For those who loved the eighties, you’ll remember that it was MacGyver who knew everything there was to know about building a shelter using nothing but ingenuity and a matchstick. For the nineties, Jack Bauer proved that you could survive the deadliest of attacks with only a pen for your defense. But in the 21st Century, there are many hunters who wish to understand and get tips on the ultimate ways to survive in the wilderness. In other words, they want to live in the Great Outdoors for a while, turning a basic day of hunting into a challenging vacation.
Without MacGyver and his trusty matchstick, there is still a way to create shelters for the hunter/survivalist without having any tent on hand. And constructing the shelter is the topmost outdoor skill, considering the hunter needs protection from the elements, as well as the nature out there in the wild that may want nothing more than to ruin that perfect vacation.
If winter or summer, certainly the shelter will change, so the location is the most important part when thinking about where to put up you ‘home away from home.’ The best place to put down stakes, so to speak, will be in an area that has building materials already on hand: Dead sticks, broken limbs and trees, leaves, tall grasses and vegetation can all be used. Also, check the surrounding area; the groundwater, the size, the flat areas that will provide the most comfort, as well as discovering the insects and hazards that the wilderness provides are all a must.
A hunter/survivalist also needs to note that less is more in this instance. The ‘castle’ you are building will need to be small, allowing for the materials to be used appropriately. Add in the fact that if the shelter is smaller in size, the more warmth you will receive.
Large, solid branches are used for the frame of the shelter, whether it be lean-to or debris hut, and even though summer may seem silly when it comes to having extra insulation, you actually do need this extra cover. Whether the snow has fallen or the solar rays are blistering, cover protects you from the elements. And by layering large amounts of debris – sticks, leaves, etc. – you can make sure that the insulation is appropriate for all climate conditions.
Shelters in the winter are created so that hypothermia won’t be a problem; conserving body heat is the number one reason for making that shelter correctly. If you plan on using something other than your body heat to stay warm, make sure you carefully plan how that small fire will be tended to all night long.
The shelter is made – no help from MacGyver – so it’s on to food. Most hunters bring their food with them, but that survivalist who wants that ultimate challenge will rely on the wilderness for everything, from their shelter to their supper. Most all environments have delicacies on hand; plants are a huge source, but having the knowledge of the native vegetation is important before eating. Small wild game is provided by the woods for the avid hunter, as well as lakes to catch that bass for a seafood dinner under the stars.
Cattails are edible – the roots, shoots and pollen heads help balance nutrition out there in the wild. The inner bark of conifers is full of sugars, starches and calories. And, of course, native grasses which can be chewed. If surrounded by oaks, the acorns are plentiful; just make sure to read up on everything in order to see what the best ways are to digest.
That ultimate fish is there for the taking to put together with these veggies. All freshwater fish in the U.S. are edible, and can be caught with a simple, sharp stick utilized as a spear. For smaller fish, such as minnows, a net can be made using a t-shirt or mesh brought along for the challenge.
Not into seafood? Game birds, such as pheasants, can be trapped using everything from snares to a throwing stick. For smaller meat sources, there is many game, such as squirrels, that can be used to keep energy high.
What’s the most important thing? Water. Although a human can go without food for three weeks (not a good idea), water is a necessity. Fresh lakes, containers, water bottles – H20 is a definite priority. And to purify water, use a fire or purification tablets to allow you to have clean drinking water at all times.
So get started. The challenges that await you in the woods are long and difficult, but that survivalist vacation may just be the biggest thrill of your life!