EOY ‘23 - What Worked, What Didn’t?

BackofBeyond

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Been a great year on this front - time to pack stuff away and go over what worked and what didn’t.

Yup:

1. Banish 30, and really could just be suppressed hunting and shooting in general. Got my can early in the year and I don’t want to shoot without one ever again.

2. 12x NL Pures on a tripod. Found elk and antelope I never would have with my old vortex binos. Even had several instances where I could easily see animals with the binos but would have trouble getting on them with my spotter.

3. Tikka Roughtech Ember - so far it’s killed everything I’ve pointed it at - two coyotes, an antelope, an an elk. Threaded muzzle for the can, probably the best off the production line trigger I’ve ever felt, and a damn smooth action. Whole thing is accurate as hell for me.

4. Sirui VA-5 head. Smooth pan and tilt, locks up tight, but still can leave stuff loose enough that you can turn glass with your nose while gridding. First year with arca everything and it was awesome.


Nope:

1. Leupold SX-4 Spotter. I’ve really tried to like it over several years, but it just isn’t there for me. Especially when switching back and forth with the NL Pures. Looked through a Swaro ATC yesterday and was very impressed. Not sure what I’ll upgrade to, or when, but the SX-4 is on the chopping block.

2. My old, trusty REI down sleeping bag. It’s just lost it’s loft over the last 12 years and it’s time for it to be put out to pasture. Maybe relegated to summer family camping trips or something, but I froze my azz off one night when it dipped into the 40’s. Just not up for heavy duty during hunting season anymore.

What about y’all? What we’re your winners and losers for the year in the equipment side?
 
Awesome:

Hammock gear 20* quilt with 2 oz of overstuff, paired with the thermarest nxt xtherm. Ridiculously warm and comfortable to sleep in. Changed my sleeping game and I was skeptical about quilts/drafts. Actually wanted drafts to cool down if used above freezing. This replaced my old 20* kelty sleeping bag.

Nawesome:

Maven cs1 spotter. Its ok, just not great. Like BoB with the sx-4, just doesnt compare to swaro. But thats hunting on a budget for now.
 
What worked:

Argali game bags. I think any synthetic game bag could fit here, but the ones I got were great. Used them quite a bit and they were easy to clean.

Tyto scalpel and Gerber EBS. As a rookie field dresser, I had all animals cleaned and dressed within 30 minutes with both.

Argali Absaroka. I should have bought this one first. I just need extra space. Pair that with a tarp or tyvek and that is a great shelter.

Exo K3 4800. Comfortable pack out. Nuff said.

What didn’t:

Harris bipod. For whatever reason, I could not get consistent groups with this bipod among two different guns. I opted to axe it after some range time and shot off of my backpack.

Nalgene bottle. At least if it’s windy and cold. Quickly learned that water froze consistently. I used my yeti and problem fixed at the expense of extra weight.

CVA Optima 50 cal. Gun would not hold a zero after sneezing on it. I’m switching out the sights to see if that helps. If not, it’s getting traded in somewhere.

Tooth of the arrow broadheads. Also would not hold zero after shooting into a field target. Switched to muzzy G5 and my bow was happy.
 
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Like Nick said, only halfway through here too

What’s worked so far:

Maven B3’s - they work great for my purposes but I’d love a pair of Swaro companions or EL’s one day

Swaro Z3 - see comment above - wish I had never bought it, now I want more 😂

Alterra Alpaca socks - my favorite new item, no cold feet yet and with my merino they typically would have

What hasn’t:

I’ve been going back and forth all season with a T&K chest rig & one from FHF, torn about if either will be my long term go to
 
Nalgene bottle. At least if it’s windy and cold. Quickly learned that water froze consistently. I used my yeti and problem fixed at the expense of extra weight.
Friend loaned me one of these, worked great.
 
Friend loaned me one of these, worked great.
Also can carry it upside down. At least that way the bottom of your bottle freezes first and leaves you some liquid at the top to drink.
 
+
Sikta ambient hoody. Best thing ever for a mid layer
Garmin 550 Pro. Really make bird hunting so much better, I can't believe I hunted for the last decade without some GPS ability.
Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2. It's like 2 lbs. And while not bombproof, still a really functional tent for 3 seasons.
Honestly almost everything I own has been vetted now to work for me.

-
Zipper is going out on the main door for our Cabelas 6M dome tent that we use for family camping and hunting. Need to figure out if fixing is an option, because the rest of it is bomb proof.
Vortex Talon HDs... I could probably still put these in the plus side, because they still work pretty darn well and honestly they've managed to stay out of the warranty shop for 4-5 years now. But I did spend some time with a newer pair of Leupold's and the color different was really noticeable.
FL Kanab pants, they're just not warm enough for me and they're as delicate as a snowflake. I find I wear them less and less.
 
What worked:

Crispi Nevadas. Probably my favorite all around boots that I’ve tried. Supportive in the steep stuff but flexible enough for the trail. Good waterproofing, good traction, very comfortable.

Mystery Ranch Sawtooth 45. Great hip belt, nicely sized for long day trips. Easy access when everything is strapped down. I really liked it.

Kuiu attack pants. My old Sitka pants were getting pretty thin after a lot of wear and tear, and these are my new favorite all around pants.

Simms cold weather shirts. I picked up two of these on sale for fishing and liked them so much I ended up hunting in them a lot. Quiet fabric, breathable, cuts wind well, and warm. They look like any other flannel and I wear them all the time.

I find myself becoming increasingly old fashioned with rifles, and less and less interested in shooting over 350-400 yards. I hunted the entire season with my old wood and blued .270 and a simple 3.5-10 Leupold and I really enjoyed it. I fired one round this season and reaffirmed that it is the perfect mule deer cartridge.

Didn’t work:

Seek outside tipi/stove combo. I didn’t backpack with this, I bought it intending to have a warm tent that I could set up quickly as a truck camp. I ended up wishing that I had just brought my wall tent instead. For only 30 more minutes of setup time I get a much more comfortable camp. It’s a very nice tent, I just didn’t like it for my use.

Elk tags in difficult access areas. The draw odds are better for a reason, and when the elk aren’t there they just aren’t there.

Elk hunting in November with sunny 60 degree weather.
 
I used my usual equipment with the addition of a fancy cabelas blind chair and a bog pod death grip tripod. The chair while nice is too high for the little pop up blinds I use. I like the small blinds as they stay warm easier with a heater. Think I’ll go back to a good old lawn chair. The bog pod death grip tripod it’s heavy but amazing. Keeps the gun locked in place ready to go and rock solid. I also got some Tidewe rubber boots off Amazon This spring. They seem like muck boot Knock offs. I wear them a lot. I hunted bears in them all spring and used them all fall and they are holding up great. Way better than the Baffin ones I use to get. For $50 I am impressed
 
Things that come to mind right away:

1. Really liked the katadyn 1 liter squeeze filter. Used it all archery season, was super nice to get fresh cold water when I went past a stream. Was able to save my water in my bladder for meals and not have to pull everything out as often to re-fill. I don't see any reason to go back to the pump version for archery backpack hunts.

2. Made the decision to go from the MR Pintler to the SG SKY 5900. Wanted to pick up an exo but couldn't find the right deal. Glad to have switched to the SG, just fits me better especially around the shoulders. Was nervous to go away from the Pintler as I really liked the butterfly zipper but the horseshoe on the SG has worked out great.

3. Been very impressed with the Federal TLR 155gr in 7RM, every time my buddy or I have shot an elk with that round they just crumble. I was a bit hesitant with it being 155 gr. bullet, but I wouldn't think twice after the performance it's shown the last 5 years on elk.

4. Picked up a zoleo sat device this year and it's been awesome to have. For only 150$'s, why not. I cut my ear pretty bad this season and was able to get some advice on where to go to get it stitched up while I was in the field and out of service.

Things I'd like to change:

1. I would like to upgrade the binos. Been using the Bushnell engage because I used to get them for a really good price. They are pretty good/light for the price, but after looking through some NL Pures this year I'm starting to sell anything and everything I can to get into a pair of those.

2. My Mathews VXR is a really nice bow, but the damn thing is heavy. It seems like a great WT stand option but after developing a cyst in my left wrist this year from haling it around all season I think I'm going to look into trading it out for something a bit lighter.

3. Kifaru Gun bearer - seems like you like it or don't. I'm not a fan, feels weird having my rifle in a position that blocks my vision while I'm hunting. I've gave it to a buddy with a short rifle, he loves it.

4. Big Agnes sleeping pad. Thing broke, fixed the leak, leaked again...repeat that sequence 2 or 3 times. Made for some rough nights sleeping on the ground. Gotta figure out something more reliable for next year.

5. Need to get a better rest system for shooting my rifle on downhill angles. Had a bull this year cross canyon I couldn't shoot because he was right at my upper limit for a prone shot. I couldn't get prone as I was on a steep downhill angle. If I had a arca rail on my rifle I could have used my tripod to build a rest and would've been able to make the shot. Something I'll mess around with this off season.

Can we just go back to flannels and .30-06's with 320" bulls around every corner....This sh*t's getting exhausting
 
Good

Gunfighters, Inc. Kenai chest holster, comfortable and wearable under my bino harness
Firstlite Furnace pullover, dries out quick, very warm

Bad
Klymit Static V sleeping pad, hardly been used, woke up on the ground multiple times even after patching it. Not impressed
 
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5. Need to get a better rest system for shooting my rifle on downhill angles. Had a bull this year cross canyon I couldn't shoot because he was right at my upper limit for a prone shot. I couldn't get prone as I was on a steep downhill angle. If I had a arca rail on my rifle I could have used my tripod to build a rest and would've been able to make the shot. Something I'll mess around with this off season.
I’m not sure how you’re attaching your bipod, but if it’s on a pic rail I swapped out to one of these:

SRS Pic+Arca

Works well and the added weight was negligible.
 
I’m not sure how you’re attaching your bipod, but if it’s on a pic rail I swapped out to one of these:

SRS Pic+Arca

Works well and the added weight was negligible.
That’s what I was looking for. I have a hells canyon and another browning with their max stock. I think those will work on both and I like the combo rail idea. Thank you
 
Worked:
Exo pack (as always)
Marmot limelight 3p tent- perfect size for 2. It's on it's 6th season and still going strong.
Kowa 664 spotter
Leica 10x42 Geovid Rangefinding binos- the edge clarity could be better, but overall I like them. I was able to pull reliable ranges out to 1800yds in the field. I really liked having the binos and rangefinder all rolled in.
Integrally suppressed .308 prototype- super quiet, balances and shoots well.
VIAM quilt

Didn't work:
Salewa boots- no toe box, slippery soles with any kind of moisture.
 
More things I thought about that didn't work:

Vortex SS Summit tripod and quick adapter plate. I'm not sure they make a shaker, looser, shittier, setup. Lightweight sure. But steady it is not.
Big Agnes pad once again, I think I said it on another thread, but I'm on my 6th pad. The valves keep leaking so they keep sending me new ones.
 
Worked:

@lifeisgoodsteve ’s elk spidey sense. We didn't connect during archery season, but had some fun encounters together. Bonus is that Steve is pretty good at calling and I’m not, so he often set me up for those encounters.

New to me Howa Alpine in 7-08 - worked well with a Leupold 3.5-10 CDS. Was a little sketch about shooting such a light rifle at game vs off a bench, but put a Barnes 120g through a whitetail heart at a little distance with no problem. First animal I’ve ever had drop dead on the spot without taking so much as a step. Real pleasure to carry all day.

Schnees Beartooths - might be the first season my little marshmallow feet didn’t get a blister or a hotspot.

Down pants - cheap ones. Didn’t have much for winter aside from one weekend. Was sure nice to be warm while glassing that weekend.

Didn’t work:

Jetboil Stash. Stove isn’t regulated (?) and did not work well below freezing temps. This is going to consignment in exchange for a toaks / soto combo of some sort.

Sawyer Squeeze - I love this thing in the summer when I’m going to be near water. It’s a real PITA to try and fill up the squeeze bladder from some little seep in the backcountry if that’s all you can find.

Gossamer Gear The Two - Also love this in the fair weather months. However, condensation on these single wall tents is terrible when there’s some autumn humidity.

Thick assed lodgepole burned up deadfall zones - We’ve got a lot of those over here and I end up hunting them often. They’ll probably never not defeat me mentally, spiritually, and physically.
 
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