Most important survival gear? It's your brain

Apr 29, 2020 Harold Schultz

It goes without saying that when we leave the pavement and venture out into the wilds there is certain amount of risk that goes with us.

Personally, I feel there may be more risk staying on the pavement, given the number of impaired and distracted drivers out there!

Still, there is risk, and with the remoteness and ruggedness of the Wyoming terrain, mishaps and errors can cost us dearly.

The most common life-threatening situation is hypothermia. As most of you know, Wyoming's weather can go from balmy to cold, wet and nasty in the space of a few minutes. This is especially true in our mountains. If you've taken hunter-education you'll remember the instructor(s) saying that if you're going to wander any real distance from your vehicle, take enough survival gear so that you can spend the night safely. That means a little food, water, fire-starting gear, and warmer clothes.

Oh yes, I forgot the most important thing of all: a fully functioning brain.

We need to be able to admit to ourselves that we've gotten into a pickle. The next step is to stop and think instead of panicking and thrashing around blindly, only making a bad situation worse.

Why am I preaching all of this? It's because the closest I ever came to cashing in my chips in the outdoors was because once I did everything wrong. It was many years ago, and the incident involved retrieving a dead elk that I'd killed the day before.

IF I'd had a better plan, IF I had more to eat and drink during the day, and IF I'd recognized I was exhausted and cold with night coming on, I wouldn't have stumbled and fallen.

Lying there in the snow, I felt warm and sleepy.

"I'll just rest here for a while and then finish dragging," I thought.

Suddenly I realized I was in real danger. I struggled to my feet and staggered downhill to the two-track where my father was waiting worriedly for my arrival. In my exhausted condition I crossed the two-track without recognizing it and was heading down into a deep ravine. Had I continued down into that ravine I doubt I would have had the strength to climb out. Most likely I would have died of hypothermia down there.

Instead, I happened to glance around and saw a light flashing behind me. It was my father looking for me with a flashlight. I turned around, floundered up hill and found him and the car. I was so exhausted and cold I couldn't even help my father take off the chains when we got to the bottom of the mountain. In fact, Dad almost took me to the hospital. Instead, we went to our motel in Dubois. After a couple of hot meals and a night's rest, we went back up and safely retrieved the elk.

That little experience taught me a lot and from then on, I never go into wild country without some survival gear - and more importantly, a survival mind-set.

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