25 January 2015

Little bit of saw, little bit of knife, little bit of fire = Bread on a cold day...

I've been on the road for a couple weeks, and still have three more weeks to go, leaving again tomorrow. I had a little time today to go for a walk in my backwoods, drift the woods and enjoy the silence. The noise of the road had to go, airports, hotels, rental cars, bad food, long meetings, yeah I needed to 'bathe in some wood smoke'!

This was the first chance I've had to get out with a new piece of cooking gear. A Fry-Bake Alpine pan/lid set. At a very light weight it functions like a dutch oven, with some limitations.

I also wanted to see how a new GoPro camera would do in with temps in the teens. This go round I recorded in 720, next time I'll bump it up to the 1080. It worked fine but battery life was limited. When I ordered the camera I also ordered two spare batteries and a ruggedized 9000mAh battery pack. From that I can charge my phone, my GPS, my headlamp, my Sony camera, and this GoPro. The testing for this will last the next several months. I think the 9k will do but may have to go up to a larger unit for extended stays.

Saw was the Laplander, knife was the Adventure Sworn Guide, and I beat it with a stick all good like.

For the fire I started with the H60 but actually got the fire going with a regular (non-European ferro rod). I'm no expert on steels and don't typically engage in pontificating as to which is best. Here's what I can say from experience, some ferro rods drop globules of molten goodness, and some rods are more of a flashing match type thing. The Euro rods are the flashers, then there is everything else. Some one more knowledgeable than I can weigh in. The video shows what happened. The H60 didn't ignite the shavings, almost but not quite. The globule from a normal ferro fell into the feathers and ignited.

Not saying the Euro type rods don't work, they absolutely do and I've used them before, in this case one type worked better than the other.

Last thing, there are three Ray 'Wylie' Hubbard songs in the vid, if'n you don't like Texas red dirt music just mute it out.

Thanks for taking a look!

11 January 2015

-12F 3.6m in 4.1m out, Fire on the Mountain, Zebra Light Nite Hike

Spent some time hiking in sub zero weather, wind chill was in the 25 to 30 below range. Ambient at -12 when I went in, -13 when I made it back to the truck. Some bushcraftin' and cookin' on the mountain. Night hike out to test a new Zebra Light.

I wore multiple layers, including a puffy under the outer jacket and still didn't over heat. The First Lite merino base layers are the best I've used and I've used a lot of different names. After two years of trying and comparing them to what Kuiu has to offer as well as Core4 and several others the First Lite layers have outlasted all others.

An interesting note on clothing this trip, the outer layer this time was nothing more than a 50% cotton 50% polyester hoodie type jacket. Because of the multiple layers beneath and maintaining a very breathable outer layer I was more comfortable than usual. On the way out the wind was up a and I wasn't sheltered as well as I had be so I put the Kryptek Koldo rain jacket back on. I know it's a rain jacket but it's also great as a wind blocking layer, the venting zips make it a nice option when activity levels are up. 

I'm liking the Fallraven rucksack, holds more than enough for a day out and is comfortable to carry. Needs a sternum strap which I'm making for it. Otherwise it is a nice bush crafting day hiking pack.

Steel this go round was from Adventure Sworn and a Beck along with the Laplander. 

08 January 2015

Adventure Sworn Guide Model

Breathtaking execution in steel would be about as good a sum up as I can muster. I'm blown away at the detail, striking lines and just beautiful craftsmanship. Fit and finish are exceptional, one of the most comfortable handles I've had the pleasure of using.

I recall the first time I saw the Guide model posted, and I thought to myself then that it was one I would need to own eventually. Timing worked out just at the end of the holidays when this beauty hit the classifieds at BCUSA. For several days after it was posted I actually hoped it would be picked up, I didn't over extend for Christmas but I had made some large purchases including a BECK, a Wohlwend, a Shearer, in addition to paying for my Alaska trip later this year. Days went by and the Guide beckoned, finally I lost my resolve and bought it. I am certainly glad that I did. It's good to have an Adventure Sworn back in the stable!

Some time ago I'd let my AS BCUSA knives move on to other users, the sale of them financed some other projects and while I don't regret selling them I have regretted not having an Adventure Sworn in my line up of knives. Cody's execution is some of the best I have seen and his knives certainly rank in the top five most comfortable, useable, knives I have owned.

The lines on the Guide model are what drew me to it, particularly the handle, it has the swells in just the right places, it's certainly a pleasure to hold and stays that way over periods of extended and intense use. The blade shows obvious homage to a 'Nessmuk' type pattern. The hump on on the spine being the characteristic most commonly associated with that pattern. It's useful in a lot of ways, primarily for game processing. The mild tip and slight down turn help avoid puncturing things you don't want to puncture when gutting an animal, the rise behind the tip, when the knife is inverted, allows you to 'unzip' an animal with the blade between two fingers as you go from back to front.

The length of the handle and the shape lends to light chopping which is additionally aided by the edge/weight forward blade. I found it particularly useful in de-limbing small to medium saplings. The blade while at 4&3/4" was still long enough for baton work on medium sized rounds.

Over all I am thrilled to have a AS again and even more so that it is the Guide model, the exact one I've wanted to own since I first saw it.

Kudos to the Adventure Sworn crew, this knife is a stellar example of what their craftsmanship and attention to detail looks like.

Superb in every way.

04 January 2015

Hare Snaring Basics

I had some messages with questions regarding how I choose where to set my snares, what type of snares I'm using and some other general questions about snaring so I thought I'd do a post specific to it. There is a wealth of information on the web regarding snaring for rabbits and hares, much of it is worthwhile reading/watching for the aspiring snare-person.

You'll need to check your local state or provincial law, snaring is not legal in all locations.

Snowshoe hare or Varying Hare are my only quarry, though I imagine the process for snaring rabbits of other varieties is similar.

I'm not claiming to be an expert, far from it, what works for me I figured out, over time and trial, it may not necessarily work as well for others in different circumstances and conditions.

I don't feel that it's necessary to get long winded on defining and describing a snare, if you're interested and a reader of this blog you probably already know what they are and what they consist of however, if one was looking for more detailed information you'll find it on this page; Basics of Snaring

I'm familiar with snare wire, brass and otherwise, and while I've seen plenty of hares taken with it I prefer to use cable snares. Specifically a 30" piece of 3/64" 7x7 cable, lowpro locks, screw on support collars and an 11 gauge swivel.

There are a couple reasons for that. While brass wire is lighter in weight and perhaps more economical in the short term, I don't believe it survives as well as cable. I believe cable snares work better than brass wire, they are more reliable in all aspects and so prefer them over wire.

If you're going to take the time to actually place multiple snares and run the line every day then you might as well set yourself up for success and use quality snares.

While I make my own snares these days, it is quite economical to purchase a dozen or more snares and there are several online resources for them, two that I would recommend are The Snare Shop and Dakota Line Snares.

Along with the snares I carry a Leatherman Wave Multi-tool to cut 11 and 14 gauge wire. I use this wire to 'anchor' the snares to trees and to position the snare via the collar, I'll explain that along with some images later.

So really, all that is physically needed are the snares, some wire, and something to cut the wire with. That and an understanding of where to set them for the highest probability of success.

Lepus americanus, Snowshoe hares are primarily found in boreal forests and upper mountain forests. Their range for North America can be seen below.

 In my area I can find them both in the lowland bogs and highlands where there are conifer thickets. Since I have snow for roughly five months a year I can easily follow their trails and get familiar with their habitat. In the spring after snow melt you can visibly see how deep the snow was because you'll find 'chew lines' on the understory where hares had eaten the bark off of some shrubs and saplings. The summer after our worst winter I can remember I could look at the chew lines without stooping or looking down, they were eye level in some places.

Looking at all the hare tracks in the snow you'll get the impression they run everywhere but while they'll break out on new paths more often than not they use the same paths, the path of least resistance with the most abundant cover and browse available.

In the image below you'll see hare tracks but note that they are one direction, this is what I call an 'exploratory' path, the hare traveled this way but did not return on the same path. If you were to look around this area and track that hare you'll find that single set of tracks eventually joins up on an actual hare run, which is what you see in the second image.

And an even better, more used run.

Hare sign outside of their tell tell tracks and runs are visible if you look close. You'll see things like the below;



You'll find where they've neatly snipped off limbs, chewed bark, nipped needles and so on. They prefer to run the same trails and often run through 'tunnels' of brush and understory for the safety of the cover. They'll run through 'holes' in the brush that are large enough for them but not large enough to permit fox or coyote and the like to pass through. These 'choke' points are perfect places to set snares.

In the image below you can see the hare run, it is even more visible in the second image and if you look close you'll see the snare set within that run between the brush.

Below you can clearly see the snare. Because of their behavior it is relatively simple to set snares, 'set on sign' as the saying goes, and in the funnels of their own creation. This will put them in your snares.

I use 11 and 14 gauge wire to anchor my snares to trees and saplings, simply twist the wire with the snare swivel inside, around the tree as seen below. Once twisted up make sure the tag end is folded out of the way or pressed down under the snowline. I do this to prevent the hare from impaling on the tag or tearing themselves apart on it. I do save the pelts and tan them, making drawstring bags, mitten inserts, wrist warmers and so on, so I try to make sure their pelts are not damaged in the process.

Using the other end of the wire, pressed into the snare collar it holds the snare in the position and the height that I want it.

As a side note, one of the other benefits of tracking and snaring hares is their droppings. Crazy right? Well I've found that it makes the best filler/binding agent I have found for making pine pitch. Incidentally you can find an excellent Pine Pitch Tutorial here and here.

The main things I do that I believe contributes to success;
  1. Use good quality snares, good components, anchor them securely.
  2. Set on heavily used trails, look beyond the trail and see if it intersects with another, set where the two trails merge.
  3. Use sticks to fence and direct them into the snare.
  4. Be diligent, check the line every day, make sure the sets are good even if empty, a miss will tell you why it was a miss, learn from it and set again. Sometimes a miss is worth more than a catch if you learn from it.
  5. Try to set with overhead cover, raptors will rob you if they spot a hare in the snare.

As far as recipes go, my current favorite is as follows;

Feeds six.

3 hares, deboned.
1/4 to 1/2 pound of bacon chopped into small pieces, brown both together.

In a 7qt crock pot;

5 cans mushroom soup.
4 redskin potatoes sliced thin.
4 or 5 celery sticks chopped.
2 cans peas
couple handfuls of small carrots
3/4 of a sweet onion sliced/diced.
Sliced mushrooms, leave out if you don't like them.
Season with your favorite seasons, I mostly just use a lot of pepper.

Once you've got that in the pot, pour the browned hare and bacon, grease and all into the lot and stir it up pretty good. Put the crock on high and go huntin' or something, eat 5 or 6 hours later.

My wife is somewhat finicky on wild hare/rabbit but even she likes it like this. 

For those who were interested, hope this helps!

03 January 2015

Amadou, Chaga, Chaga Dust - Getting an Ember with Flint & Steel

Amadou, on the web anyway, is almost mystical in nature. It is the end result of extracting the trauma layer from Fomes Fomentarius, or Horse Hoof Fungus, from between the hard outer layer and the spores and processing it. You can find a good article on Amadou and Amadou alternatives here; Substitutes for Tinder Fungus.

Several years ago I went to the trouble of making a bunch of the stuff. A recent conversation with a friend re-peaked my interest in it and I dug the batch out to piddle with. I've learned a bit since then, particularly about chaga which differs greatly from Horse Hoof fungus, and wanted to try a few experiments.

The video covers and shows the Amadou, but also shows how much easier it is to use chaga to get an ember.

I should say that I'm a huge fan and user of chaga for a lot of things, from medicinal uses to a good wood's tea to getting embers for fires though I refrain from using it overmuch for fires, I prefer using it for tea. Having spent a a great deal of time learning about the amazing Birch tree and all of the various fungus that thrive on it both while it is alive and after its death I found it to be the single most important tree for me. It provides so many things I've come to think of it as the 'General Store' of the great north woods. From containers, medicine, warmth, sugar, the list is lengthy on what this tree provides.

I'm no expert and I don't know that I'm right. Most of what I know I came by via trial and error, mostly error. So don't take anything I say as gospel. While Amadou is some interesting stuff I don't find it magical in its flammability, and perhaps I didn't make it right. In some of the reading I've done it was clear that some of the stuff has saltpetre incorporated and I didn't do that. I'll also be the first to tell you that I'm not that good with flint and steel, so maybe amadou is the perfect medium to received a spark from flint and steel and I'm just not doing it right!

Either way, it was a fun experience if a bit of a pain. I've come to the conclusion that I still prefer a ferro rod for my fire making, and still carry matches etc etc.

Thanks for looking!

01 January 2015

Update on the Snare Line

Since I laid the line in it has produced three to five hares each night, it has been very productive! The temperatures have been below zero as a high for several days, today we got a bit of a break and it warmed up into the teens.

My son wanted to run the line today and because I've got to get back to work tomorrow he'll be taking over. I tossed my pack on the wheeler and he followed on the snowgo, we left before dawn.

I've never pushed my boys or any of my kids for that matter, into my own hobbies and interests, I've left the doors open and let them choose what they want to do. I didn't want to create mini-me children so they were always invited but never persuaded. I'm quite proud of all of them for being independent, just the same I was happy to see my son's interest in snaring hares.

My line consists of fifteen snares, spread over a total distance of about a mile and a half. The line makes a loop from behind the barn, out and around and winds through my property before it rejoins the main trail. I space them out over such a distance so as to avoid over taking in one area.

The weather was definitely improved, it was good to feel the sun again after so many days of bitter cold winds and sub zero temps with the sun hidden behind grey clouds.

I picked this Fjallraven Rucksack up from suspectdevice on the forums, I'd been curious about these since Bush Tramp posted his some time ago. I'm more than pleasantly surprised at the capacity and the comfort and overall feel of the pack. 

Son cleaned a couple of them, he picked it up pretty quick. Because I'm saving the hides to make small drawstring bags we took our time and peeled them end to end instead of splitting the hides at the back and just ripping them off.

Incidentally, an old Bowflex frame makes an excellent game cleaning station.  

Suffice it to say it was a good day. Only down side is tomorrow I am back to work, though I am excited that my son will take over the line and continue to run it for the rest of the season. It has been quite the year for him, finishing his education, getting his hunting and trapping licenses and so on.

I think I've been as excited to see him get to this point as he was.