Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bushcraft or Woodsmanship, It's All Good


   When I was about 5 or 6 years old, my Dad began to take me fishing with him. In all honesty, I would try to fish and my Dad spent most of his time teaching me how to fish, untangling my line, baiting my hook, untangling the line again and all the time he was patient and never once tried to strangle me!

   As I grew older our trips would become overnight camping-fishing trips. We would likely go to Tony Grove Lake in the mountains north of Logan, Utah. Back then the only way to get to the lake was by way of a single track very rough dirt road. The lake shore was totally primitive camping with only the occasional stone fire ring left by previous campers. Many times we would get there and see a wood pile that we had left from our previous trip. Not a lot of folks went there way back when.

   The last time I was there the State of Utah had built a 2-lane paved road all the way to the lake. The campsites were all US Forest Service standard with picnic tables, fire grills, piped in water and restrooms. You have to pay to camp there now. It's sad. Sometimes improvement is no real improvement if you know what I mean.

   During these campouts, Dad would teach me to build a fire using different methods, to purify water, to track animals, to build a shelter, how to find food by foraging and trapping small game. Basically he gave me the skills to survive in the out-of-doors.

   By the time I was 10 or 11 years old I was able to go into the woods, camp out and provide enough for myself and not have it be too much of a hardship. He would tell me that if I found myself lost or stuck in the woods for whatever reason that I shouldn't panic; it (a survival situation) was just an unplanned camping trip. Having that mindset made it easier for me to adapt to the unexpected.

   Fast forward to my adult life. Since I was a boy I have enjoyed being out in the wilderness (In the Western USA we have a LOT of wilderness). I have enjoyed hunting, fishing and camping. When I was released from the military at the end of my enlistment I took time off to do a solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail from Donner Summit to Bishop, California. I took minimal gear and just enough food to supplement what I could forage along the way. I didn't go hungry.

   The next year, 1972, I hiked solo for 3 weeks through what is now the "River of No Return Wilderness Area" in Southern Idaho. During that time I saw two other people in that area but I kept to myself. Those were some of the best days afield I have ever spent.

   I practiced what my Dad called "Woodsmanship". Today it is called "Bushcraft" by modern practitioners. It involves basic and sometimes advanced skills similar to what I was taught as a youngster. Fire building, shelters, water and food procurement. Protection from the elements and overland travel. Some folks would call these "Survival Skills" and they are, but they are more refined and advanced. I say that because survival skills are designed for the short-term survival, whereas bushcraft or woodsmanship skills are honed to the point that they enable the practitioner to make themselves comfortable for a long-term stay in the wilderness.

   Back when I was learning, literally at my father's knee, there were no classes to take and there was no lesson plan to follow; just a patient father teaching his son how to do those things he had learned as a child and had used during his life. Thank's, Dad!

   I currently frequent an online forum called Bushcraft USA ( where bushcraft topics are discussed and taught. Lots of good folks there. Many of the members there have not had the experiences or learned the lessons that I was given as a youngster. They frequent this forum to learn these things because they feel that this is something that is good to know. It is a forum where you can have your children read every page. The members are civil and the text is rated PG. I would urge you to take a look if this is something that interests you. (I post under the name 'PMSteve')

   These days I don't get out into the hills as much as I'd like to. Life happens. I still go on the occasional camping trip and intend to do some hunting soon. (I like to call coyotes and see how close I can get them to come before I shoot them).

As I get older I seem to have less time to do the things I enjoyed when I was a young man but the desire is still there to get into the wilderness. I still have the skills and knowledge to do the things I once did, I'm just not as limber. I no longer sleep on the ground in a shelter or a tent. I now use a camping hammock and it makes it easier to go into the wild, knowing that I won't wake up stiff and cold in the morning. ( )It's the little things that count...

   Being The Geezer isn't easy. My mind says one thing and my body tells me something different. Don't give up your youthful pleasures if you are still able to indulge them once in a while.


  1. I looked at the bushcraft link. Pretty good stuff there!

  2. We were so fortunate that we had the dad that we did. Good posting Geezer...

    The Crone

  3. Stopped by to have a look buddy ,Glad I did
    Thanks and Take care


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