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

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?

Check out these public hunting land tips to help you start enjoying the vast opportunities!

  1. Know the Rules and Regulations
  2. Use Maps & Boots
  3. Take Advantage of the Seasons
  4. Know Thy Transportation
  5. Get the Right Gear
  6. Use Trail Cameras

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 Hunting 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.

man walking public hunting land

Use maps to help you learn how other hunters may be accessing the same parcel of public hunting land.

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. 


Lots of bucks on Kansas public land!

Some key areas and resources to be mindful of on public land 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 elevations
  • Areas leading to hunter access
  • 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

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. 

Some hunters will even opt for access via mountain bikes, which can provide a quiet, but faster route to the hunting location.




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

elk on public land

For bow hunters, archery seasons often provide an opportunity to hunt public land with fewer hunters around.

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

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. 

public land hunting fire starter

A fire starter is one of the most essential pieces of gear when out hunting public land. In a survival situation, it could be a life-saver.

To go along with your map, you can never go wrong with the following items when hunting public land:

  • 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. 

pubic land trail camera image

Trail cameras can be very useful in determining what types of game may be frequenting the public land that you are planning to hunt.

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 and 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. 


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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
Jason Giovenco-Montano

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black crappie flyrod picture

As Distinct As Black And White? [Black Crappie And White Crappie Differences]

on . Posted in Blog, Fishing

Whether you are a master at crappie fishing or just catch the occasional white or black crappie, they are exciting fish to catch as well as to eat.

But have you ever wondered how to tell the difference between the different species of crappie?

black crappie being held

Quiz time: So, is this a white crappie or a black crappie? Keep reading so you can become a “crappie” identifier!

But first, there are actually seven different species of crappie:

  • Triploid (Magnolia) crappie
  • Gold crappie
  • Stock hybrid crappie
  • Natural hybrid crappie
  • Black-nosed crappie
  • White crappie
  • Black crappie

The two types of crappie we will focus on in this article are black crappie and white crappie.

table full of black crappie

Crappie are considered by many as one of the tastiest fresh water fish. But, how do you tell white crappie from black crappie?

Basic Crappie Info

Before we explore the differences between white and black crappie, let’s take a look at some basic information about crappie.

Crappie are freshwater fish and are part of the sunfish family. They can be found in various waters in the US and Canada.



Crappie have a sustainable population due to the equilibrium that exists between their reproduction rate and the rate at which they are harvested each year.

Crappies love to eat smaller fish that exist in their habitat. When fishing for crappie, you can use a wide variety of baits, including minnows and jigs. Crappie are also even a favorite of those who ice fish.

Although crappies can be found in smaller schools by anglers, they are typically known to move in large schools. 

Black and white crappie are similar in many ways, but there are some key differences that will help you differentiate between the two species.




Black Crappie

Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) are found in fresh waters, mostly in North America. They are typically found in bodies of water with very low current, where they hide under timber, thick weeds and other vegetation.

When fully grown, it’s not uncommon for black crappie reach weights of two pounds. 

Here are some other interesting black crappies specs:

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Black crappie have a distinguishing darker pattern than white crappie.

Black Crappie Size

Black crappies that are caught will typically measure in length from 4 to 10 inches, but can get much larger. The current record for the longest black crappie is just over 19 inches. an be anywhere from about five inches to over 19 inches. 

Weight

Black crappies typically weigh ¼ lb to about ½ lb but they are also known to reach up to 4 lbs.

Food

Black crappies are known to feed in the early hours of the morning. They also feed during the midnight till about 2 am. They often feed on insects and crustaceans and larger black crappie will feed on other fish such as minnows and shad. 

holding a black crappie by the lips

Black crappies can be found in lakes, water reservoirs, and large rivers. They prefer low-velocity areas as well as sandy bottoms with clean water with abundant cover.



Your fishing rod called and it wants a makeover…


Reproduction

Black crappies are renowned for their fast reproduction rates. Therefore, after each spawning season, black crappie population increases significantly in lakes and small ponds.

Female black crappie are known to produce at least 11,000 eggs and can produce in excess of 180,000 eggs. As soon is spawning is over, the male black crappies secure the nest for about two to three days until they hatch.

Habitat

Black crappies live in lakes, water reservoirs, and large rivers. They love to reside in low-velocity areas with clean water and love to have an abundant cover like vegetation. They also love sand bottoms which are located in freshwater bodies.

Life Expectancy

Black crappie mature at an age of two to four years, but the typical life span lasts about seven years. 




White Crappie

Like the black crappie, white crappie (pomoxis annularis) are typically found in various freshwater bodies in North America. White crappie are also similar to the black crappie in terms of weight but tend to be slightly longer than black crappie. White crappie tend to be found in large schools and often hide under rocks or in areas of heavy vegetation. 

White crappies are known to attain maturity within 24 months and some reports reveal that they can survive for about six years on the average.

Below are some white crappie specs that might interest you:

white crappie picture

White crappie have a lighter color than the black crappie.

White Crappie Size

Mature white crappies typically measure in length from 9 to 15 inches. 

Weight

White crappies basically weigh ¼ lb to about ½ lb, however, according to the IGFA, the all-tackle world record white crappie is 5 lbs. 3 oz. 

Food

Juvenile white crappie feed on zooplankton and insects, but once they mature, will often feed on smaller fish, such as minnows, as well as crayfish.  



Reproduction

Spawning for white crappies occurs in the months of May and June at a water temperature of 56°F. Female white crappies can produce from around 5,000 eggs to over 90,000. Male crappies keep the nest secure by guarding it. 

Life expectancy

White crappie can live for up to nine years.

Habitat

You will mostly find white crappies in large rivers, water reservoirs, and lakes. White crappies have a very high tolerance for murky waters and can be spotted in areas which have low velocity like pools and also river backwaters. During the morning hours and in the evenings, white crappies are usually located in the open water. However, during the day, white crappies prefer to stay in waters that are quieter, shallower, with surrounding structure.


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03/06/2024 01:25 pm GMT


Black Crappie Vs. White Crappie (The Differences)

Now that we’ve covered some basics about both black and white crappie, let’s look at some ways that they differ.

white crappie dorsal fin spines

One way you can tell the difference between white and black crappie: White crappie have 5-6 spines on the dorsal fin, whereas black crappie have 7-8.

Coloration:

Coloration is the most obvious difference between black and white crappie. Black crappie have a darker look while the white crappie appear lighter in color and this is the reason why they have those names.

However, while many think that the “white” and “black” refer only to their appearance, it more specifically refers to the markings of each fish. 



Body Markings Of White Crappie And Black Crappie

The body markings on white crappie and black crappie differ. White crappie have vertical “bars” and have brighter stripes running directly from their upper body down to their lower body. However, black crappie have much darker body markings that do not adopt a precise pattern on its sides.

The black crappie’s black markings appear to be more random, or speckled.

Length and Shape

What seems like a difference in length between black and white crappie is often more about shape. Black crappie typically have a more compact, rounder and flatter body while white crappie are more elongated. 

Dorsal Fins

The dorsal fins are a major determining factor. If you look closely, a white crappie typically have 5-6 spines on their dorsal fin, while a black crappie will have 7-8. 

Fin Position

The position of the dorsal fins from the head of white crappies is somewhat farther away, while in the black crappies, the dorsal fins are positioned nearer to the head of the fish.

crappie with damaged dorsal fin

Crappie themselves are predators, but they are also preyed upon. This picture shows a black crappie with what was probably an attempt by a blue heron or eagle to snatch it out of the water.



Habitat Preferences Of Crappie

Many experienced crappie anglers will say that there is a higher possibility of finding white crappies hidden in bodies of water that contain a large number of rocks or thick vegetation, while black crappies seem to prefer clearer water containing sand beds.

Mouth Structure

White crappie have a larger mouth than black crappie. Another difference in mouth structure is that the mouths of black crappie turn more upward than white crappie.



Final Thoughts On Differences Between White and Black Crappie

While any kind of crappie is both fun to catch and also delicious, we hope this article has provided you with some helpful information on how to tell the distinct difference between them.

Whether your crappie fishing adventures find you chasing white crappie or black crappie, we hope you get to put a hook N1 and have a “crappie” day!

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