Meet Steve Hilliard – Xpedition Shooter
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I’ve been impressed with Xpedition Archery since I’ve earned about them. So much so that I reached out to them and asked if there might be a way to join their team. You may have read my interview with Blake Davis or even better, my follow-up interview with Blake.

I have an Xpedition Xception on the way, but in the meantime I thought I would catch up with some of the folks that are out there shooting Xpedition bows and loving them. Xpedition Shooter Steve Hilliard was kind enough to take some time out to answer some questions.

1) How long have you been shooting competitively?

I have been shooting competitively since 1984

2) How long have you been working with Xpedition?

I have been with Xpedition archery 3 years now

3) Who did you shoot for before?

I shot for Bowtech, Martin and PSE

4) What made you change?

I made the move to Xpedition because of the people behind the bows and where they were heading. Which is the best move I have ever made. These bows are the best shooting bows I have ever shot.

5) What do you like most about Xpedition bows?

Shootability. I like that all their lineup is built with precision with one common goal – “we don’t want to be the biggest, just the best ” with this in mind each and every bow is sent out to the dealer at exact specs and the cams are laser aligned out of the box making them a semi-custom bow straight from the factory. This results in quick and easy setup and with their R&D all these bows are forgiving and extremely shootable. To the consumer. You cannot pick the best model as they all are, and can be – the best.

6) What makes Xpedition (the company) different?

The company’s vision is to be the best not the biggest; they are passionate in regards to putting out the best bow possible. When you order an Xpedition it comes set to your draw length and cams laser aligned out of the box. They are the only company doing this. Your first impression is important to them.

7) What Xpedition bows do you like best?

I like every model! Honestly they all can be favorites. They have a bow to fit every archer.

8) What’s your favorite thing to hunt?

Whitetail deer is my favorite big game animal to hunt.

9) What’s on your bucket list when it comes to archery and hunting?

My bucket list is several different things. Regarding hunting, I want to take a P&Y whitetail one of these days. Most of all it’s to do all I can to help our sport and keep the next generation as passionate as we are.

Thanks to Steve for taking some time out to chat!

You can learn more about Xpedition here: Xpedition website

Talking to the Folks From Swagger Bipods
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A big shout out to Josh Kinser, the Marketing Director from Performance Plus Outdoors for taking some time to talk to me about Swagger Bipods.

1) What prompted you to go into bipods?
When our team first saw this idea and design – the versatility was unmatched by anything in the market. We had never seen something that could adapt to adverse situations in the field. We saw the opportunity to help hunters in a way that current bipods and shooting sticks currently cannot.

2) What makes your design different?
Everything – flexibility, maneuverability, change from flexible to rigid with a click, no “bipod hop”, the ability to adapt to the situation in the field as it happens and much more accessibility to a solid rest to complete the mission or fill the tag.

3) What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced, getting these to market?
We make a lot of this bipod in the United States but that is a huge challenge because we get compared to products manufactured in China in both quality and price. We are labeled as a “conventional bipod” and everybody thinks, “Oh, this is just a bipod or a cheap shooting stick.” We are a much higher end and versatile product than what most consumers are used to seeing.

4) For someone not familiar with your company, what would you want them to know?
Swagger Bipods is owned by Performance Plus Outdoors which also owns Big & J Long Range Attractants and The Given Right, a show hosted by Kenneth Lancaster and airing on the Pursuit Channel.

5) Whats next for Swagger?
Swagger is going to continue to be a leader of innovative products for the shooter and hunter. We are going to continue to bring more and more products and are currently working on prototypes for 2018.

6) Whats your favorite thing to hunt?
My favorite is whitetail hands down. I love hunting them in different environments and especially love to rattle down here in Texas. Outside of that I love the mountains – I’ve been on a couple of New Zealand tahr hunts, spike camping. I would do that every year if I could.

7) What’s the big dream hunt on your bucket list?
I can’t go with just one. For my mountain hunts, I really want to go after a Mid-Asian Ibex and a Dagestan Tur. For deer, high on my list is getting a coues deer in the Arizona mountains and hunting blacktails on Kodiak Island.

From their website: “Revolutionary Crazy Legs Technology gives you shooting agility and flexibility like never before, which will dramatically expand your shooting zone. Swagger replaces ordinary “stiff ” bipods and shooting sticks that have to be held to stabilize, must be carried, and are heavy, noisy and limited in how they allow you to shoot. Swagger is the all-terrain bipod and can do anything the others can do, and a whole lot more!

With Swagger, you can raise up, lower down, slide left , inch right, move forward, lean back, twist or contort as the shot calls for. All thanks to flexible, hyper-extending Crazy Legs. You can shoot prone, sitting or standing without the need to hold or stabilize. And, Swagger retracts into the chassis for easy, quiet transport.

Swagger’s legs retract into the chassis, where they are concealed and protected.

And when you sling your firearm over your shoulder, Swagger won’t dig into it like other bipods can!”

Learn more about the bipod on their website:

The ways it can move

Different shooting positions

Learn about the products

Watch Swagger videos

Learn about the Lifetime Warranty

Finally, you can SHOP Online

Thanks again to Josh for telling my readers more about these cool bipods! ~DesertRat

A Review – “Buck, Buck, Moose” by Hank Shaw
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I wanted to thank Kathi Johnson and Hank Shaw for getting me a copy of “Buck, Buck, Moose” to review. ~Desert Rat

From the Press Release:

Noted cookbook author and James Beard award-winning writer Hank Shaw has just released his third cookbook: Buck, Buck, Moose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Deer, Elk, Moose, Antelope and Other Antlered Things (H&H Books 2016).

More than a cookbook, Buck, Buck, Moose is the first and only comprehensive guide to working with and cooking all forms of venison – and it’s available just in time for hunting season and the holidays. In addition to more than 100 recipes, the book includes:

− Stories of the hunt and essays on why venison holds such a special place in society
− Instructions for butchering, aging and storing your venison and how to handle all parts of the carcass (including the odd bits)
− Extensive section on curing venison and how to make sausages, dry-cured salami and jerky
− And… venison beer and wine pairings

Shaw takes the cook/reader around the world from nose to tail, with recipes from six continents for every part of the animal. From the simple – Country Fried Venison, to the classic – Steak Diane, to the unexpected – Venison Tripe Neapolitan.

Released in September, this essential guide already has sold more than 10,000 copies and has received nearly 100 percent “5 star reviews” (179) on AMAZON.

About Hank Shaw: A former restaurant cook and journalist, Shaw is the author of three cookbooks: Hunt, Gather, Cook (Rodale 2011), Duck, Duck, Goose (Ten Speed 2013), and Buck, Buck, Moose (H&H Books 2016), as well as the James Beard Award-winning website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook ( He has been featured in numerous major media outlets ranging from the New York Times to NPR and Field & Stream, as well as on numerous television shows, including Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods and CNN’s Somebody’s Gotta Do It with Mike Rowe. His writings have appeared in Food & Wine, Organic Gardening, Garden & Gun, Petersen’s Hunting, The Art of Eating, among others.

So first off – to call this book a “Cook Book” is to do it a huge disservice; this is a coffee table book that happens to be full of amazing wild game recipes. It’s a manual on how to care for you game in the field. It is a primer on food safety. It’s part technical guide, part personal musings and partly a conversation with your butcher about what cuts work best for what.

The photography is amazing; the recipes are exotic and homey and comforting and zesty. At the time of the review I had an elk roast left in the freezer. I’m usually not too big on roasts, so I thought this would make for a good test case. I picked the Italian Pot Roast recipe.

As might be expected, this recipe is a “red-winey, tomatoe-y, oregano/thyme and rosemary-y” pot of goodness. The roast came out tender and nicely flavored with lots of accompanying sauce to drizzle over the meat.

The recipes in this book are amazing; literally a trip around the world. These recipes account for different cuts of meat and different types of game. From South African Bobotie to Massaman Curry to Icelandic Venison with Blueberry Sauce there is something for every taste. The book is smartly divided into sections of cuts – roasts, loins, primal cuts, stews, ribs, meatballs, etc. If you’re one that likes the “wobbly bits” as Hank calls them – heart, liver, kidneys, etc. – there is a whole section dedicated to those recipes. My favorite section is the section on sausage. I can’t wait to try all of those recipes!

My only concern with the book was that these recipes could be intimidating for the novice hunter-chef. Rest assured, these recipes are well-explained and easy to follow. Anyone with the most basic level of skill in the kitchen will now have the ability to table some amazing fare – well beyond grilled steaks or spaghetti sauce that had become the staples for many of us. Even better – if you have someone in your circle of friends or family that turns up their nose at wild game – I guarantee you’ll find a cure for that somewhere in this book. There are some amazing recipes in here and Hank does a great job coaching the cook through the why and the how as well.

If you like to hunt moose, deer, caribou or antelope – this may well be the last book you’ll ever need to buy. From the time the creature hits the ground, until it lands on your table – Hank has you covered. The book is well-organized with fantastic photography, clear instructions and lots of narrative which provides a ton of info besides the actual recipe.

I would absolutely, 100% recommend this book. Right now, you can buy it on Amazon for less than 25 bucks. It will be the best 25 bucks you’ll ever spend – especially when it comes to putting game on the table.

A Review – Rugged Maps
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I’d like to thank the folks over at Rugged Maps for sending me one of their maps to review.

They were kind enough to send me one in time for my Mule Deer Hunt in Unit 22 here in Arizona. I hunt 22 quite a bit, so this is a great map to review.

The first thing you notice about the map is the material.These maps are printed on a tarp-like material that appears to be almost indestructible. I can tell you with confidence that you won’t poke a hole in it, or tear it by accident. I was able to write on the maps with a ballpoint pen, pencil was a bit harder. I couldn’t find any of my Omnichrome or grease pencils to try on the map but I bet they would work fine.

I suppose you might be able to cut it with a blade or drive a screwdriver through it, but I guarantee that you would be hard-pressed to damage it through routine use.

Rugged maps prints maps of Game Management Units, Nautical Charts, Topo maps, NOAA maps, USGS 7.5 minute maps, RM Lite Quads/Hiking maps and even custom maps.

You’d think that they might lose some detail in printing on material like this, but the detail was great! Colors didn’t bleed, terrain was clear, lettering crisp. Everything was clear and identifiable.

The map I tested runs about 30 bucks and I think it is well worth it, particularly if you hunt certain units extensively. You’re not going to wear it out, you’re not going to damage it. The map is easy to refold/roll up and it comes with a carrying pouch.

I’d definitely recommend these maps!

Check out Rugged Maps’ Facebook Page here.

My 2016 Arizona Deer Season In Review
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Well, I can’t write better than Dickens, so I might as well borrow one of his phrases… “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”

My deer season started off in Unit 18B where my friend John Greiss had organized a “Ladies’ Hunt”. The varied wives and girlfriends of the Weekend Warrior crew were encouraged to put in for the same hunt, the idea being that the menfolk would sit this one out so they could focus on helping the gals. This was a great effort by John and pulled off by a great group of folks who are accomplished hunters and just good “salt of the earth” people. I ran up for the day, hoping to help out. Goodness knows John and crew have helped me out a ton, and I wanted to be a helper for a change, instead of a helpee.

I rolled into camp just as a new friend named “Tiny” came rolling in, and he was kind enough to give me a ride out to where friends Ben, Kim and Josiah were trying to find a buck for Kim. As luck would have it we were seeing does and then finally, a previously spotted 2 x 1 muley reappeared. Kim has a knack for glassing, and found him on her own. Ben helped her get set up for the shot and the next thing you know, we were traversing the canyon to get Kim’s deer. She was so excited and it was a privilege to be a small part of her first filled deer tag! Of course, it was great to finally meet Jessie and Keekers in person, and to see old friends RL, Joe and Sherri too.

Next up was my mule deer tag in Unit 22. I was hunting with Kent Powell, my friend and co-worker. Kent is one of the most knowledgeable guys I know when it comes to hunting, and it was humbling that he burned a couple of vacation days to help me out. This is the 2nd year he and I have hunted together, and I love our trips. We sleep under the stars, essentially – and Kent is a pretty darned good cook too. Not only do I learn a ton with him, but I eat real good also.

Day One we saw nothing but does or spikes that were too far away, although we did pass a guy that was bringing a small 3×3 out on his side by side. We ate steak cooked over mesquite coals that night, and all was well in the world. Saturday morning we split up to cover more territory and soon I had a call from Kent saying he was watching a spike and 2 does. He asked if I wanted to try for it and I headed in that direction. By the time I had gotten there and we had crept together up over a small crest, they had moved but Kent quickly found them again. I hurriedly got set up on top of Kent’s tripod and “Boom”. The 1st shot was a clean miss. I chambered another round, picked up the buck again and fired another shot. I heard the telltale “whap” of a hit, and watched the buck stagger, spin around, take several steps downhill and immediately he laid down. He got up one more time took some steps and then snowplowed into a thicket of bushes. We watched the area for almost half and hour and with no movement, we headed over. To my dismay, one doe busted out of there, and then another deer. We couldn’t tell if it was a doe or the buck. There was blood on the ground, but no buck. While searching, the other doe busted too. The 2nd one had been the buck. Kent headed down into the wash, and I traversed the side of the small canyon we were on.

We tracked that deer literally for miles, and for hours. We tracked him through washes and across flats and through brush so thick we practically had to crawl through it. Finally, the sign disappeared. We were sure the buck’s wound was mortal, but despite our best efforts, we didn’t recover him. I must say Ive been hunting a long time, and that is the first time that has happened to me. To say I felt awful was an understatement. I was heartsick. After some conversations about ethics, shooting technique and personal choices, I decided to keep hunting – to keep learning, if nothing else. If another shot opportunity presented itself, I would decide then whether or not to take it. Alas, more does the next day and a half – so no shots. Despite my glum mood I was grateful to be hunting with a good friend in this beautiful state. I look forward to these trips every year. If there was a silver lining, I was pretty proud of my tracking skills. A couple of times I got us back on track by spotting – literally – a single drop of blood on the desert floor. Hopefully its not a skill I will need that often in the future.

My final trip had me spending the day with good friend Ken in Unit 34A looking for Coues. I love southern Arizona – it’s beautiful country.I hit the road early and we rolled out. This was the coldest hunt yet – I had to wear a jacket and everything!! In spite of being in prime Coues country, our best glassing efforts that day only yielded does.

Like every hunting trip, I always manage to learn something and this really is some of the prettiest country in Arizona. Ken didn’t fill his tag this year either, but I’m always grateful for his friendship and he’s a knowledgeable hunter too. We seem to have some pretty interesting conversations bouncing around a truck or sitting on a hill!

Grateful for another season where I got to spend some time outdoors with good people, see some of the most beautiful areas in t he country and always – keep on learning about hunting. Next year, I hope to be posting a success story!