Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nine fun finds for hunters at the 2011 SHOT Show

It's easy to get distracted at the SHOT Show - there are tons of shooting/hunting/outdoors exhibitors here in Vegas - so I attend this trade show with specific goals in mind:

1) Look for cool new stuff for women hunters (and if you missed it, check out yesterday's post on the new women's waterfowl line).

2) Look for anything cool related to duck hunting.

3) Try to meet hunting TV celeb Jim Shockey.

This year, No. 3 was an epic fail thanks to my "friend" Phillip at the Hog Blog. Here's how it went down in our text-message exchange:

Phillip (12:46 p.m.): your boy, Shockey, is up here

Me (12:47 p.m.): WHERE???

Phillip (1:03 p.m.): He was in the press room. (Emphasis added.)

Me (1:03 p.m.): That's where I've been this whole time.

So, thanks, Phillip, for waiting SIXTEEN MINUTES before finishing the damn sentence.

Anyway, I did really well on Nos. 1 and 2, so here are some of my favorite finds of the 2011 SHOT Show, mostly in alphabetical order, except for No. 1, which is too awesome to be anything but first on the list. (And guys, only three of nine are chick-oriented, so keep reading.) Read more...
Best duck hunting hat ever: I stopped by the Feather Flage booth today to see if there were any women's items in the coolest camo pattern in duck hunting. The answer was no, but then they showed me the most amazing hat ever, so obvious I can't believe it's taken this long for someone to think of it.

If you're a duck hunter, I don't have to say a word here for you to understand what you're looking at. But for those of you who are wondering what the big deal is, it's this: When you hunt ducks, you spend a lot of time trying to hide your face under the brim of your cap. This, of course, makes it hard to see the ducks, which causes you to do neck contortions reminiscent of Linda Blair in the Exorcist.

Head Down Gear basically cut a hole in the bill/visor of the cap and put mesh over it, so you can look up through the visor while still having much of your moon face and eyes hidden. I am totally wearing this Saturday at Delevan. Psyched beyond belief.

Disclosure: I got this cap free. No clue what it costs retail. It's pretty new.

Beretta Xtrema's newest feature - handwarmer grip! Yeah, you heard me, the Xtrema now has a built-in HAND-WARMER. You pop open a little lid on the bottom of the grip, stuff a chemical hand-warming pack in there, then close the lid.

Voila! Warm grip.

(Sorry for the lame image, but oddly enough, there were no detail shots of this feature in Beretta's media kit.)

Obviously Beretta thinks this will be a hit with men, because that's most of the market for this gun, but holy cow, women will love this. Our biggest problem in the marsh is cold hands, and this solves it. Zowie!

Price: Starting at $1,350 (and hell no, they did not give me a free sample).

Ducks & Bucks Cart Blind: This nifty device is a combination decoy-hauling cart/boat AND portable blind. The easiest way to see how it works is to check out the slideshow on the company's website - click here - but the short version is that the boat tips up and becomes a seat (with seat and back cushions) surrounded by a camo blind. There are slots on the outside where you can stuff grass or branches, whatever you need for the terrain you hunt.

The cart retails for $375, but the company has a season-end clearance sale now in which you can get it for $295 - pretty sweet discount.

It's impossible to gauge field performance in a trade show booth, but I did take a seat in this, and it was comfortable and afforded good field of vision in front, with little windows to the side.

You do have a blind spot behind you, which can be mitigated a bit by lowering the camo blind material. But the boat is basically your back wall, so you can't see through it. However, if you're 5-foot-8 like I am, once you stand up you can shoot in a 360 around the blind.

Looks pretty cool - I hope I can try this out next season.

Haley Vines' almost-duck jacket: I stopped by the Haley Vines Outdoor Collection booth and while the company doesn't have women's duck gear per se, it does have a waterproof jacket made in Mossy Oak Duck Blind (a pattern they chose because, simply put, chicks dig it).

I'm hoping to score a review sample and put it to the test in the field this weekend. Looks like the kind of thing that would work if you layer appropriately for your temperatures, or if you tend to hunt in warm-ish rain.

Price: $125

Sizes: 0-5 (and no, I have no idea what that means, but the floor model I'm coveting is a medium, so this isn't just for little pixies)

Heated wader sock: This merino wool blend sock from Heat Factory is pretty cool: a thigh-high compression sock (i.e., designed to stay up) that has a foot-warmer pack pouch on the end. The pouch takes one of Heat Factory's foot warmers (hotter than hand warmers), and it sits on top of your foot, not underneath it.

A friend today said that sounded uncomfortable, but I know I have plenty of room in all my wader boots, so I think this will be awfully nice.

Disclosure: I paid discount price for this pair of socks, and got a fistful of free footwarmers to fit in the pouch.

Loon Lake Decoy Company: I need more duck decoys in my house like I need blanks in my shotgun, but when I walked by Loon Lake's booth, I had to stop.

The first thing that caught my eye was the drake spoonie decoy, which is the one we have sitting on our hearth at home, purchased at a Cal Waterfowl fundraising dinner. Love spoonies!

But as I looked around, I found I loved the whole collection. The pintails have a true-to-life purple sheen on their brown heads, and all the birds are vivid and striking.

The company also has a collection of antique decoy replicas that are stunning. If you love buying decoys, check these folks out. They're good people.

Rocky Durango Flirt: One of my online buds has been telling me how much she likes Rocky clothes and shoes, so I was pleased to get a chance to check the company out for myself today.

I hope to try some of their hunting/hiking boots soon, but honestly, what really caught my eye (and heart) was this pair of Durango Flirt boots.

I am not a cowboy-boot wearer. I don't hang out in the country music scene. But orange is my favorite color and I'm a sucker for flame designs. Add a sensible sole like you see here (uh, SCREW high heels) and I'm sold.

Or in this case, gifted. The folks at Rocky said they'd send me a pair gratis. Yay! New shoes! Cute shoes!!!

Storm Kloth II women's jackets etc.: I have to file this under "way too warm to wear where I hunt," but I really liked Storm Kloth's offerings for women.

Storm Kloth II is a fleece laminate, and products the company makes with it are fully waterproof (score!).

Dede Speight designed clothes that she'd want to wear hunting - and does wear hunting - herself. On the vest and jacket, you'll see there's an interior drawstring to allow you to cinch the waistline to your own personal specifications. (In fact, it was that women's jacket on display that caught my eye.)

It looks super cozy and this whole waterproof fleece thing sounds pretty cool.

Winchester Blind Side: This is Winchester's new waterfowl shot, designed to induce the serious trauma that will bring a bird down hard.

Couple things going on here:

1) The steel shot is not round - the pellets are shaped like dice. The goal is to create big wound channels (not sure what that's going to do to the meat, but with any luck I'll get a sample and find out soon).

2) The second point of that weird shape is that it allows the shot to be stacked efficiently in the shell - you get a 1 3/8-ounce load in a normal 3 inch shell.

3) This shell has a "hinged wad" that apparently absorbs a bit of the felt recoil, which is good, because those funky stacking pellets leave room for more gunpowder.

I definitely look forward to trying out this shot. The test for me is going to be whether the awesome stopping power that Winchester promises is worth the "250% more trauma" to the bird, which I am killing for food. I will, of course, report back when I find out.

Velocity: 1400 fps

Price: No clue.

Availability: Initially, just for 12 gauge in 3- and 3 1/2-inch shells, shot sizes 2 and BB. Look for it in stores in a few months.

© Holly A. Heyser 2011


Phillip said...

You wrote:
Our biggest problem in the marsh is cold hands, and this solves it. Zowie!

I thought your biggest problem in the marsh was something more... ummm... basic. I'm so confused.

Phillip said...

Sorry to double-clutch here... but I replied before I meant to.

Anyway, re: the new Winchester loads, the recoil is really manageable. I shot a bunch through a Browning Maxus semi-auto (reduced recoil due to semi-auto gas operation etc.) and two things stood out. First, I was powdering skeet with #2 shot, and second, it didn't beat me up at all. I also thought it was getting to the target pretty damned fast. It's good stuff.

Blessed said...

I love that hat!

Shewee woman said...

Nice stuff. I want one of those hats, OMG my neck would love me. Keep up the great reporting Holly, love hearing about all the new cool accessories.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Phillip, why did I know you'd say that? I was going to mention that exception, but thought, no, I don't want to do that after I told men to keep reading. Not fair to ambush them!

Thanks, though, for the report on how they shoot. I still want to know what they do to the meat. Phil Bourjaily wrote about them for F& last fall, and he shot real ducks with them, but he didn't mention what the ducks looked like dressed afterward.

Blessed and Shewee Woman, I am so psyched about that hat. I'll report back after this weekend for sure.

Hunt Like You're Hungry said...

A hand warmer grip for a shotgun? Awesome! I generally shoot with bare hands which hurts like hell for freezing appendages. If they could invent one for the bow, I'd be smitten.

Also, the cold-weather woman's jacket? I'll definitely be checking that one out!

That spoonie decoy is BEAUTIFUL.

Thanks for sharing!


Lori Ambrosino said...

I want that hat! That is my biggest complaint that I need to keep my face covered but I cannot see what is flying over or coming. I will order a couple of those for sure. Thanks for sharing.

Lori Ambrosino

Peebs said...

Really like the decoy need new pins (ask Hank) snicker.

NorCal Cazadora said...

HLYH, oh that was deceptive of me - the decoy you see in the photo is a pintail, a beautiful bird for sure. Their spoonie decoy is actually kinda fun because he looks just slightly indignant.

Lori, I'm not sure these hats are available for sale just yet, but I hope they are soon. Definitely click over to Feather Flage and Head Down and let them know you want one!

Peebs: Things have been rough like that lately :-)

Hil said...

It's worth noting that the Beretta doesn't take normal Wal-Mart variety chemical heat packs. Well, it would fit them, but they wouldn't be warm enough to feel through the grip. Or so the rep at the booth told me. They take special Beretta-designed heat packs. One pack lasts five hours and two packs come with the gun. The rest you buy separately.

A unique gimmicky feature for sure, but definitely not enough to make me trade in the Browning...

And I have also shot a number of ducks with the BlindSide ammo as well, and it seems to me that it flies about as well as anything else. No better, no worse. Not as fast as Remington's new HyperSonic. I did not field dress those birds, gave them to the other hunters on the trip because I was traveling and already had a possession limit in the freezer.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Too bad they didn't mention that to me, eh?

I don't think I would trade in my gun just for a gun with handwarmer features, but if I were considering buying a shotgun, this could be a significant factor in my choice. It'd be awful nice to be able to keep your trigger hand on that grip at all times - I'd miss fewer shot opportunities if I were always ready and didn't have to yank my hand out of the handwarmer pocket.

As for the Winchester, I'm not nearly a good enough shot to be able to do a good comparison, because sometimes I shoot really well and sometimes (like, uh, yesterday) I shoot like crap. I'd have to shoot those things for a month to get any sense of whether they're better.

But the duck condition I could assess right away, and that's really important to me - I'm hunting for food, not just to shoot stuff, so if it does a lot more damage to the meat, that's gonna be a factor in my decision whether to use it. Just hope I can get a free sample soon - I'm sure I won't get one during duck season (ends this weekend), but I could go do one of those "flighted mallard" shoots at Camanche Hills Hunting Preserve to do a real-life test.

vyk said...

Ooo. I think I know which shotgun Charlie's buying me for Christmas past. Now that duck seasons over, you have time to try raising chickens :). Really they're like cats, mostly they take care of themselves. Except if they drive you crazy you can eat them... I think most broiler breeds can get to eating size in about three months.

SimplyOutdoors said...

The duck hunting hat is an awesome idea, even though I've yet to duck hunt. It's pretty ingenious.

And I hate to point this out, but my brother was successful in meeting Shockey at the ATA show. I'd blame that dang Phillip for you missing out.

And the Stormkloth products are awesome. I know they are one of our sponsors, but they are only our sponsors because their products are awesome.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Apparently I was the only person at SHOT who didn't meet Jim Shockey. Obviously, it's a conspiracy led by Phillip...

NorCal Cazadora said...

And Vyk: "Have time"? I don't understand. What does that mean?

DarrenM said...

LOVE that hat.! What a ridiculously stupid idea not to have thought of. I happen to have a spare hat I'm going to cut a hole in for this weekend... their website did make it look like it was available to order now though.

I imagine somebody will make a replacement stock with a handwarmer pocket so maybe you won't have to replace your whole gun?

I do wish somebody would come up with some real good shooting gloves with a handwarmer pocket though...

Double D said...

I had a chance to test the new Blindside and can say that the birds we shot sustained a little more damage than what I'm used to. Most of the ducks we shot were at extreme close range that day, so that was a factor. But the Blindside, as well as the Hypersonic, seems to bleed birds more than standard shot. On the flipside, there was no wounding loss either.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Darren, I rigged up a pair of gloves like that and it wasn't worth the trouble. This year, I've hit on the perfect combination: trigger hand ungloved, clutching a handwarmer in the handwarmer pocket of my waders. On the other hand, I wear a smartwool gloveliner (warm when wet) and a light neoprene glove (leaks, but pretty windproof). This is the magic combo for me.

Double D, good to know. And yes, it is so hard to judge what's caused by the shot and what's caused by the particular circumstances of the kill.

Phillip said...

Holly wrote: Apparently I was the only person at SHOT who didn't meet Jim Shockey. Obviously, it's a conspiracy led by Phillip...

Damn, I've been found out!

NorCal Cazadora said...

I KNEW IT!!!!!

Gary Thompson said...

Great product review! At the risk of sounding like a complete idiot though, I have a couple of questions:

1. foot warmer socks - since chemical warmers rely on oxygen to work, have they figured out a way to get them to work more effectively down deep inside neoprene waders with rubber boot feet? I tried them on the MO in MT with Gortex waders and Muck bootfoots. They worked for about five minutes, enough time for me to wish they really worked. The hand warmers are awesome though.

2. The Winchester shot - do we know if they are going to make a tungsten material in addition to steel? I get the stacking thing, but ballistically speaking, wouldn't there be a problem with deformity of shot that has edges on it? Have you seen a pattern on these? I suspect fliers in the pattern. Also, how in the hell does something square maintain equal velocity at equal pressure and distance to that of something round. I'm no physics brain, but that seems unlikely. I get that they're coming out at 1,400 fps, but would be interested to learn what the velocity is at 50 yards compared to an equal load of round shot. Call me a nut, but in my experience, shot pattern and density kills birds, not velocity.