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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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Kayaking 202: Turning a kayak into a photo taking machine

And so I take my final bow as I present to you my kayak, all tricked out and ready to go on lake-water adventures as I endeavor on a trip to capture the stoic visage of a family of American Bald Eagles which inhabit the local state park.

I have labored long and hard on it, (not really), and I have done all that I wanted to in order to get it seaworthy.

Here are the changes I have made to it that make it ready to capture the photos and video that I am going after.

  1. I installed a go-pro mount on the top at the bow. I discovered right off that trying to mount it with marine rivets as I did nearly everything else, because the rivets heads would interfere with the camera mount. Hopefully the gorilla glue that I utilized to mount it will hold, otherwise I’m going to be hoping that the waterproof case makes it float.
  2. I used the gorilla glue to also mount two watertight cases to the floor of the kayak. One is big enough to hold the camera that I plan to use for the kayak photography, and one to hold my cellphone. Though I could have easily drilled and riveted both of these cases in, I didn’t relish the idea of breaking that watertight seal in any way.
  3. I riveted two eye brackets into the bow in order to strap a tripod into the bow. As I shoot more and more photography, I learn more and more that I need to have a tripod for stabilization. And so I plan to utilize this configuration in order to get those photos that have so far eluded me from across the lake. Of course I’ll keep you posted! Stay tuned for the next installment of kayaking for photography…
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Kayaking 201: 3 modifications you must have for photography

Ok, so I have my kayak purchased and I have been practicing with it in my swimming pool. It is very tippy.  And while this is unfortunate, it is not a tragedy because it is very easy to get out of too. However, water and cameras don’t mix well, so I will be practicing extensively with this dude before I get any of my camera gear into it. Perhaps I will visit the local goodwill store or get online and find a nice little zoom camera like the Canon Powershot SX20 IS, which will shoot high definition video and has digital zoom capabilities that allow it to be shot at up to 500mm. I had purchased a Canon G series G1X for these romps into the lakeside wilderness, but with a $400+ pricetag, the tippiness of this kayak has left me feeling less than optimistic about taking this little camera out.

I had previously written about a cute little Sony a100 I purchased for $37 that I ended up selling for $250 to an enterprising young lad who wanted to get a start in photography. The problem with the cheaper Sony was the fact that it doesn’t shoot video and it leaves a lot to be desired in really low light. I definitely don’t want to be juggling two cameras in a kayak… but I digress.

This is a blog about kayak modifications; and here are three must have mods for photography.

  1. Fishing rod holder. As simple as cutting a hole, drilling three more, and pulling three rivets. Viola! You have a fishing rod holder. This is very important because when there is nothing to photograph you are going to need something to do.
  2. Handle and oar holder. Needed so that you can have both hands free to grab camera and tripod to keep them as safe as possible. you don’t want to be juggling a double paddled oar while trying to handle your gear.
  3. A comfortable seat. If you are going to be going after eagles like I am, you will need to have some padding on your rear. Make that seat as comfortable as possible.
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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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Bees Please! 3 reasons you should keep bees if you’re a survivalist

If you are a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit series then you are probably especially fond of the scene where the Party gets to stay with Beorn. Beorn was likely a Norseman; a shifter, (Gandalf had seen him sitting alone on the top of a mountain – in bear form – reminiscing of times past), a vegetarian, a friend of the animals, a keeper of bees.  And it was here that the party was permitted to eat of the finest honey and cream that any loaf of bread had ever been slathered with.

Just the description of that fare when I was a child, reading this series in the hay mow of my dad’s old cow barn, sent my mind to spinning and my stomach to churning for the creamy sweetness that such a delicacy would construe. Alas I never found the exact combination of Tolkien’s imagination, at least not to the level that my own pondering dictated; however, I did get mighty close on occasion. Those occasions always included the obtaining the honey from a local bee farm and my grandma churning up a batch of what she called “cow salve butter”… at least that’s what I think it was called.

But, as usual, I digress…

We are here to discuss the implements of survival, and most importantly SHTF survival. Here then are three reasons to be a beekeeper if the economy falls.

  1. Honey is a great source of nutrients and energy. Calories and energy are supremely important in a survival situation, and this substance is perfect for giving you that burst of energy that you might need to rise to almost any occasion.
  2.  Honey farming is done by one of the most key elements of survival… letting someone else do all the work. This is a prime example of getting something for nothing, kind of. You still have to tend and care for your bees, protect them, provide for them etc.
  3. Honey is a great barter item. Remember, if TSHTF, there will not be the possibility of being able to buy goods with money. You will want to have ample amounts of much needed items in order to trade.
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Survival 101: Rabid Animals! 3 things you must always be aware of

If you have spent any time in the wilderness, then you have probably had the misfortune of coming across a sick animal in the woods.

I was driving through the local state park yesterday when I came upon this disturbing sight. This is a sick raccoon, which probably has the rabies. There are telltale signs that this guy is sick, and you should always be aware of these signs in case you are in a survival situation. Because, not only do you not want to get bit by this thing, you also don’t want to mistake it for a blessing and kill and eat it. Here are three sure signs that an animal is sick and you need to get it away from you.

  1. It’s out when it should be in. For those of you who don’t know, raccoons are nocturnal so at 12:00 noon on a scalding day he shouldn’t be awake, let alone staggering through a hot parking lot on a crowded beach.
  2. He curls into a ball. As depicted in the top photo, a sick animal will often curl into a ball because it’s gut is hurting it. This guy was biting at his belly as something ate him up from the inside.
  3. He’s lethargic. You can tell just by looking at this guy’s eyes that something is missing. Also note that those eyes are crusty. That’s never good. And to be honest, though I had diagnosed this poor wretched creature with rabies, it’s more likely that he is suffering from distemper, a disease that affects cats fairly often too. This can be misleading too because with diseases such as mange or rabies, quite often the animal will be bald in places where it has gnawed it’s own fur off. Diseases like distemper can render a sick animal with the appearance of a healthy one.
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Beaver Sign: 3 things you must know about beavers

 

I was recently visiting a favorite fishing spot, which I haven’t been to in a couple of years. As I was walking down the trail to the pond, I came across two rough looking characters who were dressed in blue jeans and wife beaters. They both grinned maniacally at me as one of them pulled something from his pants pocket.

“So it’s come to this”, I thought as I contemplated my chances against the two husky but out of shape and overweight fellows. I knew I could at least outrun them but it is unfortunately not in my nature to run. I was at least a little relieved when the fellow who had went into his pocket unrolled a handkerchief to reveal a rumpled Morel mushroom. “I fount one” He grinned at me through snaggly teeth and ratty beard, as his companion looked on approvingly. I nodded my acquiescence, and moved on down the trail at a steady pace. It was then that I saw the damage that had been done to the once beautiful lake… it was completely trashed!

Not by the two miscreants, they had only been hunting mushrooms. No! The lake had been trashed by beavers. There were literally no trees that had been left unmarred. Many had been stripped of bark, while others had been gnawed down completely. There were large piles of limbs and branches, (dams) all over the lake. It was a mess. Therefore, for those of you who are uninformed, here are three things you must know when camping in beaver country.

  1. The little rodents are dangerous. Not only will they drop a tree on your tent, they will eat you up if you bother them. Those huge, curved teeth that they are able to gnaw through trees with will go through your flesh and bone with no problem.
  2. They will kill every tree they can get to. There is a reason that the pioneers nearly eradicated these creatures from the face of the earth beyond the need for fur hats.
  3. They are sneaky and hard to find. One of the tricks of locating these creatures, (they will make many lodges and move from lodge to lodge), is to watch the lodges on a frosty morning sand look for one that is steaming. They usually sleep about 9 deep and the vents that they put in their lodges will steam on cold mornings from the breath and body heat escaping.  In the summer watch for the cloud of mosquitos hovering around the vent, attracted by the carbon monoxide being released.
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All Terrain Vehicles: 3 things you must consider about maintaining your ATV

If you use an ATV, then you realize that one of the big aspects of owning and using an all terrain vehicle is the fact that they require a lot of maintenance. That being said, there are several important questions that you must ask yourself regarding whether you want to try to use an older model ATV or whether you should invest the resources into buying a new one.

Unquestionably an ATV comes in handy for everything from treasure-hunting to deer hunting. They are great methods of transportation for military surplus tent adventures as well. These things can carry a lot of weight and if you can balance it on your ATV, then you can usually transport it wherever it needs to go. However, here are three things you need to think about when deciding what type of ATV to get and use.

  1. Parts availability. One of the biggest problems you’ll run into when keeping an older ATV is the fact that the parts for it are going to be hard to come, and it is certain to go down at some time or another. Your best bet if you are going to use an older model ATV is to buy some spare parts whenever you can and keep them. This means extra fuel pump and several filters, spare cables and custom fittings, and any fuses or spare switches you can pick up, as well as several oil filters.
  2. Ease of maintenance. One of the advantages of an older ATV is the ease with which they can be worked on. ANY incorporation of electronics into the power train is going to result in complications in the mechanical function of the ATV in the event of a SHTF type scenario.
  3. Ease of transport. The lighter your ATV, the better off you’re going to be if you have to push, pull, or carry it. I once had a Honda 4trax that was light enough I could load it myself into a pickup truck without a ramp. It was on 250CCs, but it worked great for everything I needed it for.
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Fathers Day 2018: 5 must have gifts for dad!

5 Reasons to get super excited for June 16th!!!

June 16th of this year is Father’s Day, and I’m super excited to see what my children have gathered for me this year. They almost always get me something “outdoorsie” and I have asked specifically for military surplus items for the last few years.

As a matter of fact, military surplus equipment never gets old, and here is a list of five items, (5), that will never get old for Father’s Day, and which you can never have too many of.

  1. A military surplus cold weather parka.

    Some of you might errantly think that if you have a field jacket then you don’t really need a parka. Well, that’s wrong! It’s like saying that if you have a quilt you’ll never need a sleeping bag, and while it’s possible to survive without one, life sure is easier in the cold weather if you have a parka. They are warmer, longer, and better equipped to keep your head and neck from freezing.

  2. A military surplus M-65 Field Jacket.

    This is better for all weather that isn’t the most bitter cold. As a matter of practicality, you can pull your liner from it and use it for more of a “windbreaker” effect on those milder days. I love wearing an M-65 field jacket almost more than any other jacket… especially the VietNam era “Woodland Camo” design.

  3. Military surplus BDU pants.

    Again, “VietNam” era, woodland camo. I prefer the cold weather pants all year long due to the durability, though they are great for wicking away moisture. However, I have found that they have a tendency to gall your thighs on the hottest of days.

  4. A military surplus duffle bag

    . These things are great for any type of clothing, gathering, or collecting.

  5. A military surplus backpack.

    I have these set up for different uses. I have one that I take muzzleloading, another that I take hiking, one that I take when doing photography, etc….

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Old school survival: 3 items you should not be without

By Mr. X, Survivalist

So, we have discussed the use of muzzleloading, black powder firearms, and we have touched on, in previous articles, how to make your own knives. Now I want to talk about the fact that there are three things you should always have with you in any situation, survival or not, because any situation can become a survival situation.

It is these three things that make up my survival kit and believe it or not, having a gun is not one of them. The three things that I absolutely can’t live without, (no pun intended), are these:

  1. A fire kit. By this I mean a good piece of flint, a hardened steel striker, and some charred cloth, or at least some strips of cotton fabric to make charred cloth with. We will go over exactly how to make charred cloth in a later blog but for now you should understand that charred cloth is a luxury but not a necessity.
  2. A good blade. There is nothing more important than a blade in the bush. The blade can actually take the role of the other two if needed, to an extent. If it is heavy enough it can chop limbs and trees, if it is hardened enough, (a trick you can learn if you forge your own blades), you can use it to strike your flint for fire-starting, and if your point is fine and sharp enough, you can use it for the intricate necessities of survival.
  3. A tomahawk.  There is nothing quite as luxurious as having a blade and a tomahawk together in the event of an emergency you have a weapon in each hand. Beyond that the tomahawk does great for breaking bones during butchering, cutting poles for shelters, and it even works great for striking flint for fire starting.
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