Selecting An Outfitter

SELECTING AN OUTFITTER

Selecting an outfitter is no easy task especially when I consider myself a novice when it comes to choosing someone to take me moose hunting. I am an avid game hunter like many of you that may read this. That being said, the extreme adventures of big game and locations that the world offers are somewhat foreign to me. With my career, I have much of the biological knowledge, but the application of it and my experience with adventurous hunts is still limited. 

So where does this blog post originate from? I guess you could say as I am aging and have crossed over the 40 year mark. My perspective on enjoying life, coupled with balancing wants versus needs continues to loosen in some regards and become stricter in others. I have had the notion of harvesting a bull moose as a lifetime bucket list item for almost two decades along with stranger notions like swimming with dolphins and wrestling an alligator. Like many of us, a bucket list really contains things I’d probably admit will never happen, but wow do we like to think about them. So about two years ago, I told myself time to start doing instead of talking! The thought of aging parents, the circle of life and watching my children grow convinced me that I am going moose hunting! Wait a second, I am? What did I just commit to? 

Okay, a little side note here. Let us assess with my clinically diagnosed OCD and anxiety what I have actually just decided to take on. My personality with hobbies and planning generally takes an extreme approach, panic and micromanaged planning. Truthfully, it is to a fault and has caused unnecessary stress in my life over the years. Thus, a decision like completing my bucket list hunt comes with some undue tension. Therefore, to begin the process I told myself that I need to identify my goals and objectives of the adventure. So there you go leading me to the following steps of selecting an outfitter. 

So here goes!  

Step 1: Identify your objective.

Locate and outfitter that can help me achieve my goal, accommodate my needs and provide a real, once in a lifetime experience.

For my needs, this included being able to accommodate my aging father, as part of the adventure is to spend quality time outdoors with him just like I did as a child. I will tell you the resources available now as we all know with the internet are incredible and honestly, for a costly trip like this, the process can be overwhelming! 

Step 2: How much do you want to spend? You must identify this early in the process and flesh out whatever the reality of your budget is if you want to reduce the overwhelming options the World Wide Web provides. Once you have a budget, you can start ruling out sites you click on. Oh yeah, don’t forget the ridiculous amount of blogs, forums, chat rooms, social media pages, and such where people can give their opinion on the topic. Much of it can be useful and much of it, well, don’t waste your time. I say this to caution that many of these sites appeared to have self-proclaimed experts that state there is only one way to do something, and I just tend to disagree with that view on some topics. So be prepared to absorb the information you find useful and filter out what you don’t find applicable. 

Step 3: Realize anyone can make or pay someone to make a beautiful website with catchy phrases, photos and a dreamland. IT IS SO EASY TO FALL INTO THAT TRAP. I determined from my research that some are legit and some are not! I did find out there are a few sites out there that offer individuals like myself to go on and post a review of their outfitter experience. This was quite fascinating when you read through some of these and the responses good or bad from the outfitters. These sites function like Google reviews. I chose not to share these resources as again I cannot comment on the merit of them and thus want to remain neutral. These too, I took with a grain of salt, but nonetheless it provided a foundation to format my questions around before the phone calls began. 

Step 4: Skip the emails. Granted initial contact via email was nice and helped rule in or out a few options, but in the end it all came down to conversations with people. Had I skipped the emails, I could have saved a ton of time and organizational issues. 

Step 5: Keep a notepad or spreadsheet listing each person you plan to call so that you can take notes! This goes without saying but it’s so necessary to keep track of the info you receive and to separate the outfitters you are interested in. 

Step 6: Come up with your questions! Here I would tell you some are general questions you should ask and some of your questions need to be tailored around your goals and objectives. See some ideas below in no particular order, but I have a few comments as well. I must also state I’m more of an earn my trust kind of guy and thus noting I often feel folks can tell me what I want to hear so I pay very close attention to personality traits and conversation from years of training on emotional intelligence and communicating with the public. Thank you U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for providing me a skill set in that! 

Questions and information I wanted to gather:

  1. What is the guide to hunter ratio? (Huge issue for me! I want this to be a unique experience for my father and I, not my father and I and a camp full of strangers. I know you can make great camp buddies, but not my style! In addition, I don’t want to harvest nothing and watch everyone else gloat in their success. I’m just being honest).

  2. Is your hunting ground public or private?  How many acres do you own or control and do you have exclusive hunting rights? (Pretty big issue for me as I hope not to run into many other hunters).

  3. How many years of experience do you have as an outfitter?  How many years of experience do most of your guides have? (This is an important question, but it generally comes out in discussion. At least it did for me. Granted my decision ended up flexible on this for other reasons).

  4. Total costs and I mean TOTAL! Goes without saying the importance of this to keep in your budget.

  5. What are the accommodations, camping, sleeping arrangements, meals, etc…  (Find out all you can about accommodations.)

  6. Do you have a list of references, both people who have and have not harvested game? (I honestly avoided this. It all goes back to the trust and pretty websites for me. Anyone can mislead you here. Just my opinion.)

  7. Travel Logistics. (Especially important for newbie on a hunt like this).

  8. What is the actual success rate on shots taken and their average shot distance?

  9. What are the physical requirements of the hunt?

  10. How would you describe the average temperature and weather conditions during my hunt?

  11. Are there any hidden costs, trophy fees, or minimum score requirements? (This is actually shocking at the variety across regions, outfitters, etc..)

  12. What dates would you suggest coming and why? Can I add extra days to the hunt if needed? (Really, important to me based on what type of hunt experience I wanted).

  13. What is the cost of the deposit and what is your refund or cancellation policy?

  14. What makes you different from all the other outfitters? (I didn’t ask this, but I was determining it on my own the entire time I was assessing in conversation.)

  15. Get a gear list of recommended gear from the outfitter.


16. Get information about processing your meat, shipping it home, who capes the animal, trophy     preparation. (Important in my case as we were planning to drive).

17. Ask about combining hunts. (I pondered and decided to add a black bear hunt).

18. If you would like to have a non-hunter accompany the trip, ask about fees.  Some charge for having                 another person with you, others do not. (As you can guess, this was a necessity for me to check on.)

19. Meet the outfitters in person at shows. (If you have this opportunity, I would highly recommend it     and if I had been able to do this, I would have).

20. Bottom line, communicate with them! That is what a good outfitter is there to do in my opinion.


Step 7: After all of the questions and information are gathered (some information you will like learning and some you will not) just realize if you are wealthy, you can make about any dream come true. Therefore, stick to your guns (budget) and keep yourself in check. Be flexible, but be reasonable. 

Step 8: Start striking off some of the outfitter options and circling others that you are still interested in. This method worked for me. (I actually narrowed down to three outfitters based on my objectives which can and did lead to additional phone calls and I assure you additional questions that you will come up with and will want clarified or answered.)

Step 9: Be prepared for a little panic, at least for my personality. Crap, how do I really pick between these 3? Granted the process is really fun to work through and talk with these folks. They each have things they can potentially offer and I am getting ready to commit to spending some of my hard-earned money. Look over your list of outfitters remaining. Talk it out with folks (friends, other hunters, family, your spouse). 

Step 10: CHOOSE YOUR DREAM MAKER.

Step 11: Be prepared for a smidge more panic as you send in the email or final phone call to commit! 

Step 12: BOOK IT!

So what happened? Well, I booked a hunt for my father and I in British Columbia with Daniel and Ashley of Robson Valley Outfitters! Now it is time for the big reveal as to how I landed at this decision and am currently looking forward to the adventure. 

Here is what it came down to for me and again each to his own for making big decisions like this but maybe the insight and decisions I made will help others in the future with similar questions. Daniel grew up hunting in this area and I believe his wife is from the area as well. They had recently acquired this outfitter previously under another name. This left more necessary analysis in my own mind and I must tell you I had it narrowed down to three outfitters that seemed very transparent and honest, but a few details kept me coming back to Robson Valley Outfitters. 

  • They limit the number of moose hunters! They want folks to experience a quality hunt. I didn’t want to show up at camp after 10 guys have been there before me. It may be a mental game but nonetheless. 

  • It is a one on one hunt/experience and there is no one else to be attended to. This was a huge factor for me. I wanted an experience with my father that focused on us. We aren’t there with other hunters or campers, the facility is small and our time is our time. I realize amazing relationships can be forged at camp with other folks, but beyond Daniel and his wife, we are it! This allows me to build a relationship with the outfitter and soak in my dad. For some other reason it relieves unnecessary pressure that I put on myself. 

  • Daniel was willing to make it an experience that worked for all physical constraints or abilities. At nearly 70, I didn’t expect my father to traverse mountains for miles, that being said I did tell my dad if Daniel says there is a trophy moose at the top of this mountain then he can sit and wait, because I will be climbing after it. 

  • Just a hunch, but Daniel and his wife being new to this outfitter probably want to make an impression and build a clientele, as any reputable business would want to do. Thus, I figure he wants to provide a great experience that I can tell everyone about. Well, I am willing to be that person!

  • The communication back and forth, flexibility, enduring all my questions and building a relationship ahead of the hunt has been a fantastic aspect of the overall experience.

  • Robson Valley Outfitters seems to be able to provide the type of experience I am after. I could find more remote hunts, ATV hunts, road hunts, you name it in my dealings with the identified outfitters, but Daniel seem to offer the level of remoteness, wilderness and accommodations I was after. 

  • Honesty. I cannot afford guaranteed trophy hunts. Bottom line! (This goes back to Step 1, Identify your objective). I am after a fantastic representation of the species with always a chance at a trophy. He was flexible and allowed me to add a bear late in the game, which is super exciting, but aside from any successful or unsuccessful harvest, I know I will be walking away with a trophy experience of a lifetime. 

This concludes my strategic decision-making process and right or wrong in the end, it might provide some benefit to interested parties in the future. Please stay tuned for a full review of the hunt, the outfitter and the experience in the very near future!



HEVI-Choke and HEVI Magblend loads

hevi-shot-turkey-choke.jpg

After many years of turkey hunting with low-end chokes, I finally wanted to upgrade turkey chokes on my classic Beretta AL-391. Many guns have come before it and many after, but for whatever reason, I am partial to the AL-391 in all outdoor situations. Like any other outdoor/hunting equipment, choke options are plenty and they all cost money. As a matter of fact, even in my 37 years, I have seen the hunting industry develop into a pattern like all other retail industries. Heck, I guess that’s what led me to wanting to do clear-cut, simple product reviews for the average person. Underneath all the options, marketing gimmicks, celebrities, etc… there has to be true, quality products out there.  Sometimes I laugh at it and other times I am grateful for it. But options are as plentiful as fashion designs and the best media and marketers often lead the pack regardless if their product is really the best.

Okay, okay… so back to choosing a turkey choke. So if I am honest with you, I was already leaning toward a particular brand. Thanks to many friends in the industry and the reports I was hearing on a certain turkey load, I was ready to buy. So a bit on this new turkey load and various field reports. HEVI-Shot Magnum Blend shotshells were proving to have awesome patterns down range. Designed with an equal mix of size #5, #6 and #7 shot; or their newest addition an equal mix of size #4, #5 and #7; and launching at higher speeds than the older HEVI-13® loads, this could create a devastating lethality zone. HEVI-Shot touts an average of 294 pellets in 10'' circle at 40 yards.

That pellet count had me sold at “Hello”. Next, I debated on buying a choke from the same company or reaching out to another manufacturer, but after a short ponder, it just made sense. After all, the results I was hearing included the use of HEVI-chokes as well. “Manufactured from aircraft quality 17-4 stainless steel, they’re guaranteed for a lifetime.  Available in 12 and 20 gauge, in ported and non-ported versions, HEVI-Choke™ choke tubes help you squeeze every bit of performance from your HEVI-Shot® ammunition.”

Once mail day occurred, I was anxious to send it downrange, I set up 36” targets at 40 and 50 yards ensuring most if not all pellets would be accommodated for. Choke installation was easy, as the choke comes with a heavily knurled fore-end and required no wrench.

RESULTS RESULTS RESULTS. Bottom line, this choke produced just as I had heard. I was beyond impressed and there can be no fancy way of explaining it other than in two pictures and with a few words.

At 40 yards shooting HEVI-shots Magnum Blend (5,6,7) load 250 pellets were within a 10-inch circle

At 50 yards I had 211 pellets within a 10-inch circle.

There may very well be other amazing choke/load combinations out there, but fact is my wallet doesn’t go that deep. Thankfully, I lucked out on my first purchase this time! After this pattern testing, I cannot wait for turkey season. This is a massive improvement from previous load/choke patterns I have used and without question I would recommend this set up on any turkey hunters gun!

SilencerCo Omega Suppressor

Truthfully, I have had this suppressor for several months now. I wanted to give a thorough effort using it, checking adaptability to various hosts and wait to see SiCo's customer support.

Let me first brag about the specs of this can since when it first came out everyone was immediately impressed with what it offered. SiCo touted an impressive combination “of all the best features from our .30 caliber centerfire rifle silencer lines in one silencer – shortest, lightest, quietest, most versatile, full auto and magnum rated with an integral recoil reducing Anchor Brake.” Once I read this myself and since I was in the market for a .762 can, well…… what can I say? I bit!

 

FEATURES:

SiCo used titanium, stainless steel, and Stellite in tandem for best in class results across the board. From the shop, each Omega comes with a 5/8×24 direct thread mount, a fast attach Active Spring Retention (ASR) mount complete with a Specwar™ ASR muzzle brake, and an Anchor Brake (from their Harvester Suppressor design).  I myself as well as many in the suppressor community were a little concerned that SiCo chose to use the ASR mount rather than their more recent MAAD mount adapter featured (as seen with the SiCo Saker suppressor). As a matter of fact any suppressor blog on the internet had users debating why SiCo would make such a decision and that it would prevent usability with MAAD system. Various rumors spread across the internet, some positive and some negative, but none the less they chose their older ASR mount.

One thing that should be mentioned is SiCos barrel length recommendations per caliber for this suppressor. Some say SiCo had to sacrifice somewhere either in durability or in weight. Either way, it has the amazing SiCo lifetime warranty that in personal opinion is bar none the best I have ever seen or dealt with. So regarding the barrel lengths. The Omega is rated down to 10" barrels for .223 Remington / 5.56 NATO, 16" barrels for .308 Winchester 7.62 NATO, and 20" barrels for .300 Win Mag. For some people this seems to have been a real deal breaker. That was not the case for me based on my platform preferences

 

SPECS:

Calibers: 5.7mm - .300WM

Diameter: 1.56”

Weight: 14 oz.

Length: 7.09”

Muzzle dB: .300BLK - 119.5 dB, 5.56mm – 130.1 dB, .308WIN – 133.9dB

 

ADAPTABILITY:

In addition to its impressive specs, the Omega’s design allows for maximum user adaptability and convenience. Several comments by various publics across the web have stated they think the anchor break is UGLY! Sometimes I feel so as well and other times I like it. Mind you the anchor brake serves its purpose. Regardless, this suppressor is packed with options that can be swapped out for user preference. It came with a direct thread mount (very rarely included in purchases) that functions flawlessly on my long range target rifles. User friendly design allows for fairly quick parts (mounts, endcaps) swapping. I also purchased flat endcaps for both 7.62 and 5.56 just to address any visual complaints I may have had and to open up can flexibility. Truthfully, while the 7.62 endcap functions great on a 5.56 host, I was able to reduce just shy of an addition decibel when using the 5.56 endcap on a 5.56 host. I am very pleased with the adaptability of this can. In my personal opinion adaptability is one of the most critical features when purchasing a suppressor. It keeps the hassle and wallet expense at a minimum.

 

PERFORMANCE:

Before I mention my opinion on performance, I have to give a kudos to SiCo’s customer service as I mentioned earlier. The only sadness I had once I took the suppressor home was I noticed the ASR mount would come loose occasionally. I contacted SiCo and without hesitation they sent me a new mount and prepaid shipping label to send the faulty one back! No issues at all with the new ASR mount.

Decibel Reduction results, huh? Please do not get me wrong. I know there are as many options in the suppressor world as there are ice cream options at Baskin Robbins. I have shot many of them and there are some amazing products being offered by some standup companies. Now saying that, the Omega suppressor simply broke the mold in terms of sheer performance. Especially, when you bring in weight and length factors. My dB readings came back with the following averages.

Custom 5.56 AR15 (18 inch barrel) shooting a myriad of 55gr loads – 131.3 muzzle dB average

Custom 5.56 AR15 (16 inch barrel) shooting a myriad of 55gr loads – 130.9 muzzle dB average

Happy, Happy, Happy. I own several SiCo cans just because they never let me down. I recommend taking a hard look at any SiCo products for individuals looking to add to their suppressor line-up or just break into the game!

Theis Single Clip Holster (Tuckable)

Working out of a one-man shop in Arkansas, and pronounced "Tice", Theis Holsters are handcrafted with quality and crafstmanship in mind.  Theis Holsters' website states "each holster is custom-made to perfectly fit your gun. My holsters are kydex with a leather backing. The kydex holds the firearm firmly against the leather while offering you a much more comfortable way to carry your firearm with the leather against your body." After reading this description, I decided to order one for our new G42.

Customers are offered options including standard cowhide leather backer or premium leather backer. The premium leather is treated and hand rubbed making it sweat resistant. It's smooth on both sides, making it pleasant to wear against your body. Since it's a little thinner, it molds to your body quicker, and shortens the break in time. In short, I went with the standard cowhide and due to preference, I chose the IWB tuckable holster, a preferred carry method of mine.

The Inside-The-Waistband (IWB) single clip, is tuckable and designed to be worn around the 4 to 5 o'clock position for optimal comfort. The leather backer is matched to the size of your firearm. The holster comes with a heavy duty powder coated metal belt clip to hold your holster firmly in place. There is no doubt it's a heavy duty clip - excellent quality! If you need clips to fit a larger belt, when ordering you can just note it in the special instructions. The cant and ride height of your weapon is fully adjustable with this model. It should be noted that the Single Clip holster is one of Theis' early designs. It was designed for small 380 and 9mm pistols.  It's tuckable and you can adjust the cant and ride height. Theis Holsters offer full slide coverage option for individuals that prefer this, a 100% satisfaction guarantee and a lifetime warranty.

One of the most impressive offerings from Theis Holsters was a simple, yet invaluable email received as my order was shipped. This email states:

"I just finished your order and it is shipping 1st class USPS, I hope you enjoy it ... your holster will squeak until it gets broke in good, but don't worry it will totally stop! You can put a little baby or talcum powder on it around the clip area and where the kydex meets the leather from time to time to help stop the squeaking. You can also use any commercial leather conditioner. Apply liberally to the front side only...

The retention level is different for everyone so I try to go middle of the road where it firmly holds firearm in place while allowing you to draw your firearm comfortably from inside your waistband. If it is a too tight, twist the grip to the right or left as you start to draw to see if that releases it from the holster. It will loosen up a little as it breaks in, it will help to draw it 20 to 30 times to let it start to groove and mate with the leather and kydex. Depending on the gun it may shave a little kydex during the break in period but this is normal nothing to worry about. The ejection ports of some guns are a lot sharper than the blue dummy guns I use. If you just want to loosen it up a little put the gun in a thick sock and push it into the holster and leave it overnight...."

The email goes on to talk about adjusting the retention level with detailed instruction, as well as numerous other potential concerns, design questions and just about anything else a cutomer might be wondering.

One particular statement that impressed me was:

"When you get your holster you will find a few marks on the leather where a gun has been! Unlike a pretty new one you purchased in a store that was made and packaged by someone in china. That is because I put your holster on and stuck a gun in it! I drew it and re-holstered several times. Making sure it works like it is supposed to. That is the difference in a truly handmade holster, I do them all that way. Not only because my name is on it, but because your life may depend on it!"

While in fact this is a significant amount of information in an email, it offers reassurance that you're dealing with a reputable company who cares about the satisfaction of their customers. After significant usage of this holster, the leather has formed magnificently with body contour and the pistol.  Retention level has also stayed fairly similar to the initial level when the holster arrived day one.  Originally, I had concerns about switching holster styles and this particular setup. It has proved to be incredibly comfortable with the G42. I can wear it all day, tucked/untucked and with an array of clothing styles without noticing the firearm's presence. 

It's obvious that the holster market is flooded as are many consumer markets with an often absurd number of options to choose from. However, after having the holster in hand, completing a solid break-in period and knowing the gentleman behind the name, it's no doubt Theis Holsters are a great option for individuals searching for the right holster.