Hunters prize big bucks’ headgear as trophies for the wall, but antlers of any size—especially sheds you might find during a post-season scouting mission—can be made into a variety of items useful to the woodsman.</br> <b>1. Rattling Horns:</b> Rattle both sides together to get the attention of buck deer during the rut.</br> <b>2. Tool Handles:</b> Pieces of bone antler have been used to make durable handles for knives and other tools for centuries.</br> <b>3. Buttons/Toggles:</b> Tine tips can be sawed off to make toggles that fasten coats and shirts using loops or button holes. Larger sections of antler can be cut into a variety of button shapes and styles.</br> <b>4. Pressure Flaker:</b> Native Americans used antler points as tools for knapping arrowheads, scrapers and other stone tools. The savvy woodsman can, too!</br> <b>5. Root Digger:</b> In centuries past, antler was often the material of choice for making root diggers. They work just as well today to forage dandelion, burdock, cattail and other edible roots.</br> <b>6. Arrow Shaft Sizer:</b> When crafting one’s own arrows, a piece of antler with a properly sized hole drilled through it can be used to make better arrows. The user slips one end of the arrow shaft into the hole and slides the sizer along the shaft while carving the rough blank to create an even diameter the whole length of the arrow
The traditional tool for calling in bull moose when hunting during the fall/winter rut is a piece of birch bark rolled up into a funnel—a megaphone of sorts that will naturally amplify the come-hither sound of a cow moose ready to breed. Specific calling techniques vary greatly from caller to caller, but a great way to get started is by making a bugling sound, a throaty “moo” similar to a cow but much deeper in timber. Call every 15 to 20 minutes for a duration of up to a minute each time, increasing the intensity of your call with each cycle.
The fibrous, inner bark of eastern and western red cedars can been used in an amazing number of ways. Native Americans would pound it until it was soft and weave long pieces into baskets, blankets, mats, ropes, towels, waterproof hats and even clothing. It has also been used to make roofing, stuffing for mattresses, paintbrushes and even wicks for oil lamps.
One mark of an expert forager is the ability to rustle up a square meal from nature’s larder in the dead of winter. It can be tough to gather wild foods when the landscape is covered with ice or snow, but knowing some commonly found winter victuals can help you find sustenance even under adverse conditions.</br> <b>Watercress:</b> Most fair-weather foragers are familiar with this pungent green that grows in the clean, cold water of springs and slow-moving streams. But few know that a well-established patch of watercress will do quite well even in the middle of winter. Pinch or cut the plant off just below the leaves and wash thoroughly. You can use its fresh in a salad, steam it and eat it as a vegetable, or use it as a peppery ingredient for soup. The plant’s high vitamin C content could help ward off winter colds, too!</br> <b>Garlic & Onions:</b> Wild garlic and wild onions can both be found poking up out of grass year-round, especially in more temperate regions. Use them like their cultivated relatives, alone or to add flavor to other dishes.</br> <b>Chickweed:</b> This plant ranges from Alaska to Florida, and all points between. It flourishes in open, sunny areas even in frigid climates, and is easy to identify with its little star-like flowers. It’s delicious raw or cooked as a pot herb, and has a mild flavor with just a little tartness. Do not overindulge on chickweed, however, because this can cause diarrhea and vomiting. The leaves are said to be excellent for soothing severe external itchiness.</br> <b>Acorns:</b> A pound of acorns provides 2,000 calories of food value, so one shouldn’t overlook these oak nuts as an important winter food source. Crack them out of their shell, break large pieces into “pea-sized” chunks, then soak in several changes of warm water for several hours to remove the bitter tannic acid. When a taste test shows they have a bland flavor, let the acorns dry several hours and then roast and eat, or grind them to make acorn flour. The flour can be used to make nutritious acorn porridge or hard, brown biscuits.</br> <b>Mussels & Clams:</b> Freshwater or saltwater mussels and clams often can be gathered in quantity and cooked to make a chowder or seafood dinner. Watch for piles of shells left by marauding raccoons or muskrats, a sign that a bed of these molluscs may be nearby.
A tent can be freezing cold in winter, but these tips can help you stay warm inside all night long.</br> <b>1. Change into dry clothes.</b> If you’ve gotten sweaty outdoors when it was warmer out, it’s important to change out of those damp clothes and into layers before the sun sets.</br> <b>2. Dress in layers.</b> Start with a base layer like Merino wool that wicks moisture away from your skin. Next, add a warm layer such as fleece. Over that, add a layer that will block out the wind. A hat is vital and can make a huge difference in staying warm.</br> <b>3. Sleep in the base layer.</b> When you’re ready to get in your sleeping bag, strip to the base layer, or nothing. There will be a few minutes of cold, but when your body heat fills the sleeping bag, you will stay warmer than if you go to bed with all your clothes on. You can keep your fleece layer in your sleeping bag so it’s warm when you get dressed in the morning.</br> <B>4. Use an insulating sleeping pad.</b> Even if you have a very warm bag, you will lose all that warmth to the ground unless you add an insulating layer such as a Therm-a-Rest pad. Pads that fill with air are usually more effective than foam for keeping you warm.
A solid shooting rest isn’t always available in the field when you need it. Sometimes you may have to shoot from a prone, sitting, kneeling or standing position. None of these positions come naturally, and all require practice. It’s important to practice each and every one so you won’t miss game animals you may need to feed you.
Some fish can be very difficult to catch in winter, but not the crappie. America’s favorite panfish often gathers in huge schools in winter. Drop a minnow or jig to their deep-water haunts this season and chances are good you’ll catch enough for a delicious winter meal of fresh fish.
Winter can be a brutal season, but savvy woodsmen manage to get through the cold and discomfort by learning what foods can be gathered this time of year and methods for staying warm and comfortable despite frigid temperatures. Winter is also a great time for staying indoors next to the fireplace or woodstove while crafting tools, re-pairing gear or just catching up on some reading. To start, you might want to read these tips that will help you get by until spring has sprung again.
This article originally published in AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN® Issue #191. Print and Digital Subscriptions to AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN® magazine are available here.
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by Real World Survivor Editor / Feb 9, 2015