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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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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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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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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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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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Survival 201: How to make meat in dire straits

 

 

 

Have you ever been in a survivalists dire straits? I’m not talking about the British rock band, but instead I’m speaking of, as Merriam-Webster puts it: “In a very bad or difficult situation”.  Dire Straits works like this: Imagine that you are on a five days fishing trip on Loon Lake in the North Woods of Maine. On the first day, as you are kayaking north along one of the many tributaries, you are suddenly overturned by a young cow moose who has ventured out into the lake for reasons known only to young cow moose, and your bungee strap, (which you had just unlooped to retrieve your camera to take a photograph of a different cow moose who was also swimming in the stream), snags around the moose’s neck and she swims off with your kayak, bedroll, rifle, and pack. You are left with your camera in one hand, (water soaked), and your kayak paddle in the other. It suddenly occurs to you that the last time you checked your GPS, you were 15 miles from your truck. You, my friend, are now in Dire Straits.

There are many issues here, but in this writing I want to address the problem of gathering emergency rations in the form of meat. Understand in this scenario we are only trying to get back to a place of restorability so that we can go from a survival situation to one of modern comfort. Hopefully you had the wherewithal to have a backup blade in your boot or strapped to your floatation vest. If not, better find some sharp rocks…

I like to kill two birds with one stone. So, if I’m trying to make my way to my car, and if I know I have to travel along a stream, I will generally travel at night and walk in the stream. I do this for several reasons, not the least is so that I can hunt while I’m traveling.  For some reason, I’ve always found that animals such as frogs, muskrats, raccoons, and waterfowl – creatures which are active at night – are more susceptible to  hunting because they don’t expect danger to come from the middle of the stream, they expect it to come from the forest. A homemade two prong spear, or gig is my tool of preference for this type of hunting because it’s easy to make and works great for frogs and fish if you drive them into the mud to hold them there until you can grab them The trick is to wedge them into the “V” of the spear.

 

 

 

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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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