Another Reason We Call Montana Home

Team Schnee’s recently spent a memorable afternoon flinging flies on one of our famed local rivers. There are few places you can consistently catch trout on a fly rod over 20 inches and this particular river is is one of them. The sun was shining, the parking lot almost empty and fish were feeding! The afternoon was spent fighting monster trout and hanging out with good friends. Opportunities like this one is just another reason why we call Montana home. 

10 Questions with Bryce Ledbetter

1. Bryce, tell us what you do for Schnee’s.

Like a lot of my colleagues I wear many hats.  My primary responsibilities are to help manage the Schnee’s marketing effort and spearhead the wholesale and corporate sales divisions.

2. What do you like to hunt with?

The favorite of my firearms is a Kimber 300 Winchester Short Mag.  It might be a bit overkill for a lot of North American game but I know I can rely on it for those bigger animals and longer shots. This past year I got into bow hunting and bought a Bowtech Insanity.  It’s a bit on the heavier side but it proved itself in September when I got my first bull elk.  I shoot Gold Tip Pro Hunter arrows in the field and Easton Light Speeds at the range.

3. Do you live in Bozeman?

 I’ve lived in Bozeman for a year and a half, though I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas.  After finishing school I worked in Dallas for about 6 years.  I first became interested in Bozeman after reading an article in Outside Magazine.  I was looking to make a change and Bozeman seemed to have everything I wanted: more easily accessible areas to hunt and fish, great people, and unbeatable scenery.  I’ll take the occasional -30 over 3 months of 115 any day.       

4. What do you do when you’re not working at Schnee’s?

Like most Bozemanites I’m a pretty active person.  I spend a lot of time running in the Bridgers and exercising at the local gym.  This past winter I joined an archery league where I practiced alongside some of the best archers in the state.  I’m also fairly involved with the community: I sit on two city boards, lead a group at my church, and volunteer at the local animal shelter.

5. What is your typical week like?

I get up most days at about 430 and spend some time catching up on the news and enjoying a couple cups of coffee.  Afterwards I hit the gym and get to work by about 730.  I get off work most days around 5 and then head over to the archery range, or, if the weather is nice, I’ll run up to the M with a couple of friends.  After some time at the range or on the mountain, we’ll head downtown for dinner and drinks.  I read for about an hour each night before hitting the sack.    

6. What’s the next big item on your calendar?

I’m really pumped for September.  I’m hoping to bag my first Mulie.  I’ve spent a lot of time practicing and am ready for whatever the Crazies have to throw at me.  But before all that, I plan on spending a lot of time this Spring and Summer fishing and running in local races.    

7. What do you do in the off season to prepare for the next hunting season?

As I mentioned above, I spend a lot of time at the archery range and the gym.  If I want to be successful in the field I need to be as fit as possible.  CrossFit is a high intensity workout program and it scares a lot of people off, but it incorporates a lot of practical movements.  I’ll be very grateful I put myself through all the pain when I’m lugging an 80+ pound pack up some mountain.    

8. What animal is your favorite to hunt for?

Tough question  . . . I’ve hunted quite a few.  If I had to choose one I would have to say elk with a bow.  I went on my first archery elk hunt this past season and had an absolute blast.  I’m still fairly new to archery but can honestly say I may not go back to firearms any time soon.

9. If you had a dream hunting trip, where would you go and what you hunt for?

Since I was a little kid I’ve dreamed of hunting cape buffalo in Zimbabwe.  Being that close to something so large, intimidating and deadly would be quite exhilarating.  That hunt will happen a long time from now.  If I had to be realistic about it, I’d love to shoot an Alaskan mountain caribou with my bow.  They have got the coolest horns of any animal I’ve ever seen.  

10. Do you have a favorite professional sports team or college sports team? why them?

TCU Horned Frogs football is the only sport, college or pro, that I care for.  I went to school at TCU and am a very proud Horned Frog.    

How To Pick The Right Pair Of Boots

Selecting the right footwear for your upcoming trail adventure can be difficult. There are a lot of questions, such as: Should I buy a 6″ boot? An 8″ or 13″ boot? What type of sole do I need? What’s the best hiking boot for an elk hunting trip in Montana? What’s the best hiking boot for the Appalachian Trail? Maybe I need a multisport shoe instead of a boot? Should I get something waterproofed with Gore-Tex® or eVent®? Maybe just a trail running shoe? What type of material? To make matters worse, footwear prices can be anywhere from $100 -$500 for technical trail footwear. The whole process can be frustratingly difficult. However, here are a few steps that can help you narrow down the choices and simplify the process, and in turn make your outdoor adventure more enjoyable.

Schnee's Boots

Trying Different Styles

Step 1 – Pick your activity

The first step in the selection process is to decide what activity you will primarily use the footwear for and then focusing your attention on that category when trying different models. Common categories for technical footwear may include:

  • Trail hiking and day hiking
  • Backpacking
  • Mountain Hunting

Although a sturdy trail-running shoe will often be supportive enough to handle some light hiking on the side, this is not what the shoe is designed for and may result in the shoe wearing out more quickly than normal. Similarly, a burly all-leather backpacking boot can be extremely durable and amazingly supportive when carrying heavy loads, but the increased weight and medium to low flexibility associated with these boots can make them slightly less comfortable on light trails or when you are trying to cover ground at a faster pace.

Step 2 – Measure for size

Once you have decided on which category of footwear you are primarily interested in, the fitting process can begin. This is the most important step when buying technical footwear, and should be performed by someone well trained in boot fitting. Ideally, you want to have both feet measured and evaluated on a Brannock Device. 

Brannock Device

Getting measured on a Brannock Device

Remember, Schnee’s Customer Service boot specialists can help you with the process online or over the phone at 1-800-922-1562. Most people have slight variances in the length, width, or shape of their feet, and this is important information for both you and the boot fitter to know to achieve the best possible fit. Also, be sure to have your foot measured with a quality performance sock in the proper weight or thickness that you would normally wear with the footwear you have chosen.

Step 3 – Not too tight!

When fitting technical footwear, one of the most important things to consider is getting the proper length inside the shoe or boot. Roughly an extra half-inch of space is crucial in order to protect your feet from bruising and blistering, and to accommodate any swelling that may take place.

To check the length in footwear with a hard toe such as hiking boots, stand in the unlaced boot and gently tap your foot towards the front until your longest toe is just touching the front of the boot. You should now be able to easily fit your index finger directly behind your heel in the boot. This ensures that you have a “finger’s width” in the front of the boot to protect your toes while descending and this will also reduce pressure and friction on the heel when ascending.

getting a finger's width space

Checking For Proper Fit

As for the fit in the rest of the boot, you should be looking for a snug (not tight!) and secure fit from the heel of foot to the ball of the foot, and a slightly roomier fit in the toe box that will provide some wiggle room for your toes.

Step 4 – Test driving the boot

Now you can lace up the boots firmly and evenly, and test them on an incline board or ramp if one is available. If an incline board is not available, it is recommended that you wear the footwear on the carpet at home for a couple hours in the evening before wearing them outside. This will help to identify any tight spots or pressure points that should be addressed before taking your new investment to the trailhead.

A Word about Socks

Selecting the right sock for an activity can be about as complicated as finding the right footwear. Socks can be made from natural fibers such as wool or silk, or from synthetic materials such as acrylic or nylon blends. Socks also come in an array of thicknesses from ultra light to extremely heavy to accommodate different activities and climates.

Modern wool socks (such as Merino Wool socks) are more comfortable than the wool socks of the past. Today, most wool socks are designed to be itch-free and washing machine safe. Unlike cotton or some synthetic materials, wool is extremely efficient at pulling moisture away from the foot while retaining its insulating properties despite being wet or dry. Wool works well in Gore-Tex® lined footwear and solid leather footwear because of wool’s ability to wick moisture at a slightly slower rate than synthetic materials, resulting in less moisture buildup inside of your footwear. One downside to wool socks is that it takes a bit longer for them to dry when compared to wet synthetic materials—frustrating when washing your socks in a backcountry stream or lake.

Synthetic socks are typically constructed from materials such as polyester, nylon, or acrylics that are very hydrophobic. These materials repel or “wick” moisture away from the foot at a very high rate, and absorb very little residual moisture from the foot. Synthetic socks are best suited for high activity use (i.e. trail running) and should be used with highly breathable footwear that will allow moisture to evaporate quickly. If you prefer using synthetic socks and are looking for one to use with Gore-Tex® or all-leather boots, try to find a sock that is a synthetic/wool blend such as the Thorlo Mountain Climbing Sock, designed to move moisture at a slower rate in order to maximize the efficiency of the Gore-Tex® boot liner.

Performance Footbeds

Aftermarket footbeds are an excellent addition to any type of footwear. Often referred to as “insoles”, performance footbeds can be used to increase the support or cushion of a shoe, and can greatly improve the fit of most shoes and boots. Many footwear companies utilize inexpensive, generic footbeds that are often made from lightweight EVA foam that will compress and wear out relatively quickly. Performance footbeds are typically constructed of a dense synthetic foam top layer that is reinforced through the arch with a sturdy nylon or plastic frame for increased support and durability.

Superfeet® is a premium manufacturer of aftermarket performance footbeds. Superfeet® offers a range of models that will add support and improve the fit of your footwear whether it’s a western boot, a hiking boot, or a ski boot.  For most outdoor footwear applications, you will first need to remove the stock footbed from your footwear. Once you have removed the existing footbed, you can now use it as a template to trim your replacement footbed to fit your new footwear.

Superfeet Orange Insole

Trying a Superfeet insole in the boots

Caring for your Purchase

Now that you have found the perfect pair of boots or shoes and have been properly fit, you will want to take a few steps to protect your new purchase for trail ahead. In order to maximize the life of your new footwear, proper (and regular) cleaning and conditioning is a must.

Under normal wear, boots will collect dirt, grit and mud along seams and folds of the tongue as well as inside the boot. Boots do not necessarily need to be cleaned or conditioned after every hike (unless they become extremely muddy or wet), but removing excess dirt and mud will vastly improve the life of the leather and stitching.

To clean your footwear, start with an approved footwear cleaner or a small dish of warm water with a few drops of regular dish soap and a small soft bristle brush (old potato brushes or toothbrushes work great). Remove as much excess mud or buildup on the boots before cleaning the boots over a sink. Remove the laces and footbed from the boots and begin to gently scrub your footwear with a brush and cleaner paying special attention to seams and the tongue folds. It is also fine to partially fill the inside of the boot with water and gently swash around to remove any interior grit.

Once you footwear is clean, it is important to allow the boots to dry naturally at room temperature or with an electric boot dryer (do not place wet footwear in direct sunlight or in front of a stove or heater to dry!). After the boots have had a chance to fully dry, you will want to apply the appropriate conditioner/waterproofing to your footwear.  Following these steps will ensure that you get the maximum life expectancy out of your new footwear!

Spring Turkey Hunting Preparations

Unlike the grueling fall season of mountain hunting, the opening bell of turkey season takes much more relaxing preparations. After a winter of hibernating and dreaming of hunting, the snow begins to melt, the sun lingers a bit longer each evening, and adventures afield grow near.

Wild turkey is one of our favorite quarries to pursue for several reasons. For the call-and-response hungry Western hunter, a gobbling turkey reminds us of screaming bulls on crisp September mornings. The reality of an animal in the bush closing the distance to your hideout is the stimulation we as hunters crave.

The first and most important preparation for a successful turkey season is to secure your hunting spots. Whether public or private, reserve your “honey hole” long before opening morning. There is nothing more unattractive to a rancher than a group of guys in camo on his door step at 6:30am asking to shoot the gobbler on his front lawn. Do yourself a favor and conduct that conversation weeks before the season opens. Trading chores for hunting permission is a tactic we use all the time.

Secondly, dust off that box or diaphragm call long before a bird’s commitment depends on it. Play around with your calls as your drive to work, clean the living room, or barbecue with friends. Your friends and neighbors will love it. Ours do! With a little practice you will all but eliminate any deal-breaking squeaks, squawks or scratches from that call sequence.

Lastly, make sure you have your concealment covered. Whether you use a ground blind, natural brush, or simply depend on cutting edge camo patterns, do not underestimate a wild turkey’s eyesight. Take the attention off yourself by using a decoy or two. Adding a little motion to the decoy is a deadly recipe for any spring gobbler looking for a fight. You can do this with a simple piece of string. Wild turkeys move about, decoys do not. Sell your decoy to that gobbler with all you’ve got.

Follow these 3 simple steps, practice religiously with your weapon of choice, and sprinkle in a bit of luck, and you will find yourself dining on one of nature’s finest proteins. Good luck and hunt safe.

10 Questions

For today’s interview, we will be talking with Schnee’s master gunsmith, Chase Fisher.

1. How did you wind up at Schnee’s?

I walked in to hand out business cards and Jon, the owner, offered me a job. Been here building rifles ever since.

2. How long have you lived in Bozeman?

I live in Belgrade, a small town just west of Bozeman, for the past 3 years now.

3. Do you have a favorite pair of shoes or boots that you like to wear?

I love hunting in my 10″ Hunter II pac boots.

4. What about apparel? Any Schnee’s apparel that you like?

I really like the Schnee’s Mountain Cloth Field Shirt. Its comfortable, functional, and a pretty good looking shirt

5. How long have you been a gunsmith?

Professionally for over 3 years now.

6. How did you get your training?

I graduated from the Colorado School of Trades Gunsmithing Program with an Associate’s Degree in Occupational Studies.

7. What rifles etc do you own, what’s your favorite?

I have an old Remington 788 in .44 Magnum which I killed my first deer with, that one is my favorite.

8. In your opinion, what is the one caliber suitable for all North American game?

.30-06 across the board but if you’re a good handloader and marksman you can use a .270 on anything.

9. What is your favorite animal to hunt?

Whitetail, because they eat good.

10. What is the longest shot you have taken at the range? In the field?

On a range, 1,200 yards. In the field 375 yards.