Saturday, December 30, 2017

Court DuRand’s “Wild Game Water Rodeo”

by Kelly Burton, Film Archivist

While Montana’s guest ranches have long explored ways to distinguish themselves from the competition, it would be difficult for anyone to best the Big Elk Ranch, circa 1930, when it comes to sheer outrageousness and hucksterism. The proprietor of the Big Elk, Courtland Eugene DuRand, was born in Minneapolis in 1877. His parents filed a claim on Trail Creek in 1892, and the DuRands soon moved their six children to the foothills of the Little Belt Mountains north of present-day Checkerboard, Montana. Young Court helped to build the family cattle ranch, the N Lazy I, before going off to study engineering at Princeton University. After graduation, DuRand returned to the 2100-acre ranch to assist neighbors with irrigation systems and stock management, and then traveled the world as a supervisor of overseas prospects for a mining conglomerate. He increasingly visited Montana after the death of his father in 1910, and permanently settled on the family property in the early 1920s.

Letter from Roosevelt to DuRand, 1927. 
(MHS vertical file, Courtland DuRand)
Promotional materials for the Wild Elk Range of Montana. 
(MHS vertical file, Courtland DuRand)

The DuRand Ranch Company was incorporated in 1921, but the falling beef prices of the mid-1920s led Court to consider two business options: opening a dude ranch, and domesticating wild animals for breeding and commercial sale as meat. In late 1927, the Bureau of Biological Survey sold him seventy-four cow and calf elk, twelve bull elk, fourteen bison, two mountain goats, several sheep, some black-tail deer, and one dozen antelope. Originally started as a common-law trust bearing the name “Wild Elk Range of Montana,” the moniker was soon changed to Big Elk Ranch in 1929. The premier attraction of the ranch soon became the “Wild Game Water Rodeo,” which featured domesticated elk and bison plummeting from a 40-foot platform into an artificial pool below. The dude ranch ran to near-capacity from June to November for several years, but the 1930s economic depression eventually decreased the market for exotic meats and leisure activities. DuRand kept his trained animals in the spotlight, however, and they continued to appear in various Montana parades, sports shows in Cleveland and Chicago, the New York World’s Fair, and even a bison diving show on New Jersey’s Steel Pier.

The Wild Game Water Rodeo. 
(MHS Photo Archives, PAc 83-48)
The Wild Game Water Rodeo. 
(MHS Photo Archives, PAc 83-48)

With the Wild Elk Range of Montana, Court maintained that what he was creating was: “an experiment station for the study of elk and other animals…the first venture of its kind in the United States. I am a firm believer that domesticated elk will someday find a place on the American menu. These animals can be raised to provide more meat than any other animal, for the comparable amount of food.” [1] Colonel Theodore Roosevelt’s name graces the promotional materials for the Wild Elk Range as a member of the organization’s Advisory Committee, and a letter of support from the former president speaks to the enthusiasm that DuRand was able to generate for his unique Montana endeavor. The naturalist slant presented by the Wild Elk Range soon becomes sensationalized with the introduction of the Big Elk Ranch theatrics, however: “A diving platform, water corrals, and fish-hook chutes have been constructed, from which buffalo, elk, and horses dove into 15 feet of water. Dudes were able to catch the buffalo and elk and ride on their backs across the lake. One elk was lassoed, and it pulled a row boat with two passengers. Fox Movietone men have taken moving pictures of the aquatic rodeo for international distribution.” [2]

The Wild Game Water Rodeo. 
(MHS Photo Archives, PAc 83-48)
The Wild Game Water Rodeo. 
(MHS Photo Archives, PAc 83-48)

A print of this Movietone newsreel was loaned to the Montana Historical Society in 1983, and new 16mm positive and negative prints were struck at that time. The newsreel inevitably emphasizes the sensational elements of DuRand’s endeavor, and the first images are of both elk and bison tumbling from the top of a 40-foot-high chute into the water below. A boy in a small rowboat is then pulled around the diving pool by an elk on a lead. Bison and elk herds are seen running around enclosures and jumping fences at high speeds, driven by two Big Elk Ranch hands on horseback. Returning to the pool, we see herds of elk and bison swimming through the water in a somewhat synchronized fashion. Next, a woman stands at the bow of a small boat, holding a rope that is tied to a swimming elk. The elk has balloons tied to its antlers and is, of course, towing the small boat and its passengers in circles around the pool. Diving elk and bison are the focus of the remainder of the film, though now we see young ranch guests diving in after the animals to catch a ride to shore. A row of boards has been set up near the water’s edge for human divers, and we witness a group of young boys plunging into the water to ride atop the swimming bison herd.

The Wild Game Water Rodeo. 
(MHS Photo Archives, PAc 83-48)
The Wild Game Water Rodeo. 
(MHS Photo Archives, PAc 83-48)

World War II and a 1943 fire at the central lodge finally put an end to Court’s dude ranch enterprise, and the DuRands soon returned to cultivating cattle and crops on the family land. In 1951, Court was gored in the stomach by a bull elk he had raised from birth (an injury from which he never fully recovered), and subsequently suffered a stroke and lost his sight. The family auctioned off the livestock herds at Lewistown’s Central Montana Stock Yards, and eventually sold the Trail Creek property in 1952. At the time of his death in 1955, Courtland DuRand was lovingly eulogized as “one of Montana’s most colorful and progressive citizens.” [3]

[1] Meagher Republican, February 3, 1928.
[2] Meagher County News, August 26, 1936.
[3] Biographical information has been largely summarized from “Courtland DuRand Wrangles the Dudes…and the Elk…and the Bison...and the Antelope…and the Deer,” Montana Magazine, July/August 1999, 88-95.

Radio Amateurs Continue to Plumb the Spectral Depths

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Adventures of a Math Geek: Early Season Skiing in the Waning Days of 2017

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Friday, December 29, 2017


Winter is typically known as the season of hibernation and all things cozy, though cabin fever often finds a way of sneaking in. Here in Glacier Country, we’ve got just the cure for that: the little town of Libby, Montana boasts big adventures.
Libby sits humbly in the scenic northwest corner of Big Sky Country, surrounded by national forestland “where the Cabinet Mountains meet the Kootenai River.” This unassumingly awesome small town does winter the way winter should be done. The terrain is vast, the powder is the epitome of perfection and the hospitality is authentic.
Small but mighty, Turner Mountain Ski Resorts offers great snow and big views. Photo: Bruce Zwang
Slay the snow downhill at Turner Mountain, with some of the best lift-assisted skiing in the U.S., according to SKI magazine. This tucked-away treasure delivers sought-after skiing and snowboarding on 25 named runs with a vertical drop of 2,110 feet, affordable lift tickets, no crowds and priceless adventure. Added bonus: The views are real jaw droppers. Turner is open Friday through Sunday. Don’t miss Turner Mountain Fun Day annually in February.
Nordic skiers find their paradise in Libby, too. Make a day of it on a groomed trail with lunch at a picnic shelter, and warm up later by a trailside fire ring, or soak up the solitude and serenity of open-ridge backcountry trails against the beauty of the Yaak and Kootenai.
Where the terrain and powder are seemingly endless, this is one epic place. Photo: Lincoln County SnoKat Club
For power-hungry powder seekers, hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails crisscross the region, where stunning views are a dime a dozen. Warming huts and Forest Service lookouts dot the terrain. Around these parts, snowmobilers will find plenty to do and see while winter is in Montana. 
When it’s time to get back to the warm and cozy, Libby provides. This little community bustles year-round with hometown charm, lodgingdining and amenities.
Play + Stay: Venture Inn and Restaurant“Libby’s finest,” the Venture Inn offers the relaxing stay you need after a day in the snow. Cozy accommodations are their specialty, and the inn’s restaurant serves up delicious home-style comfort food all year long for hungry travelers. Bringing your powderhound along for the adventure? The Venture Inn has pet-friendly rooms, too.
Fill up and warm up at AuntT’s with meals like this Loaded Baked Potato soup. Photo: AuntT’s Coffee Corner
Caffeine for the Soul: AuntT’s Coffee CornerLook. We know. The day begins after coffee. AuntT knows it too. That’s why she created Libby’s destination espresso bar with all of us in mind. And, since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, she makes that, too. See you at AuntT’s for a hot cup of joe and a delicious breakfast sammy.
Montana does craft beer very well and Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company is no exception.
Pull up a Barstool…er, a Couch: Cabinet Mountain Brewing CompanyDubbed “Libby’s Living Room,” Cabinet Mountain Brewing has become the city’s community gathering place. Montana’s only women-owned brewery, CMBC handcrafts mighty excellent ales and sodas, serves up delicious food made to pair well with their brews, and offers live music every week. If you find yourself in Libby on a Tuesday evening, it’s Taproom Trivia night at CMBC, so grab an award-winning Yaak Attack IPA and put on your game face.
LEAVE IT TO LIBBY:Friends…Libby has a Polar Bear Club, and it’s a sight to behold. Every Sunday from the last one in October through the first one in April, this local club of Libby’s courageous—along with its unofficial leader, Polar Bear Rick—meets at 2 p.m. at the Farm-to-Market bridge over Libby Creek. Feeling bold? Take the plunge and you’ll be honored with a certificate for your bravery.
Libby just can’t help itself: it’s a true winter wonderland. Grab a pair of snowshoes and trek to Kootenai Falls for epic views of Mother Nature’s ice sculptures, or head to Ross Creek and experience a real-life snow-globe of giant western red cedars.  
Are you packing your bags for Montana yet? Let us help you get here…
Win an epic winter weekend getaway in Libby. Enter now.

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LA/TM 010

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Prepper Supplies, Gear, and Tools That I Use And Recommend By M.D. Creekmore

Occasionally I mention tools and prepper suppliesthat I use and/or recommend in my posts here and there, but this page includes an easy-to-access list of what I use and recommend. I hope it’s helpful!
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase. I am very grateful for your support of this site in this way. Thank you.
Hard To Store Food Items
Augason Farms – Some foods like powdered milk, dry margarine, butter powder, buttermilk powder, cheese powder, shortening, and powdered eggs are difficult to package for long-term storage at home so I buy these prepackaged for long-term storage in #10 cans. My choice is Augason Farms because of their selection, quality and customer service.
Water Filters 
Big Berkey Water Filter – The Berkey company had some issues with their filters in the past but that has been corrected (several years ago) and the Big Berkey is my home water filter of choice. Each purification element has a lifespan of 3,000 gallons. That’s 6,000 gallons for a two-filter system. Two filter elements come with the system.
Survivor Filter – This is my filter of choice when going camping, hiking, hunting and for use in my bug out/get home bags. Works very well as a filter and also as a purifier to remove viruses. And an added plus is the fact that the survivor filter uses replaceable elements so instead of throwing it in the trash when it’s used up like most filters of this type with the survivor filter you can just change the filter elements and you’re as good as new.
Seychelle Water Straw – If you’re worried about a nuclear war or accident (you should be) then you’ll need a way to filter water after the fact which will remove nuclear contaminants as well as the usual contaminants found in untreated water sources. The downside is that this filter is only good for 25-gallons of water so having several is a good idea.
Cooking, Preserving, Canning and Food Preparation
Wonder Junior Mill – The Wonder Junior mill is my top choice for a hand-operated grain mill. You can read my full review here. But most of the time I use an electric grain mill to grind my grains and keep the Wonder Junior mill for a back up for when the grid goes down.
Excalibur Dehydrator – My first dehydrator was a cheap $29.99 model from Wal-Mart that was loud (sounded like the fan was going to fly out of the side any minute) and I only got to use it a couple of times before it stopped working altogether. After that, I decided to order the Excalibur 3900 and have had no more problems or need to buy another dehydrator. Sometimes you do get what you pay for.
All-American 21-1/2-Quart Pressure Cooker Canner – Folks the All American 921 is the top of the line when it comes to pressure cookers and is the one I use for my pressure canning. If you don’t know how to can then you need this book.
All American Sun Oven – Rust-proof, highly polished, mirror-like anodized aluminum reflectors Set up in minutes. Lightweight with carrying handle. American made with uniquely American features! Will reach temps of 360 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I use this for most of my cooking needs during the summer months…
Zoom Versa Stove – The Zoom Versa Cook Stove is my number one choice for a long-term grid-down situation because it’s well made, fuel is easy to find and it works. You can read my full review here.
BSG Gold Beer Homebrew Kit – I don’t always drink beer, but when I do I brew my own. If you like the taste of fresh homebrew then this is the kit you need to get started. Everything that you need is included in this kit.
Cast-Iron Dutch Oven – The Dutch oven is one of my favorite cooking methods when preparing food outdoors over an open fire, it can also be buried in the ground and covered under the bottom along the sides and over the top for baking – this is called Pit Cooking or Bean Hole Cooking.
Knives and Sharpeners
Mora Bushcraft Survival Knife – I have over one-hundred knives and if forced to only take one into the bush or to have in a bug out or get a home bag this is it. The Mora Bushcraft Survival Knife is my top choice for a fixed blade “survival knife”. It’s sharp, lightweight, tough, comfortable with the ergonomic grip, and comes with a built fire starter and sharpener built into the sheath.
Victorinox Swiss Army Spartan Pocket Knife – This is the pocket knife that I’ve carried every day for the past several years – it’s a handy multi-tool that will do everything one expects from a pocket knife and at less than $25 it’s not a big deal if I lose or break it even though I’ve never done either I’d rather lose one of these than an expensive pocket knife.
Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider Bowie – This is my favorite “big knife” and I keep one in my truck and one in my bug out bag. It has a heavy blade that’s excellent for chopping wood or clearing a campsite of undergrowth.  It’s also sharp and holds an edge very well. And if needed it could be a formidable weapon that could split someone’s head open or completely take it off with a couple of swings of the blade.
Nikon ProStaff Rimfire – I’ve tried a number of different scopes on .22 rifles over the years and this is by far my favorite and I now have one of these mounted on each of my .22 rifles. I’ve never had an issue with any of them.
Nikon Buckmaster BDC – This is the scope that I have on both of my centerfire hunting rifles and after three years of use I’ve had zero problems. Very clear optics that have never fogged up and that hold center very well and the BDC reticle is well calibrated with the .308 round.
Holosun Micro Red Dot Sight – I have an Aimpoint on one of my AR-15’s and an Eotech on another but after using all three I prefer the Holosun over the other two more expensive sites. My favorite feature is that the Holosun comes on automatically when the firearm is moved, so no need to press buttons or turn knobs to turn it on while under stress. You can read our full review of the Holosun here.
Steiner 10×50 Binocular – These are a little expensive when compared to a lot of other binoculars but then you sometimes get what you pay for and this is one of those times. Simply awesome.
Pelican 2360 Flashlight – I have two of these flashlights, both for several years and no issues at all. I keep one in my truck and the other on the nightstand beside my bed. One of the best “all around” lights that I’ve ever owned. Next on my list to buy is the Pelican 2350 Pocket Size Flashlight.
SureFire G2Z MV Combat Light – This is my choice when it comes to a “tactical light” because it’s well made, excellent switch and ergonomics and it’s super bright.
Generators/Home Power
Renogy 200 Watt Solar Panel Kit – This kit is the basis for my solar system – I don’t have the money to put in a $10,000 solar system to power my entire home so I use this set up to power 12 volt lights, 12 volt fans and communications equipment and to charge batteries and cordless tools.
I’ve also added a SunJack 20W Portable Solar Charger and a USB Battery Charger for Rechargeable AA/AAA Ni-Mh and Ni-Cd Batteries.
Renogy Phoenix Portable Generator – this one is great for camping and for any other application where mobile power is needed. The unit is lightweight and smaller than a suitcase so it’s portable and includes everything needed built into the unit. Just pick it up and go.
Humless Portable Generator – this is my newest addition to my “home power options” but I’ve only owned it for a few months and although it has worked great and without any issues to report I cannot give it my full recommendation until I’ve owned and used it for a year or more.
Honda 2000 Watt Portable Generator – After years of owning and having to work on and or replace several gasoline powered generators of lesser quality I decided to spend the extra cash and get the Honda 2000 Watt Portable Generator and I’m glad that I did. I’ve owned this mine since July 4, 2015, and not had any issues other than that it can sometimes take five or six cranks before it starts.
Security and Alarms
Dakota Alert MURS Wireless Motion Detection Kit – I’ve had a Dakota Alert set-up (with four sensors) for over two years and have never had a problem with it, besides a few “false alarms” caused by animals passing in front of the sensor and having to change the batteries every few months. These are also great to put up in your workshop, garage, and food storage areas to let you know when someone is trying to sneak in and steal your stuff at 3:00 am.
Be sure to order the birdhouse kit and a hand-held unit that will allow you to monitor your property even when the power goes out + communicate with the base unit when you away from home.
Update: I now use the Vehicle Detection Probe Sensor for my driveway because it gives no false alarms – you’ll also need the Dakota Alert base station or Dakota Alert MURS Wireless 2-Way Handheld Radio. I prefer the two-way radio that way the alarm can still be used even when the power goes out.
SimpliSafe DIY Home Security System – This is the alarm system that I use to protect my home when I’m away. I started using the SimliSafe security system after hearing Glenn Beck promoting it on his show, and while I don’t always agree with Glenn Beck, he was spot on when he recommended this system.
Samsung 8 Channel 1080p HD 1TB Security Camera System – this is the system that I use to keep an eye on what’s going on outside my home. If you look at this photo of my house you can see on one the cameras mounted on the outside wall – did you spot it?
MURS Wireless 2-Way Handheld Radio – this is the same two-way radio that I mentioned above it works with the Dakota Alarm system and also is a great two-way radio to keep in contact with your family or survival group.
Kaito 5-Way Powered Emergency AM/FM/SW Weather Alert Radio – for the price this “multi-powered” radio is hard to beat. I have two and have taken one of them on numerous fishingand camping trips without any issues. Works great. Be sure to also order the Kaito T-1 Radio antenna for even better reception.
Where To Next

MT Adventures: Scratching around behind St. Mary, V.6

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

N0PCL Radio Site: The Road to Mountain Goat: A Retrospective

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Head for the Hills....: East of the Divide....Its all about the experience...

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Montana’s Museum and the Great War: A Story of an Exhibition, Part One of Two

by Maggie Ordon, Curator of History

This post is the first part of two going behind-the-scenes of the Museum’s newest exhibition. Times of Trouble, Times of Change: Montana and the Great War will open with a free reception on Thursday, December 14, from 5 to 7 p.m. The reception will have refreshments inspired by historic recipes, hands-on activities for all ages, and WWI-era music from the Continental Divide Tuba Society.

For the past couple years at the Montana Historical Society, we have been wrestling with how to tell Montana’s stories of the Great War. Because the topic was so big, we came up with four projects. Martha Kohl in the Outreach & Interpretation department led a project to tell place-based stories via a website ( Bobi Harris, interpretive tour guide, co-curated an immersive experience, Doing Our Bit, at the Original Governor’s Mansion. Our annual history conference this year focused on Montana, ca. 1917, and we had more proposals than we could accept. And for the past year, folks across the society have come together to tell Montana’s stories in a special exhibition at the museum: Times of Trouble, Times of Change: Montana and the Great War.

Winnowing this tumultuous time period into a single gallery has been a collaborative effort that included brainstorming topics, reading books and articles, discussing topics with colleagues, pulling and reviewing artifacts, searching through databases for photographs and posters, scanning newspapers on microfilm, flipping through old magazines, poring over letters and diaries, writing and revising pages of interpretive text, making models of exhibit components, designing interactive experiences, and consulting with Montana families of Great War veterans.

Notes from a team brainstorming session. Photo by author.

In the beginning of the planning process, the exhibit team met to brainstorm topics. Although this exhibit commemorates the First World War, we found that there were many issues at stake that went beyond the battlefields of France. We came up with ideas that we thought were important to include, but we also had to make difficult decisions of what not to include in the exhibit. For example, sometimes we selected topics to show the changes and troubles Montana was facing during the Great War, such as the labor unrest in Butte and influenza pandemic across the state. Other times, we knew we didn’t have the room to include everything, and had to cut topics out we otherwise would have liked to include, including the role of technology in the war. While making these decisions we thought about the physical space; the artifacts, photographs, and stories available; and the emotional sides of the stories.

Some of the museum objects being considered for inclusion in the exhibit. Photo by author.

Museum artifacts staged for planning exhibit cases. Photo by author.

One of the first things we did in planning this exhibition was to take stock of the artifacts, photographs, and archival materials we had or might borrow. As we figured out what we had space for and what told Montana’s stories best, we put some items away and sorted others into cases (the blue tape lines on the table are the rough outlines of a case). Museum registrars diligently cataloged and described the condition of Museum and loaned objects to make sure they were safe and ready to be on display.

Throughout the exhibition process we also had the pleasure of working with Hayes Otoupalik, an expert on U.S. militaria who was appointed Special Military Historical Advisor to the WW1 Centennial Commission. He generously loaned many artifacts, including a German machine gun and fabric from a German aircraft rudder, Distinguished Service Cross and medal group for Philip Prevost of Geyser, and a variety of field gear and personal items a Montana soldier would have had in the trenches.

Model of gallery space, built by R. Jones-Wallace. Photo by author.

The exhibit’s team—designer, prepator, curator, education specialist, and various advisors—planned what the main content areas would be, how topics would be organized (e.g. Montana before the war, home front, overseas service, and Montana after the war), what artifacts and photographs would be used, and what interactive experiences to develop. As curator, I wrote text for each of these sections and the individual objects. The exhibit designer mapped out new walls, figured out what would fit where (or wouldn’t fit!), and selected colors that captured the mood of the exhibit. One of the planning strategies the museum team used is building models of the gallery and exhibit components. The team was always moving between the model, the artifacts, and text—reworking each as needed to reach a final version. The model helped the team move from a blank slate to a fully-realized, unique space. Transforming that vision into a 3-dimensional reality will be the topic of part two.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Ham Radio Tells Story of Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

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Combining two TV antennas for better HDTV reception

Winter Camping in a Canvas Tent with a Dog and a Woodstove.

How To Build An SWR / Relative Power Bridge - Part 3

Portable HF loop antenna MFJ-9232

International SATERN SSB Net QSY

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

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Monday, September 4, 2017

How To Prepare For and Survive a Nuclear War

by Joel Skousen
With this week’s claimed test of a hydrogen nuclear device, North Korea is one step closer to making good on its threat to nuke some portion of the USA or its territories.  It is still not an imminent threat since North Korea apparently lacks the technology to build a warhead can withstand the extreme heat of high-speed reentry into the atmosphere—the last two missile warheads burned up on reentry.

Even more disturbing is that North Korea has long been suspected of being the “trigger event” for a third world war between Russia, China, and the United States.  So, with President Trump threatening a military response, it’s time to take nuclear preparations seriously.  That said, I do not think Russia and China are ready yet to take on the US in a full blown war (until into the next decade) so it is still possible that another Korean war may not cause Chinese and Russian intervention—though you should count on that as an absolute.
First, let’s be clear about one thing:  nuclear war is very survivable, even with minimal preparations, so don’t believe the “everyone is going to die” claims about nuclear winter and total destruction.  50% of Hiroshima survived without any preparations, though many were very sick.  Keep in mind too that even Russian and Chinese war doctrine doesn’t include nuking American cities on a first strike, despite the verbal threats.  In reality, they intend to nuke US and NATO military facilities first and blackmail the West into submission.
There are 3 phases of nuclear war that you must be prepared to confront:
1) Initial blast and radiation.  The blast area of destruction is only 5-7 miles from any nuclear target, so don’t prepare against blast effects, which is very expensive—relocate instead.  Avert your eyes immediately from even a distant explosion and duck behind anything that will shield you from the instantaneous line of sight radiation and intense heat and light. Most will never see any blast effects, but almost everyone will have to deal with residual radiation from anywhere from 2 weeks to a month, which is not that difficult if you prepare in advance.
2)  Immediate panic and cut off of electricity and supplies.  Because both Russian and Chinese nuclear doctrine dictates the use of high attitude Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse weapons (EMP)  just before a physical nuclear strike, the electric grid will go down—which guarantees a lot of panic as people are plunged into darkness, lack of communication, and the cessation of all government services, like sewer and water.
Don’t believe the hype about Iran or North Korea doing an EMP strike.  It takes six simultaneous high altitude nuclear weapons exploding to blanket the entire US grid, not one.  So, only Russia and China have that capacity.  Remember too, that a total loss of electricity, including all TV and Radio may be your best immediate warning that a physical nuclear strike is about to fall within 15 or 20 minutes.  That’s not a lot of time, but it may allow you to get a head start out of town or make a quick call to warn the family.
This threat requires preparation to get to your secured home or retreat very quickly without getting caught in major traffic snarls.  Don’t get on a freeway that is already packed.  Use secondary roads, and map out routes that allow you to cross any freeways at an over or underpass NOT associated with an on-ramp or an exit.  Those will be the only ones not blocked with traffic.
3) Long-term famine and Social Unrest:   This gets into full swing within 3 days of an attack and may last more than a year depending on how quickly parts of the grid can come back up and how well industry can re-establish supplies lines.  While it’s hard to predict how these things will play out, this is where your long term food and water storage supplies come in.  Don’t expect to be able to grow a garden that first year in a suburban area during high levels of social unrest without lots of theft. That will only be possible in rural and secluded areas.   That’s where having a rural retreat is a good long term solution.
This article will deal mainly with the first threat—surviving the radiation.   It takes a heavy mass of materials to shield from gamma radiation, which is much more potent than X-rays, so forget about using medical grade X-ray shielding materials. Your wooden house and roofing materials are like paper to gamma rays, so not much shielding there either.
Nuclear protection purists would demand a reduction in radiation that is almost total requiring  13.8 feet of water, 10 feet of earth, 6 feet of concrete, or about 1.3 feet of lead—a Protection Factor (PF) of a billion, all of which are very costly to achieve.  This Survival Blog article discusses the relative protection factors for various materials.
As a practical matter, we have to arrive at a compromise between cost of construction and shielding.  You need less shielding the farther you are away from an explosion since radioactive dust starts to fall out from the sky closest to the detonation and only the finer high altitude particles travel longer distances, depending on the wind direction.  In short, you get less radiation the farther from blast zones you are located.
For example, Immediately to the West of Seattle, which has multiple nuclear targets around Puget Sound including the trident submarine base, you would probably need a PF of 1000 to shield against several inches of radioactive dust on your roof.  That amounts to 22 inches of concrete or 3 feet of dirt. But, further to the West in Idaho, the radioactive dust from Seattle would be a fraction of that, requiring much less shielding.
Many experts demand a “one size fits all” PF of 1000, but that means that very few could afford to build a shelter or safe room—and they don’t.  Because most areas of the country, not directly downwind and within 50 miles of a blast one, are not subject to those high levels, most people can survive with a protection factor of only 32, meaning that that radiation level is reduced to 1/32 of normal.  That involves 12” of concrete over your basement shelter—not 22”, which is doable, and not too costly.
Because of the much higher costs of protection close in to target areas,  in my book Strategic Relocation, I recommend that your money is better spent relocating, even within the same general area, to avoid being directly downwind or close to a nuclear target.  In the book, I have maps of all the nuclear target areas for guidance, but also indicate the one or two prevailing wind directions in your area necessary to mapping out an avoidance strategy.
Choosing the type of shelter:  Your two basic choices are to buy a prefabricated tank style shelter that is buried underground, or to build a basement style shelter within your own home, or as an extension.  The only advantages to the buried tank shelter are that it is quicker to install, and covering with dirt is cheaper than concrete.
However, they are more expensive per square foot of usable space, and they often come designed with expensive blast doors and valves, which you don’t need outside of a blast area.  Sadly, many also are designed with costly NBC or HEPA filters inside the shelter, but the sheet metal filter enclosures are not thick enough to stop radiation trapped in the filter from reaching those inside the shelter. The average cost is $50k-$75k, and you can build a lot of basement for that price.
But the worst problem with buried shelters is the fact that you have to go outside and open a hatch to get inside.  The notoriety of bringing in a huge tank shelter on a semi-truck and burying it in your backyard with a crane guarantees that the whole neighborhood is going to know about it.
How do you get in if that entrance is surrounded by others wanting shelter?   All your loading of supplies and equipment is down through that vertical ladder well, which is not easy.  In addition, the ventilation pipes emerge from the ground and are subject to tampering or blocking.  If you do use a buried shelter, put a shed or building over it.  That way the vents are protected from view and tampering.  Still have to cross open ground to get into the shed, which is a security risk.
The basement shelter avoids all of those disadvantages since you access it and stock it with supplies from within your home.  No one can view any of that activity.  Vents go up through walls into the attic, and HEPA air filters can be concealed in or under normal cabinets. The basement safe room or shelter (never call it a “bunker”) is also easier to conceal, and it should be concealed.  In cases of massive social unrest, you want to have the option of avoiding confrontation by hiding out in a concealed safe room with a steel security door, communications, and alternate battery powered electricity.
If you do an extension to your home with a basement shelter underneath, label the basement part as non-livable “storage” only, and don’t show any of the plumbing that might pertain to a future shelter.  Install all that after the occupancy permit is granted.  My book on the Secure Home has all of the architectural details on how to do that plus detailed listings of all the equipment necessary to outfit the shelter.
But, if you have an existing basement the best way to achieve total privacy without a permit or inspection, is to build a concealed shelter within the basement.  We have engineered plans to do just that here.
As a minimum, prepare your home to give you added protection without a formal shelter.  In a basement, that would involve building two addition stacked walls of concrete block (6ft high and 8ft across) into a corner of a room away from any window, but leaving a 24” entryway.  Cover that with a makeshift ceiling of 2×4 on 12” centers with ¾” plywood.
Then stack 3 levels solid 4” concrete blocks on top of that makeshift ceiling.  That will give you the minimum radiation protection you need.  Have a port-a-potty inside as well as some food and stored water.  It will be tight, but at least you’ll survive.  If you don’t have a basement, you’ll have to do four block walls inside an above ground room to get the sidewall protection. Do the lowered ceiling on top of those 4 six foot high walls.
It takes about two weeks for gamma rays to dissipate so you will need to buy a radiation meter to tell when it is safe to come out or to go back into a shelter (since in a war, there may be multiple nuclear events). has a range of nuclear meters at good prices.
Joel Skousen has designed high-security residents and retreats for over 40 years.  He is the author of Strategic Relocation, the Secure Home, The High-Security Shelter, 10 Packs for Survival, and is the publisher of the weekly World Affairs Brief, which analyzes the week’s top stories from a perspective of what the government and the mainstream news won’t telling you