Even after we hung our bear bag high in a tree, away from camp, they still couldn't help themselves. At 5 a.m. I woke to the sound of a snort by my ear as something nudged my hammock. I had to confirm I was just rocked by a bear, so I turned my headlamp on to see the 300-pound sow look over her shoulder at me and casually disappear into the hickories. Between intrusions, my lamp also revealed that a copperhead slinked into camp. What a night!
All of our lamps helped keep us safe, but only one was truly effective. My Lenser, with its powerful 220 lumen output, was by far the brightest light in the camp, even though other guys had handhelds.
LED Lenser headlamps are made by the folks at Leatherman. The SEOP7R is the flagship of the batteries-in-front line. It boasts a cool feature called Optisense mode: the lamp adjusts to the ambient light so you get the most out of your 3 AAA batteries. Its focus dial let me tighten the beam so I could see at a distance, or dial it back to cook or tie a bowline in the bear bag line. 3.7 ounces. MSRP, $89. On my next trip to the backcountry, I think I'll just sleep with the light on.
ULTRALIGHT MUZZLELOADER WELL DESIGNED
By Daniel McElrath
My first muzzleloading rifle was a Hawken-type sidelock from which I learned the basics. More recently, I got to try the Vortek Ultralight from Traditions Performance Firearms. It is an example of the new breed of Ã¼ber-modern muzzleloaders and is to the Hawken what the Bugatti Veyron is to the Model T Ford.
The standard features are too numerous to list here (see the website). Only the presence of the ramrod indicates that it's a muzzleloader.
The drilled and tapped Vortek Ultralight is available with fiber optic-enhanced iron sights, but I opted for the package that includes rings and a camo-matched 3-9x40 scope.
At 6 1/4 pounds, the gun hefts easily, the tapered and grooved barrel accounting for some of that lightness. Nonetheless, the rifle mounts solidly to the shoulder. The 4-pound trigger is good, not great, but more than adequate for deer hunting.
Loading 250-grain Smackdown plastic-saboted, polymer-tipped, copper-jacketed bullets over three 50-grain Pyrodex pellets is simply and easily accomplished. Ignition is via No. 209 shotgun primers.
Accuracy was somewhere between 2 and 3 inches at 100 yards during informal shooting. More importantly, it was very consistent.
The real revelation was how comfortable it was to shoot a gun dubbed "ultralight." The barrel is ported and the recoil pad is effective. Despite the heavy bullets and hefty charge of Pyrodex, this muzzleloader seemed to kick no more than a .308 Win. caliber centerfire.
What you notice most about the Vortek Ultralight in the field is the practicality of the design elements. The imperviousness to the elements of the coated aluminum and steel, the secure purchase afforded by the stock's rubber overmolding, and the assured ignition from the protected primer combine to overcome cold and wet, two traditional enemies of muzzleloader hunting.
Do your part and this gun will put meat in the freezer. MSRP: $430-599.
Here are some more of our top picks for affordable hunting gear:
If you are looking for a portable game feeder, the Pile Driv'r Auger Feeder is a great option. It has a 30-pound poly barrel that you can hang from a sturdy tree limb just about anywhere. It will distribute powdered minerals as well as corn and everything in between. 6 feed-time options. 12-volt battery needed.
Easton's new Game Trail Pack is a hydration-compatible backpack just right for an evening in the tree stand or ground blind, scouting a food plot, or for a day-hunt when you want a smaller pack. 1,100 cubic inches. Removable back pad. Tablight included to illuminate main compartment.
What's new about Tink's line of HotShot spray attractants? The actual liquid product is kept in a bag in the can so propellant never touches it. Since the lure isn't diluted, you're guaranteed 100 pure lure. Available in various attractants, such as Tink's No. 69, Sweet Weed, and Glazed Donut for bear.
New Archery Product's redesigned Killzone is a rear-deploying 2-blade broadhead that incorporates new technology so both blades open in unison to avoid a single-blade deployment. Blades are now placed farther back from the tip so both fully deploy and anchor against the back of the ferrule.
MSRP for three-pack, $39.99
Temperature Changes Camo Color
Cabela's revolutionary ColorPhase is the first camouflage clothing to be printed with rapid-change, temperature-activated dyes. In mild temperatures, elements in the patterns show as vivid greens that blend with early season foliage. When temperatures drop, the greens change to browns or grays. For now, available in a limited number of cotton-polyester garments.
Check out our top picks for the best binoculars under $400, and be sure to visit our gear page for more reviews and Hands-On reports every month!