All posts by Mike Coker

Publisher of Tactical Gun Review and Texas Outdoors Network. Mike wisely spent his youth hunting and fishing in South Texas.

Tecovas Boot Review “The Earl”

As with any good Texan, I own and wear boots.  Through the years I have developed a fondness for Lucchese dress boots, Ariat work boots, and Wolverine hunting boots.  I was in the market for a new pair of brown ropers and started looking at the Lucchese boots and balked at the $400 – $600 price tag.  That is when Tecovas caught my attention.  Tecovas promises, “Handmade, high-quality boots that don’t break the bank.”

What is a roper?  A roper has a lower heel and, generally, a shorter shaft than the traditional cowboy boot.   They are often described as being a bit more comfortable to wear and look great with jeans.Tecovas The Earl

Browsing through the Tecovas website, I quickly landed on The Earl.  The Earl is a calfskin roper available in four colors – bourbon, chocolate, desert, and midnight.  I really liked the bourbon, a dark brown.  Price?  $225, roughly half the price of the Luccheses.  Sold!Tecovas The Earl

Tecovas operates on the direct to consumer model.  This means I would be buying the boots on faith, without trying them on first.  No fear, Tecovas offers an excellent refund or exchange program.  They even include a special card and return postage in the box.  My other boots are size 11 D, so that is what I ordered.

There was more good news.  Tecovas are based in Austin so I would be supporting a Texas company.   And they are made in Leon, Mexico.  Now for those not familiar with Leon, it is a city in the state of Guanajuato which is my favorite part of Mexico.  I have been to Leon several times and I know it has a strong reputation for manufacturing excellent leather goods.  These are skilled craftsmen with generations of tradition.

Tecovas The Earl

I anxiously awaited delivery.  When the shipment arrived, I was impressed with the attention to detail in all areas.  You can tell the company takes pride in their products.

Tecovas keeps the price at a reasonable price point through several good business decisions.  First is the direct-to-consumer model which is gaining popularity.  Internet shopping and fast home delivery make this possible.  Second, they have streamlined the product line.  You won’t find square-toe boots or a crazy variety of models.  They focus on making a straight-forward high-quality traditional cowboy boot.  A simpler model lineup results in lower production costs.

Tecovas The Earl

Everyone comments on how “soft” the Tecovas are.  And they are.  However, I also have boots that are not quite so “soft” and yet are very comfortable.  The fine leather surely makes a great first impression but how do they fit and wear?

Unfortunately, I do have a minor complaint about the Tecovas.  There is a bar (for lack of a better description) that runs across the front part of the heel.  This is noticeable to me and detracts from an otherwise comfortable cowboy boot.  You can see this in the photo below.  I did get used to it but I still notice it.  Not a deal killer by any means but if they could improve this I would give the Tecovas an A+ rating.  Tecovas The Earl

As I wore the boots around the house on carpet, it became apparent that they were too snug, or tight, for me.  I had ordered 11D because that is what I wear in Lucchese boots and Johnston & Murphy dress shoes.  However, that was not going to work.  This is where Tecovas customer service really shines.  The exchange process was super simple, fast, and free.  I returned the old pair, along with a card explaining the problem, and quickly received a replacement pair in 11.5 D.  The new pair fit perfectly!

Tecovas The Earl

I have worn The Earl for several months now in a variety of circumstances.  Around town, out on the ranch, and to the dance hall.  I very much like the Bourbon Calf color and overall high-quality appearance.  Great looking boot!

Tecovas The Earl.  $225.

Tecovas The Earl

Leica Geovid 10×42 HD-B 3000 Review

Leica has deservedly earned a reputation for superior optics. The new Leica Geovid 10×42 HD-B 3000 binoculars uphold that fine tradition. I have had the opportunity to carry these for twenty-plus days deer hunting in South Texas and have been impressed with their performance.

My experience was primarily glassing for deer out to 500 yards. In that capacity these are superb. Animals just seem to “pop” in all conditions. Color, contrast, and resolution are amazing. Most impressively, the depth of field blows away anything else I have used. When scanning a distant tree line, it is critical to “see” back into the woods as far as possible. Most binos require a constant “nudge-nudge-nudge” of the focus adjustment knob as you scan into the tree line. The new Geovid HD-B binos eliminate most of that annoying fine-tuning of the sight picture. Instead, when focused on the front tree-line your eyes just see into the woods without any adjustments of the knob. This eliminates some eye strain and allows easier one-hand operation.

Leica HD-B 3000 binoculars
Leica HD-B 3000 binoculars

I am not an optics engineer and not qualified to speak intelligently regarding roof prism versus Porro prism systems. The Leica HD-B 3000 utilizes a Perger-Porro prism. Porro prism is actually the older design with roof prism products becoming more popular in the 1960s. However, it is said that the Porro prism design is simpler, with better light efficiency and higher contrast.

The unit is remarkably compact considering it also contains a world-class laser rangefinder. Measurements are quick and the scan mode provides a continuous reading every 0.5 seconds on multiple targets. The HD-B 3000 will range from 10 to 3,000 yards. I was previously using a dedicated mid-price range finder that seemed to take forever to lock onto measurement. The Leica is way faster, almost instantaneous. It is quite impressive to see something way, way off in the distance and receive instant feedback. I was routinely locking in on deer or cattle at 1,000 plus yards. For fun, I picked out some objects way out there, and the Leica never failed to lock on. In complete fairness, I did not have a professional level control unit to verify the Leica readings on distant targets but I’m confident, given their expertise, it is within their published tolerances. Measurement can be displayed in yards or meters.

Leica HD-B 3000 binoculars
Leica HD-B 3000 binoculars

The Advanced Ballistics Compensation (ABC) system applies range measurement, inclinometer, atmospheric pressure, and temperature to twelve pre-set ballistic curves. Or you can truly customize ballistics by coding your own microSD card. Read more here.

Cons:

I do have two minor complaints about the HD-B. Neither of these are deal-breakers considering the overall high performance.

First, the LED display automatically adjusts to real-time light conditions. This usually works fine but there are times when I would like to manually brighten the display. This seems to occur during low-light conditions on a busy background. I sometimes have trouble reading the display and would like to simply turn up the intensity.

Second, the objective lens covers have fallen off several times. I wish they were more securely attached to the binocular body. I will figure out a solution to this as I don’t want to lose them in the woods.

Conclusion

Leica quality is not inexpensive. In the case of the HD-B 3000 you are receiving best-in-class binoculars with a built-in 3,000 yard range finder and a ballistic calculator. The open bridge design, rubber armor coating, forgiving eye-box, and easy two-button operation make it a pleasure to use for long hours in the field. This could be the best, and last, pair of binoculars you will ever need to purchase.

MSRP $2,999. Street Price here.

Leica HD-B 3000 binoculars
Leica HD-B 3000 binoculars

Weekend fishing POC and Seadrift

We checked in to the Reel Time Lodge in Seadrift mid-afternoon Friday prepared to chase redfish until dark.  We put the boat in the water and, nothing.  Motor would start up fine but not keep running. Perhaps we were ahead of ourselves and jinxed our luck by already planning to have Bubba’s cook our catch.   Well, crap.  Abort mission.  We ended up replacing the fuel line, primer bulb, and spark plugs.  Who hasn’t been there before?

Saturday morning we decided to put in at Charlie’s Bait Camp and fish the Dewberry / Shoalwater area.  A thunderstorm smashed us hard before we could even get underway so we waited it out for about thirty minutes.  Fair warning – the boat launch fee has gone up to $8 and that lady will collect.

Tide was high so we had no trouble making a hard left in the cut and heading up through the lagoon. Continue reading Weekend fishing POC and Seadrift

Snook in Seadrift!

Capt. Chris Martin, owner of Bay Flats Lodge, pulled me aside at breakfast and asked if I wanted to hook up on something special.  Yes, I do!  He then introduced me to Capt. Garrett Wygrys who explained that he had located a pod of Snook that had somehow found their way into the Seadrift area.  Snook?  You bet!

Texas snook
Capt. Garrett Wygrys with Snook

Snook are plentiful in Florida and can be found in the Lower Laguna Madre of Texas.  However, it is rare to catch snook in our middle Gulf Coast.  Capt. Garrett found these fish some months back and has been keeping tabs on them ever since.  They are growing about 1″ a month so they could be something truly special in another year if they stay local. Continue reading Snook in Seadrift!

Polaris Ranger SuperATV LED Light Bar

Installation of SuperATV 6″ LED Combination Spot / Flood Light Bar on 2017 Polaris Ranger XP 1000.

This project kicked off because I wanted to add a cargo bed light to my Polaris Ranger.  My initial thought was of a modest solution that would provide just enough light to see what I was doing at night.  I’m frequently out at night on the ranch.  As I started looking at possible solutions, it quickly became apparent that what I really wanted was not a minimal bed light but a robust work light that could illuminate a camp.

It didn’t take long to settle on the SuperATV 6″ LED light bar.

  • Combination Flood / Spot.
  • Kit comes complete with rocker switch and wiring harness.
  • 12 CREE LED bulbs.
  • 2880 Lumens.
  • IP67 Water resistant
  • MSRP $135.

    SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
    SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

I could have pieced together even cheaper options but SuperATV has a great reputation in the UTV community.

As with many projects, this took me longer to complete than anticipated.  That is mostly because I am a “measure twice, cut once” kind of guy.  I also wanted a clean installation.  From beginning to end I spent about 2.5 hours on the job but it could easily be done in half that time (or less).  For instance, I had to get the volt meter and confirm the busbar operation.

My first step was to mount the light bar.  Easy enough.  The kit did not include locking washers so I added those.  I did not want anything above the roof line so I made sure to position it in a sleek profile.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

Next was to install the rocker switch.  I simply used a utility knife and gradually cut away the opening large enough for the rocker switch to snap into place.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

I then removed the bottom two screws from the center panel and pulled it down,  then out to get at the wiring.  I ran the wire through the firewall and made the connections.  Bolted it back up.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

My 2017 Polaris Ranger XP 1000 Hunter Edition comes with a factory installed winch.  The side benefit is that means the under hood busbar is already wired hot.  Using a volt meter, I determined that the posts were Hot – Ground – Switched Hot (left to right).  I mounted the relay to the frame.  Black wire to Ground and Red wire to the Switched Hot.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

My biggest concern was how to run the harness from the hood to the light bar.  Ideally I wanted to run it inside the frame but then determined I could make a fairly neat installation by running the wire under the windshield and inside the metal roof.  Zip tied everything up neat and tight and installed the windshield.

All in all, very pleased with the installation.  The light is fantastic and is exactly what I want.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

SuperATV 6″ Light Bar

 

Leupold LTO Tracker HD Thermal Viewer

The new Leupold LTO Tracker HD is their second generation thermal viewer.  Designed to detect heat signatures up to 750 yards away it should be an essential part of everyone’s kit.  From tracking downed game to finding your way back to camp a small handheld thermal is a worthwhile investment.  Handheld thermals around this price point are a hot market.

First impressions are of a high-quality aluminum flashlight, complete with crenelated bezel.  It feels substantial and solid in hand.

Leupold LTO HD
Leupold LTO HD

Leupold LTO HD
Leupold LTO HD

Unlike many thermals, there is no rubber eyepiece like on the FLIR Scout line.  Instead, you simply hold the LTO Tracker HD out 8-10 inches within your line of sight.  I find this to be a more natural viewing experience and  less tiring than pressing against an eyepiece.   The one downside is that it therefore produces more of a visible light signature – which generally isn’t any big deal but would be a consideration in a security or home defense environment.

Leupold LTO HD
Leupold LTO HD

Continue reading Leupold LTO Tracker HD Thermal Viewer

10 Family Fishing Ideas for Spring Break in Texas

AUSTIN – Many Texans opt outside to help reconnect with nature after a long winter, but Spring Break adventures aren’t limited to swimming, camping and hiking. Fishing also offers a great way for families to experience the diverse aquatic life and scenic places that Texas has to offer.

Here are 10 places where families can make memories fishing this Spring Break:

  1. The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in East Texas offers several stocked fishing ponds, ample fishing loaner equipment, a full production hatchery and a vast array of aquatic exhibits to explore. After catching catfish and rainbow trout in the fishing ponds, spring breakers can watch a live fish-feeding dive show, take a narrated tram tour through the outdoor hatchery facility and explore the wheelchair accessible wetlands trail. For those interested in seeing freshwater species up-close, the TFFC has aquariums filled with a wide variety of freshwater fish along other species like alligators and alligator snapping turtles.
  1. Though the coastal city of Rockport suffered significant damage during Hurricane Harvey, this charming coastal community is open for business, which means plenty of opportunity for anglers and visitors during Spring Break. Families can plan a fun fishing day at the Rockport Beach Park Piers or the Copano Bay State Fishing Pier. While the fishing piers at nearby Goose Island State Park are not currently open due to hurricane damage, the Redfish road area of the island will be open for fishing and kayaking in the bay.
  1. Colorado Bend State Park in the Texas Hill Country provides daily access to one of the best white bass spawning runs in the state, which should be in full swing during Spring Break. The park will also be hosting a free basic fishing workshop at 8:30 a.m. March 10. No fishing license is needed to fish in a state park but anglers will need to bring their own fishing pole and tackle.
  1. Mustang Island State Park on the coast near Corpus Christi reopened for day use March 1 and offers some of the best shallow-water fishing in Texas. Anglers can experience this high-quality fishing wading from the 5-mile shoreline or while paddling the 20-mile Mustang Island State Park paddling trail.
  1. For a scenic spot of river away from all the tubers, the leased River Access and Conservation Area (RACA) site at Dick’s Canoes on the Brazos River is right for you. Dick’s Canoes is located at the FM 2114 crossing of the Brazos River downstream of Lake Whitney.  Fishing opportunities in this segment of the Brazos River include largemouth, spotted and occasional white bass. Channel catfish, freshwater drum, and sunfish are also good species to target. Access is open from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset for bank angling and launching non-motorized boats, canoes, kayaks, or other floatable devices.
  1. For hardcore bass anglers and beginners alike, Amistad Reservoir near Del Rio offers some of the best largemouth bass fishing in the state.  The Amistad National Recreation Area offers excellent boat and angler access to the lake with multiple fishing docks and cleaning stations, miles of shoreline bank fishing and 9 public boat ramps.
  1. At Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson, visitors can explore aquaria and exhibits of Texas marine life, the largest redfish hatchery in the world, 36 one-acre fish culture ponds, an outdoor wetland exhibit and a youth fishing pond. A 20-foot touch pool allows visitors to gently touch marine animals such as blue crabs, hermit crabs, stone crabs, snails and even anemones.
  1. In Texas, cold-water loving rainbow trout generally can’t survive past the winter. Spring Breakers can harvest the last of the year’s stocked rainbow trout in East Texas at the Tyler Nature Center for free 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. March 12-15. TPWD Inland Fisheries staff will have loaner equipment, tackle and bait on hand to help families catch and clean up to five rainbow trout each at the free event.
  1. Lake Conroe near Houston is making a name for itself this year as one of the top Toyota ShareLunker largemouth bass fishing lakes in the state with more than 12 entries so far. Anglers also have excellent opportunities to catch catfish, crappie, hybrid striped bass and bluegill in the 20 thousand acre lake. The Stubblefield Lake Recreation Area offers shore fishing as well as non-motorized boat access. Other public access facilities at Lake Conroe can be found here.
  1. Near Lubbock, Lake Alan Henry has the only population of Alabama bass in Texas. This species grows much larger and faster than native spotted bass and can reach more than four pounds. Families can spend the day targeting this uncommon species or other popular sport fish like crappie and largemouth bass at the Sam Wahl Recreation Area. The facility offers an excellent dock and fishing pier facility.

For anglers over 17 years old, a valid fishing license with a freshwater or saltwater endorsement is required to take fish, mussels, clams, crayfish or other aquatic life in the public waters of Texas. A fishing license is not required if fishing from the bank in a state park or in waters completely enclosed by a state park.

More information on current fishing regulations, limits and license requirements can be found online in the TPWD Outdoor Annual, or get the mobile app free for iOS and Android here.

News Release
Media Contact: TPWD Press Office, news@tpwd.texas.gov
March 2, 2018

 

Kolpin Stronghold Gun Boot XL Transport

Our 2017 Polaris Ranger XP 1000 Hunter Edition came equipped with the factory rack-mounted gun boots.  Great concept except for the fact that the boots are not large enough to accommodate many of the guns we hunt with.  For example, I am currently running a suppressed Bergara HMR 6.5 Creedmoor with a Nightforce NXS scope.  It simply will not fit in the standard Polaris boot.

Our hunting lease south of San Antonio is in the “Sand Hills.”  It is very dry and dusty and the dust gets into everything.  It is a necessity to have your rifle cased when driving, otherwise the rifle and optics get coated in this fine dust.

The good folks at Kolpin were kind enough to send me their extra-large Stronghold Gun Boot featuring the Transport soft case.  They also included both the Polaris Lock & Ride and Universal Auto Latch mounts.

Kolpin Stronghold Transport
Kolpin Stronghold Transport

Continue reading Kolpin Stronghold Gun Boot XL Transport