Happy 2015, California Sportsman readers!
The end of 2014 provided us with much-needed rain with the hopes more precipitation will help our farmers, flood our rice fields and our waterfowl habitat and refill our reservoirs so they can be full of trout and bass for Californians to fish for and boat to.
We hope to bring our readers more how-to tips, great tales of fishing and hunting adventures and compelling profiles of everyone from average Joes and Janes to celebrities and athletes. We wanted to share one last look at 2014 from our Urban Huntress columnist, Brittany Boddington. Her look back at an exciting 2014 is part of our January issue:
By Brittany Boddington
LOS ANGELES—It’s time to welcome a new year full of new and exciting adventures, but first let’s not forget the highlights from 2014!
Here is the rundown on some of my most memorable hunts and my hunting equipment must-haves:
D.I.Y. IN THE BIG SKY
First up was my DIY mule deer hunt in Montana, my first real do-it-yourself outing – and a good lesson on cold-weather gear. I was lucky to get a nice four-point muley on my friend’s chunk of private land, but this Los Angeleno was completely unprepared for hunting at 12 degrees below zero.
On one morning we set out looking for elk on public land and it must have been around minus 18. As we crossed a wooded area my feet literlaly started to freeze – I always have cold feet, but this was a whole new level. They went numb, then felt painful and eventually reached feeling-brittle status. I stopped and told my cameraman what was going on; he immediately started building a fire. It may sound wimpy that I had to stop to warm my feet, but they were actually frozen solid with a mild case of frostnip, or prefrostbite. I have never been in a climate that cold before, so I did not know the warning signs.
A GOOD PAIR OF BOOTS
That brings up the first item on my list of favorite new things from 2014: Schnee’s Extreme Pac Boots (schnees.com/product/2613/
These boots are made to withstand extreme cold, and they have great grip for side-hilling.
The next favorite item on my list is the Healthy Traveler Clinic in Pasadena, east of Los Angeles (healthytraveler.com/
This place is a one-stop shop for prehunt vaccinations if you happen to be in Southern California.
AN AFRICAN ADVENTURE
This was all in preparation for my trip to Mozambique, in southeast Africa, for a swamp buffalo hunt. This was one of the coolest things I’ve done in my life! Yes, the idea of wading through leech- and crocodile-infested waters to get into massive herds of Cape buffalo sounds miserable – and it was at certain points – but it was completely worth every moment.
We took amphibious vehicles as far as we could, but they make a lot of noise, so eventually we had to get out and trudge through the swamp to get to the buffalo.
The dry areas were a breeze, but the wet ones were nasty. The mud sucks your feet down, and the suction holds them tight to the bottom of the black, mucky water. There were obvious signs of buffalo, hippo, elephant and crocodile activity at each crossing, and the sawgrass rips at your face and hands as you struggle through. To add to the intensity was the dense vegetation on either side of the water, so thick that a hippo or buffalo could easily hide just a meter or two away. My feet kept getting stuck in the mud and I tripped over and over as I tried desperately to keep my .416 Blazer and my pack over my head and out of the water. I was unsuccessful of that.
The Blazer got a little muddy and the pack was pretty much soaked, but it didn’t matter. Just as we got to the edge of the sawgrass and spotted a herd of buffalo, it started to rain. There was literally nothing taller than a blade of short green grass between us and a herd of over 1,500 buffalo, so we were forced to crawl over 400 yards to get close enough to spot a bull through the rain.
Luckily, I had my next favorite item of 2014: kneepads! It sounds silly even to me, but these pads saved my knees. Crawling on dried, uneven and cracked swamp ground for over 400 meters would have completely stripped the flesh from my knees – I know because the apprentice guide with us forgot his kneepads, and the blood stains were obvious through his pant legs by the end of the day.
I had never used kneepads before on a hunt, but my dad suggested that I pick some up before heading to the swamps, and it was great advice. I got a simple pair of volleyball-style pads – cheap, easy and efficient! They are never leaving my pack again.
WARM HANDS IN KIWI COUNTRY
The next item on my list came in very handy on my hunt in New Zealand. Pursuing Himalayan tahr and chamois on public land, we set up a spike camp in subfreezing conditions. To keep my hands warm, I had brought a pair of Cabela’s heated gloves (cabelas.com), which were a little bulkier than what I was used to, but I figured they might come in, er, handy.
The first time I used them was directly after shooting my tahr. We skinned the animal, and as I washed off my hands, I suddenly realized my error: the water was ice cold. As the sun started to set, my hands began to get very cold. Then I remembered to turn on the battery pack on my gloves. Instantly, the little wires throughout the pair started to heat up and stayed warm for the whole hike back to camp. And unlike the batteries in my camera and cell phone, the batteries didn’t seem affected by the cold. They’re now a must-have for cold-weather hunts!
THE GUNNY SHOW
My year also included a memorable visit with actor R. Lee Ermey. You know him more as “The Gunny” from his iconic role as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket. But I discovered a lot more about Ermey in an interview at his Palmdale home for a cover story in California Sportsman’s sister magazine, Western Shooting Journal. Ermey was quite the character!
That wraps up my list of favorites from 2014, but I would love to hear about some of your favorite gear and hunts from this past year. Feel free to share tips and stories around the Campfire on the Global Sportsman’s Network (campfire.globalsportsman.com)