Learning outdoors tips and tricks is a great way to pass the snowy days
Not all outdoor guides are created equal, as I discovered recently when I picked up one from the editors of Field and Stream. I had high expectations from these folks, and their outdoor guide did not disappoint. Not only is it easy to read, filled with pictures and diagrams, but it is truly useful, even for the average outdoorsman.
There may have been a time where I would have ventured out into the woods with little to no provisions and just made the best of whatever I could find for a camp. As I got older, however, the allure of that seems to have left. But that is not to say some of the tips and tricks presented in this book would not come in handy - or just be fun to try.
The book, titled "The Total Outdoorsman Manual," is split into four sections: Camping, hunting, fishing and survival. In total, there are 374 "essential" skills contained within the covers of this book. In each section, I would venture to guess almost everyone will find an idea of which they had not thought previously. Of course, some are skills many outdoorsmen already have. How to throw a knife and how to back a trailer without looking like an idiot, for example. Practice, as with most things, are key in these two skills, and I have to say one came more naturally to me than that other.
Some of the skills, though, are too crazy to not work. Tip #75 is titled "Chum bream with a dead raccoon." Yes, it suggests exactly what it says. The full detail may be too gruesome for some readers, so I won't go into it here, but it is a roadkill or other type of dead animal that brings about some of the very insects and "bait" we use all the time to catch fish. You would have to read this one to truly appreciate it's "survival" sort of slant.
Part of the fishing section, of course, is dedicated to trout and fly fishing, something I just discovered again last year. The fishing section is also filled with recipes. Most people know me as a tournament angler with a strict catch and release ideal - but there is certainly nothing wrong with a shore lunch here and there. Actually, I love fresh fish. And, after reading this book, I now know how to cook one in a tinfoil reflector oven. Would I really need to do that? Probably not, but I think it is somewhat fun that I could, don't you?
How to miss a boulder in current (called a raft-eating boulder in tip #89) with a raft, how to scale fish with bottle caps, how to avoid sinking your boat in heavy water - all of these are part of the fishing section of the book. If you want things complex, the book will show you four different ways to troll. If you are more old school, you can also learn how to make a cane pole.Techniques, gear and how to fish certain areas for certain fish are all highlighted here.
Obviously, the fishing section is my favorite, as many know. But I enjoy hunting, as well, and this book does not disappoint there, either.
Who needs expensive camo makeup when a wine cork, burned just right, can provide you with the same concealment? Essential gear, as well as other essential skill such as dissecting the wind, are covered in the hunting section. I hope I never have to use tip #187 - how to kill a wild pig with a knife. But, hey, if I do ...
There are also tips geared toward kids, which seems to be something every hunter can get behind. From allowing young hunters to call in birds to helping them gut their first dear, you will find tips in this book. I cannot begin to cover the deer, upland and wetland bird tips and skills in the book. There is even a tip on frog hunting. I have never hunted frogs, and I am not entire sure frog gigging is legal in Wisconsin, so I would tell you to check with someone more knowledgeable than me about that, but the skill is there.
Tip #237- how to clean a squirrel. Where was this when I was a kid? I suppose some things you just have to learn by trial an error. And I suppose Dad let me flounder with it just to prove that this can be the best way to learn how "not to" do things. But this is a skill I would have liked to see a video on back in the day - but then, we did not have videos of everything and YouTube was not even a thought at that point. We were lucky we had color TV with three stations. Recipes abound in the hunting section as well, as one might imagine.
I did not spend too much time in the survival section at first. Of course, like any good outdoorsman, I would think I would never need some of these skills. I would be far too prepared, right? Well, I would hope, but making a bough bed with a knife, making an emergency pair of mukluks or building a fire in the rain were enough to get my attention.
What about making a blow gun to shoot a squirrel? I had never thought of it, but the skill talks about dropping your gun in the creek and needing to find a way to eat. Creating a funnel trap to spear fish (with a spear fashioned from a tree branch, of course), could come in handy, too.
This section, to me, went hand in hand with the camping section. One skill showed me how to turn a canoe into a campsite (sort of). Another how to rainproof a tent and yet another how to make waterproof matches. Several knots and their uses are scattered throughout as well.
My point is, for an outdoorsman who is still sitting looking at feet of snow in their yard in April, this is a great read. Not only will most everyone find something here they did not know, it will be a great way to pass the time and think about all of the stories and memories we have made throughout the year.
The stories throughout make the connection with all outdoorsmen, with why we are out in the woods or take time alone on the water. What brings us away from others, truly brings us together as sportsmen (and women). With the spring hearings now concluded and antlerless deer quotas being set at this time of year, and with many contentious battles on those fronts, it may not seem that way. But, truly, if we step back and take a deep breath - and maybe check out a book like "The Total Outdoorsman, 374 Skills you Need" - we can remember we are all there for the same reason: To enjoy the outdoors and to be not only conservationists, but stewards of our environment. Not to mention sharing some cool tips and tricks with each other as the years go by.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.