Guest column by Stevelknievel
My hearty beard and stout build (read: fat) are about the best survival techniques the Good Lord has blessed me with. So, for those who haven’t had years of hunting experience, I’d recommend bringing along a bit of literature to not only learn to hunt, but also pass the days until the dirty bomb cloud disperses and I can return home to find everyone of my rude and unthoughtful neighbors have died.
One of the books I’d bring along would be “The Tracker: The Story of Tom Brown, Jr.” as told to William Jon Watkins.
While not in wide publication, the 1978 Prentice-Hall publication documents the life and times of the ultimate tracker, and provides useful tips and diagrams to hunt small prey in the woods.
With subject matter such as “Cold Training”; “Night Crawl” and “Invisible Walking”, Watkins deftly weaves a narrative of the ultimate tracker’s young life, into a yarn that also teaches us how to appreciate nature, and then kill it in 190 pages. (Continued)
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the short book is Brown, Jr.’s tracking tips (as learned from an Apache tracker, aptly named Stalking Wolf.)
While the bio does get a bit long-winded at times, much like this column, it has taught me an important lesson: befriend an Apache tracker.
“Stalking Wolf led us out of childhood into a unique kind of manhood. We came to our skills and he had come to his, through a series of ideas and understandings that could only be gotten out of experience. He taught us to make use of everything, to live with the least disruption of the earth, to revere what we took from the woods, to master our fear to hone our special skills sharper and sharper, to expand our sense and our awareness, to live in the space of the moment and to understand eternity.”
Wow. If you’re like me and were born in suburbia, you can’t comprehend eternity. You wish, but likely cannot, decipher a coyote track from a dogs, (a dogs outer toe prints are smaller than the inner, opposite for coyotes) and you weren’t trained by a Native to stalk prey. My dad taught me how to strum a “G” chord on the guitar. Thanks, Dad. While that may come in handy around the camp fire, anyone who has watched “Spies Like Us” knows that blaring music only gives away your position, and doesn’t put food in your gut.
So, really a book ain’t shit when compared to the 3,000 years of tracking knowledge passed down from generation-to-generation.
If you don’t know any Apache’s, Mdewakanton Sioux and Ojibwa tribes have been in Minnesota territory for thousands of years, and will likely survive the apocalypse. Let’s just hope they don’t hold a grudge.
I digress. Here are some tips to take to heart, and remember: Tracking is a life-long pursuit, so you’d better get cracking.
* Birds are the lookouts of the woods. They send out emergency calls, which could scare prey away. So shut your effin’ trap and observe. Next time you’re in the woods, watch how birds peck for seeds. Then record which direction if flies off and view its tracks. Whether you realize it or not, their tracks have just told you which direction they went. They could be headed to a safe forest, a water source, or just looking for food.
“It is a silence out of which the tracker listens for the scolding birds deeper in the woods, or the sound that crackles the branches against the rustle of the wind.”
* Socks are important. Brown, Jr. recommends wearing up to four pairs at a time while stalking prey. You must learn to acclimate yourself to frigid conditions because, especially at the beginning, hunting prey will be a day-long venture. Try stalking prey in little more than boots, cutoffs and a T-shirt in mid-Winter. You’ll man up real quick.
Another digression: I once interviewed Arctic explorer, environmentalist and overall awesome Minnesotan Will Steger. I asked him: “When you’re walking in the vast wildness, in a week-long storm, what’s the secret to staying alive?” His answer: “One foot in front of the other.”
* Like humans, animals are habitual, eating at the same times, often in the same place. Thus, you should observe when and where they are out and about. Know that deer graze on berries and shit, and are the hardest prey to track in the woods. Stay down wind, elevated, and invisible. By and large, rabbits eat in darkness.
* You can convert a knife into a spear using a sturdy stick and bullbriars. When de-thorned, the briars are stronger than leather according to Brown, Jr. They are not, however, edible.
And remember the immortal words of Morgan Freeman: It comes down to two things really: better get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.
Stevelknievel writes from a fortified bunker in St. Paul, Minn.