Some of you are too young to remember the television commercial that ends with the imperative “Don’t leave home without it.” The old chestnut, rendered in praise of American Express, has new meaning when it comes to getting back alive on your next bird hunt.
Better than any card of plastic, there are a number of things I won’t leave camp without. They ensure I’ll probably survive a night or two in an emergency. Without them, my wife will probably be contacting my life insurance agent post-haste. Most will simply make your hunting life easier. Others could literally save your life.
Any time I’m far enough from the truck that I can’t see it, I carry a small pack with me that contains these items:
1. Water for you and the dog, and a way to purify more. I like a bota: you can share, and there’s little waste when squirting it into the dog’s mouth. A filter or purification tablets are also critical.
2. Compass, map, and the skills to use them.
3. Fire starters: two methods. Those convenience-store butane versions are unreliable in cold weather.
4. Weather protection: space blanket or even a plastic garbage bag in a pinch.
5. A whistle, which carries farther than a shout for help.
6. Aluminum foil carries water, becomes a cooking vessel, lets you build a fire on snow, and serves as a signal mirror.
8. Duct tape to bandage wounds, make emergency dog boots, and repair all manner of broken stuff.
9. Parachute cord to craft a bootlace or dog leash, or lash shelter poles.
10. Bandana. The big kind you find at Western stores made from silk. It’s also a sling, bandage, potholder, neck warmer.
Okay, okay, it’s really 11 or 12, if you count each fire starter and the map and compass separately … up to four dozen if you have an expensive multi-tool. Maybe you’ll add a few more items, customized to your situation. That’s okay, but keep it compact because the longer the list, the bigger the pack and the less likely you are to actually carry it.
PS: If you carry a Mylar space blanket in your survival kit, check it every year for age-related rips. I opened mine once and found that every fold had become a full-length tear. Luckily, it was at home, not in the woods on a cold, rainy night
Now, go out and find a bird. Just get home safely.