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Woodland finds: 3 Reasons you should never leave feathers in the wilds

I was recently walking through the woodlot that my wife and I have acquired for a little getaway hunting spot when I spotted a pristine turkey feather lying in the underbrush, and immediately to the left of it a second one. I immediately grabbed both of them up and took them to my car to keep for later use.

I consider things like this to be a gift.  And, I make no bones about my belief that this gift is from a Creator God who loves me and provides for me. “What kind of a gift is two feathers from God?” you might ask.  Well, I would counter by asking what makes a Godly gift valuable? Is it the amount of money that another man would give you for it, or is it rather more valuable simply because God gave it to you? I’ll go with the latter.

In any event, I never walk by several things in the wilderness. I never walk by a good piece of flint, I never walk past an empty birds nest, and I never walk by a feather of any sort.

There are many reasons to acquire feathers for survival situations, and the need and use of them goes well beyond  simple survival. Writing utensils for instance. Quill pens were in use by early Americans for centuries before the common writing utensils were invented, and if times get hard again, I can see them becoming fashionable again. Ink isn’t hard to make either, a very simple ink can be crafted from lamp black, egg yolk, gum arabic, and honey. (Inmates make tattoo ink in prison by burning petroleum jelly in the bottom of their footlocker and letting the soot collect on the top of of the lid from the smoke as it burns).

Here are three uses for feathers in a survival situation:

  1. Camouflage.  Native Americans didn’t just wear feathers as a status symbol. They offer a practical use as well. Much like a multicolored, three dimensional ghillie suits offer superior camouflage capabilities, so too does the advent of nature’s camouflage to your kit and apparel.
  2. Fletching. It goes without saying that adding fletching to your arrows or atl atl bolts will increase accuracy over distance. Never let an opportunity to save feathers go so that you can maintain a quiver full of arrows if needed.
  3. Fluff. Never forget the need for insulation in a wilderness survival situation, and never pass up the opportunity to gather some of nature’s best insulation.

 

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Photography in National Parks: 3 Things You Must Know

I recently cam across some footage of a woman with her cellphone out frolicking with three bears in Yellowstone National Park. She seemed to be having the time of her life, obviously living out her childhood fantasies of being Goldilocks and capturing the magical moment on her iPhone 12. It was magical, it seemed, until the 1500 pound bear charged her aggressively. She then beat a hasty retreat back to her car and seemed less enthralled with the local wildlife. She became even less so when she was charged criminally, given a hefty fine, and convicted of tampering with wildlife.

This brings up a good lesson that all photographers must learn before embarking on the foray of a lifetime trying to capture that stillshot that will make you NatGeo famous. Most of us who are interested in photography and wilderness exploration will remember Timothy Treadwell, the self proclaim bear enthusiast who, along with his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, was eaten by a bear that he underestimated. That being said, here are three things you should always do when documenting wildlife

  1. Learn the local laws regarding animal interaction. In Ohio, for instance, you are not permitted to spotlight deer at night. I once knew a police officer who was stopped and detained by a local game warden when he was observed using the spotlight on his patrol car, while on duty, to illuminate deer at night. He wasn’t shooting them or attempting to shoot them. He was merely looking at them. National parks have similar laws in place that are meant to protect the visitors and the local wildlife. Make sure you research these before you get the trouble associated with violating federally protected wildlife, it can be long reaching.
  2. Protect yourself while shooting. I can’t stress enough the importance of having the weaponry at your disposal that might be needed to save your life in a dangerous animal encounter. Remember the Timothy Treadwell incident. It went on for three minutes and involved two people. An adequate firearm could have saved the day for the unfortunate pair of conservationists. Even ber spray might have made a difference.
  3. Maintain your distance. No matter what, wild animals are all survivalists and they are dangerous. The best way to stay safe and be effective at the same time is to buy the proper equipment and stay as far away from them as possible. If you can’t afford a 600mm – 1000mm lens, consider renting one or investing in less expensive bridge camera options; some of which can easily reach 1200mm focal length and beyond.
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Hunting Idaho’s National Parks: 3 Thing You Must do to Prepare

It has recently been noted that the world class elk taken by city dwellers,  and would be preppers and survivalists, in Idaho’s national parks, are a thing of the past. Those campsites which used to house truck campers, hobo camps, and military surplus tent enthusiasts are laying empty, windswept, and weedy.

Those trophy bulls, writes Andrew McKean for Outdoor Life™, can now only be found in private properties with river bottom hayfields that will accommodate these majestic animals under the guns of these independent ranchers. The problem, writes McKean, is wolves.

Wolves have been protected, and to many notions, over protected, for the last several decades in national parks. And it is because of these protections that much of the game has been driven from the parks to adjoining areas where private livestock, and property owner rights, make it safer for a herd animals to migrate hither and yon for breeding and grazing purposes.

None of this really affects me as a wildlife photographer per se. I would rather hunt wolves any day as opposed to elk, bear, deer, or bison. What gathers my attention the most is the reference to those empty camp sites and abandoned stands.

A wildlife photographer’s best friend is said to be “down yonder”. In my experience, my favorite people are those found to be “Way Down Yonder”. I absolutely abhor company and love solitude. So it is definitely in my sphere of contemplation for the winter season, to haul my camper out to Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho’s Panhandle National Forest, up near Packsaddle Mountain, and see what kind of lupine footage I can find. Here, in retrospect, are three strategies for a successful hunt in Idaho.

  1. Consider your purpose and make adjustments as needed. Why do you hunt? That is a question I asked myself once while covered in doe blood, my hands greasy with winter fat from a deer I had just ended the existence of. Did I need the meat? No, we had a beef ranch at the time and had several fields full of angus to eat, money in the bank, plenty of food to be had from several different resources. I came to the conclusion that I enjoyed the competition of hunting. So I exchanged a gun for a camera.
  2. Make sure you are well prepared. When I go camping these days, I use a pull behind fiberglass trailer that runs heat and air conditioning from a dual fuel generator that will fire up from propane gas or electricity. Above and beyond that I have two solar generators that will mount on the roof of my camper to run heaters for emergency purposes. I also keep twenty plus gallons of potable water in the storage unit of my trailer.
  3. Be well armed. I cannot stress this enough. In this day and time you should not only want to be armed for dangerous animals, but for dangerous people as well. Generally my photography kit includes a Glock 17 with three 17 round magazines, (on my waist), a KelTec Sub2000, (fitted for Glock 17 mags and folded into a backpack with a bug-out bag holding five 17 round magazines), and a Smith and Wesson Model 629 Mountain gun holstered on my load bearing vest with molle straps.
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Getting Back to Basics: 3 Things You Must Do in a Post Covid World

Whether you’ve noticed or not, ever since this Covid pandemic, people haven’t been congregating to the level that they used to.  I, personally, am fine with that. I’ve never been a crowd loving kind of guy. And the fact of the matter is that it seems as if this level of isolation might very well become normative in our society.  As we reconnoiter from the effects of this first wave of Covid, it seems possible that we as a race might have to face many more variants of it or other viruses.

So, that being said, here are three things that you must do to get ready for the future, at least in regards to the entrainment industry.

  1. Go camping. While a well loved and basically traditional endeavor, camping also is a skill that can become centered around survival. One of the things I have done over the years is to slowly take some of t he modern conveniences out of my camping trip and substitute something rustic in it’s place.
  2. Go fishing. While an excellent form off relaxation, fishing also benefits from a survival standpoint. Good fishing skills can be replicated in a survival situation with nothing more than raw materials found in the wilderness. So go fishing at every opportunity and take your skills in fishing to the next level.
  3. Learn storytelling. In the old days, storytelling was the national pastime. Way before movies or books, humans were meeting around their campfires and keeping accounts  of their exploits in the form of the oral story.  It is just recently that the digital age has made storytelling obsolete. In this post pandemic world, s we get moved back into our clan mentality and away from the globalistic viewpoint, we will find the need to talk to each other again.  For me it will be a welcome change of pace.
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Ernest Hemingway: 3 Reasons That You Must Watch This New Documentary

If you are an outdoor enthusiast and sportsman, then there is a new documentary out there that you absolutely must see. This documentary is just released on Monday April 5, 2021 and is available at no cost through the PBS channel.

I have always been a huge fan of Ernest Hemingway. His minimalist style of writing and life experience were second to none.  He was definitely a man’s man, and and any serious look into his life will illustrate that. He was the epitome of a survivalist and made do in war torn Europe and Spain on many occasions; he thrived with little of nothing or with great affluence the same. One of my favorite stories of Hemingway involved his life in Paris as a starving writer trying to learn the craft:

His first child, Bumby, would accompany him on walks to the park where, with old bread purloined from the dumpster of the bakery near his flat, pigeons would be enticed to come to the baby’s stroller. Here, the illustrious old man would snatch and wring them and then  stuff the still warm and feathery body into the folds of the baby’s blanket until there were enough in hand, (or swaddle as the case may be), to proffer a full meal of squab for the family for the evening.   It can be surmised that it was said; at one time,  by the locals, that Hemingway was an learned and dedicated ornithologist of the first order… though his genus of regard lacked any form of particularity

It is for these following reasons that you must watch this most informed and inclusive of documentaries:

  1. Hemingway was a hunter and an avid outdoorsman. His hunting writing gets so in-depth that some people have learned how to wing shoot simply from reading his narrative on the technique involved.
  2. Hemingway was a warrior and a poet. And though this cliché is quite common in  todays literary world, this is exactly the case in regards to Ernest Hemingway.
  3. Hemingway was a purveyor and user of military surplus equipment. Whether he was fishing in Michigan, hunting in Idaho, or on safari in Africa, Ernest Hemingway was a prolific user of military surplus tools and equipment. He stayed in military surplus tents, slept in old army cots, and even hunted big game with military surplus weapons. This expose and documentary are both enlightening and conducive to having a fire lit in your belly regarding the understanding of the impact of the written word. The air of nostalgia that surrounded Hemingway is eloquently captured here. Ken Burns, along with Lynn Novick, were able to show you the man without telling you how to take or partake of him; and they did it in an Ernest way.
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Uncle John’s Truck: The Final Chapter

…As cliché as it sounds, the drive up into mountains was like a dream. I sipped hot coffee from one of my dad’s Stanley  thermoses as I huddled comfortably in the drivers seat in a fleece lined, camouflage, hooded sweatshirt my mom had bought me at the local hardware store on clearance.

Life was good right then and right there; I felt young and old, independent and vulnerable, lonesome and fulfilled. This was the closest thing to a grand adventure that I had experienced up to that time. The Pirelli tires I had recently purchased for Uncle John’s truck chewed the gravel of the country road that led to my mom’s new woodlot.

It was still dark when I got to deer camp, (I had basically left the night before and drove all night). And I grabbed some sleep nestled in the warm front seat of the truck. I woke up from my snooze well after dawn and immediately set up my camp. I backed the truck down to  the little creek that meandered through the property and pitched grandpa’s old Army tent about 10 yards away from the bank. I chose to have it facing the creek so that I could sit in the front of the tent at night and look out over the glistening rocks and rippling flow of water as I drank camp coffee in the moonlight. I was going to be here a week by myself and had three deer tags to fill.

It was a little past noon when I had finally set up the tent and had cut enough fire wood to last me the day. I was hungry, so decided to make some oatmeal in my cookpot and sprinkled some brown sugar and almonds into it as I sat back in my camp chair and enjoyed the semi-warm weather. In a few minutes I planned to go find a likely spot to set up my tree stand and to throw a bag of apples and turnips out around it. As I was blowing on the steaming thick mass of chewy goodness I heard splashing.

I turned to see a good buck crossing the creek. He was about an eight point, not too big and young; maybe a three year old. His nose was to the ground like he was trailing a doe but he was in the water. He stopped and looked directly at me and huffed. I think he was commenting on the smell of my oatmeal. He didn’t seem overly impressed in any way. “it’s going to be a good hunt”, I thought as he meandered on down the creek line, leaving me to my oatmeal.

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Uncle John’s Truck: The, (next to), Final Chapter

That Fall arrived subtly, it was a very smooth transition and arrived more from the acknowledgement of the date on the calendar than it did from an awareness of the change of season. It had been a fairly mild winter, not too sunny and mostly rain for some reason. This had made it pretty insignificant in regards to the various sportsman adventures that I was used to having. Political unrest in the venue my dad worked at kept him pretty busy and he didn’t have much time to run to our fishing hole, even on the days that were nice and sunny.

And so I went about my routine, I was working at McDonald’s still even though I had finished my training. I was volunteering at two different fire departments, and since that was my passion, I focused my energy there. But with the advent of deer season coming into the scene, I suddenly started getting buck fever.

Over the summer my grandpa had died and he had left my mom some acreage in the woods of hilly eastern Ohio. It was a long way from where we live, but it was definitely teeming with wildlife and I decided that I was going to have a deer hunt there to enjoy my first deer camp as a full grown man, (I had just recently turned 18), and would be eligible to finally hunt without adult supervision. I also wanted to test myself as I had never been in any sort of survival or wilderness situation without the supervision of my dad or older brother.

I took advantage of the local Black Friday Sales to purchase a deer stand and a really good sleeping bag. My dad offered up grandpas old military surplus army tent for me to use since work wasn’t going to be able to let him go to the regular deer camp we usually pitched that year…

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Uncle John’s Truck: A Story of Coming to Manhood in Rural America (part 5)

… I can’t really describe the taste of those fresh fish fillets fried over a hot little fire on the river bank. I was by myself which wasn’t really what I preferred, (my dad had other obligations over the weekend), but even so, as I settled into the little bedroll I had pitched in the bed of Uncle John’s truck and I listened to the screech owls scream at each other in the creek bottoms, I couldn’t really imagine that life could get much better.

I was wrong about that.

It was a few weekends later that my church youth group announced that there would be a creek run and that we would be participating. For those of you who are uneducated, a creek run consists of gathering any and everything that will support your weight through buoyancy, and floating it down the river. While you’re doing this you will be laughing, splashing, fishing, and trying your best to drown yourself and all your friends. It was a really great time, and unlike in the past, where I would have had to ask my dad to strap the two kayaks to his Subaru and take me to the drop off, this time I was able to throw both kayaks in the back of Uncle John’s truck and head out by myself. I also invited along the particular object of my affections at the time. Unfortunately for me I hadn’t bothered to tie my swim trunks particularly tight, and while I was showing off at some point they came of and got swept away in the current. I ended up having to borrow the object of my affection’s towel to wrap around my naked waist, and then I had to drive her home with no pants on. And “that” so they say, “was the end of that”.

Summer was a true blast in that truck, regardless of my failed attempts to woo the opposite sex, but the real excitement of having a truck came with the fall and winter…

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Uncle John’s Truck: A Story of Coming to Manhood in Rural America (part 4)

…On that same note that truck was maintained pristinely. Uncle john was a Dodge man. When I first met him he drove a Dodge Rampage and worked at a water bottling company. The fact that he was the type of guy who could keep a Dodge Rampage on the road for at least twenty years after all the rest of them were gone should tell you something.

Somehow, my Aunt Kathi told my dad that Uncle John hadn’t actually sold his old truck yet, and my jaw dropped when Uncle John called me and told me he would let me have his truck for the amount of the insurance settlement on my car. My dad and I wasted no time getting the title transferred,  and just like that; I found myself the proud owner of a well maintained Dodge truck that had been immaculately taken care of.

The acquisition of this truck opened a whole new world to me. Where before I had been somewhat limited in my hunting and fishing forays, ( an older model Ford Focus will not get you very far), the advent of Uncle John’s trucks was like having a passport to a whole new world. The first trip I took was out to the New Miami River to have an overnight camping and kayaking excursion. My dad and I had each bought a kayak a couple of years before and whenever we went kayaking together, we would stow them on a rack on the roof of his Subaru Impreza and we would go. However, we wouldn’t go very far because a Subaru Impreza won’t actually go much farther than a Ford Focus will.

My dad had gotten some fishing pole holders and had installed them in our kayaks by using a doorknob cutter on a cordless drill and some marine rivets. So that first night on the river I spent fishing from my kayak and catching crappie and smallmouth bass in the river inlets…

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Survival 102: 3 things you can do with acorns

If you have ever thought of cracking an acorn and eating it in the wilderness, it is likely that you quickly learned what mother nature’s natural syrup of ipecac will do to you.

If you were able to get past the bitterness of the meat, you likely experienced profound nausea and possibly vomiting. However, there are some actual survival uses for acorns, beyond  baiting deer or throwing at companions. The problem is that they must be prepared for hours before they can be used.

The problem with acorns is the fact that they are filled with tannins, (think tannic acid), that can be very beneficial if you are trying to preserve animal skins but are less so if being introduced to your digestive tract. They have to be blanched to be eaten by humans and you can get this done by either boiling them for hours, or letting them soak in a running creek for about three days. In a survival situation, I prefer the latter solution to the problem because you can hull them and then tie the meats off in a sack, or sock, or other porous container and then forget about them until all of the tannins have been leeched out. It does no good to just soak them in water without changing it.

Once thusly prepared these acorn meats can be used three ways:

  1. Roast them to eat like almond slivers. They are palatable and full of protein and vitamins. They taste a bit like roasted almonds without the tannins in them but have the consistency of a hazelnut.
  2. Grind them into flour to cook into breads or use to thicken stews. If you are like me then you eat a lot of stew in a survival situation, primarily because it is the easiest method of preparing elaborate quantities of ingredients quickly. The flour thickens stew nicely and gives it added nutrient. I’m not a big fan of bread, but I understand that there is nothing in the world quite like the taste of hot acorn cakes in the morning in a frosty camp. Just watch a rerun of Jeremiah Johnson o see a visual of this.
  3. Use the acorns to make a stuffing for wild game. I’m not saying that this s good, but it definitely is different.
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