Lost and found in the woods …

So you think you can’t get lost … Well, I know some experienced hunters who have spent years hunting in the backlands who have gotten lost. I have also found myself lost, but that was due to an injury and panic. You go afield without your magnetic compass or GPS, it is an overcast day and you find yourself lost. You quickly look at your watch to see how much time there is until evening darkness, but what you don’t realize is that your watch is actually a compass.

By the way, both my wife Lisa and I will stop a GPS. I still have a compass where the magnetic fields in my body have actually reversed the direction of the needle. I had been mapping out a deer yard, and after a couple of hours I looked at the compass only to find that the needle was slowly turning in a circle. Whether that was from my body or because I was in a particular area where specific metal contents were, I never figured out. In 1950 I did have the unfortunate accident of being hit by lighting, and often when I touch another person there is that surprising “Wow!” that comes from them when there is a little shock.

If you have a dial watch, you also have a compass. The key to using your watch for a compass when you can see the sun (or even on a overcast day when you can see a cloud illuminated by the sun) is to point the hour hand directly at the sun. Next, divide in half the angle between the hour hand and twelve o’clock. You now have an imaginary line pointing north and south.

For example, if it’s quarter to 4, the imaginary line will run through 2 and 8. The sun has passed the south position but not yet reached the west position. The south is on the same side as four o’clock and therefore south is on the two o’clock line.

Another way to find north is to carefully take note of a few of the tree trunks. Normally, and note that I say normally, moss grows on the north side trunks. This is because the north side gets less sun. Use this method in open country and not in the shade of a bush. And it is important that you check a number of tree trunks, not just a single tree.

A month or so before hunting season, get out of those everyday shoes and start walking in hunting or bush-friendly boots. Walking a few kilometres each day in comfortable running shoes does not mean your legs and feet will carry you in the same comfortable manner while walking in the bush. First off, you will be wearing heavier socks and heavier boots. And the ground is going to be a lot rougher. Your clothing will be heavier as well.

Now is the time to get those hunting clothes and boots out and walk on bush trails rather than on paved city trails. Remember, you may be carrying a firearm that will add an additional seven pounds to your overall weight … so, like the Boy Scouts, “Be Prepared!”

Many people buy a single coat for cold weather. The best way to buy clothing for the outdoors is to buy layers for outdoors. This way you will not only save money in the long run, but you will be prepared for whatever weather you have to contend with. Remember, you are in the bush and not on a paved trail. Weather can change throughout the day, so one layer is not the way to go for many reasons. The worst thing will you have to contend with is sweat. If you get too warm, take a layer or two off. If you get chilled, put an extra layer back on. It’s just that simple.

A tip when going into the backlands: The best way to start a campfire with two sticks is to make sure one of them is a match.

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