Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘survival’


Last weekend we went snow shoeing into the woods with our local ski club. The conditions were ideal, the sun was high and bright with very little wind. Our goal was to head out onto the trails for about two hours and at the halfway point, we were going to make a fire in a snow pit and have marsh mallows and heat up some pre-cooked sausages.

Along the way we picked up some dead branches, peeled off some strips birch bark and slowly made our way through the woods. I was keeping my eyes open and taking in every detail. I saw some deer tracks, snowshoe hare leads and also some coyote droppings throughout our snow shoe hike. Once we got to the halfway point one of the group leaders dug out a pit and laid out some pieces of wood to create a base in a small clearing and then started the main fire for cooking our food and treats. The birch bark fumes filled the air and it was just heavenly.

I took this opportunity to show some of the younger members of our team how to start a smaller fire using a flint stone and a knife with a steel blade. I was joking with them about how easy they make it look on television. This whole experience was just a fun way to learn and enjoy each others company out in the wintery-woods. In a survival situation fires can be an incredible psychological boost, used for scaring off predators, drying clothes and cooking and many more positive applications.

First I used both my hands and created a flat snow base in front of me and then moulded the snow into a very small circular wall around my base to protect it against the breeze. I then laid down my birch bark strip with the curved edges into the snow to hold it down and then carefully peeled off the thin skin off the bark which looks like a silk skin. I put the end of the flint rod closest to the bark and started to strike down. It was a long strike down with the knife blade as I tried to maximize the sparks that hit the surface of the bark but this failed. The iron oxidized too quickly.

It took about thirty strikes before it actually almost took, I then tried with some toilet paper strips that I had ripped up into even longer thin pieces, this almost caught fire but it was not perfect. What is amazing using this method which has been used for centuries is that even if the flint stone gets wet, it still works and it is very easy to transport in your kit. I then took out some dryer lint that was kept in a ziplock bag and then laid it out flat onto the birch bark strip. After just four strikes it caught fire and bingo we had ourselves a nice little fire. We added smaller twigs in a teepee shape to allow air to circulate and the flames to expand.

Everyone in the group thought it was such a neat experience and you could see the immediate positive impact of having a nice fire started in this cold wilderness. After about an hour of wonderful time spent in the woods, we broke apart the larger pieces of burning wood from our fires and buried them into the snow until there was nothing but a pile of slush. It was time to head home.

What an incredible day it was and a great basic lesson in wilderness survival.

Read Full Post »


There I was standing in my kitchen by the fridge getting myself something to drink, the milk container carefully placed on the counter top, I opened the cupboard door with my other hand in order to reach in for a glass.

Glass in hand, I spun around and faced the milk then the glass slipped out of my grip; fell to the floor sending chards of glass everywhere. I was quite upset and let out a few swear words but after all it was done, I just had an accident. I was mad because I knew that it could have been avoided, if only I had been more careful or moved slower.

For every accident this is the unfortunate truth, they can be avoided but sometimes other factors weigh into the situation and cause them to occur. Road conditions, your mental state or even over confidence and many other reasons can be a trigger.

The only thing we can do is be prepared for them with the right tools, whether they be in the form of knowledge or hardware such as a first aid kit, field craft kit like matches, a compass and other important items.

With the river now covered in ice, my waterfowl season is over until the spring snow goose hunt. This means, I will be spending long hours in the forest practicing one of my favorite hunts during the winter months, looking for the snowshoe hare.

Every time I step into the cold white forests, an accident could occur and the one I wish to focus on this time is getting lost. I consider myself an experienced woodsman, and even though we do not wish for it to happen, getting lost is very real and in the winter especially being unprepared could prove to be deadly.

My experiences have taught me that the sooner you accept the reality that you are lost and that now you must deal with it; your situation will have already improved. Last year, I read a book about wilderness survival and the author wrote that if you are lost, and your family or friends have a general idea where you are then they will come and find you so stay where you are. Make yourself comfortable! There was even mention of bringing a cigar or cigarette along to smoke, my interpretation was maybe this is to help you relax and prevent your mind from wandering too much, thinking about family and about predators such as bears and wolves or other potential dangers such as hyperthermia.

We know that every situation is unique and in some cases you might have to attempt finding your own way back, in this case travelling earlier in the day is best, so that you avoid getting stuck travelling at night. Because of the poor visibility at night you could walk right off a cliff or ravine and add additional challenges to your current situation. Always make sure you stay current and practice your map and compass skills prior to setting out, in case your GPS fails. When I go hunting, I always let my family know where I will be, I also provide them with a map and emergency contact numbers along with a cut off time to call if they do not hear from me.

ShelterSo, for this situation or blog post, if I were lost, I would plan on staying where I am until I was found and therefore building a shelter is absolutely necessary giving me a chance of survival. It can also offer protection against the wind, rain, snow and ultimately provide some comfort in your current predicament.

For well over two decades, I have spent many nights out in the wilderness, during all seasons using all kinds of shelters, lean-to, 3 sided lean-to, ice shelters, A-frame ponchos tents with bungee cords, tents, arctic tents as well as without any cover at all.

The 3 sided lean-tos is one of my favorite and is the one that I will be illustrating for this blog entry. One of the reasons, I really like the lean-to is because if you have rope and a small axe, then your shelter can be built really well but tools are not always readily available during an emergency or accidental situation and yet a lean-to can be built without the luxury of tools and rope.

Paul Tawrell in his book on camping & wilderness survival book writes about panic and fear, he actually says, “keep your mind busy and plan for survival”. Building a shelter can help with this very element of fear and by focusing on building your shelter, you prevent your mind from racing.

I actually spent three days alone in the woods and worked constantly at perfecting my shelter; I even went to the extent of removing all the rocks one by one from my lean-to all the way down to the river’s edge. First we should focus on choosing a spot to build the 3 sided lean-to, you will need to find two large trees about 7 feet apart , each one having a limb stump on the same side  and at the same height. I like to have mine just above the waist height; the reason for this is that you do not want to lose too much heat during cold weather ensuring your heat/fire reflecting wall where you will provide you with the most heat.

If you are building a shelter in cold weather, find a naturally covered area with lots of evergreen trees and avoid slopping areas, so that water may not run down into your shelter. Avoid open areas where snow can blow in and cover you with snow.

Find a cross beam pole about 8 feet long which will hold poles for your roof, if you have rope secure the two corners and prepare yourself by finding as many roof poles about 9 feet long and as many as you need to complete your roof and secure them with snow and debris at the base. Heavy snow works well.

For the two sides of the shelter find gradual sized logs and place them up against the side of the shelter and use snow and vines to hold them in place. Once all the three-sided framing is in place, if you have a poncho or even in some cases a parachute, place it over the roof part and cover it with snow and cedar and pine boughs and layer it, some even recommend using latticework in order to secure your shelter.

Once the outer part of your shelter is ready, you can now start focusing on the inside, you can make a rectangular mattress like shape with snow and then cover it with lots of evergreen boughs to provide a pocket of air between you and the snow. This creates a natural mattress and will help with keeping you dry and warm. If you have lots of wood readily available you can also place two small logs vertically the length of your body and then place small sticks across from top to bottom, then place cedar branches above this thus making a natural bed.

Now that the 3 sided lean-to shelter is complete, you can now focus on building the fire reflector wall. Bernard Mason in his book “Camping Craft” shows the distance from your lean-to entrance and the fire wall being at about 7 feet away. This is acceptable and shall reflect the heat back into your lean-to but will also be at a safe distance away.

The reflector wall can be built using two or four posts, two at each end spaced out from each other and by placing several logs about 6 feet long between them thus creating the wall, the fire is then placed and started in the inside part of the wall facing you. A teepee fire will work just fine, also make sure you choose your wood carefully for example choose Ash, Birch, dogwood or oak, you want to use wood that will burn for a long time provide good coals but also produce lots of heat once the flames have died down.

There are many great resources on the Internet as well as great books available and even companies that offer survival courses. On my OKB page, there are several books listed which I have read and used as references throughout the years.

Stay warm and be safe!

Read Full Post »


You are standing still surrounded by the elements feeling cold and fatigued, ready to go home after eight hours in the wilderness. The sun is going down quickly and is now just resting above the tree tops of the dark evergreen and there is a heavy snowfall starting to come down. It is still light out but the visibility is now only thirty meters because of the snow and you must now make your way to the car safely.
The small map and compass are still in your pocket and you set a course to the west and begin walking quickly through the bush. A few minutes later you stop and check your direction travel and come to a startling realization that you are back at the same spot where you started. You have no signal on your phone and the nearest safety shack is twenty-five kilometers away and winter is only a few weeks old.
Luckily you knew the main road ran north to south and you had to head left or west to get to the road. You pull out the compass and set it to true north and then go west. You made it! We came out about fifty meters south of the car and I was truly annoyed that something like this would occur to someone who is comfortable and knowledgeable in the woods. Ego prevented us from taking out the compass sooner and for a while we were lost only forty meters from the dirt road. It happened so quickly, even to experienced people. Let us look into this story and try to understand and identify important knowledge skill sets that are a must in order for you to enjoy your hunt worry free and come home safely.
If you are a tracking hunter, the last thing you want to do is spend half of your time trying to find yourself on a map. I know that when I am in the bush and I find a small game trail to follow, I can easily walk several hours or more and I do not want to constantly worry about getting lost.
When we read my story and look at what happened, the first thing I identified is that combined with my ego, I under estimated the dangers and failed to call on my hardware when I truly needed it, in this case it was the compass. A great friend of mine used to be an elite army scout and he had always taught me to trust your equipment and if used properly you would always find your way.
I can guarantee you based on experience that the first mix of emotions and feelings you get when you are lost are panic and then annoyance, for me it was all annoyance. I asked my tracking buddy, “how in the hell does this happen to two experienced guys like us?” The key was to get these emotions in check, the sooner these are under control; the better off you will be, as mentioned by the author Bill Riviere under the “Gun and Hunting Safety” chapter. He wrote the following “He’ll get into trouble only when he gives way to panic which is a prelude to tragedy.” (Riviere, 1965, 183)
Once we pulled out the compass and set out to the West we were fine in a matter of fifteen minutes, unfortunately there are hunters and hikers that are not so fortunate. Therefore I ask the same question as the author Bill Riviere: What is the difference? Bill gives us the answer, it is experience.
Even expert woodsman or seasoned hunters get lost in the woods and it is because they have confidence in their abilities and this along with their experience eliminates the fear allowing them to think clearly. The second thing I identified is that you must trust yourself as well as your knowledge and practice your navigation skills. The author Bill Riviere actually suggest finding a small wooded area in a state park or forest and allow yourself to get lost and spend the night out, practice you bush craft skills and then head back home the following day with the help of a compass and map. Nowadays, you could use your Backtrack or GPS. This is to be done with careful consideration and not just anyone should do this and alone would not be recommended.
The sooner you accept that you are lost and start working toward a solution the better off you are. Now you either find your own way out of the woods or you can accept the fact that you are lost and setup camp if it is nearing the end of the day. Start preparing a fire, lean-to and light up a pipe for comfort as Bill mentions in his book as someone is bound to come and find you.
Riviere, Bill (1965).The Gunner’s Bible, 183
Tips:
-Always carry enough water and food or snacks in a day pack.
-Get a small pocket-size first aid kit and add water proof matches and starter sticks to the kit. Also include a knife and a small field axe if you are leaving for several days.
-Always carry a back up compass if you are using a GPS or Backtrack and carry spare batteries + topographical map or satelite photo map.
-If you are lost in the morning, you may attempt to find your way home if you are confident with your navigation skills. If it is late in the afternoon and you are starting to lose hope and panic is setting in, prepare yourself to spend the night. Setup a Lean-to, build a fire and find evergreen boughs to make a layer between you and the ground. Stay warm, dry and keep occupied. When I was sixteen, I spent three days in the woods alone during a wilderness survival course. One of the biggest challenges I found was keeping my mind from racing, so I kept busy building my lean-to making my living space more comfortable and hunting small game for food making sure not to wonder too far from my site. There are tons of great websites and books available in order to teach you the basics of bush craft.
-Learn and master alternate ways to navigate such as using the stars, sun and wind. One of my favorite is the “The Shadow-Tip” method using the sun, two sticks and pebbles and roughly in fifteen minutes you have found north, south, east and west.
-Leave a detailed map of where you will be hunting with emergency contact information and advise your family or friends to come looking for you if you do not contact them or come home within a set time and date.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: