Essential Survival Gear for Oregon Hunters

By Gary Lewis

Gary Lewis Books and DVDs

Hunters of the past placed a certain amount of faith in the items they brought on the hunt. When an Indian went hunting he carried his supplies in a rawhide bag worn over the shoulder. In it he carried dried meat to eat along the way. Today we call that a backpack. The Indian also carried a smaller pouch slung over a belt. In it he carried flint and tinder for making a fire. Today's hunter calls it a fanny pack and what he brings along is as important as any other piece of equipment he carries into the woods.

In a survival situation, a few simple items can mean the difference between dying of hypothermia and just spending an uncomfortable night in the woods. But space is limited and extra weight drags you down. So what do you bring?

A compass and map should be in your survival gear. If you're hunting unfamiliar country, you need quick access to your compass. Use it on the way in and on the way out. And trust your compass even when it goes against your 'sense of direction.'

Once I bowhunted elk in a pole patch near the headwaters of the Willamette in the Indigo Unit. At midday, I was supposed to meet my partners at a certain intersection of trails. I started in the direction I thought I should go, and then checked my compass. It told me to turn 180 degrees and head the other direction. I had to believe it, because I had to believe something. Finally, I walked out of the woods and found them waiting for me. I would have been hopelessly lost if I'd gone the way my "internal compass" directed.

A compass is mandatory, but carrying a GPS unit is a good idea. Use it in conjunction with your compass and map.

Almost as important as your compass is a light. Don't be without one. In fact, if you have room, bring two, one in your backpack and one in your fanny pack. Bring extra bulbs and batteries. A good strong light makes a good friend on a moonless night.

If you have to stay out overnight, having the means to build a warming fire is important. Not only do I carry waterproof matches, but I carry a lighter and dry tinder. If I have to build a fire, I want to be sure I'll get it started.

A space blanket is another necessity. Folded into a package about the size of your wallet, this little item and a fire, could make a dark, lonely night in the Murderer's Creek Unit a little more comfortable.

When I hunt the Coast Range, I carry a folded-up poncho. Just in case it rains so hard that my waterproof coat soaks through. Believe me, it's happened.

Next on my list are energy bars. I carry them in case I get lost and am out a few more hours than I expected. There are plenty on the market to choose from. One of my favorites comes in carrot cake flavor. I've been known to get lost just so I can have an excuse to eat it.

A length of leather thong or parachute cord can come in handy. I like to carry at least four feet of cord. If I need to mark a trail, I always have plenty of surveyor's flagging in my fanny pack. If you use it, remember to take it down on your way out.

Rubber gloves are nice for field dressing game. They take up very little space in the pack.

You should carry water. I like to have at least 32 ounces per day while hunting. I'll put one canteen in my fanny pack and carry another in the backpack. If I leave the backpack somewhere, I'll still have water with me. Where there are springs or streams to drink from, you can carry a water purifier. Look for a purifier at any backpacking supply or sporting goods store. My favorite is the Seychelles Bottom's Up.

A small first aid kit, laser rangefinder, a spare bowstring, camouflage face paint, extra release aids, a broadhead wrench, and a predator call might find a place in your fanny pack, depending on your style of hunting. Hunting is a highly personal sport, and gear is a matter of preference. Take some time to think it through, and pack the gear you'll need in case you lose your way.

Osage Indians, going on a long hunt, often carried a bundle that contained a hawk skin. Looking on it was supposed to rekindle the courage of the warrior who viewed it. Today you could get in trouble for carrying around a dried hawk skin, but if you take a little time to prepare, you can take courage in knowing that your survival pack is stocked with all you need.

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