Bear Grylls vs. Les Stroud

November 11, 2008

OK. Just for fun…What’s your type? The dashing, risk-taking Brit, or the unassuming, steadfast Canadian? Personally, I love to watch both, as either one has a lot of good stuff to offer.

From Les Stroud, I’ve learned a lot of really cool and useful skills. From Bear Grylls, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to shriek, “YOU’RE FREAKING KIDDING ME!”

Bear’s show is certainly entertaining, but from the first I’ve always been horrified by the choices he’s made on his program. In most survival situations, it’s best to stay put when you’re lost, or at least stay put where you find a safe spot near a good water source. If you have reasonable confidence that civilization is downstream from that water, then go for it…carefully. But leave sign of your direction.

In the first “Man vs. Wild” episode I ever saw, as soon as he found water he jumped right into it, risking serious injury, hypothermia and drowning in order to save time descending to lower elevations. I believe he was in the Sierra Nevadas, an area with which I’m familiar. Having traveled downriver in even the most commonly rafted Sierra rivers, even I know better than to risk unknown whitewater without a PFD. And jumping in without even testing the water? No way. A jump from a high rock, like the one Bear made, risks that involuntary intake of breath one takes when hitting ice-cold water.

Taking unnecessary risks in a survival situation is a bad idea. Even a scratch can become your downfall, as you have little means of staving off infection.

Running off in the middle of the night because you MAY have heard a bear in the area was another move I found laughable. Especially in an area with lots of cliffs. Bears rarely attack people, but hikers frequently kill themselves falling off cliffs or breaking their legs when no help is in reach. Do the math.

Maybe I’m of a certain age when I’ve learned my lesson about rash bad boys. Les Stroud’s approach–slow and steady–doesn’t make for the best entertainment, but pound for pound (or frame for frame) I put more value on the lessons he imparts. Sure, it’s great to know that you can drink the water squeezed from the dung of a Savannah ungulate, but I’d prefer to learn the more likely–and safe–alternatives.

Les Stroud

Les Stroud

Plus, there’s something sexy about bald guys.

One thing I do cluck my tongue at when watching either show is the lesson that both boys have repeatedly ignored: Never leave home without a basic survival kit that will provide you with (or provide the means to obtain) fire, food, water and shelter. The TSA may not allow us to carry our Becker BK7 aboard our flight to New York’s Fashion Week, but the rest of the time we can carry a small kit that would include the basics.

What I do find interesting is that both Bear and Les seem to always have their knives with them, and little else but improvised tools. That improvisation is exactly why both shows are so great, and valuable, but they present less-than likely scenarios for the average Jane.

Bear Grylls

Bear Grylls

Doesn’t matter who’s better, more realistic, more of a showman, which one pronounces “glacier” in a manner that makes me want to shoot the widescreen, or who looks the best wearing his pee-soaked tighty-whiteys on his head. What really makes me happy is that these two shows are on Discovery Channel, and both have a good following. The more people who are interested in self-reliance, survival and preparedness, the better we’ll all be when the excrement hits the oscillator!


Throwing the Perfect Quarry Shoot Party!

November 2, 2008

We’ve all been there. The dingy, littered quarry range on public land. Admit it, there are some things you just can’t do at your posh and tony Rifle Club, so once in a while, we slum it.

That’s not to say we can’t enjoy ourselves in fine style, of course, while we’re there!

If Martha Stewart were a Hoppes-huffing gun nut, she’d have a lot of fantastic ideas on throwing the perfect Quarry party. But she’s not, so you’ll have to settle for mine. Lucky you!

First thing you’ll need is shelter. You have many choices, from the ubiquitous EZ-UP 10×10 shade to the 10×20 Costco carport. A few folding tables and camp chairs (twinkle lights and hanging baskets of fuscia optional) will make your staging area an inviting one. Shelter will keep you and your equipment (and nummies!) dry or out of the sun. Some of us opt to have a shelter and shooting bench at the firing line for sighting in rifles or getting noobs started from a stable, supported position, as well as a “staging area” shelter.

Don’t forget refreshments! Since you’ll have lead-coated fingers, you might want to pass on the delicate finger canapes that might be served at your favorite polo field picnic, but by all means, bring along your fondue set! You know you have one somewhere. If you’re married, you probably got three as wedding presents. Now is your chance to show them off! Fondue forks allow your guests to fulfill their culinary cravings without the pesky risks of (further) brain damage from lead poisoning. Fondue, as frou-frou as it is, is a fun and easy way to fulfill your munchies in between trips to the firing line. The forks keep grimy paws out of the food, and on cold days, it’s easy for bundled fingers to stab and dip chunks of meat, bread, fruit or veggies.

Of course, you’ll want to bring along fondue pots that require gel or liquid fuels, unless you plan on firing up your portable generator…which might not be a bad idea, especially if you plan on setting up a smoothie bar and zombie-war simulating fog machine.

It’s also a good idea to keep food and drink away from firearms and ammunition. Have disposable wipes (at a minimum) for guests to use in between firearm handling and horking out on the food table.

What to drink…how about Hot toddies? Ok, ok, save the alcohol for the apres shoot celebration, and keep the chillies at bay with hot apple cider or cocoa. A big pot on top of a propane camping stove will keep your crew from constantly running off to ogle the fine furniture on that AR15 on the other end of the firing line, not to mention the babe manning the trigger.

Many quarries are on public lands with restrictions on open fires, so be sure to check the regulations before you head out. If you do build a fire, be sure it’s not in the way of through-traffic or your fellow shooters, and for heaven’s sake, don’t burn any plastics such as spent shotgun shells or cartridge trays. Go ahead and burn paper litter, such as discarded cartons and paper targets, but avoid the smoke, due to lead residue.

Oh dear, I nearly forgot! Make sure all your guests arrive safely and with proper directions. You might want to assign a rally point if the road to the quarry is confusing, or provide GPS waypoints or Google Earth KMZ files so they can identify your planned route. Inform new-to-shooting guests of certain expectations beforehand, such as the rules of gun safety and your own range rules, and be sure to tell everyone what types of ammo to bring along. Remind all to bring eye and ear protection, and perhaps bring along some extra yourself, just in case.

Another must-have accessory for every quarry shooter is a handful of heavy-duty garbage bags. Try to haul home more garbage than you generate, because polluted, littered quarries give us gun nuts a bad rap.

Planning a day at the quarry is a fantastic way to introduce non-shooters to our sport, and give them a bit of perspective on the importance of the Second Amendment. Whether your plan is to go down-and-dirty or highbrow, the important thing is to set a good example on the firing line as well as make the day and informative.