29 May 2012

New Leather from Jason at Rasher Quivers

The lowly archery arm guard, been with us for an age. It doesn't get a lot of praise and for some summer time shooters,  they can get by without one. By rolling the elbow out some on the bow arm there is little chance of striking the arm with the string on the release. However, when I wear a jacket or thicker long sleeve shirts I use an arm guard to keep the sleeve tight and out of the path of the bowstring. Besides, I am human and I have made mistakes while shooting, string strike from a heavy longbow leaves a nasty bruise.

There is also the fact that many of my arrows are self nock, meaning the nock is simply carved from the arrow wood and reinforced with a hard wood, in this case purple heart. When using self nocks, sometimes they'll fail, basically shearing off as the string is released. This can cause string slap, and potentially part of the arrow penetrating the forearm. I figure that to be pretty rare as I've only ever heard of one instance of that occurring.

I recently contacted Jason Albert at Rasher Quivers about a custom arm guard. I'd seen some of his custom work and was quite impressed. We sorted out the details via email and came to an agreement on style and design.

It came out very nice, Jason did a fantastic job, the leather work excellently executed. I'm very pleased with the finished product, it is comfortable to wear with or without sleeves and when used over the heavy wool sleeves of my wood's shirt it does an excellent job of keeping the material out of the path of the string.

26 May 2012

Rick & Melody

Thank you.

You happened to be at the right place at the right time to help folks in fairly desperate need. You didn't hesitate and you didn't question, folks like you are rare and too few in number, we need more like you these days.

It might seem a small thing but I assure you it meant very much to us and it will not be forgotten, not by me nor my children.

God bless you and may all your trails be happy and rewarding.

21 May 2012

ML Knives One Year Later

Over a year ago I posted about a set of knives I'd ordered from Matt Lesniewski, ML Knives. You can read about my initial impressions, Grouch's ML Knives.

Well it has been a year, little over a year actually. I'm happy as ever with the Kephart. I gifted the big Hudson Bay and so cannot say much other than I liked it as well and found no fault with it.

The Kephart has been a constant companion and has not once ever let me down or had me questioning the blade. For regular readers of my rambles you've seen the knife in upteen videos and posts doing everything from making a sheath, to cooking, to split wood fire challenges, it has dressed small and large game, cleaned fish, built shelters, and done all manner of other outdoors endeavors, each and every time the knife performed perfectly.

Without doubt, hesitation, or reservation, I would recommend this knife to any user anywhere in the world. While recently my Adventure Sworn BCUSA Knife has been hanging off my hip, I still find myself picking this Kephart up an equal amount of time.

The ML Knives Kephart, a backwoods bum's knife for all occasions.

Definitions, we need them even if we don't like them

Specifically speaking of a few terms. We'll start with 'Bushcraft', since it has apparently been a hot topic of late within the online community. The debate, it seems to me, stems from some folks not actually understanding what it is and where it came from, and confusing it with another term. We'll get to that.

What follows it a copy and paste from Wikipedia, I know, bear with me please;

"Bushcraft is a long-term extension of survival skills. A popular term for wilderness skills in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the term was popularised in the southern hemisphere by Les Hiddins (The Bush Tucker Man) in Australia as well as in the northern hemisphere by Mors Kochanski and recently gained considerable currency in the United Kingdom due to the popularity of Ray Mears and his bushcraft and survival television programmes. It is also becoming popular in urban areas; areas where the average person is separated from nature."

Take special note of the last sentence.  Now understand that the 'woodsmen' from yesteryear, the mountain men and so on never used nor had an inkling of the word 'Bushcraft'. This is where many are getting confused. Bushcraft is merely an extension of skills, it is not a means nor a method to an end in and of itself, rather it's just a deeper layer of typical skills. Stop trying to make it into something it isn't, in my opinion, it was never intended to be a system or methodology, it is simply a collection of skills.

If your mental picture of 'Bushcraft' is only using this limited set of skills in conjunction with 'period gear' then you've missed the point. You can define 'Bushcraft' anyway you want however, if you are intellectually honest I believe you're going to come to the same conclusion, it's a skill set, not a methodology and was never meant to be such. It's an extension of woodsman's basic skills, nothing more, and nothing less.

Frankly, it's also a fancy name for something that's been around for eons. Most of the constipation I am seeing these days comes from confusing skills with methods to an end, it doesn't have to be. If one admits that it's simply an extension of skills, a skill package if you will, and not a method like ultra light, period trekker, traditional, blah blah blah, then the confusion goes away.

Let's clearly separate the concepts.


Skills are just that, skills, they are ways to achieve or accomplish a task in the short term. For example, a man needs a fire, he needs both skills and tools to build an appropriate fire. One method might be a lighter, another a ferro-rod and still another is a friction fire. Each of these require a lesser to a higher degree of skill to achieve. In other words, provided the fire lay is the same for each and of acceptable design then the skills needed to ignite it vary depending upon tool selected. The skills just get deeper, from using a lighter (little to no skill) to using friction (high degree of skill). The point is, the term 'Bushcraft' is a designator for a series of deeper skills, NOT a methodology.

(Note to readers: I am neutral on methods, I don't care how it's done, I have no bias for or against how other people do what they do. Frankly, it's none of my business how they do it. I don't judge others and do not expect to be judged.)

Methods are ways to do something in a broader scope, keeping it to subject matter at hand consider these three methods of doing the same thing.

Ultralight Backpacking, Camping, and Trekking, using modern ultralight gear in the pursuit of experiencing the wild places. This is a method to go and do using the lightest gear possible.

Traditional Camping, or camping in the old style, the simplest way to put it is non-ultralight. Not using modern gear similar to gas stoves and so on. It's a method to go camping without paying attention to weight while adhering to certain types of gear. Think of the way camping was pre-1970 but post 1900. Often there's still the use of tarps and tents, and other camping specific gear, only from a period that predates Ultralight.

Period Trekking & Camping, all equipment used is authentic to a specific time period in history and these range from paleo to 1800 & 1900s.

There is a difference between a method and a skill when it comes to outdoors enjoyment. Confusing the two is simply going to cause heartburn and the reason for that is a skill set varies in usefulness dependent upon necessities of the circumstances at hand.

If I'm hunting for elk for example, and a storm blows up late in the day. I'm at higher elevation and there's no chance of getting back to my primary camp before the storm and nightfall overtake me. Having made the decision to spend the night on the mountain I am now faced with how to do it. I can rig a tarp quickly, STOP! So I decided on a tarp rig for shelter for the night, not a lean-to or some other shelter built out of what's on hand. I'm surmising here that would be considered a 'bushcraft' skill. Now the reality is I've built many lean-to and other improvised shelters. In this case I wouldn't have time to do it. However, having the skill to do it has also helped me to pick where to put my tarp, in which direction to face the open area. I've substituted materials here but used a skill to determine the where and how.

Let's take it one more step, let's say we've set out on the Appalachian Trail. We're a long way from anything and camp is set. We've broken out our gas stoves and getting ready to whip up some Mountain House when for whatever reason, our stove isn't working. Hungry and now frustrated we have a series of choices. Eat it cold, eat something that doesn't require cooking, or eat nothing. Well, provided fires are permitted, build one. Erect a pot holder type set up above the fire, cook the food in the old way. Again, the method was getting into the woods, using certain types of gear. Skill augments method here and allows for a warm meal.

Bushcraft is not a method, it is a collection of skills for use when needed or desired. It is a collection of tools in a tool box, an extension of abilities. It's great to have them, it's great to practice them, you do not always need to use them. Where this idea came from that it's a method or the only way, or a purist way is beyond me. My guess would be it originated with folks who don't actually get out much, who have developed a mental image of 'how it should be' that isn't actually influenced by real dirt time, and subsequently make judgements upon others method based upon this flawed mental image.

Don't confuse skill sets with methodologies and you'll have less heartburn.

18 May 2012

Bison Gear Packs, The Lost River

 A couple folks asked me for more information about my Bison Gear Lost River Pack. So here it is, multiple pictures and some explanations on how I use the pack and the way I have it set up.

Here's the pack as it comes, a lumbar pack and without a frame, more of a large fanny pack I guess, though there is plenty of room in this pack for most of my needs.

The side pockets hold a 10x10 BCUSA tarp and a 48oz Silo Nalgene like they were made for them. A very nice fit.

The center rear outside pocket holds my cordage and water filtration kit perfectly. This allows me to keep shelter, and hydro outside of the main pack, leaving the main compartment for cook kit and miscellaneous gear, game calls, rain gear and so on.

Main compartment is large enough to haul the rest of my gear for spring, summer, early fall, enough for a three day excursion. For longer trips you can add the pack to a frame, more on that later.

There are external lashing straps both on the bottom and the top of the pack. In the two images below you'll see I have a multicam MEST with a issue Wobbie inside it rolled up and attached. This makes for a very nice and very light weight bed roll. If so desired there is also plenty enough room inside the bag for my Grand Trunk hammock.

There are also pockets on the waist belt, one on the left and one on the right. Perfect size for compass, bug repellent, GPS, or other items you might want quick access to.

The below images are of the pack attached to a frame to show you how much more space this allows for.

Obviously the frame above where the pack is would be where you'd lash heavy, bulky items, sleeping bags, an Elk quarter etc. I'm really digging the pack, not having the whole back covered sure is a lot cooler in warm weather. This set up also allows you to pack into your spike came, take the pack off the frame and hunt out of it as needed during the day. Essentially it's two pack in one, a freighter to get you there, then convert it to a lumbar pack capable of getting you through an unexpected overnighter away from your main camp.

The shoulder straps and waist belt are part of the pack, you use them with the frame, don't have to have a separate set.

I don't know who made the frame in the images, I'm trying to figure that out, it's one I had laying around and the fit is perfect. The Bison Gear website has some information about which frame works with the Lost River pack and I can tell you that Angelo, the owner is great to work with.

I'm digging the pack.

There is also an internal detachable game bag for hauling out your meat. It's 1265ci by itself, detaches internally and fold flat in the bottom of the main compartment. Here's a picture of it extended for use.

 So far I am thrilled with this pack, you can be sure there will be plenty of updates regarding this rig in the future.

15 May 2012

Once a Year...

They are only here once a year, they hide upon the shadow dappled forest floor. There is no rhyme nor reason to when and where, sometimes here, sometimes there, sometimes found and sometimes not. A peculiar mix of weather, of just this much sun and that much rain, to put again, the morels on the ground.

Spring brings with it the great Morel Hunting Season, this year wasn't an exception though by my calculations it was running a bit behind. Usually sometime in April, but as late as early June, I've seen them come early and I've seen them take their time.

When I have the time to do it, I'll rove and range, stump shooting my way across the property, assessing what winter left and what spring is bringing. I'll find all manner of animal sign, and sometimes I'll find myself in a patch of one of Mother Nature's finest delicacies.

Most of the time, I'll find them in between dry and wet, in single stories of leaves, in some sun but not a lot. Near old rotting Elms and in stands of living Ash, Poplar, Aspens, sometimes Maples. More often with the Fiddlebacks than not, but sometimes not. In early Spring I'll hunt the south facing slopes, where the sun is warming the ground earliest, later in the season the north side, as the Morel likes his shade in the heat.

You'll need to look up as much as down, as they only grow around certain types of host trees. You'll not find them amongst the Oaks for example. Know your trees and you'll know the neighborhood for Morels, Ash, Elm, Poplar, Maple, seem to be popular but I've found them under others.

When you find them don't pick them, instead cut them or pinch them at the stem, don't pull it as this will damage the root system. They tend to show up in the same place year after year if their root system isn't damaged.

When I'm gathering them I use a canvas foraging bag, in this case a modified Frost River Lunch bag. It's what I had with me at the time.

Much better to use a mesh bag, an onion or orange sack, this allows air to circulate around the Morels, and speculation holds that spores fall from them as you walk, thus propagating future sprouts.

There is a reason you'll find a stick of butter in my pack this time of year, for there is nothing better than fresh found Morels fried up in butter, in cast iron over a trail side camp fire.

The list of things that compare to this treat is short, fresh caught trout form a cold stream, the first backstraps of the season, ptarmigan, bacon, and all of them over a open fire.

Morels, the once a year treat that you just can't beat.

13 May 2012

Water & the Backwoods...

Over the years I've tried a lot of different water filters. I started with a Katadyn, and then went to MSR, from there to Platypus and now back to MSR.

Each company is reputable and produces solid products. While I might disagree with certain aspects of some designs, the fact that many folks use them and love them cannot be denied.

I originally started with a pump version, and they worked okay for what they were. They just never were really all that enjoyable to carry or to use. Last year I used and tested a Platypus Gravity Works system and was thoroughly impressed. The issues I had with the system were nominal, still they were there. Nothing wrong with the functionality at all, it's a top shelf filter, speed and function were very good. My issue was the bags, I was concerned with their durability, even though they felt durable and seemed to be holding up just fine, I was nervous about the plastic getting punctured. More than likely it's just my paranoia.

Return to MSR.

I've always found their products to be excellent, designed well, functioning well, and very reliable. I'm still using a Pocket Rocket Stove that I purchased from them about ten years ago. The MSR Miniworks EX was the last pump water filter I used, and it worked. The ability to field clean the filter was a great attribute. Still, it was a pump and I was done with pumping after having used a gravity filter. MSR is a US based company producing great products for backpacking.

Enter MSR AutoFlow Gravity Filter

It's really pretty simple. A bag, two lengths of hose, a microfilter, you supply the clean water reservoir. You can use a water bottle, in this case I'm using a 48oz Nalgene, or you could use a Dromedary bag, a hydration sack, and so on. You simply fill the dirty water reservoir and hang it. Connect the hoses to the micro filter and your collection vessel. Connect the shorter hose with the quick connect ent to the dirty water reservoir.


Effective against protozoaYes
Effective against bacteriaYes
Effective against virusesNo
Effective against particulateYes
Effective against chemicals/toxinsNo
Weight13.8 oz / 392 g
Width4 in / 10 cm
Length6 in / 15 cm
Filter mediaHollow Fiber
Filter pore size0.2 microns
Flow (L/min)1.75 liters per min
Cartridge life~1500 liters
Field cleanableYes
Field maintainableYes
Country of OriginMade in Seattle, USA
Water Bottle AdapterYes

There are a couple things I want to point out.

The reservoir is listed at four liters, it in fact holds closer to 6 when using it as I am in the image above.

The bottle/bag adapter works, it simple screws into any nalgene sized bottle, or hydration pack be it Camelback or other. It even works with military canteens as well as numerous others.

I did find that I got maximum flow when I left the lid loose, not so loose that it's barely hanging on the bottle, just loose enough to allow air to escape the vessel as it fills with water.

Finally, it's fast, very fast, see the video below, it's short but it shows the speed of flow into that 48oz Nalgene bottle. While it is advertised as a base camp filter I don't see why. The time to set up and get it going isn't much more than a pump. Further, I more than make up that difference in the speed of the gravity feed. Typically I'll fill the bag, connect to vessel, fill, disconnect and move on. I use that 48oz bottle most of the time but I also carry a 2 liter dromedary bag folded up in the pack. If I know distance between water opportunity is large, I'll fill that plus the bottle and move on. I don't consider this a base camp option alone, it serves me just fine on the move.

As far as I am concerned pumps are dead, this is the best option out there for me. Backwoods Bum Approved!

Pretty much all of the water on earth has something in it. I've been some places where I've drank straight from a stream with no ill effects but you've got to be very careful. Drinking bacteria laden water is going to put you out of commission and maybe kill you. I grew up on well water and it's my primary source of water to this day, as a boy I thought nothing of drinking from the creeks near the house, those days are gone in more ways than one.

If you're going to spend enough time out back of beyond, where you'll run out of water, you need a method or system to clean your water. For those whose preponderance of water comes from a plastic bottle or the town's public water works, you're likely to be quite sensitive to backwoods water. Your gut simply isn't prepared for it. Those who do drink often from the wild places are probably a little more acclimated, still, get a filter, or a purification system, you don't want what comes from drinking bad water.

06 May 2012

Backwoods Gun .22LR update

I wanted to try to captured the difference between the segmented .22 rounds and the regular hollow point rounds. For this there were four types tested:

Winchester Varmint HE
CCI Segmented
CCI Segmented Subsonic
CCI Stinger
Winchester PP standard velocity

The short video below shows the results. I filmed the tests with a Pentax KX camera, I just slowed the footage down to 0.125 of normal. All shots were from 75 yards.

All of the segmented rounds showed tremendous violence at impact, much more so than the standard hollow points, even the hyper velocity hollow point did not cause as much damage as the subsonic segmented round. Due to the extreme damage these would not be suitable for small game that you're taking for meat, or pelt purposes, something we already knew, I just wanted to try and illustrate it.

I should note that the segmented rounds by design, separate into three sections at impact and typically leave three exits. In this sort of medium the violence of this action is pretty clear. Most round nose .22LR ammo will pass through a jug of water leaving the entrance and exit hole. These segmented rounds had one entry and three exits.

Take a close look at the CCI Segmented high velocity test, it's the second on in the video, watch the jug expand before it explodes. Impressive for such a diminutive round.

More to come.