Carrying It All
A $5 leash and equipment-carrying system in one
If you frequently hunt alone, the amount of equipment you take into the field will be directly related to the hardness of the ground, the distance you think you will have to walk, and the amount of energy you have that day.
The good news is that if you put your equipment together right, you can walk some distance with a pretty complete pack (yoho, machete, first aid, water, tie outs, gloves, saw, etc), a 6-foot bar, a heavy-duty shovel, and even a very heavy posthole digger. How can you carry carry it all with relative ease, and have at least one hand (or both) free for dogs and hedgerow?
The trick is a series of very cheap leashes cut-down out of long cotton training lead.
Generally, only one of these leashes is used on the dogs -- the other two are used to secure the shovel and the posthole digger. Here's how to make these $5 leashes, and why their design is so effective.
Start with a 30-foot long black cotton training lead, and nine brass clips. Cut the lead into three nine foot sections. Slip a brass clip into the bite in the middle (see clip at far right in picture below). Then dip each of the slightly frayed ends of the cotton leash into a bit of black plasti-dip which is sold at most hardware stores for covering tool handles. The plasti-dip effectively seals the cotton ends so they do not unravel. When the ends are dry, use a single overhand hitch to tie a brass clip on to each end of the two leash end (see the two clips on the left).
Believe it or not, that's all there is to it -- no real knots and no sewing. The cotton is soft enough that it crushes on itself and holds well. I have never had a dog come off a leash, and I can adjust the clip length any time I want. Pretty simple and pretty cheap. The elegance here is not in the materials or the manufacturing, but in the simple design and its myriad uses in the field.
The finished leash should look very much like a brace couple with each side from the center clip approximately 4.5 feet long.
In fact, that's one way to use this leash -- to tie out two dogs at once at a dig, or to walk two dogs at once when the center clip is affixed to a belt or the rucksack's shoulder strap ring.
You can also affix the center clip to a low- hanging shrub or tree branch and tie out two dogs in the shade -- the branch will give some spring, and if you pick the right shrub, they cannot get entangled.
Perhaps the best way to use this leash is to simply take one side of the leash and hook it to the center strap, and then slip that over your shoulder and across your chest. The loose end, of course, is clipped to a dog (or dogs if a very short brace couple is used there). Now you can walk hands-free no matter how hard the dog lunges.
If this sounds a bit like a Euro-lead, you are right! This same set up can be used to tie a dog to a fat tree, or to clip two dogs to a cyclone fence. This is a very useful little leash!
Use the leashes as carrying straps
I shorten one leash a bit and use this to carry my D-handle Ames Pony shovel (available from AM Leonard tools). The trick here is to drill a hole through the shoulder of the shovel blade and put a bit of parachute cord through that. The center clip of a leash is clipped to this loop of parachute cord, and the other two clips are linked together through the D-handle. Adjust the leash/carrying strap length so that it's right for your frame, with the shovel hanging across your back or just to the side of your pack.
Much the same is done with the other leash and the posthole digger, except that here a hole is drilled through one of the wooden handles up near the top. About 18 inches of parachute cord is threaded through the hole and tied into a loop on both ends. One loop is used as the center piece of a slip-snare loop that goes over the other handle. The center clip of a leash is then affixed to the other parachute cord loop.
The two other clip ends of the leash are joined together between the center blades of the posthole digger, giving you a double sling. The posthole digger can now be carried slung across your other shoulder, or you can tie a thong at the right balance point on the leash and simply clip it on to a carrying ring on your rucksack's shoulder straps (assuming you have those on your pack).
The third leash, of course, is used for the dogs.
As for the bar, I simply slip a thong around it at the middle, and clip it to the D ring on my rucksack's shoulder straps where it balances with a little bit of guidance from my hand.
The heaviest bit of equipment, by far, is the posthole digger and it's optional equipment as the shovel can do the job pretty well all on its own.
If it looks like I've got a lot of walking to do (and especially if it's very hot), I leave the posthole digger. If it's just a hedgerow tour, I take the posthole digger, as it's worth the weight in the tight places you sometimes get among the trees.
That's it -- a simple trick that should make it much easier to hunt single-handed. n