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Kudos to Filson clothing

Filson is a clothing manufacturer in Seattle, making pretty much the most basic American clothing styles for the past 130 years.

Little has changed in their styles or fabrics. Boring? Maybe.

Flannel and wool shirts, wool and canvas coats and pants, wool long underwear, leather boots with wool insulation, tote and carry bags and purses, every item is made in America of virgin wool or different weights of canvas.

One short phrase describes Filson products: Brutally tough.

Or, “Last a lifetime.”

In an era of cheap Chinese crap and Asian sweatshop “designer” clothes, Filson stands alone, or probably alone. I am a consumer of top-quality outdoor clothing, and I cannot think of another manufacturer who makes anything like Filson’s clothing line.

Oh, sure, there are plastic and Gore Tex outdoor clothes galore. Eddie Bauer, LL Bean, Mountain Hard Wear, and others make some pretty good ones, which our family wears. Fleece coats, mountaineering parkas, super-sophisticated PhD plastic fiber clothes for the outdoor lifestyle. Some are married to goose down, which is genuinely warm.

But all of these synthetics catch on fire and turn the wearer into a large, running, screaming torch when exposed to flame. Or at the least they wilt, melt, smell very bad, and cease being useful when exposed to a camp fire hot enough to dry your damp undies and wet socks. In other words, the newfangled modern synthetics may weigh next to nothing and stop wind faster than a speeding bullet and locomotive, but they lack certain basic physical properties necessary to truly enjoy or survive the outdoors.

Wool and waxed heavy cotton canvas are nearly fireproof and can withstand tremendous force before tearing. Wool keeps the wearer warm even when wet. Yes, it is heavy compared to synthetics, but it is a lot quieter, actually it is silent, whereas even the best of synthetic fleece hunting clothes will leave a telltale “zip” sound when dragged across a sharp branch.

Filson forms a big part of my winter clothing selection. Mackinaw vests and coats of different colors and patterns form the core of the selection, and the double mackinaw coat in “Pennsylvania Tuxedo” red-and-black buffalo check plaid has kept me toasty warm in sub-zero temperatures day after day. This past week I wore the double mackinaw coat while flintlock hunting, and I never got cold. It was sub-zero every day.

Other wool clothes I wear are heavy camouflage Columbia hunting pants, Bass Pro Redhead heavy wool socks, Danner wool socks, knee-high SmartWool ski and hunting socks, and SmartWool long underwear. Yes, once in a while I break out the Eddie Bauer and Woolrich Adirondock plaid pants, jackets, and so on. They are real testaments to a world long gone, which dinosaurs like me cling to in misty eyed memories.

David Petzal is the gun writer for Field and Stream Magazine, and among many other witticisms and pithy one-liners, years ago he noted that all synthetic long underwear makes you smell like someone slaughtered a cow after a day, but wool long underwear can be worn for days without you or them being cleaned, and yet you don’t smell…too badly.

That’s the thing. Wool is natural. Like leather and fur, it is natural and fits the human body perfectly. We can sweat into wool for days on a hunt, and it just doesn’t smell bad. Oh, it may not smell fresh, but compared to the polypropylene synthetics, it does.

My Filson Mackinaw coat accompanies me on all my Adirondack wilderness hunts, serving as a blanket at night when the temperature inside the tent dips to 18 degrees. And yet after many years of being worn through thorn patches and rugged mountain brush, it shows zero signs of wear. That says it all.

Other favorites include the now discontinued styles of Tin Cloth logging jacket and Double Tin field coat, both of which I wear when hunting for small game in January and February, when thorns are a big part of the day. Some of these discontinued tin cloth coats have become collector’s items. Each one will last you your entire lifetime, and if you wax it at the end of the season, it will serve your kids, too.

So, kudos to Filson for making Best-quality, “old fashioned” clothing for a tech-happy generation. www.filson.com

An outdoor lifestyle, halfway through the season (to hunt is human)

Most of the readers who visit this blog are not outdoors folk. Feats, exploits, and the inevitable tales of woe, cold, and misery from the field would naturally bore, or at best morbidly fascinate, the non-hunter.

Nevertheless, here we go, for the first time here, on a midway retrospective of a singular hunting season still unfolding.

Hunting for most hunters is a way of life literally built into our genes. We do what humans have done since the rise of Homo Sapiens upon Planet Earth: Hunt animals that we eat, wear, and admire. While the Pleistocene ended only 20,000 years ago, it is marked by the full arrival of adept hunter-gatherers who had spent tens of thousands of previous years perfecting their lifestyle.

Humans have been hunters and gatherers for 100,000 years, or 60,000 years, depending upon how long one believes Homo Sapiens has been human.

We have been agrarian for what…10,000 years at the most generous definition of the sedentary lifestyle, but closer to 5,000 years for most humans.

After that, the most modern, most technologically advanced, most “civilized” humans have lived through the Industrial Revolution (400 years), the Technological Revolution (150 years), the Information Revolution (50 years and ongoing). Combined, that’s a total of 600 years out of a total of 60,000 years.

At our core we are all hunter-gatherers. Scratch our civilized surface, and right underneath we are all spear-toting, skin-clad hunters.

To hunt is innately human. Hunting makes us human.

In other words, although many people today look at our current effete, energy-intensive Western lifestyle and think of it as being the peak of human civilization, some of us see this civilization as becoming complacent, detached from the reality of natural resource management necessary to support this modern lifestyle, hypocritical.

When someone believes it is morally superior to have an assassin kill their meat for them than to kill it themselves, you’ve got an unsustainable logical break. Similarly, people want “the government” to protect them, and they want to prevent citizens from protecting themselves, and those same citizens cannot hold the same government accountable when it fails.
Western civilization is full of this weak thinking. In my opinion, Western society is becoming hollow, a shell, full of contradictions.

The hunting lifestyle is a powerful antidote. It is a dose of reality inserted into a cloudy drugged up dream.

So far, this season has been marked by time afield in the most beautiful places in several states with long time friends, new friends, my young son, other kids, and by myself. Like our Pleistocene ancestors, the feeling of the pack on my back and the game-getter in my right hand is about the most natural and satisfying feeling possible.

A number of deer have fallen to various firearms, a Fall turkey, a colorful pheasant; there’s a bunch of photos commemorating the times for the results-oriented. My best moment was late at night, checking a trap with my boy, and finding a large bobcat. There for about four hours, it had really no taste for humans and represented the wilderness in all its wildness.

Catching a bobcat is a real achievement in the world of hunting and trapping, and I confess it was with great mixed emotions that we dispatched it and brought it to Butch at Blue Mountain Taxidermy. Even if a bobcat is again in one of our traps during the short bobcat season, we will release it. One is enough for a lifetime.

One bobcat trophy represents a lifetime of time afield, or 60,000 years.

A plea for a small slice of reality

Marketing hype for any and all kinds of products has resulted in any and all kinds of hilarity, humor, bloopers, and ironies.

Hype, by its nature, kind of skirts facts and embellishes upon irrelevancies. Thus does hype almost inevitably lead to unintentional silliness.

For whatever reason, the outdoor sports are loaded with marketing hype.

Trail cameras are notoriously both marked by near-claims of X-Ray vision and simultaneous failures to perform their most basic functions.

Clothing that keeps your funky, unwashed armpits from making deer say “Uncle!” is another proven fraud.

The list goes on. I won’t belabor the list.

What really irks me are the male and female models used to promote outdoor gear, and specifically I mean hunting gear.

Cabelas, Bass Pro, Eddie Bauer, LL Bean, and many advertisers in Field & Stream magazine all use models for hunting gear who look nothing like hunters.

Probably universally, the guys are either effeminate, urban, slender professional model hipsters from NYC with a day-old facial hair growth, or they are occasionally hunting “stars” whose annoying braggadocio, bravado, machismo, and one-dimensional arrogance inspires mostly dismissiveness.

Neither of these model types fit the mold or image of real world hunters. Like me, probably you.

For example, I’m well overweight and struggle to make time to exercise, because being a husband, father, and small business owner all preclude time for developing hour-long fitness routines and pumped biceps.

And neither I nor any of my friends aspire to look effete, lanky, or effeminate. Our problem is probably that we don’t spend enough time cultivating our looks, complexions, or clothing fit, because these are unimportant sideshows in a life of meaning and real substance.

Hunting is, after all, about woodcraft, a conservation ethic, stealth, mastering one’s emotions, mastering firearms and bows, teaching our kids these skill sets with patience and love, and so on. Studly macho guys would be quickly drummed out of every group I hunt with. Hunting has zero to do with being macho.

So a simple plea here for reality: Use models who look like us Average Joes. We are much more likely to be interested in your products when you use people who actually look like us. Sinewy urban guys struggling to look male don’t interest us, and selfish guys who wear tinted contact lenses and who spend time on their biceps instead of their community don’t interest us, either.

We interrupt this marriage to bring you hunting season…

Thank you to my wonderful wife, the Princess of Patience, for letting me hunt so much.

Knowing how many other “hunting widows” there are, I am confident I speak as one with many other appreciative husbands.

Why deer hunting is good for the environment

This past week was the early muzzleloader season in Pennsylvania. Instead of the modern inline muzzleloaders, I use an old fashioned flintlock. It is more challenging, and honestly, it’s just plain beautiful to look at.

Up at a relatively small piece of land I’ve been cultivating for twelve years, this fall marked the first time I’ve seen young oak seedlings survive deer browsing. Across the forest  floor a plethora of oak seedlings – white, red, chestnut – create a carpet effect that indicates a future of young oak trees….if they can avoid being eaten by deer.

While I was casually walking through the forest, I saw a young doe looking at me. I raised the gun and fired. I will take any opportunity to help the little oaks become big oaks. They do, after all, produce the acorns necessary to feed deer, bears, turkeys and many other wild animals.

Then as if on cue, one of my very next steps was right into an enormous pile of bear poop. Colored brown from all the acorns, this fresh pile represents a great modern conservation success story, Pennsylvania’s population of huge black bears.

How ironic that deer can eat the trees needed to feed both themselves and their predators, the bears. How ironic that humans, who have dramatically shaped our planet over the past 20,000 years, do all we can to help an animal that might want to eat us (the bear), due to our recreational desires, and in doing so eat the deer sought by the bear.

Life is intertwined. Our futures are intertwined, humans and wildlife. Deer hunting is good, and good for the environment.

 

Fifty years of designated wilderness

Two weeks ago marked the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act.

It applies to federal designation of remote areas, not to states. States can create their own wild areas, and some do. States closest to human populations and land development seem to also be most assertive about setting aside large areas for people and animals to enjoy.

I enjoy wilderness a lot. Hunting, camping, hiking, fishing, and exploring are all activities I do in designated wilderness.

Every year I hunt Upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains, in a large designated wilderness area. Pitching a tent miles in from the trail head, the only person I see is a hunting partner. Serenity like that is tough to find unless you already live in northern Vermont, Maine, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming or Alaska. It’s a valuable thing, that tranquility.

This summer my young son sat in my lap late at night, watching shooting stars against an already unbelievably starry sky. Loons cried out all around us. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves on the birch trees above us and caused the lake to lap against our rocky shore.

Only by driving a long way north, and then canoeing on a designated wilderness lake, and camping on a designated wilderness island in that lake, were we able to find such peace and quiet. No one else was anywhere around us. We were totally alone, with our camp fires, firewood chores, fishing rods, and deep sleeps in the cold tent.

These are memories likely to make my son smile even as he ages and grapples with responsibilities and challenges of adulthood. We couldn’t do it without wilderness.

Wilderness is a touchstone for a frontier nation like America. Wilderness equals freedom of movement, freedom of action. The same sort of freedoms that instigated insurrection against the British monarchy. American frontiersmen became accustomed to individual liberty unlike anything seen in Western Civilization. They enshrined those liberties in our Constitution.

Sure, there are some frustrations associated with managing wilderness.

Out West, wilderness designation has become a politicized fight over access to valuable minerals under the ground. Access usually involves roads, and roads are the antithesis of a wild experience.

Given the large amount of publicly owned land in the West, I cannot help but wonder if there isn’t some bartering that could go on to resolve these fights. Take multiple use public land and designate it as wilderness, so other areas can responsibly yield their valuable minerals. Plenty of present day public land was once heavily logged, farmed, ranched, and mined, but those scars are long gone.

You can hike all day in a Gold Mine Creek basin and find one tiny miner’s shack from 1902. All other signs have washed away, been covered up by new layers of soil, etc. So there is precedent for taking once-used land and letting it heal to the point where we visitors would swear it is pristine.

Out East, where we have large hardwood forests, occasionally, huge valuable timber falls over in wilderness areas, and the financially hard-pressed locals could surely use the income from retrieving, milling, and selling lumber from those trees. But wilderness rules usually require such behemoths to stay where they lay, symbols of an old forest rarely seen anywhere today. They can be seen as profligate waste, I understand that. I also understand that some now-rare salamanders might only make their homes under these rotting giant logs, and nowhere else.

Seeing the yellow-on-black body of the salamander makes me think of the starry night sky filled with shooting stars. A rare thing of beauty in a world full of bustle, noise, voices, and concrete. For me, I’ll take the salamander.

Field Notes

Field Notes are the monthly notes written by PA Game Commission wildlife conservation officers, about notable experiences and interactions they’ve had on the job, out in the field.  And you know that for those folks, men and women, out in the field is truly out there in the wild.  Their descriptions of encounters with people and wildlife are unique and often funny.

Field Notes are published monthly in the PGC’s Game News magazine, and for all of my hunting life (1973 until now), one person really summed up Field Notes and gave them pizzazz, making them my first-read in the magazine.

That was artist Nick Rosato, whose funny illustrations in Field Notes came to epitomize and symbolize the life and lighter side of wildlife law enforcement.  Rosato’s humorous, rustically themed sketches summed up a WCO’s life of enforcing the law against sometimes recalcitrant bad guys, while maintaining an empathy usually reserved for naughty school children, when first-time offenders were involved and a slap on the wrist was needed.

Rosato died this summer, and his art will no longer grace the pages of Game News.  I will miss Rosato’s humor and skill, because for most of my life he helped paint the human dimension of officers who are too often seen as gruff, grumpy, and unnecessarily strict law enforcers.

Speaking of WCOs, a couple years ago I was hunting during deer rifle season when I encountered a WCO I knew.  He had a deer on the back of his vehicle and we stopped to chat and catch up with each other.  Out of nowhere, I asked him to please check me, as in check my license, my gun, my ammunition.

Getting “checked” by WCOs and deputy WCOs is a pretty common experience for most Pennsylvania hunters, but the truth is, I have never been checked by anyone in my 42 years of hunting.

“Sorry, Josh, I just do not have the time.  You will have to wait ’til later or until you meet another WCO out here,” he responded.

With that he smiled, waved, and drove off to follow through on his deer poaching investigation.

I think that encounter should be a Field Note, Terry.  It is probably a first.

Maybe this year I will be “checked,” but perhaps having every single license and stamp available to the Pennsylvania hunter, and hunting only when and where I am supposed to hunt, somehow creates a karma field that makes WCOs avoid me.

Speaking of hunting experiences, yesterday morning Ed and I were goose hunting on the Susquehanna River.  Out in the middle of the widest part, we were alone, sitting on some rocks, chatting about our families, professional work, politics and culture, religion.  Our time together can best be summed up as “Duck Blind Poetry,” because it ain’t pretty, but it is soulful.  Two dads together, sharing life’s experiences and challenges, makes hunting much more than killing.

While we were noting the Susquehanna River’s recent and incredible decline in animal diversity, we suddenly saw four white Great Egrets fly across our field of view, followed by three wood ducks.  Intrigued, we began speculating on where they had all been hiding, when out of nowhere a mature bald eagle appeared on the horizon.  It flapped its way over us and clearly was on the hunt.  So that was why the other birds had quickly flown out of Dodge!

Seeing these wild animals interact with each other was another enjoyable example of how hunting is much, much more than killing.

Unfortunately, during that serene time afield, I introduced my cell phone to the Susquehanna River, and have found myself nearly shut off from communications ever since.  While the phone dries off in a bath of rice, I am enjoying a sort of enforced relaxation.  Please don’t think my lack of responses to calls and texts is rudeness.  I am merely clumsy.  Let’s not make that a Field Note.

 

Hunting season preparations – Xmas in July

Though hunting seasons may be many months away, the truth is that hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania hunters are quietly sorting out their plans far ahead of time.  Doe tags, DMAP tags, licenses and berths in a Quebec hunting camp for black bear and caribou, a camping permit for an ADK wilderness…it is all lining up now across the state.

Summertime preparations for Fall and wintertime hunting activities are a sign that yet another round of sustainable, renewable economic development is upon us here.  After all, hunting is a $2.8 billion industry (or business sector, or economic sector) in Pennsylvania.  Hunters are a renewable, and sustainable source of income and economic activity, so long as they have places to hunt.

Longingly fondling old, trusted firearms and bows, sighting them in on the sitting room wall or at the range, hunters can already smell that clean air, feel that cool breeze upon the cheek, and hear dead leaves rustle under foot, if they but close their eyes and imagine it.

It is Christmas in July now, as hunters across the Commonwealth gear up, trim up, and make sure everything is in order for that best time of the year: Hunting season.

For the tech geeks among you

Some of my hunting buddies had a discussion by email about flashlights and batteries.  I am a headlamp kind of guy, ever since my eyes started aging a year or two ago, because flashlights require one of my hands while the other tries to do the work of two hands…and I am lucky if I can get both of my hands to synchronize as it is.

Anyhow, if you are into high-tech, intense, high-output flashlights and batteries, read on:

MOSH:

As per irv suggested, AA batteries are better than AAA…. also there are batteries called 14500, physically the same size, but double the Voltage. AA 1.5, 14500 3.4v

DONT PUT A 14500 IN AN AA ONLY FLASHLIGHT, IT WILL BREAK

 …If getting a new flashlight…look for one that can use a 14500 for full brightness 200+lumens,  or a AA for half the power.

 14500 batteries are not readily available in stores.

*****

Irv:
Hi George, the maratac is a good quality light. I believe its sold by countycomm, which had a good reputation last i heard.

They specifically state NOT to use high power 10440 batteries which i agree with since electronics that use AAA batteries are usually delicate and sensitive to over-current.
I would not hesitate to rely on that light with AAA Lithium batteries. You will probably lose it before it dies on you.
*******
Irv:
Here’s a short write up you guys may want to read:
STAY AWAY FROM AAA batteries unless you have no choice.  AA batteries have 2-3 times the capacity of AAA batteries.
I use flashlights daily, and everyone knows i highly recommend headlamps. Petzl and Princeton tec are great companies but they don’t make a headlamp that is also a handheld flashlight. So far only 2 companies do. Zebra light and Armytec.
Now it all depends on what battery you want to use.
After much time and research I strongly recommend STAYING AWAY from using AAA batteries if your life depends on it.
and i HIGHLY recommend size AA batteries at the least, and even better lithium  CR123 batteries (but they can be expensive and the cheaper ones can have flaws. more on that later…)
Basically Lithium batteries are best. And Rechargeable “14500” (a rechargeable AA battery on steroids) and even stronger “18650” (rechargeable CR123 battery on steroids)   …are GREAT.
I have been constantly disappointed at the quality and reliability of other companies, and of AAA batteries. Especially in cold weather where plastics get brittle and crack, and batteries freeze up even while being used and seem warm.
After our little trip going down the other side of the mountain i bet everyone realized how important it was to have a flashlight when it gets dark, and even more important to have both hands free.
Mosh loves the flashlights he gets from ebay and i have tried them but if my life depended on them, Hell NO.
Get a good headlamp, and get a good flashlight. and get the best batteries you can afford for when it counts.
Sanyo Eneloop, most Lithium Batteries, and 14500 and 18650 rechargeables have been reliable to me.
I found some interesting gear on sale from a company called ArmyTec, from Canada.
They have good promotions going right now and theyre selling out fast…
i also recommend Fenix flashlights, and Foursevens lights.
Don’t be confused by LED bulbs, the latest bulb technology readily available is XML, and the major differences are tint: soft white, or cool white. each has its place, and that would be a write up all in itself. next time.
Take care,
Irv
**********

George wrote:

I like this one as an edc flashlight despite being aaa.  Falia makes us all look like couch potatoes.   She does great reviews.

A brief Thank You to Janice Creason

Janice Creason is the Dauphin County treasurer, and in the summer she and her staff have to scramble to process doe tag applications.  I know Janice works hard ahead of time and in overtime to get our applications processed as fast as possible.

Hunting is a big part of my life, and it is a multi-billion dollar annual industry in Pennsylvania.  Hunting is a crucial sector of the rural economy, and it is renewable and sustainable, and very safe.  People who help hunting are helping Pennsylvania taxpayers and PA jobs.

Thank you, Janice!