The argument between"tech" and "savvy" in the woodsmanship department seems to be come up more and more every year. It inevitably turns into an "old dog/young dog" argument and for the most part, I feel each side has some good points to be made.
Now I would agree that a lot of young guys depend on a GPS way too much, but I know just as many "old hand" 40 or 50 year olds who can't navigate worth a damn either. Blood trailing seems to be another skill that isn't being learned or taught as much as it should, but it's hard to learn how to blood trail if you hardly ever shoot anything, so we can't really blame that one on the younger generation either.
So after spending three days in a blind with a long time friend who happens to be 64 years old, we came up with list of skills that are essential to the backcountry hunter, young and old.
1) Navigation (general and advanced): This is with a map and compass, folks, not a GPS.
2) Fire Starting: It amazes me how many hunters can't start a fire with a flint and steel anymore. What you going to do when the waterproof matches are toast and the lighter is crushed?
3) Blood Trailing: This is art in motion, with the right guy on point, but with the wrong guy on point, it can be a circus with no trucks. Find someone who blood trails well and learn from them.
4) Field Dressing and Caping: Whether you use the gutless method and or gut and quarter, this is something that can be either a joy to watch or a comedy routine. There are plenty of good instructional video out there, including this one on how to debone an elk.
5) Field Expedient Shelters: This one can save your life, but if you ask a 20 year old to describe what a lean to is, he'll probably quote a rap song or something. Maybe that's too harsh, then again …
6) Basic First Aid: Something you should know weather you hunt or not, but this one seems to be the last thing many people think of before heading into the woods.
7) Survival Kit Knowledge: Simple enough, but I bet you find more I-pods and cell phones in hunters packs than flint and steel's.
8) Bore Sighting and Broadhead Tuning: This is another foreign language to a lot of beginners, but both are as important as anything else on this list. If all you shoot is field points, that first broadhead shot is going to be a surprise.
9) Plant and Tree Identification: Not always lifesavers, but this type of knowledge is a huge part of hunting and makes for a richer experience.
10) Animal Anatomy: In the last two weeks, as an experiment, I have asked several hunters what side of the elk the liver is located. They had a 50/50 shot at getting it right and several guys (of all ages) still got it wrong.
Many more skills are needed to be a complete woodsman, but the list above is the skills that seem to be lost more than any, at least as I see it, with the hunters I meet. This has less to do with a hunter's age, I think, and more to do with the times we live in. I was raised in an area that demanded you know how to do everything on that list. If you didn't you went hungry. Not everyone, I realize, is lucky enough to have a rough childhood.
What do you guys think? Has the modern emphasis on tech and gear taken away from the art and skill of backcountry woodsmanship?
Either way, if you find a new hunter that is in need of some knowledge, SPREAD THE WEALTH. The hunting community will be a better place for it!