No, Really … I Was Just Turned Around in the Woods

I don’t recall at what age I heard my father and his pals at hunting camp joking around about “being turned around a little bit” but I laughed at their lighthearted way of saying they were lost.

CompassLast Sunday afternoon I had been doing a quick check of game cameras to put in fresh batteries and swap out the SD cards. It was an unseasonable 85 degrees in Alabama and, honestly, I wasn’t too concerned that I wasn’t deer hunting. I don’t mind waiting for cooler temps.

By Alan Clemons, Managing Editor

After repositioning a Stealth camera over a mock scrape and hanging a PlotWatcher over a trail where I knew some different bucks were using, I met my pals for our afternoon trip. We were looking for an old historical site (found it!) and stayed there a couple of hours before calling it a day.

Then, like a moron, I committed the stupid act of walking away from them because I thought my internal compass was good enough to get me through the woods to my truck. They were on an ATV on the main trail atop a mountain — where I live, 1,600 and 1,800 feet qualify as a mountain, because that’s what we have — and I thought it would be easy to just cut through the woods.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Last thing I heard one of them say is, “Where’s Alan? Oh, I see him. He’s taking a shortcut. He’ll meet us at the truck.”

I did, but it was more than an hour after we parted ways. I went wrong in several ways:

1. Getting off the main road without knowing where I was. My “Oh, I’ll be OK” mentality overrode my common sense. That was idiotic. I let my enthusiasm get the best of me.

2. Not having a compass or overnight pack. I’ve preached to my son before about at least taking a fanny pack with some matches, a tarp and a candy bar, if nothing else. I had nothing except a Buck pocketknife. I guess I could have whittled myself to sleep in my sweat-soaked clothes in the chilly nighttime air. Hurray.

3. No sense of direction. I walked a little ways down a bench trail, then dropped downhill and “went east” to the next one, then the next, and then started making my way through the woods. However, “east” was really north because I’d walked too far down the bench trail. I didn’t realize that. Stupid!

Fortunately, things worked out. I popped out into a guy’s property, thankfully he didn’t shoot me for being stupid and I got back to my truck after an additional 2.5-mile walk. I got my exercise in for the day but that wasn’t necessarily the way I wanted to do it. My friends were looking for me because it would be getting dark soon; one stayed at my truck, the other on the ATV back up top. I apologized for being a doofus.

Upside? I learned some new property for hunting and know a little more about the property lines. Not that I wanted to learn them that way, but I guess that’s a silver lining.

Take your backpack or fanny pack with you. Have at least some supplies for an overnight stay including a firestarter, a small tarp or space blanket, some snacks (I like Kind bars, trail mix and deer jerky), and at least one bottle of water. A good flashlight isn’t a bad idea, either. You can take more, of course, but those key things will get you through a night.

Be smart in the woods this season and don’t go toodling off where you don’t need to toodle.