Sunday, July 31, 2011

How I Tan a Rabbit Hide

Ask a dozen hunters how to tan a hide and you will get a dozen answers. Go ahead, do a search online. You will find hundreds of different ways. Most people think their way is the best (or only) way to do it properly. In reality, there are quite a few ways to do it. Each has its own merits and drawbacks.

One thing that is often confused is the difference between tanning and preserving. Preserving is done by simply removing any meat and fat from the skin. Then the hide is left to dry. You often hear of people "tanning" a hide by scraping off the fat and drying it with salt. While this works fine for taxidermy or hanging a pelt on the wall, it is not tanning. A preserved hide will slowly continue to decompose, eventually the hair will begin to slip and the hide will disintegrate. If it is often handled this will happen in a few years or less, if it is hanging on the wall it could last for decades.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lightning Safety for Hunters

I remember as a boy hunting in the woods behind my house. I was probably 13 and dumb as a bag of rocks. Between the woods and my house was a cotton field. It seemed like a giant field at the time, but there was probably less than 1000 yards from my house to the woods. When I went out by myself I was held to a strict curfew. I had to tell my mom when I was going to be back and being late was not an option.

One day, right about the time I had to be home, a thunderstorm hit. Lightning was striking everywhere. It was scary. I had to decide between risking crossing the open field, with my very metal shotgun, in a giant lightning storm, or risking being late and making my Mom upset. I chose to brave the storm. The worst that could happen was death. With my Mom, you never knew!

Lightning is both necessary and sufficient for...Image via Wikipedia

Friday, July 29, 2011

Review - Crossman 2260SE Pellet Rifle

Sometimes you want to just plink. You don't want a gun that is heavy or loud. You don't want an air gun that makes your arm sore after 20 shots or that can shoot through your shed door. You certainly don't want something expensive to shoot. When I am in this type of mood I grab my Crossman 2260SE pellet rifle. It is probably the best CO2 powered rifle you can buy for less than $300. It might be the best air rifle you can buy for under $300.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Myth or Fact - Are Summer Rabbits Safe To Eat?

I've been taught all my life, just like my Dad has been taught (and his Dad), that rabbit meat is no good before the frost. It is supposed to have worms that will make you sick. Do a search on the Internet and you will find dozens of forum posts confirming this belief. For many it is considered common knowledge.

Once I grew up and began to think for myself, around age 30, I began to question this belief. It just did not make sense to me. What ailment could possibly be killed by a drop in ambient temperature? The internal temperature of the rabbit stays relatively the same regardless of the outside temperature. It is a warm blooded animal.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Marking the Trail to Your Hunting Spot

You have a place to hunt. You have scouted it and found the perfect spot for a stand. Now how do you find that spot again, before daylight, without spooking you quarry? Finding and marking a good route to your stand is as important as finding a good spot for your stand.

Today we are going to focus on marking the route to your stand.

There are four common ways to mark your trail. Remember, you will have to follow this trail in the dark, so it needs to be clear. Each of these are decreasingly effective and increasingly easy.

Good Deal - Cabela's Extreme Outfitter Shooting Pods

I just wanted to point out a good deal I found today. I check Cabela's clearance items every week. Sometimes you can find amazing deals.

Today I found a shooting stick for $14.88. It is normally $39.99. You can find it here. I ordered one. A review will come when it does.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review - Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C Targets

This review originally appeared on, a sister site to this blog.
Lets face it, shooting a paper target can be boring. Reactive targets, however, are endless fun to shoot. As a kid I never shot paper targets, I shot cans, bottles, and army men. Why? Instant gratification. Birchwood Casey's Shoot-N-C targets claim to give you this instant gratification in the form of a paper target. Lets see if they "hit the target" with this claim.

These targets are a bright colored sticker with a coating of black paint that breaks off around the area a pellet or bullet hits. It is very easy to see where you hit from a distance.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Clean Your Knife!

I loaned my Adult Precision Air Rifle to a friend this week. He is having a problem with rabbits in his garden and needed to take care of them. I told him in exchange I wanted one of the rabbits. I want to tan the hides of some of my kills this year and I wanted to practice on one of his rabbits. He brought me one last night.

A yummy pest

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Knife Giveaway

I am excited to announce The Unlucky Hunter's first giveaway! I will be giving away a Buck 284 Black Bantan BBW knife! You can read my review for this knife here. I am giving away the exact knife that I carried for a week to review. It retails for $19.00 and is an excellent knife.

One lucky follower will receive one Buck 284 Black Bantan BBW Knife!
Giveaway Dates: July 24 - August 30, 2011  Midnight EST
How to Enter:
Go to the Knife Givaway page and enter there.

Giveaway Rules:
Open to residents of USA, age 18+ to enter. Winner announced right here on August 31, 2011. Thanks for entering and good luck! Winner selected through and notified by email.

Essential Gear - Buck 284 Black Bantan BBW knife

There are few tools as useful as a good pocket knife. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that there is no tool as useful as a good pocket knife. I know I use mine dozens of times a day. Today we are going to look at the Buck 284 Black Bantan BBW pocket knife. It is a very inexpensive knife made by one of the best known knife makers in America.

First lets look at its specs:

  • Blade Length: 2 3/4"
  • Blade Material: 420HC Stainless Steel
  • Handle Material: Thermoplastic, textured
  • Length Closed: 3 3/4"
  • Locking: Yes
  • One Hand: Yes
  • Weight: 1.5 oz.
It's MSRP is a shockingly low $19.00. Which makes me both dubious and curious. Can a knife this inexpensive hold up to Buck's good name? Or is this just a cheap knife they are putting out for Walmart.

I carried the Buck 284 for a week so that I could give it a good review. I used it whenever cutting was needed, which was a lot. I use my pocket knife dozens of times a day.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

5 IPhone Apps Every Hunter Needs

In many ways the IPhone has changed my life. Information is not longer a laptop away, it is always with me. There seems to be an App for almost everything. Hunting is no exception. While most of the hunting Apps are crappy game calls, some are extremely useful. Here are the five I have on my phone that I would not want to be without:

1. RadarUS $1.99
RadarUS is one of my most used Apps period. It is very simple, it only does one thing. It shows the weather radar for the area you are in. You can zoom out to see a big storm coming, or zoom in to see exactly where it is storming the worst. It has a simple lime lapse that helps determine what direction a storm is traveling. That is it. It is simple and reliable.

A storm is coming!

Friday, July 22, 2011

It’s About Time the Sunday Hunting Ban in Virginia is Repealed

It is illegal to hunt in Virginia on Sundays. This archaic law is strictly enforced around here. This year there is a big push to have it repealed. I believe it is time for it to be repealed and I also believe the anti-hunters are going to fight us hard for it. Lets look at their arguments.

The anti-hunting crowd "fears" that there will be shooting outside of churches and it will disturb the service. They also "fear" that someone will be out for a Sunday stroll (in the middle of winter) and get shot. Another ill-conceived argument is that hunting dogs will run though a church parking lot chasing a deer and disrupt the service. I'm not making these up. This is all they can come up with. The anti-hunting crowd is trying to make people choose between their religion and hunting. Most people are not buying it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Essential Gear - Nikon Prostaff 550 Rangefnder

Few items are more important to the archery, muzzle loader, or shotgun hunter than a quality range finder. This past Christmas my Dad gave me a Nikon Prostaff 550. It is a rugged, affordable, and accurate piece of equipment.

Almost as important as a gun or knife

The first time I used the Prostaff 550 I was amazed by its accuracy. The eye piece is clear and the 6x is handy. I discovered how bad I am at guessing ranges. Everything is much farther than I believed it to be. There is a tree in my neighbors yard, I've always guessed it was 50 yards from my porch. Nope, its 82 yards. I've always thought the street sign down the road has got to be around 200 yards. Its 276.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Deciding between a .410 bore or a 28 gauge shotgun

I am sending my H&R Pardner 12 gauge in to be fitted with a new 20 gauge fully rifled slug barrel. H&R has an amazing barrel accessory program. This is how it works: You choose from one of dozens of barrels they offer, ship your frame to them, and they ship it back with your new barrel. You can choose from almost any gauge and if you have one of their rifles you can choose from tons of different calibers. The price of a new barrel is between $55 and $120 dollars. A whole lot cheaper than buying a new gun. Several years ago I had them put a goose barrel on mine. The transaction was easy and the barrel is amazing.

Old faithful
I have several shotguns, but for wing shooting the Pardner is my favorite. It is light and fast. When pheasant hunting I could usually get my shot off before anyone else shouldered their gun. I have taken more game with my Pardner than all of my other guns combined. I have rarely felt handicapped by the single shot.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review - Predator Calling with Gerry Blair

Every once in a while you read something that entertains, enlightens, and makes you want to do something. This sadly doesn't happen often. However, when I read Predator Calling With Gerry BlairI felt all three of those things. I also felt them the second and third time I read this book. It is, without question, the best hunting book I have ever encountered.

My well read copy

With tongue-in-cheek humor Blair goes through the basics of calling coyote, fox, raccoon, and many other predators. He also explains more complex strategies for each of these animals, all the while weaving exciting hunting stories throughout.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hunting with mosquitoes

I just came in from target shooting in my backyard. We are experiencing mosquito problems right now, so before I went out I sprayed down with some OFF.  Unfortunately, I forgot to spray my face. After 30 minutes, when I came back inside, I had eight bites on my face. The bites were not only thing annoying, the mosquitoes buzzing around my face made it difficult to concentrate, so my shooting was less than great.

Last season I had some miserable hunts due to mosquitoes. On one hunt in a swamp the mosquitoes were so thick I was breathing them in. I ate my lunch in my truck. In the time it took to get into my truck 64 mosquitoes got in. I know this because I counted them as I killed them. I learned a lot on that hunt. Not a lot about hunting, but a whole lot about mosquitoes.

There are a number of things you can use to lessen the impact mosquitoes make on your hunt.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Choosing the best buckshot part 2

In my last post I explained that I am going to be hunting in an area the allows buckshot only. I am trying to decide which of the 5 popular buckshot sizes to choose. I know I am going to use 12 gauge 3” magnums.
Lets delve into the pros and cons of each one.

#4 Buck
#4 Buck is the smallest of the buckshot. It has the highest pellet count at 41 per shot and the lowest pellet density at 20 grains. Each .24 caliber pellet has about 66 foot pounds of energy.

On paper this looks really good. The possibility of 41 .24 caliber rounds in a deer sounds absolutely devastating. What makes me worried is how little energy each pellet has. I’m worried that it will not have the penetration necessary to cleanly kill. Also, .24 caliber sounds big, until you take them out and look at them. They are quite small.

They look even punyer in real life.
#1 Buck
#1 Buck can be hard to find. Most major manufactures no longer make it in 12 gauge. It packs 24 .30 caliber pellets into a 3” magnum shell. Each pellet weighs 40 grains and has about 96 foot pounds of energy.

This round seems to be a happy medium. It still has a high pellet count, but is much larger and more powerful (?) than the #4. I have read of #1’s passing through a deer. They are on the light side, but the more holes you have the higher chance of hitting something vital.

00 Buck
The granddaddy and most popular buckshot round. Each 3” magnum shell has 15 .33 caliber pellets. Each pellet weighs 54 grains and has about 175 foot pounds of energy.

This shell is popular for a reason. It is very powerful. Almost twice as powerful as #1’s with a little more that half the pellet count. The low pellet count is my only concern. This is where the balance between power and pellet count comes into play. Is it better to have lots of little holes or a few big ones?

000 Buck
With a decently placed shot, this will kill any thin skinned animal quickly. Each 3” magnum shell has 10 .35 caliber pellet. Each weighs 70 grains and has 233 foot pounds of energy.

No worries about penetration here. These have plenty of power. With only 10 pellets, you are loosing much of the benefits of a shotgun, while maintaining the lack of range. I don’t think these are best for deer. These would be a good for hogs I believe, although there is some debate on this.

Tri-balls are more of a novelty round. They have a great reputation on shotgun forums. They have three 315 grain .60 caliber pellets having 846 foot pounds of energy each.

Wow, those are big balls! Tri-ball compared to 00 Buck.
These are interesting rounds. The power of slugs with the range of buckshot. This would be a way to get around the rules a little. There is not a whole lot of info about these, which is troublesome. What makes it more troublesome is that none of the major manufactures make it. It is only made by one company and they are not very consumer friendly. The only way to purchase them is through snail mail with a money order. If I could get some online with my credit card I would try them. They really do have a great reputation. However…

I need to decide between #1’s and 00. I believe in embracing your weaknesses and turning them to strengths. The strength of shotguns are in the amount of shot they spit out. So, for this reason I'm going to go with #1’s.

Now to find someone who makes them.
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Buckshot shot placement on deer

Continuing with the theme of buckshot, lets look at proper shot placement with buckshot. At first it would seem simple. conventional wisdom indicates that the proper placement of any projectile, whether it be bullet, shot, or arrow, is in the lung area. However, shotguns provide a slightly different scenario.

The point of buckshot is to place the most shot possible in a vital area. With a single projectile like a rifle, you want to aim for the largest possible vital area and that is the lungs. When you have multiple projectiles your chances of hitting one of the smaller vitals like the spine or a major artery increases to fairly high. These smaller vital areas are usually "more" vital, like the spinal cord, brain, or heart. A hit will put a deer down almost instantly. Also, since buckshot is not particularly powerful, a lung hit may not do as much damage as a bullet from a rifle. So, there is some debate on what the proper shot placement with buckshot is.

You want as many pellets going into the red and pink areas as possible

There are three basic theories.
  • A head shot
  • Behind the shoulder
  • Where the neck meets the shoulder
A head shot is out of the question and ridiculous. When I took hunters safety many years ago they showed us a picture of a deer that had been shot in the muzzle. It died a slow painful death. Someone tried for a head shot and missed. A deers brain is little. Even a solid hit to the skull could result in a cripple.

Little brain, lots of non-vitals. It is humiliating that something with a brain this small can outwit me.
The traditional behind-the-shoulder shot has merit and makes a lot of sense. In my opinion, if the deer is standing still this will be the best bet. Treat your shotgun like a rifle, and pretend it is firing a single projectile. On the down side, if the deer is moving, even slowly, you run the risk of hitting too far back. Not only do you loose your chance at one of those "super vital" spots, you could have a gut shot deer on your hands. A deer gut shot with a rifle or bow is bad, with buckshot it is a nightmare. If you ever recover the deer much of its meat will be tainted, plus it will have suffered tremendously. Even one pellet in the intestine region will make gutting the deer especially unpleasant.

Many who hunt exclusively with buckshot recommend aiming where the neck meets the shoulder. This doesn't sound very smart at first, but think of this: If you are firing at any range, say 30 yards or more, you should have a decent shot spread. This is especially true if you are using one of the smaller buckshot pellet sizes. A neck shot will give you the opportunity to hit the spine, brain, windpipe, arteries, lungs, and possibly the heart. It also has the benefit of giving you some breathing room if the deer is moving. If you hit a little far back, you are still in the lung region.

It looks like when the deer is standing still at close range (less than 25 - 30 yards) a behind-the-shoulder lung shot is best. At longer ranges, or if the deer is moving, aiming for where the neck meets the shoulder seem like a better option.

Remember, just because you are using a shotgun does not mean you do not have to aim. I treat my shotgun like a powerful short range rifle. A simple way to do this is to add a scope. A scope will instantly slow you down and make you aim. Also remember that at close ranges you shot pattern may be very small. Potentially as small as a softball. Pattern your gun at multiple distances and know what it is capable of.

My dedicated buckshot \ turkey gun.
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Choosing the best buckshot Part 1

 There is a county where I hunt that requires buckshot only. No shotgun slugs, no muzzleloaders, and definitely no centerfire rifles. I’m sure they would say no hunting at all if they could. This presents a problem. Deserved or undeserved, buckshot has a bad reputation. It has a reputation for wounding deer and destroying meat. It is a common perception that if you use buckshot, you are an unethical hunter.

I do not believe buckshot’s poor reputation is entirely due to inadequacies in the round. It is true that buckshot used on a deer out of range has a higher probability of wounding a deer than a rifle bullet, but that is the shooters fault, not the rounds. If you use buckshot you must be very conscious of you range. The problem is not necessarily with the wide pattern that is created at long ranges, it is with the loss in projectile energy at long ranges. The pellets just do not have the power to stop a deer in its tracts. I believe most modern buckshot can be used ethically within 40 yards. When I hunt with it I carry a rangefinder and am as careful with ranges as I would be with a bow.

There is no doubt that buckshot destroys more meat that a well placed rifle shot. I cannot think of anything to combat this problem. It is just the nature of the beast.

Buckshot does have some amazing benefits. No small arm is more devastating at short range.  A shot to the chest is similar to taking a full clip from a handgun, at once! On soft skinned animals at short ranges it is unbelievable. It also has the benefit of spreading out a little. At 30 yards your aim can be off by as much as a foot and still make a kill shot. Don’t depend on this though. modern buckshot creates a very tight pattern out to 20 yards. In some loads and in some guns, as small as a softball.

Not that any of this really matters. If I want to hunt in this county I have to use buckshot. What I need to find out is what type of buckshot is best.  Once I decide I will buy a few different brands and see which patterns best in my shotgun.

lets decide on the best pellet size for my needs. I have the following to choose from:
  • #4 Buck
  • #1 Buck
  • 00 Buck
  • 000 Buck
  • Tri-ball
There are other sizes, but these are the most popular. Actually, the #1 Buck and the Tri-Ball are rather hard to get a hold of, but I find them interesting.  Here are the specs for each pellet size. This chart is for 12 gauge 3” shells. Numbers will vary with different manufactures.

SizeDiameterGrainsFPSPellet Count

Again, this chart is not 100% fair. I just went to various manufacturers sites and got ballistic info from them. Not all manufacturers listed  all sizes, so the comparisons are not totally accurate. They come close though.

At first glance you can see that I have to decide between pattern density and individual pellet knockdown power.

In my next post we will look deep into the pros and cons of each pellet type.
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Friday, July 15, 2011

Self Sufficiency in a Dependent World

Right now I am waiting for water to boil so I can start canning some tomatoes from my garden. I don't have a big garden. This year I only have seven tomato plants. I plant enough to have all the vegetables we can eat during the summer with some left over to preserve for the fall and winter. Although they rarely last to the winter.
Home grown yummyness

I don't garden to save money. In fact, I'm sure my produce ends up costing me more. I do it because I believe my produce tastes better than the supermarkets and I get a sense of satisfaction from being just a little self sufficient. It also builds skills that I might find useful down the road.

America is a blessed country, but it is not immune to natural, political, or economic disasters. The day may come where knowing how to grow your own food is the difference between thriving and just surviving.

I try to be as self sufficient as is practical. Now, I don't try to live off the grid or off the land, but if I can do it myself, I do. That is why I do my own car and house maintenance.  I make my own furniture and do my own yard work. This is also one of the reasons why I hunt.

The most awesome basement ever

I hope I never have to hunt solely to provide food for my family. (Especially since I'm so bad at it!) But I would like to have the skills to do so if necessary. I believe most hunters feel this way in the back of their minds.

If something bad does happen, hunters will be the best equipped. There are thousands of web sites and books on preparing for disasters. I know people who have entire rooms dedicated to survival supplies. This is all good, but how many of these people actually know how to butcher a rabbit, syphon gas, or even build a fire? Hunters know and practice  everything they need to survive. Every serious hunter I know is a hands on person. They fix their own plumbing and grow their own vegetables. It is part of who we are.

Modern society has lost so much self sufficiency. When I tell people I'm canning tomatoes they give me strange looks. Few know how to preserve their own food. Some don't know how to cook their own food! I hope beyond hope that America continues to enjoy this blessed abundance. But it it ever fails, hunters will be hear to hold things together.

The tomatoes are done for today. It took two and a half hours. I'm tired. Sure, I could have gone down the road and purchased the same amount of spaghetti saucefor about ten dollars. Most would think I wasted my evening, but I don't.
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Essential Gear - Rocky Insulated Shooter's Gloves

I've been gathering hunting gear for next season. One of the things I am constantly looking for is a nice pair of gloves that fit. Everyone has their own idea of the perfect gear. I look for the following in gloves:
Today I found a pair that have at least three of these requirements, possibly four. The Rocky Insulated Shooter's Gloves that I purchased from the Sportsman's Guide are pretty nice.

My hands are small, but they are wide. I'm not below buying women's gloves, but the fingers are too skinny for my hands. Usually, normal gloves fit my palm, but the fingers are an inch to long. These shooting gloves fit perfectly. They are very comfortable.

When hunting, being able to work with small things like shells and triggers is very important. I need to be able load my gun quickly without fumbling. I also want to be able to feel the weight of my trigger. Some of the gloves I've used in the past made it difficult to put my finger in the guard. Pulling the trigger was muddy at best, at worst dangerous. These gloves make dexterous tasks easy. I can actually write with them on. The trigger finger is fully surrounded by leather, allowing me to feel the entire weight of the trigger.

It is summer, so I cannot judge how warm they will keep me. They feel about medium weight. The Rocky's are lined with polyester, which should wick away sweat. I don't think they will hold up well to sub freezing temperatures and it feels like wind will cut through them. There is a very nice wrist strap that will keep snow and cold out. Time will tell.

Hunting gloves need to be camo. It's a no brainer. We move our hands a lot. Wildlife live their lives looking for movement. Without camo my hands will be picked up fast. These gloves are camo, so no problems there.

I haven't done a field test yet, but so far I am very pleased. I paid $13.47 for them. So, if they don't work, no big deal.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Shot Simulator software by Deer & Deer Hunting

I purchased an amazing piece of software today. It is called the Shot Simulator and it is sold by Deer & Deer Hunting. I'm not necessarily a fan of Deer & Deer Hunting. I don't believe I have ever seen their show and I don't remember buying anything from them before. So, this is not a advertisement for them. I am very impressed by this piece of software.

This deer is dead
Basically, it shows you a 3D picture of a deer. You can zoom, pan, and rotate the deer. You can also peel back layers of the deer to show its organs and bones. Everything is rendered nicely. The beauty of the program is not in the graphics. It is in the ability to shoot the deer and see what vitals were hit. Click anywhere on the deer and an arrow shoots out in slow motion and pierces the deer, leaving a line showing its path. It then gives you a list of the vitals you hit and you can zoom in and see exactly what and where your arrow hit. Here is their advertisement video.

Preskinned. Sometimes I wish all deer came this way
In the one day I have been playing with this program I have learned a ton. Like many hunters, I am always a little unsure about vitals. Several shots I took on this digital deer were poor shots. I thought the placement was good but the program showed me otherwise. I would have taken this bad shot in real life.

I thought this was good placement, but I was wrong.
For example, the shot above nicked one lung, and hit the paunch and intestines. Not a good shot! By playing with different angles I am already getting a better idea where I should shoot. I go through different scenarios and quiz myself on what the proper shot would be

This program is a simple, inexpensive tool that I think every new hunter should use. I think it would benefit even an experienced hunter. It costs 19.99 for the downloadable version and 29.99 for the "Deluxe" CD version. There is also an IPhone app for 4.99.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Virginia hunting fees

The hunting fees went up this year in Virginia. A good bit. It is an increase of over 25% for the most popular fees. Not that I have much room to complain, they are still reasonable.

Here is the breakdown of the fees I have to pay:

Hunting License - $23
Big Game Tags (deer, bear, turkey) - $23
Muzzleloader License - $18
Crossbow License - $18

Sub Total - $82

Quota Hunt Application Fees - $92.50

Total paid to VDGIF - $174.50

This is a lot less than many other states.   I just did some research and holy crap! We pay a lot for hunting here! Oh well, I still think it is worth it. It's the Quota hunts that get me. The regular license fees aren't too bad. If the Quota hunts were less expensive more people would apply and I would have a smaller chance of being selected. Although, if it gets much more expensive I might have to cut something out.

The VDGIF probably spent more on this pie chart than I spent in License fees

The real question is "what are these fees buying me?"  The VDGIF has a budget of $51 million. 38% of this is paid for by hunting and fishing fees. Another 22% is from taxes placed on sporting goods. At first glance it doesn't seem like it provides much. If you hunt on private land it seems like even less. In Virginia, some of the hunting fees go to supporting Wildlife Management Areas (WMA's). Without WMA's I would have nowhere to hunt. That in itself makes it worth it. They also pay for the law enforcement of game laws. The game laws are sometimes ridiculous, but I believe they do give us a higher quality hunting experience.

Although I do see these a lot

That being said, there is not a whole lot of game management going on on WMA's. Most are totally neglected. Others are managed in a way that makes them unfriendly to hunters. For example, I hunt on two that close perfectly good access roads to hunters. Making them walk, and drag their kill, for miles unnecessarily. I have never seen a hunter in these remote spots, but areas near the gates are crowded. If the access roads were open, hunters would be able to spread out and more would be able to hunt on the land. I also know of two areas that are only accessible by canoe. I understand that islands are only accessible by water, but the VDGIF only put in a canoe launch. A crude boat launch would only have taken a only little more money and would give lots more people access.

 The only time I have ever seen a wildlife officer he was checking for licenses. So my license dollars were being spent to pay someone to check for licenses. Kind of circular. I think poaching is common in Virginia. I have seen people blatantly violating game laws on WMA's.

If I'm reading it correctly, when you take a look at the budget most of the money is spent on bureaucratic positions and studies. Relatively little is spent on Public Land (about 2.5 million) and Law Enforcement (about 7 million). To put in perspective, more that twice as much money is being spent on vacation pay in the department than on all of the public land management. It's a sad place to be and it surely does not have the sportsman's best interest in mind.

I was hoping to discover that I get a lot for my expensive licenses and tags. However it looks like most of the money is wasted on things unnecessary or unrelated to hunters. I guess there is nothing I can do about it. Like death and taxes, licenses fees are just part of the game.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Taking a knife from dull to razor sharp

Don't you hate it when you buy a new knife and it comes out of the box dull? I don't know why manufacturers do this. Or maybe you have a knife that came sharp but has gotten dull and you can't seem to get it back sharp. I have no trouble keeping a sharp knife sharp, but once it gets super dull I (used too) have tons of trouble getting it back to sharp.

I recently ran across a knife I bought as a boy. It came dull and no matter how hard I worked on it I could never get it sharp. In the past few years I have learned a little about sharpening things, so I decided to take another crack at it.

This knife is about 20 years old and made by Western Cutlery.

Before we get started lets define what a sharp knife is. The test I use to determine if a knife is sharp is what I call the "arm hair test". If the knife will shave the hair off my arm without pulling, then it is sharp. Some people use a tomato. If the knife cleanly cuts a ripe tomato without tearing or squashing then it is sharp. This test works well also, but is not quite as stringent.

It's so dull it squashes tomatoes instead of cutting them.

Usually, the reason a knife is hard to sharpen is because the angle of the edge is too steep. When it is being passed over the stone, only the top portion of the edge touches the stone. It never gets sharper because the actual edge is never touched. In order to fix this problem a new, shallower edge needs to be applied to the knife. It is important the edge is not too shallow. A very shallow edge is weak and will dull easily. The proper angle for your knife edge is between 17 and 22 degrees. There are lots of web sites that can help you determine the correct angle of your knife edge.

The first step is to grind a new edge. This can be done by hand, but will take a long time. I have a craftsman electric knife sharpener. It is inexpensive and does a great job of slowly putting the foundation for an edge. Don't use a bench grinder unless you really know what you are doing. It can overheat the blade and ruin the temper. Be sure you are grinding at the same angle for the entire length on the edge.

Messy but quick

Next use a wet stone the get the edge close. If the foundation edge is ground evenly and thoroughly this will not take long. Try to match the angle that you ground in step one. Fifteen to twenty swipes on each side and you have a good edge. Most people will stop here, but we want a razor edge.

Been using this stone for most of my life.
Buy a good one and it will last forever.

Lastly, the secret to a great edge are porcelain rods.

The perfect end to a sharpening adventure!

Lightly pass the edge of the knife at a very slightly steeper angle that you did in the first two steps. This will create a strong, sharp edge. It should only take about ten swipes per side. If it does not, go back to step 2 and work on the edges foundation some more.

Even a crude picture is better than 1000 words

That's it! Sharpening a knife is not nearly as hard as it seems. The trick is all in the angles of the edge.

You don't have to go through the entire process with each knife. If it already has a good edge then you might just have to do step 3 or steps 2 & 3.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The snake bite controversy

In my last post I showed you the contents of my new first aid kit. All of those fancy bandages and medicines are useless unless you know how to use them. For this reason I have been learning all I can about first aid. There is lots of good information online, although I think it is wise to only use established institutions like the Red Cross or the Mayo Clinic. We are dealing with situations where incorrect information can cost someone their life. It is unwise to trust forums or blogs (like this one) for medical advice. Anyone can write anything and few cite their references. Let me demonstrate:

Giraffes can't swim.

I don't know if giraffes can swim or not. I did absolutely zero research. I totally pulled it out of my but. I could write a blog post about how giraffes cannot swim, not cite a single source, and most people would believe me. People do the same thing for medical advice. They trust a forum or blog post over their doctor without doing an ounce of responsible research. I know people who do it every day.

ARKive video - Masai giraffes attempting to swim across river
After a little research I discovered that giraffes in fact can swim

Anyway, in my research I have found some disagreement about how to treat snake bites. Unfortunately, I have not found much reliable information on the subject. Apparently there has not been a tremendous amount of research on every hunters worse nightmare.

Growing up I was taught that the only way to survive a poisonous snake bite was to cut an X over each fang mark and suck out the poison. Then you had to kill the snake, go to the hospital, and get anti-venom. If you did not kill the snake the doctors would not know what type bit you and would not know what type of anti venom to administer. If they gave you the wrong type you would die.

As an adult I found out that some of what I was taught was slightly inaccurate. I learned that even though the snake bite kit I kept in my backpack contained a razor, the bite should not be lanced. It only introduces bacteria to the wound. I also learned not to suck the poison out with my mouth. Doing so would get poison in your mouth. Snake poison makes your foot rot off. The only thing worse that your foot rotting off is your mouth rotting off.

You don't want this happening in your mouth
Apparently there is some controversy regarding the sucking out of snake poison by any means. The Mayo Clinic says "Don't cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom". I found many web sites that said the Red Cross recommends the following: "A suction device may be placed over the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. Suction instruments often are included in commercial snakebite kits." I could not find the exact reference on the Red Cross site for this, however this exact quote is present on hundreds of web sites, so I am reasonably sure it is the Red Crosses policy.

I found several sites that referenced a study that claimed that suction does not help on large muscle areas like a thigh or bottom.  However, if the bite is on a bony area like a hand or shin, suction can help. Unfortunately, I could not find the actual study, so it may just be here say.
Here is the most modern process for treating a poisonous snake bite: (sources cited)

  • Call EMS (Mayo Clinic)
  • Immobilize the limb and keep still. By immobilize they mean don't move it. Apply a splint, but keep the dressing loose enough to slip a finger under. (Mayo Clinic)
  • Remove jewelry or anything else that might constrict a limb when it swells. (Mayo Clinic)
  • Position the bite below the heart. (Mayo Clinic)
  • Wash the wound and cover with a clean, dry dressing. (Mayo Clinic)
  • If a victim is unable to reach medical care within 30 minutes, a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, may help slow venom. The bandage should not cut off blood flow from a vein or artery. A good rule of thumb is to make the band loose enough that a finger can slip under it. (Red Cross)
  • A suction device may be placed over the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. Suction instruments often are included in commercial snakebite kits. (Red Cross)
  • Try to remember what the snake looked like. Do not try to catch it. (CDC)
  • Do not cut or shock (what!?!) the bite. (CDC)
  • Do not apply a tourniquet. (CDC)
  • Do not consume alcohol or caffeine. (CDC)

 Of course, it is best to avoid getting bit in the first place. I wear snake boots whenever I am out in the warm months. They make me much more confident.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

A hunters first aid kit

This week at work I sent an old school bus to be scrapped. Before it went to school bus heaven, I walked through it and found an old first aid kit. It was under a back seat. Some of items in it had expired in 2002. The box was rusty and ugly.
It looked something like this. Actually, it looked exactly like this. This is it.
I decided to fix it up and turn it into my truck first aid kit. The first thing it needed was a new paint job. I scraped off all the loose paint and gave it a coat of automotive paint. Then I made a stencil out of a piece of card stock and painted the words "first aid" on the front.

After the make over. The homemade stencil sucked.
My wife is a nurse, so I had her go through my first aid stuff and let me know what I needed and what I didn't. My goal with this kit is to keep me in the field when I have minor health problems and to keep me alive until help comes if I get hurt bad. This is what made the cut:
I also have some non-medical emergency things tucked in it. Including:
  • Poncho - useful for lots of things besides keeping you dry
  • Toilet paper - never get stuck in the swamp without TP
  • Vienna Sausages - sometimes a little food is the difference between staying till dusk or going home early
  • Solar blanket - can save your life

All tucked neatly in my little, poorly stenciled box
 I also keep a small kit on my person when I go out. I keep it vacuum packed so everything is waterproof and small. It contains:

The vacuum packing was one of my best ideas. Vacuum packed Toilet Paper works great too!
 I'm probably not as prepared as I think I am, but I feel like I have the necessities. One thing every kit needs, that most don't have, is a tourniquet. Get one and learn how to use it!

What do you keep in your first aid kit? What did I leave out?
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