What to know before heading into a large Track of Woods
With just a few twists and turns in a large wooded area, every tree and bush will begin looking exactly the same. Some people do not realize how easy it is to get lost in the woods, no matter how skillful of a hunter or woodsman that you might be. Getting lost in the woods can be a frightful experience, especially if you are alone, in unfamiliar territory, with a low water supply. It is a recipe for disaster. The best way to ensure that you will not get lost when you go out on a hunting trip is to do some simple pre-trip preparations. Don’t wait until your lost to try to put a plan in action; setting up the plan beforehand can save you a load of stress in worst-case scenarios.
Tip #1: Have a Contact Person
It is a bad idea to head out into the woods without a single person knowing of your whereabouts. Your contact person needs to know where you are going, how long you plan to be there, and about what time you expect to return. It is important that you check in with your contact person to let them know that you’ve made it back home safely. In the event that your contact person fails to hear from you or is unable to contact you, s/he will know to alert the authorities.
Tip#2: Bring Resources
Before you leave, make sure your cell phone battery is fully charged. If you have a portable GPS, it can be quite useful if it’s able to pick up signal in the forest. Bring a flashlight and an extra set of batteries just in case. If you have a two-way radio, bring it along with some flares. Carry along extra canisters of water. Remember, you can go weeks without eating, but you can only survive a few days without water.
Tip #3:Know the Area
Have some working knowledge of the wooded area as well as the places surrounding the wooded area prior to entering the forest. Keep a map on you, even if it’s a simple trail map of the area. A choice map would be a topographic map because it shows the wooded terrain as well as trails and roads. If there is a road one mile north of the wooded area, you need to know this. A compass will help lead you to the road. If you come across some terrain that is not marked on your map, stop. Don’t progress further until you fully understand where you are and what direction you are headed in.
Tip #4: Use Markers
As a hunter, it’s not always feasible to stick to the trails. You may have to submerge yourself into the thick denseness of the forest to successfully track your game. Carefully placed markers will help lead you back to civilization if you happen to become disoriented in the heart of the forest. Red-tape markings are the simplest way to mark the area. Just remember to remove the tape on the return trip.
If you forget the tape, you can still mark the area other ways. Dig forked branches into the ground and lay a stick across the fork, pointing in the correct direction for the return trip. If you come across one of your forked branches, you will know which direction to go.
As you’re entering the woods, every fifteen to twenty feet or so, break a branch on a tree or bush that is close to the forest floor. Let the broken branch hang and only break branches on one particular side, either your left or right. That way, when you’re trying to return, you can look for the makeshift path that you have created of broken branches.
If you don’t want to break branches because the sound might disturb the animals in the forest, you can set up small piles of rocks on only one side of the forest every fifteen or twenty feet. This will make a quieter path that you can follow on the return trip.
Tip #5Pay Attention to the Area
It is pertinent that you remain aware of your surroundings at all times. You need to always have a sense of direction. Look for natural landmarks, like a tree with markings that stand out or a river that runs through the woods. Look back often so that you will be familiar with how the woods look in both directions. Pay very close attention to the direction that you are headed because all it takes is one simple bathroom break and you can turn yourself in the wrong direction. Pay attention to the location of the sun, especially its initial location. Remember that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The location of the sun can help point you in the right direction.
Applying these simple 5 tips to your next wooded adventure can save you from the frightening experience of becoming lost. Keep in mind that these tips are all proactive, meaning you can’t wait until you’re lost to try to do these things.
In the case that you did not fully prepare beforehand and you realize that you are lost, STOP. Literally. Don’t take another step. Listlessly ambling through the trees can possibly make your situation worse. STOP means sit still, think back on what steps you’ve taken to end up in this situation, observe your surroundings, and put a plan into action to find your way back. Creating smoke fires and sending up flares can help searchers locate you. Try your best not to panic because all it does is waste energy that can be used to get yourself out of an ugly situation.
It is easier than many people may think to get lost in the woods. These simple five tips will ensure that a well-prepared woodsman will never get lost, and in case that they do find themselves disoriented in the forest, they will be able to quickly get back on the right track.