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Lessons Learned From John Jacob
By Jake Utsey
My son John Jacob is nearing his sixth birthday. It seems like only yesterday the little fella was leaned up in the crib in the old office watching out the door into the dining hall. He has been a constant companion since he was old enough to go in the woods.
The first year he was old enough to go out was when he was three. His mother bought him insulated rain gear and he wore it almost every day. It was oversized and easy to layer under it. It was water proof as well as insulated. He wore the standard black rubber boots oversized so we could put warm socks on his little feet. We went hunting six times that year and killed a doe and a six point. The six point provided a great kill with a short tracking period that was easy with good flashlights. He was a little trooper every day we went out that year and he still is one today.
What I learned from this first year with John Jacob was an old lesson. How you dress is everything. As an Alabama hunting guide the first rule is to stay dry and the second of course is don't let your feet, hands, and head get cold. John Jacob went out on some really nasty days with cold and wet combinations and did not utter a single complaint. He went out rain or shine daylight or dark. If it was dark he offered no complaints as long as he had his OWN flashlight. His mother deserves a lot of credit as she took care to pick out the right things to keep him warm and dry.
When a hunter comes to Alabama's Water Valley there are some things he needs to put on his "must have" list:
Flashlights: I have not ever understood how a guy spends thousands of dollars on hunting and hunting equipment and then pulls out a three dollar flashlight. Buy great flashlights and buy at least two so you have a spare. A word to the wise.... Don't tell anyone you have a spare. Who knows when you will need them but you will.
Binoculars: It is one thing that some don't need but most people will tell you that it will keep you from using your scope which causes a lot of movement. There are some great models being made and you don't have to spend a thousand dollars to get a good pair. It is time for John Jacob to begin using them and I spent a little over two hundred dollars after picking out Steiner predators. He has taken to them well and can find and focus on things with ease.
Rain Gear: Watching the weather is a key to coming and if there is a chance of rain, make sure you have water proof rain gear. There is no way to hunt if you are wet and cold. This is Alabama-if you want to suffer go to Alaska or Canada.
Good head cover is very, very important. I think the wool that doubles down as a scarf is the best. A big cotton scarf is also really good on cold days. In the South people don't seem to use them very much but I always notice when a guy is dressed well but not covered in his lower throat area. A scarf goes a long ways on tough days in the cold.
What can be said about the feet other than if you don't buy shoes that are larger than you need and well insulated you might have problems. A good trick for the feet are the army wool surplus blankets. They are cheap easy to pack and are good for wrapping the feet and legs on those very rare bitter cold days in Alabama. On the coldest days of the year wool blankets are also good for guys who hunt all day.
When it comes to scents, rattling horns, shooting sticks, etc. (all that cool stuff in the catalogs) I say it is all personal preference.
Concentrate on the choice of weapon first, then comfort in the field, and then the things you think might improve your hunt.
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