Jim Niemiec's Blog

WON News Column
by Jim Niemic

Passionate about the sporting life, Jim Niemiec has spent his life enjoying the outdoors, hunting and fishing around the world and as a writer he’s just as passionate about  informing the public of opportunities. 

Niemiec has searched out the best destinations and reports conditions accurately, but he has also  dedicated countless hours to conservation groups (national and international) in hopes of “preserving our rights and opportunities to hunt for future generations.”
Monsoonal rains could bode well for Mearns’ quail
Monsoonal rains have pelted parts of southwestern Arizona over the past two weeks and this is good news for Mearns’ quail hunters. Last year saw just fair hunting for this beautiful species of quail, but there was likely a pretty good number of adult carryover quail to bring off a good hatch later this summer. IF normal summer rains arrive, hunting could be far improved from the last two seasons when upland game bird hunters had to work hard in trying to bag an eight-bird limit.

ARIZONA MEARNS’ QUAIL — This brace of beautiful male adult Mearns’ quail was shot in the Santa Rita Mountains of southwestern Arizona. Early monsoonal rains and a good carryover of adult birds from last year will hopefully offer up good Mearns’ quail hunting this winter. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Western Outdoor News checked in with Kirby Bristow, Wildlife Specialist II, for the Arizona Department of Game and Fish.

“As of early July, the question of a good Mearns’ quail hatch is still out. Arizona should have a decent base of quail because last year numbers were on the high side of average. So, it all depends on how the summer rains turn out. We got some good rains a couple of weeks ago, but the monsoons really didn’t start until this past week. The southwestern corner of the state received good amounts throughout Mearns’ quail country when that last storm pushed through, so we are very hopeful of a good hatch,” said Kirby.

Kirby went on to add, “If these rains keep up we’ll have good to excellent Mearns’ quail numbers by the time the winter season opens in December. But, if the rains fizzle out then bird numbers will be fair to poor.”

A call was also made to Randy Babb, another wildlife biologist for the Arizona DGFD.

“I would hate to make any predictions, but the recent rains have been favorable. I would think that hunting will be spotty but there should be birds. I think it likely won’t be that good a Mearns’ quail season.”

When asked for a Mearns’ quail hunting tip, Babb offered up the following, “I would suggest that quail hunters try a variety of places to look for quail. If you make a loop and don’t find birds or sign, then move on to another area.”

WON stopped by to talk with Erick Miller, owner of the Longfin Tackle Store (714-538-8010) located in Orange. He is an avid upland game bird hunter and spends a lot of time hunting Mearns’ quail in Arizona. The following is a recap of what Miller had to report on hunting these elusive quail.

“Last season the southwestern corner of Arizona gave up some pretty decent Mearns’ quail hunting, but we had to work hard to find coveys of birds. During an average winter hunt, we traditionally bust at least 12 to 15 coveys a day while hunting over a good gun dog. This past season saw daily covey numbers drop to between 6 to 8 coveys a day. I think there will be plenty of adult carryover quail out there to bring about a good hatch, but that all depends on how much monsoonal rains fall across Arizona quail country this summer,” said Miller.

This hunting editor has enjoyed Mearns’ quail hunting in Arizona for nearly three decades. Each year has been a unique experience of upland game bird hunting, meeting new hunting buddies, sharing fine gun dogs at work and challenging the rugged mountains of southwestern Arizona. I kind of hung up my spurs two years ago after taking a bad fall off a rocky ridge, which resulted in a few cuts, scrapes and bruised bones. Not to mention breaking my Charles Daly 20 ga. O/U into three pieces, as I thru it off to the side during the slide downhill. If conditions and bird counts are high enough, I might reconsider a gentleman’s Mearns’ quail hunt again this coming season and tag along with Kirby or Babb and their fine gun dogs.

Opening day for the 2018 Mearns’ quail season is set for Dec. 7 and the season will run through Feb. 10, 2019. The daily bag limit on this species of quail is 8 birds. The daily limit for Gambel’s or scaled quail is a total of 15 birds.

When it comes to choosing the right ammo for a Mearns’ quail hunt, this hunter over the years has opted for two 20 ga. loads. When hunting the first three weeks of the season my choice of ammo is 20 ga., Federal Heavy Filed Loads, 1 ox. loads in size #7.5 with a muzzle velocity of 1165 fps. If going on a late season quail hunt, or opting to hope for multiple species of quail, the choice of ammo steps up a little to 20 ga. Federal Premium High Velocity copper plated lead Upland Loads. 1 oz. shot with a muzzle velocity of 1350 fps.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Youth Safari Day celebrates 20th anniversary
Kids have enjoyed experiencing the great outdoors at Youth Safari Day for the past 20 years, and this year’s event — scheduled for July 21 — will offer a huge selection of outdoor activities that will enhance their introduction to the fishing, shooting, conservation, wildlife and many fun and interesting things to do outdoors.

“Our many volunteers and the great support from the Orange County and Los Angeles chapters of Safari Club International has made this a must attend event for two decades,” stated Dennis Anderson, Chairman of Youth Safari Day. “This venue allows our youth to enjoy a wonderful day of outdoor experiences and a chance to relate to the many events that they would otherwise not be able to experience. What started out as just a small event, with the backing of the late Mike Raahauge and other valued committee members, has now grown into a huge outdoor venue for youngsters and their families. This year’s event will likely set another attendance record as the venue continues to attract new youngsters and appreciative accompanying adults.”

YOUTH SAFARI DAY — Kids will enjoy a fun day afield when attending Youth Safari Day at Mike Raahauge’s Shooting Complex in Corona on Sat. July, 21. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

There are events, activities and booths offering an introduction into just about every outdoor experience available. A partial list of great things for kids to participate in include: clay target shooting, decoy painting, duck, quail and turkey calling, handgun shooting, rifle range (22 cal.), paint ball games, archery, BBgun shooting gallery, dog demonstrations, kayaking, rock climbing, animal exhibits and petting zoo and more!

Anderson went on to add, “New this year to Youth Safari Day will be the inflatable zip line, and to help celebrate our 20th year, each youngster will receive a neat backpack stuffed with lots of goodies!”

Those planning on attending can go online at youthsafariday.com and register early, as this event is likely to fill up quickly. The special online registration offers a discounted price of only $15 per person. This offer is valid for pre-registration only online. All events and the Kids Raffle are included with the price of admission. Walk-in registration will be $20 per person the day of the event, but children under the age of 2 years will be admitted free. The YSD committee has also made arrangements for In-N-Out Burger to provide lunches for those who order food online. This lunch includes an In-N-Out cheeseburger, chips, cookies and a bottle of water and will be served from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Make sure to bring your printed out online receipt to the event.

Looking ahead to dove season come Sept. 1, it’s looking like it’s going to be an excellent opener. There are lots of dove winging over all of Southern California and reports from the Imperial Valley and across to Yuma are indicating that this summer has offered up a great hatch of mourning and Eurasian collared dove. It’s still a tad early to make a prediction on how white-winged brood numbers will be, but some rains in the high deserts and down into northern Mexico have contributed to very good nesting conditions.

Western Outdoor News spent some time checking out traditional dove spots in Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties this past week and the numbers of dove were very high. One area in northern San Bernardino County showed huge flocks of birds diving into a fallow grain field, that was a mix of wild oats and stands of sage. In addition to seeing lots of birds on the wing, there were plenty of hillsides that were covered in dove weed (turkey millet), which should provide this year’s hatch of dove with plenty of food.

Upland game bird hunting for dove and quail still allows the use of lead shot here in California. It would be this hunter’s hopes that we will be able to continue using lead shot come the latest in non-toxic shot regulations for California starting in July of 2019.

Kent Cartridge Company now offers non-toxic bismuth shotgun loads. The new pellets are made of high density 9.6g/cc non-toxic alloy that has a 24 per cent greater density than steel. On windy days hunters will hit more birds with bismuth shot because it’s higher density minimizes wind drift. Bismuth shot also performs well with all chokes and has significant knock down power. Kent’s new bismuth ammo is available in 12, 16 and 20 ga. loads, in shot sizes of #4, #5 and #6 for both upland game bird and waterfowl hunting and the price range will be $32 to $45 per box of 25 rounds.

NEW NON-TOXIC BISMUTH SHOT AMMO FROM KENT — Kent Cartridge Co. now offers non-toxic shotgun ammo for both upland game bird hunting and waterfowling.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Wildfires are a huge concern!
Summer has just arrived in the southern part of the state and already there have been a couple of wildfires that threated wildlife, habitat and some structures. The Piru Fire burnt up nearly 100 acres of wilderness near Interstate 5 this past weekend. It was a quick response by local, rural fire departments and Cal Fire that held this blaze to a minimum, also thanks to a shifting of winds and higher humidity.

AIR SUPPORT FOR WILD FIRES — Helicopters and fixed wing bombers play a major role in putting out wild fires. Water and Phos-Chek helped put out a lot of hot spots that cannot be quickly reached by foot or fire fighting vehicles. This helicopter is sucking water out of Irvine Lake to help put out a wild fire in the Cleveland National Forest. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Closer to homes was the wild fire that erupted over a week ago off Hwy. 71. This fire spread quickly to the southeast, burning dry brush and huge eucalyptus trees as flames dropped into Prado Basin. The fire started from an overheated car and jumped to the fields that surround Prado Dog Park. Again, a fast response by multiple fire agencies and with the help of air drops the fire was brought under control. It had burned right up to the lower duck ponds of the Riverside County Flyway Association, but no structures were involved. Clean up crews were kept busy for nearly a week after the fire was brought under control. as hot spots were still smoldering.

Western Outdoor News checked in with Andrew Madsen, Information Officer for the Los Padres National Forest based out of Goleta, (805) 968-6640, in as much as this forest will open up soon to Zone A deer hunting.

“Right now, the Los Padres National Forest is staged at it lowest level for fire control. Visitors to the forest can still have open fires in camp sites, but they are required to have a camp fire permit. We expect this lower level will stick around until mid-July when the level moves up to the next stage. When that occurs, all target shooting will be banned from the national forest and camp fires will be restricted to campground fire rings,” said Madsen.

Madsen went on to add, “Visitors to the Los Padres National Forest can simply go online to lospadresnationalforest.com to obtain a camp fire permit or they can stop by any forest service office to get a permit in person from a ranger. Those who choose to go online are required to first watch an informational Cal Fire video before having the permit printed from this website.”

WON asked Madsen about the status of the Thomas Fire that started back in December of 2017.

“The Thomas Fire has burned, to date, over 272,000 acres of prime forest land. It was a huge fire for this forest and burned for months between the coastal range of mountains across to Highway 33,” Madsen said. “Fortunately, our crews and those of Cal Fire, have had help from volunteers who have come to the now blackened mountains to open roads and trails that were wiped out by this fire and the heavy use of big earth moving tractors. There are still some areas where there is no access and other trails and four-wheel-drive roads that not usable. It’s going to take a lot longer to open up some of the trails that lead off up into the wilderness, as it was a devastating fire and those early heavy rains made a mess out at lot of valuable terrain.”

As WON was getting ready to go press this week an urgent news release from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection stated a huge wild fire erupted in Lake County to the north of San Francisco. This fire was rapidly burning toward many homes in the area, which doesn’t bode well for residents, and many had been advised to flee their homes. Early reports stated that just a few homes were burned, but that more than 600 were in the path of this fire. The release further stated that 18 square miles had already been burnt.

Western Outdoor News went on to check in with Ron Gayer, master-guide on Indian Rock Ranch, (661) 809-1613, about conditions along the western slopes of the High Sierra Mountains.

“Right now, the grass is very high and extremely dry! Most all the ranchers in this mountain country are disking fire breaks along fence lines. Most forest fires in this country are a direct result of the general public having direct access to these oak covered mountain slopes,” stated Gayer.

Gayer is currently hunting wild boar and this past week he harvested a 350-pound boar on what was an excellent hunt. The slopes of the western High Sierra are home to lots of wild and feral hogs thanks to all the farming that occurs in the foothills and very huge acorn crops in the fall.

While the general Zone A rifle deer season doesn’t kick off until Aug. 11, archery hunters will head afield starting with opening morning on July 11. WON contacted Clayton Grant, owner of Bitterwater Outfitters, (805) 610-4521, about prospects for the upcoming Zone A hunts. Currently there are no fire restrictions in place for the southern portion of Zone A, but to the north there are concerns about extreme fire danger existing and the possibility of some forest land closures, open fire regulations and access restrictions.

“Last year we passed on a lot of small bucks as our hunters held out for bigger bucks,” said Grant. Conditions are dry but there is a good carryover of mature bucks on all of the private ranches we have leased hunting rights to. I would think that this season will see a good number of 3x3 racks harvested and some dandy blacktails measuring in the 22- to 24-inch class for those hunters booking a multi-day trophy deer hunt with us.”

Keeping up with non-toxic bullets for use in California, Winchester has just introduced a new copper bullet for this season. The new Der Season XP Copper Impact rifle ammunition provides devastating terminal performance on deer with increased weight retention and deeper penetration. “With Deer Season XP Copper Impact, Winchester continues its longstanding tradition of creating innovative ammunition that meets the needs of hunters and shooters,” said Matt Campbell, VP of Marketing and Sales for Winchester. Initial caliber offerings of the new ammo include: .243 Win. an 85 gr., .270 Win. in 130 gr., .208 Win. in 150 gr., .30-06 in 150 gr., and 200 Win. Mag with a 150 gr. copper bullet.


NEW COPPER BULLET AMMO FROM WINCHESTER — Deer Season XP Copper Impact ammo is now on dealer shelves and is available in a number of popular calibers.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Shooting Sports Fair a total blast!
The return of Shooting Sports Fair to Mike Raahauge’s Shooting Enterprises after a year away was enjoyed by thousands and thousands of hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts. While Mother Nature warmed up to sunny days it never got as hot as the firing line, which saw constant action all day long. It was truly a wonderful event and one that speaks highly of the interest in firearms, ammunition and related hunting/shooting accessories to those all across California and for our neighboring states of Arizona, Nevada and as far north as Oregon.

NEW SHOTGUN FROM DICKINSON — Jim Bladen of Lakewood had an opportunity to check out the new Impala Plus shotgun with Tim Baily, president of Tim Baily and Associates. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

“Shooting Sports Fair set attendance records for opening day and attendance was almost to overflowing for those that showed up to enjoy a full day at the range over the weekend with family and friends. Parking was very well organized allowing quick access for those wanting to get to the firing line or to visit with other vendors. Outdoorsmen missed Raahauge’s not holding this event last year due to unforeseen circumstances but we feel that firearms manufacturers, factory representatives and other supporters of the shooting sports industry did an outstanding job of supporting and putting on this year’s Shooting Sports Fair,” said Cindy Raahauge.

Raahauge went on to add, “Over the weekend there will have been tens and tens of thousands of rounds of ammo fired by shooters who are more than willing to wait in line to test fire the latest in new rifles, shotguns and pistols. Not only does this event allow shooters and gun enthusiasts the opportunity to test fire new firearms, there are also many support vendors with an awesome selection of products and services offered. This is a huge event and there is something of interest to all attendees. In addition to just about every firearm manufactured on display, there was FREE fishing offered for the kids with an opportunity of hooking into a 20 lb. catfish, there was an outstanding display of CanAm ATV’s and the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife staffed a couple of booths that were very informative.”

Western Outdoor News spent the entire afternoon at Sports Fair and was amazed at the keen interest of those who were interviewed. Bob Mello of Costa Mesa attended his third Shooting Sports Fair and this hunting editor caught up with Mello just after test firing the new SigSauer Model 440 T.T. in the 556 caliber.

“This is really a nice shooting rifle and one that I looked forward to shooting on the firing line. It features a 10 round magazine that can easily be adapted to shooting .223 ammo. This rifle has been cleared for sale in California and should be available for sale at most retailers by the start of hunting season.”

Mello further stated, “Shooting Sports Fair offers a great venue at which to shoot the weapon of your choice. It’s kind of like going into an ice cream parlor and sampling all the different flavors offered.”

shootingamachinegunSHOOTING A 50 CAL MACHINE GUN — This WWII vintage 50 caliber machine gun ended up with a very hot barrel. Shooters were allowed to keep spent brass. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

WON was eager to spend a lot of time along the firing line and came up with the following observation on what those attending Shooting Sports Fair were most interested in. The most popular rifles/shotguns being shouldered and test fired where black tactical rifles of many different styles. Looking down the firing line just about every shooter had one in their hands while a skilled gun safety representative stood by to make sure of proper gun handling and assist in loading, cocking and shooting these many AR style firearms. Other firearms were waiting to be shot were displayed on gun racks. Secondly the most popular firearms selected were both sport shooting and hunting handguns with calibers ranging from .22’s clear up to some of the big hunting pistol calibers. Third in interest, and believe me there was a lot of serious gun enthusiasts with safety ear protection gear on, waiting in line to shoot the many big military automatics, while blasts ratchetting off down range bunkers and the gongs of hitting 50 gallon metal drums and distant steel targets echoed all across Shooting Sport Fair grounds. Surprisingly, by observation of that Friday crowd, was the fact that hunting rifles and shotguns were plainly beat out by black style firearms.

WON had a chance to talk with Scott Schalliol of Tim Bailey and Associates, one the United States largest rep group, about the status of the shooting sports industry here in the west.

“Jim, we are coming off a very strong year of good interest in all shooting sports industry products and our company’s feelings are that interest and sales will continue to show strength and grow in demand thru 2018 and beyond. There are a lot of great products out there for the shooting sports public,” said Schalliol.

There were many new products also for attendees to check out. Dickinson’s fine line of shotguns was topped off with their new Impala Plus sporting clays or clay target shotguns that offer new styling and smooth actions for 2018. Show attendee Jim Bladen of Lakewood had a chance to bust clays with this newest shotgun and was pleased with its smooth action, less recoil and good handling. This new Dickinson shotgun has a suggested retail price of $559.99. Making a new appearance at Shooting Sports Fair was Wolf Performance Ammunition with their main office based here in Placentia. Wolf offers a wide selection of rifle, pistol and shotshells, along with primers, cases and bullets, .22 Match ammo and a line of performance gear. Wolf ammo is available at all Turner’s Outdoorsman retail stores and Ammo Bros. locations.

Shooting Sports Fair is co-sponsored by Raahauge’s Shooting Enterprises, Turner’s Outdoorsman and Lucas Oil Products. For additional information on next year’s Shooting Sports Fair or to keep updated on shooting events at Raahauge’s log on to their web site at rahaauges.com.

EXPERT ATTENTION ON THE FIRING LINE — Standing by every shooter on the firing line at Shooting Sports Fair was an expert representative. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

GUN DOG SHOW — Professional gun dog trainer Paul Cacciatori, and his daughter Amy, put on a good show at the Shooting Sports Fair last week. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

SELLING SNAKE OIL — This cowboy put on a great western show while promoting Dr. Sam’s Tonic. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

LUCKY SPIN WHEEL AT TURNER’S OUTDOORSMAN BOOTH — Many attendees at Sports Fair walked away with shooting accessory prizes. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

Show time, new Browning ammo and big game drawing deadline
Perhaps the highlight of hunting’s off-season will be the Shooting Sports Fair that begins this coming Friday, June 1 and runs through the weekend at Raahauge’s Shooting Complex in Corona, co-sponsored by Mike Raahauge’s Shooting Enterprise, Turner’s Outdoorsman and most all firearms manufacturers and shooting and hunting related accessories. It’s sure to be a great way to spend the day shooting a wide variety of rifles, shotguns and pistols in just about every imaginable caliber. Experts will be on hand to make sure this is a safe event for all ages who will be stepping out on to the firing line.

browningsnewbxdBROWNING’S NEW BXD WATERFOWL AMMO — Duck hunters should be pleased with the new #3 non-toxic shot that is now available from Browning. Available in both 12 and 20 gauges this new ammo has a muzzle velocity of 1450 fps.

Western Outdoor News plans on spending quite a bit of time at Sports Fair checking out the latest in firearms and ammunition and of utmost importance talking with guides, outfitters, conservationists and others representatives of the hunting and shooting world in hopes of staying on top of what’s going on outdoors.

Browning will be introducing a new waterfowl load that is sure to be successful for those shooting out of a duck blind or from a pit blind while hunting Canada geese and snows. The new load is named BXD Waterfowl Ammo and it’s available in both 12 and 20 gauges in 3-inch shells. The new shot size is #3 non-toxic shot with a muzzle velocity of up to 1450 fps.

For years this waterfowl hunter has opted to shoot #3 shot out my Benelli M2 auto-loader for most all duck hunts with good success. Seems that #3 shot patterns well out of a modified choke for both puddle ducks and big divers and even downed a passing honker this past season while hunting out of a duck blind in Prado Basin.

The deadline to apply for California Big Game Drawings is fast approaching with a deadline of midnight on June 2. There are a variety of ways to enter in for drawings for antelope, elk and bighorn sheep and premium deer hunt tags. Applications cannot be mailed or faxed to the DGW in Sacramento, but can be submitted online, purchased at a licensed agent’s business or applied for over the phone by calling 800-565-1458. Hunters applying for any tag must have purchased a 2018 hunting license and there is a non-refundable processing fee of $8.13 for each application submitted.

Hunting results for big game harvested in California remains pretty high according to reports published by the department. Hunter success for pronghorns averages between 50 and 90 percent with Zone 4 Lassen being on top with 94-percent success; for bighorn sheep most hunters are successful but there were two zones (#2 & #6) that had zero success, and with the many elk hunts available the overall average was nearly 100 percent, except for a few zones where no elk were harvested. There are a lot of premium deer hunts available all over the state and success on deer hunts varies greatly from zero success to 100 percent, with zone X averaging about an estimated 50 percent and apprentice hunts hitting nearly 100 percent.

It’s looking like it should be a great nesting season for mourning dove, as the hatch is well underway and likely white-winged dove will also enjoy a very successful hatch out in the desert regions. Reports from afield indicate that the Eurasian collared dove is still building up in numbers and that even a no limit, full year round open season, has not reduced the number of these larger dove across most of the western states. Small flocks of mourning dove continue to fly over fallow fields in Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties, and outfitters reporting very good dove nesting along the Central Coast. Up into Kern and Inyo counties there is also plenty of water and native feed to build up a very large population of this year’s mourning dove chicks. Next week’s hunting column will cover the outlook for upland game bird hunting in northern Mexico.

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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.

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