Monday, 31 March 2014

Review: Vargo Titanium Grill

here in the 'burbs spring is springing, buds are budding and your pal SBW is taking the season as the reason to overhaul his camping kit. After my recent round-up of titanium camping gear it seemed like I should do some field testing. Stuck in town all weekend The Littlest Bushwacker and I set ourselves up in her back garden. My childhood bushcrafting began in suburban back gardens, building camps and observing whatever fauna happened to be passing. I'm still enthralled by the wonder of the natural world poking its head up from between the stones people lay to keep it out
Chad from Vargo has been releasing cool titanium ultralight backpacking gear for the last few years, I first became aware of his company when looking for an alcohol stove less crushable than a 'pepsi' and lighter than a Trangia burner. Since then Vargo has grown its offering, and brought out some very cool stuff. like this portable fire-basket and grill. Perfect for nimble bushcrafting, suburban garden popcorn making, and Vagabond-style fishing.
In the past I've always used an old food storage pot with some holes drilled in it as my fire-pot, wonderfully cheap, but bulky to pack. Vargo's grill packs better and opens up a few more cooking options. Just the thing for the traditional hunter's meal of a deer's liver fresh from the Gralloch. Eating them pulled from the fire covered in charcoal had worn a bit thin.
While we were breaking a few twigs off the dead apple tree we discovered some Turkey-Tail fungus in bloom. Boiled for an age it makes a strong liquor, rumoured to have various health benefits, but the flesh is proper chewy. Chewy like boiled boot leather. Not really a 'starter' foraged food. So I didn't brew any up for my daughter. She's had fun picking Blackberries, tried Nettles and said they're OK, so I'm thinking Mussels, which I already know she likes, gathered from rock pools to break the monotony [to her and peace to me] of a fishing trip.

The percussive delights of the lightweight popcorn rig!
More soon

Friday, 28 March 2014

Alternative Career Plan?

Jolly Swagman. I could do that. As job titles go it's got quite a ring to it doesn't it? Just yer swag [aka Matilda], billy and a tucker bag. 
A Gentleman of the Road. Dining on Jumbuck Kleftiko, sleeping in haystacks, harvesting Crawdads, tickling Trout and muttering incomprehensible fly fishing metaphors to tourists for drinks. 

Great job, got its own theme song.  

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled:
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?"

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong.
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee.
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag:
"You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me."
More soon

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

RIP Clarissa Dickson Wright

Low fat, Nope. Pre-Packaged. Nope. Free Range and Full Flavour. Hell yes.
We never met but I'm going to miss you. The world just got a little crappier.
Grace Dent's Obituary in The Independent
It’s with sadness I note the passing away - the final flan, the last lattice pork pie - of formidable culinary figure Clarissa Dickson Wright. Clarissa was a peculiar entity on British television, a woman resolutely untamed and non-preened and the opposite of winsome. A tremendous, often fierce yet terribly funny, mud-spattered, gun-toting movable mass of womanhood. Clarissa loved the Countryside Alliance and was one of the only two women in Britain to be part of the Guild of Butchers. One might not have agreed with her views, but Clarissa's flagrant disregard for other people’s offence - in a world full of demanded apologies - I found frankly appealing.
She achieved fame as one of the The Two Fat Ladies, a jokey, albeit slightly cruel title which painted the likes of her and her companion Jennifer Paterson - women without a thigh-gap or a spin-off aerobics DVD between them - as wobbly outsiders. But the stalwart, indomitable likes of Clarissa could be seen - and still can - at country fairs and farm shows the length and breadth of Britain. She was more the typically British rose than the likes of Liz Hurley or Lady Di. Lumpen, often livid, the sort of woman who could whip up a running buffet for 17 plus dogs in the time it would take Cara Delevinge to choose lip-gloss. Yes, perhaps slightly “fat” but wow, what a lady. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Weekend Reading: Caretaker & Killer?

I've just read this piece at The Atlantic and thought some of you might find it of interest. Friend of the blog, coiner of the expression Adult Onset Hunting, and probably the most interesting and articulate 'hunting' writer of the last few years, Tovar Cerulli contrasts the public perceptions of 'Hunter' and 'Conservationist'.

"Fourteen years ago, I stood in the snow, struggling to digest what I had heard. A group of us, gathered to learn about monitoring and protecting wildlife habitat, had just discovered that our instructor—Sue Morse, founder of Keeping Track—was a deer hunter. I found the news disturbing. How could she work to safeguard the homes of animals she described as “neighbors” and then turn around and shoot one of them? I found it inconceivable that someone could be both an environmentalist and a hunter, a caretaker and a killer. Today, I, too, am both." READ MORE HERE

 If this piques your interest I cannot recommend his book The Mindful Carnivore strongly enough.  The journey from vegan to hunter is, like so many great change-of-heart stories, an informative one.

More soon

Lucky Shot: Gift's For Gun Nuts

Big shout going out the the lovely people at who sent me some of their Lucky Shot range of bullets recycled into; a .50 cal pen, a pair of 9mm cufflinks, and a .308 bottle opener. The pen is MASSIVE! Bushwacker Jnr. is currently doing his homework with it, anything that feeds a young chap's enthusiasm for his studies has to be a good thing.

More soon
your pal

Saturday, 15 March 2014

SBW And Rod And Rifle's Hunting Blind Competition Winner

Lots of pageviews, but not so many entries later we have a winner!
The correct answer was of course Henry the VIII
Congratulations to Kiwi Gus!
The chaps will be sending your blind to you sometime in the next week.

More soon

Friday, 14 March 2014

Titanium Pots For Bushcraft Camping

With the season rapidly approaching, its time to visit with mother nature and stay the night. Obs this is an anti-materialist impulse that can be accomplished with little or no expense, or the enterprise can be conducted as a test lab for the latest in space-age materials.
When hunting, fishing or bushcrafting we seek to reinvent ourselves as we were; full of wonder at the natural world, eyes bright with the first sights of its unknown details. From our desks somehow the ingenuity that once tied a pin to a strand of bootlace, or saw the whole world in a jam jar full of muddy water, is now spent looking for 30 bucks off a $100 cooking pot that saves half an ounce on the one we already have.

That having been said here's a round-up for those of you who, on revisiting their gear-pile, find themselves feeling a little under titanium-ised.

The absolute classic of titanium pots is the MSR kettle: very popular - so easier to find second hand, at one time the only option.

EverNew from Japan have the biggest selection of any titanium pot maker with a massive range of sizes; from espresso cup right up to 5.8l (12.25 US Pints) presumably for cooking shellfish while coastal foraging. They make a 'me too' of the MSR kettle and their own rather sweet design of  'tea kettle' in two sizes, which being wider at the base is more stable - so good for in-tents cooking.
Vargo have some new ideas - the BOT is both bottle and pot, which is both way-cool and annoyingly handle-less. But looks just the thing to eat nuts out of at your desk to remind yourself you really are an adventure dude rather than a slave in a cube farm as the evidence suggests. Proper want one!
They've recently brought out the Fire Box Grill - halfway between a stove and a grill. It's never going to be as fuel efficient as those little stoves that recapture woodgas, but they are not much fun to sit around, I can see it being pretty handy.
This 750ml pot from Dave Canterbury's Pathfinder School, with its hanging handle, is probably the most versatile choice if you want to heat more than water. The hanging handle could be replaced with a length of brake cable making the pot slightly more packable. Lets hope he brings out some more sizes. This would be my choice.

When as mother nature's ambassador/marketing director you need to entice people outside, it may serve you well to be able to offer refreshments to the requisite standard. With this in mind Snow-Peak have added a Cafetiere and milk frother to their titanium kitchenware line-up. I know Glamping is the devils work, but just think of the Brownie-Points these puppys'll get you.

Alpkit's cookware is worth a mention as their gear is very good value, in a way they are the UK's equivalent of an online-only REI. Their eating utensils are literally half the price of most brands. When its in stock buy one, or face a long wait for the next batch. Cheapest on this list.

For true Vagabond-ness this canteen, lid and cup set from Heavy Cover has to be the main contender. They even do a titanium screwcap for an extra $10.
There are a couple of companies that make little fire-box stands for this size of canteen, and dozens who make pouches that would fit the whole kit and kaboodle, which would then be colour-matched to the rest of your kit. ;-)

For the super inventive [or even pious], you could always make your own stove and pot rig with the stainless steel storage pots from IKEA for a fraction of the cost. But that's a different kind of fun for another day.

Be good to yourselves out there, take your rubbish home with you, and please grab and bag a couple of bits of other people's crap while you're passing.

More soon

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Blaser, Tikka, Roe, And Fallow

'We see the world, not as it is, but as we are'

Occasionally, just occasionally I visit the countryside in search of dinner and/or accuracy. Where for the most part I shoot unloved action figures and empty larger cans in an event we like to call Airgun Frenzy. Sometimes the best laid plans go awry in a good way. I'm not complaining. Here's how it happened.

As we've had a brief respite from the rain, Elfa had gone away for the weekend, and the freezer has been a rabbit-free zone for weeks, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put the pellet-to-the-metal and have an afternoons air rifle shooting. With two permissions between us I was hopeful that we'd be able to bring home a few bunnies, and if we didn't, any day out of town is a good one.

Did I mention HunterX was involved? Multiply that by HunterY being there as well, and regular readers will know that we may as well have set Airgun Frenzy in the twilight zone, do do der der do do der der......

HunterX: Air rifles, small game and target shooting Saturday.
SBW: You had me from Air rifles.

SBW: Is Airgun Frenzy still on?
HunterX: Mine 8am Sat.

HunterX: Scrub that. We have to collect HunterY, as near to 7 as you can
SBW: Bell you on route.

We make our arrangements - as ever TBC at the last moment, I prepare a picnic/tapas and hit the road in excellent time. Rather than go to his house where escape velocity may well be impeded by, pretty much anything, we agree to meet in the street at a halfway point. I almost have time for a second round of coffee and danish, after the wait for the cafe to open. HunterX rocks up and we make our way across town. HunterX has a plan. "Y will still be in bed, we'll call him, he'll say we're early and should come in for coffee, we'll refuse and wait for him in the truck, otherwise it'll be lunchtime and we'll still be there."

SBW: "No worries I've laid on a lunch"
HunterX "What does that even mean? 'I've laid on a lunch'?"
SBW: "It means a selection of cold meats, from Spain. a selection of cheeses, from Portugal, an excellent pate, French, some pickles to go with the pate, and plates instead of eating off the wrappers"

HunterY appears carrying a machete, which makes for an unexpected sight on a sleepy west london street on Saturday morning, friday night in south london normal, saturday morning in west london, unusual.

SBW: Where's your air rifle dude?
HunterY: "As St Paul said 'when I became a man I put away childish things'"
HunterX: _________ [Y's famous friend] said that about five years ago at a game fair, and Y has repeated it every time air rifles are mentioned since. Yawn

The cussing, bragging and bickering continue as we drive out of town.

We drive through the flooded fields of the English countryside, that as you may have seen are slowly draining, while its been a tough time for the deer all that sodden ground is about to burst into verdant life, the rains stop for the day and the sun lights up the fields. HunterX casually mentions a few little jobs, all of which could be done with tools and tubes of gloop which I have in abundance. Just not with me. HunterY announces he needs to buy a pair of boots. This is all par for the course. No trip to X's permission is complete without a visit to a hardware store [or two].

Our new friend Kentish Hunter joins us for the afternoon. A true travelling sportsman, he's hunted some very far-flung destinations, and preferring to shoot his own rifle has bought himself a box full of take-down goodness. A Blaser R8 in .243 and what a sweet thing it is too.

Maybe its because I'm an AOH, [adult onset hunter] that the Blaser design appeals to me. Mauser's design is true genius, using the options he had at the time. Blaser's doing away with the bolt and replacing it with a collet that locks the case into the barrel is the next step.

It took me ages to tire of reading the hilarious Blaser knockers online, like all people who know in their heart of hearts that they've lost the argument [they started], the grounds for their dissatisfaction change before the wind.  Very few of them are intellectually honest enough to sight either of the two good reasons for not buying a Blaser ; 'I'm not spending THAT on a rifle' and 'If I spent THAT on a rifle I'd want it to be historic or made by one 'smith '. If I lived a life even approaching the life of my dreams I'd have one, but sadly I can't even begin to justify a used R93 let alone the super trick R8.

Like every Kit-Tart I've always thought having tip-top gear that you totally believe in, gives you the confidence to take on the job. Be that Bahco's for wrestling with seized nuts on ancient plumbing or Kifaru/ThermArest for sleeping out in inclement weather. This doesn't seem to be working for the deflated Kentish Hunter who I'd have expected to be full of new-toy-joy but is a font of negativity, even going as far as uttering that most defeatist of phrases "Maybe my wife is right, maybe I'm just not cut out to be a hunter". Que gasps of horror from hunter's X, Y and yours truly.

It happens. I've seen it happen at work, I've seen it happen in love, I've seen it happen to salesmen and to sportsman. It's happened to me.

In Spain, a few months ago, in the campo. The Evil Elfa and I had a shooting competition with her open sighted Cometa .177.
The first to shoot is to put a hole in the pressed steel lid of an old food tin, after that it's how close to the hole for scoring. The sun is going down and the holes are illuminated from behind. Elfa's pellets make the 'phutunk' sound as they cluster around the hole in a tight group, mine are 'pa-ting' sounding different and no holes are appearing. Elfa is beside herself with glee 'don't be too hard on yourself I was trained for this with my dad when I was a kid' she crows, smirking in mock sympathy.
I review my memories of each shot; it all felt so right, the hold, the breath, the settle. I'm falling into my confusion; the gap between practice and feedback seem out of sync. Confusion becomes despondency. Whupped by mi chica.
In my minds eye I can imagine what she'll say as I leave the house for future hunting trips. I'm actually future-pacing my self-doubt. My despondency reaches a new low.

Where it would have remained if the coyote god hadn't made the the wind blow.
For the second time a gust brings the lid down from the fence, this time I go to re-hang it. As I bend to pick it up I see the Zen of this thing, beaten into the metal.
While Elfa's pellets have clustered around the hole, mine are all in a tighter group where they struck but didn't puncture, the tin's embossed rim. About 20mm to the right and 15mm low there are deep dimples, deep deep dimples, where pellets have landed in the craters of previous pellets. One on top of another.

Oh the power of negative thinking.

I can see how Kentish Hunter must feel. Twelve long months have passed between his last deer on the ground, and they were punctuated with a lost deer. The guilt and uncertainty have drained the poor chap of his confidence. I've stalked a lot more than I've shot deer, you've got to be a sport about it, 'it's called hunting not shopping' and all that. But I haven't bought myself a brand new Blaser R8. If I had I'm not sure I'd be so sanguine about it either, the rings on that thing cost more than a perfectly good preloved deer rifle.

There is something in the sportsman's code. Scrub that. There is something in the hobbyist's code, even if he'd said 'maybe I'm just not cut out to make my own mayonnaise" the very fact that he prefaced it with the words 'maybe my wife is right' means that, in the style of fellow freemasons seeing the summoning of aid symbol, Hunters X and Y were now honor-bound to re-inflate his sense of 'Hunter-ness'.

Baser R8 Pro with the standard stock: Petite, Point-able, Durable, with Innovative design features, and taking up Minimal luggage space. Not to everyone's taste. Hmm. A bit like the evil Elfa herself.

HunterY sets Kentish Hunter up on the range with targets at 100, and 200 meters. Y is an excellent range captain, there is something very avuncular about him as he calmly breaks the procedure down into steps. Kentish Hunter puts round after round within the deer killing zone. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch it. There is a discernible flicker, a long unused neural pathway illuminates as his synapses reconfigure towards 'can do'. Clouds both climatic and metaphorical are blown away from the range and we're in clear sunlight.
Kentish Hunter: "even if I don't get a deer I'm happy". "I think we can do a bit better than that" HunterY

Kentish Hunter offers us the chance to shoot his rifle, HunterY likes to pretend he disdains the Blaser brand [range captain and lead controversialist], HunterX knows I want to have a go and taps his watch like a station master concerned for the smooth running of a timetable in mussolini's Italy.

The 'Settle' or preparation to take a shot, it turns out is something fairly easily practiced, and as its gun-less can be practiced anywhere. That feeling of narrowing my focus of attention can be recreated, and by practicing with the hands of a clock the feedback on how fast you're moving between states, helps you to get faster at moving between generalised alertness and the narrowed focus required. The zen of shooting never stops fascinating me.

Four shots fired, two less than a square from where they were pointed, and two blown off course by the coyote god.
 Or so I had convinced myself until I downloaded the pictures from my phone.

With our thoughts we make the world.

As the sun was now falling towards the trees, HunterX sets out his plan for the remaining shooting light, Kentish Hunter in a highseat for Fallow, with me and him to take on the curse of the were-rabbits with our .177's. Before the air rifles can leave their slips HunterY suggests another likely highseat for me to sit in.

Climbing into it I wasn't to wait long before I was able to invite a Roe doe to dinner with HunterX's .243 'cull gun'. A Tikka with its bolt knob replaced with a plastic sphere. It doesn't look as trick as those 'tactical' milled aluminium knobs, but seems loads more ergonomic than the OME or the tactical knob [there's a joke in here somewhere] and was only $10.

As I'm making the rifle safe to climb out of the seat, there's the muffled ping of another .243. Did he? Has the jinx been broken?

HunterY and I are working our way through the gralloch when Kentish Hunter appears dragging a Fallow yearling. I say dragging, but his feet weren't really touching the ground, he's flying. Usually a firm handshake is the order of the day, but this time we all hug him. Kentish Hunter wears a grin that would shame a Cheshire Cat for the rest of the day. Later I casually ask him if he's still thinking of selling his R8. Apparently not. But he does have plans to buy a new scope, a .308 barrel and install a deer hoist in his garage.

More Soon
Your pal

I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to readers new and readers regular for having shop-bought mayonnaise in the fridge. There is no excuse. None.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Review The Sentry QAP1E Pistol Safe

Just arrived at the Lone Star branch office, this handy pistol safe was sent in by the lovely people at Just the thing to prevent unauthorised fiddling.

I asked that well-armed man of the cloth the LSP for his first impressions
'tough, but discreet, and even a touch James Bond-ish.'
SBW: Not how do you see your job, how did you find the safe?
LSP: Same

The Authority guys also have a cracking deal on a big gun safe, thanks again chaps.
More soon

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Weekend Reading: Learn To Hunt With GQ

"These guys are fine, but according to Uncle Cy, camouflage and orange, worn casually are the signs of the recreational hunter—and Californians"

Not a regular GQ reader myself, I saw this piece mentioned on the F&S Field Notes blog. The F&S commenters seem surprisingly supportive of the  content once they got past the sensationalist title.

Well worth a read, both as the writer is a good storyteller and, as the unfiltered impressions of the cityboy afield make for a refreshing take on hunting writing.

Learn to Kill in Seven Days or Less By Rosecrans Baldwin
Maybe you're a natural-born killer. I am not. I've long been city-dwelling, animal-positive. But all of a sudden, I felt the urge to reconnect with the great outdoors from my childhood, to commune with nature, to, ya know, maybe shoot guns at some animals. As fortune would have it, I'd had a long-standing offer, from a certain Montana uncle with a propensity for “hunting the shit out of things,” to host me for a weeklong crash course. I might learn to shoot, but could I kill? READ MORE HERE

have a good weekend
More soon

Sunday, 2 March 2014

SBW's Hunting Blind Competition

The lovely people at Rod & Rifle Whiskey have flashed up a hunting blind from TrueTimber for a giveaway, so I thought we'd have a competition - just this time with an actual prize as opposed to 'solid gold bushwhacker points' which fluctuate in value more than bitcoins and are like their issuer, irredeemable.

Rod & Rifle make several Bourbons and whiskey's some of which are currently in rigorous testing at the Oklahoma branch office of this blog.

So on with the competition.

The clue:
The real tennis champion, stout by todays standards, who drained the stews and stripped their owners, sometimes literally. 

The question:
Who owned this glove and hood?

Answers in the comment section, which I'll post when a winner is drawn from the hat.