Checking Trail Cameras In June - More Pack Wheel Fat Tire Testing

Selfie of Kb and The DIY Hunter, hiking in with a Pack Wheel and a Mineral block

My youngest hunting bud KB along for the hike and helping me by taking photos and video.  

Hiking Uphill with Pack Wheel

Climbing a steeper grade with a 50 lb mineral block and around 70+ pounds of gear.

hiking in with a Pack Wheel and a Mineral block.

Hiking past a Browning Strike Force Trail camera.

Big Black Bear Browning Trail Camera Photo

The big Black Bear that I get on occasion on my trail cameras. Notice his size compared to me in the photo just above this photo. 

Exactly one month ago I checked my cameras that I had left out for the winter and took in more. I also was testing a fatter tire system on the Pack Wheel. On this trip up the mountain I wanted to test the fatty tire a little more.

KB was my helper for this trip on the mountain. He was excited to be out on the mountain with dad. We also had to take his Micro Midas BL-22 just in case we came across a coyote. He wants to shoot one really bad. It's pretty cute. He has visions of getting rich off the $50 bounty the state of Utah has on them to help with the deer herd. I like his inthusasium. He has over the years realized that getting a coyote isn't as easy as it looks on the hunting videos.

On this trip in a picked up a little larger mineral block that weighs in at 50 lbs. I used the Pack Wheel to haul in this block another trail camera, 80 AA rechargeable batteries, 3 liters of Powerade, a gallon zip lock baggie full of granular B&J mineral lick, and a shovel. I didn't weigh it but I can safely say it was over 70 pounds of added weight to the Pack Wheel.

Like I have said in the past I have clearly found that minerals don't bring in the critters. They just help me get photos of the critters that are already there. I was very surprised thinking that I might have more elk and larger deer show up. This just hasn't been the case. I have yet to even get a four point buck on camera at the location I like to put out the mineral, and that's in over three years of putting the mineral out and having cameras watching it. I also still get very few elk at all on the two cameras I have by the mineral drop area. Now if an elk or deer is at the mineral drop location they will stick around for a bit to get a lick of the mineral but by far minerals are no magic attractant.

A secondary reason for hauling in the mineral blocks is that it provides me a great way to test the Pack Wheel during the summer and provide Pack Wheel upper body exercise. There is no way I would be hauling in 50 lb blocks of mineral on my back without the Pack Wheel as it easily as it greatly helps. 

Like last time out I am testing a few new things with the Pack Wheel, primarily the fatter wheel and tire. While I have found that a fatter tire and wheel to be considerably more expensive to build I haven't found it to be earth shatteringly better than the fat 2.35 wide tires currently offered on the 26/29er builds. Don't get me wrong, the fatter tire is nice and works well. I just wouldn't run out and upgrade my current wheel to this one on my Pack Wheel. If I was shopping for a Pack Wheel I think the fatter tire option is something to consider.

It was nice having KB along with me on this trip. I like spending one on one time with my kids. KB was great at taking photos and video of me testing the Pack Wheel on the trip in. He was a trooper and we both got in some great exercise not returning home until around 11pm. Oops, momma wasn't too happy as KB had camp Kiesel to go to early in the morning the next day.

On the way in we notice a lot of bear sign. My second camera had been turned upside down and had chew marks in it. A bear had messed with it just hours after I put it out a full month ago. no images from that camera.

At my third camera there was mud wiped across the camera. Yep, the footage shows another bear. And at this camera I also got a couple good photos of the large Black Bear I have seen before up there on my trail cameras.

Approaching the fourth camera along my route an ant bed had recently been ripped up with a log being pulled out of the ground. this was  just to the side of the camera. You can see a little of the bear's back in the video that was captured of the bear raiding the ant mound.

I like getting the bears on camera I just wish they would leave my cameras alone. I'm pretty sure their noses are able to track down the cameras so easily.

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Bull Elk Browning Trail Camera Photo

Two young bull elk that have stopped by the mineral block a couple times in the pat month. The only elk to come into the minerals.

Moose Selfie Browning Trail Camera Photo

A bull moose getting a selfie on a Browning Strike Force trail camera.

Bull Elk Browning Trail Camera Photo

One of the young bulls that is frequenting the area.

Black Bear Browning Trail Camera Photo

The smaller of the two bears that are in the area. This bear is the one that has been getting my cameras. Including this camera just after this photo was taken.

Black Bear Browning Trail Camera Photo

The big Black Bear. This guy is a pig.

Testing a Vortex 4-16x50 HS LR Scope On My CVA Accura V2

CVA Accura V2 with Vortex Viper HS LR

CVA Accura V2 with Vortex Viper 4-16x50 HS LR mounted with an EGW rail and a set of low Weaver Tactical 4 Hole scope rings.

300 Gr Muzzlelaoder Bullets

The four 300 Gr Muzzleloader Bullets that I tested today. Powerbelt Platinum, Powerbelt Aerolite, Hornady sabot SST, and Hornady FPB.

Elevation turret almost topped out

My elevation turret appears that it is almost topped out when zeroed offering me only 25 MOA adjustment for long shots. The hash marks on the turret indicate 6 rotations when in actuality there is just slightly over 3 rotations available for 79.5 MOA of total adjustment. Where it is zeroed right now I have just over one rotation for 25 MOA left to dial the long shots. I am working on getting a custom 20 MOA rail from EGW to give me 20 more MOA to adjust.

300 Gr Powerbelt Aerolite 3 shot group

My best group today was this 1 1/8" group with 300 Gr Powerbelt Aerolite bullets.

The Palm Saver on the end of the ramrod may be effecting the accuracy.

For really tight groups and long range accuracy the Palm Saver on the end of the ramrod may be effecting the accuracy by touching the barrel changing the harmonics.

With my Vortex Viper 4-16x50 HS LR mounted on my CVA Accura V2 muzzleloader I was itching to try it out. 

My first time out with this scope on my muzzleloader I had four different 300 grain bullets to test. the 300 grain bullets: Powerbelt Platinum, Powerbelt Aerolite, Hornady sabot SST, and Hornady FPB. To test these bullets all of my powder charges were 100 grains of FFG 777 loose powder.

My normal shooting range is closed right now for construction so I had to shoot out in the scorching sun for a couple hours as I tested muzzleloader. And it was a warm one in the mid 80s and very breezy. So not the most comforatable nor best conditions for me to shoot good groups, not to mention I am sun burnt, ouch!

On this trip out the Powerbelt Aerolite performed the best with a 1 1/8" group and the Powerbelt Platinum did the worst with a 7 inch group. My tests were not scientific in any nature so I will be out testing some more to see if the Aerolite is really the bullet I want to go with this year. With the exception of the Powerbelt Platniums, I am going to keep testing these bullets with different charges, hopefully in better weather conditions as the two Horandy bullet also shot well.

I like the idea of the Hornady FPB bullet and will still keep playing around with it however they were a bit of a pain to get lined up with the bore. They also have the most resistance of any bullet I have seated in a muzzleloader. Also, there were at least three bullets in the package of fifteen that had some QC problems with the cup of the base being rough and jagged. They shot ok but had some fliers that I couldn't account for the reason. I'll keep playing with them for now.

One thing I notice is that it appears I get better groups by not having the ramrod attached to the muzzlelaoder when I shoot. As an example I shot a 2 3/4" group with the ramrod attached and a 1 1/8" group with the ramrod off the muzzloader using the Powerbelt Aerolite bullets. There may have been barrel fowling issues or other factors opening up the one group but in general I have noticed I shoot better with the ramrod off the muzzleloader. It makes sense that the palm saver on the end of the ramrod can easily be rotated and touching the barrel and could definitely effect the harmonics of the barrel. Whenever I need to take a really long shot I will take the ramrod off to make sure I get the best accuracy. Most hunting shots in the 100 yard range I'm not going to worry about the ramrod, just the 200 plus yard shots.

The biggest thing I learned from this trip out is that I am going to have to alter my mounting of the scope. I am using an EGW rail with a set of low Weaver Tactical 4 Hole scope rings. The rail and rings work great I just have an issue with MOA adjustment of the scope. To get the muzzleloader zeroed at 100 yards I had to adjust the turret up so high as to only leave me with 24 MOA left to adjust. This is just not enough adjustment for what I am wanting. I really can't take any advantage of having such a nice scope on this muzzleloader with the lack of vertical adjustment. At a minimum I would like 35 MOA of vertical adjustment to take longer shots. My only option that I can see now is to go with Burris Signature Zee rings where I can use shims inside of the rings to add MOA but these rings are higher so I may need to add something to the comb. Hmm...

Now to figure out how to get the scope mounted better and up the powder charge to be able to have the energy needed at longer ranges.

Variable Power Optics For Muzzleloader in Utah - Setting Up My Muzzy With New Optics

With Utah opening up the use of optics for muzzleloaders to anything goes, I have started working on setting up my CVA Accura V2 with optics to see how far I can effectively shoot. My blog entries will be a work in progress as I continue working on setting up and testing my muzzleloader with a variable power rifle scope.

With a 1x Vortex scope and 300 Gr SST Hornady bullets I was dialing up shots out to 200 yards quit effectively in 2015. I'm excited to see what I can now do with some higher power glass. 

To start with I am going to try my favorite big game scope, that being a Vortex Viper 4-16x50 HS LR. I have a couple of these scopes and love them. I like that they have 24 minutes of angle adjustment in elevation with just one turn of the turret. I think this scope is a little on the overkill size for what I think my muzzleloader is capable of but I need to pull one of these scopes off a rifle anyways so this will work out perfect to test and see how I like it.

Given my work schedule this year I will most likely missing out on my favorite hunt, that being archery elk hunting. I am just too busy in August and September to be able to spend any time in the field hunting. So once again I will most likely be muzzy elk hunting around the first of November. 

Dallen also recieved a CVA Accura V2 for his high school graduation gift. We will be setting up Dallen's muzzleloader also. I am right now looking at the Vortex Diamondback HP line of scopes, particularly the 2-8x32.

Next up is my first trip out testing this scope and various 300 Gr bullets.


Overkill muzzy scope? I have mixed feelings on Utah opening up the big game muzzleloader seasons to variable power optics. My preference would have been to keep optics to 1x... if variable power is the game then I thought I would first try pulling one of my favorite big game rifle scopes off one of my other rifles, a Vortex Viper 4-16x50 HS LR. To mount the scope I ordered an EGW rail with a set of low Weaver Tactical 4 Hole scope rings. With a 1x Vortex scope and 300 Gr SST bullets I have been getting right around 1.5 inch groups at 100 yards and dialing up shots on milk jugs out to 200 yards. Wondering how far I can effectively shoot now? #thediyhunter #diyhunting #muledeerhunting #utahhunting #cvamuzzleloader #vortexoptics #hunting #evolutiongunworks #elkhunting #muzzyscope

A photo posted by Brady Smith (@diyhntr) on

Checking Trail Cameras - Testing A Fat Bike Wheel On The Pack Wheel

Me hiking in with a Pack Wheel and a Mineral block

Hiking up the mountain hauling in a mineral block, trail cameras and a shovel to dig out the wallow.  

My license plate on my Montero.

It was still a little muddy going up the mountain in May.  

hiking in with a Pack Wheel and a Mineral block.

hiking in with a Pack Wheel and a Mineral block.

Testing a fatty tire on the Pack Wheel.  

November 7th of last year I made my final trip up the mountain to check my trail cameras. It was a fun last trip up the mountain were I ran into two different sets of fresh bear tracks. I even got some nice footage of a large black bear that had been by my camera just a couple hours earlier.

On my last trip up the mountain last November I left three of my older Browning trail cameras out setup to take images. I have been excited to see what those cameras captured in over six months since I put them out.

With the rain we have been getting almost every weekend all spring long it has taken some time before I had a chance to get back up the mountain. When that mountain gets wet it turns into a greasy, slimy, mess making vehicular travel a little fun to say the least. 

In the location of one of my trail cameras I have been placing mineral blocks out for a couple years. The blocks do a decent job of keeping critters around long enough to take their photo but haven't done anything to really attract any more elk. In fact I almost believe that I use to get more elk on trail cameras in the years proceeding having the mineral block in the area. I have a few trail cameras in this area and elk that do come by some of my cameras rarely go the additional two hundred yards around the canyon to where the mineral block is. But if elk do come by the mineral block they'll give it a lick and get their picture taken. At least this is what I have found in this area. Minerals just aren't attracting animals but they do help with getting photos.

On this trip up I wanted to take in a new mineral block. I also had six more trail cameras, plenty of batteries to replace in the three cameras I had left out and a shovel to dig out the wallows. Of course I always carry my normal gear like a hand saw, snacks, knives, space blanket, BDM pistol, and head lamps etc. Anytime I go up on the mountain I like to go prepared so that I can safely spend the night should something happen to me.

To help with hauling in the forty four pound mineral blocks I like to use my Pack Wheel. On this trip I strapped down an Alps Outdoorz Commander frame pack to the top of the Pack Wheel and then placed the mineral block, trail cameras, batteries and shovel on top of this platform that the Commander frame pack provided.

For those of you who follow my blog and know me, I have worked on designing the Pack Wheel hiking/game cart for years now. It started with me looking for a system to haul bone out elk off the mountain by myself on my solo DIY archery elk hunts. 2007's archery elk hunt was the tuning point that got me really working on the concept. With all the years I have worked on perfecting the system I am always looking at testing something new. I may not be the fastest at testing everything that I have in my head to try but I do like to thoroughly test and look at options that may be helpful to the Pack Wheel. I take the Pack Wheel into some of the craziest places to see how it performs. I want to know everything I possibly can about how, where and what a Pack Wheel is capable of.




One of the things I am testing this year is a fatter tire and rim. So, on this trip up the mountain I am testing a new tire/rim combo in real world environments. The fat tire preformed well, was it earth shatteringly better than the current tires and wheel offered for the Pack Wheel, No. I will be testing it further this summer and during the hunting seasons this fall. Some of my initial thoughts are. It does offer the ability to run tire pressures at just 15 psi in a tubeless setup. This low tire pressure should soften the "ride" over obstacles. Did I notice this on this trip, hmm... slightly. The 2.35 inch tires on the 26/29 builds we offer I am able to run around 23 psi and feel just about as good.

On this fatter tire I am going with a really lightweight build. One of my requirements with all of my Pack Wheels is to keep them as light as possible and as strong as possible. The fatter tire/rim I am testing weighs in slightly lower in weight than our 29er builds. So why do I not just offer this fat wheel? Well I probably will... My dealer pricing for the components of the fatter build is $97 more. The rim is also not as strong as our other rims. Also, the rims are only available with 32 spokes instead of the stronger 36 spokes that I like to use. To compensate for only having 32 spokes I am running the strongest downhill jumping spokes I can find. Is it strong enough for my demands? Probably. Is it stronger than the 26/29 wheels we build? No. Is it worth the extra cost? Hmm...

Because I am taking Pack Wheels in areas that are not groomed biking trails, I am really insistent that the wheels be very strong. A Pack Wheel doesn't get the stresses like riding and jumping a mountain bike but a Pack Wheel has other stresses from the rough terrain it may be going through. Going on game trails and off trail the wheel and spoke may encounter sticks and rocks that may take out the spokes. Having more spokes helps insure that the wheel is still strong enough to get you back off the mountain should a spoke gets broken on a rock etc.

I'll be testing the fat wheel more and may offer this option in the future. If you are interested in a fatter option for your Pack Wheel drop me a line from the contact page on the Pack Wheel website.

On my trip up the mountain this time I didn't see any bear tracks. There were a few elk and deer tracks. I did see four deer with one being a young buck just starting to grow his first antlers.

It was nice to get back out on the mountain. I wish I could just live there. Sometimes I wish I was a mountain man, born 200+ years ago...

Now it's time to go through what the cameras captured during the winter. It's like Christmas every time. I love it. Trail cam pics below!

Bull Moose Browning Trail Camera Photo

Nice Bull Moose that came past one of my Browning Trail Cameras in December.  

Cow Elk Browning Trail Camera Photo

Some cow elk getting their photo taken.

Coyote Browning Trail Camera Photo

Here's a fun coyote pic that was captured this winter.

Red Squirrel Browning Trail Camera Photo

The snow was deep enough that this squirrel is right at the level of the camera.

Mountain Lion Browning Trail Camera Photo

A mountain lion passed by one of the cameras in a snow storm this winter.

Bull Elk Browning Trail Camera Photo

A couple real young bull elk showing up in May.

Cow Moose Browning Trail Camera Photo

The snow is starting to get deep.

Bull elk Browning Trail Camera Photo

A young bull elk passing the wallow in May.

Bull Moose Browning Trail Camera Photo

Young bull moose at the wallow in winter.

WSSM Brass Is Available Again!

243 WSSM Brass

243 WSSM Brass - The piece on the left I have reloaded numerous times. The piece on the right is a reformed piece of 325 WSM brass from Hill Billy Brass. It has been fired in my rifle once and has been prepped, ready to be loaded up for use.

If you own a WSSM rifle you know that finding ammunition and brass has been impossible for years now. To my knowledge Winchester is the only company that has ever made brass for the WSSM cartridges. Rumors that Winchester (Olin Corporation) would manufacture more brass have been passed around for years now. There are many thousands of rifles out there so why wouldn't Winchester make brass to support those that purchased Browning and Winchester rifles? The WSSM cartridges were developed by Winchester. It just doesn't make sense... but wait...

A year and a half ago I placed a stock watch for Winchester 300 Win Mag brass on Probably over two years ago I placed a stock watch on 270 WSM brass on I never got notified that Midway USA ever had any in stock until a few weeks back when I got a notice that Midway USA was no longer carrying Winchester brass in these cartridges. I did a quick tour of the website and found almost all Winchester brass had been removed. A trip to and they only have 30-06 and 308 Winchester brass. Hmm...

This has got me thinking. It is interesting that Winchester has the resources to launch a whole new line of ammunition in 2016 with the new Browning Ammunition line but hasn't made any or very little brass as a component for who knows how long? If I was a betting man I think Winchester makes more money off loaded ammunition and selling brass as a component just isn't part of their business plan anymore. But what do I know. Anyway you look at it, it is looking more and more like WSSM brass may never be manufactured by Winchester again. Just unbelievable.

So what is a WSSM rifle owner to do? Well, thankfully Hill Billy Brass has stepped up to help us. They are taking WSM brass and reforming it into WSSM brass. I recently received some 243 WSSM brass made from reformed 325 WSM brass. Upon inspecting the brass I was surprised that the neck thickness was exactly the same as my factory WSSM brass. I thought I might need to do some serious neck turning to get the thickness down but that wasn't the case.


Because I like to shoot long range and tight groups I am fire forming the brass by shooting at a 100 yard steel target just for fun. I'm know that the accuracy isn't going to be right where I want it until the brass has been formed to my rifle's chamber.

The brass looks great after firing it. I can still see that the transition from the body to the shoulder is still slightly rounded some whereas the brass I have reloaded several times has a sharp transition. This shouldn't be anything to worry about, just a slight cosmetic difference. I'm sure over multiple reload times this brass will loose it's roundness on that transition.

If you don't already anneal your brass I highly recommend that you learn how to if you are a WSSM reloader. I anneal the necks of my brass after every firing to get consistent neck tension shot after shot and to keep the brass from hardening to the point that it splits the neck. I have brass that I have lost count on the number of times I have reloaded it.

I think I will load up my pet 105 A-Max load for my next load in this brass.

Reformed WSM brass to WSSM brass

243 WSSM brass next to a reformed 325 WSM piece of brass now 243 WSSM.  

Reformed 243 WSSM brass

Well used 243 WSSM brass (left) next to reformed 243 WSSM brass (right) prior to fire forming it in my rifle.


  • Big Game Hunting

    Journal entries from hunting mule deer, elk and whitetail deer.  You'll find hunts with 243 WSSM and 270 WSM rifles to muzzleloader and archery hunts.

  • General Hunting and Shooting

    Journal entries covering general information related to hunting and shooting. Many of these journal entries are from shooting on the rifle or archery range. There are also entries related to my experiences with the 243 WSSM, rifles, optics and other equipment and products I use.

  • Varmint Hunting

    Journal entries from hunting coyotes, rock chucks, prairie dogs and the like with 243 WSSM and 223 Rem. rifles.

  • Backpacking and Camping

    Backpacking, Pack Wheel camping and other camping adventures.

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