Philosophy part 1: Why I Hunt

Growing up, I hunted to help feed my family. If we didn’t catch fish or kill game there wasn’t enough money in the budget to buy much meat. There were many more deer and other species of big game animals within the borders of Montana than humans at that time, probably still true in spite of the population explosion of the 1990s and 2000s.

A deer tag was $8 and gas was around a dollar a gallon.  With a lucky trip a family might punch multiple tags on a single tank of gas. Here I am at twelve with a buck that dressed out over 200 pounds with a mature doe behind him.


For $16 in tags plus $12 in gas we collected over 100 pounds of lean healthy all organic meat before noon that day. We also cast most of the bullets we’d shoot and all our fishing sinkers out of lead from the junk yard to cut down on expenses.

I was just thinking back as I’m writting this and I realized that this picture was taken just 3 weeks after the “Black Monday” stock market crash of 1987. Now I remember the big push to fill the freezer with deer and catch as many salmon as allowed to smoke for the winter.  A working class family in a hard economy is the reason I learned how to hunt, but I gave it up.

Some years later I had a career started, and with a little excess money in the paycheck, but no vacation time, it became far easier to buy meat at the store than to forage for it on the hoof. I only hunted one season between 1992 and 2010 because I simply didn’t NEED to. Even as I first became aware of the problems in our food system around 2008, it was easier to buy free ranging organic meat directly from a farmer than to endeavor to harvest wild game. I actually have no problem with this at all. Any consumer of meat who doesn’t hunt should go directly to the farm with the animals and talk to the farmers and look at the animals. If you want to eat meat and are opposed to hunting, this is what you should be doing. For many, many years I ate most vegetables from a CSA share, probably the best way to get organic GMO free vegetables.

Around this time, three things happened. These three things are the reason I chose to hunt.

First, I read Omnivore’s Dilemma. That really got my wheels turning. Next I read All Flesh Is Grass and I started studying integrative medicine and the benefits of wild meat over anything raised in a pen. I was well versed when Food Inc hit the stands in 2009. Getting really educated on the CFO feeding operations and slaughterhouse practices nearly drove me to being a vegan, but that isn’t my path.

Second event,this one a little more whimsical. A chef friend called me to his restaurant to eat some wild boar loin. It was some sort of special deal and they weren’t allowed to sell it or put it on the menu, but they could give it away (intended for management and staff.) I savored every morsel of the finest meat I’d ever eaten. To this day, it’s one of the greatest meals of my life. Many months later I got to enjoy wild boar shanks. I started searching for a way to buy wild hog meat and was crushed to find out that selling that meat was illegal. Realistically, the only way to get the meat was to kill the feral hogs for yourself.

Finally, I got cancer. Given all of my studies in the previous few years, I was quick to understand the link between our industrial food systems and the alarming rate of cancer occurrence in our country. Since I was already a Type 1 Diabetic, I felt that I was already living on borrowed time.

So nearly twenty years after I’d quit hunting out of financial necessity, I chose to start hunting out of moral necessity. In short

  • Concentrated Feedlot Operations are horrible, no animal should endure such a life as commercial meat business has standardized on.
  • I do believe I can kill an animal FAR more humanely than a industrial slaughterhouse.
  • Since I hunt only invasive/feral animals or “Least Concern” animals it means that I’m actually doing an important job in maintaining the balances in the herds of wild animals.
  • I have either personally eaten every pound of meat of every animal I’ve killed, or I have on occasion gifted it to people who wanted to eat it. More on this in an upcoming blog post.

Since I chose to eat meat, this is the most conscious and moral way of doing so that I can imagine. If I can think of a better way I will pursue that. Until that time, I will continue to harvest my own meat and process it myself.

As a final note, I’ve told vegan friends in the past that I admire their consciousness about our food systems and their extraordinary efforts in maintaining a healthy diet without animal protein. I still stand by that 100%. I think I have more in common with them than with anyone who unknowingly walks into a super market and buys ground beef wrapped in plastic.

This post might not be popular among hunting peers, but most of what the hunting media publishes isn’t popular with me.

String Trackers


Everything old is new again.

I never really thought much about string trackers until I read this hog hunting story from Jerry Russell. If you haven’t read the Story of Kong before, you should click that link right now!

After that there was a little stir on the forums and I watched a few videos Jerry put on youtube that I found this one in particular very informational and helpful. with getting setup and avoiding the basic mistakes people make with them.

Once a person understands the basics, then you need to get one. Since none of my longbows have a bushing in them, I need a Great Northern Traditional Gadget Adapter. I mount this right at the bottom of my rubber bow grip. Next I got The Tracker and several spare spools to test and hunt with. I have found that I prefer the 17# thread, I see no effect on arrow flight and it’s very abrasion resistant.

The coffee mug holds two spare spools and ensures they don’t get crushed in my hunting gear tote. VERY important you don’t smash down a spool as it will drastically and negatively effect arrow flight. Besides, can’t hurt to have an extra metal coffee mug on hand, right?

Now after I got setup with what I described above, Chad Orde of Drifter Traditional Archery created a very nice looking tracker for us trad hunters.I bought one as soon as he announced them. Compared to the old plastic style, here are the pros and cons as I see them.

Pros: looks great, doesn’t require a gadget adapter, very quiet, nice large opening with very smooth wood endcap, made in the USA by a fellow trad hunter.

Cons: I had a big storm open up on me and I was soaked in the rain. As the leather got wet it started to bend into my riser. Perhaps I had it strapped too tightly to my riser, but I was concerned about what point it might effect the drag on the string.

I still use both of them depending on what my mood is. If I think rain could come in I always go with the plastic one. I’ve recovered a few animals using them, and in one case I do believe it was the difference between meat spoilage and not. I am thankful for that string every time I cook up some of that boar!

Binoculars and Harnesses


I’ve made some public posts and comments over the years and some of them I admit conflict with one another. Here is my setup as it stands in 2016.

On the left you will see a 6 year old pair of Leopold Yosemite 6×30 binoculars. You can also see they are pretty well beat to hell. I bought these for under $100 with the intent on banging them up and breaking them, then replacing them with another set. These I use exclusively for hog hunting where I’m scanning very short ranges and never in early or late light. I did try to replace them with a pair of Vortex Raptor 6x32s and I didn’t like them nearly as much. If I wanted to upgrade instead of replace, I’d be very tempted to contact Maven and have them ship me a demo unit of their B3 in 6×30. At $500 that’s a pretty big investment in a pair of beater compacts.

Above my cheap glass you will see the Cabelas Hybrid harness. Even with these light binoculars I wore that neck strap for one hunt and found myself with neck pains. I bought this harness and never had the problem again. I also like how it’s never gotten in the way of my bowstring under any situation. For an added bonus I got these out of the Bargain Cave for a steal of a price!

Now on the right side of that picture, there is a whole different setup that I do not use often. My Leica Trinovid 10×42 binoculars are the older generation but the glass is phenomenal! 10x is right at the top of what I can hand hold when buck fever is kicking in, and they are small and light enough to not be a hindrance like models with 50mm objective lenses. I was using these to size up pronghorn bucks at long distances on the prairie this season and found these very well suited for the job.

To protect the nice Leica glass, I invested in a great harness. I first looked at the Kuiu and it had some nice features but a few things I didn’t like. Next I checked out the Sitka Gear Bino Bivy which looked great, but I didn’t want the zipper. That was when I found FHF Gear and I bought that one. I really like that the harness is fully connected all the time and the binoculars have separate webbing going to them and that everything is very adjustable. I also like the simple closeure system and that there are some pockets on the flap, sides, and under the flap for different small items like calls, a lens cloth, etc.  I actually spent more on this harness than I did on both my cheap binoculars and my cheap harness, but I’m very happy to have made the investment to protect my quality glass.

I hope this clarifies any old comments on old forums or websites that might still be floating around.



I’ve gone through probably a dozen headlamps and nearly a dozen flashlights over the past decade and I really like my current system. I have 5 total lights in my system, but I’ll spend most of my time on two of them.

The light I use at least 90% of the time is my Cabelas Alaskan Guide XR made by Princeton Tec. What I love about it: with one click it will turn on to the lowest setting in a red LED. If you click it multiple times it will go into white light and get brighter. Since I hunt hogs I like going into a low lumen red light with one click. Also I don’t always want to advertise my stand location to other hunters by turning on white light just after dark. This takes 3 AAA batteries. I keep this headlamp and 3 spare batteries in my hunting pack all the time. For evening sits sometimes I put it in my cargo pocket before I put on my harness so I don’t have to fumble around for it during magic hour.

The second light is my super bright handheld, an Eagletac DL25LC2 Clicky. What I love about it: I can twist a quarter turn then hit the power button and get “moon” mode with a very low output white light that can last for days, or I can twist back into turbo mode and get full power for an hour or so. Since blood tracking at night requires a bright light, I carry two spare rechargeable 18650s in my pack with this light. I figure if I can’t find something in 3 hours I should probably be waiting til morning anyway. That link goes to a bundle with an amazing price, I wish it was available when I bought two of these a few months ago!

My other headlamp is another Cabelas, this one is the Alaskan Guide QUL also by Princeton Tec. Where the first two lights live in my backpack, this one lives in the center console of my truck. It starts to the brightest level of white light. I like this for my truck because it gets me handsfree light to do whatever I need whenever I need it. At the price, you can’t lose.

Flashlight number two is a cheap hardware store model. It has an low lumen LED and two AA batteries. The idea behind this light is I leave it next to my cot or on the camp table so I can always have one light handy without taking one of my main lights out of my hunting pack (and thus not forget to put it back in!)

Last light is a really cool one, it’s a LUCI solar lantern. If you don’t have one already, just go ahead and buy three! Seriously I have two in my camp kit and I normally put one in my tent and one under my kitchen canopy. Third one stays in my house to be used during power outages. No batteries to drain or replace, and it throws pretty good light.

There is my entire lighting system. I focused on the first two as they are what I use in the field, but I hope the other information is useful to some.

BAREBOW! book review


Dennis Dunn must be quite the character, I should surely like to meet him someday. Dennis is one of the very few people to take all of the North American big game animals with a bow and arrow. The title of the book reflects that he did not use sights or a release even with the animals he did harvest with a compound bow.

This book is awesome! There is a nice bit of an intro to address the audience of non-hunters and I think every bowhunter should read it word for word, probably twice. There are many fantastic quotes and illustrations throughout the book, many of my favorites from Jose Ortega Y Gasset. I’ve got to get Meditations on Hunting onto my reading list.

Once you get through the warmup, each species gets it’s own section. They all start with a description of the animal, information about their behaviors and environment and other interesting facts. These offer a great primer to understand the locations, conditions, and why certain methods of pursuit might be more effective for a bowhunter. After spending a few pages getting to know the species, Dennis starts telling the tales of his pursuit of each species in chronological order.  Some of these pursuits are very short where success was achieved quickly. Other stories sound much more like my own where several trips are made before he’s able to harvest the animal he was seeking.

Taking a moment here, I think everyone who is new to bowhunting should read at least one of these volumes to appreciate that even a very accomplished bowhunter might take two or three long hunting trips over the course of several seasons in order to harvest an animal. This is the reality of hunting free ranging wild animals. I think many hunters today have watched a few too many TV shows where they need to punch 3 tags in 22 minutes of airtime.

Some of his stories are really incredible! Hazards of mountain weather, bush plane travel, dangerous animals, and troublesome hunting laws are well chronicled. There is a chapter in this book for every hunter, and if you are a generalist, you probably have several. After reading the entire thing end to end, I realized that I’d really like to hunt mountain goats at least once even if not successful, but I don’t ever need to put in for a sheep draw. Moose has gone WAY up my list, while muskox has completely fallen off. Reading about all species at one time really let me sort out which things I want to double my focus on, and what I can ignore all together.

After closing up all the 29 species, there is a bunch of really good advice for bowhunters. A lot about picking outfitters and interviewing guides. Some very practical advice about how to go about the Super Slam if you intend to.

All in all, part of me wishes this was the first bowhunting book I’d read. If I had 5 starts to give, it would get all 5 stars. Totally a winner.

While I purchased all volumes separately on my Kindle, I wish I would have bought this in hard copy available on his website. There is so much referenceable information in this book I’m still considering buying a hard copy inspite of the price and having already paid for all the electronic versions.

Two Knife System

After years of carrying a combination of fixed blades and sharpeners, I’m changing up my approach a little this season.

Last year a successful hunter and I hung his hog in the skinning shed and we broke out our knives to skin, quarter, and pack his meat for the road. I was using a much beloved custom knife for my parts, he used this little scalpel handle with replaceable blades.


I’d seen these before, but I’d never used one. He put a fresh blade on that thing and I was very impressed by seeing how sharp it was and how well it held that edge over the course of the entirety of the process. I appreciated how the tiny blade helped in freeing up things in tight spaces.

The following Monday I bought one of my own, and just two weeks later I got to use it to dress and butcher a few hogs. One benefit I really liked was putting on one blade to do the dressing and skinning, then putting a fresh blade on for butchering. I purchased a 100 pack of blades on Amazon so my cost per blade is only about thirty cents.

I see only 3 “cons” to this system. First, those blades are so crazy sharp a guy could cut himself up pretty good and not know it. Second, those blades are so sharp that even a tiny slip will cut easily through a hide during skinning. Finally, the folding system can get bits of meat and debris in it that you need to clean out. For that last piece I also ordered a Havalon #8 Handle which is a solid handle for the same blades. This is what I do my basic caping and skull work with.

The other half of my two knife system is my multi-tool.


I recently sold my Juice, my Wingman, and my Skeletool and purchased a Rebar. It is bigger and heavier than any of my previous tools, but it eliminates a few other items so I believe it to be worth the weight.

So if my Havalon only comes out for game processing, this is going to be 100% of the rest of the time. Here is how I came to chose the Rebar and found myself paying for yet another Leatherman:

Pliars – required to change blades safely on Havalon. One million other uses too.

Saw – pelvic and breast bones in a pinch.

File – retouch a broadhead if needed out of camp.

Blade – “rope and cheese” as Steve Rinella would say.

Serrated blade – I actually had a main blade snap off one of my old multi-tools, it had a serrated blade I used as a backup until I could get a replacement. Glad to have a second blade on this one.

Everything else – nice mix of wire cutters, screwdrivers, awl, etc.

This is the best Leatherman I’ve owned (going back to the early 90s) and I’ve very happy with it after it’s first two hunting trips.

So there you have my Two Knife System as it lives in my backpack. I have some other fixed blades in heavy butchering kit that I really like, but I will save that for another post.

Black Eagle Arrows


When I restarted my archery journey as a man, I went immediately to the aluminum arrows I was accustomed to as a boy. I think that xx75s, xx78s and Legacy shafts are a great way to learn a lot about arrow building and tuning, and I’m glad for all of the arrows I built, shot, lost, and broke. The experience and knowledge gained was invaluable!

After a few years of that, as I was ready to really set my sights on hunting. I went back and forth on carbon as an arrow material for quite a while, but eventually I did build a few dozen. Augmenting what I knew with what I learned, I found the material to be superior to aluminum for my hunting needs. The only problem I had with carbon was that the shafts were so expensive! The shafts I was using where $15 per shaft at the local pro shop.

When Simply Traditional started carrying Black Eagle I had the opportunity to shoot some of the first two sets that came in.  I spent some time shooting the Carnivores as well as the Zombie Slayers. They both made fine arrows, but I wasn’t drawn to change my setup for either of those shaft materials based on performance or savings.

A short time later the Outlaws were announced. They were much cheaper for bare shaft purchases, and they held an even lighter Grain-Per-Inch than the previous models at .300 spine. Since I am a believer in high FOC I want my shafts well below 10 GPI and these came in at 9.1 GPI. I bought several dozen Outlaw shafts for different bows in different spines and found that I loved them in every application. At this point I converted entirely to Black Eagle Outlaws. At $70 per dozen I was getting 3x as many shafts as the one’s I’d been buying at the local pro shop.

When the much anticipated Vintage shafts came out I purchased a dozen of them as well. These are very much like the other Black Eagle shafts, ut they have a very nice wood grain look to them which is why I picked them for the picture above. They are advertised down to .350 spine, which is what I ordered. They came at 34″ total length which I thought was awesome, but I had to keep cutting them shorter and shorter to compensate for the weaker spine compared to my .300 Outlaws. In the end I needed to remove 150 grains of tip weight to get the Vintage flying right on my test bow and that created an arrow too light for my preferred hunting setup. IF I had a draw over 31 inches, you can bet this would be my go-to shaft!

I will say that all the other Black Eagle shafts hold tighter tolerances than the Outlaws. Outlaws are to a tolerance of .006 and all the other Black Eagles are about twice as good, or even better. Those are tolerances that I could never observe an effect from shooting a glove, finger release, from a stickbow. I’ve very grateful that Black Eagle provides what I believe to be the perfect shaft option for me to build extremely high FOC arrows, at reasonable tolerances, for an incredible price. I intend to shoot .300 spine Outlaws for the foreseeable future.

Bringing out the best in one another

Nick, Steve, and Thom
Nick, Steve, and Thom on a hog hunt.

I recently read a post from Nick Viau that got me thinking quite a bit. If you haven’t read AMBITION AGED 34 YEARS I’d suggest you take a minute and go read that before you continue.

I read that the day it was published, and I decided to sit on it and think a while. I read it again this morning and I really like what I read.

I try to be a “up for anything” hunter, so long as my vacation days and bank account can support it. When Steve said he was ready to do a hunt he’s dreamed of for decades, I knew my answer was yes regardless of what or where we were going. Looking back, it’s probably not an accident he asked me the question. That was my chance to bring out something in Steve.

We had a wonderful hunt that was incredibly successful in every measure. Upon return Steve penned a wonderful story that I’m sure will grace a magazine or be a chapter in a book someday in the future. He asked Nick to give it a first proof read. After that, and doing some reflecting, Nick wrote the article I linked up top here. Steve’s story drove Nick’s philosophical inward discovery.

When I finished Nick’s post I had one thing that had gotten under my skin: “If Steve is a hunter who writes, and Nick is a writer who hunts, am I that guy who says he’s a writer but never writes anything???”

With that as inspiration, I launch this website. Nick, thanks for the encouragement you didn’t know you were giving me!