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Preparation and Survival Skills For Hunting In BC

Preparation and Survival Skills For Hunting In BC

Preparation and Survival Skills For Hunting In BC

Hunting is a safe sport, but it does involve a certain amount of risk. A variety of incidents can occur on a trip outdoors. Rough terrain, particularly when it’s unfamiliar, increases the chance of accidents. Climate extremes also increase risk. In remote areas, there’s always the possibility of becoming lost.

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Plan Properly For your Hunting Trip In BC

Be Ready:

To avoid or minimize problems, it’s essential to plan carefully for the hunt. Responsible hunters anticipate potential problems and make plans to deal with them. Considerations include terrain, location, weather, dangerous game, and the potential for forest fires.

Know Your Location:

Learn about your chosen hunting area before you arrive. Purchase a topographic map and familiarize yourself with the terrain. If it’s within a convenient drive, visit the area in the off-season. Update any maps, GPS data and review information posted on BC Government Websites.

Prepare for Safety:

You also need to assess your physical condition and equipment. Refresh your memory of hunting and firearm safety rules, and review rules with your hunting partners.

Tell Others:

Prepare a hunting plan that tells where and with whom you are hunting and when you expect to return. Give specific directions on your route to your destination and any alternate destinations. Leave the plan with a family member or friend. Do not deviate from the hunting plan without notification. When you’re hunting with a group, each person should discuss their route plan

Physical Conditioning

Hunting often demands more physical exertion than you’re accustomed to doing. Conditions that hamper physical ability to perform safely and responsibly while hunting includes: allergies; asthma; heart condition; excess weight; and poor physical conditioning. Your mental condition impacts your performance as well. Prepare for the hunt by getting in shape well in advance.


Select clothing based on the weather you expect while preparing for the worst. In warm weather, wear a hat and light clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible to prevent heat exhaustion or sunburn. Cold weather conditions call for the clothing worn in layers. Layers offer superior insulation. As the weather warms up, you can shed a layer at a time to stay comfortable.

Layers should include:

  • Vapour transmission layer (material such as polypropylene)worn next to your body; releases moisture from the skin while retaining warmth.
  • The insulating layer will hold warm air around you. Wool is the best choice; it can provide warmth even when wet.
  • The protective outer layer will protect inner layers from water and wind.

Daylight fluorescent orange hat and daylight fluorescent orange outerwear shirt, vest or jacket can be important for hunter identification. Daylight fluorescent orange clothing makes it easier for one hunter to spot and recognize another hunter because nothing in nature matches these colours. The orange colour of clothing should be plainly visible from all directions. Although not required by law in BC many hunters recommend it for safety.

Additional Clothing Essentials

  • Hat or cap with earflaps and gloves to retain body heat most body heat is lost through the head and hands. Gloves also protect the hands from abrasions and rope burns.
  • Gloves that protect the hands from cold as well as abrasions and rope burns
  • Sturdy footwear is suitable for conditions you’ll encounter. All ways take time to ensure footwear is broken in before a hunt.
  • Two layers of socks a polypropylene layer against skin and wool outer layer.

Topographic Maps and Compasses


Topographic Maps:

When in a remote or unfamiliar area, a topographic map and compass are a must. Topographic maps, created from aerial photographs, reveal contours of the land, including hills, ridges, and valleys, as well as lakes, rivers, creeks, trails, and roads.

Contour lines show elevation of ground.

  • Contour intervals reveal how much vertical distance is between each contour line—closely spaced contour lines indicate very steep slopes.
  • Contour lines that are sharply tapered indicate an uphill direction.
  • Rounded contour lines typically indicate a downhill direction.

Reading a Topographic Map

The Compass:


An orienteering compass is a critical piece of equipment for outdoor travel. A good orienteering compass has these features:

The clear base plate will allow you to see the map underneath.

Straight sides for aligning the two points or for drawing lines.

Liquid-filled needle housing that keeps a magnetic needle relatively steady when taking readings.

Two arrows: A direction arrow, painted on the base plate (or you may use the edge of the compass), is used to point a compass from your starting point to your destination; the orienting arrow, located in needle housing, is used to orient the compass to a map.


  • Topographic maps are drawn to true north (the North Pole) are indicated by grid lines on a map. However, a compass will always point to magnetic north, which is in the Hudson Bay area. The difference between true north and magnetic north is called “declination.”
  • When true north and magnetic north are aligned, you’re at 0° declination. A compass needle points to true north. If you are east or west of 0° declination, the compass will not be in line with true north.
  • To compensate for declination:

    • Center north arrow (“N”) of the compass dial along the north/south line of the map.
    • Check the diagram on the map that shows whether magnetic north is to the left or the right of true north.
    • Turn the compass dial the correct number of degrees left or right as indicated on the map. “N” now points to magnetic north.
    • Hold the compass level in front of you and rotate your body until the tip of the compass needle aligns with “N” on the compass dial. The direction arrow on the base plate points in the direction you want.

Plot Your Progress

  • As you hike into unfamiliar terrain, keep your bearings by taking frequent compass readings and plotting your progress on a map.
    • Note key points, such as stream crossings, to help you find your way back.
    • Pay particular attention when you reach a high point at the top of a ridge.
    • Use elevation to locate landmarks visible from there.
  • Learning to set your course and take bearings takes study and practice. The best way to become proficient with a compass is under the guidance of an experienced individual.

Global Positioning System (GPS):

Navigation system based on a network of 24 satellites. Users with a GPS receiver can fix their exact location (latitude and longitude) in any weather all over the world, at any time.

  • GPS satellites circle the earth twice a day and transmit information to earth. GPS receivers use this information to calculate the user’s location by comparing the time that the signal was transmitted by a satellite with the time it was received. The time difference tells the GPS receiver the distance from the satellite. By calculating several satellite distances, the receiver can determine and display a user’s location on a GPS unit.
  • Once the user’s position is determined, the GPS receiver can calculate the other information—bearing, trip distance, the distance to a destination, sunrise and sunset times, and more.
  • GPS receivers are accurate to within 15 meters (49 feet) on average. Certain atmospheric factors and other sources of error can affect accuracy.

Survival Skills

Rules of Survival

  • Give a responsible person your hunting plan.
  • Don’t travel or hunt alone.
  • Take enough food and water to last for several days in an emergency.
  • Bring a map and compass, and always orient yourself before leaving camp.
  • Wear layered clothing, and take extra clothing with you, preferably wool and polyester.
  • Plan your outings so that you can return to camp before dark.
  • Never leave camp without taking fire-starting equipment and a foil blanket.
  • Don’t panic if you become lost.

Survival Mode

  • Most everyone gets turned around occasionally. How you respond in early stages often determines if the disorientation is temporary or traumatic. Keep a cool head and you’ll usually get your bearings fairly quickly.
  • Think through recent events to see if you can retrace your path. If you decide you can’t return to your camp or car, commit to spending the night where you are. If you remain in one spot, it’s very likely that you will be found in a few days. • You now have three priorities: shelter, fire and signal.
  • Remember STOP: Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan.


Start preparing camp well before dark. Look for natural shelters, such as rock overhang or a thick stand of evergreens. The site should be dry, well drained, and protect you from the wind. Ideally, it also should be near water and firewood.

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  • If no natural shelter available, pick an area with materials nearby to build lean-to or debris hut. Lean-to constructed by leaning branches against a horizontal support to form a frame for the roof. Orient opening away from the wind. Cover frame with evergreen branches to block out wind or precipitation. Leaves and twigs are the other options. If you need additional protection, add side walls.
  • Build fire where heat will radiate into the shelter. The sleeping area should be located between the shelter wall and fire.

Starting a Fire

If there is snow on the ground, build fire on a platform of green logs or rocks. If the terrain is dry, clear a patch of bare dirt to avoid starting grass or forest fire.

  • Gather everything you need before starting a fire. Pile fuel ranging from small twigs to fuel logs next to the fire site. Collect more fuel than you think you can use. • Pile fine twigs, grass or bark shavings loosely as the base. If you can’t find dry kindling, remove bark from trees. Use a knife to shave dry wood from inside of the bark.
  • Place slightly larger sticks on starter material, until you have a pile about 10 inches high.
  • If no breeze, light kindling in the middle of the base. If there is breeze, light one end of kindling so the flame will be blown toward the rest of fuel. As kindling lights and flames spread to larger twigs, slowly add more wood. Add larger pieces as the fire grows. A large fire will throw more heat and be easier to maintain.

Signalling for Help

  • When you decide to stay put and wait for rescue, prepare help signals as soon as possible.
  • The international emergency distress signal is three of any of these: shots, blasts on a whistle, flashes with a mirror, or fires evenly spaced. If you’re near open space, walk an “X” in snow, grass or sand. Make it as large as possible, so seen easily from the air. Placing branches, logs or rocks along “X” will make it more visible. Do not light signal fires until you hear an aircraft. Adding green boughs, preferably pine, to fire helps create smoke.
  • Once you have a shelter, fire, and your signal prepared, focus on water and food.



  • Even in cool weather, you need two to four quarts of water a day. Under most conditions, humans can only last about three days without water.
  • Pure drinking water is rare, even in remote regions. Clear mountain streams often are contaminated by Giardia lamblia, a parasite that causes serious intestinal sickness in humans.
  • The best way to purify water is by boiling for five minutes. Chemicals such as iodide or chlorine and filter systems may not be satisfactory. Never worsen survival problems by drinking unsafe water.


  • Humans can go for two weeks or more without food. Although the need for food is not urgent, you will be more comfortable and clear-headed if you eat. Anywhere there is a game, there is food, but probably not what you’re accustomed to eating.
  • Before you head into a remote area, learn what’s edible in that region. Hopefully, you’ll be able to use your hunting equipment to harvest the bulk of your food.

Coping With Extreme Weather

Basics of Cold Survival Without Fire

  • Wear the proper type of clothing (no cotton).
  • Stay dry.
  • Build a shelter.
  • Avoid contact with cold surfaces.
  • Wrap your body in a thermal foil blanket.
  • Limit physical activity to conserve energy.


Occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing your core body temperature to fall. Hypothermia is often induced by cold, wet conditions, such as rain, snow, sleet, or immersion in water. Moisture from perspiration, humidity, and dew or rain on bushes and trees can also soak clothing, putting you at risk in cold weather. Wet or damp clothes will draw heat out of the body more rapidly than cold air. Wind lowers the body temperature as it evaporates moisture. Resting against cold surfaces also will draw heat from the body.

  • Prevention of Hypothermia:
    • Hypothermia can be prevented by dressing properly, avoiding potentially dangerous weather conditions, and by drying out as quickly as possible when wet.
    • High-calorie food, such as chocolate, peanuts or raisins provides quick energy that helps the body produce heat.
  • Symptoms of Hypothermia:
    • Uncontrolled shivering, usually the first obvious symptom, which ceases as hypothermia progresses
    • Slow, slurred speech
    • Memory loss
    • Irrational behaviour, such as removing clothing
    • Lack of body movement – Sleepiness – Unconsciousness, which could lead to death
  • Treatment of Hypothermia:
    • Find shelter for the victim.
    • Remove wet clothing and replace with dry clothing and other protective covering. If there is no dry clothing, use a fire to dry one layer at a time.
    • Give warm liquids to rehydrate and rewarm, but never give the victim alcohol. Quick energy foods also produce inner body heat.
    • For mild cases, use fire, blankets, or another person’s body heat to warm up the victim.
    • In more advanced stages, have one or more persons surround the victim in full-body contact with the victim. Place canteens of hot water, insulated with a sock or towels, on the groin, armpits, and the sides of the neck.
    • A victim who is at or near unconsciousness must be handled gently. Do not immerse the victim in a warm bath or expose to a large fire—this can lead to traumatic shock or death. Immediately contact emergency medical personnel to evacuate the victim to a hospital for treatment.


Occurs when tissue freezes. The best prevention is to avoid severe weather. If caught in extremely cold weather, pay attention to the head and the extremities such as the fingers, toes, ears, and nose. Wear a face cover if the temperature is below 0° Fahrenheit.

  • Symptoms of Frostbite:
    • The skin turns off-white.
    • Prickly or tingling feeling as ice crystals form.
    • Pain may be present initially, then disappears as the frostbite progresses.
    • In severe cases, there is a loss of feeling in the affected area.
  • Treatment of Frostbite:
    • Warm the affected area with body heat, but avoid rubbing the area this can damage tissue.
    • Don’t use hot water or other external heat sources—it could cause a burn.
    • Wrap with warm, dry clothing.
    • Move to a warm shelter.
    • Drink hot liquids.
    • Get medical attention.

Heat Exhaustion:

The opposite of hypothermia: core body temperature increases, usually as a result of hot and humid conditions, plus lack of water.

  • Prevention of Heat Exhaustion:
    • Drink plenty of water.
    • Take frequent breaks if hiking to or from hunting spot, especially when carrying a large load.
    • Dress in layers and shed layers as physical activity increases.
  • Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:
    • Pale and clammy skin
    • Weakness
    • Nausea
    • Headache
    • Muscle cramps
  • Treatment of Heat Exhaustion:
    • Move to a cooler place and drink water.
    • Fan to lower the body temperature, but don’t over-chill.

Heat Stroke:

Should be treated as a medical emergency as it can be fatal.

  • Symptoms of Heat Stroke:
    • Dry, hot and flushed skin—dark or purple in colour
    • Dilated pupils
    • Slow, weak pulse
    • Shallow breathing
  • Treatment of Heat Stroke:
    • Wrap in a sheet and soak with cool, not cold, water.
    • Fan but don’t over-chill.
    • Get to the hospital immediately

Basic First Aid

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Common injuries that could occur while hunting:

  • Bleeding: Severe bleeding is a life-threatening medical emergency. To stop bleeding:
    • Apply direct pressure on the wound.
    • Cover with a sterile gauze pad or the cleanest cloth readily available. Infection concerns are secondary to preventing massive blood loss.
    • Press a pad firmly over wound using the palm of your hand. Don’t lift the pad to check the wound this will only renew bleeding.
    • When the pad becomes soaked, put a fresh one directly over the old pad.
    • If the wound is on a limb and is not fractured, raise the limb above the level of the heart. Gravity reduces the blood pressure in the limb.
    • Direct pressure and elevation are usually sufficient to stop the bleeding. If profuse bleeding continues, try shutting off the circulation in the artery that is supplying blood to the injured limb.
  • Broken Bones: Assume that someone has a broken bone if: the pain lasts more than a few minutes; moving the injured area is difficult, or there is swelling in the injured area. If you transport the victim a long distance, immobilize the joint above and below the break to prevent further injury and relieve the pain. Don’t try to straighten the limb splint it the way you found it. For a broken foot, remove the shoe and tie a pillow or thick padding around the foot.
    • To splint a broken leg:
      • Place a blanket or thick padding between the legs.
      • Bind the injured leg to the uninjured one with strips of cloth.
      • Bind the legs together snugly at several places above and below the painful area.
  • Burns:
    • First-degree and second-degree burns with closed blisters are best treated with cold water.
      • Immerse the burned area, or cover it with cloths soaked in cold water—don’t use ice water.
      • Avoid using butter or greasy ointment because either can interfere with healing and can cause an allergic reaction.
    • Second- and third-degree burns with open blisters should be wrapped with a loose, dry dressing.
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
    • Improperly working camp stoves and lanterns, and wood and charcoal fires can produce lethal carbon monoxide. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness and difficulty breathing. The victim’s skin can turn red and he or she can lose consciousness. Get victims into fresh air immediately—keep them lying quietly. Prompt medical care is essential.
  • Chest Wounds:
    • A bullet striking the chest can cause a sucking chest wound a deep, open wound of the chest wall that allows air into the chest cavity. All chest injuries are very serious and need immediate medical attention. To respond immediately to a chest wound:
      • Use the palm of your hand to cover the wound until a bandage is located.
      • Cover the wound with sterile gauze, clean cloth, plastic, or foil.
      • Make sure the wound cover forms an airtight seal.
      • Hold the gauze in place with a bandage or tape.
      • If the victim has trouble breathing, remove the bandage and replace it quickly.
      • Transport the victim to a hospital with the injured side down.
  • Shock: Shock can result from any serious injury.
    • ‘Symptoms include pale, cold, clammy skin; a rapid pulse; shallow breathing; and fear in the victim. To treat shock:
      • Keep the victim lying on their back. In some cases, shock victims improve by raising their feet 8-10 inches.
      • If the victim is having trouble breathing, raise the victim’s head and shoulders about 10 inches, rather than raising feet. – Maintain normal body temperature, and loosen any restrictive clothing.
      • Try to keep the victim calm and comfortable, and get medical help as quickly as possible.
  • Snakebite: Most doctors agree that the best response is to rush the victim to the hospital emergency room. Cutting and suctioning the bite can do more harm than good. Panic aggravates snakebite reactions. Calm the victim as much as possible. Keep the victim in a reclining position to slow the spread of venom. If the bite is on a limb, keep the wound at or below the level of the heart.

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