By Randy D. Smith
-- The Las Vegas action was hot, fast, and furious over the 2008 Super Bowl weekend, and it had nothing to do with gambling or the football game. Feb. 2-5, 2008, was also the event where hundreds of new products were presented at the 2008 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, the premier outdoor products trade show. This year's SHOT Show was 10 percent larger than last year's Orlando event and new product introductions from both industry giants and upstart companies were abundant.
I tried to pick a broad range of products, but as with any best of list, my own current hunting needs and plans entered into my selections. Still I believe that any deer hunter would be interested in considering the products on this list. I have broken my selection into three parts - guns, support gear, and equipment.
Part I - Guns
A big draw for any SHOT Show is always new gun entries into the market, and this year was no exception. I found two products that should be especially attractive to white-tailed deer hunters. Both appear to be rugged, low investment firearms that will fit perfectly into any deer hunter's plans.
Mossberg 464 Lever Action Carbine - I have always preferred a good lever-action rifle for whitetail hunting. The traditional lever-action .30-30 carbine is still alive and doing very well, thank you, in spite of Winchester's decision to cease production of the venerable Model 94. New high-performance rounds have made the tube-feed, lever-action carbine into a highly competitive choice for deer hunters.
O. F. Mossberg Company, whose new bolt-action 100 ATR and 4X4 rifle introductions in the last few years have radically changed a lot of opinions about what is a good, reasonably priced, big game rifle, announced a new .30-30 carbine entry to the lever-action market.
At first glance, the Mossberg 464 looks like a clone of the Model 94 Winchester, but further inspection reveals that this top ejecting carbine is a striking departure from the old, with some innovative new design elements. The first difference that I noticed was the round bolt system instead of the traditional flat bolt of the 94. This design change alone gives the 464 a butter smooth-action for ejecting fired cartridges and injecting the following round.
There is no half-cock safety on the 464 as it is replaced by a tang-mounted Mossberg-style sliding safety switch. This allows for the rifle to be emptied of its five rounds by engaging the safety and ejecting live rounds. Mossberg's open sights are very effective for short range work but a special breech cut-away slot allows for centerline mounted scope placement.
Otherwise, the 464 loads through a side gate just like a Winchester or Marlin. The 464 has a well-finished steel breech and lever assembly in a handsome package. Current plans are for the rifle to retail in the $300 area maintaining Mossberg's tradition of providing a functional, accurate rifle at a highly competitive price. I look for the Model 464 to do very well in the deer rifle market. (www.mossberg.com)
Traditions Pursuit II XLT Guide Gun -The increasingly popular concept of the guide gun for fast-paced deer hunting comes alive in the muzzleloader industry with the introduction of the Pursuit II XLT Guide Gun. This is a relatively short, break-action, 209 primer ignition, hardwood stock, .50 caliber muzzleloader. A new Accelerator Breech Plug system requires no tools and removes in just three rotations.
A new flat face provides more consistent and thorough ignition, while a built in o-ring prevents blow back. The Pursuit II XLY Guide Gun features a 360-degree ported barrel to reduce recoil. I was attracted to the gun because it ought to be perfect for the heavy foliage, short range, jump shooting so common to our Kansas early muzzleloader deer season. Plus, I'm always a sucker for a handsome, open sight, wood stock, inline muzzleloader. I can't wait to try one out this fall. (www.traditionsfirearms.com)
Part II - Support Gear
What a deer hunter shoots is only one part of his or her needs. Good support equipment can increase the success and convenience of any hunt. I thought that these SHOT Show choices were standout products among a wide variety of new entries.
Optic Belt - I don't normally hunt deer without having a good set of binoculars at hand, so I naturally took a second look at this product when I walked past the Del Norte Outdoors display. The Optic Belt is a single strap elastic binocular restraint system with a quick release buckle and cartridge loops.
The main component of the Optic Belt is a material called Shark Skin neoprene, which is about 3 millimeters thick. The unit keeps your binoculars close to your body when they are not in use, protects the lenses from weather and brush, and allows the wearer to crawl through or stalk game in close quarters without interference.
I like the system because binoculars can be accessed instantly, and the system can be worn over heavy clothing. Most of all, I thought the whole system was a good idea for versatility, access and protection for expensive binoculars. (www.delnorteoutdoors.com)
Outdoor Edge Field Dressing Kit - For hunters who engage in many hunts each season far removed from home base, this kit has a lot of appeal. Many of us often need to field-or camp-dress a deer into cooler-sized portions for long distance transport. This new kit from Outdoor Edge has all the butchering equipment necessary for that task in a convenient roll-pack organizer featuring individual compartments for easy access. Velcro closures safely secure each tool.
The product also features a compartment that contains a pen, tape measure, flagging tape, zip-ties, and game cleaning gloves. Cordura straps let you cinch the kit to a backpack or carry the complete set inside your pack.
This economical kit should be a great resource for your truck or emergency hunting supplies. A good field-dressing kit can help save any hunter from leaving behind valuable meat that might otherwise be wasted. (www.outdooredge.com)
Easy Doe Inflatable Decoy - Decoys can be a real pain no matter how well they may work in certain scenarios. Easy Doe is a full-size, inflatable decoy that can be set up in just two or three minutes. Once inflated, Easy Doe sets up on a telescoping pivot post. The hunter has the option to set up the decoy to remain stationary or rotate with the wind. The unit has a patented remote controlled tail.
A hunter can make Easy Doe's tail flick back and forth by using a palm-size push-button remote control unit. A removable scent patch beneath the tail can increase interest from bucks. When the hunter is done for the day or ready to move to another spot, the unit deflates through a large-volume exhaust valve and can be repacked in a daypack that comes with the decoy.
The unit comes in two sizes, and I thought that the smaller version would also be an excellent predator calling decoy. Anyone who wants to use a decoy and has a long distance to pack in gear should find this unit attractive. (www.easydoe.com)
Part III - Equipment
As deer hunting pressure continues to rise, a good land management system can increase the availability and number of deer in a chosen plot of land. These new SHOT Show entries can go a long way toward effective land utilization.
Predator Trail Cam - Both trophy hunters and outfitters utilize automatic trail cameras to locate and then learn the travel patterns of deer. The new Predator Trail Cams Xtinction features double vision technology, which allows the user to operate the camera with 30 infrared emitters. These can capture images 30 feet away with absolutely no light given off.
The user can also activate an additional 18 emitters to increase the camera's range to 50 feet. The extra 18 emitters will glow a slight red, but increase flash distance and overall picture and video clarity. This unit has a whole series of other qualities that I don't have space to mention here.
It is not a cheap unit, but what appealed to me was that it is one of the most rugged, weather tight, and serviceable trail cams I have ever seen. I want a unit that is not only functional but built like a tank to withstand the forces of nature and weather.
This unit has the advantage of heavy construction, and heavy glass lenses, plus the option of eliminating the red glow of the infrared emitters. (www.predatortrailcams.com)
SCENTite Hunting Blinds - As our hunting population grows older, many of us are simply not interested in dangling from a treestand anymore. There is also a growing need for a good solid ground blind that is accessible for wheelchair bound or limited mobility hunters.
I was attracted to this product because not only would it provide cover and protection for my elderly father to continue to enjoy whitetail hunting, but it would also provide extra scent protection for short-range shooting.
The SCENTite Deluxe Blind is an air-tight blind that pulls fresh air in through intake ports located near the floor. The exhaust air is naturally drafted through a roof-mounted vent pipe that extends 30 feet above the ground. It works just like a chimney, drafting your scent away from the blind.
The blind is large and roomy with heavily tinted windows to help with concealment. Best of all, I think the unit is reasonably priced and will provide years of maintenance-free service. You get what you pay for and this unit seems to be a perfect blend of low cost functionality and effectiveness.
I intend to order one to replace our old blind lost in last year's tornado. I've found nothing that I like better for our needs. (www.advantagehunting.com)
Deer Dirt - As the seasons have passed and land access becomes more difficult, I have come to realize just how important the ability to establish mock scrapes can be to increasing the likelihood of successful deer hunting. I have been looking for a product that will allow me to steer deer traffic from neighboring land onto our own land to increase shot opportunities.
Deer Dirt is a special processed soil that resists moisture and freezing. It is processed with high quality gland secretions and urine from bucks and does. It is actual dirt that allows the animal to work the scrape freely and naturally. It would allow me, for instance, to establish scrapes up to 30 days before the season without ever having to tamper with or get near the scrape site.
Since I live over 60 miles from my land, I can establish my scrapes early and allow natural deer traffic to develop in the area for opening day of muzzleloader season. You can bet that I'll be experimenting with the stuff this fall to see if I can increase buck traffic away from natural trails that do not cross our property. (www.scentedsoils.com)
Flat Out Feeder - We have always shied away from expensive feeding units that must be visited regularly, are difficult to load from ground level, and depend upon complex, and sometimes finicky timers to scatter bait. The Flat Out Feeder uses gravity to distribute corn and it reduces in size as the feed is consumed.
A hunter/manager can check the feed level from a distance without disturbing the site and does not need a truck bed to stand on to fill the unit or nearby truck trail to gain access. I see the unit as an advantage for out-of-the-way baiting sites where I can carry in my grain, fill the unit quickly, and be gone with a minimum of disturbance.
The unit is heavily constructed to stand the stress of high winds and heavy wildlife traffic. This is a low cost feeder that can be easily moved and conveniently stored during the off season.
I liked the whole idea of this feeding unit, and its low cost should allow for several of the feeders being strategically placed without developing a network of ATV trails. (www.day6outdoors.com)
--By Randy D. Smith
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