Where the Moose Are and What to Do If you See One on the Trails
Back in March I wrote a blog about the expanding bear population here in New England (“It’s Springtime and That Means the Bears Are Out"). Now, based on the latest Wildlife survey, it’s clear that bears aren’t the only large mammal increasing in population in the area since the number of moose in the area is evidently growing too.
Although moose in Massachusetts were nearly hunted into extinction during the Colonial era and 19th century, after hunting was regulated in the early 1900's their population began to rebound. "It was a slow progression from Maine to New Hampshire to Vermont, and then started to show up in Massachusetts in the 1960's and 1970's. But it wasn't really until the late 1990's and early 2000's that we started having moose year-round." - Moose biologist David Stainbrook of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Over the past four years there have been hundreds of moose incidents (to include sightings, injuries and deaths) in Massachusetts. Here’s a map showing where the moose are concentrated and another showing the specific locations where moose have been sighted, or sadly died – mostly due to impacts with cars since moose are taller than deer so headlights don’t normally reflect off of their eyes making them harder to see at night.
Here's a more in depth article on the resurgence of moose in our area:
If you want all the details on the Massachusetts Moose population, and other detailed fish and wildlife statistics, here’s the link to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife’s 2018 Annual Report.
Since the probability of a sighting is increasing, if you do see a moose while you’re out on a hike, you should know that they're not typically dangerous. But it's still good to give them plenty of space — and definitely keep any dogs hiking with you away from the moose. Although rare, you can tell if a moose will become aggressive by its body language. Here are 7 signs to look for (from Emergency Essentials Blog – “7 Signs You’re Going to be Attacked by a Moose”):
The Appalachian Mountain Club also has some good information in their article titled “Do You Know How to Respond to a Moose Encounter?”
We routinely see deer, coyotes, black bears, foxes, turkeys, fischer cats, beavers, wood chucks and even a few bobcats in our neck of the woods. I guess we’ll have to start being on the lookout for moose too.
Our Latest Hiking, Camping, Disaster Preparedness and Shooting Gear Checklists
Everybody that's been Hiking, Camping and Shooting for a while has a list of gear that they always take with them on their adventures. For some people their method of keeping track of their gear is to keep it all in one place. Others make a checklist to ensure that they have everything that they need. We do both.
Based on our experience the gear that you need for Hiking comes in 10 categories, Camping has 10 categories, Disaster Preparedness has 9 categories and Shooting gear comes in 17 categories:
To make it easier for you we have updated and added downloadable PDFs of the Hiking, Camping, Disaster Preparedness and Shooting gear checklists that we use. The checklists include the types of gear that we think you need in each of these 46 categories.
Our website also has the details on the specific gear that we use (477 items from these 46 categories at last count), the reasons that we selected it and links to Amazon, or other locations, where you can buy the gear.
You can find these downloadable PDF checklists on the main Hiking, Camping, Disaster Preparedness and Shooting pages.
A.G. Russell Knives
While we were spending time in Arkansas in October we had a chance to stop by a great knife company that most knife aficionados know about – but that many other people that like hiking, camping and shooting do not; “A.G. Russell Knives”.
A.G. Russell Knives was established in 1964 and runs the oldest mail order knife business, the oldest knife collectors club and the oldest after-market knife business. They make shopmade knives in their headquarters in Rogers, Arkansas and have their own brand of A.G. Russell knives that are produced around the world. Their store also carries all the major knife brands such as Benchmade, CRKT, Kershaw, Buck, Case, SOG and others – and many different blades from handmade knife makers such as Randall Knives, Bob Dozier, Keith Murr, Dietmar Kressler, William Henry, Arno Bernard, and others.
Although they have a store at their shop location, the bulk of their business is done online. Currently they have over 1,500 different knives on their website (https://agrussell.com/).
One of the things that we like about the A.G Russell website is, that in addition to their products, they are big supporters of the “knife community”. In this vein their website also has some great general information that makes it a good source for knife terms and steel formulations. Here’s some high level information on, and links to, their “Knife Encyclopedia” and “Steel Charts”.
Knife Encyclopedia: To assist knife lovers A.G. Russell thought that putting together a set of terms and drawings/photos about knives would be helpful to his customers. So he contacted Walter Gardiner, the President of Schrade Cutlery, who sent him their "Handbook of Knife Knowledge and Terms" along with Schrade’s approval to put it online. A.G. Russell took many of terms from the Schrade handbook and used it to start an online encyclopedia. Here are the links to the encyclopedia, the fixed blade knife types page and the blade shape page:
Knife Encyclopedia: https://agrussell.com/encyclopedia
Fixed Blade Types: https://agrussell.com/encyclopedia/fixed-blade-knife-types
Blade Shapes: https://agrussell.com/encyclopedia/blade-shapes
Steel Chart: Because of the explosion in the types of steel formulations used to make knives, in 1988 A.G. Russell posted a knife steel chart online. They continue to routinely update the chart in an attempt to keep it up to date with the ever expanding number of steel formulations. Here are the links to both the Stainless Steel and Non-Stainless Steel charts:
Stainless Steel Chart: https://agrussell.com/chart
Non-Stainless Steel Chart: https://agrussell.com/chart/non-stainless
While we were in their store we purchased an A. G. Russell “Agents Office” Knife. The lockback folding knife has a tear drop shape handle with a double ground dagger-like blade (it is only sharp on one side) made from 8Cr13MoV with a 57-59 Rc. hardness. The handle is made of Mother of Pearl with Abalone spacers. The liners, bolsters and caps, and lock bar are all stainless steel. The knife has a 3” blade and measures 3 7/8” closed. It weighs ~2.9 ounces. It also has a leather lanyard through the butt and comes with a leather pouch with a pocket clip. It’s a beauty!
To complement their main website, A.G. Russell also has an online marketplace that “provides a unique service to knife owners who decide to sell knives they own or knife buyers looking for that special knife that is extremely popular or hard to find.”; The Cutting Edge® (http://www.cuttingedge.com/). For over forty-five years, The Cutting Edge® has been the largest aftermarket for knives of all kinds. Most of these knives are owned by individuals and A.G. Russell sells them on consignment.
As if that wasn’t enough, in 1998 A.G. Russell began Russell's For Men (https://russellsformen.com/) “because we appreciate high quality personal products, but could not find the quality we wanted. Then we realized that a lot of our customers were having similar problems finding items that their grandfathers enjoyed. Fine leather goods, watches, gun accessories, home art, and office items are just a few of the many categories of products we carry.”
In addition to founding the company and designing most of their early knives, A.G. Russell was a recognized leader in the knife making industry. His accomplishments and honors included:
Although A. G. Russell III passed away in 1998, his expertise and designs live on in the current A.G. Russell knives. You really ought to look at their websites; they’ll definitely have something that you’ll want to buy.
The Brilliance of New England in the Fall
Two weeks ago I posted a few photos of Autumn here in New England. Luckily the winds and rain have been gentler this year so we still have lots of leaves on the trees – enough to get some great close-up photos of them.
Since words don’t do justice to the beauty of Nature, I’ll just post some of the photos that showcase the trees’ stunning reds, oranges, yellows and greens (click on any photo to start the slideshow).
United Cutlery M48 Tactical War Hammer with Vortec Sheath
Over the years we’ve found that Hiking, Camping and Shooting gear comes in 4 categories:
1) Essential Necessities – Gear that you absolutely must have to even consider a Hiking, Camping or Shooting adventure. Gear like a good pair of hiking boots, a quality tent or hearing protection. Without these items you either can’t start your activity, or you risk having a bad outcome during the outing.
2) Need to Have Gear – This is gear that is one step up from the minimum necessary gear. Gear that you might get away with not having initially, but that really need to have to be prepared for the Hiking, Camping or Shooting activity. This type of gear includes items like a hiking first aid kit, lightweight trail food, a sleeping pad, slings or paper targets.
3) Nice to Have Gear – This category includes the gear that you invest in as you participate in more Hiking, Camping or Shooting adventures. You really don’t “have to have” this gear, but it makes doing the activity easier or more fun. In this category we would include a camera to take on your hikes, a good saw to take camping with you and a good range bag to keep all your stuff together when you go shooting.
4) Want to Have Gear – Finally there is the category that includes all the gear that you really don’t need – but want so much that you purchase it anyway. Here we include multiple compasses (since there’s always a better one out there on the market somewhere), another knife or other bladed tool (after all who doesn’t need a pocket knife, mid-sized locking blade knife, fixed blade survival knife, machete, hatchet, axe, etc.,), or another firearm that’s a different caliber or design than the ones that you already own.
In our opinion, the problem with being a long time Hiker, Camper and Shooter is that you quickly acquire the “essential necessities” and “need to have” items since they are what really make your adventures possible, practical and fun. Then, over the next several of years, you buy the “nice to have” items since they allow you to do more and make your adventures easier and more comfortable. After that you’re just gilding the lily by purchasing more and more gear that seems novel, better or just cool.
Well, we’ve been Hiking, Camping and Shooting for quite a while, so we are now clearly in Phase 4 – purchasing gear that we “want to have” – but really don’t need. Being in that mode leads to purchases like the United Cutlery M48 Tactical War Hammer with Vortec Sheath; an item that you can have a lot of fun with – but has no real practical value.
The M48 Tactical War Hammer (Item #: UC3069) is a hammer/axe combination with a 7 ¾” black oxide-coated stainless steel head (cast 2Cr13) with a 5-spiked war hammerhead on the face and a piercing spike on the back side. The hammer is 15 ½” in length and weighs 2 ¼ pounds. The hammer has a reinforced nylon handle that includes 30% fiberglass in its construction. The axe head is attached to the handle by three metal bolts. Since the hammer face and the rear spike are so sharp it comes with a Vortec Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR) cover for the entire head. The TPR cover folds in the middle so that you can easily put it on and take it off.
The design allows for comfortable one-handed use even though the hammer feels pretty solid and hefty when you are swinging it. The hammer face has four edge spikes and a thick central pyramid spike that gives it real smashing power. The backside spike is quite sharp and penetrates deeply into wood and everything else that we have used it on. Although it might be useful as a demolition tool, we just use it for fun (poor watermelons, pumpkins and cantaloupes). If you want to see the M48 Tactical War Hammer in action here’s a great video from Adam Celadin, a 4 time World Champion knife thrower, using it to destroy everything in sight.
You can buy the United Cutlery M48 Tactical War Hammer on Amazon.
In addition, if you like tactical bladed weapons, then you might want to check out United Cutlery’s entire M48 line of products at:
Autumn in New England
Well, it’s the middle of October, and here in New England that brings both good news and bad news.
The good news is that we're surrounded by beautiful Fall colors wherever you look. The bad news is that some of the beautiful leaves that you see on the trees will end up on your yard and you will have to rake them. But, most people that live in New England are more than willing to make this tradeoff since the beauty of nature vastly outweighs the effort to pick up the leaves.
Here are some photos from this week showing the magnificence of Nature in the New England woods that surround us (click on any photo to start the slideshow).
Roaming the Ozark Mountains
This week we were fortunate to get to spend some time in the Buffalo River Valley portion of Arkansas. As always the woods are peaceful, the scenery is gorgeous and the wildlife is everywhere. Here are two photos of the elk that we saw as we walked along the Buffalo River.
For those of you not familiar with the area, the Buffalo National River was established in 1972 as America's First National River and flows freely for 135 miles making it one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 United States. The park encompasses over 95,000 acres that surround the free-flowing Buffalo, much of which is linked together by a network of trails that accommodate hiking and equestrian activities. These trails allow you to hike to locations that showcase both the natural and human history that have shaped the Ozarks.
Here are a couple photos of the massive bluffs that tower over the Buffalo
Of course the most beautiful areas are those actually on the river - which are comprised of everything from running rapids to quiet pools, all surrounded by the bluffs and forest, as you float through the Ozark Mountains down the Buffalo to the White River.
Although my friends and family don’t want to let other people know about the Buffalo River - so that they can keep it to themselves – you really might want to take a trip to the Ozark Mountains to see it; especially in the fall since that’s when the trees turn the mountains a spectacular set of colors. If you want a little taste of what the area is starting to look like now that it is October, you should check out the recent article from Arkansas Living Magazine titled: “Autumn in Arkansas – Through the lens of Tim Ernst”:
If you want to make the trip, here’s the link to the National Park Service’s webpage about the Buffalo National River:
Here's their hiking page for information and maps about the park's trails:
UST Hammer Beast Multi-Tool
Like most of the outdoor enthusiasts that we know, we’re always on the lookout for Hiking, Camping and Shooting gear that serves a useful purpose – even if we don’t really need it. Well last week we ran across just such a piece of gear; the UST Hammer Beast Multi-Tool.
Unlike most multi-tools, the UST Hammer Beast is built around a smooth-faced hammer instead of pliers like Leatherman-type tools. The Hammer Beast also has ten other tools to include: pliers, wire cutter, flat head screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, nail puller, file, saw, knife blade, bottle opener and a wrench. The tool has a durable anodized aluminum handle for rust resistance and it’s orange so that you can easily spot it if you drop it in the backcountry. The Hammer Beast measures 5.75 x 1.75 x 0.6 inches and weighs 10.8 ounces.
Here’s a photo that will give you a good look at all of the tools when they are open:
So if you’ve got room in your pack, or travel kit that you take with you when you’re hiking or camping, you ought to check it out. You can purchase the “UST Hammer Beast Multi-Tool” at Amazon.
Collings Foundation “Wings of Freedom” Airplanes
Every year the Collings Foundation flies a "Wings of Freedom Tour" with their vintage WWII airplanes. This weekend they were in our area, so we went early so that we could to see the planes fly in. Here are some photos of the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell, B-24 Liberator and P-51 Mustang as they arrived (click on any photo to start the slideshow).
Once the planes were parked on the ramp we got to take a closer look at them – both from the outside and the inside. Here are some of those close-up views (click on any photo to start the slideshow).
If you want to see these magnificent examples of living history, here's a link to the Wings of Freedom website with lots more detail and the complete tour schedule:
Lansky QuadSharp Knife Sharpener
Since a sharp knife is critical to so many outdoor activities, we have lots of tools to try to keep our cutting edges as honed as possible. That leads to us having several ways to sharpen our blades – from files and 6,000 grit whetstones to use at home - to small sharpening stones to use in the field (as can be seen on our Camping/Tools page).
We recently added another small tool to our kit; the “Lansky QuadSharp Knife Sharpener” since it’s a compact tool specifically made to maintain your knives at the exact angle you need their edges to be while you’re in the field. The QuadSharp has preset carbide “V” grooves for four sharpening angles to help you sharpen your blade in 3 or 4 strokes:
The QuadSharp also has a sturdy metal body, an 800 grit ceramic benchstone for fine polishing, and can be used on regular, serrated (by sharpening one serration at a time by pulling the ceramic element against the grooved side of the serration) and filet knives. Measuring 4 ½” x 1 ½” x 3/8”, and weighing ~3 ounces, the QuadSharp is a small tool that’s easy to add to your gear and easy to use in the field when you can’t get to a larger sharpening stone.
You can purchase the “Lansky QuadSharp Knife Sharpener” at Amazon.
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