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Making do: three things you never pass by in a survival situation

By: Mr. X, survivalist

Whenever you are out and about in the woods you should always have three things with you regardless of the circumstances. These three things are: a good blade, some ample cordage, a way to make fire. Though many of you, depending on your skill level, might find these things to be synonymous, (cordage plus a knife equals fire for example), you’re always better off if you can utilize a shortcut here and there.

Along the same line of thought there are three things that I almost never walk by in the woods without harvesting them, or at least caching them somewhere safe should I ever need them. These things are: a deer shed, a good grade of workable flint, and a fluffy dry birds nest, (unoccupied of course).

The reasons for wanting to have these things are various and I will give you a brief outline below:

  1. A deer shed. The antler of a deer is like a gift from God in survival situation. It has many functions in and of itself. For instance, it was initially designed for use as a weapon by the deer that grew it, and can be used as one by you. It also serves as a variety of tools, digging or napping flint for instance, and even has great use as handles for knives and spindle sockets for fire making.
  2. Good grade flint. Flint was the precursor to brass and then iron as far as tool making goes. A good flint knife or axehead can give you a workable implement indefinitely.
  3. A fluffy, dry birds nest. These things are worth their weight in gold as tinder bundles. Just the slightest spark will set them ablaze.

As I stated earlier, I make caches all of the time, many of which I’ve never had incident to go back to; however, they are most likely still there if I ever do need them. Caching allows you to protect necessities from animals and the elements, and they don’t have to include store bought items.

Reading sign: Natures way of telling you how to act

                                     

It wasn’t long ago that I showed up at the lake to try out my new kayak and I got a really good lesson in reading sign. I didn’t think much about the fact that there were literally no other boats out on the lake. As a matter of fact, it even occurred to me how lucky I was to have the whole lake to myself and I remember chuckling a bit as I launched from the kayak ramp.

Several hours later as the old crusty park ranger helped me hoist my bedraggled kayak up onto the deck of his huge pontoon boat, he laconically said: “Next time fella, learn to read the sign.”

The sign he was speaking of wasn’t a square piece of metal with words on it posted discriminately on a five foot post; rather it was the fact that no one else was stupid enough to get out on a lake swollen with floodwater from a week’s long rain.

The truth of the matter is that nature is full of signs that we should be able read quickly to know what is safe or not. A rattlesnake’s rattle, or the angry buzzing of bees doesn’t take long to figure out that there is a detrimental affect to the pressing of such a creature. As one wise old outdoorsman once said, “it’s God’s way of sayin’ ‘Don’t touch'”.

I recently ran into a less sinister but just as obvious instance of this early warning system when I was at the local title bureau and decided to take a picture of my truck to use in a future blog post. Suddenly I heard a violent hiss and felt the hot breath of a serpentine figure striking at but narrowly missing the back of my thigh. Succumbing for a moment to the normal jumping and feinting that accompanies such incidents, I finally got my bearings and turned to see a large female Canadian Goose who had made a nest right next to the door of the title bureau. Just goes to show, you should always learn to read the sign.

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Making meat 101: How to spot a game trail

It was a laughable scene in many ways. The figure four deadfall trap had been set well, but had two major, fatal flaws.

First of all, it was tiny for a deadfall. It was great if the setter had the intention of trapping moles or fieldmice, but it wouldn’t kill a rabbit or even a squirrel, (though it might have irritated the squirrel).  Secondly, it was set on the edge of a cornfield, which is fine, but it wasn’t near any cover and was out in the open. There was what appeared to be peanut butter on the end of the trigger stick.

In theory that’s a feasible setup; however, my experience has shown me that in practice this was more than likely to be a failed set. Here’s why: In order for a fieldmouse or a mole to get to the trap and partake of the peanut butter bait, (which would have been more valuable for caloric content than the fieldmouse it might have yielded), it would find it necessary to leave the thick foliage that protects it from the threat from above, (hawks and owls), and go out into the open. As a matter of fact, it would be a rarity, as determined by the sign, for anything small enough to get caught in the trap to be in the vicinity of it.

So, in this series I am going to show you how to run an effective trapline in the wilderness using nothing but pitfalls, deadfalls, and snare traps. All made from natural materials found in the woods. But in this first section we will simply discuss location. There are two types of places to trap small game, either in feeding areas or along game trails. The game trails are easier  to spot and trap because the game you are hunting will traverse the trail out of habit and won’t require conscious thought. There is a small game trail pictured in the photograph attached to this blog. Can you see it?

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Make that fire! Three tips to get fire everytime

If you have ever had the frustration of being on a campout or a survival situation, and you weren’t able to get a fire going, then this is for you.

I learned a long time ago that there is much more to building a proper fire than simply adding heat to fuel in the presence of oxygen. Even though all of those components are necessary, there is also a certain science that has to be followed in order to find an effective fuel. For those of you who have been there, you’ll know that fuel taken from the ground will not be suitable. Here’s why:

Just as heat is attracted to cold, (this is why the ground pulls the heat from your body when you lie on it), wet will go to dry. So whenever you have your fire fuel lying on the ground it is susceptible to getting moisture, especially since the low profile will prevent there being any circulation that could cause evaporation. So, that being said, here are three tips that will give you fire everytime:

  1. Find good tinder. Tinder is the stuff that will burn from a match. My favorite tinder is a bird’s nest. Now that being said, you shouldn’t be shaking baby birds out of their nest in order to build a fire, and you shouldn’t have to. There are plenty of empty abandoned nests out there.
  2. Find a good supply of wood. A good rule of thumb is to gather at least three times what you think you’ll need. I always look for a snarl of wood that has fallen from a tree during a past storm. I generally like to gather firewood that I can break to proper size because trying to cut or saw firewood in a survival situation is a waste of time.
  3. Build a teepee fire. This is an age old design that is tried and true. The concept is to use your smallest fuel, (your tender), as the nucleus, and then build your fire up in size from there.
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Military Surplus Survival: How to Pick the Very Best Gear

I recently read the news that an American Air Force base was flooded and nearly devastated in Nebraska. Fox News reports on March 20, 2019 that Offutt Airforce Base is under water to include offices, warehouses, and runways.

Who cares you might ask. Well, you should; especially if you are a purveyor of military surplus equipment. Because whenever military items become exposed to the elements like that, you guessed it, they immediately become surplus items. Nothin in the public domain gets thrown away regardless of what it’s been through. Which brings me to todays talking point, how to discern the good surplus from the bad.

Disasters like this should always be well researched and followed so that, if you are one to buy military surplus items, you can make sure that you aren’t getting damaged equipment. Most military surplus resellers are honest, hardworking people, but let’s face it, not all of them are well informed and quite often they won’t know the history of the surplus items that they buy in lots.

So therefore it is up to you to investigate when and where the natural disasters are happening, and then seek out that equipment that might have come from there. Last year for instance, the Carolinas were hit hard by Hurricane Florence and Parris Island as well as Camp Lejeune were both affected. So were the New River Air Force base and Camp Geiger. It stands to reason then that any surplus coming out of these areas for the next year or two would be deserving of special attention to ensure that no significant damage had been inflicted. A few questions to the reseller will  often answer any questions you might have, because even though the history of an item won’t be known, the location they were purchased from most certainly will.

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Spring adventures: dodging eagle babies and more

As spring finally emerges from the frosty swell of what turned out to be a harsh winter, there are some things you need to be cautious of as you meander out on your warm weather excursions.

Of course we all know to avoid the baby skunks as we go about taking photographs or looking for deer sheds or morel mushrooms, but did you know that you need to be cautious about baby eagles too?

Evidently, the young eagles will begin trying to fly before they are ready and many actually end up on the ground after having become emboldened, (by the very fact that they are eagles I suppose), to try their wings before they are ready, and tumbling to the ground.

And so it was in such a predicament that I found myself in one fine spring day when I was just a boy. I lived near a state park in Ohio and decided that I would  forgo the farm pond that I usually fished and meander the five miles or so to Acton Lake at the Hueston Woods State Park. This was a more worthy adventure for two reasons. One: it was a state lake and required a fishing license, which I didn’t have, so it gave an additional element of adventure to my nine year old mind, and two: it was well out of earshot of my dad who was notorious for ruining my fishing forays with his various fool notions, (moving hay from one barn to the other for instance).

So it was with light heart and heavy worm can that I headed across the McQuiston’s pasture and into the wilds of Hueston Woods. I was nearly to the horseman’s camp when I came across this sweet little bundle of grey fur that looked just adorable. His little long legs and oversize yellow beak were irresistible to me as I scooped him up as he attempted to scurry off. His cute little pecks against my wrist were almost comical and though I didn’t know right then what kind of bird he was, I knew that he was a raptor of some sort and my mind was immediately filled with thoughts of becoming a falconer, raising this young bird to be my constant wilderness companion. I envisioned having a T stand built for him to perch on in my room and could just taste the wide array of small game that me and Ziggy could attain.

My, but couldn’t he howl? I was very surprised that such a little guy could work up such a piercing screech, but was confident I could train him not to shriek so. It was then that all hell broke loose.

Apparently mommy eagles don’t abandon their young when they fall from the nest because the next thing I knew I was in the fight of my young life. Here’s another interesting note. Eagles attack in pairs. Did you know that? And they are tenacious as well, being willing to follow an adversary for several miles if the atrocity committed is serious enough.

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Lynwood Park Zoo: Local attraction near Camp LeJuene

I recently found myself driving the several hundred mile trip to Camp LeJuene North Carolina to spend four and one half hours of liberty with my Marine son who was at the New River Air Base attending MCT at Camp Geiger.

Though I knew I was only going to get a few short hours with the boy, I arrived a day early and brought my two best cameras with me so that I could get some photography opportunities if any were to present themselves.  It turns out that it rained the whole way down, (except for when it snowed), and I got very few good shots even though I had driven through the Cumberland Gap, Bean Station, Tennessee, and Moravian Falls.

All that changed once I arrived at Jackonsville, NC though. It was here, while I was awaiting the opportunity to check into my hotel for the night, that I did a quick google search for local attractions. The very first listed attraction near me was the Lynnwood Park Zoo located at 1071 Wells Rd. in Jacksonville, NC, (phone number is: 910-938-5848).

This is a cash only zoo, but the price of admission is only ten bucks, so I took a chance and went. Boy am I glad I did. Not only do they have a very nice selection of animal exhibits, (which are photograph friendly), but about halfway through the exhibit, two handlers are there to give you a personal encounter with many of the more exotic and personal animals. I was allowed to handle and experience a variety of snakes, a tortoise, a very soft chicken, a blue tongue skink, and Rufus the hairless rat. I had a blast and got lots of extraordinary photographs to boot.

I can’t recommend this little private zoo highly enough, and if you are going to Camp LeJuene anytime soon, or just want to visit the Carolinas on a military surplus tent adventure with the family this year, make sure you put Lynwood Park Zoo on your agenda. I assure you that you’ll be glad you did.

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4 military surplus items you can use every day

I am a connoisseur of all things military. I absolutely love to go to the military surplus store and buy any and everything I can get my grubs on; however, most of these things end up getting pushed into my shed or garage, and forgotten about.

Now I’m not talking about the bug things, like my military surplus tent, or the humvee that was sold because it didn’t meet military standards anymore. Those of course have their uses, but today I want to talk specifically about those pieces of military surplus that you can and should use every single day.

Here are four specific items, (and where to get them), that I use every single day.

  1. A military surplus web belt. The good news is that khaki goes with everything. And if you are at all like me, then you need to wear a belt everywhere you go regardless of whether you are in BDUs or not. (If for no other reason than to anchor your inside the pants holster appropriately).
  2. A military surplus backpack with frame. I love MOLLE gear. You can do anything you want with that stuff, and I use my pack in place of luggage and a purse. Not that I ever carried a purse, but the concept is sound.
  3. A camelbak hydration pack. In case you haven’t noticed, you have a tendency to drink water everyday. And the beauty of one of these packs is that you can mix your tea, or add a squirt of MIO to your water in this pack and have it with you wherever you go. No need to use the cupholder in your car, etc…
  4. GI combat harness. I’m a photographer and a survivalist. I always have the need to have a piece of equipment handy in order to perform whatever function is at hand.
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Traveling in the snow: 3 must have tips for driving in the snow

If you live anywhere above the Mason-Dixon Line, or are traveling there for any reason then chances are you are finding it necessary to navigate in the snow. Previously we discussed how to survive if you inadvertently leave the road and find yourself stranded in icy conditions, But in this section I would like to discuss some measures that you can take to ensure that you don’t even go there in the first place. Basically we’re going to discuss how to drive in the snow and on icy roads.

I generally make it a point to own either a four wheel drive vehicle or an all wheel drive vehicle, just because basic physics tell us that it is easier for a vehicle to operate on volatile surfaces if the co-efficient of friction is uniform in at least four points of contact, providing those points of contact are each bearing equal and significant sums of the total weight of the vehicle… In layman’s terms, the car will drive better if all four wheels are pulling and pushing in tandem.

However, you can get by with two wheel drive vehicles in snowy conditions as well. I spent one harsh winter driving a 1992 Ford Mustang 4.0 Fox body sedan in the snow for example. There are simply three rules you must follow to get the best performance from your car in the snow:

  1. Use your momentum. Quite often snowy roads aren’t uniform in their obstruction. If you take for example, the photo I include here you will see that there are both patches of ice and patches of asphalt. You want to use momentum to get you over the patches of snow, and torsion to get you through the patches of asphalt. In other words gun it when your drive wheels are on the pavement and let it ride over the snow.
  2. Use your engine as a brake. How many times have you ever been on an icy road and applied your brakes, only to have the car move faster and stop steering? This is because once the wheels stop moving you are in a different plane of motion and this is how most people end up in the ditch… foot pushed firmly on the brake and wheel turned uselessly to either side. A better option is to shift your car into 1st gear when you have to go down a steep icy hill. Then, let it creep, allowing the engine to control how fast the wheel can spin instead of the brake shoe. This will allow you to still be able to turn the wheel effectively. If it is super slick put it in reverse and then you can use the gas pedal to slow your descent as well.
  3. Take it slow, but keep moving. Whenever you get in trouble, your first reaction is to want to stop; however, that’s not always your best option when driving in snow and on ice. If you’re moving just keep moving.
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Winter Survival: 3 tips that could save your life

We have recently gotten hit with one of the harshest winter storms that I can remember. I was eight years old during the blizzard of 1978, and this past week I was having flashbacks to then as I tried to drive a stranded motorist home in a complete white out. I was forced to turn around and go back, but it occurred to me how easily I could end up in a snowbank with the responsibility of keeping my very civilized, non-survivalist passenger in tow who only had a very thin windbreaker on and thin pants with no thermal undergarments to speak of. The temperature was around 12 without taking into account the wind chill factor. So here’s the question, what would he have done if we ended in the ditch? No problem, right? You just keep the car running until you’re rescued, right? Well, maybe; but, what do you do if you get snowed in beyond the time that it is going to take to get rescued? The vehicle is your best bet, as it is certainly shelter, but there are three things you can do to better your odds of riding the storm out in the event that you have nothing but the thin clothes on your back and you’re snowbound in your car.

  1. Consider the sacred order of survival. Specifically you need: shelter, water, fire, and food in that order. Shelter you have in the form of the vehicle, and water is plentiful in the form of snow. However, you must realize that you have to melt the snow to drink it, don’t just eat the snow because you are lowering your internal temperature when you do. As a matter of fact you should drink your pee immediately in a situation like this, simply because it is already 98 degrees and you don’t have to waste energy having your body reheat it.
  2.  Use the insulation at hand. Never forget that your car seats are made out of great insulating foam. Don’t be afraid to cut this out and line your clothing with it, creating dead air space between your skin and your clothing will keep you warmer as your body heats that dead air that is trapped.
  3. Keep the door closed. Your shelter is only going to have one source of heat when the engine runs out of gas… you. Keep your body heat inside as much as possible and if worse comes to worse then consider making a nest in the snow and trying to build a fire in it from flammable parts of your car for warmth. However, never burn what can be used as personal insulation, and make sure any smoke you create has an escape vent so you don’t breathe toxic fumes.
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