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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

random shots...

From the last few days spent in the woods...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

getting ready

Spending tonight sorting out all the little things to take for a few days in the woods after thanksgiving

Monday, November 19, 2018

survival hack

So I don't quit fishing in the winter. Plus I'm out bowhunting or walking the creeks looking for fossils. All of which have the potential in winter to be real bad if I would break an ankle or even just fall in the water if it's really cold. I do though try to be safe and I thought today I'd talk about my little fire starter kit and how I go about making it. At the very least you should carry a lighter with you. But I've had trouble enough with old corroded lighters that I don't want to stake my life on one working well enough to get a fire started in wet conditions. I carry something that will make a spark even when its wet, plus char cloth and cotton ball tinder. Char cloth is amazing stuff really. Just the tiniest spark has to land on it and it will catch and hold it, the spark will  then very slowly spread across the char cloth as you blow on it and will get extremely hot. I'll explain how to make it here in a minute. The cotton balls you rip apart into a pile of fluff them work a gob of petroleum jelly into the pile. This you then smush back down into a compact wad and store in a ziplock bag to rip apart and use when you need it. The advantage of the cotton ball tinder is that it takes up zero space and weighs nearly nothing but burns for quite a while, long enough to dry out even wet twigs if you start with tiny ones. To get a spark you can use any of about a zillion ferrocerium and magnesium rods on the market. Any Walmart or Meijer will have one in their camping section. You are only using it to start one fire in an emergency so you don't need a huge fancy one like you might take to the boundary waters or Alaska. Honestly the $1.99 one you can buy at harbor freight is as good as any for this. 
The char cloth in its little box and my fire starter rod then go in a ziplock baggie along with my ziplock of cotton ball tinder. All of this weighs nearly nothing. I then put this in the bottom of the waterproof box I keep my cell phone in along with, yes, a lighter. Now I'm pretty confident I can get a fire started under any conditions with this kit. It pays to practice a bit though, go out when everything is soaked or there is a snow on and practice. Besides that's pretty fun in and of itself.
Okay how to make that char cloth. It's super easy. First you need some 100% cotton cloth. Pillow ticking, and old tee shirt or do like me and use an old wore out pair of jeans. Next you need a small metal container that shuts tightly. There are literally thousands of You-tube survivalist videos showing guys using an Altoid tin. And that's what I used. Why not it's dirt cheap, well made and well, perfect. So you cut squares of the cloth to fit inside the box. Don't cram it too full though, I think it wouldn't char as well if it was packed in too tightly. You then put this over a fire, any kind of fire, I've used everything from a campfire to the grill. I used a little backpacking stove to make the char you see in the photos. If you have a tin that is airtight you might need to punch a tiny hole to let the gasses created by the charring process vent. By the way don't do this in the house it stinks. Especially if you are burning the paint off a brand new Altoid tin. As my tin sits on the fire I can see flames as the gasses vented out the boxes hinges burns off. That is why you need a pretty tight box so your cloth will char and not burn. Leave it on the fire till these gasses quit burning. This takes about ten minutes I'd guess at the most. I usually leave it on the fire another five minutes or so just to be sure. 
And that's it. Once it cools you have a little box full of char cloth squares that will literally catch and hold a spark better than anything on earth. If you want to get fancy you can certainly use a flint and steel with your char cloth instead of the fire starter rod and start your fire exactly the way Daniel Boone used to when he was tromping thru these same woods around here.

Monday, November 12, 2018


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Cold November Rain...

The forecast for my hunting property was 100 percent chance of rain. Ugghh,  It seemed like every time I had a vacation day to hunt this fall it was raining. After killing a ten pointer last week and with venison in the freezer I just couldn't bring myself to sitting 20 feet up in a tree in the pouring rain again. Time to fish for a day or two till the rain quits then go climb some trees.
So the little car was completely stuffed with fishing AND hunting junk and off I went. South. South till I hit clear water. Which ended up being the Tennessee River, one of my absolute favorite places on earth. It rained pretty much the whole way which pretty much let me know what I was in for. But I was ready. A heavy fleece over a shirt. Then a lightweight frog tog rain windbreaker. Then an old pair of waders over all that topped by a rain jacket. Short of a dunking in the river I was going to stay pretty dry and warm.
As always the Tennessee did not disappoint. Five minutes in and I caught a nice striper, I'd guess 14 or 15 pounds. Yeah, I know, there's no photo of a 15 lb  striper.  Well.. I dropped it.  Down a huge flat slippery rock it went like one of those giant slides at the fair. Right back into the river. I did catch 6 or 7 other stripers just none as big as the first. Plus a carp the size of a dog, about a billion drum, a smallmouth buffalo and a nice blue cat. All on a big curly shad fished on a two ounce jighead. Yep two ounces, they have some current below those big TVA dams. 
Plus a couple walleye after dark including one that was an absolute pig. I'm thinking okay this is another carp or blue till it rolled up. Oh wow, please please please don't come off. I don't catch very many walleye back home in my smallmouth rivers and I was just thrilled with this one. 
No rain the next day, time to head for the hills of southeastern Ohio. Google maps didn't want me to take 75 all the way instead the route was  up thru Eastern Kentucky. What a swell drive. I did get stuck behind an Amish horse and buggy for a bit, then an old guy in an old pickup that slowly drove as much on the wrong side of a twisty road as he did his own and then I followed for a while a pickup with a huge whitetail buck thrown in the back. I was very much at home in Eastern Ky, I really need to find me some smallmouth streams down this way. 
Finally across the big river at Portsmouth and down a couple gravel roads to my place. More of a camping, scouting, tree stand placing trip than anything. By nightfall it was clear. Really really clear and the temps were dropping like a rock. By dawn my cars thermometer would say it was 21. But I had plenty of wood for the fire and stayed up half the night looking at the stars and counting shooting stars. Seven BTW and two of those were those big ones that look green instead of white. I also cooked an easy but fabulous camping meal that I highly recommend. Pork sausage, onion, mushroom and bell pepper sautéed in a bit of oil then when that is done dump in a can of Campbells Jambalaya and a pack of instant red beans and rice. Stuffed I crawled under the tarp shelter which was catching the sun and shielding the wind and took a midday nap in the woods.....

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The buck...

I pulled up to a parking spot in the lot. There across the street was where the old house was. I never was too attached to the place to be honest, too much of a maintenance nightmare too much money down the drain. I didn't mind seeing it leveled and gone. But down the street was a different story. Here at the end of the street were where the tracks were, leading from town five or six miles to the next town. Behind old factories and behind old farms, I've never met a soul here. Here I walked several times a week. This felt like home. The tracks were pure nature without the grand views of mountains or waterfalls, instead nature in the form of  blackbirds and groundhogs, thistles and muskrats in the ditches.

I used to come here and walk the tracks and think. Which was what I wanted to do today. Relive the hunt in my mind while it was still fresh. Walking the tracks, dead sycamore leaves rattling on the stones I remembered last night.

I'd been sitting there in the stand watching two squirrels quarrel when I heard a crunch. Not louder really but somehow heavier than the crunch of the squirrels I'd been hearing for the last several hours. The squirrels noticed as well and stopped their quarrel and set up on their haunches and looked in the direction of the sound. A few more crunches and out he stepped.

By now I was about a mile down the tracks at the third little bridge where the tracks crossed a small creek. I crept out to the edge and peered over. Here in the pool under the bridge was a multitude of small fishes. Chubs and minnows, in the clear water I could even see a couple darters hugging the rocks their fins splayed out and strong stripes on their sides. I sat on the concrete bridge abutment watching the fish as my mind wandered back to the buck.

He stepped out into view, materialized seemingly out of thin air in that way only deer can do. A couple more steps and he stopped and looked sideways. Almost posed, showing his profile. My god he was beautiful. I've seen much bigger deer, heck killed bigger deer but I've never seen one so beautiful. He looked simply regal standing there. I think that is what I'll always remember about this deer, him standing there looking so fine. I'll admit after harvesting forty or fifty they have blurred a bit, sometimes the memories get tangled up a bit. But I'm pretty sure this was one of those clear moments that come around every so often that always stand out clear and true over time. 

I slipped off the concrete and stepped into the little creek. I still had on my knee high rubber boots I'd worn hunting. A little creek is nothing if not a window into the past. I walked slowly upstream in a few inches of crystal clear water looking down. You never know what relics of the past you might find in a creek. I've found everything from mastodon teeth to corals from the bottom of ancient oceans to shards of pottery and stone tools. Not far from this very spot a few years ago I found a huge molar. A few days later the guy at the natural history museum said it was a bison tooth. It was hard to imagine wild buffalo here behind the stacks of old pallets out back of the factory. Ocean to mastodon to buffalo to railroad track, it all comes and goes eventually.

The buck took a few more steps forward. The squirrels just turned and matter of factly just hopped away giving the ground to the buck. Now I was looking at him thru a beech tree still holding most of it's leaves. Screening me as well. I ever so slowly began raising the bow. He seemed completely relaxed. Or at least as relaxed as a buck out in daylight can be and I remembered clearly thinking I think I have a chance here.

While reliving the encounter with the buck I'd slowly waded upstream picking up the odd fossil here and there, even pocketing a couple to add to the pile next to the flowerpots at home on the patio. then there it was, a small bird point lying on the creek bottom. I held it in my hand and tried to imagine the hand of the last man holding it. Three hundred years ago? Three thousand? Who among us will ever create anything that lasts much beyond his lifetime? Sure our children will remember us but they too will die and their children will die and then there will be nothing of us left. But here by the oddest chance this man created this thing that lasted thru time. Would the modern arrow that hit a twig in flight a couple weeks ago and was lost last a fraction of this time? Probably a few decades at most. What better a talisman to remember a bowhunt by than a stone point?

Another step and the buck stepped out from behind the beech and into the open. I made a terrible shot. One of the worst I've made on a deer in years and hit him high. Perfectly high and he took a leap and piled up right under the tree. It had been a long season, full of drizzle and rain every time I went out. Long wet days spent staring out into an empty silent woods and then suddenly this beautiful deer and there he was lying right under the tree. I spoke out loud sincerely thanking the woods and thanking the spirit of the deer before climbing down. I've never been a whooper or a hollerer after a kill. Anytime you kill something it is a solemn moment. Pure and right with nature but solemn. Anyone who has ever gutted a deer or cleaned a rabbit knows this is damn serious business and I'm never self conscious about thanking the deer and the woods afterward.

I turned and began heading back down the creek towards the tracks. A doe that had stood back in the brush and had let me pass without my noticing flushed in a blur of motion and flashing white tail when I turned back towards her...