One of the cornerstones of survival, and one of my personal favorites, is bushcrafting. This is a survival skill in the desert that involves using only what you find in nature, and what you can have on you or carry, to survive in the desert. This can involve anything from foraging for food, to cheating, building shelters, making clothes, whatever the need arises. If you can master these skills, not only is it incredibly fun, but it could one day save your life.
Every year, thousands of people get lost in the desert, from national parks to private properties. While basic navigation skills would be incredibly useful in these scenarios, if you can not get out of the thicket, knowing how to make use of your environment can make a difference in the world.
Knowing your desert
The first step to perfecting your shrub creation skills is to familiarize yourself first with the area. Wherever you have a tendency to wander, Arm yourself with a library of local field guides and brochures. Each time you take a walk in the area, take your guides with you. Sit back to catch your breath on the trails and take a moment to observe your surroundings.
Use all your senses: breathe in the smell of the forest, feel the texture of the ground, listen to the creaking and groaning of the trees. This process feels deliciously primitive, and will really connect you to the space in which you are. It may seem a hokey and spiritual, but it is the best way to get a complete picture of your surroundings.
It’s amazing what you can learn just by observing. Take a pencil and a notebook if you want, and make a sketch. Take notes to research more things when you get home, if your field guild proves to be a dead end, but definitely start with the basics.
Familiarize yourself with plant life: it can save your life
Look, the plants are your feet, the tree against which you are reclining, the moss that grows in it, everything. Become an expert in your local flora and fauna. It may seem tedious and redundant, but it is difficult to know how to use your environment if you do not even know what they are.
Also, keep in mind that you are taking these observations with the possibility of looking for food one day. Not knowing the difference between a deadly plant such as water hemlock and a harmless flower like chamomile can be deadly.
If you are ever in a hurry and unsure of the toxicity of a plant, there are a couple of ways you can determine how safe it can be to ingest. First, break a sheet and smell. Does it have a strong and unpleasant odor? Many plants that are toxic in significant quantities can have a strong odor, which naturally discourages wildlife from being interested in them. Next, touch the open sheet of your skin and rub it lightly.
Wait a few moments; Does the area appear irritated or is it burning or numb? Otherwise, continue with the next step and touch it to the inside of the lip or tip of the tongue. If the plant has a bitter or unpleasant taste, do not try to eat it. However, if it does not react and the plant has a tolerable flavor, it is likely to be safe to eat. But never eat more than a few ounces of a plant with which you are not familiar, and listen to the signals from your body. If you feel a little fever or a little intestinal discomfort, do not eat more and vomit if necessary.
When you begin to identify the plants, start looking for useful properties that may not be visible to the naked eye. Many common plants have been used for millennia before the days of modern medicine. While they may not always be as effective as their modern counterparts, many natural natural remedies are brilliant and efficient in their simplicity.
Begin to maintain a catalog to organize the information that gathers, separating the plants according to their uses: medicines, food and textiles (these will be plants especially suitable for construction, clothing or materials for the manufacture of tools).
It may be helpful to investigate how Native Americans used plants. They were incredibly resourceful people who made excellent use of everything they could and found surprising uses for many common plants. For example, they learned that the white powder that covered the bark of the poplars was a good sunblock in a pinch. This residue has a low SPF factor, only about 5-10, but it is a great staple food for survival in case of trouble. Just rub a little on your hands, and spread it over your shoulders and cheekbones to get some UV protection.
Wildlife – be familiar with the territory
While exploring, pay attention to subtle disturbances on the forest floor. The obvious way to detect wildlife is to look for it directly, but much of what lives in the desert is right under our noses, never showing its face. Begin to notice things like scratches on the bark of trees and large, overturned rocks, often the sign of a bear looking for food.
Get up close and personal with poop, and pay attention to where you find it. If you are finding a lot of elk poop in a particular area, observe the plant life and geography of the area. Was it a source of food or a climatic preference that drove the pack here? Where did you go to bed at night? Look under the canopy of large trees for areas of soft, flattened grass. Is there a water source nearby? In the mentality of a bush hunter, this can be an excellent place to establish a blind and hunt.
Become an expert in locating game tracks. Once you know what to look for, they can stand out as lines on a map. These are the paths taken to the ground by frequent and habitual animal activity. Often, these trails follow contour lines, as animals will take the path of least resistance through an area only by instinct.
Move a good distance from an area and, instead of analyzing the individual characteristics of the landscape, let your eyes become glassy and assimilate the configuration as a whole. This will make any defined path jump towards you from the scene. Follow the trails and try to determine its freshness with the remains you find, such as excrement or fur.
Get to know your local predators too. Not only is it a concern for personal safety, but predators have a tremendous influence on the movements of other animals. Knowing how to detect the signs of a large predator in the area, such as a mountain lion, can tell you that animals like caribou can be more dangerous and be on guard in that area.
Basic skills to become familiar with you.
It would take a book to review the survival skills in nature that you would really need to do a week on your own. However, just knowing how to get shelter, food and fresh water can save your life. If you can master only one of the two ways of doing each of these, you will be better prepared than most.
These skills are not only invaluable, they are incredibly fun to learn and teach. Make your family part of the learning experience; Teach your child to set a trap or your daughter to catch fish. You will be building some incredible memories with your family and transmitting skills that have since been skipped over generations.
How to get to drink water?
Start with one of the basics, and it’s knowing how to look for fresh water. Depending on your local climate and geography, this is a methodology that can vary greatly. However, there are some basic steps you can use to start tracking down a source of clean drinking water. This process involves a lot of patience and detective work, so be prepared to spend at least one afternoon in your search.
Start by examining the landscape. If you live in a mountainous area, there are likely to be tributaries and vapors in the valleys between the mountains, known as “coolies.” These drainages are usually seasonal, so be prepared to leave empty depending on the time of year, but it is an excellent place to start.
If you are in a flatter area, or one with rolling hills, look for ditches and drains. Next, look for signs of a high water table, or a spring. In general, these indicators will be swampy, water-loving plants that grow in clusters, such as cane plants and cattails. Try to dig a hole in those areas and see if you can access the water table. If after a couple of feet you still have no luck, it’s time to follow the animals. Look where the largest animals in the area go to get their water following the trails of the game: the bigger the animal, the more fresh water it needs.
Where to find food to eat?
We have already gone through a lot of what foraging involves. Knowing what plants are around you and how to know if they are safe to eat or not, is a crucial skill to survive in hunting. Much of the success with searching for food in the wild is simply knowing when not to tempt fate, and if you are well informed and prudent, you should not have any problems with that.
The most complicated side of getting your food in nature is getting the kind of escape. Having the ability to hunt with little or no professional equipment is a rare skill. In the current era of compound sights and bows, even such primitively primitive hunting as archery has become largely dependent on technology and industry. Although these are still excellent skills to perfect, knowing how to hunt without the latest technology is an indispensable skill.
The complexities of traditional bow making are a little too deep for this article, but there are many other ways in which you can capture a wild game without the use of modern tools. Trapping has been used for thousands of years and has taken many forms, as technology, once again, has changed in appearance. However, some of the most basic traps, when placed in the right places, remain extremely effective. With a lot of patience and an acute observation of the movements of the animals, these can be effective tools to catch their prey.
One of the most basic animal traps is the trap, which is essentially a slipknot, placed in a discreet place, designed to hook an animal that goes around the leg or hock. There are many different ways to tie and place one, some of the most elaborate forms, even with hand-made spring spears (be careful with these). However, for the beginner, try to catch something small and just like a rabbit, a basic trap will work well.
If it turns out that you have some rope, use about 5 feet of that, but if you do not have one, look for “green” or flexible grasses or vines. These can be woven or braided together to make a rope about half an inch in diameter. However, you do not want it too big, or your prey may see it too easily. Select a place where you have noticed signs of rabbit activity (again, observation is key), and find something sturdy nearby to tie your rope, like a narrow tree.
Form a slipknot at the other end and find a way to subtly support it on the ground. The idea is that you want the animal to be hooked with the foot or the neck in the trap, so that you can return to it later and extinguish it humanely, before using it for dinner. Once the box is configured, leave it and wait.
Many people establish trap lines, in which they will have traces of traps installed in strategic places, to have the highest probability of obtaining an animal. This is an absolutely prudent idea in a survival scenario, but do not forget where your traps are.
Speaking of catching, another excellent survival skill in hunting animals consists of an ancient Native American method of catching small fish in running water. If you are near a stream, you can select an area near the bank and build a derailleur, using rocks, to redirect the fish that are washed by the current to a shallow pool. The force of the current will prevent them from swimming again, and essentially you will have created a well of life. Just keep in mind that these are usually done on a fairly small scale, and can catch only smaller fish.
How to build a good shelter?
Using your wild animal manufacturing skills to build a shelter is not terribly complicated, but it is time-consuming. When it comes to beginning this task, start early and work hard so you have a roof over your head at nightfall. The most important element is to keep wind and humidity away from yourself, so take advantage of any natural windbreaks you can find. Often, that means building your inclination against a rocky wall or a tree, which will keep you out of the weather.
In general, a roof can be knit quite simply, just be sure to use green or live branches. Find some good “tools” for things like digging pits, cutting branches, peeling bark, etc. There is no quick or difficult way to build a shelter, but it is advisable to make any structure that you design with 3 walls and a roof shed, so that the water runs at one end, and not through the walls.
Isolate your home with what you can find, just make sure it is dry and free of passengers (nothing like getting up in a bed full of fire ants). Dry leaves, grass and pine needles make a great isolation. Fill it in crevices and corners, wherever you feel a draft. Then, dig a hole in the hip (try laying on your side on the floor, you will discover) and crouch for the night. Seal all the heat of your body inside the walls of your shelter as you can. The hotter and drier you are, the less change you will get from getting sick.
Lost wisdom, invaluable information.
Many of these skills come from veterans who had no choice but to do it wrong, in times when, if they wanted a house, they had to swing an ax and build one. But with the industrial revolution came a subtle genocide of our abilities. We entered the era of convenience and forgot what it meant to grind something of the earth by ourselves.
The truth is that there is not really a great source of information on the Internet for these skills. You can find some articles, basic information like what I just gave you, but in the end, sit down with some of the original mountaineers, and that’s where you get the real things. These skills are a lost passion that is slowly being revived by a generation. Get out and make use of this information: show your hands and remind people what it is to know how to do something for themselves.