Saturday, 28 November 2009

Newbie Professional Hunter: Down Under

I wasn't going to post anything today but I just read this story about a journey into the australian outback, culling kangaroos. It's brilliant. Probably not that much to lift your sprits in the weekends papers, so you might as well read it.

Enjoy your weekend

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Merino Buff and The Antarctica Shirt Review

Det finns inget sådant som dåligt väder bara olämpligt kläder

As they say in Sweden or

"There's no such thing as bad weather - only inappropriate clothing"

To cut a short story long: Any amount of cold is tolerable (in the right gear) but even the smallest draft down my neck seems to suck the warmth from my soul. About 20 years ago when i first met MCP we worked a cycle messengers and would have to stand around in the cold wearing lycra waiting for the next job. Fortunately I know BoB (Brother of Bushwacker) a man whose had more mountain time in one winter than all the armchair warriors on the bushcraft forums have had in their lives, and at the time went by the nickname 'inspector gadget'. Some people thought he was called that because he had a lot of kit, true but not the reason, it was because he has the experience and insight to truly inspect gadgets, when he says 'Quite good, I'd have one' you know it'll out perform any claims made on the box and last three to four lifetimes of hard use, in foul weather. I have had tools that have literally collapsed under the weight of one of his sighs.

He sent me to a shop called Survival Aids in London's Euston station, where you could buy silk underwear and 'snoods'. Don't get exited ladies. These were sets of long johns and tops that seriously kept you warm while weighing nothing. The optional extra was what we now know as a Buff, but then called a snood, in navy blue silk. Boy do they work! Really NOTHING KEEPS YOU WARMER. I've had loads of different ones over the years and wouldn't think of going anywhere cold and windy without one. So after last swagmas's great gift of a Merino wool icebreaker turned out to be such a boon in the frozen north, when I saw Buffs were bringing out a Merino Buff I knew I'd have to get one - they seem a hell of a price at £21 - but i consoled myself that the Survival Aids ones were about £12 twenty years ago and took the plunge.

Basically you get a tube of fine woven Merino wool, if 'Betty Swollox' have knackered a pair of merino long johns you could just cut off a section of leg and save yourself the £21. But sitting the freezing cold wearing old underwear round your neck might not be your thing, in fact when i put it like that it's not my thing either.

One nice surprise is that they're about 1.5 X the length of a regular Buff so you and have it as hood and neck warmer simultaneously. Very good - even at over a score I'm still giving them a thumbs up - top piece of kit. If I do feel the company has a failing its that every time they send anything out to you (last bits were free so i shouldn't complain) they send you a new set of Buffs stickers -I don't need any Buff stickers - anyone can tell I'm Buff ;-) and an 'instructional DVD' which is frankly just more landfill.

They do eight different colours and I hope it's only a matter of time before they take up my suggestion and bring one out in Blaze Orange, as it would add 'arm band' and 'hat band' to the list of uses a Buff has, and as we know would be an important safety aid (and legal requirement) for hunters.

Recently I've been following a blog called Bashing Bambi - basically the adventures of an english chap who has a bit of woodland to raise pheasants on, does a fair bit of stalking, (english for deer hunting), likes military history, bad jokes and spends his weekends selling dog accessories and chronicling the sartorial crimes of the english upper classes AKA 'the Ruperts''.

At the bottom of his blog there are a couple of links to merchants he reckons have good stuff, and that's how I found a small site where a keen stalker is selling some things he's found useful himself. At very reasonable prices.

I ordered the Antarctica Shirt in a Nomex/Merino (30%/70%) wool mix for £44 inc postage, and very good it is too. They are available in any colour you like as long as it's green and as soon as I'd unpicked the horrible logo it's a very nice lightweight outdoorsy top; long back, holes to put your thumbs through so your wrists stay warm and a stovepipe collar. The sizes come up quite large, I might even buy another in a size down. Thumbs up again.

Your Pal
The Bushwacker

Friday, 13 November 2009

Guest Post - Mikes Moose

Mike's back with the full scoop on his moose hunt. Enjoy

Moose 2009

Prelude and planning:

Inspired by Jack London and every tale of mountain men read in the past 30 years, I went to Alaska to hunt moose ten years ago. I saw cows and young moose every day, but my tag only allowed me to take a mature bull. I came home grateful for the chance to have seen the magnificent wilderness of interior Alaska, but without a moose. I began to apply for moose permits in the lower 48. Two years ago, my friend Gene invited me as the second hunter on his Vermont moose permit. He took a cow while I was with him. I was thrilled for him and surely enjoyed the moose meat that he generously shared, but it only fueled my desire for a moose of my own. This year I filed my applications and the day after the results were announced I received an email from my buddy Will that just said “Congratulations!” We had been discussing moose hunts and I knew what he meant as soon as I read it. I had drawn not only a moose tag, but the most coveted tag which allowed me to take any moose from the heart of moose country.

I immediately got online and began searching for anything related to Vermont moose hunting. There wasn’t much available but I uncovered a link to the Champion Lands Leaseholders and Traditional Interest Association (who I rented an excellent camp from). I began to ask for advice on several hunting forums and received some good tips from a couple of fellows who had hunted in area E2 (thanks George, Brian and Pat!) and from wildlife photographer Roger Irwin (check out his moose photos at

My brother in law John had been my hunting partner in Africa in 2002 and we had such a good time that when he expressed an interest in coming along I was delighted to enlist him as the second hunter on my permit. Having a second shooter who you can trust is invaluable. Having helped Gene drag his cow out of the woods, I wondered if John knew what he was volunteering for but I was delighted to have him along.

My wonderful wife exceeded all reasonable expectations by encouraging me to go on the hunt even though her birthday fell squarely in the middle of the six day season and the hunting area was an eight hour round trip from home.

A month before the season my 12 year old son came along with me to scout. There were old moose tracks everywhere we looked including within 200 yards of the camp. We drove many miles of unpaved roads in our Subaru to get a general feeling of the area. The second morning we were rewarded with the sight of a young bull trotting down the road ahead of us. It was my son’s first sighting of a moose and we considered that well worth the trip. It became obvious to me on that trip that a four wheel drive truck would be essential to reach the more remote hunting areas and (God willing) to haul out a moose. There is just no way to get a moose in a Subaru! It also became obvious that much of the terrain was so thickly over grown that I would need a short and light handling rifle.

I came home and worked up a load for my 45-70 guide gun. This little carbine had been a consolation gift from my friend Alan who hosted my unsuccessful Alaskan hunt. It was destined for moose. The load I settled on was 46.5 grains of IMR 3031 pushing a 405 grain cast lead bullet at about 1600 f.p.s.

Two days before the season I swapped vehicles with my friend Gene. The day before the season my hunting partner drove the 5 hours from his home to mine. We shared the first slices of the traditional opening day apple pie breakfast, loaded the truck with duffels, rifles, coolers, game cart, blind, and the rest of the pie then drove the 4 hours to moose camp wondering where a moose would fit since the truck bed was already full. We arrived at camp, unloaded the gear, and immediately got back in the truck to do 4 more hours of scouting before dark. Once again, there were plenty of old tracks in the hunting area, but no moose.

Day 1:

We awoke an hour before dawn, grabbed a quick bowl of oatmeal and went out the door (who had time to cook when the hunt waited?) It was COLD. Temps the day before had been in the 50’s. Dawn was about 10 degrees F. We drove the paper company roads peering into thickets, bogs, and forest, up slope, down valleys, and over streams hoping for a lucky break of moose within sight of the road opening day. You can not imagine how much the dark base of an uprooted tree covered in soil resembles a bedded moose, or how many of them there are in the sodden wooded soil of moose country. I dare say that we examined THOUSANDS of fallen logs, root balls, and large rocks looking for ears and antlers. When we happened upon some spot that appeared more promising than the others we would walk about looking for moose. I found LOTS of moose sign, but very few fresh tracks and none so fresh as to still have moose in them. I quit counting hunters after the first dozen trucks we encountered with occupants doing exactly what we were doing. Near the end of the day 1 hit a fresh track in the mud off a logging trail. It led to a pair of large meadows with a swampy tree line between. In that swamp there was a sapling that had been destroyed by some bull rubbing his antlers within the past few days. About 50 yards from there, two immense moose beds flattened the high grass. We spent the rest of the evening sitting in a cluster of Christmas tree scented spruce watching those meadows and occasionally hearing another hunter imitating the call of a moose cow in need from his truck parked at the roadside a half mile away.

We slipped back to the truck only after the green spruce tops against the brilliant blue sky had turned to purple towers in the night. The entire opening day had passed without a single glimpse of moose. I would be very glad to take any moose God sent me in the five short days that remained in the season.

Day 2:

The cabin and its woodstove were very welcome. When I closed my eyes I saw forested bogs and dark humps of soil bound tree roots. We slept comfortably and dawn found us back at the same meadow. The frosted blackberry leaves thawed as the sun rose. But in just two hours the cold sent us back to the truck. Since the heater had frozen up it was only marginally warmer, but we decided to return to a couple of areas that had looked promising the day before.

The first one seemed just about ideal to me. The road passed between two ridges that had been logged off a year before with a stream running just below the road. It proved to be “a very moosy” area indeed. There were not only signs of moose feeding, old tracks and droppings, but also day old tracks. The only trouble was that they were intermingled with numerous boot prints from the day before. The area had been hunted hard opening day. The moose may have already been pushed out of the area. We decided to check a couple of other likely spots and hope that they had not seen quite as much hunting pressure. We drove to several other spots, walked a long lane, and spent several hours watching over a beaver pond surrounded by moose tracks, but by noon I had decided that this previously hunted spot was our best bet. It showed more fresh moose sign than anywhere else we had scouted and I suspected that most of the hunters who had been there had stayed close to the road. By going a bit further, we might just find moose. We retreated to the cabin for a heavy lunch with a plan that the meal would carry us until dark. We resisted the temptation to stay warm after lunch and went back to the morning’s promising ridges.

Just as we arrived, an older hunter came out of the brush and climbed into his partner’s truck. We decided to try the area anyway again reasoning that he probably had not ventured very far from the road. Climbing up the bank from the road revealed a small fold of promising moose country with a higher ridge behind it. The top of this second ridge was the typical knife edge path where you could see what seemed like straight down 100 yards on both sides. The side farthest from the road fell away through pines into a broad valley of low brush with dark heavy pines covering the far slope. Beyond that the hills continued to rise into several higher mountains. The top of this second ridge was covered with moose tracks going both directions. We first followed it south toward Granby Bog. It ended in a wet area with thick growth and a gurgling stream. I imitated the call of a cow in longing and we waited half an hour without any sign of reply before retracing our steps up the ridge. Perhaps we should have waited longer but the visibility was limited in that small bowl and the noise of running water drowned out any distant sounds of travelling moose. I thought we might have better luck following the ridge in the opposite direction.

We worked our way back up the ridge and followed it peering into the thickets below and the pines beyond them. Could that dark spot be the head of a bedded moose? Could that light patch be antler? No. There were a thousand false alarms as we snuck along the ridge for the next hour.

At the far end we sat on a fallen log to rest and watch until we decided that we should start working our way back. I called a few times, waited fifteen minutes and we started sneaking and peaking our way toward the truck. As I reached any vantage point which let me see a little further, I would pause and search for some sign of elusive moose before moving on. We had covered perhaps ½ the distance back to the truck when I peaked over the crest of the next fold looking for a dark ear tip or light antler point in the brush ahead.

I can not convey my absolute amazement when I saw not empty woodland, but MOOSE. It was not some bit of the hidden animal, but the full body of an ADULT BULL MOOSE standing in the open 50 yards away. At seven feet tall near 1,000 pounds he was absolutely immense and he was staring at me. I don’t know if he was actually staring at me, but he was definitely looking in my direction for the split second it took me to crouch down below the hill crest out of sight. Later, John said that he thought that the bull was coming down the trail in search of my cow call. He may have just been walking down the trail for his evening stroll, but in either case after ten years of longing, God had sent me a moose. I crouched below the hill crest and pointed frantically in moose direction whispering to John “Moose! Moose! Right There!” John crouched down and began to duck walk forward as I turned back to the moose and worked the lever on my Marlin.

I could scarcely believe that the moose was still there when I looked again. Knowing that the point of impact was six inches low at 50 yards for my hundred yard zero, I put my sights on his throat and pulled the trigger. At impact the bull spun and began to lope away over the uneven ground. With a bullet in the moose I sure didn’t want to lose him in the bog (or worse down slope away from the road)! I held for the center retreating moose butt and pulled the trigger. John said he had an open shot if I got out of the way, so I said “take him” and got down. I heard his 375 Ruger bark and stood just in time to see the moose go down over the top of the knob. I covered the 100 yards between us and saw that he was down on top of the ridge 50 yards from where the first shot had hit him.

After action report:

The first shot had broken his right shoulder just below the joint. I later recovered the bullet outside of the ribs a foot behind the shoulder.

Either my second shot or John’s shot had taken the bull six inches left of his stubby little tail, broken the left hip at the socket and passed beyond. The bullet was left behind in the gut pile so I don’t know whose shot it was, but in any case with a broken shoulder and a broken hip the moose was down. He was still raising his head when I walked up so I gave him a finisher at the base of the skull and thanked God for not only giving me a moose, but my longed for bull with decent palms besides.

Then the work began! Somehow all three of my large knives had been left behind at the cabin. But John had an excellent set of “Knives of Alaska” and a bone saw. We brought the bull out in three pieces by separating the hind quarters behind the ribs and the head from the front quarters. The two wheeled game cart was worth every penny over the next two hours. A gorgeous sunset lit the sky red as we struggled to wheel the moose down the ridge and toward the road. We managed to load the hind quarters in the truck before returning for the larger second piece. Just as John and I were standing in the darkness contemplating how to lift the several hundred pounds of front shoulder and ribs up to the tail gate, a truck with four hunters came out of the darkness and offered to help. They had been hunting farther down the dead end road and arrived just at the right moment. With the six of us it was an easy lift. God had provided just the help that was needed at just the moment of need, again.

We were so exhausted by field dressing the moose and getting him on the truck that we waited until the next morning to pack up camp and check the bull in. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife official told us that my bull was a 3 or 4 year old moose with an antler spread of 33 ½ inches. Based on seeing a moose of similar size weighed we estimated that our moose was 700 lbs field dressed (900 pounds on the hoof?). I was absolutely delighted to be home in time for my wife’s birthday. My freezer is now very full, dinner last night was moose back strap and I am blessed to have fulfilled my ten year moose quest.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Save water! - Save For A Fly Rod?

Charles Rangeley-Wilson has made some amazing shows for TV where he's used fishing as the 'hook' for a travel show. "More about the why than the how" he never shows you how to tie anything, instead amazing photography takes you from your armchair to the natural world, while his easy charm lets him meet the locals by being there with a rod in the water.

He has just posted this excellent film he's made with the WWF about the need to protect the unique chalk streams of blighty by saving hardly any water each.

'But what price a river? A river is priceless. Especially if it is possible - which it is - to have healthy rivers and an adequate supply of affordable water.

We need to use less of it and we need to compel our government to make more sense of how we get it, so that we can see rivers like the Beane, the Darenth [where I learned to fly fish click the link], the Misbourne, the Og flowing again as they used to.

Join the WWF's campaign. Adopt your local chalk stream if you're lucky enough to live near one. Write to your MP.'

Or if you're not in the UK, enjoy the film and do something similar in your own backyard.
We could save this world - but we'll have to do it one person at a time.

Hmmmm I've working awful hard maybe I DO deserve a new fly rod..........

Your pal

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Blogs & Blades3

Well there finally comes a day, after all the waiting; first by me for Black Rabbit to finish the knife, and then by Black Rabbit for me to write this post.......Da DA

Let the Unboxing commence

One of the best things about being a blogger is the email correspondences I've had with other denizens of the bloggersphere. A while back I started an email correspondence with another blogger, a chap who lives down under and writes as Black Rabbit. He used the google follower function to join team bushwacker, i reciprocated and after a few comments on each others blogs we started another conversation by email. His blogging went quiet and then came back to life. Then one day as I sat in my hotel room day dreaming of being able to afford a custom knife to my delight he emailed and asked me to review his output as a knife maker.

We talked/emailed about trends in knife making, the dating perils that the devilishly handsome must endure, and all kinds of other important stuff. The end result of these conversations is what you see above, Scandi ground, Hunter blade shape, the lashing holes to harvest high hanging fruits, welded butt plate, in my favorite 'So-That's-Where-It-Is' Orange, and with a southern cross emblem.

The Handle shape has a 'manga-ness' to it that I really like - very different to the design conventions of knife making and, like it or loathe it, is all the better for it. Not every day that we see a maker who is trying to do something different.

As far as the true tests go:

Feels great in the hand - locks in well to my grip and has a nice balance
But here's where I have to admit to breaking my own rules for testing, I just can't bear to beat it up the way I normally would! Arraggh! So against everything i believe in (and have mouthed off about) I now own a knife that I'm too precious about to use for the heavy work its maker intended. WTF!

Thanks to Black Rabbit for all your hard work at the bench and patience.

Your pal

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Travails with Laptop Rod and Rifle

Picture the scene: it's sunday afternoon in the 'burbs.
We're supposed to be working on a homework assignment for Bushwacker jnr. We're actually building a model car

Bushwacker jnr.
"Look dad I've got a model of you to go in the truck, like you're going on the Mongolian Rally. I've even got a dog for you"

"Do I get a fly rod, a rifle and a laptop?
You know me - Travels with laptop, rod, and rifle"

Bushwacker jnr.
" Well it's more 'with laptop' isn't it dad"

You mock me, my friends mock me, the kids mock me,

Bah! Bah! and BAH! again

Such is suburban life

Your pal