Thursday, August 29, 2013
Trapping Feral Pigs and Other Parables of Modern Life
by Matt Bracken
Professional trappers don't catch fast-breeding and destructive feral pigs using hunting dogs and guns, or in little traps one or two at a time. The wily pigs quickly learn to evade humans after such fleeting contacts. So how do the pros trap entire feral pig herds, eliminating them all, from granddads to piglets, in one go? They feed them, most generously. They kill them with kindness.
First, in a clearing in the woods, the trappers build an enclosure about twenty feet on a side and four feet high, made of stout wire mesh. There is an opening on each of the four sides of the pen. The pen is loaded with corn and other pig favorites. At first, the suspicious hog honchos will send in a few of the little ones as scouts. The scouts come and go at will, eating to their piggy satisfaction, until eventually suspicions die and they are joined by every other member of the herd right up the chain of command. The pigs soon come to believe that if nothing bad has happened to them after entering the strange wire enclosure full of corn, then nothing bad will ever happen. Their "normalcy bias" kicks in very quickly.
Soon, the pigs can't imagine any other life. Rooting for tubers? An unpleasant task of the forgotten past. Nightly the herd eagerly trots to the free corn in the pen, and they fail to notice when one of the openings has been closed off with another panel of wire fencing during the day. Pigs are said to be as smart as dogs, but neither can count to four. Nor are the closings of the second or third openings much noticed. Finally, all that remains for the trapper to do is to install a powerful spring-driven trap door above the last opening. The entire tribe of formerly wary feral hogs once again enters the pen, and with a metallic clang their miraculous corn nirvana turns into a death trap.
The moral of the story: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don't go inside the "free corn" pen, not even when all the doors are open. Free food is as dangerous as the sirens' song to ancient mariners. It is all too easy to get used to being fed, and then to miss the exits closing one at a time.
2. The Turkeys and Farmer Brown
Pigs are Einsteins compared to turkeys. Turkeys are so stupid that care must be taken to prevent them from killing themselves by accident. For example, if incorrectly stimulated, they might stampede into a corner of a feeding lot and trample many of their brethren to death in their urgency to follow the herd.
If turkeys think at all, they think of Farmer Brown as "the food man" or "the food god." So you can imagine their simple and unreserved joy at seeing the food man arriving to dispense the daily manna. For 364 straight days they believe they are living in turkey heaven, and they worship the food man, until on day 365 he unexpectedly takes an ax to their necks. (Hat tip to Nassim Nicholas Taleb and his seminal book, "The Black Swan" If you have not yet read it, you are way behind the learning curve. It's waiting for you at your local library.)
The moral of the story: If somebody is feeding you every day and asking for nothing in return, give an occasional thought to his motives and his possible end plans. Not everybody that feeds you loves you. The normalcy bias can kill you.
3. The Buffalo Jump
Native American Indians hunted on foot before the arrival of Spanish horses in North America. Bows and arrows and spears were not showstoppers against stampeding herds of bison, each weighing up to a ton. The Indians understood bison much better than the bison understood the Indians, however, and so the bison repeatedly failed to discern that all the pesky humans waving flags and setting grass fires were funneling them into a narrow draw and then to a yawning cliff, with squaws and children waiting below to commence the butchery.
The moral of the story: If you are being stampeded and funneled, it might be toward disaster, not away from it. Take any exit and go another direction. Read about the then-Greek city of Smyrna in 1922 to see a human Buffalo Jump in action. Wiki link to the "Catstrophe of Smyrna"
4. The Lemmings
The lemmings we are interested in are the small furry rodents that live on islands around Norway. For most of history, their mass charges into the frigid waters were seen as some kind of group suicide. Today, they’re understood to be the result of the little rodent's rapid gestation period kicking into high gear during rare periods of abundance of seed grasses sprouting madly during particularly mild arctic summers. In a matter of months the lemming population explodes, but eventually every last seed is eaten, and not another seed will appear until after the passage of the long arctic winter. The starving rodents packing the small islands can either die in place or undertake a desperate swim to greener pastures on other islands beckoning in the distance.
The moral of the story: There doesn't need to be a pig trapper or a turkey farmer in the equation to cause a mass die-off event; nature can do it all on her own. And nature doesn't care about your schedule, or your personal problems.
5. The Land Crab Massacre
One day in Puerto Rico a platoon of Navy SEALs had to drive in a few trucks and vans to an isolated rifle range way out in some swampy corner of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base, now sadly closed. A few miles of gravel road paralleled the Caribbean shore, with mangrove trees close on both sides of the narrow track. You had to access this rifle range at certain times during the daily tidal cycle, or the road might be under water. The frogmen spent the day shooting guns and blowing things up, then at sunset packed up the trucks for the quick run back to their beloved NavSpecWar Det Caribbean.
Truck headlights illuminated a moving sheet of land crabs, migrating from the ocean toward the land for the night. Land crabs have a body about the size of a fist, and one claw as big as a Maine lobster's. They were so tightly packed that you could not toss a hat into their midst without hitting two or three: a near solid mass of them covering a mile of gravel road and the mangrove swamps on both sides. All the SEALs could do was drive over them in their government trucks, pulverizing thousands of them, maybe millions, leaving two wide swaths of crushed crab, crackling and squishing beneath our tires for a mile.
On the return trip to the range the next day, not a sign remained of the land crab holocaust. The smashed crustaceans had been immediately devoured by their erstwhile kin, who were probably happy that the hard work of shell-cracking had already been done by Goodyear tires. A mile-long crab massacre was followed by a cannibal feast that left no trace, overnight.
The moral of the story: Don't be caught in the middle of a mass migration where you have no room to maneuver independently. Any outside force, or your neighbors, can smite you at will. Like Desert Storm's "Highway of Death," refugee columns attract warbird attention the way that honey attracts flies. History is full of refugee columns being strafed, on purpose or through mis-identification. Or like the bison, refugee columns can be herded into traps, and the individual refugee can do nothing to prevent it. This is a paradoxical case where the normally presumed “safety in numbers” is a deadly betrayer instead of a savior. Given a choice, going it alone beats The Buffalo Jump every time, but it’s very hard to bolt from the herd.
Read the whole thing here:
Friday, August 16, 2013
Over the past few years I’ve read many discussions of the Walmart IMUSA grease pot for use as an inexpensive, lightweight cooking pot while camping. I was at Walmart earlier this week and decided to pick one up to try. For about $6, why not?
(For whatever reason, I can’t find the grease pot at walmart.com, here is the same pot at Amazon.)
The wife and kids were out tonight so I stopped at the local Asian grocer and bought a few different kinds of noodles to try, including the pack of udon that I cooked tonight. Here’s the udon pack, grease pot, hobo stove, and fuel that I used.
Not shown is the strainer included with the great pot, since I didn’t use it tonight.
For fueling the hobo stove I used a firestarter that I’d made up a few weeks ago. It’s part of a cardboard egg carton stuffed with oak shavings, then saturated with melted Gulf canning wax (paraffin). Once the melted wax hardens, you get a waterproof firestarter that lights easily and will burn hot for several minutes. They are great for starting campfires, and I wanted to see how it would work in lieu of sticks in the hobo stove.
The stove is one I made a couple years ago from a 1 pound coffee can. It has several ~1/2” holes around the bottom to allow for a draft, several more around the top, and a window at the top for adding fuel in the form of sticks or split wood.
I put 1.5 cups of tap water into the grease pot and placed it on the stove, then lit the fuel. After a couple minutes it looked like this.
Remember, that’s one of these firestarters.
I didn’t hear any boiling so after about 3 minutes I removed the lid, and found that I had a rolling boil.
So I put the udon in and let it cook for about 3 minutes. The firestarter burned out about 2 to 3 minutes after I added the noodles. I figure that it burned for about 6 to 7 minutes.
I did end up transferring the udon to a bowl, because the grease pot is too tall to conveniently eat from.
For six bucks, the IMUSA grease pot carried by Walmart is a great deal if you want a light, cheap cooking pot for camping. It’s even big enough to hold one of those small butane powered stoves. It’s made from thin aluminum, so don’t expect it to withstand much abuse, but if you keep that in mind it’s a great deal.
The IMUSA grease pot would also make a good basis for a car survival kit. It can hold some survival supplies, e.g., tea bags, bullion cubes, a cup, space blanket, matches, firestarters, Esbit tabs or Trioxane fuel bars.
I was pleased with the performance of the firestarter when used as cooking fuel. If the pot had more than 1.5 cups of water in it I would have needed more fuel, however.
One caveat about using this kind of firestarter as a fuel bar is that it leaves a lot of thick, greasy soot on your cooking pot. If you plan on using this, better carry a plastic bag to put your pot in so everything else in your pack doesn’t turn black.
Performance of the hobo stove was good. It could probably be improved with something to hold the fuel closer to the bottom of the pot, such as a metal grate or the bottom of a smaller, empty can inverted and placed inside.
This goes to show you that you don’t always need to spend a lot of money on gear if you exercise a bit of creativity.
Friday, August 09, 2013
Thursday, August 01, 2013
A break-open, single-shot, 12-gauge shotgun is the least expensive, most handy, versatile firearm that anyone can own. A subsistence farmer in the Third World or outdoorsman doesn’t want a heavy tactical shotgun. When on foot out doing chores you aren’t going to carry more than a pound or so of ammo.
12-gauge shells weigh 9 rounds to the pound. A box of 25 shells weigh about 3 pounds. This limits how much ammunition you will carry, because playing Rambo with your shotgun gets in the way of carrying mission-essential kit like shelter, water, fire making, food, first aid, navigation, communication,..survival! So, you take what you need for camp meat opportunities which may occur during the day and a few for two- or four-leggged predator deterrent on the walk home. If backpacking, you will carefully make that three pound box of 25 shells last as long a time as possible, especially if re-supply is a great distance away.
This is a simple meat producer, predator deterrent and personal defense gun. Low cost, safety, simplicity, ruggedness, durability, ease of carry, fast handling and versatility are its attributes. What other firearm can you get for about $100 used or less than $200 new which does so much?
The break-open shotgun “always works,” is simplicity itself and is legal most places which don't permit people to carry a handgun or military rifle. Minimal training is needed. You can’t “short-shuck” one, as often happens to novice “pump gun” owners. It keeps going like the Energizer Bunny with minimal care, despite rain, sand, snow, ice, mud, dust or saltwater exposure AND it takes apart to fit in your pack. Nothing much breaks on them unless you are stupid enough to dry-fire one with the action open and slam the action closed, breaking the firing pin.
I've been seeing a lot more interest in the single-barrel shotgun lately, which is a nice alternative to the tacticool stuff. Certainly a Remington 870 or other repeater is a better gun for defense, but single-shots can be picked up cheaper, are simpler to run, and work just fine as game getters.
*Since he posted under his call sign I won't name him here. If you know where to look it's easy to find, though. Let's just say that he's very knowledgeable about firearms.