Archive for the ‘Firearms’ Category



Soon waterfowl hunters will be sneaking into their blinds as the black and orange streaks of the pre-dawn hours begin to appear in the sky. They have planned for this day in anticipation of great shooting opportunities.

Many hunters spend the early fall days driving roads and making calls to landowners to get permission to hunt their land. This is sometimes without much success.  Others plan to hunt public blinds in hunting areas owned by governmental bodies such as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and various federal lands.  Sometimes in the latter case due to demand exceeding supply they are unable to find a place to hunt as supply often exceeds demand.  They can still turn to private hunting clubs.

Throughout Illinois there are private waterfowl hunting clubs. Access to some is limited to members while others are open to the public on a daily fee basis.  Lists of clubs are attainable from local tourism bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, their websites and advertisements in newspapers and hunting magazines.

It is a good idea to talk with people who hunt there before making a commitment.   It is also a good to talk with others who live in the area such as employees of sporting goods stores and anyone in the hunting goods business.  It is impossible to go into an area and know what bird hunting success you might expect.  But, you can talk with people who live in the area and they can tell you what birds are present and what they are doing.  You can do this both before and during the season.

Many clubs welcome hunters bringing their own dog to retrieve downed birds. Other clubs prefer to use their own dogs and still others do not feel a dog is necessary.

Most hunts are from blinds on land and/or water or from pits.

The amenities provided at clubs can vary significantly. Most clubs provide transportation to and from the hunting sight, set up of the decoys, heated sheltered blinds and often provide snacks or even meals.  Most provide a caller who is a combination guide, sometimes teacher, and is in charge of the hunt.  He usually works for tips.  All the hunter needs to provide is his shotgun, shells and warm camouflage clothing.

All hunters are required to possess an Illinois General Hunting license, an Illinois Waterfowl Stamp and Federal Migratory Bird Stamp. It is a good idea to purchase them prior to the hunt as not all clubs have access to them and it is usually too early in the morning to purchase them locally.  The Illinois license and stamp are available online but the Federal stamps are available the US Post Office or most other federal offices.




Kevin and his two pre-teen sons find a scenic camping location with a waterfowl in a remote location. As they pitch their tent, have dinner over an open fire and settle in for the night, four drunken teens announce their presence.  The location is a favorite drinking location for them.

The teens, embolden by their drinking decide to evict the family. As the discussion becomes more threatening and the teens encroach on the campsite.  Kevin pulls his pistol and points it suggesting that perhaps the teens may want to find another location.  They decide to leave rather than risk a shot from an angry father.

Once the invaders are safely out of sight, Kevin packs up his children and gear. They safely leave what could have been a very serious situation.

This parent protected his family thanks to his right to concealed carry.

Stories such as this spotlight the need for concealed carry for the outdoor recreationist as well as potential victims of crime in urban areas.

However, before you carry your concealed weapon on your next outing there is some precautions needed.

To begin with some states have laws prohibiting carrying while in the field. For instance a state might ban bowhunters from carrying a firearm in the field regardless of the reason.  Some governmental agencies prohibit handguns at all times on their parks and refuges.  Still other states do not recognize concealed carry permit from other states.  This is reciprocity.

If you are traveling from one state to another it is important to know the law in all the states through which you are traveling. Your permit might be valid in your home state and the destination state but you might be traveling through another state where it is not valid.

How can you keep up with the ever changing laws that might affect your carrying protection while in the field? One of the best sources of current information regarding concealed carry is the website of United States Concealed Carry Association (

They also have an App there as well so that you can access the information on your phone while in the field.

One of the easiest ways to get information on reciprocity is the State Reciprocity Map (

Another valuable website is the Safe Gun Travel site (


Dock Dog 0002

Each year on the fourth Saturday and Sunday in September 25,000 to 40,000 sportsmen and their families travel to the campus of John A. Logan College for The Southern Celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day. They are attending an event designed to teach hunting and fishing skills as well as the ethics, safety and conservation issues associated with them.

Last year’s attendance set a record of 44,000 people attending this, the largest National Hunting & Fishing Day celebration in the nation.

This year’s event takes place on September 26 and 27, 2015. Admittance and parking is free. Food is available from a variety of venders on the campus at nominal prices.

This year Pappy’s Outdoor is the official title sponsor. Other major sponsors include Williamson County Tourism Bureau, Good Guys Motors, McDonalds, Black Diamond Harley-Davidson and the Friends of Crab Orchard.

Children’s activities include a youth goose calling contest as well as archery, shooting sports and fishing. Local sponsors provide the activities free. Volunteers provide instruction and adult supervision.

Dogs and waterfowl activities figure prominently in the celebration with demonstrations by dock dogs, agility dogs, retrievers, search and rescue dogs, police dogs as well as coon and fox hounds. Instruction on training and nutrition for dogs is also available.

The waterfowl calling series begins with the Don Gasaway Youth Goose Calling Contest on Saturday. A number of duck and goose calling contests attracting youth, professional and amateur callers follow during Saturday and Sunday.  They end with the Tim Grounds Southern Illinois World Open Goose Calling Championship on Sunday. A variety of cash and merchandise prizes are available to the contestants.

The High School Bass Fishing Contest involves individual as well as team competition in a fishing contest held on Crab Orchard Lake with the weigh-in held at the Celebration grounds. Area high schools can enter two boats with four anglers and two coaches. The coaches are in the boats but do not fish. The school with the heaviest total weight of bass wins a trophy. There is a penalty for any fish that die. The angler with the largest bass also wins a trophy. Other trophies go to second, third, etc.

Tents erected on the college campus will house some 200 venders. New this year will be an archery tent sponsored by Kevin’s Archery Center, Ava, IL. An adult and a youth shooting range will be inside along with a number of archery manufacturer’s representatives. Instruction will be available along with a chance to get questions answered.

Other activities include wildlife and nature art show, seminars on fishing, game preparation and outdoor cooking as well as a buck skinner’s village with tomahawk throwing area. Displays provide instruction and information about Taxidermy, ATV, RV, boats, deer antler measuring, trapshooting, archery, and a special fishing display.

The Outdoor Art & Heritage Show returns this year inside the college Gymnasium, Skylight Lounge and front lobby. It promotes participation in outdoor recreation through artistic, cultural, natural history, entertainment, and an expanded deer display. Exhibitors include artists, taxidermists, museums, collectors, authors, musicians, not-for-profits, and makers of specialty foods.

Vendors interested in participation should contact Ron Allen as soon as possible. Vendor space is limited and sells out each year. Ron is available at 217-725-7602 (cell), 217-787-8862 (home) or by email at

Free information regarding motel accommodations and points of interest is available from Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Illinois 62959 or by calling 1-800-GEESE-99. Information is also available online at, the Williamson County Tourism Bureau website. The e-mail address is


SoundGear_Instant Fit_hand

Anticipation is high as the geese circle the field before cupping their wings for landing.  As they approach the decoys and are about 10 feet above them, the guide shouts get them boys.

We all rise and begin firing.  As the birds start to fall, a blast from the right explodes just a foot or two from my right ear.  The pain is sudden.

The ability to hear takes a few hours to return but it is apparent I have lost some of my hearing.

Up to this point I have never given much thought to the loss of hearing one experiences from loud noise such as gun shots.  It just seemed to go with the territory.  Reading about it never really hit home.

Following this experience some 15-years ago, I began using hearing protection on the shooting range but had trouble using anything available in the field.

Foam inserts keep falling out and also hinder conversation with companions in the field.  Muffs also block some talking and are hot and uncomfortable in warm weather.  More recently muffs that electronically block sound at certain levels are more like what I seek.  Conservations with companions are possible but they are still bulky and hot under certain field conditions.  They work on the range but under hunting conditions they are less desirable.

At a recent Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Cast & Blast event Lance Kraemer of Starkey Hearing Technologies ( introduced us to a new ear plug called SoundGear produced by their company.  Their company seems to specialize in high-Definition sound enhancement.

The product is an all-digital electronic hearing production item that comes in three styles.  The one I prefer is an ear plug fitting in the ear canal.  They also make a behind-the-ear model and a custom molded model.

SoundGear_Instant Fit_on ear

It fits into the ear canals and stays put unlike the problems I experience with foam plugs.  The unit is smaller and has a baffle type appearance.  A very small (#10) hearing aid battery delivering up to 140 hours of protection powers the electronics.  If continuous protection is not required you simply remove the battery from the device and re-install it later when needed.

Plugged into the ear it allows protection from loud blasts such as a high-powered rifle yet allows one to hear normal conversations.

Once home it was imperative that I test it out on the range as I sight-in my rifle for the next week’s hunt of exotics in Texas.  It works similar to the electronic muffs I use normally with more comfort and flexibility.  The units stay in place unlike foam plugs.

A few days later in Texas, the opportunity to test SoundGear in the field meets with similar success. I even get to test them in rain conditions.  They work perfectly.  I am sold on this product.


Kids Shooting0002

The season of gifting is fast approaching. For some it might include the gift of that first gun for a child.  There are some basic considerations in gifting a firearm.

The first consideration is the proposed use. It may be for waterfowl hunting, upland game hunting, sporting clays, trap, etc.

Then there is the size of the person who is going to use it. If it is a woman, the problem is not as great as with a youngster who will continue to grow.  It is important to choose a gun that will not beat the person to death with the recoil.  Nothing is more discouraging to a novice shooter than being beat up by the weapon.

Shooting like all activities must be fun for the beginner. The smaller the shooter the more the recoil will abuse them.  This can be a catch twenty-two situation.  The more mass of the weapon, the greater the recoil.  The heavier the mass, the more difficult it is to carry and aim.

Recoil, however a genuine problem, is vastly overrated as a problem.

Adolescents and women do not suffer the degree of ills from recoil that men complain about. They are more likely to listen to instruction and have not been brainwashed into expecting a recoil problem.  Women and adolescents are more inclined to ride with the push of the recoil.  They have good shooting techniques with a flexible shooting stance.

In addition to the gauge of the shotgun, it is important that a weapon fits the person using it. If the stock is too long or too short, the angle of the stock to the barrel gives the individual the wrong sight picture when aiming.

Things like the length of pull or pitch need checking. A gun that fits properly improves the accuracy of the shooter and is an excellent way to reduce recoil.  A good gunsmith can help with fitting a shotgun properly to the person who will use it.

Single shot guns cause one to become a better hunter in terms of taking shots that are very ethical and getting into better position to make a killing shot. Because you do not have any back up shots with the single shot, you pay more attention to your first shot.  You only have the one chance to make a mistake or drop a bird.

Mentally, if you walk into the field with a single shot, you are thinking differently than if you have a repeating firearm or an over/under shotgun.

The single shotgun is not just for a beginner’s weapon. It is a weapon for the most advanced hunter as well.  As we examine the very high end of ethical hunting and it becomes more about the quest than the completion of it.  A single barrel shotgun adds to the challenge and teaches one that he does not need a repeater because he is a hunter.

Single shot hunting is light tackle hunting. Light tackle hunting with a small gauge weapon is probably the pinnacle of the sport as well as a good choice for the novice.




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By Mark Griffin

I am no expert in reviewing hunting gears but I am a typical user of red dot sights. Like many users I prefer testing various devices before I can zero down on the right one. The red dot sight application is limited to recreational shooting and defending the home front. In addition my application is limited to the AR 15 16” .223 carbine. In order to find a perfect red dot sight for this firearm I opted for three sights: Aimpoint 9000SC.

Vortex Strikefire and Millet ZoomDot. But before I explain my experience, here’s a brief about what I was looking for in a red dot sight. I am not searching for absolute accuracy for 600 yards or for playing with range and wind adjustments for a perfect shot. Rather the red dot sights help me to view with both eyes open and acquire target acquisition even when I am moving. However, here is my experience in testing the three red dot sights:

Vortex Strikefire Vortex is an interesting device that as it is suitable for varied people. It is packed with 2x magnifier, color and brightness controls, soft touch on and off button, and a feature that enables the use of a trendy flip flop cover and night vision. This is one of the USPs of Vortex Strikefire. You can use the device as a Night Vision Device (NVD). The adjustments in this red dot sight are easily accessible and its clarity is average. I would not call this the best sight available like so many other reviews. But yes, there are certain advantages of these devices. One of the drawbacks that you would notice is that when using with the AR 15, the system becomes quite heavy. If you consider it from shooting position the entire system looks quite bulky too. This happens due to the battery, lens cover, electronic controls, elevation and wind adjustments.

The red dot is not the best one available in market although the cover is splash proof. You will have to deal with it to get it right.

Aimpoint 9000SC This is the best part. I loved using Aimpoint red dot sight. This time I tested Aimpoint 9000SC. The first thing that attracts your attention is the camo available with this device. The camo is build like a tank which has double mounts and clicking switch. This is another device which is perfect for the AR15 platform. What impressed me is the brightness of the sight that is a bit higher than the other available models. However, Aimpoint has developed it as a device that will work perfectly with calibers more than .223. However, what can put you off is the weight.

Millett ZoomDot Now here is a model that is lightweight, compact and is packed with a dot size that is easily adjustable. But what puts you off is the projector for the red dot. It trespasses into your field of view while aiming at the target. I did not notice it until I aimed at the target while viewing through the opening left of center. The problem arises because of the shape of the aperture which is not a perfect circle. This affects the accuracy of the device. This was not really desirable from an either perfect model. Another irritating factor is the cleaning kit. I wish the device is available without it.

At the end if I have to conclude I will go with Aimpoint. I have used the Aimpoint CompM4 Red Dot Sight before and have found it quite effective. The best thing about the 9000SC is that there are no compromises made with this sight except that it is on the heavier side. The main feature where it beats the other two is the brightness factor and its battery performance.


Turkey 0001

Modern day turkey hunters enjoy some of the best turkey hunting.  Some overlook this opportunity because they do not have a place lined up to hunt.  Illinois also has some of the country’s best public land turkey hunting.  The public land hunting programs have and are used as models by many wildlife management agencies of other states.

The public land hunting opportunities help to meet the demand that cannot be met by private property.

Illinois hunters can receive several permits for the single spring season.

Application forms are available from the IDNR Permit Office in Springfield or on line at the IDNR website:  Most IDNR regional office also will have them available.

Additional state regulations and site specific rules can be obtained by contacting the public land site and from the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations.  The later is available free from the IDNR online at the above website.

Like most hunting, public land turkey hunting requires one to know the habits and habitat of the birds.  It is important to know how turkeys react under hunting pressure and different weather conditions.  Weather, the type of cover and having the proper hunting equipment all play a part in finding birds.

Experienced public land hunters learn to concentrate their efforts on areas that do not receive human traffic.  Hedge rows offer concealment opportunities for birds that become call shy early in the season.  Another such cover situation is any brushy areas next to grain fields.

Weather during turkey season is a real iffy proposition.  Passing cold fronts bring with them spring storms.  The time just prior to the passing and just after a storm usually means that the birds will be actively feeding.  Grain fields, or any other place where spilled grain might be found, are good places to seek out Mr. Turkey.  Out of the way roads offer promise of feeding birds.

Scanning the woods is another tool of the turkey hunter on public land.  One not only scans the property looking for birds but also for other hunters.  In the interest of safety it is wise to know where your fellow hunters are and what they are doing.  Any movement in public land hunting should be done slowly and with purpose.  The best rule of thumb is to move only when entering or leaving the woods.  Never use a turkey call when entering or leaving the hunting area.  It is too easy to be mistaken for a turkey moving through the brush.

If you should spot another hunter moving toward you it is recommended that you whistle softly.  It will not spook turkeys or the other hunter but will make him aware of your presence.  Do not wave lest he mistake you for a bird.

Once in place it is wise to begin calling with soft calls.  This is particularly true after the birds have been hunted for some time.  The birds have been hearing lots of calls and tend to regard hard calls as danger.

Soft calls attract a gobbler’s attention out of curiosity.  The purr calls whether hen or fighting purr calls get older birds to respond in response to their desire to dominate their territory.

Well hunted areas can be totally unproductive on any given day.  That does not mean that there are no birds, only that they are not responding to calls.  This could be the result of the gobbler being with a hen or are not paying attention to hen sounds because they have become call shy.  The next day one may find turkey hunting productive in the very same area.

Even pressured birds are aggressive in the spring.  By sitting still and listening for the sounds of the woods, it is possible to hear the disturbance of leaves as gobblers move about in search of hens.  In their pursuit of hens, with which to mate, the gobbler will strut and drum giving away his location.

With a little scouting of the area you plan to hunt, and by paying attention to safety while moving about in the woods, one can enjoy a very fruitful experience hunting turkeys on public land.


Photo courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Photo courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Moving into the New Year, many outdoor oriented men and women spend increasingly more time in the outdoors.  It may be waterfowl hunting, wildlife watching, hiking, biking, and fishing.  Each of these has its own risks.  Preventing dangerous situations becomes a top priority.

Although it is tempting to enjoy the outdoors alone, it is not the safe way.  Enjoy the outdoors with a friend.  Simple actions such as telling someone where you are going and when you’re are coming back as well as watching weather for sudden changes are important.

Know the limits of your physical condition and do not press your luck.  Always carry a compass or G.P.S. unit and consult it regularly.  Know where you are at all times.

In sports where firearms are used, gun safety is a priority.  Always be aware of the direction in which the muzzle is pointed.  Not only view the distance from the weapon to the quarry, but also the area beyond it.  A good rule in waterfowl hunting is never to shoot a target when your gun barrel is pointing below the horizon.

Hunters must always be in control of their weapon.  In a boat or blind it is important to have the weapon in a secure rest with the muzzle always pointing in a safe direction.  If none is available, hold the gun tightly with the barrel pointed up and away from the boat, dogs and hunting companions.

When entering or leaving the boat, or blind, be sure the weapon is unloaded and cased.

Hiking is not normally considered to be a risky sport.  Each year many people are injured or killed while engaged in this activity.  If hiking on a roadway, always walk on the left side of the road facing oncoming traffic.  If hiking in low light conditions it is wise to wear bright color clothing.  An inexpensive blaze orange vest is a good idea.  They are available where ever hunting gear is sold.  The orange color will not spook animals you may want to observe and still alert drivers to your presence.

For those hiking in off road areas, a cell phone is a good idea.  You never know when an emergency might happen.  One person in the group may have a medical emergency such as heart attack, broken leg, sprained ankle, etc.

It is a good idea to carry a whistle and a Space Blanket from camping sections of most stores.  The emergency signal with a whistle is three blasts in a row.  The Space Blanket is a foil sheet that can be wrapped around the body to keep warm until help arrives.

The whistle is a good idea for each member of your group, adult or child.  Affix it to the zipper of a coat.  It is vital that everyone understand that the whistle is to be used only in emergency situations.

It is important that children understand that anyone can become lost.  They should know to stay put in one location and keep blowing the three blasts until they are found.  Knowing help is coming aids them in dealing with the situation and not to panic.

Hikers need to pay attention to the trail conditions.  During winter and early spring, paths can become muddy and slippery.  It is easy for some one not paying attention to slide down a hill or from a rocky outcropping while observing the scenery.

A small first aid kit can be very helpful with less serious injuries.  Small cuts and injuries can be treated in the field making the trek back to the vehicle much less unpleasant.  Field treatment of a cut might also prevent infection which could cause more serious problems later.

Early season fishing is often some of the best fishing of the year.  But, the cold water temperatures can present life threatening situations for anglers who fall out of a boat.  Hypothermia is the sudden loss of core body temperature when suddenly dunked in cold water.  Always wear a personal floatation device (PFD.).  It will keep you afloat incase you are injured or too numb to swim.  Get out of the water and out of wet clothing as soon as possible.  If you are turning blue, shivering uncontrollably, then get medical attention right away.

The outdoors is a wonderful world to explore.  With some advance planning and care, it can also be a safe one.  Just be careful out there.



Gun Protect 1

We have all done it.  And we will do it again.  You come home from a hard day afield, drop your cased gun and gear off, and go on with life.  Later you or the spouse put the gun wherever you store it normally.

Sometime later you either remember you forgot to wipe it off or when you are going out again, you notice rust forming on the metal parts.  If you wait too long the problem will be out of control and require re-bluing by a gunsmith.

Sitting with TJ Stallings of TTI Industries following a day of crappie fishing out of the world famous Rend Lake Resort this subject comes up.  TJ explains how some of his cohorts have come up with Gun Protect, a firearms cleaning treatment and storage system.

The system comes in a kit for total corrosion protection.  The Spray Shield and Weapon Wipe part is for protection, lubrication and cleaning of the weapon. There is a Safe Environment Module to place in your gun case or safe that contains modules that attach to metals for protection at a molecular level.  If the safe is more than 20 cu feet you place a module in the bottom and another in the top.

The third product in the kit is a Rifle-Shotgun Cloak.  Just place the weapon into the plastic cloak and close with a reusable plastic tie.  It provides up to a year of protection from rust and corrosion.  Target shooters are also putting ammo in the cloaks for protection of the brass.  The theory is that bright jackets eject faster which is handy in the field.  They spray it first and them place in the cloak.

The cloak and modules emit molecules to form a corrosion inhibiting skin (CIS) on the metal surfaces.

That is a lot of recovery and future protection for less than 30 bucks.  For more information go to



More people are turning to the observation of nature as a way to get away from their existence with concrete and complications.  Whether used for watching wildlife or for hunting enhancement, the increase has resulted in a need to protect the life of optics.

To that end, here are some excellent precautions and recommendations.

The thing you see a lot of people do all the time is using a shirttail to wipe off your lenses.  That is probably the worst thing, especially if it is early season hunting.  You sweat a lot and you get dirt and dust that becomes mud and grit inside you shirt.  It may not look like it when you start wiping those lenses but you are making minor scratches.  You may not put them into the lens you put it in the coatings.

The coatings are what control so much of light transmission and even clarity.   You want to protect them at all cost.  Even when wearing the binoculars around your neck.

If in a situation where you have to wipe lenses you always take two steps.  If you can, get the dirt off without touching or putting anything on the top.  Blow air on the lens.  That is the ideal situation.

If you have to touch it a lens do not touch it dry.  You want to lube it with some lens cleaner.  If you do not have lens cleaner try a lens cloth or lens wipe tissue, those are better anyway.  If you are stuck in a situation without anything, and you have to use your shirttail, then at least breathe on the lens a little bit.  Fog it up so to speak on the outside.  It provides at least a little bit of lubrication.

Carrying binoculars around your neck is the most protected from dings and jars.

Even the best binoculars in the world are damaged if they take a hard enough hit.  Try to keep them in the case as much as possible.  People put them up on the dash and the heat is not really going to hurt them a whole lot.  It may fade the finish a little.  It loosens up them up from the vibrations.  Put them in the case or keep them around your neck for real protection.

What kind of coatings should people look for when shopping?

Every company seems to have different ones and everyone is proprietary.  You do not really know what is in the coatings.  The easiest thing to look at is, whether or not it is multi-coated and is it fully multi-coated.

Multi-coated means at least one lens inside has more than one coating on it.  The more coatings you have the better your glass is going to be in terms of light transmission and resolution.

If you are shopping for new optics, the first thing is to set your budget.  Know what you are going to spend and then look at the products in that light.    Just like all things, the value for what you pay is so much better.  However, fully multi-coated is ideally what you want to see.

If you are buying from a major manufacturer, they all have good coatings.  A lot if it comes down to ergonomics, how it feels in your hands.  Fully multi-coated is what you should seek.

Finally, carrying a cleaning kit to do those kinds of things is an easy thing to forget.  Nevertheless, you can buy those small cleaning kits and even those little lens wipes you see people using to clean their glasses.  It is better than doing nothing.

Even lens wipes, used the entire season, there comes a time to throw them away and get a new one.  They collect dirt during the season.  Those little cleaning kits, such as found in a photo shop, are just a good way to protect your investment.

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