Camping with Bears

As I write this the ground is covered in heavy snow.  The story I am about to share took place a few months ago during a particularly hot and buggy August.

My friend Justin and I went into the woods here in New England to do some primitive camping.

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We made the fire by friction and used the landscape to protect us from the worst of the heat and bugs.

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Water guard, a bark bucket and twined basket I made and brought along. Justin stuck much closer to the old ways with his food and gear than I was able with buckskin clothing, dried deer meat and a buffalo hide as blanket.

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There was a fair amount of plant food in this upland wood to supplement what we had brought along.  Here Justin is harvesting wild grapes.  They were some of the sweetest I have ever had.

After setting up camp, gathering some food and firewood we spent the night on the ground by the fire.  The next morning we went down to the meadow to practice with our bows.  Once there we decided some time sitting on the edge of the meadow to watch the squirrels was the thing to do.  It was hot and buggy again and a bit challenging to be still. Justin had found a spot somewhere behind me and after a rather short time I heard quiet intermittent movement from his direction.  This annoyed me as it would scare away the animals.  I heard it again and considered that maybe he had spotted a squirrel or something and was repositioning to get a better vantage point.

After the gentle crackling of sticks a dead leaves persisted beyond tolerating I finally turned to look.  It was a huge  black bear, 300 plus pounds walking slowly between us.  Over the bears shoulder I could see Justin sitting against a tree with wide eyes.  It had walked rather slowly through the woods behind him and come up between us about 15 or 20 yards from us both.

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I was a little slow to get out the camera so the images are after it had passed between us and had gotten far off.  Here it is in video and still photo walking away through the meadow.

What seemed remarkable to me was that it did not once turn to look at either of us.  I had turned out into the meadow in easy view and Justin even broke a stick to get its attention and not even a twitching ear as it ambled through the meadow. It even stopped to scratch its ear.

My hypothesis is it knew where we were and chose not to look at us.  Maybe this is what bears do to prevent unwanted confrontation as eye contact is menacing in the animal world.  I like this idea as it hints at a mutual respect between large predators, the bear respected us by not displaying any challenging behavior and we reciprocated by keeping our distance.

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After a time we looked over the big animals tracks.  Above is where he (I assume male due to the bears size) passed through some ferns to get back onto a trail near some mushrooms we had harvested.  Below are the tracks left in the meadow as we watched him go by.  They go from back right to center foreground.  On back tracking him a ways we surmised he may have come from the spot we had gathered grapes the day before.

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Justin and I had eaten grapes and mushrooms, slept on the ground, felt the heat and insect bites all same as the bear.  He felt the master of the forest with his easy power and patience of movement.  To be as connected to the land as that big bear would be a great blessing indeed.

Atlatl and Darts; Quiet, I am Hunting Mammoths

When I first met my wife Deneen we were taking a workshop on how to put together an atlatl and dart kit.  A few weeks later when we where courting over email I told her I had already killed a mammoth with mine, how was hers coming along?

My attempt at charm aside, atlatls and darts (spears) were what ancient man used to hunt mammoths and other very large animals.  Australian Aboriginal people used them up into historical times.  Much simpler that bows, they are relatively easy to make and fun to use.

This is a video exploration of a couple sets I have made.

A Few Songbirds of Maine.

While visiting in Southern Maine a few weeks ago we encountered several songbird species that I was able to capture video of.  Included are some birds I don’t often get to see such as Common Yellowthroat, Brown Thrasher and Prairie Warbler.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

Coiled Basket How To Video

Basketry is an art form with many variations. One form found in many parts of the world for hundreds and maybe thousands of years is coiled basketry. In this country (the U.S.) the most recognized form would be the pine needle baskets made by Native American groups in the Southeast and possibly elsewhere. Many materials have been used in the past and today.

In this video I demonstrate how to make a simple and expedient coiled basket out of dead grass and string. This will be a three part video so I can show all aspects of the process.  Many other suitable materials could be used in the same way.  This is one of the few basket weaving techniques that could be applied as a survival skill because it is immediate with no need for soaking or lengthy processing of materials (willow shoot weaving would be another).

If you enjoy this video please subscribe to my Youtube channel to be sure to see the next two installments in the coiled basket series.

The Camp Robber aka Grey Jay

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While in Ontario’s Algonquin Park my wife Deneen and I encountered a well known and charming creature of the North, the Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis). This corvid is related to the more Southern Blue Jay as well as the rest of the corvid family which includes crows, ravens, and magpies. Like those other corvids they are smart,  consummate opportunists, and well known to the people around them.
 
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Grey Jays have other common names that are often used; Camp Robber and Whiskeyjack, a anglicized pronunciation of a Cree name ( likely Wisakedjak).
 
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They have some unique behaviors, one of which is breeding and nesting in the Winter. To be able to do this they hide or “cache” food when it is available. They hide it in many different spots, later finding it, possibly by memory, the way we expect Grey Squirrels to do.
 
The name Camp Robber comes from their habit of taking food from people, often right from their hands whether offered or not. 
 
 
 

Wildlife Tracking Video; Red Fox

The snow is slowly leaving us here in New England.  Before it turned to slush and ice I got out to do some tracking in beautiful conditions.  In this video I go into detail on how to distinguish Red Fox from other species without using measurements.  I also include a good explanation of a few ways to tell canine from feline and, we see a bit of hunting behavior by our friend the fox.

Thanks for watching. Please like and subscribe.  If you want to learn more about tracking first hand go to my school’s website www.threeredtrees.com