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Benchmade 560 Freek

Benchmade 560


We’re perennial fans of Benchmade knives: high-quality, edge retention, one handed opening, reversible clips on most models. What’s not to like? But here’s what makes the Freek stand out: it’s crazy lightweight. Benchmade has found a way to replace some of the metal components with space-age materials that don’t compromise quality. Unlike other Benchmade models, the Freek’s handle is made of Versaflex which makes it grippy. Why that’s important for birdhunters is pretty simple – it’s stickier in the pocket, not exactly glued in there but seeded. While walking through heavy cover the branches or thick brush aren’t going to be able to pry the Freek from its place. The ability to clean birds back at the truck is always better than cursing the pickpockets afield – $111 click here to learn more.


2016 Gift Guide for Bird Hunters

Even most bird hunters deserve more than a few lumps of coal this holiday season. With help from  Contributors Kali Parmley and Andrea Haas we’ve assembled a list of gift ideas that should simplify shopping for the uplanders in your life.

Camp Chef Coven
When we came off the mountain from ptarmigan hunting in Colorado I surprised my hunting partners by making homemade apple pie in the Camp Chef Coven. Boiling, grilling, and frying have never been a problem at hunting camp. But sometimes you just want a loaf of bread or cinnamon rolls. Now with the Coven nothing is off-limits cooking in bird hunting camp from quail casseroles to pheasant quiche.

Even on the coldest mornings the Coven would fire up and climb to 350°+ using standard propane bottles. Multiple racks allow heating the 13 x 9″ lasagna at the same time as a baking sheet of rolls. And the two-burner cooktop will accommodate boiling, frying or scrambled eggs……getting hungry just thinking of all the possibilities. You may as well get the travel case too ($37), because the CampChef Coven ($130) is going to become required gear for every camp.

Nite Ize Glowstreak BallOne of the worst things about the shortened days of daylight savings is leaving for work in the dark and returning home in the dark. That schedule doesn’t mesh well with bird dogs that need to burn off excess energy. With the Nite Ize Glowstreak LED dog ball we can now play fetch into the wee hours without losing bumpers or dogs ($12).

Carhartt Upland Field

A reputation for rugged no-frills performance in the roughest work environments had many hunters wearing Carhartt clothing in upland brush for years. This season Carhartt made it official with a new trio specifically for bird hunters; the Upland Field Shirt, Pant and Jacket.

The jacket ($140) and pants ($80) in the Carhartt Brown canvas with Rain Defender® water repellent have reinforced seams and overlays in high-wear areas for durability. The khaki shirt ($70) also offers water resistance in the Quick Duck® canvas with spandex and poly in the blend for added mobility. This Upland Field shirt is as hard core as it gets, even with the vented back it may be too warm for early season but will be just right for running down educated roosters once winter arrives.

Tons of pockets, the right mix of blaze, built tough like the guys who wear it – if you’re a fan of Carhartt then you’re gonna like their upland lineup.

Lander Cascade Power BankIt seems like we’re always having to charge some device in order to share photos or videos from the field. Lander’s Cascade 7800 Power Bank ($53) gives you tons of backup power in a slim, lightweight profile to charge smartphones, tablets or action cameras when wandering far from outlets. In power-sapping, sub-freezing temps at elevation in Colorado the Cascade still managed to put multiple charges on our phone.

Go ahead and pair the power bank with Lander’s Neve cables that are virtually indestructible, reflective and made to insure your connections are always solid ($15-$25).


Heading to the edge of the map in pursuit of wild birds has become a regular part of our autumns. That solitude can be a truly welcome change from the bustle of constant connections afforded by smartphones and dumb computers. The birds we’re after seem to have a keen awareness of the boundaries of cell service and congregate in those deep culverts and woods where one can’t alert anyone to their location.

Though chances are remote, there’s potential for injury or immobility. That’s where the SPOT GEN3 comes in. It tracks your paths for later review, or marks locations and shares via text or email with up to 10 friends and loved ones. But in the event of an emergency pushing the SOS button alerts the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center who provide your GPS coordinates and information to local response teams. They send the cavalry, helicopter or whatever resources may be needed to get you and your bird dogs out  – yes, I made sure my dogs are part of my rescue plan. If the cavalry isn’t needed but assistance from another contact in a non-life-threatening situation the help alert is available as well. All this is accomplished via satellite, no cell signal required only a clear view of the sky.

When your family wants to know you’re safe but the birds lead you to places that aren’t, SPOT GEN3 is the answer. Take advantage of the holiday sale – 50% off retail for the unit ($75, service starting at $15 per month).

Benchmade BarrageNot sure you can out-design the blade makers at Benchmade, but now you can give it a shot. Two of their most popular knives – the Griptilian® and Barrage® – can now be made-to-order with Benchmade Custom. From blade shape and metal to handle material and color, hardware color, even custom laser engraving; the combinations are nearly endless and allow crafting a hunting knife unlike any other in the world.

Your custom knife will go in the production queue and you’ll receive email updates reporting progress. In 10-15 days it will arrive on your doorstep razor sharp and ready to disassemble birds. I opted for the Barrage® with blaze handle, SV30 stainless and Ultimate Upland graphics. But I’ve already designed a Griptilian® with G10 handles that may need to find it’s way to my stocking ($165 – $250 depending on selected options).

Cabela's Range BagThe problem with most range bags is they can’t handle the weight of shotgun shells and end up folding under the pressure. Cabela’s Eliminator Range Bag is lightweight yet with enough structure to easily hold 12 boxes of 20 gauge. Padded sides and movable dividers allow arranging of gear to your liking. Tons of pockets for choke tubes, ear and eye protection, car keys, snacks….. it’s tough to imagine a better solution for under $35.


Farm to Feet SocksThough socks are rarely highlighted in gear discussions, they can be extremely important for upland pursuit. During the first half of the season we averaged over seven miles a day in all kinds of terrain and weather. Farm to Feet’s Ely line has both lightweight and mid-weight options ($23–$27) at varying lengths to match any conditions afield.

Made in North Carolina from nylon, Spandex and merino wool raised by American Farmers, the fit and compression from arch to the Achilles is what really makes Farm to Feet wear different. Seamless toe closures and extra cushioning in all the right places help protect your feet on days when the miles pile up. Give Farm to Feet Ely a try, they’ll make a good hunting boot even better.

Hoppe's Wax Gun ClothNothing is gonna make the “character marks” on my upland gun look new again, but Hoppe’s Wax Treated Gun Cloth may be the next best option. It cleans, polishes and protects wooden stocks, metal hardware and gun barrels. At under $6, it’s an easy stocking stuffer for any gun owner.

Strongback ChairThe STRONGBACK Low Gravity Chair was a big hit at bird camp. Finally there’s a campfire seating option that offers true back comfort with frame integrated lumbar support. Extra large feet keep the STRONGBACK chair from sinking into turf even with a 300 lb weight capacity. Still light and low profile, these chairs fold down into a carry bag with back pack straps that could even make the trip to a hunting blind.

Sit back, relax, put your drink in the holder and enjoy some campfire ergonomics thanks to STRONGBACK ($60).

Kali Parmley’s Picks….

Orvis Women's Upland VestIt’s hard to find a women’s specific upland vest—more often than not we are resorting to men’s vests that can be too large and cumbersome for us. If you’re looking for a vest that is simple, well-made, and actually fit for a woman, take a look at Orvis’s Women’s Upland Vest. This vest ($149) comes complete with mesh sides to reduce weight, two water bottle pockets, and a waterproof/bloodproof blaze orange game bag. Additionally, the vest features two front shell pockets with magnetic closures, a zip pocket on the front, and a hidden zip pocket inside. Bonus: Orvis has included a vertical loop on the outside of the vest for securing your dog collar transmitter. It sits low enough to reduce getting in the way of shouldering your gun on the flush.

Cabela's Pants
When chasing birds to the tops of peaks, flexible and unrestricted pants that still protect from the thickest of briars are a must. Cabela’s has answered that call with their Instinct Prairie Runner pants ($140) that are made with a flexible polyester/spandex shell and water-resistant nylon overlays to protect you in thick brush. I wore these pants on a three week road trip chasing birds across the west. Breathable and light, these pants allowed easy and quick movement while hunting running sharptails and huns across Montana.

Orvis Field Bowl
I was about to hit the road for a three week road trip with my dog, Lincoln, and I was trying to travel as light as possible. Dog bowls can be bulky and take up too much space—that’s why I discovered Orvis’s Field Collection Travel Bowl ($29). Made of a cotton with a waterproof liner, the travel bowl is a full size dog bowl that zips down to the size of a wallet. I used this as Lincoln’s food and water dish for the entirety of the trip with no problems. When not in use, I tucked away easily, leaving me more room for birds.

Ruffwear Pad
When roughin’ it in the backcountry, your K9 companion needs to sleep just as well as you do to have the energy to find wild birds. In search of a lightweight pad to carry for Lincoln on our backpacking adventure up 12,000 feet to chase ptarmigan, I stumbled upon the Highlands Pad from Ruffwear ($30). A packable, lightweight (7 oz.), sleeping pad, the Highlands Pad is made of closed-cell foam that helped provide insulation from the cold ground for my tired pup. The pad folds down accordion style, making it simple to strap to the front of my pack.

Andrea Haas’s Picks… Be sure to follow Andrea at Huntress View

First Lite GlovesThe First Lite Talus Fingerless Merino Gloves ($18) are perfect for the upland hunter. The fingers are open so your hands remain warm while still being able to easily load your shotgun and feel your shotgun trigger. They’re made from 100% merino wool which is known to keep over 80% of its warmth and insulating properties, even after getting wet. These are my go-to gloves all season long, no matter what game I’m pursuing.

Like a lot of women, I am petite and have issues finding hats that fit me, even ones that are designed for women. The Prois Orange Cap with Brown Waxed Bill fit me perfectly and the size can easily be adjusted with a back Velcro closure. And to make it even better, they have so many colors to choose from, including the classic upland hunting colors: blaze orange and brown waxed canvas ($27).

SHE Hunting Boots
When the weather conditions are less than perfect, the SHE® Outdoor Expedition BONE-DRY Insulated Waterproof Hunting Boots go the extra mile in keeping your feet warm and dry. They are breathable, waterproof, and have a great fit and comfortable support that make them perfect for walking miles in search of upland birds in a variety of terrain and weather conditions. I have worn these the past 2 seasons and see no reason to try anything else! ($100)

Prois Safari Hoodie
Yes, the name has “Safari” in it, but don’t be fooled! This Prois Sojourn Safari Hoodie has become a staple item in my hunting closet and I have found it to be great for a variety of different hunting endeavors, including upland bird hunting. Constructed from cool polyester/spandex, this shirt provides moisture wicking properties, as well as UV protection AND antimicrobial properties. The thumbholes in the sleeves are a bonus, adding a little extra warmth to your hands when needed. I wore this hoodie alone during the cold morning hunts and carried it over into the warmer afternoon hunts without having to change up my wardrobe ($70).

Just think, the sooner you get all the shopping done, the more time you’ll have for wild places and wild birds. Head outside in some frightful weather and make it a great holiday. 

Benchmade Custom Griptilian Knife

There may be blades more appropriate for breaking down birds, but being able to design your own knife in real-time online makes this Benchmade a must-have. You can choose from 12 different handle colors, three blades, different pocket clips and component colors….. the possibilities seem endless. After you have the knife formatted to your liking you can upload text and graphics to have lasermarked on the blade. (Of course we suggest “Ultimate Upland” and our pointing dog will make perfect additions.) We like the drop-point straight blade with thumb stud in hi-vis orange for starters. The custom order takes at least 3 weeks, so get your order in today. ($125) Click here.


Benchmade Steep Country

Benchmade Steep CountryI’ve lost two knives to briars and saplings snagging the pocket clip. Maddening. I decided this season I would teach the pick pocket coverts a lesson and hunt with a sheathed fix blade. To be honest, I still like the feel of a knife in my pocket, probably because most of my brush pants have a permanent impression from years of carry. But the edge retention, hunter orange santoprene polymer handle, the heft of this Benchmade Steep Country ($98) feels great in the hand. Whether it’s an upland bird or a Ponderosa pine, when I have this knife I feel like I can render it to pieces.


Top Gear for Bird Hunters from SHOT Show 2014

We’re finally back from SHOT and now planning our last hunt of the season. Here’s our round up of some of the great new gear for bird hunters being rolled out this year.

The Syren by Caesar Guerini is a high grade O/U made specifically for women. It’s great to see shotgun makers beginning to take notice of the largest growth segment of our sport and certainly look forward to seeing more women take part in upland hunting.


Some thought went into this Filson Front Loading Shooting Shirt. Filson always has great products for bird hunters, but this breaks the standard mold. And the Seattle-Cut clothing that they are now developing shows that Filson is looking to do some much needed upgrades for performance clothing while still retaining the historic quality of their products.


Wolverine is expanding their lineup of boots for women and continuing to develop new innovation in footwear. The Alert and the Sightline both fall into the category of lightweight, waterproof boots that I like to take to the field.


Benchmade is phasing out their Lone Wolf line and have returned to the hunting segment with Benchmade HUNT. These are beefy blades crafted specifically for hunters. Expect all the same quality and service associated with the Benchmade brand, but now get an edge and a steel that are optimized for butchering game. Check out some of the videos on their YouTube channel.


With onXmaps Hunt it just became a lot easier to attain landowner permission for hunting. OnXmaps will also keep you on the right side of the boundary on public lands and WMAs. We’ll be using it to help plan our next bird hunt.


Launching the Off-Season Odyssey

When wild bird hunting seasons end it leaves a pretty large void in our schedule. Both the dogs and I must cope with the withdrawals from time afield and adjust to the looming summer doldrums. Seven months is just too long to rest on laurels. I always dread that final day of hunting, but this year I started planning well in advance to help fill the vacuum.

Over the winter my nephew Zach researched and reported on medieval weaponry for his sophomore high school English course. Given the current climate for anything weapon related in schools I was actually somewhat amazed the report didn’t land him a suspension or on the terrorist watch list.

I’m blessed with an abundance of nieces and nephews. When one expresses an interest even remotely related to my passion I run with it. In my mind catapults and claymores are precursors to the modern tools of the trade which I use all hunting season. You have an interest in swords; let me tell you how that relates to upland hunting. I’m fairly certain there are few topics safe from my associating to pursuit of birds. I suppose the ease of which I make creative connections is likely just a result of recent reflections of my bird hunting legacy.

Blade design is an art that has been around for millennium. Because the basic functions and requirements of the knife haven’t changed since first wielded, it’s a great case study of what people have done to improve it. When I informed our friends at Benchmade about my saber smitten nephew they were quick to invite us on a VIP tour. Benchmade® is a leader in modern blade development and they help nurture new concepts by inviting interns to participate in their design process. It is a testament that good ideas can come from anywhere. I find it important to show Zach that besides knives just being cool, there are reasons for form and function. And there are people bringing these concepts to fruition. The power of an idea is a lesson I wish I would have learned earlier in life, but now I get a redo with my nephew. We just have to get from rural Ohio to the Benchmade headquarters in Oregon.

Luckily the end of bird hunting season times up really well with Spring Break. So I’ve wrangled Zach into a cross-country road trip which will cover over 5,000 miles in just 10 days. Along the way we’ll shoot, hike, camp and explore our place in the great outdoors. Wyatt our black lab will join us for some training, entertainment and to keep the varmints from camp at night.  Zach seems excited for the adventure but is likely oblivious to the amount of tutoring I have planned or the posterior pain that comes with infinite days behind the wheel.

It’s early spring so we’re preparing for a mixed bag of elements along much of the route. Luckily Filson recognized the merits of this odyssey and agreed to outfit us for any conditions which we might encounter. From the rugged Rockies to spring torrents of the Pacific Northwest we’ll be putting our new Filson gear to the test as other explorers have for over a century.

There are common threads to most of the great memories from my youth; exertion and accomplishment. Turns out that things that come easy are easily forgotten. The current trend toward sedentary existence puts a generation at risk of having no formative tales. My hope for this Off-Season Odyssey is that my nephew learns observing life will never be as satisfying as seizing opportunity.

It’s the eve of our departure and the gear is loaded. At the crack of dawn we’ll pour into the truck to start our first 16-hour day of driving. Somewhere in Illinois we’ll stop for a round of sporting clays to stretch the legs. And here Zach will learn another lesson: even with the faster reflexes and better vision that accompany youth, you can’t outshoot your uncle.


Big Thanks to Filson for sponsoring our Odyssey.




And thanks to Wolverine Boots, SportDOG and Benchmade for sending gear to test on the journey.