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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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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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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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An American Icon: How the Eagle Came to be the National Bird

When you think about the United States of America, you probably automatically considered the national bird the Bald Eagle.

That is because this majestic bird has become synonymous with the concept of freedom and the rugged individualism that makes this country what it is today. However, you might not know how exactly this majestic bird came to be the national symbol of this great nation, or some of the controversy that surrounded it’s choice. If not, here’s a brief history lesson.

On June 20, 1782 the bald eagle was chosen as the emblem of the United States of America.  It was chosen for several reasons, not the least of which were it’s long life, great strength and majestic looks. It was also then believed to exist only on this continent.

This choice wasn’t without it’s controversy though, some leaders weren’t in favor of the bald eagle, including Benjamin Franklin, who once wrote:

” I wish that the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country, he is a bird of bad moral character, he does not get his living honestly, you may have seen him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk, and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to its nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him…. Besides he is a rank coward; the little kingbird, not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest. . . of America.. . . For a truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America . . . a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on.”

Another one who was not in favor of the Bald Eagle was renowned artist and ornithologist James Audubon.  However, in retrospect, it is easy to see why the eagle is a much better choice than any other bird of prey. Bigger and stronger than all other takers they don’t have to kill smaller birds just because of overt aggressiveness, and it is always an American tradition to work smarter not harder.

More can be read on this subject at www.baldeaglinfo.com

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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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