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April 2018
Author: Jerrod Lile

Visiting the Sig Sauer booth at the SHOT show is a surreal experience for anyone who appreciates innovation in guns and optics. Every year, a plethora of new improvements in these categories comes flooding out of the minds of the Sig engineers. Thanks to their commitment to quality, customer service, and truly innovative products, the annual new product releases aren’t just for show, they truly provide solutions to existing problems in the marketplace.

It is hard to narrow down a product I loved most at Sig this year, but I was very taken by their new 15x binoculars in the ZULU 9 line. Great glassers all agree that a pair of 15x binoculars are an invaluable part of the glassing kit. However, many models are both heavy and bulky. This is not so with the 15x56mm from Sig. The slim, lightweight design made them feel like a pair of 10x binoculars in my hand, and I loved that they had the largest range of eye-width adjustment of any pair of 15s I’ve ever handled. Apparently, my eyes are set closer together than most and many binoculars won’t adjust narrow enough for an ideal field of view. With the Sig glasses, I have more than enough adjustment for my personal eye set. Throw in their proprietary HDX optical design that delivers up to 95% light transmission through their Abbe-Koenig prism system and you’ll have a glass that you won’t want to leave home without. I’d argue that this will be the most valuable glass for the price on the market in 2018.

GSM is the parent company to eight different brands, including several that I’m a big fan of. Usually, I’d focus on something from their Stealth Cam line or the Walker’s hearing enhancement line. However, this year, I was really impressed with their Bullseye camera system from SME. There are several models available, each of which consists of a wireless camera system that connects to your smartphone to display and track your shots into the target at the range. Long gone are the days of walking down to the target to put tape over your prior holes!

The 300 yard version retails for $349, but the more interesting version for long-range shooting enthusiasts is the “Long-Range” camera that retails for $649. Utilizing this version, you can view your bullet impact on your target immediately on your phone or tablet from up to one mile away. The kit looks like a toolbox, but it’s extremely lightweight and includes everything you’ll need to see your bullet’s impact on the target right from the shooting bench. The App that is used to track bullet impacts is very userfriendly, and the entire system is very easy to dial in. Using the App, you can mark shot order in your target, calculate average group size, and too much more to mention here. This is a very interesting product for anyone who spends a lot of time squinting through a spotting scope at your target to figure out where your shots are hitting. The following video provides an excellent overview of how the system works: by-corinne-mosher-108/.

To say that Sitka Gear has been busy the last few years is a giant understatement. 2018 is no exception to that as they have introduced everything from new waders in their waterfowl line to a line of impressive solid color clothing that they refer to as the TTW (Travel, Training, and Workwear) line. I wrestled with whether to write about their new 6,200 cubic inch Mountain Hauler pack or the Apex clothing system and ultimately decided to give the nod in this article to the Apex line. However, I’d highly encourage pack fanatics to give the Mountain Hauler a hard look.

The Apex system consists of a hoody, pant, and pack. I’d say that this line is ideal as an individual layer on early to mid-season hunts but would also do excellent in later seasons when accompanied by a next to skin layer. The hoody combines premium Merino wool with a durable nylon face on areas that are prone to excessive wear. The shoulders, arms, and elbows have this reinforcement to protect the Merino wool. By combining these fabrics, you get the toughness of a synthetic while retaining the natural moisture-wicking and odor-managing properties that Merino wool is well known for. A kangaroo pouch on the front of the hoody features vertical compartments to store and organize items you want to access quickly. As if those features weren’t enough, throw in removable elbow pads for stalking and you’re all set with the Apex hoody.

The Apex pant has a soft micro-grid fleece interior and a polyester face for weather resistance and noise reduction. The first thing that strikes you is how quiet and soft the material feels. As a bowhunter, I’m extremely picky about the fabric I choose, and this material seems ideal. The pant also features internally divided cargo pockets, which are nice for organizing calls, wind detector, etc., and removable kneepads.

The 1,800 cubic inch Apex pack is best described as a stealth-oriented day pack. The frameless design keeps the pack small and quiet but is large enough to store all the gear you need for day hunts and on those stalks that are going to separate you from a larger bivy style pack for hours on end. I hate shedding my pack, but I hate to have it on even more, so it’s always a dilemma and I find myself GPS navigating back to my pack on nearly all my hunts. This pack would never have to leave your back. It is quiet, small, and non-intrusive for archery hunters. A unique feature on the pack is retractable cam loops that are designed to be able to rest your bottom cam of your bow in while waiting for the opportunity to draw your bow. Most bowhunters know how tiring it can be to hold your bow at the ready for long periods of time. This nifty feature should eliminate a lot of fatigue and movement in those tense moments leading up to a shot.

I love good taxidermy, and I have a wide range of life-size animals, shoulder mounts, pedestals, and rugs that my tolerant wife allows me to “decorate” her house with. However, a few years ago, she put her foot down and basically said, “I think we are full here!” She was right. I needed to take my taxidermy bill to the next level and build a trophy room or I was going to have to put the brakes on getting more animals mounted. At that time, I started doing European style skulls on everything I brought out of the woods. Quite frankly, I’ve become extremely fond of that collection of bleached skulls. They are easy to keep clean, conserve a tremendous amount of space, and they call attention to antlers and horns in their own unique way.

Not surprisingly, my European skull collection quickly spiraled out of control too as my wife and boys continued to add to the pile with their own hunts. I’ve relied on Skull Hookers to keep that pile off my floor and on the wall, but space for this compact design was also becoming a commodity. In light of that, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw their Trophy Tree at the SHOT show this year. As the photo shows, this product allows you to create free standing “trees” of skulls that are lightweight, extremely portable, and highly customizable. The vertical post allows you to insert Skull Hookers into pre-cut slots that encircle the post from the top to the bottom. After looking it over, I felt that you could place up to 10 deer, antelope, bear, lion, and other smaller skulls on this unique display system without getting too carried away. The Trophy Tree is a great way to save space with your European skulls, engage in a little creativity on how they are displayed, and retain mobility for the display.