The Essential Hunter’s Survival Kit
There are plenty of stories of hunters who set out with only their gun, ammo and calls expecting to catch a few hours of early-morning hunting, only to get lost and end up spending way more time in the wilderness than anticipated.
Though not very common, it does happen. A hunter leaves camp for the blind and never comes back. Some get lost, some get injured, some suffer a heart attack—whatever befalls these missing hunters, a lot of these tragic accidents are preventable.
There’s risk involved when hunting, especially in unfamiliar territory and in the early dawn and at night when visibility is limited. It’s easy to get turned around or lost. Tracking an animal can take you off the trail and wild brush can get so overgrown, woods once familiar become foreign.
Hunters, like all outdoor enthusiasts, are generally in-tune with nature and usually more skilled in survival techniques than those who never camp, hike or spend time outside. Yet, like a lot of hikers and backpackers, hunters become overconfident or are ill-prepared for an emergency. Never underestimate Mother Nature’s power and ability to mess with you.
A lot can go wrong—most of it completely out of your control. However, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed. Preparing for the worst-case scenario increases your chance of survival and rescue. When packing for your hunting trip this season, keep safety and survival in the forefront of your mind, making sure you have everything to survive a few nights in the woods.
First, there are a few precautions to take before heading out.
- Make sure you know the area you’re hunting. If it’s a new lease or land, study topographical maps of the area and get yourself oriented. Use the off-season to explore and find the best spots for your blind or stand. Mark your trails on your map and drop waypoints on your GPS.
- Learn how to use an old-school compass. Don’t depend on your electronic GPS—you might not have service or could run out of batteries.
- Hunt with a buddy and carry walkie-talkies to stay in communication with each other and base camp.
- Always let someone know exactly where you are going, when you are leaving and when to expect you back.
- Take a fully charged phone.
- Check the weather and wear the appropriate clothing to prevent hypothermia. Avoid wearing cotton and invest in a really good pair of shoes.
Tips: What to do if You Get Lost While Hunting
Getting lost in the woods while hunting is no different than getting lost in the wilderness while hiking or backpacking. What you should do is the same:
- S.T.O.P. We tend to walk in circles when we don’t know where we are, so it is best to stay put when lost.
- Stop—Sit down and take some deep breaths to calm yourself down.
- Think—Prioritize your needs.
- Observe—Where are you? Are there dangers? What are the resources available?
- Plan—Develop a plan of action to be rescued and how you will survive until found and then execute.
- Make sure you’re safe from harm.
- Treat any injuries.
- Create a shelter and build a fire.
- Put your safety orange on. When airplanes or helicopters fly overhead, use your safety orange as a signal and wave it around.
- If you hear gunshots, then there are people in your vicinity. After it gets dark, fire off three equally-spaced shots to signal. If you fire during regular hunting hours, you’ll sound just like another hunter who isn’t in need of help. Don’t waste your ammo. You may need it to protect yourself from predators.
Whether you take off on foot or an ATV/UTV, pack these survival essentials along with your calls, scents and ammo.
Your Hunting Survival Kit Should Include:
- Water filter
- Extra gas (for ATV/UTV)
- Fire starter
- Knife or multi-tool
- Rain gear
- Gloves, hat and scarf
- Chemical warmers
- Emergency blanket
- Compass/GPS or another form of navigation
- First aid kit
- Brightly-colored trail markers or tape
- Solar panel
- Signaling whistle
- Protein bars or snacks high in fats—nuts, trail mix, etc.
- Extra essential prescription medications
Practice Good Tree Stand Safety
According to the Intentional Hunter Education Association, one in three hunters will fall from their tree stands at some point. Falls from tree stands account for the top number of hunting accidents. Hunters who fall suffer everything from bruises to paralysis and even death.
- When picking your tree, make sure it is alive and healthy.
- Use a safety harness and lifelines.
- Periodically check your stand and ladder to make sure they are still in good condition.
- Make sure you leave the specific whereabouts of your stand with a friend or family member who is not a part of your hunting party.
Any time you participate in an outdoor activity, there is the possibility of things going badly. Researchers and psychologists have found survivors of disasters and emergencies are mentally prepared, including knowing what to do without hesitation. Keeping these tips in mind and practicing your survival skills, you should fair just fine if you get lost while hunting.
To learn more about survival skills, read the following posts: