26 April 2014

Stump Thumpin & Moose Trackin

Having more travel through the next couple weeks I wanted some woods time, in spite of the new snow and the seemingly perpetually delayed Spring, I took my bow to do some stump shooting too. Out the back I trudged with Ace in tow.

The video covers everything and a little more besides, some arrow flinging with the camera on the stumps I'm shooting at.  As well as a camera tumble in the creek, just to see what it looks like in one of those little cascades. I'm still digging this camera for the quality of images, video and the fact that I can toss it in a creek with no ill effect.

Best viewed HD and full screen.

We drifted down into the valley towards the stream that winds through my property, there are many old rotten stumps through that bottom that are perfect for stump shooting. On our way in however, we cut a moose track! I've not seen a moose or found the track of one in my woods for going on two years now. This was special!

I decided to follow the tracks as far as possible, hopefully catching sight of the increasingly rare icon of the Northwoods. The near noon sun was breaking through the clouds, a light breeze from the southeast, and the temperatures in the high thirties. A fine day to be out!

The tracks led me to the stream and into it, the tracks didn't come out on the other side, the moose had turned and was walking downstream. With a grin I slipped into the icy water and followed.

Snow melt has flooded the little valley causing the stream to jump its banks. Some of it fast flowing and relatively deep and some slow and shallow. I kept checking the sides for tracks but saw none, the moose had kept to the water way. Occasionally it would cross a piece of high ground, leaving behind the tell tell sign of water droplets in the snow.

I stayed with this for nearly a mile, where the stream dumps into a bog and beaver pond.

We skirted the edge to the right, I wanted to be able to see if the moose exited the bog, I'd cut no tracks until we were on the other side. You can see where the moose went directly through and hit the ice before exiting the bog.

From there I followed another three hundred yards into thicker and thicker bush, water was deeper than my boots and the going was hard. This was the same area I'd seen a cow and calf four years ago. I believe this was a female returning to the Springtime feeding and calving thickets, at least that was  my hope. I turned and headed north, leaving the moose to the nearly impassable terrain with hope that she does drop a calf here and that they survive.

We retraced our steps, along and through the creek and past one of my day camps.

That spot looked like this a couple springs ago.


This area is loaded up with stumps and I had a good time thumping them for about an hour. There's some footage in the video.

Then is was time for a bit of lunch.

Ace and I are both big fans of salmon in a can! Shameful right?

The walk out was enjoyable, though tiring. Travel was easy in the creek, not so much out of it. We still have knee deep drifts and I hit many of them along the way.

Thanks for looking!

24 April 2014

BisonGear Chest Pack Part One

Any regular reader of my ramblings knows I like chest packs. I find them damn handy and for me, an ideal way to carry things I access often or want to have immediate access to. The original concepts were geared towards people who wanted to carry a side arm and a pack with a waist belt. The chest pack made for an excellent means to carry concealed with quick access while backpacking. There are offerings out there from a number of companies, Kifaru, Hill People Gear, are the two I've used in the past.

Now there is a third.

BisonGear Chest Pack in Gray Wool
Sometime last year I began communicating with BisonGear about a chest pack made of wool. My requirements were simple, had to be quiet, had to have a couple separated compartments and some organizational capability. After a recent trip I returned home to find the prototype, which exceeded my expectations.

The utility of the chest pack has proven itself to me over the past couple of years and I've had virtually no complaints except for noise. Both of the primary makers of these packs use high speed super durable material and while they are indeed durable they are noisy, as any twig, limb, bramble or briar they come into contact with results in scratching and popping the likes of which are not desirable while hunting.

BisonGear offers several material types, I personally own and use several products made of wool and the bucksuede material, they've all proven to be bombproof. Along with wool they also offer Wolfskin which I believe is similar to bucksuede, and hemp. I'm a fan of wool and have found it excels for my uses.

Both sides of the pack have these elastic cloth pockets, I have a SAK Huntsman in this one, but they would be great for game calls, like a predator call.

The BG Chest pack has a very slim profile yet has enough room to carry all my essentials plus a pair of Leupold 10x42 binoculars.

The first pocket is perfect for compass, notepad, pens, and assorted other small items.
The main compartment is really three sections.

The forward wall of the pack is a series of divided smaller compartments as you can see in the below image. Also note the the webbing and buckles to either side, they can be adjusted in or out, allowing for a stop to the front flap from going any further than you want it to. You can completely unzip the main compartment and not have to worry about the forward wall of the pack going to far.

There are two D-rings here as well, nice for those of us who dummy cord some things to prevent loss or dropping.

The main compartment is divided as you can see below. The divider also has small pockets, and attaches to the rear via shock-cord and the swivel clips you see in the image below. There is a second set of D-rings here for more dummy cord action. There are more pockets in this thing than I could fill!

The rear pocket of the main compartment is mesh with a zipper closure. Makes a good place for some spare ziplock bags, warrior wipes etc.

There's a ton of space in the pack. I don't know what the cubic inches would come out to be but it's plenty for me. In prior chest packs I carried binoculars, a 5x7 UL tarp, fire kit, water purification kit, navigation, small FAK and assorted snivel gear along with game calls and a small tracking kit.

The stitching is the usual grade from BisonGear, exceptional. The webbing, hardware, and zippers are the same ones they use on all of their packs. I've never had any of them fail in any of their other products, I don't expect these will either.

I like the fact that the wool has added some structure to the pack, in the HPG Kit Bag depending on what you had in it, would balloon out and sag. In the BG version the wool results in stiffer side walls and no sag or ballooning. 

To my knowledge these are not available for order yet and I don't know when they will be. In part two I'll do a direct comparison of the HPG Kit bag including size, weight, organizational aspects and general thoughts. So far I'm quite happy with the BisonGear chest pack.

12 April 2014

Acclimation, Adaptation, Practical, Impractical -Words mean more than words-

Acclimation is a process that happens over a period of time and can be applied in multiple ways. Most commonly to the weather however there are other things a person can acclimate to, but starting with the weather, cold and hot are the typical.

Winter takes some time to acclimate to and some do not do so for the duration of the season, which means they're miserable every time the go out the door. In late fall and early winter when the mercury is plunging we add layers and the reverse is true for spring. However, when our temps hit 28F to 32F in March it is absolute t-shirt weather and I'm usually running too warm. Realize that 28F is a near 30 degree swing from the average.

How do you feel when the temps are 30 degrees warmer than what you're used to?  In the fall when we're acclimated to temps in the 60s for example, and the first cold snap drops us into the 20s, of course it feels cold! Yet 20 odd degrees was near comfortable at the end of the prior winter provided we acclimated.

Over time and exposure the body acclimates provided it is amply exposed to the swings. The key part of this statement is 'amply exposed', no exposure means no acclimation.

That's my interpretation of acclimation.

Adaptation is different, in its typical use it is associated with a species adapting over time but can also be used in the short term, particularly with humans, where adaptation happens very quickly. This is usually associated with conditioning in the short term to adapt to a situation hence the phrase 'Adapt & Overcome'.

It has been my experience that the human in general is a lazy being and willingly a victim to a perverse type of homeostasis, meaning humans will rarely willingly physically adapt or acclimate unless either forced to do so, or internally perceive either a benefit or valid reason for adapting.

Most humans fall into a creature comfort whiny state that prevents them from doing or being something more, prevents them from seeing any path other than the easiest at the time and will willingly forgo a path that might at the moment be more arduous than that of a slinky on the stairs. Never mind the fact that there may indeed be reason and fulfillment and enjoyment beyond the base. In short, most humans want the easiest path through everything in life. Shortsighted and lazy minds and bodies and spirits.

Any thing worth doing is never going to be easy when started.  

Who defines 'impractical'?

Usually the person who cannot do something, or is overly uncomfortable doing it, I don't think I've ever heard someone comfortable and cable defining their activity or choice as 'impractical'.

In life I have personally found that there is nourishment beyond the food I eat or the water I drink. That is nourishment for the body, but there is also nourishment for the mind and the spirit, and sometimes that nourishment does not come from the path of least resistance or the smallest weight or the fastest course.

And so we come to the Why of a thing, realizing the How is not everything.

An example related to woods bumming is in order.

I could take a 1500 calorie lunch with me that weighs less than 10 ounces and yet feels more like a chore to eat than a meal worth eating. Why? Well some would say weight and ease and it's impractical to do something else. I would say bacon wrapped backstraps from the deer I killed last year is far more nourishing to me than mere calorie count. Such a meal is more than physical nourishment.

For the mind in this case, is nourished by recalling where the hunt was, the circumstances of it, what led to success, and how to repeat it.

For the spirit in this case, is nourished by recalling the pounding of heart when prey is near, for the acuteness of hearing and smelling and seeing that comes with roaring adrenaline, of fulfillment and the twinge of sorrow that death has come for another.

The very definition of practical to me includes the ingredients to not merely go from A to B, but also the reasons for why and what they do for me across the gamut of Mind, Body, Spirit. 

I often find effort of body to be rewarding and were I to do everything with ease being the foremost requirement I wouldn't get from the effort near as much. The idea that everything a body does should be with the least effort is a mirror to the body and mind rotting mindset of a consumerism driven society. A culture of convenience has permeated society to the point that society is rotting from the inside out.

Look at where the human was and now is, physically first, are humans more physically hale and capable now than they were even fifty years ago? Most would answer no, and living longer does not necessarily translate to better if that living is in a depressed state filled with mental anguish and a feeling of nothingness. The typical age expectancy study does not usually factor in all of the variables of the time and even then there are a multitude of examples that do not fit the norm. Every generation for as far back as you want to go has had death within all age groups and many examples of living longer than the average.

Look at where the human spirit was and is now, would you say we're spiritually healthier now? I do not mean religion, I mean from a centered and happy individual vs. a depressed and sad individual? I look around at the people I meet and know and I wonder, with all of the 'modern' conveniences and 'improvements in health' and I have to wonder, spiritually, are we a better society?

Look at the human mind, is it better or worse? I've seen the destruction of critical thinking, of logic, of the spoken and written word, of mathematics, the evidence of this destruction is all around us if we but look objectively. Compare the educational testing requirements from 1900 and 2000, most college grads would flunk an 8th grade exam from 1900.

Somewhere along the way, and I'm moderately convinced it's the result of the lazy nature of man, humans prioritized easy first benefit second. Does something that is easier to do mean it's better? Of course not, so why is it that ease is the first on the list of something that must be?

'I would not do that because it isn't easy enough' is the same thing as 'it isn't practical', when the end goal is not simply to do something in the easiest manner possible, but to also actually get something from it that is beneficial to the body and the mind and the spirit.

What we do, we do for a multitude of reasons both internal and external. In self examination I review my doings with an eye for benefit to body, mind & spirit, and while a 'way' may be easier physically, it doesn't necessarily translate to better.

I sometimes feel sympathy for people who cannot understand this. It is the equivalent of buying a Chinese knock of something, created in a filthy child labor environment, because it costs $5 instead of $25, or the soulless creature who never sees the forest for the trees along the trail and never knows that to the left and right of the common path is a world alive.

What does anything mean when the primary concern is that is doesn't make a person uncomfortable, never mind the fact that comfort is a relative term nor is the 'un-comfort' lasting. Some people are comfortable in 100 degree heat where a winter acclimated person would near faint from it, or a south of the equator denizen transported to the arctic circle. It's a matter of acclimation and perspective.

 'What one man can do, so can another' has an opposite, usually espoused by the incapable or incompetent or closed minded, 'what I cannot do you cannot do'. When in the end it is simply a matter of comfort.

Acclimation and adaptation are key ingredients within the human condition and neither of them are being exercised by our modern culture of convenience. Like a muscle not exercised it will atrophy, the end result is a culture of can't and won't and 'it's too hard'.

I equate a human with a knife in this way; life, experience, effort, these are the stones upon which we  hone ourselves. Sloth, ease, laziness, these are the things that dull us. The body, nor the mind, nor the spirit get stronger without use, the things that make us who we are do not happen on the easy path.

The most unhappy, disgruntled, persnickety people I have ever met in my lifetime all have something in common, they were all in search of the easiest way for everything.

The happiest most well balanced people I've ever met in my lifetime we're all self driven, self challenging people, who more often than not chose the road less traveled regardless of the difficulty.

Nothing is ever found on the easy path, not for the body, not for the mind, and not for the spirit.

07 April 2014

Chaga Hunt and Rotten Snow

Got into the low 40s today! T-shirt weather even if we do still have a couple feet of snow on the ground.

I wanted to do some chaga hunting and grab some fresh air so with the snowshoes strapped on, sled in tow and Ace in front of me we set out for a area where I usually find some.

While this old monarch had a couple chaga growths they were small and nearly out of reach so I passed on them.

Deeper in the wood I found what I was after. Spot it in the distance? Since so few things are pitch black in the woods and chaga is only found on Birch trees it makes it a little easier.

It was a sizable chunk, and yielded nearly three pounds.

Once back to the sled I figured lunch was in order.

What ya call waitin' on the bacon!

Post lunch I had a smoke and Ace enjoyed the sun and the bacon euphoria.

The trudge back was uneventful. Snow is rotten, slushy mess.

I hung the chaga I'd collected to dry and broke out a batch that had been drying for close or slightly more than a year now.

Using the saw in the Huntsman I reduce the chunks to smaller and smaller pieces, sometimes carving out slices, then grinding in the mortar to a moderately fine powder.

In this case I slipped a waxed paper bag into a leather pouch, this package is going to a friend. 

I packed the the pouch full, using the pestle to compress the chaga.

With another pouch to fill I cut and ground some more.

Even after filling the bigger final pouch I still had quite a bit left for storage. Chaga is one of those things that I've found very useful and very enjoyable. As a woodsman's tea goes I've found nothing better.

Thanks for taking a look.