4 Cautionary Bushcraft Tales
Bushcraft is the common term for wilderness skills.
Fishing, hunting, building shelter, starting fires, foraging for food, navigating foreign terrain and so on. These are the skills that can save your life in a survival situation and can help you with off grid living.
For modern man, surviving in the wilderness is no longer natural to them — sitting in front of a widescreen television is their new natural habitat! So when we step into the wilderness a lot of things can easily go wrong.
Here are some user-submitted cautionary bushcraft tales from people who ran into trouble in the wilderness!
4) Navigational Tools Matter — Even in Your Own Backyard
I was hunting for deer in a forest only a few miles from my home. My friend had bailed on me because his girlfriend wanted to see a movie. I don’t usually go out solo, but I was in an area that I knew very well and I had my mobile phone with me.
I had found some fresh tracks so things were looking up. Then, within 30 minutes a storm blew in, bucketing down rain. My visibility was reduced to about 6 feet. That was ok because I knew the forest well and was following a path. I was simply going to walk home via the path, have a bath and a hot cup of coffee.
Then suddenly, I tripped over a slippery rock and hit my head hard on the ground. I blacked out for what felt like 20 seconds. My injury wasn’t too bad at all, but I knew a bruise would come up. Everything was fine, I would continue walking down the path to get home. By now a great deal of water had leaked through my poncho and I was feeling cold and miserable.
I started walking on the path in the direction I thought was home. After 10 minutes I realized this wasn’t the right direction and this wasn’t the right path!
My mistake was suddenly apparent — because I was in a forest so close to my home I didn’t think to bring any bushcraft tools like a firestarter or compass.
I didn’t have a complete survival kit with me, just a few bits and pieces. My mobile phone had gone flat, which left me with few options other than walking out myself.
Visibility was still horrible because of the rain and there was now some fog in the area. What really worried me was that my body temperature was beginning to drop — hypothermia might kick in if I was forced to stay out here all night.
5 hours later and I had managed to find a familiar rock and make my way home. A miserable day that could have been avoided by bringing a compass! I learned a very good piece of bushcraft wisdom that day — be prepared for worst case scenarios and realize that even your backyard can become a dangerous place.
Solution: Don’t rely on local knowledge because you can get lost in your own back yard when the weather goes bad! Always take a compass.
3) The Quality of Your First Aid Matters
It was my first time trekking through the wilderness solo. I had done everything right — packed a survival kit, told my friends where I was going, told them when I would be back.
I had only recently begun working on my survival skills and building a survival kit. Some of my friends were amused at my actions, they thought I had watched too many Bear Grylls episodes! But I knew that improving my emergency preparedness was crucial and a part of that was learning how to survive in the wilderness.
I was about 5 miles in when I tripped on a tree root and went into a ravine. Rolled a few times and was a bit dizzy at the bottom. Upon landing, I looked myself over and initially thought I was fine — until I noticed blood seeping through my sleeve. There was a bad cut on my forearm, about 3 inches long. It didn’t look like it needed stitches, but it was bleeding badly.
While most people would panic I knew I was well-prepared, because I brought a medkit. I could simply dress the wound and continue. I took off my shirt and opened the medkit that I had bought from eBay one week earlier.
That’s when I became seriously worried!
I realized there was no sling in my first aid kit, the bandages were tiny and it didn’t include painkillers! The antiseptic swabs looked like they had been manufactured in mother Russia and were made by a company I had never heard of. I realized I couldn’t disinfect the wound reliably and the pain was growing. I hurriedly used my t-shirt to wrap the cut and began walking back to town.
The humiliation of my 1-day journey was a bit tough and a couple of friends were surprised to see me again so soon. The moral of the story — double check that med kit!
Solution: Check and update the contents of your first-aid kit regularly. Consider building your own comprehensive first aid kit.
2) Foraging for Food in Foreign Environments
I had been learning all aspects of bushcraft for more than 5-years. I had really focussed on building shelter, starting fires and finding wild food. My ability to venture into the forest with only a survival knife, compass, a first-aid kit and some water, then come back 3 days later healthy and happy was something I was proud of.
So when I visited my brother in Australia I thought I would show him some of my skills. We set off on a sunny Friday morning with the intention of coming back to civilization on Sunday. We took a couple of sleeping bags, a first-aid kit, water, a compass, a little bit of food and some other useful bushcraft gear. The first couple of days were great, we did plenty of fishing, I foraged for food and we had a plenty of laughs.
On Sunday morning, I decided to fry some wild mushrooms to go with the eggs that I had brought along. They looked identical to a common variety of mushroom in the United States — the Chanterelles. Within an hour of eating the mushrooms the stomach cramps began. I knew I had made a serious mistake so we began walking back to civilization immediately. It was a very painful and slow walk back to town, but we made it eventually.
It ended up being a simple case of food poisoning, but if we had eaten more it could have been fatal. That day I learn that some bushcraft skills like foraging for food do not translate well to other environments. It looked identical to the American mushroom but caused mild poisoning — luckily it didn’t cause hallucinations. After boasting to my brother about my bushcraft skills, he discovered I still have a lot to learn!
Solution: Be aware that some survival skills do not translate well to foreign locations.
1) Don’t Rely on Gadgets!
As a bushcraft “nooby” I thought it was a good idea to spend some money on my hobby on electronic gadgets to help me navigate through the local wilderness. I am a very technologically savvy person and love buying new toys.
I was going to do a two-day walk with my buddy Fred. We had very large rucksacks full of food, booze, blankets and various survival gadgets we had bought off eBay. I had a brand new GPS which was going to help us navigate from the campsite through the forest to another campsite 10 miles away.
All went well for the first day and night. We made the journey comfortably and had a few laughs (and drinks) at the campsite. In the morning, I had a bit of a hangover and wasn’t feeling particularly cheerful but it was all a part of having a good time. We started making the journey back to our vehicle.
My GPS showed a waterway within two miles, so we made a quick detour to check it out. We found it to be a beautiful crystal-clear stream that was running fast from the rain earlier in the week. Because we were hungover the feeling of dipping our faces in the creek was incredible. While splashing around like an idiot, the GPS fell out of my pocket and into the fast running stream. Before I knew it, it was floating away.
I managed to catch it, but the damage had been done — it was not waterproof and it had malfunctioned. This could be a big problem I thought. At this stage, I had a rough idea of which way to go but we could easily become lost.
Thankfully, Fred remembered that the stream met with the river that winds its way back into town. We would have a longer walk, but we knew we would get home eventually. As the day grew hotter and our hangovers worsened I realized what a fool I was for depending on electronic gadgets instead of developing my bushcraft skills.
Since then I have bought a compass and learned some orienteering skills! Electronic gadgets may make life easier but if they malfunction they can put you in danger!
Solution: Don’t rely on electronic gadgets for navigation. Learn how to use “old school” tools like a map and compass. Learn how to navigate without any tools at all.