A hike will give you that much-needed break from the daily hassles and grow your bond with friends and family. However, as much as stepping into the wilderness is a thrilling experience, it can get scary if you break off from the group and get lost. If that happens, you will have to depend on yourself to stay alive until someone finds you or you get out of the woods.
Some of the most essential things you need to survive in the wilderness are surprisingly the same stuff you require to make it in the city. You need shelter to protect you from harsh weather and keep away curious wild animals. You should also have food and water to stay healthy and alive until a rescuer finds you. Everyone agrees these are essential to wilderness survival, but do you need a firearm to survive in the wild?
To answer this question, you must first know how it can help you. Here are some ways your firearm can serve you in the woods.
Hunting for food
If, for any reason, you are stuck in the wild, food and water will be absolutely critical to your survival. Experts don’t know the exact period your body can last without food and water. However, estimates place it at eight to 21 days. These estimates are from cases when people survived being trapped under collapsed structures since conducting such experiments is dangerous and unethical.
That range could shrink drastically if you have other health conditions. Therefore, it is imperative that you devise an efficient way of getting food when stuck in the wilderness. You could rely on fruits and plants. The only danger is that you may not know what plants are poisonous until you try them. That’s a risk I’m sure you are not willing to take. Insects like grasshoppers and ants are usually safe to eat, but some bugs are deadly.
As long as you can start a fire and have a knife or multi-tool for skinning, hunting big game will provide you with enough food for days. With a well-accessorized gun and good marksmanship, hunting animals like deer and elk will not be a problem. Rifles are excellent for hunting, but handguns like the 44 magnum revolver can also easily take down big game. The best part of hunting is that you know your prey is safe, protein-rich food, and you don’t have to gamble with your life to find out.
Protection Against Human and Non-Human Attackers
Attacks from wild animals are rare, but they occur. In many cases, human actions are to blame. Ridiculous deeds like feeding a bear or attempting to take a selfie with one obviously place you at risk. More regular activities like hiking after sunset, leaving your kids unattended, and walking your dogs off-leash could also earn you an attack in the woods. These incidents have severe consequences and could be fatal to both humans and animals.
A study on 110 years of deadly black bear encounters noted that bear attacks increased with growth in bear and human populations. As the study illustrated, most of these deadly attacks were from adult males seeking out prey. Other animals, like cougars, are far less likely to take a swipe at an adult.
For most predators, loud noises like a gunshot would be enough deterrence. If the animal keeps charging, you can shoot at the ground close to it. If that does not stop it and it closes the distance, shoot to kill it.
The chances that a human will attack you in the wild are equally slim. Unfortunately, it takes only one deadly attack to end your life. Therefore, it is essential to have a weapon to defend yourself while you’re out there. A gun is an excellent self-defense weapon.
Fire Shots as a Signal
Before heading to the wilderness, it is critical to let a friend or family member know where you are. You should also tell them when you will likely return so they can call in search and rescue if they don’t see you beyond a specific period. This information will ensure that there’s a team looking for you when you are still healthy and strong enough to help them find you.
It can be hard to find someone in the wilderness, especially if your rescuers only have a general area of search rather than a GPS location. Your phone may also be inaccessible due to poor signal. Since the rescuers will likely be close to you, you can use different signals to give them your exact location. Shooting at intervals is one effective signal. The gunfire will be much louder than you could possibly shout, making it much more likely that your rescuers will hear and be able to find you.
Peace of Mind
Losing your way in the wild can be extremely unnerving. It is common for people to be agitated to some degree when they get lost. The first phase of this stress might actually help you do the right things quickly and improve your chances of wilderness survival. That is because your brain triggers a fight-or-flight response immediately after recognizing you are faced with a threatening scenario. This could propel you into an “Incredible Hulk” phase, helping you to get rid of immediate threats to your safety in the wild.
If you allow yourself to transcend into panic mode, things start going south. Panic could lead to a physical and mental freeze-up. Your brain has the basic survival knowledge to keep you alive until you are out of the woods. If it freezes, your judgment and intuition are impaired, and you might not even know how to get out of a predator’s way when you see one. A task as simple as starting a fire to cook or keep warm could become impossible.
One reason you may panic when you’re lost in the wild is the dangers the woods present. One of these dangers is an animal or human attack. If you have your gun on you when you get lost, you know that you can easily thwart any potential attack. That confidence in your capacity to stay safe no matter what happens will ensure you’re sane throughout most of your wilderness experience. That will allow you to make rational decisions, improving your chances of survival.
Most of the time, you won’t have to use a gun for protection against animals or humans in the wilderness. However, there might be that one time you’ll need it, and you don’t know when. You sure have heard of black bears mauling people and cougars chasing down hikers. You risk having several such encounters if you’re stuck in the woods, and a firearm can make a difference.
Also, prey is much easier to hunt with a gun. It saves you energy and gives you enough food to live on as you keep trying to escape the woods. Lastly, a gun diminishes the chances that you’ll panic and make wrong and risky decisions in a survival situation. That dramatically improves the probability of a positive outcome.
Overall, a gun is not the most essential tool for wilderness survival. You may or may not require it when you’re out in the woods alone. However, to minimize uncertainty and ramp up your survival chances, you should have one while going into the wild.