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LAND NAVIGATION vs. GETTING LOST

Reference: Compilation of articles and text from various Books, Magazines, and treatises.

GETTING LOST.

It happens to best of men and women. A lot of time, expense, and preparation for opening day. Then, at around 5-6 P.M. when the sun starts to drop, the hunter can't seem to get his/her bearings.

Where is the truck or the campsite?

Most folks who get "lost" stay that way because they walk in circles. That's right,in circles. As humans, usually one of our legs is a little shorter than the other. (Ask your family doctor about this)

This, and a combination of other factors can cause us to walk in circles in unfamiliar territory, especially when our view is obstructed by weather conditions, trees, brush, and other foliage...and when particularly when darkness starts to settle in

SOLUTION?

1) Get a good comp [no swearing please] and learn how to use it before hunting season. [Reliable brand names include Silva and Brunton (Brunton was recently bought out by Silva) just to name a few]. Don't confuse the merits of a magnetic comp [no swearing please] with the GPS receivers (read below)

Be sure your comp [no swearing please] is an "orienteering" comp [no swearing please] with an adjustable "declination correction" feature.

2) Get a topographical (topo) map of the area you will be hunting (I recommend purchasing nothing larger than 1:24000 scale...usually refered to as a "7.5" topo map.) and learn how to use it WITH your compass. Topo maps also include visual information as to the "lay of the land" in terms of its contour (shape, elevation, etc). Topo maps are available at most good outdoors recreation stores or check with your local Wildlife Resources Office.

3) Always let someone know where you will be hunting, for how long, and when they should expect you back.

Now, for the guts of it.

A. Know the area. Know what borders it, that is to say "what is on all four sides of the area you will hunt in."

B. Know how to always determine NORTH. Remember, if it is 4 PM and the sun is over your right shoulder, which direction are you facing? south of course. Then remember what borders the southern boundary of your hunting area. Keep heading south until you hit that road, or that creek, or whatever. Turn left or right (east or west) to get backto your truck or camp....providing you remember where you "lost" 'em.

C. Use your comp [no swearing please] and refer to your topo map any time you decide to change direction.

I recommend an excellent article published in the July 1988 issue of Field & Stream entitled, "Don't get LOST!. The Hunter's Guide to Wilderness Navigation." The author is John Barsness.

This article also provides "good trails" to other information such as how and where to purchase such aids as compasses, maps, etc. The article even gives a short run-down on the relative "qualities" of various compasses and GPS receivers.

In a nutshell, contact Field & Stream Magazine and ask for a copy. Then 3-ring it and save in your library....you DO have a hunting library already set up..don't you?

Three items a backcountry hunter should NEVER leave home without...especially if he/she is gonna be out "there" for more than a day:

1) Good Comp [no swearing please]

2) Proper area map(s) [topo's]

3) An altimeter. Yes, an altimeter. Because it is also a good indicator of possibly bad weather coming in.

And, with a topo map, you can 'read' the contour lines to determine how far up and where you might need to stop for the

night and camp WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF LOST AND NOT FOUND BEFORE NIGHTFALL.

As for a GPS (Global Positioning System) Receiver? They are a good ADDITION to a good compass. They should NOT be a substitute for a compass. Remember, they are plastic and run on batteries. Batteries fail at the time you need them most. I have known of experienced GPS-users who have gotten lost, even with a working GPS receiver.

Am I saying a GPS receiver is not a good thing to have. Certainly not. I own one and use it often...but I use my comp [no swearing please] always. Some reliable brand names for GPS receivers include MAGELLAN, GARMIN and EAGLE.

You can spend a lot of money for a GPS that has lots of bells and whistles...anywhere from around $ 80.00 to more than $ 400.00.

Whichever one you choose to purchase, make sure it is at least a 12-channel parallel receiver, one that "hears" at least 4 satellites to establish a "waypoint"

Accuracy of a GPS? At least for now, don't count on anything better than 100 meters. Supposedly, within the next 1-6 years this will improve as the Department of Defense (GPS Controlling Agency) "allows" civilians access to the more accurate mode which is currently reserved for military and selected governmental agencies use.

One last comment. If you shop for a GPS you may be given a sales pitch about DGPS capability. I'd disregard this for the time being. It refers to a "digital" capability that exists in only a small segment of our national wilderness...and you will have to pay for access to it.

Safe & happy hunting. And...if you DO get "lost", immediately sit down, take a bite out of your peanutbutter and jelly sandwich, and gather your thoughts. To try to "find" your way out under the stress of frustration and/or fear is to invite certain disaster.
 

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All good advice.

Just a few added notes... some GPS units come with mapping software which allows you to download maps right into your unit or print them out. I use a Garmin GPS12xl and have the delorme software. I print out a 3 sheet x 3 sheet map of the area and laminate it so I always have it and can mark it with wet erase markers based on where I see game or where I've covered.

Also, never mix GPS and comp [no swearing please] readings. The comp [no swearing please] reading you'll get will be based on magnetic north, the GPS and map readings will be based upon true (polar) north. The readings will be close, but you could still find yourself getting lost if you forgot to mark the location of the truck or campsite.
 

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I've hiked many a mile in the last 20 years. All good advice. I choose Garmin E-trex cheap and simple. I hardly ever use it other then marking for map transfer. Me and my 10 year old hike 20 mile per month, in one weekend. We pick a spot, plan together, pack together and backpack as a team. He can navigate better then most adults I know and he knows how to set up camp. March 11th we sent camp up at 11pm on the eastside of Antietam Creek, Sharpsburg, MD (AT) Temperature 27* wind speed 20+ out of the NW and raining. He makes me proud. I don't raise my son, he is my teammate just in training. If I had millions of dollars I'd have a bunch more. My 18 year old stepson graduates Coast Guard bootcamp April 1st, Search and Rescue. Awesome!

Till our trails cross,

Ryan

PS. When my 10 year old turns 16 he is getting out of school in late March and we are going to through hike the whole 2174 miles of the Applachain Trail. It will last a life time in his memory and mine as well.
 

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If your gonna walk the Applachain Trail you have to buy the book "A Walk In the Woods" It's an awesome book all about walking that trail! I used to live right on the path in Wantage NJ. I can't tell you how many people would walk by my house every day! From all over the country! Some would stop and ask to use my hose for drinking and washing! I met some neat people! Gemmer Rd in Wantage. If your heading South the house is on your right before you cross the road. If going North it is on the left after you cross! Have fun!!! I would love to do that!!! [up]
 

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That's some good advice - and yes after the fact I discovered that I was walking in circles. I got lost last year turkey hunting in the fall. My wife got me a GPS for Christmas. :) I guess she wants me to come home afterall.
 

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Wild Work, How long do you think it will take to walk the whole 2174 miles? Sounds like a great way to spend time with your son.Good luck!!
 
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