outdoor brands arrows side by side

Are Outdoor Brands Worth The Extra Money?

So, what does price say about quality when it comes to arrows? Is a household name brand better than a lesser known one? Does a higher price tag equate to better arrow flight and more successful archery hunts? For that matter, does the name brand matter in any outdoor activity?

Well, in an attempt to answer that question, I’ll use a few examples. First, I’ll start with fishing (yes, fishing… just wait for it.)

The Price Of A Boat Doesn’t Catch Fish

I grew up camping and fishing in the High Uintas of Utah with my father. My father taught me how to love and enjoy the outdoors and how to clean out the fish you catch. There were also a few memories I will never forget.

My Pops had an old sun-dried yellow, aluminum boat with a 25 hp Evinrude motor that we putted around in. We would spend a week up there, doing nothing but fishing and filling the stringer.

outdoor brands fishing boat

When I was 9 years old, a guy saw us back up our old Suburban and that ole yellow boat into the water. He yelled, “Damn, that is an expensive rig ya got there!” Of course, he was being extremely rude with his comment, laughing as he backed his expensive speed boat into the water.

My dad just said, “some people…”

We fished for about four hours or so that day and filled up the stringer with 22″ rainbows and life was good. 

When we went back to load the boat, my dad yelled across the water to the guy with the expensive boat, “You catch any?”

The man answered, “No, the bite has been slow.” My father replied, “I hope that boat was worth it” and then pulled out our stringer. The look on that man’s face was priceless!

We laughed and went to camp and enjoyed the rest of the evening cooking up the fish we caught (in our “expensive rig”) on the camp fire. 

Your Ford Could Be A Chevy

outdoor brands chevy truck

Perhaps you’ve seen the test drive commercials where a truck’s identity is kept secret from the driver. The test driver takes it for a spin and says “it has to be a Ford.” But, then to the driver’s surprise… it’s a Chevy!

It’s the same with many of the products in the outdoors industry. There are many awesome products out there. Some are affordable and some not so much. And, of course, the more expensive item is always better quality. Or is it?

Higher Price = Better Quality… Sometimes

Many believe that better quality and performance live where the higher price tag is. In the gun industry, this argument holds up to some degree. But, at the end of the day, all guns travel the same whether you buy a $250 12-gauge pump shotgun by Browning, or a $900 12 gauge shotgun from Winchester. Both have the same pump action, same gauge, and same function. Both will serve the same purpose of taking wild game.

So why the cost difference? Could it be that it’s all just marketing?

20 Guns, 60 shells And One Duck

outdoor brands duck in flight

One Saturday morning in November, I went out waterfowl hunting  on a dyke beyond the city I lived in. When I got there, only one other guy had shown up. I thought to myself, “Hey, this may be a good morning!”

As soon as it was shooting light, a group of 20 guys (probably all from the same football team) showed up and parked right next to me. Most of the crew had 12 gauge semi-automatic Beretta shotguns and were ready to take some game. At the time, I had a model 1300 Winchester 12-gauge pump.

It didn’t help matters that none of them would get in the reeds to hide (and it didn’t matter cause there was so many of them!)

One kid yelled “DUCK!”

 

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All 2o of them, including myself, faced north, and sure enough, one duck was coming in slow like he was about to land. I then got to experience 20 men unload all three shells from each gun. It was like being on the line at the Alamo!

Not one person peppered that duck! I pulled up to shoot after all that ammo spent from the others, shot once, and sacked it.

They all looked at me like I had committed a crime.

Needless to say, I was getting more value out of my $250 gun then all twenty of them who had a $1,500 gun (and I didn’t use near as many shells:)

Outdoor Brands Shouldn’t Make Or Break Your Fun

Whether it’s guns, bow hunting arrows and broadheads or outdoor apparel, I think we all could say that we are guilty at some point or another of being caught up in the allure of brand name gear. For example, some bow hunters are willing to spend $185 for a set of six arrows, when there are arrows on the market for only $55 for a set of six. And, if compared to each other, just like in that Ford and Chevy test, you might not even be able to tell the difference.

Enjoy the outdoors. At the end of the day you should not be afraid of shooting your bow at longer distances, just because you’re afraid to lose a $25 arrow. You should feel comfortable shooting at various yardages ranging from 10 yards up to 85 yards, as long as you are taking an ethical shot that will give you a good chance of a clean kill.

Some bow hunters won’t shoot past 70 yards while practicing, while some ethical hunters will shoot further, just in case that dream buck walks out and you may not have another chance of getting any closer.

The Outdoors Should Be About The Moments

As we make unforgettable memories outdoors, hopefully we can focus on getting more people engaged and enjoying themselves more than we do on what brand of equipment we have. 

So, don’t get caught up in the brand name of your outdoor gear. After all, the outdoors should be fun, affordable and enjoyable. 

austin hurst pic

Public Land Hunting Tips You Should Know

Do you love hunting but don’t own property? Public land hunting may be the answer for you. But, there are so many different types of public land hunting opportunities ranging from National Wildlife Refuges, State Forests, State Parks, Nature Preserves, Natural Areas, Nature Conservancies, Wildlife Management Areas, Lands maintained by Army Corps of Engineers, and Military Establishments. 

So, with so much public land throughout the country, where in the world do you even begin in developing a strategy to hunt public land?

Regardless of what type of opportunities your state offers, you may find it easier to begin hunting these lands by becoming familiar with the following public land hunting tips. 

Tip #1: Know The Rules & Regulations Where You Hunt

Whenever I venture onto public land, whether I have hunted that particular piece of property before or not, I always familiarize or update myself with the local as well as state hunting regulations that are in effect where I am going to hunt. 

In my home state of Virginia, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries does a good job of providing outdoorsmen and women with these regulations.  It does so in the forms of booklets and also by keeping the website and public land kiosks up to date with important information that could impact a visitor’s trip. 

Get Your License

A regulation that goes hand-in-hand with hunting in all states is having the required hunting license or permit. It is becoming more frequent for state natural resource departments to require hunters, hikers, bikers, and even bird watchers to either have a permit, license (or in Virginia, an Access Permit) on hand before they can enjoy public lands.  

Regardless of what your prey may be or what time of year you plan on taking a public land adventure, you will not go wrong by becoming familiar with the local regulations and rules that may affect your trip.  Understanding such guidelines could not only make the difference in you having a safe and legal hunt this season, but ultimately will lay the foundation for a rewarding public land experience. 

Tip #2: Use The Scouting Match Made In Heaven… Maps And Boots

You might already use maps when you hunt. However, you may not realize that many local government agencies will provide free maps of public hunting land. Using these maps can be a great resource for hunters to learn valuable information about the land they are hunting when pursuing game.

Whether you use government maps or get mapping information from an internet source like Google Maps, Google Earth, or one of these latest and greatest phone apps like OnX Maps, you can certainly build your knowledge about the area of public land you are scouting or hunting. 

 

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If a hunter knows what he or she is looking at on a map, that hunter’s boots can take them anywhere on a map in search of “prime” locations that could be hot spots for wild game such as whitetail deer.  By examining an updated map, a hunter can pin point key areas and resources just by looking at that map. Then, a game plan can be developed based on those key areas and resources.  Some key areas and resources to be mindful of on maps include:

  • Any local agriculture or food sources
  • Natural transition areas where two or more different habitats come together
  • Waterways or other water sources
  • Trails, roadways or property boundary lines
  • Bedding areas
  • Areas of elevation
  • Areas leading to hunter access

Hunter Access

man walking public hunting land

 

When it comes to combining maps and scouting, I love the element of hunter access, and maps can tell you a lot about it!  

Maps are also helpful in predicting what other hunters may do regarding how they access a piece of public land. Not to suggest that hunters are lazy, but many are creatures of habit as well as convenience. Simply put, many hunters will follow the path of least resistance in accessing a hunting location. This means that most of the time, they will use the same locations of access (public parking areas to public access roadways) to get to their stand setups as well as the same entry/exit access points which will allow them the easiest way to and from their vehicles. 

I have discovered while hunting public lands that if hunters are more inclined to take the road less traveled, which could mean a path of more resistance or a longer entry/exit access point, they will not only discover more encounters with game, but less encounters with other hunters.  By combining map study and physical effort, you can discover these areas that most other hunters will not be willingly to venture off to. The payoff in the form of a successful kill or greater sense of accomplishment is hard to match. 

Identification Of Deer Habitat  

Studying maps can also provide hunters an opportunity to discover overlooked areas that many hunters just do not realize game like whitetails are hiding in.  In these areas, being able to identify public parking areas and highly trafficked roads can be extremely productive areas for hunters who take the time to study the maps and then put their boots to work. 

Tip #3: Take Advantage Of The Seasons

In all public hunting lands, there is at least one season for hunters to take advantage of big game with a particular weapon.  But on many public lands, big game can be hunted during different seasons such as early archery season, gun season, or maybe a late muzzle loader season. 

In some states, like here in Virginia, hunters can chase game during overlapping seasons.  In my experience hunting big game on public land, I have found that many hunters choose to hunt more during the general firearms season than any other season.  This can really be good news for the bowhunter and the black powder hunter in the short and long term. 

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If archery and black powder hunters play their cards right, they can avoid the high traffic of a gun season by spending the majority of their hunting time during the archery and muzzle loader seasons.  These hunters will discover the benefits of hunting these seasons as there will typically be more encounters with big game and generally less pressure from other hunters.  Combine that with good scouting techniques and the willingness to venture deeper into public land, and hunters can hope to have much more success during their public land outings. 

Tip #4: Know Thy Transportation

Protection of our public lands is a high priority. That also goes for the public roadways, trails, or paths that lie within.  Hunters, hikers, and campers across the country will quickly find that most public lands have limited roadway access. This often includes restrictions on motor vehicles, including ATVs. This means that visitors are usually limited to walking or using bicycles, or in some cases, electric vehicles. 

Other than your own two feet, the other two options that I know of that can help get you and your gear from point A to point B when hunting public land would be a bicycle or a good game cart. 

I myself rarely use one during hunting season, but a bicycle is one of my best resources during the off-season when it comes to scouting as well as helping me move tree stands or other gear around public land.  I have found that using a bicycle during the off-season is so beneficial that I get twice the work accomplished and twice the scouting done. 

During hunting season, I always have my game cart with me. A game cart is just as important to me as having my license, weapon, and other gear.  I just know that I am going to need it and I am always better off with it. Most of my hunts on public land take me around a mile or more into public land, so by having it, I can place all my gear on top of it, strap it down and transport it with ease while I walk. Not to mention when I do harvest big game, it makes life so much easier if I don’t have a partner with me. 

Not all local agencies see eye to eye on the topic of public land transportation. So, before venturing off to your local public hunting lands this season, make sure you check with your local agency to see what the acceptable forms of transportation are before bringing your ATV or purchasing that new electric bicycle.  

Tip #5: Have The Right Hunting Gear

public land hunting fire starter

 

Every hunter has gear, but some have it coming out from their ears! Of course, it’s easy to think we need the latest and greatest gear, but I am going to tell you the simplest pieces of gear that will help you not only be successful, but safe while hunting public land. 

To go along with your map, you can never go wrong with the following:

  • Compass: A good compass is a must and something you should know how to use. Some public lands make it mandatory for hunters or visitors to carry a compass when on those lands in the event that they get lost. On big tracts of land, you will be thankful to have this piece of equipment if you ever get turned around. 
  • Headlamp: A reliable headlamp with extra batteries is important to have for entry and exit. But, if you are ever lost, this resource can help others locate you. 
  • Orange: Blaze orange or pink is typically going to be something that hunters should have on during most firearm seasons, and possibly during other hunting seasons, depending on local regulations. Having this garment with you at all times, regardless of the season, can be an important piece of safety equipment while moving about public land.
  • Fire Starter: The all-important fire starter is something that I think most hunters overlook in their pack. I hunt land that I am very familiar with, but you just never know what may happen when you are out on an adventure. So, a fire starter is a tool that could be critical to your survival in unfamiliar or even familiar territory.  I always carry a fire starter, just in case. Bowdrills, fire saws, flint and steel, magnifying lenses, matches, lighters, battery and steel wool and fire pistons are all types of fire starters
  • Boots: Taking care of your feet is extremely important. So, having a good fitting, durable pair of boots is a must. For me, I prefer to use rubber boots, mainly because the majority of the land I venture into has swamps or marshes.  These boots also provide good protection from snakes. This really sets my mind at ease during the early season, as I move through thick cover.  Always carry an extra pair of socks, regardless of the season.  Your feet will thank you for it!

Tip #6: Use Trail Cameras

Over the years, I have become addicted to – and really do depend on – the information that game cameras can provide  me. Whether it is areas I have a history of hunting, or new areas I am learning about, game cameras are a perfect way for me to gather needed information without continuously disrupting a particular spot. 

Typically, I will leave my game cameras out during the summer months into the opening of season and I may check them roughly two to four times before the season begins.  I place my cameras near known bedding areas, travel corridors, where I have established mock scrapes, or near established stand setups. 

When I do check these cameras, I will be able to determine what type of game is in the area, if the area is going to be productive for what I am pursuing at the start of the season, or if I need to abandon the area altogether and move to a different location. 

A camera can help me determine if I have a doe “hot spot” or doe bedding area.  It will give me an idea of when the rut is picking up or tapering off.  Game cameras will also provide information on possible shooter bucks to target.  Sometimes cameras can provide insight on why you may not have as much game traffic in a particular area. Perhaps you are getting more coyote traffic or bear traffic, which could discourage animals like deer from using that particular location. 

In some cases, a spot you thought was secluded and out of the way may end up proving to be a highly trafficked area by other hunters.

In any event, using game cameras on public lands can really help you determine what you are working with when it comes to particular locations.  Be advised, cameras are a resource that others are willing to take from you! So, take the proper precautions to protect your trail cameras.  This may mean you may have to secure them by locking them to a tree, or as I have done in the past, placing them at an elevated level, making harder for others to get see and get to. 

Public Land Hunting Tips Conclusion

There are so many other tips I could provide when it comes to public land hunting. But, the tips I have provided here are ones that have been tried and proven effective for me on the public lands I hunt. And, I am sure they will work for you on whatever public land you explore and hunt. 

When you go out, look back on these tips and use them to your advantage this season and in the years to come.  You will find that by using them, and maybe even by altering them somewhat, that you will have much more success when you are hunting public lands in the future. 

Remember that there is nothing more important than being safe when you are out. So, take every precaution to do so, and make sure you take every opportunity to make a “Trophy Moment!

Jason Giovenco-Montano photo

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Kentucky Buck John Workman Picture

A Friendship And A Kentucky Buck Wall Hanger

I would have to say the story of my success in the 2018 Kentucky deer season has to date back to September 29th of 2017. On that date, I was fortunate enough to take a Boone and Crockett class Kentucky buck.

Big Buck Fame

Once the word got out about the deer I killed in 2017, my social media went kind of crazy. One day, while roaming through Facebook, I noticed I had a random message from someone in my area. He asked questions and persistently talked about my 2017 buck.

I kind of blew it off at first, because when it comes to hunting, I usually keep my stuff mainly a secret. But, one thing led to another, and we talked a little here and there.

One day I was at the local archery shop just hanging out, and in came this same guy. So, we finally met face-to-face and began to develop a friendship. His name is Kyle Groce. He is a bit younger than me, but we both share a passion for deer hunting.

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Let’s Make A Deal

As the winter progressed, he learned that I do a lot of food plotting. He wanted to develop his hunting property into a sanctuary so that the deer don’t have to travel to get what they want. In mid-April he offered to let me hunt this same land if I would do the food plots for him. I knew the area, so I agreed without hesitation.

In May, the weather finally cooperated so hat I could get started on the plots I agree to cut, till and sow. I began the process of bush hogging. While cutting a plot, this buck comes out and watched me like he was in awe that someone was there doing something. At the first look, I realized he was going to be a good buck worth chasing once the early seaons came.

Adding Him To The Hit List

So, after hours of studying maps of the land, and once the food plots were finished, I eased my way back into the woods where I thought this buck was coming from. I took my minerals and my trail camera and got things set up where I wanted, and where I thought I might have a great chance to ambush this buck once the season began.

The very first day the camera was there, I got pics of this buck. Immediately my focus was on this one particular animal.

As part of my permission to hunt the land, I was free to do as I please. So, I kept this buck a secret, as I thought he’d go 160 plus inches.

Kyle and I became great friends and spent all summer locating more deer for him to get set up on to hunt.

Opening Day Of Bow Season

September 1st finally arrived and Kyle and I already had our game plans set in stone. He was getting some good deer on camera, and I was getting my buck in two different locations during the daylight hours.

On opening day, I got in the stand around 5 o’clock AM, fearing that I might bump this big boy going in.

That first morning came and went. I saw a lot of deer and some small bucks, but not the big Kentucky buck I was after. Of course, early September in Kentucky its pretty warm… like, 90 degrees warm! So, I got out of my stand and headed home. There was no way I was staying all day in the stand in that heat.

Around 3:30 that afternoon, I started to get ready to head back to the stand. I showered, gathered my equipment and headed that way. I got in the stand around 4:30 and got things set up, and instantly I had action.

2018 Workman Buck

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A mature doe and her fawn came in and stayed in my area for about 30 or so minutes, so I was upbeat and positive. Deer came and went all evening, both bucks and does. Around 7:15, I saw a nice buck working toward my location and instantly knew it was a great 8 point. I had guessed he was about 140″ or so. Right behind him I saw the big 12-point I had been watching all summer. Both bucks came in on a string to 19 yards. But, the big mature buck was no dummy. He stayed right behind the 8-point the whole time, and I couldn’t get a shot at him.

All I could do was sit and watch him walk away.

Day Two And Beyond

Day two was much of the same. There was a lot of deer activity, but no shooters. Kyle, however, did fill his tag on that second day with a real nice 8-point that was on his hit list.

I hunted hard over the next week, and saw the big 8 on multiple occasions, but he never had the buck with him I was looking for. I even had him within 30 yards of me for 29 minutes one morning, but I still let him go.

On Wednesday, September the 12th, I had decided to hunt, but I was going to change things up and head to a blind at the edge of a food plot. Once I got to the farm, I realized the wind was totally wrong for that location and went right back to my stand where I had the earlier encounter.

The wind wasn’t totally right for me, but it wasn’t totally wrong either. I was on a ridge, so I knew my scent would blow above anything that came in.

Around 5:30 I had a small buck come in, and it brightened my outlook somewhat. That buck left and a doe and fawn came in. They stuck around for 20 or so minutes, but then wandered off into the thick brush.

At around 6:30 a small really good up and comer buck came in. I had seen this deer many times, and he was always with more deer and never alone, so I focused hard on the direction he had came from. About 3 minutes later, I could see the big 8 coming, and this time he was out of velvet, and looked bigger than I had thought.

As he was walking up the hill, he kept looking over his shoulder to check something behind him. One of my deer hunting tips is, when a mature buck is watching behind him, it only tells me that something bigger may be lurking. Well in this case, there was.

Coming straight at me was the buck I was after. He came in just like I had planned, but I didn’t plan on the other two  bucks being there with him. For nine minutes I had to watch him and the other bucks mill around and feed.

Finally, the big 8 swung around to the back side of the 12. I had been waiting on this, because I knew it would turn the 12 where I could get a shot off.

He turned around to chase the 8 and gave me the quartering away shot I needed. I let my arrow fly and instantly knew I had fatally hit him. The angle he gave me was a little steeper than I had hoped for, but I was super confident in my shot.

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I immediately called my wife, and then Kyle, to tell them I had shot. Kyle and another good friend, Nick McWhorter, had begged me all summer to film my hunts, and I had blown them off until about 2 weeks before season. They got me set up, and ready to film for this season.

Well, knowing the deer had my arrow, I chose to not even attempt to look for anything until I got to see my footage to confirm my shot placement. I met Kyle at my truck, and we reviewed everything together. In our opinion, that shot had been perfect. By this time, my wife and son had shown up, and were excited to start tracking.

We headed back to my stand and began to look, but there was nothing to find. No blood, no arrow, no nothing. I knew which way he had ran, so we started in that general direction first. Travis, another buddy had came to help track and to get him out of the woods. Travis saw my Nockturnal lighted nock glowing bright, so we headed straight for it.

Big Kentucky Buck Down

There he laid; the buck I had studied all summer in hopes for one chance. I got it, and the shot was perfect. I ran my arrow and broadhead from in front of his back left hip, all the way up to his front right shoulder, just like I had intended.

Just like that, it was all over. He ended up being a mainframe 10, with two abnormals on his left side. He scored 155 inches. I was tickled to death. 

I have been blessed to take some nice bucks, and it drives my addiction to the outdoors even greater! So not only did I kill a great Kentucky buck, but I also made a life-long friend in the process. That’s what hunting and the outdoors is all about

John Workman Buck and Kyle

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