Editor, Journalist, and Visual Storyteller

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Video: Behind the Scenes of the 2014 Rifle Test

July 2014′s “Hits… And Myths” feature compiled data from 16 rigorous gun tests to prove or dispel commonly-held beliefs about shooting. The behind-the-scenes logistics of pulling off the tests—which were carried out by ten shooters over two weeks in less than favorable April weather in New York (high winds) and  Iowa (snow)—were no less rigorous. After calling in life-sized deer targets, ammo, and other gear shipped express to the rifle range, I got to take part in a bit of the fun on location. Check out my video below and read the full story online, with additional embedded videos, at fieldandstream.com.

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Gear Smarts: Lines of DEET-fense

Beat back ticks, chiggers, and other biters with this strategic use of powerful bug dope

By T. Edward Nickens, Edited by Kristyn Brady

After decades of tinkering, I’ve perfected an insect-protection system that has cut the number of ticks and chigger bites I find on my body by 90 percent or better. Modifying clothing keeps biters out, and precision application of a roll-top or sponge-top insect repellent makes it possible to use strong DEET formulations just where needed. I rarely use anything less than 30 percent, and when the chigger infestations are high, I use 100 percent DEET without hesitation. The idea is not to cover your entire body, but to draw a few concentrated chemical lines that’ll turn back bugs. 

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First Shot: Attack of the Giant Sockeye

Photographer: Patrick Clayton
Location: Bristol Bay, Alaska

Angler Seth Byler was fishing for leopard rainbow trout in the Upper Nushagak River in July 2013 when this male sockeye salmon—displaying the spawning colors, humpback, and hooked jaw that developed within three to four weeks after the fish entered the river 100 miles downstream—got aggressive and slammed Byler’s king salmon smolt streamer. “Red salmon, as we call them, only look like this for about a week or so,” says photographer Pat Clayton, who took this dramatic close-up in the shallows. “Most of their appearance is meant to attract females, but those teeth are used to fight other males for a spot on gravel spawning beds. The water is only 6 to 10 inches deep, so you can see them biting each other and splashing around. They’re easy pickings for bears cruising those beds.” —Kristyn Brady

This photo caption originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Field & Stream.


Manual: Pioneer Cookery

Make any excuse to cook for a crowd using these repurposed tools and traditional techniques

By David Draper, Edited by Kristyn Brady

T-Fal being in short supply, the hardy souls who settled the West made use of whatever tools they had on hand to create unconventional cookware and techniques that are still relevant today. Here are three ways to throw a picnic, pioneer style.

Pitchfork Fryer   For hot-pot cooking on a grand scale, hang upsized slabs of steak off a (hopefully clean) pitchfork and deep-fry them in a vat of boiling oil. A wood fire and cauldron are traditional, but a propane burner and a big pot used for frying turkeys works well. Heat lard or oil to 375 degrees, then dip in seasoned steaks. Don’t dally, though. In as little as 3 ½ minutes, you’ll have a crispy steak cooked to a perfect medium-rare on the inside.

Cream-Can Supper   This steam-driven method of layering vegetables in a clean cream can is reminiscent of a New England clambake. Stand ears of corn upright and top with chopped cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and onions. Add sliced sausage, in a nod to the Eastern European immigrants that settled the Great Plains. Pour a few beers in, close the lid, and set the can over a hot fire or propane burner to steam for 30 minutes, or until the veggies are cooked through.

Tractor-Disc Grill   The cowboy wok was traditionally repurposed from a disc off a harrow tool, which is used to till soil, but today you can buy one that’s perfect for making Mexican discada (southwestdisk.com). Fry diced bacon, and as it crisps, move it up the sides of the disc, letting grease drain into the center, where you should brown Mexican chorizo, strips of marinated pork or flank steak, and sliced vegetables. Splash in some stock and seasonings, let things simmer, then scoop into corn tortillas and enjoy.

This story originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Field & Stream. Photograph by Jarren Vink, with styling by Michelle Gatton.

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Skills: The Dog-Days Blaze

A hybrid campfire emphasizes light over heat for summer nights

By T. Edward Nickens, Edited by Kristyn Brady

Summertime and the living is, well, hot—which makes a roaring campfire a bit of a problem. But if you lay the right foundation, you can build a great summer blaze that puts out plenty of light with less heat, burns a long time, and uses smaller pieces of fuel, so you don’t break a sweat hauling huge logs back to camp. The log-cabin council fire is a pyro mash-up of a slow-burning, green-wood log-cabin build on the outside, and a tepee fire that throws out tall flames within.

Frame the Walls  Choose slow-burning whole green logs of white oak, ash, or birch to build the frame that will hold the tepee sticks upright. Lay four stories of two logs each, starting with pieces about 2 feet long and using smaller logs as you go up.

Stoke the Furnace   Inside the log-cabin structure, lay your tinder bundle and build a tepee of dry sticks and branches. Some of these pieces should be long enough to emerge from the top of the cabin by about 6 inches. When burning, they’ll supply plenty of light.

Top Load   Light the tinder inside your tepee, and feed the fire from the top as needed to customize the blaze, like a mood-setting dimmer switch. If the cabin walls start to burn too quickly, douse with water to knock back the flames.

This story originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Field & Stream. Illustration by Steve Sanford.


Feature Editing: Far-Out Trout

Want to catch fish as wild as the backcountry? Get hiking—and follow this step-by-step guide to stealthy tactics, spot-on fly presentation, and all the right gear

By T. Edward Nickens, Edited by Kristyn Brady

Beyond the next ridge, across that far stand of trees, lies the place you dream about, where backcountry streams and ponds hold wild trout that have never tasted metal. They’re unlikely to suffer a sloppy cast or a shadow laid carelessly across  a run. You’d better show up with your best game. Here’s what it looks like.

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A quiet, forest-ringed pond can be unforgiving; make a clunky approach and you risk unsettling fish far into the pond. Instead, stalk to the water’s edge and cast delicately.

Best Bet “Some of our favorite ponds require a half-hour walk to a stashed canoe—and we’re already 50 miles deep into Maine’s North Woods,” says Jason Bouchard of Chandler Lake Camps. “The first cast of a small dry fly over an undisturbed native brook trout is your best shot.” Bouchard likes a 9-foot 3-weight rod loaded with floating line and a 712-foot leader, and a size 10 Goddard Caddis.

Bouchard fishes spring holes and subsurface seeps where cool water upwells into the pond, providing a summer retreat for trout. Fissures in a rock ledge or circles of gravel on a muddy bottom are likely indicators that point to the best fish. Ease your boat into position just off these spots, make a delicate 30- to 40-foot cast, and then let the fly sit 15, maybe 20 seconds before you twitch.

Go Big Once you’ve landed your shore lunch, it’s time to trophy hunt. “The toughest thing about pond fishing is to get through the smaller fish and pick away at the bruisers,” Bouchard says. To do this, ignore the surface activity. Unleash a sinking-tip line, a black Muddler Minnow, and a slow twitchy strip—you’ll end up with a fish to remember.

If Flies Aren’t Your Bag Nothing wobbles quite like the weirdly U-shaped Luhr-Jensen Super Duper. Tie the brass model with the red head onto 4-pound line and fish it slow and deep, with a consistent retrieve rate.

Summer Tip You can stress out a summer trout by pulling it from a spring-hole refuge into warmer water. To avoid this, use strong tippet to get your fish to hand and back in the water as quickly as possible.


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Reader Test: Fun-Size

We asked four fishermen to test these ultralight spinning reels for a year to find out which delivered the biggest results

By Slaton L. White, Edited by Kristyn Brady

Bantam-size spinning reels spooled with 2- to 6-pound-test fall in the ultralight category, a subset of tackle that places a premium on fun and finesse. Matching downsize gear withsmaller fish—like a bluegill that wouldn’t feel like much on a regular outfit—provides more of a challenge. But tiny lures can attract big species, too, and that’s where the real fun begins. Landing a 14-inch brown trout on 4-pound line requires the ability to play a fish.

We asked four experienced anglers to use four ultralight spinning reels with various fish species for a full year to test them for drag quality, bail design, line handling, and overall value. The results show that going small can yield a big return on fun.

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First Shot: Wings, To Go

Photographer: Donald M. Jones
Location: ​Southern Alberta, Canada

“A hawk will pluck at a bird, eat a breast, and leave the rest. This bear ate an entire ruffed grouse in three bites,” says photographer Don Jones, who snapped the grizzly midmeal in the Kananaskis Range of the Canadian Rockies in May 2013, at the start of mating season. “He bit into the gizzard, then swallowed the tail, wings, and all, like a garbage disposal, before going right back to feasting on horsetail stems.” The grouse was already dead; Jones’s guess is that it collided with a car. “Bears don’t generally like to be near roads, but he’d likely been out of hibernation since March, and the food greens up first low in this valley. He was making his way back up north, though—I kept track of him for four days, and he covered 25 miles.” —Kristyn Brady

This photo caption originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Field & Stream.

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Video: Shoot Better in a Minute

The first time I’d ever fired a rifle, or any firearm, for that matter, was in the summer of 2009 under the tutelage of the F&S Rifles Editor David E. Petzal. In the summer of 2011, he asked me to come back to the upstate New York range and be a part of two brief segments in “Field & Stream‘s The Gun Nuts,” a television program on the Outdoor Channel hosted by Petzal, Shotguns Editor Phil Bourjaily, and Editor-at-Large Eddie Nickens. I helped demonstrate tactics that any shooter, even a beginner like me, could apply to help them “Shoot Better in a Minute.” In this clip from episode 18, I found a swift way to get into the seated position—a very stable set-up for shooting accuracy.


Feedback: So Fly

I’m excited to report that readers had great things to say about my April 2014 feature, “The Real Fly Girls.” These letters ran in the June 2014 Cheers & Jeers section:

Congratulations on Kristyn Brady’s excellent “The Real Fly Girls” (April 2014). I have two daughters, and though society has come a long way since my wife and I were kids, there is still a ways to go in terms of people being respected for who they are and for their character, expertise, and professionalism. Your article very much contributes to that endeavor. Thank you.  —Ken Camlek, Stevens Point, Wis.

My brother, my father, and my boyfriend have always been the first to invite me out hunting and fishing, but even they have made comments here and there about fishing babes in cut-off shorts and hip boots. So, I cannot thank you enough for “The Real Fly Girls.” Although I cannot cast quite like these women, it gives me all the more drive to do so.  —Jenny Sinicropi, via e-mail

I have witnessed the type of clients in drift boats shifting over the years, from husband casting with wife reading or bird–watching to many more women immersed in the fishing action. And my husband and I now meet some excellent female guides on the rivers we fish. I’m so glad that F&S reflects these changing attitudes.  —Tonya Banowsky, Polaris, Mont.

Photo by Brian Grossenbacher

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Field & Stream Wins ASME Award for General Excellence!

I am lucky to be a part of this staff delivering outstanding content to our readers in the Active Interests category! This is Field & Stream’s second Ellie for General Excellence since I joined the team in 2008.


Crafted: Reader Tips

For each issue, I select one tip from the readers’ online, emailed, and mailed submissions to publish in this longstanding front-of-the book franchise. Each author of a winning tip receives a Buck knife. I also obtain and construct materials for the photo.

Denim D.I.Y.
Cut pant legs off a pair of jeans to make your own gun sleeve. Sew one leg fitted partway inside the other to make one long tube. Sew the ankle end shut, and close the other end with Velcro.
—Michael McKee, Ripley, W.Va.

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Behind the Scenes: May 2014 Cover Shoot

For the May 2014 issue devoted to what’s next in the outdoor sports, F&S asked Outdoor Channel star Eva Shockey to represent the growing contingent of female hunters, making her the first woman to be photographed solo for our cover in 30 years! (Queen Elizabeth and her hunting dogs were on the cover in January 1976.) I attended the shoot with photographer Art Streiber, and it was pretty cool to see it all come together!



First Shot: Community Outreach

Photographer: Tom Martineau
Location: Chanhassen, Minn.

“We nicknamed this 3-year-old gobbler ‘Whitey,’ for the white markings on two tail feathers in the center of his fan,” says photographer Tom Martineau, who joined hunter Jeff Lobitz on an 80-acre farm—a rare large swath of private land in the archery-only Minneapolis suburbs—for the May 2013 gobbler season. “Jeff and I had the right setup for taking photos: our backs to the morning sun, side by side in pop-up blinds uphill from the treeline, where we knew some turkeys were roosted. If we’d been there just to hunt, we’d have set up right underneath them. They gobbled in the roost, flew down, and kept getting louder and louder as they headed straight for our decoys—it was a turkey hunter’s dream. Whitey was the first to crest the hill into the plowed cornfield, followed by four toms, three jakes, and a few hens. I kept pressing the shutter as he threw his head out in full strut. When the snood starts flapping like that, it’s pretty cool.” —Kristyn Brady

This photo caption originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Field & Stream.


News: Lawsuit Filed Against Mining Exploration on Montana’s Smith River

By Sarah Grigg, Edited by Kristyn Brady

In the same week that some anglers received coveted lottery permits to float Montana’s iconic Smith River—a bucket list experience for many trout anglers—environmental groups filed a lawsuit to prevent mining exploration near its headwaters.

 Outfitters and sportsmen’s groups have expressed concern since January 2014, when the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved a permit for Canadian mining company Tintina Alaska Exploration Inc. to sample for copper by excavating on the banks of Sheep Creek, the most important trout spawning tributary and a major source of water to the Smith during low summer flows. “If a mine dewaters the Smith, it will be a big deal for recreationists and agriculture,” said Mark Aagenes, Montana Trout Unlimited Conservation Director and a former Smith River fishing guide.

The Great Falls Tribune reports that a lawsuit was filed on March 14 by the Montana Environmental Information Center and Earthworks against the DEQ and Tintina. According to the article, the lawsuit alleges “the final analysis presented by DEQ did not adequately assess the full range of environmental impacts associated with the proposed exploration activities, including impacts to water quality, stream flows, and fisheries.”

The Black Butte Mine Project permit would allow for an exploration tunnel under public and private lands that would run a mile deep and 36 feet in diameter, to sample approximately 10,000 tons of rock. According to the Helena Independent Record, Tintina has drilled hundreds of core samples showing “that the Black Butte Copper mine is the third highest grade copper deposit in development in North America.” A Montana Environmental Information Center study has also shown “that the rock in which the copper is intertwined has high sulfide levels,” which could lead to acid mine runoff.

TU’s Aagenes says that water rights holders should be concerned. “We’ve heard the line before: ‘This mine will be different.’ In some places it may be fine to gamble, but not on the Smith.”

This story originally appeared on fieldandstream.com. Photo by Jim Klug.

UPDATE: The mining industry and fishing community responded quickly to this story and prompted F&S Conservation Editor Hal Herring to write an in-depth report in June.


Feature Writing: The Real Fly Girls

Some female fly guides work the camera, and some just work hard. Meet seven women with the chops and attitude to infiltrate the industry boys’ club and wade into the mainstream.

By Kristyn Brady

As a woman working in the outdoor industry, I have experienced both a warm welcome and a healthy dose of curiosity about my career choice. I’m surrounded by more men than women on boats, in camp, and around our conference-room table here at F&S. My gender’s novelty can be powerful, and it can be frustrating. The seven female fly guides in this story can definitely relate. After all, guiding is a tough business for anyone—it’s competitive, physical, and dependent on your ability to produce fish no matter what the conditions. Their skills fall under scrutiny on the river, and their looks are often emphasized in the outdoor media. Blogs such as Pacific Northwest steelheader Kate Taylor’s Rogue Angels, where all the fiercest females of fly seem to intersect, have helped build a community of women within the industry that has been key to their success in facing these challenges. I wanted to give these women the chance to tell me who they really are in their own words. The answer, I found out, is passionate, skilled, no-b.s. anglers looking to put clients on fish and food on the table.

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First Shot: Snow Squall

Photographer: Donald M. Jones 
Location: Socorro, N.M.

At the sight of a circling bald eagle, approximately 50,000 greater and lesser snow geese wintering in central New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge burst off a series of small frozen ponds shortly after sunrise in Jan. 2013. “These birds typically fly from roosting areas to the cornfields to feed around sunrise anyway, but most days about 1,000 trickle out at a time,” says photographer Don Jones. “In this case, a bald eagle was looking for birds weakened by avian cholera—a few were left behind, dead or dying, every time the flock took off—and flushed them all in a tight group. Their wings were slapping each other and they were all honking. The noise was just wonderful.

“This is one of the top five things I’ve seen that come close to a religious experience,” says Jones, who has witnessed this cacophonous flush several times. “The first time I saw it and heard it, I couldn’t even take pictures. I just stood there, like, wow.” He adds, “I’ve never been christened with their droppings, but my rental car always gets spotted like a leopard.” —Kristyn Brady

This photo caption originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Field & Stream.


Opinion: Is GQ Magazine’s “Learn to Kill in Seven Days or Less” Good for Hunting?

In the March 2014 issue of GQ, city-bred writer Rosencrans Baldwin tells the story of his first hunt, for Montana big game, under the tutelage of his foul-mouthed country-bred Uncle Cy. As a new hunter myself, Baldwin’s narrative “Learn to Kill in Seven Days or Less” is alternately relatable (“the thought of actually killing something this morning has my stomach in a boil”) and cringe-worthy (“I reach for my beer and accidentally point the loaded rifle at Cy’s stomach.”)

Mainstream exposure can be good for hunting. For some, our sports may well be more accessible when they appear alongside photos of LeBron James and Mila Kunis. But does it benefit hunters to have a newbie, an outsider, speaking for us, especially one whose mentor poorly represents hunters while criticizing them? (“You never wear orange or camouflage anything during activities where they aren’t required, for these are the signs of the recreational hunter, the weekend warrior, Californians, and other assholes who plaster ‘I’d rather be hunting’ bumper stickers on their trucks. People for whom hunting is a lifestyle, not a way of life.”)

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Live Reporting: Debating What’s Good for the Herd and the Hunt

A panel of experts debated trophy deer management practices and the impact on hunter recruitment at yesterday’s Field & Stream Heroes of Conservation Roundtable Luncheon. Editorial director Anthony Licata prefaced the discussion by describing the Heroes of Conservation award and grant program, sponsored by Toyota Motors, U.S.A., which spotlights extraordinary volunteers working on the grassroots level. The same sense of responsibility for wildlife and the American sporting tradition drove the debate. Dr. Jonathan Gassett from the Wildlife Management Institute clarified that the role of state agencies is not to manage deer to trophy standards. “Our priority is to produce a healthy and abundant herd that creates hunting opportunities.” Nikon’s Jon LaCorte, a third-generation whitetail hunter, said, “The expectation of harvesting a trophy deer has changed drastically over the past 20 years based on what’s in the media.” Minnesota Outdoor News columnist Shawn Perich offered one solution, when storytelling: “Focus more on the hunt and less on the kill.” And Brian Murphy, a deer biologist and CEO of the Quality Deer Management Association, spoke to the whole room when he said, “If this community makes that a priority, balancing expectations and reality is doable.” —Kristyn Brady

This story originally appeared in the January 16, 2014 edition of SHOT Daily, which is distributed to more than 60,000 industry professionals at the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s annual Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas, Nev.


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Video: How to Restore an Old, Rusty Ax

Earlier this month, I attended an Axe Restoration Workshop at Best Made Company’s retail location in lower Manhattan. In six hours, I learned about the history of ax manufacturing in our country, filed an American hickory handle, and hung and sharpened an old Plumb hatchet head I’d bought off ebay for $19. Ax expert Nick Zdon and the team at Best Made were excellent hosts — they even served the class BBQ, whiskey, and cheesecake.


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