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The Boy Scout's Motto Still works

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The Boy Scout's Motto Still works

out on The Game Trail

With late fall and winter hunting season approaching we need to start thinking about an increased level of safety in the woods. I just put some survival things in my pack and in my truck in the case that I get stuck out somewhere, and thought I would share some ideas with you.  My “Go Bag” has everything I need for a few nights in the woods and is always packed and ready to go in an instant. Over the years I’ve learned some great safety ideas from fellow hunters and outdoor enthusiasts.  Unfortunately, every year I see or read about hunters or hikers who were gravely injured or died from not being prepared for the elements.

Here are a few things to think about when preparing for your hunt or adventure in the woods. Wear appropriate clothing for the weather, dressing in layers and stay away from cotton during wet and cold conditions. Every year I see some folks with jeans, sneakers and cotton hoodie sweatshirt tromping through the woods, only to get lost or turned around. Usually they claim they were just leaving the truck for a quick hunt and can’t believe how fast they got lost. If you like to hunt in those clothes please explain to your family how you may be a future candidate for the Darwin Award.

Take a fully charged cell phone and/or a two-way radio with back up batteries. Today’s technology is changing quickly; embrace it because it may save your life. Even when you have a weak signal that won’t allow a phone call, typically you can use the SMS or text service to send a message for help. It’s really amazing how many locations have a cell signal these days.

Bring water and a way to purify water in an emergency. I carry a water filter but an easier method is to carry iodine tablets. Also, I carry a small stove with a can of fuel that takes up little space and almost no weight. In a pinch, I can boil water or snow to purify water. You can expect to have decreased body function and even death in just a few days without water; however you can survive without food for extended periods of time, even up to a month.

Fire is not only a mood changer it could save your life by providing warmth and can be the source of an SOS signal. There are many different methods to start a fire, but whether you’re going to use a lighter, matches, or flint and steel, you must practice with it and carry it so the weather does not affect its performance. I use a weatherproof lighter, and flint and steel as a backup. I also make char cloth every summer to keep in my fire starter kit. Another great fire starter is cotton balls soaked in Vaseline.  Practice your fire making skills in all seasons to see where your limitations are, and determine what can be improved. I often think of the Jack London story, To Build a Fire; it has haunted me since I was kid and has motivated me to take fire building seriously.

Another obvious, but overlooked, item is a headlamp or a source of light. Bring multiple types of flashlights, and backup power sources for the lights. Be sure to put fresh batteries in the flashlights before you head out and give the lamps a quick test.

Every year I have someone who has “hiked all their lives in these here mountains” but gets turned around and can’t find their way out. It’s happened to me, and if it hasn’t happened to you yet... it will. Be prepared by having a map and compass or GPS unit.  I carry a GPS unit but also carry a compass in case the electronics fail or the batteries die. You have to learn to use both properly or it’s just dead weight in your pack. Just a few days ago a hunter in Montana took a tumble down a rock slide and injured himself badly enough that he couldn’t hike out.  He had a cell phone on him and was able to make a call to his hunting partner, who in turn called for search and rescue. They asked if he had a GPS unit, and luckily he had one on him; unfortunately he didn’t know how to use it. The search and rescue crew were able to talk him through the directions and get coordinates of his location. 

Food is another item that can make a difference but you can sure live without it for some time. Like I stated earlier, I carry a small stove that I can use to heat up foods, including freeze dried foods. Freeze dried foods are light in the pack, easy to make, and provide all the nourishment you need.

A first aid kit and signaling equipment are other items I throw in the pack as well.  Be simple but thorough with the first aid kit—it needs to stop your red stuff from leaking out at an alarming rate, stop yucky things from getting in, and hold loose body parts tight. As far as signaling equipment I carry a loud whistle and use my mirror from my compass to redirect light. If you don’t have a compass or mirror, simply use an old DVD or CD.

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all have a safe hunting season. Don’t forget it’s your duty as a citizen and a hunter to help protect our natural resources. Please make the call if you see poaching activity. You may not think it’s anything but it could be the missing piece of the puzzle for us as investigators. You can call our Citizens Against Poaching Hotline 800-632-5999, your Sheriff’s Office Dispatch center, or local Conservation Officer.

Leave No Child Inside.

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Author info

Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

Tagged as:

hiking, hunting, The Game Trail, survival, preparedness

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