Thursday, August 31, 2017

Why I use Trekking Poles

It wasn't that long ago that I saw someone using two trekking poles or walking sticks and wondered why they needed two. Decades ago, I began using a walking stick when hiking, scouting or walking around in the woods. It just made sense to me to have a stick in my hand.

As summer months roll around in my neck of the woods, spider webs are everywhere, and there are few things that give me the ibby-jibbies worse than a cobweb in the face. So I walk with the stick to knock down spider webs and for general balance.

A little research into the use of trekking poles, or walking sticks finds they are very beneficial. Even more than I realized in the beginning all of those decades ago. So what are the benefits of using trekking poles and which ones should I try?

First let's look at the benefits. The obvious benefit is balance. The poles offer greater stability and balance. Especially on steep and uneven terrain. Using the poles enables the hikers to maintain a sense of balance while walking over tree roots, blowdown trees, rocks, etc. They also are excellent in stream crossings. How many times have you had to wade through a stream and wish you had something to hold on to? The trekking pole is ideal for this function.

Other benefits include reduces stress on your joints. Sure there are mixed reviews on this, but experience tells me that using the poles makes ascending steep hills and descending steep terrain are easier with the poles than without them. Additional benefits include those mentioned in the opening. Knocking down spider webs, brushing poison Oak and ivy out of the way of the trail. Aid in standing with a heavy pack and in some instances double usage as a tent or tarp pole.

Should you use one hiking staff or two trekking poles? This is really a matter of preference. Part of me likes the feel of wood and the organic emotion tied to using a piece of wood for hikes into the woods. While other parts of me really likes the compact light weight element of the aluminum and carbon fiber poles. For short relatively easy walks, I still prefer the single wooden hiking staff. But for longer walks with heavier loads, it's two poles for me.

As a hunter, getting game out of the backcountry is always a big task. In most instances we have to pack out the animal one piece at a time. These trips can tale several days. When hiking at high elevation with heavy loads, I opt for two strong poles to help me with balance and to help with the hiking portion. I am using my arms to help carry the load up the mountain. Which may burn more calories, but it sure is easier on my legs.

Types of poles vary. Aluminum poles are a lot less expensive than carbon fiber and are very durable. Aluminum is also heavier than the carbon fiber poles. We are talking about ounces or fractions of ounces. Still, many aluminum poles can be purchased for reasonable prices. Big box stores have cheap poles that may be good for some, but are really only introductory. The locking mechanisms are inferior and will break within a few weeks. The grips will begin to deteriorate. If you are looking for a better product, here are some choices in both aluminum and carbon fiber.

Helinox.  offers aluminum poles for hiking that are extremely durable and resilient. These poles are high end aluminum and the price reflect this. But these are a lifetime purchase. They are light weight and durable but not cheap.

LEUPOLD Trek Carbon Fiber Poles (170592)If you are looking for a light weight composite version. Leupold offers a carbon fiber option for trekking poles that fits the bill. These Carbon Fiber poles can and do handle the stress of aluminum and a fraction of the weight. They are durable and virtually indestructible. Four sections of twist locking mechanisms and the Leupold Lifetime Guarantee.

If you decide for one staff or two poles, make sure they fit you properly. You will want your elbow at a 90 degree angle to the ground while at rest. Too mush or too little reduces the ability of the poles to help. Also something to consider is the shroud and removable rubber tip. Both of these items are necessary. The shroud is just as good for mud as it is for snow. It keeps the pole from sinking into the soft mud or snow. Lastly, the rubber tip protector. This removable protector is excellent for weekends in the neighborhood or protected trails. Personally, when in the woods, I remove the rubber tips and use the point for greater balance. 

If you haven't used them, borrow some, or get some from a thrift store or from a friend who upgraded and see if you like them. When you see you do, you will return here to order your first set or second, or even the third set of poles. It will make your adventure more fun and enjoyable.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Which Multi-Tool is Best for You

A few years ago I started carrying a multi-tool on a daily basis. It has been one of those moments when I have to ask myself. "Why did I wait so long to start carrying this?" I have found that now I am lost when the random day arrives and I forget to get my multi-tool.

Through the years I have carried several different styles and different brands. Leatherman, Gerber, Victorinox and SOG have dominated my holster's. As I think about it, it really all started back in the 1980's with a Swiss Army Knife by Victorinox I got from my dad for Christmas. This was the coolest thing. It had a blade, a saw and a pair of pliers! I thought I was the bomb because I had a saw and pliers. A few years later, the modern Multi-tool was born. I am not sure who was first, the chicken or the egg. But now there are dozens of brands offering different versions of the same tool.

Different models tend to have different tools with them. But there are a few similarities that are common in them all. Everyone I have used have the big set of needle nose pliers. And off of the handles, they offer Phillips screwdriver, flat screwdriver, bottle opener and then the combinations vary wildly. It seems there are also two different design's taht dominate, those where the main pliers slide up from the center of the tool, and those that unfold the pliers from the center. I have personally never liked the sliders. I prefer the folding ones. This is just a preference, friends of mine love the sliders. But it is something to consider when purchasing a multi-tool.

For my money there are a few of these accessories that are a must have. In addition to the common ones mentioned above, I must have a saw. I use the saw on almost a daily basis. As a full time trapper, I am always using the saw to remove limbs, or to trim limbs. I use the saw to cut snare support sticks, and anchors. There is never a day that goes by that I do not use my saw. I used to carry a small folding saw in my backpack. But the multi-tool saw works just as well and I don't have to carry any additional tools.

Another item that is necessary is the additional serrated knife. I like having two different kinds of blades for cutting different things. One is my "give 'em hell" blade that I don't as much worry about the edge but will still cut with enough force. And the other is my cutting blade that stays razor sharp.

In addition to these items, I really like scissors for delicate work, and the replaceable cutters on the wire cutters portion of the pliers.

VICTORINOX SwissTool Spirit 105mm Multi-Tool with Leather Pouch (53800)Here are my favorites. I still like the Victorinox Swiss Army knife versions of the Multi-tool. It not only has some nostalgia, it also is high quality. Plus it has everything I need and want in a tool. Pliers, saw, scissors, file, etc. It does only have one blade, but it is still a great tool.

SOG EOD Stainless Needle Nose 22 Tools Nylon Sheath 4.6in Black Oxide Clam Pack Multi-Tool (B61N-CP)The other one I really like are the ones made by SOG. I have carried several of the SOG versions and really like them all. As long as they have the required tools. One thing about the SOG is it comes with a hinged door over the tools in the handles. I always take it off and throw it away. It just isn't needed and gets in my way. I do like the matte black tools, with the exception that they are a lot harder to find when you lay them down in the woods.
 The SOG  EOD Stainless Needle Nose with 22 tools is a great choice for the tools I need and want.

When it comes to choosing a tool that is right for you, I would definitely begin with two questions. 1. Which tools are a must have for what I intend to use it for? and 2. Does size matter? Some of the tools I have carried are o big and bulky they are difficult to use. Likewise, I just received one as a gift that is so small, I can barely hold it in my hand. I want to open the package and hold the tool in my hand to see how it fits before I spend the money on it.

One thing is for sure though. Before I go off into the woods for any reason, I always have a multi-tool on my side or in my pack. There is an extra one in my boat and in my truck. There is an extra one in my tool box, archery bag and gun range bag. When it comes to time to go hunting, I will always have a multi-tool with me. Make the right choice and pick one that will fit your need and your hands.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Focus on What Really Matters

I had a conversation recently with a fellow hunter that left me somewhat frustrated. The conversation started out simple enough, we began sharing hunting stories about this and that. Comparing animals, hunts, locations etc. Then suddenly the conversation began getting - I wouldn't say out of hand, but it became evident that we were on opposite sides of certain issues in the hunting world. 

Trying to find common ground proved difficult until we just stopped talking hunting all together. I do not want to condemn this fellow hunter, each of us are certainly offered the right to an opinion. And without giving him due course, I am going to offer here, my opinion on the topics discussed in hopes it will generate a conversation. 

The conversation turned to hunting turkeys. Something I am very passionate about. I love hunting turkeys. And I consider myself a turkey hunter, not someone who merely hunts turkeys. When we discussed turkeys, I asked if he'd read Col. Tom Kelly's Classic book "The Tenth Legion". His response - "I don't read anything about hunting turkeys, I don't think there is anything anyone can teach me about killing turkeys." If there is one thing I have learned about turkeys, there is always something to learn about killing turkeys. Archibald Rutledge spent his life chasing turkeys and killed several hundred birds, and still he surmised (And I paraphrase) "anyone who thinks they have an understanding of hunting turkeys, has never truly hunted turkeys. Just when you think you have them figured out, they have a way of humbling you into submission." 

But perhaps the most upsetting portion of the conversation revolved around the use of crossbows. I asked his opinion of the fairly new rise in crossbow hunting. his response was, "I don't like it, it puts too many people in the woods."  I have heard a lot of comments on crossbows. Those who love them and those who don't. Usually those who don't is because they are partial to vertical bows. Never have I heard a comment that was so selfish. 

I have always had the belief and opinion that while it may not appeal to me personally, if it promotes the sport, and its legal then I am all for it! We need to do all we can to promote the sport of hunting, how you hunt is your choice. Rifle, bow, muzzleloader, crossbow, atlatl, spear, shotgun, pistol, it really should not matter as long as it is legal and gets people into the woods, it is a good thing. 

When I proposed this line of thinking to this person, that promoting the sport should override any personal inconvenience he seemed to reject that. "I don't want people all in the woods while I am trying to hunt." he said. 

As a hunter who is passionate about the sport. It is my opinion that anything that can get more and more people into the woods is a great thing. None of us have it all figured out. There are certain types of hunting that do not appeal to me, but if it is what get's you into the woods, I will support you all the way. 

I wish more hunters would see that we are a group in the minority. We are practicing a dying sport. We need to stop all of the infighting and stick together to elevate the sport of hunting at all costs. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fly In Fishing

As a young lad growing up, I would walk or ride my bicycle to the local country store and look through the racks of outdoor magazines with amazement and wonder. Color pages of remote destinations. Sheep in Montana, Mule deer in Colorado, Northern pike in Canada. I have dreamed of accomplishing some of these adventures. 

Many seemed and still seem so far away - but hope lingers and pursuit continues. One never knows how a chance encounter can lead to the fulfillment of this dream or that one. A few months ago, one such chance encounter occurred in south Florida. This encounter led to a trip I just returned from with Kashabowie Outposts, in Atikokan, Ontario. 

Fly-in fishing and hunting is as wild as it can get for many. Float planes loaded with gear travel through and across remote wilderness and boreal forest to some hidden lake full of fish waiting for the occasional angler to cast a spoon or other lure into the water. Cast after cast, lines are tight and reels scream. 

Kashabowie Outposts helped me to fulfill this life long dream of fishing in remote places. Places where the silence echos across vast nothingness. A place where the reflection of the lake captures images of soaring eagles and the cry of the loon pierces the silence like a knife slicing through skin. Desperate cries from one loon to another. Each feeling more desperate than the previous. 

Four of us loaded our float plane and taxied across Eva Lake. The 1956 nine cylinder Beaver roared and strained to carry the load of four men who have not known to omit second and third helpings of dinner, along with all of our gear to use for five days in the remote Grew Lake. Gradually, we lift from the water and quickly climb to one thousand feet and move northeast for forty minutes to our destination. 

The horizon is dotted with a landscape of ancient lakes carved by extinct glaciers. Tea stained water fills the lakes and provides a haven for walleye, northern pike and beaver. Loons, a few gulls, and bald eagles visit for a few months before the cold sends them on their way. Gradually the roaring of the engine becomes mundane until I see the pilot adjusting knobs worn bare from fifty years of adjustments. Ahead is our destination, with the ease of a surgeon wielding a scalpel we touch down. Water sprays from the floats before we even felt contact. Drifting to the dock we moor and begin our journey into the wilderness. A warm cabin, fresh mattresses and boats with motor and gas awaits us. 

The week is filled with hours of fishing, telling tales, poker with match sticks and a few libations to top off the tales. None of us had ever caught walleye or northern pike. But before the first day was complete, all of us had scratched our name into the book of anglers who had accomplished the feat at Grew. 

Every day we ate walleye, fried or grilled (admittedly, the fried is far better) every day we caught fish, a lot of fish. Walleye and northern pike dominated the catches. If there are other fish in this lake they avoided us. The catches of walleye and pike together exceeded 250 fish for the five days. Most of us agree that the catch was greater but without solid proof, we are not willing to say. Suffice it to say that our goal of fifty fish a day were greatly exceeded. Walleye in the 23-25 inch that were common the first part of our week ran thin by the middle of the third day. the Fish got smaller and the pike became more plentiful. Twice we hooked trophy pike only to lose the fish before netting them. 

By weeks end we caught around 275 fish, made good friends and spent some time in the wilds of Canada. For more information on how you can also participate in this wonderful experience; contact Carol or Fern at 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Chainsaw Accidents are Not Fun

Like many outdoorsmen, I use a chainsaw a lot. Each year I will cut a few cords of firewood to heat my cabin and to enjoy a fire here in my office. But most of my chainsaw use is for hunting purposes.

Opening up lanes, clearing trail, breaking new trail. Saplings here, saplings there and before you know it, you have spent a day using your saw. Without going into details, chainsaws are as brand specific as many cars. There are people who will only use a Hunsqvarna, others who will only use a Stihl, or Poulan, etc. For me, my most recent purchase was based on two things. It had to be either a Stihl or Husqvarna. It needed a 20" bar or bigger and weigh less than 14 pounds. These requirements were met with the Stihl Farm Boss. It is a great saw, and it cuts excellent.

This leads me to this past Sunday. After spending a few hours cutting firewood. I traveled into a three year old clearcut to remove some standing dead trees. None of which are very big at all. The biggest being about seven to eight inches in diameter. After removing a half dozen I decided to cut one last sapling that was blocking a view of the drainage. As I cut the sapling of about three inches in diameter. It fell towards me. My instinct was to let go of the trigger and catch the sapling. Which I did. In the process, the saw came towards me and in a split second, I felt the cold steel of the chain ripping through my shorts and left leg.

I don't know how to express the fear that goes through your mind when a chainsaw hits your leg. Without looking, I cut the saw off, and immediately applied pressure to the wound. Peeking, is saw it was bleeding, so I applied pressure while I walked towards my truck. I screamed to my brother in law to get a towel and come get the saw.

After getting to the cabin, we washed the wound with cold clean water, poured peroxide into the cut for a while, and cleaned it well. Then applied some butterfly bandages to the wound. It is so jagged that stitches would not do any good at all.

All in all I am very lucky the wound is not worse than it is. Lessons learned. Wear chaps when using a chainsaw. Be careful, be careful, be careful.