Over the years, I have adapted several rules to help keep myself safe and succesful on my wilderness excursions. I have adapted these rules to hunt by, out of numerous small failures over the years.
The first and most important rule is: "never let anyone or any situation separate you from your equipment." This means your gun, your backpack, your water, your food, your flashlight or whatever. Say you're on a long stalk on an elk and you put your backpack down to close the distance quicker and more quietly... you continue your stalk and it's getting dark. Now you are forced to find your backpack in the dark (which probably contains your GPS unit and cell phone) and not to mention, you're probably in unfamiliar country. And don't let your buddy or your laziness talk you into putting it down. When the moment really counts, the man that's successful is the man that's prepared.
I have repeated this scenario DOZENS of times, I did it even this year while turkey hunting. I Found myself just jogging out to check a field for turkeys, I figured I'd leave my gear because it was probably a lost cause... and sure enough, I popped over the hill to find myself 100 yards from a good tom... If I only would have been prepared!
Rule number 2: "Never give up!"
I've found myself tired and hungry and thirsty, questioning if I should try one more stalk... Perseverence pays off nearly 100% of the time. If you give it your all, and still fail, then you couldn't have helped it. If you didn't try hard and fail... Likely, it was your own fault. I have given up on a hunt halfway through for all kinds of reasons, but victory only can go to the team that showed up for the game. I have been in circumstances where I felt overwhelmed by the situation, and telling myself "remember rule number 2," is what kept me going.
Specifically this rule paid off when I was hunting a winter feeding area for deer in an abnormally cold winter, I believe it was about 20 below zero. A buddy and I decided to try to catch some deer feeding (since they must need more energy to keep going, right?) after a very successful morning of seeing coyotes instead of deer, we took the shortcut across the creek to the truck. I crossed the ice (at 175 pounds) with no difficulty, directly behind me, the 6'3" and 250 pound monster that followed me broke through the ice. The water was only waist deep. The water that filled his knee high rubber boots was frozen shortly after I pulled him out of the water and mud. Joe gave up, once he figured out that he couldn't walk the last 300 yards to the pickup. I drug him most of the way, with him screaming and crying in pain. We cut his frozen boots and socks off with my knife and did our best to wait until the truck warmed up... which seemingly took forever.
My number 3 rule to live by is more about life, less about hunting... "never sleep with a woman you've known less than 24 hours." I can't even begin to say how many times this rule may have saved my life!
NEVER GIVE UP!