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Ryan Dotson Survival and Prepping Expert Journal

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  • Ryan Dotson Survival and Prepping Expert Journal

    This is my first journal entry since being invited to contribute to this forum. I am excited to be involved and have enjoyed reading some of your comments. I intend to use this journal to discuss my thoughts as they relate to prepping and survival, as well as to discuss projects I have started to help with these areas of focus. Today I am staring out the window at the steady rain soaking the ground. I complete a winter survival challenge every year, and each year I have a different point of focus. Last year was more of a 'tough it out' focus as the temperatures dropped to -1F and the windchill was around -20F. I spent all my time building my shelter and collecting firewood. I was able to purify water and avoid hypothermia and frostbite (had some minor frostbite but got the feeling back after a few weeks). However, I was only able to consume a few calories from some chickweed I found. It was cold enough that animals were not moving at all.

    On this challenge I plan to focus on more of a long term setup. I want to build a supershelter (specific design for those that are unaware) to stay warmer and spend much of my time hunting for food. I want to see how comfortably I can live with minimal supplies. Unfortunately, my only opportunity is this weekend. During my last winter challenge it snowed heavily most of the time. For this challenge I wanted a mix of weather so I was not confined to my shelter the whole time. My goal is not necessarily to make each challenge more difficult, but to make each one different so it requires a different set of skills. I complete five or six of these every year and aim to make each one a completely different experience.

    Now with only five days until departure, the walls are closing in. I will be travelling to the Ozark Mountains for this challenge, but I know the weather is not ideal there right now. It will rain today and tomorrow with snow on Wednesday. I am still recovering from bronchitis and am prone to having this develop into pneumonia, so getting it under control worries me. I also have to repack my bug out bag with just the supplies I need for this challenge. I like to take as little as possible to make it more difficult than having a full bug out bag. I must do all this while writing several survival and prepping articles per day and working my 'real job'. Hopefully my progress will set my mind at ease. If anybody has any winter survival or prepping topics they want to discuss, it would be appreciated.

  • #2
    Good luck, this is more than I could ever take on

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    • #3
      Welcome to the the board Rayn, you certainly will be putting yourself to the test. I personally respect that way of thinking and while I don't feel able to tackle such a challenge, I work on my own daily. So thank you, for your introduction and contributions. There is much we can learn from you

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      • #4
        It has been a learning process, so don't think I just started with challenges of this level. I have hunted, fished, camped, and hiked all my life but did not get into true survival and prepping until about five years ago. I was an Eagle Scout and has some skills from that experience. However, looking back I realize that they showed us how to survive, but never tested us in any way. I remember being shown how to start a fire without matches, but was never given the chance to try it myself.

        did not build my first fire without matches until a few years ago. I found myself uncomfortable with my level of knowledge and experience. Since my son was born I have become much more aware of my need to protect my family. With civil unrest becoming more likely, economic stability waning, and natural disasters increasing I had my doubts about how well I would perform if put to the test. I started spending my evenings reading every piece of survival and prepping literature I could find. I do not sleep much, so I always had several hours to study after the family went to bed.

        I pulled up videos, watched survival shows (the real ones), and started collecting books. I was fascinated by all the different topics that fall under 'survival'. It was like a full college curriculum at my own pace. There was agronomics, physics, math, biology, medicine, engineering, chemistry, psychology, communications, nutrition, history, and sociology. I have always loved learning, so I finally found a hobby that held my attention. Finally, a couple years ago I planned and completed my first survival challenge. I took as much gear as I could carry, stayed close to help, and went during mild weather. It was incredibly difficult, but life changing. It gave me a new appreciation for all the comforts I take for granted every day. In addition,

        I posted updates on facebook and had a hugely positive response. People encouraged me to do more challenges, so I started planning my next one. I have made each challenge more difficult and designed them to test different skills. Since then I have been completing five or six per year. My challenges allowed me to start writing professionally just after completing the first one. So aside from my previous outdoor experience, this whole journey has only been a few years. If you have the motivation, it is definitely something any of you could do. Just take the time to hone your skills, and be realistic about how ready you may be.
        Last edited by dan_f_sullivan; 01-03-2017, 04:21 PM. Reason: Added line breaks

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        • #5
          I had trouble sleeping last night. Any time I approach a survival challenge, I start running through all the possible scenarios in which it could go wrong. For me that thought process is unavoidable. That is part of the reason why I do these challenges. It forces you to think of things you never would have thought of otherwise. I am still not over my bronchitis, so that is my biggest concern. There have been several occasions in which my bronchitis has turned into pneumonia, and it normally happens when I push myself too hard. I also know that pneumonia is not something to mess around with. My friend's fiancee died a few years from a bad case, and she was about my age.

          I've tried to put safety precautions in place. I will be on my uncle's land so help might be near by, but he works on the railroad so he may not even be home. It is a three mile hike to his house, but it is across some jagged and steep terrain. My lungs always are worse when it is colder, so it is very possible that I do not notice any problems until nightfall. It would be virtually impossible to hike to his house in the dark of night.

          I should be able to keep warm if I can keep my fire going, but what happens if my lungs start giving out and I'm out of firewood? What if my shelter is not tight enough and cold air can get it. I will have a bit of a hike for water. What if I need water but do not have the strength to get to the stream? Will I even be able to hunt? If I can't hike or I'm coughing up a fit, I will not be able to eat. My fear is that my health will start teetering in the middle of the night at about 15F and I will have no way to get help.

          However, I have a hard time putting off the challenge until my health is better. What would I do if I was stranded in the wilderness with bronchitis? Would I just give up and die? Hell no. I would find a way to make it work. I just have to remind myself that this is just practice. There is no point in practicing survival if you die during the practice. I have a wife and small boy and have to keep them in mind. It is easy to be prideful and selfish, but priorities have to stay in place. I will make my final decision tomorrow as to whether I will tough it out or reschedule.
          Last edited by Ryan Dotson; 01-05-2017, 06:19 AM.

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          • #6
            I'm sure you'll be fine, Ryan, good luck with this!
            Always stay safe,

            Dan

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            • #7
              Okay, this is my final post until I return from my challenge. I decided to do a test hike this morning. It was 6F with a wind chill of -6F and I did fine. I am ready to get some rest before I head out at first light tomorrow. There are so many things that run through my head the night before a challenge. There is one thing I have learned that has a practical application. Eating tons of calories before bed is not a good idea. For past challenges I would pig out the day before on protein, fruits, and veggies. I could never sleep and started my challenge exhausted. My thought was that I would need the calories for energy. However, it accomplished the opposite effect. Now I plan to just eat normal and have a good breakfast in the morning.

              I am also thinking about the specific elements of my situation. It will be 10F tomorrow night. If something goes wrong, I have no light and would have a two to three mile hike over rugged terrain to get to safety. The cold will keep most animals from stirring, so I'm not sure how the hunting will be. Also, I am a little concerned about the distance between my shelter and the fire. Last winter I had my fire too far from my shelter and ended up sleeping on the ground next to the fire. This year I want it closer, but certainly not close enough that the shelter might catch fire. I plan to find a holler where there should be little wind, so hopefully that will keep everything under control. It has been quite dry down here lately, so I need to make sure to keep my fire under control. So priorities for tomorrow: 1) Hike until I find a decent water source and a protected area for a shelter 2) Gather fire wood and materials for a bed 3) Build the bed 4) Build the shelter 5) Start the fire 6) Get food and water if daylight allows. Of course, these things never go as planned... and I mean NEVER.

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              • #8
                Well Ryan , hope you made it through the challenge great . I had single digit temps here evening before last and teens last night , hope you managed to get set up and stay warmish . My thought on finding a holler would be that I always find hollers to be colder than up on the side of a hill below the military crest . Look forward to reading about how it went .

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                • #9
                  All went well. I hiked the three miles on steep terrain in about 90 minutes and found the spring. About 100 yards away was a spot with trees oriented North/South about 10 feet apart. There was plenty of dead trees around. The wind was coming in from the North, and I wanted to make sure my fire did not blow into my shelter, so it was perfect. I started with my bed and used large notched logs to make a sturdy frame. That had me 10 inches off the ground. I filled it with leaves and then put slats across the frame. I piled more leaves on top and then added my deer hides. I had three with me and layered them with leaves in between. It was the most solid bed I've made.

                  I mounted a ridge pole between the two trees and dropped three support beams at a 45 degree angle. I then stretched my emergency blanket across the frame with the reflective side in. Finally, I stretched clear plastic across the whole thing to cover the lean-to. Logs were used to secure the base and seal the structure. The idea behind a super-shelter is that heat from the flames of your fire goes through the clear plastic, reflects off the emergency blanket, and warms your bed.

                  For my fire I did a body length fire. I used three logs about 12 feet long and built two separate top down fires on top. When I would spend about an hour keeping the flames two feet tall, the shelter would be about 80 degrees inside. It was enough to make me sweat. The only downside was that the temp would drop drastically when the flames died down. It might be 80 degrees when I went to sleep and 50 when I woke up an hour later. Because of this I had to spend most of the night adding firewood. I got about three good hours of sleep, which is pretty good for 6 degrees.

                  The spring was my source of clean water of course, but food was a different story. I found some squirrels this morning and fired three shots at 50 yards with some turkey shot before I realized that I had the wrong choke tube with me. I went back to camp and got some bird shot. Shortly after I secured breakfast. I ate the bird bones and all which gave me the energy to hike out. My lungs were burning from the combination of bronchitis and campfire smoke. I had achieved food, water, fire, shelter, and endured the coldest temps of the year so I decided to shut it down. I feel good about the experience.

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                  • #10
                    I am always entertained by the reactions I get to my survival challenges. It seems like there is always at least one person I know that says they want to go with me on my next challenge. However, I have yet to see somebody follow through. This time a previous employee of mine has committed to come with me on my spring challenge, which for me will be a knife-only challenge. However, I have my doubts as to whether he will follow through or not.

                    I also tend to get some interesting offers for collaborations. I have a high school friend from Louisville, KY that is a stand up comedian. He commented that it would be funny to record sessions of me trying to teach a comedian survival skills. He has absolutely no experience with the outdoors, so it should be interesting. I also have a friend that is an avid hunter and is going to be leasing some property in Northern Missouri. He wants me to film him on some of the hunts that he is planning on this property. Aside from writing about survival, prepping, hunting, fishing, and cooking, I love that I get to branch out and work on these other projects. I also enjoy seeing the talents of my friends and colleagues.

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                    • #11
                      Congrats of going through with your challenge, Ryan! I know you had some heath issues prior to it, and I'm happy to hear they didn't affect you while you were out there.
                      Always stay safe,

                      Dan

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                      • #12
                        The last few days have been interesting in Missouri. A state of emergency has been declared by the governor due to the ice storm moving across the state. As early as Wednesday I noticed that the supermarkets were sold out of eggs and running low on milk, bread, and water. They proactively cancelled school for today, and everybody has been freaking out over what should only be a three day inconvenience.

                        Even my wife started to feed into the hype and started grilling me about how prepared we really are. One advantage that I have come to enjoy about being a survivalist and prepper is that I do not stress about these small scale issues. I know we have everything covered. If the power goes out, I know exactly where the candles and flashlights are. We are on electric heat, so I have a step by step plan to move everybody into our bedroom with all of our blankets to conserve heat. We have plenty of food and water on hand, and have four different ways to cook food without electricity.

                        We could easily get by for months if needed, and I need not worry about a last minute scramble to the grocery store. While everybody else is losing their minds, I get to relax and get caught up on my writing.

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                        • #13
                          I am planning to head to southern GA for a hog hunt in March. We have been discussing it for months, but I have never been before. I know these animals to be very aggressive and territorial, but I have never faced one myself. I happened to watch a movie yesterday with a wild boar and hence had a dream about a hog attacking me during a hunt. I know that climbing a tree or being in a stand is a way to avoid attack, but I'm sure there are situations where that is unavoidable. I've seen trail cam images and there are dozens of them around 300 lbs. I grew up around my grandfather's hog farm and knew that he would never let me get close enough to fall into their enclosures. Does anybody have experience with wild hogs? Should I take a firearm?

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                          • #14
                            Tonight I watched the first episode of the show Hunted and it made me think. If I was on the run knowing the technology available to track me, where would I go and how would I get there. I think it's obvious that I would head to the woods to get 'off the grid', but how would I travel and where exactly would I head. I know the ozark mountains like the back of my hand, but anybody that read my articles would know that. So do I head to an area that I don't know or do I stick with what I know?

                            As far as transportation, I used to work at a car dealership. I could probably buy a junker trade in cheap that would have no registration. On this show they have to evade capture for 28 days. I'm sure I could make it that long with just some basic supplies. A bicycle could get around just fine if I needed to get to a phone or anything. Cell phones would be out of the question, but maybe a ham radio would be good for communication. It was an interesting concept.

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                            • #15
                              I want to say something for the record and I do not care who it offends. If you have ANY question about prepping, survival, hunting, or fishing, you should be able to ask your question without ridicule. I think sometimes experienced survivalists get to the point that they forget that they were rookies at one point as well. Not everybody has the same areas of expertise. Not everybody has been doing this for 30 years. The only way we can efficiently learn what we need to know is to ask questions, no matter how basic or obvious the answers are to other people.

                              Without thoughtful and caring responses from the people that have the answers, we will not grow as a community. It makes me truly sad when I read a response in a forum that degrades or otherwise discourages somebody from asking questions. The people who make these comments do not contribute to the survival community and should not be on these sites. If you truly want to share your knowledge and help people improve their skills, then do it. Don't hold their hand... don't babysit them... don't coddle them... but don't shun them either. If you want to boost your ego by tearing somebody else down, please do it somewhere else. Remember that the answers people receive or do not receive could potentially save their lives.

                              For those that want constructive answers from somebody that has a reasonable amount of knowledge, I am happy to help. If I do not know the answer, I will be happy to direct you to somebody that does. Let us all work together to make this community as strong as possible.

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