Rambling Review: Sage and Braker Gun Cleaning Mat

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Sage and Braker

Rambling Review: Sage and Braker Gun Cleaning Mat 

Why:

As much as I love hunting and fishing, there’s something wonderful about coming home, seeing my family, and planning the next adventure. Typically there’s a fair bit of cleanup involved after a hunting trip – unloading the truck, sorting and storing gear, and possibly taking care of meat if I was successful. When the season is all over, the last item to get cleaned and stored is the firearm. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as stripping down a gun, cleaning it thoroughly, and storing it safe and sound for the next hunt. Sage and Braker has vaulted onto the scene as one of the premier players in the firearm cleaning arena. I’ve used a bunch of their products before and they are all exceptional, but I was finally able to get my hands on their Sage and Braker Shotgun and Rifle Gun Cleaning Mat. It’s a beauty.

Sage and Braker

First impressions:

The Materials – The Sage and Braker Gun Cleaning Mat is made of a thick 12 oz waxed canvas, trimmed in crazy horse leather, and the gun cleaning side boasts a heavy wool face.

Pockets – There are four spacious pockets with snap closures that allow all of your gun cleaning supplies to be kept on hand.

Roll Design – The whole gun mat rolls up and is secured with heavy duty brass buckles, keeping all your gun cleaning items and surfaces neat and tidy. Perfect to toss in the back of the truck and not worry about.

Sage and Braker

Field Use:

For many years, I had an old pink towel that served as my gun cleaning mat. I don’t know where it came from, I just knew it wasn’t one of the good towels, and my wife wouldn’t mind it getting gun oil all over it. The Sage and Braker Gun Cleaning Mat is a huge step up from that raggedly piece of cloth. The quilted wool face offers a large cleaning surface with plenty of room to layout and break down a firearm. Wool has the ability to naturally repel liquids, keeping solvents from absorbing into the gun cleaning mat. Whether it’s on a tailgate or the kitchen table at home, it is extremely convenient to unroll the mat and access all the items in the pockets.

The Sage and Braker Gun Cleaning Mat has an extremely rugged yet classic feel about it. The combination of waxed canvas, leather, wool and brass buckles gives gives a great look to a utilitarian piece of gear that will see years of use and someday get passed down to the next generation.

Sage and Braker

Pros:

  • Made with quality components and attention to detail
  • Pockets for plenty of storage
  • Rugged roll design
  • Extremely functional

Cons:

  • Price – but when you consider this mat will last a lifetime, it’s a fair price.
Sage and Braker Gun Mat Pockets

Prognosis:  I cannot say enough good things about the Sage and Braker Gun Cleaning Mat. This is the perfect gift for the outdoorsman or firearms enthusiast in your life.

* Disclaimer:

The reviews at Arizona Wanderings are my honest opinion. Arizona Wanderings is not sponsored by or associated with any of the stated companies and is accepting no compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this review.  My independent status may change in the future but, as of the date of publication, no relationship other than described above has been pursued or established.

Arizona Turkey Hunting

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Arizona

I sat in one spot from 6:00am to 9:50. The wind was howling, and I had every article of clothing on trying to stay warm and still. I made a deal with myself that I would sit until 10 before moving to another spot. It had been an uneventful morning and boredom was eating away at my stamina to stay put and a chill had settled into my bones.

The wind lulled and I called one more time. The empty woods exploded as a gobbler answered my call. The sudden action startled me and I was able to shift my gun to cover where the gobble had sounded from. Within a minute, he came into view and stood proudly looking at the decoys. Without another sound, he moved forward and skirted the edge of the decoys. He didn’t appear anxious to move closer, so when he craned his neck to look at the decoys again, I pulled the trigger and the gun thundered.

He flopped while I jumped from the base of the tree and willed my aching legs forward. I sunk to my knees next to my prey and couldn’t believe my luck. Things happen fast in the turkey woods and I said a prayer of thanks. Gathering my gear and decoys, I looped the turkey’s feet and head with a strand of paracord and slowly walked the two miles back to the truck. The sun shone brightly and it wasn’t long until the hike worked the cold out of my feet.

Arizona Merriams Turkey
Arizona Turkey Hunting

Rambling Review – Maroon Bell Buffalo Leather Ranching Gloves

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Maroon Bell Buffalo Leather Ranching Gloves
Maroon Bell Buffalo Leather Ranching Gloves

Rambling Review – Maroon Bell Buffalo Leather Ranching Gloves

Why:

I’ve burned through several pairs of cheap leather gloves while hunting and working in the harsh elements of the Southwest. Between hunting, camp chores, and yard work, most of my gloves don’t have a long life expectancy. The Maroon Bell Buffalo Leather Ranching Gloves are the answer.

First impressions:

Full Grain Buffalo Leather – The Maroon Bell gloves are made of full grain buffalo leather. This leather feels durable, soft, and of the highest quality. There are no words to describe the beautiful leather smell from these gloves.

Fit – The Maroon Bell website has a pretty detailed fitting guide for these gloves. Out of the box, the gloves were very tight, but was advised that they would stretch a fair bit. I kept the gloves in my truck and every morning on the way to work, I’d put them on and form a fist and flex the leather. By week two, these gloves fit perfectly like a second layer of skin.

Maroon Bell Buffalo Leather Ranching Gloves – Better with Age

Field Use:

The number one reason I wanted these gloves was for Arizona quail season. Our quail season runs from early October through early February. The first part of the season is a bit too hot to run the dog, and I’m usually chasing deer in November. By the time we hit the ground looking for birds in December, having a quality pair of leather gloves is so important to keep your hands warm on a cold morning or for general protection from everything sharp in the desert. The Maroon Bell gloves have a “gunfighter” fit with a short cuff and the tight fit through the fingers is ideal for handling a shotgun without sacrificing grip or feel.

Maroon Bell Ranch Gloves

While hunting, I am constantly interacting with my phone and GPS to look at maps and mark where I find coveys. With my old pair of leather gloves, I was constantly removing them so that I could manipulate the screen. The Maroon Bell Buffalo Leather Ranching Gloves have an integrated finger pad that is touchscreen compatible, so I never have to remove them while accessing my electronics.

While I used them extensively during this quail hunting season, I found myself still reaching for them when I spent time in the field over some of my other hunting gloves. I also beat them up in the backyard and while working around the house. The Maroon Bell Buffalo Leather Ranching Gloves are extremely durable and tough, but also become softer and more comfortable the longer I own them.

Maroon Bell Buffalo Leather Ranching Gloves

Pros:

  • High quality buffalo leather
  • Touchscreen compatible
  • Extremely durable and protective
  • Gunfighter fit
  • Get better with age

Cons:

  • Cost – these are going to cost a bit more than your local hardware store leather gloves, but worth every penny.

Prognosis:  I am a huge fan of the Maroon Bell Buffalo Leather Ranching Gloves. If you are in search of a high quality pair of gloves, check them out.

* Disclaimer:

The reviews at Arizona Wanderings are my honest opinion. Arizona Wanderings is not sponsored by or associated with any of the stated companies and is accepting no compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this review.  My independent status may change in the future but, as of the date of publication, no relationship other than described above has been pursued or established.

Daydreaming – Arizona Gambel’s Quail

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Gambel’s Quail

The sun cuts the chill out of the desert as it slowly peaks over the horizon. The gravel crunches under my boots, and as I crest the small rise in front of me, I can see Sunny’s rigid body glowing in the morning light. The intensity of her point is in stark contrast to her typical, unbridled, energy. She is singularly focused on the creosote bush fifteen feet in front of her. Her orange-brown eyes bore an intense hole through the center of the desert brush, and as I get closer, I can see her nose twitch incessantly as she breathes the deep scent of wild birds in front of her.

The tranquility of the morning is broken as I step forward and the four hiding quail burst into the air. I whiff the first barrel, but the second barrel finds its mark. In a flash of brown fur, Sunny is on her quarry, and as she trots back to my feet, I could see her smiling through a face full of feathers.

I daydream this moment at least once a day. It’s just about six months until September.

Arizona Quail Hunting

Arizona – Coues Deer

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Arizona Coues Deer

Within the first few moments of daylight, I spotted this buck feeding into the sunlit hillside about a mile away. At that distance, I could see he had a mature frame, and with wind and rain in the forecast, I took but a moment to pack my gear and take off after him.

The prickly pear cactus and cat claw hiding amongst the waste high yellow grass grabbed at my clothing as I hiked briskly through the canyon. I slipped and slid over the loose rocks and finally worked into a position amongst a small cluster of trees where I could see the hillside that the buck had been feeding on.

Ten excruciating minutes passed while I scanned the landscape looking for any sign of the deer. Every conceivable scenario played out in my mind and I had almost convinced myself that the buck had simply fed over the hill, until he stepped out at 275 yards. With the rifle steadied on my pack, the bullet found its mark, and the buck dropped in the tall grass.

I drug the buck into the bottom of the canyon beneath the shade of a large oak tree and quartered the small bodied desert deer, leaving nothing to waste. It was a long walk back to the truck but a heavy pack is the sweet gift of success. Well, that and a freezer full of meat.

Funk
Venison

Rambling Review – Lowa Camino GTX

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Lowa Camino GTX in Mearns country

Rambling Review 

Why:

Hiking miles in uneven terrain with a heavy pack and a weapon requires a high quality, sturdy, and yet comfortable pair of boots. I’ve had quite a few pairs of Lowas over the years, but the new Lowa Camino GTX boots check all the boxes.

First impressions:

The weight – At 1550 grams (52 ounces) for the pair, this heavy duty boot is lighter than my other favorite pair of Lowas. The Lowa Tibets come in at 1900 grams

GORE-TEX – The Camino GTX boots have a waterproof and breathable GORE-TEX membrane which was originally “created to help thru-hikers, alpinists, mountaineers, ice climbers, and hunters keep their feet dry and warm in high elevations and coldest conditions.”

Vibram – The Camino GTX boots come standard with the Vibram AppTrail sole. Lowa states that the AppTrail sole provides increased contact area with a self-cleaning tread for excellent grip on all surfaces as well as a pronounced front heel edge for good traction downhill.

LOWA Flex Lacing – The Flex lacing system allows the laces to easily pull through the ball bearing lace loops that are set on free moving tabs which reduces overall pressure against the foot. This turned out to be one of the absolute game changers for me.

Manufactured – Lowa Boots have been handcrafted in Europe since 1923 under the world’s most stringent manufacturing, environmental and labor regulations.

The Lowa Camino GTX on top of the world in Idaho

Field Use:

The first chance I had to wear the Lowa Camino GTX boots in the field was during Mearns quail season. I spent many days in Southern Arizona following Sunshine dog up every draw and canyon looking for birds. Even through the long days in the field carrying a shotgun and a heavy vest over uneven ground, the Camino boots were extremely comfortable, even right out of the box.

I wore them again during turkey season and on multiple hikes through spring and summer. Even as the temperatures climbed, the GORE-TEX lining were quite breathable and comfortable.

The real test for the Lowa Camino GTX boots came this fall. I spent a week in Idaho hunting mule deer and a couple days in Arizona after coues deer. Between the two hunts, I logged over 80 hard miles with lots of vertical hiking under heavy load as well as wet weather. I packed two deer out of the backcountry. Through it all, the Camino boots were supportive, dry, breathable, and most of all comfortable.

Somewhere in the Idaho high country

Pros:

Little to no break-in time

Vibram AppTrail soles

Heinen Terracare Nubuck Leather Uppers

GORE-TEX Lining

LOWA Flex Lacing

Cons:

Cost – good boots are not cheap

PROGNOSIS: I love the Lowa Camino GTX boots. Extremely comfortable and absolute workhorse boots.

* Disclaimer:

The reviews at Arizona Wanderings are my honest opinion. Arizona Wanderings is not sponsored by or associated with any of the stated companies and is accepting no compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this review.  My independent status may change in the future but, as of the date of publication, no relationship other than described above has been pursued or established.

Idaho – Mule Deer

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As expected, the mountains in Idaho were as steep as they were beautiful. The weather was fickle and the hunting was tough, but we persevered in search of a mature mule deer buck. We covered over 60 miles, and in seven days, we saw a big cinnamon bear, a wolf, a bunch of grouse, a whole mess of does, and 7 bucks. The last morning the biggest buck of the trip gave us the slip, and with about a half hour left, we found a small forked horn to put my tag on.

I went to Idaho with no expectations and was rewarded with a week in some of the prettiest country I’d ever seen. The freezer is piled high with fresh hand wrapped packages of meat, and I strengthened a friendship in a way that only happens when you share a hunting camp. This won’t be my last trip to Idaho.

Just fishing

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Arizona Brown Trout

Went fishing with an old friend at an old spot. Life changes quite a bit even over the few short years, but the creek seemed unchanged. Hoppers were plentiful on the bank and every rock I flipped over was wriggling with life. The fish were content to greedily rise to the surface and slap our flies around. The fishing was average, but it was good to catch up with a friend and check up on a creek I hadn’t been to in a while.

Rock Flipping
Release