Picture this, you are rising early to beat the sun up and do a little hunting. You have your favorite spot in mind, an old blind you built a mere one-eighth of a mile from your house in your own back yard. You plan on sitting until lunch time and then returning to the family with or without alternative food. You run through your check list excitedly, checking off your required clothing, your bow or firearm, ammunition and small items such as rope to pull with, your field dressing blades, and maybe some gloves to protect from bacteria while dressing your kill. Everything is looking great, you have all those items and you set out.
This sounds perfectly normal to a lot of hunters I know and maybe to you as well. You only expect to go a short distance from home and probably have many times before without a hitch. But let’s throw some of Mother Nature’s power into the above scenario, and evaluate what could and would likely happen.
While hiking out to the blind, what happens when you fall into a hole or get caught on something causing a break in your ankle? Remember, if you are racing the sun up, you probably have little means of light that you carry to limit the weight and noise of “unnecessary” items. I mean, you are only 220 yards from the house and your family knows where you are.
Take into consideration that you will more than likely be contacting more of the ground surface if you cannot stand. This same ground surface is cold and probably damp as well. You are now outside the blind, leaving you no protection from the elements that surround you with limited mobility to get back to your house only a couple hundred yards away.
The longer your body is contacting the cold surface of the ground, the faster your temperature is dropping. Hypothermia can set in during even mild temperatures in some circumstances even without injuries. You add a simple fracture to your already cold body, and you have a recipe for a dangerous encounter with Mother Nature.
Fractured bones require as much blood flow as possible to assure proper healing along with good nutrition. When hypothermia begins to set in, the blood flow of the body is concentrated to the vital organs only, causing limbs to be subject to frost bite and the brain to stop working properly. Panic sets in and you could start crawling away from your house out of confusion. Your family looks for you when you do not arrive at noon, only at the place they know to look.
This may sound extreme or unlikely to you, but a quick internet search will show you it has happened more than you would care to believe. So what should you have done different, you may ask? Preparedness is the key to surviving a hunting trip gone badly.
When I prepare to go hunting, my priority is water, external means of heat and a method to signal during a dire situation. I only hunt about 15 minutes away from my door on foot. Years ago, I only took a few items, leaving the rest to retrieve only after a kill, until I wised up a little. I never had a bad experience thankfully, but know it can and will eventually happen.
I know that I have the best chance of surviving now, due to what I carry into the woods with me. My basic gear includes two methods of fire starting, cord, side arm and water. Then I move onto bow or long gun, dressing tools, rope and protective gloves to finish out my list. I am sure there are a few things that I could add, also. Flares could be a good option if you don’t have faith in getting a fire started for quick rescue.
Many will carry matches only, and if they become wet, they are as useless as anything you could have. I carry flint as an alternative to matches and also carry Magnesium, allowing it to act as a fuel. I also carry some form of sterilization even though fire will work, you cannot count on one means to survive. The cord I carry can be used to tie sticks for a splint or used as a tourniquet, heaven forbid I ever need to make the decision to sacrifice a limb. Small snacks that are high in fat and some in protein can also be found in my pack. The less scented the better of course, because you do not want to attract unwanted guests nor run off your intended kill. The side arm I carry will put down any predator I may encounter and is easier to use than a cumbersome long gun in certain circumstances.
I use hunting as an alternative means to feed my family for survival, but my life is thought of first. If I do not focus on my survival against Mother Nature, My family’s survival is not guaranteed either.
Again, this may seem extreme, but always have a survival plan no matter how short the distance is between you and safety. Even if you don’t feel at risk for hypothermia, start your fire immediately if something was to happen and you are not mobile. Waiting is not an option when it comes to seeking help, and surviving long enough for help to arrive is up to you. It isn’t long after the “shivering” that your mind will not work to the point of starting a fire then. Frost bite will follow and then organs begin to fail. We have all suffered minor hypothermia in life, while many are not aware that they have.
Ask yourself, “Have I taken the proper steps for any emergency that could and sometimes will arise.” Look for more hunting and survival stories to come, and have a great hunting season.