two-stroke fired right up, only to break down again less than an hour later. He tried the ignition. Nothing. Next he grabbed the cord and yanked it to pull-start the engine. He pulled once, then again, and again, but he couldn’t get the machine to run.

So he did the best thing he could think of: Eetak started walking toward town.

Dragging the plastic sled that carried his hunting gear, he walked in a straight line until ice began to crack beneath his boots. He altered course and headed toward a large boulder, a sure sign of solid ground.

By the time he made it there, he was exhausted and decided to take a nap. He fell asleep in no time with his back against the rock.

The Storm

From here, Eetak’s story gets a little fuzzy. The trauma combined with the language barrier made some details difficult to fully comprehend when I interviewed him. But here’s how Eetak tells it.

Hours later, he awoke to a wolverine chewing angrily on his thick boots. The big weasel stood its ground until a groggy Eetak grabbed his lighter, cupped his hand around it, and flicked it on, scaring off the wolverine.

It was clear the weather had changed during his nap. The wind was screaming, the snow blew sideways, and when Eetak stretched his mittened hand out in front of his face, it disappeared before he could straighten his elbow. Everything was white.

He grabbed his sled, tied the rope around his waist, and found his footprints, which he followed as fast as he could to the broken-down snowmobile.

Eetak kept moving when he reached the Polaris. His mind went straight to shelter—he didn’t even try the engine this time. Instead, he started gathering snow to build a small igloo, but every pile he made was whipped away by the wind. When he reached for a tool from the sled and placed his mittens on the machine’s seat, those blew away too, disappearing into the great white void.

Eetak shoved his hands in his pockets and looked around, clenching his teeth as he fought the urge to panic. His mind still on shelter, he unrolled the blue tarp that was lashed to the sled and grabbed a few lengths of cord from his tool kit.

He unhooked the sled, tied two corners of the tarp to the snowmobile, and pulled his gear underneath the windblown tarp. Huddled underneath it, he folded the edges in, cramming them into the snowy ground and weighing them down with tools and guns. When he came across the thermos of coffee, he drained the few sips that were left and sucked on an icicle, imagining it was a cigarette. Then he put on the extra parka, climbed onto the sled now sheltered by the tarp, and curled into a ball.

By 2 a.m. the temperature had dropped to minus 58 degrees F. The wind was howling across the flats and gusting to 90 miles per hour, and Eetak shivered sleeplessly through the morning. Whenever he would start to nod off, wind would catch the tarp, and he would have to grab it to keep it from flying away. He finally got a better hold on the tarp and balled it tightly in his fists.

By afternoon, Eetak’s core temperature had dropped considerably. He was bitterly cold, thirsty, and desperately sleepy, but he was no longer shivering. And by the evening of the second day, he could no longer fight the urge to rest. Sleep swallowed him whole.

That evening, Eetak’s wife Angelina contacted the local search and rescue crew in Arviat. He should have returned home the previous day, she told them, and she hadn’t heard from him. Some of the men on the crew knew her husband, and blizzard or no blizzard, they told her, they would start searching for him first thing the next morning. So she returned home to their two kids, where they looked out the window and waited for the storm to break.

Dying Dreams

Eetak spent five days on the tundra, huddled beneath the tarp while the blizzard raged around him. He was now living in a dream, and the only way out, it would seem, was to die.

And in fact, that’s how he describes it—as Eetak puts it, he did die for five days. What exactly happened to his body in such conditions remains something of a mystery. His account could be taken figuratively, or he could be describing a kind of death of his consciousness: a coma.

Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht operates the Laboratory for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at the University of Manitoba. He’s also been hypothermic 40 times, mostly as a subject in his own studies about how the human body functions as its core temperature drops.

During the first 10 years of his career, the lab had permission from the university’s ethics board to cool people in 46-degree water so researchers could monitor physiological functioning during cooling and rewarming. But getting hypothermia on dry land, he says, is significantly more punishing.

“It’s a brutal experience to become hypothermic in cold air,” Giesbrecht says. “It’s something that usually occurs over many hours, if not days.”

With the ripped tarp hanging in tatters from his hands, he walked for about an hour, then collapsed.

Giesbrecht explains that even “moderately” hypothermic people can develop amnesia—he experienced this firsthand when he was training for a trip to the North Pole. And as the body’s core temperature drops below 82 degrees toward the “severe” stage, he says, “your recollection of what happened can be based on dreams.”

Giesbrecht can’t say for sure whether comas happen at such extreme temperatures, because he’s never been able to test for such a thing. But according to The Merck Manual, the world’s bestselling medical textbook, “central nervous system dysfunction progresses as body temperature decreases; people do not sense the cold. Lethargy and clumsiness are followed by confusion, irritability, sometimes hallucinations, and eventually coma.”

Giesbrecht is struck by the fact that Eetak lost his mittens early on, and he calls this moment “a tragedy” given his knowledge about what happens to bare skin at such temperatures. But he also says that Eetak’s traditional clothing likely made the difference between life and death.

“There are a lot of [studies] done on natural clothing or fur clothing versus the down-filled or synthetic clothing we have down here,” Giesbrecht says. “Most Inuit people aren’t tooling around pulling sleds for fun or adventure—they’re working to make a living, and they’re sitting on a snowmobile rather than skiing. Or they’re sitting still and hunting. So that was really the perfect clothing to protect him from dying of hypothermia.”

The Awakenings

It was still below zero by noon on the fifth day, but the sky was shockingly blue. The sun illuminated the lumpy little shelter, and without the wind, the tundra was soundless.

In Eetak’s dream, he was floating over the ground, looking upward.

But then Eetak took a big breath. And when his eyelids peeled back, he could feel sunlight as it passed through the tarp. He could see it too, but only through his right eye. He was blind in the other. He lay there for a moment, breathing steam, and when he sat up he felt trapped. He looked down at his numb hands. When he drew them toward his body, he saw they were still balled into fists, and the tarp was stuck to his skin. He rocked his weight back and forth, tearing the tarp little by little until he was able to break free.

Standing wasn’t easy either, but Eetak managed it. Then he turned toward home. With the ripped tarp hanging in tatters from his heavy hands, he walked for about an hour before he got lightheaded and collapsed. He landed on his back, his face turned toward the sky. He passed out.

He was awoken by a man shaking him. The rest of the search party was gathered around. They spoke Inuktitut, his native language, but he was too dizzy and confused to understand what they were saying. The next thing he remembers is being towed across the tundra, strapped to a sled and wrapped in blankets.

When Eetak awoke for the third time that day, it was late in the evening on Dec. 2. It had been five days since he’d set out on his hunt. Now he was lying on a hospital bed in Winnipeg as it rolled toward an operating room, where a team of surgeons prepared to amputate both hands above the wrists. Angelina walked with them down the hall, her hand on Eetak’s shoulder.

Home on the Tundra

I spoke with Eetak for the first time in January, about a month after he was reunited with Angelina in the hospital. She held the phone while we talked. Vision had returned to his left eye, and he was getting ready for yet another doctor’s appointment, but he sounded genuinely excited about this one.

“I can’t wait to get my steel hands,” he said. “So I can grab anything and still go hunting.”

Caribou hunter recovers in hospital
Eetak recovers at the hospital in Winnipeg after his hands were amputated. Angelina Eetak

Our conversation drifted through the past, present, and future. He talked about the events leading up to the storm and his experience under the tarp—or at least what he was able to remember from it. He described how happy he was to hear the ambulance siren wailing as it rushed him to the hospital in Winnipeg. And at one point, he told me about a distinct moment that occurred during his first day alone in the hospital after the surgery.

“When I was in Winnipeg for the first time, I was sitting in the hospital room,” Eetak said. “And an eagle landed on my window, a big eagle. And I was so surprised. I was so happy to see a big eagle.”

I told him I thought that was a good sign, and he laughed and agreed. He would be going home soon.

Read More Survival Stories from Our Latest Issue

This story originally appeared in the No. 1, 2022 issue of Outdoor Life magazine. Here’s how you can read the digital edition:

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Charter Captain Helps Rescue Cuban Refugees from Drowning in the Florida Keys https://www.outdoorlife.com/survival/charter-captain-rescues-cuban-refugees/ Wed, 06 Apr 2022 02:28:18 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=185925
A Florida charter captain helped rescue Cuban refugees from drowning.
The raft had 10 men aboard, and it was taking on water when Brandenburg spotted it. Joel Brandenburg photo

After spotting the small, homemade raft roughly 20 miles off the Florida Keys, Captain Joel Brandenburg contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and stayed with the refugees until help arrived

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A Florida charter captain helped rescue Cuban refugees from drowning.
The raft had 10 men aboard, and it was taking on water when Brandenburg spotted it. Joel Brandenburg photo

The 53-foot Hatteras sportfishing boat Ana Banana was roughly 20 miles off the east coast of the Middle Florida Keys last month when Captain Joel Brandenburg spotted something bobbing in the rolling waves.

“We were headed for a day of tuna and mahi [dolphin] fishing with four anglers from Wisconsin when I saw something about a quarter-mile away, and quickly learned it was a small raft with 10 men on board,” says Brandenburg. “It was rough, and the raft was taking on water. Two of the men were bailing non-stop to keep the raft afloat.”

Brandenburg contacted the U.S. Coast Guard on his boat radio to alert them of the situation and the location of the raft, which was near the Marathon Hump. Authorities told Brandenburg to stay close to the raft but advised him not to try any type of boat-to-boat rescue. The Coast Guard estimated they’d have a cutter at the scene in about two and a half hours.

“The men in the boat were out of drinking water and [looked] severely dehydrated, so we got close with our Hatteras and pitched them a case of water,” says Brandenburg. “They were staying afloat so long as they bailed water out of the raft.”

A video provided by Captain Joel Brandenburg of the U.S. Coast Guard assisting the Cuban refugees.

Dolphin commonly school around any type of floating object in the ocean, and Brandenburg says they made a couple passes around the raft—and caught a few fish—while they waited for the USCG to arrive.  

Brandenburg explains that the raft appeared to be made from cut 55-gallon drums, which were welded into a floating raft about 18-feet long. The men had a small sail to maneuver the boat and only a single paddle.

About two and a half hours after he radioed the USCG, a cutter arrived on the scene to rescue the refugees. The cutter sent a smaller inflatable Coast Guard boat with twin outboards to rescue the men. Then Brandenburg left the scene with his charter fishing party and headed back to Marathon around 3 p.m. He recorded the event with several cell phone videos.

The Marathon Hump is an underwater mountain and a well-known fishing area where depths range from 480 to 1,150 feet. It’s also a noted spot for big sharks, including great whites, although oversize tigers and bull sharks are more common.

“It’s not the place to capsize a raft, because sharks can be a real problem there,” says Brandenburg, who’s been guiding out of Marathon for three years; before that, he ran a long-time charter business out of Tampa Bay. During his first two years running charters out of Marathon, Brandenburg discovered just two abandoned Cuban rafts. But during the last 12 months, he’s found 15 Cuban rafts—only two of which had passengers.

“[I’ve seen] a real surge of Cuban refugees trying to reach the U.S. over the last year,” Brandenburg says. “Lots of Keys anglers and captains are seeing their rafts and calling in rescues from the Coast Guard.”

Brandenburg says many Cubans who’ve made the journey in such homemade rafts describe the 90-plus-mile passage as a perilous trip that can take 8 to 10 days. Most refugees suffer from dehydration and even hallucinations, or drown. “I know a number who have made it,” says Brandenburg, “and it’s a harrowing experience.”

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Non-Resident Hunter Pleads Guilty to Firearms Charge After Taking an Elk Outside a Colorado Ski Town https://www.outdoorlife.com/hunting/hunter-pleads-guilty-telluride-elk/ Tue, 05 Apr 2022 22:19:35 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=186174
Telluride Valley
There is only one road in and out of Telluride, and it runs past the iconic Valley Floor that lies near the entrance to town. Lars Plougmann / Flickr

Although officials have determined that the hunter legally shot the elk on public land, he violated a local ordinance by carrying his rifle across a protected open space

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Telluride Valley
There is only one road in and out of Telluride, and it runs past the iconic Valley Floor that lies near the entrance to town. Lars Plougmann / Flickr

When an out-of-state hunter shot a bull elk on a sliver of public land near Telluride’s Valley Floor last November, members of the local community were outraged. Although officials determined that he took the animal legally, hunters and non-hunters alike criticized the out-of-stater, who was forced to field-dress and quarter the elk in front of a small audience after it ran down into the Valley Floor and died. Some pointed to public safety concerns of discharging a firearm so close to a popular multi-use trail system, while others chalked it up to an unethical decision, telling the Telluride Daily Planet that “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” The fact that the bull was part of a resident elk herd that lives on the Valley Floor for much of the year exacerbated the public’s negative perception of the hunter.

When Outdoor Life covered this controversial incident in November, officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife had investigated and confirmed that the hunter, Gerald R. Sanchez of Shallowater, Texas, took the bull legally on U.S. Forest Service land. GPS coordinates confirmed that both Sanchez and the elk were on a small piece of public land known as “the Wedge”—which is located uphill of the Valley Floor and is part of Game Management Unit 70—when Sanchez shot the animal on the morning of Nov. 6.

The recent guilty plea, however, reveals the hunter’s actions leading up to and following the shot were in violation of a local ordinance, reports the Telluride Daily Planet, and the Town of Telluride brought charges against Sanchez in February.

Read Next: When Non-Resident Hunters Killed Elk in Populated Areas This Fall, It Turned into a Hunting PR Nightmare

According to the newspaper, Sanchez violated Ordinance 1289 when he stepped onto the Valley Floor while carrying a firearm. The town alleged that Sanchez violated this ordinance twice: once when he crossed the Valley Floor to access the Wedge, and again when walked down into the Valley Floor to field dress and pack out the elk. This iconic open space, which is situated on the outskirts of Telluride, is privately owned by the town. It is also under a strict conservation easement that expressly prohibits “hunting and using the [Valley Floor] Property to access nearby areas on which to hunt,” as well as “feeding, disturbing, trapping, hunting, or killing wildlife [there],” according to the TDP.

Sanchez pled guilty to the charge of carrying a firearm on the Valley Floor, and he paid a fine of $500. Sanchez also faced trespassing charges for allegedly crossing the Valley Floor to reach the Wedge, but the town dismissed these charges in exchange a guilty plea to the hunting violation.

“This plea avoided the time and expense of a trial on all charges, but yielded the most desirable result—conviction for hunting on the Valley Floor,” Allie Slaten, Telluride’s assistant town attorney, told the Daily Planet.

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Near-Record Striped Bass Caught (and Released) in the Susquehanna River https://www.outdoorlife.com/fishing/near-record-striped-bass-caught-susquehanna-river/ Tue, 05 Apr 2022 21:32:22 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=186172
Dan Radman with a striper that weighed an estimated 67.2 pounds. Dan Radman photo

Dan Radman caught a massive striped bass that could have challenged the Maryland state record

The post Near-Record Striped Bass Caught (and Released) in the Susquehanna River appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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Dan Radman with a striper that weighed an estimated 67.2 pounds. Dan Radman photo

Dan Radman and his buddy Jon Chalon were casting and trolling for striped bass last month from a small 14-foot johnboat at the mouth of the Susquehanna River when they hooked into a fish that could have challenged the Maryland state record. The anglers had driven three hours from New Canaan, Connecticut to fish for giant stripers, as they do each spring and summer.

“We’d had a good morning on big stripers, starting about daybreak fishing upriver from the I-95 bridge over the Susquehanna,” says Radman.  “We’d each caught five stripers — all quickly landed and released alive. I had a 35-pounder and another fish in the mid-40s. Jon also had a good 40-pounder, caught and released.”

The anglers were casting and occasionally trolling with oversize crankbaits. Radman was using a giant Rapala Super Shad Rap in “firetiger” color. It was 9:45 a.m., and they were working an area where there were occasional snags. When Radman’s lure stopped suddenly and he couldn’t free it, he figured he was hung on bottom. Then his rod tip started to wobble and Radman figured out that it was a fish he’d hooked, not the river bottom.

“That’s when I set the hook, and the fish just took off fast,” says Radman.

The fish made several runs, but in about 10 minutes Radman had the massive striper at the boat, fighting the fish with an 8-foot medium-action spinning rod and 50-pound test braided line.

The anglers quickly unhooked the fish, made measurements, and released it. Radman says the striper was out of the water for less than a minute and swam away strong.

“We release all our big stripers,” he says. “And by Maryland law you can’t keep them in spring, but all we want is to catch them anyway.”

The striper had a 52.5-inch length, and a 32-inch girth. Using the striped bass weight formula, the fish weighed a stunning 67.2 pounds. That’s barely shy of Maryland’s official striper record of 67.5-pounds, caught in June 1995.

Radman and Chalon have a group chat going with several other buddies who are all fanatical striper anglers. It didn’t take long for Radman’s fish to make waves in the chat.

“Last year we called it ‘Men Who Want A 50-Pounder’, until one of us caught a 55-pounder, so the name was upgraded,” Radman says laughing. “Then someone caught a 60-pounder, then a 65-pounder was caught, and now my 67.2-pounder. We now call the group, ‘Men Who Want A 68-Pounder’.”

The post Near-Record Striped Bass Caught (and Released) in the Susquehanna River appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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The Best Spinnerbait Rods for 2022 https://www.outdoorlife.com/gear/best-spinnerbait-rods/ Tue, 05 Apr 2022 19:29:12 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=185622
A best spinnerbait rod next to a lure
Scott Einsmann

We tested the best spinnerbait rods and picked our favorites to throw everything from finesse to heavy spinnerbaits

The post The Best Spinnerbait Rods for 2022 appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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A best spinnerbait rod next to a lure
Scott Einsmann
Best Overall A black best spinnerbait rod Douglas LRS C715F Check Price
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Summary

Its action and versatility set it apart from other rods.

Best Mid Range A grey best spinnerbait rod with a cork handle Dobyns Rods Kaden KD713C Check Price
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Summary

Workhorse rod with top-quality components.

Best for Deep Water A black best spinnerbait rod Abu Garcia Fantasista X FNXC73-6 Check Price
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Summary

A comfortable, ultra-sensitive rod that can feel the turn of a blade at 25-feet deep.

The spinnerbait may have fallen slightly out of favor with the rise of swim jigs, vibrating jigs, and swimbaits, but savvy veteran anglers never put it away. If you want to have success with spinnerbaits you need to have the right spinnerbait rod. Of course, there are a variety of spinnerbait applications that demand specialized sticks—everything from finesse lures around cypress trees, to burning gaudy lures for clear water smallmouths, to slow rolling the lures through deep hydrilla. To help you navigate the murky waters of spinnerbait rods, I tested the best spinnerbait rods I could get my hands on and reviewed each with the help of three other experienced anglers. 

How We Evaluated Spinnerbait Rods

The spinnerbait rod testing sessions took place on Lake Anna in Virginia during the transition from pre-spawn to spawn. It was around the full moon, and the fish were scattered anywhere from ankle-deep out to 15 feet. While conditions were good, the bass were finicky, and everything from a lightning-fast retrieve to a slow crawl through cover was necessary to get them to chew our spinnerbaits. We caught fish around shallow stumps, in the slips of boat docks, on brushy points, and slow-rolled over flooded roadbeds.

A man on the water holding a best spinnerbait rod
We tested spinnerbait rods for their action, hookup percentage, and feedback. Scott Einsmann

The test panel included Bill Roberts, Ron Hohenstein, Scott Einsmann, and me. Bill and Ron are seasoned tournament anglers with decades of experience. They’ve seen rods go from glass to graphite and back again, with every step along the way. Einsmann is the gear editor at Outdoor Life and a workaday bass angler who provided the perspective of a weekend bass angler. We tested rods with spinnerbaits from 1/8 to 1 ounce, with varying blade configurations, with various brands of reels. That also meant using different line sizes and styles—because the rod that performs perfectly with fluorocarbon might not offer the same sensitivity with mono. Meanwhile, a rod that’s stiff enough to make up for the forgiving nature of mono might repeatedly pull the lure away from a short-striking bass with the same reel but substituting fluorocarbon. 

Here are the parameters we looked for while testing each rod: 

  • Action: Does the rod have the proper give to allow a fish to inhale the lure but sufficient backbone to drive home a single hook? Is it giving without feeling too heavy or too mushy?
  • Hookup percentage: Did the rod consistently keep fish hooked up? Can you drive home the hook on a shallow bass that eats the lure coming at you as well as you can on one that simply engulfs it 15-feet down? When they jump, does the leverage provided by the lead head disengage the hook and leave you disappointed?
  • Casting accuracy and distance: How well did the rod cast small and large spinnerbaits with different levels of wind resistance due to differing blade configurations? Can they be bombed out into the wind as easily as they can be roll-cast beside or under a looming boat dock?
  • Feedback: Can you feel the blades vibrating and any subtle changes in those vibration patterns? Can you tell when the lure bounces off hard cover, pulls through vegetation, or gets swatted aside by a hesitant bass?

We put the full range of spinnerbaits to the test with these rods, everything from ⅛-ounce single willows that barely pull to 1 ½ ouncers that fight harder than your average keeper, and everything in between. Even at the same weight range, no two lures behave the same. For example a ½-ounce single Colorado is much different than a compact-bodied ½-ounce double willow. Some rods do better than others at the various extremes, while some handle a wider range with deftness. Your reel will have to match the rod you choose, as will your line, so take all of that into account in building a balanced combo.

Best Overall: Douglas LRS C715F

Douglas Outdoors

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet, 1 inch
  • Lure Weight: 3/16 to 3/4 ounce lures
  • Power: Medium heavy
  • Action: Fast
  • Line weight: 12 to 20 pound
  • Split grip EVA handle

Why It Made the Cut

The Douglas LRS C715F has a perfectly tapered blank, which means better casting and more successful fish landings.

Pros

  • Enough length for long casts, yet comfortable in tight quarters
  • Sensitive without being “too fast”
  • Corrosion-proof Fuji Fazlite guides

Cons

  • Some anglers may prefer a longer rod

Product Description

The blue blank of the Douglas spinnerbait rod stands out among a field of cookie cutters, but it’s the action and versatility that really sets it apart. Lure ratings on a handle are often generous, but this rod excelled at all ranges of the spectrum—from the smallest finesse spinnerbaits up to hard-thumping giants that’ll rattle your fillings out. It’s a wonderful blend of sensitivity and give with a perfectly-sized handle and premium components from tip to butt. During the test I flicked a 3/16 ounce finesse model around boat slips in the morning, and then used it in the afternoon to slow roll a spinnerbait that weighed ¾ ounce, and in both cases I felt like I had the perfect rod. Everyone that fished the Douglas LRS liked the rod’s perfectly-sized handle, and appreciated the premium components. The Douglas LRS took the best overall award because of its ability to throw everything from finesse to deep working spinnerbaits and it doesn’t sacrifice feel for versatility—it’s a rare rod that fishes everything well.

Best Finesse: G.Loomis IMX Pro 812 SBR

Key Features

  • Length: 6 feet 9 inches
  • Lure Weight ⅜- to ½ ounce
  • Power: Medium
  • Action: Extra fast
  • Line weight: 10 to 17 pounds
  • Full premium cork handle

Why It Made the Cut

The G. Loomis IMX Pro 812SBR is a shorter rod with crisp action ideal for corralling big fish in tight spaces.

Pros

  • Specifically made for spinnerbaits
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Handcrafted in the U.S.A.

Cons

  • Shorter length can be a disadvantage in some situations

Product Description

While the label lists this rod as ideal for 3/8- to ½-ounce lures, I found that it also dealt admirably with much lighter baits, allowing me to place them in tight spaces, even in a headwind or crosswind. Once in the water, I could feel every turn of the blade or blades, even noticing when a bass had “pushed” the lure rather than striking aggressively. The proven Loomis track record for technique-specific excellence makes this a solid choice for those who prefer a full cork handle and want extreme accuracy. It was especially good in the backs of pockets and around overhanging trees, where my range of motion was limited. One little flick and the lure rocketed into position, although it might not have been as good with something at the upper end of the advertised range. Einsmann also fished this rod and he used a 1/2 ounce Z-Man SlingBladeZ. He noted that the rod casted the 1/2 ounce spinnerbait with exceptional accuracy. When he had a fish eat boat side the rod had plenty of umph to set the hook while the fish charged the boat. For those who prefer a full cork handle and want extreme accuracy, the proven Loomis track record for technique-specific excellence makes this a solid choice.

Best for Burning Spinnerbaits: St. Croix Victory 72HM

St. Croix

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet 2 inches
  • Lure weight: ½- to 1 ¼-ounce lures
  • Action: Moderate
  • Power: Heavy
  • Line weight: 12 to 20 pound test
  • Split grip cork handle with EVA foregrip

Why It Made the Cut

Exceptionally lightweight blank and components make heaving and burning hard-pulling lures a joy.

Pros

  • Handles larger spinnerbaits without becoming a chore
  • Fuji guides and reel seat
  • Extremely sensitive, yet had a moderate action

Cons

  • Too heavy for some finesse spinnerbaits

Product Description

Anytime northern smallmouth are in play, or whenever bass are aggressively chasing shad or blueback herring, the best way to trigger strikes is by retrieving a magnum spinnerbait at warp speed. This rod takes what is often tiring work and makes it a joy. Not only is casting and winding all day enabled by lightweight and balanced components—including Fuji Concept “O” guides and SK2 reel seat—but also the action is tapered just right to ensure a perfect hook set. The rod does well with mid-range spinnerbaits but it really stood out when working with bigger models. It’s light, yet every aspect of it is precision-built to be abused. During testing, I found the Victory 72HM did well with mid-range spinnerbaits, but it really stood out when working with bigger models. With a ½ ounce double willow I could make extra-long casts and then quickly take up line to get the bait moving, and keep it moving without getting fatigued. The point of personal preference that will split anglers—including our test group—is the two-part grip. But, if you like the split grip and you throw heavier spinnerbaits, this is a great rod.

Best for Mid-Range Spinnerbaits: Dobyns Rods Kaden KD713C

Dobyns Rods

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet 1 inch
  • Lure weight: ¼ to ¾
  • Power: Medium heavy
  • Action: Fast
  • Line weight: 10 to 17 pounds
  • Premium cork full grip handle

Why It Made the Cut

Workhorse rod with top-quality components does a lot of jobs well, but excels for all-around spinnerbaiting.

Pros

  • High-modulus graphite blank with Kevlar wrapping
  • Premium full cork handle with no foregrip
  • High-quality Sea Guide XO Guides

Cons

  • Faster action than some spinnerbait anglers prefer

Product Description

Dobyns Rods jumped into the spinnerbait rod scene with a wide variety of series at various price points and this one approximately in the middle may make you question why someone would spend more. It’s an exquisitely built rod that feels like a more expensive product. While it can handle some smaller lures, and definitely does fine with the big ones, true to its workhorse nature, anglers should rely on it most often for the most commonly used sizes of spinnerbaits—3/8 and ½ ounce. I used a ½ ounce single Colorado blade model for a while and yo-yo’ed it across a ledge and felt every change in direction. When a fish struck in a tentative manner, I was able to get a solid hookset in the deep and recover line quickly. I found it beefy enough to power spinnerbaits through the thickest cover, and land bass, yet also precise enough to handle roll casts and pitch casts with grace. The Kevlar wrapping makes it feel like a space-aged tool, yet it’s also ready for old-school hand-to-hand combat.

Best Value: 13 Fishing Omen Black OB3C74MHM

13 Fishing

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet 4 inches
  • Lure weight: ⅜ to ¾ ounce
  • Power: Medium heavy
  • Action: Moderate fast
  • Line weight: 12 to 25 pound test
  • Split grip cork handle and foregrip

Why It Made the Cut

The 13 Fishing Omen Black works well for spinnerbaits, vibrating jigs, topwater, crankbaits, and small swimbaits. It’s a highly versatile rod that’s perfect for anglers that want one rod for everything. 

Pros

  • High-quality ALPS guides—10 plus tip
  • Custom Evolve ported reel seat
  • Moderate action provides solid hookups

Cons

  • Might be too long for shorter anglers or in tight quarters

Product Description

Various iterations of the Omen Black rod series have been in the 13 Fishing lineup for a long time and with good reason—they stand up to a beating and are mission built for serious anglers. When I tested the rod I didn’t love it with smaller finesse spinnerbaits, perhaps because of its length. I found that on flats and across points I had surprising distance and accuracy with anything from a 3/8 to ¾ ounce spinnerbait. What I really wanted to throw, however, was a chatterbait. The moderate action will bomb a spinnerbait a long way, and has just the right taper to its Japanese 36 ton Toray blank to ensure positive hookups, but at the same time it’s a great rod a chatterbait. Einsmann also fished this rod and said he could not differentiate the performance difference of the Omen from the high-end rods he tested. He thought the casting distance and sensitivity were superb. If you need a rod that’ll excel with vibrating jigs, larger topwaters, buzzbaits and for some cranking, as well as smaller swimbaits—this is a do-it-all option that doesn’t sacrifice anything.

Best for Deep Water: Abu Garcia Fantasista X FNXC73-6

Abu Garcia

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet 3 inches 
  • Lure weight: ¼ to 1 ounce
  • Power: Heavy
  • Action: Fast
  • Line weight: 12 to 20 pounds
  • Molded carbon split grip

Why It Made the Cut

The Abu Garcia Fantasista X is an ultra-sensitive rod that can feel the turn of a blade at 25-feet deep, yet provides ergonomic comfort for casting larger spinnerbaits all-day

Pros

  • Sensitive enough to be a worm or jig rod
  • Titanium alloy guide frames with ultra-light zirconium inserts
  • ROCS (Robotically Optimized Casting System) precisely spaces guides on the blank

Cons

  • Pricey

Product Description

The Fantasista is made to be lightweight and ultra sensitive, from the blank construction and components to the handle, which allows you to keep a finger on the blank at all times. It’s a space-age-looking product with top-flight materials, including 36-ton graphite with the company’s proprietary Powerlux 500 resin system. Whether you’re trying to maintain the bottom with a current-laden river ledge or ticking the tops of deep hydrilla and occasionally ripping the lure free, this rod keeps the angler in touch with a lure to know what it’s doing at all times. At the same time, it also has the power to cast deeper-running lures and then muscle big bass away from cover. I felt like this could have been a worm rod, but with spinnerbaits it was best when I threw fluorocarbon and stuck to slower retrieves.

Honorable Mentions

We weren’t able to test all of the best spinnerbait rods due to today’s supply chain issues. Here are some rods to consider that we weren’t able to test.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Spinnerbait Rod 

Where and how you fish a spinnerbait will determine your choice of rod, as will certain personal preferences: Do you like a cork handle or EVA? Split grip or solid grip? 

Then, there are more technical considerations like the rod length and the type of line you’ll use. 

Length

When you’re choosing a rod length think about if you’ll be fishing away from shore or around tight cover. A 7-foot, 6-inch rod that’s great for bomb-casting lures along ledges and offshore channels might be a liability around tightly-packed cypress trees. 

We all have different reaction times, too, so the semi-limber rod that works for someone with fast reflexes might cause missed fish for someone with slower reaction times or more patience. 

Sensitivity 

You’ll want to be able to feel the blades of the lure turning at all times and also know when something is amiss, which could be a sign that the spinnerbait is fouled, or conversely, it could be a sign that you have a light-striking fish.

Line Type

Also think about the size and type of line you’ll be using. While braid is rarely a good choice for spinnerbaits, the difference in diameter and sensitivity of fluorocarbon versus monofilament or copolymer will impact your choice of blank, and possibly, your guide setup.

FAQs

Q: Can I use a crankbait rod for spinnerbaits?

Many crankbait rods will serve double duty for spinnerbaits, as long as they’re not too long (like an 8-foot deep cranker) or too limber.

Q: What is the best size rod for spinnerbaits?

Historically, many anglers used 5-foot-6-inch pistol grip rods for roll casting spinnerbaits, but over time the consensus has moved around 7 feet. The longer rods cast just as well and provide you with more leverage on a big fish. A medium-heavy action is a good starting point for all but the most extreme situations.

Q: What color spinnerbait should I use?

If you’re just getting started, white or chartreuse skirts, or a combination thereof, are your best all-around bets. Pair them with silver and/or gold blades that match the local forage. As you expand your arsenal, consider shad-colored lures for ultra-clear water, and fluorescent orange blades in the mud. Smallmouths tend to like gaudier colors than largemouths, even in gin-clear water.

Final Thoughts

As with just about any technique, spinnerbaiting means different things to different anglers. Depending on where you fish and what you throw most commonly, rod choice can make the difference between a comfortable and enjoyable day of filling your livewell and an absolute train wreck. It comes down to personal choice, but just because it’s a moving bait where fish allegedly “hook themselves” doesn’t mean that you can skimp on quality components. Buy the best that you can afford and figure out which componentry and characteristics fit your skillset and most-visited fisheries.

The post The Best Spinnerbait Rods for 2022 appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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The Survivor’s Mindset: The Latest Digital Edition of Outdoor Life Is Here https://www.outdoorlife.com/survival/digital-edition-outdoor-life-surviors-mindset/ Tue, 05 Apr 2022 19:17:57 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=186134
Survival is a state of mind cover of Outdoor Life.
The new issue of Outdoor Life explores stories about the mindset it takes to survive—and thrive—in the wild. Photograph by John Hafner

...and so is Season 2 of the Outdoor Life Podcast. This issue is all about the most important survival tool of all: the one between your ears

The post The Survivor’s Mindset: The Latest Digital Edition of Outdoor Life Is Here appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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Survival is a state of mind cover of Outdoor Life.
The new issue of Outdoor Life explores stories about the mindset it takes to survive—and thrive—in the wild. Photograph by John Hafner

Several years ago, I was on a paddling trip with a group of friends, one of whom was totally new to remote wilderness. Let’s call this friend Macy. Our group was dropped off by floatplane, and then we began our five-day paddle back to our takeout point.

Within the first few hours of the trip, we were hit by a brutal pop-up lightning storm while making our way down a marshy river. There was no dry ground where we could pull off and seek shelter, so we just kept going while lightning flashed around us. The thunder was so loud that we could feel it. I won’t try to sound like a tough guy here; I was scared.

But the next morning, the sun was shining, the pike were biting, and all was right with the world—except all was not right with Macy. She was agitated and anxious to get going. She confiscated the map and GPS and then coerced her boat partner into paddling as quickly as possible to the next campsite. This went on for a few days, Macy worriedly pushing ahead at a blistering pace, until we got closer to civilization and started bumping into other groups. By the last night, we were just a few miles from our takeout spot, and Macy was back to her normal self, now enjoying the trip instead of racing to finish it.

With all the national discourse around mental health—in which the outdoors and wilderness so often get offered up as antidotes—I often think back to this trip with Macy. Because yes, everyone can benefit from spending time outside, but not everyone is ready for the wilderness.

As survival instructor Jessie Krebs (“Soul Survivor”) says, “For some, the lack of judgment in the wilderness is healing. But other people can’t handle it, because they bring their traumas with them and end up freaking out.”

So for this issue, we’ve gathered stories about the mindset it takes to -survive—​and thrive—​in the wild. I hope you enjoy these perspectives, and then paddle easy.

How to Read About the Survivor’s Mindset

  • If you’re a subscriber and have accessed the digital edition, stories from this issue are ready for you to enjoy on our iOSAndroid, or Outdoor Life apps.
  • If you’re a subscriber but new to the digital edition, head over to outdoorlife.com/digital to activate your account.
  • If you’re not a subscriber, but you’d like to be, visit outdoorlife.com/subscribe to get set up with a subscription.

How to Listen to Season 2 of the Outdoor Life Podcast

  • Listen to the Season 2 Trailer, available now, on Spotify, Apple, or wherever else you listen to your podcasts. Season 1 is also available now.
  • Tune in every Wednesday for new episodes of Season 2.

The post The Survivor’s Mindset: The Latest Digital Edition of Outdoor Life Is Here appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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The Wyoming Corner-Crossing Lawsuit Is Headed to Federal Court, Where a Ruling Could Affect Public Access Across the West https://www.outdoorlife.com/hunting/corner-crossing-case-headed-to-federal-court/ Tue, 05 Apr 2022 17:37:59 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=186070
blm checkerboard map elk mountain
A BLM map shows the checkerboard pattern of federal (yellow), state-owned (blue), and privately owned (white) lands in Carbon County, Wyoming. BLM

This is good news for public-land advocates, who hope that federal access laws will help open more federal land to Western hunters and anglers

The post The Wyoming Corner-Crossing Lawsuit Is Headed to Federal Court, Where a Ruling Could Affect Public Access Across the West appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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blm checkerboard map elk mountain
A BLM map shows the checkerboard pattern of federal (yellow), state-owned (blue), and privately owned (white) lands in Carbon County, Wyoming. BLM

Chief U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl has ordered that the civil suit related to the Wyoming corner-crossing case involving four Missouri hunters be transferred to a federal court, where federal laws favoring public access may have a greater influence on the decision, WyoFile reports. The motion places the issue of corner crossing even more squarely in the national spotlight, allowing a federal jury to decide on the legality of a complex and controversial issue that has dogged hunters in the West for decades.

“The clerk of the district court is hereby advised that jurisdiction over the parties and subject matter of the above-entitled action is deemed removed from the district court to the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming,” wrote U.S District Judge Skavdahl in the order that was filed Thursday.

The lawsuit stems from an incident that occurred last fall in Wyoming, when the four out-of-state hunters used a small stepladder to cross from one parcel of public land to another. The public lands bordered private parcels of the Elk Mountain Ranch, which is owned by Iron Bar Holdings. The men were initially charged with criminal trespassing by the Carbon County Attorney, facing $750 in fines and up to six months in jail. They pled not guilty to the charges and asked for all criminal charges to be dropped, but that criminal case is still in progress at the county level.

Earlier this year, Iron Bar Holdings, managed by billionaire Fred Eshelman, filed a lawsuit seeking civil damages from the four Missouri hunters for trespassing on Elk Mountain Ranch. Iron Bar Holdings argued that the men “committed a civil trespass” and is seeking reparation for civil damages. “Iron Bar Holdings has a right to exclusive control, use and enjoyment of its Property, which includes the airspace at the corner, above the Property,” wrote prosecutors in the civil suit.

Then, last month, an attorney for the hunters formally petitioned to move the civil suit to a federal court. He cited the broader implications that the court’s decision will have on public lands and hunting access throughout the West.  

“A federal rule of decision is necessary to protect and preserve the limitation on private landowners’ ability to control or restrict access to federally owned public lands,” Ryan Semerad, the hunter’s attorney, wrote in the petition.

Read Next: Public Raises More Than $50,000 to Defend Hunters Ticketed for Corner Crossing in Wyoming

Once all of the hunters’ attorneys file the documents, the lawsuit will immediately go to the federal court system. Iron Bar Holdings will then have the opportunity to ask Judge Skavdahl for the suit to be moved back to the state. Regardless, the hunters will still face trespassing charges as part of the original criminal case that was filed in Carbon County Circuit Court.

What Is Corner Crossing?

At the heart of this controversial lawsuit is the idea of corner crossing, which is the act of crossing between two parcels of public land that share a four-way corner with two parcels of private land in a checkerboard pattern. In the American West, roughly 1.6 million of acres of public land are inaccessible to the public because of this pattern and the public’s inability to cross corners without fear of harassment from private landowners. The legality of corner crossing is a gray area that has never been fully resolved in the court system. 

The decision by the U.S. Federal District Judge to move the civil suit to a federal court could result in a precedent that’s favorable or unfavorable to hunters seeking public-land access. A decision in a federal court will have broader reaching implications on the public’s right to access public land, and it could help change the way corner crossing is interpreted by hunters, landowners, and lawmakers throughout the West.

The post The Wyoming Corner-Crossing Lawsuit Is Headed to Federal Court, Where a Ruling Could Affect Public Access Across the West appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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