To See or Not to See: 3 Reasons to Carry Hunting Binoculars You Probably Haven’t Thought Of

By Steve Sorensen

If you’ve had your fill of technical bino talk,

tune in!

Hunting binoculars and a Havalon knife

A good pair of binoculars and a Havalon knife – two essentials to carry on every whitetail hunt. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

Nearly every article you read about binoculars gives you the lowdown on the technical stuff – power, field of view, objective diameter, exit pupil, prisms, coatings, brightness. It’s all aimed at the hunter who is considering a purchase. But the truth is this: I don’t know a hunter who doesn’t already have a pair of good hunting binoculars. Ask a hundred hunters if they own binos – I’ll bet a hundred say “Yes.”

I’ll also bet not one out of 10 of those same hunters remember to take their binoculars hunting with them. No, it doesn’t count having a pair in your truck. You gotta carry them, and use them. So if you’re the guy who doesn’t carry his binos in the woods, let’s set aside all the technical stuff right now and focus on using the binoculars you already have.

I know – when you do carry them, you just don’t use them. Let’s fix that right now. Here are three reasons you don’t carry binoculars – and how to change that.

1. Binoculars slow you down.

“Don’t slow me down!” People say it like slowing down is a bad thing. When it comes to hunting, slow is a good thing. Slow is how you don’t miss things. Slow is how the game animal you’re pursuing isn’t aware of your presence. Slow is most definitely better when out hunting.

The truth is most of us move too fast when we’re in the woods. That old Simon & Garfunkel tune, “Slow down, you move too fast,” should be a theme song for hunters. If “feelin’ groovy” means tuning in to your environment and getting into “the zone,” you can only do that if you’re moving slowly.

It ain’t easy to slow down because real life tumbles by at a faster pace than ever, and we get ramped up to its speed. When you step into the woods, all that needs to change. Binoculars can help you do that.

“But binoculars are cumbersome,” you say. Well, I say that’s a good thing if it slows you down. Don’t take a pair of compact binos and stuff them into a pocket or pack where you’ll eventually forget where they are. Hang ‘em around your neck – you HAVE to walk slowly if you don’t want them beating against your chest all day. Put your binos where you’ll think about them, even if they are big and uncomfortable. Let them bounce against your chest. Yes, there are disadvantages to that, but you can remedy that later. (See sidebar.) For now, let ‘em bounce. Be very conscious of them – that’s the goal here. Become aware of your binoculars – you won’t use them if you’re not aware of them.

A good pair of hunting binoculars can improve your hunt

One difference between so-so binos and quality binos will show up when you actually use them. Your eyes won’t get nearly as tired using quality glass. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

2. Binoculars make you a better observer when you’re not using them.

“Huh?” You say, “Don’t you observe when you are using them?” Yep – seems counter-intuitive, but suppose you’re on a stand. You see a deery-looking thing you can’t identify. This UGO (Unidentified Grounded Object) doesn’t move, but maybe that’s because it saw you first and it’s staring at you.

Very slowly lift your binoculars and get a good eyeful of details so you can dismiss this UGO, if that’s all it is, or shift into kill mode if it’s the real deal. So, resolve all the details about what’s on the other side of the valley and what’s in the shadows over yonder. Then you can go back to picking apart the landscape looking for that buck. Knowing what that distracting, questionable thing is allows you to focus on seeing what might actually be there. And when something shows up you haven’t noticed before, you notice it as new with your naked eyes. Now check it out with your binos.

If you’re spot-and-stalk hunting, you’re glassing constantly. If you’re on a stand, you aren’t. But you should, once every 15 to 20 minutes, examine everything through your binoculars. You’ll see more detail and become more intimately acquainted with the view from your stand. When a new detail really does show up, and it has eyes, you’re more likely to notice it before it notices you.

3. Binoculars keep temptation at bay.

Glassing for moose with hunting binoculars

If binoculars are useful in finding a big ol’ trophy bull moose, surely they’re useful to the whitetail hunter. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

I made a couple of bets at the beginning of this article, and I’ve got one more for you. I’m betting no one reading this would ever do this, but chances are you’ve heard of it or seen it done before. Maybe it has even happened to you. You’re in some crowded deer woods and you notice another guy a pretty good distance away looking through his scope. Is he looking at you? You ease over behind a tree and peek around to see him. Here’s where a fluorescent hat comes in handy. You wave your hat. He puts the gun down.

Yes, occasionally you have that guy who is a little too confident and a little too stupid at the same time. Please, don’t be that guy.

If you need the clincher, here it is: carry a pair of binoculars and you’ll get more game. It’s a no-brainer. It’s like having a camera. A pro photographer once told me, “The secret to taking good pictures is this: force yourself to take lots of pictures – odds are some of them will be pretty good.”  Something similar is true about using binoculars. The secret to depending on binos is forcing yourself to use them a lot. You’ll soon find out they do a lot more than bring the world up close.

None of this is meant to imply that the technical details are unimportant. If you’re thinking about buying a pair of good hunting binoculars and want to know all the technical stuff in order to make an intelligent purchase, you should definitely read it all. Check out Havalon’s articles on buying and using binoculars. Now, start glassing!

Binoculars-binos-hunting


hunter outdoor writer steve sorensenAbout Steve Sorensen:

Outdoor writer and speaker Steve Sorensen is the author of Growing Up With Guns, writes an award-winning newspaper column called The Everyday Hunter®, and edits content on the Havalon Sportsman’s Post. He also writes The Everyday Hunter® Handbook series, including a new book called Essentials of Scent Control. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at www.EverydayHunter.com.


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5 Easy Steps for “Caribouing” Your Deer

By Judd Cooney

Here’s why bringing your deer out whole might actually be a good idea!

Skinning a deer before gutting

Skinning the deer before gutting it keeps scavengers and predators away from your hunting area. Dog is optional. (Photo: Judd Cooney)

My hunter was unhappy about having to drag his trophy buck a couple hundred yards to the truck. When we got there, he stated in no uncertain terms that it would have been a heck of a lot easier to drag if we had gutted it on the spot.

I explained in my typical gentle way that our policy was to gut a deer on our leases only when it was in a difficult location and NEVER to eviscerate a deer  recovered near one of our foodplots or a feeding area. We have a lot of coyotes in our section of Iowa, and the last thing we want to do is attract them to our prime hunting areas. To further control these canine deer killers, my partner Sheri and I have coyote traps and snares set around our key hunting spots. A gut pile would give them a free lunch without consequences and could reduce the effectiveness of our trapping efforts.

So, we like to “caribou” our deer.

What is Caribouing?

Getting ready to gut the deer

Head, hide and legs are gone, but the guts are still in the deer. (Photo: Judd Cooney)

“Caribouing” is a term that comes from the Far North. It describes how the denizens of that inhospitable habitat process caribou with minimum fuss and mess. Once a hunter watches Sheri (she’s a world class taxidermist and experienced butcher) wield her Havalon Piranta to apply the same process to his deer, the argument about our “bring ‘em out whole” policy ends immediately.

To make our job easier we’ve installed a hydraulic winch in the skinning area so one person can back a truck into the room and hang even a big buck by himself. We saw off the hind legs below the hocks, cut a hole between the bone and Achilles tendon and insert a gambrel, meat hooks or other type of hanger. If you have a lot of overhead space, removing the hind legs first is not necessary, but the low ceiling in our processing area necessitates it.

Step One: Skinning

Hang and begin skinning the deer. When Sheri gets past the hindquarters she jams her elbows and forearms against the hide and applies her full weight to pulling the hide loose. Very effective. Split the hide along the back of the front legs to the center of the brisket and then saw off the legs at the elbow joint to facilitate peeling the hide from the front legs. Pull the hide down to the base of the ears and cut off the head with the skin attached.

Step Two: The Front Half

Cut off the front shoulders and bone out the neck meat for grinding. Cut a slit in the legs and hang the front quarters on some meat hooks, a gambrel or run a cord through and hang wherever available.

Removing the backstraps for quartering a deer

First cut to remove the backstraps is right in front of the hindquarters. (Photo: Judd Cooney)

Step Three: Backstraps and Hindquarters

Cut the muscles crosswise in front of the hindquarters to start stripping out backstraps. Peel them using your fingers and knife to separate from the backbone and ribs until they come free. Hang on a gambrel or lay on a clean surface.

Step Four: Gutting

Carefully cut around the anus from the outside, as deeply into the pelvic canal as possible, so you can pull it from the inside through the pelvis; that way it keeps its contaminants with the innards. Next, cut through the lower belly muscle below the hindquarters and drop the intestines. Paunch far enough to finish cutting loose the bladder, intestines and anus. Drop the guts the rest of the way out, cutting loose as needed.

Step Five: Tenderloins

Gutting the quartered deer

Begin gutting the deer. (Photo: Judd Cooney)

This gut dropping operation exposes the tenderloins. They’re against the back, inside the abdominal cavity on either side of the spine. Carefully use your razor sharp Havalon hunting knife to peel these choice morsels away from the spine and lay or hang with backstraps. With the tenderloins removed, either cut or saw through the back bone just below the hanging hindquarters to fully separate guts with the carcass.

We use a plastic sled situated under the hanging carcass to drop the head, hide, carcass and guts on it. This keeps the mess off the floor and facilitates loading into the pickup bed for disposal, or pulling behind a 4-wheeler or snowmobile into the field behind the camp house for coyote bait.

Step Six: Separate Hindquarters

Use a meat saw or regular cross cut saw to cut down through the pelvis and separate the two hindquarters. Now you have four quarters ready for the butcher, or to cut up yourself.

This is a simple, methodical process, and it’s fast, neat and easy! Your meat now cools faster, has less hair on it and each piece is light enough to handle easily.


judd-cooney-head-shot-457x542About Judd Cooney:

For the past 30 years Judd has been writing and photographing full time in addition to running his guiding and outfitting operation, spending 18-20 hours a day trying to avoid working an 8-5 job. He says, “I wouldn’t change it for the world!” He has articles or photos in many of the outdoor magazines every month, covering bowhunting, muzzleloader hunting, big game, small game and predator hunting, plus turkey, waterfowl and upland game hunting. He can be reached through his website, www.JuddCooney.com.


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Venison Backstrap Recipes and Flavor Ideas: Venison Steak Diane

By Brooke Hart

When you get a good lookin’ deer,

you want all the meat you secured to be as

tasty and flavorful as possible!

When it comes to cooking venison backstrap, as with all wild game recipes, flavor is everything. The backstrap portion of the deer runs along the spine of the animal, and it’s one of the most tender cuts of meat because deer rarely use the muscles in that area. Generally, the meat here is very tender and lean, and if prepared the right way, it can be a surefire way to cure a hungry appetite. There are many different ways to cook venison and achieve the taste you want from this area. Below is one of my favorite venison backstrap recipes, the always tasty Venison Steak Diane. A delicious twist on a classic dish!

Venison deer meat cooked for venison steak diane

Once you have the venison prepared, you can cook it specifically to your liking, with every side cooked without overcooking it in the middle.

Venison Steak Diane:

To create Venison Steak Diane, you first need a tender cut of meat, so get all your backstrap ready and start slicing. You’ll want to cut the meat into medallion shapes and size them up before preparing it.

What you need:

1/2 a pound of venison backstrap

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1 minced shallot

Salt

1/4 cup of brandy

3 minced garlic cloves

1/2 cup of venison stock

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1 tablespoon of mustard

2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

Around 1/4 cup of heavy cream

Minced herbs for garnish (include items like chives, parsley, basil and so on)

What you do:

Once you have the venison prepared, refrigerate it overnight or for a few days. When you take it out of the fridge, salt it and then let it sit for about 20 minutes, until it reaches room temperature. Then you’ll want to heat the butter in a saute pan at medium heat for about two minutes. Pat the venison dry on all sides and cook every side of it. Take your time to ensure that the butter won’t scorch in the pan. It will take about 10 minutes to get a brown crust on the venison’s outer portion without overcooking it in the middle. Once the meat is done, loosely wrap your venison in some tin foil and set it aside for now.

Next, put the shallots in the saute pan and cook them for 60 seconds. Then add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, making sure you don’t burn the garlic as you go. After that simmers for half a minute, deglaze the pan with brandy and scrape off anything that’s stuck to the sides. Let the brandy cook down to a glaze and then add the tomato paste, mustard, venison stock and Worcestershire sauce. Stir the combination and let it boil down until you can drag a wooden spoon across the pan and leave a trail that doesn’t automatically fill itself back in. On high heat, this should only take 2-3 minutes.

Now turn off the heat and let the boiling process come to a halt. Stir the cream into the sauce until it’s as light as you might enjoy. You won’t want to boil or cook the sauce any longer. While the sauce sits for a brief moment, slice the venison into the medallion shapes and sizes you desire. If the center is not quite cooked, the meat can sit in the sauce and re-heat itself. You can garnish your creation with herbs like chives, basil or parsley.

Using a good sauce recipe with your venison backstrap is always a great idea. Once you cook your meat, simply add as much or as little sauce as you want in order to flavor the venison to perfection.

Cumberland sauce being prepared for a delicious venison steak diane

Using a sauce with your venison backstrap recipe is a great idea. When you use a sauce on top of your cooked meat, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you like the flavor. You can just try a little and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it and your meat isn’t ruined in the process.

Cumberland Sauce:

Cumberland sauce is one of the most popular sauce recipes to go along with venison backstrap, especially when cooking Steak Diane. This sauce does not take a lot of time to prepare.

You will need:

Ground black pepper

Zest of a lemon and an orange

1/4 cup of red currant jelly

1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon of cayenne

A pinch of salt

1/4 cup of venison stock

1 minced shallot

1/2 cup of port wine

What you do:

Cook the meat in a large sauce pan with melted butter. Take it out and put it in some foil once it’s cooked to your liking. After the meat comes out of the pan, check to make sure there is still some butter left. Saute the shallot then add the wine. Add the rest of the ingredients and boil it down until it is thick but still something you can pour. You can serve the sauce on the side or on the meat itself, and voila, you’ve got one hearty, delicious dish on your hands.


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6 Deer Hunting Tricks to Put Rutting Bucks on Your Map

By Bernie Barringer

Spice up the scrapes for more daytime action!

Like all serious whitetail hunters, I get excited when I see an area that’s all torn up with scrapes and rubs. It’s proof that a buck has recently been there.

barringer with buck after visiting scrape with my urine

I took a photo of this buck checking a scrape that I had freshened with my own urine right before I shot him.

Several studies have shown that the vast majority of scrape visits by mature bucks are during nighttime, but I have some tricks that turn the odds of daytime sightings in my favor. Try my top six tactics for spicing up the scrapes – each one will increase the odds of getting bucks to the scrapes when you’re in your treestand during legal shooting hours.

1. Fresh Urine

The first thing I tried was quite offbeat but it really worked. I deposited some of my own fresh urine in a scrape. Don’t laugh. (And erase that picture from your mind!) I’m dead serious.

Most store-bought deer urine has an ammonia smell to it and it doesn’t have the fresh smell that deer expect to find in a scrape. My urine is always fresh and deer are very curious about it. After several years, I no longer feel weird standing over a scrape emptying my bladder. I have killed bucks over scrapes with my urine in them, in one case, less than an hour after I put it there. If you have the guts to try this out, you will be convinced. I guarantee it.

buck visiting scrape at night

Bucks tend to visit scrapes in the night, especially during October and early November. Using these tactics to enhance the scrapes will increase the odds they will visit the scrapes during legal shooting hours.

2. Foreign Dirt

Bucks and does alike know all the other deer in their home areas. They communicate throughout the year, mostly with scent. If a different deer moves into the area, they notice right away and focus some energy on learning who this new deer is. I’ve discovered how to capitalize on this behavior.

I carry a few clean zipper-seal backs with me at all times. When I come across a hot scrape in an area where I’m not hunting, I often scoop a bag-full of the musty-smelling scrape dirt and take it with me. When I get back to the area where I have a stand, I dump the bag in a scrape nearby. It’s a calling card deer need to check out.

3. Add a Branch

Bucks build almost all large scrapes right under an overhanging branch. They lick this branch and mark it with their forehead and pre-orbital glands.

spicing up a scrape and monitoring with camera

Spicing up a scrape and monitoring it with a game camera is a great way to take an inventory of the bucks in your area.

I like to add a branch to these scrapes by twisting some light wire onto the limb to make an extension. Zip ties work, too. On this added branch I put some doe-in-heat lure. I use a small spray bottle to spray a mist on the branch. Some companies make deer scent in a gel form, such as Special Golden Estrus. The gel helps the scent last longer when globbed on the overhanging branch.

4. Bury the Scent

One of the problems with using scent right in the dirt is that the smell dissipates quickly. Dump a little lure from a bottle on the ground and it soaks into the dirt, then it gets stirred around by the first buck that comes along. It’s soon so diluted that it isn’t giving off much scent. I overcome this problem by using a small plastic container – a film canister or something about that size.

Put two cotton balls in the container and fill it half full of deer lure. Now dig a small hole just large enough for the canister and about a half inch below the surface of the dirt. Put the canister in the ground without the lid, and smooth the dirt back over the top. The buck that comes by gets a more concentrated whiff. You won’t use as much scent, so you’ll even save a little money!

buck checking scrape with scrape dripper

This buck is checking out scrapes during shooting hours. This is what we all want to see! Note the scrape dripper hanging over the scrape.

5. Use a Scrape Dripper

Wildlife Research Center makes a bottle that you can hang over your scrape called a Scrape Dripper. It has a rubber tube on the bottom that allows the lure from the bottle to drip slowly onto the scrape, continually adding fresh lure. It’s designed to drip more when the temperature rises, so it adds more scent to the scrape during the daytime hours. The idea is to condition the bucks to visit during the daytime and draw them to the scrape when you’re on stand.

6. Add Mock Scrapes and Rubs

One of the best ways to enhance the area and attract attention of deer is to add some scrapes and rubs to make it look like the area is a hub of deer activity. You can do this without introducing any foreign scent or deer lures, which can be an advantage if you are dealing with a particularly skittish buck.

buck checking enhanced scrape

These scrapes have been enhanced and now the bucks are checking them before darkness sets in.

I take out my pocket knife and slice a few small trees down to the white inner bark, making it look like a fresh rub. I often use a knife to freshen existing rubs too. These visible indicators of a buck’s presence really get their attention. It might cause them to come over for a look even when the scrapes alone wouldn’t have been enough.

Choose a site under an overhanging branch, and pull away all ground cover, exposing fresh dirt in an area about the size of a garbage can lid. I like to do it with a stout stick and throw the dirt back from the scrape like it was aggressively worked over. In grassy areas you may need to use the tines of a garden rake to work up the sod.

Conclusion

Don’t be discouraged if all the bucks are hitting the scrapes in your area at night. These six tips can help you activate the scrape clusters and bring out more aggression in bucks. Try some of these tactics this year and I’ll bet you agree that the bucks take notice. At the very least you’ll get more game camera photos of bucks – and at the best you’ll end up in a photo gripping a nice set of antlers!


bernie-barringerAbout Bernie Barringer:

Bernie Barringer hunts a variety of species in several states and Canadian provinces. He has published more than 400 articles in two dozen outdoor magazines and authored ten books on hunting, fishing and trapping. The latest is Bear Baiter’s Manual. He is the managing editor of Bear Hunting Magazine, and blogs his hunts on his website www.bowhuntingroad.com.


 

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7 Ways to Keep Your Hunting Spot Hidden

By Mike Marsh

Never tell another lie, and keep others from knowing where you hunt!

 

“Have you seen or heard anything?”

“Nope,” was the universal reply. Heads were shaking from side to side. Downcast eyes focused intently on what was on their plates.

The question came from my hunting partner’s lips after a day of pre-season scouting for turkey sign. We were eating lunch at a local grill with the local wildlife enforcement officer and some fellow hunters – guys who would soon be our competitors on opening day.

The game warden grinned when he looked at us and asked, “Did you see or hear anything?”

Keep your hunting spot hidden and take pictures without any identifiable features

Daniel Gillespie moved this deer to a location that had no identifiable features in the background before posing for this image so no one knew where he had been hunting. (Photo: Mike Marsh)

My partner started to utter something about the five gobblers we’d seen strutting in a field. I elbowed him in the ribs and interrupted. “No, nothing.” Everyone knew that everyone else was lying – their eyes and posture were dead giveaways.

Wildlife enforcement officers are particularly astute when they question suspects and are able to determine whether a hunter is lying from body language alone. He knew everyone was lying and laughed when he told us so after the others had left. He was also my friend and told me how he knew people were being untruthful. For me, that was a defining moment. The best lies are those you don’t have to tell. I don’t want to lie, so here are seven ways I avoid telling a whopper:

1. Be a loner

Did you find something exciting? Then don’t visit places where other hunters tend to gather. If you’ve seen a buck with a set of antlers like a rocking chair or a field blackened by flocks of Canada geese, avoid all contact with other hunters until after you’ve hunted the area. Too often, your enthusiasm will overrule your ability to keep from giving away the clues other hunters are looking for.

Don't give away your hunting spot by posing for pictures next to signs

If you don’t want people to know where you have found great hunting, don’t pose for photos in front of easily identifiable objects such as signs. (Photo: Mike Marsh)

2. Don’t show off your harvest

If you have a big buck or waterfowl piled in the pickup bed and you want to save that hunting spot for the future, don’t drive around showing them off to everyone you see. They’ll ask where you found such a great spot. Then, if you want to protect it, you’ll have to lie. People will ask questions about your methods and whereabouts and begin piecing together information. Maybe someone saw your pickup parked at the hunting spot. Even a little information is too much when hunters talk to each other, because the best hunters are also great detectives.

Don't post trophy buck pictures on social media or you could give away your secret hunting spot

Mike Marsh never posted images of this buck on social media. He also made sure the images were generic, without anything in the background to give clues as to the hunting location. (Photo: Mike Marsh)

3. Take photos, but camouflage your location

It’s always great to have good field photos, but make sure the background doesn’t give away any hints about your location. Don’t include any highway signs, buildings, power lines or other distinctive features in your photos. Make sure the background is generic so those detective-hunters don’t uncover any potential clues.

4. Don’t post on social media

Social media is great for sharing news, but it can create a flash mob effect. Maybe you go to social media to get information, but don’t share your own news there until it’s old news. Do not post photos on social media sites until long after the season has passed, or better yet, not at all. Don’t post reports about waterfowl flights or rutting behavior in regards to your favorite hunting areas. If you do, hunters may show up at your deer hunting spot or fill the boat ramp at your favorite duck hunting area before you arrive the next time.

5. Avoid questions

Don’t tell anyone you even went hunting. When you see another hunter at the gas station or convenience store, be in a hurry. Get in and get out. Advise your trusted partners to do the same. Yes, it’s among the hardest of urges for novices to resist a little bragging, but it will be easier after their first bad experience.

Biologist talking to a hunter next to sign

A hunter on a scouting trip speaks with a N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission biologist at a public game land. Biologists willingly share a lot of information, but you may not want to share too much with them because it could be told to other hunters. Biologists are hunters too, so they may also keep their favorite spots to themselves. (Photo: Mike Marsh)

6. Be very general

If you MUST say something to someone, don’t be specific about your location. A made up name that means nothing to anyone but you isn’t a lie. Be modest. Your answer doesn’t have to give GPS coordinates. Someone might say, “I heard you got a big buck,” hoping for more info. Just say, “I’ve heard that, too! Gotta run!”

7. Just the necessary facts

If you can, wait until after the hunting season closes to take your buck to the taxidermist. If you take it any earlier, don’t tell the taxidermist where you were hunting. Give only the required information to transfer legal possession. Other great hunters are also bringing in their game for mounting and they will ask questions that may lead them to your secret hunting spot.

Remember: you worked hard for your hunting spots, so don’t just give them away. But you shouldn’t have to lie about it either.


mike marsh headshotAbout Mike Marsh:

Mike Marsh’s articles, columns and photos have appeared in more than 100 magazines and newspapers. He lives in Wilmington, North Carolina and has written four books about the state’s hunting, fresh-water and salt-water fishing. His latest is Fishing North Carolina. To contact Mike, view his award-winning articles and photos, or order his books, visit www.mikemarshoutdoors.com.


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