Nov 10, 2021
Winter 2021 Gear Guide
- YETI RAMBLER 20- AND 30-OZ TRAVEL MUG
- MOSSBERG 940 PRO WATERFOWL
- FRANCHI AFFINITY 3 COMPACT SHOTGUN
- BIG LAKE T-REX DOUBLE REED IN ACRYLIC WITH METAL T-REED
- EUKANUBA™ ACTIVTRAINERS AND ACTIVMOBILITY
- KENT FASTEEL 2.0 PRECISION PLATED STEEL™
- SPORTDOG® BRAND SPORTTRAINER 575
- WEATHERBY ELEMENT SYNTHETIC TUNGSTEN
- SLAYER CALLS: DRAKE SLAYER SINGLE REED
- HEVI-SHOT HEVI-XII
- SITKA WOMEN’S HUDSON JACKET
- BIG AL’S MALLARD PACK
- GREENHEAD GEAR PRO-GRADE XD SERIES PINTAIL HARVESTER PACK
YETI RAMBLER 20- and 30-OZ TRAVEL MUG
I love my huge YETI Rambler – it holds a half-carafe of coffee easy peasy and keeps it hot down to the last drop. But YETI’s new Rambler travel mug has some terrific updates. Not only does it have a handle, but the handle is elevated to ensure it will still fit in my car’s cupholder, which is essential for those get-up-and-go mornings. And it’s topped with the Rambler® Stronghold™ Lid – a leak-resistant, twist-on upgrade that’s backed with dual-slider magnet technology. This lid easily rotates to fasten for both right-and left-handed users. $34.99, yeti.com
– Holly Heyser, Communications Director
MOSSBERG 940 PRO WATERFOWL
Mossberg’s 3-inch, 12-gauge 940 Pro Waterfowl is based on the 940 JM Pro, which was designed with input from top shooter Jerry Miculek to function ultra-reliably in 3-gun competition. The waterfowl version does away with the JM’s extended magazine but retains the boron-nitride coated internals, a stainless return spring and Cerakote on the metal. A ported alloy buffer replaces the tube found on the 930, and Mossberg advertises it as a gun that will go up to 1,500 rounds between cleanings. It also features an enlarged bolt handle, bolt release and a redesigned loading port.
The 940 didn’t look and feel like a high-end gun to me when I first picked it up, but as soon as I started to shoot, I discovered the 940’s inner beauty. It shot somewhere between 50/50 and 60/40, which is just right. It’s a very soft-shooting gun. The scary Federal 3 dram, 1-1/8-ounce target loads that I am afraid to shoot out of my O/U's produced only creampuff recoil in the 7-3/4-pound, gas-operated 940. And, it cycled very light 7/8-ounce, 1200 fps target loads, too, which some guns won’t do. In addition, the cutaway loading port and a soft magazine spring made it easy to load, something I appreciate, as my thumbs turn numb and weak on cold hunts. Besides shooting the gun at the range, I had a chance to shoot it at teal in Texas a little bit, too, and I could hit with it just fine.
The 940 Pro Waterfowl also comes with shims and stock spacers to help it fit a variety of shooters, and three choke tubes: Improved Cylinder, Full and an extended Modifed. And, like all Mossbergs, it has an equal-opportunity top safety that doesn’t discriminate against us left-handers. $1,050, mossberg.com
– Phil Bourjaily
FRANCHI AFFINITY 3 COMPACT SHOTGUN
Franchi’s Affinity 3 Compact is a 20-gauge semi-automatic shotgun – a lighter, shorter-barreled version of the Affinity 3. As a new hunter, this is the first gun I’ve tested out more than once, and it didn’t disappoint.
When I held up the gun for the first time, I was thrilled. I’m on the small side at 5-foot-5, and I have embarrassingly weak arms. All the other guns I’ve tried always seemed to be a little too heavy. However, this gun is a lightweight, adjustable model that’s actually meant for youth shooters, so it ended up working great for me.
During my first visit to the skeet range with the Affinity 3 Compact, the shotgun fit comfortably in my smaller-than-average hands. Though I missed plenty of clays, I quickly got used to feel of the gun. I know the sacrifice for a lighter gun is more felt recoil, but I never noticed or had a problem with it. The gun features a TSA recoil pad that Franchi says can reduce felt recoil up to 50%.
For my second visit to the range, I added two 1/4-inch spacers to the buttstock to get a little more distance between my face and my thumb on the grip, and by the end of the session, there was noticeable improvement when compared with the results from my first session.
The Affinity 3 Compact is a good choice for any hunters who are still growing or who, like me, are bigger than a youth shooter but not as big as the average man most shotguns are made for. $999.99, franchiusa.com
– Julie Do, Assistant Editor
BIG LAKE T-REX DOUBLE REED IN ACRYLIC WITH METAL T-REED
This double-reed call from Big Lake is an easy-to-use call for beginners. The metal T-Reed adds raspiness for a more realistic duck sound, as well as amplifies the volume to allow you to blow the quietest and loudest calls, and anything in between.
This was the first duck call I’d ever touched in my life, so I had a seasoned hunter and duck caller listen to my attempts to give feedback. The verdict: My rhythm and “pronunciation” need work, but the sound quality of the call is great.
I found the T-Rex comfortable to hold, and though I blew into the call for quite a long time while practicing, it didn’t stick or clog at all. The call itself feels sturdy and comes in 10 fun colors, plus a Dymond wood/poly version. Acrylic, $110. Dymond wood/poly, $50. biglakeoutdoorproducts.com
– Julie Do, Assistant Editor
EUKANUBA™ ACTIVTRAINERS AND ACTIVMOBILITY
ACTIVTRAINERS and ACTIVMOBILITY are low-calorie training treats meant to help active dogs with activity and mobility. These semi-moist treats are easy to digest and offer extra health and nutrition. ACTIVTRAINERS, meant for young dogs two months and older, are fortified with DHA to support healthy brain function. It comes in chicken and salmon flavor. ACTIVMOBILITY comes in chicken flavor and contains glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, which can help support cartilage and joints. $6.99-9.99, eukanuba.com
KENT FASTEEL 2.0 PRECISION PLATED STEEL™
The Fasteel 2.0 is an upgrade from original Fasteel with its ground zinc-plated steel shot and nickel-plated heads, which provide corrosion resistance. The ammo’s foundation starts with a high-performance base wad, which allows for fast follow-up shots and ensures consistent reliability. Kent’s custom blended powders help manage felt recoil, too. Fasteel 2.0 comes in 12 and 20 gauge. $21.99 per box of 25 shells, kentcartridge.com
SPORTDOG® BRAND SPORTTRAINER 575
The SportTrainer 575 is SportDOG® Brand’s e-collar designed for field training and hunting with close-working dogs. The remote-controlled e-collar lets you communicate 500 yards away with two dogs (if you buy an Add-A-Dog® collar for $109.95) using tone, vibration and one of 10 levels of static stimulation. It’s waterproof, submersible to 25 feet, and charges in just two hours to last up to 70 hours per charge. $189.95, sportdog.com
WEATHERBY ELEMENT SYNTHETIC TUNGSTEN
This hardy semi-auto is meant to be a workhorse shotgun. Weatherby’s Element Synthetic Tungsten comes in 26- or 28-inch barrel and 12 or 20 gauge. It has Tungsten Cerakote on all metalwork to protect it from the elements, and comes with a set of interchangeable chokes and adjustable fit using the included stock shim set. $649, weatherby.com
SLAYER CALLS: DRAKE SLAYER SINGLE REED
Slayer calls are 100% made and assembled in the USA, based in the state of Idaho. The company makes an array of duck and goose calls in unique patterns. The call I reviewed boasts a mesh-like appearance swirling through the acrylic barrel or mouthpiece. The insert is made from molded acrylic and is clear. The Drake Slayer Single Reed call is built with the traditional duck caller in mind. What I liked most is the ease of operation. The simple-blowing call provides a wide range of sounds from the low-end single quacks to a mid-range hail call. The Drake Slayer Single reed is a perfect fit for any novice duck caller or everyday hunter who likes a call that is easy to blow. You do not need a lot of air pressure to get ducky sounds. This call is not a screamer, but an everyday hunting call that will add value to anyone’s lanyard. $120, slayercalls.com
– Jeff Smith, Hunting and Education Programs Supervisor
I got a chance this year to test the new HEVI-XII in 12-gauge 1 1/8 oz #4 shot. The key with HEVI-XII is to shoot smaller pellets because of the density. Normally you would shoot #1 or #2 for large ducks, but with HEVI-XII, the 4's worked very well on mallards. The tungsten crushes birds – you get more pellets on target and no cripples. Shooting an A400 with IC choke, they patterned very well for me. Most shots were 20-25 yards, but I did reach out to a couple of 40-plus-yard birds and stoned them. If you are looking to up your game this year, these shells will do the trick. Cost is more per shell, but you will need fewer shells. $50-55, hevishot.com
– Tim Davanis, Field Operations Representative
SITKA WOMEN’S HUDSON JACKET
I am not “sick for it.” I don’t care what’s trendy. But I do like quality, so when my beloved Girls with Guns duck jacket started wearing out, I decided it was time to plunge deep into my wallet and buy Sitka’s women’s Hudson jacket. I’ve had one chance to wear it as of this writing – opening Sunday, and I hunted well south of the epic storm, so I did not get to test it against the downpour. Here are my quick observations:
- Fits great. I’m a medium and it had plenty of room to wear it over my waders, with room to spare for layers, had I needed them.
- I really like the built-in call lanyards – one on each side. The separation means less clanking of calls when you move around, and made it easier for my hand to find what I needed when my eyes were on the sky.
- It is barely feminine, which is to say cut appropriately for a woman but not at the expense of function. (My GWG jacket, which is no longer in production, was way more attractively cut, but didn’t wear well over waders because it was too form-fitting.) The Hudson has no pink accents that scream “CHICK CLOTHING,” or any accents at all, so my boyfriend pulled it out of the closet to get ready for hunting and wondered where the hell his calls were. (Honey, they’re on your Sitka jacket, right where you left them.)
- The handwarmer pockets are appropriately placed mid-torso. My GWG jacket’s handwarmer pockets were a little better, though, because they ran deep – you could put a shell or two in them and they wouldn’t fall out; the Hudson pockets are pretty level, so I won’t be putting anything but my hands in them. $499, sitkagear.com
– Holly Heyser, Communications Director
BIG AL’S MALLARD PACK
These silhouettes feature oversized bodies (about 17.5" long) and are printed on extra thick fluted plastic material with outdoor grade inks and ultra matte overprint for many years of usage. Each kit contains one dozen: three each hen and drake uprights plus three each hen and drake feeders. Comes with 12 through-body stakes. $72, bigalsdecoys.com
GREENHEAD GEAR PRO-GRADE XD SERIES PINTAIL HARVESTER PACK
What species better to next get the XD treatment other than the northern pintail? Following in the footsteps of the popular XD Mallards, the XD Pintail Floating Decoys take definition, pop and realism to the next level. The DuraFeather soft-body design adds realism and durability to provide years of top-notch use. Six-pack includes two active drakes, two rester drakes and two rester hens. $89.99, banded.com
My hunting gear cabinet in my home office was a hot mess – bags, boxes and piles of stuff that made it far too difficult to find what I needed when prepping for a hunt the next day.
The solution was Ikea’s Kallax shelf unit. This piece is modeled on the notion of stacked 13”x13”x15” cubes and comes in an array of configurations to fit whatever space you may have. Importantly, there are inserts that turn some of the cubes into cabinets (for junk you don’t want to look at, or don’t want people to see) or drawers (for small stuff), and other inserts that are soft- or hard-sided pull-out boxes or baskets (great for gloves and hats). Or you can leave the cubes open for anything longer than 15 inches, like backpacks.
And what’s the assembly like? Pretty easy for the cubes and drawers, but a little trickier for the cabinets, whose doors need adjustment to sit straight and close without friction. But being able to find everything you need easily is worth a day of cursing about Allen wrenches and the little things you miss in those word-free instructions. The 5x5 setup pictured here costs about $420 including tax, but cubes start at $35 for a 2x2 unit to $179 for a 5x5. Drawer inserts are $20 apiece, the cabinet insert is $15, and the soft boxes are $4. $35 to ???, ikea.com
– Holly Heyser, Communications Director