First Lite Clothing

December 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Gear & Reviews



Back to the Basics


I feel like, the older I get, the smarter I get.  I’m sure you can find people that would tell you I’m not getting any smarter, but what do they know? Most of them are still wearing their old, traditional camo clothing made from cotton, polyester, and even denim.  Over the last couple years, I have jumped on the band wagon and have been experimenting with some of these new high performance hunting clothing companies.  Let me tell you, there is some great high performance clothing for hunting on the market right now.


75 Degrees and the first Lite worked flawlessly!

One such company is a First Lite which is an industry leader out of the Sun Valley, Idaho area.  First Lite is one of the pioneers in high performance hunting clothing.  It all started by wearing merino wool clothing to give them added warmth and freedom of movement on the ski slopes.  They soon fell in love with the attributes of merino wool and wanted to use it on their hunting ventures. The problem was,  merino wool only came in black, so they were forced into wearing a cotton or polyester camouflage over their wool.  They had the same age old problem that most hunters have had.  All the warm clothing was big, bulky, heavy and didn’t breathe very well.  There is nothing worse than being sweaty, wet and cold while skiing and or hunting.  It is miserable and can even cause death!  The solution, start a company that builds state of the art hunting clothing out of merino wool in camouflage patterns.

As we all know it gets cold in Kansas in December! Well the First Lite work perfectly…


In 2007, Kenton Carruth and Scott Robinson owners of First Lite, set out on a mission to create clothing that would breath, is light weight and would not restrict the athletes movement.   It all started on the ski slopes and moved into the hunting industry.  From earlier archery season to late season, if you are cold weather deer hunting, they have you covered.  First Lite addressed each of these concerns and faced them head on to come up with what I feel is the perfect combinations for all your hunting adventures.

Texas Mule deer hunting! It can be 60 degrees one day and 20 degrees the next, as was the case on the day I harvested this great buck.


Let’s talk about the most important part of your clothing, whether it is early season or late season which is the first layer of clothing next to your skin.  Layering your clothing is the most effective way to achieve the perfect body temperature control in any environment.   The best material to have next to your body, hands down, is merino wool.  Merino wool is much smoother, finer wool when compared to the wool of an ordinary sheep. Not even all merino sheep have wool that is suitable for clothing, especially if it is next to your body.  Only the best merino wool can be used.  Traditional wool, as we all know, is very warm and itchy.  Merino sheep have much softer, finer wool compared to that of their cousin.  These finer strands of Merino wool eliminate the nasty itch caused by traditional wool.  As a matter of fact, when I received my first order of First lite I had to check the collar to see what it was made of.  It did not feel like any other wool I had tried in the past.  It was soft, elastic and fairly light compared to that of other base layers on the market. The collar, to my surprise, read 100% merino wool.


A huge attribute to wool is its ability to wick away sweat from your body.  It has the ability to disperse sweat into the millions of fibers and rapidly dry your garment.  The best part about this is, you and your garment remain scent free for longer periods of time.  Body odor is caused by bacteria growing and feeding off your body sweat.  No sweat, no body odor, the wool evaporates and dries quickly not giving bacteria time to grow.  I have tested this very extensively!  These high performance first layers are not cheap, so the average guy can’t afford to run out and buy one for every day of the week.  One base layer is going to have to last you multiple days of wicking away sweat and staying scent free.  Take my word for it, this stuff is amazing and worth every penny.  As Jim Shockey would say (I hope he doesn’t have this trademarked yet) “I trust my life to it”; it’s that good.  With First Lite’s first layers I can guaranty you that you have a much better opportunity to survive a night or two out in the cold, than if you weren’t wearing it.


As you can see, I personally, used the heck out of the Llano top, a 170 gram interlocked fabric base layer and the Allegheny 230 gram, mid weight bottom this year.  I tested them from ten degrees to ninety degrees Fahrenheit, and they performed flawlessly. As a base layer or my only layer, First Lite’s merino wool passed everything I could throw at it, including a smell test.  After three days of climbing hills, sweating and filming deer in ninety degree plus temperatures, I took the shirt off and asked my wife to smell it and tell me what she thought.  After a funny look and cautious smell her response was “what, it doesn’t smell like anything” I then told her that I just had taking it off after abusing it for three days in the field.  Her response was ” Wow, we should get you more of this”  I don’t no what she meant by that, but maybe after 12 years of washing my stinky hunting clothes she was ready for a positive change in the smell of my dirty garments.

I truly believe in this product. How people you know will strip down to their undies to show support to a great product. That would be me!


One of my favorite attributes to this base layer is it’s ability to stretch in all directions and go right back to its original shape.  A traditional garment would look like an over sized shirt at the end of four or five days of wear. These are breathable and have an articulate cut that allows for less restriction during movement.  What else can I say about these undergarments, besides they are the best!  If you are not a long bottom kind of guy, you need to try their Red Desert Boxers.  They are the bomb!  They are cut and seams are placed to prevent chafing and rashes, that you would normally get from tradition underwear.  I find myself wearing them even when I’m not hunting.  They are comfy!

A great management buck! I put this gear through its paces and I feel in love with. You can’t go wrong with First Lite gear. You have my word on it!


First Lite has all of their clothing in many of the popular camouflage patterns available on the market today.  If you are not a fan of camo, they also have them in a number of solid colors.  With multiple garment configurations and fabric weights in their first layers there is no reason for your core to ever get cold again.


This is not a paid endorsement, just my personal beliefs on how great First Lite’s products are.


PRO’s:  The best of the best. Breathable, light weight, wicks away moisture, and helps you remain odorless longer. Their clothing is everything you could possibly need!  They have me hooked!

CON’s:  First Lite is a little on the pricey side, but worth every penny.  Other under garments that compete with First Lite are similarly priced.

PRODUCT: I would like to see them expand their product line!  Maybe something that is water proof.  If it’s not raining you will need nothing besides what they offer, except for an excuse to get out in the field.

COMPANY: These guys are great!  I stopped in during an archery deer hunt and they treated me as if they had known me for years. Small company, with small company values. Order your clothes early as they do run out of certain sizes and colors.  They do sell their clothing on the retail market, so it can be readily available in your area.  Ask your nearest retailer for First Lite clothing.


Once in a lifetime!

August 28, 2011 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Comments Off on Once in a lifetime!

2010 Deer Hunt
by, Blake Tubbs

After hunting for seven days I finally saw the one. It snowed a skiff the night before, which resulted in Jeff and me not getting out of our sleeping bags as early as we should have. We were hiking to our destination and it was already getting light and we still had half a mile to go. As we were heading to our destination, we were moving pretty swiftly and I was pretty irritated at myself for not getting out of bed a half hour earlier. That was until we spooked some deer over a ridge and I saw a buck that I knew was the “one.” If we would have left camp when we intended it would have still been dark and would have never seen that buck.

We immediately ran to the top of the ridge expecting to see it from the top, since it was open sage brush country on the other side. We saw several deer, but not the buck. I knew he had to be there somewhere and continued to look for about 15 minutes. I finally decided to go back down the hill to retrieve my pack from where I had left it and see if I could find the buck’s tracks. His tracks were pretty obvious compared to other deer and I followed them to where we had previously been on top of the ridge. The snow had melted on the other side and we sat there wondering how far away he was by now. We were looking into a really big, open drainage and we kept saying to each other that we should be able to spot him. After standing there for another 10 minutes we heard rustling about 150 yards below us in a patch of 3 to 4 foot tall brush. I was then shocked to see “my buck” run out of that small patch of brush at full speed.

I immediately put my gun up to start blasting, but Jeff pulled the barrel of my gun down saying, “where’s he going to go?” It was wide open country and he was right in the fact that it would have been a tough shot with the buck at full speed and me having a serious case of buck fever. The deer ran until he was about 800 yards out and then just stopped and started to browse all by himself. It was an amazing experience to watch that buck in our binoculars and spotting scope for 30 minutes. As soon as he crested a small ridge and was out of sight about a quarter mile away, I hurried as swiftly and quietly as possible to hopefully catch him just on the other side and within range.
Once near the crest of the ridge, I paused to catch my breath, got on my belly and crawled to the top. He was not where I expected him to be, but was 200 yards to my left with several does. I was able to shift to the left without being noticed and bring the buck down in his tracks with one shot from my Remington model 700 30-06. Jeff watched the whole ordeal unfold through the spotting scope and was worried I might not be able to see the buck since he didn’t go where we expected him to. Jeff was watching the buck when all of a sudden he just disappeared and 3 seconds later Jeff heard a shot.

After we admired the beauty of the magnificent animal, we took care of him and were able to head out for an evening hunt in hope of finding another one. We spotted another really nice buck and watched him in the spotting scope for quite a while before we made a plan to stalk him. Jeff tried to close the gap, but there were too many does to make that possible and he got away. Over the next couple of days we continued to look, but none of the bucks were as nice so we eventually decided to go back to where we’d seen that buck two days before. To our surprise we were able to spot him near the same spot. However, this time we decided to just watch him until he lay down before making a game plan. I didn’t think he would ever lie down, and he never did. We watched him and a 3-point go up into a small finger at the top of his mountain until they were out of our site. There was no chance to make a stalk from where we were, we’d already tried that. So, we decided to drop off the backside of the mountain, get on the other side of the deer’s mountain and climb up from the backside to come up the finger we’d last seen him in.

From the backside it was tough to determine which finger was the right one. After an hour of hiking we crested the top of the mountain and five minutes later I thought we were busted when I saw the 3-point running away from us. After another 10 minutes of walking we found the finger we thought he should be in. All of a sudden Jeff just froze and signaled for me to get down, whispering that the buck was about 200 yards away lying down. I never saw the deer and Jeff could only see him when standing up. I was carrying the spotting scope tripod, so I quietly extended the legs as far as possible and Jeff used it to balance his 300 ultra mag on. It took one shot. The deer was lying underneath a cliff and never got up from his bed. By the time we got him off the mountain we just made it home in time to go trick-or-treating.

TC Northwest Explorer

August 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Gear & Reviews

The new TC Explorer should be your muzzleloader of choice!

by Steve Alderman

Thompson Center Arms comes to the Northwest with its newest line of muzzleloaders, The Northwest Explorer.

The Northwest Explorer fresh out of the box!

In recent years, the northwest has put some heavy restrictions on muzzleloader hunters.  Until recently, muzzleloader hunters in Idaho, Washington and Oregon were limited to only a hand full of sub-par  muzzleloading rifles.  TC Arms has added what I think is one of the better muzzleloaders on the market.  With its open ignition, open sights and number 11 percussion cap as the ignition, it meets the Northwest’s unwarranted demands for muzzleloaders and muzzleloader hunters.

You got to love a job like this!  Testing all the latest gear has to be done by someone I guess!

Thompson Center Arms took some of their already popular guns and molded them into the Northwest Explorer.  A drop away breech, similar to the Omega, allows the hunter easy access to the breech plug for priming.   With a weather shield Barrel and the camo synthetic stock this gun is built for the harsh conditions the northwest can dish out. What is  TC’s weather shield barrel?  It’s a coating that is very similar to a teflon coated barrel.  It repels moister and cleans very easily.  TC also added QLA muzzle system for fast accurate loading of the gun. With a full size, 14 inch, monte carlo stock and ventilated rubber recoil pad, this gun feels great on the cheek.

I received this gun to do a review I was commissioned to write for a national publication.  After one day at the range, I knew I had to add this gun to my collection.  Granted it wasn’t the most accurate gun in the review of muzzleloaders, as it actually came in second in accuracy. However, it came in first in every other category.  When I say it came in second it still had a 1/2″ MOA at 50 yards with open sights.  Yes, I did say 1/2 inch groups. Try and get that with your muzzleloader and open sights.  It came in first place with fit and feel, ease of loading, ease of priming, and ease of cleaning. It also came in first at the bench, with speeds reaching a 200 feet per second faster than the competition. Granted, the barrel is 28 inches long which is up to 4 inches longer than some of the other guns tested.

At the bench the gun handled very well.  After a few hours of shooting, I found my gun preformed the best with 105 grains (by volume) of Triple Seven FFg powder and a Thompson 370 grain maxi-ball.  The lead conical by Power Belt in a 425 grain weight came in second with just over 3/4 inch groups at 50 yards.  I currently have the Explorer at a gun smiths to get it drilled and tapped for a scope.  I will hit the bench a couple more times to try and figure out the best load for the gun.  A scope definitely helps take human error out of the equation when compared to using open sights.  I can always sweeten up my loads when I use a scope.  It helps me find the perfect load for each gun that I shoot.

1/2 Group at 50 yards with open sights

Before actually hunting with this gun, I’m going to change a couple of things   There will be a new Simms recoil pad and some better sights added to the gun.  Not that either one of them are all that bad, they just could be better.  I personally like a small front bead on my guns.  Aim small , hit small is one of my favorite sayings. The gun definitely needs a smaller front sight for precision shooting.

Some of the essentials used in testing this gun!

After shooting this gun I can  see why Thompson Center Arms is the leader in muzzleloading. From their fine line of Omegas and Pro Hunters, to this new line of semi-traditional guns made for the northwest, Thompson Center Arms can take care of all of your muzzleloader needs. I will be hunting with the Northwest Explorer this year.  How big of a buck will it bring home on its maiden mission? Only time will tell.

  • PROSBy far the best shooting muzzy right out of the box,  at least with the TC Maxi Balls.  Other bullets like powerbelts and sabots don’t fly well through this gun.  It’s a gun made specifically for me and the rest of northwest.
  • CONS: Front sight is too large to be precise with your shots past 75 yards. The barrel doesn’t come in stainless steal.
  • PRODUCT: High Rating…Very good product….All the components of this gun are as solid as any TC gun.  Shot the TC maxi balls like no other gun.  It must be that 1/48 twist barrel.
  • COMPANY:  High Rating….I like to talk to somebody when I call a company, not a machine.  When you call TC, you could be on hold for a while or you can leave a message and they usually get back with you within one business day.  Their gunsmith is as good and knowledgeable as anybody in the business.  All of the staff is very helpful and friendly.

Kenetrek Safari

August 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Gear & Reviews

Kenetrek Safari Boots

by Steve Alderman

The new Kenetrek Mountain Safari is the perfect boot for use in the desert mountains, whether located in Arizona’s Kofa Mountain Range or the Zambezi Escarpent in Africa.  They are specially designed for support and comfort in warm temperatures.   The non-insulated Mountain Safari is lined with perforated calf skin to enhance breathability and wicking of perspiration.  It is also an ideal boot for the warm, early seasons in the West.   For a boot with this kind of support, the Mountain Safari is incredibly light weight weighing only 3.7 pounds per pair.  They are made in Italy.  Suggested retail is $305.00

Update 7-24-09

The new Safari by Kenetrek should arrive today or tomorrow (7-24-09) in the mail.  I’m very excited to try these new boots out.   Review should be completed in the next couple of weeks.  Thanks for your patience.

Updated  8-11-2010

I’ve  received a few e-mails wondering where the review was for Kenetreks Safari boot that I promised last year.  Yes, I wanted to try these boots out before writing the review.  I just didn’t think it would be a years worth of wear.

The Safari is the summer boot in Kenetreks line of great footweaar.  The Safari is an awesome light weight boot that was built for the riggers of warm weather.  Over the last year I have used this boot for scouting, hunting and even some work here on the property.   Kenetrek has cut out the water proofing and used perforated calf skin for the liner. which is lightweight and built to breathe.  Like I said in the last Kenetrek review my feet sweat in socks, so I was a little hesitant that these boots would keep my feet dry.  I was right, my feet did sweat, but it took a lot longer for my feet to start sweating compared to other boots I have used in the past 20 years.

I wore the crud out of these boots last year. We filmed 6 deer hunts and I had the opportunity to stick a great 8×8 bull with my Hoyt wearing these boots. All in all, I have put over 100 days of rocks, dirt, brush, and even the occasional creek crossing to work in these boots.  The Kenetrek Safari’s have pulled through it all with flying colors.  With 2 coats of Kwik wax the boots kept my feet dry from any water entering the boot.  The one down fall to the wax is that is hinders the boot from breathing as well as it was designed to.  If I was to get another pair of the Safaris (which I will really soon) I would choose not to put the wax on the boot to see how well they breathe without it.

One of he great bucks we field being harvested in September 2009 using the Kenetrek Safari.

These boots fit a little differently from the other boots by Kenetrek. They still fit perfectly in length but are a touch wider than the Hard Scrabble and Mountain Extreme.  The lack of WindTex (Gortex like liner) and the thinner calf skin liner, built on the same platform as the Scrabble and Mountain Extreme leave a little extra room on the sides of the boots.  At first I thought this would be an issue, however, these boots quickly became my favorite despite my reservations.

The soles of these boots are in great shape,  By now my Danners would be missing over half of their Bobs

I use the Safaris two to three days a week.  On the farm or in the hills, these boots flat out perform.  If you are looking for a light weight boot with the spectacular Kenetrek sole, the phenomenal support of the steel shank and the unparalleled comfort on rocks and all terrain, you much get a pair of these boots.  Trust me when I say to you “YOU WILL THANK ME LATER”.

These boots look great for having over 100 days in the field logged on them

  • PRODUCT:  Highest Rating…Great boot….. One of the best boots that I have owned.  I would only say they come in second to my Kenetrek Mountain Extremes.
  • PROS:  Very breathable boot.  The coolest boot of this caliber that I have owned. The best of materials and craftsmanship is put into Kenetreks.
  • CONS:   These boots are not as snug as the other Kenetreks.  They took some getting used t as I was expecting the tight snug fit like that of the other Kenetreks. In spite of that, they quickly became my favorite boots
  • COMPANY:   Good Rating…..Great people to work with….. The only down fall to this company is they are always out of stock on boots.  You need to order them early if you want them by hunting season.

300 inch muzzy buck out of Oregon

December 9, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Lucky hunter takes a 300 inch cactus buck in Oregon with his muzzleloader!

102_2810 A friend of mine from Oregon called a said this buck unofficially scores 301 gross.  What a pig and congrats to the lucky hunter.  It could be the second largest buck ever killed with a muzzleloader.   Arnold Sandoval’s is the largest that I know of.  It was harvested in Nevada.  I believe it scored around 304 gross and was 35 inches wide.

Sandoval175Arnold Sandoval with his 2006 muzzleloader buck that grossed 304

New issue of Hunting Illustrated

November 4, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

In stores now…….Until January 26,2010

Mule Deer and Front Stuffers

By Steve Alderman

compressed HI43cover

My heart beat uncontrollably as I saw huge mule deer antlers at fifty six yards. The date was Oct 1st. 8:30 a.m and It was 40 degrees, over cast, with winds gusting up to 35 miles an hour.  I had been watching and filming this buck for the past three months and now wasn’t the time to mess up all of the hard work I had done.  I knew I needed to cover four more yards to get a clean shot, but the buck bedded with his butt into the hill so he could see every movement within the 240 degree field of view in front of him.  My only course of action was to slowly back up a couple yards, lay flat on my belly, then move ever so slowly back into place at a mere fifty two yards from my quarry for a clear shot.  I wasn’t in much of a rush as the deer was now bedded for the day. Laying on my belly with my gun at my side, I started inching forward ever so slowly.  A mature mule deer has  keen senses that can pick up movement at hundreds of yards away,  so how was I  to go undetected at fifty?  Moving as slow as possible was going to be my only choice.  Using knees and elbows would cause to much movement which meant that all I could do was use my toes.  That’s right.   My plan was to use my toes to push my body the last four yards.  Nothing was moving except for my toes which were hidden from the deer by the rest of my body.  Moving two inches at a time worked out to be slow enough as I got to my marked destination without being noticed.  Now, all I had to do was wait for the deer to stand and change his position in his bed.

As I lay a mere fifty yards from the biggest buck I ever have had the chance to harvest, I did something stupid.  I looked back and talked to the camera guy to make sure he was rolling and could see the deer.  That’s right, I moved my head at  fifty two yards from the bedded buck and yes he did catch the movement.  Lucky for me I was camoed out in Kings camouflage  and some 3-d leafy camo from Scentlok.  The buck caught the movement but did not recognize it as danger.  It was a very tense situation as the deer was now staring directly at me with my gun still at my side.   I knew the deer wasn’t going to lay there in his bed and tolerate the movement of something that wasn’t there when he bedded, so I slowly brought my gun into position and I mean slowly.  I obviously did not want to spook the already alert deer.  The deer saw the movement and was curious as to what it was so he stood to get a better look.  I still believe to this the day that the only reason the deer didn’t bolt was that the movement was so slow and that it was windy enough that he didn’t perceive it as a threat.  He just couldn’t figure it out so he stood to get a closer look and that is when the roar of my gun and the smoke from the end of the barrel broke the morning silence.steve2

Writing this story makes me as giddy and nervous as a boy getting his first bike.  It makes me realize why I enjoy hunting with short range weapons so much, especially those stinky old muzzleloaders.  It’s the times at the shooting benches sighting in these replicas of the early years, the blown stalks, the missed shots, the times in camp and in the hills with your closest buddies.  Most importantly, its getting to know the mule deer and his habits like no one else which drives me to hunt this way.  It’s getting close and out smarting these old majestic deer on their ground, in their core areas, and making it all come together with a quick clean harvest.

I know from past experience that lack of patience is where most people fail when it comes to short range weapons.  I don’t think you can teach this when it comes to hunting as every situation is different and people need to figure it out on their own.  They try to push the situation and make the deer stand up for their clear shot, which nine times out of ten doesn’t work.  The deer blows out of his bed never giving the  hunter the shot they set out to get.  Patience is a virtue in this situation.  You must wait for the deer to do what is natural for him.  He will get up and change his position in his bed a couple times a day, sometimes even grabbing a bite to eat in the process.  I have only seen two deer in all my years of hunting not change their beds.  Those two deer would bed at first light and not move from their bed until after dark.  So, there are the rare occasions when a deer won’t leave his bed but generally they will change their position at some point in the day and that is when you take advantage of the situation.  If you are patient,  the deer will be less cautious and simply do what comes natural for them.  They will be less likely to pick up the slight movement of the hunter who is ready for the shot.  You can usually spot a patient hunter by the amount of success he or she has while short range weapon hunting.steve1

Sure, there are many disadvantages to muzzleloader hunting over modern firearms.  First and foremost is the one shot challenge.  If it is an issue, it only takes one shot right?  Yeah, I’ve said that a few times and found my self running back to my pack to get another load on more than one occasion. Secondly, there would be the shot distance issue of 150 yards max with open sites and 250 max with a scope.  You all know someone or maybe even have yourself harvested a deer further than that.  For the most part with open sites, you cover half the deer up with the front site at 150 yards and then it is a guess as to were your bullet is going to hit. You might as well throw your ethics out the window if you are going to try and harvest a buck past this with open sites.  At 250 yards with a scope, there are all kinds of issues  to deal with such as bullet drop, with 20-25 inches being the norm on average and that is  if you use 150 grains of powder, wind drift up to and sometimes over a foot at 200 yards with a 15 mile an hour wind, and then there is the moisture issue.  Moisture is an issue a muzzleloader hunter could go on about for days.ssteve

However, four million muzzleloader hunters, including myself, feel that the benefits to hunting with a front stuffer far outweigh the disadvantages.  For me, the first advantage is less hunters in the field which also equates to better draw odds on some of those once in a lifetime hunts.  Secondly, getting close to the game you pursue and out witting a wise old mule deer on his turf at under a 150 yards is arguable the hardest game animal to hunt under these conditions.  Lastly, getting within range of a trophy mule deer with short range weapons will teach you patience,  proper shot placement and most importantly hunting ethics. Ethics, meaning humanely hunting and harvesting the game. i.e. your effective range for your gun and your load.  Hunting with a muzzleloader forces you to get closer to the animal so you can make that one shot harvest.  A muzzleloader hunter must spend more time at the bench getting to know his gun, its capabilities and limitations.  Merely shooting and hitting the target at 100 yards is not acceptable when it comes to muzzleloader hunting.  The hunter must know how the gun is going to preform under all conditions and distances.  There are many more variables to consider when hunting with a muzzleloader which makes it all the more enjoyable and satisfying to hunt with, especially when you are successful at putting your tag on a wise old mule deer.

So back to my hunt.   The roar of my gun and the smoke from my barrel broke the morning silence.  As the smoke quickly drifted to the side I could see my deer high-tailing it down the mountain side.  Could I have missed, I thought to myself?   There was simply no way I missed when he was only fifty two yards away.   To my utter relief, the deer ran about 60 yards were he proceeded to lay down and expire.  I was expecting him to crumble at the shot.  He was only fifty two yards and quartering to me when I put the front bead on his front shoulder and squeezed the trigger.   I guess when I was caught off-guard in the stand off, I forgot to allow for wind drift. Yes, even at fifty yards you will get wind drift.  The wind was blowing 30  to 35 miles an hour and even at fifty two yards I should have allowed for some sort of drift.  My bullet actually hit 3 inches to the left of where I was aiming and missed the shoulder completely causing me to second guess a hit or a miss.  Like I said, I was expecting him to crumble at the sound of the shot.  The best part was even after my slight miscalculation I ended up with my biggest Idaho buck to date.  I guess I’m lucky that the deer wasn’t standing at 125 yards because I could have missed him all together.steve

That buck ended a great season of short range weapon hunting.  I ended up harvesting three 200 inch plus bucks in three different countries all with short range weapons.   A rare feat that not to many hunters, if any, can say that they have accomplished even with high powered modern rifles.  One of the bucks was a 207 incher in Old Mexico with my trusty front stuffer.  Next, was a 208 inch buck in Alberta, Canada with my hoyt bow, and then back to Idaho to finish it off with a monster 213 inch non-typical.  Once again, it was my trusty muzzleloader that got the job done.  What a fantastic year!  I truly believe that hunting with a muzzleloader since I was 17 years old has made me a better hunter.  I also believe it can make anyone a better hunter.  There is never a substitution for more time spent in the field and at the bench.  Muzzleloading forces you to spend quality time doing both and what a good excuse to get out and have some fun in the field.


This hunt is featured in the new hunting video by Creekside Productions.  Mule Deer Country is mule deer hunting at its finest,  from Idaho to Old Mexico.  Watch as two monster Desert Mule Deer hit the dirt.  One of them is the largest ever harvested in Mexico with a muzzleloader, scoring over 208 inches gross.

Follow wildlife photographer and videographer Vince Martinez as he show cases some of Colorado’s finest mule deer.  Come with us as we take you on twelve action packed hunts, including four from Sonora Mexico.  You don’t want to be the last pearson to discover this radically new video from Creekside Productions.

Christina bags a great 195 inch buck!

November 2, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

A Wife’s Joy………A Husband’s Misery

By Christina Morrow

Why is it that men procrastinate everything to absolute last minute? This is the very question I mutter to Daniel, my husband, every year between 11:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on May 31st. That is usually about the time he remembers that we have to put in for our Idaho Controlled Hunt tags. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much about this family tradition as it usually ends in excellent results……at least for me. One year this May 31st late night ritual resulted in a great bull moose tag for me. In 2009, the ritual resulted in a premier mule deer tag, again for me. Of course the ritual hasn’t really resulted in anything for Daniel, but that is his whiny story (definitely for another day).

christina buck3Christina, Dan her husband and myself with Chris’ great Idaho buck!  194 gross

When I found out that I drew this particular mule deer tag I was excited!  However, since I really didn’t recognize the extent of my good fortune at the time, I must admit that most of my excitement and joy was centered around Daniel’s obvious misery in that he didn’t draw the tag. As I talked to others and learned more about the hunt my excitement – and my anxiety – grew. At some point, my anxiety surpassed my excitement. By early October, I was just plain nervous. It finally registered that I would only have a couple of weeks for my hunt and in that time, I would only have a few days that I would actually be able to get away and concentrate on my hunt. It didn’t help either that during the first half of October I saw a steady stream of big bucks being brought over to our house. Daniel is a taxidermist and it seemed like everyone was harvesting monster bucks this year. I felt the pressure piling on. Of course, my biggest fear was that I would get up close to one of these big, monster bucks and then would miss the shot. As opening day drew near I also started to realize that Daniel was equally concerned about this issue……..impossibly, he may have been even more nervous about this than I.

My mom flew into town the evening before my hunt started. She was going to spend four days in town with our boys, Dylan and Jake, so that Daniel and I could concentrate on my hunt. Of course, between work, kids, and life in general, we didn’t have time to start packing and getting ready for the hunt until that same evening that my mom arrived. So after a quick run to the airport, Daniel and I both began packing – again something at the last minute.  In our true and typical fashion we finished packing at around 1:00 a.m. the morning of my hunt. So we set the alarm and tried to get a few hours sleep.

christina buck4Chris with her hard earned buck!

When the alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. I thought……”Well this is it” and then “Holy cow I’m tired!” I jumped into the shower – since I knew I wouldn’t get that luxury for a few days – and we set off. As we were leaving town, it was pouring rain. Not the start we had hoped for, but not something I could fix, so I focused on enjoying my coffee and trying to remain calm. Daniel was not very helpful in the latter; he spent the next two hours reinforcing over and over that I just needed to remember to “squeeze the trigger……..” or that once I did shoot I needed to immediately “get another round in the chamber!” Needless to say, it was a very long couple of hours. I couldn’t have been happier to jump out of the truck into the cold and soggy air.

christina buck1I just love this pic!  Congrats guys on a great buck.  I had a great time!

I was very lucky and fortunate in that we had several friends going along to help us with the hunt. Daniel’s good friend Steve Alderman came along as well as Joe Pennington. We also had another one of Steve friends, Dave, camping and occasionally hunting with us.  We all met up and headed out for our first day of hunting.

If I had listened to Daniel my hunt would have been over opening morning. I think he wanted me to shoot the first buck we saw…….honestly, I think he wanted me to shoot all of the bucks we saw and we saw a lot that day. At the end of the day, we estimated seeing something like forty bucks opening morning. I had never hunted deer in open country like this before. I grew up hunting white tail with my dad up north. Binoculars were definitely not something you needed up there and we rarely ever would sit and glass an area. I was amazed at the sheer volume of deer we were seeing each day. I got to watch bucks sparing and fighting. We nearly walked right up on top of several does sleeping on the edge of a ravine that first day. It was incredible. I enjoyed every minute of it.

In any event, I don’t think I was being too picky that day. We did see a lot of bucks……several decent bucks………just not a buck that I simply knew I wanted to shoot. We saw several three and four point bucks that day. Of those, there were two that I thought about harvesting. One we jumped up at mid-morning. He was a beautiful four-point.  He was running with a big forked-horn cactus buck. We estimated that he was likely a 170’s class buck. Definitely a trophy deer. I just decided I wanted to pass on him. Daniel kept looking at me and saying “Are you sure?” His questioning me, made me question myself. I kept thinking “Am I being too picky, have I set my expectations too high”…..and a million other thoughts. But I held firm. I wanted something different, an original……a buck with some personality and I decided I would wait for it.

That evening we saw the second buck that I considered. We spotted him shortly before sunset. He was bedded down along the ridge up above a meadow. He was wider than the buck from earlier that day. Another four point. He was taller and his left side laid out more than his right. He was definitely another trophy deer. We left him there that night and headed back for camp.chris' buck

The second day was more of the same. We glassed and watch any number of deer. That morning we saw several more cactus bucks. One stood and watched us for quite awhile. We also watched a little buck that we named “Tri-pod.” He had in-lines in his rear forks that looked like tri-pods. He definitely had personality and was different. He was slightly more heavy that most of the other bucks we’d been seeing as well. However, he wasn’t as big as the four-point we’d seen the evening before, so again I passed him up.

That afternoon Daniel spotted a buck bedded down in front of a big sage. We watched him for quite awhile. He looked massive laying there, but it was difficult to tell if he was big or if we were seeing sage brush as part of what we were looking at. We ultimately decided to walk in and see if we could get a better look. When he finally spooked from his bed, I was glad we had investigated further. Without the sage behind him, he was much smaller than I’d imagined him to be. Again, another great buck, but not what I was looking for.

Later that afternoon when we got back to the truck we had a voicemail from Harry Knox, one of Daniel and Steve’s friends. Harry knew I had a tag and he said that he had seen a deer that day that he thought we might be interested in. So that evening we went over to visit with Harry. When he was explaining about this deer, I was getting excited. He said it had kickers on both sides and that its front main beam on one side was wavy. He said it was pretty heavy at the base and pretty tall. Harry estimated the deer to be in the 180’s. The deer sounded awesome to me so we decided we would head out in the morning to see if we could find him.

The deer was in quite a ways so we all headed out there together. We set up on a rock ledge overlooking three draws that merged together. We had four spotting scopes together and got them all set up to glass the area.  Out of pure luck when Dave set up his spotting scope and started to focus it in on rocks in the far distance, a buck walked right through his line of sight.  Dave and Joe both started following the buck.  All of the guys were able to see him for a few minutes before he bedded down.

Once the buck was bedded down, he wasn’t easy to see.  We kept watching him though and eventually decided that we thought this was the same deer that Harry had told us about.  We could tell that he had kickcers off both sides and could see that he had pretty tall backs.  When I looked at him in the scope, I knew that he was a definite shooter.

We decided on our strategy for the stalk next. Because of the wind, we had to come up from underneath the buck. Definitely a much more difficult stalk, but we knew if we tried to come in above him, he would wind us. We also decided that we would not need spotting scopes on the stalk and so we emptied out our packs of that gear and some other extra gear that we didn’t need to drag across to the next ridge. We stashed all that extra gear in the rocks and took off down into the ravine. On the way down the hill Daniel somehow manages to spot and pull an old deer shed up out of the tag alders and bushes. We get down into the bottom, manage to cross a little creek and start slowly heading back up through another little finger.chris' buck2

At the top of that finger we figured we would be about 500 to 600 yards below and to the deer’s left. Just as we are breaking up out of the bushes in that finger ravine we hear the awful rattle of a rattle snake. Now this is not something I would normally anticipate encountering this time of year.  Normally it would be way to cold for rattle snakes. In fact, only about ten days before the same area was covered in about six inches of snow. However, that day it was beautiful blue sky and had to be about 70 degrees……….apparently warm enough for rattlers. Steve was right in front of me and started pushing me back while we tried to find the snake. I spotted it just as it slithered into a nearby sage. I thought “Great now we can walk around it.” But that’s not what we did. No, as soon as I point to it, all four guys take off after it. They were using the tripod sticks for their cameras and Daniel was running around with a boulder and they were all talking and making noise. They were so very easily distracted from the task at hand!  The snake ultimatly won the battle. It had a hole or something in the middle of that sage that it crawled into. The boys all recognized their defeat and decided to move on. As we walked away, I hoped the rest of my stalk was more successful than our attempted stalk on that snake.

Just as we started to move forward we saw movement to our right and looked up in time to see two big bucks cresting the rock rim above us. The first one that went over – the one I was just able to see – looked like a beast……but isn’t that how it always works? At this point we couldn’t see “my deer” and we just had to hope that he hadn’t been spooked from his bed.  We kept moving forward.

Another couple hundred yards later and we could see just the tops of “my deers” antlers over the edge of some rocks that he was bedded next to. We hadn’t spooked him….yet. We had to keep moving closer and try to get set up for a shot. Now I didn’t mention this before, but Steve and Joe were both carrying cameras so that they could try and videotape the kill. We had five people, two with cameras to set up and me setting up for a shot. Amazingly, we somehow managed to sneak up to about 70 yards from the deer.  We could see the top half of his rack and then just rocks. The idea was to get the cameras set up, get me set up on shooting sticks on top of my own pile of rocks, then we would get the deer to stand up and finally I would shoot it. A great idea, easy to say, easy to type……not so easy to execute.chris' buck1

First one of the locks on the camera tripods clicked a little too loudly and I watched those antlers turn straight toward us. Why that deer didn’t stand then I have no idea  but I was glad he didn’t. After a few minutes of very shallow short breaths Daniel told me to move forward so we could try to get me set up for a shot. Now, on a good day, at the shooting range, on flat ground, with a cardboard box as a target I have a tough time shooting off of shooting sticks. I was at a complete loss in this situation. Daniel had the sticks set up spanning across a couple of boulders. I was leaning on one boulder and leaning sideways into another trying to shoulder my gun with a backpack still on. To top it all off, right before they made noise to try to get the deer to stand up Daniel says to me, “Now whatever you do, don’t shoot low and hit those rocks because the bullet could ricochet.”  “Holy shit! Are you kidding me!?”  I had so surpassed nervous…….I was terrified. Not only did I have the fear of missing the deer in front of two cameras and four guys, but now I could potentially kill someone to boot.

I know from watching the video that I was only sitting there terrified and horribly uncomfortable for a couple of minutes but it felt like forever! To make matters worse, the deer suddenly developed some sort of deafness. They were making noise and he wouldn’t do anything. Every time they made a noise I would flinch from the anticipation but the deer just laid there. Finally after someone made a loud enough grunt the buck stood up………for once in my life I did what my husband asked me to do. I put the crosshairs on that deer and I squeezed the trigger. Then I went above and beyond, I did a second thing that he had told me to do  – I got another shell in the chamber…..well at least I tried.

Of course, I managed to jam the rifle at that particular time. The deer was bounding away………Dave starts yelling “Do you want me to shoot?” Daniel ripped the gun out of my hands to clear the jam. Everyone was watching “my deer” bound away while Daniel monkied with my jammed rifle. But what they all didn’t know, and didn’t have faith in me to believe was that I hit that deer. I knew I hit him and I hit him good, but I didn’t want to chase him. They all, all four of them, thought I had missed. Imagine their collective surprise when mid-bound thirty yards later he fell over. Daniel, my poor frazzled husband, was so relieved he “teared up”.  Now he will not admit that, but I heard it in his voice, and fortunately we have it all on video.

Once my deer was down, we waited a few minutes and then hiked over. With each step closer he looked bigger and bigger. Definitely a great buck, likely a buck of a lifetime for me. I couldn’t have been more ecstatic. It was awesome!!!  I can’t thank Steve and the boys enough!  What a wonderful adventure.

Editors note….. Tearing up, choking up, or crying like a baby it was very emotional for about 5 seconds, then he realized there was three other guys standing there.  It quickly turned into a kiss and a great job babe.  We know how it went down Dan, we have it on tape tough guy…….  I had a great times guys,  hope we get to do it again sometime.  Maybe I’ll have the tag next time.  11:30 p.m. the night of the deadline,  I will have to try my luck.  Thanks for the laughs!


Heavy 195 goes down!

November 2, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

Bruce Harvey takes an incredible 195 inch mule deer home after hunting for only three days.  We had a great last week of hunting with good friends Mike Weeks and Bruce Harvey.  Bruce took a great buck on the third day of the hunt while Mike ended his season with a great  cull buck on the last day.

bruce 4Bruce Harvey with his great Idaho buck!

We watched this buck for three days before he gave us a chance to harvest him. On the second day of the hunt we watched this buck come with in three hundred yards of another hunter.  We watched in horror as this buck narrowly escaped.  The next morning the buck gave us an opportunity and this time he was not as lucky as he was the prior day.

bruce 2The whole crew, Bruce Harvey, Joe Pennington on camera, Les Gargan on audio, good friend Mike Weeks, and myself on camera

Story coming soon….

Idaho’s unit 44 produces a 198 inch monster

October 14, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

A Once in a Lifetime Second Chance

-Jon Owens

My father and I thought 2008 was going to be our monumental year for Mule Deer Hunting.  We had each harvested the biggest deer we had ever seen in Colorado and Wyoming.  As we were driving back home to Portland, Oregon I called a close friend of mine in Boise to tell him our stories.  He proceeded to send me a picture message with a picture of his deer he harvested on his family’s ranch.  It was a monster.  We met him at a gas station to exchange pictures and right then, dad and I decided we needed to apply in Idaho.  Well, we hit the jackpot and drew that tag.  Little did we know this hunt would be one for the books.

The second day we were there, it was my turn to hunt.  Dad found a great 5×5 mule deer on the first day but didn’t get a shot.  We went out to in a different spot to give the other piece of land a chance to rest.  Once we got to the field that morning we began to glass the canyons with our good friend Steve Alderman.  Finally, we spotted a group of doe’s with what looked like a nice buck a mile and a half to two miles away.  I thought, what the heck, lets put a hunt on him.


Jon Owens with his great 198 inch monster mule deer!

When we finally reached the top of the canyon, we crept up and saw the group of doe’s.  They were feeding their way up and over the next draw.  We could tell they weren’t spooked so we just sat and waited thinking that the buck was bedded down on the other side of this draw.  As we crept over, Steve went around the right side of the canyon to peak over.  No buck.

So we proceeded to the next draw to our left and find the doe’s.  Still no buck.  Steve felt that the buck might have gone back through this draw and back to the flat land where we came from so we circled around the canyon pushing the does to the bottom of the draw.  Steve went high; I went low as dad followed behind me.  As we were creeping through thick brush on the side of the canyon, the buck jumped up about 15 yards away from me and bounded towards the first draw we came up.  I pulled up my rifle to see a huge cheater on the right antler.  It was the biggest rack I have ever seen.  All I could see was neck, head and antlers bouncing up and down through my scope with thick brush hiding his body.  I didn’t take a shot.

jeff buckJeff Owens with his great 5×5 that scores around 180 inches

We then sprinted to the edge of that canyon trying to see if we can get him running up the next draw.  As I approached and pulled up my rifle, the buck was silhouetting on the top of the next draw over about 200+ yards away.  I didn’t take a shot, so we then tried to get on his tracks and find him.  After walking the next few draws, we decided we needed to let this deer settle to make sure we didn’t run him out of the county.

That night, I just kept picturing what I had seen through the scope thinking, what could I have done differently?  How could I have been more prepared?  Should I have taken that shot?  Will I get another opportunity like that again?  It was a tough feeling.

When the evening of day four rolled around we sat on top of the same canyon Steve and I went the night before looking for the buck we had jumped the day prior.   The previous night my dad harvested the same 5×5 he saw on day one.  He harvested his second chance buck.

This time, there were four of us spotting the canyon.  My dad, Steve, his good friend Les and I posted up on top of the canyon glassing each and every draw we could.  We spotted deer feeding everywhere but still hadn’t found a buck worth putting a hunt on given how much daylight we still had.

Finally, with about an hour left of daylight I heard, “That’s your buck!” coming from Les.  At least that’s the G-rated version.   The buck was about 1,000 yards from us and had just stood up to feed.  That tells you how majestic these animals are.  They can bed down for hours and remain unseen.   I found him in my spotting scope and I knew that was the deer I wanted to hunt.  Then Steve calls out, “that’s the same one from the other day!”  I was pumped!  It’s time to go get my deer.


Jeff, Les, and Jon ready to pack out Jon’s great buck

Fortunately for us, we had the wind in our favor.  It was howling over the canyons hiding the inevitable noise we were making while walking down the canyon trying to avoid the dead Aspen leaves and branches.  We were not quiet, but the wind protected us.

Finally, we got down to the bottom of the canyon and found a tree limb lying over the 7-foot wide creek we needed to cross.  Once over it, we found some Aspen trees to provide cover as we ascended up the canyon.

As we were walking, I was mentally preparing myself.  The thought of the previous opportunity kept flashing back in to my mind.  I replayed what I should do over and over in my head.  This time, I wont be caught off guard.

We got to the Aspens and stopped to glass.  We couldn’t see the deer.  It must be on the other side of the boulder about two hundred yards ahead of us.  This was great!  More cover as we climb.

When we reached the boulder and started climbing again we could see the other smaller buck feeding.  This was a good sign.  We saw this one earlier near my buck.  He must have bedded down again.

As we slowly approached, we were in one line.  We stopped and spread out a little.  Steve to my left, dad right behind me, and the smaller buck spotted us.  He wasn’t spooked.  He looked down the hill, and then continued feeding.  Steve then spotted the antlers of the big buck sticking out of the sagebrush. I couldn’t see him yet, but I was ready.

Jons buck1 We bumped this buck the day before and  ended up harvesting him within 400 yards of where we had seen him the prior day.

Steve took two steps to the left and my buck stood up and stared back down the canyon at us.  I got my scope on him, took a deep breath, exhaled and squeezed the trigger.  I tried to get back on him and couldn’t find him.  I pulled my gun around and found the other buck bounding away.  So I looked over my scope to see something wrestling in the brush, while tumbling down the canyon.  I got him!  My second chance buck!  It was a perfect shot 65 yards off hand.  The bullet entered right behind his right front shoulder and exited through his spine.  I approached my down buck, and we began to realize what a trophy he was.  We later green scored him 198 inches.  He had big 4 plus inch eye guards with cheaters on each side.  It was a dream come true.

Dad and I had a fantastic opportunity to hunt with our friends Steve and Les and harvest the biggest bucks we have ever seen.  It was a fantastic feeling to know that 2009, in Idaho was in fact our monumental season and that the good Lord decided to put these fantastic animals on this earth for us to enjoy.  We are grateful.

MDC poperotzy

Idaho State Record Muzzy Buck!

October 4, 2009 by  
Filed under the PURSUIT

New Idaho State Record Muzzy buck Harvest

Dallas Smith is no stranger when it comes to large mule deer.  Over the last few years, Dallas has added three awesome mule deer to his collection each scoring over the magical 200 inch mark. However, none of them come close to the accomplishment he achieved this past week. Dallas harvested the pending new # 4 in the world mule deer with a muzzleloader and it is also the new State Record in Idaho.  The unfortunate part of this story is that the buck will never be recorded in the books.   Dallas has to date decided that he doesn’t want to strip the velvet off the buck to have it officially scored.  I can’t say that I blame him.  It’s a once in a lifetime buck and keeping it the way it was when it was harvested is important to Dallas.

dallas3Dallas Smith with his latest monster in his collection

Dallas has watched this buck for the past five years and even tried to harvest it a time or two only to fall short in his quest.  This is ok if you look at the end result which is a 265 inch gross monster.  His Buck has a 204 inch frame with approximately 60 inches of trash.  It has only been unofficial scored, but when I held this monster in my hands, score went completely out the window.  This buck is dense, heavy, wide, nasty,and just plain old incredible.  When I lifted it off the ground, I was amazed at the weight of the antlers.  As shown in the picture above, these antlers felt like they would tip the scales at over 15 pounds which is a true monster in anyone’s eyes.

Comparing this buck to his sheds from the last few years shows this buck has grown into a true giant.  Two years ago his sheds scored in at just over 207 gross inches.  Last year his sheds grossed at just over the 228 inch mark.  Now he has grown into the mega 265 inch giant the Dallas harvested earlier this week.

dallas2Dallas With his 265 inch giant

I’m sure you are asking yourself why is this buck in velvet in October?  Well, the truth is still somewhat of a mystery to all.  He did grow a fresh set of horns every year, however this buck held his velvet well into October every year.  Like I said, Dallas knew this buck well.  He watched the buck two years ago shed its velvet at the end of October and last year it shed it in the middle of October.  At the time of harvest, the testicles of this deer were only one-fourth the size of a normal mule deer.  So obviously this buck had some sort of testicular issues whether it be lack of testicles from a birth defect, some sort of trauma, or a genetic defect.  This buck grew his antlers a month and half  longer then normal mule deer.

Is he a cactus buck?  In my opinion, yes.  Anytime there is testicular malfunction that allows antlers to grow at an abnormal rate, it should be considered a cactus buck.  Some cactus bucks never shed their antlers and some shed them ever few years.   In the case of this buck, his deficiency was slight enough that he shed them and grew a new set every year.  He had some sort of testosterone deficiency to allow him to grow his antlers for a longer time period than that of a normal mule deer which would fit the definition of a cactus buck.


Dallas, my hat is off to you and your brother for keeping this buck such a secret.  I don’t blame you one bit!  As far as I know, the only people that new this buck was alive were Dallas, his wife, his three sons, his brother Ryan and a good friend, Tony.  They all kept this buck under wraps until it was on the ground.  Congrats to all of you that were mentioned as you all played a part in Dallas harvesting this spectacular trophy. We can’t wait for the story and field pictures!


Photo Courtesy of Ryan Smith


Bennett Alderman is all smiles as he holds the 2007 set of sheds from the Smith buck


The sheds score 207 inches gross,  This buck packed his antlers well into March

Congratulations Dallas on such a fine trophy and a spectacular last few years of hunting these awesome animals. You brothers have done it again, I’m jealous…..

Steve Alderman

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