Hunting in Newfoundland with Arluk Outfitters
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While at the Phoenix ISE Show in March this year, I was happy to stop by the booth of Arluk Outfitters. There I was able to shoot the breeze with Keith Payne and his wife. Being from Atlantic Canada originally, I always get a little nostalgic when I run into someone from that part of the country and it was nice to visit with the Paynes about their Outfitting Service in Newfoundland. I asked Keith if he’d be willing to do an interview for my site, and here we are!

1.It seems like people tend to know a little more about Newfoundland than they did 10 or 20 years ago. Do you think that’s the case?

Newfoundland is now definitely better known worldwide than we were 10 or 20 years ago. We are one of the best, last wilderness places left in the world and people are finding out about us by word of mouth, through social media and through the marketing efforts of our Provincial Department of Tourism. We are also unique geographically and culturally, and our Tourism department has done an excellent job of telling the rest of the world about us. It’s amazing how many people drop by our Arluk Booth at trade shows and tell us that visiting Newfoundland is on their bucket list.

2. As you travel around and talk to folks – what is their perception of Newfoundland?

Because of the great marketing effort that I mentioned, there are fewer misconceptions now than there once were. Yet, people are still surprised to hear that our climate is quite moderate and we are in fact not far north. Our capital, St. John’s, the oldest city in North America, is the same latitude as Paris, France and Seattle, Washington. If you speak to anyone who has visited Newfoundland, they inevitably talk about how friendly the people in Newfoundland are. In terms of our big game, Europeans were not aware that we have the highest density of moose in the world and that we have large, trophy class moose. They are comparable in size to moose in British Columbia and Alberta.

3. As a guide – what is your favorite species to hunt with your customers? Why?

I love moose hunting but I also enjoy caribou hunting. The thrill of hearing a bull moose respond to your call never gets old. The anticipation as you hear them grunting and raking the trees on their way toward you will get your heart pounding every time. They are magnificent animals and I have great respect for them. Moose meat is also a major part of my diet.

4. Besides great hunting, what might people be surprised to find when they get there?

Newfoundland is well known for its sparsely populated wilderness areas, beautiful seascapes, icebergs, whale-watching and quaint outport villages. Less well known is that Newfoundland is also rich in music and the arts. Every region of the province has festivals from the “Opera on the Avalon” festival on the east coast to “Trails, Tales and Tunes” on the west coast.

5. Best advice for people coming in to hunt with you?

Plan to come a few days early or stay a few days longer. We are much more than just one of the best places to hunt and fish in the world.

6. What about fishing?

More than 50% of all Atlantic Salmon rivers are in Newfoundland and Labrador and some would argue we have the best brook trout fishing in the world. At Arluk, our fishing lodge is located on the site of Lee Wulf’s former tilt on the pristine Main River, one of the province’s best salmon rivers. We have spectacular dry and wet fly fishing for Atlantic salmon and brook trout. Because of our remote location, access is by helicopter, so guests of Arluk will be the only anglers on the river. There are numerous pools with several prime pools adjacent to the lodge and others that can be reached after a short boat ride.

7. As an Outfitter from Newfoundland, what is your biggest challenge when competing with Outfitters from other states and provinces?

Our biggest challenge is letting people know that we are not that far away. We are the most eastern part of North America, but we’re still less than 3 hours by plane from Toronto and we’re the closer to Europe than anywhere else in North America.

8. Do you get to hunt much yourself? What’s your dream hunting trip?

I hunt moose every year and I’m also an avid upland bird hunter, but I don’t get to do much bird hunting these days. My favourite hunting trip involves moose hunting while paddling a river in canoe. When I was a boy I read a book about hunting in Newfoundland that was published in 1907. It’s called “ Newfoundland And Its Untrodden Ways” and it recounts the author’s experiences of paddling into the uninhabited interior of Newfoundland to hunt caribou. Now, whenever I get the opportunity, I combine my two favourite outdoor activities, hunting and canoeing.

Thanks again to Keith for taking some time out to tell my readers about hunting in Newfoundland.

To learn more about hunting with Keith, visit Hunting with Arluk

To learn more about fishing, check it out: Fishing in Newfoundland

The Arluk Experience

Getting There

I’m back in the saddle and raring to go!
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Although I never abandoned this site, I did slow down considerably over the past year or more. The major culprit has been homework, homework and more homework – as I worked on completing a couple of degrees at Northern Arizona University. I graduated two weeks ago, rearranged some priorities and obligations, and am ready to hit writing again, full bore.

So, stay tuned for stories, reviews, interviews with interesting folks and profiles about interesting companies.

You can subscribe to this site so you don’t miss a thing. If you like it, I’d encourage you to share on Facebook and with your friends. If you’re a company and would like to be featured, please contact me.

If you like BBQ, smoking and other outdoor cooking, check out my sister site, The Dry-Rubbed Rat

If you’re a company that needs writing, editing or marketing help, please check out my site Desert Rat Outdoor Marketing and Media Services

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Desert Rat Reviews – Soft Science Flip Flops?!?!
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So, admittedly this is a first for me. I don’t wear flip flops. Never have. Well, at least the kind with the thong thingy that goes between your toes. I can’t stand that sucker wedged between my toes. That being said when I get a Press Kit stating they are the “most comfortable flip flops you’ll ever wear” (and they come in camo!) – how could I resist??

I really need to thank Lauren Holzman from Mint Publicity, along with the good folks at for sending me a pair to try out.

So, I received these shoes, and I really kind of ran them through the gauntlet. I had coworkers try them on. I had my teenage daughter walk around in them. They provide support in such a way that is hard to describe, even for a writer. They are firm, but squishy. They are supportive, but soft like pillows. I asked my daughter to describe them and she was stumped too – “It’s like they are crazy soft, but as soon as you put weight on them, they are firm”, she quipped. Maybe SoftScience said it best – “These new flip-flops are like standing on millions of microscopic pillows
which cushion every step, while providing the appropriate level of arch and
heel support to help reduce heel, knee and back pain.”

Granted, I had to schlep around the house in them for a week or so, in order to get used to that confounded thing stuck between my toes – but they felt amazing out of the box, and now are my go-to footwear around the house, and around the neighborhood. Once I was used to them, I walked the dog a couple of times in them to make sure they could stand a longer journey than the triangular route between the bathroom, bedroom and kitchen….

Excuse my pasty white, ugly feet but here’s the deal – I wasn’t going to hire a foot model or get a pedicure for my review. So there you have it!

These shoes are well made, and sturdy. They have a great, non-slip tread which would certainly be great on wet docks and boat decks. They have a raised, bumpy surface under your foot which keeps your sole cozy. I admit it, I’m sold. Not only am I wearing flip flops with that thing, but I enjoy wearing them. Not only do I enjoy wearing them, I recommend them! has a great variety of men’s and women’s shoes and are 100% guaranteed.

Follow SoftScience on Facebook

More info from their Press Release:

Designed by lifelong sailors previously with Crocs®, Sperry® and Reebok®, the flip-flop will be available for boating enthusiasts to experience first at the Miami International Boat Show, February 11-15, 2016.

Slip-resistant and non-marking outsoles are key elements built into the Skiff Canvas, an innovative flip-flop that provides supreme all-day comfort. Constructed from proprietary Trileon™ technology, these new sandals are like standing on millions of microscopic pillows, cushioning every step.

“We believe the Skiff is the most comfortable, supportive flip-flop people will ever wear,” said John Duerden, SoftScience chairman and CEO. “We created a shoe that is lightweight and superbly cushioned – ideal for fellow boaters in and around the water.”

The Skiff Canvas features optimal arch and heel support to absorb the shock of a hull pounding the waves, engine vibration, a rocky coastline or the impact of a full day walking on a hard sidewalk. They have durable toe posts and straps for secure wear and are available in bold brights, soft neutrals and Mossy Oak Treestand®, all in natural canvas.

Reviewing the GoTenna
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I’d really like to thank Maggie Philbin from VSC for reaching out to me and asking me to review the GoTenna – an antenna system that works with your smart phone to let you communicate off-grid, when there is no cell phone service. From their How It Works page: goTenna is a cognitive digital radio combined with an app that generates its own signal and automatically coordinates with other units within range. It does all the heavy-lifting, so you can chat 1-to-1, with a group, or even broadcast openly to anyone nearby.

I was trying to coordinate delivery of the units for a javelina hunt that a friend and I had planned but we had some challenges with timing and schedule. Not to be discouraged, I enlisted the help of my co-worker Amy and tested the units in a complex urban environment, instead of craggy canyons in southern Arizona.

The units come nicely packaged with suitable instructions. You have to download the goTenna app for your phone, and it is the app that really tells you the instructions. The app works nicely and instructions were clear, even for a non-techie person like myself.

Amy had one glitch where a message telling her the firmware needed updating wouldn’t clear from the screen in spite of lots of tapping “ok” and even resetting her phone. It worked out OK though as it was updating in the background and the message window cleared once it was finished.

You use these units to communicate via text message, and they can also provide offline maps. Amy and I wandered all over our 28 acre campus and were able to communicate the whole time, even in buildings. At one point, I was on the bottom floor of a parking structure and she was on the 8th floor, and they still worked. This type of environment gives me great confidence they would work in most outdoor environments, very well. Tall buildings in downtown Phoenix didn’t phase the goTennas in the least.

There are a ton of uses for these, and they provide a great peace of mind for wilderness communication, or urban communication when cell service fails. Think natural disasters; think hiking out of cell range; think hunting in rough terrain. They are easy to set up and use. They aren’t bulky. They are well designed and sturdily built. A pair of them will run you about $200 which I think is well worth the money. The offline map feature is valuable as well, and the App is free to download. The offline map also enables you to communicate your location.

Now this is important. For my readers, if you want to buy a set enter the code “outdoorhub” when you checkout and you’ll save $15. This offer is only good until 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, April 2nd.

Don’t take my word for it. If you go to their store page, you can read a ton of impressive testimonials.

Have questions? You can visit their FAQ page here: goTenna Questions?

Xpedition Bows – Striving To Be Different
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Hopefully you read my Part One Posting about Xpedition Archery

I wanted to thank Blake Davis, the National Sales Manager for Xpedition Archery for taking some more time out of his busy schedule to help us learn more about Xpedition!

1. Who is Xpedition Archery?

Xpedition is a small group of dedicated archery enthusiasts who are leveraging the core competency of a parent company to provide only the best bows possible, regardless of price.

2. Why bows? This is a tough, highly competitive market..

True, but by limiting our exposure to the high end products, it is much easier to stay focused on one thing, that is Quality. Quality builds brands. It also plays well to our manufacturing skills, our engineering capability, and the infrastructure that is already in place on the Applied side. We utilize that capability and their excess capacity to our advantage , instead of having to carry that investment relying on archery alone.

3. What do you feel sets Xpedition apart from other bow manufacturers?

See above. The truth is, every bow is hand built to the specifications of the dealer or consumer who orders it. The cams are laser aligned for optimal tracking through the entire draw cycle. The limbs are hand selected and matched for consistency, quality, deflection, and then shimmed to perfectly maintain cam alignment. Every component is assembled to stringent tolerances. The draw length is set to a measured ATA specification. Peak draw weight is verified. The draw force curve is optimized for a smooth draw and the peak performance that Xpedition bows were designed to deliver and after all of these steps are verified, the bows is tested on a chronograph to make sure the customer gets everything they paid for.

Read our Mission statement. No BS.

4. If a person hasn’t heard of your company before – what is it you want them to know about Xpedition?

All too often, we have seen companies built when passion is developed with capital and one of the two (passion or money) gives out, and the dealer and consumer are left in the lurch. Many times they are not manufacturing entities as well, inevitably they are at the mercy of their suppliers and have a more difficult time controlling quality and cash flow. When I was hired, it was made very clear that there was no reason that we could not be profitable with all of the advantages we had by having the Applied strengths. Xpedition was not created as a sideline, or because someone wanted an attachment to their favorite pastime alone. Xpedition is a profitable entity because we have a great business model built to deliver stability and superior products.

5. What has been the biggest challenge in going to market?

The market has too much product. The industry as a whole has built itself up to where it HAS to function at a certain level. It has conditioned the consumer to bargain shop left over inventory and they still want the market to absorb what they need , even when the market will not sell through that amount. It creates a much slower transition of the dealer base to products like ours. Every manufacturer is dealing with this and it will not bode well for many of them. They will have to rethink their strategy or risk having a year where their sales fluctuate beyond their ability to sustain. It will happen unless the retail market gets stronger.

6. What is your favorite thing to hunt?

I have always said if I was FORCED to choose one animal, it would be Elk. As an “Easterner”, I grew up dreaming of an Elk hunt. The animals themselves are amazing. The diversity of habitats and hunting methods forces you to think and hunt. The challenge of the animal is also a bonus, there are no easy Elk hunts.

7. What is the dream hunt still on your bucket list?

Dream Hunt…..Moose and Mountain Caribou. Mountain Goat is another…..but neither is in the near future. LOL.

Want to learn more about Xpedition?

You can view their 2016 line up here 2016 Bows

You can find a Dealer here: Find an Xpedition Dealer

Xpedition FAQ’s here: Xpedition FAQs

Thanks again to Blake for taking the time out to talk about Xpedition. Look for some more projects with them coming up in the future!

It’s Here! ISE Arrives in Scottsdale! March 10 – 13
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ISE Scottsdale Info Page: Scottsdale Show Page

From ISE: We’ve moved the 16th annual International Sportsmen Exposition across town to WestWorld of Scottsdale. And more than doubled its size! Now two full buildings—one for the Arizona Boat Show, and one for the Sportsman Expo, plus vast outside space. More than 100 new exhibitors–300+ in all. The Valley’s only boat show will spotlight more than 15 dealers, 40 brands and more than 120 boats, plus marinas and marine accessories companies. There’s also a giant, new Wakeboard Rail Jam Pond and pro demos every day.

There’s lots new at this year’s show including:

NEW: Pro Wakeboarder “Rail Jam” Pond Click here
NEW: Offroad Test Track
NEW: Lowrance Electronics Theater
NEW: Arizona Taxidermy Association wildlife display and State Championship
NEW: Fly-Casting Pond and free lessons from Arizona FlyCasters and Desert Fly Casters
NEW: Eastmans’ Trophy Deer Display
NEW: RMEF Great Elk Tour

*Outdoor Product Showcase (OPS)–ask Gear Guru Dan Kidder your gear questions and enter to win daily prizes
*3D Pop-Up Archery Range and contest
*Adventure Theater
*Aquarium Demonstration Tank
*Youth Fair Catch-and-Release Ponds, Archery Shoot and Casting Area, hosted by Bass Pro Shops

Click here for the Official Show Program: 2016 ISE Scottsdale Show Program

Click here to see Show Specials: SHOW SPECIALS



WestWorld of Scottsdale
16601 N. Pima Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85260


Thu 10am – 7pm
Fri 10am – 7pm
Sat 10am – 7pm
Sun 10am – 5pm


Adult Admission – $12
Youth under 16 – Free

Please note:

- Pets not allowed.
- No firearms or weapons allowed onsite.
- Scooter rentals available call
1-800-477-0467 for reservations.


WestWorld parking: $5 per car

How Do You Build A New Camo? Badlands Talks About Approach
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I’d really like to thank Blake VanTussenbrook from Vortex Outdoors for taking some time out to answer questions. I was prompted by the recent Press Release from Badlands, regarding their new camp pattern, “Approach”.

I started thinking, “I wonder how one goes about designing a camo pattern from scratch?” – so I reached out to Blake who quickly provided me with the answers I was looking for…

1.At what point do you decide “Hey, let’s develop our own camo pattern?”

For 20 years now, Badlands has been innovating as far as backpack technology and making the best hunting gear in the world. In the past 5+ years, camouflage has been evolving and changing from your basic stick and limb patterns to more digital and scientifically backed patterns. The shift has been towards really focusing on breaking up form to stay undetected by wild game. As an innovator, we felt it was time for Badlands to step into the camouflage game and have our pattern offering match our innovative designs.

2.Once you decide to develop your own camo, where do you even begin?

Deciding to do it is one thing, pulling it off is another marathon all together. We began the process with research. Talking to hunters who spend hundreds of days in the field, talking to scientists about light, color and vision and also just starting to experiment. We simultaneously started playing with color palettes, shapes and designs we’d never seen before but we knew would break up a silhouette better than anything available. It began with designing a pattern, printing it out, testing it and then basically tweaking it or starting over completely. That was basically our process for over 3 years. Design, test, repeat.

3.Is hard to separate science from visual appeal when it comes to camo?

It is difficult to find the balance between scientific reasoning and visual appeal when designing a camouflage pattern. Obviously the “visual appeal” from the perception of the animal doesn’t matter because ideally they’re not seeing it anyway. However, today’s hunter does indeed look for something visually appealing to their eye when looking at the store display. As hard as we try to ignore how we’re visualizing the pattern as humans, something inside us still wants to like how the pattern looks before giving it a try. That is part of the reason it took us so many years to develop Badlands Approach camouflage – we weren’t pleased with “close enough.” We truly waited and redesigned and started over and over and over until we had that perfect blend of effectiveness and visual appeal.

4.How do you test camo’s effectiveness?

Testing is arduous and tedious, but fun! It’s been an excuse for us to go play in the mountains so what more could we ask for? Basically when we felt we had a pattern worth testing as far as coloration and design, we’d print it out on fabric and take it to the hills. We’d also ship it out to pro-staff members in different areas of the country to test it in different terrains. Depending on the season we’d be able to set the pattern out at both close and extreme distances and basically test how well it was breaking up forms. What we found was that certain versions were great up close but turned into dark blobs at medium to long distance (a common problem with most patterns today). If we noticed that was an issue, we’d immediately scrap it and go back to the drawing board. Approach HAD to work at all distances. As we progressed and made new versions, we began to notice that we were getting close when our eyes were getting confused at all distances and the camo was just blending away. It was when we achieved this layout that created total visual confusion that we were able to just start tweaking our color palette and getting really close to a finished product.

5. Is one pattern enough?

We believe with Badlands Approach that one pattern is truly enough. This pattern WILL break up your form which is the most important thing for a hunter. What we are exploring now are additional color options for the future of Approach. The initial offering is extremely versatile across all types of terrain from rocky mountain sides to Midwest treestands to western sagebrush but that doesn’t mean we aren’t continuing to design, test and repeat. It’s in our blood to innovate with all of our products and now with our original camouflage pattern.

Available Spring/Summer 2016, Badlands Approach will first be offered on several Badlands packs and all-new apparel items. Pricing will vary. Additional information can be found at

Product Review – Matador Mini Blanket
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I’d like to thank the good folks at Matador Products along with Amber and Leah at Chic Execs Public Relations for sending me a sample of the Matador and Matador Mini for me to try.

I tried out the Mini at a recent Javelina Hunt here in Arizona’s Unit 33.

The original press info read as follows:

The Matador

It’s time to leave behind the wet, damp and uncomfortable when getting out and enjoying the outdoors. Whether surfing the ocean, taking a break on an epic hike, enjoying a concert in the park, or watching your kid’s soccer game, Matador’s innovative solutions solve the simplest yet most inconvenient travel problems with stylish high-tech designs and extreme comfort that you can easily take with you!

The lightweight, revolutionary material is designed for use anywhere from sand to bark to grass. The puncture-resistant HyprLyte nylon keeps sticks, stones, sand and bugs from getting through the Matador Pocket Blanket. The material is super fine and tightly woven that has been selected because of it’s smooth, silky, and stick free characteristics. It’s also water-proof so you stay dry, comfortable and clean wherever you are lounging.

The patent pending stitched ‘Easy-Pack Pattern’ marks and guides the blanket, making it really easy to neatly fold up into the size of a wallet. Pop it right into the attached storage pouch and throw it into your backpack, pocket or handbag. Choose from the Matador, which fits two people comfortably for $24.99 or the Matador mini with plenty of room for one for $19.99.

So, it was the “puncture resistant” that caught my eye; when hunting the west you glass a lot (long periods of observing promising terrain with binoculars or spotting scopes). Typically the optics are tripod mounted. Sometimes you stand, sometimes you sit. Sometimes when you sit you use as tool or cushion, but not always. Its the same scenario when you are predator hunting and hunkered down in a bush – invariably you get stuck with cactus needles or other unpleasant Arizona sharp things. When the company asked if I wanted to try one, this is what I had in mind.

In the midst of the hunt we decided it was time for a hillside siesta, so I spread out the Matador Mini, rolled up my jacket to use as a pillow, and flopped down. I’m happy to report that I ended up with no cactus needles in my back or butt, or hands. I used the blanket in 2 or 3 other spots and I didn’t get a poke. Now granted, I didn’t spread this over a prickly pear patch and do a swan dive; but I did try to not do anything different than I normally do – and I almost am always pulling small hair-like needles out of my hands, if nothing else.

There are lots of “pros” associated with the Matador Mini – it is small and light, and takes up virtually no room in your pack. For my testing, it was puncture resistant enough to prevent the smaller types of cactus needles from poking into me. As mentioned – it is not puncture proof, but puncture resistant. Larger, stiffer spines would likely penetrate with ease.

As for “cons”, really only two. At 20 bucks, some hunters may not think it is worth the price (I think it is a great value). Second, and this is minor – it’s kinda hard to fold up and get back in that teeny little bag. I managed but there certainly is a knack to it.

I’d really recommend giving these a try if you find yourself sitting down a lot when hunting, hiking, fishing or whatever. They really do work well and as far as I am concerned -worth the money. This little doodad gets the Desert Rat Recommendation!

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Badlands touted this as the “The biggest project in Badlands history” ~ Desert Rat

West Jordan, UT – After undertaking the company’s biggest project to date three years ago, Badlands has announced that Approach Evasion Technology is ready to conceal hunters everywhere in 2016. Developed around a “Design, Test, Repeat” mentality, the Badlands Approach pattern evolved into the most versatile and adaptable camouflage to date.

Based on Badlands’ “Adaptive Coloration Technology,” the look and feel of the Approach pattern changes based on the wearer’s surroundings and lighting conditions. Heavily wooded forests shift Approach to a green and brown dominant pattern while sagebrush and rock bring out the lighter tones of the Approach pattern. Tested at both extreme distances and up close, Badlands Approach features an innovative breakup pattern to ensure visual confusion for whatever may be looking the wearer’s way, no matter the distance.

“The Approach project got its name for two reasons,” said Badlands General Manager Bill Crawley. “First, we truly did take a brand-new approach to looking at how and why camouflage is effective. Second, this pattern will really allow you to physically approach the game you pursue more effectively and get you closer than ever before.”

Available Spring/Summer 2016, Badlands Approach will first be offered on several Badlands packs and all-new apparel items. Pricing will vary. Additional information can be found at

Now in its 20th year, Badlands continues to focus on exceptional quality, continuing innovation, unmatched performance and as always the only unconditional lifetime warranty in the industry.

2016 Unit 33 Javelina Hunt – Part 2
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If you missed it, check out the 1st part of this story.

Ken and I were on a steep hillside, watching an opposite slope. Around 10:00 AM or so, Ken had shot at a javelina and it was a clean miss. Reconstructing the sequence of events, the crazy slope had compelled Ken to hold under the pig, thinking it was closer than it was. In reality is was a 200 yard shot, including angle compensation – and his rifle was zeroed at 200. A dead hold would’ve done the trick. Why hadn’t I shot? Who knows? At the time I was expecting Ken’s follow-up shot any second. Lesson learned – if you have a shot, take it. Alternatively, if you have sufficient time, and multiple shot opportunities – formulate a plan and stick to it!

Hours later, we were growing increasingly frustrated. We were 100% convinced those javelina were still in that area, but they hadn’t shown themselves. The afternoon wore on, it was getting hot, and soon the sun had peaked and started it’s downward arc towards the western horizon. It was getting really close to decision time. Ken had a javelina call with him and we decided to blind call as a last act of desperation, trying to draw those stinky varmints out of their hiding spots. Ken wailed on the call a few times and within seconds I hissed “Do you hear that? Woofing!” He blew again and there it was “Woof… woof…huff… woof…” Then Ken saw two javelina running down an adjacent hill, directly towards us. I kept woofing at them, while Ken tried to find them. Those hills were so steep that when those things were in the gully directly below us, we still couldn’t see them. Ken started down the hill trying to find another position, where hopefully he could spot them. Finally he pointed at 2 pigs and got in a spot where he could take a standing, offhand shot. This time I was watching through my 15′s, mounted on my tripod. The pig was trotting away from Ken – I woofed more urgently, trying to turn the javelina. He stopped, turned broadside and Ken’s rifle barked. You could hear the “whap” and I watched the pig spin around, sprint 5 yards up hill, turn around, and come 3 or 4 yards back down the hill. I was still watching it clearly as he went down. All four feet went in the air, it thrashed twice more and then it was done.

After another brief strategic planning meeting, Ken dumped most of the stuff out of his pack. Taking only his knives, game bags and water – down he went toward the javelina. I was able to walk him right up to it, watching through the binos. He started on the javelina while I watched for more pigs.

Now we were really looking at just far down he was in the canyon off the canyon. His choice was to come back up this nasty, steep hill – or to follow the wash around the bottom and see if he could find an easier way out. My choice was to come down and join him, or wait if he decided to come up, or to try and traverse the mountain we were on laterally – adding distance but minimizing the climb. I hollered down to him that I would grab his stuff and meet him in the saddle off to the east – which was straight up over the hill from our vehicles.

That hike was hard. I had put all of the stuff Ken left behind in my pack, and was carrying his rifle as well. I had already hurt my knee in an earlier fall. Picking my way across that hill I nearly went over backwards several times, swayed by the extra weight in my pack. I was jabbed by sharp things, was watching for rattlesnakes (they were out early this year, prompted by unusually warm temps), and kept rolling my ankles on those damned rocks. Ken wasn’t faring much better. He was weighed down by javelina meat, and he was low on water. His walk was longer, and it didn’t lead to an easier cutback as we had expected. He had quite a steep climb to make, in order to get to the rendezvous point in the saddle. “No country for old men” comes to mind, and I’m not referring to a movie… I had an extra bottle of water I gave to Ken, who was now feeling a little loopy and was cramping up. Some Gatorade chews helped as well. A brief rest, and we were on our way.

We crested the saddle and believe it or not, the walk down the hill was rough too. That hill was so steep, every step shoved your feet forward in your boots, mashing your toes against the inside. Our ankles were sore, our legs were tired, and now our toes were getting smashed continuously. Finally, the vehicles were in view…

Epilogue – I still had a tag to fill, so as we were chowing down in our room (we had rented a small a-frame cabin in nearby Oracle) we talked strategy. Even though we were confident those pigs would be in the same place, we both had filled tags already and neither of us was really in the mood to tangle with that hike in and pack out, again. We agreed to get up in the morning – go to my old spot which was relatively easy access and lots of country to glass. We’d stick it out until noon and hit the road. It was indeed a great spot, lots of country to see and for a Saturday, not as busy as we expected. In spite of the country looking “piggy”, there were none to be found that day. We headed back to pick up our stuff, and hit the road by noon – just as we had planned!