Tips & Tricks For Wilderness Camping

There is nothing like escaping from the electronic world and nothing makes this easier than primitive wilderness camping.  The U.S. offers some amazing places to take advantage of these opportunities.  You can locate your dream wilderness camping area by visiting the U.S. National Park Service website.

Because you will most likely be hiking in to your camping spot, you will want to pack light carrying only the necessities.  Some of the items to pack include but are not limited to the following.
  • Lightweight tent:  Your tent will provide you with shelter from the elements as well as ensuring you have a safe place to sleep at night.  The tent of choice should be a high-quality, lightweight tent.
  • Lightweight sleeping bag:  Your sleeping bag will help to keep you warm at night.  Select a tent that will keep you warm in your chosen camping environment.
  • Sharp knife:  A knife has multiple uses when camping and should be kept sharp.   Accidents are much more likely to occur when using a dull knife.
  • Ground mat:  A ground mat will put a bit of padding between your sleeping bag and the hard ground beneath you.
  • Lighter or Water-proof matches:  It is imperative that you have a method to start a fire in order to prevent hypothermia as well as having a source for cooking food.
  • Warm clothes:  Other than a fire, warm clothing is the best method of preventing hypothermia.
  • Water source:  Because there is likely to be no clean water source in the wilderness, you will need to carry your water supply with you.  
  • Maps:  Even the most seasoned wilderness camper will find maps useful at times.  No-one is capable of knowing every inch of wilderness.
  • Compass:  A compass will come in handy if you do find it necessary to use your map(s) to find your way around.
  • Flashlight:  The need for a flashlight is pretty self explanatory.  Nights in the wilderness can be pitch-black.  If you should find it necessary to move around in the dark you will be glad you packed one.
  • Spare batteries:  What good is your flashlight if the batteries go dead?  Be sure to pack enough spare batteries to see you through your entire adventure.
  • First aid kit:  As much as we don't like to admit it, accidents can and do happen.  In the unfortunate event of an accident happening to you or someone else in your camp, you will want to be prepared to take care of the wound(s) that may result.
  • Eating utensils:  Unless you are eating out of cans you will need something to put your food on and the silverware necessary to eat.  Heavy duty plastic eating utensils are a good choice or you can purchase a folding metal set that is self contained.
  • Trash bag:  Always make sure that you leave your camping area in better condition than you found it in.  This means picking up your trash and even picking up any litter you may see laying around the area you are visiting.  Together we can keep our wilderness clean!
  • Backpack:  A good backpack is a must for carrying all of your supplies on your journey into the great unknown.  Be sure to select a backpack that is both big enough and rugged enough to stow all your gear inside.
Be sure you arrive at your destination in time to set up your base camp during daylight hours.  It is much more difficult to pitch a tent and prepare your site in the dark.  Beginning your adventure in the dark will also run down the batteries in your flashlight.  Be sure to set your tent up on a flat surface.  You may consider placing it under a tree for added shade when the weather is hot or place it in a spot where the sun will shine on it throughout the day when the weather is cool.  This will help you control the climate of your sleeping area.  Make sure there are no rocks or sticks on the ground where your tent will be situated.

Taking daily hikes from your base camp to areas of interest will ensure that you have more than enough to keep you from becoming bored while hanging out in the middle of nowhere.  Make sure that you clean up your camp area before leaving.  You may even want to consider carrying your food supplies with you on your daily hikes to keep wild animals from wandering into your chosen space.  Nothing would be worse than returning from a hike only to find your tent torn to shreds and your camping gear rendered useless by a bear or some other opportunistic creature (except maybe coming face to face with the unsuspecting beast).  Using your common sense will prevent any unwanted circumstances from taking place during your stay in the wilderness.

Remember this trip is being planned to be a relaxing and fun while you are away from the daily grind.  Make sure you have everything you need before leaving your home.  Use your common sense to keep yourself and the other people with you out of danger.  Most importantly enjoy yourself and the company of the people who go with you.

If you like this post, you may also like:
Camping Etiquette - Minding Your Manners In Campgrounds

-Any day in the outdoors is a good day

Morel Mushrooms & False Morels - Do You Know The Difference?

It's that time of year again - the weather is heating up and the wild mushrooms are about to pop! There are many types of wild mushrooms, some are edible and some are poisonous.  Do you know how to tell them apart.  In this post, I am concentrating only on the morel mushrooms as these are one of the most sought after wild mushrooms out there.

The morel mushroom can be found around trees that are either dying or have already died and fallen to the ground.  Some of the best trees to search around include dead or dying ash, cottonwood, elm and sycamore.  As the dying root systems of these trees break down they form an excellent food source for morels.  When collecting these tasty morsels be sure to use only mesh bags which will allow the spores from your collected specimens to fall back to the earth ensuring that the area in which you are hunting will continue to produce a steady crop year after year.

The false morel is sometimes mistaken for a true morel; however, there are differences which will help ensure that you are taking home the real deal.  Below are two pictures.  The top photo features some true morels which are safe to eat.  The bottom photo shows a false morel (these are the ones you want to avoid).

Photo Courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation

Photo Courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation
As you can see in the top picture, the edible morel has very well defined pits on the canopy.  The stem of this morel is hollow and extends all the way into the mushrooms head.  The false morel however is wrinkled rather than being pitted.  This poisonous mushroom also has a canopy which has a distinctly different color than the stem.

To prepare morels to eat I typically cut them in half and soak them in salt water for about a day.  I then coat them in breading and either pan fry or deep fry them.  They will make an excellent side dish with your next fish fry.

Morel hunting is an excellent way to spend a springtime afternoon in the outdoors and you will be sure to get in your daily exercise while seeking out these flavorful treats.

-Any day in the outdoors is a good day

Guns And The Outdoor Lifestyle: Just a Rant

It seems as though everywhere you go there's always someone talking about how bad guns are and how no-one should be allowed to have them.  Most of these people weren't brought up around firearms and only know what they learned from the public school system and what they hear from watching the media outlets.  It's as if no-one is capable of investigating the subject matter on their own.  Why have we allowed the U.S. to become a nation of people so unwilling to think for themselves?

One issue is there are a lot of parents who are unwilling to take the time to check in on the education their children are getting at school or from anywhere else for that matter.  They are too busy to talk with their kids and find out what they're being taught and correct any misguidance they have picked up along the way.  Shame on those parents. Ultimately our responsibility as parents to ensure that our children understand the truth about (and where we stand on) the subject of guns as well as any other subject matter they are being taught by others.

I know I'm preaching to the choir but I have to repeat it....Guns don't kill people, people kill people.  I know a lot of people who own guns and not one of them is willing to just go out and shoot someone.  None of them want to do anything that would even begin to cause them to lose their right to own guns.  This is true of most gun owners.  The vast of majority of gun owners are like those I know and wouldn't do anything that could cause them to lose their right to bear arms.

Why is it then that so many people view the gun owners of America as crazy lunatics who would shoot someone at the drop of a hat?  Many of the people with this viewpoint are simply afraid of guns and feel only crazy people would have them around.  Where are they picking these ideas up from?  They certainly haven't been hanging out with the gun owners themselves or they would find out that their viewpoint on these the majority people is completely backwards.  Certainly there are the select few who would go off at the drop of a hat, but those gun owners aren't the norm.

I was in a local Wal-Mart store waiting to buy my deer tag one evening last year when a toddler who was maybe three wandered across the aisle from his mom to the sporting goods section.  He happened to stop at one of the gun display cases and just stood there looking up in awe.  His mother noticed that he was by the gun display and began shouting and screaming "get away form there! Oh my goodness, get away from those guns!"  Did she not realize that those unloaded firearms were no more capable of shooting her son than a notebook is capable of smacking someone over the head on its own?  This type of reaction to guns seems to me to be sheer insanity.  Perhaps the anti-gun people are the ones who need their heads examined.

The anti-gun crowd doesn't seem to understand that if there were no guns in the United States we would continue to have murders.  Murderers would turn to other weapons of choice such as knives or any other item they felt would help them to complete their task at hand.  The standard answer is to call the police.  I don't know about you but where I live it can take nearly an hour for the sheriff to show up after being called to the scene.  By the time the police arrived a criminal would have enough time to kill everyone inside and escape with whatever they felt like hauling away.  Besides this, why is it that they feel a cop should be allowed to have a gun but any other citizen shouldn't?  This thinking is absolutely ridiculous.

It is up to us as sportsmen to take an active roll in educating the public with the truth about guns, hunting and the many other activities in which we participate.  When confronted about why we take part in the sports we enjoy, we must take the time to help those who ask to understand.  If we do nothing and continue on it may not simply be our guns they seek to rid us of,  it may be our outdoor lifestyle.

I won't be publishing many posts like this one, but I had to get this issue off my mind.  Thanks for taking the time to hear me out.

-Any day in the outdoors is a good day

Now Is The Time To Prepare For Fall Archery Season

Two years ago I began my journey to becoming a bow hunter.  This love affair with archery began by purchasing a used compound bow off of Craigslist from a guy who was hard up for cash.  Upon returning home with my new-to-me Bear Whitetail II I began researching how to properly sight it in (having a neighbor who is himself a longtime, avid bow hunter didn't hurt anything).  From the moment I released that first arrow I was hooked on the sport and haven't looked back.

That first deer season I just knew I would get a deer.  Unlike most people, I didn't care about getting an enormous buck, I just wanted to kill my first deer.  With every chance I had to escape the hustle and bustle of every day life I faithfully hit the woods.  Time and again I sat without so much as seeing a deer.  I would take my children along with me which only makes deer hunting more difficult (especially for a beginner), but I didn't mind, I was outdoors where I belonged.

One evening my daughter and I were headed back to the truck when three bucks about sixty yards ahead of us darted out of a cornfield across our path and into the woods.  I didn't even have time to begin thinking about shooting before they were out of sight.  Again I made many trips to my chosen hunting spot to no avail.  About a week before Christmas my brother and I headed out together and found a spot where we could sit fairly close to each other hoping that four eyes would be better than two.  About an hour before sunset my brother decided he would move to a different spot to try his luck.  Within fifteen minutes my first opportunity arose, but even with many hours of practice I was ill prepared for what would happen next.  At first I thought I must be dreaming.  I saw one deer, then two, then four and then I lost count.  I picked a doe out of the bunch, proceeded to take aim and that's when it hit me.  My heart was about to jump out of my chest, It was freezing cold outside but I was beginning to sweat, I couldn't stop shaking.....The excitement was too much!  I pulled the trigger on my release sending the projectile sailing off through the air.  Somewhere in the distance I heard the clank of my arrow as it struck a tree and faster than it began, the whole scenario was over.  I had made my first shot at a deer and cleanly missed it.  That was the last deer I happened to see that year but I learned a valuable lesson from the encounter.  Preparing for archery deer season is a year round commitment.

It is not uncommon for a hunter to get the jitters upon spotting a deer; however, being able to control your emotions when the time comes is an important discipline to learn and there's no time like the present to develop the necessary self control.

One method of taming your nerves is to spend every practice session shooting at realistic targets.  When taking aim at a 3D target imagine that it is a real animal.  This can help to stir those emotions up and teach you to contain your excitement when the big moment arrives.  Always strive to make every outing as realistic as possible.  Shoot from varied distances mimicking real hunting scenarios.  By shooting from the tree stand that will be used in the fall you will gain more confidence in your shooting skills.  This will also ensure that you are comfortable being in that particular stand and ensure accuracy when shooting at the angles which are necessary while hunting from a stand.  Using these methods of practice is a sure way to improve your hunting skills while reigning in those out of control emotions that are all too common among deer hunters.

Catfish Baits You Should Try

Many anglers enjoy the the thrill of catching monster catfish.  They are opportunistic eaters that will bite on many different types of bait. There are all types of dough baits on the market that claim to be the best one to get the job done.  If you've tried as many different dough baits as I have you know that there is not much difference in their performance for catching fish.  Some alternatives to dough baits are prepared baits, live baits and cut baits.  If the fish don't seem to be biting, try some of these alternatives to improve your luck.

Prepared Baits:

  • Although it is not a bait in and of it's self, anise oil makes an excellent additive for prepared baits.  Anise Oil is a licorice scented oil that can be found in the baking aisle at most grocery stores.  Catfish seem to find the smell of this oil irresistible.  Try dipping your bait of choice in Anise oil to take home a stringer full of catfish. 
  • While fishing on truman lake last summer my wife and I ran out of minnows.  Not wanting to make another trip to the bait shop, we decided to rummage through the cooler for something to try as bait and came across a package of hotdogs.  Figuring it couldn't hurt anything, we pulled them out and placed a bite sized morsel on our hooks.  It wasn't long before we were catching catfish like crazy.
  • Spam is another one of those rarely thought of baits for catfish.  It is a very oily food which works wonders for attracting catfish.  Simply pull the spam from the can, cut it into pieces about the size of your hook and you are ready to go.
  • Ivory Soap is another alternative to dough baits that seems to work well.  Cut the bar into bait sized pieces that will fit on a treble hook and let the fishing begin
  • Raw bacon is another effective choice for catching catfish.  Try using it in combination with the  anise oil listed above or try putting it in a baggie with some garlic allowing it to soak up the garlic flavor in the refrigerator for a while.
  • While getting ready to head down to the river one afternoon a small piece of left-over steak that had been lurking in the fridge for a few days caught my eye.  I figured if it wasn't going to be eaten, it might as well not go to waste.  Anxious to try out my newfound bait I cut a piece off, attached it to my hook and sent it sailing into the water.  It didn't take long to figure out that saving the steak from heading to the landfill was an excellent decision.
Live Baits:
  • Crayfish or crawdads as I call them are a proven top choice of catfish.
  • Goldfish also make an excellent live bait presentation.  Catfish can't seem to resist them.
  • Small bluegill are among the best live baits.
  • Shad tend to work well when fishing channels in the lakes as well as in rivers.
  • Night crawlers are hard to beat for catching catfish that are the perfect eating size.
  • Minnows are another good choice for pan-sized catfish.
Cut Baits:
  • Shad work great as a cut bait.  I have found that the catfish really enjoy dining on their heads.
  • Carp make an excellent cut bait. 
  • Drum is often considered a trash fish but don't rule it out as a bait for catfish.
  • Skipjack can be cut into bait sized pieces and is another effective choice.
  • Bluegill/Perch/Sunfish are easy to catch in large quantities any time of day and catfish love them
When the fish "aren't biting" we tend to blame it on the weather or some other variable that is out of our control.  Although the weather can sometimes affect how the fish are biting, more often than not we are simply attempting to entice the fish with a bait they aren't presently interested in.  The next time you think you're about to go home empty handed, don't give up until you've tried some of these alternatives.

- Any day in the outdoors is a good day

Successful Public-Land Hunting

white tail deer, buck, public lands hunting
Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation

If you are like me, the majority of your hunting is done on public lands that seem to be crowded with other people.  This can be a major problem when it comes to hunting success.  However, there are some things that can be done to improve your odds of having a successful hunt.  It may not always be easy, but the reward can be worth the extra effort.
First consider hunting during the week when the majority of people will be at work.  This will definitely improve your odds by ensuring that there will be fewer hunters crossing your path.
Second, be sure you are where the other hunters aren't.  This will most definitely require some leg work on your part.  Don't just get to the parking lot and plant yourself in the first spot you come to.  Instead, get to know the area you intend to hunt.  Find a promising spot that is half a mile or more (the farther the better) and off the beaten path.  Most public land hunters are in too big of a rush to learn the layout of the land or to hike a long distance to achieve seclusion.
Third, consider purchasing a climbing tree stand.  This option allows you to easily change locations if another hunter does happen to wander into your chosen area.  You can simply move to another promising location and avoid having an intruder blow your hunt.  This also ensures there will be no unnecessary pressure from your stand by other hunters finding your stand and using it when you're not able to be there.
Last, get to the woods as early in the season as possible.  The earlier you hit the woods, the less likely your spot will be to have been over-pressured by other hunters.
By following these tips, you can greatly improve your hunting success.  Good luck and enjoy each adventure you experience.
- Any day in the outdoors is a good day

Should The MDC Encourage or Discourage Feral Hog Hunting?

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feral hog, wild hog, wild pig
Photo Courtesy of MDC

Feral hogs are very destructive animals and are capable of transmitting diseases to humans and their livestock.  Sows are able to have two litters each year with an average of 6 piglets per litter.  Large numbers of wild hogs must be killed each year in order to prevent their population from expanding.  Many of the wild hogs in Missouri are a result of intentional release into the wild by individuals in an attempt to gain access to new hunting opportunities.

Because they are attempting to eradicate them, the Missouri Department of Conservation presently discourages feral hog hunting.  This is because according to the MDC hunting these wild pigs makes them more leery of human presence thus they become more difficult to trap.  Alan Leary the Missouri Department of Conservation's Wildlife Management Coordinator says "feral hogs are not wildlife and MDC will not manage them.  The goal is to eradicate them."

Many states in the U.S. allow and even encourage the hunting of feral hogs; MDC however, discourages this practice and according to information I have seen would like to do away with this option in Missouri all together.

Should Missouri hunters continue to pursue these animals or should they leave all eradication efforts to the MDC?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

- Any day in the outdoors is a good day

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Introducing Children To The Great Outdoors

fishing, children outdoors, children fishing

By getting our children involved in outdoor activities we give them a chance to experience the excitement that nature offers.  Whether it's camping, fishing, hunting or just taking a walk through the woods these activities encourage our youngsters to get away from all the electronic devices and gives them the chance to become more active.
In addition to teaching our children to be active, these outdoor activities also give us as adults many wonderful memories to share with them. It may come as a surprise, but children actually desire to spend time with their parents. The least we can do is take a break out of our busy schedules to allow them this special opportunity. Believe me when I say the time flies. Although my children are ten and twelve, it seems like yesterday that I was holding them in my arms rocking them to sleep. We must realize that if we don't give them our time, someone else will and the influence they get may well lead them down the wrong path.
Try taking a weekend to go camping at least once or twice a year. Leave the electronics behind, forget everything but the time at hand with them. Take this time to teach them important survival skills such as fire starting and how to cook over an open flame. Show them how they can take the fish they catch and make a wonderful meal without the convenience of an oven or a fryer. Take them on nature walks and teach them to find wild edibles.... this may just save their lives one day. Teach them all you can about the outdoors before they begin thinking they know everything, the things they learn while they are young will stick with them, even the things that we don't think they are picking up.
Take a Saturday, a Sunday or even an evening and take them fishing. Show them how to tie their hook onto their line, show them how to find crickets, grasshoppers, earthworms or even how to catch their own minnows or shad. Show them how to bait their own hooks and how to figure out the right depth for catching fish. It is surprising how much fun children have while fishing, even when the only thing that seems to be biting is perch their faces will light up and it just may be the spark they need to light a life-long love for the sport.
Take a day and teach them about hunting. Even at four or five years old our children will enjoy a day spent hunting with daddy. No, it may not go the way we plan on it going, but just go with the flow and have fun with it. Children love watching for squirrels, being surprised by a rabbit they kick up as they stomp through the brush and even just seeing the little things like song birds.
Whatever it is we choose to do with our children,be patient with them. Remember they are just learning and being impatient with them may turn them away from the outdoors. The important thing is that we spend that time with them and help to nurture their love for being active and enjoying the great outdoors.

- Any day in the outdoors is a good day