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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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How good of an outdoorsman are you? Can you tell the difference between a cat and a dog?

Watch this video! Watch it closely because it has caused controversy in the social media world. It actually made me a little sad to watch this because it tells me a lot about how far away from nature most people are today.

I will say that I had the mystery solved in approximately 3.5 seconds and it only took me that long because the boy had brought me my coffee and I had looked up to indicate my thanks. What threw most people off I suppose was that very cougar like tail that this dog has. However, that is where the similarities end on this. Here are three reasons why you should have known this is a dog and not a cat.

  1. The way it’s acting. Cougars, even captive ones, are very wary of people and they actually don’t seem to like people at all… ever. So the fact that this canine comes sauntering into the picture nonchalantly, as if there my be a Snausage® to be had somewhere, is very telltale.
  2. . Those ears. Anyone who has ever paid attention at all will take note of the fact that a catamount, cougar, mountain lion, etc… has rounded ears that tuck back close to the head, (to keep them out of other animals mouths I’d assume). This animal has ears that stand erect and are as pointy as stilettos… Italian stilettos.
  3. The gait that it has. How many of you know that dogs are diagonal walkers and cats are lateral walkers, (for the most part at least)? What I mean is the difference between a trot and a pace if talking about horses. Cats usually move both feet forward on one side at the same time, (lateral walking or pacing), while dogs usually move opposite feet forward diagonally at the same time, (diagonal walking or trotting). Studies have shown that they do this to prevent their feet from colliding in the event they need to move quickly to avoid danger or subdue prey.
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