Learning the woodsmanship skills presented on the following pages is not only an insurance policy, but a way of getting back in touch with nature. It can be an adventure in which you discover not only how to survive in unexpected situations, but how to live well-whether you’re fishing solo on a remote river, hunting with friends on a deer lease or camping with your family in a park. Study these tips and you’ll discover you can do things you never dreamed you could possibly do.
1. AX REPAIR
If your ax handle breaks at camp, cut off the remaining handle near the head and try to drive it out the slot’s wider end. If this doesn’t work, burn it out. Wet a small area of ground, and then shove the ax blade into this damp soil all the way to the eye. Build a fire directly over the head. The heat should char the wood so it can be easily driven or broken out. Then you can replace the handle.
2. NUT CASE
In a survival situation, small fish can be gathered for food by immersing crushed walnut hulls or red buckeye nuts in a small area of quiet water. Chemicals in these seeds (which are harmless to humans) are released into the water, making it impossible for the fish to breathe. The fish die and are easily gathered. Crushed leaves, stems and flowers of mullein plants, and lime made from mussel shells cooked in a fire and crushed, work in a similar fashion.
3. VERSATILE ORANGE
The elastic, satiny wood of the Osage orange was a favorite material of American Indians for making bows. Settlers smeared the milky juice of the “oranges” on their skin to repel ticks.
4. COLD TRAIL
if you’re hunting the morning after a heavy frost, don’t bother following game tracks that have frost crystals in them. They were made the night before or sometime prior to the frost.
5. BUG REPELLENT
Black pepper sprinkled liberally in the body cavity of a deer or other field-dressed big-game animal will ward off flies, yellow jackets and other insects while the meat hangs in camp.
6. CURING CANE POLES
Canes cut for fishing poles must be properly cured so they don’t develop a bend at the tip when drying. To do this, tie cord to one end of the pole and secure the loose end to a barn rafter or tree limb so the pole hangs perfectly vertical above the ground. Curing is complete when the pole takes on a tannish hue.
7. EASY-CARRY ANTLERS
Shed antlers make great rattling horns, but those with long tines often snag brush and are cumbersome to carry. Remedy this by sawing off the long points, leaving just 4 inches of antler extending beyond each fork. The shortened antlers still make loud, realistic sounds when clashed, and they’re easy to transport in your pack or a game pocket
8. IS IT A BUCK’S BED?
There are three ways to tell if a deer bed you find was made by a trophy buck:
- The shape of a buck’s bed will be ovular and it will be at least 40 inches long.
- It will have a musky rank smell to it.
- It’s alone. Big bucks usually bed down by themselves.