Step Outside WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 Step Outside 144 144 Sun, 21 Oct 2018 07:00:51 -0500 WATCH: Two moose square up in suburban front yard


What started as just a regular day in peaceful suburban Anchorage turned into an all-out street fight between two huge moose. The two males battled it out in an attempt to impress a mate.

]]> Fri, 19 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
WATCH: Fearless mongoose scares lions


A group of lions were minding their own business when a disgruntled mongoose felt they were a little too close to its home. Watch as the mongoose wards off the group of lions with piercing shrieks.

]]> Fri, 19 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
WATCH: Revisit classic battle between lions, buffalo herd, and crocodile


At Kruger National Park in South Africa, a group captured jaw-dropping footage of a pride of lions squaring off with a herd of buffalo. At first, it appears the lions have successfully found their next meal in a baby buffalo. No one could’ve predicted what would happen next.

]]> Fri, 19 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Fish Here This Fall—5 Reel-Screaming Adventures Autumn is the season of dynamic changes for fishermen, and sort of a mirror image of spring. Where spawning runs typically define spring fishing, it’s the movement of baitfish that generally provides outstanding fall fishing opportunities.

Here’s a rundown on some of the most popular – and productive – fall fishing scenarios across America.

A smorgasbord of baitfish is served up to striped bass in the fall as they make their way south along the Atlantic coast from Maine to their wintering waters in the mid-Atlantic.

Hot Spots To Fish: Deservedly, Montauk, NY at the eastern end of Long Island is considered a storied mecca for striped bass fishermen. If you’re not going surf fishing on the beach or fishing from a jetty, Gone Fishing Marina (631-668-3232, can set up a charter trip for you. If it’s booked up, try Star Island Yacht Club (631-668-5052, or Montauk Marine Basin (631-668-5900,

Down south, talk to the folks at Captain Hogg’s Charter Service (757-876-1590, about fishing around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Overdrawn Charters  (252-202-4623, in Manteo, N.C. can help as well.

Photograph Courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
The classic approach to surf fishing is still a great way to take advantage of the striper run along the Atlantic coast.

Tackle You’ll Need: Stick with 30- to 50-pound braid or monofilament and a 60-pound-test shock leader of fluorocarbon, with saltwater-ready spinning tackle heavy enough to handle 10- to 14-foot rods. Penn, Quantum and Okuma specialize in fairly inexpensive surf-fishing rods, and reels to match. If you have a reel, but no rod yet, the new Black Inshore Rods from Lamiglas are up to the task. The five spinning and five casting models range from a 6-foot, 10-inch light finesse spinning rod to a 7 ½-foot casting rod rated for lures from 3 to 12 ounces in weight.

Quick tip: The most successful anglers are those who spot gulls or other wheeling seabirds feeding on baitfish driven to the top by stripers and who then cast into the melee without dispersing the bass. From a boat, the trick is to approach schools carefully and take advantage of wind or tide to drift to within casting range. The stripers will stay up as long as the baitfish are hemmed against the surface.


Best Lures/Baits: The 4 1/2-inch Acme Kastmater XL spoon, the 1 ½-ounce Odin Popper, and the 5-inch pencil popper from Tsunami are popular artificials up and down the Atlantic seaboard. Other popular options include the 6- or 7-inch Savage Gear Sandeel Swimbait, 9-inch Sassy Shad swimbait and the 6-inch Rapala X-Rap SubWalk.

For anglers who’d rather soak baits from a boat or in the surf, live or cut bait, such as Atlantic menhaden (peanut bunker), herring, porgies, eels, bloodworms, anchovies and mullet, can flip the switch on chaotic striper blitzes.

Redfish are starting to move inshore and set up at the mouths of bays, inlets and deltas as their annual spawning run commences. The bottom line for fishermen is outstanding fishing from late September through November in the northern Gulf.

Likewise, bass fishing is starting to pick up again as the weather begins to cool. Huge schools of threadfin shad are starting to filter away from open-water ledges into bays and tributaries where feeding conditions and water temperatures are more optimum.

Bass follow the food, first setting up on ledges at the mouths of inlets and creeks to waylay shad, then migrating back toward shallower water to keep up with their quarry.

Fall Script for Southern Bass

Bass rule in Dixie and cooler weather brings out an army of anglers who go after them. Whether largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass, they’re available in most waters and sometimes all three varieties are present in a fishery, ready to aggravate or gratify those who seek them.

Hot Spots To Fish: When it comes to the South’s best lakes for fall fishing, the big TVA impoundments fit the bill. Because this is bass tournament country, dozens of YouTube videos and Facebook sites of pro anglers offer useful advice on where and how to catch autumn largemouths. Likewise, guide services are plentiful; just Google “fishing guides” for the lake you’re visiting or type in the town nearest the lake you wish to fish on the interactive map on this page.

Photograph Courtesy of Strike King Lure Company Photo By Garrick Dixon
Shallow- to medium-running crankbaits probably account for more bass than any other lure in the fall when the fish are on the prowl for shad in feeder creeks and coves.

Tackle You’ll Need: A 7-foot medium/heavy rod such as the St. Croix Premier Cranking, a baitcasting reel like the Abu Garcia Revo Winch and 10- to 14-pound-test monofilament makes a good combination to fish downsized lures.

Quick tip: This is strictly a match-the-hatch deal. Use lures that are about the same size as wandering shad. If young-of-the-year threadfins are on the bass menu, try small swim baits fished on drop-shot rigs.


Best Lures/Baits: Shad-colored, shallow- and medium-diving square-billed or coffin-billed crankbaits are autumn standouts. Popular lures include the Strike King 6XD, Bandit 100 or 200, Duo Realis M65, Livetarget Magnum Shad BaitBall Squarebill, Megabass S-Crank, Lucky Craft Squarebill 2.5, Storm Arashi and Rapala Shad Rap.

Fish them around shoreline cover and on the flats between creek drop-offs and the bank. Other fallback baits include spinnerbaits like the Booyah Super Shad, Stanley Vibrashaft and Nichols Pulsator. Good buzzbait options can be found from Lunker Lure, Damiki, Santone and Dirty Jigs.

Rendezvous With Redfish

Along the northern Gulf Coast from Carrabelle, FL, to Grand Isle, LA, the redfish season begins in late September and continues in stages through December. Some anglers fish in the surf with cut bait, while others station themselves on area piers or in boats on relatively shallow flats near channel cuts.

Hot Spots To Fish: For boating anglers, a couple of spots stick out. Pensacola Bay Pass is a must-fish for boaters. Anchor up on the broad flat between old Fort Pickens and the channel, set out lines as the tide changes to incoming, and hang on. Need more help? Redfish University Pensacola Fishing Charters (850-748-4368, specializes in the big drum.

At Grand Isle, LA, book a trip with Gotta Go Fishing Charters (225-921-3642, The marshes and inshore waters around Venice, LA, are primo redfish haunts as well. Captain Mike Frenette (504-782-0924, or ( is a top guide here.

Photograph Courtesy of Strike King Lure Company 
Louisiana’s coastal waters are ground zero for the hottest autumn redfish action along the northern Gulf Coast. A variety of natural baits and artificials get the job done.

Tackle You’ll Need: “Rat” reds of 3 pounds and up, or real bruisers weighing in excess of 20 pounds require a range of tackle options. Bass fishing tackle – whether spinning or baitcasting – is perfect for handling smaller fish and for casting jigs or swimbaits that weigh less than an ounce. A Shimano Stradic spinning reel and 7-foot medium-action Shimano Compre rod with 14-pound-test monofilament.

For bigger fish, consider a Penn Battle II BTLII5000 with 20-pound-test monofilament or 40-pound-test braid, and a 30-pound-test fluorocarbon leader. A 7-foot medium-heavy spinning rod (such as the Penn Battalion BATIN1220S70) should handle any bait rigs or lures and wear down a bull redfish in short order.

Quick Tip: Incoming tides in late evening or at night are primo times for reds as the fish free-spawn then in the mouths of coastal bays and estuaries. If you can’t fish any other time, make sure you fish the incoming tides.


Best Lures/Baits: Redfish aren’t particular about their dietary requirements and will eat anything from blue crabs to halved mullet. Swimming spoons such as the Johnson Sprite (, swimbaits and jigs or even topwater poppers, such as the Heddon Saltwater Spook, will elicit strikes.

For offshore saltwater fishermen, tuna grab most of the attention along the Pacific Coast in autumn as the pelagic fish work their way up the coast following vast schools of Pacific anchovies and sardines. Tuna or salmon – either way, there’s a real tug-of-war involved. Check with state and local tourism offices for information about charter boat and guide services.

Tuna Time

In July, a trio of tunas –yellowfin, albacore and bluefin – start showing up in numbers offshore in northern Mexico, and by October it’s an all-out fishfest for anglers aboard charter boats from California to Washington. 

Considering that most boats are likely to fish well offshore, tuna-fishing expeditions might stay out up to a week in the peak of season, though some trips can be shorter if the skipper thinks anglers can fill their limits in a day. With San Diego, CA the southern epicenter of tuna charters, and Westport, WA, on the northern end, visiting fishermen won’t have any trouble finding rides.

Expect to pay $215-$275 for day trips to the inshore tuna grounds. Some charters go farther offshore and stay a few days. The cost then is about $275 multiplied by the number of days.

Hot Spots To Fish: H&M Landing (619-222-1144, at San Diego is a recommended portal to adventure. Go north as the season progresses, and try a boat out of Westport Charters (360-268-0900, in Washington.


Tackle You’ll Need: Any of the three types of tuna might weigh from 20 pounds to more than 300 pounds (for bluefins). Thus, unless they plan to rent rigs for about $20 and up per day, anglers take along their own tackle and that might include two or three fishing outfits to cover any contingency. Everything from medium baitcasters or spinning outfits to heavier revolving-spool rigs, such as the Shimano TLD 20 and TLD 25 reels matched with Shimano TDR70MB 7-foot trolling rods (10- to 17-pound test) or TDR70MHB 7 foot medium-heavy (12- to 30-pound test line), match up well with most tunas likely to be encountered.

Quick Tip: Make friends with the mates on the charter boat you’ve chosen. They’ll be more likely to help you when the big tuna on the end of your line is ready to come into the boat. Be sure to tip generously – say 15 to 20 percent of the charter fee.


Best Lures/Baits: Depending on the flexibility of the skipper, anglers might be limited to using live bait such as anchovies or sardines, or jigging spoons such as the Shimano Flat Fall. However, sometimes anglers can troll big crankbaits such as the Rapala Magnum X-Rap 30, the Yo-Zuri 3D Magnum or the Mann’s Giganticus.

North Coast Chinooks

Like the fall tuna run off the Pacific coast, the chinook (king) salmon run advances in stages, with October being the peak month and extending into November. For the widest window of opportunity, plan to fish the rivers and tributaries of Washington and Oregon that feed into the Columbia River.

Hot Spots To Fish: Though much less known and much smaller than its more famous neighbors to the north, Oregon’s Chetco River produces hundreds of jumbo kings weighing more than 20 pounds throughout the fall. The Winchuck, closer to California, is another small fishery with big salmon. Call Ironhead Guide Service (530-598-0530,, to set up a trip to either.

Tillamook Bay and its feeders are prime hangouts for chinooks, and Marvin’s Guide Service (503-314-5087) can put you on them. For numbers, it’s hard to beat the Winchester Bay, Rogue River, Umpqua and Coos systems. Salmon Harbor Tackle & Marine (541-271-2010) is well-stocked with tackle and salmon fishing advice. Up the Columbia River Gorge, the folks at Jones Sport Fishing (208-861-0654, have the latest scoop on salmon.

Photograph Courtesy of Jones Sport Fishing
Most of the West Coast’s rivers and bays are swarming with autumn-run salmon. Whether an angler is fishing on a charter boat or with a guide, the action can be fast and furious.

Tackle You’ll Need: Fall chinook might weigh more than 50 pounds, so meat fishermen who go after salmon typically use heavy spinning or baitcasting gear. Consider the Ambassadeur S Combo with a Model 6500 baitcaster and matching 7-foot medium-heavy rod. For spinning fans that do a lot of casting, the Shakespeare Ugly Stick 9-foot rod with matching reel is a good choice. For the sportier types who like challenges, 10- or 12-weight fly fishing tackle is popular. Just make sure the reel is spooled with lots of backing.

Quick Tip: The big waters such as Tillamook Bay and the Columbia River basin yield tons of salmon to hundreds of fishermen in prime time, but don’t overlook the other rivers along the northern Pacific Coast. Get a map and locate some streams that range far inland, then find out what you can about the fishery via the internet or calls to local tourism and Game and Fish offices. You might be happily surprised with what turns up.


Best Lures/Baits: Chinooks will eat a variety of cut bait gleaned from the local larder, or go after any lure that is large, wobbling and shiny. Various trolling spoons from Luhr-Jensen such as the Coyote Spoon or the Moonshine Trolling spoon, as well as the Luhr-Jensen Crippled Herring jigging spoon, work well. The original Buzz Bomb or Zelda jig are good choices when salmon are ganged up on herring schools.

Any time is a good time to be outdoors in the Rockies, but considering the fall scenery as the big visual attraction, autumn might be the best time of all for trout anglers. The biggest brown trout of the season start getting frisky and aggressive as their spawning run in regional rivers approaches.

Hot Spots To Fish: Rock Creek, which empties into the Clark Fork River southeast of Missoula, Mt., has become a prime destination for brown trout in recent years. The creek has tons of 16- or 18-inch fish and is known more for numbers than size. Contact John Herzer at Blackfoot River Outfitters (406-542-7411,, or Blue Damsel Lodge, (406-825-3077,, for information about guide services or information regarding accommodations.

If you’re more interested in going after a behemoth of a brown trout, contact Joe Gilsnyder at Trout Stalkers on the Madison in Ennis, Mt.. Joe and his crew of guides know of some fishing holes off the beaten path that harbor bigger fish (406-682-5150).

Photograph Courtesy of Montana Office of Tourism
Is it the brown trout fishing, or the scenery, that draws anglers to the Rocky Mountain states in autumn? Either answer fits.

Tackle You’ll Need: Wherever you wind up fishing, tackle Rocky Mountain browns with a 9 1/2-foot, 6-weight rod such as an Orvis Helios 3. A 5-weight will work if you’re an experienced caster, but a 6-weight handles big streamers better.

Quick Tip: If you make a quartering cast upstream with a Wooly Bugger or similar pattern, let it dead-drift downstream until the current catches it and sweeps it up in the water column. Sometimes the darting motion, as the fly is caught in the current, will trigger a reaction strike from a following brownie.


Best Patterns: Fall browns will take nymphs and small dries such as the Blue-Winged Olive, but more likely the bigger fish will go after Size 2 Sparkle Minnows, Wooly Buggers, Clouser Minnows, Zonkers and Bighorn Specials fished on short leaders with no tippets.

If you’re fishing from a drift boat with a guide, regular weight-forward floating line will suffice. If you’re wading, a sinking-tip line probably is a better choice, depending on depth.

Walleyes and a variety of salmon are on the autumn menu in the Midwest as anglers have a last chance to fish open water before the winter freeze starts to set in. Fishing for either species can be excellent; how the weather and the water temperatures line up are more critical where salmon are concerned, but the fall run extends well into November.

Walleyes aren’t so picky, and all the traditional waters such as the Mississippi River, Big Saint Germain Lake in Wisconsin, Otter Tail Lake in Minnesota and Great Lakes feeder streams give up tons of  ’eyes in the fall.

One Last Salmon Fling

The big attraction nowadays is king (chinook) salmon that make their fall spawning runs up rivers and creeks. Whether fishing from a small boat or a Great Lakes charter boat, latching on to a 20- or 30-pound king can quickly warm up an otherwise chilly fall day.

Hot Spots To Fish: Michigan’s Grand River, which empties into the eastern side of Michigan, is a prime destination for salmon. Getting Bit Guide Service (616-570-2946, in Grand Rapids is a good starting point. In fact, any port of call along Lake Michigan on either the east or west sides is likely to have plenty of knowledgeable salmon guides or charters. Fishing from jetties or piers – such as the famed McKinley Pier in Milwaukee – is also productive during the fall salmon runs.

In northwestern New York, the Salmon River lives up to its name through mid-October, but the run might linger into November in the Lake Ontario feeder, depending on the weather. Coho and steelheads also are in the mix too.

The Yankee Angler (315-963-2065, in Pulaski, N.Y. keeps tabs on the fishing. In the big waters of Lake Ontario’s southern shore at Rochester, N.Y., give Reel Em In Sportfishing Charters (585-317-5325, a call.

Farther to the northwest, the waters and feeders of Lake Superior near Sault Ste. Marie are teeming with big salmon. One of the benefits here is that you can always slip in to the St. Mary’s River System to get away from those rough autumn nor’ westers. Live To Fish Charters (906-440-7797) can help make it happen.

New York rivers and inshore waters are teeming with big salmon in the fall.

Tackle You’ll Need: Salmon tackle and striped bass tackle (see above) are practically interchangeable. Fish might range from a few pounds to well over 20 pounds, and rods and reels should be in the medium- to-heavy range. A light- to-medium spinning outfit capable of holding a couple of hundred yards of 10- to 14-pound-test monofilament or 30- to 50-pound-test braid should do for most applications, especially when casting lures. Try the Okuma Epixor XT-20 with a matching rod.

Quick Tip: Just to hedge your bets, tie a foot-long section of 2x mono to your streamer hook and add a beadhead Prince nymph or similar pattern to the other end. When salmon are finicky, they might flash at a streamer, but not take it. Sometimes, a smaller mouthful such as a nymph trailer will seal the deal.


Best Lures/Bait: For the most part, spawn-run salmon hit spoons, crankbaits or roe bags out of reaction rather than hunger. Shiny lures, such as the Luhr-Jensen Twinky Rig behind a flasher, the Acme Kastmaster Spoon and a variety of soft-plastic swimbaits or hard crankbaits, will elicit strikes. Fly fishermen favor Dahlberg Divers, Wooly Buggers, Hex Nymphs and Glo Bugs.

Walleyes Are Hungry and Willing

In similar fashion to bass, walleyes follow baitfish from the bigger lakes to feeder creeks and rivers with current.

Hot Spots To Fish: The Van Hook Arm of Lake Sakakawea (701-421-0360, in North Dakota is a prime walleye destination, as is Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago (920-598-0586,

Walleyes weighing more than 10 pounds apiece are routinely caught in the fall, but most fish are “good eating size,” averaging about 3 pounds.

Tackle You’ll Need: Power fishing it’s not. Though walleyes might fatten up to well over 10 pounds, 2- to 4-pound fish are more the rule. Depending on the average size of the fish, 4- to 10-pound-test monofilament or fluorocarbon will do.

For spinning enthusiasts, the Quantum Vapor PT with matching rod will work. If you prefer trolling to casting, or bouncing a weight and natural bait on the bottom, try a baitcasting outfit such as a Fenwick/Pflueger Night Hawk or Iron Hawk combo.

Quick tip: Trolling at night with diving jerkbaits, such as the Storm Original ThunderStick or Lucky Craft Pointer 110, is a great way to catch walleyes. Troll in patterns from deep to shallow and back again, as the fish tend to relocate up and down drop-offs and channel runs depending on bait movement.


Best Lures/Bait: Leeches, nightcrawlers, minnows and everything from crankbaits to spinners will find favor with hungry fall walleyes. Top picks include: Rapala’s Shad Rap, Berkley’s Flicker Shad, Mepps’ Black Fury, Rapala’s Husky Jerk and Northland Fishing Tackle’s Forage Minnow Jigging Spoon.

Photograph Courtesy of Odin Lure Company When stripers are blitzing big schools of migrating baitfish, poppers and other topwater lures will draw fast action. Thu, 04 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Amazing Water Trails You Need To Try Right Now! Mountains have them, municipalities have them, so why shouldn’t waterways have them as well? I’m talking about trails that keep you on a chosen route. Luckily, such things exist and they’re called “water trails.” Exploring them has become a trend that’s gaining momentum like a well-paddled canoe.

The National Water Trails System details more than 20 official paddling trails across the U.S. Their mission is to protect, restore and increase access to some of America’s best waterways.

The individual state sites for each trail (below) offer everything from maps to well-marked access points and campsites, making multi-day forays into the wilderness easier than ever. Whether you’re a neophyte or seasoned veteran, they leave logistical headaches in your wake. Just remember to tell your boss you might be a little late coming back to work.

Running through six state parks, the 170-mile-long Suwannee River Trail divides Florida’s panhandle from the rest of the state. Extending from the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center Park to the Gulf of Mexico, it’s perfect for canoeists and sea kayakers of all strokes.

You’ll paddle its black, tannin-filled waters past three river camps spaced between eight access points, each with restrooms, showers and campsites. You’ll also retrace the wake of the 16th century Timuccuan people who used to live along the river’s banks.

While they named it Suwani, meaning “Echo River,” you won’t resist creating echoes of your own as you belt out “Old Folks at Home,” the state song of Florida, to the cadence of your strokes (rumor has it that no one’s ever paddled the Suwannee without breaking out into song).

For some of the most pristine paddling on the planet, dip your paddle blade into the Maine Island Trail, the country’s first water trail. Established in 1988, the Maine Trail established the precedent for all others in its wake. The 350-mile-long waterway extends from Cape Porpoise Harbor on the west to Machias Bay on the east, with its namesake Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) the largest group of its kind on the continent.

Camp at one of 150 island and mainland sites along the route, each accessible by kayak, sailboat or other watercraft. Campsites on state land are free, while those on private islands are available with MITA membership ($45/year individual; $65/year family). July, August and September typically offer the best weather, with September offering the bonus of lobster-red leaves. The Maine Department of Tourism also has some excellent paddling information their site.

Paddle Safe

Photograph Courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism

Personal safety is the most important part of any paddling trip. The following are some excellent suggestions from the American Canoe Association.

Research the area: Study the trail’s pamphlets, web sites and other information sources on topics such as logistics, potential hazards and isolation. Guidebooks and topographic maps are valuable references in trip planning. Plan alternate routes in case of winds, changing weather, or unexpected paddler limitations.

Prepare for weather: Be prepared for all conditions, including paddling in everything from temperatures that can cause heat stroke and hypothermia.

Be ready for change: Waterways are dynamic systems; even the most detailed route descriptions can’t account for seasonal changes due to fluctuations in water level, downed trees, recent floods, geological disturbances, storms and rainfall. Conditions are ever-changing. Be smart: plan for unexpected situations, and stay alert. Make sure your equipment is appropriate to help you rescue yourself.

Plan each day’s itinerary. Set up locations for put-ins and takeouts along with possible lunch break stops. Consider time, distance, and the abilities of your group. Arrange for a shuttle.

File a float plan with someone who will notify others if you don’t return on time. This is especially important in the Northern Forest, where cell phone coverage is spotty, so you cannot rely on being able to phone for help.

Clarify participant responsibilities with paddlers beforehand. Each participant should take responsibility for the decision to participate, the selection of appropriate equipment, and the decision to run, scout, or portage rapids. More experienced paddlers should assist those with less experience in making proper decisions.

Don’t overreach. Paddle within both your own and your group’s limits.

Use this Paddler’s Checklist, which can be applied to almost any route you take.


If the Maine trail has an equivalent out West, it’s the Cascadia Marine Trail, which stretches more than 140 miles through Puget Sound from just outside Olympia, Wash., to the Canadian Border. Since 1993, thousands of paddlers have traversed this inland sea trail, designated as one of 16 National Millennium Trails by the White House.

More than 50 campsites are accessible from a variety of public and private launch sites and shoreline trailheads; some are free, others require nominal fees and reservations, and still others are self-service pay as you go. Wherever you stay, expect a whale of a good time (and to possibly see them as well).

Sea kayak the world’s largest freshwater lake on the Lake Superior Water Trail, which extends from the St. Louis to the Pigeon River. The trail’s concept was born in 1991, with legislature making the trail official two years later. Maintained through a partnership of more than 100 individuals, families, businesses and organizations, the trail is open to all non-motorized craft, with new campsites added each year.

Groups of six can camp at official water trail sites, available for free on a first-come first-served basis, or you can pay a nominal fee per night to bed down—and enjoy a fire whose flames match the reds and yellows of nearby Pictured Rocks National Seashore—at any number of state park campsites en route.

Completed in 2006 as the longest inland water trail in the nation, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a 740-mile water trail from Old Forge, New York, to Fort Kent, Maine. Following traditional travel routes used by Native Americans and settlers, the paddling pathway links together 23 rivers and streams, 59 lakes and ponds, 45 communities and 65 portages totaling over 70 miles.

But don't let its size sway you; it’s easy to paddle portions in as little as one to three days, with endless paddling opportunities and services easy to find. Find a day trip, weekend getaway or week-long vacation, or quit your job and paddle it end-to-end. You can overnight anywhere from Adirondack lean-to’s and historic hotels to Bed and Breakfasts and established or primitive campsites.

The organization offers maps, books, and an online Trip Planner to help you pick your route and connect you to local services (or explore the trail with Google Earth). You can rent or buy equipment from outfitters nearby or hire a guide. 

Photograph Courtesy of Eric Lillstrom Polar Explorers Wed, 03 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
How To Find Your Deer After The Shot Despite what we may see on television, deer usually do not drop in their tracks at the shot. Sometimes, too, “stuff” happens and the shot is less than perfect. That’s when you have to unleash your tracking skills and go find them. Here are 10 tried-and-true tracking tips that have served me well over the years in finding deer after the shot.

After the shot, stay as calm as you can and stay focused on the deer. Watch it as long as you can then listen even longer. Often you will hear the deer long after you can’t see it anymore.

Before you leave your stand, pick a clear landmark where you last saw the deer and another where you last heard the deer. Also, pick a landmark noting where the deer was when you shot. Have these landmarks firmly in your mind before you exit yours stand. If you have a compass, take a bearing to each of these locations. Snap a few photos with your cell phone or use a small notepad to note the locations or draw yourself a little schematic that shows these three key landmarks.

Go to where you last saw the deer and look for blood and tracks. Remember to look on the bushes as well as on the ground for blood. If you fail to find any, go to spot where you shot the deer and search for blood and/or hair. If you still don’t find a blood trail of any kind, go back to your stand and double check to make sure you were looking in the right places.

Next, start where you last saw the deer and walk to the location where you last heard the deer. Watch for blood and other sign along the way. Sometimes it takes a while for the blood trail to start. 

When you find blood, note its location. Is it high up on the bushes and far out from the trail? That might indicate arterial spurting. Does it seem to be in the center of the tracks, even though you took a broadside shot? That might be lung blood leaking out of the nose and mouth. Is the blood in the track? Maybe it’s running down the leg.

Is there green gunk on the ground with a little blood? That’s a gut shot. Resist the tendency to keep tracking that deer. Leave quietly and come back in the morning, or at least six hours later. A gut shot deer will lie down very quickly and if you leave it alone, it will die in that bed. Usually it will be relatively close to where you shot it. But if you keep pushing and jump the deer, they can turn into the Terminator, unable or unwilling to die and they can run for miles.

Did you find pieces of bone? Trust me, it’s not ribs as so many people think; 95% of the time it is pieces of leg bone. You may get that deer, but it’s not going to be easy.

A lot of blood at the start that turns into a few drips and then stops in a ¼ mile or so, is usually a low hit in the brisket. You are in for a long day with that deer.

With a leg or brisket hit, the deer is very mobile and will keep moving if pushed. If you can get some help, it’s best to place hunters along the escape routes and hope the deer comes by as you track the blood.

If the blood trail is tough to follow, mark the blood you found with toilet paper or torn paper towels, so you can easily find it again. Although many people recommend using flagging material, I don’t use it. I know you plan to come back and take it all down, but plans rarely work out. Flagging tape lasts a long time in the woods. Paper towels or toilet paper are biodegradable and will disappear rather quickly.

Often, if you line up several pieces of paper you left hanging on branches you can see a clear direction of travel, which is a good place to continue the search if you have lost the blood and tracks.

Take care to walk to the side of the deer trail. You never want to step on the tracks or the blood. You may think you won’t need to come back and find them again, but you will probably be wrong. Leave all the sign untrampled.

Tracking With Technology

Photograph Courtesy of Leupold® & Stevens, Inc.

I used a thermal imaging unit in Zimbabwe a few years ago to watch for lions while the PH and trackers cut up a buffalo I had shot just before dark. Back then they were very expensive. Today, there are several affordable units designed for tracking.

I have been using a Leupold LTO Quest. This is their entry-level unit and it has a camera and flashlight built in with the thermal sensor. Leupold claims the LTO Quest can detect heat signatures out to 300 yards. Deer season is closed as I am writing this, so I am finding alternatives to test it with. It easily can find my dogs even when they are out some distance.

I couldn’t find a blood donor to help with the test, so I spit on my walkway on a cool night. The unit could easily see it, even after several minutes. This unit is sensitive enough that when I stood on my deck in my socks, the unit could detect my foot prints for several minutes after.

This technology may well be a game changer for tracking and finding wounded deer in the years ahead.

If you lose the blood trail, make wide sweeping circles that start and end at the last place you found blood. Keep your eyes on the ground and miss nothing. If you fail to find the trail, make a bigger circle. Repeat as necessary.

The recent passing of a deer will scuff up the leaves. Older tracks will settle from time and gravity, but a fresh track will show a bit higher. It’s usually not noticeable when standing up, but when you get your eyes to ground level you can often see the trail very clearly.

A grid search is just what it sounds like. Divide the land into a giant grid, just like on graph paper. The lines should be close together so that no part of the land is unseen. Walk along these imaginary lines one by one until you find the deer, or some sign of the deer, or have walked the entire grid.

In that case, expand the grid and repeat. Look under every bush and in every brush pile. A mortally wounded deer will often crawl under cover and will die there.

You have no doubt read that when tracking at night, a Coleman lantern, “makes blood glow like neon.” The lantern does show blood a bit better than a conventional flashlight, but it’s always been a disappointment to me when I have used one. Besides, who has a Coleman lantern in their backpack?

A quality flashlight will show blood like its electrified. It’s a good idea to have one in your pocket or backpack when hunting.

Walk along while thinking, “If I were a wounded deer, which way would I go?” Just follow your instincts. You may have to return to the last sign and strike out in another direction a few times, but sooner or later the odds are you will find a new spot of blood or identifiable track and you’ll be back in the game.

Another approach is to turn off your brain and just walk. Let the terrain and vegetation guide your feet. Deer and other animals will take the path of least resistance and if you walk in a “Zen” state, going with the flow, you will find you do the same thing.

Once you get in tune with the woods, things like that just happen in the back of your mind. If you try to think about it too much, you screw it up, but if you just let the reptilian part of your brain operate then eons of evolution are suppressed and the caveman in you will come out of hiding and turn you into a creature of the woods, just like the deer. I know this may sound a bit too “new age,” but I have found several animals we thought were hopeless using this technique.

Photograph Courtesy of Howard Communications, Inc. Very rarely do deer "drop in their tracks" at the shot. Once you make your shot, stay focused on the deer noting where it was when you fired and the direction it took off in. Credit: Photograph Courtesy Howard Communications, Inc. Wed, 03 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Hunting: How to Read the Land for Deer Most how-to deer hunting pieces tell you how to set a treestand or how to trim a shooting lane. Some may even offer some wisdom on setting up between bedding areas and food sources. And if they really provide value, they’ll tell you how wind influences your stand locations.

This is not that kind of how-to article. Instead, it’s one that takes a larger view of the problem most deer hunters face, which is figuring out how to hunt various types of terrain. I’m talking specifically about the sorts of landscape types that dominate the public land that you and I hunt because we can’t afford a private-land deer lease where we control the variables.

Public land from coast to coast has one common denominator: It’s marginal. These lands entered the public domain because they weren’t valuable for agricultural, residential or other private commercial use. Consequently, the best public deer ground is often steep, rocky, weedy, and raw—all factors that can improve the hunting if you know how to read the terrain.

On public land, the variables are too numerous to mention, but they tend to fall into three themes: accessibility, landscape type, and hunting style.

We’ll pick apart three different-but-common landscapes, and then apply the other two variables—accessibility and hunting style—to each. I hope you recognize your local public parcel in these descriptions.

The types of public land in this category include swatches of state forest in the Northeast, some overgrown game lands in Pennsylvania, the hardwoods along the spine of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge mountains, and much of the logged-over forests from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula down through the white-oak Ozarks.

Dense timber can be hard to hunt, because there aren't many defined edges. In these places, look for tracks, scrapes, and rubs, and set up downwind of those signs.

These public properties tend to be grown over and fairly sterile in terms of wildlife value. But they serve as productive transition zones for whitetails, providing bedding areas, mast production in good acorn years, and terrain that rewards hunters who get away from the easy access spots and work the interiors.

Accessibility: You’re likely to see lots of vehicles at the access points and trailheads, but don’t let that deter you. Prepare to hike, maybe only a few hundred yards or perhaps as far as two miles, to get into the best hunting terrain. If possible, you’re going to want to hike a ridge, maintaining your elevation as you work into the interior.

Keep your eyes peeled for deer sign—maybe a rub or a scrape, or a well-used trail. If you’re packing a treestand, the very best spot to erect it is on the nose of a distinct ridge that overlooks a saddle. Bonus points if you can find a good tree that commands the spot where two major ridges meet.

Some access points will be at the lower margins of the property, in which case you have some climbing to do. Find the dominant ridge of the parcel and hike up it, keeping your eyes peeled for sign.

In areas where water is abundant, look for mast-producing trees. In areas where water is limited, look for little seeps and springs—places that might concentrate deer.

Quick tip: Much of this country can be remotely scouted. Check out onX maps’ satellite imagery and private-property ID layer on either your phone or a laptop.


Hunting Style: Your hunting style in these woodland habitats will likely be from a treestand. Many public properties don’t allow permanent stands, so think about bringing a climber and setting up over a defined trail. Alternatively, try making a mock scrape, and see if it’s being tended. If it is, that’s the spot for your stand, just downwind of the scrape. This is the perfect terrain for stump-sitters, folks who simply plop down and watch. It’s an old and very effective method for woodland hunting.

If you intend to hunt from the ground, plan on using deadfall and slash vegetation to build a ground blind. No need to bring in a commercial blind, especially if it limits your mobility.

3 Great Deer Rifles

Photograph Courtesy of Browning

We are living in the golden age of affordable, accurate deer rifles. You can now buy a sub-MOA bolt rifle for under $500, just as you can spend upwards of $5,000 on an ultra-accurate rifle made with space-age components. Here are three rifles to consider:

  • Ruger American: A synthetic-plastic tack-driver, the American features an adjustable trigger, rotary magazine, and is available in most popular deer calibers. Retail: $489.

  • Browning X-Bolt: Add some bling to your hunt with the gold-finished model. The heart of the rifle is a sweet adjustable trigger, free-floating barrel, 60-degree bolt lift, and detachable rotary magazine. Retail: $800

  • Christensen Arms Mesa: Short-action models weigh just 6.5 pounds (long actions weigh 7.3 pounds), the Mesa features a stainless-steel barrel and carbon-fiber stock and sub-MOA accuracy. Retail: $1,295

Accessibility: Most huntable properties that fall into this landscape type are private grounds enrolled in a walk-in program. That’s because, as mentioned, farmland is generally too valuable to be devoted exclusively to the public domain. For the purposes of this piece, we’ll assume that farmland is private and that usage restrictions limit the style of hunting on these properties.

Photograph By Andrew McKean
A killer spot to set up for ag-land deer is just inside a timbered edge overlooking a field.

These landscapes range from the monoscapes of the Great Plains wheat belt to the corn and soybean country of the Midwest to the smaller pastures of the Southeast. What they all have in common, however, is very productive edge habitat, the line between cropland and nearby woods, or pasture and brushy cover. You should be hunting that edge.

Quick tip: The best remote scouting tool for these parcels is Google Earth, which uses imagery from USDA’s crop-reporting service, so you can see what was planted there and the topography of neighboring property.


Hunting Style: Prevailing wind direction can make or break your hunt. Walk that edge, looking for places where deer routinely jump a fence, rub a cedar fencepost or where they scoot between hiding cover and feeding areas. Because deer tend to be equal-opportunity foragers, it can be hard to tell precisely where they feed, but you should be able to identify these movement corridors.

If you can’t predict wind, identify stand locations on either side of a corridor. But if there’s a prevailing wind, set up downwind of the crossing and plan to be in place in the evenings. These are typically not morning spots, but they are good places to intercept deer moving from cover to feed in the evenings.

Best Days To Hunt

The punch line first: There are no bad days to be on a deer stand this fall. Now the set-up: What are the three essential days to be in the field? We could spend pages on this question and never settle it, but here are my recommendations:

Oct. 16: The rut hasn’t kicked in yet, which means deer will still be patternable. Try to hunt the leading edge of a cold front.
Nov. 4: This will be the height of the chase phase of the rut across much of the country. Saucer-eyed bucks will be running pell-mell around in search of cycling does.
Nov. 10: The new moon of November will keep nights dark and should sharpen daytime and evening deer activity.

These spots are more limited, largely because their carrying capacity for deer is more limited. I’m thinking here about the mule deer country of the West, where deer movement is influenced by the seasons more than by daily rituals like feeding or moving to and from bedding cover.

Photograph By Andrew McKean
In mountainous country, set up on edges, including those spots where timbered slopes meet creek drainages, and watch for migrating deer.

Accessibility: When thinking about seasonal migration corridors, target your scouting and hunting activity on food sources. Think about the lower-elevation attractants for deer. Maybe that’s an irrigated alfalfa field where they’ll find succulent forage once frost nips the higher-elevation plants. Or perhaps it’s a cut corn field adjacent to weedy bedding cover.

Quick tip: Use Powderhook’s map, which shows public parcels. Look for good hunting just inside the National Forest boundaries.


Hunting Style: Regardless, you want to find those riparian corridors that offer easy access from the high country to the foothills. Finding fresh sign can be tough here, since the transitional landscapes are often dry and rocky. So instead, hunt the weather. Wait for a snowstorm to hit the high country, and then set up on a promising canyon a day or two later. If you’re in the right place, you should start to see does and yearlings moving downhill. The mature bucks will wait a couple of days and then start to move.

Good hunting strategies for this landscape include using a spotting scope set up on a vista that allows you to look into a number of drainages, a pack that is stout enough to pack out a portion of a deer but light enough so it won’t slow you down as you intercept promising bucks, and a GPS with a landowner chip that will alert you when you reach that public/private land interface.

]]> Tue, 02 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Bowhunting—How To Hunt The Awful October Lull Most bowhunters view early- to mid-October (the October Lull) as a waste of their time in the deer woods. The biggest misconception about the Lull is that the bucks are nocturnal and that deer movement will be nil. If you plan to hunt your September stands on field and food plot edges, this may very well prove to be true and your experience will be awful. However, if you’re willing to figure out where the current deer activity is occurring, you just might find that October can yield productive sits.

Before you head afield, however, you have to accept that things are in a state of flux in the deer woods during mid-October. Food sources are changing in a way that will dictate where the most deer activity will occur, and the accumulated pressure of bowhunters, small-game hunters, and upland hunters in the field will likely affect your local deer herds’ patterns.

This means that October demands a different bowhunting strategy than you used in September. Besides, you shouldn’t push a dead program just because it worked a few weeks ago or might work again in a few weeks when the rut threatens to bust loose. Here are four proven ways to beat the dreaded October Lull.

Depending on where you live, by mid-October, soybeans and cornfields are being picked, acorns are dropping or have already dropped and been vacuumed up, and the general browse options are disappearing. Deer need to fill their bellies now with as high-quality nutrition as they can find, and those options are becoming more limited by the day. 

Quick tip: October food sources usually become limited as the month winds down, so spend some time scouting to identify the spots bucks are most likely to fill their bellies.


The reality is, coupled with deer having a more heightened awareness during this time. more two-legged predators will be in the woods now than they have been for months. All of this may paint a gloomy bowhunting picture, but it really should just inform us that we have to make in-the-moment decisions on where to spend our valuable stand time.

There is no better place to sit right now than on a staging area located just off of a destination food source, or a site that is located on an in-cover destination food source like a stand of white oaks that are littering the forest floor with acorns every time the wind blows. The thing about staging areas is that they will be located in the cover, and they’ll require you to scout or observe carefully. If you try to run a camera to locate them, you’ll probably miss the boat.

You have to take a walk into the thick stuff and keep an eye out for sign, or employ a hang-and-hunt strategy that allows you the chance to observe deer movement in the cover. If you do see some deer killing time in the brush, move in as soon as the conditions allow.

Quick tip: White oaks dropping acorns are a key food source to key on during the October Lull. Also look for fresh signs of bucks revisiting scrapes and making fresh rubs along trails inside deep cover.


Throughout this process of trying to identify current deer activity, keep an eye out for scrapes as well. There is something about mid-October that draws bucks to scrapes, especially those that are located well off of the field edges and deep in the cover. If you want to hedge your bets for killer sits this time of year, locate some fresh scrapes well into the cover that are located near - but not on - a hot food source.

The thing about a strategy like this is that you won’t get it right every time. You’ll blank on plenty of sits while trying to lay eyes on an October buck doing his thing. That’s okay, because every sit on which you don’t see a deer is one that helps you eliminate dead woods.

Keep moving, and keep looking for fresh sign. This is important for all bowhunters, but it’s crucial for anyone hunting public land. In fact, those hunting public land might have a better chance at a mid-October buck than anyone else due to the fact that there will undoubtedly be an ebb in the hunting pressure when most bowhunters believe the lull is happening.

Even though the woods and the world of whitetails are in flux right now, meaning it may feel like a gamble to sit at all, here’s the thing: you can hedge your bets by being a disciple of the weather. Follow the hourly and daily forecasts for your hunting area and pay attention to the swings as fronts move through.

If unseasonably warm weather is forecast, get out now or wait to hunt until things level off. If a cold front is coming, which will bring north and west winds most of the time, it’s a good idea to plan some time in stand. The buck that usually wouldn’t start meandering to the nearby soybean field until right at dark will often get moving a little earlier if the temperature has suddenly dropped by 10 or 15 degrees in the span of a day or two. This goes for Halloween, of course, but also for the first week of October when the hunting is not supposed to be any good.

October isn’t November, but it isn’t a whitetail write-off month, either. The deer are out there, sussing out new food sources and changing their patterns due to hunting pressure. This means you have to figure out what they are doing right now, which takes a bit of hunter’s discipline and a strategy to watch over some new ground until the local herd tips you off about their whereabouts.

Photograph by Tony J. Peterson Finding bowhunting success in October often means adopting an in-the-moment scouting and hunting strategy to identify current movement. Tue, 02 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Layering 101: How to Stay Warm and Comfortable in Cold Conditions The arrival of cold weather doesn’t mean you have to abandon your favorite outdoor activities and wait until the return of warm weather before venturing outside once again. If you have the right clothing it is possible to create a layering system that will keep you warm and comfortable in just about any weather. Understanding how to effectively use those layers, however, can allow you to embrace the cold and possibly even learn to love it.

Photograph by Kraig Becker
A good base layer, insulating layer, and outer shell are all you need to stay warm.

Every good layering system is made up of three distinct parts, each of which plays a vital role in keeping us warm when the mercury drops. Those parts consist of the base layer, the insulating layer, and the outer shell. When paired with one another properly, these layers can be surprisingly warm and versatile, allowing you to add or remove layers as needed depending on shifting conditions.

Maintaining temperature control and staying dry are vital to staying warm and safe in cold weather. That starts with a proper base layer, which is comprised of the articles of clothing that sit closest to the skin. A good base layer is tasked with wicking away moisture, while remaining breathable enough to allow heat to escape as well. In order to do that, these garments need to be fairly form fitting, although they shouldn’t be so tight that they restrict motion in any way.

Quick tip #1:: Avoid base layers that are made from cotton. While they may be comfortable to wear, cotton clothing is slow to dry and absorbs moisture, making them dangerous to wear in cold conditions because they retain moisture, which robs your body of heat.

The insulating layer is the piece of clothing whose job it is to collect body heat as it escapes from the base layer, creating warm pockets of air that can keep us comfortable in cold weather over extended periods of time. This layer is designed to keep warm air in and cold air out, while still allowing moisture to escape. This means it must have a high level of breathability to go along with its thermal properties. 

Which Layers Should You Buy?

Selecting the proper products to incorporate into your own layering system can be a challenge, as there are, literally, dozens of options to choose from these days. But we’ve sorted through many different products to come up with some suggestions of items that should be on your short list, whether you’re on a tight budget or have a little extra cash to spare.

Budget Layering Options

Blending performance and savings, these layers offer a lot of bang for your buck. For the price, it is tough to beat any of these products, which won’t put too much of a dent in your wallet, while still managing to keep you warm this winter.

Base Layers: Cabela’s ECWCS Polar Weight Hoodie Top - $69.99
Cabela’s ECWCS Medium Weight Bottom - $59.99

Insulating Layer: Sierra Designs Sierra DriDown Jacket - $159.00

Outer Shell: Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Rain Jacket - $99.00

Total Cost: $387.98

Premium Performance Layering Options

These layers are among the best that money can buy, providing top-of-the-line performance, durability, and technical fabrics. If your budget allows it, and you need to stay warm in the harshest conditions, these are the garments you’ll want with you.

Base Layers: Icebreaker Bodyfitzone 200 Long Sleeve 1/2 Zip - $120
Icebreaker Bodyfitzone 200 Leggings - $110

Insulating Layer: Arc’Teryx Cerium LT hoody - $379

Outer Shell: Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket - $299

Total Cost: $908


Finally, the outer shell is a lighter, thinner layer that is focused on providing protection from the elements. These jackets serve as the first line of defense from the weather, keeping wind, snow, and rain at bay. And while they don’t generate a lot of heat on their own, they help us to maintain warmth by keeping our inner layers dry while once again allowing moisture to escape.

Quick tip: A layering system isn’t just useful in cold weather. Lightweight layers are available for use in warm temperatures too, offering the same level of performance, plus protection from skin-damaging UV rays. These types of garments are thinner, lighter, and put even more of an emphasis on breathability and moisture wicking.


Photograph Courtesy Smartwool Mon, 01 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
4WD Survival—5 Things To Have When You're Really Stuck Getting stuck is an unavoidable part of driving off-road. But there’s a difference between garden-variety stuck and the big stuck: the mud hole, stream, dune or snowdrift that grabs your 4x4 with so much clamping force that there’s no way to get un-stuck without help.

If you’ve gone four-wheeling with a buddy in a second truck, which we highly recommend, problem solved. He can snatch you out with a tow strap or winch cable. Or, worst case, the two of you leave your rig and drive out in search of a professional tow service that will gladly take your money to set your truck free. 

If you’re out by yourself, however, it’s a different story. Depending on weather conditions, time of day and how far you are from civilization, the safest thing may be to stay with your truck and wait until help arrives. A key element of this strategy, though, happens before the trip, when friends and family were told where you were going and when you expected to be back. 

No one plans to get stuck, but you can mitigate the consequences of an unintended extended stay in the backcountry by stowing these five essential pieces of gear in your rig every time you head out. It’s always better to have it and not need it than vice versa, right?

Help prevent the big stuck from happening in the first place by always carrying recovery gear. A winch can be indispensable in these situations, but even a simple tow strap will get you out of trouble much of the time—as long as there’s another truck nearby. ARB’s Weekender Recovery Kit packages a 17,500-pound strap, two galvanized shackles (to securely tie the strap to the recoverer and recoveree) and a pair of leather gloves in a slim, easy-to-stow bag. 

Those who travel by themselves can often drive out of their stuck situation with the help of some added traction. Maxsa Innovations offers a family of Escaper Buddy traction mats that can be put under your tires to add grip to any slippery situation. They’re made from high-impact polypropylene and come with Velcro straps to hold them together when not in use. The Escape Buddy XL ramps, are 17.5 inches wide and can accommodate even the beefiest off-road rubber.

Other recovery tools that are well worth carrying include a Hi-Lift jack, full-size spare tire, tire chains, and shovel.

Quick Tip: How much water should you drink? Opinions vary. One rule of thumb is a gallon of water per day, some say double that, especially at higher elevations (10,000 feet or more). Hydration pack and bottle maker CamelBak built an online Hydration Calculator that indicates how much water to drink based on personal information (gender, height, weight, age) and conditions (ambient temperature, activity, exertion level).
The best plan? Bring plenty of water.

Exposure to the elements in the cold months can bring on hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition in which your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. If you must spend the night stuck, stay in the cab, a snug shelter warmed (somewhat) by your own body heat. Mitigate the loss of that body heat by bringing warm outerwear, no matter how nice the day was when you started. REI’s 650 down jacket is named for its 650 fill-power down insulation, wrapped by a nylon shell that’s water repellant to shed light rain and snow. This particular jacket is perfect for in-truck storage as it compresses down to pack within its own left-front pocket. 

And while the old saw that you can lose half of your body heat through your head has been debunked (it’s more like 7 to 10 percent), why lose any? REI’s Power Wool beanie like the down jacket, has a water-repellant synthetic fiber outer layer and Merino wool inner layer that wicks away moisture. 

Other clothing to consider includes extra shoes/boots/socks, warm gloves, sunglasses, bandana (a brightly colored one can be tied to the radio antenna to make the truck easier for rescuers to find), sleeping bag and raingear (tops and bottoms).

Other Gear to Toss in the Cab:

Photograph Courtesy Leatherman

Fire & Light: Redundancy for fire-starting is always a good idea. Make sure your survival kit includes stick matches (in a waterproof carrier), a high-intensity butane lighter that won’t blow out in a wind, flint and steel (and small waterproof container filled with dry cotton balls for catching sparks from flint and steel), flares, flashlight(s) or head lamp, extra batteries for all.

Food: Bring your protein- and calorie-rich favorites: energy bars (the caffeinated ones will boost your mood when spirits get down), trail mix, jerky, but avoid sugary foods that cause insulin spikes and drops. Want something heartier? Mil-spec MREs (meals ready to eat) are commercially available—even in gluten-free varieties—at Amazon and outdoor outfitters.

Water: Water is essential (see our Quick Tip), though plastic bottles can rupture if they’re loose in the cab. Consider a hydration pack instead. They’re durable enough to stow anywhere, easy to drink from, and you can wrap extra clothes around them in their packs to insulate them from freezing.

Truck Repairs: If the big stuck is due to mechanical issues, having these items on board could get you moving again: Basic hand tools, tire repair kit, on-board air compressor, Hi-Lift jack, accessory-drive belts, extra oil and gasoline, duct tape, radiator stop-leak, antifreeze, brake/power steering/automatic transmission fluid.

Personal items: Toilet paper (stow this in a zip-top plastic baggie to keep it dry), trash bags, daily medications, spare eyeglasses.


Today’s multi-tools are not only versatile, with their pliers, knife and saw blades, screwdriver heads and bit-drivers; many are also situation-specific. Leatherman’s Signal has 19 tools, with all the cutting, crimping and opening functions you expect, plus outdoor-survival features like an emergency whistle and a fire-starting rod. It closes down to a compact 4.5 inches, weighs just 7.5 ounces and comes with a black nylon sheath. Leave one in your center console or glove box so it’s always with you.

Batteries do not like the cold. This applies to truck batteries, cell phone batteries, flashlight batteries and so on. When help does finally arrive, make sure your 4x4 will start by packing one of the many jump-starter power packs available. Weego offers several models; the 44 produces 2,100 peak amps and 400 true cranking amps, enough power to start gas engines of up to 7.0 liters and diesels up to 3.5 liters. The 44 also incorporates a 500-lumen LED flashlight in its body, and also has a USB port to charge cell phones and other portable devices. As a back-up, there are a variety of other charging options on the market for keeping cell phones and the like powered up wherever you’re traveling.

This is the one piece of gear you hope you’ll never have to use, but you’ll sure be glad you have it if the need arises. First-aid kits come in (literally) all shapes, sizes, and levels of complexity, thanks to suppliers adapting them for activities ranging from rock climbing to youth soccer.

The MyFAK (My First Aid Kit) from MyMedic packs a lot of triage supplies in a nylon bag that’s small enough to clip to the back of a seat headrest. Inside are items to treat bleeding, burns, and sprains and fractures, plus analgesics, topical ointments, even handy items like a penlight, tweezers, a rescue blanket and an emergency whistle.  

Photograph Courtesy ARB USA Mon, 01 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Fall Camping Essentials—10 Items You Need to Have Every year, it feels like the summer camping and backpacking season flies by in a flash. If where you live is like my region of the US, your outdoor season might have been shortened this year by wildfires or extreme weather. Or perhaps work or family obligations kept you from the mountains, beaches and woods you love. Don’t despair: autumn may be the best season of all to head outdoors for a weekend (or a week). As long as you stay warm and dry, fall camping offers many rewards: clear, crisp air; fewer fellow campers; and often, more wildlife sightings. Read on for 10 essentials every camper should carry to make their fall camping trip even more enjoyable.

Your summer-season tent might do the trick, depending on your region, elevation and weather, but investing in a true three-season tent gives you a better buffer against wind, and some come with a rainfly already built-in, which eliminates the need to add one if the skies turn rainy. 

Amy’s pick: The Big Agnes Tumble mtnGLO comes with a removable string of LED lights, ideal for those fall evenings when it gets dark earlier.

Your sleeping bag is arguably the most important item you’ll pack for your fall camping trip, so it really needs to be up to snuff. I don’t know about you, but I can never sleep when I’m shivering in a bag that’s not providing enough warmth. The rating you’ll need will ultimately depend on the part of the world you’re camping in, but in my mountainous region of Oregon, a down or down-alternative bag rated at 15 degrees or less suffices. Adding a sleeping bag liner and slipping a quality sleeping pad under you will extend that range 5 or 10 degrees if you hit a chillier night or two.

Amy’s pick: Sierra Designs’ Nitro 0 Degrees is warm while remaining light to carry. It stuffs down small but provides the coverage around your shoulders and head you need. Plus, it has a fun feature: a slit at the bottom to stick your feet out of if you get overheated in the night.

A down or down-alternative ‘puffer’ jacket or sweater is the first thing I pack for fall camping trips. They provide a nice, lightweight layer that keeps you warm without bulk. A fun trend of late: down ponchos are all the rage, offering the perfect jacket/blanket hybrid for at camp.

Amy’s pick: The Therm-a-Rest Honcho Poncho can be worn as a poncho or spread out like a blanket, and it’s fun and playful, too.

Quick tip: Read all about layering here. You’ll want to put synthetic or wool layers against your skin to wick moisture away from your body (not cotton), followed by several layers to insulate your core (think vests, puffer jackets, and thermals). Top it off with a hooded, waterproof outer garment.

While we’re on the subject of staying warm, every outdoor enthusiast planning to spend time sitting back and stargazing at the autumn sky needs a comfortable camp chair (get that behind off the cold ground), a knit beanie hat (wear it to bed, too), and a blanket to tuck around oneself.

Amy’s pick:  Rumpl’s Original Puffy Blanket is always travel-ready (mine is in the back of the car at all times), colorful, and versatile: use it at the fall cookout, the sports arena, and at home, too.

If my feet aren’t dry, I’m not having a good time. Period. Bring along waterproof boots. If you’re backpacking, your waterproof hiking boots will have to do double duty, but if you’re car camping, you can toss in a pair of heavier, bulkier boots, too. Seriously, I don’t mess around (think Sorel’s). Pair these with a quality pair of thick wool socks to stay toasty warm.

Amy’s pick: Salmon Sisters XTRATUF boots, which feature fun, beautiful prints on the inside inspired by Alaska, and tough, everything-proof rubber outers, plus a rugged outsole.

Autumn is the time of year to perfect your campfire cooking skills. You’ll want to linger longer around the fire (see tip #10), which gives you more time to bake. A Dutch oven allows you to slow cook cobblers, stews and even breads over low heat, and skillets retain the flavor of past meals, which is a good thing. We once enjoyed a peach cake that carried just a hint of cayenne pepper flavoring from the evening before, and it was prime.

Amy’s pick: The Lodge 2 Quart Cast Iron Serving Pot is affordable and will last for season after season. Just be sure you follow the instructions to season your pot carefully

Warm beverages (including that splash of whiskey before bedtime) are essential during fall camping trips. Keep your morning coffee and your evening soups and broths toasty warm for hours with a double-walled insulated tumbler. 

Amy’s pick: Yeti has a great reputation for a reason. I love the Yeti Rambler 10-ounce Lowball, which is the perfect size for coffee and cocktails, my two favorite drinks.

It’s not a fun or sexy item, but a good tarp is key for the outdoors in autumn. In fair weather, use it under your tent to extend the life of your tent’s floor and keep moisture at bay. Yes, you have a rain fly on your tent, but when the weather turns, you’ll want to cover your camp kitchen area, too. And if you’re caught out in torrential downpours, throw it over the top of your tent and stake the corner’s down tight to provide an extra layer of rain protection and to cover any gear you can’t take inside with you.

Amy’s pick: Go to your local hardware store, and grab any quality tarp with eyelets so you can string it up wherever. Want to get fancy? I like Kammok’s Kuhli Weather Shelter, which is basically a lightweight tarp.

If you like to sleep in your hammock in the summer, you can carry on the tradition in the fall, but you’ll want a little something more between your butt and back, and the cold night air. Pad your hammock, and string a tarp over it.

Amy’s pick: Enter the insulated Hammock V by Klymit, a specially-shaped sleeping pad that’s made to fit a hammock. You’ll stay toasty warm all night.

With the severity of fires in the American West, it’s essential to be aware of any campfire and open-flame restrictions wherever you camp. If fires are prohibited, don’t despair: a good backpacking stove or camp stove is still permitted, and you can cook up a big pot of hot soup to satisfy that need for cozy warmth.

Photograph by Amy Whitley Mon, 01 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
WATCH: Seal smacks kayaker with octopus


A group was kayaking on New Zealand’s South Island when they had a truly unique experience with a seal. While fur seals are commonly found in these waters, it’s not every day that one tosses an octopus right at your face. He won’t be forgetting this any time soon!

]]> Thu, 27 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0500
WATCH: Friendly otter greets kayaker


While kayaking at Moss Landing in Monterey Bay, a group of paddlers were visited by a brave and curious otter. The little critter doesn’t seem to be too phased by the situation.

]]> Tue, 11 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Deer Rifles—How to Choose The Perfect Gun It is fall, which means that the leaves are changing and gun writers are doing articles on the “Great American Deer Rifle.” Picking out a new deer rifle? You can do it the easy way or you can do it the hard way.

The easy way? Buy a bolt-action rifle in .30-06, put a good 3-9X scope on it and call it done. You might also call this process boring. This gun can do the job any place deer are hunted. Is it perfect for all deer hunting? Of course not. Now we are getting to the hard stuff. But, it’s also the fun stuff. Most hard core hunters will want to refine their rifle choice to match their hunting style, region they’re hunting in and personal preferences. Here’s how to find a great deer rifle just for you.

Bolt actions dominate the deer woods today, but there are still places where a lever action, pump or even a semi-auto shines bright. It all depends on where you hunt, how you hunt and your preferences in rifles.

In the Northeast, tracking is a very popular way to hunt deer. It is without a doubt the best option for hunting big bucks in the North Country. I know this because I have written two books on the topic.

Those who track deer and those who love to still hunt in other parts of the country have similar needs in a deer rifle.

The most popular rifle for tracking is the Remington Model 7600 pump action. It fits the hand well and is not too heavy to carry all day long. It points like a shotgun for those fast snap shots and is extremely quick for follow-up shots. The most popular cartridges are the .30-06 Springfield and .270 Winchester. I use a .35 Whelen, but Remington stopped chambering the M7600 for the .35 Whelen cartridge so if you want one, it will have to come off the used gun rack.

Southern hunters are often in a box blind watching a greenfield. They have some of the same requirements that hunters anywhere in the country who watch clear cuts, powerlines or large agricultural fields have. They need a rifle that is light enough to carry to and from the stand easily and accurate enough for a longer shot. Lucky for them, this is exactly where a lot of the new rifle introductions have been focused. 

The precision rifle is very popular today and are very affordable. Ruger started the affordability trend with the RPR, now Remington, Savage and perhaps others have jumped into the market. The precision rifle is usually built on a chassis rather than a stock. The chassis can be adjusted to fit the individual shooter, so the guns can be tuned to the hunter. They are designed for long-range target shooting, but in an appropriate cartridge, they are a great choice for the hunter who may encounter a long shot. The downside of these rifles is that they tend to be a bit heavy, but that’s not a big problem if you are sitting on a stand.

The new generation of hybrid rifles are combining the best features of a precision long-range target rifle and a hunting rifle. The results are very accurate hunting rifles that can manage long-range assignments just fine. Examples include the Browning Hell’s Canyon Speed Ruger’s Hawkeye FTW Hunter or the Remington Model 700 Long Range. They are very accurate and light enough to carry. One big advantage is that they are chambered for some very powerful cartridges.

Precision rifles are usually short-action designs chambered for cartridges like the 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor or .308 Winchester. These cartridges are all very capable for deer hunting, but a hybrid rifle in .300 Winchester or any of several other long-action cartridges provides a lot more wallop at the target.

If you are in the market for your first rifle, budget might be a big factor. Consider the new generation of budget-priced, bolt-action rifles. I just came in from the range where I shot a Mossberg Patriot in 6.5 Creedmoor that I am going to hunt blacktail deer in California with. I was using Barnes Vortex LR ammo with 127-grain LRX bullets. My last 100-yard group measured just under half an inch. That’s good accuracy from a precision rifle and outstanding from a budget-priced hunting rifle. I have also seen excellent accuracy from the Ruger American rifle, Remington 783 and the Savage Apex. Budget price does not mean budget performance anymore.

Remington dropped their Model 750 semi-auto rifle a few years ago, ending more than a century of providing hunters with a self-shucking hunting rifle. I think that Browning may be the last of the breed with their BLR rifles. My BLR is in .30-06 and is accurate enough that I once shot the head off a rabbit at 300 yards with the rifle. (I won a bet and filled our bellies at the same time.)

New Ammo for Deer 

The ammo trend in deer hunting this year is for long-range hunting. Hornady has their new ELD-X long-range hunting bullet in most of the popular long-range cartridges now. That includes one of my all-time favorite deer cartridges, the .280 Ackley Improved. Look for more guns and ammo in this cartridge in the coming year.

Photograph Courtesy of Hornady Manufacturing Company
Almost every major manufacturer is now offering rifle ammo that is tailor made for long-range deer hunting.

Barnes has a new line of Vortex Long Range ammo with a wide selection of cartridges. I have long been a fan of Barnes bullets for their performance on big game and this new line has really impressed me with its accuracy. It meets the lead free requirements for places like where we will be hunting soon in California.

Remington’s Hypersonic ammo provides up to 200 fps. more velocity to help flatten the trajectory and to carry more energy to the animal.

Federal’s new long-range load, the EDGE TLR, features a Trophy Bonded bullet and is some of the most accurate hunting ammo I have tested.

Black Hills Gold Ammo has always been loaded with some of the best hunting bullets like the Barnes TSX. New this year they have added Hornady ELD-X bullets to several cartridges.


One of the biggest changes with this current generation of deer hunters is the acceptance of AR-style rifles for hunting. In the smaller AR-15 platform I am not a fan of the .223 Remington for deer, particularly from the shorter barrels common on these rifles. However, the .450 Bushmaster, .458 Socom and the .50 Beowulf are all hard-hitting cartridges that turn off the switches. The vast majority of deer, particularly in the East, are shot at distances of less than 200 yards and these cartridges can handle that if the shooter can.

The larger AR-10 or ARL rifles are designed for the .308 Winchester. That entire family includes some outstanding deer cartridges. The .243 Winchester, .260 Remington, 7mm-08 Remington and .308 Winchester are all offered in these rifles. My personal favorite is the .338 Federal, which is a hard-hitting cartridge. I have recently been shooting a Wilson Combat AR style rifle in .358 Winchester, one of my all-time favorite deer cartridges.

The ARL rifles are rugged, dependable in any weather and are exceedingly accurate. This style rifle is very capable of long range hunting. As semi-autos they are very fast for follow up shots. The design ergonomics make these guns easy to hold comfortably in position while waiting. The pistol grip of the ARL rifle keeps the hand in a more natural position while you wait for the deer.

The Browning BLR lever action is chambered for several modern cartridges and has a following with deer hunters. The traditional lever actions once dominated the deer woods but have fallen out of favor in recent years. Still a great choice, they just are not all that popular with today’s new deer hunters. Some straight-wall cartridges, however, are enjoying a comeback of sorts.

Many states that had shotgun-only restrictions are now allowing straight-walled rifle cartridges to be used. The most popular are the .450 Bushmaster, .444 Marlin and the .45-70. Lever-action rifles, like the Marlin 1895 or Henry Lever Action rifle in .45-70, are an obvious choice. Where legal they are fast for follow-up shots. They are also accurate and easy to carry.

I’ll be hunting for giant Midwest whitetails this year with a Marlin 1895 in .45-70. I’ll have it loaded with Barnes Vortex 300 grain ammo and be ready for any shot out to 250 or maybe even 300 yards.

If you are like me, you look at all these choices and think, “I would really like one of each.” Economic reality forbids that of course, but you have to agree it sure is nice to have options.

Photograph Courtesy of Howard Communications, Inc. Thu, 06 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0500
Paddle Your Way To See The Best Fall Colors It’s hard not to get a scenic vista when you’re paddling. Throw in the changing colors of autumn, however, and you’re in for a real treat as your own strokes take you into a world seemingly made of paintbrush strokes. Add the golden reflections off the water and, unlike the trees, you may not want to ever leave. The following are five of my favorite places to paddle among fall foliage.

Whether it’s canoeing on Jackson Lake or taking a scenic float on the upper Snake River, few places can compare to the raw beauty of the Teton Range, especially when its draped in the colors of fall.

The allure of paddling in Grand Teton National Park is the water’s proximity to the mountains—you’re literally at their base, staring up at the splendid pastels of autumn. And, more likely than not, a dusting of fresh snow high on the peak tops will augment the setting.

Best Place to Paddle: For a point-to-point river float, try the Snake River from Jackson Lake Dam to the town of Moose, where the snow-capped behemoths frame fall’s golds, reds and yellows.

Bonus: For a flatwater lake stretch, head out on Jackson Lake; but good luck staying on course as your eyes drift toward the surrounding mountains. 

Outfitters: Grand Teton Lodge Company (307) 543-2811,; Jackson Hole Kayak School (307) 733-2471,

Known for its autumnal colors, Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore along Lake Superior's southern edge could easily be renamed “pictured forest.” The park is one of the Midwest’s most scenic places to kayak in a kaleidoscope of color.

Climbing anywhere from 50 to 600 feet up from the lake's lapping waves, the shore’s 15 miles of sandstone cliffs present a spectacular array of colors themselves. Mix their red and orange hues dripping down the cliff faces with the clear blue of the lake and the tints of fall foliage lining the lakeshore, and you have a complete palette any painter would envy. (The area’s trees change colors almost overnight, when the hardwoods explode in reds, oranges, yellows, purples, browns and greens.)

Best Place to Paddle: The official Lake Shore boundaries extend along 40 miles of coastline and include miles of sand beaches and dunes, sea caves and arches. Head out for a simple day paddle or stay longer and camp in the backcountry.

Bonus: The journey also features such landmarks as Miners Castle, Lovers Leap, Rainbow Cave, Indian Head, Gull Rookery, Grand Portal, Chapel Cove and Chapel Rock.

Outfitters: Northern Waters Adventures (906) 387-2323,

While it might not be any more colorful that other fall waterways in the area, Maine’s St. John River offers perhaps the longest stretch of such mesmerizing hues. As the lengthiest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi, the St. John is the granddaddy of all Maine canoe trips, winding through several headwater lakes and on for 100+ miles through forests, rolling hills and open valleys (large portions of shore are owned by The Nature Conservancy).

Best Place to Paddle: The best, most accessible stretch for fall foliage is a multi-day trip from Baker Lake to Allagash Village, where your 100-mile northward journey begins on a river lined with fir and spruce before giving way to colorful hardwoods. Expect steady gradient with no portages, but scout Big Black and Big rapids.

Bonus: Campsites are maintained by the North Maine Woods Association.

Outfitters: Allagash Guide Service: (207) 398-3418,; Katahdin Outfitters, (207) 723-5700,

Come October, leaves don't get any more colorful than on western North Carolina’s historic French Broad River, where an 8-mile canoe trip down Section 1 takes you from summer to autumn in all its glory in a peaceful, southern Appalachian valley. With wedding white clouds dotting a Carolina blue sky above, joining the banks’ leaves reflecting off clear water below, you can’t script a finer setting for fall’s colors to work their magic.

Best Place to Paddle: Using one of the world’s oldest modes of river transportation while traversing one of the world’s oldest rivers, after leaving Champion Park you’ll paddle by an array of pastels owing themselves to a riverbank lined with old and young hardwood trees. Gigantic sycamores bring yellows and browns, while black cherry and sourwood trees add deep, rich reds, tulip poplars add a dose of yellow, and deep-rooted beech trees complement it all with honey gold.

Bonus: For wildlife, keep your eyes peeled for osprey, great blue heron, kingfisher and more.

Outfitters: Headwaters Outfitters, 828-877-3106,

Photograph Courtesy of Grand Teton Lodge Company and Flagg Ranch Company
Whether you plan on getting out for a quiet morning or taking a multi-day canoe adventure, take the time to get out on the water this fall.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) outside Ely, Minnesota, in conjunction with Canada’s nearby Quetico Provencial Park, is home to over 2,000 lakes connected by rivers and portages only accessible to paddlers.

Hit it in the fall, when the bugs and tourists are gone, and it turns into a melting pot of colors that change with every stroke of your paddle. (It’s also one of the few places on earth where you can drink water straight from the lake).

In autumn, its boreal forest bursts with vibrant splendor into a mix of yellows and reds, offset by the dark green of balsam, spruce and pine. The colors start early in September with the maples and peak with forests of aspen and birch in late September and early October.

Best Place to Paddle: the Boundary Waters and Quetico Provencial Park areas are so vast, paddlers can put in at any number of places and have a great experience. Piragis Northwoods Co. (see below) can help you narrow your options down as they offer trips tailored to specific interests with routes for great fishing, waterfalls, wildlife, solitude and more. Boundary Waters Outfitters also offers a number of route suggestions depending on how much time you have and your ability level.

Whether you head out for a day or week, en route you paddle through swamps, bogs, streams, wetlands, rivers and lakes, in as pristine a setting as you’ll ever find.

Bonus: With wildlife on the move in the fall, you’ll have a good chance at seeing moose, bear, otter, beaver, eagles and more, while listening to loon calls and the howl of wolves as you fall asleep under the northern stars.

Outfitters: Piragis Northwoods Co., (800) 223-6565,

Photograph Courtesy of Steve Piragis Thu, 06 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0500