Our Land

public land huntingMy heart sank as I pulled into the parking spot at one of my favorite public land access points. I had just driven twenty-five miles to hunt the last few hours of the day, and I was greeted by what I dread most as a public land hunter; the tailgate of another pickup. Now I was in a dilemma. Where should I head? Should I pull out, or try and locate the hunter and hunt opposite? Geez I thought, nobody ever comes out here. For a minute it almost seemed as if this stranger had intruded upon my spot. With my Plan A torched for the night I needed to act fast. After a few minutes and some internal debating I decided to pull out of the area and hit another area a few miles away.

Throughout history few things have caused as much conflict as land. Wars have been fought over it, legal disputes have raged, and more than a few people have spent their entire lives trying to hoard as much as possible for themselves. Around the world land has been synonymous with wealth and that fact can be widely seen today. Around the world billions of people are herded into overcrowded cities, unable to explore their lands and severed from the natural world. In America we have been blessed by the actions of genuine public servants of the past who worked to protect natural places for everyone to enjoy. Today the United States government owns a substantial amount American soil and grants citizens access on much of that land. Fortunately this allows every American to explore regions of our land and appreciate the beauty and abundance of our land.

That being said, in recent times our growing population has flooded public lands. At times this causes issues between different parties wishing to enjoy the same piece of real estate. As a rule, hunters visit our public lands as much as anyone, and all public land hunters should appreciate the gift of the land we have been given. With the tremendous popularity boom of hunting in the past decade or so, hunters who can’t afford expensive hunting leases have been utilizing our public lands to a higher degree than in the past. In order to avoid conflicts between hunters in the field each hunter needs to follow some basic ethical guidelines when dealing with others on public lands. Each hunter has to develop their code of ethics individually, but here are a few suggestions from a fellow public land hunter.

First Come, First Served

Hunting public lands requires us to implement a basic idea we all learned in kindergarten, “they had it first, so you can play with it after they’re done.” Lots of guys, like myself, try to squeeze our hunts into the edges of our day. Like in the story at the beginning of this article, guys jump into their trucks and bomb over to their local spot hoping to get a chance in the last hour. That’s why it can be a little disappointing when we see another hunter using our anticipated area. My advice is to back out and try Plan B rather than charging into an area where you don’t know the location of the other hunter. You can imagine if the shoe is on the other foot. If it was your day off, you had gotten situated early, sat for a few hours, then during the heart of primetime some schmuck came tromping through your setup scattering wild life like a pedigreed flushing lab, you might take issue with that. In the end, the second in line is almost always doing the right thing by honoring the creed “first come, first served.”

Learn to Share

A number of years ago I was roving about a large and fairly rugged chunk of public land chasing Merriam turkeys. I had done some scouting during the preceding weeks so I had an idea of where the birds would come from. After a long walk I came across another hunter positioned near the edge of the clearing I had planned to hunt. Taking a quick look around to ensure no birds were close, I crept over to him to see what his plans were. In whispered tones I discovered the guy had driven halfway across the country to try and bag a western bird. Not wanting to disrupt his plans, and since he was there first, I asked if it would be all right if I hunted the ridge behind him and cover a different travel route. The man assured me he had no problem and wished me luck. In a matter of a few minutes we had managed to find some common ground and had create a plan to hunt in close proximity. Learning to share our public lands, and being polite with each other, can help the most people enjoy our limited space.

Check Yourself

If you’ve hunted public land regularly and spent the time to really learn an area, this piece of advice is for you. As we invest more of our time and energy into a place we can begin to develop feelings of attachment to the spot. After a time, we almost feel like it is ours. Personally I have fallen victim to this in the past and it could lead to poor conduct on my behalf if I didn’t check myself. As public land hunters we must do this regularly if we begin to feel like other hunters are intruding on our spot. Sure, we might have put in more time than the guy across the street and he might be hunting the area completely wrong in our mind, but he has just as much right to hunt as we do. Public land is just that, public, and if you can’t handle others using an area you might need to think about leasing.

One final note that needs to be included in any discussion on public land is the acknowledgement that activity on public land is the best thing for public land hunters. There is a huge movement in Washington DC to sell off and privatize millions of acres of public land. Politicians who can access private ranches, pay for prime hunting leases, and can afford the finest opportunities often forget what it’s like for the common man. They think our public lands are an extra expense needing to be trimmed. If our public lands lie unused you can bet their arguments will gain momentum and soon we will lose arguably the greatest gift to the common man since democracy. In conclusion, if we can learn to wait our turn, learn to share, and check our actions we can all enjoy the gem of the common man; our public lands.

Staying Sharp with Small Game

bow-hunting-small-game-in-offseasonIt was mid-January and snow blanketed the ground. The high temperature hovered around the low 20’s. Arctic air had pushed down into the lower 48 making for brutally cold conditions. Snow flurries blew throughout the morning and trees were popping from the winds and cold. I trudged through the crusty snow stopping ever so often to scan the brush ahead. No other souls roamed the expanse of public land I was on. No fresh tire tracks marked their passing either. They had no need to rove about. Most of the hunting seasons had closed up and it was ice fishing time. So what was I doing out there? I trudged, bow in hand, through the snow that day so I could stay sharp for next fall’s hunting seasons. I was small game hunting.

Small game hunting is a simple pleasure people seem to overlook and it provides a great way to extend your hunting season and stay sharp. In the past, hunters had no problem staying sharp, and really had no offseason. Native American hunters lived with their bow in hand, and never fell out-of-sync with their weapon. Each day their survival was often linked to their effectiveness with a bow and their ability to provide meat and fend off enemies. It is no small wonder many tribes had expert bowers and hunters. We can also see the importance of staying sharp with the often-publicized 13th century English law requiring archery practice on Sundays and holidays. Kings seemed to have followed the adage “you are either getting better, or you are getting worse. You don’t stay the same.” They knew if their serfs could not wield a bow competently, the King’s lands and riches would be at stake. In later years, frontiersmen roamed America with flintlock rifles to feed their families. The survival of all of these people depended on their competency with their weapon of choice. If we, in the modern world, want to carry on our hunting heritage, we must stay dedicated to our craft. To truly committed hunters, there is no offseason.


One way small game hunting allows us to stay sharp is by following sign. Now, I’m not talking about tracking rabbits through the brush. Some guys might do that, but I have never met any. While out on small game forays I always scan the terrain for signs of other animals. Scrapes, deer trails, sheds, and bedding areas found while small games hunting might tip you off about next season’s big buck. Scouting never really stops for the hunter who doesn’t want it to. The same can be said for turkey sign. I know I am not the only guy who looks forward to spring big game hunts, and small game hunts can tip me off about where to chase longbeards come opening day.

Looking for sign can be especially beneficial for public land hunters like myself. Public lands experience a lot of pressure, which leads to a great deal of movement by game animals. If you get out during the winter months it will allow you to notice any changes in pattern by animals and glean a deeper knowledge of your hunting grounds. Hunting small game often takes you into the nooks and crannies of a property, and just might open the door to a new and unexplored area.


Hunting and the outdoor lifestyle in general have many additional benefits aside from the obvious enjoyment of sport. Some of the finest side effects of an active outdoor lifestyle are the added health benefits that come along with it. Humans were perfectly created for the task of hunting wild game. These days, most of us don’t do our bodies justice. We were born to walk and run miles everyday. Today, engineering has taken most of the physical activity out of our lives. Many hunts require us to be fit, so staying physically fit should be a priority if we want to continue to enjoy our great sport in our golden years. Small game hunting is a great way to keep your body tuned up for hunting shape. It’s all about staying active year round.

Trudging through snow, climbing steep ridges, walking open grasslands, and crawling over logs and limbs keeps your blood moving and muscles firing. By getting out for a few hours over the weekend you can go a long way in giving yourself the best chance for success come spring or fall. If you enjoy hunting from the ground on your big game forays you can’t afford to miss out the opportunity to stay in hunting shape. Hunting from the ground requires physical stamina, strong legs, lung capacity, balance, and coordination. While most small game hunts won’t get you in marathon shape they will keep you moving. I remember talking to a friend in college about his granddad that was in his late 80’s and still rode a horse everyday. The Granddad knew if he ever quit riding he would never ride a horse again. Young hunters and aged hunters would all do well to remember that an object in motion tends to stay in motion.


Maybe the most obvious reason small game hunting is so beneficial for hunters is the shooting practice. Rabbits, squirrels, game birds, and furbearers all offer small targets. I shoot many weapons including a traditional bow. “Aim-small, miss-small” was the shooting motto I took up while learning to shoot a traditional bow and can be applied to all weapons. Aiming small is the only option while hunting small game. These animals also offer chances to practice shots and build confidence for your more anticipated hunts. I’ll guarantee if you can hit a running cottontail, that statue-still whitetail will seem a very easy target. Shots on small game are often made more difficult by surrounding bushes or vegetation as well. Taking tough shots requires practice and practice builds confidence. With practice like that, come fall, not only will you pack your weapon along with you, but you will carry added confidence as well.

Even the greatest hunters use small game hunting to keep their shooting skills sharp. One such hunter was the archery legend Howard Hill. Hill’s book, Hunting the Hard Way, chronicles many of his hunting adventures. A reader cannot read this book without spotting Hill’s passion for small game hunting. Hill’s book records numerous stories of the hunting of rabbits, birds, and other small game. He devotes one complete chapter to rabbit hunting trips he would take with his wife and friends. Hill seemed to be enthusiastic about anything related to his bow. In his book he touts stories of 100+ yard duck shots and 60-yard rabbit shots as if they were front cover monster bull elk. You can understand his pride. These are great achievements. If you desire to become the best hunter you can be, you would be advised to emulate one of the best archers in recent history, and perhaps ever.

So this January when you catch yourself dreaming of the rustling of autumn leaves, remind yourself that hunting season never really ends. Your success in September can be linked to those cold days in January when everyone else has hung up their gear. Hunting can be a full-time obsession for a person dedicated to mastering their craft. We can learn our hunting areas better, stay in hunting shape, and hone our shooting skills all year round. Hunters all dream of success, whatever that may be to each individual hunter, and by taking advantage of each day we can give ourselves an edge for that success. By capitalizing on offseason small game opportunities we can be like a freshly sharpened broadhead ready for action.

Weeds to Eat for Survival

weed-you-can-eat2Imagine getting lost in the woods or stranded on the side of a deserted highway with no cell service. Maybe you have had to flee your home and head for the hills without a chance to grab any of your emergency food supply. Could you survive? What would you eat? Before you assume you are going to somehow transform into a glorious hunter taking down large game, think again. You won’t. In fact, if you don’t have any weapons or hunting and trapping skills, you are going to be forced to eat what you can find that doesn’t run from you.

Weeds. Weeds are everywhere. They are one of the only guarantees you have in this life. Weeds are irritating pests that plague our gardens and landscaping. They make us crazy and we typically either yank them out by their roots or spray them with some harsh chemical to make them go away for good.

After you read this, you are never going to look at those weeds the same way. Those irritating weeds may very well save your life one day. Check out the following list of common edibles that are found growing in the wild.

1-Dandelions are prolific and can be a nightmare for anybody who wants a lush, green lawn. However, if you stumble across the little yellow flowers in the wild, grab a handful and eat up. You can eat the flowers, leaves, stems and even the roots of the dandelion. The flowers are good raw or sauteed. The leaves are best eaten before the flower opens. They can be a little bitter. The roots are definitely bitter, but if you brew them in a tea, they are an excellent source of fiber.

2-Purslane is another edible commonly found growing in vegetable gardens. It is a ground cover plant that is succulent. It has a shovel shaped leaf. You can eat it raw or cooked. The thick leaves are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which is good for you and can help keep your heart healthy while you are out foraging.

3-Chickweed is another weed often found growing in the lawn. It has little white flowers that help it stand out against green vegetation. The chickweed can be eaten raw or steamed with a handful of other edibles. It is rich in vitamin C, which will come in handy when you are fighting to survive.

4-Cattails are something you could run out and eat right now. The roots of the cattails are actually pretty good. You will need to peel back the first layer or two before chomping down on the crunchy stalk. You can eat the seedheads before they turn brown as well. Cook them up over an open fire and eat them like corn on the cob.

5-Field pennycress is identifiable by the little white flowers that run down a line along the stem. They look a lot like a flower you would see growing in a flowerbed. The leaves and seeds are edible raw or cooked. If you know you are walking through a field that is prone to run-offs from a farm, don’t eat the pennycress. Pennycress growing by the side of a road where pesticides are often sprayed, should be avoided. The roots absorb the minerals and the toxins in the area and could end up making you very sick.

6-Plantain is a weed found growing regularly in disturbed, somewhat damp areas. They love to grow alongside creeks and marshes. The green leaves are about the size of your palm and have a ribbed texture. The plantain is an excellent source of calcium, which is another necessary component to a healthy diet when milk and cheese are going to be in short supply. You can eat the leaves raw or cooked. Choose young, smaller leaves when possible. The older leaves tend to be bitter.

7-Kelp may not look pretty and the slimy texture may turn you off, but it is a great food to find when you are in survival mode. You can eat it raw, dry it and eat it or toss it in a soup with some of the other edibles you have collected. You can find kelp in fresh and saltwater.

8-Blackberries are truly the only berry you want to pick and eat. If you are not absolutely sure about a berry, don’t eat. There are far too many poisonous berries out there. Blackberries are often found growing in the wild. The berry bushes will have thorns, so pick carefully.

9-Pine needles aren’t exactly edible, but you can steep them in water to make a nice tea. A hot tea packed with vitamin C is the perfect way to settle in for the night. It will warm you and fortify you at the same time. You can also dig around for pine nuts in the pine cones on the tree. Don’t bother getting poked looking for nuts in the cones on the ground. The squirrels have probably already gotten to them.

10-Nuts are a luxury if you can find them, but this is only going to be possible if you are in a warm climate. Northern areas are not going to be lucky enough to stumble upon nut trees. Nuts are high in protein and calories, which is a very good thing when you are in survival mode. Learn how to identify various nut trees so you can harvest the nuts. They rarely look like they do in the stores. There is a slight process to getting them out of their husks and ready to eat.

You don’t have to worry too much about finding food if you are educated in the art of eating edible plants. Do some research and the next time you see a dandelion pop up in your lawn, take a bite. See what you have been missing all of these years! Foraging is one of the only ways you can guarantee you will have something in your belly when you are in nature and hungry.

The Varmint Rifle

Hunting with.22 Rimfire

There’s a “perfect” rifle for every man; but it takes study, time and know-how to find it

There are two broad, general schools of traditional varmint-hunting devotees. For this particular narrative we shall classify them in this manner, anyway, to spare you a belaboring of way-out aspects of the game. The first type we’ll define as “The Stalker.” This good chap gets his jollies by stealthily approaching Farmer Rogowski’s north pasture in quest of a grizzled trophy-type woodchuck. He cautiously peeks through the hedgerow with the skill of a Sioux warrior contemplating a mayhem on a hapless sodbuster. When our hero locates a good woodchuck specimen munching away with contented abandon on Brother Rogowski’s alfalfa, his joy knows no bounds. With exaggerated concern, he moistens a forefinger and tests the wind with the care of a top grizzly guide. He observes the contour of the terrain and mentally notes each bush, tree, knoll and other area of concealment. His purpose is to get as close as possible to the quarry.

When he achieves this (and it isn’t easy to do), he is often within 50 feet of the trophy. He sometimes shoots it in the head or neck, carefully placing his bullet for the ideal instantaneous kill. His rifle? It more often than not is a .22 rimfire with open sights.

The other breed of varmint hunter, extravagantly overwhelming in numbers (and popularity), we can safely refer to as “The Rifleman.” While his ultimate goal (a clean kill) is the same as the Stalker’s, he goes at it a bit differently. His objective (in a manner of speaking) is to get, within reasonable limits, as far from the mark as seems prudent. Instead of stalking-type terrain, he seeks a good open shot – with a safe background so that his bullet fragments (in the event of a miss) will not jeopardize person, beast or property. In passing, varmint bullets from high-velocity rifles do not ricochet, as do .22s and other low velocity cartridges – hence, they are safe even in settled areas.

But to resume – the farther away from the chuck (or whichever) The Rifleman can get, within the capabilities of his rifle, the better he likes it. His rifle, It’s a flat-shooting precision centerfire with telescope sight. He often locates his varmint with binocular and even studies it with spotting scope (checking mirage). He has to learn to be an excellent judge of distance and wind, else he’ll miss more than a hit. (Many advanced varmint hunters would just as soon have a close miss as a hit. If they strike within an inch or two of the chuck, they consider it a hit.)

It is significant that in each instance the technique strongly resembles that of serious big-game hunting. It is no secret that long-experienced varmint hunters are the most successful big-game trophy hunters on the continent. For when the chips are done, they rarely fail to anchor their ram, grizzly or other species. Woodchuck hunting is, these days, the very best training for big-game marksmanship, for the methods are quite similar – and any fellow used to knocking off a wary woodchuck with regularity is going to have no trouble getting a bullet into the lung cavity of big game. Even if he has a “touch of the buck,” as all humans do on occasion, he automatically and subconsciously shoots well, because of his long training in the field with comparatively tiny beasts at unknown ranges. Not to say that other varmint hunting isn’t excellent too – such as gunning for jackrabbits, coyotes, crows, marpies, prairie dogs, ground squirrels and so forth. It is all good and all fun.

I have employed both techniques, but my interest is irrevocably entrenched in that of the Rifleman. I get no particular kick out of stalking close to varmints, unless it is for study or photographic purposes. This is merely a matter of personal preference, nothing more, and is akin to the fact that some guys get a glazed look at the sight a voluptuous blonde whereas others assume the expression of a stricken moose calf when they feast their eyes upon a svelte brunette.

I have an affliction concerning rifles that could best be described as a recurring ailment. We’ve all heard tales of how the moon affects animals and people. A well-designed and accurate example of the gun art is a source of infinite joy and satisfaction to its owner.

Hunting Season

crow-huntingYou don’t just run out there and gun down the wary crow. Take time setting up. He has his blind spots. Learn to use them.

A pair of crows, their big mouths spieling out raucous threats, was tearing in from our right. “Take the front one,” I whispered to Gordie Pleiss, my hunting partner. Blamity blamm! echoed over the field. The pair collapsed in midair, thumping to the ground.

“They never saw us,” chuckled Gordie, stuffing in a new shell to replace the spent one.

“That just shows you how wrong you can be,” I laughed.

The crows were retrieved. They were the first of many to fall for the setup we’d thought impossible. By the time the sun was 10 o’clock high, a sizable stack of black marauders would be piled next to our blind. This first barrage was only the beginning.

Crow blinds are the most important part of successful crow shooting. They are equally as important as a duck blind or a goose blind, in my book – my theory being, the smaller and lower the better. Even if it means waiting and shooting from an uncomfortable position.

In 18 years of trying to outsmart crows, this one thing has been proved over and over. Shooting will be only as good as your preparation in building a blind.

Unfortunately, the best place to shoot crows is usually where there is a scarce amount of available cover. At least this is true in my part of Michigan, were farm fields offer little concealment. Gordie and I had run into this knotty problem on an early spring day last year.

The north-bound crows were just filtering into Michigan after spending their winter vacations south of the Mason-Dixon line. This particular spot was a cut over cornfield.

The crows were using it to supplement their meager spring rations. They were picking up corn left over from a mechanical picker. It was t a five-acre field, with nothing but an old barbed-wire fence and a few trees running through the center. We’d cased the place on numerous occasions; each time we’d given up. At times we’d shot a few crows by drawing them to the far edge, where sufficient cover offered concealment for a gunner.

When we’d arrived on Saturday morning there were about 150 crows frolicking around. Singles and doubles were dropping in quite regularly. Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer. In the back of the station wagon was a brand-new 20-gauge shotgun. I’d gotten delivery on it on Wednesday and was bustin’ to try it out. We just had to figure on a way to get at this noisy outfit.

Lookouts in trees are a must in crow shooting. Sentries give incoming crows the assurance all is well. They also can be seen a long way off.

“To heck with it,” I finally said, putting down the binocular. “Let’s try to make a blind with the camou flaged netting, right next to that tree. That way we’ll be protected from the right, and if we keep it low, we can pull up some grass to give it a natural look.”

“What can we lose?” agreed my partner.

I slung the carrying case over my shoulder, and after Gordie grabbed the guns, we set out across the field.

Crows lifted in a screaming mass, hollering about being disturbed from their morning breakfast. Dig ging out two rotten fence posts, we propped them up, stringing the 20-foot piece of camouflaged netting around them. With two six-foot pieces of light metal tubing, carried for just this purpose, we made enough room to shoot from a kneeling position.

A made-over mosquito-netting tent is the most important part of an effective crow rig, it can be used anywhere as a base to build from.

A House Divided

trophy-hunting-vs-meat-hunting“It’s gotta be better than a 160 class buck for me to try a sneak. Five years ago I wouldn’t have said that, but today that’s where I’m at.” My good friend was explaining his hunting strategy to me over lunch one day. We both get fired up for our annual spot and stalk mule deer hunts in Nebraska’s panhandle, and talking about it is half the fun. Like most hunters, as the season draws near we discuss more and more the deer we have scouted and our plans. Once the season kicks off our Monday morning greeting shifts from “Did you do anything this weekend?” to “Get your deer yet?” But for all the commonality we share in hunting, our hunting goals vary wildly.

While my friend is a hard and fast trophy hunter, I would classify myself as a meat hunter. When setting out for the day I seldom chase after a specific buck or spend too much time analyzing an animal’s headgear. When the season starts I generally focus on taking a few does to fill the freezer before switching gears to hunting for bucks, and I feel just as happy letting the air out of a baldy as I do an average buck. For me the true enjoyment of hunting lies in completing the cycle of prairie-to-plate and experiencing that satisfaction. I guess hunting proves true the old adage “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Conflicting visions between trophy hunters, meat hunters, and hunters of all kinds often boil to extremes. Head to any web based discussion board with a thread about the topic of trophy hunting vs. meat hunting and you’ll likely see a civil conversation turn ugly as more and more people chime in. It’s been called “The Great Debate” of hunting and has created rifts within the hunting community. With all the challenges facing our hunting community in the future, we would do well to band together in support of each other’s hunting goals. As the good book tells us “a house divided against itself cannot stand” and if we want to retain our hunting rights in the future we need to move past our small differences. In the end we share one theme; we like to hunt.

One way to promote a positive relationship between trophy hunters and meat hunters is to understand the positives of both practices. Trophy hunters offer some great benefits to all of us. For starters, trophy hunters are great conservationists. Holding out for trophy animals requires great patience while letting many animals walk by. A true trophy hunter will never deplete an area of animals, and that is commendable. Additionally, trophy hunters harvest those animals many people enjoy looking at and admiring. I live near the original Cabela’s and whenever we go into the store I can’t help but admire all the mounts. State record animals, Boone-and-Crockett animals, and world record book animals litter the place. Often times it is easier to see a shopper browsing the mount collection rather than the camo collection. Trophy animals are fun to look at and can be appreciated even by non-hunters. Finally, trophy hunters help the economics of hunting. I always razz my buddy that I hope he doesn’t get anything, that way he can save the $700 to get him mounted. Mounts, access to trophy properties, and licenses all cost money. I recently read about an oil tycoon that spent nearly $400,000 on a mule deer tag. That type of money is enough to help the hunting industry, and much of that money trickles back to state game departments for habitat and herd management.

Meat hunters on the other hand also contribute to the overall good. Meat hunters carry the torch of past generations shedding light on how our ancestors lived. Meat hunters preserve old ideas, knowledge, and the culture of our past. Traditions of harvesting, processing, and consuming the meat of their animals remain alive in our American households because of meat hunters, and in a society with more and more people out of touch with that reality of life, this is important. In addition, meat hunters can also benefit game populations by removing undesirable animals and thinning the herd. Overpopulation is one of the major threats of our whitetail population today. A recent article in Time magazine suggests more deer may live in America today than when Columbus landed. Without meat hunters culling excess does and other deer, our deer populations run the risk of a disease decimating a herd.

Bickering between meat and trophy hunters drives a wedge between two important groups of our hunting community. Both meat hunters and trophy hunters are working to preserve our hunting heritage in America and should be supported by each other. It’s important to remember that neither side is wrong in this debate; hunting means different things to both of them. As a social studies teacher at a rural high school, I do an exercise each year with my kids about understanding different perspectives. One example I use is food. People can see food either as an enjoyment of life or as fuel for their body. Each side will have radically different behavior, eat differently, and may even come to believe only they are correct. “You’re missing out on the finer things in life” or “you’d actually put that junk into your body” are two common quips in their argument. Who’s right? Like in our hunting debate, both are right since the meaning of food is left up to each individual.

At a time when anti-hunters are gaining more power, both socially and politically, it’s important that our hunting community sticks together. The anti’s pose some big threats to our way of life and our passion in life. It will take both sides of the hunting camp to oppose them in the future. In the end, both groups want to hunt and that common goal should bind us together. Hopefully next time you meet a fellow hunter, head to an online discussion board, or enter into a conversation about the topic you will remember the benefits both sides bring to the table and build up hunting in general. Recognizing our own view of hunting is something we created in our minds is the first step to appreciating the other side. Supporting the other side will help secure everyone’s hunting rights in the future and will keep our hunting house undivided.

How to Make a Water Filter From Trash

water-filter-from-trash2Water is one of the most important elements of human survival. Many people get caught up with the idea that food is the top priority. Those people would be dead before they had a chance to realize their mistake. The human body cannot survive more than three days without water. Sure, there are exceptions, but who wants to try and live that long when dehydration will have made you so weak and sick life is unbearable.

Your top priority in a survival situation should be finding shelter if the weather is extremely hot or cold and then water. If you are lucky enough to be in 70 degree weather, forget the shelter and find water. With that said, you must recognize all water you find in the wild is not safe to drink. That stream with the crystal clear water is no safer to drink from than that nasty pond water.

You have to have a way to purify your water. If you don’t have a way to boil your water and you didn’t pack along any water purification tablets, your last chance is a water filter. If you don’t have one of those handy, its okay, you can make one from stuff you find in your environment.

Follow these simple steps to make a water filter in an emergency.

1-Look for an empty water bottle or used soda bottle. You could even use an empty milk jug if that is all you can find. Rinse the bottle in the river, stream or lake. Cut off the bottom of the container. Only cut off the bottom half inch or so.

2-If you have had a campfire, grab the cool charcoal from the edges. If you haven’t had a fire yet, look around the area for remnants of a fire. You can also look at trees. Often times lightning leaves charred trunks that are a source of charcoal. Put the charcoal into the container with the top facing down. You want at least an inch of charcoal. The more you can add, the better the filter.

3-Next you will want to look for sand. You don’t want dirt that will turn to mud. It needs to be a fine sand that will allow the water to pass through without making balls of dirt. Fill the bottle about a third of the way up.

4-Now you will want to find some gravel or small pebbles. Fill up another third of the bottle with rocks. It is a good idea to rinse the rocks before adding them to the filter. It will cut down on the dirty appearance of the water.

5-The next layer isn’t entirely necessary, but it will help. It can also substitute for the pebbles if you simply cannot find any. Use dandelion leaves or other edible leaves. You want plant portions that are edible to prevent poisoning your water. Pack the leaves and stems into the top portion of the bottle.

6-Your filter should be filled with 3 to 4 layers of filtering material. For a little added filtration and to stop large floaters from getting into your filter, place the corner of a t-shirt or a bandana over the bottom.

7-Put a bowl or cup under the small end of the filter. Slowly pour water through the filter. The water should move slowly through the filtering system. If it just pours through, you need to pack your materials a bit tighter. You want the process to be somewhat slow with a steady stream coming out the old opening.

This filter will work in a pinch. It is not going to be perfect and it will not get out every contaminant. Expect the first few passes of the water to come out a little dark as the water runs through the charcoal. If the color bothers you, run it through the system again. Truly, the water is about as safe as you are going to get it, despite the off coloring.

Your water filter from trash is great when you are in a hurry, but there is another option for purifying your water if you have a day to wait and the sun is out in all its glory for at least 8 hours. Look for a water bottle or plastic vessel that is BPA free. This could be a little more difficult than finding any old bottle, but there are plenty of plastics that are being produced without harmful chemicals. Really, you want to find a water bottle or soda bottle that has a 1 in the center of the recycling circle on the bottom of the bottle.

The bottle should be 2 liters or smaller and it must be clear. Green plastic is not going to work. You also cannot use glass. Filter the water as best you can by running it through a cloth. If you have lots of time, filter your water with the above method and then put it in the solar purification bottle.

Place the filled bottle of water in the direct sun, on its side. If you can, place the bottle on a rock or a reflective surface to really get the water inside the bottle nice and hot. Allow the bottle to sit in the sun for at least 6 hours. If it is particularly cloudy, you will need to leave the bottle in the sun for a good two days.

A few tips about collecting water to clean for drinking.

  • Pull water from the middle of a body of water. This will help eliminate excess sediment from the bottom and algae and bugs that hang out at the top.
  • Do not pull water from a source that has chemical contaminants—there is no filtering or purifying chemicals out of the water.
  • Water that is steadily moving is better than stagnant water.

These methods will sustain you until you can get to a place where you can boil your water, which is truly the ideal option for purifying water.

When Is The Best Time To Hike In The Year?

mt-kilimanjaro-trailThe weather can play a huge part for every hiker. When the weather is bad, it can turn a trail into a danger zone with the potential for avalanches and landfalls. There will be times when hiking trails turn into hot ovens with no means of escape; it happens and being unprepared for them is a nightmare. That is why hikers need to know when they should set out. This isn’t easy because every trail is considerably different even when they are in the same country as one another.

However, below are a list of some of favorite hiking trails and the best times to set out. Hopefully they’ll provide you with some useful information.

Season for Kilimanjaro

Anyone can in fact hike Kilimanjaro throughout the year; it is very much possible but some months are considerably better than others. For example, January and February are prime months despite them being the coldest seasons for most people. These are the months that are dry, warm and don’t get lots of rain meaning it’s the best time to take to your hiking trails. However, if you can’t hike during these months, you can go at any times; September and October can still be good months too and even July if you can stand the cold.

You have to remember that March, April, May and June aren’t really the best months for Kilimanjaro because there is low level cloud and lots of rain. Of course, you can still hike during these months; it’s just a little colder and wetter.

Hiking Camino De Santiago

This is a very popular hiking trail and if you want to choose this trail for you, you can go all year round. Most trails offer this but during the months of February, March and October, are the months which see the most rain. Of course, as said above, you have the ability to climb during these months too if you can’t find time during the rest of the year.

April and May is great months to choose as well because the weather is generally good all round but be warned, July and August are probably the busiest months. There is a religious festival going on here and it will get very crowded very fast. April and May could be your best months to choose.

Ben Nevis

Hikers love Ben Nevis and it attracts millions of hikers and climbers from around the world every year but be warned, Ben Nevis receives some of the coldest temperatures in Scotland. It is one of the highest peaks and if you thought Edinburgh was cold, think again. Ben Nevis takes cold to new depths and on most days, the temperatures dip well below 0! Throughout the year it probably has around sixty days of solid good weather (although not in a row) and it makes it perfect for hikers.

However, there is no ‘prime’ or optimal time for hikers to set out to conquer Nevis because most days see heavy cloud forecasts. Snow is pretty much present all year round and from the months of October to May, it can become very icy and slippery which may be the months to avoid at all costs. June and July may be your best bet though Ben Nevis is available all year round and hikers go there every single day. It just depends on how daring you can be! Though, this is certainly not one for beginners!

Grand Canyon

If you are planning to head to the Grand Canyon, note the summer and winter months won’t be best for you. These months can be extremely tough on any hiker as its freezing in the winter and quite hot in the summer. Spring and fall are the best times to check out the Grand Canyon.

New Zealand

Let’s be honest, New Zealand has pretty sound weather for hikers. No matter what trail you will check out in New Zealand, you can go all year round; the busy periods are October and September so you might want to avoid them. June, July and August are usually a little quieter so if you don’t want to have lots of other people around, these are the best months to choose.


Is there ever a right time to hike to Everest’s base camp? Probably not but if you’re determined to head out there, you need to know what the months offer you. For the months between February and May, the weather is mostly dry and there aren’t too many hikers out there at these times. This may be right for you if you don’t want lots of others around. For months between June and August, this is considered to be the Monsoon season which might not be best.

Between August and November, these months will be the busiest. Most climbers and hikers choose these months to head out because they are dry months and it’s the best time to climb. However, December and January can also be good months to visit because they are very, very quiet.

What Works Best?

Usually, there are key months which are best for you to hike but be warned, no two hiking trails are the same. There will be many trails that are suited for hikers in the fall and others that are dangerous to use in those months. Unfortunately, every trail is different so it’s hard to say for certainty what the prime seasons are for every one of them.

For example, March, April, May and September are perfect for hikers looking at the Grand Canyon but not suitable for Ben Nevis. It can be very difficult to say when you are best heading out but you should always double check the weather conditions for your chosen months before booking any flights or making any plans.

There will be months where the weather conditions are perfect and other times when they aren’t. You have to remember, weather changes so quickly and when you are a hiker that can be dangerous. No matter which trail you choose, you must research what months would work best to help reduce the risk to your life.

What Makes a Good Food Storage Space

emergency-food-storage2Prepping to survive a disaster, whether it is on an apocalypse level or simply one that makes things a little rough for a few months, requires careful planning. One of the things many people automatically assume is the most important thing about prepping for disaster is the food storage. Well, in many cases, they are right. However, you cannot simply fill your freezer and pantry and call it an emergency food storage.

You are going to be putting some serious cash into building up a food storage that will sustain your family for weeks, months or for the over-eager prepper, years. That is going to require a lot more space than your kitchen cupboards and pantry.

You need to do some scouting around your house to find the best possible place to start storing your food. Check out the following qualities your food storage space should have in order to ensure your food will stay in good shape for years to come. Nobody wants to have their food supply spoil or get destroyed by one thing or another.

Out of Direct Light

Light is bad for food. The standard light fixture in a room is okay, but you don’t want the food exposed to hours of sunlight on a daily basis. Hopefully, you wouldn’t leave the light on in the room and only need the light when you are adding items to the shelves. If you are storing your food in a spare bedroom, invest in some heavy curtains for the windows. You could also use aluminum foil to cover the windows. While it is a little redneck, it is very effective.

Temperature Controlled

Speaking of the aluminum foil on the windows, it can also help keep the temperature down in a room. You don’t want the food storage to get over 80 degrees. Ideally, a temperature of 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit should be your goal. That is prime storing conditions and ensures you will get the longest shelf life out of your foods. If your food is being stored in a basement or root cellar, heat is not typically an issue. However, you don’t want the food exposed to freezing temperatures. It will ruin the food.


A basement is a great place for storing food, but if it is damp or regularly floods, you need to find somewhere else to store the food. Dampness promotes mold growth and you don’t want that. Some basements are only a little musty and a good fan will help keep the humidity level down. Fans can also help regulate temperature if you are using that spare room. Always store food at least 6 inches off the floor, just in case there is flooding from a broken pipe, the hot water heater bursts or the washing machine goes on the fritz.

Out of Sight

You don’t want your stockpile of food visible from the outside of your home or if somebody comes to the front door. It doesn’t matter if your neighbors seem like nice people today, when they are starving, niceties go out the window and they want your food. They will do what it takes to survive and that includes taking your food any way they can. Keeping it in a basement, a room with a closed door or hidden in a root cellar is your best bet.

Proper Shelving

Food is heavy. A lot of food is really heavy and will break weak and inadequate shelves. Invest in shelving that can hold several hundreds pounds of food. Those pretty white wire racks are great for the pantry, but not so great for a proper food storage. They bend and will give under the weight of a few cases of canned goods. If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars buying garage shelving units, you could make your own out of wood if you are handy. Make sure you use sturdy wood and reinforce it.

On a side note; when you are putting your shelves together, many of the models are made with a lip that hangs down. Put the shelves together upside down so that lip is upwards. This will help keep your food from sliding off the shelves if there are any vibrations or what not. Falling cans of food are not only a safety hazard, it could also end up ruining the food.

nce you have found the perfect place to store your food and have taken care of the windows and made sure it is properly ventilated, you have a few more things to do to ensure it is the best food storage possible. These items are things you should be checking regularly.


Check the dates on your products often. Make sure you pull the oldest food forward and add new stuff to the back. You want to make sure you are eating the oldest stuff first and not leaving it all to the end when it is super old. Use a bold black or red marker to write use by dates or dates that you bought the food on the packaging. Those tiny little stamps are impossible to read in many cases.

Pest Control

Stay on top of pest problems. Set mouse traps and poison bait if you are so inclined at the first sign of trouble. Don’t let them destroy your food storage. They can work through hundreds of pounds of food in a short time. If you are not regularly checking your storage space, you could come back to a pile of poop and shredded cardboard. Make sure the room is sealed. Mice can get through the tiniest holes and cracks around the foundation.

Ants and cockroaches can also be an issue. Make sure the area is clean and there is no food left out to temp the pests. Use chemical or natural repellents to keep them out of your food storage area.

Don’t let your food storage be ruined by choosing the wrong space. Follow these guidelines and pick the right place to start stockpiling a supply of food and water that will sustain your family after a disaster.

Smoke Through a Keyhole

spot-and-stalk-huntingGusting wind violently whipped the barren branches of the cottonwood trees overhead. At eye level the waist high grass of the river bottom frantically whirled from the invisible torrent of air coursing through our region. With wind gushing around me, my gasping breaths of the frigid air failed to fill my lungs as I pushed headfirst into the gale. It was early March as I searched the expanse of public land, searching for nothing but the unfound. Hunting seasons had closed months ago but I still felt the tug of forgotten wild places. Besides, when is a bad day to be outside?

I had told myself to record major areas of deer sign and hoped to discover a lost honey hole, giving more purpose to my expedition. As I approached a likely bedding area I caught brief movement through the brush ahead and froze. After focusing on the obscure movements for several minutes I realized several whitetails were drifting around a small opening within the brushy area about 80 yards away. Crouching down to hands and knees, and then slowly slinking forward, I silently crept toward the oblivious deer. My goal was to see how close I could get to the whitetails. Over the next twenty minutes I closed the gap to twenty yards using some wild rose and deadfall as cover. It amazed me to be so close to these animals and simply watched them over the course of several minutes. At times they drifted to within ten yards of me, unaware of my presence. In season or not, getting this close to wild game always gets my heart pounding.

Stand hunting has taken the nation by storm. With the majority of hunters pursuing whitetails in the US, the term “tree stand” has become common nomenclature in our hunting community. Stands and blinds hands-down offer hunters of whitetails, and other species of predictable game, the best chance at success. There is a reason stands are so popular; they work. You’d have to be a fool not to utilize these efficient tools, or at least a bit different. I’d rather describe myself as the latter, and I frequently pass up tree stand hunting for other opportunities. My preferred method of hunting is eye level spot and stalk. These techniques require more energy, patience, perseverance, and fewer opportunities for success, but the heart pounding sensation of hunting animals at eye level fuels my engine. If you’ve ever dreamed of moving through the woods like the last Mohican, or if you’re up for a new hunting challenge, here are a few tips that can shorten your learning curve on a spot and stalk hunt.

The Spot

Spot and stalk hunting is a technique where you first find the animal (spot), make a plan, and then move in upon it (stalk). This type of hunting is popular out west on a variety of big game hunts, but can be used by all hunters pursuing all species of game. Like in my story, even tightly wound animals like whitetails can be stalked. Finding a good spotting position must be priority number one. Of course elevated locations are the best spotting locations, but remember to stay off the skyline. Even from a mile away animals will spot movement on the skyline and vacate the area before you even get set up. When spotting it’s important to have a good set of optics, these will allow you to cover much more area without having to spend the energy walking everywhere to go see something.

Once you’ve found a good spotting location you need to follow the golden rule of spot and stalk; be on your butt when the animals are on their feet and be on your feet when the animals are on their butts. Depending on your terrain, you may be able to watch the animals move about in their morning routine and then head to their bedding area, all without moving from your original location. Once you have the animal bedded it’s most beneficial to make a plan and create a solid mental map before commencing your stalk. Creating mental maps can be more challenging than it seems at first. Landmarks often change in size and distance as you approach. For best results study the landscape intricately, looking for a number of landmarks or unique features. Personally I’ve blown stalks by making poor mental maps and not understanding where the animal was.

The Stalk

At this point its time to put your plan to the test and start your stalk. Wind direction plays a huge role in deciding your stalking pattern. Nearly all big game has a good enough nose to sniff you out if the wind is bad. Secondly, use terrain features to close the distance. Small depressions, dry creek beds, ridges, and the like, allow the hunter to cut space without being detected. Vegetation also can help conceal your approach, but a word of caution; vegetation seldom creates a solid barrier and may offer your quarry glimpses of your movement. Also, stick to the shadows. They obscure your movement and can help you cut the distance down. As you move into the red zone you need to really start dropping gears and slow down.

Red Zone

The final 60 yards of a stalk often pose the biggest challenge. As you close in upon the bedded animal you are moving into the zone where the animal has the advantage. In the red zone all the basics still apply, but should be overemphasized. At this point your noise can impact your hunt in big ways as well. Crunching grass, snapping twigs, even grinding gravel can end your stalk. One thing I do to give myself the advantage is to remove my hunting boots and stalk in my socks. Not only can I feel the ground better, but each step is amazingly more quiet. I’ve received some questioning looks on hunts for doing this, but can attest from my own experience the results can be profound.

Besides for noise your movements must change in this high stakes stage. My best advice is to think of what a mountain lion, or other cat for that matter, looks like as they close in upon their prey; body low, ultra slow movement of the feet, carefully feeling the ground with each step, pausing to scan the terrain and contemplate their next move. Hunters who want success in their stalks should emulate these habits. With luck you will penetrate into your shooting range. From this point on you have to be ready to shoot at any point. I would advise archers to set their feet for shooting and take each lead step with your lead foot and gather your trail foot, more slowly shuffling rather than alternating your lead foot like regular walking. Another key point is to search for any small movement, and all your hopes rest on the chance you will see the animal before it sees you. One trick that can help you is to pack along your optics. Most people think binoculars are strictly for long distance viewing. I almost always sling my binos over my shoulder and once in the red zone use them to investigate an area as I approach. If you think about it, most animals have eyes that rival binoculars so using them will help level the playing field. One final note is to keep your cool in this situation. With your adrenaline building and focus restricting on the goal, as always, make sure your shots are ethical and will result in clean kills.

Spot and stalk hunting comes down to exercising instinctive skills that dwell within all of us. By finding a good place to glass, using the terrain to your advantage, and keeping your cool in the red zone you will go a long way toward improving your spot and stalk skills. Expect lots of blown stalks early in your career. Like anything, spot and stalk takes some practice but the payoff is worth it. Nothing compares to tapping into your primal predator and getting the drop on an animal on their own turf at their own level. Good luck, and in no time you’ll drift through the woods like smoke through a keyhole.