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Ray Grass: Hunters equipped to the hilt

Agood truck, now, holds four people comfortably. It has a 6.8-liter, V-10 engine, six-speed manual transmission, electronic shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive and automatic temperature control.

Strapped down in the back is a 4-by-4 ATV, complete with power winch, gun scabbard, four-stroke engine and a camouflage paint job.

Located in the gun rack over the rear window is a .300 Winchester short-mag, with new lightweight synthetic stock and high-power scope with illuminated crosshairs.

Other equipment considered standard nowadays is a range finder, cell phone, Global Positioning System units, instant ready-to-eat meals, sleeping bag rated to below-freezing tempers, Gore-Tex outerwear, thermal underwear, heated gloves, small catalytic heater and special deer scent made specifically to attract the big bucks.

The face of hunting has, indeed, changed over the years.

It really wasn't so long ago hunters slept in tents, warmed cans of beans over an open fires, wore puffy down parkas to stay warm and camped close to paved roads for fear of getting stuck and stayed close to camp for fear of being too far from downed game.

Bottom line is that hunters today are better prepared, better equipped and are much more efficient.

With the introduction of off-highway vehicles, there are few places deer go that hunters can't follow.

The biggest change in hunting has been the introduction of the all-terrain vehicles. They are easy to ride, can go anywhere and make the return trip to camp with fresh game nearly effortless.

New machines are quieter, more efficient and come with all sorts of goodies, including all types of carrying bags, winches and go-on-demand throttle.

The cost? One of the more popular models, a Polaris Sportsman 500, runs about $6,500. Winch and carrying bags are extra.

Rifles haven't changed so much, but other things have. The newest ammunitions is what is called the "short mag," said Mike Larsen with Doug's Shoot 'N Sports. Casings are shorter, fatter and when fired deliver less recoil but have the same velocity.

Range finders are becoming more popular, he added, "And are more accurate and cheaper today. A good range finder will cost between $300 and $400. The advantage is if you know the distance to the target and know, say, your rifle drops 13 inches at that distance, you can aim and be much more accurate."

New scopes and binoculars give a much clearer picture at greater distances these days, making it easier to spot targets. Also, new scopes have illuminated crosshairs — red or green — which makes it easier to see targets under low-light conditions.

Staying in touch with camp, and even back home, is no longer a problem. New two-way radios have a range up to seven miles and are light and compact. Also, with the popularity of cell phones, home is only a few numbers away.

Some of the biggest changes have been in clothing. Gore-Tex has refined the entire hunting fashion picture. Coats are no longer big and bulky, and prone to soaking up water in a rain, but are light, comfort, water-resistant and even come with waterproof zippers.

There is even clothing on the market using scent-blocking fabric, which shields the smell of a hunter from the sensitive noses of deer.

When it came to food on hunting trips, fast and convenient wasn't always possible. Most foods required preparation and long cooking time.

The new camp foods required only boiling water, and include such delicious dishes as Denver omelets, buttermilk pancakes, stroganoff with turkey, spaghetti and sauce, chicken and dumplings, cheese cake and even lemon cream pie.

Today's hunters also have the advantage of knowing the latest weather conditions and the latest information related to deer whereabouts, and can pinpoint within feet where they stood the previous season and saw so many deer.

No, a weekend in the woods isn't what it used to be, which in the eyes of most hunters is a good thing.