As you head into the field for hunting, a few thoughts from Elkland Search & Rescue:
Your hunt is your focus and taking what you need to be successful is everyone’s goal. Let’s not forget Survival. Sure, you have hunted the same area forever, know it like the back of your hand and will never have the need for a hunter safety survival kit. You could never fall, twist or blow out a knee, hurt your back or break a bone. Nope it can’t happen to me! Or maybe I’m dragging that big buck and run out of daylight or a snowstorm blows through.
I’m sure you will tell others where you will be hunting, where your vehicle will be parked, what side of the road you will be hunting and what time you will be coming home or back to camp. I’m sure you will leave a note of your hunting intentions in your truck or at the camp.
Maybe put together a bare bones survival kit that could be the difference between life and death. It is compact and lightweight because, as hunters, we can’t be weighed down with unneeded supplies. There are hundreds of things you can add to any hunter safety survival kit but this would be a good place to start and it’s extremely cheap!
I did not include a compass because you already have one of those, right? When I start a trip to the woods, I note a landmark like the road or a gas line and figure its basic direction – like north/south. Then I know that if I head to the west side, I have to come back east to find it again. Maybe spare batteries for your GPS (set a waypoint at your truck) and the handheld radio you carry, just in case you need to talk to someone in an emergency.
And you do carry a whistle, don’t you? If you are in trouble, blow it every 5-10 minutes. The whistle sound will carry much farther and your voice will never last if you holler for any length of time.
Almost everyone carries a cell phone so call 911 if you have trouble. If you are in a remote location, your cell phone will be working harder for service and this is hard on the batteries. Call 911 first so they can home in on your location. If you have poor service, try sending a text message to a trusted person telling of your problem.
Maybe a communication plan like if you become stranded and it’s after dark, fire one round at 7 o’clock and then again every half hour. Save a few in case you hear a siren in the distance and then you can respond. A planned firing time helps everyone know it is you firing and allows friends or rescuers to locate you. Oh, I said rescuers. Yes, if someone is missing, PLEASE do not waste time wondering if you should call for help. If someone is not back at the given time, make that call to 911. It will take rescuers time to assemble, drive to the location and get a search underway. Elkland doesn’t mind turning around and going home if you come out yourself. Time counts so PLEASE use it wisely!
Back to the survival kit and what does it include? A zip-lock bag with a good seal is important to keep those supplies dry if needed. Take a 60-gallon garbage bag and two smaller plastic bags. The big bag can be used as a poncho but it will hold heat in much better than a poncho. Cut out a hole near the end seam for your face to stick out and pull the bag over your head. Slip it down past your butt so you have a moisture barrier between your back side and the ground. Fill the small bags with leaves or hemlock twigs to sit on for insulation from the ground. Gather some extras twigs to build a fire.
Next is an 8-page newspaper used to start that fire. Take 2 butane lighters and wrap 6 feet of bright colored 1½-inch ribbon on each. Use one lighter to start a fire with the second as a back up. Wrap the ribbon around a tree about 5 feet up so it is easier for searchers to find you.
Include two glow sticks using one to light the area as you put your survival kit to use and hanging one from the tree where you are sitting to help searchers find you. Take 4 hand warmers and, before you start to cool down, put one under each armpit, one in your groin area and the 4th switched in your gloves. This warmth is a key to helping you stay comfortable, and by staying comfortable, you have overcome half of the battle of staying outdoors in the dark. Notice I didn’t say lost!
Be safe out there and enjoy as you build memories to last a lifetime and PLEASE, if someone is missing, Call 911!
Members of Elkland Search and Rescue, 2016