Literature Review – My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears

Ray Mears - My Outdoor Life

Ray Mears – My Outdoor Life

As many of you will know I normally write reviews of archery related books, but this was a birthday gift and since Ray Mears is well known for being an outdoors enthusiast I thought I would include his book here. Some of you the UK readers may have caught his recent TV series exploring France’s wilder parts. Anyway I hope no one objects to me including it here.
The copy of the book I have is over 350 pages, a paperback published by Hodder & Stoughton (www.hodder.co.uk) for those interested the ISBN 978-1-444-77821-2
It covers his life from early childhood and the development of his desire to learn about woodland skills, to his involvement with television and his numerous expeditions taking him to the four corners of the globe. I wonder how many passports he’s gone through in his time?
Included in the book is his account of a helicopter crash that nearly cost his life along with members of his film crew. I can’t help but think how lucky they were to survive.
This wasn’t the first book by him I’ve read, that being The Real Heroes of Telemark, which if you have a chance I would highly recommend.
I found this book a very easy and engaging read, written in a manner that encourages you to imagine him talking to you, possibly reminiscing on past adventures and trips, over a shared campfire. I feel it gives a far greater insight into the man who many will know from his television series or bushcraft books. It goes some way to exploring what has shaped his life, from early judo lessons, on to the expeditions in Africa, all providing a greater level of detail than I was expecting. It is a very brave person who can open themselves up and discuss their feelings and beliefs in this way, being both honest and open, whilst not fishing for compliments or favour. I feel this is very apparent where he writes of the loss of his first wife and the turmoil that engulfed him.

Ray Mears inside the book

Ray Mears inside the book

One thing I found of interest was his analysis of how TV documentary makers have changed from when he started and now. How they afford less time to expeditions, expecting filming to be completed in far less time than in the past. Maybe this explains why some modern documentaries feel as though they are lacking in depth. Could this be a reflection of the speed we now are forced to live our lives at. Expecting fast facts and data?
Overall I’ve enjoyed the book and have little doubt that I won’t reread it from time to time.
To give it a rating almost feels wrong as though rating the man and his achievements which I am sure are not yet ended. In fact he has just completed a new series on UK television. For that very reason I’m going to give a 9/10 as I’m sure he’s got more stories and adventures to come.
Thanks for reading

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Equipment review – Flambeau bazuka bow case

Bazuka case in the rain

Bazuka case in the rain

I think it’s fair to say I get some ribbing about my flatbow bow case. The normal comments are   “Is that for the hard shots?” Or “Is it for the ones you don’t like?” But at the end of the day it works and protects the bow which is what I bought it for. This is also why I bought one for Sharon to house her Black Brook American flatbow.
Whilst many archers simply have a cloth case for covering their bow I wanted something more substantial especially when going camping. There are loads of different cases for takedown recurve or compound bows, but it is quite hard to find ones suitable for one piece  American flatbows. This is why I invested in a Flambeau bazuka case. For those interested I do use a cloth cover which the bow sits inside the hard plastic case.
I know other archers use these cases to transport their longbows and American flatbows especially when flying (I think Flambeau say it’s airline approved) as they provide excellent protection.
Though as Jim Grizzly Kent said when I was talking about the cases with him “I’m not sure how I would feel walking through an airport carrying something called bazuka.
It was in fact an old club member from Black Arrow who first showed me his Bazuka case some four or five years ago.
Some anglers among you may already be familiar with the case as I know it can be used for fishing rods too. I actually bought Sharon’s case from http://www.gerrysfishing.com/ an angling store who were very helpful when checking size and delivery times.

The plastic is very durable taking knocks without deformation, it’s also pretty light for it’s size.
The carrying handle is well positioned to make it easy to carry and balance in the hand. The only problem I’ve found with the handle is the moulding seem is a little rough on mine whilst Sharon’s is fine, but this is easily solved with a bit of sanding or tape.
The case opens one end allowing you to slide the bow in or out and the flap securely locks into place.
Opening flap of the case

Opening flap of the case , with my linen bow bag in the case

There are holes where you could fit a cable or padlock.

securing pin so you can extend the length of the case

securing pin so you can extend the length of the case

Mine was relatively cheap at just over £35 though this was a couple of years back. It was purchased from Merlin archery in Loughborough. I’ve added some foam padding inside the top to provide some padding at the ends .
The length is adjustable which means it can accommodate a variety of lengths of bows or fishing rods. The case comes in two sizes and the ones we have go from 63-87 inches which is the smaller one I think.

Give you an idea of the size

Give you an idea of the size

Dimensions and diameter of hole can be seen in the photo.
View of the opening of the case approx 10 cms

View of the opening of the case approx 10 cms

Being black plastic it can get warm if left in the sun or car, which is important to consider when storing or transporting your bow. Bows don’t like getting too warm. So when possible I will keep it in the shade or keep the flap open. Since it is pretty air and water tight it’s worth remembering never to put your bow away wet as the water has nowhere to evaporate.
The times I’ve found it of most use was when going camping, as I can pack the bow into the case and put it in the car without worrying about it being knocked or damaged in transit whilst buried under tent, sleeping bag etc.
Whilst you wouldn’t be able to fit a quiver in with the bow,  I think you could fit some arrows is you packed it carefully.

Overall I’ve been pretty impressed and happy with the case. I’ve been using it for about four years. When you consider the bow costs in excess of £600 I think  £35 (though that was several years ago) to keep it protected is well worth it. The case I bought Sharon was around  £50 including delivery so considering her bow was £670 again it is well worth it.
So if you are after a very durable bow case for your flatbow or longbow I’d recommend the bazuka case. 9/10
Thanks for reading.

Equipment review – Leathermans Multi-tool

Give you an idea of the size of the Leatherman

Give you an idea of the size of the Leatherman

Over the past few years I’ve owned a few different multi tools varying from the bargain basement ones that come free with a torch at a service station, to the more expensive Leathermans. In that time I  have found them a very useful addition to my archery, camping and skiing kit.
Based on my experiences a few months back I started a survey on  Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/ArcheryNeedsYou/)  as to whether Leatherman or Gerber were preferred,  for those interested in the results it is presently standing at about 50/50 split.
Anyway I thought I would review a couple of Leatherman multi tools I have, both of which can fit easy into a quiver or belt pouch.
The two I have are the  Wingman and Sidekick. Essentially the two are nearly identical,  the second one (sidekick) being purchased as I thought I’d lost the first.
The only real difference is the sidekick has a small saw blade instead of the scissors that can be found on the wingman.
Leatherman opened up

Leatherman opened up

Tools breakdown
Here is a quick break down of the tools, both are made from stainless steel, are pocket sized and covered by the Leatherman 25-year warranty.WINGMAN –  described by Leatherman as having 14 tools in one
Tools:
420HC Combo Knife
Bottle Opener
Can Opener
Medium Screwdriver
Package Opener
Phillips Screwdriver
Ruler (1 in/2.54 cm)
Small Screwdriver
Spring-action Needlenose Pliers
Spring-action Regular Pliers
Spring-action scissors
Spring-action Wire Cutters
Wire Stripper
Wood/Metal FileMeasurements:
2.6 in | 6.6 cm (blade length)
3.8 in | 9.7 cm (closed)
7 oz | 198.4 g

SIDEKICK again it has 14 tools, and mine came with a Carabiner Bottle Opener Accessory.

Tools:
420HC Serrated Knife
Medium Screwdriver
420HC Knife
Bottle Opener
Can Opener
Phillips Screwdriver
Ruler (1 in/2.54 cm)
Saw
Small Screwdriver
Spring-action Needlenose Pliers
Spring-action Regular Pliers
Spring-action Wire Cutters
Wood/Metal File

Measurements:
2.6 in | 6.6 cm (blade length)
3.8 in | 9.7 cm (closed)
7 oz | 198.4 g

Uses in the field
I find the pliers useful when extracting  piles after the shafts snap in the boss,3d targets or more often trees and need removing.
A sharp knife is always useful if you spend any time outdoors whether it be camping, walking or archery.
Quick note here is I wouldn’t use it to cut a wayward  arrow from a tree though, as whilst sharp I would expect the tip to snap under the pressure. I use an old flat headed screw driver that I have in my quiver for this.
I have found the crosshead screwdriver is perfect for tightening the screws on my archery tab. This being on both the sidekick and wingman.
The wingman comes with a small pair of scissors which I’ve found surprisingly useful for archery, when fitting servings etc.

Leathermans knife blade and scissors

Leathermans knife blade and scissors

The sidekick  comes with a small saw blade, which isn’t going to chop down any redwoods but I have used to saw through branches of about an inch thickness with ease. For that reason I tend to have the sidekick to hand when camping or working in the woods.

Give you an idea of the size of the Leatherman saw blade and knife blade (the knife was not fully opened and locked in place)

Give you an idea of the size of the Leatherman saw blade and knife blade (the knife was not fully opened and locked in place)

Workmanship
The workmanship is good and the pivotal joints haven’t slackened off, which I seen on cheaper multi tools.

Leathermans pllers close up

Leathermans pllers close up

The finish on the back of the sidekick  serrated blade is a little rough which you notice more when folded up but that is the only criticism I have.

Close up on the rough part of the back of theblade

Close up on the rough part of the back of the blade

The rolled metal handle makes using the pliers more cumfortable in the hand which I  noticed when compared to cheaper budget copies.
I now make a point of always carrying one of mine when out and about.

So if you are looking for a birthday present or early Christmas present I’d say they were a good buy and addition to a kit belt or pouch. If you are looking for something a bit more then have a look at what I think they call the expedition range.
Rating 9/10

N.B. I  bought one of the tools from eBay and it was supposed to come with a leather case. It didn’t, instead it had a cheap nylon one and this is not uncommon looking at reviews.
Thanks for reading.

Shoot report – Liberty archers – July 2015

Liberty 2015

Liberty 2015

Liberty shoots have a reputation for being a fun shoot to attend as the club always put a lot of effort into making sure it’s fun. This shoot was their annual two day event with a party bbq on the Saturday night. We had decided to camp again this year with a few of the SVYF  members and booked the Friday and Monday off work. So early Friday morning we packed the car for the three hour drive to Liberty arriving just before 11 am so plenty of time to pitch the tent and settle in.
Liberty Archers campsite

Liberty Archers campsite

The camp site was already very busy with caravans and tents popping up along the access road, with some having arrived the previous day.
Liberty Camp chats

Liberty SVYF camp chats

Friday night meal was the traditional fish and chips from the local chip shop washed down with a couple of bottles of cider whilst sat chatting.
You can read a shoot report from last year’s event here.

One really nice tradition that Liberty Archers do is when a member leaves (they have several members that are associated with the armed forces and are transferred to other bases or countries) the archer shoots an arrow into the leavers tree.

The leavers Tree

The leavers Tree

Saturday night party 
This years theme was a Night at the movies which resulted in some fantastic costumes on show for the Saturday night party. Including a full Sister Act quior,  Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Beetlejuice and Marilyn Monroe not to forget the jedi knights, Snow White and Mr and Mrs Shrek  wondering round. Sharon was as always magnificent going to town on a Maleficent costume.
Sharon, Jane and Jill were sponsored to shoot the Sunday course in full fancy dress costumes so we had Marilyn Monroe Beetlejuice and Maleficent wondering round the woods.

The charity team

The charity team (from left to right Jane, Jill and Sharon)

Felt sorry for any cars driving past the site as they caught glimpses of these characters. At least one motorcycle pillion took a double look. The charity to benefit is the British heart foundation and to dare over £135 has been raised. A just giving page has been set up too here is the link.

The course 
All 42 targets on the courses had a film theme from Star Wars to Citizen Kane with some requiring audience participation such as the Monty Python shot at a vampire rabbit where your fellow archers were to use coconut cups to make the sound of horse hooves as you were shooting.

As course sites go Liberty is very flat and covered in open woodland of silver birch and oaks. Thankfully this year the weather  wasn’t as hot as last year which made it a more  cumfortable couple day in woods.

Tegan and Sam

Tegan and Sam

Shooting group on both days would include Sharon and myself along with fellow Svyf members Sam and Tegan. On Saturday we were joined by Simon but he didn’t shoot Sunday.

I didn’t shoot well on Saturday and it was obvious in my score of 600 points fare lower than I wanted and in the number of second arrows I took. I seemed to be going over the top of everything.
Sharon shooting a bedded deer

Sharon shooting a bedded deer

One thing with Liberty is the ground swallows arrows as it’s quite sandy and grassy so we spent a lot of time searching for arrows. There is still one of mine somewhere out there.
Sams luckiest shot of weekend

Sams luckiest shot of weekend

Robo Deer made an appearance though with a new paint job.

Robo Deer with paint job on Sunday

Robo Deer with paint job on Sunday

The course is a full 42 targets with 3d targets of all shapes and sizes from mosquitos made up to be giant butterflies to a Magnificent Seven shot which was a herd of deer 3ds in the field. This changed to the seven samurai on the Sunday.

SVYF on the next peg

SVYF on the next peg

One target that was really tough for lighter poundage bows was based on the psycho movie, where you had to shoot through a taught shower curtain to hit a 3D bear. The curtain caused the lighter bows to either fail to penetrate the plastic sheet or deflect when their fletching made contact.
I wasn’t looking forward to Sunday following my awful shooting on Saturday.It wasn’t helped by my sinuses playing up, thankfully Sue had some nasal spray that helped clear my head.Matters didn’t improve when on my first target I sailed over the top with first arrow only to have second shatter into multiple pieces when it clipped a tree.

Another Liberty shot between trees

Another Liberty shot between trees

For some reason my head slowly started to  work as the day progressed but any chance on placing was long gone due to poor shooting on Saturday but at least I wasn’t feeling a complete failure.

Sam shooting the singing in the rain themed target

Sam shooting the singing in the rain themed target

Sharon shooting on Sunday in costume

Sharon shooting on Sunday in costume

There were a couple of shots on Sunday that I thought could have been improved with better peg location as shorter archers found them near impossible to see due to undergrowth but in all it was a good course.

Hard shot through the trees

Hard shot through the trees

Sharon proving she can shoot in costume

Sharon proving she can shoot in costume

Sharon came away with first in ladies hunting tackle so she now has an Oscar to fit in the trophy cabinet.

Thanks for reading.

Check your kit

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

Some of you may follow my Tumblr (http://offthearrowshelf.tumblr.com/)  or instagram (https://instagram.com/offthearrowshelf/) sites. Those that do, will have seen my recent post about checking the contents of  your first aid kit. For those that haven’t I’m going to expand on it a bit here.
Whether camping, skiing  hiking or enjoying field archery I always carry a simple first aid kit, either in my backpac, day sack or on my quiver belt. It doesn’t take up much space and weighs nearly nothing. One tip I have found is to put everything contained within into waterproof zip bags. It keeps the kit together and more importantly dry.
It’s nothing fancy, just a simple kit you can pick up from most outdoor stores with a few extra items, I’ve added over the years like antiseptic wipes, spare micropore tape, antihistamine cream, dehydration sachets etc.
I’m no medic but I have patched a few people up over the years and found it amazing how few people carry such a kit. It’s one of those things you hope to never have to use but am glad to carry. As it has been said “you hope for the best but plan for the worst“.
First aid kit and spare arrow tube

First aid kit and spare arrow tube

Since it’s the start of the summer and the 3d championships are just round the corner I use it as a reminder to check, replace and refill the kit. It’s worth checking to make sure everything is within date as sterile dressings, antiseptic wipes etc have a limited shelf life. When in Cotswold Outdoors this last Saturday I noticed they sell a refill pack for first aid kits, which is a good simple means by which to restock.

One addition to the kit this year is a tick card, which is a small credit size card with a magnifying glass and simple prongs to help you remove a tick (http://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/lifesystems-tick-card-b3210065).
There has been a number of articles in the news about the spread of ticks and the increase in the number of reported cases of Lymes Disease.

Lymes Disease is a potentially serious condition and here is a link to a recent BBC news article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-32429228 and another on the dangers of tick bites http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-27255853

As if to prove the point within 3 hours of posting the original photo on Sunday, the kit was being used. They had been doing some maintenance at the wood and badly cut his hand when trying to saw some wood.

Thanks for reading