This page was last updated on Monday, 21 April, 2014.
Lost! The Real Survival Game Begins...
Harry and his three buddies (Tom, Joe, and Glenn) were finally on their way up to Northern Maine to hunt white tail deer. They had been waiting all year to make this November trip, and anticipations were running very high. A white tail in Maine can easily top the scales of 200 lbs field dressed and it is very possible to get one in the 250 lb. range. As an example, my Brother killed his first deer in the early 80's near the camp I now own and operate. It field dressed at 217 lbs. and had 21 points! All four of the men had dreamed over and over again, about seeing that huge wary spruce buck in front of them and being lucky enough to get off a shot and tag him.
They arrived in camp around 4:00 P.M. Sunday afternoon and checked in at the office. Bill, the lodge owner, greeted them with a very familiar heavy Maine accent, "How are you boys doing?.....hope you had a good trip up.....you know the guides have been telling me there's lots of sign this year and several really big deer have been spotted over 225 lbs." Harry, listening intently to every mesmerizing word, could only think, "Finally, this year ..... is my year!" As the men paid for their bill for lodging, etc. Bill continued, "Rick, your guide will be meeting with you tonight to go over your hunting areas and equipment. Meet him in the lodge at 8:00 sharp after dinner, ok?" Harry eagerly responded for the group, "you betcha,… we’ll be there!”
As the group assembled in the lodge after dinner, a wiry, middle aged man with a scraggly beard, weathered face, and wearing a tattered red and black plaid jacket entered the lodge through the main door. "Ok guys, the name’s Rick, and I'm your guide, have you boys done any hunting before?" Harry quickly thinks to himself that they have only done a limited amount of hunting and they should not sound like a bunch of greenhorns, responds, "Oh yes...we have hunted a lot together.....we all have GPS's and know the woods.....we have been preparing for this trip for a year.......I almost got a nice buck last year, but lost the blood trail.......hopefully, it will be different for us on this trip“. Rick is pleased that at least he has some men that he will not have to "baby sit" in the woods and knows just the area he wants to take them. The rest of the evening, the men talk about their experiences and listen to Rick’s tales and a few lies, but Harry is in his own little world and really is not listening. All he keeps thinking about is the hunt and shooting his trophy buck.
Harry awakens Monday morning at 3:00 A.M. to prepare breakfast for the group and gathers up his hunting gear between cooking the bacon and the eggs. It’s going to be in the high 20’s to low 30’s for the day, so he decides to wear his medium weight hunting jacket. As he puts his long johns and cotton Tee shirt and socks on, he dreams of his big buck. “I won’t need my high boots today, there is no snow on the ground and they are too heavy anyway.... they will bog me down and keep me from covering some real country... I’ll wear my lighter, low rise hiking boots. “
Harry and the rest of the crew, along with Rick load their gear and guns into two pickup trucks at 5:00 A.M. Rick says they are headed to a hunting area about 30 miles north of the lodge. “This area is an isolated cedar swamp and does not get that much hunting pressure because of the limited access to it.”, he reveals to the men. Rick takes a chew and continues to describe their day adventure, “several logging roads must be taken, that contain a few washed out culverts, and this will make for some tough travelling to get there, but the hunting should be well worth the trip…..there should be all kinds of deer and I know of least one monster buck.” As the men pile into the trucks, Harry, is almost coming out of his skin, “Monster buck?.....did you hear that Tom?.....can you believe it?…..I wonder how big?.....how many points?.....we got to get there asap!”
“Calm down Harry” Tom replies, “If he’s been seen around that swamp, then he’ll still be there when we get there.”
Upon arriving, at their destination, Rick gathers the group and after a coughing fit, says "Boys, looks like we will have a fair day ahead, but some crap is moving in from the northwest during the late afternoon......looks like you men are dressed adequately enough...but tomorrow, if we are lucky, we might have some tracking snow, so come prepared.” Rick goes onto say that the area that they will be hunting today is primarily a cedar swamp, lined on the outside by spruce thickets. "We will separate about 300 yards apart along this logging road, take our compass bearings, and go directly into the cedar swamp. This is a fairly large area with a lot of sign, so go at it slow. You can sit or still hunt this section, the choice is yours. On the backside are two small streams that run parallel to the swamp and the road we are on. Do not cross these, as there is really big country beyond, with no logging or twitch roads. It is not very forgiving country either. We will meet back here at the trucks by 4:00 P.M., no later, as it will get fully dark by 4:15 P.M. ....also, any trouble, fire 3 shots and the rest of us will find you, O.K.?” All the men acknowledge their instructions as they load their rifles and start to spread out. Harry, decides to walk the furthest down the logging road, away from the trucks, and before entering the woods, he mumbles, "I need to get away from the group a little bit…..that will give me a better chance of seeing one.....and they might just push one towards me!"
Harry with his new handheld GPS unit is full of confidence, and thinks to himself, “these are great, you really can cover some ground and know exactly where you are all the time“. As the morning progresses, he sees numerous tree rubs, scrapes and deer scat everywhere. Harry is smiling ear to ear and tells himself, “Boy was Rick right, this area is loaded with deer sign. There's got to be a big buck in here.” Walking very slowly, another 500 yards or so, the sign is extremely fresh, along with obvious huge buck tracks. Harry is overwhelmed with anxiousness and is now sweating and scanning the woods like a hawk, looking for its prey, hoping and praying for that moment. He warns himself that he is walking too fast, “take your time Harry, don’t blow this…… he is near…...very near…...as his hand shakes on the safety.” Turning and looking up to the left, he is amazed on what he sees, a gigantic buck standing about 40 yards broadside to him. The deer is at least 275 lbs. with a beautiful immense rack of more than 20 points. Beads of cold sweat roll down his face, as he slowly raises his 30-06 and shakily places the front sight on the buck, taking the safety off and thinking this is such an easy shot and should go off without a hitch. “Everything is in its place, I am on the target“, thinking to himself, “the deer is so huge….I can’t believe how big he is…..this is going to be great......wait till the guys see this,.....what a trophy!”......just then the buck flinches and Harry fires, in a flash, the buck makes two lightning leaps and disappears into the spruce thickets. "I couldn't have missed that deer, no way....I must of hit him" as he runs to the spot where the deer was standing. He looks down and he sees some chips of bone with blood and proudly says, "I got him.....I knew I hit him......there was no way I could have missed....now to find him"
Harry follows the blood trail about 300 yards and then it abruptly stops. "That's just great, just like last time, I am going to lose this one too", he thinks to himself. Frustrated, he kneels down and while shaking his head remembers what a guide told him to do in this case. As he puts his head to the ground and looks parallel along the forest floor he sees the glistening of blood droplets on the leaves and slightly disturbed pine needles, indicating the direction the buck went. Harry, with renewed confidence, takes off after the blood trail for another quarter mile and comes to the first stream that Rick spoke about. “The buck jumped the stream, I can see the turned up needles on the other side“, Harry mumbles to himself as he quickly jumps the stream to the other side and continues on his quest. Quickly trotting over a few knolls and valleys for about three quarters of a mile, he continues to follow the buck’s trail. Sweating profusely and out of breath, he reaches the second stream. This stream is a little wider and flowing much more swiftly than the last one, but Harry will not be denied his trophy buck. He looks around and utilizes a moss covered stone in the middle of the stream for a jumping point, and reaches the other side. “The buck seems to have followed a game trail along this stream”, he says to himself, “I am so hot in this jacket......If I only could shed this....I know, I’ll hang it in a tree and take a waypoint with my GPS and come back for it later.” Taking his GPS out, he quickly records its position in the tree and continues down the maze of winding game trails, taking several lefts and rights for about another mile or so to where the blood trail finally disappears. He looks frantically in every direction, and decides to head further into the deeper brush. After walking aimlessly for another hour or so with no success, he decides to rest on a log.
Harry, can not believe, that he has not encountered the deer by this time. “I have come such a long way and its 3:20 P.M. already, I am running out of time...It‘s getting dark already because of the overcast sky....I have no choice but to start back”. Complaining to himself and feeling rejected, he pulls his handheld GPS from his pants pocket. “Well let’s see what direction the truck is“. He pushes the on button and nothing comes up on the screen.....“that’s funny“, he thinks, “it was working alright just a while ago“.....he gives it a bang with his hand and still no response....hits it again and still nothing.....all of a sudden he realizes that he never changed the batteries, after practicing with it, before packing for his hunting trip. He has no spares with him and a feeling of loneliness comes over him…..then a stark realization....”I have no idea where I am…....no idea at all…..which way to go?.....it will be dark soon......real soon!......I have to get to the truck now!.....I know...... back down this game trail......” Harry takes off on a trot down the game trail for a few hundred yards and stops and realizes this does not look familiar at all; in fact, this is all new country to him. “Now I’ve done it....I am totally lost”. He can feel his heart pound right through his chest and the sweat is coming down his face in streaks, he can’t believe the fix he’s in. Looking at his watch, it is now 3:50 P.M. and is getting darker by the minute. He starts to run and catches his woolen hat on a branch and it falls to the ground, “no time to go back and get it now”, he thinks as he bolts down through some thick alders. None of the country is recognizable, but he continues to run anyway over some knolls with ledge outcroppings and blasts into a spruce thicket. Finally, he comes out the other side of the thicket to a stream, fully out of breath and sweating bullets, “is this the right one?, he ponders with his hands on his knees, “but where on the stream am I?.... this one looks much wider and deeper than I remember..…maybe it’s a different stream…..no, it must be the right one.......got to cross....its so wide though…there’s 3-4 exposed stones…I’ll use them..” Harry leaps from one stone to the next and just before the other bank he hits a stone covered in moss, slips, loses his balance, one foot becomes wedged between two rocks, and he falls backwards into the fast moving stream. Lying on his back, in the water, he feels excruciating pain from the wedged foot in the rocks, as the water runs across his face almost drowning him. He has all he can do, to keep his face above water, as he struggles to free himself. He tries every maneuver possible, but nothing works, and takes a huge gulp of water and begins to choke. In a full panic, he yanks his left foot from the pin, and feels as if he has ripped his leg off in the process. Fighting for his life and barely able to grab onto anything, he drags himself onto the stream bank. He looks down and sees a severe gash below the knee of his left leg and his ankle is screaming in pain. Harry finds a dirty handkerchief in his chest pocket and wraps his wound with it. The bleeding is severe but is slowed from the make shift bandage. “Was that water cold or what, I have to start a fire and quick “, he thinks. Frozen and wet, Harry gathers some small tinder around him and reaches for his butane lighter in his chest pocket and attempts to strike it. The lighter is totally wet and useless, and realizes he has no other means for starting a fire. His heart sinks and knows without a fire, he is in a world of hurt.
As darkness falls, Harry starts to experience uncontrollable shivering and knows hypothermia is well on the way. “That was real smart to leave my jacket behind... I can’t believe this is happening to me, my foot is so tight in my boot and it is killing me....I need to soak my foot in the stream to help with the pain”. He removes his hunting boot and sock and crawls to place his foot in the cold stream. “There that’s better“, he says with relief, “now where’s my gun?” Harry sits up and looks around, but with darkness settling in, the gun is nowhere to be found. “It’s probably in the stream somewhere. I’ll never find it,” Harry whines to himself. Unable to fire signal shots, no fire, and no food of any kind, the reality of the situation begins to take hold.
“They must be looking for me....it’s already 6:10 P.M”, as he glances at his watch....”.I am so cold.....no jacket.....and now it’s starting to sleet with freezing rain.....this is real bad......now my foot is frozen too ......time to put my boot back on.” As Harry grabs his boot, there is no way he can get his boot on his foot, as the ankle has already swollen to twice its normal size. “Well, that’s just great, now what do I do?”, he mutters to himself, as he places his wet sock back on. He lies back against a tree, disgusted with himself, totally exhausted, and as he is cursing the buck for his problems, slips into a semi sleep.
Harry is awakened by heavy sleet falling on his face, while rubbing his eyes and trying to focus on his watch, he realizes it’s 3:30 A.M. “Oh my leg hurts, looks like the gash is starting to weep again, I better take a look at it.“ As he removes the blood soaked handkerchief, the blood begins to ooze heavily from the wound, he quickly reapplies the soaked dressing, but the bleeding does not cease. He removes his other boot and uses the other sock to replace the dressing, but the bleeding continues. “What do I do now?”, he ponders, “I know, my belt,.... that would make a good tourniquet.” So Harry quickly strips his belt and wraps it around his leg, just above the knee, and tightens it with all his strength. “There….that stopped it….at least I won’t bleed to death”, patting himself on the back. As he looks around in the darkness, he thinks,“Why has nobody come for me yet?......Don’t they know I’m lost and need help?....this is ridiculous.....I paid good money for a guide and he just abandons me.“ As Harry thinks some more, he growls with anger, “Wait till I get my hands on him.“
It’s now 6:25 A.M and the sun begins to rise, but the temperature is dropping, and still no help has arrived. Harry begins to think, “They will never find me.....I will probably die out here and nobody will ever come...my clothing is still wet and frozen in places....my foot is so cold and its really black and blue…..my toes have no feeling and are really white in color,... I can’t stop shaking, ... I need help and I need it now!...I have to get out of here!” Harry rises to his feet with all his might. He grabs a hold of a branch to steady himself, and starts yelling for help, with no response. Frustrated and in agony he begins screaming with everything he has for help for several minutes and still no answer.....he begins to cry and yell some more....realizing he still hears nothing, he whimpers “why me...why me...I don’t deserve this.....they won‘t come......why won’t somebody come to help me?....I can’t stand this anymore….I have to do something!” He takes a few hobbling steps down the steep slope and his ankle totally gives out, and falls flat on his face, rolls down the hill, smashing his head against a rock, sees a flash of bright light with stars and blacks out.
Harry, opens one eye, and sees nothing but white all around him. “Am I dead?”....he wonders....“I guess this is heaven“, he says to himself..... Suddenly, he realizes that he is in a bed and a nurse says, “Mr. Logan, you are in St. Joseph Hospital, you are suffering from exposure and have a severely sprained ankle with a hairline fracture, along with a six inch gash on your left leg. There is evidence of frostbite on your toes as well, we will not know until a couple of days if there will be complications, plus you are suffering from a severe concussion” Harry notices his three buddies in the room and asks Tom, “what day is it?” Tom replies, “It is Thursday night Harry, you’ve been out for a couple of days. The warden’s service along with the guides did not find you until late Tuesday night and if it wasn’t for your jacket, you might still be out there”. Harry tries to remember, and realizes he hung his hunting jacket in the tree while tracking the buck. “How do you like that......I almost froze to death without my jacket and it ends up saving my life? You know guys, isn’t that just par for the course.”
The doctor appears by his bedside, and informs Harry that he is a very lucky man to be alive. “Besides suffering from stage 2 hypothermia, you have a very severe concussion along with possible brain damage, which may require a very extended rehabilitation period.” The doctor continues, “The gash on your left leg is heavily infected, we have cleaned the wound thoroughly, hopefully the antibiotics will be enough to prevent further complications, and because of a case of frostbite, we still do not know about your toes yet. However, the biggest issue is your leg, the tourniquet was in place far too long, and there is evidence of severe tissue damage. We are doing everything possible to save it.”
Harry can not believe what he is being told. A vacation, especially one that he had waited all year for, is not supposed to turn out like this. “What about Rick, our guide?....why did he abandoned me out in the woods that night?”, Harry asks with tears in his eyes. Tom looks at Harry with a puzzled look and informs him that Rick is the one that called out the warden’s service and help gather other guides to organize the search for him. “Rick is the one that found your jacket, Harry, and quickly determined why you must have crossed the streams. He picked up on your trail along with the blood trail from the wounded buck, and because of his knowledge of the game movements in the area figured where the animal and you would have gone. If it wasn’t for him, the search team would have probably found you too late and death from exposure would have been the likely outcome. You owe him your life Harry.”
Harry, unable to control his emotions, asks everyone if they could leave, to give him some time to himself. Harry lays back in his hospital bed, and begins to wonder if all of this could have been prevented, “I guess accidents do happen and unfortunately, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.....I should have not slipped on that rock in the stream and that dam buck, if it wasn‘t for him, I might of.....”, with his eye lids growing heavy, drifts off to a deep sleep.
The above situation(s) are all true and have been experienced or observed by me, throughout my years in Northern Maine as a professional guide. Anytime, anyone enters the woods, unprepared, disaster is waiting for them around the corner. The conditions you encounter can change rapidly and the problems will just keep coming at you. Like a snowball rolling down hill, the problems and issues will grow and multiply beyond ones comprehension, unless you “take charge” and get the situation under control.
Before reading on, think back to Hurry’s hunting trip and the acts or mistakes that he committed and determine what you would have done differently. This may deal with equipment, preparation, first aid, survival techniques, and other subjects. Make a list, and then compare your results to the discussion below. Maybe, you might have additional thoughts or ideas over and above the “correct scenario” that follows.
In planning any wilderness trip, whether it is hunting, canoeing, camping, or any other kind of adventure, a topographical map of the area is a must. A wealth of information is contained on these maps that are put out by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and allows you to become familiar with the area that you will be in before you step foot in it. Some of this vital information would be location of streams, swamps, logging trails, power lines, roads (gravel and paved), hills, ridges, and a general configuration of the land. Do not depend on accessing these maps, solely, in an electronic device, such as a hand held GPS. As Harry experienced, when the batteries die or the device fails, and with no back up you are in for a very bad time!
The compass, although not the high tech anyone wants to associate themselves with these days, can and will save your life. Knowing how to orientate a topographical map with one to achieve your position and plot a course to a known visible ground feature, is essential. As mentioned above, GPS units are great, until they are damaged or run out of power, but one superb characteristic about compasses are they do not require batteries! Always take an entrance bearing going into the woods with a compass, so at some point in time, you can take a reverse bearing to get out. Hold the entrance bearing, as much as possible, and take several compass readings throughout the day, to confirm this. If you are experienced and can perform orientation (change direction) from one point to another then by all means do so. However, I have found guiding people, there are few sportsman that can successfully do this. More often than not, they will end up miles from the truck and have a long walk back. That’s if they are able to find their way out of the woods in the first place!
If you hire a guide, then listen to him! After all, you are paying him money for his advice and knowledge of the area that you are going to. This may seem simplistic and self explanatory, but I can not tell you the number of times people have not used or listened to their guide’s advice. In Harry’s situation, the guide specifically warned them not to cross the brooks on the backside of the hunting area because the area was “unforgiving”. But, the most important reason, the guide was doing this was to keep everyone together and know basically where everyone would be. If a situation arises, it is far easier to find someone sooner, especially if they are hurt, and get them to safety, if they stay in the general area they were instructed do so. This principle even applies to non guided hunts or excursions that you and friends might go on by yourselves. Hunting a specific area, that may be surrounded by paved or logging roads, rivers and streams, power lines, etc. all serve as good boundaries to keep the group in one area. If one of the party violates this rule, as Harry did, then no one knows where you are and the time to locate you, in an emergency situation grows exponentially.
Another factor to be aware of is to be honest about your amount of experience and knowledge of the woods with yourself, others, and if you have hired one, your guide. If you do not know how to read a topo map or use a compass, and have little survival experience, then by all means make sure your guide and other members in your party know this. Simply put, be aware of your limitations and do not, especially on your own, attempt to enter “big, unfamiliar country.” Leave the male ego at home and you will be a lot better off.
Carrying a roll of surveyors flagging in your pocket is extremely handy in marking a trail, especially if you are tracking a wounded animal. Hanging a piece of flagging on a tree limb as you are tracking, serves two main purposes; a wounded animal usually will vary its course greatly and taking numerous compass bearings, to keep track of your position, can be a tedious proposition. It will take your attention away from the main task at hand of finding the animal as soon as possible. Also, if darkness is coming, you can easily see the trail of florescent flagging to retrace your steps quickly and get back to the truck. Plus, if you did not find the animal and have to return the next day, you can easily get back to where you left off to start the search again. Poor Harry did none of this, because he was too interested in not losing the deer and eventually discovered that he had no idea where he was.
Leaving any of your personal items behind, because you are too hot or they “bog you down” is an obvious critical mistake. However, with the use of GPS units, and dependency on them, people often overlook this valuable and life saving principle. With so many variations and scenarios that can take place, change of weather and conditions, personal injury, forced wounded animal tracking, to name just a few, one can never assume “I will be able to come back for it later.” As Harry found out, that time never came.
It is imperative, no matter what the predicted weather is for the day, to dress with caution and to expect the unexpected in weather. Cotton clothing, especially tee shirts and long johns are the “kiss of death” in the outdoors, as they become easily wet with body perspiration and will not dry out during the day. They become cold and damp, and will definitely ruin your “joyous experience in the woods”. This is especially true with cotton socks which can become cold and clammy. Wool socks or some of the “material blends” are a much better choice. In my opinion, Polypropylene clothing is the right and best choice. It is a modern marvel that “wicks” away moisture from the skin and will keep you warm and dry, and this can be the difference between life and death.
Proper foot gear is imperative! Low hiking shoes or boots have no place in the woods. A high top, heavy duty leather boot that has 400-600 grams of thinsulate insulation and Gore-Tex is a good start. Although, this type of boot maybe a little heavy, it will give you proper support, dryness, and warmth in the harshest of conditions. Boots by Danner, Red Head, or Cabelas are some of the companies that you can depend upon, to give you a boot of this quality.
Although not cheap in price, all your clothing should be Gore-Tex, including your gloves and hat, to keep you warm and dry. Gore-Tex is an amazing cloth that allows perspiration to escape but will not allow rain water to penetrate the fabric. I have been guiding in 5-6 inch rain storms with severe winds and never have gotten wet using Gore-Tex products. (Extreme guide rain gear by Cabelas is excellent) After several years of use, however, they do require to be revitalized to keep water “beading” off. There are several products on the market and Rain-X is a good choice. The process is simple to do and returns the fabric to like new condition. Wind stopper lining is another valuable asset to clothing. One thing to remember is once you become cold and wet in the field, you are in deep trouble for the rest of the day, as you will never warm up until you are back at camp. Hypothermia is easily contracted, even in warmer conditions than above, and needs to be avoided like the plague, for it is dangerous and it can lead to death.
As Harry panicked, and ran back to the truck, this opened the door for a serious injury, and unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to him. Running through the woods, is a very dangerous stunt, but under similar circumstances, is not uncommon! Without a topographical map of the area, he had no idea what stream he had come to, and if it was the right one, where he was along it. If he had a topo map, he probably would have determined, since the stream was much wider and deeper than he remembered, that he needed to walk up stream to cross where he did earlier in the day. Trying to leap from one moss covered stone to another is a sure way of spending a night in the woods. At a minimum, he should have cut a pole or walking stick and used it for stabilizing himself in crossing the stream. A simple thing to do and it works!
Being lost and the panic that comes with it, even if you have been a woodsman for years, is a hard thing to fight. Personally, at the end of the day, many years ago in November while hunting in northern Maine, I experienced this first hand. It was 3:45 in the afternoon and since at that time of the year its gets dark early; it was time to head back to the truck. I reached into my jacket chest pocket to get my compass and it was not there. Looking in my other pockets, I could not locate it and then the realization of the situation came into my mind along with that feeling of despair. Without one, I knew getting out of the cedar swamp I was in, without even the sun for guidance (it was overcast that day), was impossible and guess what? I was going to have to spend a night in the woods, which is never a nice thing to do. I was actually talking to and blaming myself for what an idiot I was and started to worry and semi panic about my predicament. However, I realized the need to immediately start gathering fire wood before it got too dark. All the while, I kept talking to and blaming myself. To make a long story short, after about 15-20 minutes went by, I made sure matches were in my pocket, and when I did, discovered that there was a hole in my chest pocket and my compass was in the lining of my coat at the bottom. How do you spell relief in the woods?.... C..O..M..P..A..S..S… that’s how! Needless to say, I did not spend, that night in the woods. But, if you ever have to, gather enough fire wood for the night, get out of the wind via a natural windbreak such as a large stone, valley, etc. and stay focused. Build a fire, stay put, someone will come. Do not attempt under any circumstances, especially if you are injured, to force the situation by walking out in the dark, without a clue where you are, as the ramifications are usually disastrous.
The “lost scenario” is compounded if you are injured. Knowledge of general first aid can be life saving. Suffering a sprained or broken ankle, and taking his boot off, was the worse thing Harry could have ever done. As a result of immediate swelling, you will never get the boot back on and when the temperature drops, especially if you are wet, this can present a huge list of potential problems. If you experience a severe gash or cut, and once a dressing is applied to a wound, do not remove it! If the bleeding does not stop, add another dressing to the top of the first one and so on. Taking dressings off will only reopen the wound and ruin the already applied dressing of being of any use. . Clean dressings are critical, and using dirty handkerchiefs, etc. will result in a definite infection. Some clean dressings, in a small first aid kit, may save your limb. Direct pressure is the proper method, and only apply tourniquets as a last resort, as they are dangerous and can lead to a potential amputation.
The knowledge of building a fire can not be over emphasized and this ability should be under any condition. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well it’s not and should not be taken lightly. Practice with a variety of materials that are both wet and dry. Waiting until you are in a tough situation and performing “On the job training” is not the way to go. When you are cold and wet, your motor skills become severely impaired, and the simple task of striking a match can be a huge challenge. Above all, always carry with you adequate materials to make a fire quickly and easily. Waterproof/windproof matches in a water tight container, magnesium blocks, fire starters, etc. are all good choices. As a plus, a few sheets of aluminum foil can serve as a reflective device, to obtain the most heat possible from a very small fire. Besides aiding in signaling others of your location, the warmth and comforting feeling that a fire brings, especially in an overnight situation, can be immense.
Screaming and yelling for help is almost useless, in any forest. These types of sounds are severely muffled and do not carry a long ways. A great alternative is a whistle and should be carried at all times. The high pitch can be heard at a much farther distance than human yelling. Of course, if you have a prearranged signal (which you should have), amongst everyone of your party, such as three gunshots if trouble arises, can be an excellent means as well for giving your location to others.
As previously mentioned, if you become lost, and darkness is coming, staying in one location is the best course of action. This only makes sense and will prevent a bad situation from becoming worse. Rick, the guide, had a professional responsibility to first secure his party that showed up at the truck by bringing them back to the lodge. If the guide instructed the remainder of Harry’s party, once they returned to the truck, to reenter the woods to look for him in the darkness, this would have been a huge mistake and would of made a bad situation worse. An important point that must be remembered by the lost individual is a guide or anyone experienced in the woods, will conduct a search with only knowledgeable individuals. Trying to find someone, with untrained people running randomly through the dark woods, with no plan of attack, can only result in someone else getting lost and probably more injuries. It takes time to get a rescue party together and since searches are predominantly conducted during daylight hours, if you are lost, do not expect help, at least, until the next day. Accept your situation, settle in for the night, wait and stay put.
Another interesting point, Harry did not kill his deer and failed to locate it. Losing his concentration and not focusing on the job at hand, was a terrible mistake. Being awe struck and thinking what a trophy he was going to have, he never actually lined up the rear sight with the front site before taking the shot. Actually, he shot at the animal and failed in making a kill shot. I have always remembered what an old timer told me once; “Aim at the animal ....miss the animal…Aim at a spot on the animal…..hit the animal!”
Believe me, this has always proven true.
In summary, panic is definitely, the downfall of most people in the “lost scenario”. Once panic is allowed to set in, stupid and careless decisions are made and amazingly, people start to run just to get out of their situation. A person can get quickly overheated and will actually start to shed his/her clothes and leave them behind. Incredible as it may sound; many people have been found almost naked and died from exposure, from being lost. It is not an easy thing to do, but” keeping your head” is above all the key to surviving.
Some items that must be carried on your person, in my opinion, when going on a hunting trip or any other type of woods excursion are;
- Compass in addition to a handheld GPS unit (a
spare compass is not a bad idea either)
- Topographical map of area
- Water/windproof matches in a waterproof container
- Magnesium block
- Wind proof butane lighter
- Fire starters
- Jack knife or Swiss army knife
- Hunting knife
- Space age blanket (takes up very little room and
is invaluable as a covering for warmth or inclement
- Energy bars
- Couple sheets of aluminum foil (use as reflector
for small fires)
- Roll of surveyors flagging (fluorescent orange)
- Small first aid kit, (band aids, gauze pads, tape,
iodine, water purification tablets aspirin, etc.)
- Parachute cord (splinting purposes, clothes line,
- Small folding cup (collapsible type)
- Wire saw
- Small LED flashlight or headlamp (with extra
- Several sheets of paper toweling in a sandwich bag
- Small mirror for signaling and self treatment of
wounds to the face, etc.
- Extra pair of glasses if you require them
- Hand remote radio, although not mandatory, can
make a big difference
All of Harry’s problems could have been avoided, if he had just followed some simple survival and woodsman techniques. The simple phrase;
“Those who fail to prepare….prepare to fail”
Always come to mind when a guide is faced with a member of a party who has just a little too much testosterone flowing in his veins. Going unprepared and alone, is heading down the road to “lost city” and no one wants to take up residence there. Harry found this out the hard way and ultimately paid the price to visit there.