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Thread: Essential Wilderness Hunting Skills

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Essential Wilderness Hunting Skills

    I've been thinking lately about our unhealthy dependance on our electronic gadgets, and wondering how many of us would fare in a remote setting for multiple days if we lost our GPS, our SPOT, our SATPHONE, our... whatever. From hearing some of the discussions we've had over the years, I get the drift that some of the newer hunters believe their survival is a function of how many AA batteries they have left...

    What would you consider to be the minimum skills a person should know when they're on a multi-day wilderness hunt (solo or group)? This list includes not only hunting skills, but survival too.

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    A very solid sense of the trajectory of time, space and events. By which I mean being able to project out what the useful daylight remaining is in relation to what you are trying to accomplish, knowing how you will get back to your camp in the dark, or how you will manage the night if you can't get back to camp without daylight, knowing whether you have time to run back to camp and get what you need without missing an opportunity, etc.

    In aviation, it is making sure that anywhere you take the airplane, you've already been to with your brain five minutes earlier.
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    To hunt Ya gotta know how to:

    Read sign and tell how old it is
    Understand the general behavior of your quarry as far as response to calls, flight, scent, noise
    Generally gauge yardage (i.e. is it too far, hold on hair etc.)
    Track an animal that you have hit, I mean really track it.....accurately assess the hit, get on hands and knees, be patient if need be
    Know how to break an animal down to hygenically and legally retrieve the meat
    Have a realistic idea of what you can retrieve at what distance from your transport

    To survive:

    Use a compass and read a topo, dead reckon, gauge distance travelled
    Create a shelter and fire with the simplest of materials (not stick and string, but know where the dry stuff is)
    Understand the body's needs for food, water, heat, and act accordingly.

    Most importantly you gotta know how to make decisions that incorporate the severity of the situation versus the risk inherent in the choices. I've said this a dozen times on this forum and here it is again, nearly every "There I was" story begins with a bad decision. Do not panic, stay put and assess what assets you have and what a realistic goal is under those circumstances. If that means staying put, then gather up what you got, get comfy and wait it out. If it means trimming down and packing it out, leave with the best weather you can hold out for, start rested, don't overexert, if you think you're lost.....stop. Take care of your body, it's the only thing that is gonna get you out of this. Great gear that is soaking wet or attached to a man with a busted ankle will do you no good.

    Also, read the books on Shackleton, it will make nearly anything you face seem like a walk in Central Park (in the daylight). Of particular note is that once they made land. They assembled the fittest group, and waited until they had weather that gave them the best chance of making it to that whaling station. Now, after everything those boys had been through, it would easy to assume that they would have just charged ahead being so close to their unthinkable goal. But, even then, they understood that one bad decision can negate a whole bunch of good ones. You only win if you get them all right.

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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    To know how to use a map with a compass......
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    Although I agree that knowing how to use a map with a compass is a good skill to possess, I don't find it an essential skill for hunting. I think having a general awareness of your surroundings and paying attention to landmarks and other points of interest is essential. Another important skill is to pay attention to water sources, know where you can get water if/when you need it.
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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    I've been thinking lately about our unhealthy dependance on our electronic gadgets, and wondering how many of us would fare in a remote setting for multiple days if we lost our GPS, our SPOT, our SATPHONE, our... whatever. From hearing some of the discussions we've had over the years, I get the drift that some of the newer hunters believe their survival is a function of how many AA batteries they have left...
    "Some" of our "newer" hunters? I'm thinking you're being extraordinarily generous out of an abundance of politeness. Do you think even 1% of hunters/outdoors adventurers today have even the faintest idea of how to navigate with a map and compass?

    I find batteries handy for headlamps. IMHO, the modern headlamp is a pretty darn handy invention, and I'm happy to pack one extra set of AA's or AAA's for same. Otherwise, I don't own or use any of those other devises. (Sometimes work requires use of electronics afield, but even then I never travel without map or aerial photos and my compass, and I would never rely on any electronic device to navigate from point A to point B).
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    Member Delta Tenderfoot's Avatar
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    I find it difficult to separate hunting skills form survivals kills. A good hunter not only understands the 10 essentials, but has them in his pack. Like the high power 4x27 super deluxe combat reticule scope does not replace basic marksmanship; toys, like a GPS et.al. are not a substitute for basic outdoor skills.

    My vote is for Basic survival skills: shelter, fire, food and navigation.

    Also a good skill is remembering your Ammo before the float plane leaves.
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    I'm in awe that my grandpa (born in 1900) was able to navigate throughout the state in the 30's and 40's without aerial photos, and most likely any map of any kind. Truly blows my mind.
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    First aid, a serious understanding of the clouds and what they are saying to you. survival gear and how to use it. overcome the fear of being alone in the wilderness in the dark. How to disassemble a Coleman stove or lantern, fix it, and put it together. How to disassemble their firearm, and repair. How to swim, how to escape after falling through the ice. how to identify widow makers, where to put camp for 85 MPH wind. and roughly about 27,thousand other things. How to shoot out of a pick-up truck window. What to do when the entire camp is gone in a 112 MPH wind. How to live with bears in camp without killing them.

    I would say a good place to start is the study guide for the written part of the Asst. Guide License test. But really people need to KILL their TV'addiction, and get their fat butt outdoors, everyday, every weekend.

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    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGL4now View Post
    First aid, a serious understanding of the clouds and what they are saying to you. survival gear and how to use it. overcome the fear of being alone in the wilderness in the dark. How to disassemble a Coleman stove or lantern, fix it, and put it together. How to disassemble their firearm, and repair. How to swim, how to escape after falling through the ice. how to identify widow makers, where to put camp for 85 MPH wind. and roughly about 27,thousand other things. How to shoot out of a pick-up truck window. What to do when the entire camp is gone in a 112 MPH wind. How to live with bears in camp without killing them.

    I would say a good place to start is the study guide for the written part of the Asst. Guide License test. But really people need to KILL their TV'addiction, and get their fat butt outdoors, everyday, every weekend.
    Excellent point about wind awareness, that is an essential skill. High winds can destroy shelters if they are not set up in a good location.
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  11. #11

    Default Essential Wilderness Hunting Skills

    To echo a few of AGL's:

    Know how to take things apart, fix them, and just plain understand how/why they work.

    Get out and learn firsthand. You will be far more prepared and calm when $#!+ hits the fan.
    Last edited by AKFreezerFiller; 12-03-2014 at 01:02. Reason: Formatting

  12. #12

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    I think there is a MASSIVE Gap between being a hunter and being an Outdoorsman or a Woodsman. I think a lot of people who hunt consider themselves Outdoorsman. And likely years ago this was true, but not even remotely true today. I think many who consider themselves hunters, are not hunters, but are shooters of animals, and have no more reverence or respect for the animal than they do a paper targets that they are proud of. And let's face it operating a modern firearm requires very little skill.

    To me the goal should be to become a highly skilled Outdoorsman. And if you looked at all of the skills required to be an Outdoorsman, the hunting skills would be less than one half of one percent of an Outdoorsmans total set of skills.

    I think many of the men who get into hunting do so as a means of validating their manliness in the eyes of other men. They are not really interested in the wilderness, or wilderness skills. In fact many really hate being in the wilderness, and just want to get it done quickly and back to the world in which they are comfortable, safe, and their NATURAL environment.

    PLEASE NOTE: None of the above is relevant to anyone who views this Alaska Outdoors Forum.

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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGL4now View Post
    PLEASE NOTE: None of the above is relevant to anyone who views this Alaska Outdoors Forum.
    ....Why not?
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
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    Quote Originally Posted by hoose35 View Post
    Although I agree that knowing how to use a map with a compass is a good skill to possess, I don't find it an essential skill for hunting..
    If you are going hunting someplace in AK. that you have never been before, someplace that may not have a very good sight of the horizon, you're not going to do much hunting if you don't know how to find your way around......
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Member Jeff U's Avatar
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    Watch Dude Your Screwed, and learn.......

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    If you are going hunting someplace in AK. that you have never been before, someplace that may not have a very good sight of the horizon, you're not going to do much hunting if you don't know how to find your way around......
    Agreed, When I was a kid in the midwest......on many a cloudy day I ended up 90 degrees on the wrong side of a flat 80 that had a pretty featureless forest canopy. Unless you have topography or a view or a compass.....you WILL walk in circles.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff U View Post
    Watch Dude Your Screwed, and learn.......
    That new guy actually ate bear poop...!!!
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

  18. #18
    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Scenario #1: You are dropped off somewhere in SW Colorado to hunt Elk. You are handed 6 aerial ortho photo's. The photos all connect to one another, one to the next, to the next, tho not necessarily linearly. The photo's depict closed canopy forest, broken only occasionally by small irregularly shaped meadows. One photo has a mark next to a distinctive tree at the edge of a meadow, and you're told "you are here". On another photo, at the other end of the series, is a second mark at another tree at the edge of another meadow. You are told "this is your pickup point; four days from now, you must be at this exact tree, with a campfire burning, or you will not be picked up". You have a Silva Ranger or similar compass. You have no electronics of any kind, save for a headlamp.

    Scenario #2: You are dropped off somewhere in central Alaska to hunt Caribou. You are handed two adjoining 1:630,360 scale topo maps. The landscape is dotted with small lakes and ponds, and covered in tundra and scattered black spruce. Everything looks pretty much the same in all directions. Map #1 has a mark next to a pond, and you are told "you are here". Map #2 has a mark next to another pond, and you are told "this is your pickup point; four days from now, you must be at this exact pond, with a campfire burning, or you will not be picked up". You have a Silva Ranger or similar compass. You have no electronics of any kind, save for a headlamp.

    Can you navigate to the pickup point(s)?

    Hint: the method used in both scenarios is exactly the same.
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
    I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. ~Gerry Spence
    The last thing Alaska needs is another bigot. ~member Catch It
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGL4now View Post
    I think there is a MASSIVE Gap between being a hunter and being an Outdoorsman or a Woodsman. I think a lot of people who hunt consider themselves Outdoorsman. And likely years ago this was true, but not even remotely true today. I think many who consider themselves hunters, are not hunters, but are shooters of animals, and have no more reverence or respect for the animal than they do a paper targets that they are proud of. And let's face it operating a modern firearm requires very little skill.

    To me the goal should be to become a highly skilled Outdoorsman. And if you looked at all of the skills required to be an Outdoorsman, the hunting skills would be less than one half of one percent of an Outdoorsmans total set of skills.

    I think many of the men who get into hunting do so as a means of validating their manliness in the eyes of other men. They are not really interested in the wilderness, or wilderness skills. In fact many really hate being in the wilderness, and just want to get it done quickly and back to the world in which they are comfortable, safe, and their NATURAL environment.

    PLEASE NOTE: None of the above is relevant to anyone who views this Alaska Outdoors Forum.

    Well stated!

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    I would think the minimum hunting skill a person would needs is patience, if you wait long enough something will walk by.

    As far as survival goes that would depend on if it warm or cold. If you don't have to worried about freezing to death, it not a skill you need but a attitude or a reason to live. There are many stories about a person surviving impossible odd because of the love or hate for a person.

    I CAN NOT DIE, WHO WILL TAKE CARE OF MY WIFE AND CHILD OR I WILL KILL THAT ******* THAT PUT ME HERE.

    If it cold and you could freeze to death it making a fire and shelter to keep warm.

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