I have been into shooting muzzleloaders for about 5 years, shooting with a great group: the Arkansas Muzzleloading Association (AMLA). Over the last 5 years I have been getting the itch to move toward period correct trekking and hunting. Now, the AMLA is fanatical about their guns but show little interest in primitive camping. This sent me on a hunt for a group that did longhunter time period. I found a fine organization that is rigorous in their standards but didn’t have anyone in Arkansas for me to learn from. A little more searching led me to the COHT. This group also was very interested in doing things "right". Joining the COHT brought me in contact with our newly instated State Rep. Bryant McIguire.
One thing I should tell you about me is that I am more motivated then I am practical sometimes. I proceeded to bug the crap out of Bryant to get a campout scheduled. Problem number one it is February! Yes I said February! The trip was scheduled to begin on Friday but once again (motivated) I decided to show up on Thursday and make a week of it. I know what you are saying, first primitive camp, the month of February, shows up a day earlier, pure genius right?
So there I was Thursday night by myself, camp set up and prepared to cook a P.C. dinner. I grabbed my flint and steel and set out to make my first primitive fire. Problem, I didn’t have any char cloth! An hour later I have to go to my truck and get the emergency lighter I keep in the glove box. Ahhhhh, heat! It is getting chilly now that the sun has gone down. I pull out the bag of dried beans I was sure longhunters ate. Problem, dried beans take a loooooooooooooong time to cook. A couple hours later the beans were a nice crunchy consistency. With nothing better to do I plunked down a couple logs on the fire and climbed under my blankets. Problem, my diamond shelter was about 10 feet from the fire. That is just far enough away to see the heat but not feel it. After a long night shivering and asking my self why am I doing this? I watched the sun break on the ridge.
Early Friday morning Vic Vere one of my friends showed up nice and chipper from a good night sleep in his bed and announced "wow, it was cold last night it was 29 this morning". Fighting the urge to jump up and choke the life out of him I said, "Yeah it sure was". After a big cup of coffee we took a nice scout up a close ridge resulting in us seeing a bald eagle and many other of Gods great creations. I am starting to understand why I am doing this.
Later in the afternoon Bryant and Mark Grigg showed around 12:30 and right off the bat I knew I had the right guys to be my mentor. Bryant is a quiet person that carries the aura of years of woods wisdom and experience (I can’t wait to get into that head and see what kind of info is in there!) Mark is also someone that I am going to learn a lot from but that is not the first thing I noticed about him. He has the coolest freak’n hair do I have ever seen. His head is shaved except for one spot in the top that is about 2 feet long! Crap, that is the cut I wanted all through high school but valued my life to much to get it. (My dad was a career Air Force man like myself, so it was a no-go on the pseudo Mohawk). Here’s the thing about talking to these two guys. The longer you talk the more you like about them. Like how Bryant has an antique loom at his house that he makes fabric with. Like how Mark has 2 raccoons as pets!
After a little talking they set up camp and I rearrange mine, fixing the problems I found last night. I moved my diamond shelter right up next to the fire making a small lean-to shelter to help catch as much heat from the fire as possible. I also placed a large pile of wood next to my head so I could feed the fire without getting out of bed. The changes I made were magical and I stayed warm all night. I was comfortable and the night passed so quick that when I woke I was surprised to see the sun coming up.
Saturday Mark Thurman and Karen Keating arrived for the day. Mark Thurman is a guy that I am sure enjoys blowing things up as much as I do! In short order he had pulled out a swivel gun from his truck and proceeded to make our shooting range about 10 pounds heavier every time he fired it! I really like this guy! (His only short fall so far is his fixation with the French) Last, and not least, is Karen. I didn’t talk much with her on this outing but a couple weeks later I spent hours watching her spin wool at the Cadron Creek Block House. Since this trip she has impressed me with her knowledge of spinning and weaving and she makes a mean dinner too! We filled the rest of the day with some shooting and talking about where we wanted the Arkansas group to go and made plans for our next camp. With the weather turning bad and rain expected for the rest of the weekend we decided to leave Saturday afternoon.
On another message board I read a poll about why people weren’t members of the COHT and many said "Why would I pay money to just be in an association when I can go out and do it on my own for free?" Well, if it wasn’t for this group I never would have met these people and I still would be where I started, with an itch to camp and trek primitive. And that’s an itch Goldbond can’t help.