Snake risk

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Snakes are of some concern when out in the wild or even around home, especially if you happen to live near water or woods. People have a general fear of snakes dating back to Adam and Eve, which is the beginning of time for those that believe the bible. According to the bible, man will strike the serpents head when ever they see them. Sounds about like the norm for today. LOL Actually today there are many of us, like me, that will give snakes a pass if they don’t present a danger. On various occasions I have had to convince others in my party to give a snake a pass. I love snakes and had one as a pet. It was a corn snake.

So what’s the risk of encountering a poisonous snake? In my experience, most of what I encounter is non-poisonous. Being an outdoorsman and fisherman, cotton mouths are the most common for me. Other snakes that I typically encounter are; garter, green, black rat snake, various water snakes, and hog nose snakes. I have never seen a rattle snake, and it has been over a decade since I’ve seen a copperhead. As a side note, my brother’s dog was kind of bit on the head by a copperhead about 2 weeks ago. I wasn’t there to ID the snake so I can only take their word. The dog was fine, so it may have received a dry bite or just didn’t get penetration since the skull area doesn’t have much “meat”. A corn snake looks similar to a copperhead.

To my estimation, the risk is fairly low of being bitten by a poisonous snake in the US. By statistics, 70-80% of bites occur on the hand area. Using the power of deduction, people are messing with them or trying to pick them up. Leave them alone. You don’t touch a hot stove do you? An accidental bite would most likely occur on the leg area.

Now that you have my experience on snake encounters, what should you do to prevent being bit by a snake? The best items you can have are your eyes and brain. Knowing the snakes that reside in your area and their habitats, and always looking for dangers in your area are the 2 key things you can do.

What does snake habitat look like? To put it simply, if it looks snaky, approach with caution. Snakes like to hide under things like brush piles, fallen trees, logs, boards, in old buildings, under tarps. Basically anywhere that you might expect to find their main prey items such as; mice, rats, frogs, toads and, small reptiles, you may encounter a snake. Cotton mouths like water. Naturally any waters edge is suspect, not to say that a cotton mouth won’t wander away from water to find food sources. I have encountered cottonmouths hundreds of yards away from the closest water source. Snakes can be anywhere.

Here are some bullet point that I have been taught or learned over the years.

  1. Watch where you step
  2. Watch where you put your hands
  3. Watch where you sit
  4. check under logs or fallen trees before you step over or sit on them
  5. When crossing a log, step high onto the top of the log, and a long step on the other side. Never just step “over” a log. Hope that is understandable. If not let me know.
  6. avoid leaving things out that may attract snakes, (rodent food, hiding places, toys, boards and tarps)
  7. use a stick to lift anything that may have a snake under it.

When camping these rule still apply. One thing I was taught to do is, drive steaks into the ground and put your boots upside down on the steaks. Also, when you go to put your boots back on in the morning, grab them by the toe area and shake and beat them on the ground to dislodge any snake, spider or scorpion that may be hiding in them. Never just crawl out of your tent half awake and put your boots on.

Snakes are cold blooded and will look for heat sources in cool or cold weather. That’s kind of something to keep in mind. When they are cold they are a bit sluggish and will warm themselves on rocks in the sun. I used this knowledge to capture my snake after it escaped in the house. I put a box with holes in it and a heating pad next to the wall, cranked up the AC and caught the snake within 2 hours. Refrigerators also create heat that attract snakes. It’s not uncommon to find snake skin in the crawl space of a house in the insulation under where the refrigerator is located.

There is a technique for crossing swampy areas. That is stepping on high grounds most likely tufts of vegetation. Those tufts as well as tree bases are likely areas that cottonmouths will lye. Always look before you step in those cases. Arg!!! Danger everywhere! I’m not sure how many will venture into areas like that besides me, but I will put it out there. I cannot stress enough about stepping up and onto a log and then down instead of just climbing over it no matter how ‘small’ it is. Snakes can hide.

Snake boots are also a great investment for those of us that get out a lot. I have a pair that was mainly bought because I fish. I got tired of having to watch my step while fishing. Being so focused on whatever one is doing can leave you open to being bit. I don’t want to be worried about where I put my feet. Not that I don’t still watch where I step, Its more of a peace of mind thing. One of my brothers talked to a wildlife photographer that told him a story about his snake boots. The photographer got a pair of snake boots and got “bit” within a week of wearing them. Five years later that was the only time he needed them. Proper awareness and personal risk assessment will determine your need to take it to that extreme.

I kind of downplay the risk of being bitten. That may be from years of experience and statistics, but its something to be aware of. Educate yourself on the risk and what you should do if bit by a snake.

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Saw History

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After picking up an old 2 man crosscut saw almost a year ago, I am finally getting around to finishing up its restoration. This saw is a little different than the others I own. I actually know a little about its history as told by the family member that I picked it up from. So with that knowledge, its fun to speculate about its past. So here’s what I know.

The family member bought the saw in1901 when he was 16. Originally it came from the Pacific Northwest, Washington State. At age 18, the owner joined the military. After that he became a doctor and at some point worked for the department of Indian Affairs. The saw is a 2 man crosscut saw, felling saw to be exact. Manufacturer is unknown, with a champion tooth pattern.  By design, it was intended to fell hardwood trees. Felling refers to cutting down trees. A bucking saw is intended to cut to length. (i.e.. firewood, cabin beams, fence posts, and the like)  Bucking saws are wider. The photo shows the 2 designs with the felling saw on top. With wood being the most common building material back then, as well as the daily need to heat and cook, cutting wood would likely be an almost daily task for any homesteader. Finding work would probably be an easy task if people had the money to spend.

Knowing that it was purchased by a 16 year old, I can guess about a few things from this. At 16 he probably picked it up used. The cost of a new saw would only have been about 3 to 7 dollars. By today’s standard, pocket change for most people. Back then money wasn’t as easy to come by. For someone to sell their saw to a kid, it was probably already in rough shape.

The fact that it was a 2 man cross cut saw would indicate that he had a “business partner”. Since people are basically the same throughout history, it was probably a couple of kids looking to make some extra money. Much like mowing yards and raking leaves today. Knowing what the earned funds would be used for back then requires a little imagination and knowing mans nature. Assuming that kids from then are not much different than today’s kids, the money would be put towards video games. Of course game stations, and large department stores didn’t exist back then but it’s easy to assume that the money would be spent on some leisure item of the day.

There is a more plausible use for money earned, at least in my mind. At the age of 16, one is “coming of age”, thinking about the future and striking out on their own. It would be easy to imagine these youths were looking to fund some future venture. Maybe buying some land, a horse, or a train ticket to some far away city to find more desirable work. Owning and using crosscut saws, I can say one could quickly come up with many options for “more desirable work”. LOL

The design of the saw being a champion tooth felling saw is an interesting choice for 16 year olds. With some knowledge of the 2 designs, felling and bucking, its fun to imagine the purchasing decision. To think that they would be cutting down trees might be a stretch. But if needed, it would be easier to buck wood with a felling saw than to fell a tree with a bucking saw. So that would be a more logical dual purpose saw. The tooth design is for hardwoods. Maybe it would be easier to cut soft woods with this pattern rather than cutting hardwood with a pattern designed for soft woods. I would like to think that some thought was put into these considerations. But with a couple of 16 year olds the purchasing decision may have been purely based on what was available and within their budget, or a combination of budget and purpose.

With the various saws I have, this one is the only one with some known history. Piecing the past together on the others is pretty much impossible. So its always fun to know a little about the piece.

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Bear-anoia

Bear-anoia is a play on paranoia. I have seen people criticized for being overly cautious of bears. Since bears are large predatory animals, it is a good idea to be aware of their potential existence in your area. Having been out enough in bear country, I can recognize signs of their presence as well as having seen my share while out in the wilds. I have a healthy respect for bears.

My most recent encounter happened this past weekend while walking a piece of property I hunt at. I was out with a friend walking the trials and checking stands for the upcoming season. The property next door was clear cut a couple years ago and is now extremely thick with vegetation. We were walking the edge of that property line when we heard something in that brush. At first I figured it was probably a fox. As it got closer it was obviously to big to be a fox. Maybe it is a deer? We stood quietly waiting to catch a glimpse of the source of the noise. Then It came out of the thick brush enough to see that it was black. At that point I thought it was someone’s dog. As it stepped out on the trail we were on, we could positively ID it as a bear as we stood there looking at about a 180 pound black bear looking back at us no more than 15 yards away. Fortunately it decided it had better head back into the thick brush. It was an exciting encounter.

Last year we had a load of rock delivered to fill the ruts in the drive. The driver advised us that we should carry protection when in the woods due to a 1,000 pound bear that had been seen in the area. Of course a black bear doesn’t get that big. So we translated that to be a fairly sizable bear in the area. Last year we didn’t see it, but did find sign that it had visited the property. While at the cabin last weekend we talked about the rumors and bear signs never expecting to actually see it. That seems to be how it always works. First you hear the rumors, then the signs followed by a sighting.

Central Virginia isn’t really noted for having large populations of bears. The Mountains and the far south east of Virginia are. I have seen more and more sign of bears in the central portion of the state over the past few years.  Typically I haven’t taken much precaution for bears when out in central VA. After seeing signs I have had to re-think that over the past couple years.

So when ever you’re out, know the risk of the wildlife in your area. Take the precautions necessary to minimize your risk. I will usually have pepper spray on me when I’m out for a non-lethal option. Stay safe out there.

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FIRST RULE!!!

Growing up, for me there was only 3 rules of 3. They concerned Air, Water, and Food. Since then there have been some additions. The FIRST being, you have 3 seconds (or less) to get out of danger / act.

So what does that mean? It is human nature to have a few reactions in response to danger or an event. I’m sure you are familiar with the (fight or flight) response. Nod your head yes. There is actually a third response that’s even more common. That being FREEZE!  The freeze response is usually found in people that are in denial of the seriousness of the situation. It is actually the most common response to a serious and/or life threatening situation.

On Sept 11, 2001, the twin towers were hit. Where was I on that fateful day? I was at work hundreds of miles away just doing my job. I remember hearing that a plane hit the first tower. All I thought was that it was a small single prop plane. Twenty minutes later reports that the second tower was hit. At that point, I knew what was going on. TERRORIST ATTACK!  For me being hundreds of miles away not knowing that it was a jetliner, lack of information, my response on the first hit was understandable.

Now for the people at ground zero. There are many reports of workers being told to just carry on as normal, keep working. There’s nothing to see here. All is good. There were  many that went into denial and acted as if everything was normal in the face of danger. There were those who knew the danger but tried to keep ‘normal’ going. Even the people that knew to get out couldn’t drag some people out of the building that wasn’t struck as well as the one that had. There were people that had more important things to do than save their own life. I’m not speaking ill of the dead. God bless them. I’m just stressing the point that some people freeze. Deny the seriousness of the situation and just act as though everything is normal and going to be OK.

By now you may be thinking my tin foil hat is wrapped to tight. Hang on! It’s about to get worse. Sept. 11th is around the corner. Having some training about how terrorist work, they love anniversary’s of previous attacks. For my thinking, I would include other possible dates as well. I don’t know that 9 11 correlation with our emergency dial 911, but I am also on alert for other dates like 5-11. Makes perfect sense for an attack on the transportation system. 4-11 makes sense for a cyber attack on our information system, (internet),  and so on.  I’ve never heard this thought floated but I am someone that has the ability to think. Maybe to much. But I do have some training in how terrorist work.

In the world today, we have the greatest presence of terrorist types that perpetrated the attack on the world trade center. They are way more sophisticated with a world wide outreach utilizing the internet and social media. The tide for supporting this movement is undoubtedly stronger today than at any time in the past. There are hundreds of people that have gone to the “front” in Syria and Iraq with American and European passports. They can easily return to the US or Europe. Sleeper cells are most likely here, as well as inspired individuals, or terrorists who have crossed unprotected boarders north and south.

What are their possible targets and means of attack? The news has reported intercepted “chatter”.  Obviously soft targets are top of the list. Any place with high concentrations of people, malls, public events, big buildings, large cities. Any place that can achieve max casualties and impact. The goal is to strike fear into the public to disrupt commerce. To George W’s credit, he encouraged people to not bow down to fear and continue life as near normal as possible. The Israelis are experts at this. Keep commerce going. Terrorists wish to bring down a country financially. Cripple commerce with fear.

Today there are more means of attack. Cyber attacks on the banking systems, attacks on large corporations, (home depot, target, ebay, amazon, ect.) The most destructive would be the power grid. There have been some attacks on the grid. Without power nothing moves. Gas stays in the ground. Groceries stay on the shelf till they get looted. Electronics and clothing… looted. No AC. No heat. Ability to cook, gone. Water, gone. Hospitals loose power in days. Pharmacies are closed or looted. Recent events have shown that looting and civil unrest starts in hours, not days. If it were me, max effect would be to attack  grid. That only requires a computer and the internet. Lovely!!!!!

What does that mean RIGHT NOW? Only time will tell. Time is  measured in days, weeks, hours and minutes. Being prepared and having a plan is top priority. If your not currently prepared, its not too late, depending on how long a possible event could last.

If your not prepared, there are some recommendations. Life straws.. next day delivery. 300 gallons per straw. get 1 per person. Keep your tank full and store enough gas to get you to your bug out location (BOL). It will take probably double or more due to traffic. Mapped out route. Don’t rely on GPS. A bug out bag (BOB, go bag, get home bag, what ever you want to call it). Should include food water and shelter. (3 items I would take….Life straw, painters tarp, peanut butter).  Did I mention a map!!!!  Yes a paper copy!  If bugging in, stock water. Food to last as long as you can, a week minimum. Foods that don’t need refrigeration. Don’t forget proteins. canned or protein powder. Keep yourself as strong as possible. Fill every prescription possible. Important papers, take them with you . SSN, Insurance, Birth Certificate, and the like

Not to make everyone paranoid but prepared. If nothing happens now, it could later. Hopefully never. Be safe and don’t be afraid to take measures to keep yourself and loved ones safe.

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Blazing trails

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In my previous blog post I went over things I keep in my pack to help me survive an unexpected extended stay in the woods. Following that post one would expect a post about food, water, shelter, or how to build a fire. But for me, I think it makes more sense to “just not get lost” so you never need to use your kit.

 

Typically we all have a planned trip with trails and maps, maybe even doing an easy roadside camping trip that may involve some fishing. However, day hikes are notorious for generating news stories of lost hikers. I have taken day hikes and ended up getting on a trail crossing the one I was suppose to be on. This resulted in backtracking and exiting the woods at sunset. Spending an extra night out could happen just that easy.

 

Here’s a link to a man who got lost while planning on a 15 minute foray into the woods to find crickets to fish with.       http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2014/08/12/west-sacramento-man-found-after-five-days-in-wilderness-of-alpine-county/

 

Some points of interest of his misfortune. He didn’t expect to go to far from camp. He took no gear with him. Apparently he was out by himself.  He was looking for resources.

 

From my experience in the woods, the main contributing factor was, ”he was looking for resources”. Looking for resources results in putting your total focus on what ever you’re looking for. That could be firewood, most commonly.  It is surprisingly easy to lose your sense of direction while having your head down twisting and turning in every direction. When you look up you may not even see a well marked trail just 10 yards away, especially if the forest floor is covered in ferns. The forest looks the same in every direction, and you didn’t take notice of any landmarks.

 

Since I hunt, I know the value of trail markers and have them on hand. Yes I have gotten turned around a time or 2 while searching for resources.  Knowing how easy it is to get disoriented while looking for resources, I always leave a “trail marker”. For me that is usually in the form of a blaze orange bandana or hunting vest hung on the trail. Blaze orange is highly visible even in low light.  I will periodically look back and make sure it’s always in sight, keeping my pack with me at all times.

 

One of the easiest, most practical, trail marker for anyone involved in the outdoors is flagging tape. (shown in picture labeled “D”)  This can be picked up in about any sporting good section of any —Mart stores, as well as hardware stores. Flagging tape is small, fairly light weight, and can make numerous “flags”.  It can help you get back to familiar ground, or help a search party follow your trail if you try to extract yourself and head further into the woods.

 

Pictured ( A, B, and C)  are reflective and used at night. Of course this requires you have a light source such as a flashlight or head light.  The “bread tie” type are not overly visible in daylight. Pictured is 2 configurations. “A” is how I mark my trails to my stand locations. This is visible from both directions and makes it virtually un-noticeable to other hunters during daylight. “B” gives visibility from both directions at night and daytime. Although one would have to be right on top of it due to its small size.  With “C”, it clips on to a branch for easy temporary use. It is still rather small to be seen at a distance during daytime. These could be used to mark a trail to a latrine area as well as to your food bag that is suppose to be hung outside of camp to keep critters away from your camp. Due to low visibility during daytime with this type, you may have to double up with some flagging tape for daytime use.  You can also hang a glow stick in camp and keep it in sight if nature calls at night. Inevitable it does.

 

In a pinch a bandana could be torn into strips and tied to branches. Did I mention they come in blaze orange? Amazon is probably the best source for them. Mylar blankets can also cut into strips and used as a trail marker. I am reluctant to sacrifice clothing because you will likely need that when night falls.  Have someone else with you and stay in sight or hearing distance and everyone should have a whistle. It’s easier to blow a whistle than yell at the top of your lungs. Your party could be wearing a brightly colored hats all the same color, especially if you have kids with you. I will make another post on more primitive methods to mark trails.

 

Last but not least, let other people know where you are going, when you are going and when you are expected back. You may also want to consider leaving the same information inside of your vehicle, just in case.

 

If you found this helpful or interesting, don’t forget to like and subscribe. Thanks.

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Pack Review Time

With fall quickly approaching, when I’m out in the wild the most, it’s time to go through my “kit”. My kit is reference to my pack and its contents. Like the “rule” of replacing the battery in your smoke detectors when the time changes…. The beginning of hunting season is my check my pack time.

With my involvement in various outdoor activities, power outages, and such, I inevitably scavenge my pack for various items, most notably, knives, flashlights, and headlights. Over the years of upgrading equipment and learning my equipment, scavenging my pack for unneeded items has become easier. Duplication is a good thing. Like “preppers” say, 3 is 2, 2 is 1, 1 is none. For me, the best, lightest, and smallest equipment goes in my pack. My pack is basically a 72 hour bag, bug out bag, get home bag, go bag, or what ever other term one wishes to call it. A lot of items should be included in a camping pack, and I’ll go over the items piece by piece in following posts.

My pack usually contains items the one would take camping except the items require more improvisation. For example, instead of a tent, I pack a cheap .7mil plastic painters tarp. I base the contents of my pack on “the rule of 3s”. I made a post previously on the rule of 3s. I did neglect to include the rule that survival depends on 3 hours without shelter. Oops!!!! Always check multiple sources, be a sponge of information.

So with the rule of 3s in mind, I will go over what’s in my pack. Not having my pack in front of me, I will go with my memory…… We’re all in trouble there. LOL.

(1st) 3 minutes without air. There’s not much to put in my pack for that. I’ll just keep breathing.

(2nd) 3 hours without shelter. With proper knowledge you shouldn’t have to carry anything, but….. having a light weight solution is always a plus, considering the realization that your lost may very well be after its already dark. Having something makes it easier then just huddling under a tree all night.

(2.1) I want to include fire in the subject of shelter, but it deserves its own respect. Fire has many uses between shelter and water. It provides heat to protect you from the elements, boiling water, and signaling help, so I will give fire a special place in this outline.

(3rd) 3 days without water. I carry 2 camp stoves. (also over kill, but two is one). I can boil water to purify. For other options, I pack a survival straw. I don’t have to boil water.

(4th) 3 weeks without food. Technically you will be found dead or alive within that time frame. I will usually carry snacks unless a long term stay is expected.

These are the basics I carry. Following is a list of more comfort and ease items I carry.

Knife
Cordage
Mylar blankets
Bivouac
Pack saw
Pocket chain saw
Lighter
Matches
Fire steel
Fire starters
4 tent pegs
Headlight
Flashlight
Various trail markers
Water bottle
Cook pot
Cup
Extra batteries

Like said before, this is by memory. I will go over each item. Some of the items in the “comfort” are a givens, and some are just a damn good idea. They have reasons that you may not have considered. So stay tuned.

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Water tablets

On the subject of water purification, lets look at water purification tablets.

You have 3 days accordingly to the rule of 3’s. (previous post) So, you have 3 days to find a clean water source. For me, boiling is the way to go. But boiling water may not always be possible. Boiling water is the most effective way to eliminate water borne pathogens. With boiling you have a visual indication of purification. A poet and didn’t know it. (sorry couldn’t resist) But in all seriousness, it’s good to have confidence in what your trying to accomplish. With a tablet, there is no visual indication. The water isn’t going to magically change colors. You wait the allotted time and take your chances. The package tells you it isn’t proven effective against crypto. The water source is the major deciding factor. I will go over that in a following post. Stay tuned.

Cryptosporidium as well as Giardia, both being a protozoan parasite, are difficult to neutralize. Water tablets are not overly effective in killing them. With no visual indication you are taking your chances, but its better than nothing. Having lived in Canada for 2 years, beaver fever was not unheard of. What is beaver fever? Giardia! In the winter the beavers would do their business (s..t) under the ice. The purification process in public water wasn’t fully effective in taking care of that. I know people that will, here in the States, boil city water before drinking it. As another example….. while in the boyscouts, there is a merit badge for wilderness survival. For the merit badge you had to survive one night out with only 5 items. One scout brought water purification tablets and used lake water for his water source. He ended up sick within hours. Hind sight being 20/20 and knowing that it takes about 3 days for most water bourn illnesses to manifest, he was most likely home sick. Either way, ALWAYS go for the most pure water source. Lakes and rivers do not meet that qualification.

So the effectiveness of water purification tablets are a bit questionable at best. Emergency situations, something is better than nothing. Always read the claims of water purification tablets, what they’re effective for, as well as any cautions. It varies from brand to brand.  Like I said earlier, more to follow on the best water source. So, for my evaluation, boiling is the most effective method of purifying water against biological contaminants, BUT when boiling isn’t always achievable, water purification tablets may be a good fall back plan.

 

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