The Baby Post

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The first long night
The first long night

She’s here. Our baby girl, Evelyn Jo Smith arrived on Sunday, December 1st. She decided that 3:09 was as good a time as any to make her entrance, and she came screaming in to this world to greet her mama and papa.

I won’t try to describe with words the emotional high, sheer terror, and unconditional love that I feel when I look at her. Next to her mama, she’s the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen.

In our short few days together, I’ve found out we have quite a few things in common.

We both love flannel, she farts and poops more than I do and we both love her mama.

Can’t wait to take this little girl fishing.

Mama and Evie Jo
Mama and Evie Jo
Snuggling on the couch in Flannel
Snuggling on the couch in Flannel
Early Christmas Gift
Early Christmas Gift (This girl doesn’t stand a chance)

Rambling Review – Lowa Renegade LL Mid Boots

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Rambling Review – Lowa Renegade LL Boots

Lowa Renegade LL Boots
Lowa Renegade LL Boots

Why:

I’m a big fan of hiking. Whether hunting, fishing, or putting on a backpack, I like to leave the sounds of civilization, quads, and dirtbikes behind to find country that others don’t typically get to see. My feet end up taking the bulk of the abuse and therefore it becomes imperative that they get the support from a good pair of boots. I have been a hard core Merrell fan for the past couple of years, but when they did a redesign of their one boot, something changed. I had the opportunity to try out a pair of Lowa Renegade LL Mid boots, and I don’t think I need to look for new boots anymore.

Lowa Renegade LL Boots
Lowa Renegade LL Boots

First impressions:

The Fit – The Lowa Renegade LL Boots feature an over the ankle fit. With three boot lace hooks, the boots are able to be cinched to the proper tension and comfort.

Leather-lined – I don’t have a whole lot of need for Gore-tex while hiking and hunting here in Arizona, so having a pair of glove leather-lined boots that are comfortable and breathe well is critical.

Vibram® Evo rubber – I’m a big fan of Vibram soles and the Vibram Evo rubber boast superior traction and durability.

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

Lowa Renegade LL Boots
Lowa Renegade LL Boots

Field Use:

There is no better test for a pair of boots than a season of Arizona quail hunting. I started wearing these boots prior to the season in order to break them in and was pleasantly surprised to find that they needed little to no time to break in. I went on several short hikes as well as a couple longer scouting trips.

Since quail season arrived, I’ve spent just about every weekend chasing Gambel’s through the desert in my Lowa Renegades. Even in Temperatures as high as 95º, I have found these boots to be extremely comfortable. I typically do most of my hiking/hunting in a pair of merino socks, and when paired with the glove leather that lines the inside of the Lowa Renegade boots, my feet were comfortable and breathed exceptionally well.

Arizona Quail Country
Arizona Quail Country

One thing that I really like about the Lowa Renegade LL Mid boots is the extra support that they offer in their “over the ankle fit.” Although they are labeled as a “mid” type boot, they offer substantial more support than other mid-type hiking boots that I’ve owned. With three lace hooks, I can get the perfect tension, fit, and support that I need for the steep desert hills that I need.

The Lowa Renegade LL are soled with Vibram  which provide serious traction on the ever unstable desert floor. The boot uppers are constructed of a water-repellant waxed nubuk leather is not only flexible but strong, and offers a layer of protection while hiking.

Pros:

Little to no break-in time

Vibram Evo soles

Waxed nubuk leather uppers

Glove grade leather lining

Cons:

Price tag (but well worth it for the quality)

Prognosis:  I love these boots. Need I say more? Check out the Lowa Renegade LL Mid boots and the rest of Lowa’s boot lineup.

 

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.  The Lowa Renegade LL Mid Boots were provided by Lowa 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.

The Trout Underground vs. Tom Stienstra

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I don’t often take a break from my weekly drivel of trip reports and gear reviews to talk about the news, but this is just too good to pass up. Tom Chandler of the Trout Underground has long been one of my favorite reads, and I find myself stopping whatever I’m doing when a new article from him pops up in my RSS reader. Lately, Tom has been busy as he defends the every blogger’s right to freedom of speech.

The story is almost unbelievable. Here’s the short version:

Mr. Chandler and several other media outlets report the arrest of local newspaper writer for cultivating cannabis. Newspaper man sues the blogger for defamation because the blog post is sitting at number 1 on Google. Judge sees through the newspaper man’s shenanigans and upholds the First Amendment. Big newspaper man (who should have known better than to try and infringe on someone else’s right to report factual information) loses lawsuit.

Tom Chandler
Image borrowed from the Trout Underground

 

Tom Chandler shares the entertaining journey here in the three posts below.

1. How it all started: Outdoor Writer Tom Stienstra Busted for Marijuana Cultivation in Weed (Or, Ooops!)

2. The persecution of the First Amendment: The Lawsuit Post

3. Victory: Free Speech Wins – SF Chronicle Writer Tom Stienstra Loses Lawsuit against Trout Underground

 

 

 

 

Arizona Quail Hunting Report

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The Q5 Hunting Vest
The Q5 Hunting Vest

The grass cover was exceptional as it mixed in with the prickly pear cactus. Watching the covey scatter, we slowly eased across the wash and up the opposite hillside. We zig-zagged through the maze of desert plants, and were greeted with single birds holding tight in the thick grasses. It made for a good day of hunting to say the least.

I remember one bird in particular that held exceptionally close and allowed me to walk by him, even after I had given his hiding place a good kick with my foot. Convinced that the bush held no birds, I took another two steps before the same bush erupted with the sound of flushing quail. I spun on my heels and let loose too quickly with the bottom barrel and an unbalanced stance. Righting myself, I took a split second to let out half a breath before squeezing off the top barrel. As if by magic, the quail stopped mid-flight in a puff of feathers and fell to the desert floor.

Holding that gray Gambel’s in my hands, the world seemed to slow. Clairvoyantly, I stepped outside of my self and could see just how lucky I was to be in that moment, on that hillside, holding that bird, with the sun shining down on me. It’s cliche to say, but it’s easy to take for granted just how good we have it.

As if the day could get any better, we sat on the tailgate and enjoyed a few IPAs before packing it in and bouncing our way back to civilization and the women in our lives who understand our need and love of the outdoors. It doesn’t get much better than that.

AZ Windmill
Arizona Windmill
Gambel's Quail Hat
Arizona Quail Hunting Report

The Q5 Centerfire Upland Vest

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The Q5 Centerfire Hunting Vest
The Q5 Centerfire Hunting Vest

Last year I spent quite a few days in the original Q5 Bird Hunting Vest designed by Dan Priest. Dan’s extensive quail hunting knowledge and experience led him to build a high quality vest that is manufactured right here in Arizona. This season, he released a new version of the vest called the Centerfire.

Although I’ve only spent a few days in the field using the vest, I wanted to post a couple of initial thoughts on the changes to the new Q5 Centerfire Bird Hunting Vest.

  • Bigger game bag
  • Larger back zippered pockets
  • Water bottle holders
  • Water bladder holder and adjustable hose clip
  • Zippered/Velcro shell pockets
  • Detachable daypack that can be used in conjunction with the game vest that greatly increases the vests carrying capacity

The Q5 Centerfire is available in coyote brown/blaze orange or digital camo. One of the biggest selling points of any Q5 Upland Hunting Vest is this:

“When you purchase this vest, you are helping a child experience camping and the great outdoors. A percentage of the proceeds go to Arizona Outdoor Adventures, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing healthy outdoor activities for underprivileged children. Go to www.azoutdooradventures.org for further information.”

The new design is pretty awesome and has some serious hauling capacity for all day trips. If you’re in the market for a new vest, the Q5 Centerfire Upland Vest definitely deserves your consideration.

The Q5 Centerfire Hunting Vest
The Q5 Centerfire Hunting Vest
The Q5 Centerfire Hunting Vest
The Q5 Centerfire Hunting Vest with zip
The Q5 Centerfire Hunting Vest
The Q5 Centerfire Hunting Vest with Detachable Day Pack
The Q5 Centerfire Hunting Vest
The Q5 Centerfire Hunting Vest
The Q5 Centerfire Hunting Vest
The Q5 Centerfire Hunting Vest

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.  The Q5 Centerfire Upland Vest was provided to Arizona Wanderings 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.

 

Arizona Squirrel Hunting

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Squirrel
My buddy Dan with his first squirrel

Dan and I are in the same boat. Both our wives are pregnant with little girls, and both our wives were wanting to get out of town. When the girls decided that we would be headed to Flagstaff for the weekend, the wheels in my head started to turn. Dan had never been hunting before, but was eager to give it a try. I knew just what we were going to target – squirrel.

After a big breakfast of eggnog chocolate chip pancakes and scrambled eggs, we parted ways with the girls as they were headed in to town for pedicures while the boys headed into the woods for the Great Squirrel Hunt of 2013. To be honest, I was a bit worried, as I wanted Dan’s first hunting experience to be positive and end in success, but it didn’t take long before Dan spotted the first squirrel and put it in his game vest with a well placed shot.

The rest of the day was full of craning necks, discussions about daughters, and enjoying the fall air of Flagstaff. We were able to add two more squirrels to our haul and headed back to the house to meet the girls. After cleaning our prizes, we prepped them with jalapenos, bacon, and garlic for a delicious dinner.

This was my first time squirrel hunting in a long time, and in truth, it’s as much fun now as when I was a kid. Arizona is blessed with multiple species of squirrel that gives first time and veteran hunters a big opportunity to get into the woods. Although the meat was actually surprisingly good, I think I might be most excited about acquiring a few squirrel tails for fly tying.

Take advantage of this great state and get out for some Arizona squirrel hunting.

Squirrel Hunting
There is lots of this when squirrel hunting
Flagstaff, AZ
Flagstaff, AZ
Spider
This creep was on my leg
Squirrel
A successful day in the field

 

Rambling Review: Columbia Full Flight Chukar Pants

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Rambling Review: Columbia Full Flight Chukar Pants

Columbia Full Flight Chukar Pants
Columbia Full Flight Chukar Pants

Why:

Arizona quail hunting can be a nasty experience. Most everything that God created in the Sonoran desert is trying to stick, scratch, sting, or bite you. So when you’re crashing through washes and the maze of cactus, protection is key. The other wonderful thing about Arizona is it still gets pretty hot in October and November when following those running Gambel’s. So trying to find a happy medium of protection while trying to achieve some breathability can be more than a bit difficult. I have tried a couple different types of upland pants that have worked pretty well, but when I came across Columbia’s Full Flight Chukar Pants, I knew I wanted to give them a try.

Columbia Full Flight Chukar Pants
Columbia Full Flight Chukar Pants

First impressions:

Lightweight – Right out of the box it’s very easy to tell that these are lightweight pants. The uppers and backs of the pants are made of a cotton/nylon blend with Columbia’s Omni-Shield technology. The Omni-Shield technology is stain and water resistant.

Overlays – The fronts and calf sections of the pants are overlayed with a stout, abrasion resistant poly material.

Pockets – Comes with all the standard pockets you would expect in a pair of pants, plus one thigh pocket on the right hand side. The back pockets and the front thigh pocket come with zippers

Fit/Sizing – I ordered my regular sizing and found the Columbia Full Flight Chukar pants sizing to be spot on. They have a “modern, classic fit, straight-leg” which in my opinion works real well for our desert hunting here in AZ. Any baggy extra clothing material has a tendency to get snagged on brush or pick up unwanted cholla.

Columbia Full Flight Chukar Pants
Columbia Full Flight Chukar Pants

Field Use:

The Columbia Full Flight Chukar Pants are a part of Columbia’s Professional Hunting Gear line. I’ve been wearing these upland hunting pants for scouting trips as well as for the first couple weeks of quail hunting. Compared to a regular pair of jeans or double faced brushbeater pants, these are significantly more lightweight. That plays huge when during the early season and your hiking hills and gullies trying to find birds. The poly material on the face of the pants did a pretty good job of protection. They are definitely not as thick as a pair of chaps, double layered denim or tin cloth, but when you’re talking about a full day of walking and tying to lighten the load, these will do the trick. Bottom line, these pants are extremely comfortable and fit me very well.

One thing I would like to say though about hunting in such a harsh environment like the Southwest is that expectations of your gear must be managed. I think that the Columbia Full Flight Chuckar pants are a happy medium between lightweight/breathability and protection from the elements. Lighter weight means you sacrifice some of that durability and protection, and having that extra durability on the legs of the pants adds some weight and takes away some of the breathability.  I have had to get used to was the polyester material on the face of the pants. I have heard it described as having a “synthetic” feel to it. The material definitely doesn’t breath the way that the upper cotton/nylon material does.

So what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t matter what pants you wear on opening day. You are still going to sweat like a dog on opening day of Arizona quail no matter what. The nice thing is that the Columbia pants breathe fairly well and keep you comfortable in the field. These are my go-to pants for this season of quail hunting.

Columbia Full Flight Chukar Pants
Columbia Full Flight Chukar Pants

Pros:

Good mix of lightweight/breathability and protection

Reasonable price-point

Durability

Sizing and fit

Cons:

Imported

Polyester material does not breath as well as the rest of the pants

I’d love to see some suspender buttons on these pants too

Prognosis:  If you’re looking for a lightweight durable pair of upland pants, the Columbia Full Flight Chukar Pants should be at the top of your list.

 

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 Quail Hunting: Gambel’s Quail

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Cholla
Cholla

My morning started out a bit rocky, but things eventually turned out. As the light was just starting to come up. I bent down to duck under the tree and came face to face with a palm sized tarantula. The end of my nose was about 8 inches away from the rock that his hairy arachnid body clung to and for a moment my world stopped. I stifled the “little girl scream” that was rising in my throat and hurried along my way as the spider did the same. I could hear the covey of quail putting and chirping their way through the heavy patch of cholla ahead of me, and when they finally did flush, I was ready. Despite the spider and shirtsleeve full of cholla, it turned out to be a beautiful day hunting Gambel’s quail.

Arizona quail hunting can be tough and this season looks to be only slightly better than last. I am cherishing these mornings where I can get out and stretch my legs while the rest of the city is sleeping in on a Saturday.

Gambels Quail
Gambels Quail
Blaze Orange Gambel's Quail Hat
My new lucky hat
Horse
Desert Dweller
Gambel's Quail
A nice batch of Gambel’s