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Making Sure You're Not Lost In The Woods

Jan 23, 2008
Every year we read or hear about hunters and fishermen becoming lost in the woods and of the trouble and expense that is taken to find them. No man should go out of sight of camp, in the woods, without a compass, and there is no real need for one with a compass to become lost.

A man doesn't need to be a navigator or a surveyor in order to be able to utilize this instrument. All that he needs is a steady mind and something to give him a positive general direction. Almost any cheap compass will do this, if the carrier will only believe it, and if he has taken the trouble to notice the direction in which he started when he left camp at the beginning of the hunt.

Most hunting camps are on a road, stream or pond that extends for some distance on each side of the camp and it is only necessary to find this road, stream or pond in order to find the camp.

When hunting in strange territory, I usually spend a part of the first day in familiarizing myself with the territory in the immediate vicinity of the place where I am staying. I walk the road, if there is one, for at least a half-mile in each direction from camp, observing any outstanding features which might serve as landmarks.

Getting lost is a state of mind. It is not at all necessary. The true woodsman is never lost, even if he is unable to tell just where the home camp is located. I have been turned around in the woods until I hardly knew what way was up, but I have never been lost because I was at home in the woods and never felt the unnecessary compulsion to be at a house or camp when night came.

There is something about a man's mental make-up which makes him uneasy in unfamiliar surroundings. The casual hunter braves the imaginary dangers of the woods in search of game with the often unconscious object of proving that he is a skilled and successful woodsman. This is only natural and is an ancestral heritage handed down from the time when men lived on what the hunter brought home from the chase.

When one first finds that he is uncertain of his whereabouts in the woods, his first inclination is to speed up and get as far as he can before night with the hope that he is traveling in the right direction or that he will meet another hunter who will set him right. This is about the worst thing he can do. Instead of rushing around aimlessly, probably away from camp, he should sit down, take a rest and smoke his pipe or relax in some other manner. He should take account of the situation

If a man has a compass, he should be able to locate himself in relation to the home base if he has any idea of his travels since leaving it. If the camp is on a road that runs north and south and the hunter left it to hunt on the east side of the road, all that he needs to do in order to return is to travel in a westerly direction until he comes to the road.

The chances are that this road will be the one on which the camp is located and it should be easy to find. It is not necessary to travel in an exactly straight course but merely in a general westerly direction in order to find the road.

Other situations require other solutions, but most problems of this sort can be solved by a little clear thinking. If the lost man has no compass and the sun is not shining, the only thing which he should do is to sit tight and wait for aid to arrive. With these precautions in mind you need never be lost again!
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