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Finding the beauty: Tactics for Retaining Your Sanity in a Survival Situation

It had been a hard trip. I had started out three days prior, camping out along the paint creek area of southern Ohio, and had made my way through the landscape, ending up at a small tributary called Big Cave Run on the old map I had found at the local courthouse. It was an old property, (at least six thousand years old Biblically)… theoretically. Historically, the property had been documented by a governing source for over two hundred years. I had started out my survival trip with only the clothes on my back. I had made some slate knives on paint creek with the help of a huge block of sandstone that I happened to find sitting at the water’s edge. The wear marks on it told me that it had been a favorite place of others before me to sit and make tools as well.

The rain fell in a persistent patter. Not quite enough to send me to shelter, it was a warm early June, but just enough to keep the blackflies and mosquitos away, and to keep me soaked to the skin. By the time I had travelled the three mile distance to Big Cave Run, I had two knives, some cordage, a fish spear, and a trouser pocket full of frogs legs from the night before. I hadn’t been able to cook them because I couldn’t get a fire going to save me. And it was on Big Cave Run that I finally built a debris hut just so I could work out a fire kit. That night the rain finally stopped and I ate froglegs around a snapping fire while the spirit of an old indian kept me company. I left when he told me in the gathering darkness that this was no place for the living to have to be alone with the dead.

I left for him the spear and two knives to do with as he wished and I walked out of the creek bottoms and back to my car… travelling east.

This  trip lasted only three days, but in that three days I learned a valuable lesson on survival. That is to keep yourself involved in things beyond the plight at hand. The experience is so much more than where you will get your next drink of water or where you might sleep that night. Beyond the basic necessities of shelter, water, fire, and food, the most trouble you will have in a survival situation is keeping your mind occupied. Let it wander and entertain itself. At least that has always worked well for me.

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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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Military tent camping product review: The Hanging Cupboard

Whenever I go military tent Camping, I always seem to end up with my stuff piled on top of itself, pell-mell in a backpack. Getting what I need out of it can be a horrendous chore, and what normally happens is that I end up with an empty pack and my stuff scattered hither and yon all over the campsite to find what I need at the moment.

The good news is that for your next military tent camping adventure, you can have a nice portable hanging cupboard that will double as a backpack. According to the guys at Cabela’s you can:

Keep your campsite’s cook shack organized and clean with this weatherproof, collapsible cupboard. Extends to 30″, yet collapses to less than 2″ high for easy packing. Lightweight, water-resistant 400-denier nylon shell features three 22″L x 10″D shelves for food, camp equipment or other gear. Six divided outer pockets provide quick access to utensils or other necessities. Hangs from a tent frame, tree, R.V. or anywhere you need a portable pantry. Straps also make for easy rigging to a rope, so it can be pulled high in the trees at night, safe from marauding woodland critters. (http://reviews.cabelas.com/8815/516773/creek-company-hanging-camp-cupboard-reviews/reviews.htm)

This cupboard is perfect for a military tent because the hanging strap can be used off of the inner frame of your tent and is therefore off of the ground, easily accessible, and neat and tidy.

If you’ve never camped in bear country then I can’t stress enough the importance of having your gear, especially anything edible and/or tasty, up off of the ground. The reason for this is that bears are like raccoons in the fact that they will get into everything, number one, and number two, they believe that everything belongs to them. The best way to combat this issue is to get your gear up off of the ground.

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Winter fly fishing: 5 things I’ll bet you didn’t know

Did you know that you could fly fish in the winter? There are lots of hard core anglers who do just that and relive the wonders of a Jack London book in their own back yard.

Winter time is a great time for camping, and the only thing that I have found to be more solemn than the sound of winter snowflakes falling gently on the canvas of my military surplus tent is the hush they bring when falling quietly in the purple morning on a mountain stream. Here are 5 thing I’ll bet you didn’t know;

1. Bugs hatch all winter long. Any sunny days in the winter there will actually be very small midges that have been lying dormant. During a winter hatch, trout will do what is called “selective feeding”, in other words they’ll focus on a certain food and won’t vary from it. This is a good time to fish your midge flies.

  1. Another fact of winter fishing is that many if not most of your fly fisherman are “fair weather” fisherman, (or at least warm weather fisherman), and you will find that the trout streams are quite barren of competition in the winter months, while the trout themselves are much more approachable because they haven’t been pressured.
  2. Unexperienced fly fisherman don’t realize and know that steelhead actually run the rivers, in the tributaries, in late fall or early winter, and this results in this being the best time for steelhead even though in the spring time they make their way out of the rivers.
  3. Of course winter fishing also comes with its obstacles, and one of the biggest obstacles is ice forming on your fly rod guides, so you have to be concerned about breaking the ice off. There are some things you can do to help combat that like placing Vaseline on the guides and applying commercial line dressing to keep your line from freezing.
  4. Fishing in the winter can be made much more enjoyable by wearing a good pair of insulated stockings in your waders and stacking a few layers of fleece pants over your legs to create dead air space. With a good pair of wool or thinsulate stockings you can wade all day long and hit every hole that you need to.
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Survival 101: 3 things you must do now to get your sugar on

If you are a survivalist, prepper, self sufficient, hobbyist, naturalist, do it yourselfer, or just a fan of delicious sugary goodness then now is the time for action!

I speak of course of the time of year for those of us who are self-sufficient to get our tin buckets out of the shed and tap those trees that are good for syrup making. Of course we all know that we can tap all types of maple trees to get the sap for syrup, but did you know that you can also tap walnut trees and birch trees?

If you are into this, or if you have ever wanted to get into it, then now is the time to get started, and here are three things you must do right now in order to get started.

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  1. Go out and find good sap trees. The bigger the better, and you need to map your trees and mark them as you go so that you don’t forget where they are. A quick Google Maps search or check through your local auditor site will usually leave you with a great topological map that you can print and use in the field, but a better option is to use a smart phone and make a gps map in an app.
  2. Gather all of your equipment together at once. You will need cans, tops, taps, a rendering pot, and lots of receptacles for storing your sugary goodness.
  3. Set up a block of time. Though I’m not going into detail on technique in this writing, I will tell you that it will take hours for your sap to render to syrup… it takes ten gallons of sap to make one quart of syrup. There are plenty of tutorials out there for making maple syrup, and it is not rocket science. As a matter of fact, Penn-State University has an excellent resource for sap rendering and syrup making. 

Making and rendering your own maple, walnut, or birch syrup is second only to churning your own butter or grinding your own flour. It is also inherent to having your morning pancakes become something that is more than just breakfast… they become an experience.

 

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The view from here: two things you must remember about multitasking

As I sit quietly in the woods with my camera set up on a tripod and equipped with a 500mm lens for maximum focus and range, (at least to my college student budget), I contemplate what life is about and I ponder on what brings true happiness.
I am waiting for wildlife to happen by. I don’t really care what they are or what they’re doing, (though I would prefer -if given my choice- to film a family of sasquatches digging for roots in the ditchline), but beyond that I am good with squirrels, deer, coyotes, or any form of bird that wants to present itself to me for film capture.
It’s quiet out here, and there is a very light snow gently falling… the first of the year. Though it isn’t significant it’s getting us to where we want to be and this is, speaking for myself at least, into the midst of a white Christmas. We haven’t had one in mid Ohio for about five years now, and we’re way past due.
It’s cold here, 29 degrees or so, and as I write my iPad is freezing up… literally I think.
The point I’m making here is that multi-tasking can take on relevance in any scenario, and I am right now fulfilling obligations to two different clients as well as getting data for research projects. Thanks to the advent of things such as iPads and wireless technology, I am sitting in the woods adjacent to the local college campus, gathering footage for a client on Ohio whitetail deer, filming B-roll for a media class assignment and writing blogs for another client. I am also out of the house and getting some fresh air.
If I didn’t need to be quiet and at least somewhat attentive, I could be doing this from my iPhone either through thumb typing or by voice to text dictation.
Plus, I am also on a military surplus tent adventure with a friend of mine as well, so I’m killing several birds with a handful of stones I guess, but I digress. We’re camping for a few days in the local woods trying to get footage and just having a grand old time doing it. I’ll post some inconsequential footage with this article.
I want to urge you to think about the technology that you already posses and ask yourself how you can apply that technology in such a way that you can recreate while you work. You’ll be surprised, I think at what you’ll find, and all of a sudden work might not seem so much like work. Particularly when you are able to do it from the midst of something you actually enjoy doing.

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