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  • North Branch Pant Review by First Lite team member Jerod Fink

    North Branch Pants Review
    By: Jerod Fink

    Big Spring Gobbler and a dry ass First Spring Gobbler of '14

    The ground was wet, extremely wet as a matter of fact.  It was the last day I had to hunt on my first spring turkey tag of the season, and I needed to get the job done on this extremely wet and cold April morning.  Our spring turkey hunting season had been filled with many inches of snow and rain and sitting on the bare, muddy ground was a daunting prospect.  With some trepidation, I sat down and started calling.  A two hour wait later I had my first gobbler of the year, even better I had a dry ass and stayed warm.    How did this happen you ask?  Well, for the first time I was wearing a pair of pants capable of keeping out mud and water while keeping me warm in 20-30 degree temps, the North Branch pant from First Lite.

    The NB pants are built from an iron tough soft-shell material and insulated very well.  I’m amazed that a pant this thin can be this warm.  To be honest, the first time I tried on the North Branch pants my thoughts were they were too loud to be of use hunting whitetails and turkeys.  However, over two seasons of use in the turkey and whitetail woods, those fears have proven to be unfounded.  The material is also 100% water and wind proof.  They are the perfect pants for a huge range of temps and conditions.  In the last year alone I’ve comfortably worn them sitting in tree stands in below zero wind chills to 35 degrees and rain.  I’ve literally started calling days that are 35 degrees or colder “North Branch” days.

    There are many great features on the pants, some are subtle and some are glaring.  The three glaring features that any hunter will find useful are the integrated snow gaiter, full zip legs and the full zip seat.  Yes, you no longer have to lower your pants and risk crapping on your suspender straps.  Just zip the seat out and go at it.  Trust me, this is a great feature.

    If you have been looking for a bib or overall type pants that are capable of stopping wind and rain while keeping you warm, look no further than the North Branch pants.  Spend the money, you won’t regret it.

    Staying comfortable at 10 degrees and coming home with meat Meat bucks at 10 degrees

    To follow Jerod check out the team page.

  • A little elk 101 by First Lite Team member Matt Liljenquist

    Horns and cape Packing out Matt Liljenquist

    Elk season is on us and I would like to share a couple of tips that have helped me be successful.

    Tip 1: Scent- Just like majority of the animals we hunt, elk have noses and can smell us if we're not careful. Whether you're sitting water, calling or stalking, always keep the wind in your favor. This means keeping the wind blowing in your direction and not towards the elk. I promise you they will eventually smell you if you don't pay attention to the winds direction. It's good to use different scent covers, they will help if the wind changes on you when you're already committed to your position or stalk. However, when it comes to covering your scent the most important thing is to keep the wind in your favor.

    Tip 2: Figure out their pattern- If you know where the elk are coming and going, you can stand a better chance of intercepting them. If there is a water hole in between their bedding and feeding areas, it could be a great place to sit. I have seen hunters try to catch up with bulls already heading to their destination and trust me the elk are faster then the hunters. A few years back, I passed a bull and shortly after he walked by, two out of breath guys went running by me trying to catch the bull. I guarantee they never caught up with the bull. If you know where they're heading, you can cut them off in the middle somewhere. I strongly suggest not disturbing their bedding areas, because then you will have to start over again and figure out their new pattern. This could take days to accomplish.

    Good luck this season, I hope everyone has a great hunt.

    To follow Matts season check him out here at the team page.

  • Field Shots by First Lite Team Member Josh Preissner

    Set up your field shots for success Set up your field shots for succes

    I remember the uncontrollable shakes and fist pump when I finally watched my arrow pass through the heart of my first buck. He may have not been a mature deer (a basket rack in fact) but he was a trophy in my eyes. All the hours spent in the stand waiting for that one moment and to finally have it all align was truly special and will never be forgotten from memory. However on that day it was particularly sunny out and the only way our cheap point and shoot camera would see my ugly mug was if I was squinting into the sun which made for very attractive photos (sarcasm).

    Now a days grip and grin photos seem to be common across the hunting industry. While I believe in documenting the pursuit and adventure before the kill, many don’t take the time . So I decided to at least help make your grip and grins a little bit better so your trophy can be remembered by many. Whether it’s an Eastern Turkey from Wisconsin or a Tar from New Zealand, these tips will aide in sharing your memory with your friends and family. There are ways to beat the sun when it comes to daytime trophy photos, here are a few.

    If you were able to bag that buck or bull in the woods take advantage of it! Find a shady spot and take your pictures making sure you have a darker background so you don’t have a washed out look in your photo. Once you find your spot, look at the characteristics of the animal that are unique and compose your shot accordingly. If possible, try to keep both the hunter and the animal at the same distance from you so both remain in focus for the picture.

    Now if you are singing wide open spaces with no shade in sight there are a few options to combat the sun.

    The Reflector difference The Reflector difference

    The first and most cost effective option is picking up a piece of white foam core board (under $5) from your local store. The foam core is used to bounce sunlight thus illuminating the hunter’s face, letting you get rid of the shadows created by hats or weird lighting. However I would not recommend putting the sun at your back with this option due to the foam core usually isn’t bright enough to fight the sun.

    If you are willing to spend a few more dollars, your best bet is to pick up a reflector off of (Around $30).

    Collapsible and portable reflector Collapsible reflector will run you about $30

    These photography reflectors are collapsible and come with multiple sides such as a White bounce-like the foam core, silver reflector-which is more powerful, gold reflector-used to make a warmer tone, etc. These will offer some better options depending on your situation and are used by many photographers across the world to combat shadows. I suggest that you take an hour sometime before hunting season and play around with the reflector. Have your kids pose with the dog in the backyard and manipulate light with the reflector until you get the results you want.

    So whether it’s an Osceola turkey in Florida or a Mule deer in Idaho, take your trophy photos to the next level with these photography tools. After all, you may remember the hunt like it was yesterday but others struggle making that connection. Help them paint that picture with the candid’s from your last adventure.

    Interested in what makes Josh tick?  Check out his team page and give him a follow here.

  • Preparation is the key to a successful season - Basic Rifle Prep By First Lite Team Member Matt Emmons


    Basic maintenance, ammo selection, and sighting-in for rifle season

    By Matt Emmons

    Archery hunters spend lots of time in the months before season tuning their bows, preparing their equipment, and practicing their shooting.  I would say that many of them know what kinds of shots they can and can’t confidently make.  On the flip side, how many rifle hunters know their equipment that well?  If you’re rifle hunting this year, are you confident will you be able to connect on a 300+ yard shot with the first bullet?  If you’re not sure, or sitting on the fence, read this article!

    Before you go to the range

    To make the most of your time spent at the range, here are some things to check and do before you leave the house.

    First, your rifle. If you’re using a bolt-action, make sure your bedding screws are tight.  These are the screws on the underside of the rifle on the floorplate that hold the stock and action together.  Loose or unevenly tightened bedding screws hurt accuracy.  If your bedding screws are for a flathead or Phillips head screwdriver, try to change them for allen-head screws.  Take a torque wrench and tighten each screw to about 45 inch-pounds.  If you don’t have a torque wrench, try to tighten each screw evenly and snugly, but not so tight that you can’t get them loose again.

    Next, make sure the rifle is clean.  If you use copper-jacketed bullets, use a good copper solvent to get the copper fouling out of the barrel. If you use moly-coated bullets, use a solvent designed for removing the moly coating.  My favorite solvents are from BoreTech, but there are several others that are also very good.  Whichever you choose, follow the directions they recommend and make sure you get all of the fouling out.  Make sure that you always clean from the breach to the muzzle and use a bore guide for the cleaning rod, if you can. Cleaning from the muzzle can damage the crown of the barrel and kill accuracy.

    After you’re done these two steps, check any other equipment you have on the rifle.  Make sure your scope mount is properly on the action and all the screws are tight.  Next, make sure the scope is in the right place for your eye (meaning you comfortably have enough eye relief behind the scope), then make sure the scope rings are tight on the scope.  Check that any other accessories on the rifle are functioning and clean.

    Another part of your homework is to begin selecting ammo.  This article is not meant for handloaders, but for the guy buying factory ammo from the store.  Select the type of bullet you want to shoot based on the game you’re going after and possible distances you might be shooting.  In a nutshell, do you want to shoot a bonded bullet, solid bullet, partition, or some type of quicker expansion bullet?  Once you have figured that out, look to see what different manufacturers offer.  Going to the store and buying just one box of ammo with a bullet you like doesn’t mean it’s going to actually shoot well out of your rifle.  I recommend trying at least three different types of ammo.  Yes, that costs money, but you have to ask yourself how much it’s worth to you that you know you can connect on the animal of a lifetime when needed.

    Once you’ve done all of this, you’re ready to go to the range.

    At the range

    Your rifle’s clean and ready, you’ve selected a few different types of ammo to try, so what’s next?  First, pick a calm day to do your ammo testing and sighting-in work.  It’s fine to practice shooting in the wind, but it’s not wise when doing any sort of equipment testing. Next, pick a good target.  For testing the ammunition, I prefer a grid-style target with 1-inch squares.  There are lots of options out there that have multiple aiming points, or bullseyes, on one target.  I like the 1-inch grids because it’s easier to line up the scope crosshairs on the target and it makes measuring group size easier, too.  The last step before shooting is to make sure you have a good set of sandbags, or a Lead Sled, and a stable shooting bench.

    US Olympic Shooter Matt Emmons US Olympic Shooter Matt Emmons

    Put two to three targets up at 100 yards.  On one of the targets, get the rifle sighted-in.  It doesn’t have to be perfect yet, but you need to be able to hit a 3-inch circle.  Sight the rifle in so that it’s hitting where you’re aiming.  Do not factor in any bullet drop yet. That comes later.  One note: take your time and make the best shots you can.

    Once you have the rifle sighted in, move to the next target and begin testing ammo.  Take the first type of ammo and shoot a 5-shot group at the bullseye of your choice.  Any fewer rounds doesn’t give you a good sample size to see if the ammo is actually good or not.  Make NO sight adjustments. Just shoot a group.  You can always move the groups later.  What’s important now is seeing how tight of a group each type of ammo can produce.  Do the exact same thing with every different type of ammo you have at a different bullesye.  When you’ve finished, go gather your targets and write on the target the brand of ammo, type, and bullet information.  Measure the group size.  Whichever one shoots the tightest group is the one you want to hunt with.  If you have a couple that are close, shoot some more 5-shot groups with them if you like.  Anything that shoots under 2 inches is acceptable, my goal is always 1-inch or less.  With a factory rifle and factory ammo, however, finding something that produces 1-inch or less is challenging.

    Grid Target with 5 shot groups Grid Target with 5 shot groups

    The next step is to thoroughly clean the rifle there on the range. If you have the luxury of time, let the rifle sit for an hour or two to cool down. If needed, come back another day. On a cold and clean barrel, you’ll want to see if your selected ammo duplicated what it did before. Another thing is to see where that first shot goes in relation to the others. In many rifles, the “cold bore” shot is predictably different than the next shots. If it is always outside of the group in the same place, take note of where it always goes because that’s the shot you’re taking on an animal.

    Now you can sight the rifle in how you like. Know the ballistics of the ammo you have chosen. Are you going to sight-in to compensate for bullet drop, are you going to “hold over” at distance, are you going to take clicks on the elevation turret for longer shots? For me, it usually depends on the scope I’m using and the hunting situation. Generally, though, with a centerfire scoped rifle, I sight-in for a 200 yard zero. With most calibers I use, that means roughly 1.5 to 2 inches high at 100 yards. If I’m using a scope with a target-style elevation turret, I will take clicks for elevation for shots beyond 300 or so yards. Further, when I’m sighting-in to be 1.5 inches high at 100 yards, I make sure the heart of my 5-shot group is 1.5 inches high.

    Last steps

    If you’ve done all of this work, the next piece of the puzzle is practice. I could write a lot more about shooting fundamentals and positions, but I’ll keep it simple for now and simply say practice as often as you can.  Air rifles and .22’s are fantastic training tools to work on technique and get trigger time.  If you hunt with a scope, put a scope on an air rifle or .22.  Practice shooting from a rest, leaning against a tree, shooting prone using your backpack as a rest, kneeling, standing, or any other situations you might actually come across while hunting.  If you can get out to shoot your hunting rifle, practice shots at distance.  If you can, put targets at 300 or more yards.  Don’t try to hit them just once, but time after time. The more you practice all of these things and know what you and your rifle are capable of, the more chance you have to make ethical shots in the field and bring home the game you’re after.  Good luck and good hunting!

    Matt is a member of the First Lite Team because he's about as unassuming as a hunter can be, and it just so happens he's got enough medals to sink a small boat.  See what Matt is up to by following him here.

    If you have questions regarding this post please leave Matt a comment here at the campfire.

  • Season Openers By First Lite Team Member Nick Muche

    Pronghorn Nick Muche Idaho Pronghorn
    Spot and Stalk Pronghorn
    If you plan to take on the challenge of hunting Pronghorn spot and stalk with a bow you'd better be ready for some humble pie.  I remember the first few times I tried stalking goats, there was a lot to learn.
    Finding the RIGHT animal...  If you are like me, any mature animal will suffice, especially on public land with an OTC tag.  What I mean about finding the RIGHT animal is try your best to hold off stalking a goat in a spot that you have little chance of getting close.  Some examples would be goats that are within a herd of doe's and other bucks (too many eyes), goats out in the middle of flat expanses or in the middle of Ag fields.  You'd be wasting your time trying to get into bow range of goats in these situations, especially in the early season when a decoy may not work like they do later on.  I am not saying don't do it, but your chances of success are greatly diminished in these cases.
    Ideally you'd like to find a goat that is in a place ripe for a stealthy
    stalk.  One bedded in a coolie or just on the other side of a hill.  Find a
    goat that has some brush or sage in and around it that you can use as cover and concealment along your stalk.  These situations will provide you with a very good chance at getting an arrow into one and they will be high percentage stalks.
    If you should find a buck worthy of a stalk that has a bunch of does and fawns with him, this could be a great opportunity for an ambush.  Last year I played cat and mouse with a buck that had 17 doe's with him.  I watched him for quite a while and then the entire situation made sense.  There was a lead doe in the group and the entire herd followed her.  Where she went, they went too.  In this case, it would be best to stalk her and then wait for the buck to come by.  I did this and was amazed at how well it worked, though I had picked the wrong location to set up had I been 30 yards closer I would have had a great opportunity.
    Use any terrain feature possible to stay hidden along your route to the animal.  I've found that keeping some sage in between you and the animal will work.  Most times if you are hunting agriculture fields there will be ditches along the side that you can use.  Also, fence lines often provide ample overgrown brush that you can use as cover.
    A tip that was told to me a few years ago has changed the way I hunt goats and I don't see many people doing it.  It seems that their eye sight is weakest at first and last light.  Use these times of the day to your advantage and slip in when they are susceptible to a stalk.  I like to find a buck and wait until the last few minutes of daylight and then move in for the shot.  It works very well.  The very first time I did this after being told it, I was able to get into 18 yards of a lone buck.  Mornings are great as well, especially if you have goats located the evening before, they shouldn't move very much at night and will be in the same general area at dawn.
    The buck in the photo attached met his demise in a wide open Idaho prairie that had intermittent pockets of sage brush. It was bordered on a few sides by Alfalfa fields.  The buck was feeding in the Ag field when his doe's went to leave, heading towards the prairie and sage.  I got ahead of them and when they crossed a ditch, they came by at 45 yards.  The ditch allowed me to move freely without giving away my position and I used the does to pin point where he would eventually walk as well.
    Good luck out there this summer, take your time, find the RIGHT buck and shoot straight.
    Interested in following Nick?  Check him out on the team page.
  • Layering Guide Courtesy Of First Lite Team Member Scott Kendrix

    Musk Ox
    Musk Ox Musk Ox

    Hey guys, Scott Kendrix here from First Lite..

    Picking the right gear to wear for a particular hunt is an extremely important part of being properly prepared for your next hunting adventure, whether that hunt is scaling the European Alps in search of that 12 year old Alpine Ibex or sitting the family farm in search of that cagey 10 point whitetail buck that keeps taunting you on your trail cameras.

    The right clothing is only one aspect of the equation here. To properly maximize the potential of your gear, the right layering system can bring it all together to become an effective tool to be used in any hunting situation.

    Let’s take a look at a layering system that would work great on a cold weather hunt situation.

    Starting with a next to skin base layer, I would recommend a lightweight merino wool. It breaths, is comfortable, and works well with body heat retention. It is also the best material out there for keeping smell to an absolute minimum. This helps substantially when on say, a backcountry sheep or goat hunt and washing is not an option.

    As a second layer, I would recommend a heavier weight wool shirt (and bottom). This second layer really helps curb the cold from creeping in when sitting long hours, whether it’s glassing from a wind swept ridge or sitting still for extended periods of time in the tree stand. This second layer can really help one stave off that chill.

    The third layer is your outer layer on most hunting situations. A tough durable pant, such as First Lite’s Kanab pants, should offer excellent weather protection as well as durability from whatever the hunter can throw at them. Jackets should be insulating and should retain body heat as well as be lightweight and durable.  Lastly, for your extremities, I would recommend a good merino wool liner glove as a base, as well as carry a second, heavy outer glove to wear when stationary. A good wool beanie for the head will help retain body heat loss greatly as well. A good neck gaitor or scarf will help fill the gap on being covered for your face.

    I recently returned from a successful Muskox hunt in the Arctic this past April. I never saw the mercury rise higher than -19F and saw it dip as low as -40 each night. Layering on this hunt was EXTREMLY important. You can lose your life in those temps without the right gear. I utilized a First Lite system that worked really well for me and I was never cold once on the hunt. I used the FL Chama and Allegheny tops and bottoms as a base layer, Chama and Allegheny EXP heavy weight wool as a second layer, then a Uncompahgre Puffy and Kanab pants as a third layer. As an outer most layer, we had expedition weight goose down over coats and pants to help seal out that bitter cold.

    I hope this Tech Tip helps some of you guys get your clothing system tuned in for this coming fall season. Best of luck filling those tags, guys!

    Scott- Scott is an accomplished hunter, taxidermist, guide and writer who has hunted in 12 countries on 5 continents.  From muskox in the barren grounds of the extreme northern Arctic to the highest peaks of Kyrgyzstan chasing long horned Mid Asian ibex, to the thick jesse of Zimbabwe chasing big bull elephant with double rifle in hand, Scott has the experience and expertise on a wide array of hunting types, techniques and locations.

  • Iron Sights by First Lite Team Member Kyle Defoor

    How to use iron sights properly How to use iron sights properly

    A quick reference for using irons to their upmost. I try to shoot 1/2 iron, 1/2 red dot throughout the year.

    I have a quick detach mount for taking my Aimpoint off, the picitinny slots where it sits are clearly marked for re-mounting, and I always re-check zero to confirm.

    Remember to use a spacer, or the correct mount when putting your red dot on. It's roughly 5/8" off the receiver. Bottom line is to make it so your irons are in the bottom third of the sight window of the optic. If mounted correctly, you can leave your irons up (which I highly reccommend) and they won't get in your way.

    For more tips and tactics follow Kyle here.

  • Looking For Horn By First Lite Team Member Colter Ingram

    Shed hunting helps you prepare for the upcoming season in many ways. Not only is it fun but it helps get you and your gear ready for the upcoming season. Ill break down a few pointers that I think are beneficial for preparing you for the coming season.

    Colter Big Shed


    All winter long we have researched and researched different gear that might help us have an edge this fall. Well now that you’ve bought that piece of gear you really wanna see how it performs before you hit the mountain on opening morning.  For example I spent all winter researching packs, I wanted lighter, stronger, good hauling capabilities, and a good fit. After lots of research I decided on the new Exo Mountain pack. When I recieved my pack I new I had to get some miles on it to really decide if it was right for me. So I loaded it up with all my gear I would have for a 3 day elk hunt minus a few things and headed out on an 2 day horn hunt. On the trip I found out all sorts of things about the pack, from how comfortable it was, to how well it hauled heavy loads, and how well all my gear fit in it.  All these things were crucial to me and now I had confirmed that the pack was exaclty what I was looking for. So get that new piece of gear out and go put it through the ringer before you decide to take it on a hunt. The last thing you want is to head into the backcountry with an unproven item. It could lead to a miserable trip and totally change the outcome of your hunt.

    Colter Big Shed Snow


    Glassing for sheds can really fine tune your eyes for big game. As you sit glassing for sheds your looking for something that is extremely close in color and shape to a stick or brush, so scanning for them you really have to break down the terrain. Taking your time is key as in any glassing situation don’t just glance over something and call it good. I don’t know how many times Ive glassed the same piece of ground for over an hour to finally find a small piece of tine sticking out of the grass or laying in a brush. It also helps you build a pattern of how you like to break down terrain with your optics. I like to section terrain out, and start from the top and slowly work my way down. Becoming efficient behind a set of optics can totally change your level of success. The more time you spend behind them the better chance of finding that monster shed or that old sly buck hanging in the buckbrush. Let your eyes and optics do the walking for you.

    FXPhotoStudioExportedImage 3Shed on hillside


    Of all things that shed hunting helps you with I think fitness is the biggest. It really helps  get your mind and body ready for the strains and struggles that your bound to come across this season. Theres a difference between being in shape and mountain shape. Theres no exercise that prepares you more effectively than actually throwing that pack on loaded with some gear and hitting the hills for a few hours. It helps build your physical endurance and stamina as well as your mental. Challenge yourself whenever you can. You’ll find things out about yourself you may not have known, such as maybe figuring out how much water your consuming or how many calories of food you need to stay focused and alert. Get your body used to packing that 30lb pack as much as possible, not just throwing it on the day before opening morning and expecting your body to be ready for it. You’ll be amazed how much more confident you feel heading out on a hunt knowing you had put those miles on. The gym and workout routines can get boring and stagnant, putting miles on in the mountains will never bore you.

    Colter Exo Shed Pack

    Colter Ingram is a resident of the Wood River valley right here next to the shop for more info on Colter check him out on the team page.

  • Red Dawns: In Search of Russian Rainbows

    Red Dawns- Part One

    by First Lite Pro Staffer Riley Buck

    Until recently, Kamchatka was nothing more to me than merely a far

    "Did you check the 7th Fetzer valve?  It's all ball bearings these days." "Did you check the 7th Fetzer valve? It's all ball bearings these days."

    off place. I first learned about Kamchatka about 6 years ago, although I had little more than become aware that it existed.  Over the next few years I began to hear many more rumblings about it.It was a place

    Continue reading

  • Jim's Turkey Tips 2014


    ASAT crushes beaks. ASAT crushes beaks.

    1) How to keep your good spots! Don’t put those elk, deer, turkey or any kind of sticker on the rear window of your truck that makes you stand out as a hunter. When I’m looking at new country and see a truck with hunting stickers I make a note and may stop back by when nobody is around. Continue reading

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