Can You Survive?

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Last Updated: Aug 6, 2010 – 1:11:39 PM
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Can You Survive?

By Bob Robb

Feb 27, 2009 – 7:14:27 AM


Of all
the issues of the various bowhunting magazines that hit my mailbox each year,
the ?Xtreme? issues are easily is my favorites. While I dearly love tree stand
whitetail bowhunting, bowhunting black bears over bait, or looking for mule
deer, elk, or pronghorn out of a comfortable lodge or big tent camp, it is
backcountry hunting that has always flipped my switch.

 

If
you?ve never tried it ? you know, backpacking with a buddy into a vast
wilderness area to bow hunt elk or muleys; get dropped off by a float plane in
the wilds of Alaska to hunt caribou, deer, or bears; or paddle a canoe up a
north country river in search of big woods whitetails for a few days ? I am
sure you have dreamed about it. Growing up out West, I didn?t have the luxury
of hunting the family farm. If we wanted to go hunting we instead had huge
national forest and Bureau of Land Management tracts just waiting to be
explored. We saw ourselves as modern-day Daniel Boones of a sort. It was grand.

Sitka blacktail, Alaska: After being dropped off following a 2 hour bush plane ride to the fare reaches of Alaska’s Kodiak Island, you are totally on your own. No success is ever sweeter.

Of
course, this was back before the days of cell and satellite phones and
hand-held aircraft radios that made calling for help as easy as hitting speed
dial. We didn?t have fancy-pants GPS units that made getting from point A to
point B a no-brainer, weather radios that predicted the future, or modern
technological marvels like Gore-Tex, Teflon, space blankets, ultra-light weight
camping gear, and freeze-dried food, either.

Instead, we had
reasonably-accurate but by no means foolproof topographic maps, good compasses,
canned food, pocket-sized waterproof containers for matches, and heavy backpack
gear. I remember back when Tang, developed for the space program, became
available to consumers.

Man, we knew we were off to the future! In the 1970?s,
when I began backpack hunting in earnest, my pack loaded for a week in the
wilderness with food, camp, and some spare clothes weighed 70-80 lbs. I can do
the same thing nowadays with pack weighing as third less and live more
comfortably in the backwoods.

 

The
biggest lesson we learned was how to stay out of trouble because, simply
stated, on these wilderness hunts you were on your own. You learned how to use
the map and compass, how top read the terrain, and how to judge terrain. If you
were smart, you had taken a certified first aid class given by such groups as
the Boy Scouts or Red Cross, had a well-stocked first aid kit, and knew how to
use it. Most importantly, you learned to exercise the most important safety
device of all ? your brain. There?s no substitute for common sense in the wilderness.

 

These
skills have come in handy more than once for me. One time, on a drop-off Sitka
blacktail hunt on Alaska?s Kodiak Island, one of my buddies broke his ankle
packing meat back to camp across the tundra. Since we had no communication with
the outside world for five days, it was up to us to get him to camp, splint the
thing, and prevent infection, then keep him comfortable until the air taxi came
to pick us up. On another occasion, I was elk hunting in Colorado?s Sangre de
Cristo Mountains. My partner and I had split up for the day, agreeing to meet
back at camp shortly after dark. Well, I got into a herd of elk and ended up
shadowing them for several miles before realizing that, as the sun was going
down, I was a long ways from camp and not real sure how to get back.

I climbed
a tree and found the camp?s general location, then simply built myself a little
pine-bough bed under a big root wad, pulled out my space blanket and space bag,
and got a small fire going. I slept pretty good until just before dawn, when I
made the three-hour hike back to camp. Rather than risk getting even more lost
in the dark in unfamiliar country, I chose to stay put until the next day. It
was the right move, one made possible by being prepared for the unexpected and
not freaking out when it happened.

 

If you
plan on doing some wild-man wilderness bowhunting, make sure you are prepared.
Take a first aid class. Pack along map & compass even if you have a GPS or
sat phone. Learn basic survival skills. Most importantly, check all your
equipment before heading out to make sure it is in good repair, and that you
have some basic repair materials ? multi-tool, some electrician?s tape, super
glue, and so on. Did you know that you can super glue deep cuts together much
easier than trying to sew someone up?

 

The day
I fell off a cliff on a solo backpack Dall sheep hunt in Alaska and got broke
up pretty good was the ultimate test of my survival skills and preparedness. I
was 50 miles or so from the nearest road and my injuries prevented me from
climbing back over the ridge to my tent. Instead I had to shimmy down the
mountain to a small spot where there was water, set up a shelter, and prepare
to wait the four days for the air taxi to come find me. Fortunately my little
aircraft radio made contact with a passing cargo jet, who called the hospital,
who sent the medivac chopper to get me.

 

If you
wait until you are in deep doo-doo, it?s too late. Be prepared, then go get ?em
in the wilderness. Win, lose or draw, no other bowhunting you ever do will be
as rewarding.

 

 

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