Monday, 22 May 2017

Ten Years Of This Blog!

Mental. I just go an alert to let me know that it's ten years yesterday that I sat on the sofa, at the now Ex-Mrs SBW's house, and mused that there was a dichotomy between my life in the suburbs and my thirst for a life of adventure and wild food. The Suburban Bushwacker was born.

From that first post:

To awake from my comfortable homeostasis, rediscover my physical self and embark on the adventure of reconnecting with the natural world. Fat and lazy as I am, I get the feeling it’s going to be a rude awakening! I live in one of the most highly urbanised societies on earth, and it shows. Mainly around the middle!

Hunt, and kill a massive Elk with a bow. To skin it, butcher it, put it’s meat on the table and in the freezer, hang its skull and antlers on the wall, spread its hide across our bed and love-wrestle Mrs Bushwacker on top of it in its honour.

Between here and there:
Lose quite a lot of weight, gain quite a lot of muscle, develop endurance, learn archery, learn bushcraft and stalking skills, choose then buy (or trade for) all the kit needed to trek out into the wilderness, kill and bring back the body of my noble prey.

Why Hunting?
Ever since I started eating meat again, I was vegetarian for a few years in my teens and early twenties, I have felt a growing need to have an honest (and some would say blood thirsty) relationship with my dinner. 
I’ve noticed a lot of hunters refer to killing an animal as ‘harvesting’, just as there is no polite word for a euphemism, on this blog killing is called killing. I’ve met too many people who can/will only eat something if its origin is obscured. Fish, but only if it does not have a head, prawns without their shells, chicken but only when it comes from a plastic tray, and then only the white meat. These are people are afraid of their dinner. Our food deserves our respect. On the days when our skill and tenacity overcomes the animals guile and awareness, we earn the right to eat the flesh of another being. If you cant (or won’t) kill it, gut it, cut it, and cook it what gives you the right to eat it? I believe in celebrating and honouring the life that is taken so we may live. 

A couple of million readers later I'm still in touch with a few of you, and still reading what you're writing. I've shot a few deer, and eaten a few more, I've seen the highs and lows of accuracy with a variety of rifles, fallen in love with some amazing handmade outdoor equipment. Some of which I've been lucky enough to own.

If real life didn't keep getting in the way, I reckon I would have bow hunted that Elk by now, but ho-hum perhaps its the journey that's been important rather than the freezer full of Elk.

Still to come from the laptop of SBW:

I'm going to continue with the gear reviews, and possibly be designing a few bits too.

Target shooting will continue apace. I've not posted nearly enough on this blog about my .22LR and 7.62X51 adventures. Might even get some .50 cal mini-cannon in!

I'll be going back to Scotland: more Roe, more Reds, Goats, Boar, Mountain Hare and that so far so elusive Sea Trout

There's still the possibility of some bowhunting for Rabbits in Spain

Finland for Beaver and panning for gold

The Kiwi grand slam

And my long, long, overdue return to the US of A.

Thanks for reading
more tales to tell very soon
Your pal

Friday, 12 May 2017

Review: Helikon Patriot

Who is the apex predator who will ruin your day, your week, and even your year?
Who has no respect for tradition, and will rob future generations of their tweedy sartorial inheritance? Tineola bisselliella my nemesis, the common clothes moth. If you like your bushcraft and or traditional Scottish Deer Stalking, you probably like the comfort, warmth, and indeed elegance of wool, and more specifically Tweeds. Not cheap, but with potentially generations of wear in every garment, an investment. Or so I thought. I've lost count of the number of jackets and suits that have been ravaged by the evil that is the clothes moth. So I started all over again with synthetics, and in fairness never looked back. You can buy fleece clothes at every price point from free chuck-ables branded by tool companies to NomadUK. I've got a NomadUK set of breeks and smock for hill stalking and they are fantastic, they were also a fantastic price, even though I got mine at a significant discount on Ebay.
I reviewed their gear a while back and I've now put it to even harder tests and I still love it. A few of you wrote in with variations on 'How Much!?'

Then for not a lot less dosh there's the 'tacti-cool' guys, there are a few companies making 'issue replacement' gear in the tactical/military contractor style; from complete junk, to very well made. Triple Aught Design [TAD Gear] probably being the best. They have their retail outlet in San Francisco so you can imagine the prices. Plus shipping, plus import tax, plus handling charge etc. Really well thought out and made though.

A few weeks back I met up with a friend who has mentored me in Lightweight Sporting Rifle. He has; a very good job, no kids, and as you might expect, a wonderful collection of toys that go 'Pew-Pew'.  The was wearing one of the most substantial, and best cut fleece jackets I've ever seen. As he'd just come back from the US of A I assumed it would be some super niche brand to rival TAD Gear. Not a bit of it. Helikon-Tex of Poland. When I found out you could have one list price for £60 I was intrigued. 

A few emails later the lovely people at Helikon were kind enough to send me a fleece for testing. I've got a few base layers that work well enough, so I chose a heavy fleece hooded jacket they call the Patriot.

Straight out of the bag I like the Patriot. 390g/m2 is a fairly substantial weight of fleece giving a comforting jacket-ness to it. The design detail is right up there with the three times the price American brands and quite a bit better than my much-loved NomadUK hill smock. 

The zips are full spec YKK’s and the pulls don't look like they’ll fail even in heavy use. 

The pull-cords that snug-up the bottom of the jacket are better than the usual junk and have a little bead to stop the quick-locks from getting lost. Me likee.
The chest pockets have inner pockets made of a 'silky' material to hold a pen, your phone, and glasses. They also have clips to keep things that mustn't be lost, like your cast ear defenders secured. The jacket is what's sometimes called 'media enabled' which in the real world means there are little grommets for headphone cables to pass through in the pockets. I had a jacket like this before and I did actually use them, another nice touch. 

Helikon have gone with a semi-rigid velcro closure for the cuffs which are actually nicer to use than having a cloth tab, and very convent during the gralloch or when costal foraging where you want to keep the muck off your cuffs. 

The way the jacket is cut; no hand pockets and pit-zips that you can actually do-up & un-do while still wearing the jacket, mean its going to be my first choice to wear with a pack. 

There's a map sized pocket on the back, for when you need the paperwork, but don't need it to hand. 
I took the Patriot for a spot of coastal foraging, unfortunately it didn't rain, but the wind blew up a fair bit. Just wearing a t-shirt underneath to give it a fair test, unlike most fleeces the jacket was almost totally windproof [which its not described as by the maker]. It’s shrugged off some light rain in town and I’m thinking about getting another one  

Its worth noting that the sizing is pretty generous, if I got some of Helikon’s base layers I’d order them in a size smaller than the sizing chart shows.

More soon
Your pal