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Running missions: 3 reasons you should keep an item of faith with you

If you are the type of rugged individual who enjoys the use of military surplus tents and equipment, (and it’s obvious you are or you likely wouldn’t be reading this), then you know what it’s like to run a mission.

And since the last installment was about the legendary Case™ trapper style pocket knife, I wanted to play off of that line of thought this week and talk about my personal Case™ trapper and explain why it has significance and what three very important reasons are that I carry this particular knife.  My particular Case™ knife has an excerpt from The Lord’s Prayer engraved on it’s white bone handle. This knife goes in my pocket everywhere I go and there is a distinct reason I carry this knife.

For those of you who were Ernest Hemingway fans, perhaps you will remember that he always had a good luck piece on him. Now, in his case the lucky piece changed regularly because he was prone to losing them. I personally don’t carry mine for good luck. I don’t believe in luck for one thing. I’m a man of faith who believes in the God of the Bible, and I carry mine instead as a connection between me and my Maker. Here are three reasons why I carry the blade I do, and why you should keep an item of faith on you as well.

  1. It gives me courage. If you believe in God, then you know that he is an ever-present help in times of danger. I have seen many people draw bravery from religious artifacts over the years, everything from Stars of David to St. Michael medals.
  2. It keeps me focused. When things are spinning fast and I feel like my mind is going ten thousand different directions a second, a brief pat of my palm on my left trouser pocket brings a feel of that familiar bundle that connects me to the Lord. That touch is often enough to get me focused.
  3. With it I’m always armed. I used to work in a maximum security prison, and I’ve seen dudes get killed with soup spoons sharpened on a concrete window sill. I know how much damage I can do with a knife of that caliber.
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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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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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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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There was blood in the leaves: lessons in tracking wounded game

It was a typical Saturday afternoon when I looked up from where I was working on the tractor tire to see Carl, dressed all in camouflage, come in to my shed with a serious look on his face.

“I need your help” he said seriously as he pulled a bloody shred of something out of his coveralls pocket and thrust it in my general direction meaningfully.

I took the tidbit trepidatiously and saw that it was two strands of bloody fat, each about three inches long… very strange item to have in one’s pockets.

I noticed that Carl was now looking at me hopefully, which was a welcome relief from all of the meaningful seriousness that I had been confronted with earlier.

“Well, what do you need?” I asked handing him back his fat.

“I need you to help me track this deer!” he exclaimed as if I were simple.

“What deer?” I asked…

Well, Carl had shot this huge buck, he said, and had found lots of blood and these two strands of fat. He had followed the blood for a distance of maybe a quarter of a mile and it had diminished and finally petered out. He had fallen asleep in his blind and had awoken to find this deer standing about twenty yards away and with it’s rear end towards him looking towards some does standing on a distant hillside. He had taken a quick shot with a Barrett crossbow equipped with carbon fiber bolts and Zwickey broad-heads. The fat told me the story. It was fall and the fields were ripe with corn and beans. The fat was rib fat, (I knew this from having butchered several hundred deer over the years). The reason the blood trail stopped was because the superficial wound had dried up… I wasn’t about to track that deer until he died of old age!

I only tell this story to introduce you to an aspect of hunting that is very important to any sportsman, hunter, survivalist, or prepper; that of reading sign. And in this instance, reading sign left by wounded game. So over the next several entries, let’s discuss tracking methods that will help you find the game you have lethally wounded, and disregard those you have merely inconvenienced… stay tuned.

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Playing with baby skunks, (and dealing with the aftermath)

If you have never had the pleasure of holding or playing with a tiny baby skunk, then my heart goes out to you because you have really missed out on something. This is because skunks are adorable, especially baby ones.

I remember seeing a group of baby skunks once on the college campus I was working on with my old buddy Jaybird Young.

“I’d love to hold one of those” I gushed as the little line of furballs marched past, following their seemingly serious-minded mom.

Jaybird thought quietly for a moment, one hand resting on his chin as he contemplated. “You know”, he finally replied, “they can’t spray when they’re young like that I’ve heard”.

“You sure?” I asked suspiciously, “I never heard that before.”

“Positive!” he said.

That was the day that I discovered Jaybird Young to be a liar and a fool; or maybe I was the fool. In any event, one thing you need to know is that little skunks can spray just as well as big skunks can. And let me tell you that there is a reason that skunks only have one natural predator known of, (great horned owls), can you guess why?

Here’s a little biological information regarding skunks. First of all, the chemical that they secrete to make that smell is called mercaptons and they are the same exact substances that are found in tubers such as wild onion and garlic. This is why sometimes the aroma given off from a skunk spray is often enticing in a strange way, and sweet smelling. That is, when they are experienced from a distance, the experience is quite different when experienced up close.

If your experience with baby skunks somehow goes south, here’s a no nonsense recipe for knocking the edge off of the assaultive odor, (there is no “cure” and I really can’t be bothered with that “tomato juice” nonsense). Here’s the winning recipe:

Measure out 1/4 cup of baking soda and mix it thoroughly with about a quart of hydrogen peroxide. Add a couple of tablespoons of your favorite smelling dishsoap, (preferably something that goes well with garlic). And then wash well the contaminated areas.

 

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USMC: 7 new boots that are on the list

Do you remember the good old days when you were issued one pair of uniform boots of the same exact style as everyone else in your branch of the service? Well, those days are over, at least as far as it goes for the United States Marine Corps. In a recent article written for Military.com, the Marine Corps has, in an effort to continually improve the equipment and clothing of the branch, approved 7 new brands of combat service boots. “”

According to the article, “Marines can now choose from 16 different combat, rugged all-terrain or optional boots. The list of approved styles was released in a service-wide administrative message last week, which was signed by Lt. Gen. David Berger, the head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.”.

The article, written by journalist Gina Hawkins goes on to give a brief description of the merits of the new approved footwear, as well as a detailed listing of them and their manufacturer.
“These are the boots that were added to the list of officially approved footwear:

Combat:

  • Bates style No. E30502 (hot weather)

RAT:

  • Bates style No. 29502 (hot weather)
  • Wellco style No. E114 (temperate weather)

Optional:

  • Danner Reckoning boot style No. 53221
  • Bates lightweight style No. E50501 for men and E57501 for women
  • Danner’s Marine Expeditionary Boot style No. 53111 (temperate weather)
  • Danner’s MEB style No. 53110 (hot weather)

The Marine Corps first authorized Danner’s Reckoning hot-weather boot last year. Even though it wasn’t formally publicized, word spread quickly when the service started selling the boots in the exchanges, Hamby said.

The last time the list of authorized boots had been formally updated was in March 2016″.
What this means for the civilian military surplus community is that these same boots will at some point in time be made available as surplus. Because, even though the individual soldier will often purchase the footwear of his or her choice directly from the manufacturer, the military will still buy mass quanities of same for research, testing, deployment, etc…

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Military surplus camouflage: Flecktarn vs Digital

Flecktarn is a term derived from two German words, Fleck and Tarnung, which mean speckled and camouflaged respectively. This pattern was developed by German engineers in the 1970’s and replaced the more floral pattern of Germany that was popular during WWII.

What’s interesting is the comparison of modern American military digital camouflage, adopted in 1992, to its European counterpart.

There are as many styles of camouflage as there are tastes in women. And the fact of the matter is that each one has its own use and advantages, depending on the environment and situation that one finds oneself in. Some of the styles of military grade camouflage are as follows:

  1. Brushstroke. Developed by British during WWII using large brushes to paint different swaths of colour over their khakis before jumping into enemy territory.
  2. Tigerstripe. Very similar to brushstroke and popularized in the jungle warfare experienced in Vietnam, these cammies were highly sought after but rare, being used mostly by elite special forces and supply clerks.
  3. Duck Hunter. Used mainly by US Marines fighting the Japanese in the Pacific Theatre of WWII. This style became popular amongst American outdoorsman and was prolific in early department megastores like K-mart.
  4. Engineer Research and Development Lab, (ERDL). This pattern was much like the Duck Hunter pattern in the fact that it was popular with hunters.
  5. Woodland Camo. This was by the far the most popular of all of the camouflage patterns, at least until the early 2000s when the digital camouflage came on the scene.

The end result of all of this has culminated in the modern American digital camouflage. The United States Marine Corps was the first military branch to adopt the micro-pattern camouflage, finding that the small dot pattern was more inherent to camouflaging than any of the larger pattern, blob style patterns.

And in the end, even though the German style of Flecktarn is stylish, sporty,  and sustainable, it is not as effective at hiding you in the bushes as is the American digital pattern.

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