New products, tested products and interesting stuff for duck hunters
(Originally published in Fall 2019 issue of California Waterfowl)
SITKA WOMEN’S WATERFOWL LINE – FIRST LOOK
Sitka has been producing top-of-the-line, status-symbol waterfowl gear for years … for men. Women who really want to wear Sitka have had to make do with imperfect fit, which can be a deal breaker if you have a really feminine figure.
But earlier this year, Sitka unveiled its women’s waterfowl line. CWA’s squad of female avid duck hunters has gotten a few items from the collection in hand, and here’s our first take:
Fahrenheit Jacket, $299: Wind-proof and warm. CWA Camp Coordinator Taylor Byars usually wears L to XL, and she happily pronounces the XL version of the Fahrenheit a perfect fit. “I love how the curves fit, how high the pockets are on the front so I can put my hands in my pockets with waders on, and also that the thumb holes ACTUALLY FIT MY SMALL HANDS.”
Dakota Vest, $199: A windproof outer layer for early season or base layer when it gets cold. Warehouse Assistant Emilia Maduri found this vest generally true to sizing, but advises large-chested women to order one size larger than usual if they like extra room, or layering. She reports the chest pockets are positioned well for use while wearing waders, but the flat front-bottom pockets might be less useful.
Cadence Hoody, $169: Water-repellant, fleece-insulated and breathable. Waterfowl Programs Supervisor Caroline Brady tested this while doing some night banding up in the Klamath Basin this summer and found it to be quite warm, even when wet (and actually a bit too warm if it’s 40 degrees out), so this is a serious hoody, not just lifestyle-wear. She found the cut good and the fit true to size.
Core Lightweight Crew, $69: Lightweight for early season, or a wicking base layer as things cool down. CWA Education Coordinator Molly Maupin heeded early reviews of the women’s collection and ordered one size up. That turned out to be a good call on torso length, though the arms were a bit too long for her. She likes her base layers tight and feels she could’ve gotten away with ordering her true size.
Hudson GTX Glove, $129: It’s the hardest thing to find: good hunting gloves in women’s sizes. The GTX is designed to be warm, waterproof and windproof. Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Coordinator SarahBeth Gonsalves judged these gloves to be soft, warm and well-fitting, albeit with thumbs a tad long for her. She appreciated the gusseted knuckles and the Velcro wrist strap, but she’s not sure whether the bulk will work well on her shooting hand.
Gradient Glove, $35: Lightweight, water-repellant, formfitting. Shooting in these gloves should be no problem at all. Wrist is a bit tight when pulling the glove on, but perfect on the wrist. Fit is excellent, and the “conductivetouch textile” on the thumb and index-finger tips works well with your touchscreen device.
BASEMAP PRO – REVIEW
Basemap is a relatively new hunting map app, and after testing it for eight months, I found it extremely helpful, not just as an avid hunter and angler, but as a biologist, too.
The free app includes nationwide parcel boundaries, GPS tracking, the ability to use one offline map, and more. For $29.99 a year, you can get Basemap Pro – which I tried – which includes property owners’ names, color coded government lands, unlimited offline maps and the ability to export data. For $9.99 a year, you can get hunt Hunt Research, which includes nationwide season dates (not for waterfowl or most upland birds, unfortunately – just turkey and big game), Western big game harvest data and a desktop hunt planner.
During testing, I used this app to locate water sources for chukar hunting in Nevada, scout public access for waterfowl hunting in Idaho, scout for prime deer locations in a new zone, and contact landowners for permission to capture birds for my work as a biologist. Overall, it was easy to use, there are a lot of layer selections you can customize. My favorite layers are the river and stream labels and the old fire layer maps. These both can be extremely valuable in locating game.
I really liked that it has a fast load time: When you zoom in on the map, it takes just a few seconds for landowner names to show up. The offline map was easy to use and came in very handy when I was out of service.
I think the best part of this program is it is the entire country in one bundle: You don’t need to worry about paying for single states, as you do with another popular app. The only downside I saw was that some properties had no information available, but it was a very small amount. Overall this was a great app and has helped me tremendously with hunting, fishing and work!
basemap.com, free with upgrade options at $9.99/year and $29.99/year
OLD TOWN TOPWATER PDL – REVIEW
The Topwater PDL is a fishing kayak, but I think Old Town may have accidentally built this kayak for duck hunters.
I tested this kayak on several duck hunts and a 16-mile float trip down the Sacramento river chasing turkeys, and here’s what I liked about it:
- It has a hefty 450-pound weight limit – more than enough for yourself, your gun, waders, shells, a small cooler and two dozen decoys.
- This kayak is rock solid on the water. I had my doubts with the elevated chair putting your center of gravity so high off the kayak, but this wasn’t an issue at all, as the kayak is wide enough to balance everything out.
- At 10.5 feet long and only 100 pounds, this kayak is a breeze to load into your truck or onto your SUV.
- The removable hands-free pedal drive allows you to slip into your favorite duck holes without banging your paddle around scaring off birds.
- There’s a no-questions-asked 5-year warranty on the mechanicals and a lifetime warranty on the hull.
And the only thing I didn’t like about it? I wish it had more places to hook a bungee.
If you like the freedom to be able to slip in close on game and get where the big boats can’t, then you can’t go wrong with the Topwater PDL. A price tag of $1,999 may seem steep for a kayak, but I can assure you it will have fewer problems and cost less over time than any motored vessel.
Banded made some big changes in its RedZone Elite breathable waders, including a new 2-year warranty, 60% less seam stitching, and NO stitching in the waterproof inner membrane. Also new: a removable over-the-boot protective pant secured with an easy-to-use, built-in belt system. And if you’re sick of holding a flashlight in your teeth, or trying to avoid blinding your buddies with your headlamp, these waders feature a built-in LED strip at chest height (estimated lifespan: 10,000 hours) powered by three AA batteries (not included). The comfort rating for the uninsulated waders is 32 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the insulated waders are comfortable from -10 to 50.
FEDERAL UPLAND STEEL – NEW!
Just in time for California’s all lead-free hunting this year, Federal Premium Ammunition has introduced Upland Steel. It comes in 6 and 7½ shot, 12 and 20 gauge, and replaces Steel Game & Target for those gauges. Rejoice and shoot small birds!
JARGON LOUD MOUTH – REVIEW
Jargon is the new duck call company on the scene this year, co-founded by former competition caller Chad Belding (also host of The Fowl Life television show and founder of Banded) and call designer Chris Cifreo.
I put this call through its paces, and here’s what I liked about it:
- Very “ducky.” It can get low, high, raspy and whiney if you want it to. You can lean on it really hard for power style calling.
- Versatility. It is a “barky” call that can get loud for hunting in the timber but can also range from soft to loud in open water situations.
- The feeding chuckle and duck chatter. It performed well on the simple feed call with subtle clucks, while also being able to hit the more advanced and rapid “duck chatter.”
- It doesn’t take much air to blow.
The look and feel. The call feels nice in my hand, not too big and not too small and is light. It also looks nice and is appealing to the eye. And it comes apart and back together easily for maintenance.
Performance. The basic quack, hail, greeting and feed call all performed well on this call and will finish ducks easily when used properly.
THE SPORTDOG BRAND® WETLANDHUNTER® 425X – NEW!
The 425X is SportDOG’s smallest and lightest e-collar for waterfowl-hunting. Wrapped in Realtree Max-5 camouflage, this model looks outstanding, without standing out. You can operate the remote quickly and easily without having to look at it, and with only a slight movement of the dial and the push of a button, you can deliver a tone, vibration or one of the 21 levels of static stimulation. Communicate with up to three dogs (with purchase of Add-A-Dog® collars) out to 500 yards with any of the 425 models. Got a bigger pack? The SD-1825XCAMO is also available as a 1-mile, 6-dog system.