Gear for Whitetails & Western Hunts with Dan Johnson

Show Notes

Deer season is so close you can almost smell it! If you haven't already, it's time to break out the gear, get things organized, and make adjustments based on what you liked, or didn't like, from last year's kit. Few folks in the hunting industry know gear quite like Dan Johnson. He hosts the Nine Finger Chronicles Podcast and the Hunting Gear Podcast on the Sportsmen's Empire Podcast Network. In this episode, Josh talks with Dan Johnson about gear choices for Western hunts and whitetails back east. The guys discuss boots, glass, base layers, bows, arrows, broadheads, saddle hunting, you name it! This episode is going to help you get your kit, and your mindset, dialed in for the season. Enjoy!

Show Transcript

Josh Raley: [00:00:00] What is going on everyone? Welcome back to another episode of the Wisconsin Sportsman Podcast, which is brought to you by Tactic Camp. This is your home for all things outdoors in the Badger State. I'm your host Josh Raley, and I hope you are as fired up as I am today. Man, it is middle of August here.

It is my daughter's birthday today, actually. My youngest daughter just turned five and want, I'm fired up about that. We got to celebrate her today. Got a big old chick-fil-A Cup sitting here next to me from our birthday dinner with her. That was her food of Choice. Of course, a five-year-old wants chicken nuggets for her birthday dinner, but I'm also fired up because dear season is like a month away.

And I cannot wait. I'm gonna be in the woods probably the weekend of September 9th, 10th, somewhere in there, here [00:01:00] in Georgia for the opener. It's probably gonna be miserable, but it's opening day. So what do you do? It's just one of those things. You gotta get out, you gotta get in the woods, you gotta knock the rust off a little bit, right?

Gotta make sure, gotta figure out what all I lost from last year. What all I need to buy again, what all I need to change up, what all gear was broken or not working, or whatever was frustrating me last year. I've certainly forgot about it now as I look at this season that's upcoming through rose colored glasses, but we are drawing ever closer to my absolute favorite time of the year, and I cannot wait.

And along those lines, I had my buddy Dan Johnson from the Nine Finger Chronicles podcast and the Hunting Gear podcast. You might know him as the Emperor. Of the Sportsman's Empire Podcast network. He keeps all of us rascals corralled together and pulling in the same direction when it comes to our podcast and all of our content.

Dan was on the show and I wanted to have him on to talk about gear. Dan's a guy. He's been in the hunting industry for 17 years at this point. He has talked to a lot of people in that [00:02:00] time. He has worked with a lot of brands in that time. He has bought a lot of gear during that time, and he probably has more hunting gear than almost anybody else that I know.

So I wanted to get Dan on and talk about his gear for the upcoming season. Not only for the whitetail woods, which he's obviously going to be hunting there in Iowa during the Rutt this year, but he also likes to head west earlier in the season. So I wanted to pick his brain a little bit about some of the most important pieces of gear for him when it comes to hunting out west.

No surprise, we spend some time talking about boots. We talk about packs, we talk about glass, we talk about the value of good base layers. Just an all around good gear conversation. If you're thinking about gear at this time of year, you're thinking about what should I buy? What should I try out what should I maybe scrap from previous years because I'm just not happy with it.

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All right, joining me for this week's episode of the Wisconsin Sportsman [00:05:00] Podcast. Once again is my brother Mr. Dan Johnson. Dan, welcome back.

Dan Johnson: Hey, man. Good, good to talk with you again man.

Josh Raley: You too, buddy. How's your summer been rocking so far?

Dan Johnson: Full bore, nonstop. I'll be honest, I'm ready for the kids to go back to school in a major way.

Yeah. Like I feel like in the summertime my productivity is down, my patience level is down. My, I like, school is such an amazing thing because I can focus 100% on work, get all of it done by the time they get off the bus. I can be super dad the rest of the night. But now with the kids home, it is stop and start.

And then make sure the kids, I gotta feed 'em lunch and I gotta, Hey, can I go over to Joe, Billy Joe's house and I gotta take him over somewhere and I'm a chauffeur and all that stuff. And and so I'm ready for, I'm ready for school to start.

Josh Raley: Yeah, [00:06:00] man, that's that's I. I love having my kids at home.

I love summertime. Yeah. Really dig it. Yep. The whole issue of trying to work from home with kids, I feel like I get more done in four hours without them here than I do in eight or 10 hours with them here because of that stop and start and all the fragmentation. Man, summer times are usually pretty busy for you.

And I know one of the things that you focus a lot on at least you did last year, was banking those brownie points for your fall. Man. So how's how's the Brownie Point bank looking? We we looking pretty strong or you a little low there.

Dan Johnson: You always hope it, you're looking strong in the back brownie point area.

Like I, dude you never really know if you're doing it right or not right. Because it takes just one bad day to have everything come crashing down. But for the most part, I, we've done vacations I've done house projects I've taken care of the kids and all that stuff.

And I hope it's, I hope it's enough. If [00:07:00] it's not enough. Tough shit. I don't know what what to say.

Josh Raley: Yeah. For sure. For sure. Dan I thought what we could talk about today, we're heading into the season, we're sitting here, about the middle of August and you host a show on our network called The Hunting Gear Podcast.

Yep. Not only do you host the Hunting Gear Podcast, but you've also just been in the game for a long time. Like when did you first start dipping your toe in the outdoor industry?

Dan Johnson: 2006, I believe it was when I was first introduced to it and started working in it.

Josh Raley: Okay. So we're talking a 17 year stretch at this point.

Jesus. That's did I just rock your world a little bit? Sorry.

Dan Johnson: That's crazy that it's been that long. I. I mean it, yeah. Now that you say it it just makes it seem, I don't know. I don't know, man. That's crazy. That's a long time,

Josh Raley: dude. You have you have people who have gone from not being a twinkle in their dad's eye yet to fully [00:08:00] functional hunting on their own, on public land bow hunters.

In the time that you have been, you've got grown men who are younger than your outdoor career at this point. Man, that's pretty good. But, part of that is, with the hunting your podcast, you get to talk to a lot of different people, but also a lot of different companies.

So you get right, you kinda get both sides. You get the end user which is gonna give you one picture, and then you get the companies, which. They're gonna give you the marketing picture for better or worse. It's just the way the industry works, right? It's the way every industry works.

But you also have just an absolute pile of stuff, like I've heard you say before. I can't hold any more hunting gear. Like I just can't. I can't take any more I'm tapped out with, without getting rid of some stuff. I thought we'd just kick off a conversation heading into this early season to talk about gear, but as context for the kind of gear that maybe you're gonna be using and focusing on this year.

I want to get a quick overview of what your season's gonna look like, because I think you're probably doing a couple things that maybe the average dude isn't gonna be getting out to do.

Dan Johnson: Yeah.[00:09:00] Obviously. Every environment calls for different gear and equipment. Whether you're elk hunting or whether you are sitting in a tree stand, and even if you're sitting in a tree stand or a saddle in Maine versus Florida or the South versus, the warm south versus the cool north.

It's all especially clothing that's gonna, that's, or clothing and boots and things like that, it's all gonna be based off the environment that you're in. I go out west every year. I started to go in this mid second, third week in October to go try to chase mule deer out west in the Great Plains somewhere.

And I really love that time of year. It can be anywhere from 29. I think the one year I went, it was like 29 degrees at night. And then during the day it got a couple days. It got a high of 60, and then a couple days it got like to a high of 90. Geez. And so it can really swing either [00:10:00] way out there.

It's always windy, so you gotta be prepared for that. I have, knock on wood, I haven't ran into too much rain, the gear that I'm using out west, I. There are some specifics that I change out, but there's also some that I, I really like in both the western environment and the white tail in a tree hunting environment as well.

So there's crossover.

Josh Raley: And you're a, one of the things I appreciate about you is you're a no nonsense dude. And you're not and I may be wrong on this, but my impression of you has been that you're not just a tinkerer for no reason. You're not just going to like, try to get the newest gadget and be like running through all the newest gear just because it was new for that year kind of thing.

I trust your methods to be pretty tried and true when you're heading out west. What are some of those like, essential pieces that maybe you've acquired just in the last couple of years or maybe some things that you've got your eye on for this year?

Dan Johnson: Yeah. When it comes to the West, [00:11:00] I.

I'll tell you right now just I just mean hunting in general. For me. The number one product that a guy has to have dialed in is his boots. And I'll go a step further and I will say his sock boot combo because if you're just wearing a pair of cotton socks on a hot hike, your feet are gonna get wet, and then you're going to, you're gonna generate blisters or, it's, you're just gonna be uncomfortable.

And so for me, it's all about a really good boot and a really good sock. And when you're not thinking about your feet, then you're thinking about deer hunting. Or you're not thinking about how hot or cold you, you are, and you're somewhat comfortable. You really can focus on the hunting and that's why we all do it.

But I would say that, Out west compared to let's just use packs, for example. In my opinion, a pack out west has carries way more weight literally and [00:12:00] figuratively than a a whitetail pack. You're usually, I'm not saying this for everybody, but usually you're not gonna quarter up your white tail in, on the east side of the country and pack it out.

You, you usually drag it out or you have, you and your buddy take a four wheeler or whatever the case may be. I would say that's typical. Do people quarter out and basically do a western style pack out for Whitetails on the east side of the country? Of course they do, but out west you're carrying water.

A lot more water. I find myself carrying a lot more water. It's necessary, especially if you're gonna be moving around. All day. And so the boots are important, the socks are important. The combination of that and then the packs I the pack out west. And then just binoculars, like a really good pair of optics.

I would say those are the three things that I would say are make or break products that the gear would [00:13:00] actually influence how the hunt goes.

Josh Raley: I want to touch on that boot piece there because as a white tail guy, I have, obviously I'm not doing, I'm not hiking in 10 miles for elk.

One thing though, that I've decided is that rubber boots suck and I hate them real bad for the most part, right? Yeah. And. But here's the thing. I would rather whine about my boots every year than buy a good pair of boots. That's, that's just where I've been. So talk me through what are some of your go-tos when you're going out west?

'cause I'm sure there's gonna be some carryover into the whitetail world if you're not, slogging through knee deep water.

Dan Johnson: Yeah. Rubber boots obviously have their place. Sure. For wet conditions, if you're a guy who's, who hunts a lot of marshes or swamps, I like, I the rubber boots are probably a necessity in the south.

You're from Georgia, right? You, it can be wet, it can be slimy. Whenever I have to cross a marsh or a swamp or a crit crossing. I plan accordingly, but [00:14:00] usually I'm trying to find a way to, my tree stands without having to get my feet wet. And luckily in Iowa the places that I hunt don't require that out west.

A pair of rubber boots and the amount of miles that I put on in a single day. Is it just isn't a, it's not an option. Right? Rubber boots out west, it's just not an option. They are, I'm sure there's brands out there that are comfortable. And could be hiked in, but they, not only do rubber boots keep moisture out, they also keep moisture in.

So by the end of the day, you're basically putting your feet in a sauna and your feet are gonna get wet. I don't care what type of sock you have, they're gonna get wet If they're, you're gonna get hot, you're gonna get uncomfortable. And it's just, it's not for me. It's not an

Josh Raley: option. Yeah. Yeah. So what are you wearing as far as boots?

Do you have a pair that you're willing to say, this is a good brand? Oh yeah. A good line. People should check out.

Dan Johnson: Yeah, so I currently have a pair of crispy [00:15:00] Thors and those I've had for five years now, I think I'm actually gonna go, finally buy a new pair. They've for after five years, they've lost their a little bit of their waterproofing.

They're broke in perfect. The insoles, I could probably replace the insoles and get away with a couple more years out of 'em, to be honest. But they've every year I power wash 'em. I let 'em dry, and then I apply another coating of waterproofing spray to them. And, but I think they've finally reached their limit and it's time to buy a new pair.

But I really like the crispies because I've never had a blister in them. Wow. I've never they fit really well to my style like my feet. I've had, man, they, it's almost like they come broken in a way to where you, I think, and that's what they, one thing they're known for is being hunt ready without having to break, [00:16:00] really break 'em in, hunt or hike ready without having to break 'em in.

That's another reason I really like 'em. But they've just performed to, I'm sure there's other boots out there that do the same thing, but for me, they've performed, they're at an okay price point for what I'm looking for. I think I bought mine for three 50 ish or three 20 or something like that.

Okay. And so some may say that's a little on the higher end, but I've had 'em for five years and I've never had a blister out of it, out of 'em. So that's worth something.

Josh Raley: Yeah, man, I think that, one, they haven't given you a headache, so you know, haven't given you blisters or had any issues out of them.

But when you're talking 70 bucks a year, like you, dude, I spend that on cheap rubber boots yep. Around here. So that's pretty good. What about socks? I have gotten to wear I do all uninsulated boots, even hunting in Wisconsin when it's cold out because Yep. Either rubber, my feet are just hot all the time anyway.

I don't struggle with cold feet unless my feet get wet. So I just move totally [00:17:00] away from insulated boots and have just relied heavily on socks these last couple years. I'm either, I'm gonna either have a lightweight sock on or try to boost that up a little bit. Do you have a specific kind?

Because I've tried some wool, I've tried some synthetic and I think I've landed where I like it. But do you have any other recommendations?

Dan Johnson: Yeah, I would say wool obviously we have darn tough. Socks We have what's, man, there's actually a company name that has the word wool in it. It's a hiking sock.

Oh, is

Josh Raley: that the, it's marketed. It's like Me Wool or something like that. Smart. Smart. Smart Wool. Smart wool. Okay. All

Dan Johnson: right. Yep. Smart Wool Works. And then there and those would be my like, darn tough, I'll just say Darn tough is my mid and lightweight sock option. But now they just came out with a a couple new, there's a brand called Alterra, spelled like this a l t e r a Alterra.

They are an [00:18:00] alpaca sock, and alpaca actually performs better than wool does, and usually I they, in the past, they've made a thicker sock, and so that is my go-to Rutt, late October. The Rutt it's a heavier sock. I put it in my crispy boot and just man, very comfortable. The very functional.

And so that is, so it's, when it's warm, it's usually a darn tough. But now Alterra makes thinner, lighter weight socks as well. So I think I'm just gonna be rocking Alterra from here on out unless something else comes along. But yeah cold weather is a, is one of the thicker sock options.

And then if it's really cold, then I'll put my feet in a Arctic Shield boot cover. And so I'm actually. Putting that layer on in the tree stand and that, that keeps my feet nice and toasty throughout an entire day.

Josh Raley: It was that you, that I've talked to before about the Arctic Shield covers where you're like, dude, I've got a set from forever [00:19:00] ago that I can't, like I don't even know if they make this kind anymore.

Dan Johnson: I don't think that's, I don't think that was me. I've bought, I think I bought mine five years ago. Okay. I've been, I've permanently ditched the rubber boots about five years ago and just strictly went to the hiking boot with the boot covers. The cool thing about that is that, yeah, I'm just more surefooted in a, in a pair of hiking boots as opposed to a lot of guys wear the alpha burly pros from lacrosse.

Just a huge boot. Yeah. A giant boot with a ton of insulation. And if you're a mobile hunter and you're wa you're trying to climb up a tree, stand with four inch, four inch steps or. Something like that, man, it's not easy to do, especially if you're trying to sit there in a saddle or if you are trying to a small platform to tree stand.

It's just, I don't know. It's

Josh Raley: just not for me. Yeah, man that's where I've landed too. Like even in situations where my feet might get just a little [00:20:00] bit wet on the way in those hikers just change everything. Especially like you're saying, if you're mobile and you're gonna be standing on your platform, on your, your saddle platform, let's say for hours on end, got the freaking rubber boots.

Just make it miserable. I'd rather get up there and take my boots off, than, oh yeah. Than have to rock the rubber boots all day. I wanna switch over to the, to talking about glass. 'cause I'm sure your glass is different when you're hunting out west and you're hunting out east. Or when you're back home in Iowa.

I think glass is. I don't know. I think there's a segment of people who are just like, I never use it for whitetails. I just don't even worry about it 'cause I don't need it. And then there's a segment that, like glasses, every little flicker that they see in the whitetail woods. But I know you're a big fan of your vortex glass, so let's talk about maybe what you're using out west as compared to what you're gonna use on a typical rutt hunt in Iowa.

Dan Johnson: So out west my, obviously I use something a little bit different out west than I do in the whitetail woods. But[00:21:00] I'll just start with like spotting scopes out west. When I elk hunt, I don't bring a spotter because I usually am hunting dark timber and I am wanting, I'll shoot any elk that walks by.

So I'm not necessarily looking, needing to glass up an elk and count his points and see what his score is. So that doesn't matter to me Now. You change that to the western plains where there's way less trees and you can see forever, then I bring a spotting scope, and that allows me to look basically a long distance, say, is there a buck in that, in the mix of these deer?

And then that tells me whether I need to go in, go chase 'em or not. If it's just a whole bunch of dough, then I don't wanna go chase 'em. I'm looking for, I'm looking for some kind of buck. And then I'm also bringing a pair of binoculars that has a little bit more magnification than I, than I would in the whitetail woods.

And so typically my whitetail setup [00:22:00] is I'm in I very rarely am in an area that I am gonna just be glassing all day. For me, when I'm in the whitetail, when I'm in hanging in a tree, I am. I am, I'm basically just looking at movement that I've seen with my own eyes. So I'm not just sitting there glassing all day long.

I am glassing at movement. So if I see something, I'm like, okay, what is that? What is that thing? And that's one, one of that. And so this, I think my binocular, my vortex binoculars, I wanna say I have a razor HD for the west, and then I have the new Triumph HD for the whitetail woods. And then I have a razor spotting scope a razor HD spotting scope as well for the

Josh Raley: West.

I think one thing that, and I did it this year with my vortex Binos. I also I grabbed a Diamondback spotting scope this [00:23:00] year for Turkey hunting. 'cause I do a lot of big ag country glassing and stuff for Turkey scouting. But one thing I was blown away by, 'cause I've never tried it before, is just a set of binos on a tripod.

Oh yeah, you throw a set of binos on a tripod, it changes everything. Yeah.

Dan Johnson: If you're trying to do a glass thing. Yeah. I haven't, I have never done that, but whenever I do glass with my binos especially out west, I'm laying back and I got my elbows in tight. And I I'm in a really tight position to where there's not a lot, like I'm using myself as the tripod.

I hear a lot of guys, I've heard a lot of guys talk about how bins on a tripod are great, but I've, it's just one of those things where I. Even if you have a quick connect, it still is an extra thing you have to do to put your spotting scope on and then take your spotting scope off and put the binos on or something like that.

So usually if I'm rocking a spotting scope, I just leave it attached right to the tripod and that's how I

Josh Raley: do it. Yeah. [00:24:00] Rocking that. All right. Let's switch over to the white till world then. You're heading out, when are you heading west this year? Is it gonna be that second week of October again, second

Dan Johnson: or third week?

I don't have it a hundred percent scheduled. I'm basically just gonna go when I feel the weather's

Josh Raley: the best. All right. And that's gonna be your annual mully hunt turn, white whitetail hunt. Is that what we're doing? Yeah. Newly slash whitetail hunt. Yep, for sure. Okay. All right. So when you're back home then in the whitetail woods, your hunting is primarily focused around the rutt, you're a family guy.

Yep. I have found myself in the last couple years, our kids are getting older, nine, seven, and five now. And I just have less times to make strikes in the woods, I have almost, not totally, but I have almost abandoned the early season game. Yeah. And it's just a time thing, right? Like I can stack my time at home then, and then I can take two weeks in November when I am all white tail focused.

I don't have any responsibilities at home and I'm really really dialed in. And that's when most of your hunting is focused as well, is those first two weeks of November. [00:25:00] So there's a specific timeframe there that we're thinking about when it comes to weather and temperatures and conditions, but it can also be super variable.

What are some of the top, gear pieces that maybe you're trying out this year that are going to either make you more effective or maybe ones that are just tried and true that are just your standbys for your yearly whitetail hunts?

Dan Johnson: Yeah, man. So anything. Like Marino base layers. Okay. So a Marino, my Marino base layers, and I have a variety of them.

It's not just one brand specifically. My Marino base layers are the foundation of my layering system, period. And that and so that can trans over translate over to my socks as well, right? And so really the base layer is the starting point. And then from there it is it's just, is it hot outside?

Then I'll wear these pants. Is it cold outside? Then I'll wear these pants or this layering option. And so usually it, I'm, if [00:26:00] I'm gonna go out east, if I'm here in Iowa or if I'm going to, let's say Wisconsin or Minnesota and it's cold that time of year, then I'm going to be really, I.

Walking to the tree in just my base layers climb up in, set up, climb up in the tree and if I'm dripping sweat that I know that Marino wool is gonna going to, do the, do its job and dry me off fairly quickly. In the past, man I don't understand why it took me so long, and maybe it was because I didn't have any experience in the West.

I feel like western hunters, backpackers, hikers, they were, they were keen to the merino game long before the white tail hunters were. And the functionality is there for the white tail hunter. I don't know how many times I've ended up sweating my balls off walking to the tree, stand in 25, 30 degree weather, and then just being soaking wet and cold, all the rest of the hunt because I was in, in cotton or a cotton hooded [00:27:00] sweatshirt and, or I tried to walk to the stand with too much clothing on and, and now I basically get dressed at the bottom of the tree stand and let the Marino do its

Josh Raley: job.

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So learn more and check out their full line of products. Head over to their website, ttac and share your hunt with Tica. How are you keeping 'cause I've switched over, so I've used Marino for a number of years. Last year I switched over to a synthetic Base layer system from Hunt Worth and it performed basically as well as Merino.

I think. As far as keeping me warm, drying out quickly, that kind of thing. The one issue that I have run into, because I'm like you, I'm trying to get dressed at the base of the tree. I might have a two mile and a mile and three quarter kind of hike in to some of these public land spots because I love spots where no bikes are allowed.

No cars are allowed. You're walking in from the access. That's all you can do. Yeah. I feel like it's easier to get away from the pressure that way when I focus on those areas. So I'm getting dressed there, but man, I get there and my base layers a lot of times are just covered in junk. Have you found a [00:29:00] solution for this yet?

Or am I just destined to continue to have to get back in the evenings and pick stuff outta my camo?

Dan Johnson: Yeah, that is, that's, they have products for that. It's like a glove that you put on and you can wipe down all that, and it's supposed to transfer that to the glove and then you you can rinse it out or whatever the case may be.

But for me, I know that if I'm going into certain spots walking through c r p fields, and usually those those cock bears and that bagger's, lice, that's all on the edge of timber and c r p or timber and field or grass or whatever. And so I try to avoid those places, but ultimately you you gotta go to where the best access route is.

And so for me I'm wearing like denim. I'm wearing ca some kind of Dickie or some kind of Carhartt pants, or, it's not those brands specifically, but that type of material. And that picks up way less[00:30:00] thorns. And it's durable. You walk into a thornbush and it, it just breaks the thorn.

It doesn't make it in through the pants. Some of the stuff that I there's one brand in spec specifically that I wear a lot. It's called Arbor Wear. Okay. And it's made for arborist. It's a brand that's marked, but it's that thick material. And so I use that to avoid the pickup. And then usually it's from, it's from the waist down if I do pick it up.

And that material, all you gotta do is just do this a couple times and it just kinda rolls off the pants. It's not perfect, but it's better than, let's say like a fleece per

Josh Raley: se. Yeah, exactly. And I've been thinking about just grabbing, some kind of material like that's, a non insulated piece that I just wear as an outer layer on the way in.

I can get to my stand, take it off, and then layer up, with my camo or whatever after that. But just to avoid some of that, some of the issues, 'cause I've had it before where, my arms have beggar's. Life beggar's license is the big one [00:31:00] for me, especially Huntington, Wisconsin. You get just covered in the stuff.

Then you wanna put your layers on and now it's all inside of whatever. And a lot of the stuff that I like to wear is like lined with Sherpa lease or a grid fleece. Yep. So Sherpa fleece or a grid fleece. And dude, once it's in there, like game over game. Yeah. Game over. It, and it changes your comfort level for the entire day.

'cause it just, that stuff will just sit in there and poke you and be miserable.

Dan Johnson: Yeah, man. I bought a pair of, and this is where I, this is ultimately where I learned my lesson of what. I need versus, what I want versus what I actually need. I spent the money, I bought a pair of Sitka fleece pants and a matching top.

I, or it was a matching vest. I can't remember either way. I spent the, I spent Sitka money and those pants haven't been touched in three years. I actually, I think I cleaned them up and sold them, like for dirt cheap, because they are, yeah, they're great [00:32:00] in the stand, but getting to the stand and leaving the stand are ultimately what is the most important, right?

Because you can spend all day in a stand, but if you're taking a weak access route, then it doesn't matter anyway. And so that's ultimately where I was like, Jesus, man, I just spent this much money on a pair of pants that I'm not even using anymore. And so that's where I my Marino wall base layer does most of the work.

And then the workhorse as far as below the waist is the denim heavy duty pants. Now, they're not breathable. They do not dry quickly. But they are perfect for where, like through the brush and thorns that I walk through every

Josh Raley: day. And I think, a lot of people may have the impression that Dan Johnson's in Iowa, so he's hunting some kind of manicured ground or something like that.

But man you're you're doing a little brush busting when you get out there. You're not walking down carefully groomed access trails.

Dan Johnson: Yeah, I don't have the money for that kind of property property [00:33:00] stuff that these guys are doing.

Josh Raley: Yeah, man. I was looking at some properties in Iowa the other day and I found a piece that you can buy for us here on the network, Okay.

That they can all share and hunt. It was like 80 acres or something like that. I figure me And you just get prime time and the rest of the people can just come in for late season.

Dan Johnson: Yeah. 80 acres For what? Pri what like a million dollars, is what

Josh Raley: they're asking for. Honestly, it was not in a prime part of Iowa, and I think it was listed at 5,500 an acre.

Okay. So it was one of those that's cheap for these days. And it, it was one of those properties that you're like, okay, this. That could be a legitimate option at some point whenever Papa Dan buys us a piece. So

Dan Johnson: I just gotta, I just gotta start selling more advertising,

Josh Raley: man. That's right.

Just gotta get on it. Man, let's talk a little bit now about your mobile system. You've been mobile hunting for kind of a long time, at least before it was Cool. I think we could say that. And I know you're a big fan of the, is it the novik tree stands now that you're using?

Yeah. But you've also gotten into the [00:34:00] saddle game a little bit, so walk me through some of that.

Dan Johnson: Yeah. I'm really excited this year to start hunting out of a saddle more. Usually what happens is when I start seeing a trend, I don't follow it because it's just that a trend.

But talking to guys that I actually really respect And not necessarily in the hunting industry, but more in the hunting community who are very successful. They are, they're not only successful, but they are doing they're, the way they hunt is relatable to the way I hunt. And so when I hear guys like that talk about, a saddle, I wanna try it, I wanna try a saddle.

And so I, I have all the equipment this year. I tested it out for a handful of hunts last year, but this year I'm really looking forward to diving into it. I think last year I kept falling back to tree stands because I had everything set up right from the previous year. This year I don't as much [00:35:00] other than so what I did is I took down some of my tree stands, but I left the sticks up.

So I'm really looking forward to not only. Being mobile and not having to carry a full blown tree stand on my back and just, climbing up, leaning back and getting ready to go. And I also think that for me, I am not an all day sitter anyway. Like I, I just cannot sit all day. And I think that a saddle is perfect for that.

It's perfect for the guy who only wants to go out and sit. Some guys will say that saddles are comfortable and, but I got bad knees. I got a bad back. I personally don't know because I don't have the experience in sitting in a saddle for multiple long periods of time. I think the most I sat in a saddle at one time was three and a half hours, one for one, one day.

And so I mean that in a period of a four day little trip I took to Southern Iowa I hunted out of a saddle. I didn't kill anything, [00:36:00] but I was just bouncing around in one. And so it, it would be perfect for me who, I don't hunt all day. I hunt mornings and then I hunt evenings and then I'll move or I'll leave and then come back or whatever the case may be.

That's what I'm doing. And so I'm really looking forward to trying out. It's what is it now? The tethered lockdown. It's got, it's the one with the pockets on the side of it. And I think that's gonna be perfect for me so I don't have to attach anything else to the saddle. They're just built in and that's perfect for like my my bow holders, my screw in steps, my screw in boat, my pack hangers and things like that.

Anything that I'm gonna screw into the tree or my grunt tube or things like that. That's gonna be the my go-to saddle for this year. And, The only thing that I really have to figure out is layering in a saddle, right? That's the only thing I gotta figure out is what do I need to do [00:37:00] to be comfortable?

And if it gets too cold, how do I add on a layer while I'm in a saddle without having to get down? How do I, how do I take a layer off if I, am I just gonna unzip and air out? Or if I'm gonna actually have to take an entire jacket off, or whatever the case may be. I gotta learn.

I'm gonna learn that I'm gonna mess around with that this year. And then hopefully by the end of this year I'll, I will have figured out a system and yeah.

Josh Raley: Nice. Yeah, that, that tethered lockdown saddle, I got to put my hands on it and sit in one at at a t a this year. And I think they're onto something with those zipper pockets.

'cause the dump, the traditional dump style pouches on the side of a saddle that just flop around all over the place. Those, they've always been the headache of saddle hunting for me at least. Like I, I've, yeah, I've been hunting out of a saddle, I think since 20 18, 20 17, something like that.

It was before tethered came out and launched. And yeah, those dump pouches have been a pain ever since. But those [00:38:00] sort of fixed position zipper pouches, I think are gonna revolutionize that game. You mentioned there, holding, if you're a bow, bow holder and all that stuff getting stuck in there.

So let's talk about your archery equipment now this year. Did you get a new bow this year or did you stick with what you had?

Dan Johnson: I'm gonna back up just a sec. I wanna finish a point here. Oh yeah. For my mobile setup though. Sure. The saddle is gonna be the saddle. So the reason I like okay, so I work with tethered, right?

And the reason I like working with tethered is because they're not a brand that is like you, if you're gonna be a mobile hunter, it has to be a saddle hunter, right? You have to be in a saddle, right? These guys, I like their, the way they do it because they're saying our saddle is a tool for a mobile in a mo mobile hunter's arsenal, right?

Okay. And so I really that thought process where it's not tree stands versus saddles. It's tools hunters can use, right? Don't get me wrong, there's gonna be a couple times [00:39:00] where I'm gonna be in a tree stand this year and in a historically historically good rut funnel maybe a a staging area, an area that I know throughout the years have produced.

I'll be, I got stands already in, I got for my main farm, it's 480 acres and it, I have three tree stands already on it that I don't even take down anymore because they produce throughout the years at some point, right? The rest, let's say if I catch a, if I catch a deer moving on a next ridge over, that's where the saddle comes into play, right?

Or if I need to bounce around and go look for something, that's where the saddle, when I go on my out-of-state trips, like I'm looking at Wisconsin and I'm looking at Minnesota this year just because of how close they are across the river, across the border. Hop in a tree that is gonna be my go-to, my saddle's gonna be that.

But after that, it's like they, they have. Everything has a purpose. And [00:40:00] so I feel like if I'm gonna sit all day, I, like I said, I haven't done it yet, and I don't like to do it, but if I'm going to, I feel like maybe a tree stand might be a little bit more comfortable for me as opposed to a saddle.

But there's only one way to figure that out, and that's to spend more time in a saddle.

Josh Raley: Yeah. And for those who maybe don't know, I learned this year Dan Johnson is a much bigger man than I knew him to be. When I got to actually meet you in person there, it's okay, this is a tall dude.

With broad shoulders like that's a lot of, that's a lot of man hanging in a saddle up there. Yeah. Comfort level wise, whether or not that's where you wanna be, and especially on a smaller saddle platform or something like that I can get the appeal to stick to some tree stands.

One of the things that I've loved about saddle hunting is I feel the freedom when I'm in a saddle. To get to where I need to be and decide, you know what, there are no, there's not a tree I want to be in. I really want be in the ground, on the ground 30 yards away from the tree line. And I feel the freedom to do that.

When I lu in a [00:41:00] stand on my back, I feel the obligation. 'cause I'm like I drug all this crap in here. Like I, this thing needs to be, in a tree. But if I've got a saddle on, I feel just as comfortable saying, you know what, there's not a tree that I want to get into. I think my shot opportunities are better.

If I'm on the ground, then I can, I feel real comfortable just throwing my platform and sticks next to me and, popping a squat while keeping my saddle on as opposed to feeling like I need to get, in a tree that's gonna be less likely for the shot that I'm looking for.

Absolutely. Are you ground hunting at all or are you still are you it's situational to where you hunt and I know you hunt on the ground out west but when you're there in Iowa, are you gonna be sticking to trees? Are you exploring the ground game?

Dan Johnson: Yeah I, this is the kind of hunter that I am.

I will hunt wherever and whenever I need to, depending on what I see. So if I'm observing deer moving in a certain area, and I'll just use last year, late season, for example, last year, late season, I caught a whole [00:42:00] bunch of deer movement leading out of a block of timber into the neighbor's, into the neighbor's food source.

There was no trees in between where they were betting. And for me to get in there, if I was to get in there, they would've seen me spooked. So I looped back around this this big ridge that runs the length of the property, got into a fence row where I was like five yards off the fence line. I.

And I cut a branch down on a pine tree and it sagged down and I didn't cut it all the way off. I just cut it to where it would sag down right to onto the ground and it, I created like a little blind out of that and I gave my shot, myself shot opportunity shot opportunity there. So I am the kind of guy who I will go wherever and do whatever in order to get the job done.

If that's in the tree, great. If that's from the ground I'm not afraid to do it.

Josh Raley: Didn't you killed an archery buck two years ago from the ground. Am I right? Was that [00:43:00] out West

Dan Johnson: 20? No, that was I don't know if it was 2020. It was either 2020 or 2021. I can't remember. It was one of the covid years I shot a deer in.

I. I shot a deer in South Dakota, a white tail in South Dakota from the ground. I was sitting in a fence line. And then I also, that year, I think it was 2020, yeah, it was 2020. I ended up going, I was walking to my tree stand and there was a buck in this little ditch raking a tree. And so I shot him on the ground too, but I wasn't set up on the ground.

I just was walking right to my tree stand. I saw him and then I made a move on him, and then I

Josh Raley: shot him. Yeah, I think I remember hearing that story. Yeah, I think he did an episode on that one. That was a, that's a good one, man. You can't beat shooting a buck on your way to the stand in an afternoon or something like that.

But alright, let's talk archery for just a little bit. Did you get a new bow this year or are you sticking with the Tried and true? [00:44:00] Yeah,

Dan Johnson: I went three years ago I got a prime, or excuse me, I got a bot tech solution, and I really like that bow. The thing that I really like about it is that I finally have a bow that fits my actual draw link.

So for years I shot a 29 inch draw and I went to a boat like a bow shop, and I was asking this guy, Hey, can I shoot? Let me shoot some bows. I want to, I'm looking for a new one. And he goes, what's your draw length? I said, 29. And he watched me and he's dude, you're coming up short Every time you need a longer draw length.

And so I went to a 30 and I felt way more comfortable, like my back or my chest was way opened up and I was feeling good at full draw. I, I, I. Full draw. I felt like I wasn't trying to yank hold so hard. I was actually letting, now that I have a 30 inch draw, I'm letting the let off [00:45:00] do a lot of the work.

And so I moved to a 30 and I found the, that, I shot, I don't know how many brands, I think I shot five brands, five or six brands, and ultimately chose the Botec solution. And so I've shot it for the past three years now. And so this year I got a, and so I said, do I wanna buy a bow or do I wanna get new strings?

And so I got new strings, kept the same bow, and just had it run through it, took it to a bo a bow shop and they did the cam cam timing. They did made sure that my peep site was in the right spot and all that stuff. And so it shoots really well now. Nice. The only change that I've made in my setup is this year, it's funny, this year I'm going to a thumb release as opposed to a wrist release.

Okay. And the reason that I'm switching is because I can't find my wrist release. [00:46:00] And I have, I had a thumb release sitting on my filing cabinet over here, and I, and so I was like, eh, let's just give it a try. So I went in and then got my peep site, moved, my kisser button moved. And now I'm shooting really well at, up to 60 yards and six 60 yards is my max.

I'm not going, I'm not trying to, shoot a hundred or anything like that. That's my max that's what I told myself, Hey, you don't even out west 60 yards if you want the boat, the perfect bow hunting experience, 60 yards seems to be the max for me as far as yardage

Josh Raley: is concerned.

Man, that releases can make so much of a difference. I've always shot cheaper end releases. And when I say cheaper end, I mean anything less than a hundred bucks. I went into my local shop here last week got my bow worked on a bit. Previous guy that set up the bow.

The bot tech walked me through a lot of things that were wrong on it, including. Spacers were, mid-sized, so they were actually different sizes from the top cam to the [00:47:00] bottom cam and it, there were all kinds of problems, but he had me shooting this release and I was like, man I really like that release.

Can I buy one of these? He was like, yeah, sure. And he handed me a package with that release in it and was $450. Geez, Dan Johnson, I didn't even know they had, they made releases that were $450. Yeah, they do. That's for sure. Whole lease smokes, changed the game and I walked out of there not buying that release because I value my life and my marriage.

Dan Johnson: It's

Josh Raley: I just graduated from the time of like buying bows that were $450, much less. A release that was 450 bucks and yeah. But man, they can make a, they can definitely make a huge difference. Last thing I wanna talk to you about just a little bit is your Broadhead selection.

There's been a lot going on in the last three or four years as far as Broadheads go. I have shot all over the range. As far as, going for a big huge mechanical back down to a smaller mechanical big, 200 grain, 250 grain, even single [00:48:00] bevels up front, coming back now to fix or to expandable broadheads.

Where have you landed specifically for Whitetails? 'cause I feel like there's a, there's a push even still out there that says you need to be shooting, a 200 gram broadhead up front if you want to kill a whitetail.

Dan Johnson: Man, it's all about what you wanna do. I wouldn't a lot of guys are like, Hey man you gotta do what the ranch ferry's telling you, right?

You gotta do that. You gotta do it. You gotta have a thousand grains on the front or whatever. You gotta have a 600 grain arrow. You gotta do it. You don't. Right? However, I feel, and this is my opinion, and I am not a John Dudley, I am not a Levi Morgan. I'm not a guy who can dissect a pro look at a problem, dissect it and say, your arrow set up and your broadhead set up is the reason that you didn't kill this deer.

I I can't do it. I don't have that kind of experience. But what I will say for, in my experiences, it's less about f o C and more, [00:49:00] more about total arrow weight, right? Evenly distributed across the whole arrow. And so for me, I'm just saying for me that. I would rather have an arrow like, so right now my total arrow weight is 400, or no, excuse me, 524 total grains.

And so that's pretty heavy compared to what I was shooting in like the low four hundreds. Okay. 'cause I, I remember going, jumping up and then jumping up again like in a big way. And so when it comes to out west, if I'm, let's say I'm gonna go on an elk hunt. An elk is a bigger animal.

It, you need to have more penetration. And I'm gonna shoot a fix blade Broadhead in that scenario. I'm gonna shoot a fix blade broadhead, and I'm gonna try to get as much penetration as I possibly can. And then when I go back to Iowa, I'm gonna shoot that same [00:50:00] setup because I don't wanna change my like and retune a bow right before the season starts.

I want everything ready usually. And right now I'm gonna be hunting mule deer, a smaller animal compared to an elk. And at 60 yards with 400, excuse me, 500 and 24 grains, total airway with a mechanical broadhead. I feel like I, and I'm shooting a wasp, three blade jackhammer. And I forget if I'm shooting one 20 or 1 25, I can't remember.

But either way, I'm shooting. A mechanical that obviously has energy loss when it expands in the cavity, but I'm, I may not get a pass through at 60 yards out west, but I know for a fact if it's inside 30 yards and I hit 'em at a and I hit 'em in the ribs or I hit 'em in, the lungs heart, even through the guts.

I'm getting [00:51:00] a tremendous wound channel and more than likely gonna be getting a pass through with that arrow weight at my draw and at that distance, because when I'm hunting Iowa there, I don't even give myself an opportunity at a 40 yard shot. It's all, it's, I'm in so tight. It's usually a 30 or under, very rarely is it even 30.

I'd say most of my shots are 20. 20

Josh Raley: are in. That's, I'm in a very similar boat as you, I think our, my total air weight this year is like 500 and. 516 grains or something like that. Which puts me where I want to be as far as a little bit of higher f o c, but not ungodly.

I'm at like 16 or 17% f o c or something like that. I'm not getting up into the 19, 20, 20 1% F o C but I What's your, what's,

Dan Johnson: what

Josh Raley: broadhead are you using? So I've got what I've been using, I used it in last year and was very happy with the Grim Reaper Broadheads. Oh yeah. Yep. Very happy.

Those do damage, man. They do [00:52:00] damage and they're tough. They're just, as far as expandable heads go. They're tough heads. You get 'em back. The blades aren't all bent up and that kind of thing, which I've experienced with some some other era, other Broadhead brands. Let's say that I've also got some some single bevels and some double bevels from V P A.

This year that I'm trying out, they shoot really well getting them, sharp for the season. We'll see how that goes. I hate sharpening broadheads. That's one of the reasons I keep coming back. I don't do it. It's a, I won't do it. It's a pain, dude. It's such a pain.

It's such a pain. I want 'em to come out of the box, just razor hair popping sharp and be able to go from there rather than feeling like I needed to doctor 'em up a lot. If I don't have a ton of time to hunt, you better believe I don't have a ton of time to sit around and sharpen broadheads at night, yeah. When I could be doing something else.

Dan Johnson: Yeah. I treat broadheads as a disposable product pretty much. I'm u I'm using them, I'm using them once. If it's a clean pa, let's just say this. If I shoot a buck and I toast him and it [00:53:00] goes through soft tissue, like maybe he, it hits a rib, but it hits a lung tissue or a heart and it passes through, I might, I'll look at it.

I might clean it up, I might keep it on. And if I, I'm going after a dough, then next I'll do, and I know I'm gonna have a 20 yard shot. I'm keeping that same broadhead on, I'll just use it again. I'm not gonna try to res sharpen it. I'll just use it again. And at that distance, the blade can be dull, but it's still doing, it's still gonna do a ton of damage.

And if the product is made good enough, it shouldn't need to be sharpened after it goes through just one animal.

Josh Raley: Yeah. Yeah. My opinion, I, no, I totally agree, man. 'cause that's, I, yeah I can't get on the bandwagon of wanting to sharpen 'em. A lot of guys talk about touching up their broadheads every time they go out, whether they shot something or not.

It's I'm glad you had time for that. I barely had time to eat breakfast, this morning. So I don't know that I'm gonna do that whole game, but Dan, man, we got a lot of cool stuff going on the network. Why [00:54:00] don't, before we before we hop off here, you just give us a quick rundown of what's going on with Sportsman's Empire this time of year and what folks can expect.

Dan Johnson: Man, I'm not gonna sit here and waste people's times. All I'm gonna do is just say, Hey, listen, you got you, you gotta go check out the Sportsman's Empire and our lineup of podcasts. It is, and I'm, and obviously I'm biased here, but I'll put the content. That the network puts out, the Sportsman's Empire, puts out, I will put it up against any podcast in the outdoor industry or in the outdoor space.

I will, that's how confident I am that you will be not only entertained, but educated on the content. And it's just fun, man. We got a group of hosts that are just studs and I really like the lineup that we have On top of that I, we got a little bit of a rebrand going because although this is the Wisconsin sportsman you live in Georgia, right?

And there's some cool, there's some cool things

Josh Raley: that are gonna [00:55:00] be happening there. Yeah, we've got some we've got some exciting things coming down the pipe. We're gonna be adding a co-host here pretty soon. I think a name that folks will recognize and be aware of already. So that's good.

It's gonna be a flawless transition there. And then yeah, we're gonna, we're gonna, pop up some new content where I can focus a little bit more here in the south. I've made since I've been in Wisconsin, four or five trips back and to keep the content relevant on the ground there.

But eventually, man, those 15 hour drives get a little daunting. Yeah, we've got some big changes coming up. How about old old Mitch from PA coming on strong with Penn, Pennsylvania, woodsman? He's been yeah. Killing it. Kill a absolutely killing it. Killing it. Yeah. Doing a fantastic job.

Yeah folks, if you are not subscribed already to the Sportsman's Empire Podcast Network, you need to go check it out. Got a lot of good shows, including this one. How to Hunt Deer. We got nine Figure Chronicles Hunting Gear podcast. We've got, guys from Missouri, Oklahoma, Michigan, wherever you are, there's relevant content for you.

Dan, I appreciate you coming on the show today, man. And hey, good luck this season.

Dan Johnson: Hey, [00:56:00] same to you, man. I look forward to talking with you and giving you an

Josh Raley: update. That's all for this week's episode. As always, thank you so much for tuning in. If you dig this show, be sure to subscribe to this podcast wherever it is that you get your podcast.

While you're at it, if you could leave me a five star review, I would very much appreciate that. You can also follow along with my outdoor adventures on Instagram at the Wisconsin Sportsman, or at how to hunt deer. That's also the best way to get ahold of me. Suggest topics, guests, or questions that you'd like me to explore on the show.

Big thanks to our partners, tac Cam Hunt Worth and OnX, please go support the brands that support this show. And if you're looking for more great outdoor content, check out the sportsman's where you'll find my other podcast, the How to Hunt Deer Podcast, as well as a ton of other awesome outdoor podcasts.

And until next time, make sure you make the time to get outside and enjoy the incredible natural resources that are ours as Wisconsin Sportsman.[00:57:00]