In a recent trip to Northern Queensland in Australia, I was taken out for my first ‘pig hunt’ with an old friend. It's been far too long since I've been out on the hunting trails, and along with us we had brought a survivalist newbie on his first expedition. Joe. Today is a recap of Joe's biggest learning's over the weekend, with a bunch of lessons that are relevant for survivalists and preppers alike. Again, I'd like to stress that anyone who is planning to grab their bug-out-bag and hike off into the hills at the first sign of a SHTF event is probably more of a dreamer than a realist. Here's why.
‘I packed too much stuff’ Be brutal with your bug-out-gear, eliminating all but the bare essentials. A light pack soon becomes intolerable when you've grabbed 15 or 20 additional items just-in-case, and you've got another 15 or 20 pounds on your back. Everything you pack needs to serve a purpose (double points if it's multi-purpose), and you should be accustomed to carrying your pack over a long hike. If you can, take your kit out for a few test runs, and remove any gear that isn't a necessity.
‘I packed the wrong stuff’ Your kit needs to cater to your environment. One of the mistakes we all made on this trip was adequate protection from Australia's creepy crawlies. Mosquito's swarm in the hot, sticky climate, and the sun is that much more brutal than back home in the States. We all realized pretty quick the importance of having the right gear to cater to your situation, something we could have easily remedied if we had done a test run (impossible), or asked a local expert what we needed to pack. In hindsight, this could have been a much more dangerous mistake if one of our team had gotten sunstroke or a mosquito-borne virus on the trip.
‘Water is critical’ Another climate-dependant factor is water. In hot weather you can expect to be drinking a couple of gallons a day, while in the winter you're going to need much less water to maintain the same activity level. We had this covered because it really is a life-or-death mistake, and every one of us had extra filters and purification tablets to ensure our team never went short. In the hot climate of northern Australia dehydration is one of the biggest challenges for anyone out in the wilderness.
‘I was making too much noise’ The first time Joe packed his kit, there were objects inside rattling against each other. It made a persistent clunk with every step, until we made him stop and re-pack it all. Consider this as you're organizing your gear for your bug-out, as you may not have the time to go through everything and find what's rattling. Being able to sneak quietly past any seemingly unfriendly characters as you escape whatever danger you're in may just save your life.
‘I went hungry’ It wasn't until the third day that Joe managed to shoot his own boar. If you're planning on catching game, trapping, or even fishing for your meals, remember that in nature nothing is guaranteed. The weather, timing, and a thousand other factors will influence your ability to catch yourself a meal, so make sure you've got a back-up plan. What supplies do you have to maintain your required calorie intake if you're not able to ‘live off the land’?
‘Sound carries in the woods’ On two separate occasions we heard gunshots from a second hunting party. They were obviously a mile or so from where we were trekking, but the noise carried through the valleys and alerted us to their presence. In a SHTF scenario, shooting your dinner may alert people to your presence, and draw other people into your area as they search for you and your camp. Only ever fire your weapon if it's absolutely required, and you may benefit from learning alternative hunting techniques like becoming proficient with a composite bow. In addition, snapping branches and the tread of animals through the forest were clearly audible as we sat in wait, which means you're probably not going to be able to sneak your family past anyone who is there watching.
‘Movement is blatantly obvious ‘ We built a simple hide that we manned sporadically through the trip, it sat about 500 yards from our main camp. It wasn't at all camouflaged, but the further you got from the hide, the harder it became to see. Even with my bright orange jacket, the leaves, branches and foliage broke up the view, until it was almost impossible to notice the person in the hide. The scary part was the person sitting up there could follow our movements using a pair of binoculars without a problem, and could hear us ‘stomping’ all our way up to the hide. This was when we were trying to be quiet. Sitting still, it wasn't apparent there was even a person in the hide until you approached close enough for them to throw a rock at you. The trick to note here is movement. When you're still and watching over a field, movement is immediately apparent to the silent observer, and you will be seen no matter how quiet you are. If you've been following our adventures here at APE Survival you know we practice everything we preach, and the best way you can actually prepare for a SHTF scenario is to go outside and practice. Do a dry run and test your bug-out-kit over the weekend, learn new skills on every camping trip you take, and when you get home be like Joe. Run through what went right and what went wrong at the end of each trip, and adjust your plan so that next time you're upping your chances to survive. Ultimately, you're responsible for your own survival.