Bowhunters enjoy the great outdoors. They travel to forests, mountains and rivers in search of small game, big game, waterfowl and other animals. They spend time hunting, hiking and camping in nature. Suppose that you are hunting with friends or family in some foothills 100 miles away from home. It has been raining all morning, and now a heavy, thick fog rolls in. You are alone. You can't see your fellow hunters. When you call their names, nobody answers. What are you going to do now? All bowhunters should know basic survival rules. If they do, they can handle situations like the one above. If they don't know these basic rules, they may never return to their hunting camp!

The two most important things to remember are BE PREPARED and DON'T PANIC. You need to be ready for survival situations the minute you leave your home, your camp or your vehicle. If you wait until you are wet, alone and in a thick fog before you think about survival, you are already in deep trouble! Think ahead.

Basic Survival Rules
If you remember to follow these simple rules, you will be prepared to survive the situation described in the above story.

Remain Calm In Survival Situations
To survive you need only four things: A calm head, food, water and shelter. Don't panic! All of the food, water and shelter in the world cannot help you if you panic in a survival situation. Keep calm and use your head! Your brain is your best survival tool!
You know what a 'stop' sign is. Here's what 'stop' means in a survival situation:
S .......Stop, when you realize you've got a problem. The first thing to do is admit to yourself that you are in trouble.
T ......Think, about what you need to do to survive
O ......Observe, the area and look for shelter, fuel, etc.
P .......Plan, how you are going to use your survival kit and the other resources available to you. Don't wait until dark to plan!
Remain calm. Think clearly. Use the tools you have available to you.

Stay put if you are lost. Don't wander around and get yourself into deeper trouble. If you let somebody know where you were going to hunt, they'll be looking for you in that area. Aimless wandering will only make the search more difficult. Rescue teams are trained to find you, so stay put!

Plan ways to signal for help. A signal mirror, smoke from a fire, etc., can all be used. Three of anything-toots on a whistle, smoke signals, etc.- signal a need for help.

Planning Your Hunt
You should always plan your hunt. Buy and study maps of the area you plan to hunt. Try to visit the hunting area before hunting season so you can learn more about it.
You should never hunt alone. Always hunt with others, and always be careful when choosing hunting partners! Make sure your hunting partners are safe hunters and also know how to survive in the woods!
Stay out of dangerous or unfamiliar areas, such as cliffs, slide areas and iced over lakes or streams.

Notify Others Of Your Plans
Make sure that other people know where you are hunting and when you plan to return from your hunt. Search and rescue teams only look for people that they know are lost! If you should become lost, nobody will look for you unless they know you are lost. Tell friends and family at home about your hunting plans. When you are out hunting, you can also leave a note in your car, truck or camp about your hunting plans for that day. Be sure to note if you change your plans. If there is a place to register, such as a ranger station, do so
Know The Weather Conditions In Your Hunting Area The weather at home and the weather in your hunting area may be very different! Check the weather forecast before you leave and be sure that your hunting clothes are suitable for the weather. Some of our worst weather is during hunting prepared for it! Cotton clothes and blue jeans are terrible to wear in wet, windy weather. Cotton actually makes you feel colder in such weather. Wool clothes, and some modern synthetic fabrics, provide warmth even when wet.

Be Prepared For Worse Weather!
Weather conditions can change quickly during the hunting season. A light rainfall can change to freezing rain in just a few minutes. Three feet of snow can fall overnight. Temperatures can drop 30 to 40 degrees in just a few hours or even a few minutes in some places. You need to be prepared to survive the worst weather conditions....not just the weather conditions of today.
Weathermen forecast the weather, but the forecasts can change very quickly. Choose clothes that will handle the weather. One way to prepare for the worst conditions is to use the layering principle. You wear or carry with you several layers of clothing.

Hypothermia is the loss of body heat. This happens when the body loses more heat than it can produce. Hypothermia is always dangerous and sometimes fatal.

Hypothermia is usually caused by one of two conditions:

To help prevent hypothermia:
  1. Keep warm,
  2. Keep hydrated (drink liquids), and
  3. Keep eating (to maintain body warmth).
Most people suffer from hypothermia on days when the outside air temperatures range between 30 and 50 degrees. It is important that you recognize the symptoms of hypothermia and treat them as soon as possible! Symptoms include: Shivering is the first sign. After violent shivering, the victim will not know that s/he is suffering from hypothermia. In the final stages, the victim appears to be drunk. Treatment is necessary when people suffer from hypothermia. The treatments below will help raise the core body temperature slowly and evenly. Never give alcohol to a person suffering from hypothermia!

Mild Hypothermia

Severe Hypothermia Carry And Use A Survival Kit
You can buy a survival kit or you can make your own. It doesn't matter how much money you spend or how many items you include in your survival kit. The two most important things to remember are that you must CARRY IT and know how to USE IT! A survival kit won't help you if you left it back in camp. And even an expensive survival kit won't help you if you don't know how to use the items in your kit!

A basic survival kit could include the following items:


Different people have different needs. Some survival kits will have many more items than these listed above. For example, you may want to carry extra clothing in your kit. But all survival kits for hunters should include at least these basic necessities. Think of your survival kit as an emergency kit. Make sure that you check the equipment in your survival kit each year, before you need it in an emergency!

Fire Building Skills
If you are alone, lost or in a survival situation, fire is really man's best friend. A fire can keep you warm, and you can use it to signal for help. A good fire will also help keep calm and allow you to cook, and it will keep you busy as you wait for help to arrive!
Of course, you will need the skill to build a fire. You will need three things to start a fire: (1) A source of heat to start a fire; (2) Tinder and kindling to get the fire going; and (3) Fuel to keep the fire burning. In your survival kit you should have at least one ready source of heat either waterproof matches or a disposable lighter. You should also have some type of fire starter in your survival kit. You will need to find kindling and fuel to build the fire. You should find these items before you start to make your fire!
You will need about ten large armloads of firewood to keep a small fire going all night. Collect your firewood before dark! It's often very wet during hunting season, but there are many materials which will burn in such conditions. If you do not have very good fire building skills, you may need to add some additional materials to your survival kit to help you get a fire started in wet, hunting season conditions.

Safety And Survival Around Vehicles
Hunters use a variety of vehicles for hunting. Boats, bicycles, off road vehicles, pick up trucks, campers and recreational vehicles are often found in or around hunting camps. Unfortunately, some hunters forget the special safety precautions that apply to these vehicles. Rough weather or a snag in a river can quickly capsize a boat. Everybody in a boat should wear a personal flotation device (PFD) as long as they remain on the water. You may be a great swimmer, but a dunk in frigid water will leave you numb in moments. Wearing a PFD could mean the difference between life or death.
Mountain bikes and three and four wheel vehicles are now commonly found in the woods, and all riders should wear a helmet to protect themselves in the event of a fall. Never carry a loaded firearm while riding!
Many hunters use pick up trucks, campers or recreational vehicles as part of their base camp. Sometimes hunters use their vehicles to fight off the fall chill, but they forget that a faulty exhaust or heating system can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning....and death. Make sure that your hunting vehicle is in good repair and that you always have proper ventilation when using heating systems.

Disease And Illness
"Don't drink the (untreated) water!" is a good rule of thumb when hunting or hiking. Bring your own, safe supply of drinking water, or boil or treat water before drinking it. You may think that the water five miles from the nearest road has to be pure....but both man and animals carry disease! 'Beaver fever' (giardiasis) is a very unpleasant illness that is easily avoided: Drink only water that you carry in or treat.
Wild animals serve as the host to a variety of parasites, but very few of them become problems for hunters. However, wildlife transmitted diseases have been reported in Washington in recent years, including Lyme disease and bubonic plague. While these are not common, they are potentially present. Check your body for bites and unusual marks if you notice a large number of ticks on an animal you have just harvested. Visit a doctor if you have come into contact with wild animals and experience unusual symptoms after returning from a hunting trip.

Fight The Enemies Of Survival
The picture below shows the problems that people face in a survival situation. People who are unprepared for outdoor emergencies may be beaten by these "enemies of survival". Don't let them beat you!

Pain ..........If you are suffering from pain or injury, treat it using your first aid materials. Take care of pain right away.
Cold ..........Get out of cold, wet weather. Construct a shelter. Build a fire. Get warm
Thirst ........You must have water to survive but don't eat snow! Your body uses too much heat to melt snow, and it only makes you thirstier! Find a stream or lake or collect rainwater to obtain drinking water. Treat the water with tablets or boil it before drinking.
Hunger ......Hunger pains will bother you . . . they won't kill you! You can go without food for two to four weeks and still live!
Fatigue ......Save your energy! Don't tire yourself. Gather fuel for your fire, improve your shelter as needed, but don't overdo it! Get lots of rest.
Boredom ....Include a deck of cards in your survival kit. Carry a small pocket radio. Bring along something to read or write with. Keep your mind occupied to avoid feeling bored and lonely!
Fear ...........Fear is normal! Everybody feels fear is a survival situation. Remain calm. Think about why you are afraid and try to use common sense.

Think back to the survival situation at the beginning of this article. If you have planned your hunt, and if you have prepared your survival kit properly, what would you do? Would you survive?

Until next week, Good Luck, Happy Hunting, and God Bless. . . . . . . . .Stu Keck

| Top | Back To List Of Safety Topics | Email Stu Keck |

Return to Bowhunting.Net