Finding More About a Breed’s Health

Every so often, people ask “what kind of health problem so-and-so breed has?” without learning how to fish for themselves. Finding information on a breed’s health can be difficult, especially when not all of the information is being published. Dogs are imported and exported constantly, and as such the global population is interconnected.

Breed clubs have fickle politics and, for this reason, various kennel clubs around the world are either seen as conservative or progressive. Nordic kennel clubs, as a general rule of thumb, are considered as the most progressive, whereas English-speaking kennel clubs have a more paleoconservative or libertarian bent. Many of the kennel clubs in Asia are a relatively recent phenomenon with ownership of pedigreed dogs is directly tied with solvency of the middle class; and as the result are just budding. In that region of the world, discussion on health is only just occurring in recent years.

Many in United States and Canada will tell people there are no hereditary diseases or that the diseases have been bred out or that their breeding stock predates known health problems in other countries. This insistence on outdated Victorian eugenics flies in the face of what academics know in conservation genetics, zoology and livestock management. Every species and every subpopulation will he more predisposed toward a certain disease than others. Every organism on this planet carries genes which can cause malfunctions. Just because no one talks about it doesn’t mean those issues do not exist. It is intellectually dishonest to say any population is free from genetic disorders.

Trust, acceptance, and alignment  the role of IT in redirecting a community   Kari Kuutti - Academia.edu (1)

Diagram from The Role of IT in Redirecting a Community (pp. 44) illustrating how the Karelian Bear Dog community in Finland cooperate.

The reason why progressive kennel clubs publish information so everyone can access the information is to increase accountability, empower all the breeders and, most importantly, the puppy buyers. By liberalizing the information, it builds trust within the community and there is more confidence in purchasing a puppy. Also, breeders are better able to collaborate with each others and discover dogs which have not been bred yet for maximizing genetic diversity and reducing the frequencies of diseases.

Ideally, information about everything from trial results, show ribbons to health postings from veterinarians should all be synced into one central database.  Like music, videos and e-books in the Internet era, this kind of information are increasingly becoming social capital owned and shared by everyone.

So how do we sleuth out clues to find out more about our dogs? For starter, many of the databases can be accessed internationally.

If one has a hunting spitz, the main databases to keep at hand are: KoiraNet (Finland), Metsastyspystykorvat Koiratietokanta (Finland), HUNDDATA (Sweden),  EKL Online (Estonia), DogWeb (Norway), “БООР” База данных (Belarus),  БОС (Russia) and ЛАЙКИ и ГОНЧИЕ – БАЗЫ ДАННЫХ (Russia). Some of them are free and others require memberships.  Keep these websites bookmarked.

There are other databases out there, but the fact is most of the hunting with spitzes take place in Nordic countries, the Slavic world, and Central or East Asia and as such the residents of those regions control the majority of the gene pools. Anything which gets imported from those countries will also be transmitted into populations in North America.

Not all of the databases will have health information on dogs, but they are a starting point in learning more about certain lineages. Most of them will have trial results.

Some of them, like HUNDDATA or KoiraNet, will incorporate health information. Official test results mandated by the clubs such as eyes, joints and heart are updated automatically. However, currently, both databases don’t include information other than the ones mandated by the kennel clubs and breed clubs, and any further potential health problems are given voluntarily by the individual breeders. As such, the databases shouldn’t be seen as a panacea to open source.

Recently, a few breed clubs are taking the initiative and publishing all the information they have on hand. At the moment, there is a movement for veterinarians to be able to update the databases without the approval of the breeder or owner. With strict privacy laws, this dream might never come true. On the other hand, information and data are increasingly becoming considered as common properties.

To paint a bigger picture of a breed’s health, we first must understand kennel clubs in different countries and their regulations and policies, In recent years, both the Kennel Club of United Kingdom and American Kennel Club are trying to bring in reforms in response to animal welfare concerns which emerged in the last 30 years. The changes have been slow, and they still have a long way to go.

But if we are looking at hunting spitzes, it behooves a dog-owner to know that in Finland and Sweden every breed club is mandated to release a breeding strategy plan and update it every few years. In Finland, this important document is known as ” jalostuksen tavoiteohjelma” or JTO. In Sweden, it is known as “Rasspecifik Avelsstrategi” or RAS.

Some of the breed clubs even go the extra mile of developing recommendations for safeguarding a breed against known diseases. In Finland, this is known as “perinnöllisten vikojen ja sairauksien vastustamisohjelma” or PEVISA. Under PEVISA, health-checks must be carried out or the litter may not enter the registrar.

All of this sounds great, but we must be cautious as not all breed clubs will keep the information up to date. Sometimes there are naturalistic beliefs in which if a dog is hunted hard, they should not have health problems which are true to a certain extent. Other times, people are worried about the reputation of the breed and perceives any reported problems as slander or libel which draws negative attention. So, we need to evaluate each breed club in each individual countries by their merits, rather than stereotyping people as a whole.

So, we don’t speak or write Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish or Russian. Many of us in the Anglophone world has limited access to information, either deliberately, unintentionally or due to lack of funding. How do we find out more? We can use Google’s advanced search engine to our advantage.

There are other translation services available such as Bing, but they are not as reliable as Google’s. Keep in mind, the more complex a language is or the further away from Anglo-Germanic roots, the more confusing the results will be. They are a work in progress. So, take anything and everything with a grain of salt.

Now, if one is contacting a foreign kennel about acquiring a dog, it is generally not a good idea to use a machine translator as the message will be lost. It is best to write the e-mail or letter in English. Chances are the kennel owner knows English or has a relative who speak or read English. While a friend or a family member may be able to assist in translating, the quality cannot be verified. When in doubt, hire a professional translator.

For our purposes, it is important to remember the translation will be rough. Personally, interpreting is not a huge barrier since I grew up in a community which doesn’t have a rock-solid first language, nor second language and as the result there are strange blends or pidgin forms and many times the written forms are quite similar to Google’s strange outputs. Someone who is not exposed to that behaviour on a daily basis may have a hard time comprehending the outcome.

It is possible to find these documents by navigating the websites, but it is much quicker if we let search engines do it for us.

First, type in site: followed by the URL of the website we wish to search and the search term which will help us narrow down the query. Doing this will save us the trouble of fumbling around a website in a language we don’t understand or trying to comprehend how the webmaster structured the hierarchy.

Most of the time, the document will be on the breed club’s websites. In some countries, the document will be on the kennel club’s website.

site www.kennelliitto.fi  jto Länsisiperianlaika - Google Search

site http   www.skk.se  rasspecifik avelsstrategi norrbottenspets - Google Search

site www.spj.fi  pevisa - Google Search (1)

site www.spj.fi  jto - Google Search (2)

site http   www.laikajarjesto.fi  jalostuksen tavoiteohjelma - Google Search

site http   www.jamthundklubben.nu  ras - Google Search (1)

 

Usually, the document will be as a PDF, however, DOC, RTF, and PPT are not unusual Sometimes XLS and other formats are added as supplementary materials.. These documents can be opened with Microsoft Office, OpenOffice or Google Drive. The two latter are free to everyone.

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Now for translating the document, we have two choices: we can request Google to translate the actual document itself, or we can copy and paste sections. Results can be a little iffy at time when documents longer than 5 pages are translated, so it is best to just copy the Table of Contents then find the specific pages we are looking for, then head right to the section which we want to view.

screenshotgoogedoctrans

How to translate a PDF.

 

In this case, we want page 25 to 38. The other sections are interesting, but for the purpose of this tutorial, we want to find more specifically about health and breeding strategies. From this point on, copy and paste the relevant sections.

Remember to keep the snippets short for best results. The longer the chunk, the more goofy the output becomes.

Google Translate

Copying and pasting.

In many instances, these documents are really well-done and they are sometimes done with collaboration with geneticists, zoologists, insurance companies and veterinarians for all-encompassed information.

Finding more about health issues will allow us to ask breeders more questions and empower us as puppy-buyers to establish a benchmark of what an ethical breeder should do.

Don’t be surprised if information is lacking for some breed as oftentimes the Old Guards view any as health problems as bad publicity. This attitude does not exist everywhere and varies from breed club to breed club.

If absence of information is the case, oftentimes the only thing one can do is wait until animal welfare laws are improved to the point where individual breeders are forced to take responsibility, or for another generation of younger, more open-minded breeders to come along. In which case, the puppy-buyer has already done everything within her or his power.

The worst case scenario is that one might have to purchase health information from insurance companies. Studies which compare pedigreed breeds or mixed breeds often purchase information from these companies. Agria, a pet insurance company in northern Europe, offers packages which include entire breeds which one can purchase and analyze on their own time for a cost.

By publishing all the information publicly, we assume that the breeders and the clubs they belong to are being honest and we trust them not to be in denial. We feel they are doing everything they can to build a better future for their dogs’ offspring. As dog owners, we trust the breeders more as everything is out in the open and can make better-informed decisions about their lives.

More readings

By |May 16th, 2015|Tutorials|0 Comments|

Gear Review: Baikal MP18

Three years ago, it was informed adopting the British Columbian way of grouse hunting in Alberta wasn’t a good idea. So, the .222 and .308 were set aside and promptly ordered in a Baikal MP-18M-M “Junior” single-shot shotgun manufactured by Izhevsky Mekhanichesky Zavod.

Baikal has long been hailed as the workingman’s gun during Soviet times and suffered a blow to its reputation after the crumbling of the Iron Curtain and the economy left in shambles. When Remington imported some of the products under the Spartan banner, many American sportsmen were left unimpressed. Even today, Soviet steel is still considered to be superior to current production.

Now that it has been nearly three decades since Kremlin was dragged into the capitalist globalization kicking and screaming, IMZ Corp managed to get their heads together and improved upon their tarnished reputation. In recent years, Izhmash and IMZ now have been merged as one corporation and renamed Kalashnikov Concern.

Initially, I was more interested in the combination gun IMZ MP-94. However, I didn’t have the time to learn how to operate one, so a more simplistic shotgun was sought after.

Now, this particular model of shotgun was chosen largely because of its price-tag. The insistence on the Youth model is because it was recommended by squirrel-hunters for hunters of small stature such as myself.

Veniamin Almaev of Interammo Implex Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta assisted with selecting the shotgun after listening to my needs. He originally offered it for $189 CAD. However, Interammo only had the 28″ 12-gauge in stock at the time. IZH Impex Inc. of North York, Ontario was kind enough to do Xpress Post for about $220 CAD.

Upon opening the box, the first impression was lacking. The wood is birch, and the action was stiff. It was rather rugged looking and unsophisticated. Warming up and appreciating it came later with use and hiking in the woods for many days.

Picture taken a year and half after opening the box.

Picture taken a year and half after opening the box.

Now there is nothing wrong with birch. Hickory was popular in Canada and Finland when American axes first arrived on the scene, but woodsmen quickly replaced them with birch when they figured out that hickory amplifies the shock of the impact. So, in this case, birch might be an ideal choice of wood.

limbsaverIronically, the pull is rather short. It wasn’t until later that it was revealed that the stock is deliberately designed to be short for Siberian winters. This feature is actually quite thoughtful since a pad could be added on during the summer and autumn, then switch to insulated clothes during the winter. Last winter, the short stock was really nice to have.

When my family tested it at the range, it kicked like a mule. So, a recoil pad was slapped on. Coming across a LimbSaver Slip-On Small/Medium #10545 is highly recommended for early autumn shootings where padded clothes are not the norm. The patterning, however, seems good enough for shooting perched grouses.

The other noticeable issue with the gun is its stiff trigger. Upon using Google, the trigger is not an unknown issue and it was recommended to see a gunsmith for adjustment. The stiffness I don’t mind so much since the trigger is no different from a rifle.  I would be hesitant to use one for shooting on the wing though.

In the field, the action became easier to use once broken in with wear and tear. The cross-bolt became an annoying safety. It would be preferable to have a manual tang or a slide selector. I am not too terribly found of having the safety located right by the trigger. So this aesthetics is more a personal preference.

Unlike some of the shotguns at the local friendly gunshop, the MP-18 comes with swivels. This is characteristic of Continental European guns, but not necessarily of British or American guns.

The first year, the swivels were useful for slinging it in the field. It is definitely understandable why on the Continent they have swivels. However, in the second year, the sling became more of an annoyance. It should be pointed out at this point, that the annoyance is due to the width of a newly-adopted backpack, and not the sling itself. It’s advised to remove the swivels if one is not planning to sling it, otherwise the swivel has a tendency to make noises.

Now the MP-18 “Junior” comes in 20- or 36-gauge, which is .410 to Americans, with 76 mm (3″) chambering. The 20-gauge has a fixed Modified or Improved Modified choke and the .410 has a Modified. Screw-in chokes are optional, and must be requested before shipping.

According to the website, the gun weighs 2.6 kg (5.7 lbs) with a barrel length of 610 mm (24″). However, on the postal scale at home, it registered to be 2 438 grams. The reason why it is a fifth of a kilo less than the website has mostly to do with wood density. This is why gun manufacturers can only give appropriate or maximum weight for their products.

This is about as light as a shotgun without taking a beating or going with a smaller barrel with a 28- or .410. The only way to go any lighter without being in perpetual fear of recoil is to consider gas-operated or inertia-operated shotguns.

However, there are regular models and sporting models of the MP-18. They weigh more but provides a greater variety of options which include 12-, 16-, 20-, 28-, 32- and .410 in 70 or 76mm (2 ¾” or 3″). The 12- and 16-gauges have options for barrel length of 660 mm (26″), 710 mm (28″) and 750 mm (30″). However, 20- and under only has options of 660 mm and 710 mm. The chokes vary depending on the models from Full to Improved Cylinder, but the most common one is the fixed Modified.

By default, all the MP-18 has extractors. However, extractors, hammer-trigger action, ported barrel, rib, coloured bead sight and screw-in chokes can be requested.

shotguninthefieldThe shotgun is nothing fancy. It is ideal as a truck gun or a beater. It is very rugged and for its low price-point, there are no worries about it being banged up or scratched. Since it is not a very pretty gun, there is no anxiety to preserve the beauty of it. For those reasons, this single-shot earned a place in the vault.

One thing I like most about hinge-action shotguns is how easy they are to carry in the field. Just simply hang it over the elbows and keep the arms tucked in. This style of carry is much nicer than holding it in both hands or tied to a rucksack.

However, I would like to upgrade to a true side-by-side shotgun or an over/under. Considering the budget constraints and demand for lightweight field gun, Yildiz appears to be a very attractive option.

I would like to explore East European and Northern European firearms in the future. Valmet and Tikka were once well known, but only Sako is left standing in the Finnish domestic market.  Unfortunately, German and Italian makers swamped the market with the advent of European Union. However, the factories outside E.U. are still going on strong. In fact, TOZ has some really interesting line-ups which caught my attention.

So, when it is time to return to the world of former Communist guns, I would not hesitate to contact Interammo given as they went out of their way to answer all of my questions and gave their own personal feedback and experience.

By |May 15th, 2015|Gear, Reviews|0 Comments|

Homemade Ball Grips

C360_2015-03-22-18-37-10-216 (1)It always baffling why people buy ball grips from fitness stores and rock-climbing retail outlets when they are essentially a bolt shoved through a ball. Most likely because they can’t sue the sports equipment companies if the structure fails or if injuries are caused. After all, most of the products are targeted toward Americans which is one of the most litigious societies on the planet.

There is a lot of armchair science in the rock-climbing world, as well as body-building, and everyone has their own opinion. Grip strength, however, is often the underdog. We need them for carrying rifles over long distances in the field, dangling from the cliff-face, propelling ourselves up steep mountainsides and many more potential real life applications. Sore forearms or pumped forearms are one of the most common reasons why endurance is lacking in many sports, and static training on the ball grips is one of the tools to assist with improving this area.

The concept in itself is really quite simple. The commercial varieties are essentially two eyelets stuck through a ball of rubber. They can come in different diameters from 3″ (76 mm), 3 5″ (89 mm), 3.8″ (97 mm), 4.5″ (114 mm), and 5″ (127 mm); or circumferences of 9″ (23 cm), 11″ (27 cm), 12″ (30 cm), 14″ (36 cm) and 16″ (41 cm). As one can see, there are already an assortment of different gradations and increments for practicing the different grips.

These grips are commercially available as cannonballs, powerballs, and many other names for about $50 to $80 USD. Now, these devices are no substitute for actually performing in real life, but for the rushed over-worked person, they can be useful. The best sport-specific training to backpacking is backpacking, and similarly for rock-climbing as well as other sports.

The most common sizes in the retail market are 3″ and 3.8″ to 4″. Instead of buying these sizes from a fitness store, we probably would want to pick up a 9″ baseball and a 12″ softball and make our own at home.

C360_2015-03-22-18-40-00-763Materials

  • Two softballs, T-balls or baseballs
  • Eyelets
  • Washer
  • Nuts, 3/8″
  • Carabiners (optional)
  • Webbings (optional)

Tools

  • Power drill

For this, 3/8″ is one of the most common widths for an eyelet. For a snug fit, we want a bit that is slightly smaller and it is wise to step down one size.

20150322_173939First, find a stable platform and grip the ball tightly. Hold the drill steady and push it through the center of the ball. Don’t try to force the bit into the ball, or one will chance causing injury to him- or herself.

Once the bit penetrates the ball, it is safe enough to let go of the ball and continue drilling all the way through. At this point, one can manipulate the ball a little bit while it’s sitting on the bit to try and keep it center as much as possible.
20150322_174535 (1)

Secondly, push the eyelet through the ball. It will be tough, but persevere and keep at it. We want the fit to be tight to keep the ball from rotating too much. Once the eyelet is all the way through, cap the end with a washer and a nut.
C360_2015-03-22-18-37-47-585Repeat the process for the second half of the set. Now, we have a pair to do a wide variety of different exercises.

We can choose to suspend them in the air to do pull-ups which forces the stabilizer muscles to be strengthened in a similar fashion to gymnastics rings, or we can use them as hubs for the Farmer’s Walk to carry weight across the yard or down the alley, or even modifying the basic deadlift.

20150322_180855For the purpose of the demonstration of a pull-up grip, some leftover paracords are cut and fashioned into suspension. Cords are not ideal as the weight is concentrated upon very narrow sections of the bar which puts it under enormous stress. Webbings will allow for an equal distribution.
Remember to take it easy and don’t over-train. Finger injuries are common and can put someone out for several week. At its worst, tendinitis will last for months. Tendons are difficult to develop and take a long time to strengthen. Even strong people can take years to attain endurance and strength in their fingers. Many veterans do not recommend a specific grip exercise more than once or twice a week.

Like all DIY projects, do it at your own risk. Be smart and don’t force home-made devices to failure.

 

By |May 10th, 2015|Tutorials|0 Comments|

First Impression: Locus Gear Khufu

khufusnow

A jewel in the snow.

A few months ago, there was an article in Backcountry Journal about the trend of ditching the floor to save a few ounces. Such advice is hardly surprising since Seek Outside and Titanium Goat offers shelters of this particular niche. Going floorless actually makes sense as a dog-man since a floor can easily be torn up, and trimming a dog’s nail is detrimental to the field performance. The principle is also practical for a long-distance hunter as well since he could always seek spruce beddings for additional warmth.

It was difficult to choose between cold-tenting and hot-tenting. In the end, the weight of the stove could instead be put toward better sleeping and in-camp insulation. The only benefits of a wood-burning stove are to dry off clothes and boost morale.

Initially, I was more interested in Ron Bell’s Duomid from Mountain Laurel Design which was used in Andrew Skurka’s expeditions and stood up to the ultimate abuse in his 2010 year-round Alaskan trek. However, it came to my attention there were several other competitors and since the cash wasn’t going to stay circulating inside the Canadian economy, it didn’t really matter much who produced the tent. After a series of inquiries to several companies, Yuki Yoshida of Locus Gear to be the most helpful in giving the pros and cons of the different materials and shape. The superb customer service is the reason why the cottage manufacturer from Japan won out.

locusgearkhufu

Screenshot of the manufacturer’s website.

Khufu CF3 and DPTE add-on costed ¥47 000 and ¥4 320. The order took 6 weeks to complete.

The shipping was ¥1 500 from Japan to Canada via Japan Post’s Express Mail Service, but since the value of the order was over ¥30 000– the shipping quote was discounted to ¥900.

With the exchange rate, the cost would be the same as purchasing an American-made pyramid tent. If hunters and backpackers are willing to shell out a large amount of cash for a Hilleberg or Kifaru, then the price-point for a Khufu is rather insignificant.

Locus Gear further demonstrated their excellent service when Canada Post had a delay, and an e-mail was sent asking if the package was received. Very few in the cottage industry does follow-up, and almost no one does it in the mainstream. Needless to say, I was blown away.

Now that being said, most of the products are created based on Jotaro Yoshida’s experiences and they are field-tested in the Japanese Alps. Of course, durability in harsh conditions is dependent on a number of factors: terrain, the shape of the structure, tensile strength of the fabric, how many anchor points, reinforcements of those anchors, how many poles, their height and how rigid they are. This is one of the reasons why the Dual Pole Tip Extender were also purchased alongside the tarp-tent. Since Locus Gear equipment were and are successfully deployed in Himalaya expeditions in all sort of fabric, it feels inspiring to field this set-up in the Canadian Rockies.

With a floor space of about 4.24 m² [45.64 ft²], Khufu really is best suited for one person, or two if the walls are taunted. A homophobe or one with a large privacy bubble would be more comfortable with 5 m² [54 ft²] (without a stove); or 9.5 m² [102 ft²] (with a stove) might be better. Locus Gear does offer the Khufra in silnylon and Mountain Laurel Design offers the competing Supermid in both silnylon and cuben fibre.

For solo or backpacking with a partner, Khufu is perfect. With 0.74 oz/ft² (break strength of 18.75 kg/cm  [105 lbs/in]), the CF3, or better known as cuben-fibre, is durable and strong as well as light. The manufacturer claims 290 g [10.2 oz] including the stuff-sack for the Khufu CF3 and 84 g [2.96 oz] for the carbon-fibre DPTE which makes them the lightest 1-2 person fully-enclosed erected shelter on the market. Short of getting a flat tarp or one of the many storm-worthy bivies, there isn’t any possible lighter shelter. Out of all the lightest options, only the Khufu pyramid tent meets the demand of fully engulfing one person and a dog or two people.

Upon taking the tarp-tent out of the mailing package, it felt frail. The intuitive reaction is irrelevant as cotton canvas are more likely to tear than most tents’ materials, even though cotton feels heavier and more durable. According to the data, CT2K.08 is much stronger than other tent materials. It’s not the first time a lightweight material outperform a heavier one, nor will it be the last. If anything, the illusion benefits in the long run since we tend to take better care of our stuff.

To the uninitiated, the material does resemble cheap, plastic grocery bags, except this is the kind of stuff being used on yachts and sailboats. Cuben really is a space-age composite laminated plastic.

The material does crackle, which makes it unsuitable for hunting clothes if anyone is wondering. Quiet materials tend to be made of cotton, wool, silk or velveteen; although these days, most hunting backpacks and clothes are now made of Condura for durability. The application here is not for clothing, rather shelter.

With that in mind, the crackling should not interfere with the hunt since the tent is stored inside the backpack; and if packed properly, it shouldn’t roll around or rub against another object. While I do not feel the packed tent will affect the quality of the hunt, someone else might disagree. This attribution is worth mentioning so others can come to their own conclusions. Skeptics may be interested in other materials such as eVent, silnylon and Tyvek which are all offered by Locus Gear.

The workmanship is outstanding. The seams are straight, double-stitched and reinforced. A lot of the home-made products or cottage products don’t always keep their seams straight. The stitching appeared to be done on an industrial machine. The seams will definitely last for a long time to come.

On the postal scale, the bag registers at 8 g [0.28 oz], the tent at 265 g [9.35 oz], the DPTE at 56 g [1.98 oz], pole stabilizers at 23 g [0.81 oz] and DPTE sack at 5 g [0.18 oz]. The weight can be reduced by hemming the product tags, however the reduction won’t be noticeable on a scale designed for personal use and probably won’t make a ding unless all the tags are removed from all of the objects with the backpack fully-weighed out.

Additionally, the tensioner system with Line Lok 3 are not necessary if one knows his slippery knots such as the Evenk Hitch, Trucker’s Hitch or the McCarthy Hitch. The same can be said about the loops on the anchor-points throughout the tent. It is not that they are not necessary to the tent, but rather are designed for user-friendliness for those who don’t know their knots.  The loops and tension lines are not a permanent feature, and can easily be taken off or put back on. Removing them won’t register much on the scale, instead they will increase the versatility for experienced backpackers.

I am not going to disassemble the tent completely to weigh out everything.For figuring out the true weight of the shelter, Pickup=Lightup analyzed all the components and suggests the actual shelter itself comes to about 243 g [8.57 oz] without all the accessories. The translation via Google is reasonable, and can be found here.

The rough dimension of the tent stuffed inside the sack, for those who are concerned about volume, is 24.7 cm [9.72″] x 12.6 cm [4.96″]. The DPTE sack is 14 cm [5.51″] x 6.3 cm [2.48″].

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Fresh out of the mail package.

The package comes with extra length of guyline, a sheet of cuben fibre for repair and instructions on how to set up the tent. However, setting up a pyramid tent is easy: stake out the corners in  rectangular fashion, then keep the walls taunt by staking out the guylines and using slippery knots.

There are about 9 tie-outs along the seam of the tent, and 6 anchor-points on the walls of the tent. There is one anchor above the door as well attached to the vent.

Setting it up is a breeze: stake out the corners with the zipper closed, prop up the pole inside, zip it back up, reinforce the walls with guy-lines then tighten them with a slippery-knot to keep the body tight.

 

DPTEattachment

Demostration how a pole is atached to the wall of the tent with the DPTE.

However, what I like most about Khufu is that with the coupler, the poles do not intrude the center of the tent, wasting valuable space but rather flushed on the perimeter. This is especially important if one has a young dog who is still learning the rope; or if one is sharing the shelter with a partner.

For erecting the tent, the points which the pole supports are reinforced. This is to prevent wear and tear of the shell.

There are going to be a few problems which will be anticipated, and it has nothing to do with the company or the material, but rather the nature of the design. There will be condensation issues which most people who sleep in double-walled tents are not used to. This is easily addressed by packing a bandanna for wiping excess moisture, or by leaving the door open in wet conditions such as the Pacific Northwest. This is an issue encountered by everyone who own a single-wall tent regardless of design and manufacturer.

C360_2015-05-09-23-02-44-258The other issue is the material itself. While 30 denier silnylon is weaker with 2.68 kg/cm [15 lbs/in] break strength, cuben fibre is prone to puncturing and abrasions much more easily compared to their counterpart. All things considering, it would be ridiculous however to judge the material based on these assumptions since the materials are not being used to make bush-whacking backpacks and clothes. I do not anticipate the puncture/abrasion-prone material being a problem if the camp-sites are chosen with care. Besides, no fabric would survive falling branches and bear mailings.  So, one would need to have rotten luck. The upside is cuben fibre is easier to repair than silnylon.

C360_2015-05-09-23-02-21-813For those who don’t like floorless shelters, don’t fret. The issue can be mitigated with site-selection, using a bivouac sack  (119 to 190 g; 4.2  to 6.7 oz), adding an inner-mesh (280 to 370 g; 9.9 to 13 oz) or laying down a ground-sheet made from window shrink or Tyvek. The lightest probably would be one or two bivies; but a complete inner-mesh would be better for relationship-maintenance for those with a significant other. Of course, at this point, the weight-sharing between two individuals negates any significant weight gain.

So is Locus Gear a good buy? Most definitely. It fits well within the niche I was looking for in a shelter. It is a light, no-nonsense design which should be well-adapted for the Canadian Rockies.

 

By |May 9th, 2015|Gear, Reviews|0 Comments|

On OHVs and Backcountry

For tens of thousands of years, the indigenous peoples were confined to the carrying capacity of the land. It would not be until the European settlers brought guns and industrial agriculture along in 1492 people were able to live in relative prosperity and comfort with metal pots and axes.

Even then, guns and grains were largely absent from the continent until the beaver felt became fashionable in the middle of the 16th century. By the time  Vilhjalmur Stefansson came around, there were still people who had never seen a gun and he wrote in great details the impact upon subsistence economy, surplus-killing and changes in property ownership with the introduction of firearms.

Horses were not introduced until 1519 when the Spanish conquistadors visited the continent. Aboriginals quickly captured them, developed skills and traded as a commodity in the southern United States. But even then, horses remained absent from much of the northern continent until 1700s on the steppes and early 19th century in the mountains. Ferals quickly came into conflict with cattle ranchers when the prairies became ripe for the picking.

Hunting and travelling through the wilderness were largely a privilege of explorers and mountain men as the land remained too harsh for the pioneers until damming projects began and railroads were built halfway through the 19th century. Most, if not all, of these expeditions, even during this glorious period, still relied on large parties.

Unregulated hunting and resource extractions decimated wildlife and landscape until national parks and wilderness areas were created and the industry became regulated by the forestry services. Exploitation slowed when the resources became publicly-owned by the citizens. Traplines and hunting became regulated.

Voyages into the wilderness was largely a cooperative effort with large hunting parties until Egyptian cotton, balloon-silk and other modern fabrics came into being in the 1880s and made solo-backpacking possible.

Independent travels without horses or canoes remained difficult until the bicycle was invented in 1885 and mass-production of affordable cars at the beginning of the 20th century. The rapidly expanding infrastructure restricted the habitats of many wonderous wildlife such as the grizzlies. Aldo Leopold warned against this and created an ecological conscious which would dominate the later half of the century. Creation of roadless wilderness areas soon followed.

Recreational use of the backcountry remained a fantasy for many except for the upper-class, subsistence hunters and fur trappers until the emergence of the middle class after the Second World War. Backpacking boomed between 1950s and 1970s. Permits were introduced when bears and backcountry users came into conflict.

Efforts to control accidental forest fires caused by men were fruitless until outdoors ethics was developed during the 1950s and the Leave No Trace codified in the 1960s and 1970s. Permits became mandatory for camp-fires.

The wilderness was largely a privilege of the able-bodied until the commercialization of all-terrain vehicles in 1970s and 1980s. These vehicles remained a privilege for those with lofty income until the last decade and half when they became more affordable for everyone. Landowners, horse-riders, hunters, hikers, cyclists and forestry companies began complaining about abuses followed by the widespread ownership.

Should it be any surprise there are people who are fighting for responsible OHV usages, against illegal off-road activities, creating designated areas for riders and assigning licencing and special permits for all-terrain vehicles?

Drones Are Now Illegal in British Columbia

A few days ago, British Columbia’s Trapping and Hunting Synopsis has been updated. Drones are now classified as helicopters and cannot be used during a hunt or 6 hours prior to one.

From Page 15:

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This is a good thing. There is already enough bad sports out there who claim deer as property simply because pictures were taken with trail cameras and making death threats because someone else shot it first. We don’t need people with drones getting all hot and angry over others taking the game of their choice.

Plus, with cellular networks constantly expanding to meet the demand of growing resource exploitations, the wilderness is no longer free of mankind’s interventions. There are already enough ATVs tearing up alpine environments and inexperienced hikers relying on smartphones for support.

So, I am glad B.C. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers requested the Ministry last November to amend this in the regulations. Congratulations Aden Stewart and Bill Hanlon, thank you for speaking up for us Leopoldian hunters and traditionalists.

By |May 5th, 2015|Editorial|0 Comments|

Escape-Proofing Fence-Jumpers With Rolling Bars

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If one owns a hunting dog, whether it is a spitz or a hound, then escaping the yard will become a familiar occurrence. The most common way to address this issue in North America is to use an e-collar or a hotwire. For people who enjoy hunting, shocking the dog for wanting to chase an animal is detrimental to their hunting drive and can ruin them for life.

C360_2015-05-03-13-49-04-924So, the question begs how to contain a dog without using methods which might backfire on us. One solution is known as the “coyote roller”, “rolling pin”, “rolling bar” and several other names for this ingenious invention. These are very common in Australia to keep cats contained in  the yard, and popular with chicken farmers to keep foxes and coyotes out. Lately, dog-owners started using the rolling bars to keep their dogs contained in the yard.

Even if one does not have a notorious fence jumper, every dog-owner will eventually encounter wolves or coyotes in their area, who oftentimes have the nasty habit of climbing into kennel runs to get at the inhabitant inside. So if one is concerned about predators, the rolling bar is the second line of defence in keeping wild creatures out.

My hunting dog, in particular, had a bad habit of jumping over wooden fences as well as climbing chain-links and wire fences in pursuit of waterfowl and other valuable game-animals. The problem is even a six-foot fence would not deter him from clearing it, so a rolling bar would be useless in this situation which demands a separate eight-foot kennel run built in compliance with the city’s bylaw restricting how high privacy fences can be.

Watching video footage of hunting dogs from Scandinavia and Russia escaping from kennel runs imply dogs of his calibre can quickly learn how to open doors and will jump fences no matter how high. So, we decided to input the string “escape proofing fence jumpers” into Google and found a number of resources available. The least inexpensive option and easiest one to put up was the so-called “coyote-roller”. After installing them last year, he hasn’t successfully climbed over and gave up trying after a week.

To build a rolling bar, we need:
C360_2014-05-24-14-32-45-774

Tools

  • Power drill
  • Drill bits
  • Screwdriver
  • Screws or bolts with optional washers
  • Wire cutter or bolt cutter
  • Miter saw, hacksaw or fine wood saw

Materials

  • PVC pipes of two different diameters
  • Angle braces such as L-brackets
  • Corrosive- or rust-resistant steel wire such as airplane cable
  • Wire clamps

C360_2015-05-03-13-47-45-394In order to construct the rolling bar, we need to first understand how it works. When a dog jumps up, there will be a smooth surface which doesn’t provide a lot of traction and the dog won’t be able to grip on which causes him to fall. The reason why dogs get out of yards is because they use their nails to grip.

Firstly, we need the bar to roll freely which means there need to be two tubings: one inside the other. The reason for this is that sometimes the tube will get hung up on the wire and won’t spin. So even if the inner tube gets stuck, the outer tube will still rotate freely.

Ideally, one would need a 1″ tubing for the outer roller, and ½” for inner-roller both in enough length to run the parameter of the fence. Smaller or larger tubes can be used, so it is not necessary to be sticky about the tutorial. How many sections is determined by the person’s need. For this kennel-run, we used 6′ pieces as each panel is the same width. Similarly, we need one or two brackets for every section of PVC pipes.

Now PVC is not required. In the photographs, one will see the inner tube is made from steel and the plastic is not the same that is commonly found in hardware stores. The reason for this is because both materials were obtained for free from a work-place which dealt with electricals and transporting oil. The only thing that matters is that there shouldn’t be enough friction to cause the pipes to stop rolling. The reason why PVC is listed in the material is simply due to affordability and accessibility for everyone regardless of class or income.

L-brackets mounted

The fist thing to do in adding a rolling bar to any kind of fencing is to mount the brackets to the edge of the fence. They can be mounted on the outside, inside or on top of the fence. The logistics is entirely up to the owner and dependent on the purpose of the installation. As a rule of thumb, if one lives in the city, one would keep the bars mounted on the inside of the fence so the neighbours don’t complain about the Frankenstein-ish sight. To keep the dog inside the fence and predators out, it is best to mount the bar vertically on top of the fence.

Remember to trim the PVC back a little about ½” (about 1.25 cm) to ¾” (about 2 cm) short of each section. We want to create a gap small enough for the PVC to spin freely without friction from the brackets, but not wide enough for the dog’s paws to get a grip on the edge to gain a leverage and pull itself over the bar.

C360_2015-05-03-13-50-32-409Now that we got anchoring brackets and cutting PVC out of the way, tie one end of the wire to one of the brackets and use a clamp to ensure the wire doesn’t slip. After this, feed the wire through the bracket and add the PVC tubings. Then feed the wire through the inner tube and string it to the other bracket. The outer tube should be resting on the inner tube, and the inner tube should be suspended on the wire. Keep the wire taunt while tying the other end and clamping it. Maintain as much tension as possible so there is no sag and the whole thing can spin freely.

Repeat the process until the entire parameter is lined and secured. Remember to test each section before moving on. Redoing a section can be tedious.

There is some criticism about whether or not a dog would get hung up. Of course, all DIY projects carry an element of risk.  The kennel-run maintainer must determine how close these bars should be to the edge. Some projects have them flushed against the platform even a person’s hand cannot fit in between the gap. Others are more loose. It is ultimately up to the owner to determine the safety threshold and compensate for it.

Now obviously, one wouldn’t put a rolling bar at a height where the fall cannot be broken. But we are not asking our dogs to jump from a helicopter like what is requested of soldiers in the military, only merely fall about somewhere between 4′  (1.2 m) and 8′ (2.4 m) high. Any higher than that, injuries are more probable. So, please use some common sense.

Remember, the rolling bar is only one solution for containing a dog. There are many more out there. To read more on the subject of escape-proofing, The Wolfdog Project has many different solutions for a variety of scenarios.

By |May 3rd, 2015|Tutorials|0 Comments|

New Direction for Prick-Eared

1417774_10200792642530449_1986058220_oOver the the last half decade, Prick-Eared evolved and was on haitus for a few years. First it started with dog politics and backpacking with military-surplus gears, and gradually evolved into a hunting platform and absorbing traditionalist methods, then incorporating modern lightweight backpacking, contemporary alpinism, bushcraft and eventually mountain athleticism.

With the majority of spitz-owners in North America possibly becoming adult-onset hunters, a neologism coined by Tovar Cerulli, it is vitally important to have some kind of mentorship system in place. Those with skills who acquired a  hunting spitz such as West Siberian Laika come from a squirrel-dog or hounding background and were born into the culture. Unfortunately, the majority who own other breeds such as Finnish Spitz, Karelian Bear Dog or Norrbottenspitz do not come from those background and are left in the dark in how to start hunting or where to let their dogs roam free.

While much of the information seems rudimentary to experienced hunters or backpackers, they are not necessarily common sense for someone new to the hobbies. One may recommends all sort of books, videos, TV shows and schools, but much of the information is inaccessible either through language barriers, cultural differences or financially. So even the simplest solutions which may seem stupid to others get blogged often at the request of others.

Secondly, there are loads of traditionalists out there from all over the world. They are wise, and their strategies work well for the region they inhabit. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom of local hunters and aboriginals are ignored often because of ultranationalist chauvinism, or because simply there are no common ground shared between the two camps. The truth is that modern hunting is a marriage of all the fields and a blend of all cultures, especially when it come to hunting with dogs outside their homelands. Successful people keep their opinions to themselves, listen to others and incorporate those skillsets.

It would be stupid to discard people’s advice and explore the benefits and limitations of those suggestions. Here, mistakes are documented and every avenue will be ventured into within reasons and hopefully ease the learning curve for others.

While at times Prick-Eared may seem specifically about ultralight backpacking, old-fashioned woodscraft, primitive living, wilderness skills, bushcraft, packrafting, canoeing, kayaking, backcountry hunting, fly-fishing, mountain-biking or whatever flavour of the month, it will still ultimately be about hunting over a spitz.

The lessons learned here can be used to teach others within the same vein. Instead of telling others what to do, it is time to lead by example. This is not a self-proclaimed expert shouting down to others, but rather blazing trails and possibly going up the wrong creek from time to time. With perseverance, we will attain self-actualization and develop a deeper relationship with our dogs, the wildlife and the land.

By |April 25th, 2015|Editorial|0 Comments|

Preparations for 2015: Planning, Training and Gears

Around March and April, it is the time of the year where hunters must plan out their year in advance.  Currently, I am planning for: capercaillie hunt in northern Finland, black bear hunt in Albertan wilderness and elk hunting in the mountains.

Most importantly, one should focus on their fitness. Rob Shaul of Strong Swift Durable offers two plans for backcountry hunters: an Afghanistan Pre-deployment Training program to build up the core, then specialization program for Backcountry Big Game Hunting. The hardest part is realizing youth is fleeting and maintaining constant fitness need an hour a day dedicated.

Secondly, it is time to dial in the rifle and practice. A deviation of 4 centimeters or an inch and half over 150 meters or about 165 yards is permissible. With elk, one should try to hit a pie plate or gallon milk carton at various distances from 20 m (20 yd) to 365 m (400 yd).

At this point, the gear lists are mostly dialed in. The only issue are variables such as a backpack for load carriage from Stone Glacier or Seek Outside. Kurt Racicot recommended the Solo for most purposes. Internal frames and frameless are not going to be able to pack an elk or a bear out of the bush.

With more winter-backpacking experience under the belt, it is time to transition to devising an active layer and rest layer. Convention wisdom says to use direct layering to stay warm, but many of my pursuits are constantly on the move and the traditional system doesn’t really work. The ventures alternated between being too warm or being too cold.

In the summer, merino short-sleeve and long-sleeve with a bug suit and mid-weight rain-jacket will be necessary along with a light parka and down-filled pants for increment weathers in the mountains. In the corner seasons, two weights of fleece will be on stand by. For frigid temperatures, merino or fishnet base-layer, woolen pants for still-hunting, water-breathable boots, synthetic vest, down-filled parka and pants and synthetic over-pants, softshell pants and cotton wind-parka or wind-shirt will be much better than some weird invention of a vapor barrier suit.

For camouflage, either Predator or ASAT would work. However, the hunting-related gears will be purchased on clearance from KUIU, Stika and First Lite. All of these brands have similar patterns and concepts. Brand loyalty is an expensive pursuit, and one would be better off looking for deals. Worst case scenario, one can always throw on a patterned over-shirt or over-pants ontop of the hiking clothes.

Apart from MSR XGK for extreme cold-weather and a lighter trekking pole, the focus is more on transportation such as backcountry skiing, packrafting and off-trail mountain biking as well as including more outdoors activities such as bushcraft and stream fishing.

This year is more doing with trip reports and less gear obsession. The year before was dominated by trimming weight whenever possible.

By |April 23rd, 2015|Log|0 Comments|

Survival Kit with Mors Kochanski and Its Applications

Mors Kochanski, generally considered the father of modern northern bushcraft, discussed survival kits through a video lecture uploaded by Karamat Wilderness Ways. He defines a survival kit as something which can help a person cope with the cold while sleeping as well as find and collect water.

The content of his kit includes:

  • Metal match, firesteel or ferro rod
  • Knife
  • Pot
  • Mylar sheet
  • Polyethylene sheet
  • Varieties of cordages including paracord and muletape
  • Tweezers
  • Whistle
  • Compass
  • Wire
  • Sewing kit
  • Signal mirror
  • Down jacket
  • Saw blade

The lecture basically stuffed the entire content inside a pot. For someone from a backpacking background, this seems to be rather unwieldy. When is the last time anyone carry a big pot in their pack? Also, most of the survival situations involving backpackers usually means losing their entire rucksack. The pot is so awkward to carry that many of these stuff would be carried inside the pack and can just as easily be lost.

Indeed, one wouldn’t be alone in being critical. There are several blog posts and forum posts questioning the usefulness of a kit inside a big pot.

There is only really several scenarios I can think of which involve a kit like this: with a horse, in a canoe, in a truck, on a snowmobile or ATV or as a cache in the wilderness. In those cases, most people carry these equipment in their vehicles anyway.

There is one application most people don’t consider: caching. Caching water in various locations is very popular with backpackers, and many wilderness trappers will cache different gears in various cabins. Horace Kephart wrote about this strategy in his 1906 book on camping and woodcraft.

Those who have no intimate experience of the trapper’s life would be wise to watch The Last Trapper or Happy People: A Year in the Taiga. The first film is not particularly good, but it gives an insight into the disappearing Canadian way of life, and the latter demonstrates the harshness of the Siberian taiga. While watching these documentations, however, they don’t have a pot full of stuff but rather they memorize all the cabins in the region which they can seek out if they ever need to alleviate themselves of the cold.

The pot kit really shouldn’t be called a “survival kit.” In the introduction, Kochanski is honest about being a wilderness living skills instructor. Over the last few years though bushcraft became synonymous with survival. Many instructors took notice and quickly picked it up as a marketing tool.

Now, Kochanski is not wrong. He is an experienced woodsman with 40 years of experience under his belt. Clay Hayes produced something similar in a video as part of the Backcountry College serial for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. The content are similar, albeit without the jacket, stuffed inside a 1L pot.

If anyone intend on copying Mors Kochanski’s survival kit and don’t have a method of transportation other than foot, then one can always seed their stomping ground with these caches. The only catch, however, is that there is always the risk of someone else finding them and stealing the content.

In this scenario, these caches should be best thought of wilderness courtesy commonplace in Canada and Siberia where the cabins are left open for anyone who wish to use them. Materials can be borrowed or taken by people who need them. It would be foolish to be angry at someone taking the items as one must have faith in humanity and hope the favour will be repaid someday to someone else.

The other issue is that these caches fundamentally violate the principle of Leave No Trace, and would be useless if the person planting them forget where they are. It is vitally important that people have extraordinary mind-mapping memory or at least have decent orientating skills with the caches marked on the map.

As a survival kit, a backpacker shouldn’t rely on it to get himself out of trouble as the biggest problem is losing the rucksack and its content. Those who are reliant on other methods of transportation will be carrying similar contents in a box or a bag somewhere. As a survival or wilderness cache in the same vein of woodsmen of old and wilderness trappers, such a kit is rather ingenious.

 

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By |April 21st, 2015|Editorial|0 Comments|