Lost and Alone: Could You Survive?

I am worried about the next generation of hunters. They seem overly fascinated with technology while neglecting basic woodsmanship.

True woodsmanship is comprised of skills that can't be lost or left behind. Photo by Tony Bynum

Many are more in tune with how to program a trail camera than in actually knowing how to follow a game trail. They can boil water as long as they have a stove with a pietzo ignition switch, but they're helpless if they have to light a real wood fire. Don't even get me started about building a shelter for the night with a hatchet and natural materials at hand.

Skills vs Batteries


In my youth, my favorite book was How To Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angiers. It was written in 1956 and is full of useful skills — from determining true north with a leaf and needle to making shelter out of branches to catching fish with a trotline.


The grocery list for a six-month British Columbia canoe trip was probably a bit impractical, but I still read the book from cover to cover probably 20 times between the ages of 10 and 20. And I'll admit I still reread a chapter or two each year. Impractical and archaic in today's age of high-tech tools? Hardly.


"While modern technology is a fantastic thing, it can go down, be lost, or, in moments of excitement, simply left behind. But what is never left behind are knowledge, determination, and basic woodsmanship skills." - Mike Schoby



On an elk hunt in my late teens, I had a pack full of the latest high-tech gear, including an early GPS, a bivy sack, and military freeze-dried MREs. I was having lunch in our main camp when a herd of elk strolled through. I grabbed my bow and, in the rush to pick up the fresh trail, left my pack. Since the elk weren't spooked, I didn't plan on venturing more than a few hundred yards from camp. Ten miles later I lost the trail and realized three things: 1) It was quickly getting dark, 2) I had no survival gear, and 3) I was hopelessly lost.

Knowing What to Do

As the sun set behind the mountain, I stuffed my cotton shirt and pants full of grass, laid some pine boughs against a ponderosa, and filled the space with a huge pile of dry pine needles. Burrowing deep inside, I shivered my way through a cold September night in the high country with no fire. At dawn I got my bearings from the rising sun and started my long hike back to camp. I eventually made it and then assessed my decisions from the previous 24 hours.


Clearly, I did many things wrong.

I didn't leave a note in camp as to my direction of travel. I didn't grab my pack — with it I would have been warm and fed. Possibly most important, I didn't have the basic items, such as matches, knife, and compass in my pocket. But I did do a few things right — things I learned from reading that old book. I stopped when I knew I was lost, I used natural materials for insulation, and I determined my location by using the sun.

While modern technology is a fantastic thing, it can go down, be lost, or, in moments of excitement, simply left behind. But what is never left behind are knowledge, determination, and basic woodsmanship skills.

Return to Woodsmanship

Maybe it's time to focus on DIY hunting and survival skills — such as 20 Skills Every Hunter Should Know or the chronicle of a really cool survival hunt on the Hebridean Islands of Scotland, where putting meat on the table is far more important than putting antlers on the wall.

I hope you enjoy these articles and possibly even learn a thing or two along the way. But if you already know everything we're trying to pass on, please pry the iPad out of some kid's hands and teach them some real skills.

It just may save their life.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 14: Swamp Bulls

With his Mozambique forest bull in the salt, Craig Boddington sets his sights on the Marromeu grasslands in pursuit of a swamp buffalo.

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 9: Aloha Axis Deer

Host Mike Schoby joins his buddies Jon Dubin and Jeff Johnston on the island of Lanai for a deer hunt Hawaiian style!

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 10: Snowbound Chamois

Host Brittany Boddington gets more than she bargained for on what turned out to be a grueling, snowbound and extremely physical hunt for chamois in Romania's Carpathian mountains.

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 12: High Plains Elk

David Draper teams up with Fred Eichler to hunt elk on the high plains of southern Colorado.

Trending Articles

What's The Best Coyote Cartridge? .22-250 Versus .223 Ammo

What's The Best Coyote Cartridge? .22-250 Versus .223

Joseph von Benedikt & David Faubion

What's The Best Coyote Cartridge? .22-250 Versus .223

Perfection takes practice, a little skill and the understanding that not all steaks are created equal. Recipes

How to Properly Grill Venison Steak

Hank Shaw

Perfection takes practice, a little skill and the understanding that not all steaks are...

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians. News

The Ticks Making Hunters Allergic to Meat

David Hart

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians.

Are predators really to blame for declining deer numbers? The answer might surprise you. Conservation

Do Coyotes Really Affect the Whitetail Herd?

Jeff Johnston

Are predators really to blame for declining deer numbers? The answer might surprise you.

See More Trending Articles

More Survival

Before you have time to build that first shelter, before you have the time to make a fire, and even Survival

Les Stroud: How to Dress for Survival

PH Online Editors - February 20, 2013

Before you have time to build that first shelter, before you have the time to make a fire, and...



Nothing gets as much play in the media as people getting mauled or killed by animals. And while Survival

Les Stroud: How to Survive When Facing a Predator in the Wild

Les Stroud - May 30, 2012

Nothing gets as much play in the media as people getting mauled or killed by animals. And...

Every sportsman knows that danger can appear at any given time without notice, whether its a bear Survival

Best New Camping & Survival Gear for 2015

PH Online Editors - April 10, 2015

Every sportsman knows that danger can appear at any given time without notice, whether its a...

Whether it's as frightening as a worldwide pandemic or just coping with Mother Nature, every Americans should be prepared to survive and thrive within the confines of their own home. Utilizing the unique skillset only a former Green Beret possesses, Terry Schappert, will keep the viewers prepared, entertained, educated and hopefully calm.

Shelter in Place – What You Need to Know

Outdoor Channel Public Service Announcement - April 06, 2020

Whether it's as frightening as a worldwide pandemic or just coping with Mother Nature, every...

See More Survival

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.