Benjamin David

Benjamin David is an avid outdoorsman with a wide range of experience hunting and fishing. He brings his knowledge and wisdom from hunting in a variety of environments, to Sportsman's Magazine, and is a major contributor of content. Leave Ben a comment or question, and he'll do his best to reply.

First Lite Catalyst Soft Shell Jacket

| October 17, 2021
First Lite Catalyst Cypher
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.
Color | Cipher Camouflage
Material | Face - 88% Polyester / 12% Spandex | Back - 100% Polyester
Type | Soft Shell Jacket
Layer | Outer Layer
Temp. Rating | 20F-45F(Active), 45F-60F
Features | Quiet Construction, 3D Turret Hood, Wind Blocking, Repels Snow/Rain
Pockets | 2 Breast Pockets, 2 Hand Pockets
Closures | YKK Full Zip
Fit | Athletic
Size | Small
Weight | 19 ounces
Country of Origin | Imported
Warranty | Manufacturer's Defect / Discretionary
Price | $240
Fit | 4.2/5 |
Durability | 4.4/5 |
Features | 4.5/5 |
Flex | 5/5 |
Price | 4.5/5 |
Overall | 4.5/5 |

The First Lite Catalyst Soft Shell Jacket is our first foray into First Lite’s product offerings. We were interested in testing a quiet and comfortable jacket, with good breathability, mobility, and protection from the elements common on high sierra hunts and eastern sierra waterfowling.

First Impressions

At first glance, it looks like the Catalyst is as awesome as you would hope from a $240 soft shell. The cipher camouflage pattern is a great match for alpine granite and tree line vegetation, as well as sage and juniper inclines, alpine meadows, and the sage covered foothills of the Eastern Sierra

Upon more scrutinous inspection, the construction looks to be all-around solid, and the materials, high quality. There are no frays on materials or stitching. Every seam looks tight, and even. Stitches at the zipper are concealed and all the stitching looks solid and tight everywhere on the jacket.

If you have any sewing knowledge, then you know that there is a wide range of stitching patterns, with different stitch lengths, widths, and purposes. Some are meant to stretch, others are meant to create clean tight seams, others keep fabrics from fraying at the edges, but many provide a combination of those strengths and uses. First Lite’s stitching choices for the soft shell are very appropriate for the locations and materials, and the stitching quality is very high.

First Lite Catalyst Quality Stitching

The First Lite Catalyst is really well made with a high level of detail to stitching, seams, quality control, and materials.

In The Field

The Catalyst Soft Shell has a full front zipper, making it easy to put on and take off. The zipper didn’t suffer from any binding or stickiness over more than 20 days of hunting and some days of casual wear.

Two chest pockets and both hand pockets have zippers. One chest pocket is flush, while the other use a small overlap to ensure a good seal from the environment. However, the pockets are mesh-lined, and while it may be a personal and subjective opinion, our only real criticism is that the pockets would be better if lined with a normal solid breathable fabric liner, instead of the mesh. The small size Catalyst jacket fits a slim but athletic 5’7″ build with a +4 ape index very well. The sleeve length is long enough that it does not creep up the arms past the wrist while drawing a bow to a full draw.

Although the fit is very good in general, with arms fully extended overhead the jacket rises high enough on the torso to desire just a tiny bit more torso length. Lifting arms overhead, shouldering a rifle, and even drawing a bow, is easy, and just like First Lite claims, it’s very quiet. First Lite hunting apparel is definitely in an elite tier of camouflage and hunting apparel, and an obvious upgrade over low to mid-tier camouflage and performance brands, like Cabela’s RedHead or Underarmor’s limited camouflage offerings.

We used the Catalyst on a ton of scouting trips, and multiple outings for deer, dove, bear, grouse, and coyotes. The camo worked exceptionally well at many different elevations, on and below the slopes of the Eastern Sierra. We managed to get the Catalyst quite dirty, and even saturate portions of it with blood while field dressing game. Fortunately, dirt and blood were washed out of the fabric, with no special soap or effort, using the recommended washing and drying method.

We used the Catalyst on a cold morning bear hunt, and while active it was warm, but when sitting still in below-freezing temperatures, it was just a tad cold. That experience matched the suggested temperature ranges for the softshell to a tee. It seems like many manufacturers, especially when it comes to layers and sleeping bags, overstate their comfort ratings, so it was really refreshing that First Lite delivered exactly what they advertise. That type of honest rating makes it easier for a consumer to plan and prepare for trips with the appropriate layers, versus freezing one’s ass off and being severely irritated and disappointed.

Shooting at a Duck

The author, wearing the Catalyst, shooting at a duck that flushed while jump shooting a marshy stream.


The Catalyst Soft Shell jacket is warm, for the marketed temperatures range and use, breathable, and quiet. Short of wanting a pocket liner and a tiny bit more torso length, the Catalyst doesn’t leave a whole lot more to ask for on its own. Of course, for extreme cold, you’ll still need to layer properly, which is a skill every hunter, angler, climber, and mountaineer should know anyway. First Lite does offer insulated outer layers, like puffies and rain jackets, if that is what you are looking for, but that isn’t why we purchased and reviewed the Catalyst.

What do you get with the First Lite Catalyst over lower-tier products? You get an improvement in materials, quality, comfort, and performance in a lightweight package that uses a really good camouflage pattern for western hunts. This is why we have no problem recommending the Catalyst jacket to somebody looking for a premium mid or outer-layer soft shell. We also really like the cipher camouflage pattern, and confirmed its effectiveness on a successful bear hunt this season.

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Solo Bear Hunt

| October 14, 2021
Black Bear Harvested
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

I recently harvested a young black bear on a solo bear hunt on California public lands. With the archery season for deer completely disrupted by California’s forest closures, it was hard to keep up with scouting and tracking. When the forests re-opened, I was able to resume my efforts, and while I didn’t harvest the large bear I was looking for, I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to put some bear meat in the freezer.


I did quite a bit of scouting leading up to the deer and bear seasons. It required a lot of mileage and elevation gain on public lands to get away from people and to eliminate the possibility of harvesting a trash bear.

It’s an ironic thing to leave the house really early in the morning to go scout and hunt for bear, just to step outside the door and see very large black bears, habituated to human waste, dumpster diving. Anybody who has spent any time in any mountain or resort town in California has likely observed these types of bears. It’s sadly, probably the only experience folks have with bears, and the only time they see them outside of wildlife photos.

California bear hunting is a pure spot and stalk pursuit. California has no spring bear season, does not allow the use of dogs to hunt, does not allow baiting, does not allow trapping, and many scents, if not all scents, are not allowed. A large portion of California is also closed to bear hunting, making travel a necessity for those who pursue bears. While the population of bears has risen, it is not in an even distribution across the state, making the pursuit of bears in the areas with a lower density, as challenging as it’s ever been.

My scouting choices are always based on two things. The first being my previous experiences seeing good bear sign or observing good bear habitat while backpacking, fishing, or pursuing other game, and returning to those areas ahead of the season. The second involves satellite photography, and looking for good meadows, streams, creeks, etc. that are far enough off the beaten path to get away from campsites, people, and other hunter pressure.

Ultimately, while I did put thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss, and lots of miles scouting areas I had seen on satellite images, I returned to an area I had visited year after year, but usually later in the year. The sign earlier in the season seemed to indicate bears were active in the area, versus simply passing through like they seem to later in the season. I continued to scout and glass the same promising area, 3 miles into the backcountry and a 1000 feet of gain. I returned multiple mornings and afternoons, patterned the wind, the lighting, and ultimately bumped a large cinamon phase bear.

At that point, I was committed to an area that I was almost certain would produce a bear, and so I prepared. I was readied my Eberlestock G1 Little Brother, Eberlestock A4SS weapon scabbard, Walker's Rope Game Ears, CZ 557 Carbine chambered in 270, w/ Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24x50 FFP, DIY Nylon game bags, lots of cordage, a few 1 inch webbing straps, and a Havalon Knife.

Frost on the ground

Early morning frost on the ground, during one of many scouting trips.

Harvest day

I readied all of the aforementioned gear the night before the hunt. I also packed lightweight high-calorie snacks, a sawyer squeeze water filter, and a full water bottle. I woke up at 4am, drove about 30 miles including some slower forest service roads, and hoofed the 3 miles and thousand feet of gain fast enough, that I would be set up and ready with good visibility, when shooting light at 6:15 rolled around. I knew exactly what direction the wind would be blowing at that time, after countless morning trips, and set up in a spot that would keep me from getting winded by a bear.

While I was layered up for the cold, my core temp dropped over the next 40 minutes of sitting still, and I would occasionally shiver. I hate sitting still. At almost exactly 7:00 am, a small bear popped out of the tall willows, and weaved in and out of them. This was not the bear I had scouted, but with a road trip coming up in a few days, and imminent weather that would certainly change the behavior of bears on the way, I decided I would not pass up the opportunity to harvest.

I struggled to steady for a 160 yard shot, as I shivered from the cold in a seated position, and attempted to get a rest on my pack, all the while the bear moved further away, continuing to weave in and out of willows. Not being one to risk taking a bad shot, injuring or losing an animal, I took the opportunity to move behind some downed trees as the bear moved into a thick peninsula-shaped chunk of vegetation.

As I had expected, the bear came out of the brush, now about 190 yards away. I flipped the safety, steadied myself off of a downed tree, and pulled the trigger. There was no loud report, just the sound of the firing pin. I had loaded my rifle earlier as soon as I got out of the car, and managed to load with the bolt just shy of fully extended, so when I closed the bolt, I had in fact never chambered one, and slid the bolt closed right over the top of my freshly loaded ammunition.

Wind in my favor, the bear had not heard me make my rookie mistake, and still had no idea I was nearby. I stayed calm and chambered a round as the bear began to quarter away and head into thick brush. I knew it was now or never, as I probably would not be able to find the bear again if it entered the vegetation ahead of it. I steadied, and as the bear began to enter the vegetation quartered away at 200 yards, I took a shot. I watched through my scope as the 140 grain bullet, moving more than 3000 fps, hit the bear like Thor’s hammer, and continued watching through the scope as the bear flipped straight onto its back, legs straight into the air, before it wasn’t visible in the tall grass and brush anymore.

I immediately chambered another round and cautiously approached where I had shot the bear 200 yards away. I was pretty sure that I not only hit the bear, but that it was probably a good shot and quick death. Nevertheless, I approached with caution ready to shoot again. I’ve been charged by a bear once before in my life before, and it’s not an experience I was eager to repeat, especially with a wounded bear.

As I got near the edge of the thick brush, I saw that the bear had immediately been dispatched, and didn’t even take a step after being shot. I was pleased that I was able to dispatch the bear so quickly and humanely, grateful I did not have to pursue a wounded or injured bear, and to my own greater satisfaction the shot hit both the heart and lungs. Aside from the one rookie dry firing exercise on an unchambered rifle, and finding a smaller bear than the one I had hoped to see again, the whole morning could not have gone better. While I had already put in a ton of work, the real work was just about to begin.

Field Dressing a Black Bear

The author field dressing a black bear, and preparing for the pack out on a successful solo hunt.

Packing Out

I dragged the bear about 10 feet, about as much as I could do alone so that it would be easier to field dress. The field dressing work went smoothly. I decided to push myself, and my Eberlestock G1 pack to the limit, and do the pack out solo in a single effort. If the bear had been an ounce heavier, I’d have opted to do multiple trips. I strapped large nylon game bags externally to the pack after filling the inside of the pack completely.

The pack was heavy, and less than ergonomic loaded the way it was. I ended up packing more than my body weight about 3 miles, and down a 1000 foot descent. While the pack held up fine, there is definitely an external frame I’ll be purchasing from Eberlestock, and adding to my hunting setup in the future. The descent was rough on my back, shoulders, and especially my knees, but I managed to reach the car, and did it in a decent time. It only took a few minutes to feel how beat up my body was from the solo pack out, but the real pain would come a day later.

CDFW Inspection

In California when you harvest a bear, you are required to get the harvest checked off, and a tooth extracted for aging and research. However, because of COVID, all local offices were closed, with no helpful information on message recordings whatsoever. Fortunately, I had the local game warden supervisor’s business card on hand and managed to schedule a house call with another game warden.

The visit was brief, involving a simple check of tags, validation of a properly field-dressed animal, a tooth extraction, and a little chit chat. I completed a simple harvest report online, and 2021’s bear season was over.


My wife and I spent the next 2 days breaking down major muscle groups into steaks, roasts, stew meat, and grinder meat, and I also managed to flesh and salt the hide. While I didn’t regret the hard pack out, my body hated me for it. Everything hurt for the next two days.

The most difficult part of the hunt physically may have been packing out the bear, but the hardest part was the leg work and commitment that went into scouting, glassing, finding a good spot, finding bears, and then being in the right spot at the right time. My bear could have been twice as big, and when I load my rifle on an early morning in the dark, I’ll be sure to load with my bolt completely back as to actually chamber a round, but I really couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome on a public lands bear hunt in the Eastern Sierra.


I won’t get heavy into the butchering. My wife and I spent a couple of days processing meat. Honestly, she did the majority of it while I worked on fleshing and tanning a hide, in addition to a euro mount. For the DIY butcher, you really need a grinder and a vacuum sealer. We use a KitchenAid meat grinder attachment and a basic Food Saver vacuum sealer. With those two items and sharp knives, we’ve done quite a few antelope, deer, elk, hogs, and bear. You could always get a dedicated meat grinder, but it’s nice to get extra use out of a stand mixer. Our stand mixer gets used for baking, and pasta making all the time.

Heart Shot

A damaged heart, split in half by a well placed shot from a 140gr 270 win.

Black Bear Exit Wound

Shattered bones from an exit wound, caused by a bullet traveling through an arm after passing through the torso.

Grinding Bear Meat

Grinding black bear meat, with a Kitchen Aid meat grinder attachment.

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Gear Up For Waterfowl

| October 11, 2021
Successful Jump Shooting
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

The California waterfowl season already started in the northeastern zone, and is only a couple of weeks away for the majority of the state. It’s not too late to get ready and enjoy the season as soon as it starts, but you’ll need to make sure you have a few items. We break down what you’ll need.


The essential item for waterfowl hunting is a shotgun. For most, a good and ultra-reliable 12 gauge shotgun, like the Beretta A300 or Benelli Montefeltro, two of our favorite workhorses, are the way to go. While many suggest a pump shotgun as a foray into hunting with a shotgun, we’ve never had somebody regret our recommendation of a high-quality semi-automatic shotgun, and in our opinion, there is no difference in safety and handling as every firearm should be treated like a loaded and dangerous weapon.


If you don’t load your own high-speed steel, bismuth, or tungsten shotshells, then the options really boil down to just a couple of good ones. Hevi-Metal by Hevi shot, which is a blend of lead-free alloy and steel shot is probably the most common, but pairs the heavier alloy with steel to make it more economical. Bismuth and Tungsten options from Kent, as well as their Fasteel 2.0 are also good options. Less common, and somewhat premium, are Boss Shotshells, boasting high speeds and heavy alloys. Regardless of the brand you choose to go with, or is simply available near you, dense, lead-free ammunition with fast velocities that pattern well in your shotgun are the way to go.


It’s possible to jump shoot birds with a shotgun and nothing else. Your camouflage choice can be a green or brown t-shirt to help match your environment, and you’ll probably be able to creep up on ducks and get a shot off once in a while. However, for greater success, especially if you will be hunting over decoys, you really need to get some decent camouflage. You’ll want a camo hat or balaclava if it is cold, and a shirt or jacket depending on the temperature where you hunt. Pants are sort of optional, most khaki brown or green pants will suffice, and if you wear camo chest waders, then pants don’t matter at all.

Ducks have great vision, so the better your camouflage, and the ability of the pattern to match your environment, the better your hunting will be. We really like and frequently use the First Lite Catalyst, for many of our hunts, whether it’s for waterfowl or big game. While it’s not the cheapest option out there, it is a great one. It’s what is being worn in the photos taken while jump shooting.

Shooting at a Duck

The author shooting at a duck that flushed while jump shooting a marshy stream.


If you only plan to jump shoot, then decoys aren’t necessary. However, it won’t be long before you wish you had more shooting opportunities that a dozen or more decoys can provide. A good start, and decoys we use and recommend are the rugged series decoys from Hard Core Decoys. We especially like the Green Teal and either Gadwall or Mallard decoys, which are ideal to start with, as they are very common species just about everywhere.


You may be able to get away without waders for jump shooting, but you’ll eventually want some after you get wet a few too many times crossing rivers and streams, or post-holing in muddy banks. Hip waders are okay, but we prefer and recommend chest waders. Waders don’t have to break the bank either, you can get a decent pair of waders, like the TIDEWE Chest Waders with Realtree MAX5 Camo and 800G insulation, for less than 150 dollars.

Duck Calls

There are many waterfowl hunting days where we’ve never even pulled duck calls out of our packs. In some environments, they may not be necessary. In others, it may be the only way to draw attention to your decoy spread. Some calls are better than others, but in general the results seem a little more binary. They either get a ducks attention or they don’t, or maybe we just suck at calling. When we do call and have success, our go to is the Primos Pro Mallard Call. Are there better one’s out there? Probably, but for our calling skills, this one works just as fine.


Regardless of the velocity, as your shot string travels, the pattern opens up. At longer distances it can introduce some large holes in the pattern, that may allow birds to escape. If you are going to shoot anything other than birds flaring over decoys, an extended choke with a tighter constriction will be a game-changer. Our favorite chokes are manufactured by Carlson's Chokes, especially their extended ported chokes with “No Size or Speed Restrictions with Steel Shot”. Be sure to check the thread size and style on your shotgun, to be sure you get the correct choke, they are not all universal.

Decoys on Still Water

Duck decoys on almost glassy water, and great views on a gorgeous morning.

Decoy Retriever

A decoy retriever is a helpful tool to have if you hunt in slightly deeper water, and aren’t interested in filling your waders. A decoy retriever makes decoy and duck retrieval easier, especially if you hunt without a dog or kayak. Put plainly, its a long stick, usually collapsable, with a hook on the end and can both keep you drier, and make your life easier.


You can use natural camouflage like tall brush or reeds, but some environments require a blind. While you could get away with a sheet of camouflage burlap, a layout blind is much more comfortable and provides better opportunities to add natural vegetation to your camouflage than a burlap sheet does. We use and recommend the Bulk Decoy Club Layout Blind because of its ultralight weight, cheap price, portability, and dual-use as a decoy bag.

Let ’em have it!

The longest reaching choke, 3 ½ inch TSS shells, premium brand camo, and all the decoys in the world won’t guarantee that you’ll limit on ducks every time you go out into the field. You will still need to learn about duck behaviors, patterns, how to deploy successful decoy spreads, stealthiness, calling, leading your target, and good shooting, to be a successful waterfowler.

With that said, a willingness to put in the time and learn how to be a better hunter, good waterfowl gear will make a difference. So get geared up, get out there, learn when you can, always try to improve, and harvest some birds!

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Upgrade the Crosman 1322 for More Power

| September 24, 2021
The Core Parts of a Crosman Upgrade
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

So you bought a Crosman 1322 or 1377, and like every other 13xx owner, you want to modify it for greater power, accuracy, or performance. Fortunately, the P13xx series of air guns lend themselves to a lot of mods, and while everyone has their own take on which mods and drop-in parts work best, we’ll give you our honest take on reliably getting a stock 1322 from 460 fps to over 600 FPS.

No time to read, no problem!
This is for a 1322! Buy a steel breech, extended barrel and barrel band, Alchemy AirWerks RP Pump Valve Kit. Teardown and install all parts, be sure to lubricate parts with a silicone-based lubricant. The RP Pump Valve kit will include a bigger transfer port, and heavier hammer spring to replace the originals. Add an optic, sight in, go knock down some squirrels.

We’ve got a few articles on power mods, and even some accuracy tips, but we constantly get questions and are asked about the following topics, “Should I do a Crosman 1322 barrel upgrade?”, “What is the Crosman 1322 maximum power?”, “Is the Crosman 1322 good for hunting?”, “What power mods…?”, “14 inch barrel FPS…?”. The questions are endless, and although it feels repetitive, we put together this article with comparison photos, and even a slow motion video of the impact energy of an upgraded 1322, for those that want more power from a Crosman 1322, and don’t have a machine shop.

We focus on the Crosman 1322 because we prefer a .22 caliber for airgun hunting of small game, but our how-to guide also works the same for the Crosman 1377.

Upgrading the stock 13xx with our recommendations will add $150 in cost to the stock 13xx. At around $200 it is easy to start considering an entry-level PCP. However, the 13xx can perform like a PCP, while still remaining usable and reliable in the backcountry, or anywhere a heavy pump can’t easily go. The Crosman 13xx models of air guns have been a go-to air gun since the late seventies for good reason. They are easy to modify, they are accurate, and they are reliable. While it’s very easy to go down the rabbit hole with mods, our base recommendations will turn your stock 13xx into a very effective small game hunting air gun, or high-performance plinker. You will likely get in excess of 12 foot-pounds of energy from these upgrades. That is more than enough energy to dispatch a lot of small game, within reasonable distances. It’s also enough energy to punch holes through 1/4″ plywood, and softer 3/4″ pine boards. Check with your own city, region, state, or countries regulations to make sure you haven’t broken the law with the increased power, as many countries regulate an air gun as a firearm if it exceeds a specific threshold.

Upgrading with a steel breech, new barrel, and barrel band will remove the OEM fixed sights. We recommend a low-power optic, but there are many optic and fixed sight options, with a wide range of costs. We’ll make recommendations, but it’s not the focus of the upgrades.

Step 1: Upgrade the Breech

Stock Breech and Upgraded Steel Breech

The stock Crosman 13xx breech next to an upgraded steel breech.

If you want more power and performance from your 13xx, then swapping the stock composite plastic breech with a stronger steel breech is a must. It increases strength and rigidity, and provides a more stable base for mounting optics, but also holds an upgraded barrel in place much better than you could with a stock breech.

Buy a 1322 Steel Breech
Buy a 1377 Steel Breech

Step 2: Upgrade the Barrel and Barrel Band

Stock Barrel and 18 inch Barrel

The stock 10 inch barrel and barrel band next to an 18 inch barrel, and more rigid barrel band.

Upgrading a barrel can mean simply changing it for a high precision one, crowning it for increased accuracy, or increasing length for greater velocity, and power. Our upgrade focuses on barrel length. We upgrade the stock 10.1” barrel with an 18” barrel.

Generally speaking, every inch of increased barrel length will increase velocity 10 fps. There is a diminishing return at a certain length, and so the longest 1322 barrels are usually no more than 24 inches. To take advantage of a barrel longer than 14.5 inches, you’ll want to increase your valve volume, and transfer port size.

Buy a 1322 Barrel Band
Buy a 1322 18 inch Barrel

Buy a 1377 Barrel Band
Buy a 1377 18 inch Barrel

Step 3: Upgrade the Piston / Valve / Transfer Port

Alchemy AirWerks RP Pump

The Alchemy AirWerks RP Pump, heavier hammer spring, and larger inner diameter transfer port.

Upgrading the piston, pump, and transfer port on the 13xx series of air guns increases overall power and performance. A larger volume of air, as well as increased and more rapid airflow into the barrel, pushes a pellet with greater pressure, resulting in greater velocity and power.

We have done our own valve mods, but the easiest and most reliable all-in-one mod kit we have found and used is the AlchemyAirWerks Pump RP Valve SuperPack. It includes a Pump RP Valve, Power Hammer Spring and a Transfer Port with 25% greater airflow.

The RP Valve increases air volume, so it increases the stored energy. It does however require more pumping to fill the larger volume of air to the same pressure as a smaller volume of air. The combination of a better valve, hammer spring, and a transfer port that allows greater airflow, address the fundamentals for increasing power and performance.

The RP Valve is a great alternative to a more expensive flat-top piston mod, which only improves pumping efficiency over the power increase provided by Pump RP Valve, but if you are feeling spendy, or just really want the increased pumping efficiency,

Buy the AlchemyAirWerks Pump RP Valve SuperPack

Step 4: Add Optics

CV Life Scope and Redfield See Through Rings

a CVLife 4X32 Compact Scope and Redfield See Through Rings, are a good combination for the 1322.

Optics are a must after upgrading a steel breech, barrel, and barrel band, but the options and costs are vast. Our affordable and reliable go-to, after a lot of experimentation, is a super affordable CVLIFE 4×32 Compact Rifle Scope, and Redfield See-Thru Dovetail rings.

A lot of airgunners seem to pair their airguns with a UTG 3-9X32 BugBuster Scope, but for a more affordable variable optic, the CVLIFE 3-9×40 Compact Rifle Scope, or Pinty 2.5-10×40 Illuminated are also good options.

Buy Redfield See-Thru Dovetail Rings
Buy a CVLIFE 4x32 Compact Rifle Scope
Buy a CVLIFE 3-9x40 Compact Rifle Scope
Buy a UTG 3-9X32 1
Buy a Pinty 2.5-10x40

Wrapping Up

A Stock 1322, Breech, Barrel, Barrel Band, and RP Valve Kit combined will set you back about two hundred dollars, but you’ll be able to reliably shoot small game with about 12 foot pounds of energy everywhere you go. You won’t need a high-pressure pump, or CO2 cartridges to use your airgun. You’ll still need to add fixed sights or an optic, which will add another thirty dollars at a minimum, but will allow you to take full advantage of the increased performance, as its max effective range on small game moves out to about 25 yards from the OEM effective range of about 10 yards. Good shot placement will even allow you to take doves, pigeons, and small pest birds at 50 yards. Don’t believe it? Check out this video. This is with a factory 10.1″ barrel, a lightly modified pump valve and transfer port, and a steel breech.

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Hane Tenkara Rod

| September 19, 2021
Hane Tenkara Rod
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.
Weight | 3.5 oz (100 g)
Collapsed Length | 15 inch (38cm)
Extended Length | 10 foot 10 inches (330cm)
Handle Length | 8 inches (20.5cm)
Segments | 12
Color | White | Matte Black
Accessories | Hard Case(tube) | Sock
Manufacturer | Tenkara USA
Warranty | Lifetime Warranty | Replacement Parts Available
Price | $160

In the interest of full disclosure, we received the Hane from Tenkara USA to produce this gear review. We remain objective, whether we buy a product, receive a product, or acquire a product at a discount. Opinions are our own.

The Hane Tenkara Rod is an ultra-compact, feather-weight rod from Tenkara USA. It was designed specifically for backpacking, high elevation mountain streams, and basically anything requiring ultra-portability. We took the Hane fishing in mountain streams, lakes, canals, and drainages. We used it primarily to fish for trout in both California and Wyoming, and tested it on everything from slow-moving water, still water, and wind chopped lakes, to heavy and fast-moving water. We caught everything from 6″ brookies to 20″+ brown trout, and really pushed the Hane to its limits.

First Impressions

The Hane is special. Right out of the package, the rod looks really sharp. Rod sections have a white coloration, with the exception of the matte black tip-set, and the rod is on par with the high quality you would expect from Tenkara USA. The foam handle is a departure from the cork typically used on Tenkara USA rods, is very ergonomic, and is long enough to fit most hands. A Tenkara USA logo imprinted in the foam also creates the perfect textured surface for placing your index finger.

Because of its size, we had some questions about the Hane. “Will the action still feel like Tenkara?”, “Is it too fast, or too rigid?”, “Will the Hane have a true Tenkara feel and action?” We were super excited to get the Hane in the field and get some answers to our questions.

In The Field

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We set up the 10ft 10 inch Hane with a 13 foot furled line, and 5 feet of 4x tippet. It might be a longer setup for a 10 foot 10 inch rod, but you could just as easily set up a shorter line if that’s your preference. We first took the Hane to a fishing hole nestled in the Eastern Sierra. On the first cast, it was immediately obvious that the Hane was a faster action Tenkara rod than a traditional 12 foot or larger rod, with a much more snappy cast.

That faster action took a tiny bit of getting used to, as it required less loitering or pausing at the top of a cast. In fact, after getting used to the faster action and the shorter rod, it became distinctly advantageous over a larger rod in a few ways.

Check out Buck getting used to the action in the above video. We slowed down the footage so you can clearly see how the rod bends, and clearly see the speed of the action.

With the shorter faster action of the Hane, it’s possible to work right in front of trees, tall vegetation, and even cliff bands. The length and action let you cast vertically, but still snap the line forward enough to get the fly to your target, without snagging behind you. This also made sideways casting easier, letting you better avoid snapping backwards into the tree line or other obstacles. Additionally, the shorter rod means that moving along a river, weaving through trees or tall vegetation, meant fewer snags, and less risk of damage while simply moving from location to location.

Over a period of a few weeks, we put a lot of mileage on the Hane. It took some pretty heavy use and abuse, and without issues. We landed everything from countless small brookies, to both wild and stocked rainbows, and even some real hogs. Check out the brown trout below, caught in a creek on lands managed by LA DWP.

Large Brown Trout Caught on Hane

A large brown trout caught by the author on a 2-fly dry-dropper set up, with the Hane Tenkara rod.


If you are already a Tenkara fisherman and want the Tenkara experience, but with a faster action, and you want it in a feather-weight and highly portable package, then the Hane is a perfect rod choice.

With some distinct advantages of a faster action and greater portability, we’ll probably opt for using the Hane in place of the larger more traditional rods like the 13.6ft Amago or 12ft Iwana that have become customary. For most fishing in the backcountry and smaller stream fishing, the Hane will be a go-to, but we’ll probably still use our larger rods for fishing open shorelines of big lakes, and fishing from a kayak.

If you are newer to Tenkara, the Hane is a great choice, but to truly get the traditional feel of Tenkara fishing, then you may be better served by learning on a more traditionally sized rod, like the ITO, Amago, or Iwana, offered by Tenkara USA.

We worked hard to put mileage on this rod so that we could earnestly say whether we like, love, or hate the Hane. Three of our gear testers, the author being one of them, can say they were impressed with the Hane. If you get yourself a Hane, we are pretty sure you’ll love it.

Are we biased? We always try our absolute best, to remain objective. If we didn’t like the rod or enjoy using it, we’d tell you. We have nothing to lose and our readership’s confidence to gain by being honest and recommending good products while advising against the purchase of bad ones. While we received the Hane to do a gear review, we have purchased other rods out of pocket from Tenkara USA. We have also purchased multiple replacement tip sets to keep a few rods fully operational for about a decade. We’ve used rods made by other brands, and we can say while others are decent, you can not go wrong with any rod offered by Tenkara USA. Many other brands don’t offer replacement parts, and instead require shipping a product in for repairs, potentially taking you out of the field for a good chunk of the fishing season.

Tenkara USA support has always been fast and helpful for the entire decade before we arranged this review. So we can say with confidence, that they are a positive and great company when it comes to supporting their customers, they make great rods, and stand behind their products.

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Fly Tying Trout Flies

| September 17, 2021
Flies and Fly Tying Gear
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Fly Tying Trout Flies has a few great advantages over buying ready made fishing flies. Good trout fishing flies can get pricey, and if you get hung up and lose them as any normal person does, then tying your own can get you greater mileage, at a lower price point. Tying your own trout flies also lets you create very specific patterns, and experiment with your own.

Lastly, if you hunt in addition to fish, fly tying lets you take advantage of the byproducts produced by harvesting animals. When we harvest animals, we use everything that we possibly can. This includes tying flies using the hair from deer, elk, coyotes, squirrels and rabbits, as well as feathers from the upland and waterfowl seasons. Mallard feathers and elk hair are very common materials sold for fly tying, so using what you have makes better use of animals you harvest and saves a few bucks.

There is some fairly basic equipment that you should have to start tying flies at a minimum, anything else while nice, isn’t necessary.

Basic Equipment:
Vise – A vise holds a hook still, so that materials can be added and tied on to it.
Bobbin – A Bobbin holds the thread used to secure materials to the hook.
Whip Finisher – A whip finisher is a tool used to more easily tie knots, and finish a fly.
Scissors – It’s pretty obvious what scissors do. But in regards to fly tying, a small precise pair is very helpful.
Bodkin Needle – Used to apply cements and glues, pick out dubbing, and as an all purpose tool anywhere a sharp point is needed.
Threader – Threads bobbins more easily.

While you can buy all the above tools, you’d probably be better off buying a fly tying kit, like this one. You’ll save some money, and get a few more useful fly tying tools at a great price. With a kit, you may not get the most premium tools, but you’ll be tying flies with less of an investment.

Hooks, in various sizes and shapes.
Beads, in different sizes, materials and weights.
Wire, in different colors and weights
Thread, in different colors
Hackle, Feathers, Dubbing
Foam, Foils
Cements/Glues/UV Resin
Worm Material

Red Copper John Nymph Trout Flies

A Nymphing Copper John with red wire is a favorite trout fly for some of the Sportsman’s Magazine team.

Alternatives To Tying
Fly shops sell flies that are marked up quite a bit, often priced at $2.50 per fly or more. Buying in bulk from a supplier closer to the source, or even just an importer can get you flies for as low as 60 cents per piece. Buy Flies in Bulk

Tying flies can be an enjoyable pastime or just a thing to do to have your favorite flies readily available.

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Firearms and Fly Rods

| September 17, 2021
Not A Scene from Dune
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

The majority of national forests in California have been closed, so you have to work with what you’ve got. For us, in the eastern sierra, we’ve got the century-old monopoly on California’s water supply, the good ‘ole LADWP, and the lands they ‘manage’ to hunt and fish on, as well as some BLM land still accessible.

The mix of irrigation canals and dry creek beds, tall bushes, small trees, surprisingly deep watering holes amidst small creeks, confluences of springs and streams, barbed wire fences, cheatgrass, and sagebrush, offer a fun opportunity to cast for trout and blast for doves, while everything else is closed.

In a parallel dimension, one where the best California Sage Grouse and Antelope habitat hasn’t been turned into cattle land, with creeks full thriving nitrogen-fueled algal blooms racing through cow patty filled grassland and sagebrush, we’d be gunning for sage grouse and speed goats too. Unfortunately, we live in the mismanaged dimension, but at least we can shoot doves and catch non-native brown trout.

My digs at a century of California’s terrible land and fire management aside, during the closure, I was able to fish for brown trout, and take a crack at the occasional dove with my Benelli Montefeltro as I moved along different creeks and streams.

Doves Down

The author’s small mourning dove bounty, on top of an Eberlestock G1 Little Brother pack, next to a Benelli Montefeltro.

I occasionally flushed a few Sage Grouse, unfortunately, there is no season in California for them. Their leks are fragile environments, their food sources overgrazed at critical times of the year, and their nests even more fragile and easily destroyed by trampling, so while they aren’t thriving, it is nice to see they exist.

Although I found some success shooting a small number of doves and hooking up some decent trout, the national forests are open again, at least for now. Both the deer and bear seasons are just around the corner, so I’ll take up scouting where I had left off, and work on filling the freezer.

Also, before every cowboy out there loses their shit, I will acknowledge there are some studies, usually sponsored by the pro-cattle lobby, that indicate that careful rotation of grazing cattle during different times of the year can possibly benefit the greater sage grouse. That’s great if it is true, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of evidence of that sort of management happening in California. So you can form your own opinions.

If you are interested in being able to switch quickly between a firearm and a fishing rod, consider my pack and gear setup. It’s the tactical weapon carrier, and an NCStar/Vism 25 Shot Shell carrier connected externally via MOLLE/PALS. In the pack I’ve got a Hane Tenkara Rod, a Sawyer Squeeze water filter, a few snacks, first aid kit, and other odds and ends. The setup is the easiest combination of things I’ve used, to stay super mobile while hunting and fishing, and wish I had my gear set up this way for years. It’s easy to swap a weapon, for upland game, big game, or wing shooting.

Also, if you are going to wander around miles from any sort of sun relief, don’t forget eye protection and skin protection, STNGR polarized ballistic glasses are great, and so is a sun shirt. Your skin and eyes will thank you.

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The Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter

| September 13, 2021
Sawyer Squeeze Filter and Squeeze Bag
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.
Filter Size | .1 micron
Bacteria Removal | 99.99999%
Protozoa Removal | 99.99999%
Micro Plastic Removal | 100%
Filter Material | Hollow Fiber
Weight | 3 Ounces
Brand | Sawyer
Warranty | Lifetime
Price | $29.99
Includes | Backwash Plunger, Inline Adapter, 2 reusable 32-oz, BPA-free collapsible pouches

We decided to get on board with the modern backpacking movement, and pick up super small and light Sawyer Squeeze water filter. We’ve used a old MSR pump style filter for about two decades, so when it came to replacing a filter, yet again, we started looking at more modern filter solutions that were the same price or significantly cheaper, than a replacement MSR filter cartridge.

First Impressions

We weren’t sure what to expect from a filter that costs less than another brand’s replacement filter cartridge, so we were pleasantly surprised when we pulled the Squeeze out of the packaging. The Sawyer Squeeze is small, lightweight at only 3 ounces, and stupidly simple, the way you want outdoor and backpacking gear to be.

We’ve all seen modern filtration systems, used and abused, hanging from a PCTer, ATer, or CDTer’s pack, but they are easy to overlook until you are in the market for one. And why would you be in the market if your ole’ trusty MSR pump filter has served you well for about two-thirds of the average age of those PCT thru-hikers with their fancy ultra-light equipment?

In The Field

It’s really nice to have a filter that is 1/6th the weight, and also a fraction of the size of our old filter, as it doesn’t take much space in a pack, or can just as easily live on top of a water bottle.

The Sawyer Squeeze, as mentioned before, is stupidly simple. The inline filter design means there are no pump handles, and really nothing mechanical to speak of. There are also no annoying pre-filters, dirty water hoses, clean water hoses, floats, or food-grade lubricants to worry about.

The ease of use of modern inline water filtration feels like cheating, compared to the old way. It’s so simple, even Y.1 Millenials and Gen Zers can probably operate it without a phone and video tutorial. The only thing to be careful of, which should be obvious, is keeping a dirty bottle or water bag for dirty water, separate from a clean one designated for clean water.

You wouldn’t want to make an idiocracy-style exam moment out of bottle management, where the consequence is potentially giardia. All joking aside, the Sawyer Squeeze is the easiest thing to use. Fill a bottle or squeeze bag with dirty water, thread on the filter, turn over and squeeze water into a clean water bottle. Or squeeze while drinking directly from an inline bite valve.

During use, we did run into an issue that is apparently very prevalent in the community of Sawyer Squeeze users. The OEM O-ring/gasket that creates a seal between the squeeze bag and the filter is quite soft, and with little use, can stick to the bag versus remain retained by the filter, or deform and leak. We experienced this first hand. Our O-ring stuck to the squeeze bag on removal. It’s suggested by other users to buy extra O-rings and travel with them, but there is the option of buying a Bibb Gasket intended for faucets that has a harder durometer and does not deform or fall out as easily. Aside from the O-ring issue, we didn’t have any other issues with the Sawyer Squeeze. Whether we used the supplied BPA free Squeeze bags, or a Vitamin Water bottle, the filter worked flawlessly.

Sawyer Squeeze Loose Gasket Issue

The Sawyer Squeeze O-ring can easily come loose, and get lost, whereas it should be retained by the filter.


The Sawyer Squeeze gets the job done, and it’s hard to find something to complain about besides the aforementioned O-ring issue. For the O-ring issue, we docked the quality score, since it seems like a design or quality issue, that should have been easy to mitigate, but was overlooked by Sawyer. We also docked the Ease of Use score for the O-ring issue, because we don’t feel like you should have to be mindful f losing an O-ring every time you disconnect a water bottle or squeeze bag.

The Squeeze is small, it’s lightweight, and it’s incredibly affordable. It makes more economical sense than buying replacement filter cartridges for what are now antiquated, bulky, and heavy, water filtration systems. It doesn’t cut any corners on filtration either, you get .1 micron filtration that will remove 99.99999% of bacteria and protozoa, and 100% of microplastics. The filter has a lifetime warranty and includes a backwash plunger if you ever need it, an inline adapter, and 2 reusable 32-oz BPA-free collapsible pouches.

If our filtration choice were just a question of economics and an MSR replacement cartridge was cheaper than the Squeeze, we’d probably still be using our MSR, and still just think some backpackers were a bit overzealous about the ultralight gear rage. However, now that we use one, we love it. While there are competitors to the Squeeze, with even smaller, or gravity-fed systems, the is a great all-around choice for most, and a superb choice for the size and weight conscious backpacker.

Size | 4.8/5 |
Weight | 4.8/5 |
Ease Of Use | 4.2/5 |
Quality | 3.5/5 |
Value | 4.8/5 |
Overall | 4.4/5 |
Sawyer Squeeze Easy To Go Kit

The Sawyer Squeeze is easy to set up and stuff in a day pack, for use as a hydration bladder.

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Lucky Duck Lucky Dove Decoy

| August 12, 2021
Lucky Duck Lucky Dove Decoy
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.
Name | Lucky Dove Decoy HD
Brand | Lucky Duck
Warranty | 1 Year Mfg Defect
Battery | 4 AA
Battery Life | 12+ Hours
Operation | Single Speed
Power | On/Off Switch
Size | Realistic/Oversized
Motion | Spinner
Stand | 3 Piece 44 inches
Price | $29.99

The Lucky Duck Lucky Dove HD Decoy is one of only a couple motion dove decoys available to dove hunters. It’s a traditional spinning wing design, and does exactly what others do, but we wanted to see how it stacks up.

First Impressions

Our first impressions of the Lucky Dove were that it is fairly realistic, has an especially nice flaring tail, it is less oversized than other decoys, but not super large. It is however a little bit bulky in the shoulders.

Unlike the Lucky Duck Rapid Flyer, the Lucky Dove does not feel chintzy. It doesn’t seem like it will need to be babied in and out of the field, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a tank either. The Lucky Dove lacks the solid, and durable feel of the MOJO Outdoors Voodoo Dove Decoy.

The Lucky Dove includes a tall 44 inch stand that is very similar to the stands used in their waterfowl spinners but with a lighter weight construction and smaller diameter tube. Like their waterfowl spinners, the Lucky Dove stand utilizes a bungee to secure the decoy. We actually happen to like this, as it makes decoys fast and easy to secure and does not rely on a sticky pressure fit with the stand.

Lucky Duck Lucky Dove Decoy Tail Design

The Lucky Duck Lucky Dove Decoy has a nice tail design, and decent color.

In The Field

Deploying the 44 inch stand and securing the Lucky Dove to the top of it is a breeze. The height gives the decoy plenty of elevation to be very visible above tall grasses and thick bushes.

Again, the bungee mount system is fast, convenient, and makes setup easy, it also ensures no stuck decoy during cleanup. Magnetic wing attachments are the defacto industry standard, so it’s no surprise that the Lucky Duck Lucky Dove uses them. The Lucky Dove wings install quickly and securely. The wings are an interesting shape though. Unlike the short fat leaf shape used by the MOJO Outdoors on the Voodoo Dove Decoy, the Lucky Dove uses a longer more tapered shape.

The Lucky Dove has a good wing spinning speed, and even with the more tapered wing shape, the wings have an attractive flicker. Albeit maybe not as ‘attractive’ as the flicker produced by the wider wing of the MOJO decoy, the Lucky Dove was still effective at getting the attention of doves, and brought them into reasonable shooting distances.

Lucky Duck Lucky Dove Decoy Narrow Wings

Lucky Duck Lucky Dove Decoy uses an interesting extra wide and somewhat narrow wign shape.


The Lucky Duck Lucky Dove HD Decoy is an effective motion decoy. It attracts pass-over doves even at a distance, includes a tall stand and a convenient bungee mounting system, and it also looks good. While we feel that the Lucky Dove HD's overall construction could be better, and durability may be a concern after a couple of seasons of use, neither of those criticisms we had of the Lucky Dove HD take away from its performance. At $29.99 the Lucky Dove HD is a good value, but for those wanting a more durable construction, it may be worth taking a look at the competition.

Realism | 4.1/5 |
Effectiveness | 4.1/5 |
Quality | 3.9/5 |
Battery Life | 4.2/5 |
Value | 4.0/5 |
Overall | 4.0/5 |
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