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rifle and bow hunter

Are You A Pro Hunter? [or just a complainer?]

I listened intently as a popular outdoor podcaster explained, in great detail his disdain for rifle hunting – and rifle hunters. He pontificated for 30 minutes about its inherent lack of challenge and illegitimacy in the deer woods.

Promptly following his passionate albeit exhaustive diatribe, he said, “but that’s okay. Not everyone has to hunt the same way.”

His ending statement came too late – at least in my mind.

Days later, I listened to another show where several minutes of banter were dedicated to the lameness that is hunting with an outfitter. Here, you got the impression that, anything short of traversing public land with not much more than a bow and climbing sticks, was a “short cut”. 

I’d never felt so lazy in my life (not really, I’ve got pretty thick skin). The negativity and chest puffing seemed to increase with the sound of each new cracking beer tab in the background.

Though these are guys that consistently provide a lot of entertaining and useful hunting information, they are like many other outdoorsmen – they’re not pro hunters…

A Pro Hunter is…

So, by now you’ve probably figured out that this article has a misleading title.

Jim Shockey is a pro hunter. Larry Weisuhnn is a pro hunter. Charles Alsheimer was a pro hunter.  Though just three of many examples, these sportsmen have a lot of cred, with gobs of skill, skins on the wall, knowledge of wild game, and efforts for conservation.

man punching deer tag with buck
With hunting numbers down in the U.S., hunters should promote hunting in general, instead of bickering about topics surrounding which type of hunting is better and which buck is big enough to harvest.

But they have more than that.

It’s no secret that hunting numbers are down in North America. Indeed, it’s a pivotal time for our hunting heritage and future. Obviously, the anti-hunting sentiment plays a large role here for sure. However, it’s obvious that many members of the hunting contingent are intent on eating their young.

A recipe for disaster – outdoor future thwarted.

What is pro hunting? Yes, it has a lot to do with expertise, accomplishments, and positive contributions to habitat, and the like. However, in this vernacular, to be a pro hunter simply means to PROmote.

Promote the way you prefer to hunt, your weapons of choice, or other philosophies.

I’m “pro-bowhunting because I prefer to get closer to the deer I hunt.” I’m “pro-public land hunting because I find it challenging and I get to seek new places and find deer there.” I’m “pro-private land hunting because I like to have more control over my hunting grounds and deer management.”

If You’re Not A Pro, Then What Are You?

In my mind, problems arise when people become “con” hunters. So, what about this word con?

Definitions include “against” or “contrary.”

Maybe you’ve heard comments like,  “I get irritated with guys that shoot the first buck they see – if I see one more photo of a guy posing with a young 8-pointer, I’m going to explode. They have no idea what they’re doing.”

Now there is a con I hear often. How about just promote hunting?

Cons can of course also be good if offered up in a non-confrontational or non-combative manner. After all, independent thought and respectful discussion and debate is healthy.

It’s a slippery slope though and some folks have a hard time maintaining a healthy balance.

Play Nice

“Slinging mud doesn’t get anyone anywhere. When we have problems with fellow hunters, hunting policies, or anything else, resolving issues the right way is a must,” says outdoor writer, Josh Honeycutt.

Arguably, mental wrestling matches regarding hunting issues are healthy. However, it’s a fact that, like in any community, the entire hunting collective doesn’t play nice.

So, perhaps it’s best to develop (or stick with) your pro hunter side (or at the very least, emphasize it). It can slow the momentum of the negative trends inherent in the current hunting and the outdoor culture.

Put differently, embrace the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it” mindset. Consider approaching social media channels and deer camp fire pits as a pro hunter.

Michael Waddell once said, “I don’t care if you hunt with a recurve, crossbow, rifle, or anything else as long as you’re safe and legal.”

A pro hunter statement if I ever heard one.

This may all sound trite and dramatic, but it’s worth thinking about. Perhaps it’s best to concentrate on our pros.

With that, hunt well and play nice.

jerald kopp of first light hunting journal
Jerald Kopp of 1st Light Hunting Journal and Empowerment Outfitter Network.
6 shotguns standing up

Choosing The “Best” Shotgun Setup For Hunting | What to consider before pulling the trigger on your choice

One of the most common questions many hunters ask is, “what shell do you recommend for (insert gun) with (insert choke)? Without hesitation, the most immediate follow-up question usually results in, “What do you define as best?”

To us, the perfect shotgun setup is a result of the ultimate satisfaction and confidence when you pull the trigger. The “Best” setup then, more often than not, is a result of personal preference.

Since there are so many factors in determining what shotgun setup to go with, we’ll dive into a couple that allow you to develop some thought and help guide your decision for your next hunting season or day in the field.

#1: What are you going to use this shotgun for?

While many customers call already owning the shotgun they intend to use, they often can also be in the market for a new one as well, possibly even in a different gauge.

The first question we might pose is, “what do you intend to use this gun for the most?”

Just as you would when choosing the right rifle caliber, it’s important when choosing a shotgun setup to know what exactly you are going to use it for.

For example, when hunting waterfowl, semi-automatics are the most commonly used. Occupying the most weight, these guns rely on either gas or recoil driven systems to cycle the shells, allowing the shooter to stay more focused on the target, thus reducing the need to cycle the next shell.

turkey and shotgun on truck tire

You should ask the question what will my shotgun setup be used for?

When it comes to turkey hunting, it could be argued that the most prominent shotgun is a true pump-action.  Given the reduction in weight, these guns also provide a level of reliability that semi-automatics cannot provide. This could prove crucial during a turkey hunt, especially as a beginner.

In upland hunting (i.e. pheasant hunting), over/under or semi-automatic shotguns are king and its no coincidence these are favorites, as hunters can switch barrels and utilize multiple chokes at once for selected ranges.



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#2: Choosing a gauge

After you have selected your style of gun, you’re undoubtedly going to want to settle in on a gauge.

With gauge selection comes a choice in payload, recoil, weight and lastly range. Most smaller gauges tend to have smaller frames.

For larger type people, a bigger gauge may feel more comfortable, as it has added size and length of pull.

Smaller-framed individuals, or people looking for less recoil, may opt for a sub-gauge gun such as a 20, 28 or even a 410 bore. These gauges offer less weight, recoil and ease of maneuvering. A smaller gauge may also provide an additional level of challenge.

Whatever the situation, premium performance and effectiveness are available to all outdoor enthusiasts.

green apex ammunition shotgun shells in a stack

Tungsten Super Shot shells yield maximum pattern efficiency at various ranges.



#3: Choosing the right shell for your shotgun setup

With your next shotgun in hand, what shells do you intend to use?

With such advancements in technology and metallurgy, there are vast amounts of lengths, payloads and shot materials to choose. The most widely used shot materials are often steel for non-toxic and lead (where allowed) due to their mass availability and affordability.

Large pellets hit with a magnitude of force. However, they usually lose pattern counts at extended ranges.



To make up for this, smaller shot sizes are used. But, the setback here is that these smaller pellets lose vast amounts of energy, thus decreasing their range regardless of pattern count.

To combat decreasing range, increasing the density of the shot material increases the mass of the pellet. This results in saturated, hard-hitting and efficient killing patterns, resulting in more success and less cripples.

With the recent rise in tungsten based alloys, a new pinnacle in the shotshell community known as, “Tungsten Super Shot” yields the maximum in pattern efficiency at a multitude of ranges.



#4: Choosing the right choke

Referring back to our most commonly received question, many customers ask us what shell works best for their previous setup. A choke, aftermarket or not, is merely an additional forcing cone to optimize pattern efficiency.

In short, your choke should complement your gun and cartridge, not the other way around. The best aftermarket chokes cannot allow the shell to optimally perform if they are chosen incorrectly.

mallard ducks arranged in pinwheel

The type of game you are hunting impacts which choke you might consider using with your shotgun setup.

First and foremost, it is the utmost importance to consult the ammunition and choke manufacturer you are considering for both their recommendations and any safety warnings.

Chokes that are not designed to handle heavier-than-lead-type products, or over-constriction, could result in severe damage to the gun or even injury to the shooter.

Tighter constriction doesn’t always mean tighter patterns. In fact, it can result in an inconsistent blown core pattern that leaves it looking “splotchy.”

When selecting the right choke, consider the make and gauge of your gun.

The backbore of your shotgun, coupled with shot material, payload and shot size, will ultimately dictate which choke is right for your setup as it will ultimately culminate in your desired best pattern.



#5: The final touches

Your shotgun setup is almost complete. But, there are a few accessories and modifications you can add to increase your comfort and performance.

A reflex sight, (not to be confused with a rifle scope) which is most commonly referred to as a “Red Dot,” is a great addition that can improve your accuracy, and ensure that your point-of-impact/point-of-aim is true. It can also provide ergonomic relief to your neck and eyesight.

In short, if your sight is dialed in, the gun will hit what it points at.

apex ammunition shotgun shells

Shot shell selection is a critical part of the deciding what the “best” shotgun setup.

You can also improve your setup by lengthening the forcing cone of your shotgun. This results in a smoother transition as the pellets travel down the barrel, reducing stray pellets or, “fliers.”

Lastly, if you desire to provide the ultimate level of protection for your setup, there are options like Cerakote that virtually eliminate the wear and tear from the elements that allow you to prolong your investment.



In conclusion:

Choosing your best setup is the result of what you want to achieve. As it has been said before, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” In this case, perfection is just what you envision it to be.

As outdoorsmen and women, and conservationists, we all strive to achieve the most lethal and efficient method of take. After all the effort we put in to become successful, our equipment should be at the forefront of our mind and we should accept zero compromise in their performance.

Remember, with any setup, practice and patterning are critical to fine tuning your outcome. Maximum confidence in your abilities and equipment will ultimately lead to most memorable hunts you will ever experience.  

NIck Charney holding a turkey
Nick Charney, Founder of Apex Ammunition
outdoor brands arrows side by side

Empty Pockets | 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

Maybe moments like this are worth more than the boat you are in.

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 that we caught with our basic all-around fishing rods and reels 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

Is more expensive really better?

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

Money doesn’t kill ducks… but good shots do…

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.

Others are extremely particular about what brand of broadheads they shoot.

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 camping and outdoor gear. After all, the outdoors should be fun, affordable and enjoyable.

austin hurst pic

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