The Hunt


The soft, blue sky and sounds of chipping birds didn’t soften the concerned look on the man’s face as he peered out the window.

“They’re out there, son.”  He warned.  “They came during the night.  Pods hidden amongst the landscape.  They’re  hidden, but I know they’re  there.  I can smell them.”

His words were confirmed with tightening eyelids and a terse nod.

“It’s not like last time.”  He continued.  “Last time easy to spot.  They were bigger and ugly.  Everyone knew they were dangerous.  This time, though; this time they were smart.  The pods are small, so they’re easy to hide.  They’re brightly colored, too.  It makes them easier to find, but also lulls its victims into a sense of false security.  There’s got to be hundreds of them out there.”

The soldier steps back and racks his rifle.  “Clack-clack!”

“Don’t worry, Dad.  I got this” He says with confidence.

A brightly colored basket is lowered in between them.

“Why don’t you collect them instead of shooting them.”  The mother says to her son.”

“Aw, Mom!”  The boy protests as she disarms the young soldier.

“No, no.  She’s right!”  The father chimes.  “Gunfire will alert them to your presence.  You need to stalk them, special ops style, and bring them back to the home base for study and interrogation.  They’ll crack under the pressure!”

Mom rolls her eyes as the child bolts out the door.

Finding a guide: Three books of wildcraft and survival

Bushcraft books

“I’d love to hike in the wilds of Alaska.”

“I can help you with that.”

“You can”

“Absolutely.  Just one question.”

“What is it?”

“Do you want a guide or do you just want to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere?”

This opportunity was offered to me years ago.  As much as I wanted to go, I turned it down.  I didn’t think my wife would like me “camping” for six months without helping out with the bills, among other things.  The other reason was, I didn’t think I was skilled enough to last that long in the wild without support.

Oddly enough, I never considered the use of a guide, even though that was an option.  Hunters and explorers use guides all the time.  Their knowledge of the area is something I would not have going in.  It is an advantage that should not be ignored.

But what if you want to go it alone?  How do you go about learning the skills needed?  You could take some lessons.  There are schools that teach bushcraft or wilderness survival.  The classes aren’t cheap though.  They can start from $350 and go to $800 for a one week class.  (And that doesn’t include the destination cost, or the costs of food, hotel, and gear.)  Your class might cost more than your dream adventure.

You could check out Youtube for lessons, but what if the person you’d prefer doesn’t make videos?

You can educate yourself by reading their books.  This gives you the opportunity to learn new skills and work on them at your pace with a substantially lower out of pocket cost.  The downside is that you don’t have the instructor there to show you what you are doing wrong if you can’t get that specific exercise down.  (This is where having videos help.  More on that later.)

I currently have three “Wilderness survival” handbooks in my library and while there are similarities, the authors who write them had distinctly different styles.  This is both good and bad.  A person you might like from TV or Youtube might be too dry or too, “out there” in book form.  On the other hand, if you go in with no perceived notions, you will easily pick out the book that fits your personality.  This is a great advantage and will help inspire you to succeed.

Of the authors, two are widely known and the third is somewhat known.  They are Dave Cantebury, Cody Lundin, and Tom Brown Jr.  I’m going to start with Tom first


Tom Brown Jr is the first person I heard about who was into Wilderness Survival.  It is the title of his handbook, but to say he is a survivalist would be wrong.  In the book, Tom talks about the lessons he learned from his adoptive grandfather and all the time he spends in the eastern pines of New Jersey.  His book teaches Native American skills for living in the wilderness while being a conservationist.  Tom spends many pages explaining the different shelters you can build, but goes further by describing where they should be built and what mistakes he made along the way.




Tom Brown Jr’s book is also the only book of the three to have a section on edible and medicinal plants.  Each plant listed has its common name, scientific name, a plate drawing, description, general habitat, (Don’t expect to read what zone or climate here) range, food, medicine, and other uses.  I’m very leery of any medicinal qualities of plants until they are cross checked for truth. The points of other uses for these plants, though, is worth the price of the book alone.   Knowing what plant is best for making a specific tool, helpful for fire, or an insect repellent is worth its weight in my opinion.



Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival also talks about attitude, water, fire, shelter, hunting, trapping, fishing, cooking, preserving, tools and crafts.  All written as if the author is talking to you one on one.


This is my first book on wilderness skills and is still one of my favorites.  I do recommend pairing it with a good tree/plant identification book with full photographs so you can better identify the plants he describes in his book.


Cody Lundin’s 98.6 Degrees (The art of keeping your ass alive) is very different from Tom’s and Dave’s book.  There are no plant descriptions here, no primitive shelter instructions, no animal track guidelines, and definitely no hunting skills.  Cody focuses on only one thing in this book, how to survive until rescued.

With such a singular focus, you’d think his book would be rather thin.  Nope.  It’s 215 pages long and is the only book of the three to have color photos in it.


Cody goes through the entire process of being lost to being found.  With a large amount of paper being spent on mind set.  He hammers home the fact that your outlook and attitude go a long way towards your survival when lost in the wild.  Cody brings up the truth about fear, how it affects the body, and how to control it. He talks about weather, hypothermia, starvation, dehydration, and how to avoid these problems.


Cody guides you in making your own personal survival kit.  He keeps it basic and doesn’t include anything that a novice couldn’t figure out how to use.  It gives you the basics without breaking the bank.  (Or your back)

98.6 degrees is also the only book that mentions to not only tell someone where you are going and how long you will be, but also describe what you are driving, the gear you have with you and other ways of identifying yourself and your direction if you are lost.


Cody writes his book in the same fashion as John Muir did when he wrote his famous VW repair guide for the complete idiot.  (John Muir the VW fan, not Muir the conservationist.)  His book is full of lush cartoon panels and interesting characters.  It fits perfectly with his Hippie image.


The last book is Dave Cantebury’s Bushcraft 101 – A field guide to the art of wilderness survival.  Dave’s book falls in between Tom’s and Cody’s.  It leans heavily towards early camping and long term living in the woods than it does survival.

Early camping, sometimes called bushcrafting, takes its roots back in the late 1890’s to 1910’s era of camping.  It was the first version of light camping though carrying a small amount of equipment and making what you need along the way.  Dave brings up the early eastern camping pioneers of Horace Kephart and George Nessmuk Sears and updates their philosophies to our modern times.

Dave divides his book into two parts:  Gear and camping.

In the Gear sections he defines what are the 5 C’s and ways of using the tools need for each category.  He talks about what was carried back in the day and how they can be used in today’s world. Dave shows you shelters made from tarp or branches, various useful knots, and how to make a stove stand.


In the camping section, Dave talks about set up, hygiene, the different types of fire kays, navigation by compass, measuring distances, figuring time by daylight, tree identification and uses, trapping and processing game.


Bushcraft 101 also comes with an appendix on edible and medicinal plants.  It is very basic.  There are no pictures or drawing of the plants, no scientific names or areas found, but it does have a wonderful description of poultice, infusion, decoction, and ash.  Something I wish Tom had done in his book.

Dave also throws in some camp recipes for your adventurous spirit.

If you want the textbook on Bushcraft/Woodcraft/Wildcraft, this is it.  If you’re hoping for a personal conversation with Dave, look elsewhere.  Dave wrote this book like speaking at a lecture.  Just the facts. Personally, I was disappointed by this.  I was hoping to have a little more one on one story time with Dave, like I did with Tom.  I wasn’t looking for what he learned from his father per say, but his lessons would hit home better if he attached a few camp stories with them.

The bright side is that all of Dave’s chapter and subchapter items can be supplemented by his videos on you tube.  You will have to search his channel to find them, but it’s a benefit that can’t be overstated.  Reading the book and seeing how he does it brings you as close to the classroom as possible without being there.

So there you go.  Three different books by three different authors with three different styles.

All bring up the basic survival needs:

  • Attitiude
  • Knife
  • Shelter
  • Water container
  • Rope
  • Lighter or other fire starter

Two talk about plants (one in depth, one extremely basic)

One talks about the proper communication needed before venturing out your door as well as having a way to communicate to others if needed for a rescue.

All will help you stay safer than you would without their knowledge.

All will give you more confidence in yourself as you practice the skills taught and the kits built.

All will make your time in the bush a little more enjoyable.

Anyone of them is worth the money.  All you have to do is choose which is best for you.

See you on the trail.

Luke’s Journal: Entry 1

The snow shines brightly under the cloudless sky.  My eye’s squint and water just from looking out my window. It’s not too cold out either.  Maybe 20 degrees with a light breeze coming out of the Northwest.  It’ll be a great day for a gathering walk.  I already have my travel cup warming up for the outing.  I love these double insulated, plastic cups.  They keep my coffee long enough for a quick drink and don’t cling to your lips like the old metal ones do.  I don’t know why they sell those stupid metal ones here anyway.  Every time I see a tourist with one my mind keeps replaying the tongue on the pole scene from A Christmas Story.  Ugh!

Luckily for me, I don’t have to deal with that crap.  I wised up and live twenty miles from the nearest town.  Yeah that can be a pain sometimes, but oh the benefits of it all.

No noise.  No traffic.  No stupid rules and regulations strangling you from all corners.  Freedom.  Pure and simple.  My heart warms just thinking about it.   People in the “civilized world” might wax poetic about their Chinese takeout and Starbucks Latte, but I was never one for Chinese food and my home-brew is better than anything Starbucks can dream of.  Speaking of which.  It’s ready to go.

It took me a few minutes, but now I’m ready to go as well.  Got my parka on (Thank God for Thinsulate), pack’s all set, and I am out the door.

Everything’s different when you live in the bush.  You have to go prepared.  There’s no 911 out here.  No ambulances to pick you up when you’re hurt.  No hospital within an hour’s drive.  (Hell, where I’m at, there ain’t no road!)  It’s all on you to see that you make it home.  That’s why the pack.  It’s got enough stuff in it to keep me safe and warm if something should happen along the way.

But enough of that, It’s time for the walk.

I love a good “gathering walk” this time of year.  The bears are asleep and the other critters are out and about.  If you’re really quiet, you might get lucky.  Last year around this time I witnessed two foxes frolicking in the fresh powder.  They were romping and playing like kids in the school yard.  I was one of the rare times I wish I had a camera.  I also like to use this walk to gather information about the small game running around.   Where their paths are.  What trees and shrubs they prefer this go around.  Whether or not their numbers have increased.   But when it comes to small game tracking, my main goal is to scout out the wounded or lame ones.  Those are the ones first on my winter’s hunting list.  It might sound cruel, but I’d rather take them out quickly and as painlessly as possible then to have them live in pain or die slowly of starvation.

I also like to keep an eye out for newly felled trees.  They make for easy firewood come the spring.

But mostly I go to be with nature.  Time will come soon enough where I’ll be stuck inside for most of the time, so I might as well enjoy being outside as much as I can.  It’s a treasure that most just don’t understand.  There’s a feeling of connection to the earth that is lost in the “civilized” world.  People make a big to do about pushing forms and data all around, while spending only two weeks of their lives trying to undo the stress from the other fifty.  They call that living.  I call it insanity.  You want living.  Come up here and live this way for one year.  Only then will you get a taste of what true living is about.

Daydreams of: The Hunt

Frost covered the roof of the modest hut as smoke puffed from its central port.  November bore its wintry clothes early this year.  Inside, a woman stooped before the fire.  Fish from a nearby stream sizzled on the clay pan.  In the shadows, a man stood, lacing up his fur cloak.

“Come.  Eat your breakfast.” The woman commanded.

“You eat.”  He countered, “You need your strength”.

“And what of you?” she asked, “Two days with no food is not good”.

“I’ll be fine.”  He said bitterly while reaching for the door.

“You’re going again”?

“I must.  The harvest was poor this year.  We need meat, or will perish”.

Sonji knew this was true, but she felt wary of his leaving.  He had grown thin with hunger and the cold was ferocious.

Relenting, she murmured, “Brock, be careful.”

Brock smiled warmly to his wife and stepped out against the cold outdoors.

The frigid air assaulted his bones and sensitive teeth.  Hissing in his breath, he pulled his cloak tighter for protection.  Up the North trail he strode to the flowing stream that was the lifeblood of his village.  Stooping low, he filled his water skins to their limit, then began to stand when out of the corner of his eye, to the left, darted a minnow into view.

“It’s a test.”  He thought, “If I can catch it, I’m sure to find food”.  Brock struck swiftly, his arm thrust into the freezing water like a pike.  He clenched his fist, pulled it out of the current, and opened it with great anticipation.


Brock grumbled to himself, “Surely this must be a bad omen”.  He spat on the ground, rose stiffly, and continued on to the hunt

Although the sun shone brightly overhead, a west wind came up strong, and made it feel colder than the norm.  Brock opened and clenched his fists repeatedly trying to keep them warm.  The tracks he had been following for the past three hours looked promising.  They were from an Elk.

“The gods smile upon Me.”, Brock thought as he neared his prey.  Soon, Brock spotted his prize.  Off in the distance, yet still in striking range, stood a magnificent buck.  He stood at thirteen hands.  Almost five feet tall!  His rack was proud and broad, displaying many tines.  He was in the peak of health and best of age.  The strong elk stretched out his muscular neck and called out to any prospective mates.

“Arrunk!  Arrunk!  Arrunk!”

Brock had hidden himself behind a large evergreen shrub; making sure the elk hadn’t noticed his presence.  He then used the knowledge that the years of experience had taught him.  Cupping his hands together, he called out to the elk as a doe.  The buck froze, fixated on the call. Brock took his spear and hurled it to his prize.  It struck home to his salvation.  With a triumphant cry, Brock flew to his trophy.  The spear had fallen the majestic elk, but had not killed it. Quickly, Brock took his copper blade and slit the elk’s throat, giving the elk a quick and less painful death.

“Thank you.”  Brock whispered to the elk; “Your death has given my family life”.  With rapid efficiency, Brock emptied the carcass and cleaned the meat with the water he had brought.  Exhausted, yet relieved, he decided to camp for the night.  Brock knew the elk was too heavy to carry and a sled would have to be built to bring the prize home.  He spent the waning light building a wind break and making fire.  He chose a small portion of the bounty and cooked it over the open flame.  Savoring the tasty fortune of his struggle, he felt relived.  His family would not starve this winter.  Relaxed and assured, Brock fell fast asleep.

He had slept so deeply that he hadn’t heard the wolf that had sniffed the elk flesh carried on the wind, sneak into camp.  It was only the unexpected cracking on the burning wood in the campfire, causing the wolf to yelp that woke him.

“Get out of here!”  Raged Brock as he grabbed his spear for battle.  “Leave you mangy whore”!

The wolf stood his ground and snarled in defiance.  Brock charged the beast only to be toppled in mid stride by a second wolf.  His spear clattered from his hand.  Before he could react, four other wolves dove upon him.  Brock fought ferociously for his own life, but to no avail.  Seeing his opening, the lead wolf latched onto Brock’s neck and snapped it like a twig.

The pack descended on the warm body like locusts, hungrily devouring it.  The lead wolf was pleased.  Two kills for the risk of one.  It was a great victory and the needed the food.  Winter had come early and hunting this year had been poor.