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Category Archives: do it yourself

Where to Place Your Trail Cams

A trail camera won’t stumble through a bedding area, leave scent all over a trail, or exaggerate the size of a rack. And it’ll never oversleep. But your perfect little scouting buddy must be chosen wisely and placed carefully if you want to pattern that old, crafty animal you know is around. Here’s how…

CameraNO_MosaicYELLOW

The earlier version trail cameras were just a 35mm film point-and-shoot tucked in a weatherproof housing. It snapped a single picture when something triggered the sensor. After retrieving the camera, you ran to the one-hour shop to get the film developed, then thumbed through a week’s worth of pictures. More than once a stack of 36 prints revealed a handful of out-of-focus animals and a couple dozen shots of a wind-whipped brush or a drooping tree branch. That was only a few years ago.

Today, many website boasts several pages of trail cams, and even the cheapest one outperforms the original older ones. They have lenses sharp enough to count the ticks on a deer’s neck, electronic circuit boards so efficient that four AA batteries will run a unit for months, and memory cards that hold thousands of pictures you can download to your computer or delete at the touch of a button. And those are standard features on mid-priced cameras. The high-end ones will send a photo to your cellphone or laptop.

Like everything in the digital age, trail-cam technology has improved, competition has become fierce, and prices have plunged. Still, $200 is plenty of money, and matching a camera with the right features to meet your needs is critical. And even the best camera can’t take spectacular photos of a trophy buck if you don’t set it properly. But it’s not difficult to get started. These are the basics.

TrailCameras3
Wildlife biologists use trail cams to measure herd densities, buck-to-doe ratios, and the like. Your goals should be simpler: learning about the deer on your property, figuring out where to hunt them, and having fun in the process. You can pinpoint ideal spots before you buy a camera, and the locations you choose can determine what model is best for you. Here are four sites for four different periods.

Time: Late Summer
Site: Mineral lick
Goal: To start an inventory of buck numbers and quality on your property.
Setup: Find a spot with moderate to heavy deer traffic and spade up dirt in a 2-foot circle. Pour in half of an ice-cream pail of stock salt or commercial deer mineral and spade it into the loosened soil. Pour the rest on top.
Tips:
• Establish one or two licks per 80 acres. Allow deer up to a week to find them.
• Situate each lick 10 to 30 feet from a tree for mounting a camera.
• Jam a stick behind the camera’s top edge to point it down toward the lick.

500Time: Early Season
Site: Mock scrape
Goal: To find bucks after velvet shed, when they often relocate. Mocks can draw up to 90 percent of the bucks you’ll hunt.
Setup: Rake grass and forest debris 5 feet away from a tree that has a green, overhanging licking branch 5 to 7 feet above the ground. Activate with your own “product” (drink plenty of liquids) or deer urine.
Tips:
• If you are not getting clear shots of a buck, aim the camera at the licking branch. Most bucks will work it with their antlers.
• Establish multiple scrapes in each area and hang cameras only on the most active ones.

Time: Rut
Site: Funnel
Goal: To determine where resident bucks are traveling and whether traveling bucks are in the area.
Setup: Find terrain features that channel buck movement and hang a camera near fresh tracks and rubbing activity. Check camera every three to five days—the rut moves quickly.
Tips:
• Mount camera at a 45-degree angle to the trail. Bucks often move through funnels quickly; a camera set perpendicular to the trail might miss the shot.
• Scuff dirt in front of the camera with a boot. Such a mini mock will often make a moving buck pause and get “shot.”

Time: Late Season
Site: Food source
Goal: To find out where to fill a last-minute tag, and to know which bucks have survived the bulk of the hunting season.
Setup: Scout widely to find the hot food sources in your area, such as waste grainfields and clear-cuts. Place camera within 30 feet of the most heavily trafficked area. Load it with fresh batteries if you hunt in an extremely cold area.
Tips:
• Set up and check cameras at midday to avoid spooking feeding deer.
• If no trees are located near the food source, mount the camera on a tripod and camouflage it with grass or brush.

Make the Next Shot Count!

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Maximizing Your Hunting Time With Trail Cameras

cameraOver the last five years, probably no other “gadget” has changed the way we scout more than the trail camera. For many of us, running trail cameras is a hobby in itself, bringing a whole new excitement to our deer hunting efforts. Much more than just something to pass time, however, running trail cameras can give you a unique insight into the patterns of deer on your hunting properties and really tip the odds in your favor for harvesting a mature whitetail. Let’s take a look at the features to look for when purchasing a trail camera, and how to get the maximum benefit from the camera once you have made your purchase.

As the popularity of these scouting tools has grown, so has the number of companies offering their own line of cameras. The features on these cameras cover such a wide spectrum that choosing the right one for you can be a daunting and sometimes confusing task. While this article isn’t meant to tell you WHICH camera to buy, it IS meant to help you sort through some of the most common differences among the various trail cameras to help you narrow down your search.

RESOLUTION
The resolution of a trail camera is a measure of the image size that the camera creates. So a 5.0 megapixal trail camera will give you a much larger image – and therefore more detail – than one with 3.0 megapixals. Which resolution you choose really depends on how important it is to have a large, crisp image. If you are only concerned with having a general idea of what deer are in the area and when they are traveling through, then about any resolution offered on today’s cameras will suffice. If you want a larger, more detailed image to print off for your friends, then you may want to shoot for something with at least 3.0 megapixels.

BATTERY TYPE & LIFE
In my mind, this is one of the most important considerations when choosing a trail camera, as it will have a huge effect on the cost of maintaining the camera. I have seen some “cheap” trail cameras that burn through six C-sized batteries in a week, and suddenly the “cheap” camera gets VERY expensive! Others claim to operate up to a year on eight AA batteries. So before you go buying a camera based on price alone, keep in mind the battery life, as it may be the most expensive choice you could make in the long run.

TRIGGER SPEED
Another important feature is the trigger speed of the camera, which is simply how long it takes the trail camera to shoot a picture once something has “triggered” the motion sensor. A faster trigger speed can be the difference between having a great shot of that trophy buck and just having a picture of a deer’s butt as it walks out of the frame. If you plan on placing your trail cameras over feeders or a mineral lick, then trigger speed will not be as much of an issue as it would if hung along a trail.

FLASH TYPE
This is almost a moot point, since most trail cameras today have gone to infrared flash. An infrared flash, as opposed to the incandescent flash found standard on most consumer cameras, is less likely to spook deer, uses less battery life, and is less likely to be detected by other humans (i.e. thieves!). While I’ve gotten plenty of pictures of big, mature whitetails with an incandescent flash trail camera, there is no doubt that some animals are spooked by the bright flash. If you can afford the infrared flash, the benefits certainly outweigh the small increase in cost.

OTHER FEATURES
While we have covered some of the most important features to consider when buying a new trail camera, there are many more options that could impact your decision. One of these options is the size of the unit. Size varies greatly amongst trail cameras, and some companies are now producing models that are as small as your hand. Other models go as far as being able to send the pictures it takes directly to your email or cell phone, so the only time you have to check them is when the batteries need replacing. How’s that for convenience?

Before you head out to buy your next trail camera, take a minute to think about how it will be used and what features are most important to you. This will make the task of narrowing down your choices much easier when you start the shopping process.

camera2

MAXIMIZING TRAIL CAMERA USE
Once you have waded through all the details, made your decision and laid down your hard earned money on a trail camera, all that’s left is to hang that thing on a tree, right? Let’s take a look at some ways you can be sure you are using your camera to its potential this season and getting the most bang for your buck.

DRAW THEM IN
One of the easiest ways to maximize the effectiveness of your trail camera and insure that you see a good representation of what is in your hunting area is to use some type of attractant to lure the deer into camera range. Probably the most common attractant used across the country is shelled corn – it’s cheap, readily available, and the deer love it. For the purpose of getting trail camera pictures, there is no need to invest in an expensive feeder; just simply spread 100 pounds on the ground in an eight to ten-foot circle area where you want to hang your camera. For safety reasons, do not place the corn in large piles or in an area that holds moisture, as this can result in molding that can cause disease in both deer and turkey. Depending on deer density and other available food sources, this should get you five to ten days worth of pictures. Be patient, as it may take a few days for the deer to really key in on the corn and for you to start getting good pictures. Once they find it, though, it won’t last long!

Before you start dumping corn on your favorite hunting property, check your local game laws regarding baiting. If corn or other “feed” is prohibited, but would still like to attract deer to your camera location, then you may want to consider creating a mineral lick. You can buy one of the many commercial mixes available today, or simply create your own by mixing 50 lbs of trace mineral, 50 lbs of feed mix salt, and 10 lbs of dicalcium phosphate. Break the soil up with a shovel in the area where you want to create your lick and work your mix into the soil. Once the lick gets a good rain on it, it shouldn’t take long for the deer to find it and start paying regular visits.

KEEP IT MOBILE
Unless you are hunting a really small property, or you have the money to invest in lots of trail cameras, then you are going to need to move your cameras around to really get a good idea of what the deer are doing on your hunting property. Don’t get caught in the trap of leaving your camera in the same spot all season. This will not only limit your ability to pattern the deer, but it may keep you from discovering that trophy buck that could be hanging out on the other side of the property!

images40V5Z2FA2By experience, two weeks seems to be enough time to get a good representation of what deer are in the area, without your camera spending too much time in one location. You can always bring the camera back to the same spot at a later time, but the idea is to cover as much of your hunting area as possible.

KEEP GOOD RECORDS
Once you have moved your camera around your property and gotten plenty of pictures to look at, the real work has just begun. Now is the time to sort through the pictures, identifying as many unique animals as you can, analyzing what camera sites each deer is visiting and the times that they were there. This should start to give you an idea of the travel patterns on the property, as well as potential stand locations.

This season, make sure you use these tips to get the most out of your trail cameras, and the next picture you get of that monster buck may be the one with you behind him holding his antlers, OR, even that BIG bear 🙂

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Morel Mushrooms Hunting For The Beginner

Morels are America’s mushroom, more so than any other. It may be because they’re widespread, they’re easy to identify, and they come up in the spring, giving people a reason to get out and enjoy warm weather after a long winter. Or, it could be they’re popular simply because they taste so good. Morels are so prized they sell for up to $20 a pound in grocery stores in most locations. Here’s a quick guide to finding your own. Please note that although morels are easy to identify, this a hunting guide, not a field guide. If you have any doubt about a mushroom, don’t keep it.

3

Found in much of the U.S. from late March through May, the morel is our favorite mushroom: plentiful, easy to identify, and delicious. It has colorful names like Molly Moocher, Miracle, Dry land Fish—or, my favorite, Hickory Chickens—but mostly, people just call them “mushrooms” and it’s understood that means “morels.”

Identifying Safe Morels
MushroomBroken2
MushroomBroken1donteat
Here are two morels in the wild. Notice the pits (in the top photo), the distinctive conical shape, and the way the bottom of the cap (the pitted part) is attached near the bottom of the stem. Avoid the half-free morel (bottom photo), which has a longer stem and a cap that attaches near the top, looking like an umbrella. These mushrooms can cause some people to have cramps or other forms of gastrointestinal distress.

Definitely Don’t Eat This
MushroomX_
Don’t eat this mushroom, which is a false morel and is mildly toxic. Notice that it lacks the cone shape of the real thing, and has wrinkles, not pits, on its cap.

Where to Look
Mushroom4
Morels live in and on the edge of forested areas. Look for ash, aspen, elm, and oak trees, around which morels often grow. Early in the spring as the ground is warming, you’ll find them on south-facing slopes in fairly open areas. As the season progresses, go deeper into the woods and onto north-facing slopes.

8
Well-drained, sandy soils like this creek bottom make good hunting spots as well. You’ll find the first morels of the year when daytime highs reach the 60s and lows stay above 40 degrees.

Hunting Tactics
7

Hunting morels is like bass fishing. You cover ground until you find one, then slow down and search the area carefully. Concentrate the rest of your hunt on similar areas, on the theory that you’ve found the “pattern” for the day.

Early-Season Morels
Mushroom7
The first morels of the season are small. It takes quite a few to make a meal. The acorn top and walnut husk in the hand above help show scale.

Look For Dead Trees
Mushroom8
Morels often grow around dead and dying trees. Old apple orchards make good hunting grounds. Always look around dead elm trees like this one. When a tree reaches the stage of decay where its bark is slipping off its trunk you’ll often find lots of morels around it.

Later in the Season
3
As the season progresses you find bigger, yellow morels. They taste just as good as the smaller ones, they’re easier to spot, and it doesn’t take as many to feed a hungry hunter.

Mushroom10
Soaking morels in water for a couple of hours cleans them and washes out any bugs living inside the hollow mushrooms. Some people slice them in half lengthwise for a more thorough cleaning.

Mushroom11
Here you see morels sautéing in butter. Cooking in butter brings out their rich, almost meaty flavor. If I don’t have very many, I like to scramble them into eggs with some tarragon. Batter-fried morels are also very popular.

Mushroom12

The bounty of spring, fork-ready. Serve with a breast of wild turkey or some fish fillets and it’s totally awesome!

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Morel Mushrooms Hunting For The Beginner

Morels are America’s mushroom, more so than any other. It may be because they’re widespread, they’re easy to identify, and they come up in the spring, giving people a reason to get out and enjoy warm weather after a long winter. Or, it could be they’re popular simply because they taste so good. Morels are so prized they sell for up to $20 a pound in grocery stores in most locations. Here’s a quick guide to finding your own. Please note that although morels are easy to identify, this a hunting guide, not a field guide. If you have any doubt about a mushroom, don’t keep it.

3

Found in much of the U.S. from late March through May, the morel is our favorite mushroom: plentiful, easy to identify, and delicious. It has colorful names like Molly Moocher, Miracle, Dry land Fish—or, my favorite, Hickory Chickens—but mostly, people just call them “mushrooms” and it’s understood that means “morels.”

Identifying Safe Morels
MushroomBroken2
MushroomBroken1donteat
Here are two morels in the wild. Notice the pits (in the top photo), the distinctive conical shape, and the way the bottom of the cap (the pitted part) is attached near the bottom of the stem. Avoid the half-free morel (bottom photo), which has a longer stem and a cap that attaches near the top, looking like an umbrella. These mushrooms can cause some people to have cramps or other forms of gastrointestinal distress.

Definitely Don’t Eat This
MushroomX_
Don’t eat this mushroom, which is a false morel and is mildly toxic. Notice that it lacks the cone shape of the real thing, and has wrinkles, not pits, on its cap.

Where to Look
Mushroom4
Morels live in and on the edge of forested areas. Look for ash, aspen, elm, and oak trees, around which morels often grow. Early in the spring as the ground is warming, you’ll find them on south-facing slopes in fairly open areas. As the season progresses, go deeper into the woods and onto north-facing slopes.

8
Well-drained, sandy soils like this creek bottom make good hunting spots as well. You’ll find the first morels of the year when daytime highs reach the 60s and lows stay above 40 degrees.

Hunting Tactics
7

Hunting morels is like bass fishing. You cover ground until you find one, then slow down and search the area carefully. Concentrate the rest of your hunt on similar areas, on the theory that you’ve found the “pattern” for the day.

Early-Season Morels
Mushroom7
The first morels of the season are small. It takes quite a few to make a meal. The acorn top and walnut husk in the hand above help show scale.

Look For Dead Trees
Mushroom8
Morels often grow around dead and dying trees. Old apple orchards make good hunting grounds. Always look around dead elm trees like this one. When a tree reaches the stage of decay where its bark is slipping off its trunk you’ll often find lots of morels around it.

Later in the Season
3
As the season progresses you find bigger, yellow morels. They taste just as good as the smaller ones, they’re easier to spot, and it doesn’t take as many to feed a hungry hunter.

Mushroom10
Soaking morels in water for a couple of hours cleans them and washes out any bugs living inside the hollow mushrooms. Some people slice them in half lengthwise for a more thorough cleaning.

Mushroom11
Here you see morels sautéing in butter. Cooking in butter brings out their rich, almost meaty flavor. If I don’t have very many, I like to scramble them into eggs with some tarragon. Batter-fried morels are also very popular.

Mushroom12

The bounty of spring, fork-ready. Serve with a breast of wild turkey or some fish fillets and it’s totally awesome!

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Wild Plants to Cure the Flu and Common Cold

Can’t make it to the drug store right now? Whatever the reason, you do have some natural medicinal options in the winter season. Look for these three plants to lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of your next case of the cold or flu. All you need is a sharp eye and a patch of wild growth to find these common and potent medicinal’s.

Mullein 
Mullein is a native plant, which favors dry, rocky soil and full sunlight, and is found throughout North America. An easy way to spot patches of this plants in cold weather is to look for the chocolate brown skeletons of the second-year plants. Look for 4- to 6-foot-tall stalks, which often have branching flower heads that resemble the arms of a saguaro cactus.

images2KI75GRG

The part you want for medicine are the velvety green leaves, which can still be found in winter growing in basal rosettes on one-year-old plants. Treat head colds by crushing the leaves into boiling water and breathing the steam. This medicated vapor acts as a decongestant.

barberryBarberry
The little red berries of barberry contain a compound called berberine. This acts as an immune system booster, helping your body fight off viral attacks like the common cold and the flu. The bitter taste of the berries isn’t very inviting, but eating a handful each day you’re feeling sick can shorten the illness, much like elderberry and Echinacea will. Look for small bushes with small dangling red berries. The two native varieties of the shrubs will have thorns in sets of three growing all over the twigs. The introduced Japanese species will have single thorns growing around the twigs. All three species can be used medicinally. As an additional point of identification, check the seeds in the red berries. Each berry should contain dark, slender seeds—typically two per berry.


Yarrow

This non-native plant grows from coast to coast on sunny open ground, although it’s originally nativeyarrow to Europe. Its most common use is as a poultice for cuts and other wounds. But you can fight colds and flu with it by making a tea from the leaves. Chop up the fresh leaves and add one tablespoon to one cup of scalding hot water. Soak the leaves for 10 to 15 minutes. You can sweeten the drink if you need to, or drink it commando-style. The anti-viral compounds help your immune system through its battle, while the diaphoretic compounds will get a sweat going to help break fevers.

Just make sure you use a field guide or guidance from an expert for positive identification of these plants. The last thing you need to do is poison yourself while you’re already ill.

rosehipsRose Hip Benefits
A Rose hip is the fruit of a rose. The wild dog rose is the type of rose most often cultivated for their hips. This plant grows up to ten feet tall and bears a white, very fragrant flower. Once the flower has bloomed, and all the petals have fallen off, the hip is picked and used in a wide variety of preparations. Rose hips are the best source of vitamin C; they contain 50% more vitamin C than oranges.
A single tablespoon of the pulp gives an adult more than the recommended daily allowance of 60 mg. They can be eaten raw, after being put through a blender, or soaked in water overnight and then cooked in the water for about half an hour. Because of the high vitamin C content they are an excellent immune system booster, and are often used as a supplement to prevent or treat a cold. The pulp from rose hips may be used in sauces or made into jelly.

Have you made medicine from wild plants?

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Making Waterproof Matches

When it comes to matches, waterproof ones are best, especially in dire circumstances like a flood. Since they’re much more expensive than their pedestrian cousins, you might want to make your own.

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Use the Candle Technique
Burn a candle long enough for a pool of wax to form around the wick. Blow it out, then dip the head of your match into the wet wax, about of an inch (3 mm) up the stick. Remove the matchstick and allow the wax to dry, pinching it closed to form a water-tight seal.

Deploy the Nail Polish Ploy
Coat your matches with clear nail polish to waterproof them. Dip the head of the match and a bit of the matchstick itself into the polish, then rest the match on a counter with the head hanging off the edge to dry. Survive any wilderness situation with these critical tips.

Try the Turpentine Trick
The easiest way to waterproof your matches is simply to drop them in turpentine. Allow the matches to soak for five minutes before placing them on newspaper to dry. After twenty minutes or so, you’ll have waterproof matches that will last several months.

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How to Make a Quick CAN Stove

If you suffer sticker shock after shopping for wood-burning camping stoves, you’re not alone. Why pay $60 to $100 for a titanium backpacking wood stove when you can make one out of a bean can for nothing. Sure, you could build a fire without any containment at all, but the low weight, efficiency, and minimal set-up time of a tin-can stove could make you a believer. And as long as there are sticks to burn, your stove will have fuel. Follow these easy steps, and you’ll have a lightweight bug-out-ready survival stove in no time.

1

The Gear List
To create a bean can stove, you’ll certainly need the empty can. You’ll also need a pair of tin snips. If you don’t have a pair in your tool box, borrow a pair. You’ll also need a tape measure, a pencil or marker, a drill with a ½-inch (or similar size) drill bit, and a file to remove sharp edges when you’re done. Gloves are a good idea, too,  since you’ll be working with a lot of sharp metal.

2

The Procedure
Remove the can lid completely from a 40-ounce (or similar sized) food can. You could use a smaller can, but the 40-ounce size because one-quart water bottles will nest inside the finished stove. Next, make a mark all the way around the can about 1 ½ inches below the open top. Use your tin snips, spiraling in, to cut this ring off the top of the can, but before you start, determine whether you are using right- or left-hand snips. It will be easier if you cut in the correct direction. You could leave the can full height, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A shortened stove has better balance, and the last thing you need is for your stove to tip over.

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Next, make four equidistant marks around the mouth. Each mark will be the centerline for the four “teeth” on the top of your stove. Mark a line half an inch on either side of each of the four centerlines and draw a line around the can 1 inch down from the mouth. Using the tin snips again cut out the lines,  leaving four 1×1-inch teeth at the top of the can.

Next, drill eight equally-spaced holes around the bottom of the can wall. These will be the air intake vents. File off any sharp or rough edges from your metal work. Finally, before you start cooking food or boiling water over this stove, burn a few twigs for about ten minutes to get rid of the plastic can lining.

4

The Effectiveness
Once your stove is complete, set some tinder in the bottom and some broken twigs on the top of that. Place it in a stable, level spot and light the tinder through one of the vent holes. Place your cooking pot over the top of the stove and cook away. You will have to remove the pot every time you need to add fuel, but this is far better than trying to create stove doors for adding fuel. It also forces you to set the dangerously hot pot out of the way when refueling. This stove can burn twigs, paper, cardboard and any other solid fuel that’ll fit inside; and it boils one quart of water in about eight minutes. The finished stove weighs only 2 ½ ounces.

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