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Monday, December 14, 2015

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina
By: Dude McLean and Alan Halcon

Refugee: one who flees in search of refuge, as in times of environmental destruction, war, political oppression, or religious persecution

We've all witnessed the devastation Katrina has left behind. We've seen the thousands of refugees fleeing to what they pray is a safe haven. Unbeknownst to these people, their actions and lack of action made a bad situation worse.
Becoming a refugee is something you always want to avoid. This is an untenable situation you never want to experience. Just watching the refugees, on television, is as close as you ever want to get.

With a little forethought and planning you should be able to dodge the refugee bullet. At the very least you should be able to take care of yourself and your family.

The FEMA website states:
“You may need to survive on your own after a disaster. This means having your own food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least three days. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours, or it might take days.

Basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may be cut off for days, or even a week or longer. Or, you may have to evacuate at a moment's notice and take essentials with you. You probably will not have the opportunity to shop or search for the supplies you need.”

You are responsible for yourself!

You never want to rely on anyone rescuing you. Or subjecting yourself to any government or privately run shelter.

Here are the facts:
Your weapons will be confiscated including pocket-knives and multi-type tools. You will be under the authority of the people running the shelter, who have complete control over you and your family. They will call on law enforcement and military personnel to keep order. You will be crowded in close proximity with low life you never wanted to meet, i.e. the criminal element. You will also be stopped from leaving… You are a subject of the state!

Prepare yourself

Don't count on having the time to pack and get together what you need at the last minute. The reality is you will forget some important things and you may not have the time to pack.

The breakdown is that you need to prepare a bug-out-bag/ survival kit based on the conditions of where you live. The BOB, what we call an Evacpack should have enough food water and supplies to last you at least seventy-two hours, one Evacpack per person.

Every Evacpack should at the very least contain the following:

Conventional wisdom dictates that you have a minimum of one gallon of water per day per person. This covers water for drinking, cooking and bathing. However your environment such as the desert may demand you use one gallon of water a day for drinking purposes only. It is also true in places of high humidity. Keep in mind a gallon of water weighs about eight pounds. Lugging an extra twenty-four pounds of water around may not be possible. So we compromise and carry one gallon (eight pounds) and supplement with water filters and purifiers.

Two ways to purify and filter water. In the case of Hurricane Katrina water contamination was extreme, to the point where water filters and purifiers would not be effective because of instant clogging of the filter. in addition the water was filled with unknown toxins and chemicals including gasoline, oil and carcasses to name a few.

Where do you go to get your water? You go to the rooftops above the waterline to collect the rainwater where it has pooled. Now you can more effectively use your filter and purifier.

Food, while not necessarily immediate on the list of priorities is certainly a necessity. Good-ole MRE's are one way to go and come in a variety of meals. The advantages of MRE's is they can be eaten cold, you don't need to add water to reconstitute the meal and they can be heated in their own pouch. Another alternative is backpackers meals, they also come in pouches and share the same attributes as MREs. You can also make your own survival foods to put into your Evacpack.

Contractors grade plastic trash bags are in our opinion one of the most useful, yet often overlooked items every Evacpack should have. Carry a minimum of four. They have myriad uses. They make excellent shelters. They will keep you warm. They can be used as a rain jacket. You can use them as gaitors. They can be used as a container for bedding i.e stuffed with leaves, crumbled up newspaper, pine needles, etc. they also work as a makeshift water container. As a bonus they come in a variety of colors, your choice, black and green for tactical or orange for high visibility. Keep in mind you may not want high visibility.

You should have at least three ways to make a fire. Waterproof strike anywhere matches (you can make them yourself), Magnesium fire-starting tool (magnesium burns in the rain), and a bic lighter. Zippo style lighters should not be used because the fuel evaporates. The ability to make fire using primitive methods does not mean you should not carry the above items.

Your Evacpack should have a change of clothing. It is imperative that you change into dry clothes if you get wet, especially if it is cold out. It is important to keep your core body temperature in check. Although it may not seem like you need one at the time, temperatures can quickly drop, we feel a jacket is a very important item.

Knives are essential. A multi-tool is perfect along with two fixed blade knives. And a small hatchet will round out your sharp edge needs. Make sure you have a sharpening stone or system and know how to use it.

Self-defense may be necessary as was seen in the aftermath of “Katrina”. A handgun along with spare ammo would be a prudent move in a SHTF situation. This account should tell you why you should have a fireman… read between the lines.

“We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.”

Money, CASH, coin of the realm. Cash money talks. Credit cards checks etc. will be useless. During Katrina ATM's were not working credit cards and checks were not being accepted. Cash in small bills meaning ones fives and tens should be part of your Evacpack. If at all possible you should have between five hundred and a thousand dollars minimum. Don't count on the bartering scenarios that you have read about in survival books. What we are talking about is a three to five days… Cash is what works!

Duct tape is a no brainer. It can be used for patching and tying your world together. has many uses. It can be used for everything from temporarily patching a hole in a radiator hose to mending a tear in your clothing.

Rope, paracord, etc. whatever you choose, you should have at the minimum 50 feet.

A small portable radio with an extra set of batteries will help keep you informed with what's going on and what areas to avoid.

These are just a few of the basic items we feel you should include in your Evacpack. There are of course other items you will want to add. As an example, Many people will have the need for medications.

Another area we haven't addressed is your cache at home. Its easy to store water. There are thirty gallon and fifty-five gallon barrels readily available. You can put them in your garage, shed, yard etc. you can store water in old three liter soda bottles and stash them around your house... You can never have enough water stored!

Food is another item that should be stashed in your house. Canned food more MREs dried foods and a way to cook it all. It's a relatively easy task to buy a few extra food items every time you go to the grocery store and put it away for emergencies. In a short period of time you can have enough supplies that would last you sixty days.

It is not within the scope of this article to cover each and every item you may require. What we hope to give you is a foundation that you can build off of.

Many of the victims of “Katrina” could have avoided being a refugee if they would have been prepared properly. Just heeding the warning and leaving before the SHTF is part of being prepared!

[For putting together your Evacpack, in depth information can be found in the book “Build the Perfect Survival Kit” by John D. McCann as reviewed in Volume 11 issue 2. We also recommend the Hoods Woods volume 3 “Making and Using your Outdoor Survival Kit!” and can be found at]

“You never want to be a refugee”

Robin Blankenship More Than Meets The Eye

Robin Blankenship
More than meets the eye
by Dude McLean & Alan Halcon

There always seems to be more to people that what meets the eye. As a society we tend to put him in that slot and her in that niche. Depending on the circumstances, the place where you would have first encountered Robin Blankenship, might influence the slot you would place her in. Whichever slot you chose, you would have been off base. Let’s take a look at this pre-eminent woman, primitive skills technologist, and teacher.

8 years into Robin's career as a primitive technologist, she decided to go to college where she earned a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Spanish from the University of Colorado. She also received a B.S. in education with a Colorado Elementary teaching certification.

“When I started teaching, women didn't do this.”

Before college, in 1978, Robin was leading horse packing trips into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness for Adventure Unlimited Ranches. She ended up directing their mountaineering program. She credits Bob Howe with creating a need in her to want a natural life style.

Next Robin found herself teaching for Larry Dean Olsen's School of Urban and Wilderness Survival and the National Outdoor Leadership School and Outward Bound… She was so skilled at that point there was no need to be a student of those schools before becoming and instructor.

Having taught, “Full on survival courses” for some of the top survival skills schools in the country since 1984, Robin desired to start her own school. In 1990 Robin, along with her then Husband Bart Blankenship, decided to step out and founded Earth Knack, offering primitive skills courses from cultures around the world.

At last Robins lifelong passion for the primitive was coming home. Robin was in the second grade at a boarding school when this old man stepped into her life and gave her a direction. Melvin Mathey was 62 then and was a kind of a Ben Hunt of his time. From the time she was 5 years of age until she was 14, she learned about plants, wood carving, pottery and many other Indian skills from this woodsman.

Every Year Robin throws a party with guest instructors like Doug Dahl, Sue Halverson and Ken Wee to name a few. The late George Stewart made all the Stone age tools that are used in the courses. They teach earth skills, plant and animal studies, ancient tools and weapons, hearth skills, cooking, fiber weaving, fire making, atlatl, pottery and much more.

Robin has been making many changes in her earth knack courses since 1999. She now is offering blacksmithing, straw bale house building and what she terms pioneering primitive skills. Robin feels primitive skills and pioneering skills all fit together.
Strawbale house? Yep, Robin designs and builds these earth friendly homes from the ground up.

“Cross Culture skills cover all skills because its about living”

Robin is very hands on and has never stopped learning and being fascinated with all primitive skills and beyond. During Winter Count 2005, she led a class on the many uses of elk legs, showing how to utilize each and every part… nothing was wasted!

She studied trapping, following a trapline, with George Michaud. The ever crusty and outspoken George had nothing but the highest praise for her.

“Robin just gets it done” and seems to have the feel for all things primitive, George is not easily impressed… He was!


Personal Experience:

I will never forget the first time I met Robin. Although I had known her by reputation, I had never actually met her. I was sitting in a trendy L.A. cafĂ© waiting for Janet Snyder and Robin. Seeing Robin walk into this “Showbiz hangout” in her buckskin dress, a belt knife on her hip was a sight not to be forgotten… I was impressed. Later on that same evening Robin along with Janet and my self joined Christopher Nyerges where he was teaching a Primitive skills class at a local College. Robin Jumped right in to help teach the students the Bow and Drill. She gave me a private lesson on how to make the promontory peg trap trigger. Robin is not afraid to show you all the she knows on a subject and loves to share primitive arts, crafts and skills.

A Stone-Age Book

In 1996 Robin co-authored a book with then husband Bart Blankenship, “Earth Knack Stone-age skills for the 21st Century”. It is a comprehensive how-to book enabling the reader and the abo wanna-be to participate and learn the ancient skills,

I asked Robin what was her favorite skill to teach she answered “Fire” and left me with this quote:

“Fire making is a perceived empowerment, making meat (food) is real empowerment”
her other interests in life include canoeing, horseback riding and astrology, She has taught astrology at the American Museum of Natural History and the Denver Museum. She has a passion for “tall ships” and has lived on a 3 masted tall ship for six months.

Robin's one passion in life was to be a mother… she has three children! 

Have you joined us in our observation? “More Than meets the Eye!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tim Baker Interview With A Master Bowyer

Tim Baker
Master Bowyer
By: Alan Halcon & Dude Mclean

“Always interested in anthropology, read the Ishi books… how can you not want to make something after reading that. I took a couple of years trying to make arrowheads. I thought I was the only person in the world, like a lot of other guys who thought they were the only ones. I got where I could make a half way decent arrowhead. Then, of course, you have to have an arrow to put it on. Then, you have to have a bow. Man o man! The first bow I made, something clicked… I was instantly addicted. Then, you have to make every kind of bow.

Someone told me about Jay Massey's book… Shame on me I called him and started grilling him about bows. He was the most generous and gracious guy. He told me about Jim Hamm. The most important thing to me was being told about Paul Comstock's book “The Bent Stick.” He was the main person who provoked into doing bow tests.”

For Tim it was always fun figuring out what had to be figured out. Keeping stats of all the bows, then you study those stats and that's how you learn things about the individual bows. Tim emphasizes that you just can't retain all the information. It's important to keep records.

“bow number 720 had this quality and that quality. You just can't remember all of that. You can lay all the information out like a spread sheet, compare one bow with another and why this one did that and why.”

His first year was spent trying to get osage and yew, because those were the only woods you could make a bow out of. When tim met Paul Comstock, Comstock was making bows out of other woods. Tim said that for the first three months of their conversations it was arguments and Tim telling Comstock he was getting better results out of the other woods because he was a better bow maker.

“You're doing something different. Everyone knows that osage and yew are the best woods.”

Tim was an Osage and yew guy. Tim states that Comstock got sick of him and in exasperation he said “Look you don't know what you're talking about. Have you made any bows from the other woods.”

Tim laughs and say's “Know I didn't”

So Tim started making bows out of other woods and big surprise, if they were made the right way, the lighter woods are made wider and they were out shooting the yew and osage bows. Tim kept keeping detailed records of the woods and the bows.

The Bowyers Bibles

John Strunk and Jay Massey suggested that Tim go the Michigan Long Bow Association meet, where he set up a work bench and started making bows. All of those guys were glass bow guys. Massey, Strunk, Hamm and Baker had a bunch of staves. Like bees to honey, by the third day over thirty guys, with what ever crude tools they could lay their hands on were making bows.

By this time all the testing was pretty far advanced. Tim had amassed a lot of real and good information. Jim Hamm and Tim got together and decided to write the “Bowyers Bible.” Tim credits Hamm with coming up with the plan.

“Here's something that probably has never been talked about. I doubt if anyone else in the world had any of the four or five perfectly matched qualities that would have allowed the “Bowyers Bible” to come into existence. Jim Has a Bill Gates attitude, a wild Indian aspect, he has the diplomatic skills to put up with primadonnas like, well especially me, who has to do everything their own way, alpha males, I'm right, it's gotta be this way, that's it or else I'm walking. Somehow Jim could put up with that and make it all work. He had the writing and editing skills and all the patience. I can't imagine any other human being having all of those qualities and added to that an absolute love of archery.”

So, the “Bowyers Bible” was born. And with these authors, Jim Hamm, Tim Baker, Al Herrin, G. Fred Asbell, Paul Comstock, Dr. Bert Grayson, and Jay Massey, has set the standard for the bow makers of the world.

This book spawned the great debates about osage and yew versus everything else.

“The good happy news is that there is just hundreds of woods that make perfectly good bows. If one is just one percent faster than the other, what difference does it really make?”

Tim Baker is a master bowyer and a complicated man, who loves the bow and all that it encompasses with a passion. He stands by his theories and has proven them time and time again. He doesn't like to be called an expert because he is still learning.

“Making bows will probably never be out of your life once you're in it. Anytime anyone wants to learn how to make bows I am happy to show them.”

Please feel free to post comments on my articles, I enjoy hearing from and responding to my readers. When you're finished posting your comment please click PUBLISH to share your comment with me and my readers. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Demonizing The Campfire

A “campfire,” Just the word alone conjures up a special picture for most of us. 
Cavemen had campfires, and all indigenous peoples had them. It was not just for pleasure but to cook and stay warm, to keep back the unknown during the dark of night.

    Bringing it right up to date, we have a long history and tradition in this country surrounding the campfire. It is legend. It seems to some to be part of our DNA, rushing through our blood from ancestors who are unknown but speaking to us through the campfire. It brings us a special message, a bonding of a kind we do not find elsewhere, when you have shared a campfire with friends and strangers alike. 

Mental pictures of campfires are like a TV, flickering in front of our mind’s eye. Sitting around toasting marshmallows, cooking ash cakes, and a dutch oven sitting on the coals, at the same time keeping us warm. The smell of smoke and the glow of the coals, holding back the night, all this is hardwired into our DNA.

 It seems like a gift we should always be able to use and to have when we need it. I cannot begin to relate all the collective memories millions of us have stored as a part of our outdoor experience around the campfire.

Assault Against the Campfire

Over the last 50 years and more, an unfair war has been waged against the campfire. And this battle has been waged against us, the campfire users, the real woods-runners, the hunters, the trekker, the casual camper -- anyone who uses a campfire. We are made out to be mad demons and stupid for wanting to be part of nature. A bunch of louts, and drunken bums starting fires in reckless abandon. 

The campfire as we know it is slowly being taken away from us, by mostly well meaning but misinformed petty government workers on all levels. From the city, county, state and federal levels, it is a war against us, The Demons. It is a battle that has heated up over 50 years and continues as a hard core brainwashing of the public and themselves, demonizing the campfire. WE are the said Demons. We had a campfire, we are bad. It’s the law. 

Getting Real

It is getting very difficult in many places to have a “legal” campfire. By legal I mean getting a permit! What? For a campfire!

The pitched battle rages on. An assault like no other on all outdoorsmen and women.  And by now, most folks fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Campfires are bad, they start wild fires and cause billions of dollars’ worth of damages, etc. After all, man accounts for about 85% of all wild fires and forest fires. Well, that’s factual, but let’s go deeper.

I began to dig. I’m not happy with what I found. On the other hand it shows how we are not all that smart.  And we are not the demons they make us out to be. 

 The road I took was amazing, I was astonished at the twists and turns. The maze of statistics that became meaningless in the redundant repetition. Finally a few breaks, buried deep within the right wording when doing a search on the net, finding the right set of documents; the wording has to be just right to find the real deal about forest fires, wild fires, “manmade fires,” accidents, which are man-made or from lightning, etc. All things get lumped into a huge statistic, and it is very misleading. I am going to throw some statistics at you.

Gathering facts on Wild Fires, Forest Fires

West Virginia statistics for forest and wild fires, the cause: debris burning 32% (man-made fire), arson 35% (man-made fire), children 6% (man-made fire), equipment 12% (man-made fire), smokers 4% ( man-made fire), lightning 1% (not man-made), railroads 1%, and campfires stand at 2%!  Very interesting.  In a lot of cases, the “investigators” can claim it was a campfire when in fact all the evidence has been so trampled by fire fighters that if they find a “fire ring” somewhere, that is where the finger points, and it’s a done deal. 

Fire is an exciting thing for many people for many different reasons. Serial arsonists are very seldom caught, and some go on for years and years. Solving arson-set fires stands at 10%. Not a very good track record. 

Across the country, the statistics are about or close to the same for arson set fires. Of those arson fires, a shocking 30 to 35% are set by firefighters themselves! A forest service arson investigator is in prison for setting dozens if not hundreds of fires in southern California.

In another case, a volunteer fire fighter set wild fires.  A serial arsonist used mosquito coils fit with a timing device. The mosquito coils are a clay-like substance and can smoulder for hours.  These can be thrown from a moving car like a frisbee at high speed. The coils vanish as they turn to ash, they get trampled on or are washed away by water.  Dozens of fires were most likely started by this method in Yolo County, California. 

In 2008 over 800 fires were started by lightning in California. In 2000 more than 122, 000 wild fires ignited in the western mountainous states of Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Utah. According to the data base complied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, lightning starts almost 60% of all fires on “public lands” in these states. To date (2009), Yellowstone has had 15 fires, 13 by lightning. There was no other data on what caused the other two fires.

Damage by lightning is estimated at $4 to $6 billion a year. 

More Statistics For Making Our Case

Department of Forestry statistics: Open burning or a “controlled”“ burn caused wild fires 30%, arson 20%, smokers 14%, house, cars, and aircraft, 11%, children 9%,  equipment use 7%, railroads 5%, lightning  5%, campfires 1%.  You can see the statistics vary a bit from place to place, but the campfire, always remains at the bottom of the list. 

A “prescribed fire” as opposed to a wildfire is supposed to be “contained.” In Arizona, 9/21/09 through 10/23/09, four fires of 2,100, 2,200, 2,800 acres each were “prescribed “fires that went out of control. The National Interstate Fire Center reports that for Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, fires are from lightning, followed by trains, and machinery, sparks, and cigarette butts.  Not one mention of campfires. “What is the main cause of wild fires?” My question and the answer is, In  order, they are: Lightning, fireworks, debris burning, arson, slash and burn farming, lawn mowers, kids with fireworks, cars, downed power-lines, pot growing operations, but not one word about campfires.

According to, wild fires in California, from 1997 to 2001, an average of 392 wild fires were arson, more common than by lightning. They also state animals short circuit powerlines and oil well drilling contribute their fair share also. 


Campfires or the remains of a campfire (i.e., the remains of a campfire, a circle of stones, a “dug pit” etc.)  are often pointed out as the culprit with no evidence that these particular “campfires” started anything. They are just easy targets, and insurance companies want answers as well. The term “man-made” or human cause of wild fires is very misleading. It invites the mind to jump to conclusions. And the wrong conclusion most of the time. From these statistics, about 99% of the time. 
Glass fragments with lens properties such as a concave reflecting light onto a small focus with the temperature in the 90s can start a fire. Human caused?  Of course. This is from the “Kirks Fire Investigator,” NFPA by John Dehaan. What an eye-opener this book is. It is the bible for fire investigation, where I found the info above. 

The Demon Is Not Us

The war against us and Campfires is way out of control and we are losing. Why? Simple “propaganda,” the railing about and against campfires, demonizing in its best suite. The propaganda is winning and we have bought into it for years. By the time my grand kids are young adults, no fires will be allowed anywhere if this nonsense keeps up. 

Have campfires actually caused wild fires?  Of course they have, but not on the massive scale we are led to believe -- not even close.
What we need is proper education in the preparing of a campfire space, choosing the right place for the campfire, the importance of what can happen, how fast a fire can get away from us, a bucket of water, and shovel for dirt – these are no- brainers. It is really pretty easy for the responsible camper to use a bit of common sense, and the skills to handle the situation. 

You do not need a giant blazing monster to cook with – that’s only in the movies.  You need to be prudent and clear the forest duff at least 3 feet around the chosen spot, and watch the overhead and the wind. These things are easy to handle with the right skills, observation, and education. 
Campfires are a part of our heritage, our tradition, and we just should not stand back and let them take it away from. In light of the misleading statistics, we are being demonized because we are an obvious target, and an easily-brainwashed target at that. When you consider that we account for 1% and maybe less of all wildfires, we should not even be on the radar. The big deal is arson -- and many times arson from within the ranks. I’m not taking a low shot at the brave firefighters -- not even close.  But the facts are there and cannot be denied. These men do put their lives on the line, and unfortunately they lose those lives because of sick renegade firefighter arsonists and other reasons. By the same token we do not want them to continue to make us the demons; we just want our campfire.
“Going green,” by the way, is part of fire. Many plants, such as oaks, manzanitas, and many others, cannot grow well without fire.  Fire is not the demon and neither are campfires.  

By Dude McLean

Please feel free to post comments on my articles, I enjoy hearing from and responding to my readers. When you're finished posting your comment please click PUBLISH to share your comment with me and my readers. 


What is safe queen, a moniker mostly used by collectors of knives and guns that are non users in order to keep them pristine for possible resale in the future. A fine idea in some respects, but not for me, Many years ago I sold the last of any safe queens I had. For me it was a waste of space and non use, if I have knife or a gun it is to be used like any other tool, if it is so good why not use it, why keep the so called best in the shadows. If they are the best, then they should be used as they were meant to be. This is what they were made for so use them. 

Like any fine tool the best are a delight to handle and to use for the purpose they were intended for. If I need reliable then these are my choice for use. They do me no good in a hide just sitting looking pretty. A fine race horse is used for racing or breeding but they used, they just stand for years in a paddock. Since I have never been able to breed a knife or a gun it leaves one option open to me, use them.  Oh sure I have a few knives and guns that have seen little use but that has been dictated by the time I have available and human nature of, I'll take this knife today and we follow that pattern but I try and keep my mind open about which tool I will take on any given day, and that is often dictated by what I foresee as the chores that tool will be used for on any day in the bush. A good tool should last you a lifetime plus be ready to be handed down few generations, and keep on ticking for more. I do find myself picking up the same tool many times in a row because I have bonded with it and already know how it feels to me, a mistake perhaps but I do make a concentrated effort to break the habit of a certain tool choice just to expand my use of the tools at hand. 

Like many of you I have way too many knives and though they do not breed, it sure seems like at times they do so. My choices are myriad for any chosen craft I might be the bush. I like to experiment using a knife, for instance for a chore it was not meant to be used for just to see if I can make it work for me. I have been surprised many times by how well a knife worked for me in a craft it was not intended for. For the most part I am not a fan of large knives for instance but have more than a few.  I have found many of them to be useful in areas I would normally use a smaller knife, like for trap triggers, and they worked just fine. My own preference is to not chop with a large knife as I carry a hatchet or a tomahawk. My hawk is a Vechawk. They will out chop any large knife. But this not about what the tool is it is about using them. 

Revolt against "safe queens " and put them to the work they were intended for, they will thank you by performing like the Kings they really are. Safe Queens are for the non-outdoor crowd in my estimation, oh sure you might make a few bucks but is it really worth it? I think not. My opinion may not be shared by many of you and this is really to get you thinking in a direction of use rather than as a passive collector. On your last day on earth you will not be able to make up to all those tools and use them in one day. Damn I never got to shoot that gun or use that really cool knife. Too late bye bye , Have fun now. 

 by Dude McLean 

Monday, October 12, 2015


By: Dude McLean and Alan Halcon

Alan and I had just finished an interview for a possible Wilderness Way article. A field editor’s work is never done. As we were driving through the San Gabriel Mountains, I asked him if he had to work the next day.

He said, "No, and no work the next day either."

"Very convenient! We’re going into the bush right now with what we have in our pockets" I responded with a smile. "We can’t take anything we have in the SUV."

"Okay, let’s go!" Alan responded without hesitation.

Halcon and I had been talking about doing this kind of thing for quite some time. For some reason, this time it fell into place, so we went for it.

Halcon had on shorts, t-shirt, sandals, cap, and sunglasses. In his pockets he had a Kershaw knife and keys with magnesium and flint striker.

Dude had on long pants, a t-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, hat, and kerchief. In his pockets he had a Swiss Army Knife--model Rucksack. He also had keys with a magnesium and flint fire-starter.

We drove up a remote, twisty canyon road and headed down an unidentifiable road, as far as the trail would allow us to drive. Knowing it was noon and getting late, we parked the vehicle and headed into the bush… post haste!

Our first order of business was finding a suitable location to build our campsite for the night. We followed a very dim trail, parts of which were difficult to find. We figured we went into the bush about a mile, maybe a bit more.

Along the trail, en route to our campsite, we gathered yucca leaves, which would serve us well for various projects including securing our shelter.


We found a glade surrounded by rivercane, willows and cottonwood. Alan cut some rivercane for the lean-to while Dude put the pieces into place. The cane was pretty easy to cut and the work progressed pretty fast.

Dude took the yucca and shredded the leaves into thin fibers in order to secure the shelter There was no need to twist the fibers into cordage. The yucca fibers would be plenty strong for our intended uses.

Alan constructed a heat reflector out of rivercane, so the heat would be reflected back into our leanto.

Dude gathered some rocks for a three-fold purpose. One, to line the fire pit, so we might be able to cook on the heated rocks, since we had no containers or utensils of any kind. Secondly, we were making a fire-bed. Third, we were to heat stones to boil water and perhaps make some soup with the food we gathered… the stones were useful and answered our needs on many levels.

With our lean-to in place and our heated rocks in position, covered with a generous amount of earth, we lined the inside of the lean-to with leaves from the surrounding cottonwoods and willows. This would further insulate us from the cold ground.

Water was one of the first obstacles we needed to overcome. While we were sure the water was good enough to drink, we did not want to risk getting sick. We looked around for a while, in search of a rock with a suitable depression, or some trash bottleor can to hold water, but didn’t find one. In the end, we hiked back to where we had gathered the yucca leaves and collected about a three foot section of the yucca stalk. Dude took careful aim at splitting the stalk in half and carefully cutting out the pithy fiber, making a trough out of one of the split halves.

We chose yucca as our water vessel because of its pithy center, which made it easy to carve out. We would like to point out, however, we could have made a water trough out of a harder wood, but it would have only taken a little more time to carve out.

Alan started a fire and placed several small stones into the fire. Once the stones were sufficiently heated, Alan took a wrist sized branch, whose end he had whittled into a sort of shovel, scooped up the piping hot stones and placed them into the water filled trough where they quickly boiled the water, to the point we felt the water was purified and good enough to drink.

While filling our trough with water we noticed there were trout in the stream, a great sign as we were both hungry.
We both started making a net from the yucca strips. While we’re both versed in making nets, it still took about five hours of construction. Again, we didn’t twist the yucca into twine, as that would have added more time to the construction process. Besides, for our intended use, the yucca strands were more than adequate.

Dude cut a green willow branch, bent it back on itself, and secured it in a circle with another yucca fiber. We then secured the net onto the willow branch, with additional yucca strips, to complete our dip net.

By this time it was getting so late and chilly that the fire became our most welcome guest.

We ate the wild edibles we had collected on the way in, as we discussed our goals for the next day.

Morning came early, at zero dark thirty. Our night was pretty comfortable and warm. Our fire reflector worked well as did our firebed along with our padding and blankets made from leaves.

Armed with our net and fishing skills we proceeded to go after our prey… TROUT! It only took a few minutes to catch two, the one you see here and the one that got away from Alan, because he tried to pose with it for a picture opportunity. 

Alan is a big fan of sushi, Dude, not so much, so we cooked the trout on the spit back at camp. Along with some wild edible plants, our meal was delicious and satisfied our hunger.

After a successful day, we settled into a quiet time. Dude took another piece of yucca stalk and made a fire kit, a place where he could keep his primitive fire-making tools secure and dry. Alan took the net and checked the integrity of all the knots. During this time, we discussed the day’s activities and told stories as we waited for nightfall to arrive.

Our fire went out during the night! One of us was too lazy to keep it going. We won’t mention any names, but let’s just say Alan already had one screw up by losing a fish, and he certainly wasn’t going to screw up twice.

While it got chilly, we still managed to keep relatively warm because of our fire bed and our thick blanket of leaves.  Morning rolled around quickly, or so it seemed. We managed to stumble down to the stream, filled our yucca trough, made a fire, heated rocks and purified our water…. Aaaahhh! A hot breakfast.

We hung around camp a few more hours, deciding whether we should actually leave or not. In the end, we concluded if we stayed out another night, we might not have a real home to return to.... But then again, Alan didn’t know if he could deal with Dude any longer.

We finally decided it was time to go and proceeded to break down our camp. While Alan completely dismantled the shelter, Dude made sure there was absolutely no trace of fire.

Our hike back out was relatively uneventful, other than the satisfaction of having successfully overcome the challenge "With what we had in our pockets," and not having killed each other.

Hmmm! Now that we’re back in town, it’s only a matter of time before either one of us springs this challenge on ourselves again…. Knowing each other as we do, it’ll probably be windy, cold, and raining. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Water.. The Ohio Lesson

What happened to Ohio’s water should be a call to arm yourselves with water. No war, no government takeover, but nature at its worst aided by industry, no doubt. I suggest this is the time to make sure you have water and then more water.
A water problem can come from myriad causes. Without it, you and your family are are in the deep end of the empty pool. I know it is not sexy to store water, not like having weapons of choice and all of those cool things folks who practice the survival arts like to do. Even storing food is more sexy. Water is life.
Without water you can die. Water is so common, even well prepared people overlook it. We are spoiled by being able to turn a tap on and like magic water is there. Well, in Ohio the water is there, but you cannot drink it or cook with it. The only answer is water storage. I wonder how many had any in storage and if was enough. The rule of thumb is a gallon a day per person. I suggest that is way low in real use. Bathing, cooking, drinking, or just a sponge bath will deplete that water very fast, but a gallon is at least a first step. I would start with 3 gallons a day per person, but that is still conservative. It takes work to gather the containers and then fill them. Finding a storage place is a problem for many. If you have a yard and a garage that is a huge boost. Keep the bottles in the dark or at least no direct sun.I stored water under beds, under furniture, and in the garage. Outside I placed them in boxes and covered them over. Buy those cases of bottled water to start with, then work your way to bigger containers.

55 gallon containers are easy to get, but 30 gallon containers are easier to move. Be sure you have a hand pump to get the water out. There is no need to change the water out, because there is nothing to spoil. Water does not go bad, unless the container is contaminated by other factors. So make sure your container is really clean. Bleach is easy to do . I had bottles stored for many years and the water was just fine.
You also can go bigger. I have a container that holds over 600 gallons of water on my property. More will be added. Why? for my own peace of mind. and it is prudent.
Some donts:
  • Do not try and store water in used milk jugs, they have tiny pores that you cannot get clean, no matter how hard you try and the water will be contaminated.
  • Do not buy those water containers that are really thin and have a little push tap on them. Most will fail in 6 months or sooner. Any container that is thin plastic is a NO. The soda bottles are thicker and have to withstand the pressure of the carbonation process. these bottles will not fail over time. If you have doubts about the water, just go ahead and boil the water.
If your water tastes flat, take two containers and pour back and forth a few times. That will aerate your water, so it will taste fresh and not flat.
In the long run any amount of water you have stored will put you ahead of the game. Under stress you will need more water to drink than normal.
In 1971, because of an earthquake all the water lines were broken where I was living. It took the powers that be at least 5 days to bring water to the area and 5 to 6 weeks to repair the water lines. I had water stored in 55 gallon containers, so me and my family were okay with it. Lesson learned? Store way more than you might think is smart. Dont forget your water heater can have as much as 100 gallons and your toilet up to 5 gallons in the tank, however those both failed me in the earthquake. The water heater fell over and the toilet tank broke.
The Ohio situation is a wakeup call to all. At least it should be. Store some water.

By Dude McLean

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Archie Belaney… Grey Owl!

I think it is most likely most of you have never heard of him. If you are from Canada you might have, depending on your age. Archie was a beloved public figure in Canada, Britain and the U.S.
Readers were more than thrilled with his tales of life in the Canadian bush. They loved his hardscabble background. He claimed his father had been a Scotsman adventurer on the American wild west. His mother an Apache indian. After growing up on the frontier, he went to Canada and ranged across the country’s vast wilderness, as a trapper, woodman and riverman.
He embraced the indian heritage earning the Ojibway name Wa-Sha-Quon-Asin, or He Who Walks By Night, something for which he was known to do on most of his land and river travels. With four books under his belt ” The Vanishing Frontier , Pilgrims of the Wild, The Adventures of Sajo and her Beaver People, and Tales of an Empty Cabin he was firmly established as charming story teller and a passionate lover of nature. There was no doubt he could back up everything he wrote about. In 1938 he died suddenly, at age 50. It was then a startling truth came out. He was not the man he claimed to be. He was in fact and Englishman who emigrated to Canada in 1906, at the age of 18. Even his close friends and associates had no clue, including his book publisher.
No doubt can be cast of his sincerity of his passion for nature, as reflected in the life style he rarely strayed from, as found in his book, ‘Tales of an Empty Cabin,” published in 1936, two years before his death.
His first hand look at the wonders of the forest is still compelling, regardless of the fact he was not an Indian. He had two pet beavers who lived in the cabin with him and he raised from the time they were kits. He named them Jellyroll and Rawhide. He had been a beaver trapper, but after raising his two beavers he never trapped beaver again.
His knowledge was very real, I have found his books a joy to read. A movie of his life was made and played by Pierce Brosnan and followed his life pretty well. As a young boy in England, he found
himself captivated by the American Indians, so when he showed up in Canada he aligned himself with Indian mentors and learned to live as an Indian. His skills were real and for years earned money as a trapper. He married an Indian lady who never knew he was not an Indian. He also wore makeup to look darker—how he got away with the wife not knowing is a mystery if in fact she did know she never said so.
You may know him as… Grey Owl!

By Dude McLean

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A Survival Kit: What For?

Every survival book and guru shouts and pounds you better have a “kit”. We have books and articles warning of the dangers lurking out there. We have folks who sell the kits, dictating what should be in them. It is to the point if you do not have a kit, as dictated, you are going to die. Without a kit you are just helpless and stupid for not having half a brain and not half the sense god gave a goat. With all of that being said, look at what we have, a whole industry on survival kits has arisen, leaving once again your pockets running short of bucks.
The books sell and the articles gain acclaim over the contents of said kits. Whole careers are based on the fear factor of a survival kit. I feel it leads to a false sense of security. Depend on yourself and the skills you own, that factor seems to be overlooked.
How many of you have ever gone into the bush with just your survival kit tucked somewhere about your body and tried to use it? Do you really even know what is in it? Do you know how to utilize what is in it? A prudent person would really test it ahead of time, just like all other gear. I have been asking this question now for a few weeks. What is in your survival kit and have you ever used it? Answers range from “I don’t want to mess up my kit,” to, “I can't get everything back in it” “I’ll
know what to do when the time comes,” to, “I have never opened it,” And so forth. All forums at one time or the other have had threads about survival kits and what the contents are, granted some are pretty clever and ingenious. Again, how many of you have ever really used them to see if it would help you get by? Many of the commercial kits are put together by nothing less than hucksters who have no idea if they could, in reality, help you or not. Another factor is how many really carry one in the bush, leaving in it their pack as they wander around away from camp, just a short hike for a look-see?
My point is, if one has the skills and own those skills, you should be able to survive with nothing but what is normally in your pockets and the knife on your side, and many could do well without the knife. Almost every outdoorsman I know carries a pocket knife. Some carry a few folded up contractors bags in the back pocket, a huge plus for shelter and keeping warm. You can put the contractors bag next to your skin and put your shirt on over it causing you to be warmer. Plus you can use it as a way to carry water and a way to shed rain. You have deeper knowledge than you know and you can reach inside your brain—the survival kit you always have with you—and put it to use.
What do you need? depending on where you are, depends on what you need, but most might need shelter. It takes time to build a good shelter worthy of keeping you warm, so start early and use what is available. Keep it small and tight, so it doesn’t take much to warm up the inside. If you can, pile up duff, leaves, browse or other stuff and burrow into it like a critter. You can stuff your shirt with duff and other forest materials. Even newspapers work by balling them up and stuffing them in your shirt or jacket.
Use stones and break them until you have a discoidal blade that can make cuts. Now you have a knife. This leads you to being able to craft traps for food. The traps I would use are deadfall traps no cordage needed and the triggers are easy to carve. If you must use cordage take off your underwear cut into strips and twist it, now you can make several Paiute deadfalls. If the plants are around for you to make cordage so much the better, however, that is a skill you have to already know. Learn trap placement. Sometimes on a “run” no bait is needed. make a lot of traps, like 15 or twenty.
Most carry a lighter, matches, or a fire tool in their pockets. Failing that, a hand drill or a bow and drill could be the answer for fire.
Water is the difficult one. Being able to carry it will be out of the question, however you just might use one of your boots to haul a bit of water with you. Move it to your camp and with fire heat up some small stones, make sure the stones don’t come from the river, place them in the boot of water and bring it to a boil in no time flat . We have purified water that tastes like your feet, but life saving never the less.

If you are able to make fire, remember that three fires placed several feet apart, that smoke are great attention getters. Place green boughs etc on the fire to make it smokey. Stay in place if you are lost, only if it is safe. No shame in being lost, just embarrassment. Better that dead.
Most survival kits have fishing line and a few small hooks, but alas you don’t have a kit. If fish are in the water and it is a stream, dam it up where the creek is narrow, try hand fishing, try to hit them and stun them with a limb. If you are handy make a fish trap, a worth while skill to learn. A spear might answer the problem. Not saying it will work but at least it will keep you busy for a day or so.
72 hours seems to be the number that is touted about for rescue, most likely fairly accurate. If you have not been able to take meat, look forward to a fine meal when the rescue party shows up. Try to stay at least hydrated . Contrary to all the above if you do have a survival kit it might actually help you or not, depends on whether your brain will help you cobble ideas together for uses of your kit. Your brain is the perfect survival kit.

By Dude McLean

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Growing Tobacco For Trade

We have all heard about using cigarettes as a trade item but they will run out. It is a fact that under stress people smoke more and even take up smoking , when they were never a smoker in the past. With all the talk about bartering, this is a no brainier. Tobacco is a cash crop waiting to be planted.
It’s not all that hard to grow and can grow almost anywhere. Tobacco only needs acidic soil and little care. Creating acidic soil is not hard to do and many instructions can be found online.
You can even buy a mechanical hand roller to manufacture your own brand. You can also learn to hand roll cigars, lots of info on the net just Google how to hand roll cigars. It might be a while before you hit on your own method but it can be done. The videos I have seen are clear and easy to pick up the tricks and the art.
Heirloom seeds are best, as you can recover seed from the plants to regrow your own crop, and sell or barter. Some packets of seed are only a few bucks each , just like any veggies you might buy. I like
The Tobacco Seed Company. They will help you choose the tobacco you will need best for cigars, pipes and cigarettes. Virginian Gold, Turkish Basma, Burley Original and so on are just a few they carry. An added plus is you have no additives , no chemicals or other things that do not need to be in your mix.
Right now it is legal to grow anywhere and there is tons of info on the net about growing and preparing the tobacco for cigarettes, pipes , and cigars. A small patch can yield plenty of tobacco.
The cost of smoking is not going down if you are already a smoker, so just growing some of your own will save you big bucks.
Okay I know it is not the greatest thing to be a smoker and is linked to health issues. I believe is it is the added chemicals and no telling whatever else they have added that contributes god knows what to the tobacco. Growing you own eliminates that risk. and if nothing else just use it as a cash crop or barter.
After seeing the number of smokers at events and the number of cigars that seem to pop up at
campfires, and seeing the trading of cigars, “hey try one of these”, I don’t feel I’m too far off the beam here. I certainly do not suggest you take it up, but this is really an easy way to help yourself to a great in demand barter item. Right now I will kick back after writing this article with a fine cigar.

By Dude McLean

Monday, October 5, 2015

Shoot Me First

Some of us are more prone to this than others. Not even thinking we are making a statement, we are creating a  target… Look at my buzz cut, shirts, do-rag, cargo pants,wrap around shades, camo T-shirt, etc. You might as well put up a sign that says “shoot me first “. The same goes with trucks that are lifted and loaded with gear for escaping the hoards. they are screaming take me out I’ve got cool gear, shoot me first, etc..
A motorcycle or bike is just as bad. why? Because they are easy to take out and if your saddlebags are bulging you have gear… shoot me first!
I think we are making statements without reliasing what we are doing. Perhaps dressing down, kind of like a geek, or differently than we have been in the past is the best camo, because you don’t look like a potential problem. The best tactics are the element of surprise… make them shoot the other guy first.
We are influenced by movies, whether we want to be or not. Step back and just be neatly dressed. A do-rag doesn’t make you a man  with skills… The same with pants and a special shirt. Find a peta shirt, or one with  a peace sign on it etc… now that’s camo.
…Be a survivor not a stat.
It’s really a no brainer… Look less than average— the grey man idea.
Lots of ways to approach the problem. Maybe more later. Shoot them not me… I’m pointing to Halcon and others.
By Dude McLean

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“Whats In A Name, Dude? Poking a Little Fun”

What’s in a name? Sometimes it defines something. Like with names for people, it mostly will define you as a male or female, although that can be blurred. Or, that guy is an… fill in your fave bad name.
We are often defined by what we do for a living, although I feel that is unfair because it only tells partly what we really or are not. A carpenter does not go home and keep building because he is a carpenter by trade. I feel too many folks let the occupation define them, that is a one dimensional label and most are more complex than the one thing. Your job should not define who and what you are.
So this is my way of leading up to the point of my thoughts. I have heard it voiced in person, and many times on forums, that some are not happy with being called a “survivalist”, what with all the negative press who seldom get anything right anyway.. Add to the goofy shows about so called survivalists that are splashed all over the TV, it leads many to shy away from this label. Cant say I blame them, because it seems that all survivalists get lumped into one big nutcase bag, too bad. so this is a quest to find a new I.,D..
” Opportunist”, could be one name. Why? Well, those people buy extra items and stock ahead taking every opportunity they can to prepare themselves. Not as catchy and sounds a bit on the shady side but still applies. “Prudentists”,copyright, I just invented a word. Well, it is considered prudent to prepare ahead for what may come down the road. We hear the word prudent all the time, as in a prudent man would do such and such, mostly pertaining to being ready for something. “A prudent man buys insurance” etc. So it would apply for the new I.D.
How about the word prepper? I dont care for that word at all. It is just a lame word for survivalist. its like saying ” gosh darnit” when everyone knows you mean “god damnit”. So we’re still in search for the new I.D. How about “collectivist “. Why? because we are collecting things to put away and store and later on we can say wow look what I collected to save my sorry ass. Doesn’t it have a ring to it though?
How about “Obviousists” because you are doing the obvious by planning ahead and not being blinded by the crap we hear.. still not catchy eh?
Lets go with “: Americanist”, doing what Americans do covering our own butts and taking care of ourselves without the government helping us. Sowe are being prudent and taking the opportunity because it is obvious to collect the items we need in order to survive by preparing. Why should a label bother us? worse things could bother us… AOPCSO Americanopportunistsprudentcollectivesurvivalobvious. Now that’s a moniker you can hang with. I’m sure it will take off like wild fire, but at last we have a new label. You can give me all the credit for making your life a better one by handing out a new I.D. for free.

By Dude McLean

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