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Surviving Mother Nature: Remember the FSFS Rule (feature)

July 2009 Feature Article:

Surviving Mother Nature: Remember the FSFS Rule

Have you ever been in a survival situation? Most of us have not. Would you know how to survive in the wilderness in a crisis? Believe it or not, most of us would not. With the advent of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) we've been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that we can escape any predicament by following our handy little electronic devices to safety. While basic wilderness survival skills were commonly learned by generations before us, recent generations are much less savvy in this regard. As hunters, our activities often take us into remote areas. It behooves us to learn the essential skills required to survive if we ever find ourselves stranded in the wild. Read more...

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expatriate's picture
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Location: Arizona
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Surviving Mother Nature: Remember the FSFS Rule (feature)

Great article. Up here in Alaska, survival situations are never very far away. He's spot on with the FSFS rule. I never go out without the basics to build a fire, construct some form of shelter, a supply of water/water purification, and signaling. Do it right and it just weighs a few ounces.

Oh, yeah...and shelter? Our arctic survival instructors up here will tell you to keep your shelter as small as possible -- all those boughs provide insulation, and your body will keep a small space warmer than a larger one.

I might add a couple things to the "signaling" section:

I've heard pilots say that aerial flares aren't that effective, because they're short-lived and easily missed unless the pilot is looking at it when it goes up. A flare held in one's hand and waved around on the ground can be more effective. A couple big strips of blaze orange fabric you can lay out in an "X" goes a long way, too. And if you're in rough shape, you might be to weak or parched to yell -- carry the loudest whistle you can find. But even more imporantly, such things only work when search and rescue is in your immediate location. "Signaling" should also include some form of communication with the outside world. Take a cell phone, if there's coverage. If not, a SPOT beacon is the size of a GPS and provides cheap insurance -- it'll relay your position to search & rescue and guide them right to you. If you want to go higher tech and carry more weight, a sat phone is phenomenal.

I've been on fly-in bear hunts so remote we couldn't get an AM radio station. But we rented a sat phone that we could use to reach out to loved ones, Fish & Game, our air taxi, etc. I also carried a SPOT in case something tragic happened in the field. I never go anywhere up here without the ability to reach back to civilization.

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Surviving Mother Nature: Remember the FSFS Rule (feature)

As a pilot myself I agree that aerial flares really are useless unless they are fired off directly in front of the flight path and better used at dawn, dusk or dim twilight times. During clear sky daylight hours a signal morror is best and will signal over great distances to any incoming aircraft. Ground signs have to be very large and very visible to see from the air.

SPOT is a great advantage these days as are satellite phones. I think it's in everyones interest to always bring with them the right mind set along with the appropriate gear and clothing. When venturing out into the backcountry it's always a good idea to have on you the right equipment to build shelter, fire, and signal. I will say one thing about GPS, it's a great tool, but it is NO substitute for a good topo map and a good compass and the navigation skills to use them.

I will say one thing about hypothermia. It may not seem like a threat when you have the right clothing and equipment. But you spend a couple days exhausting yourself, being dehydrated, and not having eaten much in that time and believe me your metabolism will not be firing enough to generate much body heat. People only think about the gear and how well it works when you are well fed and well rested and in good spirits. Things change dramatically when exhaustion, hunger, injury, and fear set in. Just something to think about and try and guard against if stuck in a situation. Warm gloves , a good warm insulated hat, and an extra dry pair of heavy wool socks can help tremendously.

The old idea of a 3 shots-in-the-air distress signal to me is pretty useless during legal daylight hours of rifle season. The reason is that nobody within hearing distance of those shots during that particular time will give it any attention, and may think nothing unusual about it. Best to wait until after legal shooting light is over to try and signal the distress shots. Perhaps any other hunters sitting around a campfire after sunset will give 3 shots a bit more attention.

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Location: Northern High Sierra
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Survival

If I may add a few more survival tips.
Physical conditioning! Fitness in extreme outdoor conditions is a must.
Those of us with Boy Scout background, BE PREPARED!
Take a survival, first-aid, orienteering, etc. course. Just because you've been
hunting and fishing for X years, lose your ego, you may learn something
new that will save your bacon.

I've been a professional fireman for 30 years as well as an avid outdoorsman. I may be a little more prepared than your average Joe because of my training and career. However, there are a lot of quick excellent courses throughout the country that are available to non-safety personnel. In the recent 3 years elk hunting in Colorado I've had to evacuate a person with HAPE ( high altitude pulmonary edema ) at night in a blizzard from the back country. The following year was easier, a gentlemen had the Big One so we had to get a body out of the back country. Shit happens! Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

Be Safe,

Bruce

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