Lobstering in the Florida Keys

Lobstering is one of the many popular water activities in Key West. How many places are there where you can jump in shallow, warm and clear water and swim around and catch lobster for dinner? Not very many in the United States.

What are the Regulations?

Lobstering in Key West is seasonal. There is a open season on lobsters and it runs from Aug. 6 – March 31st every year. In this time period you can take 6 lobsters a day per licensed person. You have to have a fishing license with a lobster stamp in order to take lobsters. The fines are pretty high so make sure you know all the rules.

What is Lobster Mini Season?

Before regular season starts there is a mini sport season. This is two days where only recreational divers can catch lobsters. It’s before the lobster traps go into the water so the lobsters have had all the closed season to stack up. This is when lobstering is easiest and everyone can catch lobsters.

This is also when some people go overboard and don’t follow the rules and take more lobster then they are supposed to. The marine patrol knows this and they are out in force on those two days checking people’s licenses and to see if they have too many lobsters.

You also must keep your lobster whole until you get to the shore. Taking the tail off a lobster is a big fine as well. You will also have to look out for egg bearing females. These need to be released immediately.

How About Chartering a Boat for Lobster Mini Season?

Many people bring their own boats down for the two days, but there are also many lobster charters available by local captains. The advantage in this, is that these guys live here and will often know right where to go to the get lobsters and no wandering around.

Pretty much all the dive boats and many of the fishing boats will do lobster charters that time of year. But keep in mind there is a huge influx of visitors trying to get lobsters on sport season so it still might be hard to find a boat.

What’s the Right Gear for Lobstering?

Most of these boats will have nets and tickle sticks for you to use. If you are bringing your own boat you will need to purchase this stuff on your own. Even if you go on a charter I recommend you buy your own mask and fins. Getting a mask that fits right will make or break your day. Getting comfortable fins is like getting comfortable shoes. Sure you can wear uncomfortable shoes but you are not going to want to walk far in them. Same holds true in swimming and fins.

Lobsters have to be 3 inches long on the back of their shell. There will be many lobsters out there that will be a quarter inch too short. You MUST have a lobster gauge and measure your lobsters in the water when you catch them. These gauges will be sold to you along with your net and tickle stick. Make sure you have the gauge with you. Like I said earlier marine patrol is out in force when the lobster diving is hot.

Ben Shep


Why Key West Should Be Your Next Saltwater Fishing Destination

Red Snapper

Red Snapper caught aboard the Cool Cast.

If you’ve only ever tried freshwater fishing, casting a line in saltwater may seem like a different kettle of fish (no pun intended) altogether. But the real excitement comes from your choice of location. Even if it’s just a game of catch and release, the higher your chances of catching the big ones can make all the difference. Well, there’s no better location than the Key West in the U.S.

Florida has always been one of the great fishing destinations in the world, and the Key West is very much among the most popular playgrounds for all types of anglers, —  with all the fish they catch you’re almost sure to go beyond the bag limit. So it really doesn’t matter if you are a novice or an expert angler, you are sure to have fun when saltwater fishing in the Key West. And because there are plenty of professionals, the beginning angler is sure to find a good teacher, and the seasoned angler will have no problem finding a captain to suit any requirement.

With its abundance of marine life and perennial warm weather, fishing is a year-round affair, too!  Depending on where you cast your line or troll your bait, you will catch tarpon, snapper, grouper, shark, tuna, marlin, and myriad of other species. Head out to the flats and channels that run through the backcountry keys and cast your fly for tarpon, permit or bonefish. On the reef or in the backcountry, fish for mangrove and mutton snapper, or show off that killer grouper jig you made on a wreck.

What is even better is that there is other nearby fishing grounds that you can explore. Because the island shares part of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, you can venture further and take saltwater fishing to the next level. Check out wrecks and find species that are only present for a particular time of year or season, such as migrating wahoo, sailfish, kingfish and cobia. Steer your boat near the Gulf Stream for some pelagic action. Six miles into the Atlantic is a reef line that provides world-class fishing. If you venture further to what is called the End of the Bar, a bar that is part of a submerged reef, you can indulge in live baiting tuna and wahoo.

Head west for the less traveled areas of the Marquesas and the Dry Tortugas and the Marquesas. Since both locations are fishing destinations that anglers from all over the world dream of fishing in, you should check them out, regardless of how far you need to go to get there. In Marquesas, in particular, you can go channel and flats fishing.

head boat

Party or head boats are a terrific and affordable way to experience Key West fishing.

But saltwater fishing is just one of the many things you can indulge in when in the Key West. There are plenty of other activities you can do, including diving for lobster, sailing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and every imaginable water sport!

Key West also has world class watering holes, and restaurants to make your mouth water for more. Land based attractions include elegant Victorian and mid 19th century homes, including the residence of Fishing and Sportsman Legend Ernest Hemingway, a museum devoted to treasure hunting, a Butterfly museum and a nightly show of creative artisans and acrobatic wonders at Mallory Square where sunset is celebrated every day.

So, when you’re not fishing – or if you are leaving the family ashore, you’re certain that a good time will be had by all.

Find every type of charter – from flats guides, to offshore charters, light tackle boats to party boats – no matter what fish species you want to target or what style of fishing you prefer, Charter Boat Row has a captain to suit your needs: http://KeyWestFishingBoats.com.

manatee at the docks

The manatee (or sea cow) is a popular visitor on Charter Boat Row.

The docks are also one of Key West’s great “free attractions.” Even if you’re not fishing, visiting in the afternoon as the charterboats arrive with their catch of the day is highly entertaining. Not only will you see the fish that’s been hooked that day, you are likely to see tarpon angling for a treat, pelicans gawking for their share, and maybe even a manatee trolling for a drink from a freshwater hose.

Historic Charter Boat Row is located at Garrison Bight at 1801 North Roosevelt Boulevard, Key West, Florida.

Finding the Best Compound Bow

Finding the best compound bow for the upcoming hunting season can be tough, there are so many options out there these days, a lot of people do not know where to start.

One of the problems that a lot of people run into these days is simply buying a bow based off of the price, this is a huge mistake in my eyes. I have seen countless people buy a bow just because it was cheap or because it was expensive, therefore they assumed it was the best compound bow for the money.

If you really want to find the best compound bow this season, it is going to take some work. However, there are a few things you should be looking for when it comes to purchasing your bow this season.

Brand Name
This may sound a little consumerist, but it is true. If you really want to find the best bow for you, you should start looking at the brand name more. Companies such as Matthews and Diamond make sure that before they slap their name on anything, it is the best product they can possibly make.

You want to stay away from purchasing bows that do not have a good brand name. Trust me, this will save you a lot of time and money down the road.

I have seen it so many times, some one goes out and purchases a cheap no name bow, and pays for it down the road. One of my friends from back home broke his go to bow the day before buck season and picked up some cheap bow online the day before.

He paid the ultimate price for this. He had a shot at a dream buck, and missed it because his bow misfired. This is the perfect example of being cheap and paying the price.

You are also going to want to read a lot of compound bow reviews. This is how I find the majority of my new bows. I go on some of the major compound bow reviews websites, and see what they are using.

By using this method, I have found countless bows that I never would have considered. It has also saved me before because I ended up not purchasing a compound bow that I thought was quality, but ended up being a miserable experience for people who had used it and left reviews.

These are just some of my tips for this season. These are the two biggest things in my eyes. If you pick a bow that has a good brand name and excellent reviews, you will easily be able to find the best compound bow for you this season.

Three Important Benefits of Hunting Insurance

White-tailed Deer

If you own land with a fairly strong population of game desirable to hunters, chances are you have hunters using your land even if you have not officially authorized it. What would happen if one of those hunters or a neighbor were injured as the result of a hunting accident? Alternatively, how would you pay the cost of rehabilitating your land if an unauthorized hunter accidentally started a fire? The answer to both questions is simple: hunting insurance.

Landowners all across the United States take advantage of something known as hunting lease liability insurance. It is a type of insurance that is usually priced according to acreage and the types of game that will be hunted there. Best of all, hunting insurance is very affordable. You can get coverage for several hundred acres for less than you pay for car insurance.

If you own land used by hunters, here are the three most important benefits of obtaining an insurance policy:

1. Liability Protection

It is unfortunate, but our highly litigious society makes it easy for hunters and their guests to sue landowners in the event of accident. There is also the potential of being sued by neighbors if hunters using your land trespass, cause property damage or injure others. And make no mistake about it; liability litigation can end up costing you millions. Without insurance in place, you could lose everything you own – including the land on which the accident took place.

The liability protection afforded by hunting insurance covers bodily injury claims, usually up to the limits of $1 million. It also provides protection against damage to neighboring properties, lost or damaged hunting equipment, weather-related accidents, and other forms of peril.

2. Easier to Lease

Some landowners choose to lease their private lands without a hunting lease liability insurance policy. Some offer leases without worrying about any form of insurance, while others require hunters to carry their own personal injury and property damage coverage. However, purchasing hunting lease insurance has an added benefit in that it makes it easier for the landowner to lease his/her property.

Put yourself in the shoes of the hunter. That individual will be more comfortable hunting on a plot of land that he/she knows is covered by liability insurance. Whether he/she has personal insurance or is covered through a homeowner’s policy, the additional insurance purchased by the landowner offers yet another layer of protection. That is a selling point for getting your land leased.

3. Better Land Management

Every landowner has the right to control his or her property by specifying terms in the lease. Nevertheless, covering a piece of property with hunting lease liability insurance makes it easier to manage and control the land. For example, an insurance policy may only cover a certain number of hunters within a confined amount of acreage, at any given time. The landowner can specify that in the lease terms while also informing the lessee of the limits of the liability insurance. Knowing insurance does not cover parties in excess of size limits serves as motivation for the hunter to limit his/her parties.

Hunting lease liability insurance is almost a necessity if you own land that you lease to hunters. There are just too many risks involved in the sport to leave things to chance. You can purchase hunting insurance as part of your membership in a hunting association that offers such a benefit, or from a specialist insurance company offering policies for landowners like http://ahuntinglease.org/. Before you offer another lease, look into covering yourself and your land with hunting lease liability insurance.

Trout Fishing Using Inline Spin Lures

Article By Jon Barzacchini on behalf of Ultimate Fishing (FishingTackleLures.com.au)


Inline spinners have been in the fishing game for decades and have been a popular lure choice for most anglers who are targeting aggressive game fish species. Even beginners who are looking to switch from live bait to artificial lures tend to lean towards inline spin lures because they just flat out catch fish. Not only are inline spinners a great beginner tool for novice anglers but they are extremely versatile lures for even the experienced anglers.

There is something about the vibration and the flash of inline spinner that send fish into a feeding frenzy. While most game fish species favour the look and action of an inline spinner rainbow trout seem to fancy the lure the most. Although the inline spinner can be considered a beginner lure there is some skill and finesse required to use this lure so that it can be fished at its full potential.

Choosing the right size, weight, colour, and brand is the most important decision to make before an angler can even think about throwing an inline spinner into a trout infested pool. These four factors play a huge role when attempting to land a rainbow. An example of inexpensive brand of inline spinners that flat out catch fish are the Blue Fox Super Vibrax. The durability and blade thumping action of a Vibrax is superb for a lure at such a great price point.

The Vibrax and similar style trout spin lures can be found at most fishing stores, including local tackle shops, and come in a plethora of weights, colours and sizes.

It’s important to choose the right spin lure for the appropriate conditions. If the trout are feeding deeper in water ranging from 5ft.-9ft. choose a 1/4oz / 7g spin lure. The heavier the lure the faster it will sink near bottom and stay in the strike zone of the trout. If an angler chooses to fish a shallow creek or stream where the water is a mere 1ft-4ft deep a 1/8oz / 3.5g spin lure is the ideal weight to throw because it is significantly lighter and can be worked at a reasonable pace without getting snagged.

The Blue Fox Vibrax is a fairly simple and straight forward lure to use, especially for beginner anglers. The best way to work this style of spinner is to reel the lure in with a steady pace. The water depth will dictate how fast or slow the lure should be retrieved. The deeper the water the slower the retrieve, but the shallower the water the faster the angler must retrieve to keep the lure from hitting the bottom. Retrieve is also strongly based on how active the fish are; if it is a hot summer day and the trout are lethargic a slow retrieve is necessary to coax a bite. If the water temperature is cold a faster retrieve should be used because the trout will most likely be feeding heavily.

The least significant, but still important, factor to fishing a spin lure is choosing a colour the works best. A simple way to make sure a colour works is to see if the colour of the spin blade matches the pattern of the minnows that the trout are eating. Most spin lures are designed to imitate a bait fish or minnows, so picking a lure that matches the same colour pattern of the trout forage can be a deciding factor as to whether or not an angler will catch a fish.

Whether a trout angler is a beginner or experienced they should always take these tips into consideration when choosing to throw the right inline spinner. Overcome factors such as weather, water depth, and fish activity by throwing the correct style of inline spinner, while using these lure specific tactics to bring more fish on shore or into the boat.

Australian Castaways. Bait fishing for introduced European Species in Victoria.

Popular European fish have been introduced to the south eastern states of Australia for over 100 years, and their numbers are now very large within New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) and Victoria.

European Carp


Loved by many fishermen in the UK, although mostly disliked in Australia.

The European Carp was introduced illegally into Australian rivers, while their presence was known for a long time, large scale migrations of european carp only occurred in the mid to late 1960s. They now populate at least 60% of all south eastern waterways. Although most grow to around 40cm and 4kg, the odd 8 to 12kg monster lurks in a few waterbodies around New South Wales and Victoria.

A starting point for anyone visiting Melbourne’s CBD is Albert Park Lake. This lake was originally swampland in settlement days and was later bricked up and turned into a partially man made lake.This location is well known with europeans as the place of the Australian Grand Prix.

Big carp (by Australian standards) around 60cm in length can be found throughout the lake, with a few larger specimens lurking if you can track them down.The main open sections of the lake provide a leisurely fishing experience for Carp, along with trout and yellowbelly (Australian Native Perch).

If you happen to catch a Yellowbelly / Golden Perch, the legal size in Victoria is currently 30cm, anything below this size must be returned to the water unharmed. You are also only allowed to keep up to 10 fish above 30cm.

There is no restrictions on trout catch limits or sizes, however European Carp is declared a noxious species in Australia, they are not allowed to be returned to the water alive, so any carp caught in Australia will need to be killed and disposed of. You can keep the carp to eat if you wish.

If you are after quick carp action when visiting Albert Park, head to the shallow divided sections off lakeside drive, these areas have been partially closed off and reeds grow out of the water here, however there is a few decent open spaces in which to place some bait. Large carp in these areas have spawned and due to their size, have difficulty finding their way back into the main lake, making them sitting ducks for bait fishermen.

They normally sit on the bottom without moving most of the time, or slowly cruising around for food. Some have got so large they even readily take fishing lures, however a large worm or a boilie (boilies are rarely used in Australia, so you will need to make your own) will bring in the carp one after another.

Keep in mind when fishing in Australia, you will require a fishing permit (licence), available from most fishing tackle shops at a very low cost.

Another well known area for large carp in Melbourne’s suburban area is Coburg Lake, with a recent catch of 12.3kg sighted and verified during a carp culling event.

European “Redfin” Perch

europeanredfinperchA well loved pest species, native to and very common in Europe, easy to find in Australia.

Redfin was introduced to the Murray Darling system in the late 1800’s, imported from England, most redfin stock in mainland Australia came from 7 original parent fish from Ballarat, Victoria.

The redfin perch is infamous in Ballarat, where their central lake known as Lake Wendouree produced the first breeding stock. Large redfin can still be found in this lake today, even though the lake has run completely dry for a substantial period of time. It has since recovered miraculously and is back to it’s original condition before the drought. Redfin of all sizes can be taken using large scrub worms, available from most tackle shops, along with large brown trout being a common catch also.

Trout is mainly caught by locals using what is known as “mud-eyes”, these are the developing larvae of dragonflies, when small they look like a little 1cm tear shaped organism but can develop almost fully with 6 legs at the front, 2 large circular eyes and a very large slightly slim body.

As the lake is thickly covered entirely with weeds, the trout and redfin tend to float along near the top looking for a quick meal, they however rarely come within 5 meters of the shoreline, so casting some distance helps.

Mudeye fishing requires a very high quality spin rod, with a very fine lightweight line. The insect larvae is not very heavy, so it takes a bit of skill to fish with them.

Using a kayak if you can get hold of one will solve many problems, as you won’t need to cast as far, and will cover more ground. At Lake Wendouree you will definitely catch more fishing using a yak than fishing lakeside.

If you can’t get hold of a kayak and are going to be lakeside fishing, you can’t go past very large scrub worms, all fish in the lake will quickly eat them up and you will likely get very good results.

Casting a fair distance is critical, and if the lake is rough mudeyes will be of little use to you, so with large worms on a sinker being a quick lure for redfin and a known meal for trout you can’t go wrong.

For more details on fishing in Australia, please visit the authors website “Ultimate Fishing” at www.fishingtacklelures.com.au

The Camping Snowshoe Grill Review

snowshoe grill

My wife and I have been talking about getting an open fire grill over the winter. We usually do most of our cooking in the camper or on skillets out on the picnic table. I have always thought it was pretty cool to see others cooking a pot of chili on the open fire or just be able to grill some steaks or burgers for dinner. Some people brought full size grills. Though I have thought about doing that, it just seems to be a big pain in the a……, well you know. So my search began for a open fire grill…

My Quest: Find a open fire grill that will last

Well, I have only seen two types of open flame grills at camp grounds being used. The first were the tripods type grills. These caught my eye and thought they would fit the bill. But once I started looking at them, I found that most were very cheaply made and certainly not made in the USA. The tripod grills from Walmart were all made in China and flimsy. I did however find some that were made right here in the great USA but they were a little pricey. Not that I mind paying a little more for a well made USA made product, but I started asking myself questions which I always do when buying a product. The first question was on storage, is a tripod grill easy to store without getting all nasty. Probably not, sitting over an open fire, I’m sure the legs and all get dirty. Then you have that most well made tripod grills, do not have legs that telescope down. It would have to go in the back of my truck. Next is how easy are they to use? I thought about putting my hands over an open fire to get heavy pots. I think it would be okay but I’m known to do a couple 12oz curls while camping.

My verdict was I believe this is the type we will be getting (better USA made one). The Chinese made ones were just cheap.

The next grill I researched was the grate type that you see at some campgrounds. These are made to sit on the fire ring. To be truthful, I didn’t spend too much time looking at this type. Being a grate, it is going to be sitting right over the fire. You can not adjust the height and it was going to get anything it touched dirty. Once I seen the price on these, I just stopped looking. They are heavy and going to last but just not what I was looking for.

Then I ran into a little gem called the Snowshoe Grill. I forget how I found it but was just surfing around looking for ideas for our open fire grill and this thing popped up. Doing my research, I found out that they are made not to far from us in Owensboro Kentucky. That got my attention. Come to find out, these are made by a couple iron workers that specialize in blacksmith type work. So far, so good. Made in the USA with a USA supply chain? Yes. made by people that know what they are doing? Yes. Made for campers and not just a sale? Yes. I told the wife that I found our fire grill and ordered.

open fire grilling

Snowshoe Grill

The Snowshoe grill I assume gets its name from the look of it. It resembles a snowshoe or tennis racquet. I got the grill in about 2 days, probably because I’m close to them. It came in a regular box surrounded by rolled paper. Everything looked in good condition so I got it out. The grill itself comes three pieces and is all placed in a storage bag. This is nice for a couple reasons. It breaks down easily and has a bag to protect your camper so it can be stored.

How it works

The grill has some pretty unique features that we are going to go over. Firstly, my favorite feature is the swinging of the grill. Once in place, you can swing the grill section off the fire heat to add, flip or do what ever to your food. Then you just swing it right back over the heat. This is a feature you can’t get with a tripod.

The next feature is the height adjustment. It works off of friction of the stabilizer bar. So you can adjust the height by just tilting the handle a little.

Okay, so it looks cool and has some great features, but how did it preform? Well, we have only been camping once this year and it was at our membership campground. I ended up using it all weekend. The first night we were there, I grilled hamburgers and hotdogs. I was going to make steaks but didn’t want to take a chance my first time out. It didn’t take long before I got the hang of things. By the time I was done with first nights dinner, I consider myself a pro with the Snowshoe grill, enough to get on my wife’s nerves about it lol…

The next night, I made a big pot of chili using the grill. Turned out great. Even got that smokey flavor in the chili that I love so much. I can’t wait to try some fat steaks over an open fire on our next camping trip.

While cooking throughout last weekend, we were asked at least 4 times on if I made the grill and where we got it.

open fire grillingExtras

There is also a choice for an extra if you are not wanting to use this grill over a fire. It is a firepan that connects under the grill. This would come in handy if you would like to use charcoal on days there is a fire ban in effect. It also has legs that can be used if you do not have grass to put it in (tailgating). I did not get this option, it is not needed for us. Looks cool though, I might be second thinking myself when Jimmy Buffet comes to town. The only place we tailgate…

Here is a video on how the Snowshoe grill works

So, my overall thought

You have probably guessed it, I love it! Made in the USA by some hard working people that just happen to be half way local to me. It is easy to store in our camper, will not get the compartment all dirty, made out of all iron, wife can operate it and it is just plain cool. I would recommend this grill for any type of camping (easy to put in a pack).

Notes and resources: I totally forgot to take pictures! photos and video on this review are used from www.snowshoegrill.com. I will get some photos on our next camping trip because I’m sure we will be using it.

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Gascoyne Murchison Outback Pathways: Guidebook Your Ticket to the Australian Outback

outback pathwaysOne of the most satisfying things to do is to take a drive through the Australian Outback. Whether you are a tourist or a native Aussie, the Gascoyne Muchison Outback is a source of natural wonder and great activities. The rocks in the Gascoyne Murchison region are over 2.7 billion years old.  Yes, BILLION. It is a truly an unbelievable experience that will force you to contemplate your individual role in a huge universe. Past travelers mention the sense of awe and timelessness felt in places along the drives listed in the Guidebook.

As you drive the Outback Pathways you will feel astonished by rock formations, rich red ranges and impressive granite boulders. Granite is the most common rock in this area and you will see it most obviously in Greenstone. The Guidebook provides copious details about lodging, trails, wildlife, plant life and more. Here is a summary of the main travel destinations of the Guidebook.

Wool Wagon Pathway: If you are looking to experience the cliché outback adventure, this is the location for you.  Truly, this self-guided drive is the paragon of outback experiences. You will be able to see gorgeous vistas and horizons and the awesome night skies are jaw dropping. Truly, there is nowhere like this anywhere in the world. During this drive, you will pass through some of Australia’s famous sheep and wool territory that is world renowned. Wool Wagon Pathway is located 1160 km, from either Geraldton or Yalgoo, via Murchison Settlement and Gascoyne Junction to Exmouth. To complete this self-drive tour you should allow about 4 days travel time.  The Gascoyne Murchison Outback Pathways Guidebook provides specific details about landmarks, places to eat and stay, gas stations, shopping, museums and more. Wildlife and plant enthusiasts will appreciate the detailed explanations about what you are driving through.

Kingsford Smith Mail Run: This drive follows the path of one of the earliest motorized transport ways in Australia. This path is that of Charles Kingsford Smith and his buddy Keith Anderson who in 1924 started the Gascoyne Transport Company with one truck and a prayer. Smith had been a commercial pilot and used this business idea to finance his dream of flying across the Pacific. One of his first clients was the mail-run from Carnarvon to the Bangemall goldfields. Today, you can follow along his original route while you enjoy seeing beautiful gorges, sea shell fossils, photo museums and more.

outbackMiners Pathway:  This drive follows the innovations of Robert Austin who saw early on that this entire area of the Australian Outback contained valuable minerals. Once his vision caught hold, this area became one of the most active during the gold rush of the early 1900s. American travelers will enjoy comparing this with facts and events from the American Gold Rush in California.  It is possible to drive the Miners Pathway in either direction but past travelers recommend you start in Payne’s Find and travel north up the Great Northern Highway, through Mt Magnet and Cue to Meekatharra. Once you are here, the Miners Pathway goes south-east to Sandstone, then west back through Mt Magnet to Yalgoo and finally south-east again to complete the journey back at Payne’s Find.

These drives are one of the best ways to experience Australia. Great for families, they are a source of natural contact that soothes the soul. The locations and towns have many attractions. Between hiking, bird watching, photography and astronomy, the Guidebook will provide you with everything you need to maximize your Australian Outback getaway. Order one today for 30% off the regular price at outbackpathways.com.

Simmons Master Series riflescope delivers high-end performance at a low-end price

Since the first rifle scopes appeared, shooters have enjoyed better and better sight pictures. Lens quality is uniformly higher than could have been imagined when young Bill Weaver brought out his 330 during the Depression.

By the time illuminated reticles and turret-mounted objective dials came along, the prices of all scopes had risen sharply. Oddly enough, even those with four-figure stickers sold. Well, it seems odd to me because by then techniques for making high-quality scopes were widely known. Machinery controlled by computers kept such tight tolerances that even inexpensive scopes delivered the ruggedness, reliability and high-quality images once associated only with venerable European brands.

Among optics companies noted for value are Simmons and Weaver. Both, along with the languishing Redfield brand, were acquired by ATK, which acquired a suite of shooting-industry brands then held by Blount. A huge enterprise with commitments in aerospace and military munitions, ATK. soon spun off the optics firms to Meade Optical Company of Irvine, California. Meade was relatively young but a hard-charger. It had done a stellar job of designing, building and marketing telescopes.

So when Meade promised a facelift of the Simmons line, I expected more than cosmetic surgery. And the new Masters Series doesn’t disappoint. In a fit of common sense, engineers made scopes simpler, not more complex. Instead of adding fluff, they improved essential components. The scopes are lighter and stronger than their predecessors (at 10.5 ounces, the 3-9×40 is substantially lighter than most competitive models). There’s up to 17 percent greater windage and elevation range, longer eye relief and a bigger “eye box,” so you-see that bounding whitetail as soon as the rifle butt hits your shoulder.

My 3-9×40 sample arrived for a shakedown just after Thanksgiving. When I should have been jogging off the turkey, I was cinching the ring screws around a 3-9×40 prototype of a Simmons Masters scope on a Remington Model Seven in 6.8mm SPC. After bore-sighting, I walked the bullets to point of aim with the adjustments, noting that windage clicks didn’t quite measure quarter-minute on paper. The elevation dial was spot-on. But when I “shot around the square,” dialing in 20-click segments to test repeatability, the holes were so scattered as to be meaningless. Fearing a faulty scope, I gave Simmons another chance on a Hill Country Winchester Model 70 in .270 WSM that I knew to be a tight shooter.

My first shot landed close to point of aim. I adjusted and fired two more-.7 of an inch apart. Then I clicked 20 left and fired twice more. The bullets landed half an inch apart, as did a pair of shots 20 clicks up and a pair 20 clicks right. The last two, after 20 down, struck an inch to 4 o’clock of the first two. Not bad. Indeed, for hunting scopes, this result is par. Net lateral movement was a little less than five inches, and there was an inch of right-hand movement in the first elevated group. Bringing the shots right also moved them down a short inch. If you’re chasing wind at a prone match with a 24X sight, a minute of unwanted displacement is cause for alarm. Not so in a hunting scope.

Checking run-out (point-of-impact shift with changes in magnification). I found that groups fired at 9X struck about three-quarters of an inch below those shot at 3X. Again, that’s more than acceptable for a hunting sight (in a test of 27 scopes years ago, I found shifts averaged half an inch). You can’t predict run-out based on price. A costly scope might show higher than average run-out while a cheap model may nip one hole.

In fairness, this scope was a prototype. To get it in my hands to meet deadline for this issue, the engineers released it before final tuning.

“Windage and elevation dials have already been refined to ensure against any unwanted vertical or horizontal shift,” says Simmons product manager Everett Jones.

He told me the lens coatings would be tweaked, too, though I was very pleased with the optical performance. “We’ll also install a slightly different plex reticle, with a finer middle wire and a cleaner step. And adjustment knobs with more surface for easier grip.”

The most noteworthy development is internal-a slotted beryllium-and-copper ring fitted to the rear of the erector assembly that holds the scope’s lenses. Windage and elevation adjustments typically bear against the forward end of the erector tube, which is traditionally pressed tight to the dial pegs by a biasing spring. The new rear coil preloads the erector tube so it bears hard against the pegs, eliminating the need for a biasing spring and solving several technical problems-while increasing range of adjustment. Result: smoother, more predictable point-of-impact shift as you turn the dials and no drag from a forward spring. The new gimbal joint (a fitting that allows the erector tube 360-degree movement up front) is simple and sturdy.

The scope’s finish is a pleasing black satin. No garish hieroglyphics-just Simmons’ logo on the windage cap, gold letters on the turret, subdued graphics on the eyepiece. Turret caps are easy to spin, even with gloved hands, though you’ll want to remove the gloves to feel the delicate clicks and listen hard to hear them. The ocular housing looks European; reticle focus is at the rear on fast-acting helical threads. Incidentally, images at shooting distances appeared in sharp focus, so getting a clean picture of reticle and target was easily done with a twist of the ocular ring.

Though the company lists eye relief at 3.75 inches, I found the actual “sweet spot” about four inches from the lens. The claim of a bigger eye box is well founded. You can move your eye forward and back and even slightly off-axis without instant blackout. You will aim faster, follow moving animals easier, recover from recoil sooner and cycle your action without losing the target. Eye relief is often sacrificed on the altar of high magnification; gangly stock crawlers like me have paid in blood when condemned to shoot hard-kicking rifles scoped by short-armed people. Long, noncritical eye relief lets you shoulder a rifle as you would a shotgun and aim as if you’re looking through iron sights. And eye relief with the new Simmons scope stays the same as you change power.

Typically, when you extend eye relief, you trim field of view. It’s a trade-off mandated by physics. Optical designers explain it as the optical triangle. Increase magnification, eye relief or field, and you get less of one or both of the other components.

But field of view is overrated. If you use reasonable magnification-4X to 6X is plenty for most big game-you have more than enough field, even with four inches of eye relief. As this new Simmons Master Series scope demonstrates, you can have generous, noncritical eye relief and a big field. At 3X, this scope delivers a panoramic 33 feet at 100 yards.

Sherry Kerr, whose public relations firm represents Simmons, says that improvements on the 3-9X Master Series ProHunter will be implemented on other Simmons sights, including the Aetec. “We’re overhauling the entire line except for our entry-level 8-Point scopes, to be renamed Blazer” says Kerr. “And even those will have some Master refinements.”

Steve Murdock emphasizes that Meade is already working on more improvements. “Our engineers talk about reinventing the best rifle scope. The new erector-tube design is just a first step … Our engineers are shooters, too, so you can expect useful changes, like color-corrected lenses and super-compact electronics.”

Value? The 3-9×40 ProHunter retails for a penny less than $150. Lightweight, stout, optically excellent, this is one fine hunting scope. With truly useful improvements.

You can find out more about Riflescope Brands at: http://riflescopecenter.net/

When a Personal GPS Locator Beacon Can Save Your Life

Time is of the essence during any emergency situation.  The quicker search and rescue teams can locate you and get you the help you need, the better your chance for survival. Once thought only applicable to those on the ocean and extreme backcountry athletes, the truth is, a personal GPS locator beacon is ideal for anyone concerned about their safety.  They are ideal for personal and family use, as well as for employer use to help ensure the safety of team members.  Anytime your safety depends on quick search and rescue, a personal GPS locator can save your life… urban environments, in the backcountry, or wherever you might need immediate assistance. 

Road Trips Or Daily Commutes                                                

A personal GPS locator beacon is more than just for individuals taking part in extreme sports or sailing the world.  In fact, they can be particularly helpful in the event of a car accident.  The news often speaks of accidents that happen in remote areas, where a vehicle leaves the road and ends up in a culvert, or along side a body of water.  It can be difficult for search and rescue teams to quickly locate and rescue these individuals; however, if one of the people’s in the vehicle as a personal locator beacon, teams can respond much more quickly.  These are idea for anyone that takes daily commutes through mountains, across plains, or through the desert.  Many cross-country trucking companies are requiring their drivers to carry these safety devices so that in the event of an accident they can be quickly rescued. 

Backcountry Skiing, Camping, Fishing or Hiking

Accidents can happen winter, spring, summer or fall. While hiking, fishing or skiing in the backcountry, an accident or bad weather can leave you stranded for days.  In those days, you could lose your life.  Search and rescue teams need as specific location information as possible to help get you to safety.  In many areas of the backcountry mobile phone service is non-existent, and mountains can block service for some satellite phones.  In these situations, a GPS enabled locator beacon accurately relays your position to a worldwide network of search and rescue satellites, notifying the nearest teams to dispatch to your location.  Look for a model with a built-in strobe light to allow rescuers to see you easily.

Boating and Sailing

 Search and rescue teams can have a particularly difficult time locating an individual or group in the water.  Visibility can be difficult in sunny weather, and in all forms of inclement weather.  Sun glare can prohibit your rescuers from quickly finding you, and high seas can present just as great of a challenge.  A waterproof personal beacon allows teams to quickly find you, regardless of weather conditions.  These small hand held units are light weight and compact enough to clip onto your belt or backpack, ensuring that it is ready and easily reached whenever you may need it.  

What To Look For In A Personal GPS Beacon

When considering the best beacon for your personal or professional use, it is important that it have some basic, and advanced features.  The unit must be easily activated, preferably with the touch of a single button.  The location range sent to search and rescue should be within 100 meters or less of your position.  An LED strobe light allows for rescue teams to quickly locate you within a short period, even from 100 meters.  The unit should be buoyant and waterproof, even if you are not planning on using it in maritime situations.  If you were to fall into a river, be caught up in a flood, or something similar, the unit needs to be able to stand up to the situation.