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Anything outdoors!  Tornadoes, eagles, blizzards, or auroras.  If it is in the sky, running through the woods or swimming in the water, I'm there!

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shots from the weekend, winter survival 101, and froze out of the Beargrease

Not a whole lot to show for the past weekend. Spent more time peering through a 32x 50mm rifle scope. It's hard to take pics and get an accurate shot off. I could have just as well stuck to taking pics though.

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Meet "Hat". This coyote and I are getting pretty familiar with each other. I gave him his name based on what will become of him if I can figure out how to trick him into getting within 400 yards of the .22-250.

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Odds are unless I catch Hat making a mistake, he will continue to thrive about 401 yards away from me. One smart predator...for sure.

Saturday afternoon's hunt near Santiago, MN proved to be one of those outings which could have ended badly.

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The red line shows the route I took through the federal land. Note the top right bend in the route. I jumped a pair of brush wolves (more commonly known as eastern woodland coyotes which weigh 40-55 lbs). The hunt was on. The area is a swampy creek / bog I have crossed before. There is a beaver dam over the creek and that is where I usually cross. One thing while out on snowshoes you have to be cautious of is crossing water where the snow looks to have a yellow tinge. It isn't from pee but is a telltale sign of slush from the stained water coming out of the bogs. Another thing to watch for is a sharp depression in the snow over a creek or river as it is a signal of either weak ice or slush on top of the ice. The spot I decided to cross about 100 yards below the beaver dam showed neither. In fact, the snow was "crowned" over the top of the creek leading me to believe it was just very deep snow that had drifted in. WRONG!!! I took about three steps when suddenly I felt the snow give way in about a 10 foot circle around me and I dropped about 2 feet. The snow around me began to rapidly turn yellow as the stained water began to spread out around the collapse area. It turned out tall grass had bent over creating a canopy for the heavy snow to sit on top of effectively creating a blanket over the small creek. Mind you the air temp was about 10 degrees below zero at this time and anything wet will freeze solid within a minute. Time to get out of the hole I was in! Snowshoes are very good at disbursing weight. Not very good for climbing. When I fell, I managed to get my rifle off to the side and out of the way, but I had one leg stuck out in front of me while the other was twisted behind my back in a rather unnatural angle. Stuck. My initial thought was to cut the binding to free one foot and be able to turn around so both feet were pointing in the same direction. Knife was in the truck. Dammit. Option two was to somehow fight the right shoe off. After a couple of minutes of struggling, I did manage to get the shoe off but now both of my hands, my right arm up to my elbow, and both legs up to my knees were totally ice covered. One thing to remember when buying good outdoor gear is to have items which will still retain heat when wet. This is one of the times when having good gear paid off. I was cold, but not hypothermic. I jumped up on the opposite bank of the creek and took a break as I looked down at the slush pit which I had just created. Whew....was I glad to get out of that mess. I put the shoe back on my right boot and decided I better head west toward a road and get out of the swamp. Lucky for me the brush wolves were also heading west so I decided to continue to track them...ice covered and all. Well the predators did an old trick and immediately headed into a herd of deer to confuse me. As I worked to sort of the tracks, my right snowshoe suddenly didn't feel right. Uggggh...I looked down and saw a partially broken binding. There was no way I was getting out of there without snowshoes so I had to figure out a way to fix it with what I had. Thanks to a sharp willow stick and some lacing from my boot, I was able to fashion a temporary solution. Onward to the west. By now I had given up on trying to track down the coyotes as the sun was nearly on the western horizon and I wasn't all too fond at navigating my way out of the swamp and forest without moonlight so I quickened my pace to make it out to the western road which would eventually get me back to the highway and back to the truck. After zig zagging around some massive blowdown areas, I did finally reach the road as the last of the sun was dropping below the western horizon. Man, was I glad to take off the shoes and sling them over one shoulder and the rifle on the other as I began the 2 mile walk back to my starting point. I must have been quite the sight to the cars passing by on the main highway heading back to the east. All dressed in white from head to toe, ice hanging off my beard and clothes, toting a rifle and snowshoes. No one stopped to offer me a ride...without surprise! It was good to get back to the truck and thaw out. Everything from the ice on my face to the frozen clothes and gloves have to soften up before they could be removed. After about 10 minutes, I was able to remove the once frozen but now soggy clothes. This is where you have to be careful as wet items cool you more rapidly than frozen clothes due to evaporation. This is also the reason why I carry extra dry shirts and a hoodie!

While all of this sounds dramatic, years of experience (and having crap like this happen many times before) gives you the ability to think clearly and look for solutions to problems using only what you have at the immediate moment. A lot of people have forgotten how to do this or have never been in a situation where they have had to. I get asked the question quite often of what I think is the most important survival item. The easy (and obvious) answer is your own brain. Once you have mastered the ability to think logically and clearly under pressure, the rest of the solution is easy.

Sunday was not nearly as exciting. Saturday's adventure left me a lot more tired than I was expecting so an early departure was not going to happen. After helping Melinda and Jess with a household project (Melinda found this really cool antique bed for Jess but it needed some "engineering" to make it work), I decided to just drive what I call "The Loop" near home. After seeing about 40 or so deer, I came across this sign near Clearwater Lake.

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Safe to assume whoever defiled this sign is not under the age of 21. I hope they don't wear the weird-ass baggy pants.

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The end of the weekend was signaled by a lovely pink sunset courtesy of an approaching clipper system from the northwest.

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Next Sunday is supposed to be our annual trek up to Duluth, MN and the start of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. I'm having second thoughts due to the cold as Melinda, Cullen, and Cailyn would be with. With high temps well below zero, that is asking too much of them so unless this next chunk of arctic air decides to hold off for 24 hours, we will not be going. Maybe a mid week trip up on Wednesday for the finish will be in store.

1 comment:

OSNW3 said...

An amazing story. That was an awesome read.

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