Becoming disoriented, turned-around or even lost in the woods can be a frightening experience particularly for the first time. I remember squirrel hunting on Laurel Mountain. I was about one-half mile north of the fire tower on the Randolph County side. I had never hunted this area, and I was just trying it out for fun.
About 9 a.m., it started raining, and I could see fog rapidly approaching. I decided to call it quits. When I got back on the top of the ridge, the fog was there to greet me. It took me at least 45 minutes to find my car, and I was happy to get out of there. When I looked the same area over again in good weather, I ended up laughing at myself just for simply being worried. It really should not have taken me five minutes to locate my car.
Being lost in the wilderness can be serious, but it does not have to be dangerous if a person is properly prepared. When you realize that you are lost, the first thing to do is sit down and think. Your mind is really your best piece of survival gear, so start using it. Above everything else, do not panic.
If a person is hunting in an area he is not familiar with, a little advance preparation can keep him comfortable and safe in weathering "an unexpected night out." Putting together a small survival kit is the first step. As with any survival kit, the contents selected should be based on one's personal needs, the time of the year, and geographic location.
Nature is full of wonders, but it can also be elusive and scary if a person lets his imagination run away with him. Getting lost in the woods is preventable by just following a few basic guidelines.
When hunting in an area for the first time, look for landmarks before entering the woods. Such things include creeks, unusual rocks or trees. Take notice the position of the sun before entering the wilderness. If you enter an area that does not have trails, make your own trail by stacking rocks on top of one another or by making a mark on a tree with your knife. If you start out on a trail, stay on this trail and do not take what you might think are shortcuts.
Always tell someone where you are going to be and what time you are expected to return. As a courtesy, let that someone know that you have returned.
If you do get lost and it is close to getting dark, try to find an open area and stay put. Build a fire. A warming fire does wonders in building up self-confidence and easing uncertainties. First, be careful not to set the woods on fire. The fire itself will not only warm you; it will also dry your clothes and be a good companion. Do not worry or even think about aggressive animals. Remember, there is nothing in the woods at night that was not there during the day. The warming fire is an excellent signaling device for possible rescuers. Keep plenty of quick-burning material, dried leaves and wood, close by.
Being lost in the wilderness may not be like camping out for a night or two, but try to remain calm and remember the possibility of being found is much better if you stay near your fire.
Some ideas of survival gear that may be helpful:
n One of those small emergency solar blankets
n Body, hand, foot warmers for inclement weather
n Of course, all weather matches for your fire
n A small mirror to signal for help
n Some small snacks such as granola or energy bars, nuts, jerky (Snacks should depend on your health status)
n Necessary medications such as insulin or nitroglycerin
n Water or fluid to drink
n A cell phone or GPS device, perhaps
n A compass
n A small flashlight and extra set of batteries
n Dry cloths, socks, shoes for when you get back to your vehicle
n A fanny pack to carry your survival gear.