Thursday, 17 December 2015

Mark Hill Knives: Raven Review

Been a while since I've had any custom cutlery pass though my hands but sometimes curiosity gets the better of me.  As I've proved with my own cackhanded efforts, any chump can make a passable cutting tool, designing a nice shape is a bit harder, and actually making them to a finish where you'd think twice about abusing them is a quantum leap on from there. Mark Hill has been making a name for himself showing his work on BCUK and BB, and very nice it looks too. When the chance to pick up a 'Raven' in a trade came up, I used it to kid myself I am actually getting rid of some of my hoard.

The Raven - its chunky

Mark Hill makes most of the classic blade shapes which chronicle the history of the survival knife.
I particularly like his 1800's Kephart,  from the last century he does a 'Woodlore' as popularised by Ray Mears, with this century represented by his homage to the Raven designed by Rob Bailey and popularised by well-known outdoor storyteller Bear Grylls.

For me the thumb ramp gives a slight ergonomic advantage to the shape, but must have been really tricky to do by hand. 

Finish and fit are pretty good, you've got to get very very close to see the slight by-hand imperfections that give the knife its sense of handmade by one maker.

A very ambitious join between the guard, blade and slabs. 

 Its a knife! How does it cut? 
Like a cutty thing on a cutty day.

I'm off to sift through my gear pile, trying to work out what I can bear to part with, this is supposed to be about minimalism NOT holding!

More soon
your pal

Monday, 14 December 2015

Highland Deer Stalking: A Week On The Hinds

“ must have a good pair of legs. If automobiles, elevators, and general laziness have not ruined your powers of locomotion, you may follow the dogs; otherwise, you had best stay at home.” 
Saxton Pope

This trip is Bucket List and one that the Bambi Basher and I have talked about for a coupe of years. Time, tide, and the rubbish that is modern life have conspired to keep us 'south of the wall', until now. Readers over 40, enjoying ‘ middle youth’ will know that there comes a time after which your birthday is all about doing what other people tell you you will enjoy, usually a choice suspiciously similar to things they want to do. This year the Bambi Basher came to my aid; with an invitation to a week ‘on the hinds’ highland stalking during the Hind and Doe cull. Even better we’d be based in a cottage with no Internet or phone signal. For once what the other person wanted to do really was what I wanted to do!

Cast and Crew
The Bambi Basher - blogger, firearms dealer, and my introduction to deer stalking in the UK
Mr Grendel - BB’s mate, military history / firearms buff and BB's pun-tastic sparring partner.
SBW - your humble scribe, shambling along with a bad back, beset by loneliness and heartbreak.
The Ghillie -a‘Highland Professional” taciturn representative of Scottish/Wildling culture, alternating between contemptuous rage, and droll wit.

A break in the weather, obviously on the Sunday when there is to be no shooting

After our long drive north. We pull up at the cottage, its dark and surrounded by rapidly freezing  mud. A mountain Hare bounds past. cloud cover is blowing in, its very dark. Inside its not a lot warmer than outside but there is electric light. Much to Mr Grendel’s dismay the Bambi Basher and I dump our mountain of stuff on the first bits of clear floor we come to. He stow’s his kit with the kind of discipline I’d associate with a submariner. I start lighting a fire in the grate and BB busy’s himself turning the ancient storage heaters on. Storage heaters aren't too bad once they reach operating temperature, but it can take 24 hours. Its cold enough in the house that the thermostat isn't going to turn the fridge on, we turn in for the night.

On the first day we’re up before dawn, Mr Grendel says he'll take the opportunity for a day’s rest at the cottage. I set to frying a mountain of meat products for breakfast. BB announces a fondness for powdered egg, I’ve heard of it, I thought it was the kind of thing people ate in WW2 prisoner of war camps, but assumed it hadn't been made since the 1950’s, to prove me wrong he produces a large bag of yellow dust and announces that Mr Grendel is the worlds leading practitioner of making ‘scrambled eggs’ with it. My cynicism is uncontained. Mr Grendel is quick to disassociate himself from the wonder of powdered egg, but does rustle up one panfull of what looks a lot like ground up loft insulation, BB’s delight is almost uncontained. Mr Grendel and myself eat a few mouthfuls to be polite. That's another one ticked off the bucket list.

With our sandwiches packed and us wrapped up against the weather BB and I head out of the door to meet The Ghillie.  The mud outside the cottage is frozen into sharp black ridges, the steps traitorous with ice, but the dawn breaks on a new day. The next hour is probably what will define our stay.
We have to meet the Ghillie, who will size us and our capabilities up and plan our shooting accordingly.

There is a piece of advice given to those being trained to lead at Sandhurst Officer training school (the UK’s equivalent of Westpoint), which is also a good pointer for all travellers visiting the UK, and  it defiantly true for sassanacs  venturing north of the wall.

“If you are treated with any kind of deference at all you’re fucked, if they take the piss without mercy you’re ‘in’ with them, or will at least be tolerated.”

Ghillies, Keepers, or in the modern parlance, Highland Professionals  are central to the sporting experience; they get you on to the hill, get you within range of the beasts, gralloch and then get you and the beasts safely off the hill at the end. They are hard as nails and honor-bound to keep up a gruff scotsman act while you're within earshot during the hours of daylight. Around the fire or in the pub they are raconteur's of the old school, accomplished naturalists, crack shots with rifle and gun, they fly cast like the gods themselves, often they've been on many of the other bucket list hunts, to Africa and Alaska. As there isn't much else to do in the evenings they hold rivalry's with their contemporaries on the next estate that border on blood feuds.  If you've taken the trouble to go there in the first place they know that you think they've got the worlds best job. Its a thought that keeps them warm while trudging up the glen for the thousandth time that week.

We pull up in a farm yard and mooch about looking for the Ghillie. There’s no answer at the cottage so I wander down to the kennels, there’s a fella feeding the dogs, I call out a greeting and receive the dismissive nod that is the hallmark of customer service north of the wall, where the wildlings make sure you know the inconvenience of your presence will be tolerated the very moment they get past more pressing matters; like staring into the middle distance, or scratching their arses. Its very similar to the greeting ritual used in English builder's merchants but less aggressive.

After a while the Ghillie wanders over, the BB reintroduces himself and yours truly, and tries that simplest of bonding ceremonies, one that usually overcomes cultural and linguistic barriers. Wherever in the world you go sportsman all speak rifle calibers.

BB “I’ve brought a 7x57, a .308 and, a Ruger No. 1 in 25-06”
The Ghillie ‘Aye. Is that right? Where you put ‘em is quite important too’

Its decided we’ll skip the zeroing part of the mornings plans, and we pile into the Landrover and head up the glen. The glen is a picture perfect example of the savage beauty of the highlands, the greens and browns of the heather, tiger striped by the recent snowfall. We clamber out of the Landy and BB loads up, the ghillie looking on with eyes as unpitying as the hillside. He jerks his head up the glen and puts a step on, we follow. At a more sedate pace.

This is not woodland stalking. There will be no relaxing ambling along, dozing in highseats, or shooting from the comfort of a covered hide. The hillsides are somehow both steep and boggy simultaneously. Beneath the snow your feet will sink knee-deep into the clinging black mud. The Ghillie will seem to float effortlessly moving across the snow, as though he’s walking across your living room carpet. In the south where the nearest house is never more than a few hundred yards away we carry our rifles muzzle-down, north of the wall they carry muzzle-up to keep heather and snow out of the barrel, within a hundred yards I’ve hung the rifle across my back to have both hands free for balancing and grabbing at the heather to avoid tumbling arse over tit. Again.

The ghillie strolls on, hands in pockets, `I keep expecting him to light up a cigarette. I struggle on behind him panting, wheezing and sweating. By the time I’m stable enough to think of anything other than my immediate survival the Bambi Basher is disappearing into the distance behind us.

Both BB and myself have dressed for a big adventure on steep snow covered and traitorously tussocked terrain. Layer upon layer of fleece, high waking boots, NomadUK smocks and breeks. Within about twenty minutes I’m soaked in sweat, and lightheaded with exertion. The Ghillie on the other hand is in wellie-boots and is dressed for a short walk in his back garden which in a way is, just what he’s doing.

We stand on a slither of flat-ish ground and glass the hillsides, the wind sandblasts our faces, the Ghillie is barely breathing, I’ve just about stopped hyperventilating. The view is picture-postcard Scotland, the strange cartoonish sound of the Grouse Lekking is heard as the wind blows towards us and is cut short as the wind turns. Far above us Ravens circle some unseen carrion. Or are making a mental posit note of the last time we were seen alive. Sunlight punches an almost perfect circle in the battleship grey cloud and a shaft of sunlight set to stun beams down briefly warming some far away piece of sodden earth.

SBW: I like your office a lot more than mine
The Ghillie: Aye. Is that right?

Further conversation is rendered impossible by the wind, the Ghillie takes his hat off. I hook my Buff over the top of my ears, which feel as though someone is hacking at them with tin-snips. The Bambi Basher hoves into view and joins us on the slither of flat ground, he’s paced the walk up the hillside and looks relatively composed, I’ve almost stopped hyperventilating but am now smeared in mud and the stubble of my beard is speckled with rain drops. We are less than an hour into it. I'm reliably informed I look as though a snowman has farted in my face.

We try another tack, but rounding the hillside I stand up in an involuntary attempt to make the searing pain in my back ease up, in doing so I silhouette against the skyline and the Hinds flash their tails and are gone.

The Ghille sets off like a racing snake and we struggle after him. Suddenly he crouches down and we do the same, he still moves at exactly the same speed, the gap between us grows, he makes an irritated hand gesture which I interpret as ‘bend down further and walk faster’. Before I can catch him up he’s turned and is slithering downhill on his belly. I try to follow him starting on all-fours, sinking elbow deep into the mud. Something between a wriggle and a slide brings me alongside the Ghillie who is making a hand signal I infer as ‘put your rifle here NOW you sasanac time waster or i’ll knot the barrel around your feckin’ neck.’ I have no doubt that he could and would. 

Lying wedged between a cluster of tussocks and rocks covered in melting snow I try to slow my pounding heart and heaving chest, my eyes lurch in and out of focus, my inner ears pound like rain on a tin roof, the crosshairs dance over the Hind. I manage to pull it all together and between beats start to squeeze the trigger. Nothing happens. I’m wondering it a stick or stone has become wedged behind the triggers blade. I’m pretty sure the deer isn't going to wait around much longer so I apply the kind of force you’d use to crack a walnut shell. The trigger breaks. The first round is a clean miss, “Feckin reloud" snarls the Ghillie, I work the bolt and send the second one sailing over the Hind’s shoulder, a third makes the same trajectory. Pictures of smashed bullseyes at the indoor range dance before my eyes, but-but-but my confidence is slumping, BB looks on with kindly concern, the ghillie’s ill-concealed contempt hangs in the air. We trudge on, fording a stream or six. The wind scours, snow swirls, and along with the tops of my boots, my ebullience starts to take-on water.

The warm welcome awaiting us back at the cottage

In the UK our deer seasons are sexed, when Red hinds are in season so are Roe does. Further down the glen the next opportunity presents and another pair of rounds sail over a doe’s shoulders. The Ghillie’s withering contempt is more abrasive than the winds that blast the hillside. We trudge on, I feel like the worst kind of time waster imaginable. Now despondent I mention my dismay at missing five times in a row.
The Ghillie “If you’re looking for sympathy its somewhere between shit and syphalis”
SBW “Aye is that right?’
I console myself that he not calling me 'sir'.  As we near the Landrover the Ghilie asks for my rifle, empties the chamber and squeezes the trigger, a palpable air of disgust threatens to strip the varnish from the rifle's stock, he repeats the procedure, "that's such a nice trigger" I must have looked shocked because he adds "erhm being sarcastic" Equipment failure may have earned me a partial reprieve from charges of sassanac uselessness. Partial.

Back at the Landrover, I heave myself and the huge weight of my bog-encrusted boots in, the Ghillie flicks a switch firing up what appears to be a small jet engine repurposed as a heater.
SBW: “I’ve never been in a Landcover with a heater like this!”
The Ghillie: Aye. Is that right?
The Bambi Basher rocks up and clambers in after us, he smiles happy to be out of the wind, and in the warm blast of the industrial clothes dryer.
BB “ This heater didn't come with the Landrover! I’ve never been in a Landcover with a heater like this!”
The Ghillie: Aye. Is that right?

The ghillie drops us off at the lodge, a sort of wooden summer house with a kitchen sink and a big woodturner.Its installers, concerned that it’ll want to take Dorothy and Toto on an unwarranted trip to Oz, have  ratchet-strapped the roof to four blocks of concrete.

You might think your target board has seen a lot of action, but...

Future generations will mine lead and copper here.

We take the 7x57 down to the the range, I clamber up the slope and pin the paper on the board. As soon as I'm behind him again BB takes position and starts to splatter rounds over the backing board. The central black dot remains untroubled. Now BB looks perturbed, first it turns out the moderator isn't screwed on as tight as we might have liked, he gives it a twist, dials in some windage clicks and puts two rounds onto the top right hand corner of the paper. He calls me over. I settle behind the rifle. As I’m wriggling into position the rifle rattles, when I says rattles, it rattles like a supermarket trolley on a cobbled street. WTF! I put my hand on the S&B scope, its barely moored to the rifle at all. Now filled with the glee of exoneration I saunter back to the ghillie’s house, all smirking set to stealth mode.

SBW: Hi, I’m wondering can we borrow a flat head screwdriver?
Ghillie: Sure what size are you needing?
SBW: Rings. Scope’s not tight to the rifle
Ghillie: Aye. Is that right?

With the scope now reattached to its moorings we're able to pouch some holes in the black dot, and whistling Bob Marley's 'Redemption Song' retreat to the fireside.

More in part 2
your pal

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Unboxing: Swarovski CTC Draw Scope

What 'drew me' to the draw scope? Boom Tsh! I'm here all week.

While I've not been posting much lately I've been preparing for a couple of adventures, working, and the Elfa is Spanish, er lets just leave it at that. Currently I'm off work with a bad back so I may have jinxed it all.

For the next trip I'll need to see the deer a fair way across open country, and on the one after we'll be mapping an orchard that encompasses a whole hillside, where terrain permitting we'll be scouting out a space for a 200m+ .22LR range. I've used a pair of Eden 8x42 binos for the last few years and don't see the point in upgrading them, they are so close to perfect I'm more likely to buy a spare pair. While the 8x42 class is wonderful for woodlands, they don't help so much as things get a bit further away. I wanted a decent spotting scope. 

The tools of a hunting guide have moved on from dressed in rags, lives on wallpaper paste and government cheese but owns a pair of $2000 binoculars, now he has a prismatic spotting scope, and prices have moved on from $2,000 too.  It's really become the must-have tool for guides working big landscapes, they are a wonder of engineering. At my place al wildlife in within bio range, at the Elfa's there are all sorts of things you could see. You can also attach an appropriately shaped piece of plastic which lets you clip on your smartphone to record proceedings or even attach a DSLR camera, if you've got any money left after buying it in the first place. Cheap they aint. I was stumped. 

When the chance to borrow the entry level  Swarovski CTC in 30x75 came up, I said 'thanks a lot' and slunk away to look this gift-horse in the mouth.
I'd seen a few pictures of Scots Ghillies in tweed Deerstalker hats using the traditional draw scope but I'd not considered one before. I actually didn't know Swarovski made one, I don't really associate them with anything so low tech. Seems sometimes simplicity is practicality personified. Prismatic scopes are weighty in the hand and need a tripod if you are to get comfortable. Whereas the draw scope is almost half the weight of the smallest prismatic scope.

Glassing the hill Ghillie style, seen from a distance in this position the keepers body loses its 'human' outline and the estate-tweed becomes environment specific camo, blending in to the landscape. 

Bisley 600 yards .308 target sights. Keep scrolling in, 600 yards is a long way, a very long way

While a tripod is almost essential for the range, where you're leaving the scope pointed in one place, out in the campo a draw scope rests so well on your knee, a fencepost or the top of a pack.  It's far more go-anywhere. There really isn't a lot to go wrong, with prismatic scopes all that precision gearing that feels so smooth in your hand,  is another thing to go wrong, jam or need costly servicing. The draw scope is two tubes and some O rings. Doesn't hurt that its literally half the price of their bottom of the range prismatic scope.
As you can see you don't get a lot in the box, a telescope, a cleaning kit, strap, and case with end caps. I thought the lens caps were missing but a quick read of the inventory shows Swarovski, relying on the case's covers, have done away with them. Not too sure how I feel about that.
How's it to look though? Goes without saying  Swarovski is the Shizzle!

"Buy the best scope you can, spend the change on a rifle" - attirb. Richard Prior

I've been spending a few evenings shooting .22 prone in a jacket, I can hit the targets well enough if I can get comfortable in the straightjacket, some weeks it's a big 'if' so discomfort lead me to the club's other shooting discipline: Lightweight Sporting Rifle, which has frustrations of its own.
"It ain't braggin' if yer really done it" v's  'It is a fluke if you only done it once'

LSR is ten round groups at 25m standing, no sling. With ranges stretching out in stages to a remarkable 400m!! Yep 400m with .22LR !! The two main choices of rifle are tricked-out 10/22's or AR15's  with dedicated .22 LR uppers by CMMG or Spikes. So far I prefer the ergonomics of the AR's.  I love the idea of .22 LR at 400m; its technical challenges are fascinating, it's ammo costs are bearable.  Most of my shooting experience has been of the dinner-bell kind with fixed power scopes,  so the bewildering technical aspects of today's scopes are all new to me. I found this guide to long range scopes about the clearest writing on the subject. I'm still nowhere near making my choice yet, and all the budget is spoken for by another project which I'll let you know about in the next few weeks.

Please: Never ever scan the terrain though a rifle scope with the bolt closed, just don't risk it.

More soon
You pal

Picture credit for the Ghillie and the estate

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Unboxing Review: The Bush Buck Big Four

Well well well all those nice things I've been saying about New Zealand must has brought me some good Kiwi-Karma. Very good Kiwi-Karma. Toby from Bush Buck got in touch about his Big Four jacket. and was kind enough to send one for testing.

The saga of the search for that holy grail of jackets; Lightweight and Cheap and Durable and Quiet and Waterproof has long preoccupied me, and has never been truly achieved. I've fallen in and out of love with Ventile, its wonderfull stuff but its not as waterproof as its champions would have you believe, I've owned and loved some really nice wool hunting jackets from the US and NZ, but the lack of water resistance, its  ability to absorb 1.5 times its dry weight in water, and a series of unprovoked Moth attacks left me ready to explore synthetics.

As longterm readers may remember I did try to commission some alterations to a coat I really like, just a few tweeks to my own recipe - a service offered on the companies website, but was thwarted by the brand's angry proprietor. Twice. LINK 

The last coat I spent my heard-earned on that I've been really pleased with is the Hill Smock by NomadUK. Its a kind of thick fleece Kameez with taped seams - literally outdoor pyjamas. I would wholeheartedly recommend them.  Quiet, Lightweight, Durable (so far) and Waterproof. Cheap never came into it.

Meanwhile down under; New Zealand's hunters have developed their own hunting traditions and clothing to match the climatic conditions. no wooden capes and lederhosen for them, I guess their river fording's are a little deeper than Scotland as they've shortened Breeks (aka Plus Four's - as in four inches bellow the knee) to, well , shorts really and its the home of the hunters smock. I really like the smock concept, they keep the elements at bay in a way waist length jackets can't match. Toby sent me some pictures of his design and he's got most of the things I want a smock/coat to have.

Toby calls his jacket The Big Four. I'd assumed the big four were NZ's famously changeable seasons, but they turn out to to be Fishing, Bird Shooting, Deer Stalking and Pig hunting. My interest was piqued. A coat that will cover all bases, from super active to sedentary is quite a big ask, so I was keen to give it a go.

Fishing; in my experience usually takes place sitting on damp pebbles being lashed by wind and sprayed by surf. The minimum you can expect to get away with is damp buttocks. The longer cut of the Big4 would come into its own.
Bird Shooting; It's a well worn fact that I'm a complete lummox with a shotgun, from a design perspective as swing is the name of the game, any jacket for bird shooting must give a lot of freedom across the shoulders - bodes well for archery and beachcasting.
For Deer Stalking quiet and windproof will be appreciated- first you're sneaking, then you're sitting, sometimes for a long time.
Pigsticking; looks like beating only more so, you've got to follow the dogs wherever they take you, penetrating the briars and brambles. Any jacket that will survive that kind of punishment is tough.

First Impressions:

Long enough to sit on.
The hood is more than a nod to fashion, its cut to give cover without compromising peripheral vision, has a wire in the rim which despite being a fairly old idea is still missing from some hoods.

Its made in the same way as a US airforce issue jacket I've got somewhere, the layers of material are bonded together and then the seams are welded. I think its fair to say it will not leak.

Neoprene cuffs under storm cuffs, these really work for me. Toby has designed the cuff with a slight dart, which stops the inner edge of the cuff from snagging. Me Likee.

Pit-Zips - these are the first thing I'd add to my wish list, when you're active but its pissing down you'll not want to undo the front zip but you do need to regulate your temperature, pit zips are the way to go.

At first sight I thought the chest/binocular pockets looked a little small, but they're actually big enough for my Eden 8x42's (still blown away by these binos 3 years later, best affordable glass by miles)

I'm not a believer in drain holes on packs and rucksacks, but on a jacket that will be worn fording streams they come into their own.

So far I'm very happy with the BigFour, and in a surprising turn up of events both the Ex Mrs SBW and the Evil Elfa have commented favourably on how much smarter I look than usual, which has I suppose been an unintended consequence, but in a good way for a change! I'm not due to get out of town for the next few weekends so so a full foul-weather test will have to wait.

Toby's new website has gone live

More soon
Your pal

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Dan Price's Bushcraft Hobbit Home

I spend a lot of time daydreaming about living off grid, in the kind of camps I built as a kid. Dan Price author of 'Radical Simplicity: Creating an Authentic Life'  has been living in this cluster of hobbit houses for over twenty years. Katie Felber's film is a charming glimpse into the lifestyle of someone who actually did pair it all back to reveal the simple life.

your pal

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Buck, Buck, Moose: Hank Shaw's New Book

A quick mention for longtime blogger and my wild food hero, Hank Shaw and his new book.
I've been reading Hank's blog since the first post, its grown as he's found an eager audience of people who want to cook wild food. Hank's become my go-to for all wild food cooking. Over the years his practical instruction has inspired me time and time again. Holly Heyser's photography will make you hungry even if you've just eaten.

Here's how he describes his new book

Buck, Buck, Moose: 
Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Deer, Elk, Antelope, Moose and Other Antlered Things celebrates a food so important to humankind that many scientists believe it is one of the reasons we are who we are as a species today. We have hunted deer, in one form or another, since before we were fully human, and every culture in the world has a living venison tradition - from whitetail deer, elk and moose in North America, to red and fallow deer in Europe, axis deer in Asia, sitka deer in Japan, to the myriad forms of antelope and gazelle in Africa. Heck, even the native Australians hunted kangaroo, which has a flavor very much like venison.

Buck, Buck, Moose embraces that global heritage - and its modern expression - with more than 100 recipes ranging from American classics like country-fried steak to Southeast Asian curries, African favorites like bobotie, Chinese stir-fries, traditional European standards - as well as a host of completely original dishes I've created just for this book.

The book is already funded - so its defiantly happening and you can find it on Kickstarter HERE

More news as it comes in
Your pal

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Hunting Roe Deer With Golden Eagles In Spain

Just a quick one this morning. Mainly for Steve Bodio, but you might like it too.

Big birds, Small deer. WOW

For more about our little european deer HERE

For more videos [also in Spanish] HERE

More soon

Sunday, 23 August 2015

New Zealand - World's Best Hunting Destination?

Representing for NZ Clay TallStories - YouTuber, Balladeer, and Pig Hunter.

Life on the south island of New Zealand has been in my thoughts lately, it sounds amazing.  
regular readers will know that BoB [brother of bushwacker] lives there. He and I are close enough that we speak once or twice every eighteen months wether we need to or not. Being on the other side of the world it's winter there now so in the long dark evenings BoB is available to take calls, and we're all caught up for the year or so. His life sounds good to me.

At the same time Clay TallStories has started to post on Reddit's Hunting Sub and I've been watching a few of his videos. These chaps hunt pigs like men. Really. To hear many european and american pig hunters talk you'd think these beasts were prehistoric in their ferocity and anything less than .375 H&H was suicide. Kiwi's hunt them with a knife and some dogs. They wear shorts too, 'Shorty Shorts' they call 'em. But more of that later.

Here Clay responds to a critical message he received on Youtube, the dude's a total gent. and a credit to us all.

Gentleman pig hunters and far flung brothers aside. Here are a few of the reason's I want to go to NZ

Staggering Fishing: on the fly and from a kite.
BoB has few failings, most of them of the Hunting and Fishing kind, despite living within walking distance of some worldclass trout fishing he doesn't even own a rod. For shame. To illustrate the point he and some pals were climbing a rock face that overlooks a trout river, at the end of the session he's climbed down and was brewing up and packing his kit when a fly guy rocks up with a fish as long as Bob's arm saying 'you blokes must be hungry after all that'. I would have eaten it as sashimi, BoB cooked it over the brew-fire. He's a nice lad but he's not perfect.
Another form of fishing that I've long been fascinated by is Kite Fishing. this is an ancient art, one the cunning Kiwi's have perfected with a few modern innovations. Using the motor from an electric wheelchair as your winch, and Spectra for your line, its possible to fish out to two kilometres  offshore [about 1.2 miles in the old money]. When i found out that there was a type of fishing I didn't have copious amounts of gear for i immediately set out to rectify the situation, Just as I was about to click the buy now button it occurred to me I'd better check the weather patterns - on-shore winds all year round in the south of England. Bah! Thwarted!

Simple Firearms Laws.
They licence the individual not the tool. Logical huh? Gun can't fire itself. As a traveling sport you can download the licence application, print it off, rock up at the airport with your licence from home, your rifle, the form and $15 [last time I looked] and they issue on the spot.
A while back BoB was doing some demolition work and needed some explosives, he popped down to his local police station to sort out the paperwork. Told the cop on the front desk what he wanted to do and what he needed for the job.
Cop: "No worries mate we'll just tack an explosives ticket onto yer rifle ticket"
BoB: "I don't have one"
Cop: "Why not?"

Bow Hunting:
Growing more popular by the week, you'll see why when you look at the NewZealand Bowhunting Society's record book HERE  all taken on public land - regs are strait forward  and as usual farm permissions more forthcoming than with firearms.

All hunt-able species are invasive. Yep even those Himalayan Thar are a pest you can shoot for free on public land!

BoB has been shooting a little with some pals from work so he needs a rifle, - a left-handed rifle - should he start with a pre-loved Blaser R93 or should he get an AR15 with extra upper's in .308 and .22LR? While we're at it what's the  Best Scope for AR15 rifles?

I've been in touch with a very interesting fella regarding testing his range of outdoor clobber, which may really be that holy grail of outdoor clothes - light, durable, AND affordable. More news on that when the postie knocks on the door. In the meantime I have to start saving for that plane ticket.

More soon

Friday, 17 July 2015

Foraging For Undercrackers And Finding Plumbs

Lots to report but little impetus to report it over the last couple of months. A few weeks back ages ago some unexpected foraging raised my spirits and I felt a report was in order,  I've finally got round to posting it.

Taking a break from the 'tyranny' of underwear shopping with Elfa, we were making our way to a local hostelry intent on slaking our thirst with a small libation, when delight of delights, an urban foraging opportunity presented itself. Opposite the pub lay hundreds of these yellow plumbs and quite a few red ones too

We scavenged a carrier bag and snaffled a pile to take home, as usual urban wayside foraging provoked a couple of conversations with passers-by. How is it that we now live in a world where Joe and Josephine Soap are so divorced from their dinner that they don't recognise something as ubiquitous as Plums if they're not in a little plastic tray?

Stoning looked like it was going to take a while

Until I remembered my 'Kirchomat' or Cherry Stoner, Which despite sounding like the HighTimes cover girl sept. 1974 is actually a very handy device from Germany. 

It works really well and I loaded the the dehydrator 

As you can see I wasn't as diligent as I might have been and didn't halve every plum. 
First mistake.

I 'may have' slightly over-done the drying time. Second mistake. Schoolboy error.

I left them in the back of Elfa's fridge for a few months, too stubborn to chuck them after putting the time into foraging and then drying them. But as all 'shed blokes' know if you hang on to things long enough, eventually their time comes. The truly desiccated plumbs have found a use.  I soaked them in Sloe Gin. They are in a Fallow liver pate.

More soon
Your Pal

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Tactical : At The Shallow End Of The Gene Pool

By the bones of Ishi! Modern life is rubbish, yah yah yah, moan moan moan.
Yes its a device for cleaning Velcro.
So now you know why I hate this world and everything on it
Bah Humbug!

Glamping: At The Shallow End Of The Gene Pool

"Look everyone, you'll still be able to check your social media accounts while you're 'camping'."

Another bit of my soul dies.

Modern Life Is Rubbish

pic found on Reddit

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Woodland Archery: Accuracy Is The Best Policy

The woods have seen some action since we were last there. At this time of year the Fallow are gathering into groups and had passed though our little world, flattening the Bluebells and chowing down on the bark of Beech trees.

On Friday as the skies darkened, then burst, we achieved escape velocity and were on the road. By making lateness part of the plan we set off within half an our for the allotted time and made the most rapid pace across and out of town. In all the trips we've made The Northern Monkey and myself have always failed to leave early enough and have sat in traffic most of the way across the south of England. By leaving later we arrived at the same time we usually do, but drama-lessa nd with the serenity of the intentionally late.

Our archery practice sessions are starting to bear fruit.

Things I learned about archery the time around:

1. Archery is seriously dependent on Natural Point of Aim; seeing as arrows are traveling a lot slower than bullets this should have been the bleeding' obvious, but  I guess its taken us a while to get to the bleeding' obvious.

2. On the subject of which, it turns out the shot starts before you draw the bow; by aiming with my left heel before I start to draw the bow is on target as soon as I draw it back. Consistently the pins were over the target, just had to use my hips to adjust vertically and its time to squeeze the release's trigger.

3. Arrows that are so bent they have names come into their own at longer ranges; The Northern Monkey  shoots aluminium arrows with varying degrees of bent-ness They are called things like; The Wanderer, Hook Nose, Curvy Lady and The X-Files [its out there. Somewhere]. At 10 and 20 meters they won't group for toffee, more often than not sailing into the bushes, but at the furthest extreme of our shooting lane, where we can shoot at 50 and then 60 meters, he sunk not one, but two bulls.

It was my turn to feel the pain and dismay. I started the year with 12 arrows, broke one on day one, [pallets are not as good as foam targets], lost two a couple of archery camps back. This time I went from 9 to 4 alarmingly quickly, breaking one trying to get it out of a tree,  'hiding'  3 under the leaf mould and the last a catastrophic failure.

The words of Hodgeman keep ringing in my ears “It's like rifle hunting...only more expensive, and less effective.”

More soon
your pal

Memory Collector: Hunting In Alaska

Regular readers will know that one of my favourite bloggers and to me the outdoorsman's outdoorsman is that Rifle-Sage of the north, Hodgeman. I've been reading his blog for years and if you want to read real practical advice about hunting, firearms, and kit he's your man.

Some pals of his have made this film about their mutual friend. Poignant without being folksy this is great storytelling. its a window into the way of life of a hunter-contractor who always wanted to live, work and hunt in Alaska as he hunts that symbol of the north, Barren ground Caribou. Seems like a happy and contented guy.

More soon

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Unboxing Review: Scott Mongoose XT Bow Release

Posts on the SBW blog are like London buses you wait for ages then two come along back to back.

Sometimes the kit does make a difference, all the most accurate shots I've ever taken have been with rifles with triggers that have that sweet, crisp break, the break that's not a hair trigger and isn't scratchy either, my Parker Hale Phoenix, and the Blaser's (R93 and R8) spring to mind. 

When I bought my bow it came as a Ready To Hunt package from Hunter's Friend [who I can't recommend enough] with a Truball release [I think it's the cyclone]. It's OK, in fact it was perfect while I was getting my form together shooting in the backyard and at fifteen meters. At 25 meters I started to notice the long travel and scratchy feel which seemed to amplify with every wobble and waver I made.  

Bored with the sheer divisiveness of Archerytalk I posted to asking for opinions on releases, only got two responses, both shouting out for Scott Releases. 

During a visit to an Archery shop I got to try out one of their thumb releases, so beloved by the target shooting crowd. Wow, so crisp, so sudden, so WOW! I was tempted, not by the price, but by the mechanics of the thing, then I had a disturbing vision of a repeat performance of the time when I dropped a round from a high-seat and it clattered off every effing rung of the effing ladder on the way down, it would also be fair to say that I don't tend to lose things that are tied-on, so that was a factor too. 

Looking online for reviews of Scott's  Mongoose XT certainly has its fans, I can see the thinking behind the single calliper concept. Don't know if it works, but I like the idea, so I pressed Buy Now. 

Fresh out of the box its in a different league to the other releases I've seen, so far I've only done the shoelace test (I'm at work) but it seems crisp, like R8 crisp.

Have I managed to spend my way to accuracy? I'll let you know after the weekend.

More soon
Your pal

Arrows And Broadheads Pt One

The 10m Range which offers limited opportunity beyond sighting in the first pin

So dear reader, or hopefully still 'readers' plural, its been all go since I last posted with, er some stuff achieved, a few observations, a bit of mudlarking in Spain and some plans to maybe make it a bit further east on the next trip.

Meanwhile back in the woods; meaningful groups are starting to develop at 25 meters. I shoot the Easton Aftermaths with the yellow and orange vanes, The Northern Monkey is still handicapping himself with his Alloy arrows - where accuracy and durability are sacrificed on the alter of cheapness.

I wish to state for the record that The Northern Monkey has several advantages in this game. He's a lot taller and stronger than me, that draw length gives arrow speed and therefore a flatter trajectory, he also practices more than me. When he shoots straight arrows his groups are generally smaller than mine, but thanks to his ally-handicap....

While Bare-Bow is all 'art' with getting to know each arrow part of the 'fun', Compound shooting is more 'science' - once your rig is properly set up the first 10 meters are almost a gimme, sometime the repeatability of it all gets a little tedious. Un-like gloating.

Essential kit for woodland archery 101 - the metal detector

Carbon Versus Aluminium/'Aloominum'

Price - Woodland archery is often about searching for arrows, every miss is potentially eight and a half Euro you'll never see again. Focuses the mind.

Straightness - Before or after the first time the arrow strikes something hard? Alloy arrows make a wonderful noise as they bounce off a tree, morphing into scrap metal as they fly through the air.

Durability - Of my 12 Aftermath's I've smashed one, and lost two. TNM has eighteen arrows in varying degrees of bent-ness.

Findability -  I am yet to find some of mine, he is yet to find a straight arrow in his collection.

While we're on the subject of durability the lovely people at Schmeisser Archery have sent me a couple of broadheads for testing.  First impressions are they are very well balanced - at 10m there was no desirable difference in point of impact from my field points , and they're a lot easier to dig out of a tree stump than the three bladed designs. As to their claim to durability?  We'll have to see in subsequent testing, they do seem tough as old boots.

Hoping to get down there again this weekend - new toy has been ordered, if the postie does his bit we'll find out if you can really spend your way to accuracy?

More soon
Your pal