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There are hundreds and hundreds of articles on survival, in many different books and magazines and such....for many different conditions. Many of these are adaptable to hunting....many are not. Where we hunt, how we are going to hunt, who we are going to be with or even alone, the weather, terrain, our own physical condition...and mayhaps another hundred things come into play, when talking of survival and hunting. I donít want to write a book on the subject, though one for hunters is badly needed. With real examples, not a lot of logical but untried facts and advice. This is a general article with TRIED and proven facts.....unfortunately I had to try and prove some of them my own self, in a number of places in the world....but once the price is paid, the lessons are priceless.

**** He was a nice old gent...heís gone home to his reward now, and it was well earned, because he was a friend and teacher of small boys, boys who had little, except a huge but a yearning thirst to learn about everything hunting.

My young friend Rusty and I first met this grizzled old man when he was coming out of the wilderness...At least we thought of him Ďoldí back then...but he must have been in his fifties. Since we were very pre-teens he was Ďold and grizzled.í I donít think he ever shaved, but cut his whiskers with a scissors as close as patience let him on any particular day. He was tall to us...and thin as a rail. But he was one of the strongest men I knew in my youth. I saw him smash open the top on a wooden nail keg with his bare fist once. Back in the 1940s after the WW2, you could still buy nails by the keg...20 pound/40 pound etc. Most folks would break knuckles trying that.

I donít think his hands had a spot that wasnít calloused. I once asked him why he had such large calluses between the thumb and forefinger in what should have been the meaty ĎYí area of the back of both hands. His simple answer... "45 Automaticsí hammers do it taíya...." Years later on the various pistol teams I found that he was exactly right. 1911 45 Autos do...do it to you...

Rusty and I must have looked fairly stupid standing in the meadow which was on my grandfatherís farm bordering National Forrest land in upstate New York. Donít think all of New York State is cities and population....there are many areas that are still prime wilderness and huge, especially for a man on foot, especially back then. We watched him come out of the heavy trees that were wild, large and old, with deep wilderness behind them, the area he emerged from we were afraid to go into. We couldnít figure where he came from...if he had crossed the farm that day and skirted along the trees we saw him come out of, we would have seen him. Later I would learn that he had crossed forty miles of wilderness to get to a trap line from the backside because it was closed by high water.

It was a cold day in late fall, I remember it clearly...probably because of his unusual backpack. He had on a heavy wool, dark mix colored plaid, 3/4 length coat. And carried a small short barreled, bolt action rifle. We use the word backpack today and it brings an image of the aluminum and polyfibers. But what he had was a little difficult to describe so you can catch how he used them.

His ĎPackí was a pair of old black canvas pants. He tied the legs together at the ankles with heavy waxed string...told us later not to tie the legs in a knot because the knot would be in the small of your back when carrying it. He had sown in a large toothed zipper across the waist of the pants that closed the waist up, but said you could use rope thru the belt loops to open and close it. He would pack his Ďpossiblesí as he called them into the pants, zip them closed...put the tied bottom legs over his head, bring his arms around them so the legs went under the arms, like pack straps. And then his head went under the waist area/crotch and it hung over his shoulders, resting against his back...just like a back pack. A poor but smart manís backpack.

He walked right to us and asked.... "Good day taíya men....would ya spare a fella some water...itís the only one hard to find clean right now with the floods..." It still didnít register...but water we had plenty of. Back at the house my grandfather met us at the outside pump. Rusty and I were surprised when my grandfather recognized him....saying something like... Ďyou must be "Woods Johnson...".í He acknowledged he was and my grandfather introduced himself and us. It was the first time we saw this manís smile...it lit up his face...and I would get to know it well.

Ralf ĎWoodsí Johnson turned out to be a shadow figure that was known of and about, but yet not really known, except by country folks gossip...for over a goodly number of square miles, around us. His name Woodsí came from folks referring to him and his living in the woods all the time. Of course he didnít live in the wilds, he had a small house on a piece of bottom land around four miles from my grandfather...close to a small two lane but busy road, Rt.17. Woods was collecting a pension from the Army...so he didnít really work for a living in the traditional sense.

But he was a fur hunter, and sold wild meat to folks that couldnít hunt and couldnít afford store beef and such. I used to accuse him of sometimes, practically giving the meat he harvested away. He would laugh and say that way he could always get a free meal from many folks.....when he was tired of his own cooking. But I never heard of him doing that...in fact I had to pester him big time to finally come and have dinner with my grandparents and me...and he did that only once. Always saying after that, when I would bring it up... "...been there, done that, and was mighty nice..."

He and my grandfather were my first teachers of hunting and woodcraft as we called it back then. Grandfather taught me of guns and how to use them effectively, and reloading, and the independence it brings. Woods carried a small cut down Winchester bolt action chambered for 22 WRF..a round in power between the high speed 22 rim fire and the 22 rim fire magnum. Of course the rim fire magnum wasnít to be around for another 10 to 12 years. He didnít reload, he had the rifle, and a five inch S&W revolver for the same round which was always on his waist.

...Woods taught me to survive and not just in the wilds..for he taught me deep into my emotions that survival was a state of mind first! A state of mind which bled into all areas of life...a state of mind that saved me in war in other countries, and on the streets of America.

Woods lived the rhythm of nature. His time was in flow with the seasons....daylight till dark....like the trees he loved, and taught a small boy to love. I learned of squirrels and bears....rabbits and deer...of muskrats and fish. I learned the ways of predators...the four legged hunters...I learned how to learn from them. I learned of the seasons...not just of their weather but what they brought in their time to the earth and itís creatures...what a man of the wilds should do and in what seasons to do it...I learned to think differently, to see what was out of place, the smallest disorder. Even today some folks realize Iím a little different from most...nice way of saying ĎPacoís a little strange...í

But thatís all right...I know me...and I like me...I work at being kind, and courteous, I always try to use common sense and good judgment....and when they donít work, Iíll walk away... or when needed, then a good right hook will usually settle it.

He taught me how to really use a military compass to the fullest...And in this world today of satellites, and small electronic boxes, that show us the way...the compass is still an absolute...itís batteries wonít run out...sun spots wonít change itís mind! I use the global positioning devices sure...but the compass should always be along. He taught how to use maps, read the land, judge distances....even how to make an emergency compass in the middle of nowhere. I have used them twice, and they have led the way well.

Knowledge dispels fear....states the Good Book...being lost brings fear, not knowing where we are going, or how we are eventually going to get there. But knowledge that we are the survivor...that we know mayhaps not where to walk, but how to do it...that we are sure of ourselves and our talents and knowledge, that we are prepared even when not ready...and know that Ďlostí is more a state of mind than being out of place.

An old grizzled man, a grandfather and a fine father...all part of teaching a small boy not just facts he needed to learn...but that he could learn, that he was able to learn...not just from men but from experiences, from living out the lessons of life...sometimes the cost was and is high, but as I said, the lessons learned are priceless....

So before we start.... let me say, survival is more than a list. A list of things you should have with you...we write about the list...but to learn the state of mind....is the most important part. To learn that we must truly learn ourselves...we must test our strengths, find our limitations, find how to deal with our short comings....we must walk the walk....like Old Ralf ĎWoodsí Johnson....walk into the wilderness with bare essentials go for miles and reach a destination further than we thought we would..but take satisfaction in knowing we did it. Doing that releases the fear and trepidation of being lost more than any pill...any chemical...or almost any book knowledge.

But to paraphrase and add to what Robert Frost wrote long ago... The woods are lovely dark and deep. And I would stop and rest...to look upon Godís very best...But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep...and miles to go before I sleep...but as I walk among the shadows of the trees during the quiet times of ease, I know that I am whole...I know the very rhythm of nature, for it is part of my soul..so very concerned I may be...but I fear not, not me! I know the truth, and the truth has set me free....!


Woods carried a small bolt action rifle....the barrel was very short...probably not legal, but no one cared in those days about barrel length....like that has anything to do with inducing criminal acts anyway. It was a single shot, I remember that, but not what brand or model. Iím sure it was a 22RF first and he opened it to the larger 22 WRF.( 45 grain soft lead bullet in a case a little shorter than todayís 22 Magnum RF). I also remember that it certainly didnít hurt the accuracy....I saw him scores of times take the heads off squirrels at good ranges with his Ďhome madeí peep sights.

Woods liked head shots on everything....his S&W was chambered for the same round, fixed sights cut to the Winchester ammo...donít know if it came that way or also was re-chambered, but it too was very accurate. I know the barrel was around 4Ĺ to five inches....he carried it always on his hip....in a home made holster. He carried extra ammo in a small tobacco pouch in his back pocket. Thatís where I got the habit of doing the same over all these years. And yes he harvested deer with his little rifle....head shots. Upstate New York deer are whitetails but they can run 180 to over 220 lbs. As I said, he was a good...very good...shot. I know he also took black bears when possible...and know of at least one mountain cat, I saw the pelt....and he ran his trap lines in season, but the handgun was used on them. The last box of Winchester 22WRF ammo (manufactured in the 1980s as a special run) that I tested from the 4 inch Ruger gave 1189 fps/141 ft. lbs, and gave from a 20 inch Win 9422M 1412 fps/200 ft. lbs....or what a 38 special 158 grain round nose really gives from a handgun. Fine for small game and survival. Fine obviously for old Woods.

Why are his guns being mentioned in survival?....Because the best survival guns I think, are 22 RFs or 22RFMags. A small rifle with a good scope, I donít particularly like 22RF scopes....Iíll go with the 1" tubes...and I like small compact types in 6 power if possible. And with peep sights also mounted, in case the scope gets damaged.

My Ruger Bearcat (Super all Steel) I have rechambered to 22 RF Mag...(I know Ruger tells us not to do it...but mine works fine after thousands of rounds since the early 1970s). Carrying 50 rounds of RF or RF Mag ammo in your back pocket is very easy and not bulky or heavy. Small game up to 30 to 50 lbs is easily possible...itís the range, body weight, toughness of the animal, and our and the gunís accuracy, that is important. I once whacked the heck out of a dog pack that was trying to raid chicken pens in the early 1970s. I did it with a S&W mod.48 (22 Mag RF revolver)....those feral mongrels only needed one shot each. The 22 Mag RF out of a handgun gives around what a high speed 22RF gives from a rifle...very impressive.

If I were in the areas in this country, where there was a chance at an encounter not wanted with big bears and such....I would have one of my short barreled Ruger colt 45s or FA454 revolvers with me. With 15 to 18 rounds of extra ammo in the other back pocket. 300 grain LBT/WFN de-tempered nose, hard cast slugs over good doses of A2400.

I would think a Marlin, Henry, or Winchester leveraction in 22RF Mag or standard 22 RF cut to 16 inches and the stock shortened a little...so it forces me to stock crawl just a little...(controlled well stock crawl with 22s, gives me better accuracy)....would be the perfect survival rifle. And 50 rounds in the back pocket and another 50 in a small survival kit is hardly any weight or bulk. The generation of 22 Mag Rim Fire ammo is certainly much more powerful than the old 22WRF. My Henry leveraction 22MagRF gives near 500 ft. lbs of muzzle energy with CCI Vel+ ammo...and my Automag 22 RF Magnum autoloader gives around 1500 fps with the same ammo. I would also carry some 50 grain all lead medium velocity 22 mag ammo (Federal), for squirrels and such. My Automag and 150 rounds of 22 mag RF ammo weighs just under two pounds. And you should see what a 22 RF Mag from a handgun, does to something like a wild dog...

A little heavier to carry, but 357s can sure do it well for survival. Especially the new light models....as long as you donít have to fire full loads too much, the recoil on some of them are pretty heavy. A small single shot 357 mag rifle, like the New England (old H&R design .. redesigned) single shot ... slimmed down and trimmed. And NE Arms has many models to choose from...I would make it my truck rifle when not in the wilds. And a good revolver with it, would make a tough pair to beat. I would carry wadcutters and 158/160 grain soft nose jacketed ammo.

Like I mentioned, there are a plethora of survival books out there. Some are toilet paper, some are excellent...many in between. One of the finest I have found is CAMPING AND WILDERNESS SURVIVAL by Tawrell, self published (1-888-266- 5054)...350 pages 8ĹX11" indexed and illustrated very well...the man obviously lived in the wilderness for sometime and those who have, know...and also recognize, those that have! Survival information for the area you are going into is critical to learn...donít just take the book with you and not read it..it will get left somewhere when you need it most..read and learn...heck they are fun to read, itís not like going back to school for math....


Like my always having a special handgun of some sort on my belt...in the outdoors, I always have a small survival pack on my belt also. It doesnít have three course meals, but will and has helped keep me alive when lost. I bought the canvas belt pouch in a surplus store...itís only 4Ĺwide/7 inches long/3 inches deep. I could probably use one a little larger. But I do consider this one essential .. when lost .. (as has happened to me twice now, in the U.S.). Some basic changes were made in content of this pack, because of those two Ďfieldí experiences.

Water is the most basic need along with air that we have. Canít do much about air...you either have it or you donít .. if not .. oh well weíll miss you. But water we can do something about .. and water purification tablets are important. And there are all kinds out there....in a plastic 35 mm film canister I keep a dozen of them at least, wrapped in tissue paper and foil...why wrapped? Because they will absorb moister right out of the air that gets into the canister every time you open it.....with those, I also keep at least a dozen prescription T-3s...they are codeine and aspirin, for heavy pain, like a broken bone, bad tooth, and such. And a dozen regular aspirin (or non-aspirin) for minor pain.

I also keep a list of all prescriptions and their script-numbers, of the pills I am carrying without the bottles. If emergency people need to know what I have taken...and I canít tell them, it will. I keep a another canister filled with vitamin B12 tablets (all pills are dry if possible, no jell caps) at 500 or 1000 strength levels per pill. Four or five of these at a time will give you energy for many hours...and you can take a lot of them in an emergency over a short time span without damage.

In another I keep some of my prescription pills. Also high dosage Vit C, also potassium tablets, iron tablets (time release tablets when possible for all pills, so the dosage will spread out over long periods but especially for iron and caffeine)..200mg caffeine tabs are essential in these kinds of emergences...I like the No-Doz Maximum brand ...they are small and fifty fit into a very small canister, one tablet gives energy for about two to three hours...yes you can get wired with them. But thatís better than emotional fatigue, taking caffeine fights both physical and emotional tiredness under emergency conditions. If it looks like you are going to be out overnight stop taking them around 4 P.M. or you wonít get the sleep your going to need for the next day. And yes I also carry Ďover the counterí sleeping pills of maximum dosage.

And I have learned that St. John Wart is important to carry...it will help anyone that begins to get depressed or hysterical, and it is over the counter also. Just be sure if you do give it to someone with you, they are not taking Amitripline type meds.

Donít go with the One-A-Day type vitamins or anything that has Ď100% of the daily dose recommended by FDAí on the label....thatís about 10% of what you need daily...and certainly a lot more on a lost trail. You just canít put everything you need, and at the doses needed, into one pill. Fatigue and depression are the two killers on the trail. Vit B12...caffeine...potassium and iron tablets... and if really needed, St. Johnís Wart will fight it. Careful with the iron tablets....they have two side effects if taken in too high doses, the need for toilet paper often, and sickness...especially if the person has never taken them before. Again time release tablets take care of that...and only take the St. Johnís Wart if the fear or depression begins...but if it does, take it sooner than later. Itís easier to prevent it, then suddenly have to over come it, when itís ripping thru you...or a friend with you.

I carry a number of antibiotic tablets....they say they go bad after a year. Donít believe it...some that I have had after a number of years in dark dry storage, worked fine. Again be sure who ever is taking them isnít allergic to them, or anything else you have...going into shock from allergic reaction to a chemical is the last thing you need. I carry a few high dose Benadryl tablets...it will stop allergic reactions to chemicals and poison stings and such. Four photo canisters carry a lot of pills. But they only fill a small part of the belt pack.

I have a small sewing kit with curved needles...small ones...and coarse thread. I have stitched up a number of deep cuts on animals and people over the years. Betadine will kill anything in a cut before stitching, and it comes in really small plastic tube bottles. Itís good with blisters after breaking....band-aids and gauze.

You wonít like this...but the best way to heal blisters fast, just before sleep....is to break them, Betadine them, and then rub salt into them...yes ouch! But the salt heals the skin fast and also toughens it. A small sterile scalpel, a very thin but long one bladed folding knife...I dropped the snake kit from my pack, you can do it all better with the other things without taking up the room. A pair of tiny fold up scissors/knife/file (by Leatherman Micra) .. and a small sharpening stone...very fine.

There are all kinds of wild and exotic things out there to start fires with...the best is cigarette lighters...the throw away kind. Two of those will last a long time lighting fires every day for years. Careful though some of them tend to dry out when stored...get half decent ones.

I take cloth that will fold up and I can seal in a waterproof tobacco pouch. I soak it in brake fluid .. let it dry a little and drop it into melted wax...donít do it near the heat used to melt wax. Coiled up and lit under correctly stacked wood and fire material...even wet wood, the wood will start to burn and dry itself out. Also short emergency flares will start a fire, even in a snow bank with frozen wood, they burn so hot.....but donít put food on a fire that is starting with a flare, until the flare has completely burned out and the smoke cleared...the smoke is toxic.

A good compass...and practice with it and map reading. A copy of a topo-map of the area you are in can be a life saver, if you know how to read it and use the compass...itís not hard. If some of the truly mentally challenged military Viet Cong I came into contact with, could do it...anyone can.

If you think you can live on roast rabbit...forget it. There is practically nil BTUs in rabbit meat that will give you energy, and not much more in squirrel. (Itís not BTUs but that gives you the idea of what I mean)....I like the taste of squirrel meat very much, but about all it does is take away the hunger, which is essential. The vitamins and such will give you what you need...while the rabbit and squirrel satisfies the gut.

important adds and ends...

Small mirror....excellent for signaling during the day.... Gerber Knives makes a very good one with instructions how to use it. Obviously a good compass...I like the military type, my surplus military was brand new and cost 8 bucks....it is not subject to metal interference and has easy to read face, instructions, and inline grids...plus sights for shooting an azimuth (instructions explains all that stuff...so does a good survival book)....

There are several places on the net that will make up topo maps of anywhere on earth...just to test this I ran one of a square mile around my home, I even asked for the depth of the aquifer/ got it all ....you can always make one up for the area you are going into before you go......believe me this is very important if you get lost......a topo of the area and a compass and really are not lost anymore just out of place....

I took a small round piece of plastic 3/8ths by 2 inches and wrapped five feet of masking tape around it...so I would have tape....and did the same with mild steel wire, only I took ten feet of that.

Fishing hooks and 18lb test line...

Folded tightly a green garbage bag, great for sudden rain as protection like a poncho .. a good large folding knife...I like Cold Steel, they are tough!

Everyone will have different needs...so different items, so these are just a guide....when I find the right new belt bag that is a little larger, I will add a few other items...I guess the right fanny pack would work...but Iím always where I have those things on when I do. And with my little kit...itís like my hand gun, I forget itís there unless I need it....that way I wonít lay it down in camp and walk away without it, and suddenly need it....I hope you will never need a survival kit like this...but more I hope you will have one with you if you ever do.....

Like I said in the beginning...survival is a state of mind...being prepared is necessary...but being ready is essential...the only way to be truly ready is to test yourself. One of the great things the military did for me when I was young and brash, was to drop me in the middle of a wilderness with only a few small items and tell me to walk out. It changes the base attitude from "Oh God what will I do now......Iím lost!" to a healthy... "Oh Damn it...here we go again..."

Put your pack together....have someone drop you off somewhere wild, and walk out....great for confidence......I wish you well....Paco





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