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Making an ash bag

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Simple tools are often the most effective and the most overlooked. An ash bag is a good example. A hunter must constantly be monitoring wind direction if he wants to be successful in his endeavors. Allow the slightest waft of your human scent to blow towards your quarry and the chances are it will run off leaving you with a southern view of a north headed animal.

Wind is easy to detect if it is blowing hard enough.

Even a slight breeze can be felt on your skin giving you an indication of its direction. It is then relatively easy to be aware of wind direction and to plan your stalk and approach. It is when the breeze drops to a level that is almost impossible to feel on your skin or to move objects like leaves and grass that you need some help. One mistake a hunter must never make is in believing that there is no wind. There is always movement of air. Air movement is caused by differences in temperature and there are always differences in temperature between objects and between different areas.

Take for instance the temperature difference between a patch of grass in direct sun and a patch of grass in deep shade. There will be a distinct temperature difference between the two areas and the temperature gradient will cause air to move. An ash bag is one of the best friends a hunter can have and with a quick shake or flick of a finger will quickly indicate the direction of air movement even when you cannot feel any wind on your skin or when object appear motionless.

You can buy a squeeze bottle with a fancy label filled with some odorless powder which works well with a squeeze - but why waste thirty bucks when you can make an ash bag for next to nothing.

  • Get hold of some material that is reasonably porous like cotton or cheese cloth.

  • Take a tea saucer and trace a circle onto the material.

  • Cut out a round disc and

  • Get hold of some strong twine and a large needle and thread a drawstring around the circumference of the cloth disc leaving a border of about 1cm.

  • When the drawstring is pulled tight a bag is formed

  • Now get hold of some ash from a wood fire (preferably from a lead wood fire if you are lucky enough to have access to this type of firewood) and sift it through your wife’s kitchen sieve. Coarser pieces are caught up in the sieve and only the finest powdery ash falls through which you can collect and keep in a container for future use.

  • This ash also has some other useful applications but we will leave this for another article. For now it will be used to fill our ash bag.

  • The neck of the bag is drawn closed with the drawstring. I like attaching the ash bag to a leather thong which I hang around my neck so that it is readily available if I want to test the wind.

  • Alternatively you can sew a hook onto the bag and hang it on your belt. A slight shake of the bag or flicking it with your finger will release the finest cloud of wood ash which will visibly drift in the direction of the slightest breeze making it easy for you to determine the direction of air movement.


    1. Trace the circle

    2. Cut out the circle

    3. Thread the drawstring

    4. Pull it tight, and you have a bag

    5. Sift the ash

    6. Fill the ash bag

    That's it!

    Without a doubt, this very simple tool is one of the hunter’s most valuable assets.

    Cleve Cheney is a wilderness trail leader, rated field guide instructor and the author of many leading articles on the subjects of tracking, guiding, bowhunting and survival. Cleve has unrivalled experience in wildlife management, game capture and hunting, both with bow and rifle.
    Click here to visit his site or here to visit his SAPrepper Facebook page site

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