Friday, October 11, 2013

Get Lost

     Over the years I've made many changes to how I do things. A lot of time wearing out boot leather is a great way to get first hand experience that opens ones eyes, and gives inspiration to try other methods and things. Sometimes the simple suggestions buried in the pages of an outdoors magazine strike that nerve, and add up to a progressive change. Whatever it is, if we're still doing it, it must have worked.

     One thing I remember reading several times over the years was that the majority of sportsmen seldom travel more than 1/4 mile into the woods from the road. Seems natural actually; travelling in the woods is harder than on a sidewalk or road leading people to think they're deeper in than they probably thought. Coupled with the practical mind thinking about the effort it takes to drag a deer out, how the effort compounds in the dark, and the ingrained desire to not get lost, it's easy to see why the darkest corners of the forest seldom see sports. Not getting lost, and what to do if (when) you get lost has become an industry here, too. Television shows highlighting survival tips are on almost daily, and the celebrity like status of the hosts has them hocking their wares must have survival knives, at every camping outlet. The electronics world has changed the landscape more than anything. One can venture afield knowing exactly where they are, with a device that not only tells them where to go, but also whose land they are crossing, the terrain ahead, and the moon phase. Soon, I expect there will be a GPS with a stock ticker connected to online trading.

     But don't mistake this as a GPS rant, it's not. I very much like GPS, and use one almost every time I'm in the woods. I use my GPS so frequently that I've got a battery recharger, and several pair of spares ready to go, changing out every morning. Sure, I wish I was more of a natural outdoors man, with a mind for remembering the features of the land, and an internal compass. I don't, so GPS has become my friend, and has led me to a change in how I do things.

     What is it I do differently, that I didn't do before? Well, after years of not trying to get lost in the woods, I now just just head into the woods, and essentially get lost. Of course I'm not getting lost in the sense of not knowing how to get out, but in the sense that I just go where the cover leads me. Heading in I have no idea where I'll be when I decide to return, so I've no idea how to get back. Marking my starting position on my GPS allows me that freedom, and gives me a heading back to that point when the time comes. This practice routinely puts me a mile or more from my starting point, and I seldom see another sport when I'm in that deep. This tactic, should the cover be right, also puts me into game that doesn't get disturbed by sport or dog as often. While I use my GPS most often for grouse hunting, it has been useful on the few occasions when I've attempted to track deer in the snow. The wood lot where I deer hunt is pretty small, so its never a long walk out, but knowing exactly where I was allowed me to get to one of the trails in our network, and get out more easily.

     There are a couple of preparations to be made before venturing forth this way. The first is mental; you can't be scared to just go, trusting your GPS to get you out. This is probably the most difficult hurdle to over come, but a little practice with your GPS in familiar surroundings will help you establish trust in the machine. The second is to make sure you have a back up method of navigation should your GPS malfunction, or you leave it on the roof of your car (like I did) after setting it down to put on your gloves. Knowing what direction you are headed when you leave the road, and the general heading of the road will provide you with a direction to head (in the most general sense) to get out of the woods.

     Whatever species of game you hunt, getting away from the crowd will benefit you. Now, go get lost.


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