Tuesday, March 20, 2012

First Fish Of The Season At Burnt Mills Reservoir!

My Dad and I finally got out on the water yesterday. We went out more to test out everything on the boat than to fish.  I didn't expect to catch anything, it is still early. We just had cabin fever and wanted to get out. It ended up being a good trip in every respect!

I get off work at 2pm and my Dad has Mondays off, so we were on the water by 3pm. This is how we always fish. The few times we have made it out early we haven't caught anything, so the evening is when we usually go.

The boat was not used last year, but it loaded up easily enough. All of the wiring checked out, which is a minor miracle. One of our batteries was dead, as in dead forever, but our main battery was in top shape. Of course, you can't go fishing without forgetting something. I forgot the fish finder, live bait, my hat, and most importantly; the cameras! I was so upset with myself! I've spent several hundred dollars on new camera gear only to leave it at home the first time I go out! Thank goodness for the iPhone and it's quality camera.

On a whim we decided to try a new lake, Burnt Mills Reservoir. It is about 15 minutes closer than the lake we normally frequent. I had read that the new boat ramp there was awful, but the fishing was great!

We have a very small, light Jon boat. It is 12 feet long, 3 feet wide, and does not have a gas motor; all electric. Our boat did fine at the ramp. I can see how some people with larger boats would have difficulties. The ramp is very shallow. You almost have to drive your truck into the lake to get your boat to float off.  Once we started float away from the ramp, we got stuck in some shallows about 20 feet from shore. The water was so murky, we did not see the shallows until it was too late.

Getting stuck in the shallows is par for the course when we go fishing. So is tangles, stumps, snags, and injuries. All of these made an appearance this trip! My dad had an awful time with his line, it has been on the spool for about four years and badly needs replaced. He got a tangle after almost every cast. I got a crankbait snagged on the top beam of a dock and tore up my hand freeing it. The water was very murky. We hit a few stumps without ever seeing them. As bad as this sounds, the day went surprisingly smoothly! Usually the boat almost sinks, or I loose at least $100 in gear. I'm not exaggerating.

I caught fish! The first was my very first chain pickerel!

I'm wearing the glove because the thing was so slippery! I literally could not pick it up. I was using my trout rod, a 7' 6" ultralight with 4 pound test when I caught it. It was a fun fight! My Dad did a great job of netting it. I was using a Rebel Minnow, which is my go-to lure.  Stupidly, I neglected to check my line. I am not used to catching toothy fish and this one damaged my line. The line broke on my next strike.

I went on to catch two very nice bluegill (or whatever they are). I would have eaten them, but the first literally slipped out of my hand into the water a second after Dad took its picture. The fish were especially slippery this trip!

 Yes, they are cheesy pictures. I can't help it, I get excited when I catch a fish, no matter the size or type!

I caught the bluegill on a weird spoon/crankbait thing that I picked up a few years back. It is similar to the Gay Blade, but smaller and not as nice. I doubt they are made anymore or if I will be able to find them again. If I do see them I will buy a handful.

All of the fish I caught had a very light strike, even the pickerel. They were all caught suspended over deep water about 20 feet from the bank. I spoke to a few fishermen and they all said the same think. The fish are screwy this year. They are not where they are supposed to be. One guy was fishing for crappie and caught perch, catfish, bluegill, bass, and pickerel where the crappie should have been. I guess it is a good thing I don't know enough about fishing to target a particular species. I just fish and am happy to catch anything!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cleaning Your Water By ...... Adding Chemicals?

In my last few posts I have been looking at water and how to obtain drinkable water in the wild. I looked at water filters and determined that while they are very effective, they are also heavy, expensive,  bulky, and can be fragile. They are probably not the best choice for a hunter. Today we will look at a viable option for the hunter; chemical treatment.

Adding chemicals to your water to make it cleaner seems to be counter productive. Don't we want to eliminate contaminates? The answer really comes down to choosing the lesser of two evils. Yes, the chemicals used to treat water can do damage to your body with long term exposure. Drinking untreated water, however, can wreak havoc on your body in the short term with very little exposure.

There are numerous chemicals that we can use to treat our drinking water. The most popular are various forms of iodine or chlorine. There are tons of chemicals that can purify water, but if you go to a camping store and look for "water purification tablets" they will most likely be a form of iodine or chlorine. There are actually about a dozen types of iodine and chlorine used for water purification. Each has its own set of pro's and con's. Since I am not a chemist and do not have the background necessary to describe these in depth, we are just going to look at the two in general terms.

Iodine simply works better in most circumstances than chlorine. It is more stable, works faster, is not as easily deactivated, and tastes better (opinion) than chlorine.

No one knows how it kills microorganisms, but we know that it does. It easily kills bacteria and viruses, but struggles with Giardia and Cryptosporidium. In fact, Giardia requires a double dose of iodine and a double the time required to be effective. It basically will not kill all Cryptosporidium, even in a laboratory.

It is best to double the recommended contact time when the water is cold or murky. You can also half the recommended dosage in clear, warm water if you double the contact time. This is a useful trick if you are running low on tablets.

If you do not like the taste, a small amount of vitamin C will neutralize it. Be careful though, if the iodine is not finished working, the vitamin C will prevent the water from being purified.

Do not use iodine daily for more than three months, or if you are pregnant. Also, be careful if you are allergic to shellfish. People that are allergic to shellfish are often allergic to iodine.

Chlorine works great for bacteria and viruses. Like iodine it does poorly with Giardia and does not work at all on Cryptosporidium. It will kill protozoa, but requires a concentration so high, it would damage you too.

 It is great for long term water storage. Once water is properly treated it can be stored for long periods of time. You can tell if water is properly treated if it smells like chlorine. If it does not smell like chlorine, you need to add more.

 Chlorine has a nasty habit of binding to organic debris in water. If the water is murky it will stick to the dirt and plant matter in the water instead of attacking the bad stuff. Also, it does not work well in water with high PH or in water that is being agitated. Your container has to sit still for it to work.

Chlorine is very safe to use. The chances of it making you sick is very small.

If you have a choice between chlorine and iodine, go with iodine every time. It simply works better.

Here are some general tips when using chemicals to treat water:
  • Use the clearest water possible and pick out any debris that you can.
  • All chemicals take some time to work. Read the directions and follow them carefully.
  • Chemicals become less effective with age. They come with an expiration date on the package, respect it! 
  • They do not work as well in cold water, so allow more time for them to work.
  • Chemicals will not neutralize or remove pollutants.
As you can see, chemical water purifiers have some serious drawbacks. Why use them? Well, they are small, light weight, durable, and very inexpensive. While they are not perfect, they are better than nothing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Filtering Out The Bad Stuff

We have been talking about water and how to make water found in nature safe to drink. There are four practical ways for an outdoorsman to do this; filtration, heat, UV radiation, and chemicals. Ideally, you will use a combination of these methods to make your water as safe as possible.

Filters are a favorite method with backpackers. They have a good reason for liking filters. High quality filters do a great job of removing contaminates and debris while retaining that fresh, clean stream taste. Ever tasted water from a cold mountain stream? Oh my! It's wonderful!

The most important thing to look for when shopping for a filter is its pore size. This tells you how small of a particle it will filter out. Protozoa are about 1 microns, so just about any filter will take care of them. However, bacteria can be as small as .2 microns. Few filters can remove particles this small. To give you a point of reference, a period at the end of a sentence is usually around 500 microns. Buy the filter with the smallest pore size you can afford.

Filters do not work well against viruses. They can be as small as .018 microns. Thankfully, in developed countries it is very rare to find viruses in the water. Also, they do not remove all pollutants. Do not solely rely on a filter in third world countries.

There are a TON of different types of filters.

Hand Pumps
Hand pump filters are probably the most common. They are easy to use, but are heavy, bulky, and expensive. A good one can set you back over $300. Decent ones can be found for less than $100 though. These are a great choice for a back country camp or to keep in your car, but the average hunter will not want to lug this around with them on a day hunt.

Straw Filters
Straw filters are light, small, and cheap. They are basically a tube with a filter in it. You suck water through the tube and it gets filtered on its way to your mouth. They are often marketed as "survival filters". 

Be very, very careful when purchasing one of these. Most will only filter out Protozoa, not bacteria. They are better than nothing, but not by much. 

If you can find a good one, these are a good choice for a hunter. You can throw it in your pack and not know it is there, plus it will not break the bank. Expect to spend less than $50.

Gravity Filters
Although they are less expensive and easier to use than hand pumps, gravity filters are even bulkier. Most of them work by filling a container with water and letting it flow through a filter into a drinking container. They are simple and work great, but are most useful for a campsite. I doubt any hunter will want to lug one around all day. You can find them for less than $100.

Bottle Filters
These are basically a straw filter attached to a bottle. They are perfect for a hunter IF you can find one that filters out bacteria. That is a big if. I have not found one that does. They generally cost less than $50.

Water Purifiers
Water purifiers are the ultimate choice if you want really safe water. They use chemicals or electricity to kill anything, including viruses, that makes it past the filter. Like hand pumps, they are heavy, bulky, and expensive. I have been told that they do not work well in cold weather, although I have not personally experienced this. These normally cost more than $100.

There are a couple other types of filters, but they are not practical for a hunter. I can see why campers and backpackers like filters, but I do not think they are the best choice for a hunter. Hunters are hard on their gear and need to be able to move quickly and quietly. Most filters are moderately delicate, heavy, and bulky. I can see carrying one if you know that you will be needing it, but they are impractical as a "just in case" item.

Next we will look at a method more suited for the hunter. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Selecting Wilderness Water To Drink

You need water to live. Other than Oxygen, your body needs water more than anything. Many outdorsmen find themselves in a place where they need water. You could be on a long hunt and your canteen gets a hole, or gets lost. As is often the case with me, you may have underestimated the amount of water you need and run out. You could be on a multi-day, back country hunt and cannot carry all the water you need. You may even be lost in the wilderness without water. Whatever the case, if you frequent the outdoors you will eventually find yourself in a position of needing water.

When you need water, where do you look? Finding water is usually not hard, unless you are in a desert environment. Finding usable water is very hard, no matter the environment. All water out in nature is potentially contaminated and needs to be treated before consuming. The first step in purifying your water is starting with the purest water available.

Look for something like this
I was watching a "Man VS Wild" TV show a few months ago. The host was in Africa "surviving". He picked up an elephant turd and squeezed water from it into his mouth. This was the worst example of finding clean water in the wild I had ever seen. I have not watched the show since.

You want to find the cleanest water possible. This will give you the best chance of making it safe. In my last post we looked at some of the bad things that can be found in water. A stagnant pond, muddy puddle, or creek with garbage floating in it are very bad starting points!

Here are some things to look for:

High streams - When searching for water look up! The higher the elevation, the less chance the water has had to contact a contaminate. Mountain streams are typically cleaner than valley streams.

Deep Clear Pools - Many contaminates are heavy and will sink. Shallow, turbulent water will stir up the contaminates. Look for a deep clear pool and get water from the top of it. The water should be flowing, just flowing slowly. Avoid stagnate pools.

Recent Rain - If it has recently rained look for collections of water on big leaves of non-poisonous plants. You would be amazed at how much you can gather! Fresh puddles on the ground are better than existing ground water, but are not ideal.

White snow - Snow is relatively safe to eat and drink. Just be sure it is bright white and not pink (bacteria) or yellow (pee pee).

Ice - Ice is a big step down in cleanliness from snow. A lot of contaminates can survive in ice. It is better than a stagnate pond, but still not great.

Avoid areas that people and animals frequent - Is there a camp site or trail up stream? Is it a watering hole with lots of animal sign? If so, you had best avoid the water. People and animals carry disease and tend to poop in water.

It's pooping in the water!
Avoid areas down stream of pollutants - Is there a factory, town, or highway upstream? Don't drink the water. Is there visible trash on the stream bank or shoreline? Don't drink it!

Avoid pools that do not have vegetation growing around them - If the plants don't want the water you can be sure you don't want it!

Avoid water with dead things in or around it - Half of a dead deer sticking out of the water? Floating fish? Don't even think about drinking it.

Six feet away: a stream.

Avoid water that is not clear - Yes, muddy water can be safe to drink, but how do you know there is not a dead raccoon just under the surface? Clear water is also a sign that there is low turbidity, meaning the yucky stuff is not all mixed up in it.

Once you find a source of "cleaner" water, you still need to purify it. There are many, many ways to do this. In upcoming posts we will explore some of those ways.

It should be noted that if you are truly dying of thirst, haven't had water in a day or two, any water is better than no water. Most of the contaminates in water do not make you sick for a few days. You will most likely find help before you get sick. Getting sick is better than dying of thirst.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Don't Drink That Water!

Just about everyone, even city folk, know that you should not drink water from a stream or lake without treating it first. This is one of those "common knowledge" things that happens to be true. However, most people do not know what is in the water that will make you sick.

Truth be told, most moving water found in the wild is OK. You could drink it and be just fine. The problem is that contaminated water looks, smells, and tastes just like the good stuff. Plus, it only takes a drop of contaminated water to make you sick. You see, the contaminates we speak of are very small and very powerful.

So, what is in water that can make you sick? Bacteria, Protozoa, Helminths, Viruses, and Pollutants. 

Bacteria is the most common contaminate in water. Common strains are Salmonella and E. Coli.

Salmonella looks so cute in this picture! Picture from wikimedia

Salmonella is found in about 79% of low land ground water in the south. It is most common during the heat of the summer and after a rain. It is often found in areas around livestock. Salmonella is very hard to kill. It can even survive being frozen. Heat and ultraviolet light will kill it. This nasty Bacteria will give you "food poisoning" symptoms and can be fatal if you are immunocompromised.

E. Coli is everywhere. If you are healthy, you most likely have some in your system. Most strains are harmless, but the bad ones will make you sicker than a dog! All E.Coli comes from poop. Water can get contaminated by E.Coli when something poops in it. By the way, if you are drinking untreated water in nature, you are drinking poop water. Even after it is treated it is still poop water, the poop is just clean.

These little fellows are tiny, often single celled, organisms. One year I got a microscope for Christmas. I used to love to get water from the creek and look at all the Protozoa swimming in the water. There was always a ton!

There are lots of Protozoa that can make you sick, the most feared are Giarda and Cryptosporidium.

Apparently something in this picture is Cryptosporidium.  Picture from wikimedia
You do not want Giarda! Imagine "food poisoning" that can last for six weeks! Like most of these nasty things it is passed on through poop. Giardia is fairly easy to kill and is not very common, but its pure evilness makes it worth taking extra steps to avoid.

Cryptosporidium is related to malaria, only it does not require a mosquito to be transmitted. It makes you intensely sick for a short time. Occasionally, it stays in your system and you basically reinfect yourself over and over. It can be filtered out, but boiling is a better option.

These are basically various worms that can live inside and eat you. Everyone knows that their dog can get worms. People can get them too. There are more worms in water than I can list. Common ones are Roundworms, Pinworms, Whipworms, and Guinea worms.

Wipworm. Appropriately named.  Picture from wikimedia
These worms are actually not supper common in ground water in northern areas. They are more common in hot, tropical areas. Most are easy to cure. Symptoms range from being very sick with a wide range of symptoms to not even noticing you have them. It is estimated that 1 billion people are infected with Whipworms. They are easy to kill and filter out.

Everyone knows about viruses. Most viruses cannot live outside their host for long. However, some can live for a month or more outside a living body. Thankfully, most viruses are not easily spread through ground water. Water that is exposed to a lot of people are most commonly infected with viruses. Chances are, you will not run into them in a mountain stream. Ultraviolet light and heat are good ways to kill them.

 Of all the contaminates in water, pollutants are what I fear the most. People dump all sorts of crap in lakes and streams. Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Lead, Mercury, Petroleum products, Radioactive crap, and Pesticides top my list of things to be afraid of. Many of these stay in your body and have long term effects. Some can even cause cancer.

A typical Virginia stream.  Picture from wikimedia
What I hate most about these contaminates is that they are not alive, so you can't kill them. Boiling does not help. They must be filtered out. Some cannot even be filtered out. This is why you will not catch me drinking from any ground water in Eastern Virginia. Our water is seriously polluted.

 OK, so you know a little about the nastiness in ground water. What do you do about it? There are times that most outdorsmen need to drink water from the wild. Being able to do it safely is an important skill. For the next few days I will be talking about water and how to safely prepare, store, and carry it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Properties of Common Steels

In my last post I showed you some which steels the most common manufacturers use. This information is not very useful unless you know what all those letters and numbers mean! I am going to go through the most common steels and briefly describe their properties.

This is considered by many to be the premium stainless steel. It is used by Buck, Benchmade, Spiderco, Gerber, and many smaller companies. It has a high amount of Carbon (good) and a low amount of Chromium (good). This steel is hard to temper correctly. It is possible to get a bad blade that chips easily. It is easier to sharpen than most stainless steels and holds its edge well.

A poor grade of stainless steel. Used by Gerber and other budget manufacturers. It has almost no carbon which makes it soft. Avoid this steel.

A budget stainless steel. Used by Buck and Gerber. It has a low amount Carbon (bad) and a low amount of Chromium (good). It sharpens easily, but does not hold its edge as well as higher grade steels. Do not mistake it for plain 420 steel, which is crap. If you must use stainless, this is a good inexpensive choice.

This stainless steel has three grades; A, B, and C. "A" having the least amount of carbon and "C" having the greatest. "C" is the only version you should consider. Used by Puma, Gerber, Benchmade and many others. This is one of the most common steels available. It is very hard and holds its edge well, but is also very hard to sharpen. In fact it is so hard to sharpen it is one of my least favorite steels. I hate it.

A common stainless steel that is very close to 440c in performance.

With its high carbon and low Chromium this may be the closest you can get to carbon in a stainless steel. Knife makers love this steel. It is used by Benchmade and a ton of custom knife makers. If I had to use stainless, it would be this one.

Common in "Made in China" knifes like Sharade. Similar to 440a. Avoid.

Surgical Stainless
A marketing term for 440c. Used by Case and many others.

Mostly marketing. No one knows how to make true Damascus steel. That technology was lost hundreds of years ago. Knife makers use a proprietary process to make a steel with fancy swirls in the blade. It is very pretty, but since virtually everyone does it differently, you never know how your steel will perform. Buy one for its beauty, not to clear brush.

AUS-6, AUS-8, AUS-10, etc.... This steel is similar to the 440 line with AUS-10 being close to 440c. It has some slightly different properties that make it a little better than the 440 steels.

Finally, some carbon steels! 1055 has a low amount carbon which makes it hard to get a good edge, but makes it very hard. This is a good steel for chopping blades. Used on most cheap machetes and axes.

Another good steel for chopping and general work. Can be made very hard and can sharpen to an unbelievably sharp edge. You can often find this steel in very cheap "Made in China" brands.

A hard, but flexible steel. Ka-bar uses this steel in their machetes.

My favorite steel. Hard but flexible. Good edge retention, but easy to sharpen. Used by Ka-bar, Mora,  and most custom knife makers. In my opinion, this is the ultimate knife steel.

Another name for 1095.

Spring Steel
Could mean a lot of things. Usually 1070 or 1095.

I could go on and on, but these are the most popular. Obviously, I prefer the carbon steel blades. However, most of the steels on this page will serve you well.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Common Knife Makers And The Steel They Use

Here is a list of popular knife makers and the types of steel the use in they knives. This is far from an exhaustive list of knife makers. It is just the names I see the most often here in the US. It should also be noted that these were just the steels that I could find listed on their web sites. Manufacturers are sometimes secretive about this stuff, so I could have missed something.

S30v, 420HC, 154cm

BG-42, Chrome Vanadium, Surgical Stainless, Damascus, 154cm

D2, 440c, n680, 154cm, S30v, CPM-4, M390, N690, X15-TN, AUS-8, 9Cr13CoMoV, 8Cr14MoV, Damascus

440C (with their own proprietary enhancements)

12c27, UHB-20c (same as 1095), Triflex, Laminated

Too many to name ranging from very poor to great. Research knives from this company carefully.


Too many to name ranging from good to excellent. Research knives from this company carefully.

7Cr17, 3CrMo, 1070

Cold Steel
VG-1, 4116, 1055, SK-5, AUS-8a

1095, 1085

XC90, 12c27M

Too many to name ranging from very poor to great. Research knives from this company carefully.

Now, what do all these letters and number mean? Stay tuned.....

DreamHost Promotional Code