A morning on River X

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River X
Me working a run on River X (photo by Kyle Graf)

The winding dirt road led to a cattle guard, followed by a break in the fence. Through the break in the fence was a trail and at the end of the trail was a river. This particular river held brown trout, and when a streamer swung through the current with the perfect blend of speed, depth, and the right amount of movement, a brown trout ate it with conviction. After a few fleeting hours it was over. Back up the trail, through the hole in the fence, and up the winding dirt road, River X faded into the rearview mirror.

It’s been weeks since I walked down that trail and stood on the banks of the river, but I can still see the mountains, smell the sage, and feel the line come tight on a fish like it was yesterday.

Brown Trout
Meateater Brown
Somewhere
Somewhere Out West
Brown Trout
River X Brown Trout
Alex Landeen
Landeen working it
River X
River X running strong

Pyramid Lake 2016

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Lahontan Cutthroat
Lahontan Cutthroat

From an objective view, the trip was relatively unremarkable compared to ones in the past, but 2016 goes down as one of my favorite Pyramid Lake trips. Although there were a few low points (broken rods, sand blasting from high winds ripping along the beach, etc.), my experience was much more relaxing than in years past. The long drive to the lake, the stiff cold wind as we stood on our ladders, the stink of wet old wader funk all had the warm feeling of familiarity to the point of endearment. With numb fingers and bleary eyes, we tied on new flies and stripped them through the deep blue waters, waiting and praying for the tell-tale tug of the cruising cutthroats.

I love the grind. I love having to work for a fish. This wasn’t my year for that ten pound fish. It always seems just out of reach, and ultimately that’s what keeps me coming back.

Makers Mark
Pyramid and Makers go together like peas and carrots
Pyramid Lake Fly Fishing
On the Ladder – photo by Brian Johnson
Lahontan Cutthroat
Lahontan Cutthroat – photo by Brian Johnson
Cui-ui
Cui-ui and me – photo by Alex Landeen
Pyramid Lake Lahontan Cutthroat
Kyle with Pyramid Lake Lahontan Cutthroat
Cui-ui
Brian with a native Cui-ui
Lahontan Cutthroat
Alex with the fish of the trip for our group
Lahontan Cutthroat
My final fish from the lake (photo by Brian Johnson)
Pyramid Lake
Fading light at Pyramid Lake

Rambling Review: Game Planner Maps

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Rambling Review – Game Planner Maps

Game Planner maps
Game Planner Maps

Why:

There’s nothing better than pouring over a big map laid out on the kitchen table. There is no substitute for tracing lines and scouting for hard to reach hunting spots on a physical map. With the advent of quality interactive maps on line, the whole game has been turned around with access to information on a whole new level. Add in a map on a smartphone and now outdoorsmen have more information at their fingertips then ever before. Trying to coordinate information between a paper map, a digital computer map, and a smartphone app has always been a bit of a headache. Recently, my good hunting buddy turned me on to Game Planner Maps and it’s been an awesome map and scouting tool that offers paper, desktop, and smartphone maps.

Game Planner maps
Game Planner Maps Legend

First impressions:

The Paper Maps – Game Planner Custom Maps are double sided and printed on water and tear resistant paper. Maps include a USGS Topographic base map, unit boundary, roads, springs and seeps, water bodies, wilderness area boundaries and specially designated areas (where applicable). The default map size is 24X36″ and covers ~300 mi² at 1:40,000 scale. This scale is a good compromise between detail and coverage; and you still get the 1:24000 base map. A 24X36″ map provides a large area and enough detail to accurately read contours and terrain features. 

The Desktop Map Viewer –  interactive maps with a long list of overlays, boundaries, habitat, water, species information, and tools. Currently, Game Planner Maps have the following states to check out on their desktop viewer:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

The Phone App – The phone app is pretty slick as well. Game Planner Digital Maps are designed to work with the Avenza PDF Maps mobile application. The system allows your Android or Apple phone to function as a GPS with no need for cell service or an internet connection. Once the maps are loaded to the PDF Maps app, you have the ability to see your location on the map, record waypoints, track your path, and measure distance.

Game Planner Maps Phone App
Game Planner Maps Phone App

Field Use:

I found the Game Planner Maps system to be an invaluable tool this past hunting season. I used the Desktop Map Viewer and paper maps to do quite a bit of scouting and trying to find access. There are so many valuable tools and overlays built into the Desktop Map Viewer that it’s easy to get sucked in to the program and spend hours gleaning information about the landscape and habitat. Although I’ve used Google Earth for years, the Game Planner Map Viewer has really proven to be on a whole other level of information.

I’ll admit that I’ve got a whole shelf full of paper maps. It’s become a bit of a tradition that when I start hunting or exploring a new unit, I pick up a physical map of the area to learn the lay of the land and take on my hunt. Having seen a bunch of different types of maps printed on different types of paper, I was really impressed with the detail on the Game Planner paper maps as well as the durability of the material.  All Game Planner paper maps  are double sided and printed on water and tear resistant paper.

The Game Planner Phone App proved to be an advantageous tool this year during quail season. Although most of my hunting takes place out of cell service, the PDF maps still afford me the opportunity to see my location on the map, record waypoints, track my route, and measure distance. It sure is nice to see what’s around the corner when exploring a new area.

Although Game Planner Maps offers standard hunting units in a growing number of states, they also have the ability to create customized property maps. Game Planner Maps is the brainchild of my friend Ed Vergin. Ed lives and breathes maps and truly has developed an awesome product. If you need anything map related, he is the guy to talk to. Contact him at info@gameplannermaps.com.

Game Planner Maps
Game Planner Maps

Pros:

Great tool for scouting

Multiple tools and overlays in Desktop Map Viewer

Convenient phone app for field use

Ability to use without a cell signal

Customized property maps

Customer service

New states being added to their database

Cons:

Cost (I’m really searching with this con. As with any useful tool, there is a price tag. Definitely worth it in my opinion.)

Prognosis:  Game Planner Maps offers an array of useful map tools and worth checking out for scouting and hunting season.

 

* Disclaimer:

The reviews at Arizona Wanderings are my honest opinion. Ed Vergin, owner at Game Planner Maps is a friend of mine and was kind enough to give me a few maps to check out. If they sucked, I probably wouldn’t be writing this review. 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 Fly Fishing: Gila Trout

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Arizona Gila Trout
Arizona Gila Trout

The yellow Gila trout tucked away from humanity in a tiny trickle of water greedily ate our flies and made us forget about the thorns and brush that tore at our clothing. We fell on the slippery rocks and bushwhacked through the dense undergrowth to cast our lines for this rare Southwestern trout. and it was a bit surreal to hold a fish that has been on the brink of extinction for so long. The habitat didn’t allow for much in the way of casting, but bow-and-arrow casting small streamers seemed to do the trick.

Thanks to the work of Trout Unlimited and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, there is now a wild fishable population of Gila trout back in Arizona, and efforts continue to be made to stock Gila trout back in their native drainage. Stay up to date on new fishing regulations and future habitat work.

Arizona Gila Trout Fishing
DJ and Ranger focused on the task at hand
Gila Trout
Gila Trout on a C Barclay Fiberglass rod
me and ranger
Relaxing
Gila Trout Fly Fishing
Tight Quarter
Fly Fishing for Gila Trout
Native Gila Trout
Gila Trout Arizona
Gila Trout Habitat
Gila Trout
Gila Trout
Gila Trout Fishing
Ranger dog overseeing the day’s activities
Frye Creek
A look back
Gila Trout
Gila Trout

Arizona Quail Season – Last Day Out

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Gambel's country
Gambel’s country
  1. Wake up early – check
  2. Eggs and coffee for breakfast – check
  3. Meet buddy and put a couple birds in the vest – check
  4. Clean shotgun and hang up bird vest – check
  5. Wait impatiently for the next Arizona quail season and pray for rain – check and check
Gambel's country
Gambel’s country
Searching for downed birds
Searching for downed birds
Gambel's and Wingworks
A couple of Gambel’s quail to wrap up the Arizona quail season

Rambling Review: Jim Matthews Signature Quail Calls

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Jim Matthews Signature Quail Call
Jim Matthews Signature Quail Call

Rambling Review

Why:

Since I’ve moved to Arizona, I’ve been hunting Gambel’s quail without a dog. On the rare occasion, I can meet up with a buddy who has a dog, but most of my hunts are on my own. I’ve found that Gambel’s are very huntable due to how vocal they are, between their clucks, putts, and unmistakable assembly/locator call, “Chi-ca-go-go”. For the past few years, I’ve been playing around with a couple different locator calls with limited success. I recently had the opportunity to get my hands on a couple of handmade chamber calls from Jim Matthews and believer they are some of the best sounding quail calls on the market.

First impressions:

Chamber call – Jim Matthews’ unique call design features a hollowed out chamber on the inside of the call right behind the rubber band. This creates a rich resonate tone that makes for an extremely convincing Gambel’s call.

Handmade quality – Each call is handmade by Jim Matthews from a wide variety of woods. Jim was kind enough to embed a shotgun shell on the face of each call, which give them a really unique look.

Jim Matthews Signature Quail Calls
Jim Matthews Signature Quail Calls

Field Use:

I’ve been toting the Jim Matthews Signature Calls in my vest for most of the season and have seen real success in using them. I have one made from walnut and one from mesquite. Both sound great, but I found great success with the mesquite call. I can usually find birds early in the morning without much difficulty, but as the morning wears on, it can be tough to locate birds after breaking up a covey or two.

Each Jim Matthews Signature Call is built to receive a specific size rubber band which are available in bulk from your local office store. Right out of the box, each call sounds excellent, but by applying pressure with your fingers to the call can change the tone of the call and give a change in pitch if needed. Both of my calls sounded perfect without any adjustment.

Pros:

Beautiful handmade craftsmanship

Rich resonate sound

Multiple varieties of wood to choose from

Durable construction for years of use

Cons:

Cost – the calls aren’t cheap, but are a great addition in your bird vest.

Prognosis:  I can’t say enough good things about Jim Matthews Signature Calls. Put your order in for next season. You won’t be disappointed

* 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.  Two calls were provided by Jim Matthews for the purpose of 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.

Javelina Hunting: Stickbow Edition

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Javelina Hunting
Stickbow Javelina

While gulping a cup of coffee, I scrawled a note to my wife and kids telling them I was planning on morning javelina hunting. Little did I know as I threw my pack and bow into the truck, that it would turn into a full day hunt. I met up with a few buddies and spent the morning glassing the sunny slopes in search of pigs. When we finally found them, they were a good mile and half hike away, but after formulating a game plan, we made our way over to them working in to about a 100 yards. From there, we silently made our final stalk into a big herd of javelina, where at 6 yards, my arrow found it’s mark. When the dust settled, my friend David and I had been able to harvest pigs.

The sun was already headed deep into the western sky by the time we shouldered our heavy packs and started to make our way back to the truck. It turned into a long day in the field, but it was a good day javelina hunting with friends that I won’t soon forget.

Javelina Country
Javelina Country
Vortex Viper 15x50
The Vortex Vipers doing some work
Arizona Javelina
Javelina for dinner
Arizona Sunset
Success Sunset

Arizona Quail Hunting: Field to Table

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Gambel's Quail
Fistful of Birds

I planned to do a little bit of scouting for the 2016 javelina season, and on a whim I decided to bring the shotgun along just in case I found a covey of Gambel’s. After hiking up the first hill, I busted the first of 6 coveys for the day. With birds plentiful and very vocal, I didn’t spend a whole bunch of time glassing for pigs, and instead spent the rest of the morning chasing Gambel’s quail. By the end of the morning, my vest was heavy with a half dozen birds, and I headed for home.

After putting gear away and cleaning the birds, I deboned the breasts and legs and got out the fixings for quail nuggets. Within minutes, my little sidekick had pulled a chair over to the kitchen counter picking at the tasty fried morsels and honey mustard. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as completing the circle and taking game from the field to table.

Arizona Desert
Desert in the Winter
Fixings for fried quail
Fixings for quail nuggets
Someone loves quail nuggets
Someone loves quail nuggets