The Survival Zone

Two miles from your truck, on a lonely forest hillside, you've scouted the perfect spot for your tree stand. Opening day finds you climbing the stand when, all of a sudden, your foot slips from one of the climbing pegs and you begin to free-fall. You hit the ground with tremendous force and one of your ankles shatters. The pain is excruciating, and it's impossible for you to put any weight on your foot. What do you do? Assess and Act 1) Is any other body part injured? Stop any serious bleeding immediately, before you do anything else. Use direct pressure with your hand and anything you have that can be made into a padded dressing. If you have nothing else available, rip pieces of cloth from your shirt to make a dressing and a compression bandage that you can tie around the wound to hold the dressing in place. Elevate the injury to help slow the bleeding and minimize swelling. 2) Is anyone else in the woods (perhaps a hunting buddy or other hunters you've seen or heard) who might hear you if you use a signal whistle or call out for help? 3) Do you have a cell phone, radio or PLB on you? 4) Did your rifle fall to the ground near you? If so, can you use it to fire three shots to signal for help? Don't waste a lot of ammo if you don't think there's anybody around who will hear the shots. Save it for later, when you actually hear searchers or other hunters in the area. 5) Did you leave instructions with friends or family members, telling them where you were going to hunt and when to expect you back? Do they know to notify authorities to start a search if you're overdue? If you are totally on your own and there is no expectation of help coming, you have two choices: 1) Put together a shelter and start a fire to stay warm and to signal with (smoke during the day, a flame at night), and hope somebody will eventually come looking for you. 2)Try to get to your truck. With this choice, everything depends on the severity of the terrain and your ability to patch yourself up enough to move. If you can fabricate some splints and a kind of crutch, you might be able to hobble across fairly benign terrain. But if you're going to have to crawl on your hands and knees over a couple of miles of impossible hell, then you're probably better off sheltering and building a fire and waiting for help. How to Avoid the Situation 2) Always wear a safety harness, even when climbing. Check your tree stand and climbing pegs for damage or broken parts and repair or replace as necessary. Make sure the installation of the stand is secure and level, both side-to-side and front-to-back. Remove any obstructions that might cause tripping or an off- balance posture when you're climbing the tree or sitting on the stand. 3) Line the pegs and the platform of the stand with traction material to keep your feet from slipping. 4) Be careful and deliberate in every move, both while climbing the tree and while perched on the stand. 5) Practice situational awareness: Know where your feet are at all times, and analyze what would happen if your foot or hand slipped. 6) Never hunt alone. 7) Always carry a cell phone, radio or PLB on your person. Don't leave them stowed in a pack that you might become separated from. Take the quiz HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
The walleyes have been hitting hard all day, but the sudden rumble of thunder in the distance draws your attention to a massive black cloud that has sneaked up behind you. "Get your line out of the water, it's time to boogie," you say to your fishing buddy as you stow your rod and start the motor. It's a fast boat, so you're sure you can be off the water before the storm hits. A quarter mile later, the engine sputters and dies. You're out of gas, and it's still 5 miles to the dock. A flash of lightning splits the sky and thunder explodes overhead. What do you do? Assess and Act 1) Do you have oars or paddles on board? Use them to row your way to shore. Don't worry about making it all the way back to the dock or launch; just head for the nearest land, get out of the boat and take shelter among a cluster of low bushes or small trees. 2) If you cannot get the boat to shore, hunker down as low as you can in the driest part of the boat (ideally in the center) and isolate yourself from all water, metal, radio antennae, wiring or electronic equipment. 3) Don't try to swim ashore-water is an excellent conductor of electricity, and any lightning strike to the water will zap you as well. 4) Wait for the storm to pass, but maintain your safe position for at least 30 minutes. Lightning can reach out and find you over a distance of many miles both before and after a storm. How to Avoid the Situation 1) Before embarking, check the weather forecast for announcements of unstable air masses in the area where you'll be fishing. Alter your plans if the weather is marginal. 2) Keep a constant eye on the weather situation as you fish, watching for developing clouds that result in increasing cover or billowing thunderheads. 3) Get off the water at the first sign of approaching bad weather. Don't wait until you hear thunder. 4) Carry extra fuel in jerricans. 5) Always have an escape plan in mind, no matter where the fishing takes you on the lake. Take the quiz HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
While hunting turkeys in the backwoods of Arkansas, you strike a gobbler not too far from your position and quickly find a tree to set up against. Reaching out a hand to steady yourself as you lower your backside to the ground, you hear an ominous buzz and feel a sudden thump and sting on your forearm. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a diamondback recoiling after the strike. The awful sight of the viper and the realization that you've been bitten cause your head to spin. You jump up, grabbing your wounded arm, but feel unsteady on your feet. What do you do? Assess and Act What you're feeling is shock, which causes light-headedness, fainting and nausea. Move to a safe location and lie down with your feet slightly elevated. Then treat the snakebite by doing the following: 1) Are you hunting with a buddy? If so, have him call for medical assistance. Time is critical and this is not something you can fully treat in the field. You might not die, but you will suffer tremendous damage to the soft tissue without professional medical treatment (and perhaps even with it). 2) Are you wearing a watch or other jewelry? Remove it, as the limb will immediately begin to swell, and wash the wound with soap and water. 3) Immobilize the limb and keep it lower than the heart. 4) Cover the wound with a clean, cool compress or a moist dressing to help minimize swelling. Do not apply ice. 5) Monitor your vital signs, so you can tell the medical team what's been happening. If more than 30 minutes will pass before transport to a medical facility is possible, take the following steps: 1) Apply a constricting band around the limb 2 to 4 inches above the bite to help slow the spread of venom. This is not a tourniquet, and should not restrict arterial or venous blood flow. Keep the band loose enough that you can easily slip a finger under it. As the limb swells, you might have to adjust the band. 2) Within 15 minutes of the bite, apply a suction extractor device over the fang marks, but do not slit the skin to open the wound. 3) If you're alone, it's time to make a phone call or activate the PLB. Trying to hike out alone will speed the circulation of toxin through the body. How to Avoid the Situation 1) Carry a walking stick and do a sweeping probe ahead of your footsteps and to both sides of the trail. 2) Use the stick to probe around logs and rocks where you want to step, place your hands or sit. 3) Be very watchful and listen carefully for the faint sounds of a snake moving through the leaves or buzzing its tail. 4) Wear snake boots to prevent bites to the lower legs. Take the quiz HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
You're hunting elk high in the Rockies, 28 miles from the nearest paved road, when a sudden freak snowstorm sweeps the area, bringing high winds, frigid temperatures and a carpet of deep snow. Trees are knocked down, blocking the forest road with deadfall, preventing you from driving out of the area. You're trapped in camp. What do you do? Assess and Act 1) Do you have extra clothes, food and water so you can wait out any unexpected delays? 2) Do you have materials with which you can start a fire? 3) Do you have a chainsaw and fuel in your vehicle, so you can clear any deadfall blocking the road? 4) Did you bring snowshoes and ski poles, so you can get around when the snow is deep? 5) Do you have a cell phone, radio or PLB, so you can either let people know you're okay or call for rescue? 6) The best course of action is to hunker down in your tent or vehicle, organize your supplies and wait it out. Your first concern is to secure the safety of everyone in the hunting party, and that means shelter and warmth. Gather as much firewood as possible and get a fire going. Stay dry, stay warm and stay put. How to Avoid the Situation 1) Check the weather forecast for the area you will be hunting immediately before leaving for the hunt. 2) Be willing to change your plans if the weather is questionable. 3) Before the trip, notify friends, family and local authorities of your plans (camp location, duration of hunt, people in the party, etc.) so they will know to come looking for you if a bad storm leaves you stranded and your safe return is overdue. Take the quiz HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
In the foggy gloom of chilly predawn hours, you're standing in your johnboat setting duck decoys in a shallow marsh. As you move to the side of the boat to position your last decoy, your foot slips on the wet aluminum bottom of the boat and you tumble over the side. Fortunately, you're able to scramble back aboard, but you¿re soaked to the skin. It's a 20-minute boat ride back to your truck. You know that the wet clothes, the cold temperature and the wind that will be created by running the boat are a deadly combination that will quickly bring on hypothermia. What do you do? Assess and Act 1) Is there anyone else out on the marsh who might be able to assist you? If so, are you equipped to contact them by using a signal whistle or by firing three shots? 2) Do you have a cell phone, radio or PLB? 3) Do you have any dry clothing in the boat? 4) Do you have a reflective emergency blanket? 5) Do you have a thermos full of a hot drink? 6) Is there dry land nearby where you might start a fire and dry out? 7) What is your wet clothing made of? If it's cotton, get it off. If wool or synthetics, wring it out and put it back on. If you have no other alternative but to get back to your truck, do it as quickly as possible. Cover your head to prevent massive heat loss: Pull your head inside your clothing and breathe the warm air coming off your body, while still allowing yourself to see ahead. Try to hunker down and shield yourself from the wind as you motor back. While under way, engage in some mild isometric exercises to keep your muscles warm and to build some heat in your body. Once back at the truck, start the engine and turn on the heater. Get out of your wet clothes and wrap yourself in a blanket, a sleeping bag or something else you keep in your truck. If you have a communication device in the truck, use it to call for help. How to Avoid the Situation Altogether 1) Always expect the unexpected and take steps to mitigate the situation, should it arise. Most survival situations happen on short outings on which the victims thought nothing could possibly go wrong. 2) Never hunt alone. A buddy can pull your bacon out of the fire and get you home safely. 3) Carry survival gear, even on short trips. Stow extra clothing or an emergency sleeping bag in a dry sack. 4) Apply anti-slip material to the bottom of the boat, so your feet don't slip on the wet aluminum. Take the quiz HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Five life-or-death wilderness situations.