A good hunter knows to prepare for the worst-case scenario because sometimes nothing goes as planned and all too often, you're far away from modern conveniences should something happen. Whether you're new to the hobby, checking to see you've got everything or you need a refresher, here are some of our top survival tips for our hunters.
- Know the game in your area, not just what you want to hunt. Small game such as birds, raccoons, rabbits, and geese have a substantial amount of flesh for eating if you end up having to survive a few days with supplies dried up. They're more easily caught with snares and traps, so understanding the animal's daily, seasonal movements, diet, and size are important when trying to trap. If you don't know where the animal sleeps, what it eats, how it moves or what size it is, it becomes near impossible to create an effective trap.
- Thoroughly cook any game you catch if you plan on eating it, and if you find yourself eating very lean meat such as rabbit, try and eat a bit of the fat along with it. Your body can't process the protein without it. A good tip is to singe the hair off the rabbit and cook it in its skin for fat content.
- Know the area you are hunting in. Have a compass? Pack a map too. Be aware of your surroundings, keep track of important landmarks such as rivers, creeks, and always take a moment to look behind you to remember what it looks like when heading back. Don't hesitate to make a mark on a trail at intersections as things tend to look different when returning in the dark. Don't rely on your electronics alone, they're handy, but dead batteries render them useless. Make sure you remember/know how to use your map and compass.
- Always let someone at home or friends, even friends online, know where you'll be hunting and for how long you expect to be gone. When pursuing a big game, you might be out longer than expected from the road—so you might want to set an absolute deadline for your return so that someone can alert the authorities if you don't return in time.
- Watch the weather. Rain, fog, or snow can create poor visibility and that adds to the potential of getting lost in the woods.
- Avoid wearing cotton. It provides no warmth when it gets wet. Look for synthetic, breathable fabrics like modern "softshells". Old school wool is a great alternative if you can't afford a new softshell during the season.
- Always carry a fire-starting kit. Lighters, matches, or traditional tools. Either way, keeping dry and warm during emergencies is as important as being able to cook any game you may need to catch.
- Try and bring a headlamp and extra batteries for it. Especially helpful if you get caught at dawn or dusk trying to navigate.
- Pack for the worst weather.
- If you have a medical condition that requires medication, pack several extra days' worth of supplies and take it with you.
Keep Your Cool and Always Plan
One of the most important survival tips is to keep yourself as calm as possible regardless of things going right or wrong. It's easy to lose both your bearings and lose track of what's important in high emotion situations. Don't let yourself get carried away by a successful hunt or heading back to your truck, camp or tent before night sets in. You may find yourself having to spend an unexpected night out in the wilderness without the safety of your base or camp.
Stick to your plan and don't stray from your predetermined hunting ground. Zero your rifle, check over your bow and arrows, use proper camouflage and always carry the right gear with you that you need to harvest the game you're hunting and make sure you've packed first aid supplies for any accidents. It's better to go in prepared for the worst and to be relieved that the worst never happened than to be caught unprepared.
Mental preparation for the hunt is as important as physically preparing. Visualize a successful hunt and everything you can visual to avoid injury. Dull knives are a recipe for a cut hand or worse, not having clean cloth meat bags or enough salt to preserve in the field can lead to your game being ruined.
Cuts, scrapes, and sitting so long in a tree-stand that your muscles lock up or become sore can all be a recipe that leads to disaster. Falling out of a tree stand is a surprisingly common accident that can easily lead to a life-threatening injury, such as a broken bone, a puncture wound or a head injury. In many cases when hunting alone, you'll have to become a medic as well. As a hunter, you should always have first aid or medical kit.
Some of the things you should always carry with you are:
- A good harness.
- Hemostatic bandage
- Pressure bandages
- SAM splint
- Antibiotic cream
- Duct tape
- Butterfly bandages
- Pain meds
- Nitrile gloves
This may sound like quite a bit to carry, but when the situation becomes dire, or even if it results in a light injury, you'll be grateful to have these items on hand.
Last, but never least: know and understand what to do should you encounter a wild animal that you don't plan on hunting, such as bears, wolves, mountain lions or moose and how to react if you encounter them or they attempt to attack you.
These tips won't simply make for a better hunt, but they will ensure that should anything go badly, you'll be able to survive accidents or encounters unforeseen with your life intact, able to hunt again.