This week's newspaper column

Mulligan lets it all out with his 2015 Outhouse Awards

It’s time to expose the worst outdoor products and services from 2015 with this year’s installment of Outdoorswithdon’s Outhouse Awards. As always, all of the products mentioned were purchased and used in the field under real outdoor sports conditions, and are in no particular order.

1. On-Time Buck Boiler

I assumed using electricity to heat and boil skulls would be easier than the propane burner method I have been using for decades. I was wrong.

The plastic bucket is too small for most antlers over 140 inches. Even worse, I was nearly electrocuted the first time I plugged it in and touched the water. There was a short somewhere, but that was enough for me to call this product a dud.

2. Foreverlast tripod game hoist

This free-standing tripod needs to be assembled, and once erected, is supposed to lift 500 pounds. It should be perfect for skinning and butchering a big buck or two.

Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to put together. The parts are supposed to stay together with push snap buttons but they don’t hold long enough to get the legs in place. It is frustrating but fixable by drilling and bolting the legs together permanently.

Once together, the next issue is that the winch is so cheaply made it sticks and bends when being used.

3. Cabela’s reversible fleece facemask

This double-layer full head hat is warm enough for very cold days, but is made of a non-stretching fleece material that is too small for anyone except small children.

I have yet to meet an adult that the one-size-fits-most mask actually fits, with most saying it just gives them a headache.

4. Aquacide Cutrine Plus

After identifying filamentous algae in my lake, I researched treatment options and tried this product. Applied as directed, it not only did not kill my algae, it seemed to increase it.

After talking to a neighbor, I tried a different spray that was cheaper and got spectacular results.

5. Big Dog tree stands

These inexpensive stands are sold at different discount stores, but buyers beware. I bought a couple on clearance for new, seldom-hunted spots, but was shocked at how unnecessarily difficult they were to assemble.

Poor engineering and indecipherable directions were complemented by a single stand that required five different-size, metric bolts. There were only 10 bolts to begin with, and they were so close in size it made no sense to not just make them all the same size.

6. L.L. Bean down jackets

Like bags of Doritos and cartons of ice cream these days, LL Bean’s down jackets seem to have less in them every year. I like a light down layer when hunting in the arctic and appreciate the way these jackets are designed, but they are getting so thin they aren’t worth the price tag.

I have Bean jackets from two and five years ago. Side by side with a brand new one they are noticeably thinner every year, despite all saying they have 850 fill.

7. special event pricing

Buying outdoor gear is becoming a big deal on, especially when they discount already low prices. Getting the lowest price is not always that easy, however.

I watched a particular trail camera starting on Thanksgiving morning, before they advertised savings. On Black Friday the price went up. Then, on Cyber Monday it went up again, despite them saying it was the best time to get deals.

The price went down again after all the advertised deals, but I ended up buying it, where the price never changed.

8. Caldwell Deadshot field pod

This is a great tripod designed to support a gun or crossbow in place without the shooter even touching it. Mine works very well and makes shots from a blind very consistent.

The problem is the tripod only extends to 48 inches and isn’t high enough to shoot cleanly from many enclosed blinds. I made extensions for the legs on mine but shouldn’t have had to.

9. Ford F250 King Ranch trucks

This year, my new, expensive truck just shut down with no warning when I was on the highway, barely allowing me to get to the shoulder. After having it towed, I was told it was reacting to a faulty warning and that nothing was really the matter.

Since no other vehicle I have ever owned has just stopped like that, I’m assuming some idiot engineer at Ford thought they knew better than the rest of the common sense thinking world and programmed the truck this way.

The tow cost me $100, which Ford refused to pay.

10. Indiana deer license

Since the current Indiana Department of Natural Resources has depleted the Indiana deer herd to the point that deer hunting is no longer as much fun as it is frustrating, I think the price of a deer tag here is a bit of a rip-off.

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Dad and I fishing the old-fashioned way.