American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pheasant Hunting

Yesterday I spent the day at the Richmond Hunting Club with my father in law, brother in law, and his wife's brother walking the fields and shooting pheasant.

We only spent a couple of hours in the field and came home with 17 birds which I put in the freezer for future consumption.

Today my legs and back are screaming after the high-stepping through scrub and up and down the fields.

We hunted corn fields, milo, wheat, and tall grass. I don't know what the ratio of birds seen to birds shot was but we did a good job of hitting what we saw.

The hunt club was packed and that meant lots of hunting pressure in the fields. We saw hunters in adjacent fields all day and a few times found ourselves down range from their shots. Once I even got peppered with a little lead shot but at that distance it had lost any significant velocity and did little more than rattle off my hat.

It's been a good week for me. Hunting two weekends in a row with success on both hunts, a new freezer, and plenty of meat to fill it.

I'm going to be organizing another trip to Richmond in the next couple of weeks and maybe I'll get lucky and scare up a wild turkey. There were three of them on the boards outside the clubhouse yesterday and our guide told us that they were fair game if we flushed one yesterday.

We're presently getting our first significant snow of the year and the forecast is calling for 4-8 inches in the next day or so. The kids and I are planning on building a quinze or snow trench if we get enough and it sticks around. We're picking the spot this morning.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Seventeen Pheasants

Added more meat to the freezer today.

Got to run though.

Will fill you in tomorrow.

It's been a pretty darned good week!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Got 58 Minutes?

I found a link to this video yesterday on PaleoPlanet and watched the whole thing from start to finish. Then I got up this morning and watched it all again.

There is just so much information in here about not only building a birch bark canoe but also about traditional woodworking, sewing using spruce roots, waterproofing with pine pitch and animal fat, and even some axe work. These are all things I did at the Primitive Skills course with George at Briar Patch Outdoors.

I really, really enjoyed watching this video (both times) and will probably watch it again once the day's festivities are over. I probably won't use the information to build my own birch bark canoe but I could certainly apply it toward building another birch basket or even carving a spoon.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Weekend Update III

Today we're going to get a little gory and there's a picture of a dead animal at the end of the post so be forewarned in case you're sensitive to that kind of thing.

I stood there looking at my animal thinking about how so many stories had reported deer "playing possum" and jumping up when the hunter least expected it and, despite the obvious signs (no breathing, hole in neck, blood, etc.) I was still not convinced that my shot had done the job so quickly.

I needed to tag the rear leg which involves cutting the skin between the rear "hamstring" tendon and the muscle in the upper rear leg and I though, for sure, that would startle the life back into the deer so I put my weight on the head (I'm a big guy and even this deer would have a hard time jumping up with me on his head) and reached forward to slit the skin. I used my custom Fallkniven F1 with blaze orange handles and it slid through the skin like a hot knife through butter. Easy. No jumping deer either.

Now that the deer was tagged I had legally harvested an antlered deer.

I needed to gut the deer to get the internal temperatures down as quickly as possible as I am planning on eating the meat and don't want to risk spoilage. You could skin the deer at the same time as you're gutting if you want to maximize cooling but I chose to leave the skin on to better protect the meat inside from insects and debris. Getting an animal out of the woods and home can be a dirty process if you've got any distance to travel.

Gutting process below:

I flipped the deer on his back and spread his front legs. Then, I took my knife and made a shallow cut from his sternum down to his abdomen. Then I had to move further back, spread the rear legs, and continue the process all the way down to under the tail.

I hadn't made my cut deep enough and had only cut through the skin leaving the membrane underneath intact. I worked my hands under the skin a bit to give me something to hold on to when I skinned the animal after dry aging the meat and then went back for a deeper cut.

This time I cut all the way down to the sternum and through the abdominal membrane. The gut smell came wafting out but I did not find it objectionable. I hadn't split the ribs and had a very hard time trying to get the guts out. I had also forgotten to cut out the rectum. These are, I hope, rookie mistakes and they're definitely things I'll remember to do next time.

The process, to this point, took me about an hour. I hadn't ever processed an animal this large before and have heard the warnings about cutting the guts so took my time and was very thorough and very careful.

Dan and Spen had finished hunting for the day and came over to help walk me through the parts of the process I hadn't done correctly. This was very helpful and I'm glad they came along as I would probably still be out there trying to figure out the process otherwise.

First, I split the rib cage up between the rib and sternum through the cartilage. The F1 did an admirable job here though I did roll a spot right near the tip. Then I finished the cutting down to the tail. I hadn't gone quite far enough and had left the sex organs intact by simply going around them. When I was instructed to remove them I had to ask a couple of times to make sure I'd heard correctly. I had.

Now I had access to the guts but had to really reach inside the body to get the diaphragm cut away and to loosen the connective tissue holding in the organs. I cut off the lower intestine and then reached way up inside and cut the esophagus and, when we flipped the deer right side up, the guts and blood fell into a neat little pile below.

I went through them and picked out the heart and liver and bagged them up. The stomach, kidneys, lungs, and intestines I left on the ground. I had nicked the stomach and a bit of material had come out but nothing that would foul the meat. I also tore what must have been the spleen as I was removing the guts and the extra blood splashed into the gut cavity.

It wasn't a perfect job but I had managed to get the guts out (with some help) and I hadn't destroyed any meat or hide in the process. So far so good.

There was no running water out there so rinsing the cavity was going to have to wait and I was fortunate to have somebody nearby with a 4-wheeler to help me get the carcass from the woods to the parking lot where, I had heard, a DNR Agent was waiting to check in my deer. By the time we'd gotten to the lot, however, he was already gone and he never did come back.

Dan and Spen got a couple of pictures of me with my first deer.

A long shot, clean kill, and a beautiful deer. I don't think the weekend could have gone much better. Despite freezing and being miserable all day on Saturday I have to say I'm excited about the prospect of going hunting again and see it as an opportunity to once again connect with the "circle of life" as well as an opportunity to learn more about the process from preparation to hunting to shooting to gutting to skinning to butchering to cooking to eating. There's just so much that goes on in the hunting process besides what the anti-hunters would have you think.

Thanks again to Dan and Spen for sharing with me the things I didn't know I didn't know. Thanks to Johnny for loaning me your harness, sharing your tree stand, and helping me get my deer out of the woods.

And thank you for reading,


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Weekend Update II

So, Saturday was an unmitigated disaster for all intents and purposes. I was going to get some sleep, get up, and go home.

Then at dinner on Saturday night I heard how we were only going to hunt for three hours on Sunday before cleaning up and heading home. After a 5 1/2 hour drive down I figured I could stick it out for another three hours of suffering.

We were going to try another piece of property so maybe my luck would change.

Sunday morning rolled around darned early and we were getting dressed, making coffee, and packing all at the same time. We were out the door and on the way to the woods at 5am. We got to start a little later because we'd be on private property versus the public property we'd hunted on Saturday where spots are first come first served.

We parked and I got out in time to hear that I'd be in a tree stand some 200 yards from the parking lot. The tree stand, I would discover in just a few minutes, was some 2X4s nailed to the tree and a platform maybe 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep 18 feet above the ground.

Now, I'm not afraid of heights but I did fall asleep a couple of times sitting under a tree on Saturday and sleeping up 18 feet seemed to have some risks associated with it. I also worried about the cold air blowing up from under me and I brought my closed cell foam pad, my backpack, and a Nalgene full of hot coffee. I took some abuse for the load as I was crawling up the tree but, I thought, better to endure some chop-busting now than frozen feet, legs, and butt later. Hah! I'd show them. :)

Well, the first few nervous minutes on the platform kept me plenty warm and the thought of falling trumped the thought of freezing. The first thing I did was drop the foam pad to the ground. It took up precious real estate on the stand that I might need. Next I tied off my pack to the lift rope and hung it from the tree. That way I could reach it and pull it up if needed but it, too, stayed off of my platform. I kept the gun, loading tools, and my coffee and the rest had to go.

The early morning light in the woods can play tricks on your eyes and your mind while you're waiting for enough light to shoot. I can't count the number of "deer" I saw in range before sunup that turned into tree stumps, clumps of grass, or simply dancing shadows. Shooting with iron sights meant no magnification from a scope and I left my binoculars in the car. Then I saw something...

A little spike buck walked through my area about 40 yards out. He wasn't very big but he was the first animal I'd seen since the monster trophy on Saturday morning. My adrenaline spiked. I sort of danced around for a second trying to get a good, stable setup to shoot, and gently squeezed the trigger. The shot must have just missed him as he jumped about three feet in the air before taking off like a greyhound at the races. NUTS!

Was that my only chance for today? Had I just blown it by shooting before I was calm? I was definitely perturbed about my inability to close the deal.

I thought about what I had just done wrong and vowed that I wouldn't make the same mistakes again if given an opportunity.

Ten minutes later I would get my chance.

I saw a good sized doe about 30 (maybe 40) yards away walking behind some trees and scrub. I remembered the previous shot and knelt down to give myself a very secure shooting position and lost her. She walked behind a branch I could see over while standing but in the kneeling position she was covered and I couldn't take the shot. COME ON! Again?!

Then the 8-point walked from my right 60 yards out. He must've been walking with the doe and I somehow missed him. I turned a bit to get comfortable, wrapped my right arm through the sling, and rested my shooting arm on my knee for support. I thought to myself, "shoot him when he gets to the stump." Five more steps...four more steps...he stops to eat something on the ground...three more steps...two more step...BANG!

He went down on the spot. The shot went through right in front of his front leg and through the lower neck. For a few minutes I thought I must've missed him too. I couldn't see him and hadn't seen him run. Then I spotted the white underside of his tail right behind the stump. He wasn't moving. My thoughts turned to thankfulness and the need to respect the deer for his sacrifice.

I waited another minute or two before getting out of the tree stand to make sure I had reloaded and then I walked over. He wasn't breathing and had a small hole in his neck with a tiny bit of blood (3-5 tablespoons maybe) on his neck and on the ground. I recalled those stories in Field and Stream and Outdoor Life where the hunter goes to tag the deer and the deer jumps up and either wounds the hunter or runs off with the hunter's rifle in his rack. So I put my body weight on his head while I slit the skin on his upper rear leg to run my tag through and he didn't flinch. Hmm...he must really be dead.

Up close I could determine that the shot had gone through both jugulars and the esophagus killing him instantly and, hopefully, painlessly.

Then I was struck with the sense that I was now fully a part of the food chain as I never had been before. I had killed my own food, was going to gut it, skin it, and butcher it prior to cooking and eating it.

More tomorrow...

Thanks for reading,


Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekend Update

Well, I went out deer hunting this weekend with Dan and Spen from JRE Industries and scored an 8-point buck. It took four attempts to get into the woods and I learned lots of lessons the hard way once I finally got out there.

First, I didn't dress warm enough. I dressed for a very cold upland bird hunt. Walking around all day makes a huge difference. Sitting under a tree while watching and listening for hours and hours is cold, cold work. I've got mild frostbite on my fingers and toes and temperatures were only down to the low 20's/high teens. I've been out in much colder weather and had no problems because my activity level was high.

As Spen said on Saturday, to prepare for deer hunting you should get dressed at 4 am and go out and sit in the back yard for 12 hours. Try not to move too much or make any noise.

Dan and I got in at 1:30 on Saturday morning and were up at 4 to get ready and in to the woods. That left very little time to sleep and I'm sure I ended up getting a few minutes of sleep in the field. Dozing off is a dangerous thing to do in extreme cold temperatures and, despite knowing that, I was unable to avoid it.

I saw a monster buck on Saturday morning and had him dead to rights but hesitated for a moment and missed a shot at him. He was maybe 30 feet away from me and I had my gun on him but he was passing through thick trees and the gap was less than two feet where I had my shot. I missed that opportunity and didn't see another deer all day other than Spen's decoy which I thought about shooting on more than one occasion. (Did I mention how fatigue and low light can play tricks on the eyes and mind and how stumps and grass look like deer?)

So I was exhausted, frozen, and miserable all day on Saturday. I saw just one deer and didn't shoot him. I had a migraine from the lack of sleep and the poor decision to avoid coffee before the hunt (I'm still a caffeine addict...) My back, hips, and legs were sore from sitting on the cold ground all day. My powder horn broke on the way to my spot and I had a bag full of gunpowder but none to put in my gun. Then I had to go back to the car to get my gunpowder and got all turned around in the darkness while trying to find my gear which I left at my spot. I wasn't having fun and wanted nothing more than to go home where it was warm. I began to doubt whether I was really a hunter.

Sunday was different. I'll write about that experience tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gone Hunting

By the time you read this I'll be sitting in the woods looking for deer.

If I can fill one or both of my tags we'll have plenty of material for you in the coming weeks and months.

Laura wants a tanned deer hide rug for her room. I want to butcher the animal and cook the venison. I also want to show the kids how you can use the sinew and bones for tools and craft projects.

Wish me luck. I'll see you back here Sunday evening.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, November 21, 2008

Smoke 'Em

While there are many brands of scent-free hunting clothes on the market today and many brands and "flavors" of cover scent there is also the age-old smell of a campfire to help hide our human scents in the woods. This is important for hunters and trackers who try to avoid detection due to an errant smell.

I set up a ring around my fire pit the other day to smoke all my camouflage clothes and closed in two sides with poly tarps to prevent the wind from carrying my smoke away before passing through the fabric in the clothes. The wind was blowing through pretty strong so I had to take care when hanging the shirts and wrapped the sleeves around the line multiple times to keep the items from blowing to the ground.

The distance from the fire and smoke to the clothes plus the wind speed factored in to my calculations (all very non-scientific) about the duration of the smoking as well as the intensity of the fire. Basically I sniffed the clothes every 30 minutes or so until I felt the human smells had been adequately replaced by smokiness.

I fed the fire with sticks and branches that had fallen in the yard as well as seasoned wood from my wood pile and kept it burning for several hours. This, combined with the circular "clothesline," gave me a decent amount of smokiness without going too overboard. I then pulled the clothes down and put them in a black garbage bag to protect the scent and prevent contamination with less natural scents like fabric softener, snack food, and gasoline (all things I may encounter between here and the woods.)

When I'm ready to get started I will pull the clothes from the garbage bag and put them on. Then I'll put my "street clothes" in the bag and wrap it up tight to prevent those smells from getting out.

Will it work in my favor? I'll let you know. :)

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Emergency Fire Lighting

Hunting Season is upon us. Sometimes hunters get turned around while stalking their prey and end up spending an unpleasant night in the woods. I'm going to show you how to take minimal gear and get a fire going.

The things you'll need:
1. Firesteel or other ignition source (lighter, matches, etc.)
2. Shotgun shell or bullet
3. Knife

I also used my SwissTool and a plastic bag (to hold the lead from the shotgun shell.)

The gear I had on me for this tutorial (plus the SwissTool on my belt.)
I hold my knife edge up and roll the shell away from me to score the outside of the shell and then take small chips out to break off the end of the shell.
You can see the two-piece wadding, powder charge, and shell casing. It's the powder we want here. Sometimes it's a bit stubborn about coming out and you may need to carefully shake the shell or dig around in there a bit with the tip of your knife. Try not to lose too much of the powder.
Gunpowder ignites quickly with a spark and getting a picture of the ignition was extremely difficult. I'm just not fast enough to show you more than the burned spots on the stone after all was said and done.

If you're going to try this you'll need to make certain you've got everything you need for your fire on hand. The entire ignition process took maybe one tenth of a second from start to finish. That means you'll have to have your tinder right on top of the powder.

It's a very hot ignition so getting a cotton ball or fluffed cottonwood bark should be fairly easy.

I hope you found this tutorial useful.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fehrman First Strike Testing

I've been pounding and banging this knife for two straight weeks now and it's starting to show signs of my attention. Strangely, the edge is still pristine and has required NO maintenance during that time.

I've worked the knife until my body was exhausted and I could no longer grip the handle. I wake up sore as though from a hard workout. My back muscles hurt from all the chopping and swinging the baton. My joints are sore from the repeated pounding point-first of the knife into sticks and branches to split them. Oh, and all of my outerwear smells like wood smoke from the day-long campfires I've had burning.

The knife is 1/4" thick 3V with Fehrman's proprietary heat treat and it's tough--crazy tough. It may look and sound like a sharpened pry-bar but it's something much more refined. It's got the stock thickness to handle extremely rough use but the spine has been chamfered to appear smaller, the grind has been refined to produce the thinnest, toughest possible edge, and the combination of handle materials (G10) and high end CPM steel (3V) may scream "Tactical" to some but this knife could be an outdoorsman's best friend when paired with an appropriate carry method.

The sheath is one detail I've overlooked. I ordered the First Strike without a sheath, left the knife at home when visiting sheathmaker Mike Billman of Grindstone Cutlery in Fort Wayne, IN, and haven't seen Dan and Spen from JRE Industries in weeks (although I hope to be seeing them both this coming weekend.)

For now I just carry the knife in-hand when heading out and it has earned me some strange looks but that's really nothing new. :)

Once I get the sheath sorted out I'll have one heck of a package to use and abuse in the woods. I don't know if this knife will change me from being a small knife/axe guy but it sure hits the "big knife guy" spot.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, November 18, 2008


We've gotten our first dose of snow that stuck.

It's just a light dusting but enough to hold some tracks so I'm off as soon as the kids get on the bus this morning to see what kind of backyard activity we had overnight.

I swapped the space blanket shelter for a 6' X 8' tarp set up in a forester lean-to so I'll check that to see how dry the inside is too.

Look for some pictures later today.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, November 17, 2008

Went Back Out

After rethinking the space blanket configuration I decided to pitch it with one corner attached to the tree and the three other corners tacked down to the ground. I threw a poncho inside to keep me off the wet ground and crawled inside.

There just isn't enough space under the space blanket for a six-foot tall guy to curl up and stay out of the elements. I either had my head or my feet too close to the fire for comfort (I still have my eyebrows right?) and there was the constant threat of knocking one of the pegs loose and flying the space blanket like a flag in the wind.

I gave it a go for a few hours anyway because emergency situations are rarely convenient or comfortable. Heck, I almost fell asleep a few times on the uneven hard ground despite the lack of space.

I spent some time gathering more firewood and brutalizing the First Strike by splitting branches and sticks by jamming the point into the wood and torquing side to side until I split the wood. While this isn't probably the ideal way to split wood it sure worked well and the First Strike relished the work. A bit of throwing (not very good throwing I might add) proved that the point was more than strong enough for direct impacts. Then, just to prove that the edge had sustained NO damage during all the previous testing, I decided to carve a baton and the First Strike would produce nice, long curls of wood from seasoned red oak. The edge looked like it was sustaining some damage but a quick wipe with my gloved finger showed the edge to be as pristine as it was when originally received from the guys at Fehrman Knives.

One of the distinct advantages of spending so much time in front of a campfire is the smoky smell that makes one nearly invisible to wildlife. I was under the space blanket making some noise as a spike buck came within maybe 3 feet of me. How much of that was because he was fully habituated versus how "invisible" I was is unknown but not 45 minutes later I got within six feet of a coyote. He (or she) came right along the fence line as I sat on the fence and got so close that I laughed. The coyote clearly was panicked as he/she couldn't see or smell me because I was sitting absolutely still. And then I spoke. I said, "Hi 'yote!" and he/she was OFF deeper into the woods. I heard the coyote moving around trying to flank me so I moved deeper into the woods too. After a few minutes I decided I had more wood to process and the game with the coyote was getting to the point I might find myself in trouble so I headed back for my space blanket shelter and the fire.

By this time it was full-on dark and I got the call from the kids that they were missing me so I packed up my gear, put out the fire, and stored my extra firewood under the space blanket shelter to keep it dry because the snow had started to fall and was actually beginning to accumulate on my shelter. I headed inside for a shower and some dinner and called it a night.

Another fantastic weekend day spent outside. It doesn't get much better than that.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Flying South

While sitting under a black cherry tree wrapped in a space blanket and watching the fire pop and smoke I heard the rolling, rattling call of the Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) flying South.

The call is distinctive and if you're looking for them you will find them flying very high up so the volume of their call must be quite loud.

It's a cold, windy day with chance for some snow showers (also known as the perfect kind of day to be outside.) It is, however, a good day to wrap up or to build a shelter to keep warm.

The space blanket I'm using is one with the hood and hand "mitts" and, quite frankly, I wish it was a bit wider. Wrapped around me it feels somewhat restricting although it did exactly what it was supposed to do--keep me protected from the wind and warm from reflected body heat.

Often I'll use this space blanket as a lean-to so the width isn't so much of an issue (although my head and/or feet would get wet if I were trying to lay out in a storm) but used as advertised it left me wanting something.

While the space blanket was a bit disappointing today the Fehrman First Strike withstood quite a beating while I was processing seasoned wood for the fire. I was thankful for the rubber liners but still managed to work until my left hand was exhausted.

I'm headed back out in just a minute to continue to work with the space blanket to see if I can't come up with a better solution.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, November 14, 2008

Budget More Time for YouTube

That's right, I found another television series on YouTube yesterday that's been keeping me from getting much done.

Russell Coight's All Aussie Adventures is definitely worth a look.

The host combines natural history, botany, bushcraft, and comedy deftly in each episode and his stumbling bumbling manner, combined with some creative editing, really tickled my funny bone.

I don't know much about the series that I haven't learned from watching the episodes but I plan on catching all of them before I give it up. :)

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fehrman First Strike

I've had this knife now for about a week and it's definitely seen some use. I wish I'd had it with me at the lake for some testing but, since I forgot it, I've had to make due with running some tests here at the house.

The knife is the Fehrman Knives First Strike made by Fehrman Knives as part of the Survival Series and the second largest knife in the "regular" line. (The Extreme Judgment is the largest but not a part of the official Survival Series.)

1/4" thick 3V Steel
7.5" Blade
13" Overall
57-59 RC
Linen Micarta Handle with rubberized liners

The knife shares the same comfortable handle with the Last Chance, Final Judgment, and Extreme Judgment and the rubber liners really do seem to minimize the shock transmitted into the hands while chopping.

The edge is ridiculously tough and, despite my repeated beatings, has required no maintenance other than occasional mud removal and a quick stropping.

I still don't have a sheath for this one and get plenty of funny looks when I'm outside walking around with an unsheathed knife in my hand. Being close to home means I'll more likely run into people who know that I'm harmless so those funny looks won't likely turn into calls to the police. :)

I asked Eric and Andy at Fehrman to send me the roughest finish they could and what I got was a pre-coated blade which still looks darned good. The surface has been bead blasted (or some other media blasted) and coated with a thin coat of oil. As I wanted to test the steel for corrosion, I immediately soaked it in soapy water until the oil was removed. Then I went to work with the knife and left it after without giving cleanup much thought.

I've managed to get a few tiny specs of surface rust that'll come right out when I clean up the blade but it took an overnight coating of mud to get it. Once I clean the blade up I'll put it to use in the kitchen to see if I can't get some color on the steel that way.

My Last Chance (5.5" blade) has resisted most attempts to force a patina on the satin finish.

I suppose if you live in a corrosive environment (near salt water, high humidity, etc.) you might opt for the satin finish blades or the coated blades if you really want to protect the steel but here I've done little maintenance on these knives and the one I tried to get dirty is only showing minimal signs of discoloration.

I look forward to writing more about this fantastic blade in the future.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Getting Out

When I crawled out of bed this morning I really felt the cold that's been trying to beat me for the past several days.

I really felt like crawling back into bed and sleeping until I felt better but that's rarely an option. Today was no exception.

Instead I went outside and got a fire going using my firesteel, a Fehrman First Strike, and materials found in the yard.

It has been cold and wet here for the past few days and everything outside is soaked through. After working down some pieces of wood to the dry core and then fuzzing some of them I managed to get a spark to take in some grasses I had stuffed inside my shirt hoping my body heat would help dry them enough to use. Success!

I sat outside and watched that fire burn for a couple of hours and enjoyed the heat and light.

Believe it or not, I feel much better now. I don't know if it was the smoke, the fire, or the effort that I needed but it must have been some part of the effort.

I think I'm going to blow off the rest of my schedule for today and get in a nice long hike. Who knows how good I'll feel by the time I get home.

Thank for reading,


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans' Day

To those of you who have served and do serve,

Thank you.

Your time, efforts, and sacrifices ARE appreciated.

Happy Veterans' Day.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Ranger Bands

After watching Mike put together his sheaths on Saturday I have to admit I came home, pulled out an old innertube, and proceeded to cut it up into "Ranger Bands" and started applying them to everything.

The Ranger Band can be used to hold gear together, add additional protection from water, silence rattling parts, be used for emergency tinder, and probably hundreds, if not thousands, of other uses.

Mike makes a survival sheath out of kydex that includes a Photon Microlight, Light My Fire Army Firesteel, and cordage. Since I received mine he's also added the Ranger Band and a Fallkniven DC3 or DC4 to the sheath. The make and model of accessory may change from sheath to sheath but basically he's providing illumination/signaling, firestarting, cordage, and sharpening without adding much bulk to the sheath. You could also shove a couple of cotton balls under the Ranger Band to provide you with some additional tinder.

The only limit to their uses is your imagination.

Get out there and Ranger Band something. :)

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, November 09, 2008


We're back.

The weekend always seems to go by way too fast when we're away and this one was no exception.

My dad and I spent the whole day yesterday visiting Mike Billman at Grindstone Cutlery in Fort Wayne, IN and had an opportunity to see his kydex shop, his sharpening set-up, and to handle dozens and dozens of knives.

The weather all weekend was miserable and there was snow in the air on and off both days. Somehow I managed to avoid it all by staying inside watching Peter Gawleta's (Birch Tree Productions) newest video in his Basic Bushcraft and Survival series, Volume 7. I'll be doing an in-depth review of it here early this coming week.

Now I've got to unload the car, do some laundry, and get the kids ready to face another day of school tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, November 07, 2008

Going Away!

Okay, it looks like I've played my cards correctly this time and the kids and I are going to get away to the lake for a short trip this weekend!


I'm hopeful we can build and burn a fire like this while we're there. I'll bring the cookset and some goodies so we can warm up after time spent enjoying the outdoors.

This will be the last break for me for quite a while and it looked, for a time, like it wasn't going to happen. I'm really, really glad things went my way because the next few months are going to be busy, busy, busy.

See you on Sunday!

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Old and New

I'm trying to put together a new cookset/mess kit and, of course, Titanium, Aluminum, and Stainless Steel are all at the top of the list (I'm more interested in a size and shape than I am in a weight and material.) I look at Trangia stoves, soda can stoves, and even the Vargo Titanium alcohol stove. There's the JetBoil which hasn't fit in anywhere else in my style of hiking and camping and either needs to find a place or needs to go back to REI.

Meanwhile I'm reading Muir, Kephart, Nessmuk, and Seton who were all pioneers of the American outdoor experience but at a time when there was no Titanium, Aluminum, or Stainless option. They probably all used tin or steel. They cooked over a campfire more often than not.

They carried provisions but probably not the dehydrated foods we can carry today (and certainly not to the extent we can carry them today) and yet not one of them starved in the woods or on the trail.

We use technology because it's available. That's human nature.

When the first bowdrill was made it made the hand drill obsolete. When the flint and steel fire was built it made the bowdrill obsolete. Now firesteels and petroleum jelly cotton balls have made flint and steel fires obsolete. Now we use those old skills as a test of our abilities but they have, for the best part, been replaced by simpler methods. Given a choice today between starting a fire with a hand drill or a lighter when soaking wet and cold which would you choose?

I'm left wondering what sort of kit the men listed above would build today given the multitude of options we have. I highly doubt they'd go with what they used back then but that's pure speculation.

Ah well, back to the old mess kit/cookset assembly...

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dehydrate or Die!

Oh, that's not quite right is it? :)

Instead of hydrating that past few days I've been DEhydrating instead--vegetables that is. Corn, peas, green beans, onions, cabbage, and more have been through my dehydrator in the past 48 hours and now I've got quite a store of dried vegetables to add to my cook pot when I'm on the trail.

I like to take fresh foods and actually do some cooking on the trail or in the woods but now I'm trying a different approach. Now I'm going to try to do it the way they do it at Freezer Bag Cooking with homemade prepared dehydrated foods. I got tons of ideas from Sarah's site when it came to which items to dehydrate and which to just buy dehydrated/freeze dried.

Did you know that you could par-boil pasta, dehydrate it, and cook it in the field in just minutes? You can dehydrate canned and/or cooked beans and they'll give you an excellent source of protein with your meal. You could even par-cook rice, dehydrate it, and add it to your dehydrated beans for a wonderful outdoor meal of beans and rice.

I have taken a rather strange path to get to this stage. My wife always complained about the amount of frozen vegetables and meat I had stored in our freezer because she bought a high-end ice cream maker and needed room to store her creations. I didn't want to lose my veggies which work well in some recipes and are a great addition to meals when I haven't been to the store. Dehydrating those veggies gives them a long shelf life, they're easily rehydrated and cooked, and they free up room in the freezer for homemade ice cream.

I'm finding my GSI Soloist to be an excellent pot for this kind of cooking as it's big enough to accommodate a whole brick of ramen as well as some dehydrated veggies and the lid has a nice drain port and drain holes to get rid of excess water once everything is hydrated and ready to eat.

I'm going to shut the dehydrator down in a few moments just to give myself a mental break from the constant hum but I have plenty more produce to dry in the coming days.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Changing Approach

I'm thinking about hiking the Des Plaines River Trail from end to end. It's only 32 miles but I'm going to have to do it out and back in stages to make sure I'm here when the bus comes from school. Each day I'll try to target my turn-around point inside one of the many forest preserves along the trail so I can drive back to that spot the next day to get started again.

There's no camping allowed and one has to be out of the park by sundown anyway so getting on the trail by 8:45 and back by 3:30 is a minor adjustment of the preserve rules and six-plus hours on the trail should be a good workout and help me shake down my pack load a bit.

This will take a few more days to get sorted out but I hope to be able to get started prior to the weekend.

Thanks for reading,


Get Out and Vote!

Today is Election Day here in the US and I encourage you to get out and vote.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Getting Too Good?

Is it possible to get too good at various aspects of bushcraft?

I can regularly start a fire with a single strike of my firesteel in any conditions and it's getting more and more difficult to put enough wear and tear on my firestarting kit to make it look like I've been using it.

I have built a firestarting kit that all but assures success under most circumstances and it all fits into an Altoids tin. I've wrapped the tin with electrical tape and submerged the tin for an hour to see if water would leak in and ruin my tinder but I've had no problems.

The kit contains small pieces of fatwood, a Bic lighter, firesteel blank, cotton balls, a file, and some charcloth.

We've all heard the mantra: The best anything in a survival situation is the thing you have with you at the time and the best anything you're NOT carrying is worthless.

I carry this kit with me at all times when I'm outside and it makes my lack of mastery over the hand drill, bow drill, and fire saw less significant. I can use my file to strike rocks to find one that sparks, use the charcloth to get my tinder burning, and then use the Altoids tin to make more charcloth. The cotton balls work with the firesteel and lighter and the fatwood can be added to burning tinder to get wetter twigs hot enough to burn.

A tough to start fire may require me to restock the kit when I get home but half the fun of an outdoor adventure is the preparation.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Abe Elias Knife Design Video

I found this video this morning on YouTube. It's Abe Elias of Diving Sparrow Knife Works talking about what goes in to designing a knife:

It's pretty cool to see the maker of your knife and even cooler to hear him talk about what goes through his mind when he's designing a new blade.

Thanks for reading,