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Recent entries


Through the Lens

Stay Warm With Field and Stream’s True Pursuit Line

Thu, January 18, 2018

With this year’s unusually long lasting and unusually cold weather, many of us have been scrambling to find warm outdoor attire.  Luckily for me, Field and Stream generously provided me with an insulated coat and pants from their women’s True Pursuit line to field test.

Truth be told, Field and Stream provided me with the coat and pants to field test at the beginning of the season, but my early months in the field were just as unseasonably warm as the more recent weeks have been unseasonably cold. Finally, the weather took a dive and I could really put the stylish, functional, and affordable set to the test in the field.

The first thing I noticed was how light the garments were, not bulky and heavy like so many insulated hunting clothes. I hate bulky insulated clothing – I have enough of Michelin Man shape without adding more bulk to my fluffy self in clothing. Vanity aside, heavy bulky insulated outdoor wear just makes everything a bit more difficult and restricts movement.

There is none of that nonsense in the Field and Stream True Pursuit insulated jacket or pants for women. Both pieces are light, not at all bulky, soft, and provide plenty ease in movement.  While one might wonder if an insulated set this light could actually be as warm as advertised – do not fear – Field and Stream knocks it out of the park on warmth with these pieces.

Both items sport Field and Stream’s Wind Defense technology as well as Field and Stream’s Hydro Proof Ultra breathable waterproof fabric.  I purposely forced myself out into the howling winds that were resulting in wind chills in the minus 10-20F range to put the ensemble to the test on its claims of blocking frigid air and gusts that seem to often creep in through other fabrics in these conditions.

I STAYED WARM! The Wind Defense technology does truly work. For most of my test I was in temps that ranged between 0 and 15 degrees with some nasty wind chills, and yet I did not get cold. I was wearing fleece leggings and the Field & Stream Women’s C3 Midweight Mock Neck Base Layer Shirt and a lightweight hoodie as layers under the coat and pants and was truly impressed with this pairings ability to block the cold winds, repel the snow and sleet, and most of all keep me warm in the bitterest cold without feeling like I was carrying around 15 pounds of insulated clothing.

The second area where Field and Stream really shines is comfort and fit. The most technical and functional masterpieces of hunting attire are totally useless to me if they don’t fit well and aren’t comfortable throughout the day.  I was blown away by the comfort of the Field & Stream Women’s Every Hunt Softshell Hunting Pants when I field tested them, and the True Pursuit line offers the same level of all day comfort.

Let’s have a look at what’s offered up in these pieces that should be in every outdoors woman’s winter closet.

Field and Stream True Persuit Women's Insulated Hunting Jacket

Field and Stream True Pursuit Women’s Insulated Hunting Jacket:

• Specifically trimmed for female hunters – don’t be afraid – there is no garish pink or lime green, just some subtle yet stylish dark burgundy trim, and the cut is such to flattering yet comfortable for the female form.
• HydroProof™ Ultra provides breathable waterproof coverage – snow and sleet brushed right off, I stayed dry in some near blizzard like conditions.
• Fully seam-sealed – no annoying little leaks of cold air or moisture
• WindDefense™ windproof technology fully blocks cold air and gusts – Again, this was impressive in the frigid December winds – they simply did not penetrate this fabric.
• Lined brushed tricot body retains heat – Again, comfortable, and warm. I had no problems staying warm throughout the day on all day excursions.
• Taffeta-lined sleeves help with easy on/off – makes layering a breeze. None of that annoying having other layers sleeves wadded up halfway.
• 2 hand pockets and 2 cargo pockets – good deep pockets, with zippers so that you don’t leave a trail or lose items out of them when climbing, hiking, bending etc.
• Adjustable cuffs, hood, and hem – All three can be cinched to individual comfort and to assist with keeping out those darn drafts and cold air leaks.
• Safety harness opening in back – An absolute essential for any winter coat. This enables one to comfortably wear the safety harness under the coat and stay plenty toasty in the stand.

Field and Stream True Pursuit Women’s Insulated Pants

• Specifically trimmed for female hunters – again nothing overtly girlish or glaring. Just enough to take you from the field to grocery store, and still look stylish.
• HydroProof™ Ultra provides breathable waterproof coverage – no wet behinds with this technology!
• Fully seam-sealed – no leaky seams to let in moisture or cold air
• WindDefense™ windproof technology fully blocks cold air and gusts – again can’t stress enough how well this technology works!
• Lined brushed tricot body retains heat – toasty, with just fleece leggings under them as base layer
• Zippered leg openings – long enough to make getting those knee boots on and off a breeze without having to remove the pants.
• 2 zippered hand pockets – I confess; I am huge fan of zippers on pockets and these not only feature zippers they are large enough to easily get your hand in and out of and have plenty of room for whatever you might choose to safely stow.
• Rib-knit waistband – this is another shining example of how well Field and Stream address the fit and comfort for women’s hunting attire. The waist band has plenty of give for adding extra layers (or pounds!) Yet stays snug, doesn’t roll and is wide enough to be very comfortable.

All in all, I must give this set a full five stars.  The line is affordable, well made, lives up to it’s claims. The comfort factor is high, and the fit is super – it’s designed not for the Barbie Doll set, but for real average sized women hunters.

We still have some bitter cold months ahead, so go to your local Dick’s Sporting Goods store, or visit their website and invest in this great set of cold weather battling coat and pants. You won’t be disappointed.


Sheds are Starting to Drop

Wed, January 17, 2018

Sheds are starting to drop in southern Illinois, and I am still amazed by the number of times I see references made on social media and in the various forums about shed hunting in State Parks. This seems to be a terribly confusing thing for folks hunting sheds in Illinois so I reached out to IDNR and asked that they provide a little guidance and explanation about just how and where you can and can’t hunt sheds in IL.

The response was pretty cut and dried and in truth - exactly as I remembered it to be.

“Based upon past DNR legal opinions and state law (20 ILCS 835/6), shed deer antlers are an “inanimate natural object” and may not be collected from any State Park. Similarly, the Natural Areas Preservation Act (525 ILCS 30/23) prohibits the removal of any object (including shed antlers) from any Dedicated Nature Preserve or buffer areas. The public may however collect shed antlers from all other lands managed by the IDNR, including Fish & Wildlife Areas, Conservation Areas, Recreation Areas, and Boat Access Areas, provided the area is otherwise open to the public.”

In a nutshell, nope you can’t shed hunt or remove sheds from State Parks, Dedicated Nature Preserves, or buffer areas in Illinois. Additionally, if you are going to shed hunt on private land, insure that you have permission to shed hunt on that property or you may find yourself facing a trespassing ticket.

Moving on - let’s talk for a minute about finding deadheads, or skulls with antlers - not only do the shed hunting rules apply, but there’s the added part of having to call in to get a salvage tag for that skull. Technically the head should be left in place until you have permission from a CPO to remove it and have been issued a salvage tag.

This all may seem a little over the top, after all they are just shed antlers but as shed hunting continues to grow in popularity so does the number of people heading to the forests and fields in search of them. There are areas where it gets nearly as contentious as mushroom hunting in the spring. Out of towners and non residents show up to run entire groups through areas on the hunt for “Big Illinois Antlers”.  Would it be likely that shed hunting here would become as regulated as it is in some Western states - I seriously doubt it, but as always it behooves all of us to follow the rules that we have, so that we don’t find ourselves facing any that could be more strict or cumbersome - or worse - an unwanted wildlife violation. 

Just like any other hunt of a natural resource on public land, mind you manners, mind the regs, and play nice. Good luck this shed season !


Winter Wonders at Riverlands

Mon, January 15, 2018

While many of us think only of a warm fire and hot toddy during the dark cold months of winter – I think of big white birds.  Trumpeter and tundra swans, pelicans and of course snow geese. Big white birds, and lots of them!

Perhaps one of my most favorite places in winter is the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in West Alton, MO. Riverlands is just a quick trip across the Lewis and Clark bridge from historic Alton, Illinois.

Given its handiness to historic Aton, Elsah, Grafton and Pere Marquette State Park, I usually encourage folks to make a winter getaway out of visiting Riverlands. There’s so much in the area that you will want to explore, that a single day trip is often not enough!

The jewel in the crown of the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary is the Audubon Center.

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, near the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers, The Audubon Center at Riverlands is truly a destination in and of itself.  It’s a destination visited by not just birders, waterfowl lovers, students and families from the Midwest, but also draws visitors from across the nation and the world thanks to Riverlands’ designation as a recognized Global Important Bird Area.

The center is cooperative project between the National Audubon Society and Audubon Missouri, the Center offers world class birding, educational programs, and multiple outdoor opportunities along one of the most major and significant migratory flyways in the world – the Mississippi River.

The Center also has a unique partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Rivers Project Office within its Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is comprised of 3700 acres of prairie marsh and forest. The Audubon Center is housed in the Corps’ visitor orientation facility at Riverlands.

Built in 2011, the Audubon Center building tells an important story of renewable building practices, water resource management, and river habitat preservation. Connected to the Corps’ River Project Office the Audubon Center features 45’ diameter gathering space that looks out over Ellis Bay; an indoor classroom; an outdoor classroom; and a large deck area.  This outstanding viewing area allows winter visitors to come inside and warm up, while continuing to watch the waterfowl, eagles, and wildlife along Ellis Bay. It’s furnished with spotting scopes, reference books and guides, and plenty of comfortable seating for just gathering to visit about the day’s adventure and warm up frozen toes and noses.

The two story circular bay windows constructed in an open timber frame was designed to resemble the complexity of a bird’s nest and provide a 140° grand view of the water and the many species of birds and wildlife that live in the surrounding wetlands, forests, and prairie.

What draws me, along with hundreds of other visitors to Riverlands each winter are the ever-growing numbers of trumpeter swans that over winter there. The swans usually begin arriving in late November and peak in late December and early January. Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary along the Mississippi River in St. Charles County, is the single most important wintering site of the southern states with counts of hovering around 1000 as recently as last year. During a recent mid-December visit I made, the numbers were already over 400.

Once hunted to near extinction in the late 1800’s trumpeter swans are making a comeback thanks to multiple restoration efforts in several Midwest states.  From the initial restoration efforts in the mid 90’s when only a very few trumpeters we originally noted and sighted in and around Riverlands and southern Illinois, the numbers continue to grow each year.

While visitors often will first encounter swans when entering the Riverlands Sanctuary at Ellis Bay, Teal Pond, and throughout the Riverlands Way road, the best place to see Trumpeter Swans in the sanctuary is at Heron Pond. Perhaps the most unique feature at Riverlands is The Heron Pond Avian Observatory. The observatory provides outstanding viewing opportunities for swans, all type of waterfowl, as well as many other bird and wildlife species that inhabit the wetland. The unique design of the observatory allows visitors to get a very close look at the birds and wildlife and makes a spectacular blind for photography.  There is nothing quite so soothing as sitting in the observatory listening to the constant conversation and chatter among the swans, ducks, and geese. It’s truly a wonderful place to learn the different sounds of the waterfowl and what the different calls and cries mean.

Adding to the cache of the observatory is its unique design.  Per the Riverlands Audubon Center web site, “The one-of-a-kind observatory was designed and constructed by students of the Washington University School of Architecture for a class that their professor, Andrew Colopy, titled “Studio Confluence.” The purpose of the class was to design, fabricate and build an avian observatory at Riverlands in collaboration with the Audubon Center at Riverlands and the Rivers Project Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Studio Confluence was awarded a grant from the Gephardt Institute at Washington University to engage in a positive process of community-based teaching and learning.  Students’ design research focused on camouflage for enhanced bird viewing as well as innovative, earth-friendly building concepts. “

The best times for viewing the swans are like those of all wildlife – early morning and late afternoon. Trumpeter swans head to farm fields during the day to forage. The best time to see the swans on Heron Pond is in the morning before they go to the farm fields. As the days grow colder and more and more areas of once open water freeze over the swans will tend to congregate in any area of open water and can often be viewed easily from inside the Center while they inhabit Ellis Bay.

When planning your visit, be sure to dress warmly, take along binoculars, a spotting scope if you are so inclined, a good bird field guide, and of course your camera.  Several areas of Riverlands Way road have very wide shoulders that easily accommodate a vehicle so that you may pull over to view and photograph the swans and other waterfowl. There are also multiple parking areas and pull offs for those who wish to park for a longer period. Plant to extend your visit by driving all the way down to the Lock and Dam area where Eagles feeding on fish are common sight, as well as making a quick roughly 4-mile trip to the Edward and Pat Jones Confluence Park, where you can take a short bird and wildlife filled hike out to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.


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