Be Prepared and Survive the Elements

Getting lost in the woods can have devastating consequences. Be safe, be prepared.

by Frank Biggs

Recently, there was an article published in Field & Stream (October 2017) about a father and son hunting and getting lost in the rugged Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon.  One never made it back… the other, his son, forgot his GPS and phone when heading back out to find his dad, he was lost for a number of days…  searchers finally located him!

“From 1997-2016, 80 have been found dead and another 76 not found”  In this region of Oregon.

Some of those that were never found, could have had other issues, such as venturing into a spot they did not belong in…

I know this number could be a lot less if one were well prepared to venture into the rugged mountains of North America.  Most feel they know all the ways back to camp from any location.  Think about being in the Snake River Canyon in the morning at 65 degrees and sunny, chasing a herd of Elk, and in the afternoon the weather changing to a blizzard with the temperature dropping to below freezing; your horse has been moved from where you tether him up on the trail, and you must venture into dark timber as all hints of daylight quickly fades.

There is no hiker, hunter, or outdoor enthusiast that has not gotten mixed up while in the field.  Today, there is so much technology to keep you from staying mixed up, lost permanently, or dying in the outdoors from being lost.

Often, when trying to help hunters find places to hunt, I request them to have a Garmin GPS, onX HUNT mapping for both the Garmin GPS (colored – microchip capable) and mobile device, such as the smart phones, which 90% of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts carry with them, 24/7.

The Garmin GPS, should have WAAS (Wide Area Augmentable System) Note: Global Positioning System GPS is made up of at least 24 satellites, working in all conditions 24 hours a day and is FREE.

I would say at least 40% tell me they are “Old School” and use paper maps and a compass (that's a maybe on the compass).

Just one little note; with onX HUNT on the mobile side, there is a trail layer that features trails - old and new (CONUS), another tool that can help in many hunting areas.

Let’s get real about paper maps; most are outdated, and boundaries change all the time.  I threw out all my paper maps that I have had for more than 30 years with all the X’s on them, moving the X’s to my GPS.  Paper maps are outdated for field use and lack the ability to zoom in.  Even if you mark your map with routes, it surely isn’t going let you do an active route back to camp or truck as a GPS would do.  As for the compass, it’s okay if your batteries go dead or an enemy decides to use an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) while you're in the back country.

Beside the Garmin GPS, mobile phone with the onX HUNT APP and chip, there is the 2-way such as Motorola handheld communicators, and last but not least is an Emergency Locator Beacon, just in case you’re in real trouble and are immobile. 

We must remember to have them in our backpack or ditty bag (U.S. Navy), along with the other tools used in the field. 

Frank Biggs, aka Bwana Bubba, is an avid hunter and well-traveled outdoor enthusiast now writing and sharing his experiences with Using his years served in the U.S. Navy- Vietnam (5th Marine Division), Biggs applies his keen sense of observation, and eye for the unusual when it comes to mentoring and educating others in the skill of hunting. Biggs is a member of the OnXmaps HUNT Pro-Staff. He is currently a Sr. Sales Consultant for B Young RV in Portland, Oregon and retired Vice President (Store Operations) for Burns Bros. Travel Stops. His specialty is helping hunters find spots to hunt. He can be reached at