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Living Ready - April 2018

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SHACK pg. 6
AXES pg. 16
■ TOMAHAWKS pg. 20
■ KNIVES pg. 10
■ MACHETES pg. 24
KNIVES pg. 28
pg. 32
343 FPS
28" ATA
6" BH
On the cover: Johner Images/Getty Images
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InƊƍanƌ SurƐŶƑŧl
Compared to other buildings, shipping
containers are affordable. For preppers, the uses are limitless. ■ James Card
ecently I was at a quandary
that most all-around outdoorsmen eventually hit: too much
gear, not enough room. he previous
owner of my property left behind an
old concrete pad on the edge of the
woods. I have no idea what used to
be there but it’s the size of a one-car
garage. I always figured I’d build a
shed there and it would be a handy
outbuilding. However, after pricing
options and weighing pros and cons,
nothing seemed appealing. It was
either too expensive (have a contractor build one) or too time consuming (built it myself over the course
of many, many weekends). A middle
ground is to buy a pre-made kit and
you assemble that yourself but I am
suspicious on the quality of building
materials in the sense of you get what
you pay for. And then one evening my
neighbor stops around to have a beer.
His hops-infused solution: “You ought
to get a Connex!”
Connex is a nickname of metal
shipping containers. You see them
everywhere: on trucks, railyards,
ports and construction sites. Eventually they get retired from shipping use
and people are able to buy them used.
Typically used ones are a bit rusty
and there are some dings and dents. I
located a local fellow through Craigslist that wheels and deals in shipping
containers. They come in slightly different sizes but most of them will be
20 or 40 footers with 8-foot by 8-foot
entrances. The floors are wood, usually scuffed up and stinky. I purchased
my 20-footer for $1,750 plus another
$200 for delivery, which was a pretty
good deal after shopping around as
there are numerous online middle-
men in this racket that like to add
their mark-up. One of their common
hustles is to sell containers they do not
own but they know that they can procure for a price that is much cheaper
than what they are going to charge
you. The local dealer I worked with
prided himself on having his containers in stock and anyone was welcome
to visit and inspect his inventory.
The delivery was professional and
remarkable: the driver placed the
shed right in the concrete pad within
an inch of where I wanted it. With a
hydraulic lift system, he put the thing
down softer than a mother laying a
baby in a cradle. I was impressed. But
be sure to know exactly where you
want it. If it needs to be moved later,
you will need a forklift.
For people wanting to lead a selfreliant lifestyle, one thing that immediately caught my eye was that these
are rodent-proof. It’s all steel and
nothing is getting in there. It’s waterproof (unless you bought a really, really junky one), and the doors seal up
like a bank vault. This is important
because of the rotten damage rodents
can inflict upon stored goods. After
all of the work a person does to put
up food and supplies, it is disheartening to see those items destroyed or
degraded by mice. The piece of mind
that your supplies are 100 percent
protected against vermin is priceless.
Throughout the container are
square hooks on the top and bottom of the container. Also in the
back corners are bars that cross the
corner. These were used to tie down
and secure the goods that were being
transported when the container was
in use. Now, these tie-down points
can be used to create a shelving system to store provisons and gear or
they could be utilized to hang materials by running a bar across the top
near the ceiling.
Another bonus is physical security:
it’s not going to burn down and it’s
pretty hard to rob. A prepper could
have a few thousand dollars worth
of supplies put up and it should be
treated like any other valuable commodity. The doors have locking bars
that can be padlocked at four points
plus you can special order a custom
lock that has a bolt cutter-proof plate.
My tin-shed shack is going to be
pretty dull and utilitarian: store the
ATV, a couple kayaks, trapping,
hunting and fishing gear on a shelving system; some scrap lumber for
the endless projects. No need to run
electricity as I’ll leave a Coleman
lantern out there. I will paint the
floor with some leftover paint, along
with painting the exterior a neutral
earth-tone color so it blends into the
woods. It’s a short distance from my
house but I envy the prepper that is
able to get one delivered to a remote
location out in the deep woods. I
can see a couple windows installed,
a side door and a lean-to roof that
creates a covered porch. I can see the
wood stove added and bunk beds,
along with the inside finished with
barn boards. Then there’s a small
kitchen area with a stove topped by a
cast iron skillet. It’s nice to daydream
but shipping containers are like giant
Legos for grown-ups and with some
imagination, can be used for just
about anything.
Kelly Kettle
Glen Muir
Does your
EDC meet your
needs and
■ by Chris Amos
The author’s “go-to EDCs” show various
amounts of use—as all good go-to
EDCs should. From top: a Corey Roderick
custom, Spyderco/Terzuola collaboration,
a Jon Graham stubby Razel, Mercator
fixed blade and Benchmade/Mel Pardue
t doesn’t matter what your walk
of life, if you’re reading this you
probably have a “survival knife.”
he term conjures up many things,
from images of Rambo to post-apocalyptic Walking Dead scenarios. I’m
as guilty as the next guy. Let’s face
it—survival knives are just cool!
The number of articles written on
what makes the perfect companion
blade in the wild or edged weapon
behind enemy lines is nearly immeasurable. The number of experts is
equally impressive and all have their
place. Sadly, though, every time I
carry my trusty Randall Model 1
with me to work, the reception is
less then positive.
So what is a regular guy just trying to survive in this crazy world to
do? Write yet another article with
another opinion, of course. This
time, however, instead of addressing
impending doom, let’s focus on getting through our regular lives in our
everyday world.
I think we all can agree that there
is no one perfect knife or style of one,
for that matter. Take a look in your
pocket right now. That trusty old
friend that’s always there for you to
open mail, break down boxes and dig
out the occasional splinter is probably pretty close to your ideal urban
survival knife! Roll it around in your
hand and think about what you actually use it for on a day-to-day basis. What elements of its design do
you like? What gets in your way? Is
it comfortable in the hand for heavy
tasks? Is the tip too pointy or not
pointed enough? Is it easy to carry or
does it make you cinch your belt up a
little tighter?
One of the most effective ways to
choose the right knife is to think about
what you don’t need in one. Sundials,
grappling hooks and fish scalers are
all handy on occasion, but if tragedy
strikes tomorrow it’s highly unlikely
you will go from working retail in a
major metropolitan area to building a
shelter in the woods and hunting deer
with a spear. A well-constructed fixed
blade or folder with a 2-to-4 inch
blade will serve most all your needs
just fine.
This doesn’t mean, however, that
you should be unprepared. One of the
most important things to consider is
edge retention and learning how to
sharpen your knife. Not only is a dull
knife of little use, it is also downright
dangerous! There have been many
great articles written on the subject,
so we won’t go into sharpening here.
The best advice is keep it simple.
Next, try a few basic scenarios. Sure
your current knife may shave hair, but
can you peel a potato with it? What
about using it to open a can of soup in
a pinch or to cut through a seat belt?
If you’re still unsure, try a simple
test for handle design courtesy of
BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-OfFame member Wayne Goddard. The
test will tell you a lot about your everyday carry knife. Simply take the
knife of your choice and whittle a
point on the end of a broom handle,
like sharpening a pencil. By the time
you finish this simple task you will
know a lot about the usability of the
blade in your pocket.
Of course, everyone’s needs and
environments are different. A Midwestern farmer and a New York police officer have very different EDC
requirements. What is useful, even
necessary, to one might be useless to
the other.
The next consideration is controversial but probably one of the most
important: lateral strength. The
number of pocketknives with screw-
Peeling a potato may seem totally
pedestrian but if your EDC won’t
do it, it’s not much of an EDC.
Sure your current urban
survival knife/EDC may
shave hair, but will it
open a can of soup in a
pinch? The author uses
his Mercator fixed blade to
open a can of chili sauce.
driver-tipped blades makes this
point pretty easily. Once you decide
on a knife that suits you and your
needs, consider buying two of them
if you can afford it and do your own
testing. Do things with the knife applicable to your environment as well
as worst-case scenarios. Pound it
through some lumber, cut some nylon webbing and rope, etc. All can
be had at any hardware store or
lumberyard. Lastly, put the blade in
a vise and put some torque on it with
a pipe, being sure you are equipped
with appropriate safety gear (eye
protection, for one). Anything that
seems appropriate for your needs
is fair game. If this is the knife you
most likely will have with you in the
event of an emergency/tragedy, it
would be wise to know what it will
and won’t do. Many custom makers
do this type of testing in their shops
and can offer safety and other information and real world results that
can help you make your decision.
Unfortunately, many large manufacturers do not.
Meanwhile, though many will
call the type of testing I recommend
abuse, your well being and that of
your family and fellow citizens is
well worth a few dollars. A soldier,
hopefully, doesn’t go into battle with
untested gear. Life can get rough—be
Ultimately, the best advice is to
take a look around and select the
knife that fits your needs and environment. Not only will you be happier and better prepared, everyone
around you will be better off for it.
Hey, you might even have an excuse to buy a new knife!
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
The 3 Greatest
The stories behind the
Swiss Army knife, the Leatherman Tool and the Rambo knife.
■ by Mike Haskew
The Swiss Army Knife
Rarely does a single brand, style
or look set the standard for an entire genre in the knife industry, let
alone hold its place for decades with
no sign of a loosening grip. Just say
the words Swiss Army knife and the
image is clear and constant.
The classic red handle emblazoned
with the shield and cross of its land
of origin render the Swiss Army knife
(SAK) instantly recognizable, while its
multi-function versatility makes it indispensable for those who carry it and
rely on it in a variety of situations.
Cut, slice, tightetn/loosen a flat- or
Phillips-head screw, punch, file, open
a can or bottle and even sign your
name, the pride of Victorinox and the
trademark of the Swiss Army is the
versatility that is found nowhere else.
Like every icon in any field, the
SAK is surrounded in legend and
lore. The consensus is that the knife
gained widespread appeal during and
after World War II as Allied soldiers
brought them home, and those who
saw the knives clamored for one of
their own. American military personnel came to further love the SAK
when it became available at the nearest base PX (post exchange), and sales
are said to have exploded. Of course,
there was a tinge of controversy related to the “first” Swiss Army knives.
In 2005, Victorinox went a long way
in closing the book on that discussion
with the acquisition of rival Wenger,
followed by the consolidation of the
two brands into the single Victorinox
label in 2013.
Victorinox Global Chief Executive
Officer Charles Elsener likes to tell
the story of his family’s development
of the early SAK. “In 1897, founder
Karl Elsener created his ‘Officer’s and
Sports Knife,’” Charles explained,
“and registered it legally June 12 of
that year. He also was responsible
for the iconic design, which has not
changed to this day. From 1897 to
1937, the handles were made of red
fiber. Functions of the knife included
big blade, small blade, can opener,
corkscrew and reamer. The name of
this model today is the ‘Spartan.’”
In 1937 the knife handles changed
to celluloid, and since 1971 the material used is Cellidor. The red color
was probably chosen for the red in
the Swiss flag and also for the Swiss
canton [district] of Schwyz—and
probably to help the owner find his
treasured possession when it falls on
the ground!
According to Elsener, the most popular SAK in the company’s early days
was the Spartan. In 1902, a wood
saw and scissors were added. The
new model with scissors was christened the Climber, and the Huntsman
included both the wood saw and scissors. As more and more tools were
added, the flagship knife became the
SwissChamp, introduced in 1986
with a grand total of 33 functions.
“The fourth bestseller is our smaller
Classic keyring model,” Elsener added, “and these five bestsellers have
been the same since their introduction.”
Charles confirms that American
soldiers popularized the SAK during
World War II and are responsible for
its name today since they had difficulty pronouncing it in German as
the “Schweizer Offiziers-und Sportsmesser.” Today, Victorinox produces
60,000 SAKs per day and a staggering
13 million pieces annually, achieving
these numbers consistently.
In each of its many configurations,
the SAK remains the epitome of form,
function, and remarkably easy carry
and deployment. It has been honored
and revered for its timeless utility,
never going out of style and never being eclipsed in its mission.
BLADE Magazine Cutlery HallOf-Fame© member Tim Leatherman,
developer of the popular Leatherman
Tool, gave the introduction speech
when Charles Elsener’s father, Carl,
was inducted into the Cutlery Hall
Of Fame in 2011. Charles told of a
modest, unassuming man who wore
a workman’s smock while at the company.
“One day Carl happened to be at
the loading dock when a truck pulled
in and everyone else was at lunch,”
Tim smiled. “The driver saw Carl and
said, ‘Hey you! Help me unload this
truck.’ Without saying a word, Carl
did. Only when another worker returned from lunch and saw what was
happening did the mortified driver
realize what he had done. But Carl
took no offense at all. He was still his
humble self.”
The humble knife the Elsener family put together also has risen without
unnecessary fanfare to the height of
fame and cutlery glory. Leatherman
sees an unassailable place in knife history for the SAK.
“Victorinox with the Swiss Army
knife anchors the knife industry,” he
asserted. “One category of products
within the cutlery industry is ‘pocketcarried knives,’ which has three subcategories—common pocketknives,
tactical knives and multi-purpose
pocketknives. And deservedly so. The
design deserves every bit of recogni-
tion it has received. I know firsthand
how hard it is to make a knife or tool
without a cosmetic defect. And I have
never seen a cosmetic defect in a Swiss
Army knife. The Swiss Army knife is
recognized and coveted worldwide.
“I was very much aware of the
Swiss Army knife as I was designing
the Leatherman Tool,” Tim continued. “So much so that in one of my
prototypes I cannibalized a pair of
scissors from a Swiss Army knife to
put in my tool. However, my design
diverged away from the Swiss Army
knife because in a Swiss Army knife
the blade is the central feature, and I
wanted a pair of pliers to be the central feature of my Leatherman Tool.”
While satisfying the needs of the
businessman, blue-collar worker and
outdoorsman, the SAK also has cultivated a devoted group of collectors.
Doug Dillman, owner of Freeport
Knife Co. in Freeport, Maine, leads
the Swiss Army Knife Collectors Society, which was founded in 2000 by
avid collector Dan Jacquart.
“The club currently has about 150
members,” Doug commented. “Our
objective since the beginning has been
to encourage and support collectors
who share a passion for both collecting Swiss Army knives and educating
members about the many changes to
the product and the factory’s history
since its creation in 1884. We largely
accomplish this through the publication of a biannual newsletter. We try
to offer articles about changes to the
many models over the years, new
product introductions, and specialedition models. Our last issue included a tang stamp chart to help members determine the age of a knife.”
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
The Leatherman Tool
Tim Leatherman had a great
idea. It just took a while to convince others that his tool was worthy of production.
When eight years of effort finally
brought the acclaim that he knew
would come for the Leatherman
tool and his company, Leatherman
Tool Group, Inc., it was incredibly
satisfying. It was also a validation
of a long haul, an effort that finally
paid off, and in doing so revolutionized the way people take on
ordinary, everyday tasks. Beyond
the basics, the Leatherman tool has
transcended the cutlery and hand
tool industries. It has simply become an icon.
The Leatherman journey began
with just that—a journey. “It all
started when we were young, and
my wife, Chau, and I took a budget
trip to Europe in 1975 and bought
a used 1969 Fiat 600D in Amsterdam for $300,” remembered Tim
Leatherman, company chairman.
“The trip ended up lasting nine
months. We drove through Eastern
Europe and then all the way to Teheran, Iran, and back. I was carrying a four-blade camper’s knife but
needed a pair of pliers to do repairs
on the car or the plumbing in the
cheap hotels in which we stayed.
Thus the idea, ‘Add pliers to a Boy
Scout type knife.’”
When Tim came home to Portland, Oregon, in 1976, he committed to the project and then
spent the next seven years making
prototypes, first in his parents’
basement and then his brother-inlaw’s garage, and finally his own
garage when he and Chau bought
a small house. After three years he
had a prototype he thought was
workable. He filed for a patent
and believed the finish line was in
“All I have to do is show my prototype and my patent application
to a knife company, and they will
pay me royalties and manufacture
it,” he thought. Then reality set in.
“None of the knife companies were
interested,” he said, “nor were tool
companies or anyone else.”
When Tim was nearly at the end
of his rope and the prospects for
his dream project appeared dim, he
talked to college friend Steve Berliner
about some last-ditch attempts to
find a customer willing to place an
order for the original tool that would
justify the investment in a company
to make the tools themselves.
“We contacted mail order catalogs and one made suggestions to
make the tool less complex and
less expensive to manufacture
than my original prototype,” Tim
explained. “I then spent another
few months in my garage making
a new prototype, which we called
the Leatherman Pocket Survival
Tool. In late May 1983, after eight
years of effort, we finally got our
first order—for 500 tools—from
Cabela’s for delivery in late December 1983.”
Berliner’s father had a metalworking shop and allowed the entrepreneurs to move the equipment
that had stacked up in Tim’s garage
there. He also provided some additional equipment and offered some
of his own employees to work on
the tool on a subcontract basis.
While this whirlwind of activity was under way, the mail order
catalog that had suggested the vital
changes, Early Winters, placed an
order for 250 tools, also for delivery in December 1983.
The birth of the Leatherman tool
was a real grass roots success story
in the making, right?
“But making a Leatherman tool
was harder than we thought,” Tim
reflected. “We were late. We only
managed to ship about 200 tools
in 1983, all in the last few days
of the year. But in 1984, when
we were hoping to make and sell
about 4,000 tools, business suddenly became very good. Instead,
we were able to make and sell almost 30,000 tools. Then the business grew exponentially. By 1993,
we were able to make and sell more
than a million Leatherman tools in
one year.” Today, depending on demand, Leatherman makes 3-to-3.5
million tools annually.
It had been a slow, arduous developmental process. Trial and error? Yes. Experimentation? Lots.
The evolution progressed through
several stages and resulted in a tool
that amazingly no longer included
patented features. It was also an
odd combination of lengthy development that became an overnight
“I think the Leatherman tool
caught on so quickly in the first
place because the public put it in
a different category than a pocketknife, or maybe a new sub-category of pocketknife,” Tim reasoned.
“I thought I was creating a pocketknife with pliers. The public saw
the Leatherman tool as a highly
functional, compact, multi-purpose
tool with a knife blade. I think the
tool has staying power because the
public still sees the Leatherman
tool as an easy-to-carry tool that
prepares them for the expected and
unexpected—for real life.”
While building name recognition
and a franchise that has gained recognition worldwide, Leatherman
maintains a family feel. For 25 years
Tim’s brother Stuart served as vice
president of national sales, and his
son Lee is getting involved in the
company now. Pushing the envelope
of innovation is ongoing, and it is
fueled by the testimonials, the assurances that Leatherman tools make a
“We get testimonials from customers saying their Leatherman
tools have saved steps, saved trips
and saved lives,” Tim explained.
“There are many testimonials on the
internet, and some on our website.”
The greatest testimonials are the
robust sales and the knowledge that
Leatherman is top of mind when
consumers go shopping for multitools that can add everyday efficiency or literally get them out of a jam.
To gain any testimonial, word of
mouth or written, the Leatherman
tool first had to prove itself, and it
just keeps on doing so every day.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
Knurled aluminum buttcap
unscrews from
handle; contains
a small compass
w/brass strap,
Buttcap of knurled
aluminum with thong eye,
replaceable O-ring and
permanently attached, liquidfilled compass
304 stainless
handle covered
w/treated, nonshrink black
nylon line
18 inches
covered w/
black tape
Handle also
contains a
small Jimmy
Lile folder
(see page
Guard w/Phillips
and standard
cross-bit screwdrivers
The blade
slot was
a design
by Sylvester
with 36
feet of duck
decoy nylon
line coated
14 sawteeth
blade of
D2 tool
Stainlesssteel, hollow
handle for
small survival items
screwed and
pinned to
the tang
Guard w/
screwdriver and
and two
holes for
lashing to a
pole or spear
from a
piece of
quarterinch blade
15 inches
blade width
Black matte
finish with
blade of
9-inch blade
of 440C
the knife
be reminiscent of
those used
in today’s
matte finish
2 pounds,
5 ounces
in weight
13 7/8
11 7/8-inch
blade of 440C
in blade from
blows made
to make
it appear
the blade
was forged
2 pounds
in weight
The Rambo Knife
The combined star power of Stallone, the story, and the knifemaking
prowess of BLADE Magazine Cutlery
Hall-Of-Fame© member Jimmy Lile,
who passed away in 1991, and fellow
Cutlery Hall-Of-Famer Gil Hibben
are the makings of an icon. Lile made
the knives for the first two movies,
First Blood (1982) and Rambo: First
Blood Part II (1985), and Hibben followed with the knives for Rambo III
(1988) and Rambo (2008).
“We met Stallone at Pony Express in Sepulveda, California,” remembered Marilyn Lile Miller, who
as Mrs. Jimmy Lile played such a
pivotal role in the great maker’s life.
“Our friend Joe Ellithorpe owned
that store, and Stallone was looking
for someone to make a knife. Pony
Express was the biggest gun store in
Southern California. Movie stars and
people all over the world bought antiques from Joe.”
According to Marilyn, the design
of the First Blood knife belonged 100
percent to Jimmy. “Stallone knew
nothing about knifemaking, and we
knew nothing about the movie industry,” she laughed. But the Hollywood
production people knew about presentation, always showing the knife
at its shiniest, displaying its full size
with a 9-inch blade and width of 1.5
inches, along with the trademark
sawteeth. Jimmy was a hunter and
fisherman all his life, and he knew
what was needed to skin and debone
a deer, just like a butcher.
“The sawteeth are self-cleaning,
and you can actually [use them to] cut
a 2x4 in two if you have oomph to
pull that knife,” Marilyn explained.
“The knife was designed so hunters
didn’t have to carry a dozen different
tools. The screwdrivers [on the ends
of the guard’s quillons] were made to
open and close a screw on your bow
or whatever you needed while camping. Jimmy sent the knives directly to
Stallone, who had full authority to accept or reject them. He actually made
two knives that Stallone rejected.
“Stallone wanted a hollow handle
that had a screw-on top that could
carry medicine, fish hooks or any
supplies you might need,” she added.
“The small folding knife inside it was
what I call a gentleman’s knife, with
a blade less than 3 inches long. It
was good for skinning a small animal
or anything in camp. The handle was
wrapped in 36 feet of nylon line.”
The Rambo II knife—better known
as The Mission—was slightly larger
than the first with a 10-inch blade
and 2-inch width. “Stallone had control of the first two movies, and we
were going by what he wanted. Our
business with Stallone was all done
on a handshake from beginning to
end. [Jimmy and Stallone] traded
phone calls, and there was never a
contract. He kept his word, and we
kept ours. Jimmy gave those knives
to Stallone,” Marilyn said. “All he
asked for was screen credit and he
got that.”
The story on the third and fourth
knives begins with a parting of ways
between Stallone and his studio.
“When Rambo III came along,
Jimmy had the first chance to design
the knife, and he made it,” Marilyn
remembered. “The studio stepped in
and bought Stallone out and changed
everything. They would not accept
our design because they got crossways with Stallone. The movie people
wanted to take our name and our design and go to China with it. Jimmy
said, ‘No way!’ and Stallone said,
‘I’m not going to take your name to
China.’ Jimmy didn’t do the knives
to become a legend or a millionaire,
but he said it was his reputation now
and forever. The customer had to be
“Gil met Sly at Dan Delavan’s
1984 [California Custom Knife
Show] in Anaheim, California,” explained Gil’s wife, Linda. “Gil went
to the show early before it opened to
clean his knives and straighten the
table. In walked Sly with his bodyguards. He looked directly at Gil
from a distance and said, ‘That is the
man I want to meet!’ Gil looked behind himself to see who Sly was referring to, and it turned out that it was
Gil. Sly spent some time chatting with
Gil and bought several knives. It was
the beginning of more orders over the
years, and Sly’s eventual invitation to
make the knife for Rambo III.”
“Gil immediately made a wooden
[concept] knife and sent it to Sly the
next day,” Linda recalled. “They
went back and forth about what
would fit Sly’s hand and the angles
of the guard, and then Gil made a
real one. The first knife Gil made
was too big, about 2 inches bigger
than the final one chosen for the
The slot in the blade was Stallone’s idea. He envisioned being hidden behind some rocks and able to
see through the slot in a scene in the
movie. The mirror-polished clip was
added because Stallone had another
idea about possibly using the finish
to send a signal in the sunlight.
A 20-year interval passed between
the Rambo III knife and the final installment in the film series.
“The Rambo IV knife evolved
after Sly called Gil and told him
he wanted a machete-type knife,”
Linda noted. “Gil’s first idea/design
was to take the Rambo III knife
and turn it into a machete, slot and
all. Sly loved it but he explained
that Rambo was going to make
this knife on screen, using limited
materials at hand. So, it needed
to be much less ‘finished looking.’
He also said he would like it to be
something similar to knives in a
chopping competition.
“Gil went to work,” she concluded, “and sent Sly three different
models, each one digressing in aesthetics. Sly spoke with Gil and finally said, ‘I want this knife to look
brutal.’ The final knife Gil made
is the one used in the film John
Rambo, also known as Rambo or
Rambo IV.”
Gil was ecstatic to be involved in
another Rambo film and considers it
an honor. Linda gets credit for the
black electrical tape on the handle
of the last Rambo knife. After all,
as John Rambo in the film, Stallone
was using limited materials to make
the knife.
The Rambo knife spawned countless knockoffs and investments from
knife manufacturers looking to capitalize on its popularity. In no small
measure, the Rambo knife kickstarted the tactical knife genre that
is still booming today.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
Workhorses on the
■ by Abe Elias
Four of today’s brute workhorse axes to take to the
chop are, from left (with MSRPs in parentheses):
Schrade Survival Axe ($63), Browning Outdoorsman
Axe ($69.99), Condor Tool & Knife Valhalla Battle Axe
($94.98) and Ontario F.L.E.E.T. Fire SPAX ($275).
s with a knife, the form
and utility of an axe is influenced by the environment
and culture. It has a place like any
tool, though its role can be stretched
thanks to the creativity of the human
mind. he axe is found in many places
outside the regular use it has in the
timber industry. Common places are
camping, gardening and hunting.
Other areas are fire fighting and the
tactical field for combat and defense.
Each role dictates design.
When testing cutting tools, I try
to leave them in their original state.
I never sharpen them unless I absolutely must and always test the original edges.
The Schrade Survival Axe arrived
with a perfectly good working edge.
It held up under testing and cut
very well. It was a bit of a chunky
edge, so doing detailed chores was a
bit challenging. I must say, though,
Schrade kept the handle the right
size so you can comfortably choke
up and get your hand behind the
beard (the area on the underside of
the axe head between the bottom of
the edge and the haft).
Schrade checkered the poll (the
portion of the head opposite the
edge) to give it some texture, which
makes it an excellent hammer or a
tool for creating kindling. The poll
pulverizes small pieces of wood
to create tinder and kindling. You
might wonder, “Why not just split
the wood?” Pounding can create
small pieces with frayed fibers that
will catch sparks and flames easier.
The haft is a glass-filled polymer.
You may not like the way the haft
is constructed because if it breaks
while you’re in the woods, you cannot make a new one (see image with
inset on facing page). The head is
3Cr13 stainless steel with a titanium
coat. In the base of the haft is room
to store a large fire steel. A nylon
belt sheath comes standard.
The axe held up well during testing. The head coating makes it easy
to clean off sap and dirt. The synthetic haft dampens vibrations during use, and it showed no signs of
stress after testing. Overall length:
15.7 inches. Weight: 1.94 pounds.
To be fair, it is more of a large
The Schrade Survival Axe’s
poll is checkered for a
more aggressive textured
surface. It’s a good tool
for breaking up wood and
making loose fibers for
starting a fire (inset). The
head goes through the
haft and not the other way
around, which the author
indicated would make it
more difficult to fabricate
a replacement haft in the
woods if the original broke.
hatchet than an axe. Still, despite
being the smallest in the test group,
it is a good, solid tool and I would
have no problem taking it into the
bush with me. Mind you, though,
I would blend the secondary bevel
into the primary bevel to make it
more wicked at cutting.
The Nordic design influence in
the Valhalla Battle Axe from Condor Tool & Knife is evident at first
glance. A long (30 inches), thin haft
makes it a combat tool. Since there
were no strongholds to besiege, I
tested its cutting abilities on wood.
The characteristic long dropped
beard worked well for chores when
I needed to choke up on the haft
and control the head like a knife. I
must admit, even though the handle
is American hickory, the narrow
profile made me hesitate taking full
swings with it.
My associate and I used the Valhalla on a downed section of ash
tree, and the haft held its own.
While it stood up to the test, I would
not be anxious to use it as my main
axe on a long-term trip. Those are
just my feelings about it. Now, tossing this bad boy is a riot. It throws
like a charm and because of its size
you can hurl it either one- or twohanded.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
it if not for this test, but now that I
have it I’m having fun with it. The
axe goes well with my baldhead and
goatee, though I won’t be getting a
kilt anytime soon.
The small chisel point on the back of the Ontario Fire SPAX is great for making directed cuts. Not surprisingly,
it chipped through a piece of wood like, well, a chisel.
The head is 1060 carbon steel.
Before any of you steel sheriffs put
out a warrant on me, keep in mind
that an axe head has to withstand
a lot of shock, so a high Rockwell
hardness is not a good thing in this
instance. (Editor’s note: The high
A good technique for
splitting kindling is
cutting a piece on the
end in line with the
length of the wood and
then giving a slight
twist to the haft. The
Browning Outdoorsman
is 24 inches overall and
the haft length gives
enough advantage to
easily use the technique.
impact nature of chopping with an
axe requires a more malleable edge
obtained via a lower hardness to
avoid chipping, and carbon steels
like 1060 perform well for such use
at a lower hardness.) Overall, the
axe is well made. I would not have
Depending on where you’re from,
the style of Browning’s Outdoorsman
Axe will have a different name. Some
would refer to it as a three-quarters
axe, a boy’s axe, a pack axe or a
Hudson Bay axe. I tend to know it as
a Hudson Bay axe. The style is shorter than a full-size axe with a lighter
head. Because of their smaller size,
Hudson Bay axes often were carried
in canoes. As for it being a boy’s axe,
it is smaller and lighter than standard
axes, a perfect size to teach a youth
how to use the tool. If you need to
pack an axe hiking, camping or canoeing, this is a good alternative to a
full-size one and gives you more axe
than hatchet.
The haft is injection-molded polypropylene and fiberglass. Much like
the Schrade Survival Axe, I found
the synthetic handle dampened the
vibration. Over the length of the
haft there was a bit of flex but by no
means was it a wet noodle. Overall
length: 24 inches. Weight: 2 pounds,
4.2 ounces. It’s not light as a feather
but it’s no boat anchor, either. The
head is 1055 carbon steel.
Out of the box, the edge grind
was solid and a good cutter. The
trade off when using a lighter axe is
it lacks the punch of heavier axes,
so keep that in mind when choosing chores. It is a good axe and
performed well. I have a number of
axes in this range but this is the first
with a synthetic haft. I can see the
benefits of the synthetic haft on a canoe trip, as you don’t have to worry
about water affecting the handle.
For wilderness travels of all sorts, it
would be a good companion.
F.L.E.E.T. (Fire, Law Enforcement,
A large size fire steel stores in the haft of the
Survival Axe. In the woods a small axe can be as
useful as a knife and having a means of starting a
fire never hurts.
The Valhalla Battle Axe
throws like a charm.
The author stated it was
pretty exciting to land
such a big axe.
The cutout in the head of the Fire SPAX is for
opening and closing fire hydrants and gas lines. The
snap head sheath is nylon.
EMS, Training) Fire SPAX is a
beast of a tool. (SPAX is a combination of spec and ax and comes
from the original model that remains part of the company’s SPEC
Plus line.) The Fire SPAX is 22.19
inches long and is the heaviest of
the test axes. Steel is 5160 high
carbon. It has full-tang construction. Hence, the haft is like a fulltang knife—a solid piece of metal
sandwiched by two scales. The latter are beefy and bear aggressive
notching. I would not use this tool
for any extended period without
wearing gloves. The blade grind
is very effective, not chunky at all,
and the chisel spike also has a solid
grind as well.
The Fire SPAX is a combination
fire axe and Halligan bar/forcible
entry tool, not primarily a woods
implement, or at least would not
be my first or even second choice
strictly due to its weight. On the
other hand, I am not saying you
cannot use it to chop wood. I tested it by cutting wood for a bit. It
is just heavier (3.65 pounds) than
I would like to swing. It cuts very
well, though. Given the construction, if you manage to break it you
are doing something way beyond its
design parameters. In other words,
there are not too many doors you
can’t breach with it.
The butt of the haft sports a combination pry-bar tip/fork. I beat on
some stuff with it and did some prying—I even stood on it for leverage—
and it took it all. As a rescue tool it
is a solid piece of kit and now resides
behind the back seat in my truck. For
a review I think that says enough.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
■ by Pat Covert
The Hardcore Hardware Australia
CTT-01 is handy for splitting
wood for kindling.
ho would have thought
tomahawks—aka hawks—
would have such a strong
presence in the cutlery market? Witness the fact that virtually every major knife manufacturer has at least
one or two in its lineup, and that’s not
counting the smaller niche factories
and custom knifemakers.
Primarily used for breaching and
combat, many recent designs have
gotten beefier to close the gap between hatchets and axes. Just as
hawks in the bird kingdom come in
all shapes and sizes, so do those in
the cutlery world. We will examine
four very different of the latest in
factory hawks, not just to see where
this segment of the industry stands
today, but to help point you in the
right direction when buying one of
these cool choppers.
The CTT-01 (Compact Tactical
Tomahawk) by Hardcore Hardware
Australia is a brute. It may be the
third smallest of the featured hawks
but boasts the thickest steel (.35 inch)
of the four. The CTT-01 is, indeed,
compact at 9.57 inches overall, sporting a 3.25-inch chopping edge on a
bearded bit and a 1.85-inch spike at
the rear. It is a full-tang design of D2
tool steel with a tan Teflon™ coating.
The haft has nicely sculpted 8.75inch scales that extend all the way
up into the head. Weight is a feisty 1
pound 7.2 ounces. The sheath is Kydex with a retention strap and both
Molle-Lok™ and Tek-Lok™ backs
included. MSRP: $345.
Hogue EX-T01: Though the
Hogue EX-T01 has all the appearances of a tactical tomahawk,
collaborator Allen Elishewitz has
stated he also designed the 14.125inch hawk for field use. The head
and shaft is a partial tang design
fitted into a 9.75-inch G-10 haft,
held in place by a series of heavyduty screws. The head features a
3.125-inch edge sporting a cutout
that allows it to be carried in a mag-
No cookie-cutter hawks in this foursome. They’re as diverse as it gets. From top : Medford Knife and Tool Bearded Hawk, Hogue Knives EX-T01, Hardcore Hardware Australia
CTT-01 and TOPS Micro Hawk.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
netic retention sheath with a rotating security lock. The back side of
the bit has a flat head that can be
augmented with optional spike,
hammer and pry-bar attachments.
S7 tool steel does the cutting chores
and a black Cerakote™ finish helps
reduce rust. The sheath is a pocketpaddle Kydex unit with MOLLE
or Tek-Lok options. Weight: 14.2
ounces. MSRP for the base EX-T01
with paddle sheath: $299.95.
Medford Knife and Tool Bearded
Hawk: The juggernaut of the group
is Medford Knife and Tool’s Bearded
Hawk, a 16-inch hunk of D2 topping
the scales at a not-so-svelte 2 pounds,
2.5 ounces. Medford designed the
Bearded Hawk for both tactical and
field purposes. The handsome—and
imposing—bearded bit is 3.73 inches
long and .3-inch thick. Medford uses
a unifacial “wedge” grind on the cutting edge and the haft is skeletonized
with a center hole milled out into a .5inch hex pattern. The nicely sculpted
scales are G-10 and the steel finish is
the matte Black Vulcan. An OD green
Kydex sheath with lanyard is provided. The MK&T Bearded Hawk is
USA made with an MSRP of $425.
TOPS Micro Hawk: Diminutive compared to the rest of the test
hawks, the TOPS Micro Hawk is
a scant 6.9 inches long and lightweight at only 11.2 ounces. The
steel, TOPS’ standard 1095 high
carbon, is a very respectable 0.32inch thick topped off with TOPS’
Black Traction coating—another
company standard—to keep corrosion and glare to a minimum. A full
3.75 inches of the haft is paracord
wrapped and at the base is a large
karambit-style finger hole. Designed
by Filipino martial arts expert
Shawn Owens, the Micro Hawk was
intended primarily as a defensive
The TOPS Knives Micro Hawk is the smallest in
the test group but packs a wicked sting and
nice utility. It sliced cantaloupe and kielbasa
with ease. The 3.94-inch spine is sharpened.
The paracord-wrapped haft is skeletonized to
decrease weight. The paracord is optional.
You’ll hum the tune to Roger Miller’s Big Bad John while slinging Medford’s Bearded Hawk—all 2 pounds, 2.5
ounces of it. By far the heaviest of the test hawks, not surprisingly it handled dense, seasoned privet with ease.
weapon but with field opportunities
as well. The main blade edge is 1.95
inches and the spine is sharpened. A
Kydex belt loop sheath is included
for stow and carry. MSRP is $180
and it’s USA made.
Tomahawks are typically used
for straight-line force as opposed
to alternating angles. By chopping at a 90-degree angle you can
judge the bit’s ability to penetrate.
I started with some 7/8-inch-diameter, dried, seasoned privet, a close
member of the olive wood family—needless to say, very tough
stuff. The Medford Bearded Hawk
sliced through it in single strokes
with ease. The lighter Hogue EX-
The two mid-size hawks performed well and between them offer drastically different paths. The Hardcore
Hardware Australia CTT-01 is built like a tank and can bash with the best, and the Hogue Knives EX-T01 is
feature laden with options out the roof. Respective blade thicknesses: .35 and a quarter inch.
T01 and Hardcore Hardware
CTT-01 hawks took six-to-eight
strokes. Next I moved up to 1 1/4inch privet with the Medford hawk
and it whacked through the thicker wood in two-to-three strokes. It
was clear at this point the Medford
Bearded Hawk, with its heavier
weight and bigger head, was the
best chopper of the bunch.
I moved to 3/8-inch rappelling rope to test our two mid-size
hawks, the Hogue EX-T01 and
Hardcore Hardware CTT-01. Both
handled the rope with ease, chopping through one and two lengths
simultaneously in single strokes.
Keep in mind everything we’ve cut
to this point is much tougher than
animal flesh or viscera.
The TOPS Micro Hawk was
not included in the tests above as
it would have been unfair to expect it to perform the same duties
due to its much smaller size. Cantaloupe is often used as a cutting
or chopping medium to simulate
animal flesh because it has a tough
outer skin and soft inner core, so I
gave the Micro Hawk a go at one.
Our larger hawks would have eas-
ily decimated the cantaloupe, but
would the pint-size Micro Hawk
perform? Quite well, thank you!
The little hawk sliced through
the melon’s outer skin with impunity—and then there’s that 3.75
inches of cutting spine at the top
that also can be put to good use. In
fact, I used it as an ulu-style blade
to sliced up some kielbasa sausage
for breakfast.
The Medford Bearded Hawk was
the group’s king chopper. Given its
weight advantage this was no surprise, and Medford’s quality shines
through on the behemoth. The midsize Hogue EX-T01 and Hardcore
Hardware CTT-01 hawks are first
class as well. Both performed admirably. The big decision is whether you want a lighter hawk with
many features like the EX-T01, or
a rough and tumble party crasher
like the rugged CTT-01. The TOPS
Micro Hawk more than delights
for its size and proved an excellent
multi-tasker. Bottom line, there’s a
hawk for all reasons in this diverse
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
3 of the latest machetes
offer a wealth of
hacking and chopping
■ by Dexter Ewing
If it could go back in time,
the Cold Steel D-Guard Latin
Machete with its 26.6-inch
overall length would’ve
made a great boarding
sword on any self-respecting
pirate galleon.
Weight: 20.7 ounces.
The shortest (14 inches overall) of the test knives,
the Benchmade Jungle Bolo includes a lanyard to
wrap around your wrist and help main control during
use. MSRP: $130.
hen you think of typical
uses for machetes, you
think of dispatching overgrown weeds, vines, briars and such.
While it is true machetes are excellent at managing such vegetation,
they are very capable of wood-chopping duties as well. If you venture
off the beaten path into the trees or
wilderness, having a good machete
along is just as imperative as a good
pair of hiking boots.
At 14 inches overall, Benchmade’s
model 153BK Jungle Bolo is the
shortest of the three machetes this
writer tested, including a blade approaching 10 inches. It is also the
only made-in-the-USA model of the
bunch. The blade is 1095 carbon
steel with a low-glare black epoxy
coat to guard against corrosion.
Not only is 1095 inexpensive from
the manufacturing standpoint, it is
also very easy to sharpen.
“The 153BK Jungle Bolo is ideal
for chopping and brush-clearing
tasks,” begins Derrick Lau, Bench-
made public relations communications manager. “It sits shorter than
your typical machetes and is less
cumbersome in pack situations.
However, it has ample function.”
A nicely made, heavy-duty leather
sheath with belt loop is included. A
retention strap affixed by a button
snap secures the Jungle Bolo inside.
“Another advantage the Jungle Bolo
has over a [standard] machete is it
can actually chop some substantial
wood if needed,” Lau notes. “The
thick piece of 1095 steel can be
batoned and makes easy work of
smaller logs.”
Don’t discount the Jungle Bolo’s
size. It indeed can chop when called
upon, taking out saplings efficiently
and quickly. Unlike a longer machete
in which you can use the length and
weight of the blade to your advantage on the down stroke, the Jungle
Bolo lacks such mass, though you
can make up for it by supplying
some muscular force.
The contoured Santoprene rubber
handle is textured to provide a nonslip grip with gloved or non-gloved
hands. A single pronounced lower
guard prevents your hand from sliding forward on the blade during use.
When employing the Jungle Bolo
to chop, affix the paracord lanyard
to your wrist for safety’s sake. The
blade belly provides a great sweet
spot for cleaving saplings and other
Cold Steel President
Lynn Thompson says the
D-Guard Latin Machete is
the one he carries in the
field because it “fits him
so well.” MSRP: $36.99.
The mass of the deep blade
belly on the Okapi African Panga
enhances cutting power during the
down stroke. MSRP: $13.99
vegetation. The knife’s compact nature bridges machete and camp tasks
with aplomb. Those who might find
a typical machete unwieldy with
some chores will take to the Jungle
Bolo quickly.
Some have lauded Cold Steel’s extensive line of machetes for cutting
performance and bang-for-the-buck
value. The company’s South-African-manufactured 21-inch D-Guard
Latin Machete is no exception. With
a 21-inch blade, the knife definitely
has some reach to it. Keep in mind
that most walk-behind lawnmowers
have a cutting width of 21 inches
as well. Whereas a lawnmower will
help you tame your grass on your
piece of American paradise, the
Latin Machete will help you tame
overgrowth and undergrowth deep
in the woods. In fact, Cold Steel
President Lynn Thompson cannot
say enough about the knife.
“The 21-inch Latin D-Guard is
my favorite machete and the one I
currently carry the most in the field
because it fits me so well,” he begins. “It’s not only a good tool but
also a formidable weapon. It’s viable in bush country and can be used
for everything from probing, pushing, cutting and more.” Thompson
adds, given its sheer size, the Cold
Steel machete is also adept at field
dressing, quartering and butchering
a hog.
One of the knife’s more distinctive features is the D-guard handle.
Not all machetes come with the
grip style, which protects your hand
from abrasion or impact during
use. “What makes the line of Cold
Steel D-Guard Machetes special,”
Thompson interjects, “is that our
D-guard, unlike most others on the
market, actually protects your hand
as the guard is entirely steel reinforced, with steel continuing into
the handle from the tang.”
The 1055 carbon steel blade has
a baked-on matte finish for corrosion resistance and glare reduction.
Thompson says he prefers 1055 because it holds a good edge through
rough use as well as being easy to
sharpen in the field.
In field testing, the machete was
well balanced and a pleasure to
use. The handle’s thickness is just
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
The Jungle Bolo’s
blade belly provides
a great sweet spot
for hacking saplings
and other vegetation.
Weight: 11.82 ounces.
right and accommodates a variety
of hand sizes. There’s a lot of inertia and chopping power when you
start swinging the 21-inch blade. It’s
a very impressive knife. The blade
bites hard and deep into saplings.
The sheath is heavy-duty Cordura™
with a plastic liner inside. A series
of rivets holds the halves securely together. As a very nice added touch,
the sheath’s tip or chape is reinforced with stiff plastic to prevent
the blade tip from poking through.
The tang runs three-fourths of the
way through the hardwood handle.
Three large rivets secure the grip to
the tang. The handle sports contours in all the right places, providing secure purchase with or without
gloves. The knife appears basic but
is very well made. Besides, looks can
be deceiving.
“The Panga is just long enough
to give you a good reach while not
getting in its own way,” says Blake
Pogue, CAS Iberia product manager.
The blade takes a sharp upward
curve toward the tip, forming a generous belly before terminating at the
point. Pogue indicates the widening of the blade allows more mass
toward the tip, enhancing gravity as
your friend for downward strokes.
This is similar in concept to how
kukris work with their front-weighted blade designs. “In areas with
thinner brambles or river reed the
back of the Panga can be used like
a bill hook to gather stalks into a
bundle, then clear them with a single
strike,” Pogue adds.
Don’t let its Spartan appearance
fool you—the knife is built for hard
work and heavy use. “We’ve tested
Okapi’s heat treatment on green and
seasoned hardwoods, even batoning
through some oak,” Pogue explains,
“and the blade came out with nothing but sap marks to show for it.”
Indeed, the Panga can deal some serious blows that make it an effective
chopper. Of special note: the handle’s rectangular profile helps keep
the machete centered and resists rotating in your grip as round-profile
handles tend to do.
Okapi is a South African company whose manufacturing specialty
includes agricultural knives, pocketknives and machetes designed and
built for daily use. CAS Iberia is its
U.S. importer/distributor. The Okapi African Panga has a 15.5-inch
blade of 1055 carbon steel. Unlike
the other test machetes, the Okapi
is the only one with an uncoated
blade. It has a coarse-brushed finish,
so wipe downs after use are highly
recommended to reduce corrosion.
It does not come with a sheath.
According to Blake
Pogue of CAS Iberia,
the back of the Panga
blade can be used like
a bill hook to gather
stalks of brambles or
reeds into a bundle,
then clear them with a
single strike.
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Fashioning knife handles
over and over again paid off
for the author in terms of
these expertly contoured and
finished grips.
to know and
do to get you
on your way
■ by Brian Goode
ver the almost 10 years I
have been making knives, I
have gone from newbie to
beginner to finding my way to becoming comfortable in what I do as a
knifemaker. During the majority of
that time I have been overwhelmed
by the amount of people seeking
input during their journey into the
knifemaking community. his article is an effort to summarize advice I share with anyone wanting to
explore what it takes to become a
And begin is exactly what I mean:
Start! Everyone who has ever made
a knife has gone from not making
them to making them. Each one of
them has struggled with the same
hurdles of gathering technical information and what materials and
tools to use.
The first thing to determine is the
construction method that most relates to your idea of knifemaking.
Do you want to forge, stock remove
or try kit knives to get started? Deciding which process to use to create
your knives will determine what materials to buy, as well as what tooling
you will need to locate or accumulate. You won’t need as much as you
might think. You may be able to find
access to a metal-cutting band saw
to rough out blanks, a drill press to
drill holes for handle pins, etc. I used
a 4x6 wood sander and hand files
to create my first knife. I borrowed
the use of a band saw to rough out
a stock-removal blank, and a small
drill press to get the tang ready for
pins to hold the handle in place. I also
invested a grand total of $35 for the
4x6 wood sander to angle the handle
scale fronts, and even clean up the
blade flats and bevels after hand filing. Was what I had optimal for the
fastest tools to use? Not at all, but
it was what I had and what I found
that allowed me to begin.
All the planning and research
won’t help if you don’t execute. No
matter your level of knifemaking experience or skill, you have not tapped
into it if you don’t do something
with tools and materials. Everyone
starts out with limited tools, experience and money. Don’t over think it;
get things happening with materials.
You’re not supposed to know what
to do, so jump in and start and don’t
let your brain get in the way! All the
planning in the world will not get
you making knives until you throw
caution to the wind and do. Be resourceful and do what you can with
what you have but continue to seek
information. Ask people you know
if they have equipment. Show people what you are doing or explain
to them what you want to accomplish. Someone you talk to may be
the person who knows of an unused
band saw sitting in an uncle’s basement. Whatever it takes, get materials and tools together and set “pen
to paper,” so to speak, though make
noise and sparks instead.
No beginner will make knives like
someone who has made 50 or 100
of them. Inside the first 50 are the
natural mistakes you have to make
to get to the next level. I always told
myself each mistake was one less
in the way on the path to where I
wanted to be. That is still a concept
I live by today.
Do again is what it sounds like:
Keep doing it again. Don’t waste
time trying to correct mistakes that
seem to only get worse the more you
work on them. Instead, spend the
time doing again on another knife.
The goal is to not repeat the same
mistake on the next knife or sheath
you make that you did on the one
you’re working on now. Continuing to repeat the process allows your
body to naturally correct itself, and
your skill will develop just from the
muscle memory that comes from repetition—like driving down a straight
road and adjusting left and then right
to stay inside the lines. Traveling forward is possible because you are constantly correcting mistakes and you
no longer think while doing it. Your
muscle memory takes over. A good
knife is made by avoiding drastic
mistakes in each step of the process,
not unlike driving down the road.
No knife is ever void of mistakes, so
don’t let the unavoidable prevent you
from making knives.
If I had to create a perfect knife
I would never make another one—
because I cannot create a perfect
knife. Your skill will strengthen
Etching brought out the
hardening transition line of the
blade in the unfinished knife.
As the author noted, “From
many knives ground I am now
comfortable taking them to
the proper thinness needed
to cut well. In the beginning
I left things too thick and
the performance just wasn’t
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
with every knife you produce, so
do yourself a favor: When you’re
unhappy with the outcome of a pattern or execution of a knife, thank
yourself for the mistake. Mistakes
are how you learn to evolve what
wasn’t right into a better-made
knife the next time.
Another machine
the author
borrowed the use
of as a beginning
maker was a
band saw.
The best advice I received was to
always finish the knife. Never let
a problem knife hold you back to
the point that you don’t finish it.
The information and experience
you will gain after the process is
complete is the most valuable tool
you can have in becoming a knifemaker. Problem knives are often the
ones makers hold as most precious
among shop “tools.” Mistakes are
what you need to have behind you
to problem solve your system of
knife construction. Learning how to
finish each knife despite obstacles is
what makes you a knifemaker, just
as becoming proficient in creating
a great meal with less-than-desired
A drill press was
one of the machines
the author was
able to borrow the
use of early on in
his knifemaking
ingredients makes you a great chef.
Fear of failure is often a powerful
restraint we place on ourselves, and
failures are ever present in creating
anything. Don’t allow insecurities
or nervousness to prevent you from
finishing your process. Every knifemaker I know has gone through the
same journey you will. The only
difference has been the path we
each take to get to the desired outcome in finishing the job.
Once you complete the process
and have knives you have built, you
must do a few more things to push
to a higher level and complete the
circle from non-maker to maker.
Use your knives and know how
they perform for their intended
purposes. Only in using your knife
will you get feedback on how well
it performs. Remember, feedback
from both you and others who test
your knives is the primary tool to
improve your work. What needs
to change will never be eliminated
from the process, so enjoy the evolution you will go through growing
from novice to experienced maker.
Once you become an experienced maker, you have one unwrit-
ten rule to follow: to share with
others what was shared with you.
If you meet someone in your journey who doesn’t help you improve
or withholds information, go elsewhere—and never return to that
source again. That is not how the
knife community operates—end
of story! The knifemaking community prides itself on raising its
members up no matter their skill
level or type of production method. Sharing the process with others is the last step in becoming a
knifemaker. Failing to do this final step goes against everything I
was taught and have experienced
in the knife community. Simply
put by someone I call a friend, the
late knifemaker Kit Carson, “I tell
you this because I will be gone one
day and people will still need to
know.” I’m upholding a promise
to Kit that he never asked me to
make. He just looked at me and
said, “I can see in your eyes that
you will share everything anyone
tells you, so ask me anything at
any time.”
Take advantage of that unwritten
rule. Ask knifemakers you come in
contact with all the questions you
have, because they started out just
like you—making one mistake at a
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■ by Dick Jones
The good news: Americans have
incredible options for concealed carry
handguns. The bad news: there are
pros and cons for each one.
n firearms choice for the
concealed carry citizen, the
right answer for each person
ranges over a broad spectrum of
fi rearms, and covers caliber, action type, sight options, weight,
and size; both in slimness as well
as overall profile. All these factors
are important parts of the right answer for your needs, but the truth
is, what you carry as a concealed
defense handgun depends most on
where you go and how much of the
time you intend to spend with the
firearm connected to you.
My recommendation is that concealed carry citizens carry their guns
every day and everywhere they’re legally allowed to carry. My commitment to concealed carry is that the
need to use a firearm for self-defense
is about the same as the chance of a
house fire in my home. Since I keep
insurance on my house all the time,
I see it as common sense to carry a
gun all the time.
Of course, when you decide to
carry a gun every day and everywhere you go, you need to purchase
a gun that’s easy to hide, comfortable to carry, yet still effective. That
balance of weight to power and
magazine capacity becomes a seri-
ous issue. Powerful guns are undoubtedly better in a fight, but you
must be accurate with the powerful
gun, and it must be easy enough to
carry that you have it with you all
the time. A .22 rimfire in your hand
is always better than a .45 on you
dresser, unless you’re in your bedroom next to the dresser.
Another issue, of course, is reliability. Defensive guns must work
when you need them because a gun
that doesn’t function is the same as
not having a gun. One might argue
that a gun that’s 99 percent reliable
is enough, but I’d prefer one that’s
99.9 percent reliable, or 100 percent
reliable, if possible.
Part of that level of reliability relates to your ability to reliably operate the gun. If you have trouble operating the slide, or the trigger is so
heavy you can barely pull it in double-action mode, you have reliability issues. If the two issues listed in
the last sentence made you wonder,
please consider that many women
and older or smaller people simply
cannot operate the slide on many
small-frame, striker-fired, semi-autos, and those people are the fastestgrowing segment of the concealed
carry market. I’ve learned this from
experience as an instructor, and it
would surprise most people to know
just how intrusive this problem is.
Accuracy is important as well.
While it’s true that most defensive
situations for civilians occur at very
short ranges, there’s always the possibility you might need accuracy beyond seven yards. Nothing irritates
me more than the phrase “minute of
bad guy.” I know this statement in a
gun review generally says something
about the skill of the gun writer
rather than the gun being tested,
but if a gun is only capable of 12”
groups at seven yards, I’m not going
to trust my life on it because there
are too many guns that are perfectly
capable of quarter-sized groups at
this distance. Accuracy does matter, and even with the tiny concealed
carry sights on some guns, real accuracy is possible. Add a laser that’s
properly zeroed, and the average
15-ounce carry gun should be capable of quarter-sized groups every
Compounding the accuracy issue
is the fact that under stress, performance deteriorates at a drastic
rate. Police officers, who have no
trouble qualifying out to 25 yards,
often shoot a full magazine at an
assailant under the pressure of a
gunfight without a single hit. These
are people with regular training
schedules and qualifications, who
are shooting full-size guns, and get
free ammunition for practice. Accuracy does matter, but of course, if
you can’t shoot, the most accurate
gun in the world will only make you
slightly better. Generally, guns miss
by inches and shooters miss by feet.
Finally, the ability to carry the gun
safely might well be the most important factor of all. When you make
the conscious decision to take some
of the responsibility for you own
safety and carry a firearm, you also
assume the responsibility of making
sure you aren’t a safety hazard to
yourself or the public.
This means your concealed carry
choice must be a gun you can reliably carry with no danger of accidental discharge or you failing to hit
your target and harm an innocent bystander. We have enough opponents
to the right of individual self-defense
as it is. We don’t need sloppy gun
handling adding to the problem.
So for daily carry, the firearm
must be light, concealable, powerful
enough to stop a bad guy, accurate
enough to hit a bad guy, and as close
to perfectly reliable and easy to operate as possible, and certainly as
safe as possible. While this sounds
like a tall order, I contend that it’s
not. I’ve been amazed and heartened
by just how many truly excellent
guns the modern concealed carry
citizen has to choose from.
Which brings us to a vital part
of the equation: how you dress has
more effect on your needs in a concealed carry gun than almost any
other factors. Other than the constraints of feminine style, my summer clothing style is probably the
toughest to cover unless you’re a flip
flops, tank top, and athletic shorts
guy, and come to think of it, the untucked tank top can hide a pretty
big gun. I wear shorts and a tuckedin, short-sleeved shirt in summer.
Tucked-in shirts make concealment
harder, but I find I can reliably hide
a 3” barreled 20-ounce semi-auto
or revolver pretty well. Having said
this, a 20-ounce gun gets pretty
heavy and hot on a North Carolina
summer day, so I stay with a twoinch, 13-ounce gun.
I’ve found many CCH permit
holders only intend to carry the
firearm in their vehicles when traveling and have it in their home for
personal use. For them, the problem is simpler. Of course, if you’re
planning to never carry the gun
on your person, the heavy gun
makes more sense. The only time
the weight is a problem is when
you transfer the gun from the car
to the house. Bigger guns are easier
to shoot well, more accurate, have
larger capacity, and are generally
more power than small ones. Having said this, I strongly recommend
carrying seven days a week, 52
weeks a year.
For many who have less shooting experience and choose to carry a
firearm for self-defense, the decision
rests more on ease of operation than
any other factor. A long-time shooter
won’t find a 1911-type autoloader
difficult to operate, but to a beginner
it’s an intimidating gun, indeed.
The issues of level of training have
been addressed with the advent of
the modern striker-fired autoloader.
They’re reliable and simple to use,
but many contend they’re still too
complicated for most new shooters to handle in a pinch, and some
smaller or older people have issues
with operating the slide.
Revolvers are simpler to operate
and certainly the most reliable firearms in production, but again, people
with low hand strength have trouble
with the double-action trigger.
In spite of this, I think they’re
almost always the best choice for
people with low training levels, and
maybe the best overall gun for concealed carry citizens.
Most people who put in some effort can learn to operate the doubleaction trigger well, and there’s no
argument that the revolver is the
most reliable action type for hand-
guns. Double-action semi-autos
offer some advantages of both revolvers and semiautos, and modern
striker-fired pistols are reliable, accurate, and easy to learn to operate.
Another consideration is the
magazine safety. Some semi-autos
use a magazine safety that disables the gun when the magazine
is removed, even though there’s a
round in the chamber. There are
proponents of this arrangement
and detractors. The downside is
that a gun that loses a magazine is
no longer a gun. This also happens
to be the upside. I know law enforcement officers who like magazine safeties because if there’s a
fight with a criminal over the gun
and the criminal is losing, the officer can push the magazine button
and render the gun useless should
the criminal gain control.
Another plus for a concealed
carry citizen is the owner can use
the feature as an added safety level
around children. For instance, a
woman might remove the magazine from the gun and carry it with
her while her child is in a shopping cart, allowing her to leave her
purse behind for short periods. The
downside is that without a magazine safety, a semi-automatic is a
functional single shot. Also, some
magazine safeties have an adverse
effect on triggers and the free drop
of a magazine. There are preferences for both systems and it’s something to consider.
While I love the 1911 platform, I see them as a poor choice
for concealed carry. I hate to put
this in print because I know it’s
worse than making a public statement about how to resolve issues
in the Middle East. I know it will
make 1911 devotees angry, but a
22-ounce 1911 is as light as you get
and this is still a heavy gun.
Furthermore, unless I can carry
in a strap-under-the-hammer holster, I don’t feel comfortable with
a cocked and locked 1911 being
banged around in my active daily
lifestyle. Tiny 1911s have only
slightly more magazine capacity
than a small, powerful revolver,
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
and the revolver has fewer safety
and reliability issues. Lightweight
1911s can get pretty picky. The
challenges the 1911 faces as a
carry gun extend to almost all
the single-action, concealed carry,
semi-autos as well. The original
semi-auto concealed carry guns
were designed just after the beginning of the 20th century. They preceded the 1911, and offered only
a thumb safety to prevent accidental discharge. There wasn’t even
an exposed hammer that could be
lowered. Most who carried them
did so with an empty chamber for
safety, and I believe this was a good
idea. The current crop of singleaction-only, concealed carry pistols
are much safer than those original
guns, but still lack a level of safety I’d prefer. They can be carried
with an empty chamber or with the
hammer down, but that handicaps
them when a fast shot is needed.
Most don’t even off er the passive
grip safety that’s an added layer of
safety for the 1911.
All guns that are carried with
the striker or hammer completely
cocked and rely on an external
manually- operated safety carry a
liability in what happens after the
shot is fired. Unless the operator is
trained to a level that insures the
safety will be activated before the
gun is re-holstered, there’s considerable opportunity for an accidental discharge during the re-holster.
The modern striker-fired guns
make an excellent choice for the
concealed carry citizen. The best
of them offer 9mm and even .40
S&W power in a small package
that weighs less than 20 ounces in
the single-stack versions. They have
reasonable magazine capacity in
single-stack and very good capacity in double-stack configurations,
although the double stacks do become a bit girthy and exceed the
20-ounce mark. They have excellent
safety features, good triggers, more
than acceptable accuracy and reliability is quite good. There are a lot
of very good guns in this class.
The double/single and double-action-only guns make a viable choice
for concealed carry because they
can be safely carried with a round
in the chamber, hammer down, and
offer a very fast first shot unencumbered by the need for carry with
an activated safety. They also offer
second-strike capability. Walther
made this design popular with the
iconic PPK, and even James Bond
chose one, though I’ve never been
impressed with 007’s choices in firearms. A downside of the double/
single actions is they, like 1911s and
other single action semi-autos, require the operator to remember and
manually make them safe before reholstering. While de-cocking models address lowering the hammer,
and models that allow a hammerback safety mode provide for some
safety, both require a conscious action on the part of the operator.
Many of the modern internal
hammer semi-autos use a doubleaction-only and I believe this to be
a better option for individuals without high levels of training. With
double-action-only guns, each shot
requires a full double-action pull of
the trigger, and the completion of
the shot leaves it as safe as it was
when removed from the holster.
Handguns - just like everything
else in life – are a compromise.
Heavy guns are easier to shoot than
light guns in the same caliber and the
heavy gun kicks a lot less, but who
wants to lug a heavy gun around all
the time? The really great part about
this discussion is that Americans have
the right to buy and carry the gun we
choose, and there are so many excellent guns available to choose from.
Even better, when we see one we
think might be better than the one we
have, we can buy it. If you remember
nothing else, remember this: you can
never have too many guns.
In this book get valuable
insight into practical choices
among concealed carry handguns currently available and
suitable for personal defense.
It guides the reader through
choosing the best in class
among ultra compact semi-autos, compact semi autos, mid
sized semi-autos, full sized
semi-autos, sub-compact revolvers, compact revolvers,
mid-sized revolvers and full
sized revolvers. With more
information about potential
choices, the concealed carry
citizen can make the best
choice, a choice that could
save a life. Order this book at
Author Dick Jones writes for
a variety of firearms publications, including Gun Digest
The Magazine and Gun Mag.
He has taught shooting since
1980; is a certified NRA rifle,
pistol, and shotgun instructor;
currently teaches the North
Carolina Concealed Carry
Certification Course and competes in Bianchi Cup and NRA
National Championships.
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Be Prepared
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
Practice these practical
preparedness scenarios
at the range.
■ b
byy Grant
Grantt Cunn
In the training world we often say
that there are only two safe places
for your firearm: on your person or
in a locked container. That is doubly true if you have children in your
home; an unlocked, unattended
gun is dangerous to curious children (even if your kids aren’t curious, their friends are likely to be).
The result of this realization is the
common recommendation that you
should always carry your gun at
all times even when you’re in your
home. It’s almost a point of pride
amongst the training cadre that they
never take their guns off except to
go to sleep.
The trouble with that line of
thinking is that we don’t always
have our guns on us. If you’re taking
a shower, for instance, it’s unlikely
that you’ll be wearing your gun.
(Yes, I’m sure the super-ninjas out
there have one within arm’s reach at
all times, but realistically it’s out of
your immediate control and should
be secured in some manner.) It’s possible that you could come out of that
shower to the sound of breaking
window glass, signaling an intruder.
You might also be one of those people who doesn’t have a concealed
carry license (in those jurisdictions
where they’re needed) or who works
in a job where guns are forbidden.
In either case, you’re not likely to be
packing when you come home after
work and someone follows you into
your house. It happens.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but
you’re also not going to have your
gun on when you’re sleeping. (As
I’m writing this, news of a selfinflicted gunshot is making the
rounds; a fellow who slept with two
guns in his bed rolled over one night
and somehow managed to fire one
of them, resulting in a wound to his
pelvis! That’s just one reason why
you shouldn’t have a gun with you
when you go to sleep.)
In all of these cases your gun isn’t
in your immediate care and custody,
and therefore should stored be in
a secure, locked container, preferably one of the quick-access safes
that are on the market. If something
happens where you need that lethal
force tool, you’ll need to be able to
retrieve it quickly and efficiently.
Getting to the storage container and
doing what’s necessary to get into it
and access the gun, under pressure,
is a specific skill set that you really
should train and rehearse before
needing to do it for real.
Even if you don’t have children
and choose to stage guns in your
home without the benefit of a locking container, you still need to practice getting to them, loading them,
and getting into a solid shooting
position/stance. Practicing that now
would be a good idea, which is why
this drill exists.
Rounds Needed
This isn’t a drill where you shoot
a lot of ammunition; this drill really
is intended more to test your movement to and manipulation of your
gun and/or its storage container. As
a result, one full magazine per repetition will be more than sufficient,
though I recommend having a second one stored with the gun to take
with you in case you need to move
away from the storage area.
I recommend that you run through
this drill several times to embed the sequence of events firmly in your mind.
I suggest using the LE Targets
#CFS-BSP, simply because of its
general resemblance to the human
silhouette. In reality you can use
anything, including a paper plate.
Again, this isn’t as much about
shooting as it is your physical access
to the gun.
Special Equipment
A quick-access safe or a suitable
substitute (a latching ammo can
works well). You may also need
masking tape or some sticks to set
up a floor plan (cheap 1x2” lath
works well). The range you use must
allow you to move between some
starting point and your gun, and it’s
best set up on a range where you can
recreate your own floor plan on the
ground or floor.
While a training partner isn’t absolutely necessary for this drill, having one to make your start signal
random, unpredictable and somewhat realistic (like screaming, yelling, or perhaps even a board break-
ing to simulate a door being kicked
in) is most helpful.
If the range allows it, use the
masking tape or 1x1s to recreate the
room in which you store your gun.
Lay out the walls, the doorway, and
perhaps any large furniture around
which you need to navigate. Make
them as true to scale as you can.
(You can see where a large indoor
range or outdoor shooting bay is
best if you’re trying to recreate a
large bedroom.) Be sure to lay out
any hallways down which you need
to run to get to the “room.”
Orient the “room” to the target
so that you’re in the same shooting
position (relative to the rest of the
room) from which you expect to
mount your defense.
Even though this isn’t really a drill
about shooting, don’t allow yourself
to get complacent or sloppy with
your shooting. You still need to hit
the target with all rounds inside the
target area. If you’re not, that means
you’re either lazy or don’t have a
complete understanding of the fundamentals; if the latter is true, go
back to basic marksmanship drills
and practice some more.
This drill addresses two separate
and important concepts in defensive
First is the need to be able to think
and function with a gun in your hand
— to be prepared for action while at
the same time being able to process
the information that’s flowing into
your brain. It’s one thing to stand in
front of a target, draw on command
and shoot; it’s a different thing altogether to have that gun in hand, keep
it pointed in an appropriate direction,
and carry on a conversation with the
9-1-1 operator whom you’ve called
to report that bad guy in your midst.
What happens if, while you’re trying to tell the operator where you are
and what’s going on, the bad guy decides to run at you — or break in the
door of your bedroom? Can you efficiently switch tasks from proactive
(calling for help) to reactive (dealing
with that immediate threat)?
In a complex situation like that it’s
easy — too easy — to get fixated on
one thing: the gun, to the exclusion of
the call for help; or the call for help,
to the exclusion of keeping track of
the threat. We don’t often practice
this “juggling” of duties, and that’s a
mistake. This is the kind of scenario
where things can go very wrong: for
the innocent who comes around the
corner when you were expecting a
threat, or for you when the police officer tells you to drop the gun and you
whirl around to face him — and get
shot for your mistake.
Managing tasks and processing
information is critical to both an efficient response and your own safety,
and that’s what this drill is designed to
The second aspect of this drill has
to do with your anticipation of shooting. If the situation is such that you’ve
got a gun in your hand, you’re likely
to be ready to shoot, but the point at
which you actually make and execute
the decision to shoot is yet unknown.
Your general readiness is high, but
your anticipation of any specific shot
is low. That anticipation affects your
balance of speed & precision because
you aren’t ready to shoot at the moment you need to. Understanding this
dynamic will help you refine your understanding of that balance and under
what conditions it’s adversely affected. Before you try this drill you should
already have a good grounding in
one-handed drawing and shooting.
Rounds Needed
I’d suggest having 2 magazines,
loaded between 40- 60% of capacity,
and repeating this drill until both are
empty. This will give you additional
experience in recognizing an empty
gun and reloading efficiently even in
the midst of a chaotic situation.
I recommend using any one of
the DT-2 series targets, so that your
training partner can increase the difS P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
ficulty level by making you figure
out which target really needs to be
Special Equipment
Cell phone.
The scenario is simple: You’re
on the phone with 9-1-1 reporting someone who has broken into
your house. As you’re talking on
the phone, the suspect, armed with
a knife, bursts into the room. Stand
a plausible distance from the target, based on your measurements of
the rooms in your house: your living room or kitchen, for instance.
Carry on a simulated conversation
with the imaginary 9-1-1 operator,
who is played by your training partner. Make the call like a real 9-1-1
call: tell the “operator” you need the
police, give your name and address,
describe the “suspect,” where he is
in your home, where you are in your
home, a description of yourself, who
else is in the home, their ages, and
so on. Your training partner is to
act like a real call taker, asking you
what you need, where you are, what
the suspect looks like, etc.
At some point while you’re holding this conversation your partner is
to call out a target identifier (color,
number, shape, or any combination
of those) and your job is to determine which target to shoot and then
to deliver several accurate rounds
into that target.
Like every other drill, you’re looking for all accurate hits on the targets
as fast as you can shoot — but this
drill is slightly different. This drill is
a little more difficult than most from
a marksmanship standpoint, given
the varied shapes of the target areas
and the slightly increased distance,
and the fact that you’ll likely be
shooting one-handed. Add to that
the sudden nature of the “threat”
and you’ll likely find more missed
shots than usual. That’s okay, because it’s those missed shots that
show you the effect of surprise on
your ability to shoot; doing this drill
two or three times (which should
use up the allotted two magazines)
will help you adapt to that surprise
and you should see those misses disappear by the last repetition.
If they don’t, you have some work
to do on your one-handed shooting
Over the last few years, the approach to defense in the home has
evolved into comprehensive plan:
evade (get away from the intruder,
get out if you and any family members can do so in complete safety);
barricade (secure yourself in a prearranged safe area or room); arm
(by whatever means you have at
your disposal, be
it a firearm, electrical defense tool,
chemical spray, or even improvised
weapons); communicate (call emergency responders to help); and, finally, respond (use those self defense
tools as necessary to protect your
life or the lives of your loved ones).
Shooting from that ensconced or
barricaded position is likely to be
different than from a standing position on the range. You’ll ideally
be behind cover, probably shooting
from around or over something,
and possibly from a kneeling position. What’s more, unless you have
someone in the room with you to
handle communications with emergency responders, you’ll need to do
that along with shooting your gun.
It’s a lot of stuff to keep straight,
and not at all easy to do if you’ve
not practiced beforehand. This drill
is designed to give you some practice dealing with the physical parts
of that response, shooting from a re-
alistic home defense position.
If you haven’t already, you need to
identify your safe room — the place
where you’ll go (or take your family, as the case may be) and where
you can secure yourself behind a
solid locked door. You’ll want your
position in that room to be at right
angles to the path of entry (so that
you can see the bad guy before he
spots you, giving you valuable reaction time) and behind some sort of
cover. Cover, remember, is anything
that will stop a bullet; a bookcase
loaded with books works very well,
but even the mattress on your bed
can provide some small measure of
ballistic protection. Once you’ve
identified how your safe room will
be arranged, you can decide how
to conduct this drill. If your plan is
to stand behind a bookcase, looking around the right side to view
the door, you’ll need to practice this
drill standing and shooting around
the right side of your barricade. If
your room’s best ballistic protection
is your bed (or perhaps a low cedar
chest filled with books), you’ll need
to practice crouching or kneeling behind that barrier as you shoot.
For the purposes of this drill, a
tall barricade can be something as
simple as the divider on your range’s
shooting lane. If you’re on an open
range, a couple of stacked plastic
barrels work well. Many ranges
have actual barricades that are used
for shooting competitions, and those
are ideal. If your range has none of
that, an extra target stand covered
with cardboard to the height of your
head will suffice.
If you need something to take the
place of low cover, some cardboard
positioned low on a target frame can
be pressed into service. A large cardboard box, like that from an appliance, can also be used as can one of
those plastic barrels set on its side.
Rounds Needed
Since this drill is designed to test
your ability to shoot from compro-
mised positions, such as over or
around cover, you’ll want to run it
several times so that you can determine for yourself how you’re going
to shoot and still keep yourself safe.
I’d suggest at least a couple of magazines of ammunition, shot in successive repetitions of 3-5 rounds each.
Revisit the drill occasionally to keep
those skills sharp.
I prefer the LE Targets #CFS-BSP
for this drill, for its more realistic
depiction of the target zone of an attacker.
Special Equipment
You’ll want some sort of equipment or prop to substitute for cover (target frames with cardboard,
barrels, etc.) and something that
resembles a cell phone. You’ll be
dropping this prop, so if you have
an old dead phone or something
roughly the same size that you can
drop, use that.
You should shoot at a distance
that closely matches that of your
safe room. Measure your room and
then measure that same distance to
the target. To shoot this drill, start
with the gun in the ready position
— close to your chest, with your
elbows at
your sides. If you have a training
partner, he or she should give you
an agreed-upon fire command; if
not, you can decide yourself when
to shoot.
For the first repetition, hold the
cell phone (or substitute) to your
ear and keep the gun close into
your body with your shooting
hand. On the command to fire,
simply drop the phone as you establish a good two-hand grip on
the gun, extend and shoot. Remember to keep behind cover as
much as possible — that’s why you
chose it, after all — as you make
your hits.
Make sure you get 3-5 solid hits
on the target. For the second repetition, you’ll do the same thing but
shoot one-handed. This is an important skill to train, because your
natural grasp reflex may cause you
to doggedly hang on to the phone
when the attacker bursts in. Practicing both one-handed and twohanded from behind cover is important in a well-rounded skill set!
On the command to fire, extend
out in a one-handed stance and fire
3-5 rounds into the center-chest
area of the target.
If you need to reload, drop the cell
phone and reload using both hands.
ing target, but it’s better than injuring someone because your bullet
wasn’t properly contained. SAFETY
FIRST! If you normally carry your
gun in your home, practice drawing
the gun before you get into your barricaded position. Do not try to draw
the gun when you’re in a cramped or
compromised position!.
I know this is starting to sound
repetitious, and it is: you’re looking for all solid hits inside the upper
chest target area. What you should
find is that there’s a big change in
your balance of speed & precision
as you switch from two-hand to
one-hand shooting. This is natural;
no one shoots as well one-handed as
two-handed, but it’s important for
you to learn how much difference
there is so that you can adjust your
shooting to make sure that you get
all your hits on the target. Shooting
from a disadvantaged position will
reveal those differences even more
starkly, and you may discover that
you need more work on your onehanded shooting if you’re to be able
to reliably incapacitate your attacker.
Special Notes
from low cover, with a target set at
normal height, can result in the bullet’s path going over the berm or bullet trap on your range! Check your
angles carefully before you start
shooting. If the angle is such that it
creates a safety hazard, move your
entire setup close to the backstop
or drop the target down so that the
angles are safe. The latter is not the
very best arrangement, as you don’t
get to practice shooting at a stand-
You have a handgun for selfdefense and have taken a good
defensive shooting class. How
do you practice and maintain
those critical skills? Inside this
one-of-a-kind book you’ll find
detailed descriptions of the
most important handgun training drills. The reader can be
sure that every drill is valuable
in keeping their skills sharp.
Author Grant Cunningham,
Salem, Oregon, has written
several titles for Gun Digest:
Defensive Revolver Fundamentals, Gun Digest Book of
the Revolver, Defensive Pistol
Fundamentals and Gun Digest
Shooter’s Guide to Handguns
visit his website at and order a
copy of the book at
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
For camping, conquering
and contemplating, these
stools have a long history
among artists, soldiers
and rugged individualists.
■ By Christopher Schwarz
with David Lyell
here are few things that
British military officers and
plein air painters of the 19th
century would agree upon. But this
stool is at the top of that (quite)
short list.
Three-legged folding stools were
a popular way to carry a comfortable place to sit during the 1800s
and early 1900s, whether you were
trying to (unsuccessfully) subdue the
Zulu or capture the way the light
reflected off the River Thames at
sunset. As a result of the stools’ light
weight and portability, they also
became popular among campers,
hunters and anyone else who needed
to squat comfortably outside.
The key to the design’s success is
its three legs. Three legs sit on any
terrain without wobbling. The stool
is folded easily into a small bundle
and tucked under your arm or into
a rucksack.
Plus, they are remarkably easy to
build, no matter the tools you own
or the wood you have on hand. You
can make one of these stools using
old broom handles, cheap hardware
and pieces of your leather jacket
from college. Or you can go full “officer” and use fancy woods, fancy
harness leather and hardware that is
machined like a clock.
Finally, the stools are quick to
construct. The stools shown in this
article each took about two hours
to build, start to finish. You can begin building one after breakfast and
sit on the finished stool to eat your
lunch. So let’s start with the “squeegee stool.”
During the last five years I’ve built
a lot of these stools. I began making
them, as always, by building copies of historical examples. These,
however, presented a problem. They
broke under standard North American Buttock Pressure.
After much experimentation, I determined that beefing up the stools’
legs to 11⁄4” in diameter made them
strong enough for most body types.
So when I began to make basic,
hardware-store versions of these
stools I looked for sticks that were
11⁄4” in diameter.
Most of the broom handles at my
hardware store are about 7⁄8” diameter or a touch more, but some are
thicker. During one trip to my local
store we found handles that are 11⁄4”
in diameter attached to a squeegee
tool (about $23). We snatched that
plus a replacement handle (about
$6) and headed back to the shop to
make some quick stools.
Cut the three legs to 233⁄4” long.
This will result in the seat being
about 17” off the floor. Use a rasp
to round over the sharp corners on
both ends of the three sticks. This
will make the stool look nicer and
make the seat last longer.
Remove the stickers and finish
from the handles using a cabinet
scraper or sandpaper. Then bore
a 5⁄16”-diameter hole through the
diameter of the handle. The hole
should be exactly at the middle of
the stick, both its length and diameter. Put a piece of tape on the drill
bit at the correct depth so you will
stop boring right when the tip of
your brad-point bit pokes through
the other side of the leg.
Drill the hole from one side of the
leg. Flip it and finish the job. While
your drill is out, drill the pilot holes
in the tops of the legs to accept the
Mr. Pushy. Rasps and files cut only on the push
stroke. Don’t drag the teeth back over the work or
you’ll shorten the life of the tool.
Sorry squeegee. The handle of this tool was the perfect diameter for a folding stool. So the first order of
business was to saw off the squeegee part.
#10 x 11⁄4” screws that will attach
the seat to the legs. Depending on
your particular #10 screw, the pilot
might be 7⁄64”, 1⁄8” or a little bigger
(screws are not all the same).
The hardware that makes the
stool work – the tri-bolt – can be
cobbled together from the hardware
store or you can buy a beautiful version from Lee Valley Tools (see the
Square off. Use a square to help you keep your
bit perpendicular to the leg and in line with its
diameter. Don’t trust your lying eyes.
Supplies list). If you are using the
hardware store stuff, here’s your
shopping list:
One 5⁄16” x 3” hex-head bolt
One 5⁄16” x 21⁄2” eye bolt
Three 5⁄16” washers
Two 5⁄16” acorn-headed nuts
There’s about a 100-percent
chance that the hardware will be
zinc plated. I dislike shiny zinc bits
Go deep. To prevent your screw from bottoming out,
drill the pilot hole to 11⁄2" deep.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
A punch in the
gut. This rotary
punch makes
several sizes of
holes. A 3⁄16" hole
works fine with #10
In addition to local leather stores, check
out Tandy Leather ( and
Brettuns Village (
for hides. Leather tools can be found at
Tandy Leather or 877-532-8437
1 ■ 3⁄16" punch
#3777-06, $12.99
50 ■ # 9 copper rivets
#11280-00, $19.99 pkg/50
1 ■ # 9 rivet setter
#8110-00, $14.99
Lee Valley Tools or 800-871-8158
1 ■ Lee Valley Campaign Stool Hardware
#05H40.01, $39.50
Prices correct at time of publication.
so I remove the plating with the help
of citric acid. Put the hardware in
a coffee cup, fill it with warm water and put a couple tablespoons of
citric acid in the water. In a couple
hours, the zinc will be gone. Remove
the hardware and oil it.
Before installing the hardware,
add a finish to the legs. We used a
coat of beeswax for the squeegee
stool. Thread the legs and hardware
together and use a little bit of a
thread-locking fluid to keep the two
acorn nuts in place.
A piece of thick leather is ideal
for the seat. Look for something 8
oz. (1⁄8” thick) or thicker. Be aware
that how the leather was tanned can
affect its pliability and strength. So
Bolt from the internet. I got the idea for this
tri-bolt from a tutorial on the internet. I’m so
glad it’s useful for more than just cat videos.
trust your gut when looking at the
animal’s gut. (“Would this leather
hold me?”) You’ll need a piece of
leather that is about 171⁄4” square –
see the drawings on the next page.
Use the drawings to create a pattern for the seat. I use hardboard
(sometimes called Masonite) for the
pattern. Place the pattern on your
leather, hold it firmly and use a sharp
utility knife to cut the seat to shape.
Tip: For cleaner cuts, strop your utility knife like a straight razor.
Now punch three holes in the
seat that are big enough to thread
your #10 screws through. A leather
punch makes clean holes (unlike a
drill bit). Punches are available at
most craft stores.
Screw the seat to the legs. I recommend using a brass screw cup (available at any hardware store) under
the head of each screw. The cups
will hold the leather tighter and prevent it from getting easily damaged.
Now take your stool for a nice
squat. Want to make it fancier?
Read on.
There are lots of ways you can
improve the look of the legs. If you
have a lathe, you can turn them.
My only advice is to not turn any
section of the leg thinner than 7⁄8”
in diameter. The turned leg shown
in the drawings has a small foot
with chamfers at top and bottom.
Another traditional shape is to turn
the foot so it resembles a teardrop.
If you don’t have a lathe, consider tapered octagonal legs, as shown
in the photo at the beginning of this
article. These legs are 11⁄4” at the
top and 1” at the foot. Rasp the
corners at the top and bottom like
shown for the broomstick stool.
The remainder of the operations
A better bolt. The Lee Valley hardware for this stool
is quite nice. It costs more than the hardware-store
bolts but is worth the investment.
on the legs are the same as for
the broomstick stool. Boring 5⁄16”
holes will allow you to use either
the hardware-store hardware or
the Lee Valley stuff. Also, instead
of using a wax finish, I used super
blonde shellac followed by a coat
of wax.
Instead of a plain triangular seat,
you can improve the strength and
appearance of the seat by adding
“pockets” to the three seat corners.
These are attached with 15 #9 copper rivets. Make a hardboard template of the pockets using the drawings and use the template to cut out
three pockets for the seat.
Use the drawings to mark out
the 30 holes needed for the rivets in the seat and pockets. A
3⁄ 16” hole is correct for a #9 rivet. Thread the rivet through the
matching holes in the seat and the
pocket (the flat head of the rivet
should face your buttocks). Now
place the “burr” on the shaft of
the rivet and use a rivet-setting
tool to drive the burr onto the
rivet. Place the rivet on a block of
11⁄ 4"
3⁄ 16"
11⁄ 4"
117⁄ 8"
11⁄ 4" radius
5⁄ 16" hole
for hardware
117⁄ 8"
171⁄ 4"
Metal plate
metal, snip away the waste above
the burr and peen the rivet with
the rivet setter or a hammer.
Now punch the 3⁄16” holes in each
of the pockets for the screws and
screw cups. Attach the seat to the legs
with the #10 screws and screw cups.
You can also add a leather carrying strap to the stool. Rivet a metal
D-ring (from any leather store) to
one end of the strap. Loop the strap
through the D-ring and put the
37⁄ 8"
1⁄ 8" chamfer
Set rivets. This handy tool (top) sets the burr.
After setting the burr, nail snips can remove
the excess (bottom). Then use the rivet setter
or a hammer to peen the rivet. Note the metal
plate under the leather; it helps when setting
the burr and peening the rivet.
3⁄ 4"
11⁄ 4"
3⁄ 16" holes
for rivets
8 1⁄ 2"
stool’s legs inside the loop. Fasten
the other end of the strap near the
top of one of the legs. Use brass
screws and screw cups as before.
These stools are so quick to build
you’ll find they make great gifts – I
think I’ve made almost 20 of them
and have given them to so many
people that some people have received two.
One last thing: I beg you to note
that I wrote this entire article with-
Folding Stool
7⁄ 8"
out a single “stool” pun. See, I can
act like a grown-up.
Christopher is the editor at Lost Art Press, a furniture
maker and the author of “Campaign Furniture”
(Lost Art Press).
For links to all online extras, go to:
PLAN: Download patterns for the leather seat
and pocket.
WEBSITE: Visit the author’s personal website.
❏ 3 Legs
Straight-grained hardwood
❏ 1 Seat
❏ 3 Pockets
IN OUR STORE: “Build a Campaign Chair with
Christopher Schwarz” available as a download or DVD.
Our products are available online at:
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
How to Buy A Canoe
Nothing beats a canoe for
good times on the water,
or for bad times during
emergencies. ■ by Jeff Evans
did quite a bit of research before
I bought my canoe and I’m
very pleased with it. I took the
time to learn what would handle
the best and do what I wanted it
to do. I looked at everything from
hull design and the materials the
canoe is made from to how the
seating and length of the canoe affects the stability.
There are three prominent hulls
when it comes to canoes — flat,
shallow arch, and the narrow, long,
skinny canoe you can see on river canoe trips during the summer. There
are other hull designs, but these are
the basics.
The flat-bottom canoe is easy to
get into and it paddles easily, but
as you put weight into this one, it
begins to get unstable. That makes
it a poor choice for trapping and
The skinny, river trip canoe does
not hold much weight and is fairly
easy to tip over. Again, not a good
Shallow-arch canoes with a keel
— the ridge that runs along the bottom — allow stability. It handles
rough water from wind and waves
well and it holds a lot of weight —
usually in the 700-pound range even
in shorter canoes. This is an excellent choice for trappers and hunters.
There are several types of canoe
materials to choose from. It can be
overwhelming to make a choice.
Wooden canoes are beautiful to
look at, and owning one for touring
a lake just to look around or scout an
area for the upcoming season would
be nice. In trapping and hunting situations, though, it would get gouged
and scratched. Wooden canoes are
too pretty and expensive for that.
Fiberglass is a good choice because it is strong and light. If you
damage it on rocks or trees, it is
patchable by a pro. Make sure it’s
a composite fiberglass, though, or it
will be too brittle.
The two most popular canoe materials are aluminum and polyethylene (or plastic as most people call
it). Aluminum canoes are the most
memorable types from the past,
but they are becoming less popular
these days because lighter and less
expensive types are available. Aluminum canoes tend to have the flat
or narrow skinny hulls and might
not hold as much weight. They are
durable and can be welded for repair.
The last option is plastic. Plastic canoes are strong, and they flex
when you bump into something.
They must be stored out of the sunlight because prolonged exposure to
the sun will destroy the integrity of
the plastic and make it brittle. They
are lighter and more readily available than canoes made from other
materials. These types tend to be
popular as well and are on the low
end of the price range.
Length of a canoe affects tracking
in a straight line when you paddle.
The shorter canoes turn easier, but
they can be influenced by wind. The
longer canoes might need a second
person to help paddle, steer and carry
at portage places because of the extra
weight longer canoes have. I personally would not go any shorter than a
14-footer for trapping and hunting.
The width of canoes and the shape
of the sides as they come up from the
water matter also. It’s easier to get
your paddle to the water when the
sides of the canoe come straight up.
However, with this type, you give up
stability. The canoe with sides that
flare out and up are far more stable,
but you have to stretch out farther
to reach the water. The wider the
canoe, the more stable it is, but you
give up a little maneuverability.
Seating in most canoes is for two
people. The longer types have seats
for three people. The two-seat option
has a seat very close to the back or
stern of the canoe. The second seat is
up in the bow but only close enough
to allow comfortable legroom.
I paddle my canoe backward from
the bow seat when I’m alone so I
have a more stable canoe. It places
my weight closer to the middle.
The canoe that I chose is a 14-foot
Old Town Rogue model with the shallow arch and flare-out sides. It is wide
at the center and fairly deep. It came
with two molded plastic seats and the
canoe itself is plastic. I’m very pleased
with the way it handles the wind and
waves out on the lake I trap.
My canoe is rated for 700 pounds
and is very stable with me, my traps,
drowning rods and the rest of my
gear that goes along with water trapping. I carry the skinning gear I need
with me in case I have a good amount
of catches so that I don’t overload
the canoe. Most times, though, I just
bring the animals back to the house
though. During the trapping trip,
you can just toss the catches into
the bow of the canoe or on the floor
out of your way. If you trap for land
animals, you might want to bring a
plastic tote so they stay dry.
The first year trapping with my
canoe was a learning experience. I
took notice of some modifications
that would make trapping from the
canoe easier.
My canoe has a wood brace in the
middle to make it easier to carry,
but I needed more tie-offs. I bought
some cleats from the store that were
also plastic but plenty strong for this
canoe. I placed these on the seats
and bolted them on so they would
be stronger to tie off to.
Boats tend to pull away from the
bank or dock when you try to step
out of them. So, I rigged up a drag
hook and braided rope. I tied it off
at the handle and when I arrive at a
place to get out, I just toss it on the
bank and use the cleat to make it tight
to shore. Sometimes, I use the drag
and rope to help me get out of the canoe by hooking it on a tree limb and
pulling it tight, much like a handrail.
I also put my water packbasket
next to the wooden brace to help
keep it from falling over so easily. I
keep traps and stakes in buckets to
keep the floor of the canoe cleaned
up. It is also easy to grab what I
need to make a set with the gear
stored this way. I put drowning rods
on the floor near the front for easy
removal. They are out of my way
while I paddle the canoe.
The other use for this canoe is
hunting. I always carry a break-open
20-gauge shotgun and my pistol on
my hip. Squirrel and rabbit season
is open during trapping season. I see
both along the bank so I take advantage of this with the shotgun. It’s
hard to aim straight with the pistol
in a rocking canoe.
I always wear a life vest while I’m
on the water. I like the kind with the
mesh top so I can shoulder the shotgun properly. This type of vest also
removes some of the bulk so I can
place traps easier.
Keep your cell phone and some
matches along with some Band-Aids
in a Zip Lock bag on your body so if
you fall in, you have those with you.
Another good item to keep in the canoe is a tote tub to keep things dry.
Paddling a canoe tends to put some
water on the floor when you switch
the oar back and forth.
Fishing is also a lot of fun in this
canoe. The places you can go with it
are almost endless. My children enjoy coming with me. I just let them
paddle how they want and correct as
necessary from my spot in the back.
Shopping for a canoe can be fun.
It is as simple to start as typing the
word “canoe” in a search engine
on the computer. A ton of sites will
show up and each will explain in
further detail the information I just
went over.
I suggest you try this kind of trapping and hunting. Get away from
the crowds on the lakes and rivers
where the big boats can’t go.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
Hickory bark. If a hickory log comes my way in the springtime, all other work stops
while I harvest first the inner bark, then the wood. Bark seats like these are the best there
is. I also use straight-grained hickory wood in many ways.
This hardwood is best harvested
for its bark and wood soon after
cutting. ■ by Peter Follansbee
reen woodworking has
a different set of criteria
when it comes to stockpiling
material. Unlike those who work
with seasoned stock, those of use
who use green wood try to keep a
large log from drying at all; we want
to rive and work the stock with a high
moisture content. Ease of cutting is
one principal reason for this.
One question I often get
from people wanting to try
their hand at this work is,
“How long will the wood
stay green?” With the oak I
typically use, it’s an amazingly long time. Left in large unsplit sections, an oak log will
begin to decay before it will
First the outside. Shaving off the
crusty, tough outer bark is hard
work. I place the piece in my riving
brake and shave off about 3” at
a time, leaving the bark in place
on the rest of the log. This helps
prevent the inner bark from drying
out if I get interrupted.
truly dry. Over time, the sapwood
will rot away, but inside, the heartwood will be wet, smelly and just as
strong as the day it was felled.
As a result, I am a green woodworker who is usually in no hurry.
Recently, I split and planed some red
oak that was rough-split out more
than a year ago. It’s not
quite as easily worked
as it would be if it were
just felled, but the semi-dry wood is
still within my strength limits.
A group I work with held the
second annual Greenwood Fest
in Plymouth, Mass., last summer.
Among the leftovers were two
hickory saplings that Tim Manney used to demonstrate making
woven bark seats for his elegant
ladderback chairs. Once Manney’s program was done, I quickly moved to stash the hickories,
knowing I could make good use of
them afterward.
But hickory won’t wait. Neither,
for that matter, will ash, maple and
birch among others. So when I got
settled after our festival, I jumped
right on the hickory to strip the inner bark off the sapling and store it
for future seat weaving and other
similar uses. I propped the log up
on a bench with one end stuck in
my riving brake. Then I used a
drawknife to shave away the rough,
scaly outer bark. Under this layer is
the stuff seat-weaving dreams are
made of – the leathery inner bark
that in the spring peels off the sapling like a 10’-20’ banana.
I tend to shave a swath of outer bark about 3” wide down
the length of the log, then score
through the inner bark down to the
wood with a sharp-pointed knife.
Once that score is cut, I pry under
the end of this inner bark and lift
it slowly off the log. As I peel it,
I look to make sure no fibers are
sticking to the log. If they are, it’s
usually because the scoring wasn’t
deep enough. Get in there and snip
it, then keep lifting.
I coil the strips into rolls then
proceed to the next one. Once the
first strip is off the log, it’s easy to
see the thickness of the adjacent
strips. This allows me to refine the
shaving so I get an even thickness
of the inner bark. Carefully shave
this bark to a consistent thickness,
then score it and peel it. Then coil
it, and go on to the next strip.
I want to peel the whole thing
in short order. Once the log starts
drying, the bark doesn’t peel as easily. If I’m interrupted in this work,
I leave the outer bark intact. That’s
why I only shave off the outer bark
a few strips’ worth at a time.
This stuff gums up the drawknife
something awful, so hone your tool
frequently as you work.
Inner bounty.
After scoring the
inner bark, I lift the
end of that strip
with my knife then
peel the strip off
down the log.
After I have the bark stripped,
coiled and stored, then it’s on to
the wood. The diameter of these
trees was too small to make ladderback chair parts, but there was
enough straight-grained wood for
some bending parts. I started two
firewood carriers, and bent various
basket rims and handles.
This work is right smack in the
middle of green woodworking – shaving horse, drawknife, steam-bending.
Straight, clear hickory rives like almost no other wood I know. It shaves
beautifully when green and gets like
iron when it dries. That’s part of why
you don’t wait with hickory.
The stuff with knots is destined
for froe clubs, the wooden persuader used to knock the froe into the
end grain when riving stock. I hew
Score! After removing the hickory’s outer bark, score the
inner bark with a knife to establish the strip width.
and shave down a handle, then let
it dry before putting it to use. Green
froe clubs self-destruct.
Any straight-grained leftover
short bits will become tool-handle
stock – I keep a stash of roughedout stock for replacement handles.
It makes perfect sense to save long
stuff for axe handles and the like,
but it can get ridiculous saving 4”long pieces for chisel and gouge
handles. I can’t resist though; hickory excels in impact applications.
Why waste it? It can always burn
later. As firewood, hickory is outstanding.
It took me about three days to
harvest the bark and work the riven wood of these two 10’ saplings.
Time to get back to the red oak; I’ve
got the hickory right where I want
it now.
wood. The bows
for these firewood
carriers are
steam-bent from
riven hickory. A
clear riven piece
of hickory is ideal
for bending. I
even prefer it
over white oak,
and that’s saying
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
These fruits may not be profitable for
industrial agriculture but they are
perfect for your homestead.
■ by Brian Barth
ave you ever stopped to
think that almost all of the
fruit we eat was domesticated overseas? Apples, the most
American of fruits, are originally
from Kazakhstan. Oranges came to
us from China. Bananas, originally
the pride of Papua New Guinea, migrated slowly to our grocery store
shelves over millennia via the Mid-
dle East, Africa and the Caribbean.
Native Americans domesticated
corn, beans, squash and a handful of
other crops, none of which are fruit.
Did they and the European settlers
who came later find no native fruits
in this vast continent that were worthy of horticultural improvement?
Of course there were, and are,
plenty of such domestic fruiting
plants. North American blueberries
have been fully exploited for agricultural purposes and exported to
all corners of the globe. But they’re
the one exception. The rest—for
reasons horticultural, political, sociological and economic—have
never made it into the food system
on a grand scale. Any fruit, even a
very tasty one, must follow a long
marathon from its wild form in the
hills and hollows through the refinements in appearance, shippability
and marketability that will result in
its profitability at the supermarket.
This story is dedicated to some
of our native species that tried but
never made it. The following three
fruits have all had their followers
and fans, from George Washington
to members of the California Rare
Fruit Growers. Some still have university-breeding programs dedicated
to making them commercially viable. All can occasionally be found
on roadside stands along America’s
back roads or in the back-yard orchards of old-time gardeners—but
not in supermarkets. They are exquisitely edible and, arguably, more
American than apple pie.
Seasoned world travelers are often
familiar with fruits like cherimoya,
soursop and custard apple, perhaps
having encountered them at an exotic
market in Bali or the
Yucatan. Little may they know that
a closely related cousin in the Annonaceae family has been hiding out
in backyards here in North America.
A small, pyramidal tree found in
bottomland forests from eastern Texas to southern Ontario, over to New
England and down to northern Florida, the pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is
North America’s largest native edible
fruit, weighing in at up to one pound
apiece. Pawpaws are also referred to
as the ‘Indiana banana’ because of
the creamy texture of the ripe fruit.
Depending on whom you ask, the
flavor is a combination of banana,
mango, pineapple, cantaloupe or
blackberries. The truth is that pawpaw flavor varies tremendously from
plant to plant, from astringent and
inedible on some to near divinity on
others—a genetic fact that has complicated commercialization efforts.
Also a problem for consumer receptivity are the black splotches that
on the skin when the fruit is ripe,
which happens shortly after harvest.
These reflect
perfect ripeness, not rottenness,
but try to persuade your average supermarket shopper of that! If that
wasn’t enough to keep pawpaws confined to the backyards of experimental orchardists, there is also the issue
of how slowly they grow. It can take
10 years to get fruit, for which handpollination is typically required. Plus,
you have to simulate the conditions
of an understory tree to keep it happy, providing shade when young and
progressively more sun as it matures.
Members of Hernando de Soto’s
16th-century expedition into the
continent’s interior observed Native Americans cultivating the fruit
and apparently confused it with the
papaya, which is called pawpaw by
speakers of British English. It is reputed to have been George Washington’s
favorite fruit and Thomas Jefferson,
our most horticulturally inclined
president, grew it in his orchard at
Monticello. Many have tried to commercialize it and there is an active
breeding program at Kentucky State
University, which has produced many
improved cultivars.
But outside of foraging your own
or attending an event like the annual
Pawpaw Festival in Albany, Ohio (it
recently became the official fruit of
the Buckeye State), there is little hope
of trying a pawpaw other than planting one, pampering it and . . . waiting.
Popular cultivars include ‘Potomac’,
‘Rebecca’s Gold’ and ‘Sunflower.’
Asian persimmons (Diospyros
kaki) are an upscale supermarket
item that is blessed with a perfect
acorn shape and smooth, unblemished skin that shines neon orange
from the shelf. Its purple-gray
American cousin (D. virginiana),
however, looks absolutely rotten
when ripe. The fruit of the American type is smaller, but the trees are
much bigger—making it a hard sell
for a commercial orchardist.
American persimmons are similarly but more richly flavored than
the supermarket varieties with which
we’re familiar. Besides their silky
texture and caramel-cinnamon flavor, they are famous for their astringency— it’s like chewing on chalk—
which doesn’t disappear until they
are completely rotten/ripe. There’s
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
often just a 48-hour window between
the knock-your-socks-off astringency
phase and the unpalatable gray mush
phase, though the unripe fruit does
possess the same attractive orange
color of its Asian counterpart.
Likewise, many varieties of Asian
persimmon share the astringencybefore- ripeness trait, but consumers
seem to have forgiven this flaw, perhaps because they retain drop-dead
good looks until the fruit is ready to
melt in your mouth.
Native people in the vicinity of
the colony at Jamestown, Va., introduced Captain John Smith to the
persimmon; he recorded it as a type
of wild plum. American persimmons helped sustain the early pioneers through those first lean winters, as it often hangs on the tree
like ornaments until Christmas and
it can be easily preserved for several
additional months. It was not until
1880 that the first cultivar, ‘Early
Golden’ was selected, though further breeding was minimal until the
1970s, when Elwyn Meader introduced the first self-fertile American persimmon, named ‘Meader’
in his honor. It remains the most
popular backyard variety to date.
The towering deciduous trees are
common in the same eastern forests as the pawpaw, though they
also occur in upland and coastal
habitats where the pawpaw seldom
grows. Unlike the pawpaw, American persimmons are easy to grow at
home in most parts of the country,
though you have to be gentle with
the large, brittle taproot at planting time to ensure success. You
can wait to enjoy the fruit until it
falls to the ground ripe in late fall,
though this approach often results
in lots of splattered persimmons.
Alternatively, try freezing, drying
or baking with pre-ripe fruit, all
of which neutralize the astringency
and bring out the spiced-pudding
flavor for which they are loved.
Aside from ‘Meader’, ‘Killen’ and
‘Wabash’ are top cultivars.
Muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia)
are native North American grapes
with a thick skin and “musky” flavor that grow wild in the deep, sultry South. (Muscadine refers primarily to the dark-colored fruit, though
it is a catchall term for all varieties
of V. rotundifolia; meanwhile, scuppernong is used as a collective name
for just the bronze and green varieties.) They are the southern version
of V. labrusca, the Concord-type,
slipskin grapes of New England and
the Great Lakes. Distinct from the
European species (V. vinifera),
North American grapes bear a
leathery, sour skin from which their
sweet innards must be popped.
Muscadines also grow singly, rather
than in large, easily harvested clusters. This combination of traits has
dampened market potential.
Compared to pawpaws and
American persimmons, however,
muscadines have enjoyed a bit of
commercial success. In the early
19th century, before the days of fine
California wines and widely available imports, muscadine wine was
almost the only wine that Americans consumed. Today there are several active breeding programs and
about 3,000 acres of commercial
cultivation spread throughout the
southeastern states. They occasionally make an appearance in grocery
stores with the specialty fruits, but
they mostly exist as a pick-your-own
commodity. Backcountry growers
commonly offer a half-dozen valueadded muscadine products from
their roadside stands, such as grape
hull pie (made with just the skins,
presumably after the grapes have
been consumed).
Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano came across muscadine
vines on the banks of the Cape Fear
River as he explored what is now
North Carolina in the early 16th
century, remarking on their abundance. In nearby Tyrrell County
150 years later, Isaac Alexander introduced the first cultivar, which he
originally gave the uninventive name
‘Big White Grape’. It was quickly
renamed for the Scuppernong River
that flowed through the region, a
moniker with such charisma that all
light-colored muscadines since have
been lumped under it.
Muscadines grow like a weed in
the humid South, but are tough to
grow elsewhere. If you live in the
right climate, try ‘Ison’, ‘Tara’ and
‘Fry’. Otherwise, in lieu of growing
your own, you might consider making a field trip in order to sample
their foxy flavor. The Mother Vine, a
400-year old scuppernong grapevine
on North Carolina’s Roanoke Island,
represents one of the great horticultural pilgrimages of the world. The
giant sequoia of grapes, this sprawling, half-acre specimen was allegedly
planted by Native Americans and it
is still harvested each year for a renowned muscadine wine.
June is heavy with the anticipation of plums, peaches, cherries,
apricots and all of the other fruits
that are slowly enlarging on orchard
branches. Yet the very first tree fruit
to become fully plump and juicy is
one of the least commonly grown—
the humble but exquisite mulberry
(Morus spp.).
Nearly everywhere, these are the
first of the tree fruits to ripen; in mild
climates, some varieties do so in May.
Mulberries fall apart in a gooey mess
within 24 hours of picking, making
them an impossible fruit to commercialize, and it seems their absence on
grocery-store shelves has translated
to an absence in home orchards as
well. Their semi-obscurity is surprising because upon trying a fully ripe
mulberry from a good cultivar, most
people find them on par with—or
even tastier than—blackberries, the
fruit they most resemble.
Mulberries may look like blackberries, but they fall in the Moraceae
family, along with figs and jackfruit.
The fruits of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, apples and the many
other commonly grown edibles of the
Rosaceae develop from a single, conspicuously large flower. Mulberries,
however, follow an altogether different method of fruit development. Not
a true berry at all, they are known as
a multiple, or collective fruit. Numerous tiny flowers cluster tightly together in an inflorescence; each tiny
flower becomes a fruit. Therefore
what we call one mulberry is actually
a tight clump of many small fruits.
This is why mulberries have a denser,
chewier texture than blackberries or
raspberries. It also makes them one of
the most protein-rich fruits.
While the odd flower structure of
mulberries lacks the aesthetic punch
of most other blossoms, the trees
make up for it with a lush canopy of
large, glossy green leaves, which have
an almost tropical effect in the landscape. As for placement, mulberries
offer diverse options. Most cultivars
grow quickly into round-canopied
trees 20 to 30 feet tall—no pruning
required. However, they take quite
well to shaping, and they can easily
be espaliered against a wall or even
maintained as shrubs, pollarded or
clipped into a hedge. Full sun or part
shade works fine. Just make sure
you don’t plant a mulberry where its
branches will overhang hardscape areas: The fruit makes a blood-red stain
nearly impossible to remove.
Compared to any commonly
grown fruit or berry, mulberries are
generally more robust and easier to
tend. The trees aren’t picky about
soil type, though a fertile loam never
hurts. They need summer irrigation
in arid regions only. Mulberry pests
and diseases remain virtually unheard
of, and you can save your netting,
because a mature tree typically produces enough for a large family with
plenty left over for birds.
Mulberries are self-fertile, so you
need to plant only one for fruit. Figuring out which one to plant can
be a bit confusing, however. There
are three main species of mulberries
with relevance to North American
gardeners: red mulberries (Morus rubra), which are native to the eastern
half of the continent; and white (M.
alba) and black (M. nigra) mulberries, both of which originate in Asia.
Confusingly, these common names
don’t necessarily correspond to the
fruit color. White-fruited cultivars
exist, but they don’t always come
from white mulberry trees, which are
named for the color of their buds.
(This is the species used to feed silkworms in Asia.)
The weedy mulberry trees that
many eastern gardeners fight, which
only occasionally produce good quality fruit, are usually hybrids between
white mulberries and the native red
mulberry, or their distant cousin, the
paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera). For fruit production, it’s important to stick with named cultivars.
These, too, have resulted from hybridization, but they are not weedy.
Indeed, seedlings won’t sprout up
around named cultivars; if you wish
to propagate them, this can be easily
achieved through hardwood cuttings.
Most cultivars need not be grafted
onto other rootstock to thrive. Here is
one native favorite: ‘Illinois Everbearing’ which produces 1½- inch fruits
that set the standard for mulberry flavor and it is hardy to -30˚F.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
an Edible Water Garden
Utilize the water on your homestead for extra crops.
■ Brian Barth
ater gardens and edibles
are two perennially hot
topics in horticulture, but
they rarely intersect. It’s hard to
imagine why not, though. here are
more than a handful of delicious, nutritious, and attractive edible aquatic
and wetland plants out there, from
watercress to wild rice. he reason for
a lack of precedence, then, must be
a lack of familiarity and knowledge.
Maybe it’s time to venture out of our
rectangular raised beds of tomatoes
and carrots and dive into the world of
wasabi, lotus root and taro.
Most North Americans have eaten aquatic plants at one time or another, but none are part of the standard repertoire of vegetables here.
In other countries, that’s not the
case. Kangkong, also known as water spinach, is one of the most prevalent leafy green vegetables in Southeast Asia, where millions of people
consume it daily. You’ve no doubt
eaten water chestnuts in stir-fry at
a Chinese restaurant, but have you
grown them? Many water gardeners dream of successfully growing a
lotus flower, which is probably why
we don’t think of eating the roots,
unlike the Chinese, Japanese and
Indian gardeners. Taro, is another
common staple food among tropical
cultures from the South Pacific to
Africa—yet we grow it for its leaves
and call it elephant ear.
A few edible aquatics are less foreign to our taste buds—such as rice
and cranberries—but by and large,
creating an edible water garden requires an interest in experimenting
with exotic foods. It also requires
rethinking the conception of a water garden. One thing is for certain:
a garden intended for food will not
be a pristine view at all times. Food
gardens are working landscapes.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t be
beautiful. Human interaction is, in
fact, a big part of their beauty.
Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia): Attractive foliage plant with edible tubers that taste like
potatoes. North American native; 6-12-inch planting depth.
Good news: an edible water garden us structured pretty much the
same way as an ornamental water
garden is. Most horticulturists know
the five basic planting zones for
aquatic plants: water’s edge areas for
plants that like wet soil, not standing
water; the margins, for plants that
like to emerge from just a few inches
of water; the shallows, traditionally
planted with reeds and other grasslike species; deep water zones, which
are reserved for emergent plants,
which grow from large tuberous root
systems; and open water for freefloating species (those not anchored
by roots in the soil). All edibles fit
into one of these categories with the
exception of species that require running water to grow—like watercress
or wild rice.
There are other practical matters
to consider beyond swapping out ornamentals for edibles in the typical
water garden-growing zones. Access,
for one, is paramount. In a terrestrial
food garden, pathways provide access to each bed for planting, tending
and harvesting, but putting a pathway in a pond is impractical to say
the least. You might invest in a pair of
waders—the sort that with suspenders that fly fishermen use—and strap
them on whenever you need to tend
to the plants. Sloshing around in the
Cattail (Tyhpa latifolia): A tall rush with asparagus-like shoots in spring with edible tubers
year-round. North American native; wet soil to 24-inch planting depth.
Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon): A short woody ground cover with edible fruit. North
American native; needs moist, peaty soil in summer but will tolerate standing in water the
rest of the year.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera): young leaves, flowers, seeds and tubers are edible; native to Asia;
6-12-inch planting depth.
Taro (Colocasia esculenta): large foliage plant with corms that are edible only when cooked
(poisonous when raw); native to Asia; wet soil to 6-inch planting depth.
garden will stir up lots of sediment
and create cloudy water, which most
pond owners prefer to avoid. That is
one convention that may have to be
tossed aside to grow food in a pond.
Cloudy water certainly doesn’t bother the plants.
Another option is to structure the
plantings o they can be accessed directly from shore. This is straightforward when it comes to marginal
plants and shallow-water species,
which typically sit at the edge of a
pond anyway. With deep-water species; however, you may find it helpful
to plant them in submerged planters
mounted on casters. Attach a length
of polypropylene rope to each planter
so you can pull it ashore when needed. Rocks tied to the rope every few
feet will weight it down so it’s not visible on the surface of the water.
The bones of a pond—pumps,
filters, liners, lights, stonework and
the like—need not change when
converting an ornamental water
garden to an edible one. You’ll want
to be sure to prevent any toxic substances from getting into the water.
Take steps to prevent polluted runoff—from herbicides or a painting
project in the yard, for example—
from flowing into the edible water
garden. Likewise, keep pressuretreated lumber and other materials
that might leach heavy metals or
other poisons out of contact with
the water. These chemicals may not
kill aquatic plants, but they are likely to accumulate in their tissues and
thus end up on the dinner table—
something avoid at all costs.
Wasabi (Wasabia japonica): a shade-loving relative of horseradish with an attractive
foliage; native to Asia; plant in moist soil.
Many edible aquatics are tropical
and subtropical that can be grown
during the frost-free months in temperate climates. However, just like
trying to grow watermelons in Manitoba, there remains a difference between a tropical plant being able to
grow and growing well enough to
produce a reasonable harvest. Water
heats up even more slowly that soil,
so it pays to locate your water garden in a sunny protected area with
a southern exposure to provide the
longest possible growing season. You
may also want to consider starting
plants in a greenhouse to get a jump
on things. If you’re really motivated,
build a removable dome as a sort of a
cold frame for the water—a frame of
PVC pipes covered in a clear plastic
works well. It will float right on the
One of the beautiful things about
edible water gardening is that the
plants require very little maintenance. (This may be outweighed by
the amount of maintenance required
by the pond itself, but that’s another
story). Weeding is rarely an issue and
water plants generally don’t require
any form of staking or training. Watering is definitely not required. The
one chore that can really help to
boost the harvest is fertilizing. There
is no shortage of fertilizer available
on the market for pond plants, and
these work equally well for edibles.
Fertilizer really helps get the tropical
species up to a harvestable size in a
short temperate growing season.
Edible water gardening can occur
at any scale. A tiny patio fountain
can easily support enough watercress to provide a tangy bite to salads and sandwiches once or twice
a week. On the other end of the
spectrum, folks with larger naturalized ponds that are fed by a spring
or a stream could consider growing
wild rice. Most water gardens fall
somewhere in between and provide
plenty of space to experiment with a
handful of aquatic edibles. Try a few
each year to see which grows best in
your area and which are your favorites to eat.
Water chestnut (eleocharis dulcis): Aquatic sedge with edible corms; native to Asia; 3-12inch planting depth.
Water spinach (Ipomoea aquatic): A semi-aquatic relative of morning glory with edible
leaves; presumed native of Asia; wet soil to 6-inch planting depth.
Wild rice (Zizania spp.): An aquatic grass with edible seeds; North American native; 12 to
36-inch planting depth.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
Liberty Teas
Once used to protest British taxes,
these hardy and beautiful native tea
plants are perfect for an all-American
homestead. ■ by Akshay Ahuja
fter the Sons of Liberty dumped
thousands of pounds of tea into Boston Harbor in 1773, patriots were
faced with a difficult question: just what were
they going to put in their teapots now? Since
they could no longer in good conscience buy
the taxed Bohea tea brought in by the British from China, they maintained that the
solution could be found in America’s own
native plants. “If we must, through custom,
have some warm tea, once or twice a day,”
wrote one Pennsylvania author, “why may
we not exchange this slow poison, which not
only destroys our constitutions, but endangers our liberty, and drains our country of so
many thousands pounds a year, for teas of
our own American medicinal plants.”
Soon, several varieties of “Liberty Tea”
appeared in teapots throughout the colonies. Many blends featured common kitchen
herbs like thyme, sage and rosemary. Several others, however, came from wild plants
used for centuries by American Indians who
passed on their knowledge to the colonists.
After independence, many of these plants
were no longer cultivated, although they
continued to flourish in the wild. Hardy,
beautiful and useful, they are worth rediscovering today.
The most popular of all the ear’s tea substitutes was New Jersey tea (Ceanothus
americanus), also known as redroot, which
came closest to approximating the flavor of
imported tea. Many native tribes, including
the Dakota, Pawnee and Winnebago, used
the leaves and roots of the plant for tea,
medicine and dye.
A member of the Rhamnaceae, or buckthorn family, New Jersey tea is most recognizable when in bloom. From late summer
to fall, it produces thick panicles of tiny, fragrant white flowers. Unlike the flashier varieties of the genus—the California natives
known as white lilacs—New Jersey tea is
hardy and disease resistant, and it can thrive
from sun to part shade and even in difficult
areas like dry slops.
The leaves are most flavorful when the
plant is flowering. A cup of tea can be prepared from the fresh leaves, but he the usual
method is to dry them, either in a low oven or
inside in a warm, well-ventilated place. Use
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
about a teaspoon of the dried leaves
per cup, as you would black tea.
Alas, New Jersey tea contains no caffeine but it still makes a lovely drink.
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) provided colonists with two very different teas: one from the leaves in the
summer, and another from twigs in
the winter. Spicebush is dioecious,
and the female shrubs bear this
plant’s most noticeable feature—
berries that turn scarlet in early
fall. More than twenty species of
birds eat the peppery berries and the
shrub hoists the beautiful spicebush
swallowtail butterfly.
Often found at the edge of forests,
spicebush prefers partial shade. It offers early spring flowers and lovely
golden foliage in the fall. To get berries, make sure you plant spicebush
shrubs of both genders. Look for
plants in bloom at the nursery; the
male and female plants have different flowers. Either gender, though,
will provide you with tea year-round.
To prepare a delicate, citrus-tinged
iced tea, crush the leaves slightly and
soak them in room-temperature water for a few hours, then chill the
brew and sweeten to taste. In the
winter, snip off a few of the twigs
and cut them into roughly inch-long
pieces. Pour hot water on them and
ley steep for about 15 minutes. With
hints of cinnamon, allspice and
mint, it is an invigorating, woodsy
beverage that will make you forget
all about the teas shipped from halfway around the world.
inhale the subtle aroma, which is
particularly noticeable on warm
Soaking a few of the long fronds,
crushed, in room-temperature water
for an hour or so will create a fresh
sun tea. Dried fronds can be used to
make hot tea—about one frond per
cup. Only steep it for a minute or
two to preserve the plant’s delicate
When I lived in Massachusetts, I
would often find sweet fern (Comptonia peregrine) on my walks on the
Minuteman Trail. The revolutionaries might have noticed it growing
around them as well. The American
Indians certainly knew the plant
well: Chippewa brewed sweet fern
tea, and the Potawatomi would
throw fronds on the fire for an aromatic, mosquito–repelling smudge.
Sweet fern can tolerate poor and
disturbed soils as well as partial
shade which makes it particularly
useful for difficult planting area,
like along walkways and driveways.
Although sweet fern can grow up
to five feet, it generally stays much
smaller—in my experience, about
two feet high. Its beauty only becomes apparent if one bends down
to examine the unusual fronds and
All the varieties of goldenrod
(Solidago spp.) make pleasant teas,
but anise-scented goldenrod (also
known as sweet goldenrod), is by
far the tastiest. Solidago odora
can be distinguished from its more
common wild brethren by crushing a leaf and smelling for licorice.
As hardy as other goldenrods and
found throughout North America, it
boasts the virtue of not spreading as
aggressively in a garden.
A tea can be made from the
fresh leaves or the dried flowers
and leaves. Goldenrod tea has long
been regarded as a medicinal, and
the Cherokee used infusions of the
plant against coughs, colds and fever. With its wonderful aroma, it
was one of the most popular ingredients in the Liberty Teas and even
became one of colonial America’s
earliest exports.
Climate Change
temperatures and
extreme weather
events take a
toll on plants
and pollinators
& Your Garden
■ by Dr. Ed Brotak
Monarch butterflies, rufous hummingbirds and bees are affected when
unusual temperatures cause plants to bloom early or late.
ust about every day you’ll
see something about climate
change and its effects. Certainly changes in temperature and
rainfall affect everything that grows
outside and that includes plants in
your garden. We must allow for climate change. And, yes, the climate is
changing that fast.
The latest research indicates that
the most recent decades have been
the warmest of the past 1,500 years.
According to the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA), last year, 2016, was the
second warmest year ever for the
continental United States (CONUS).
For 20 straight years, the annual temperature for the CONUS has been
above the 20th-century average. That
warming has had a significant effect
on plant life and all indications are
that the increasing temperature trend
will continue.
On a daily basis, the warming
hasn’t been equal. Low temperatures
have risen more than high temperatures. For 2016, the average minimum temperature for the CONUS
was the warmest on record. This has
great implications for plants.
The coldest temperatures in winter are a primary factor for perennial-plant survival. It’s the extreme
low temperatures that do the most
damage. If low temperatures are increasing, perennials can now survive
where before they would previously
die. The widely used USDA Plant
Hardiness Zones are based on “the
average annual extreme minimum
temperature during a 30-year period in the past.” The system divides
the US into 12 zones by 10˚F incre-
ments. Compared to the previous
zone map, which came out in 1990,
the latest map, based on data from
1976 through 2005, shows many
areas a half zone (5˚F) warmer. Another way of putting it: climate zones
have shifted poleward or northward.
(View the maps showing changes for
yourself on NOAA’s website at http://
Warming temperatures also have
an effect on the occurrence of frost.
The last killing frost in the spring is
occurring earlier and the first killing
frost of the fall is occurring later. (The
term “killing frost” is typically linked
to temperatures of 32˚F or lower,
although the damage threshold for
low temperatures does vary by plant
type.) Thus, the growing season has
been lengthened. It is estimated that
for the lower 48 states, the growing
season has lengthened by two weeks
since 1900 due to global warming.
Much of this has occurred in the last
30 years.
Although warmer temperatures
and longer growing seasons have benefits to farmers, gardeners and others,
there is a downside to global warming
and there are numerous risks. Frost
and extreme cold may be occurring
less frequently, but they still occur.
And it only takes one event, sometimes over just a few hours, to do immense damage. Take what happened
in the Southeast last spring (2016).
Following a warm winter and an exceptionally warm February, the growing season was running two or three
weeks ahead of schedule. But then
in the middle of March, an Arctic
outbreak brought low temperatures,
ranging from the mid-20s in central
Florida to the teens in the Carolinas.
With growth being so advanced and
vulnerable, the freeze was devastating.
Agricultural losses totaled over one
billion dollars, with the South Carolina peach crop and Georgia blueberries being nearly wiped out. Interestingly, then, with global warming we
can actually expect more killing frosts.
Heat can be a problem as well as
cold. Plants may shut down, so to
speak, during the hottest part of the
day, thus reducing yield and perhaps
even throwing off life-cycle events. In
some instances, the warming has produced temperatures exceeding plant
tolerances, resulting in the death of
the plant. This is especially true for
cool-weather species. Even if a plant
survives the heat itself, warmer temperatures mean more water use by
the plant and more evaporation in
general. A lack of adequate soil moisture can also damage or kill a plant.
Summer heat waves typically occur
with minimal rainfall. Climate studies have shown that the occurrence
of excessively high temperatures and
prolonged heat waves are increasing.
For precipitation, global warming
has also brought changes. Overall,
we’d expect more precipitation, since
warmer air can hold more moisture.
And in fact average annual precipitation across the CONUS has increased
slightly since 1895. Unfortunately,
that increase has been anything but
consistent. Another by-product of
climate change is more extreme
weather. Flooding rains and searing
droughts have plagued much of the
country. Places like Texas and Florida
went from record drought to floods,
sometimes in a matter of weeks.
Putting this together, plants that
you used to grow may no longer
thrive or even survive, but different types may flourish. But although
warmer temperatures may allow you
to grow flowers, fruits and vegetables
that you may not have been able to
grow before, other less desirable species may also arrive. Invasive plants
and animals not previously native to
your area may cause problems. New
weeds and insect pests are certainly
Another aspect of the climatechange predicament is the often-overlooked effects on pollinators. Bees,
butterflies, hummingbirds and others
are in sync with plants’ life cycles. If
the timing of developmental phases
(especially flowering) in plants changes, then the pollinators must adapt
quickly or serious problems will develop. For example, it is believed that
the population of North American
monarch butterflies has decreased by
as much as 95 percent over the last
20 years. With warmer fall temperatures, the annual migration south to
Mexico has been delayed. A sudden
cold outbreak can cause high mortality. The disappearance of vital milkweed plants either due to habitat destruction or climate change has also
been a major factor. Hummingbird
migrations have grown increasingly
out of sync with the early flowering
cycle, as well.
The decline in the bee population
has been well documented but not
fully explained. Mite infestations
and pesticides have been implicated,
but climate change may also be involved. One study indicated that the
southern boundary of the bee range
has moved northward without a
corresponding move on the northern boundary, thus decreasing their
range. Another study noted that an
increased intake of carbon dioxide
by plants may be making their pollen
less nutritious for bees, thus weakening them and their colonies.
Some of our historic botanical gardens are considered great
examples of how climate changes
affect vegetation; ask at your local
garden for feedback and advice on
dealing with changes in your local
climate. Look into the rise of climatefriendly gardening. This entails actions through which gardeners can
help combat climate change while
maintaining a productive garden.
Frost—be it the last
of spring or the first
of fall—is coming
at unexpected dates
for many of us.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
D. I .Y. F O O D
Ground venison is a staple
of every serious whitetail
hunter’s annual meal plan.
Here’s how to make venison burger that is safe and
wholesome to eat … and
tastes great, too.
■ by Tom Carpenter
here is an old hand-cranked
meat grinder that is an heirloom in my family, having
come over “on the boat” from Bohemia with my great grandmother in
the late 1800s.
I’m sure the grinder wasn’t used
for venison in the old country, because those mostly poor but certainly hard-working folks could barely
make ends meet working from dawn
until dark with a little vegetable garden, a hen house, maybe a cow for
milk — and a lot of work as day
laborers. There was little time for
hunting, and probably no access
to the local duke’s forest and game
Such was the life of many of our
collective ancestors — and part of
what brought them to America.
Fate being what it is, the grinder
ended up with my mother, who
ended up with a hunter (my father),
who put his boys to work cranking
the red handle as he fed it chunks
of venison from some of the first
deer we shot as kids back during the
early 1970s.
It’s not that there weren’t power
grinders back then. But Dad’s reasoning was, as usual, sound: With
all of that muscle power available
via three strapping young men, why
invest in a fancy electric machine?
Back in those days, deer weren’t
as common as they are now. Our
recurve bows didn’t have the range
of the compounds that came later,
and we put down an occasional antlerless deer during archery season,
but mostly it was small bucks we’d
shoot while driving the local woodlots during the short antlered-only
gun seasons of the day.
I’d like to know how much meat
was wasted off those whitetails:
Practically zero! Dad would skin
them down to the head, and we’d
spend hours working almost every
usable ounce off them, from neck to
between every rib. There was always
plenty of trim for grinding.
As a matter of fact, Mom preferred a lot of ground venison over
so many chops and steaks, and we
obliged by grinding ample amounts.
Ground meat had the most versatility, and she was right. From meat-
loafs and tacos to meatballs and
spaghetti sauce and stuffed peppers
in summer and everything else under
the sun, ground venison was a mainstay of our family table.
Today, grinding venison is a
whole different story. While I think
we were sanitary in our work then,
home butchers have since learned
a lot about maintaining good conditions, making the work efficient
and easy, and producing chef-quality ground venison while processing
deer at home.
The first step to making ground
venison is removing the meat from
the carcass. Which parts of the deer
are best to use? And what should
you do to cut them into grinderfriendly pieces?
The answer to the first question
is easy: Any piece of a deer can be
transformed into ground venison.
The likeliest candidates are front
shoulder meat (if you don’t make
bone-in roasts out of them), all trim
and odd pieces as you go, and the
lower parts of the back legs. It is
rare to grind up the loins; these fine
cuts are just too good to grind up,
even on an old buck.
But even pieces that would otherwise become steaks or roasts could
become ground meat. Sometimes
I will pull these out, do a separate
“grind,” and label the results “steak
As for creating grinder-friendly
pieces, keep these two guidelines in
*Create cubes of meat that are
1 to 2 inches square. These sized
chunks feed into a grinder well and
keep the process moving along efficiently.
*Trim off gristle, fat and silverskin. This improves the taste of the
resulting ground venison, and avoids
gunking up the grinder blades and
plates with material that won’t pass
Once your meat is ready, it’s time
to grind. Put the following tech-
niques to work to make your work
easier and the end result better:
*Chill the meat. Put it in the
freezer for 20 to 30 minutes to firm
it up. Firm, cold meat grinds better.
Warm meat gets mushy, and doesn’t
“cut” well in any machine (electric
or manual). And cold meat is foodsafe.
*Chill key grinder parts, too:
hopper tray, auger, blade and plates.
Place them outside if it’s really cold
out, or in the freezer, and chill them
through before going to work. This
also helps keep meat cold.
*I like to do grinding work in a
cold garage, barn or workshop, to
keep the cold theme going.
*A plate with larger holes will
move more meat through. This
coarser grind is good for meat you’ll
use in chili and sauces.
*Smaller holes on the plate deliver
finer meat that’s perfect for burgers
and sausage products.
*Feed meat in steadily and keep it
moving from tray to auger by pushing down with a plastic or wood
pestle or spoon.
*Catch meat in trays or pans that
have been pre-chilled, too.
As much as he enjoyed putting us
boys to work cranking out ground
venison, if Dad had seen some of
today’s meat grinding machines —
such as those from Weston Supply
( — he
might have changed his mind about
that old hand grinder.
Here’s what to look for in a highquality meat grinder that will get the
job done.
*A strong, reliable motor, preferably air cooled (it will be working
*A complete set of stainless
steel parts — auger (pushes meat
through), blade and plates (do the
actual cutting) and cover (holds the
blade and plate in place).
Weston offers several meat grinder lines to serve the home game
butcher. Weston’s Butcher Series is
the company’s new value line geared
to the hunter/butcher. These units
are constructed with a permanently lubricated air cooled motor and
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
D. I .Y. F O O D
they come with a five-year warranty.
Models are available in .35 horsepower (grinds 5 pounds/minute), .5
HP (6 pounds/minute), .75 HP (9
pounds/minute), 1 HP (12 pounds/
minute) and 1.5 HP (18 pounds/
These are solid units I have seen
in action. When choosing a size,
consider the work you’ll have to do.
One average-sized deer might yield
from 10 to 20 pounds of trim. Even
a .35 HP unit would take care of
that grinding work in 2 to 4 minutes! But a bigger, more powerful
grinder is always faster … and ready
if you have a big year.
The Pro Series is Weston’s original
grinder line. True to the name, these
units start at a larger size, go bigger,
and offer additional built-in features
such as a knife sharpener and an efficient auger feed that really keeps the
meat moving through. Units start
at .75 HP (6 pounds/minute), and
move up to 1 HP (9 pounds/minute),
1.5 HP (12 pounds/minute) and 2
HP (18 pounds/minute). Air cooled
motors get the job done. Shipping is
free on these models when ordered
A Pro Series
grinder is a great
choice for any serious home butcher who works up
a lot of deer each
year, or an outfit
such as a hunting club or camp
working through
multiple carcasses
for the gang.
Weston also offers an economy
line of smaller
electric meat grinders, an array of
hand grinders (put those kids to
work!) and all of the meat-grinding
accessories, plates and knives you
need at
The jury will always be out on
whether you should leave ground
venison pure or mix it with other
meat. The bottom line is, it’s your
preference and that includes what
your family will eat. My choice is
pure ground venison. It’s lean. It’s
got the flavor I hunt for. There’s no
grease to drain when you brown it.
And if you create meatballs or traditional burgers to grill, let’s say,
you can add binders (think eggs and
bread crumbs) to hold it together if
On the other hand, some folks
like to add fatty pork, or ground
beef, to their ground venison. This
will “cut” the venison flavor. This
practice also adds juiciness to the
meat and helps it bind. If you go this
route, the best approach is to mix
the two kinds of meat as chunks as
you grind. Alternatively, you can
add ground pork or beef to ground
venison, and do your best to intermix the two by hand.
So there you sit with a mound of
ground venison. What are your options for freezing it? There are three
Vacuum Sealer. A vacuum sealer is
your best bet for getting excess air
out of your ground venison packs.
By its very nature, ground venison
has a lot of gaps and air pockets in
it. Anything you can do to minimize
exposure to air is going to help your
meat last longer and taste better.
Weston also offers a great line of
heavy-duty vacuum sealers for the
hunter/butcher at
Quart-Size Zip Bags. If a vacuum
sealer isn’t in your budget, one option is to get the thickest, best quartsize plastic freezer bags you can,
cram them full of venison, squeeze
to eliminate air pockets within the
ground meat, smooth out air outside
of the meat and seal up. A quart bag
will hold a pound or so of ground
Double Wrap. Another freezing option is to wrap a portion of
ground venison in plastic wrap as a
“base” layer of protection, squeeze
out air, then wrap the plastic-lined
meat in freezer paper.
One advantage of grinding your
own venison is you can create the
size of packages you need. I do mostly “standard” 1-pounders; a guy can
always take out two if needed.
No matter how perfect your shot
and the deer, every whitetail you
butcher is going to have trim meat
you can grind. Some animals might
be mostly destined for grinding
from the start. Either way, use the
right tools and proper techniques,
and you’ll end up with gourmetquality ground venison — whether
you use a power grinder or, like
Dad, just have the kids crank it
Coyote Ugly
As coyotes spread their range, attacks on
pets and people continue to grow.
■ Art Isberg
here is no other wild, fourlegged animal of any size or
species that has had the explosive population increase across the
North America as the Canis Latrans
— the coyote. his single predatory
animal always has had a close association with the West and its deserts,
sage lands and mountains, often carried over into books, songs and movies. he image of a lone coyote howling at the moon backdropped by tall
cactus resides in all our minds.
I grew up listening to the howls,
barks and serenades of coyotes calling
in the nighttime canyon just outside
my bedroom window. To me, those
calls were wild, eerie and a bit dangerous. Yet, when dawn came, the little
brush wolves had vanished as if into
thin air. I never saw a single one.
In those times, the seldom-seen
coyote was depicted as a harmless
vagabond, a fumbler, a cartoon and
movie character to be outfoxed by
all his rivals, always on the losing
end of any scheme he could dream
up. To wit, the famous and popular Wile E. Coyote comes to mind.
That was, and often still is, the im-
age in the minds of many Americans today.
However, that image is changing
because the coyote is changing how
and where it lives. That change also
brings serious problems to this once
largely ignored and unseen animal.
The first stunning indication of
this change occurred in 1981, in
Glendale, Calif. A 3-year-old girl
named Kelly Keen was attacked by a
coyote while she played in her family’s driveway. Her father rescued
the girl and took her to the hospital, where she died due to blood loss
and a broken neck. People in the
outdoor world could barely believe
such an attack actually took place,
and some wildlife experts assured
everyone that coyotes do not kill
Without further fanfare or notice,
the coyote began expanding from its
traditional home in the West, moving farther east, south and north,
and in growing numbers. Bird hunters and buck chasers were the first
to notice the presence of coyotes in
the hills, valleys and river bottoms
of their favorite hunting areas. Arguments broke out about what,
exactly, these strange new animals
were. Game departments said there
were no coyotes in some states, and
hunters wondered if they were wild
dogs, half-breeds or even wolves.
When several animals were actually
shot and tested, it was finally proven
these new arrivals were, indeed, coyotes and nothing else.
Another big change was that
these animals did not limit their
travels and homes to wild lands.
They began showing up in urban
settings of all kinds and went even
further. Newspapers and television
news began reporting that coyotes
had settled in and were living in the
most amazing places. A coyote was
confirmed as living in New York’s
Central Park, of all places. A recent
study says that at least 2,000 coyotes are now living in the Chicago
Metropolitan Area, some just outside of O’Hare International Airport. In Clearwater, Fla., a pack of
coyotes moved in and took over an
abandoned mansion and eventually patrolled the nearby streets in
broad daylight. Owner’s cats and
dogs were the preferred meal.
woodwork to state that coyotes do
not kill humans. But the list of attacks continued to grow.
In June 2010, a 3-year-old girl
and 6-year-old girl were attacked
and seriously injured in separate attacks by coyotes in Rye, N.Y. The
6-year-old was attacked by two
coyotes while the 3-year-old was attacked by a single animal.
During a three-month period between July and September 2011,
three young children between the
ages of 2 and 6 were bitten by a
coyote in Broomfield, Colo. All the
attacks were thought to be by the
same animal.
In January 2012, an 8-year-old
girl living in Oakville, Ontario, was
playing in her backyard when a
single coyote jumped the fence
and attacked her. The animal
chased other children around the
house until they got inside. The
girl was bitten on the leg and
treated at a local hospital for the
On June 22, 2012, at Nehalem
Bay State Park in coastal Oregon,
a coyote attacked a 5-year-old
girl following her family back
from the beach through thick
beach grass. Before her father
could run the animal off, it succeeded in biting the girl on her
ribcage, feet and back.
On Sept. 21, 2012, a 16-year-old
girl from New Waterford, Nova
Scotia, was attacked by a coyote as
she walked to school. She told authorities she heard growling coming
from bushes as she passed and was
hit from behind and knocked to the
ground. A passing motorist stopped
and helped run the animal off before it could inflict more damage.
In the 30 years leading up to
March 2006, 160 attacks took
place in the United States, mostly in
southern California in Los Angeles
County. Records from the United
States Department of Agriculture’s
Wildlife Services
News of another fatal attack on a
human hit the news like a thunderclap. In 2009, a 19-year-old woman
named Taylor Mitchell was savagely attacked by a group of coyotes
while she was hiking on the Skyline
Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Part in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Once again, experts came out of the
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
fowl, like geese, will consistently
take coyotes out to 45 or 50 yards.
Another big plus for trappers and
hunters is that coyotes that have
grown up living around humans have
little or no fear of the human sights,
scents and sounds that would send
most coyotes running in the opposite
direction. Simply stated, urbanized
coyotes are the easiest of all animals
to trap or call, and quickly too.
plus the California Department of
Fish and Game show that while 41
attacks occurred between 1988 and
1997, 48 attacks were verified between 1998 to 2003 — a clear escalation of encounters by bold coyotes
with little or no fear of humans.
When we consider the rapid expansion of coyote numbers across
the nation, it’s only natural for most
people to assume that these attacks
would be taking place in states with
the largest wild areas and the smallest human populations, such as
Montana, Wyoming or Nevada, but
that is not the case. California leads
all states, and by a huge margin.
In my opinion, the No. 1 reason for
the increase in attacks is coyotes are
allowed to live in close proximity to
man without being removed. Equally
troubling is that these very same coyotes are raising litters of young that
accept humans as a natural part of
their environments and small children as possible food sources. That is
precisely what makes urban coyotes
the danger they are.
To me, it’s clear that these animals
lounging in backyard swimming
pools, patrolling streets in broad
daylight and regularly dining on pet
dogs and cats should be removed
quickly once they develop these habits. Yet many people do not understand by allowing coyotes to live in
populated areas, we’re playing with
a potential time bomb just waiting
to explode in another tragedy.
Fish and game departments can
argue that they do not have the
manpower to take on the task of removing hundreds, if not thousands,
of urbanized coyotes, but other answers can be pursued. One obvious
one is to call on trappers and predator hunters to do the job. They have
the gear, knowledge, experience and
desire to do exactly that. They are
willing, able and ready to do so with
a little help from public agencies.
For our part, hunters and trappers can contact local offices of fish
and game departments or even local
police departments in areas where
the greatest problems exist. Officials can point out the legal limits
of where traps and firearms can and
cannot be used.
For the hunters’ part, a switch
from rifles to shotguns might be
in order. For example, a 12-gauge
shotgun loaded with heavy steel or
lead shot suitable for large water-
Are coyotes killers?” I think that
answer has been established as an
unequivocal, “Yes.” It even begs a
further question: If bears, wolves or
mountain lions begin moving into
urban areas, will they too be tolerated as coyotes have been?
This is not as crazy as it sounds.
In Big Bear Lake, Calif., black bears
are regularly seen on the public golf
course, sleeping in street culverts
and lounging under the porches of
homes there. They are not molested
by patrols unless they become aggressive, but why wait for that to
happen? In my opinion, they have
no business being allowed in areas
where people live, play and work.
Wolves migrating from Yellowstone National Park now call Washington and Oregon home and have established packs there. They have also
made their first forays into northern
California. As their numbers grow,
will they also find their way into the
southern areas coyotes presently inhabit? Will they, too, be allowed to
roam the streets of suburbia?
Does all this sound too far
fetched? It’s not, not by a long shot.
If 20 years ago someone would have
said that coyotes would be allowed
to roam the streets of Los Angles
County, eating dogs and cats and
sometimes even attacking children,
they would have been hooted off the
stage. Yet all this has come to pass
as urban coyote numbers grow. And
that is why I say coyotes are killers
just waiting to explode into the next
Cut through the lines and head
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■ by Brian McCombie
Tips for
the new
hog hunter
Home the
ild hog numbers are surging
across the nation. No one
knows for sure exactly
how many of these feral porkers are
running around the countryside,
though estimates range from 4 to a
whopping 6 million — and growing
By itself, Texas has at least 2 million hogs, leading the nation. But
states like Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and California also have substantial numbers, as do many other
Meanwhile, hog range keeps
growing, too. Currently, the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia’s School of Veterinary Medicine
reports 36 states with “established”
populations of wild hogs. SCWDS
defines “established” as a state with
several known hog populations that
have been present for a number of
years and with good evidence those
populations are reproducing.
With those numbers, it is no surprise that hog hunting is also growing fast. And it’s not just because of
these increasing hog populations.
Wild hogs are very destructive animals. They do tens of millions of
dollars in damage to ranch and farm
lands every year. That kind of destruction often puts hogs well atop
the nuisance wildlife hit list.
So, how do you get in on the hog
Hog numbers are surging, but that
doesn’t mean they are everywhere.
Are they in your state or region? A
quick way to answer that question is
the National Feral Swine Mapping
System, an Internet-based national
map of reported sightings and verifications of wild hogs, maintained by
SCWDS. You can access the map at
Your state game agency is the
next place to try. Also consider your
state agricultural department. With
the kinds of damage hogs can do to
farms and ranches, some state ag
departments now work with local
biologists and others to help identify hog damage areas and reduce
numbers accordingly. Oklahoma’s
ag agency, for example, recently
started a program to match farmers
experiencing hog damage with local
hunters and trappers.
In many Southern and Southeastern states, wildlife management
units have public hog hunting opportunities. Read the hunting regulations before you hunt one of these
units, though. Some wildlife units
have special “hog-only” hunts while
others allow you take a hog but only
when a specific hunting season is already ongoing, like spring turkey
season. Hog hunting at other times
of the year, in such units, is illegal.
National forests can provide another public hunting opportunity.
Ask around! Wild hogs are popping up in many parts of the nation,
long before game agencies and other
wildlife officials are aware of these
new populations.
Check your hunting regulations
before going afield. Some states require a hunting license before you
can take a feral hog, especially if you
hunt public lands.
If you are already a deer or biggame hunter, you likely have the
needed firearm or bow to get the job
done. Rifles, slug guns, handguns in
large caliber, crossbows and compound bows — all of them can bring
home the bacon.
Now, there is an ongoing argument in the world of hog hunting
centering on the proposition that,
“A hog hunting firearm needs to be
.30 caliber or larger.” Such arguments on Internet hunting forums
can get downright heated on this issue.
Stout and compact, with heavy
bones and knotted muscles, hogs
can be very difficult to kill. Boars
also have a shield, a “vest” of hard
cartilage over the chest and shoulder
areas, that can easily exceed an inch
in thickness.
So, on goes the argument. That’s
why some .30-caliber punch is recommended.
Yet, plenty of hogs have been
killed with rifles chambered in
.243 Win., 6mm and .270. In fact,
a whole lot of hog hunters use the
popular .223 Rem./5.56mm AR rifles to hunt hogs with good results.
For smaller calibers, you certainly
need the right bullets; ones designed
to hold together as they pierce tough
hog skin, shield and bone but that
offer enough expansion to provide
killing trauma.
Then it comes down to shot
placement. I’ve seen hogs take a
.308 Win. bullet in the middle of
the body or the rump and run like
they hadn’t been touched. Some of
these hogs were never recovered. A
.223 Rem. dead square in the vitals,
with good ammunition, can drop
a 200-pound hog where it stands.
My biggest hog to date, in fact, was
a 310-pound western Texas boar
taken down with a .223 Rem. Hog
Hammer round. The Barnes TSX
bullet went from right to left and
took him through the heart/lung
area. He ran about 100 yards and
toppled over, dead.
I was never a fan of scopes with
lighted reticles. Then I began hog
hunting, and I found that my dark
crosshair often disappeared when I
tried to line it up on a coal-black hog,
especially in low-light conditions.
Yet, on the same hunts, I also
found myself in position to take hogs
out to 200 yards or better.
Today, my top hog-hunting optics
have variable power settings, usually
in the 1-to-4 or 1-to-5 power range,
and incorporate a lighted red or green
dot reticle. One of my favorites is Leupold’s VX-R 1.25-to-4 scope. I’ve
used this optic on ARs and bolt actions, and even a slug gun rig. Close
in or in heavy cover, the VX-R’s lowpower setting puts me on hogs fast.
The illuminated FireDot reticle is a
big help in low light when I am taking a shot on a dark, mud-covered
hog. But I can still reach out a couple
of hundred yards at higher power.
Many hunters using ARs for hogs
prefer a holographic or red-dot-type
optic. These can be especially good
choices for ambush hunting up close
where multiple shots are fired and
where a low-power optic with a wide
field of view really comes into its own.
A great sense of smell, pretty good
hearing, limited vision. That’s a hog
in a nutshell.
Scientists believe that hogs have a
keener sense of smell than dogs. And
when they wind you, hogs don’t
stick around. They move out at top
speed, in the opposite direction.
They have decent ears, too, and in
my experience, if something doesn’t
sound right, they head for cover.
Their eyes are their weak spot,
and experienced hog hunters use
that fact to their advantage. But they
are not blind. I’ve been busted by
hogs at 100 yards and less, and they
immediately turned tail and dashed
away while I fumbled to shoulder
my rifle.
Beyond 100 yards, they can see
objects, especially moving objects.
They might not recognize exactly
what they are seeing, but if you pop
out along a treeline, for example,
and hogs are feeding in an open
field at 200 or 300 yards away, they
will start drifting toward the nearest
But if you use available cover, including shade and shadows, hogs
have a very difficult time spotting
you. Using the brush and taking
my time, I’ve put stalks on hogs
that brought me to within 40 yards
of them, something that would be
near impossible with a sharp-eyed
Hogs require what any wild animals need: food, water and cover.
One of the reasons hogs do so well
is that they don’t require a specific
food source. They’ll eat acorns and
tubers, the fruit atop prickly pear
cactus, watermelons and row crops,
roadkill and even the odd live fawn.
Hogs like to bed in heavy cover.
Look for trails in and out of this
cover, as well as regular tunnels they
make in thick vegetation. These areas are so thick, though, you will
have a very difficult time getting
through it, much less actually getting close to a pig bedded down inside of it.
As a longtime hog hunting guide
told me, “If pigs stayed put in
their bedding areas, we’d never get
them. But they need food and water, and they have to move to get
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
When I am in a new hog hunting area, the first things I scout for
are agricultural fields and watering
holes. Ag fields are prime feeding areas for hogs, especially when those
fields are surrounded by thick cover.
Hogs often head for these fields first
thing to begin an evening’s feeding,
and they often return here in the
early mornings on their way back to
bedding areas.
Hogs need water, plenty of it,
making watering holes very productive. They also like to wallow in
mud, and not just at night. In hot
Texas summers, I have had hogs
regularly come to mud holes during
late mornings and mid-afternoons,
so they can roll around in the sticky
mud, cool off a bit and then head
back to cover to sleep.
Swamps are hog magnets. Look
for hog wallows along streams and
in low spots, too. Scout out trails
and corridors they use to get to
these wallows and set up for ambushes.
Stands near feeders — Lots of
deer hunters, especially in the South
and Southeast, already use these setups. For hogs, drop some corn and/
or douse the area with some sweet
stuff. Hogs love fruit-flavored, sugary bait liquids. Set up and wait.
Stands near water work well, too, as
do those set up along the edges of
ag fields.
Ground blinds — These can be
effective, but you have to watch
the wind carefully, especially given
a hog’s fine sense of smell. Set up
downwind of feeding areas and
travel routes. Scent-masking or
eliminating products can be a big
Spot and stalk hog hunting —
This is popular in locales with open
vistas and steep, hilly terrains. Spotting and then stalking can provide
good opportunities to find singles
and groups of hogs at a distance.
Then, your job is to get close enough
for a shot. You will need good binoculars, comfortable boots and
some leg muscle, but it’s often very
fun hunting.
Still hunting — In areas with good
numbers of hogs, walking logging
trails and ranch roads can be an effective way to jump a few pigs. Early
mornings and that hour before dark
are the most productive times.
When it gets real hot, like Southern states in the summer, hogs usually go nocturnal. If you live in a
state where it’s legal, night hunting can equal lots of fresh pork.
Now, some hardcore hog hunters I know have spent thousands
of dollars on ultra high-tech nightvision gear and scopes. I’ve used
these rigs before, and they really
do work.
But there’s no way I can plunk
down $5,000 or more on a full-out
night-vision setup. I have found
that a hunter can buy a very good
and functional LED light that attaches to a rifle or scope for less
than $200 usually. There are at
least a dozen such lights on the
market I know of, and I have tried
a number. I prefer one with 300 lumens of lighting power with a green
light that can reach out a good 100
yards or better.
My top choice is the Nite Hunter rifle-mounted lighting system,
made by Nite Hunter Illumination
Systems of Mountain Home, Texas. It mounts easily on an AR rail
or atop a scope, uses a rechargeable battery and lights up hogs out
to 125 yards or better.
There are also a number of
motion-sensor lights that can be
placed near a feeder or watering
hole that turn on when a hog gets
close. Some models also have magnetic bases and can be attached to
the underside of a feeder stand.
One such light I have used recently with very good results is the
Hoginator 17, manufactured by
Terri’s Great Outdoors in Cisco,
Texas. The Hoginator can be set
up on a post or a stake, and it can
be had with a magnetic base, too,
for attaching to a feeder stand.
It provides a good deal of night
hunting flexibility for less than
$70, and I take it along anytime
I think a night hog hunt might be
Call 800-250-9159, offer A5FDFA
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How to deal with problem snakes around your homestead.
■ James Card
y ten-year-old son scampered up the basement
stairs after yelling a word
he is not old enough to say.
At the top of the stairs, he said:
“Dad, a snake. A big one.”
I went into the garage and grabbed
my work gloves and looked around
for some stick-like tool for wrangling the snake. I grabbed a canoe
paddle and went to the basement.
There he was, a largish garter snake
lying on the cool basement floor. I
pinned him with the canoe paddle
upon his first wriggle. And then I
saw another one. And another one.
It was like the first Indiana Jones
movie where he drops into the Well
of Souls and find himself surrounded by snakes.
“Jay,” I said to my son. “Go grab
your gloves, a bucket and your
chicken catcher. Don’t say anything
to your mother.” My wife is fearful
of snakes and I didn’t want the extra
drama. I had enough on my hands.
The bucket would be for the dead
snakes we would kill and the chicken catcher was a pole with a rubberized hook on the end that he used to
round up his laying hens.
It was the start of a beautiful Labor Day weekend. I looked out the
basement window. I should be shooting my bow, scouting trapping spots,
fly fishing or grilling out. The weekend was shot. We were under siege.
And then the killing began. One
by the washing machine. One by the
stairs. One going up the stairs—almost making it to the kitchen upstairs. It was a search and destroy
And then there was one on the
foundation ledge where the rim joist
and sill plate are located. The snake
dangled off the ledge and hissed
at me. I pulled him down with the
chicken catcher and Jay nailed him
with the paddle. Snake blood puddled on the painted concrete floor.
Near that ledge area I put up a fresh
roll of Fiberglas insulation a couple
winters ago.
“Dad, do you hear that?”
I did. It was a soft ruffle of plastic.
They were in the insulation.
“You stand to my left. I’m going
to pull this down with the chicken
catcher and if they come out, you
smack ‘em with the paddle.”
I hooked into the insulation and
peeled back a few feet. A snake slithered out and was dispatched by Jay.
And then another one and another
one and another one.
I noticed the Fiberglas backing was
littered with snakeskins. Disgusted,
I packed the entire roll away into a
giant-sized garbage bag destined for
the trash bin.
I thought of the famous snake
house in Idaho. Type in “snake
house” in YouTube and you’ll find
the nightmare. A young family moves
into a simple looking house only to
find it overrun by garter snakes. They
are the shingles, in the yard, in the
plumbing, everywhere. It turns out,
the house was built atop a hibernaculum—the place snakes go to hiber-
nate over the winter. Snakes migrate
from miles around to hole up there.
But that didn’t make any sense at
my house. If there were a big snake
problem, we would have discovered
it before. When we first got the house
three years ago, we painted the basement walls white and the floor gray
with waterproof DRYLOK paint. It
is a clean and cool place that we use
as a storage area, laundry room and
play area for my son. I run a mouse
“trapline” and the peanut butterbaited traps haven’t been touched in
years. The only signs of living things
down there are a few dead bugs and
an occasional cobweb.
Once it seemed like snakes were
mostly gone, I inspected the entire
basement. I checked out every nook
and cranny and made note of the
slightest crevice. There were a few
suspect spots but the most interesting and likely place was right by
the basement steps. It was a tiny
crack, slightly smaller than a dime.
It looked like it had been chipped
away. Somehow it had gone unnoticed when I painted the floor when
we first moved in. I jabbed a pen into
the hole and it went all the way in.
I got goose bumps. With a can of
Great Stuff, I jammed the nozzle as
deep as it could go and filled the hole
until foam bubbled out. I figured that
might have done the trick as over half
of the snakes we killed were within
20 feet of this area.
I have one theory on why so many
snakes appeared at once in my basement. While researching the behavior
of garter snakes, I came across an
abstract from the Journal of Chemical Ecology (November 1989). It was
titled, “Conspecific scent trailing by
garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis)
during autumn. Further evidence for
use of pheromones in den location.”
What caught my eye was that the
study was performed by researcher
Jon P. Costanzo in central Wisconsin, which is where I live and where
the home office of Living Ready is
The study posited that garter
snakes could follow scent trails of a
conspecific (a fellow garter snake). It
was determined that 75 percent could
follow the scent trail of another snake
through the use of pheromones.
What that means in snake removal
is that if you find one, another may be
close behind.
Snake repellent
I tried some at the recommendation of a colleague. In her case it
worked around their home when
she spotted a small snake her house,
which was for sale and was being
regularly shown. A snake could be
a deal breaker for a buyer. Her husband spread some dust and no snakes
have returned. However, I did some
background checking and snake experts online usually stated that they
do not work. I bought some anyway
and spread it around the foundation
of my house with heavy sprinkling
around the basement window areas.
It is a gray-colored dust with a weird
licorice smell.
If it is a case of only one snake to
be removed then it is easy: grab the
snake, throw it in a gunnysack and
get it out the door—unless the snake
is poisonous, then it’s a bit trickier.
But if the snake was spotted and
last seen slithering behind a stack
of boxes, then you may have your
work cut out for you. And then what
happens if you find more? Now we
go from a removal job to a business
mix of a moving company, a general
contractor and being one of those
consultants for hoarders like you see
on reality TV shows.
Think about all of the basements
you have been in throughout your
life. Some are finished and nice while
others look like a medieval dungeon.
I remember playing in the basement
of one of my boyhood friends. He
lived in a turn-of-the-century farmhouse and the basement walls were
mortar, hand-cut hardwood beams
and carved stone blocks. Imagine
trying to find a snake entrance in
that kind of place.
It could be a matter of removing
a few snakes, locating a very obvious entrance point and plugging
it up with a $3 can of spray foam.
Likewise, it could turn into a disastrous time suck that results in rear-
ranging a basement and doing some
construction work that involves
tearing an entire basement apart to
figure where the snakes are coming
from. The best online resource is
at They
have a nationwide network of snake
catchers and this website is a good
starting point on dealing with snake
problems around your home.
Trapping snakes is easy. You simply use the sticky traps that are used
to catch mice. Put them in likely
areas like bottlenecks and travel
routes. If the snakes are large, tack
multiple sticky traps on a board
for more surface area which means
more adhesive gripping power.
I can attest to the sticky traps
working but not because I have
caught a snake using one. While
moving boxes during our snake-killing spree, I noticed one cardboard
box was open because the cheap
packing tape didn’t hold. The tape
sprung loose and hung off the box
in a coiled mess and a dead snake
was tangled in it. It must have slithered around the box and touched
the loose tape, which was springy,
and got tangled up even more. The
tape wasn’t strong enough to seal a
cardboard box yet it was still sticky
enough to trap a snake.
We killed 16 snakes total of all sizes. Three escaped and are currently
unaccounted for which makes going
down into the basement to do some
laundry much more interesting.
We’ll hunt them down eventually.
My wife has made peace with this.
I’m tempted to buy a rubber snake
as a joke but that might be pushing
it. My sticky traps are untouched,
likewise with the mousetraps. No
snakes have been observed in the
basement since Labor Day weekend,
nor have any been spotted outside
where the snake dust was applied. I
spent about $500 in spray foam insulation to fill in the rim joist area—
an ugly dead space that I wanted
to fill in anyway. It will make more
home more energy efficient and
hopefully, free of snakes.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
How to handle the
stinkiest critter
in the woods.
■ Jason Houser
ne of the highest numbers
of calls that animal damage
control (ADC) trappers receive is for problem skunks. Many
home and landowners either do not
want to take on the task of removing
a skunk, or know how to do it. Here
is how you can handle this interesting animal without getting nailed
with its fragrant perfume.
Any raccoon-size cage trap is best
for ADC skunk trapping. There are
many brands on the market, so choose
the one that best fits your needs. I prefer to use a Tomahawk as they will
last for years. Another option is a
small round cage trap. The size of the
trap prevents the skunk from raising
its tail. If it is not able to raise its tail,
it will not be able to spray.
As for bait and lures, bait manufacturers sell skunk attractants just for
ADC work. If you have ever trapped
canines for fur, you probably already
know they are attracted to the same
scents that canines are. You can use
dry cat food, but the problem of
catching a cat will be there. Rotten
eggs and marshmallows are also both
good choices for skunk trapping. I
have even caught them using apple
Set your traps wherever you’ve seen
the skunks. Most complaints from
homeowners are skunks going under decks, sheds, porches or the like.
If you’ve got skunks on the property
and they are stealing pet food, harassing pets or digging lots of little holes
all over the lawn, then you can set the
trap just about anywhere as long as
the animal can smell the bait.
One of the biggest fears that trappers have is being sprayed. Often
times you can prevent this. If you
are going to get sprayed, it will
most likely happen if you have to
dispatch the animal. Approach the
trapped skunk while holding out a
cloth, like an old towel, blanket, or
bed sheet. Don’t let the skunk see
you. Gently and slowly approach it,
and drape the cloth over the trap. If
the skunk can’t see, it can’t spray. It
won’t spray if it doesn’t know where
to spray. Once the cloth is over the
cage, it’ll calm down. Even with the
skunk covered, keep an eye on its
behavior. You can tell if it is thinking about spraying.
Anytime a skunk raises its tail,
starts stomping its front feet, or
turns around quick with its rear end
facing you, things are about to get
serious. Leave the skunk be for a
while, and come back when it has
calmed down.
Young skunks are more apt to
spray than adult skunks. The reason
is that young skunks do not have
a lot of control over their body. It
might be an accident, but a young
skunk is likely to spray.
It is possible to relocate skunks
if that is what you choose to do,
the law says you can, or the law
says you must. With the cloth still
draped over the cage, put the skunk
in the bed of your truck, and drive
the animal at least five miles away
to an approved relocation point, if
it’s legal to do so in your state. Then
open the door and let it out. Keep
in mind that not all states allow you
to relocate ADC animals. If that is
the case, you need to know how to
dispatch a skunk.
From a young age I was told that a
skunk that is shot through the lungs
would not spray. So I tried it a few
times. Each time I tried, the skunk
sprayed. The next time I caught a
skunk I shot it through the head.
Again, the skunk sprayed.
I decided that the best location to
shoot a skunk is in the head. It does
not matter where you shoot it; it is
more than likely to let go of its beautiful aroma. One shot to the head,
instead of two shots to the body is
easier for me to accept. Always keep
the wind direction in mind when
dispatching a skunk. If it lets go of
its aroma, you don’t want the wind
carrying the scent on to you.
Skunk essence is used in the craft
of making trapping lures, and hunters
use it for a cover-up scent. The job of
removing the essence is not hard. The
main tool needed is a hypodermic syringe or a skunk essence extractor kit.
The kit comes with instructions and
is available for about $15 from many
trapping supply companies. The kit
come with jars to store the essence
in. If you will be using a syringe you
will need a clean glass jar to store the
liquid in. Also, have plenty of latex
gloves close by.
A skunk has two glands on either
side of its anus. To extract the essence, begin with the skunk lying on
its back. Slightly pull open the skunk’s
vent. You will see the tip of the gland
with the opening protruding through
the wall of the vent. You can put the
needle into the gland right next to the
duct, or into the duct opening itself.
Be careful not to go too deep or you
will puncture the opposite side.
Slowly pull back the plunger on the
syringe to extract the essence. As long
as your needle is in the middle of the
gland, and has not passed through
the other side, the plunger will pull
back easy.
When the syringe is full, empty it
into a clean bottle. Repeat the process until a white fatty substance
starts to come out. When this happens the gland is empty. Repeat with
the other gland.
This process is best completed
outside in case something should go
With your essence stored in a glass
jar, I recommend also putting the
glass jar into another container with a
lid for added protection from the foul
odor. Many lure makers purchase the
essence, and should not be a problem
finding a buyer with a few phone calls
or on social media.
To save your shed from being overpowered by the odor of skunk, there
is a simple recipe to clean a skunk,
and remove a lot of the odor. You can
either do it at the catch site, or upon
returning back to your home or shop.
The cleaning solution calls for
three simple ingredients you probably already have at home: one quart
of hydrogen peroxide, one cup of
baking soda, and a teaspoon of any
dish soap.
Pour all the ingredients into a
5-gallon bucket and mix well. Beginning with the tail end of the skunk,
dip it into the solution. Rub the solution into the skunk well, working
towards the head. Make the sure
the solution is worked in well to the
entire skunk. Once the skunk has
a good cleaning, pull it out of the
bucket, and ring out the fur as best
you can. The odor will not be entirely gone, but the biggest portion of it
will be gone, and you have an animal
that will be easier to work with.
A skunk’s pelt (when prime), and
essence are worth good money, and
homeowners are willing to pay good
money to have one removed. Skunks
are an easy catch, and with proper
handling and know-how, you stand
a good chance at coming away smelling like a rose.
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
Simple steps can keep
you safe
■ David Hart
n 2007, a National Park
Service biologist working at
the Grand Canyon found a
dead mountain lion. Eric York had
trapped and fitted the animal with
a radio collar two years earlier, following the animal’s movements so
he could learn more about her and
other lions living in the park. When
the cat failed to move for 24 hours,
York found her lifeless body on the
south rim of the canyon and brought
it back to his garage, where he performed an autopsy to determine the
cause of death.
Eight days later, York’s roommate
found the biologist dead. Doctors
soon determined he died of plague, a
disease most often transmitted from
the bite of fleas. It’s the same disease
that was known as Black Death during the 14th century, killing an estimated 100 million people throughout Europe and Asia.
York’s death not only shocked
the professional wildlife community, it created a ripple throughout
the hunting and trapping community. If a biologist who handles a
few animals each year can contract
a deadly disease, what about those
who come in contact with dozens,
even hundreds, each winter? Not
only are hunters and trappers picking up carcasses, they come in direct
contact with all sorts of body fluids
on a near daily basis.
It’s a valid concern.
There are dozens of zoonotic diseases and parasites (transmissible
from animals to humans) that can
affect trappers and hunters. Their
names sound like a cast of characters
from a B-list medical thriller movie
— tularemia, trichinosis, leptospirosus, echinococcus, plague. They live
in, on and around wild animals, even
those that appear perfectly healthy,
and they can jump from those animals to humans.
Some of the diseases result in little
more than a case of flu-like symptoms, including high fever, chills,
diarrhea and other unpleasant afflictions. Others, like Lyme disease,
can have long-term and debilitating
effects. Some, if left untreated, can
kill. Deaths from diseases like plague
are extremely rare, but on average,
about 15 people contract the disease
in the United States each year. It isn’t
just mountain lions that can serve
as a host. Plague is fairly common
in fleas found on prairie dogs, and
wildlife veterinarians have found it
in fleas on bobcats and lynx, as well.
Domestic cats can also carry it.
Plague is almost entirely a Western
disease, with the highest prevalence
in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado
and California. Only one case has
been reported east of the Mississippi
River since 1970, according to the
Centers for Disease Control. Most
other diseases know no political or
geographic boundaries.
“Tularemia, which is also known
as rabbit fever, is also a concern for
trappers,” said United States Geological Survey Supervisory Wildlife
Biologist Dr. Christopher Brand. “It’s
a waterborne disease and is often associated with beavers and muskrats.
It’s more serious in rabbits and other
rodents, but hunters and trappers can
get it from other species, as well. You
don’t even have to touch an infected
animal. You can get it from touching
water harboring the disease.”
Researchers in Texas found tularemia in feral hogs in 2011, prompting
warnings for hunters and landowners who might come in contact with
the animals. More than 100 cases of
tularemia are reported each year, according to the CDC, and the disease
has been found in every state except
Others diseases, such as giardia, are
much more common, afflicting thousands of hunters, trappers and hikers
each year. It’s an intestinal parasite
most commonly picked up by drinking water where beavers or muskrats
live. Most hunters and trappers have
enough sense not to drink straight
from a beaver pond, but it’s possible
to get giardia through other avenues.
The same is true for one of the
most deadly diseases — rabies. Often thought to be communicable
only through the bite of a wild mammal, rabies can actually be transmitted through a variety of means, said
Brand, who works at the USGS’s
National Wildlife Health Center in
Madison, Wis.
“Almost any mammal can carry
rabies, and it can be transmitted in
a variety of ways,” he notes. “Even
beavers can carry it.”
Veteran trappers know full well to
stay away from the business end of a
bobcat or coyote, but even the most
experienced among us let our guard
down occasionally. Brand, however, says rabies can be transmitted
through contact with an infected
animal’s saliva, blood or some other
body fluid, or by inhaling the bacteria. In other words, simply being in
the same room as a rabid skunk can
result in an infection.
In most cases, though, transmittable diseases enter the human body
through an open sore or through soft
tissue like that found in the mouth,
eyes or nose. It’s a rare trapper who
licks, bites or otherwise puts his face
in a freshly-skinned bobcat or beaver, but diseases don’t always need a
front door to enter the human body.
Instead, they’ll slip in through something as benign as a small scratch
or even a hangnail, something just
large enough to allow a microscopic
cell to pass through. They can enter
the mouth through something as
simple as touching an infected animal and then unwittingly grabbing a
Pop Tart off the dashboard of your
truck, rubbing an eye or biting a fingernail.
“Many of the zoonotic diseases
usually enter through something like
an open sore on a hand, even if that
sore is very small,” Brand said. “It
doesn’t take much.”
Parasites like trichinosis also enter through the mouth, typically
through eating undercooked game
such as bear or rabbit. Trichinosis
is in the roundworm family and can
cause nausea, diarrhea, fever and
muscle pain. It can lead to death in
the most extreme cases.
Experts who conducted an autopsy on the Grand Canyon biologist
believe he contracted plague after
cutting open the infected lion and
breathing in airborne bacteria. That’s
an extremely rare way to contract the
S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 018
disease, and few trappers are going
to wear a mask when they skin, but
it’s certainly something to keep in
mind the next time you handle your
What we can do, though, is take
simple protective measures to prevent, or at least reduce, any risks, according to University of Georgia Associate Professor of Wildlife Disease
Dr. Michael Yabsley. The easiest way
to fend off diseases and parasites is
to wear gloves while handling your
catch. Leather gloves won’t act as
a barrier, though. Instead, they can
actually harbor nasty bacteria. So
can rubber gloves, but they are much
easier to wash or sterilize than leather gloves. They can be difficult to
adjust to, but use them enough and
you’ll get used to them.
“Always wear rubber gloves
any time you come in contact with
blood, saliva or any other bodily
fluids as you handle wild animals or
skin them,” Brand said.
Oklahoma trapper and predator
caller Shannon Sheffert never skins
without them. Although he never
got sick from handling various furbearers before he started wearing
skinning gloves, he’s not taking any
“I know a lot of guys wear the
disposable latex gloves like you see
in a doctor’s office, but they tear
too easy,” he said. “I prefer to wear
heavier-duty rubber gloves that are
similar to dishwashing gloves. They
are a little more expensive, but they
don’t tear as easy. I can use them for
a pretty long time before I have to replace them.”
Not only do rubber gloves
serve as a deterrent to parasites, they can prevent bacteria from entering your skin
through open sores or
even small entrances like
scratches or blisters.
But proper defense
doesn’t end when you
peel off your gloves.
Although at least one
study suggests commercial hand sanitizers don’t kill all strains
of bacteria, they will kill
most. It’s a good idea to
keep a bottle of waterless
hand sanitizer in your truck.
The active ingredient is alcohol
and does not require water. Simply
rub it into your skin before it evaporates.
It’s also wise to wash with soap
and water, no matter what you’ve
been doing. Yabsley says washing
frequently is the best second line of
defense and a good idea even if you
haven’t touched any fur. It’s no secret
trappers handle some pretty smelly
stuff. The various lures and baits
often consist of rotten meat or fish,
which can harbor a stew of bacteria. Set a trap, bait it and then hit a
fast-food drive-through on your way
home and you might have unwittingly ingested some of that bait or lure
— and the bacteria swimming in it —
if you didn’t wash your hands first.
Pay attention if you start feeling
under the weather during trapping or
hunting season. We all come down
with a bug now and then, and in most
cases, it’s just that — a cold virus or
some other minor illness that works
itself through our system before fading away. But sometimes it’s more
than a common cold or even flu virus.
That’s why it’s vital to get to a doc-
tor as soon as you suspect something
isn’t right.
York did go to a local clinic, but
he was sent home with a diagnosis
of flu-like symptoms, according to a
story in USA Today. He was 37 and
in otherwise perfect health. It’s unfair
to say if the medical system failed in
this case, but it’s never wrong to insist
that your doctor run some additional
tests, especially if you have the slightest suspicion that your sickness might
be related to handling furbearers.
Don’t wait.
“Make sure you tell your doctor
that you’ve been handling wild animals,” adds Brand. “That’s extremely
It can take up to two weeks for
symptoms to first appear, so even if
you haven’t shot a coyote or skinned
a muskrat in quite a while, don’t assume your illness isn’t a zoonotic disease.
Equally important, when you do
find an animal that just doesn’t look
normal, don’t hesitate to contact
your state wildlife agency. Biologists
want to know what’s going on with
the critters in their state, particularly if they see a trend developing.
There’s little a state wildlife agency
can do to prevent the spread of a
zoonotic disease, but they can at
least warn the trappers and hunters
in their state.
Scared? Don’t be. The majority
of trappers, even those who have
been at it for years, have never gotten so much as a minor illness from
one of the hundreds or even thousands of animals they’ve handled
through the years. The risk is incredibly low.
Yabsley can’t recall a recent death
related directly to a hunter or trap-
per handling an infected furbearer.
However, every trapper and predator hunter, even every small- and
big-game hunter, should at least be
concerned about the risks and take
a few simple steps to reduce those
risks. As low as they might be, the
risks are very real.
Like anyone involved in a relatively low-risk activity, trappers
and predators hunters have other,
more frightening things to worry
about. Each year, about 30,000
Americans are killed in car crashes,
13,000 die from falls and up to a
100 perish from contact with venomous reptiles and insects. Just
take some common-sense steps
to reduce your risk of picking up
a disease or parasite when you
handle furbearers. Above all, wear
your seat belt when you check your
traps, stay away from cliffs and
don’t mess with rattlesnakes.
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