Dawn was just a promise on the horizon and there was a light mist dancing around in the cool morning air. It was still too dark to see clearly, but I was able to make out the figure of a deer as it merged from a mesquite thicket and moved into a small opening, about 75 yards away.
It was obvious from the size of the animal's body that it was a buck, but I couldn’t tell much about its antlers. The cheap binoculars around my neck wouldn't let me.
Patches of moisture had formed on the lenses the lenses and muddled the view. I tried to wipe away the fog as the buck milled around in the opening, but it wouldn't come off. The moisture was trapped inside.
I quickly shouldered my rifle and discovered even more trouble once the deer was in the crosshairs. I could see the animal's body, but the scope wouldn't gather enough light to show what he had on top. Seconds later, the buck melted into the brush as mysteriously as it had appeared.
A hard lesson in hunting optics was learned that morning nearly 20 years ago. Binoculars and rifle scopes are like camera lenses. You get what you pay for.
If you’re a selective hunter who likes to take a good look for before you pull the trigger, don’t cut corners when it comes to optics. Buy the best you can afford and be sure to look for quality components including premium glass to enhance image quality and multi-coated lenses for optimum light transmission and brightness during those bewitching moments of dim, grey light around dusk and dawn.
Other factors that lend to good experiences with hunting optics include durability, weight, ease of use and precision factory tuning. Optics also should be sealed to ensure the consumer many years of trouble free use, even in inclement conditions. This will include nitrogen or argon purging, which does away with any moisture inside the unit and reduces the possibility of fogging down the road.
Something else to consider is the alliance between the magnification and light gathering capabilities of the glass. These characteristics are gauged by number.
In 8X42 binoculars, the "8" is the number of times the object is magnified. The "42” refers to the metric diameter of the light collecting lens.
The higher the first number, the more the object is magnified; the higher the second number, the more light that is gathered and the brighter the image will appear. A larger lens size also means more weight to tote around in the woods.
Hunters should choose binoculars based on the terrain they intend to hunt. East Texas is close quarters hunting, where shooting light is slow to come and fast to wane. Magnification power isn't near as critical under those conditions as light gathering characteristics.
Those who hunt in more open terrain or in the high country will want a glass with some power on the back end, but not so much that it takes away from the light gathering optics up front. The more an object is magnified, the more light that is required to see it clearly.
Since wild game tends to be most active early and late in the day, hunters should always opt for top shelf glass with the best light gathering capabilities they can afford. The good stuff doesn’t come cheap.
Hemphill native Upshaw reels in Costa Championship win
Hemphill native Andrew Upshaw of Tulsa, Okla., closed out a banner tournament season with a convincing win at 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship held Oct. 31-Nov. 2 on the Cumberland River in Burnside, Ky.
Upshaw, 32, topped the 190-angler field with a three-day total weight of 42 pounds, 15 ounces to grab the winner’s trophy and the $52,500 payday that came with it. He won the event targeting smallmouth bass relating to bluff walls near well defined river channel swings where the water depth depth transitioned from 45-50 feet deep to 22-24 feet deep. His go-to baits included a green pumpkin Strike King Ned Ocho Worm rigged on a 1/8-ounce Gene Larew Ned Rig Pighead Jig Head and a Strike King Bitsy Flip Jig paired with a green pumpkin Strike King Baby Rage Craw.
The championship win capped off what has been Upshaw’s most lucrative year since turning pro in 2012. Last April, he won a FLW Tour event on Lake Cherokee in Tennessee that paid $100,000. His FLW and BASS earnings for 2019 total nearly $196,000.
McKinnis passes at 82
Jerry McKinnis, a pioneer in outdoor television programming and an icon in fishing industry for decades, passed away on Nov. 3. He was 82.
McKinnis, a former BASS co-owner from Little Rock, Ark., died after being hospitalized for six weeks due to complications from an injury and infection sustained during a Wyoming fishing trip, according to a recent BASS press release.
An avid angler and sportsman, McKinnis was widely known as the originator of “The Fishin’ Hole”, a popular fishing show that aired for more than four decades. McKinnis also was was a member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame.
BPT announces Lake Fork event
Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour recently announced its 2020 schedule, and Texas’ most fabled big bass fishery is in mix.
Lake Fork near Quitman will host one of the eight regular season events. The six-day tournament is set for March 13-18, which should land the 80-angler field on the 27,000-acre reservoir just ahead of the height of the spawn. Local anglers and fisheries managers alike are anticipating some big fish being recorded using the circuit’s unique catch-weigh-and-release format.
“March can be an awesome time on Fork, but like most months, the weather will be a critical factor to the tournament success,” says Jake Norman, a fisheries biologist who oversees of lake for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “However, I do expect to see some big fish regardless of the conditions. Whether that translates into an abundance of 4-8 pounders each day with a few giants mixed in, or a handful of them, will largely depend on the conditions the week before and during the event.”
Norman says another factor that could be a big influence on the outcome of the event is local fishing pressure. Fork attracts hordes of bass anglers during the spring months, particularly when weather conditions are favorable.
“It is going to take some patience and creativity from the pros to consistently catch the fish they need while possibly sharing water not only among other competitors, but hundreds of other anglers,” Norman said.