Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category


Gun Safety Starts At Home

You’ve spent a lot of money on your guns. You want to protect that investment. You want to protect your family. You need a gun safe — a good gun safe. A haphazard collection of guns around the house is a recipe for disaster, especially if you have children. Anyone with more than a single rifle or shotgun should invest in a high quality, secure and fire resistant safe to store weapons and appropriate hunting paraphernalia.
 
Size — Buy More Than You Need
 
The first thing to decide is how big the safe needs to be. Experts agree here — buy more size than you need, at least more than you need right now. Your gun collection is bound to grow over time. A good safe is more than just a gun locker — it becomes a secure storage device for your family’s other valuables as well. You’ll find you quickly fill up even a large safe. Spend the money for the size, protection, and features you want. Your gun collection may be worth many tens of thousands of dollars. Some people who visit Dunham’s wouldn’t hesitate to spend $450 on a EOTech Sight or $1100 for a custom action, yet they don’t want to spend more than a few hundred dollars on a safe. That’s not common sense.
 
“The most common mistake gun enthusiasts make in buying a safe is to not plan ahead,” says Ken Wolowicz of Stack-on-Safes. “People will think ‘I have 10 guns, so I need a safe to hold that many.’ But just because you have 10 guns, doesn’t mean you won’t get more. You can always use the extra space now for other items — hunting accessories or even other family possessions.”
 
Fire Protection
 
One of the biggest reasons to have a gun safe is to protect those guns in case of fire. Fire protection ratings vary a great deal among safes. That rating is usually expressed in terms of temperature (degrees) and time. A safe rated at 1200 degrees for 30 minutes means that a fire of 1200 degrees (typical for a house fire) can burn for a half hour without the interior exceeding 350 degrees — enough to damage contents. Considering that most house fires are put out in 15-20 minutes, that half hour protection is usually adequate.
 
To be especially cautious, if you keep other valuables (jewelry, documents, etc.), consider having a smaller safe within the gun safe — that way you are doubly protected.
 
What Kind of Lock?
 
Standard combination locks remain the most popular with gun safes, but electronic versions are becoming more popular. Both kinds of locks offer security, so it really comes down to personal preference. Electronic locks tend to add a bit to the cost, so you pay for their convenience — it’s up to you.
 
Be Flexible
 
Ken Wolowicz says the most important consideration in shopping for a gun safe is to be flexible. “You want a safe that you can modify to fit your own particular needs,” he says. “You might want special shelving, and you might want to change things around based on new purchases you make, or new things you want to store. Look for a safe that lets you be creative in how you arrange things inside.”
 
You can easily build a replacement that fits the guns you own, not the guns some marketing director thinks you have. For scoped guns, you need to increase clearance from the sidewalls 3” or more (assuming scope-side faces the safe wall). To ease access, you should also increase the spacing between guns. If you have a number of benchrest rifles with square, 3”-wide fore-ends, consider building a shelf with 3.5” rectangular slots instead of the typical tight half-circle cutouts. This will give you a rock-solid mounting point that won’t allow the rifle to bang into its neighbor.
 
If you have a variety of AR-type rifles, some long and some short, you can build a simple stepped box that sits on the safe’s floor. Place your 20”+ ARs on the bottom step and the short-barreled ARs on the upper step.
 
Water Protection
 
One much overlooked aspect of gun safe performance is the ability to protect the contents from water damage (due to floods, plumbing leaks, or water from fire-fighting). In the aftermath of the flooding in New Orleans, more people are thinking how they can keep water out of their safes. The first thing you can do is create a raised concrete platform. This will also make it easier to access items in the bottom of the safe.
 
Then, you should ensure that all holes in the safe base or sides are sealed with heat-resistant silicone or similar caulking material. This will also help safeguard the contents from fire damage.
 
-Deer Abby
 
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Practice Makes Perfect

Sharpen Your Deer Hunting Skills all Year Long
 
If bagging a whitetail buck or doe on your annual fall hunt has become more of a challenge, patience or practice are most likely at the root of the problem. And while patience is a virtue, a consistent practice regime using a variety of different deer targets can definitely help maximize your in-field results.
 
“Bow hunters who bag trophy deer know the importance of staying physically fit and mentally sharp all year long,” according to Jake Stark of Delta Sports Products. “They’ll make time to practice with a bag target during the spring and summer, hone their shooting skills with realistic 3-D targets as the season approaches and then take a quality foam target along on the hunt to dial-in their technique during any downtime.”
 
Top-notch sportsmen and athletes make time to practice all season long. They know the importance of exercise and a consistent approach. Eye sight, muscle memory and physical strength can all fade if not exercised periodically throughout the year.
 
Bag Target Benefits
 
If you haven’t shot a bag target in some time, you’ll really be surprised how dramatically they have evolved and how much bang for the buck they offer. Available in a wide variety of sizes and styles, new bags are super-durable, weatherproof and engineered to stop field point arrows from even the heaviest bows and crossbows.
 
The Team RealTree® Bag Target from McKenzie Targets offers a huge surface area with a realistic full-color deer image on the front and RealTree camo design on the sides. It features a tough durable synthetic filler, and allows easy two-finger arrow removal.
 
A new Speed Bag from Delta is designed specifically for practice with today’s high-speed, high-performance bows and crossbows shooting up to 400 feet-per-second. It offers a massive 24-inch surface plus all the benefits of the Speed Bag series, including easy arrow removal, a tough filler, and a heavy-duty outer shell for unbelievably long life.
 
“At the very least,” according to Stark, “you should start a few months before the season begins and shoot 30 to 50 arrows per session. Practicing with a partner may also help you improve each other’s form and technique.”
 
3-D Drama
 
As the season approaches, hone your shooting skills with a realistic 3-D practice target. Affordable tournament and practice 3-D targets are available in a variety of styles. Many include removable antlers, flexible ears, replaceable vitals, either ASA or IBO scoring options and twist-lock assembly for easy setup and teardown.
 
The new Challenger 3-D target from Delta Sports a big buck body and big rack to help prepare you for the moment of truth in any blind or stand. Tough, durable microcellular foam ensures exceptional arrow stopping, extended core life and easy arrow removal.
 
The new McKenzie Smackdown Series E-Z Mack Buck replicates a life-size deer with a huge body, aggressive posture, and a big rack. It’s designed to stop arrows that might blow through other targets and E-Z Pull Foam technology ensures it will stand up to hours of heavy practice.
 
Delta’s Archer’s Choice Real-World Magnum elevates any practice session to the next level. The AC Magnum comes with a rotating stand that spins up to 180 degrees when the target is struck by an arrow. So, once it comes to rest, you experience another shooting angle.
 

Delta’s new Kill Zone target is designed specifically for hunters on the go. The compact life-like mid-section features a handle for easy, go-anywhere portability. The durable lightweight design also ensures it fits easily in a travel bag, cargo compartment or bed of a pickup truck.
 
“Whichever 3-D target you choose,” adds Stark, “remember to concentrate on shot placement; draw back slowly and steadily, and release each arrow smoothly.”
 
Foam Targets on the Hunt
 
On the hunt, don’t waste downtime away from your blind or stand. Remember to bring along a quality foam target to dial in your shooting technique. Foam and foam plank targets are available in a variety of sizes.
 
McKenzie’s ShotBlocker® targets are the ultimate in layered foam practice targets. They feature a patented Welded-Core™ technology that eliminates the need for plates, cables, wires, straps or bands. What you get is a tougher target with layers or sheets that can’t shift, move or fall apart. They can be shot on all four sides, and best of all, the foam slivering that you get from most layered targets when shooting broadheads is practically eliminated.
 
“Make time to practice throughout the year,” says Stark, “stay physically fit and mentally sharp, practice with a variety of targets, and you’re sure to increase your chance of bagging that trophy whitetail you’ve been dreaming about.”
 
-Deer Abby
 
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The Smell of Victory

The key to landing that trophy buck is staying undetected. Thanks to the companies that produce scent-control clothing and footwear, the ability to stay out of the noses of prey now lies in the hands of the predator.
 
Hunters throughout the years have used camouflage to stay undetected, as well as keeping quiet to avoid startling their prey. But big game animals use a keen sense of smell to further survey an area to determine if it’s safe. According to Mike Andrews of Scent-Lok, it’s imperative for a successful hunter to wear scent-control clothing.
 
“Big game animals, especially whitetail deer, rely on three senses to assess danger in the wild,” Andrews said. “The first is their eyesight, the second their hearing, and third, and most important, is their sense of smell. Good camo, as well as keeping still and quiet, can usually overcome the sight and hearing problems. But too much human odor can spook them to the point of turning tail and possibly avoiding the area all together. Using Scent-Lok reduces enough of the human odor so that deer remain calm and hunters stay undetected.”
 
Getting the Boot
 
In order to stay successfully scentless to prey, hunters need to be covered from head to toe in scent-control gear — and hunters’ toes can’t be covered unless they’re wearing hunting boots. Justin Behnke, Hunt Product Line Manager for LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. lets hunters know that rubber can be one of the best materials for controlling scent, and offers a suggestion on what type of boot to buy.
 
“Rubber is the best scent suppressant you can get in footwear,” Behnke said. “This is because it normally doesn’t pick up external odors easily, and can help prevent the transmission of human foot odor from the inside. So buying our Alphaburly® allows for the ultimate in scent-free protection, along with an extremely lightweight and comfortable boot.”
 
Rocky Brands is another company taking the next step in scent-control apparel. They’ve created a new type of scent-suppressant that will keep hunters’ smells at bay — not just on their feet. “We have developed a full head to toe scent elimination system with our rubber and neoprene MudSox boots and Scent IQ Atomic™ apparel,” Greg Huth, Apparel Designer for Rocky Brands.
 
Marty Lynch of Itasca Footwear is also a supporter of rubber hunting boots because of their ability to resist odors from soaking in or escaping.“I believe rubber boots are the best suppression factor in footwear,” Lynch explained. “Rubber doesn’t normally hold smell. This reduces the opportunity for the boots to pick up a scent and hold that to the hunting blind.” While the boots themselves are built to prevent transmission of scent coming from a hunter, some extra measures should be taken in order to keep odors controlled.
 
“The best way to make sure your boots stay scent free is to tuck your scent suppressing pants into your boot while hunting for an additional layer of scent suppression. Give your boots a quick spray down of an after market scent suppression spray before you head out on a hunt, and use a rubber conditioner afterwards to enhance the longevity of the boots,” Behnke said. Keep in mind, though, that if your pants are carbon-lined, you should wear them on the outside of your boots to prevent human odor from puffing out.
 
It’s About Non-Sense
 
With the technology in scent-control technology continuing to advance, hunters today have more choices than ever. While less expensive garments are tempting at first, they might be lacking the full benefits of scent-control features. The better option might be to purchase a premium garment of scent-control material because the hunter will stay protected and undetected for more than one season. For seasoned hunters, this might be the best value in the long run.
 
“Premium scent suppression apparel has long lasting odor reduction,” said Powell Andrews of Russell Outdoors. “It can reduce odor through several days of wearing without loss of efficiency and can tolerate repeated laundering without loss of efficiency. Scent-Stop by Russell Outdoors is a unique antimicrobial treatment because it is bonded to the fabric at a molecular level, making it much more durable than competitive technologies.”
 
While the antimicrobial garments can help prevent the formation of odors, they do not absorb, neutralize, or trap odors that already exist. To combat this, it would be a good idea to use an antimicrobial next-to-skin layer with an activated-carbon outer layer.
 
Ensuring Repeat Performance
 
With your new scent-control pants, jackets and boots, your wardrobe is now complete for the season. Afterwards, the next step is to take care of it for next time. While proper cleaning will ensure that none of the odor-controlling material loses its luster, today’s fabrics make it easier than ever.
 
Believe it or not, the days of requiring a special detergent or spray is no longer needed in today’s scent-masking clothing. Many products today are able to withstand many cycles of regular washing.
 
“Scent-Stop by Russell Outdoors apparel may be laundered as often as necessary per the care instructions in the garment’s label,” said Andrews. “It can be machine washed and dried. The finish technology has the durability to last through repeated laundering cycles.”
 
The same can be said for Scent-Lok or Scentblocker clothing items, though a premium carbon detergent is recommended in order to ensure that the detergent rinses completely from the garment.
 
“Our garments can be reactivated in a basic household dryer time after time with virtually no significant drop in performance,” Andrews said. “Through normal wash and dry cycles, we estimated that our products can remain effective for a minimum of five years.”
 
With a full line of scent-control gear for the 2011 hunting season, Dunham’s Sports is the only stop hunters will have to make to stock up on all of the latest attire. Offering apparel from brand names like Scent-Lok, Scent-Stop by Russell Outdoors, and ScentBlocker, as well as footwear from LaCrosse, Itasca, Rocky, and Frogg Toggs, Dunham’s will help keep hunters scent-free so they can enjoy the sweet smell of victory.
 
-Deer Abby
 
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Four Thousand Years Old, Getting Better Every Day

The kayak may be one of the world’s oldest watercrafts, but the latest designs show a lot of fresh thinking.
 
Kayaking is one of today’s fastest growing recreational activities, but the kayak is not a new concept. The first kayaks were built over 4,000 years ago by some of the first inhabitants of North America — indigenous residents of the Arctic region. Made of animal skins and driftwood, these early boats were ideal transportation for a hunter who wished to navigate frigid waterways in search of dinner.
 
A wide variety of kayaks are available today, and thanks to many years of development and advanced design techniques, the venerable watercraft is now a superb way for one or more adventurers to explore the world’s waters.
 
Recreational Kayaking
 
While kayaks are still used for fishing or hunting, recreational paddling has become the most popular activity of kayak enthusiasts, and boats designed specifically for that role are widely available. Recreational kayaks provide go-anywhere freedom, and because they move almost silently, they are a comfortable fit in a wilderness environment.
 
According to Mark Palinsky of Old Town Kayaks, today’s recreational kayaks are engineered with plenty of stability and gear capacity. Made of tough space-age plastics and easy to control, recreational kayaks are well suited to leisurely exploration of lakes and rivers. Because modern kayaks are roomy and provide easy entry and exit, the sport imposes no boundaries. Kayaking is enjoyed by young and old alike, and unlike most recreational activities, men and women participate in equal numbers.
 
The most common type of recreational kayak is the 10- to 14-foot sit-in design, where a single occupant sits in a comfortable padded seat that is positioned below the kayak’s deck. According to Lisa Senecal of Pelican International, sit-in kayaks are more popular than sit-on-top designs, because the paddler is better protected from spray. That makes a difference when the water is uncomfortably cold.
 
Today’s better recreational kayaks are equipped with a number of hatches for stowing equipment,  bulkheads that can help keep compartments dry, handles for carrying the kayak, adjustable foot braces, thigh pads, and perhaps even a cup holder for your favorite beverage.
 
Variations on a Theme
 
While recreational kayaks are today’s best sellers, other types are available as well.
 
Whitewater kayaks are specialized watercraft, and you’ve probably seen them shooting the rapids on television.Short and maneuverable, they work best when pushed by a fast-moving stream. Because whitewater kayaking can be challenging, it requires training and preparation.
 
Touring kayaks are another configuration. Very long and less maneuverable than a recreational kayak, they are capable of higher speed on open water. Touring kayaks are usually about 16 feet or more in length and can rapidly cover a lot of water, so they’re a great choice for a long trip across a bay or large lake. Many are designed for two or three occupants and include plenty of gear-stowage room. Some touring kayaks have rudders to assist in control and an upturned bow to deflect waves. At rest, they are generally not as stable as recreational kayaks.
 
Kayaks designed for fishing are lightweight and extremely stable. They can include features like rod holders, mounts for electronic gear, a means of securing the paddle, and an anchor system.
 
Sit-on-top kayaks are exactly what the name suggests. Rather than sitting within the hull, the paddler sits on top of the hull. Because this raises the center of gravity, sit-on-top kayaks are wider than traditional kayaks in order to gain stability. They are popular with scuba divers who want to easily get in and out of the water. They are also the choice of some fishermen, who like the freedom of movement that this kayak provides. The latest designs are almost unsinkable and are a great choice for those who want to play on and in the water.
 
Inflatable Kayaks are usually made of hypalon, polyvinyl chloride, or polyurethane-coated cloth. Because they can be deflated and folded, they are easily carried to a destination. A pump is required for inflation. Electric pumps that connect to a vehicle’s electrical system are a common choice.
 
What’s New?
 
“The kayak market is beginning to see the emergence of recreational kayaks that are slightly modified so that they can be used as touring kayaks for longer trips,” said Pelican’s Lisa Senecal. She added that people are increasingly looking for increased comfort in the way of padded ergonomically designed seats, dry storage and bulkheads that form watertight compartments.
 
Old Town’s Palinsky said that improved water-resistant hatches are featured on some newer kayaks. For example, his company recently introduced a Quick Seal hatch design on its Dirigo series kayaks. The hatch features gasket technology that is very resistant to water.
 
Kayaking Paddles
 
Kayak paddles are made in a variety of styles and of various materials, including aluminum, plastic, fiberglass and carbon fiber. Aluminum paddle shafts with plastic blades are light and inexpensive, and are a popular choice. Carbon fiber paddles are rigid and lightweight, but they are expensive. While not as light or rigid as carbon paddles, fiberglass paddles are also very high quality, and they can be more affordable.
 
Many paddles offer blade-angle adjustment. Varying the angle can change the amount of effort required to pull the blade through the water.
 
Kayaking Accessories
 
As the popularity of kayaking grew, the list of accessories expanded, but some are more necessary than others. For example, a personal flotation device, or PFD, is an absolute requirement. In addition, most kayakers don’t want to be without a dry bag — a watertight sack that protects your cargo if water enters the hatch. Fishing-related accessories are quite popular. Among these are swivel rod holders and anchor kits that will adapt a recreational kayak for angling.  Other available extras include carry straps, seat cushions, tie-down devices, worktables and more.
 
Paddle to that Special Place
 
It doesn’t take a large investment or a lot of skill to enjoy kayaking. Perhaps that’s why the sport has grown so rapidly. A kayak on your favorite lake or stream gives you freedom to wander that most other types of watercraft can’t match. So strap those kayaks to the roof of your car and head off to the great outdoors. That special place awaits you.
 
-Paddle Bum
 
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What’s Your Line?

Think about it! No other tool in your tackle box is more important than the fishing line you use. No other has also improved more dramatically over the past few years. Higher quality materials, advanced manufacturing processes and continuous improvement based on testing by pro anglers have made modern fishing lines stronger, smoother, tougher and more high-tech than ever before. Today’s new-generation of lines can be grouped into four types: monofilament, braided, fused and fluorocarbon. Each type offers its own benefits and advantages.
 
Monofilament
 
Monofilament lines are formed by extruding molten material such as nylon into a single strand. Mono lines are easy-handling and have larger diameters than other lines. They are also more buoyant, so spinnerbaits, poppers and frogs sink slower and stay closer to the surface, even on long casts. Early monofilaments, however, had high “memory,” meaning they tended to come off the reel in coils or loops after being stored for a long time. They also tended to weaken when exposed to heat and sunlight. Higher quality materials and advanced manufacturing processes have practically eliminated those problems. Today’s new-generation monofilaments are available in a wide variety of different colors, pound-test weights, and special formulas for different types of fishing and water conditions.
 
“No one offers more choice in quality monofilament line than Berkley,” says Mike Polus of Pure Fishing. “Trilene XL is an extremely versatile monofilament line that is good for a wide variety of baits and techniques”. Trilene XT is extra strong for fishing in heavy cover.
 
Big Cat has controlled shock absorbency for fighting big catfish. The high visibility solar green color lets you see the line more easily in muddy water and even glows at night under a black light. TransOptic has a special additive that absorbs sunlight, so you can see it above water but it becomes completely invisible under the surface.”

 
Braided
 
Braided lines, often called superlines or microfilaments, are made of multiple individual synthetic fiber strands joined together in an intricate, time-consuming braiding process. The result is a line that’s ultrathin, superstrong and extremely sensitive. In relation to its diameter, braided lines are the strongest. A 15 test-pound braided line, for example, may have the same diameter as a 4 test-pound mono line. The smaller diameter allows anglers to spool more line on reels. That’s a huge advantage for shore-bound anglers. Braided lines are engineered with less stretch, so they transmit strikes more quickly when fishing in deep water or slow trolling. More visible than mono lines, braided lines are available in a variety of float and sink rates. Look for one that offers the optimal performance for the type of fishing you do.
 
“Sufix 832 Advanced Superline™ changes the game,” says Matt Jensen of Rapala USA. “Unbeatable strength, fine diameter, and line consistency are the reasons Sufix 832 was selected Best New Line of 2011by Field & Stream. An advanced precision braiding process weaves together eight superstrong fibers, including one GORE® Performance Fiber, at a tight 32 weaves per inch. And because it’s both rounder and tighter, castability is amazing.”
 
Fused
 
Fused lines are also made of multiple individual synthetic fiber strands thermally fused or glued rather than woven together. Using more or fewer strands determines the pound-test. The thin diameter and strength of fused line makes it ideal for fishing in and around vegetation. Fused lines are more abrasion resistant than mono lines, but less abrasion resistant than braided lines. They often come in bright colors that you can see and watch jigs or plugs for bites. Choose a fused line when you need a slick, strong line that doesn’t have much stretch.
 
“Fused lines, like Berkley Fireline, deliver longer and more controllable casts than mono or braids of the same pound-test,” according to Mike Polus. “Low memory helps fused lines come off the reel faster and with less friction. The smaller diameter means it’s not affected as much by the wind. That improves both casting accuracy and lure control.” If visibility is an issue, Polus recommends tying on an 18- to 36-inch leader of low-vis monofilament or fluorocarbon.
 
Fluorocarbon
 
Fluorocarbon is a polymer made by bonding fluorine and carbon together. Fluorocarbon lines are water repellent and highly resistant to deterioration by sunlight. They are also nearly invisible in water, which makes them ideal in clear-water situations. Line diameter is typically the same as monofilament lines. . Fluorocarbon lines are very abrasion-resistant, so they are ideal for sub-surface fishing in heavy cover. They stretch slower than monofilament, so they’re more sensitive. They’re also denser, so lures dive deeper and faster.
 
“Vicious Pro Elite Fluorocarbon is great when pitching a worm or diving plugs in rocks or logs,” says Chris Armstrong of Vicious Fishing.”It’s tough, smooth and strong. Instead of an 8-10 pound mono, you can spool 12-15 pound Elite Fluorocarbon and go a lot deeper. This line also detects even the slightest of bites, so you’ll get more strikes and put more fish in the boat.”
 
Know More, Land More
 
Knowing the different types of line to use will help you catch and land more fish. Use the line that suites the conditions and style you fish. Remember to also respool at least one per season, or more often based on how frequently you fish.
 
Monofilament

  • Easy handling (easy casting, good on spinning and baitcasting reels)
  • Most versatile, special formulas available
  • Controlled stretch (more time to set the hook)
  • Most buoyant (great for topwater fishing)

 
Braided

  • Ultrathin (more line on the spool)
  • Superstrong (strongest in relation to diameter)
  • Abrasion resistant (great for heavy cover)
  • Low stretch (high sensitivity)
  • More visible than mono
  • Available in variety of float or sink rates

 
Fused

  • Thin diameter
  • Superstrong
  • More abrasion resistant than mono
  • Less abrasion resistant than braided

 
Fluorocarbon

  • Virtually invisible under water
  • Water repellent
  • Resists deterioration by sunlight
  • Abrasion resistant
  • Low stretch (high sensitivity)
  • High sink rate (lures dive deep and fast)

 
-Hook, Line & Sinker
 
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Time to Get Back to the Pack

Back-to-school often means choosing a new backpack.
 
By Sara Arthurs -The Courier Newspaper
 
The end of summer means it’s almost time to head back to school, which means it’s time to buy backpacks. What kids and parents look for when shopping for a new backpack changes each year.
 
Take, for example, a pocket for an iPod. 
 
“Ten years ago, that was unheard of,” said Ken McCartan, backpack buyer for Dunham’s corporate office. “This day and age, that is a given.”
 
At Kohl’s, the character backpacks, those with characters from movies or television, are popular for the younger children, said Steve Brunner, one of the store managers at Kohl’s in Findlay. Characters from “Toy Story,” “Spider-Man” and “Dora the Explorer” are among the popular ones, he said.
 
Jansport backpacks are popular for the older children and college age. Many have pockets for things like iPods and water bottles, Brunner said. 
 
A recent trend is the “Yak Pak,” a brand which offers bags in colorful patterns and a variety of styles.
 
Bright colors are always popular and high school students tend to favor school colors, Brunner said.
 
“It’s definitely a lot of color… It’s not just the traditional black or navy,” McCartan said. “There’s a color pop.”
 
Kids like patterns such as leopard or zebra, he said. Another trend is a bag that is mostly black but has colorful trim.
 
“Black is still very dominant because it doesn’t show dirt,” McCartan said. “It kind of goes with anything that the child might be wearing.”
 
McCartan said Dunham’s backpack season runs from Aug. 1 until mid-September.
 
“If mom’s making the purchase, they’re probably going to go for something small and inexpensive,” McCartan said.
 
But, he said, sometimes the child can convince the parent he or she wants a trademark. The Nike swoosh is popular, and Adidas is another brand that sells well, McCartan said.
 
McCartan said that backpacks are designed these days to hold up pretty well, which means people need to purchase them less frequently. But this time of year there is always a spike in sales.
 
McCartan said when his son was in elementary school he would bring home a lot of items in his backpack such as books, his lunch and a towel for “quiet time” at school.
 
“He stuffed a lot of stuff in there,” McCartan said.
 
But, he said, backpacks are fashion statements as much as they are utilitarian items.
 
“They see the cool factor, even at a young age,” McCartan said.
 
The proliferation of technology has changed the design of backpacks. Nearly every backpack Dunham’s carries has an iPod port so the child can put his or her iPod in the backpack and feed the earbuds through an outlet. A mesh pocket for a water bottle is also standard. As for computers, McCartan said just about every backpack has a padded separate sleeve for a laptop or netbook, and some have a bag within a bag. 
 
McCartan said backpacks are like clothes or shoes. Children look for different patterns.
 
“Kids can individualize themselves,” he said.
 
For some children, this may mean different backpacks to wear with different clothing. Perhaps it might be a neon backpack to go with certain outfits, he said.
 
McCartan, as an adult, said it’s easy to speculate on what a 12-year-old boy or girl might want to carry to school but it can be a challenge to get it right. As a backpack buyer, he relies on demographic research done by the companies that make backpacks for Adidas or Nike. He said these companies will put different designs in front of children and do blind studies to see what tests well.
 
Similar research is done for clothing and McCartan said they’re finding a similar trend.
 
“Individuality really is what’s doing well,” he said.
 
Whatever backpack a child chooses, schools usually don’t allow him or her to carry it around all day.
 
Barb Schick, community relations coordinator for Findlay City Schools, said children must store their backpacks in their locker or elsewhere and cannot take them to class.
 
“Nobody carries them in,” she said.
 
She said this has been a policy in place since at least the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 and possibly longer. “Nothing that can conceal anything” is permitted, she said.
 
Van Buren High School principal Michael Brand said that there, too, students can carry their backpacks to and from school but cannot carry them around during the school day.
 
Brand said students often bring electronics such as laptop computers and iPods to school. Van Buren issues netbooks to all students in grades six through 10, which they carry from school to home each day. 
 
Think back-to-school shopping is expensive? Things could be worse. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen introduced a croc backpack that costs $39,000, according to a July article on Slate.com.
 
Arthurs: 419-427-8494 saraarthurs@thecourier.com
Photo Caption: RANDY ROBERTS / The Courier KATHERINE BLUM, a sales associate/cashier at Dunham’s, takes down one of the backpacks on display at the store. Kids can be picky when it comes time to choose a new backpack. Parents don’t want to spend too much and want something that’s sturdy and will last a year or two. Almost all backpacks now feature special pockets for laptop computers and music devices.
 
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Happy Campers Are Well-Fed Campers

I’ve rafted the Grand Canyon and camped along its banks. I’ve camped on beaches up and down the East Coast. I’ve set up tents in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and have even done the motor home thing in Yellowstone National Park (even though that’s not really considered roughing it). I’ve also camped in the scruffy Florida Keys, plus umpteen parks here in my own camping-friendly state of Michigan.
 
I love It, and there’s a lot to be said about reconnecting with the great outdoors and getting back-to-basics. But when it comes to camping food, I prefer the not-so-basics.
 
Hot Dog! Let’s Cook.
 
If you’re at a campground, you’re either going to be cooking over an open campfire, with a portable propane or charcoal grill, or one of the charcoal grills the campgrounds provides. If you’re cooking with propane, you probably know what you’re doing. Cooking with charcoal or over a wood fire is a little trickier and, if you haven’t done it, you really need to do your homework. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not giving yourself ample lead time in building a good fire. The second thing is you don’t want to cook over shooting flames — you want to cook over hot coals since that’s your even heat source. So if you’re a novice, get some good tips from someone who’s experienced in building fires for cooking.
 
Are You Equipped?
 
Unless your idea of camping is at the local motel, you won’t have a refrigerator, freezer, or oven at your disposal. Still, if you’ve got a few basics, you’re in business. A cooler (or two) is a must. So are the right utensils: aluminum foil, mitts, dishes, knives, spatulas, and plastic storage containers. A cast iron Dutch oven (or kettle) is an indispensable tool for one-pot stews, soups, chilis, and cobblers, and it’ll double as your serving bowl. You can hang the Dutch oven from a tripod over the fire, or set it on a grill or directly in the coals. You might also think about a cast iron skillet for scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, etc. And if you have the room, a grill basket is ideal for vegetables, fruit, and more delicate proteins like fish.
 
Food for Thought: Plan Ahead
 
You can have some wonderful breakfasts, lunches and dinners that are a lot more exciting than cold cereal, or pork and beans and hot dogs. In fact, you can really impress your friends with how great you are at outdoor cooking. Ever think about cooking a frittata for breakfast for your fellow campers? How about whipping up spicy turkey burgers stuffed with blue cheese and onions, served on grilled buns? Or, how about making a delicious berry cobbler? All it takes is a little organization.
 
A week or so before your trip, sit down and design a menu. Being organized is important and if you do your research, planning and shopping ahead of time, the rest is easy. Once you’ve shopped for groceries, measure and separate your ingredients and put them in containers or food storage bags. Want spicy chicken chili some evening? Make it ahead of time and simply reheat it over the campfire or on the grill. Take toppings like shredded cheese, chopped onions, chiles, tomatoes, tortilla strips, and sour cream in containers and let guests help themselves. Served with an ice-cold beer, it’s an impressive meal and your friends will appreciate the fact that you did more than just open a can.
 
Show Off Your Skewer Cooking Skills with Shish Kebabs
 
Kebabs are ideal for a camping trip because they can be assembled a day or two ahead of time, marinated, and then pulled out and put on the grill. They’re delicious and the presentation is impressive. You can use just about any cut of meat — even shrimp and scallops — and any creative combination of vegetables, and fruit like pineapple. I prefer using metal skewers. They’re sturdier and won’t burn. The best part? There’s very little cleanup.
 
Indonesian Chicken Kebabs for Four
8 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1” cubes
2 red peppers, peeled and quartered
2 green peppers, peeled and quartered
2 red onions, peeled and quartered
 
Marinade:
1 cup of peanut butter
1/2 cup of chili sauce
1.2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tblsp garlic, minced
8 green onions, finely chopped
Mix all the ingredients together and pour over the kebabs in a plastic container or glass baking dish. Let marinate for 24 hours before grilling.
 
Holy Smokes: It’s Grilled Fruit
 
Grilled fruit like pineapple, pears, nectarines, peaches or plums is easy and delicious, and the natural sugars will caramelize the fruit. For a light topping, take plain yogurt, and add a couple of tablespoons of honey and a squeeze of lime juice. Stir it together and top your fruit. It’s fresh, healthy, and much more impressive than s’mores.
 
Grilled Pineapple
1 large pineapple, cored and cut into slices
3/4 cup tequila or rum
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Mix liquor, vanilla and cinnamon together until sugar dissolves. Place pineapple or grill and baste while grilling. Grill about 10 minutes. Serve hot with yogurt topping.
 
Happy Camping!
 
With all the latest equipment and gadgets, the way we camp has changed over the years, but the reasons why we do it haven’t. We still want to get out in the fresh air, reconnect with nature, and leave the comforts of home at home even if just for a weekend. There’s something about sleeping in a sleeping bag, building a fire and sitting under the stars with a cold beer and good coversation. And there’s something about food just taking so much better outdoors — even if it’s a gooey s’more.
 
-Happy Camper
 
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Water Sports at Their Slickest

When the air is hot, skin is sticky and kids are whining there’s only one thing to do – take it outside and into the water! Swim, float or get adventurous and take a stab at water sports with a couple of these products for some seriously cool summer fun.
 
Hopping on Water
 
When some think of water sports they imagine tricky back flips on wakeboards and choreographed routines on jet skis – but not all water sports are so elaborate.
 
One of the simplest and most popular products is the water trampoline, a giant inflatable trampoline that rests on the water’s surface. Designed for rest and play, one can lounge on the mat to catch some rays or bounce high to the sky while getting splashed from below.
 
The Arsenal, a popular model by water sports manufacturer Hydroslide can be left inflated all summer of long, or easily deflated and packed up for a weekend trip to the lake. It should be noted that while undeniably fun, water trampolines are not built like ground trampolines, so users are not going to get as much bounce height as they would on the ground – instead they just get wet!
 
Tubular Times
 
Tubing is always a big summertime hit, because almost anyone can do it – no fancy equipment or skills required. “You can pull a tube with just about anything with a motor,” says O’Brien Representative.
 
With a vast selection of tube types available, users are sure to find one to suit their needs. Single and multi-rider tubes with individual seats make for a relaxing journey on the water, whereas extreme tubes are built for fast, exciting rides. One tube that falls between the two categories is the Super Screamer by O’Brien. A two-person lay-on type tube, the device features a flat top with neoprene padding for comfort that tubers can stretch across and still catch air with when hitting the waves.
 
The Bees Knees
 
Another exciting and easy to use water accessory is the kneeboard. Kneeboards can be a great tool for those just starting to get their feet wet in the world of water sports since the learning curve is fairly shallow. “You can start doing tricks like 180s and 360s after just a few tries,” says O’Brien. Designed for kids as young as seven, kneeboards can be a good stepping stone between tubing and more challenging sports like skiing or wakeboarding. The Radica by O’Brien and the Revolution by Hydroslide are both popular basic kneeboards and perfect for beginners.
 
Get Wet
 
With so many exciting activities to choose from, warm weather bashers will have little to complain about this summer – all it takes is a dip in the lake and a something that floats to start having fun with water sports.
 
-Water baby
 
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Don’t Let the Big One Get Away

You don’t have to talk about “the one that got away” after your next fishing trip. Today’s fishing gear makes it easier than ever to reel in that trophy bass.
 
Gone are the days of trolling along the shore, hoping to find the best fishing hole. Today’s fish finders guide you right to the perfect location. Anglers can find just the right model to meet any budget. Even basic models like the Humminbird® Fishin’ Buddy® provide sonar data and water temps. More sophisticated models from Humminbird and Lowrance® have full color displays showing water temperature, depths, shore contours, GPS and more. Fish finders like these are stand alone units that can be added to your current equipment.
 
Finding fish and getting them to bite are two different things. Fortunately, fishing gear tech has stepped up to the challenge of helping you snag the prize.
 
Today’s lures have all the appeal of live bait without the drawbacks. Simulating live bait is more critical than ever. Recent court rulings prohibit transporting fish into and out of lakes to prevent the spread of communicable diseases between fish. The result is that many anglers cannot bring their own minnows and other bait fish into the area.
 
Manufacturers like Berkley® and Rapala® have put their engineers to work in creating life-like lures. The Berkley® PowerBait® 4 Hollow Belly™ swim bait has been field tested and tweaked by the top Berkley Pro’s in order to give themselves a significant competitive advantage on tour. As if the PowerBait® scent and attractant weren’t competitive advantage enough all by itself, this Hollow Belly bait is loaded with other features as well that has made it the “choice of champions” when conditions call for a super swim bait. Unlike most other swim baits on the market, the body is truly hollow from nose to tail, and easily collapses around the hook when bit to insure a solid hookset. The Rapala lineup features lures that are hand-tuned and tested to recreate the swimming actions of a small fish that attracts larger fish.
 
The sophistication of today’s lures doesn’t stop with simulating live bait. Many lures have buoyancy ratings of floating, slow sinking and fast sinking. Getting the most out of your tackle box requires choosing a rate of fall suited for your fishing conditions.
 
Even colors are a big factor in selecting the right lure for the right day and the right water conditions. Pradco® lures cover the color spectrum with dark hues for dark days and light colors for light days. Picking the right color is just as important when selecting your fishing line. Manufacturers offer a variety of fishing line colors to blend in with the water so fish cannot detect the attachment to a lure.
 
Landing a trophy bass also requires having the right rod and reel. No two anglers are the same so one type of rod and reel won’t work for everyone.
 
Daiwa’s® D-Shock Rod/Reel Combo offers different lengths and actions to meet individual needs. The D-Shock combo features a bearing reel with aluminum spool. The rod is a fiberglass blank with cork grips. These features combine to make this the perfect choice for inland lake fishing.
 
Other manufacturers are introducing rods with adjustable lengths and high strength titanium. Pair one of these rods up with a new reel designed to reduce friction for further casting and you can stay on the water all day without getting tired or having to worry about your tackle handling the challenge of reeling in a bass.
 
The days of tying a string to a pole and hoping to catch a fish are gone . . . and with the latest technology, so are the days of talking about the one that got away.
 
-Hook, Line & Sinker
 
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