This weekend I was reminded about the importance of being prepared whenever you plan on spending time outdoors. To setup the story let me tell you a little about this little trip. The weekend of Valentine’s Day I along with my fiance and her son went to Hallettsville, TX . Her uncle has a small ranch about 110 acres just southeast of town. The weather that entire weekend was perfect, we visited the Whistling Duck Winery and spent some quality time together.
As usual whenever we go out to the ranch, I try to bring my bow or rifle in the event I have the opportunity to get away for little hunting while I’m there. With deer season in the past and turkey season on the horizon, the animal I was hoping to shoot a hog and end the weekend with a BBQ.
Sitting in the tree stand is always a great experience, I’d take the worst day in the tree stand over the best day in the office any day of the week. I was set up at what was probably the furthest feeder from the house, maybe half a mile so it wasn’t too far. I took the Kawasaki mule out as I had no plans on walking to that feeder. I climbed into the stand around 6 o’clock and sat for about an hour and a half. At this time of year hogs are nocturnal so without lights around the feeder I only had until sundown to get it done. The hog’s weren’t moving that evening but I did watch two cardinals for about an hour and watched an armadillo lumber through the brush.
I sat there primarily enjoying the quite and watchint birds until I realize that I was losing light and visibility pretty quickly. It finally got to the point where I could no longer see my target so I decided to call it a day, climb down from the tree stand, and head back to the house to grab a beer. I loaded up in the mule, put it in reverse to head back and I came to a sudden and unexpected drop and stop. In the darkness I didn’t see the large drainage ditch about 10 feet from where I was parked. I tried to kick it into 4 wheel drive to try to drive out of the ditch but I was stuck (high centered actually). I was alone and the mule is way too heavy for me to try to move on my own.
At this point I began to really consider my options:
- I had my cell phone but I get no service in the Halletsville
- I could have stayed at the stand and hope that someone would come and get me eventually
- I could walk back to the house in the dark
Because I had my headlamp with me, I choose to walk back to the house in the dark. I was fairly familiar with the property and knew the way to get back however it was pitch black and the headlamp that I had was old and woefully inadequate. My beautiful weekend and hunting experience turned into an opportunity for me to reinforce the importance the idea of being prepared whenever you head out to the woods, that could be for a hunt or a simple hike.
Tip 1. Understand The Landscape
Whenever you head into an unknown area, one of the first things you need to do is to familiarize yourself with the landscape. Go to Google Maps, study the terrain, grab a physical map (cellphones don’t always work) and carry it with you. Understand features and direction, know where roads are and where streams may divide the aea. Just taking a little time to understand your surrounds can make a world of difference.
Tip 2. Don’t Trust The Weather
Weather is fickle and cannot be trusted. Weahter can change unexpectedly, it could be 75 degrees and sunny one moment then storming the next. Always prepare to do battle with the elements, the moment you let your guard down, mother nature will uppercut you like Mike Tyson.
Tip 3. Tell Someone Where You’re Going and Have a Plan If You Don’t Make It Back On Time
When you head out to a location it’s always good practice to let someone know where you’re going, make sure that there are planned check-ins or return times. In the event there is an emergency or if you do not adhere to a certain deadline there should be a plan to either call the appropriate authorities, to give you more time, or to send out the hounds.
Tip 4. Carry The Necessary Equipment
As a solo hunter or backpacker there’s a desire to pack appropriately and carry only the necessary equipment. When you’re 5-10 miles into a trek, every ounce feels like 10 pounds so carrying a lot of equipment isn’t always desirable. But don’t risk putting yourself in a bad situation because you didn’t want to carry the necessary gear. When going into the field always be sure to bring things like a first aid kit, a headlamp or flashlight, matches, I always pack 5050 para cord and an extra pair of contacts.
Although the very first thing I did when I returned home was go to Bass Pro Shop and purchase a new Petzl headlamp that put out 160 lumens, the fact that I had a headlamp at all gave me the confidence to make the walk back to the house in the dark. If you follow these few steps you’ll be able to hunt longer and go further with the confidence of knowing that you’re prepared for almost any situation you run into.
And to give you an idea of how stuck I was, we had to pull the mule out with a tractor.