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Finding the beauty: Tactics for Retaining Your Sanity in a Survival Situation

It had been a hard trip. I had started out three days prior, camping out along the paint creek area of southern Ohio, and had made my way through the landscape, ending up at a small tributary called Big Cave Run on the old map I had found at the local courthouse. It was an old property, (at least six thousand years old Biblically)… theoretically. Historically, the property had been documented by a governing source for over two hundred years. I had started out my survival trip with only the clothes on my back. I had made some slate knives on paint creek with the help of a huge block of sandstone that I happened to find sitting at the water’s edge. The wear marks on it told me that it had been a favorite place of others before me to sit and make tools as well.

The rain fell in a persistent patter. Not quite enough to send me to shelter, it was a warm early June, but just enough to keep the blackflies and mosquitos away, and to keep me soaked to the skin. By the time I had travelled the three mile distance to Big Cave Run, I had two knives, some cordage, a fish spear, and a trouser pocket full of frogs legs from the night before. I hadn’t been able to cook them because I couldn’t get a fire going to save me. And it was on Big Cave Run that I finally built a debris hut just so I could work out a fire kit. That night the rain finally stopped and I ate froglegs around a snapping fire while the spirit of an old indian kept me company. I left when he told me in the gathering darkness that this was no place for the living to have to be alone with the dead.

I left for him the spear and two knives to do with as he wished and I walked out of the creek bottoms and back to my car… travelling east.

This  trip lasted only three days, but in that three days I learned a valuable lesson on survival. That is to keep yourself involved in things beyond the plight at hand. The experience is so much more than where you will get your next drink of water or where you might sleep that night. Beyond the basic necessities of shelter, water, fire, and food, the most trouble you will have in a survival situation is keeping your mind occupied. Let it wander and entertain itself. At least that has always worked well for me.

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Survival essentials: 3 reasons to keep a Case Trapper with you… no matter what

I have been a survivor all of my life, but I became a survivalist in 1987 when I took the Standard Course with the Old Tracker himself, Tom Brown Jr.

One of the things I had learned long before ever taking my first survival course was the importance of having a knife in your pocket. I grew up on a horse farm that also had a working herd of black angus cattle. My father, an old time cowboy, used to carry a pearl handled Solingen Cutlery stockman’s knife in his front right pocket which he used for everything from farm/ranch work, to entertainment. He even had one of the four blades on his full size stockman reserved for eating. He called it his apple blade. It didn’t escape my attention that the “apple blade” was also the preferred utility for cleaning the grit from under his fingernails when sitting around the stables at night after working horses.

We all know how important it is to have a good survival knife in your kit when on an expedition. However, you need to ask yourself how often the likelihood might arise for you to be thrown into an unforeseen circumstance where you won’t have time or opportunity to grab a kit bag, but will be forced to go with just what you have in your pocket. That’s why I always carry a Case™  brand trapper pocket knife. There are many companies that make these knives, however, few companies make them as well as Case™ does. Here are three reasons to keep a Case™ trapper in your pockets at all times.

  1. It has two blades. One is known as a clip point utility blade which comes in handy whenever you come across something that needs stabbed through… your belt for instance, if you lose weight and it needs to be tightened by making new holes. And lastly, the “spey” blade, which gained it’s name from the design which works perfectly for castrating livestock. It is also good for skinning by not having a sharp point that will slit your hide as you are skinning your game.
  2. It is well crafted. You might find other trapper style knives, but you won’t find one that is as well made as the Case™ brand. It is made to last and will hod up to the hardest abuse. There’s a reason you don’t find any cheap used ones on eBay.
  3. It has a lifetime warranty. If you manage to break this thing through normal use, you can get it replaced at no charge. Yet another reason you don’t find cheap used ones anywhere.
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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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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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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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Sportsman’s ambiance: 3 must do steps for getting a hornet’s nest for your den

 

If you are a hunter, outdoorsman, sportsman, or even a survivalist or a prepper then it is most likely that you have a man cave somewhere. One of the aspects of having a man cave is having manly, out-doorsie things hanging up in it. An old snowshoe for instance, or a wretched old Coleman lantern. Anything that will put you in mind of an old Jack London style trapper cabin located on the tundra in the wilds of Alaska.

One of my favorite wall hangings is a deserted, (and completely vacated), hornet’s nest. The good news is that a hornet’s nest is not hard to find; the bad news? It’s difficult to vacate. The other good news is that nature and the changing environments will help you to get that perfect decoration.

Typically a bald-faced hornet’s nest is usually the size of a football or sometimes a basketball. They can, however, get much larger than that and of course you can find them much smaller as well. This nest is usually built over a period of half a year and is always started by the queen who emerges from hibernation in the spring and gets the business started by chewing wood pulp into paper, making brood cells and laying eggs in each cell. The workers are then hatched and take over the menial tasks while she lays eggs over the summer creating an army of workers which build and inhabit the nest.

Winter drives the queen back into hibernation while the workers all freeze to death until the next spring when the process starts all over again.

The nest that is left will never be inhabited by bald-faced hornets again!

Here are three things you must do to ensure you don’t have any hornets left in your nest before you take it into your man cave:

  1. Gather it in the winter. And if you have spotted a likely hornet’s nest, make sure that you gather it after the very coldest part of the winter. These workers have to get very cold to die and even then if they are still around they can be revived by warmth. Don’t be afraid to inspect the nest very closely before you take it inside.
  2. Smoke it. In the old days, people would get a smoky smoldering ember and let the smoke permeate the nest to ensure that the inhabitants had vacated it completely.
  3. Seal it. My favorite answer to this quandary is to seal the nest in shellac and make sure that whatever is in there will stay in there, and it will also make it a bit more durable to be used as a wall hanging. It is made out of rustic papers after all.
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Junk food survival: 3 reasons you need to include corn chips in your bugout bag

By: Mr X, Survivalist

 

I have been assailed lately by health food nuts. My wife, for instance, has gotten onto this grassfed beef movement. Well, that’s all well and good, and the fact of the matter is that I can see the intelligence in eating food that has been prepared in accordance with the plan of the One who created it; however, that doesn’t mean that the schemes of man can’t sometimes be beneficial, especially in a survival situation.

And so, it is this humble survivalist’s opinion that you should take the time to throw a couple of bags of corn or potato chips into your bug out bag, because they actually come in quit handy for certain situations. Here are three prime examples of times when you will be glad you have them and some practical uses that you can put them to. Not to mention that they are cheap and easy to come by, at least in this day and time.

Prepared chips are highly caloric and high in carbs.

If just taken at face value, and used for nothing more than a prepared and individually packaged food  source, these small bags of chips are excellent for short term survival needs. They are salty and filling  and will give a much needed burst of energy and warmth by their very nature.

They are salty.

Not only is that salt beneficial to you, but it is also attractive to other creatures of the wilderness and    is therefore beneficial for use as bait. This has been one of the most confounding aspects of survival that I have experienced whenever I have tried to lure game into a trap or ambush area, finding a bait source that would attract them that wasn’t available somewhere else.

They are highly flammable.

In a survival situation, this is much more exciting than it might seem right now, especially if you are caught in a rainy or foggy environment. They are also waterproof while they are sealed in their bag; however, I would recommend that you open them under cover if you plan to use them as a fuel source for a fire.

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Kayaking 202 (C): 3 things I have learned the hard way

Ok, so this wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it was going to be. To be honest, though I am in very good shape, I am in terrible shape for kayaking and I much underestimated the flexor muscles necessary to keep this tippy thing above water. Therefore, today I am sore and, (I know from experience), tomorrow I will be REAL SORE! That is okay though because I really learned a lot from this endeavor.  And I really had a good time. Despite living a life fraught with danger and adventure, I have never been kayaking before. I have spent hours and hours canoeing but the two aren’t really alike.

Kayaking for the purpose of photography, too, added a dynamic to this experience that makes it like no other endeavor, and since the purpose of this writing is to give advice on kayaking for photography, here is what I have learned from my first try.

  1. Use that launch at the marina. I took the path of naturalism for my first trip and I found out that the path of naturalism involves two things: water and filth. There’s nothing like flinging wet lake scum across your camera lens while flipping your legs into a kayak from the water’s edge that will make you squirm and squeal maniacally. Although it’s doable in a pinch, there is a very convenient launch at the marina that offers you the opportunity to insert and extract easily with very little water and no lake scum involved.
  2. Lose that tripod! Though it seemed like a good idea at the time, I am better off using a handheld camera because the kayak is in constant motion. Just… no! put the camera around your neck and shoot by hand. You can keep the tripod with you for the chance that you might pull up to shore and get a shot from the land, or from a submerged log.
  3. Use your rivets. Remember the nifty watertight containers that I gorilla glued to the kayak? Well, it doesn’t hold. So there is a reason that most things end up getting pop riveted for marine purposes.

In our next installation we will look at some of the improvements I’ll make to the improvements I made initially and we’ll give her another try… stay tuned.

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Kayaking 101: 2 things you must do before you get started

 

 

 

A Sony a100 DSLR camera equipped with a Minolta 100-300mm

I have recently grown weary of walking the same old trails and driving the same old access roads looking for fresh game and new scenery for my photography.

My wife suggested that I take up kayaking in order to get to areas of a local state park that are inaccessible in any other way. Eagles for instance, are nesting on the far side of the lake and if I use digital zoom, my expensive Panasonic FZ-80 will zoom right over there so that I can just make them out, sitting in their trees and cavorting amongst themselves. Below them I can usually find where the Great Blue Herons are raising their elegant younglings, gracefully teaching them to fish among the cattails.  And so, I began the endeavor to find my path towards becoming a water borne photographer, and it was then that I discovered that I need to do two things in order to get started. Here they are:

  1. Consider costs and find the best deal out there. Now, I don’t mean just finding the best deal on a kayak, although I do mean that as well, but consider what kind of risk you will be putting your equipment through before you get started.  I have several expensive cameras and lenses. The first thing I did was go to my agent and add some extra insurance to my equipment. I also got online and looked for some inexpensive but useful alternatives to taking my best stuff out there. I found a Sony a100 on a popular repurposing site online for $37. It’s only 10mp, but it takes legacy Minolta lenses which are extremely cheap but very sharp.  I also found a Canon SX20 IS which is only 12mp but which has a 500mm focal length, ($24, same site). Both cameras work wonderfully and if they fall into the drink, I’ll be disappointed but I won’t sob uncontrollably for several days.
  2. Learn your equipment. Go to the local university and find out where the outdoor pursuit center, and get some safety training. The last thing you should want to do is get drowned while trying to get a couple of photographs. In upcoming posts, I will take you through the process of acquiring kayaks and equipment requirements to start using them for photography expeditions… stay tuned!
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