Monday, November 5, 2012


Trapping is one of the skills that built this country.  Some would consider trapping inhumane, and dangerous.  As with all hunting and fishing pursuits, there are those who don't take the time and do things right.  These give all outdoorsmen a bad name.  Trapping, when done right, is a great way to control local populations of furbearers.  Every state has it's own rules, so make sure you contact you're local wildlife enforcement division (Game and Fish, Department of Wildlife Resources, so on and so forth), and get the official rules on what you can and cannot do. 

I think that anyone who considers himself a renaissance man is really just interested in being self sufficient.  One part of being self sufficient is finding ways to make a little extra money to fund those side projects that you can't justify on your current salary.  You're never going to get rich trapping fur.  (You may, but I don't think anybody wants the socioeconomic changes that would entail).  You can make some extra money, and maybe have a little fun doing it on the side. 

I'm lucky in that I have a wooded area behind my house to trap.  Since I don't have a lot of time, I will be concentrating on this area during the week, and on the weekends I may run a few sets at the local Wildlife Management Area.  I'm primarily going to target raccoons.  Raccoons are supposed to be pretty easy to trap, so we'll see.  A good first set for raccoons is the bucket set.  You must be careful for with this set though, it's called a killing set.  If your neighbors have cats or small dogs, do not use this set.  It is unforgiving.  It will kill the target animal.  You have a little more leeway on public ground, every has the right to use it, and you have to right to trap there.  But still you must use common sense.  If you know that some guy has been hunting rabbits in the area with beagles, don't set you're traps there.  While this is perfectly legal, it's unethical.  You wouldn't like it if you're neighbor injured or killed your pet, now would you? 

If you're like me, you want to try you're hand and trapping without a huge investment.  You may like it, you may not.  I would suggest starting out with a dozen traps, and a dozen square buckets.  I just bought some and they set me back about $125.  I figure that if I can trap around 25 coons, I should be able to make my money back.  Set your sights low, and you won't be disappointed.  I think with a dozen traps, and a season that lasts about 120 days in my state, I should be able to trap enough coons to make the traps pay for themselves.  If I like it, then I can buy more traps, and increase my target catches.  One thing I would love to trap are bobcats and coyotes.  While coyotes aren't worth much, a nice bobcat can bring in some nice cash.

Coyote populations are exploding at alarming rates in many states.  Coyotes are opportunistic feeders.  By trapping coyotes, you will help out all the local species that you might like to hunt.  Coyotes will kill deer, rabbits, squirrels, turkeys, and many other species.  They can also be very bold, there have been reports of coyotes killing pets.  By all means please trap them.  I could write a whole article on why killing coyotes is a good idea, but I won't.  Suffice it to say, that they have good qualities in small quantities, but in large quantities they are a scourge on American soil.

What follows is a simple bucket set.  You will need a trap, and a square bucket.  There are several different sizes of traps.  A lot of your trap selection will depend on what your local regulations prescribe.  Where I hunt and trap, the largest trap I can use is one with a 6 inch jaw spread.  This means that I can use #160.  I went with Dukes, but there are several manufacturers out there.  Just google for it, and you will find several places that will sell you traps.  This trap size is just right for raccoon, possums, and muskrats.  It will also work for bobcats, and some foxes.  Again, this is a killing set.  Keep that in mind, when you decide to start trapping.  While the raccoon trapping season around here opens in September, I can't make this set until November when the rest of our seasons are open.  While my chances of catching a bobcat or fox are low, they are still high enough, that I don't want to get caught with out of season furs. 

The next thing you are going to need is a bucket.  You can use round buckets, but conventional wisdom states to use square buckets.  You can find square buckets in lots of places, but I'm lazy, and just paid an extra $25 for mine when I ordered my traps.  If you want to try and scrounge some up, ask around at local eating establishments.  Lots of condiments come in square buckets, butter, mayo, pickles, and so on.  You can probably get a lot more than you will need for trapping.  The good thing is that plastic buckets always come in handy around the house.  So you can never have too many. 

Once you have a trap and a bucket, you will need to make a small notch in the bucket to hold the trap.  Place the trap in the notch, set and you're ready to go.  Of course, trapping is harder than that. You need to set the buckets in places that animals are already going to be, and you will need some bait.  There is a whole industry built around trapping baits, and there are more articles online about that special bait than you could probably read in a lifetime  For my raccoon trapping, I've been stocking up on sardines from the grocery store, and I'll also buy some apples.  Raccoons love fish, and fruit.  I've also read that apples are good for muskrats.  Sardines can also be used for bobcats.  This should give me a wide range of catches. 

Finding a good place to set a trap for an animal is hard work.  You will need to do lots of scouting to find just the right spot.  The only tip I can give you right now is to do like I do.  Find an area with a with a stream or creek in it, and set you're traps there.  I've trapped a few coons and possums in my backyard with a live cage trap, so I know that they are using the ditch behind my fence as a travel way.  I've seen tracks at my local WMA around some of the creeks, so I know this will also be a good spot to set traps.  Other than that, you will have to scout hard to trap wild animals. 

I will get some pictures up later this week.

Election Day 2012

I'm sure that if you are still reading this blog, you are probably as sick of the campaigning as I am.  Bear with me for a few minutes.  I'm not going to tell you who I'm voting for, I'm not going to campaign on behalf of any party, or political candidate.  What I am going to do is tell you why this election matters. 

This election matters, but not in the way you think.  I'm sure that the only thing on your mind is Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.  I'm here to tell you that honestly you should vote for the candidate that you believe will do the best job, but I'm also going to tell you that your vote for the president almost won't matter.  Don't get me wrong, all votes count, and you should really should vote.  But the important elections tomorrow aren't for the president.  The important elections are local.  I'm sure that you will be voting for local judges, state senates, state representatives, mayors, even alderman.

I've struggled with these thoughts for a long time.  How can I change the world?  What can I, as one person do, to make the world a better place.  And I'm here to tell you that local elections are the place to start. 

Barack Obama didn't wake up one day, and find himself in a political campaign to be President of the United States of America.  No, he woke up one day and wanted to run for the Illinois senate.  After that he decided to run for Congress, and finally to run for President.  Maybe this was his plan all along.  I'm sure it was at some point in his mind, that he wanted to be president of this country.  What kid doesn't want to be president one day.

The local elections are more important in the short term and long term.  Tired of that road to the interstate full of potholes?  Then call you're local mayor, and tell him to fix it.  Call your state senator, and tell him you're county needs more road money.  They may not listen to you, but this is where local elections matter.  You can vote against him, and they will know why you voted against them.  You can call the other candidate, and ask him what he intends to do about your bad road.  He may still lie to you, but at least you can hold him accountable to his promises.  You can't hold national offices accountable.  I wish you could, but you are just one of millions of people.  Neither Obama, or Romney actually cares about you.  They can't.  There are too many millions of other people to think about. 

I've read that we should think globally, but act locally.  That is why this election matters.  If you hold your mayor accountable, who knows maybe one day he'll be able to run for president, and then guess what he will care about you.  He'll care about millions of others also, but he will know that without the support of the local community, he would still just be a local guy. 

In closing, make sure you vote tomorrow.  Vote for every office that is on the ballot, but don't just vote because the person has an R or a D next to his name.  Go home tonight and look up the local candidates and vote for the one that will do the best job for you.  (And if he doesn't, go to his office and explain why he's failing at serving you, he might just change his mind). 

Next week:  I'll be talking about trapping. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Finding the Answers

So far in this blog we've covered my philosophies, preparing a garden, and hunting big game with a muzzleloader.  A lot of people ask me the same questions.  How do you know so much?  The real answer that I have to give them is, I don't.  I don't really know much about a lot of things.  But I love to learn.  I think this love of learning is what really has set the renaissance men apart from their neighbors. 

Leonardo Da Vinci is known as the renaissance man.  He had a love of learning.  Don't believe me, read more about him.  He dissected human corpses to learn anatomy.  He was a famous painter and sculptor.  He first postulated the theory of plate tectonics.  He was an inventor.  He drew so many prototypes of things that we hardly know half of what he invented.  And he did all of this at a time when books were rare, there was no internet, and no television.  Do you know why he did all of this, yes he was probably very intelligent, but he had a love of learning. 

In this day and age, human knowledge is growing at an exponential rate.  At no time in the history of the world has it been easier to acquire new skills.  People can learn anything they want in this day and age, and it's only getting easier. 

For instance, take a recent project of mine.  I needed to change the serpentine belt in my car.  A serpentine belt may be the most fragile and yet important part of what makes your car run.  Without it, you can't drive your car.  It runs the power steering pump, the alternator, and several other peripheral devices that make your car work.  To get this belt replaced, it would cost you somewhere between about $100 and $150 at a mechanic's shop.  Why should I pay 10 to 15 times what the belt costs.  This just doesn't make logical sense to me.  So what's a 21st century renaissance man to do?

The first step: fire up your favorite web browser, steer to your favorite search engine, and begin to research. Type in your car model, and type in replace serpentine belt.  When I do this for my car, the first thing I realize is that the belt costs a lot more than $10.  That's okay though, that still just increases what the mechanic is going to charge me.  The first two results are also videos hosted on a popular video sharing website.  All I have to do is watch a couple of these, check out a few of the articles below it, and verify that a majority of them have the same steps. 

That's the only problem with using the internet as an authority.  Anybody can post anything on the internet.  You have to use a little common sense and attempt to verify the information first.  This usually isn't too hard.  If you look at three sources, and two sources corroborate each other.  You're probably good.  Sometimes it's a little harder to find what you're looking for.

The next step: An internet search engine will only get you so far.  You have to know what question to ask.  I will often rearrange words when I'm looking for information.  This will change you're search results enough, that you can get new information.  But sometimes this is not good enough.

Third step:  Find a good book.  Used to be back in the day, you had to drive to the library, search the card catalog for the information you wanted, go look on the shelves and hope the library had the book you wanted.  This is still a good method, but there is an even better method.  Go to your local library's website, and search from there.  At least this way, you haven't had to waste valuable time to drive to and from the library and still not get the book you want.

Sometimes, though you want a book, and you'd rather have a copy you can keep with forever.  Things are even easier.  I bet almost everyone reading this blog has a smartphone, and I know you are at a computer right now.  Fire up your favorite online bookseller (I know I'm not promoting any products today, but I'm trying to be unbiased).  Type what you're looking for, and voila you'll have several to several hundred books just waiting to be bought.  Another thing I like about buying books online, is that you get to read reviews.  All ways read the reviews.  Take them with a grain of salt, but if they all come back as one star, I would stay away from that book.  And if you find a book you like, give it a good review, so that others will know it's worth their hard earned money to spend on it. 

Now you can have the book shipped to you, or if you have a smartphone, tablet or computer.  You can just download the book instantly.  I can't sing the praises of ebooks enough.  I read a lot.  I always have.  I've read around 6500 pages since about March.  (I didn't start keeping track until then).  Some have been books, a lot has been magazines.  This is not counting any webpages or news articles I've read.  If you count those, I've probably read double that this year.  In my day job, I'm a computer programmer, and I love to be able to carry around a half-dozen reference books in the palm of my hand.  It's made life a lot easier.  If you read a lot, I would highly recommend any number of cheap ebook readers, or more expensive tablets.  Depends on what you're reading and what you need. 

Fourth step:  Find some online forums.  I belong to half a dozen different online forums.  Some I don't read unless I have a specific question, some I check everyday.  There are forums out there for just about anything you can think of.  Ford Forums, Hunting Forums, Toyota forums, self-reliant forums.  SHTF forums.  If you have a specific question, find a forum, join up.  Learn the rules of the road for that particular forum, and ask you're questions.  One of the programming forums I belong to, will re-write any program for you, but you have to take the initiative to show that you are trying hard to solve the problem first.  If you just come looking for pre-written answers, they won't give you the time of the day. The most important thing about online forums is to respect the protocols the other members have in place.  Forums are a community, and if you want to have any respect and get real help, you have to respect the other members. 

Final step: Make friends.  As I stated above, I don't really know much, but I have a lot of friends with a varied skill set.  They have a lot of friends with an even more varied skill set.  I've got friends that are programming geeks, I've got friends that are IT geeks (there is a difference), I've got friends that love to hunt, and I've got friends that love to work on cars.  I like to do a little bit of it all, but I couldn't do any of it without good friends to help pave the way.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

How-To: Muzzleloading

/shameless plug
It's been a while since I've had a chance to write, and for that I am sorry.  I've been working on starting my own small business  Orion's Consulting.  Software solutions for small business.  We have two clients right now, and we are looking at taking on more.  Check out our website, and call us today for a quote.  Now on to real content
/shameless plug

Today is October the 19th, and at least in my area, tomorrow is the muzzleloading opener.  I would like to take a minute to discuss hunting and the 21st century renaissance man.  In this day and age, hunting for your own meat can be much more expensive than buying it at the grocery store.  It can also be cheaper, if you discount your time, and if you really love doing something, it's pretty easy to discount your time.

In my opinion, there is nothing more relaxing than spending a day in the woods trying to outsmart the whitetail deer.  You would be hard pressed to find a more organic free range food.  Hunting truly is the world's oldest profession.  Man has hunted since the beginning of time, and will probably hunt until the end of time.

Today I wanted to talk about getting started hunting with a muzzleloader.  First things first, muzzleloaders are often called black powder rifles.  A muzzleloader is a type of rifle that you load through the front of the barrel (called the muzzle).  There are two main categories of muzzleloaders, in-line and flintlock.  In-line muzzleloaders are what you will most often find for sale at Wal-Mart, Gander Mountain, or Academy Sports.  Flintlocks are akin to what was used during the American Revolutionary war.  The modern in-lines are much better guns, they fire better under damp conditions, they are more accurate, and they are much easier to clean and use.  I don't have any experience with flintlocks so I will have to discuss them at a later date when I can afford the time and money to experiment with them.

Using a muzzleloader consists of items, a primer (the part that makes the gun fire), powder (the part that makes the bullet fly), and a bullet (the part that actually leaves the muzzle of the gun).  Read on to find out more about these items.  

When you buy an in-line muzzleloader, you have to decide whether you want percussion caps, or 409 primers.  I can't really tell the difference between the two, but I find 409 primers are a little easier to use.  The important thing to do is remember which kind you need.

 The other thing you will have to decide is whether you want to use powder or pellets.  Powder is exactly like it sounds, it is loose particles of loose gun powder.  To use this in your muzzleloader, you would just pour an appropriate amount down the barrel, and seat a bullet on top. I'm not a fan of this type of powder, it's messy, and you really need a good powder measure to make sure you have the same amount of grains everytime.  Gunpowder is measured in grains.  Most people typically you between 90 and 150 grains of gunpowder.  I find 100 grains to be about perfect for my muzzleloader.

You can also buy powder in pellets.  Pellets are made out of powder that comes in a rounded pellet form (makes sense right).  They are typically found in 50 grains pellets.  For the novice muzzleloader, this makes the most sense to use.  These are what I use.  They make the most sense to me.  Just grab two pellets and shove them down the barrel of your gun.   Simple quick and easy.
Powder Pellet

The last thing you need is a bullet.  I recommend buying a kit that has bullets and sabots together.  A sabot is just a piece of plastic that a bullet goes into, this helps to keep the bullet seated properly in the barrel.  It also helps with accuracy.  It ensures that when the powder ignites, all of the gases are trapped against the bottom of the bullet and will push it evenly through the barrel.  Bullets come in .45 or .50 caliber.  Again, most modern in-line muzzleloaders you find a big name store today will be in .50 caliber.  This is a great bullet that can be accurate out to about 150 yards for almost any big game in North America. 

Bullets, Sabot, and Saboted Bullet

Now that we have everything we need for hunting with a muzzleloader, you need to load it.  To do so it pretty easy.  Put your powder done the muzzle, place your bullet next, use your ramrod, to shove the bullet all the way down the barrel.  Last step is to place your primer in the breech.  Once you have the primer in the breech, you will be holding a loaded weapon.  A very deadly, dangerous weapon.  All the rules of firearm safety apply to using a muzzleloader, only they are even more important.  Most muzzleloaders don't have very good safeties, and they are more prone to misfire.  Always make sure you are completely safe.  Every year you hear of close calls, and even deaths due to people mishandling their weapons. 


10 Commandments of Firearm Safety
1. Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
2. Always be aware of where the gun’s muzzle is pointed.
3. Unload guns when not in use.
4. Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions.
5. Be sure of your target before you pull the trigger.
6. Never point a gun at anything you do not want to shoot.
7. Never climb a tree or fence or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm.
8. Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water.
9. Store guns and ammunition separately.
10. Avoid alcoholic beverages before and during shooting.
Once you have bought you're muzzleloader,  you need to head to the local shooting range and shoot.  You can get good accuracy with a muzzleloader, but since every component is purchased separately, you may need to experiment to get the best combination of powder, bullets, and even primers.  Once you have a good load you like, right down the combination and keep it stored wheere you won't forget it.  Nothing worse than missing a shot at a deer, because you couldn't remember what brand of sabots you bought last year.

As usual if you have any questions, feel free to contact me, and I will do my best to find the answer. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How-To: No-Till Gardening

Growing your own food is one of the essential skills for a renaissance man.  Now is the time of the year to start planning for next years garden.  Lately there has been a large movement geared towards growing your own food.  Urban gardens are popping up in larger cities all over the country, many people in suburban areas are starting to learn the skills necessary to grow their own food, and of course, there has been a resurgence in the farmer's market over the last decade.  There are many reasons for this, none of which I will go into in this blog.  Whatever your reasons, (and there are no wrong reasons) growing your own food in your backyard will not only make you feel better about yourself, but it will also help you to save money and help the environment.

This blog post is about no-till gardening.  I've found this to be one of the cheapest and easiest methods for growing a garden.  The nice thing about this method is, that you can mow down your garden and in a few weeks time no one will ever know it was there.  It doesn't require any special equipment, and the only real investment is your sweat.

The first thing you need to do is contact your local government agency and get your soil tested.  Just like people, plants need a variety of minerals for good health.  Get your soil tested and buy/find the minerals you need and add them to the top of the soil.  This will ensure that the plants are getting the nutrition they need to grow strong and healthy.  Linked below is an example soil test kit.  I urge you to google and find the best way to get the soil tested in your local area.

 Jiffy/Ferry Morse Seed Co 390446 Premium Soil Test Kit (Google Affiliate Ad)

It's almost fall and it's time for those leaves to start falling, but if you're like me what are you to do with your yard waste?  Bagging them is a hassle, and you have to find somewhere to dispose of them.  The local garbage collection won't take them.  In comes the no-till method for gardening.  In the no-till method, you are basically creating a compost pile, but instead of having to deal with it all the time, you are composting right where you want to garden. This method has many advantages over more traditional tilling.
  1. The biggest advantage is you don't have to buy a tiller.  Tillers are expensive, and prone to breaking down.  By not needing a tiller, you save yourself a lot of time and money. 
  2. No weeding during the heat of summer.  By using your yard waste on your garden, you are killing all the grass and grass seeds that would normally grow in between your pretty rows of vegetables. 
  3. There is no hassle of removing your yard waste.  No bagging, no disposal fees.  Just pile it on your garden and go.
  4. Promotes beneficial bacteria and insects for getting a better yield from your garden.
The no-till method is not all roses either.  There are several disadvantages to using this method.  For one, the yard waste will attract slugs and snails.  These pests can wreck your garden. There are several ways to control such garden pests.  We will discuss those earlier next year when the time comes to start controlling insect pests naturally. 

There are 4 basic steps to creating a no-till garden bed. 

Step 1: Add your fertilizer and nutrients that you need.  Just pick your spot, get your soil test, and spread the  materials you need. 

Step 2: Get some old cardboard boxes and lay down on top of where you want your garden to be.

Step 3: Save your old newspapers and lay them on top of the cardboard.

Step 4: Cover everything with leaves and other yard waste.

It's recommended to go ahead and water the newspaper and cardboard before you add the leaves on top.  This will ensure that you everything will begin to break down properly, and to protect you from an errant windstorm that will blow "trash" all over your yard. 

Voila! You're done with your garden spot.  When the spring comes, you will have beatiful soil all ready for the planting, and you will have made you're life so much easier. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Philosophies from Me

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.”


Robert Heinlein 



This is one of my favorite quotes of all time.  It sums up what this blog should be about.  I will discuss everything that I think a 21st century renaissance man should know and be.  If you are offended by candid discussions of God and Jesus Christ, right-wing politics, guns, hunting, fishing and self sufficiency, you will most likely be offended by this blog.  If not, then please continue reading.  I will attempt to blog on a weekly basis, sometimes more often, sometimes less often.  It all just depends on what happens during the week.  

I decided to write this blog after several discussions I had with a good friend of mine about the new breed of renaissance man.  In this day and age, I think it is very important to not only be able keep up with current events, but to also rediscover how our fore-fathers survived in this great land.  I'm not a doomsday prepper, I don't believe that our great nation will fall within our lifetimes (I could be wrong, lots of things can happen that I can't predict).  I believe that God has a plan for each of us individually, and for our nation as a whole.  

I am a programmer by trade, and I love the great outdoors.  I love to fish, I love to hunt, I love to garden, and I love to learn  more about all these tasks.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.  I will do my best to answer.  If there are topics you wish to learn more about, and if I find them interesting enough, I will research them and blog about them.  I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing about all the things I learn.