So, let’s talk about the journey one takes to learn Bushcraft. The Skills, and what it takes to get good enough at it, that you can feel confident enough to use those skills in the outdoors.
I was lucky, I grew up on a large farm in the Unite States. I was around nature every day, all day. I learned many of the skills I needed to feel confident in the outdoors, whether alone or with friends.
I grew up working the farm, and spending long days and nights outdoors. Whether it would be handling the animals, Hunting, Fishing, Trapping, Camping, working, playing, we did it. I wasn’t alone. My brothers, family and friends all spent time in the outdoors. We never ran around making loads of noise, we learned to move in total quiet. We always tried to sneak up on animals. Around the ponds or the lake. Was just something we did.
We hunted the early winter mornings and evenings for Squirrel, Deer, Wild Pigs, whatever. We trapped the Streams for Racoons, Minks, Fox and Bobcats. We fished for anything we could catch. Catfish, Brim, Bass, you name it. We even hunted Ducks, and Alligators on the lake from blinds that we built ourselves. We dressed for the work. Although at that time, we wore what we had. We had learned what tools we would need.
So, our lives were around being in nature. We learned to build structures to sleep under. We built fires to cook and keep us warm. We learned to cook in those outdoors. Mostly hotdogs, and beans. Or whatever we could scrounge. Wasn’t hard. We loved being out there. We loved doing the hard work. I would go to school all week, and on Friday night be off to the Lake to hang with my best friend. We would spend the whole weekend outdoors.
So, not everybody grows up like this. In fact, I was able to use those skills as a Soldier. I didn’t think much about all that I knew, until after the Army. While in the Army I would bring my then wife with me on camping and hiking trips. We always had a great time. But I can still remember not wanting to build a fire. It wasn’t done as a soldier. We hid in the woods.
In 2005 I attended a Ray Mears Bushcraft Course. 10 days in the UK Countryside with 15 other participants and three instructors. I loved every day of it. Didn’t like the weather, but the people I was around were all great. Most were office workers from London, and few were tradesmen, and a dentist. Then there was me. A salesman from Louisiana, living in Switzerland. It was an awakening for me. I realized that I already had most of the skills I needed. It was just organizing them in the head. But there were many things I still needed to learn.
Knowledge is the most important thing to bring with you to nature living, then it’s practicing that knowledge, and mastering as much as you can.
Building a Fire. It’s not just striking a match. What about in bad weather? What about materials, technique, and are you really prepared? Preparation in the most important part of making fire. You can have all of the materials you need, but can put it all together.
A test I always run, the first minute we are out there is I give each participant the chance to build a fire. I’m not going to go much further than that. But I’ve never had a student pass. And neither did I the first time. Take a course with me to find out.
Building Shelter. Sure you can put up a tent? A Tarp? But can you build a shelter from what’s around you?
Tools, Do you have the right tools with you? Do you know how to properly use your knife? How to sharpen it? How to split wood with just a knife?
Then there are those things that we take for granted.
Using a map and compass. Staying clean out there. Finding water, but making sure it’s safe to drink. Finding food.
Food is a very important part of spending time in the outdoors. First I would have to ask you this. Do you know how to identify plants and fungi you can find in nature? When and where to find them? What seasons they are out? These are the part of bushcraft that many people seem to omit when it comes to knowledge. It’s very important. So educate yourselves. There are many courses, and books.
When it comes to hunting and trapping wild game, are you ready? Do you eat meat? Only a well fed person will say no. When it comes down to it. And you are hungry, you’ll eat anything. Insects, Plants, Animals, Fungi, etc…
So learn about what you can eat. But also be prepared to hunt, fish, and Trap game.
Do you know how to clean these animals properly? You have to do it to learn it.
We learn more about our food when we raise it, kill it, and cook it ourselves.
So, I finished that course with a new outlook on the outdoors. I discovered so many things that interested me. I started off with less. But after getting in the outdoors and practicing my skills. I would teach classes, I began to master them. Am I a master? No, I will always be learning. I can survive. But then there’s thrive. In my environment, I can thrive. And you need to be thriving too.
So, knowledge is king. Knowledge means that you are safe in the outdoors, confident, and thriving. Knowledge means you can carry less. And what you choose to carry is proper for enjoying your time in the outdoors. You don’t have to cut trees every time to camp out to build a structure to sleep under. But it does mean you know how.
So, first step. Whether you know it or not. Take a course. They are fun, and you learn so much about nature, the outdoors, and yourself.
Master your square meter. That means master yourself. Before going out there and thinking you can master someone else.
Get on line and learn about plants, and fungi. In the beginning, I don’t suggest you just get out there and start taste testing. There ae experts you can count on to help you.
You can always bring your fungi to a pharmacist to have a look at what you have picked. Or someone who knows.
Practice building a fire, practice getting in the outdoors and finding what you need to build fires with. Everything is found in nature.
Once you’ve learned to build that fire, teach your friends, and family. My kids could build a fire since they were very young. But we have a fireplace at home. This helped. And they were interested in learning.
Get the right tools, and equipment you need. Practice using it, and then make sure you bring it with you every time you go into nature.
I actually keep my 30 liter pack ready at the door.
And, get with like-minded people who want to get into the outdoors to practice, and enjoy. All seasons. You can’t expect to be very good at making a fire in the cold of winter, if you’ve never tried it.
Anyway, there you go. I hope this story has helped you. I hope you learned a little from me.