PRIMITIVE SURVIVAL SKILLS
By Steve Stillwell
It’s easy to start a fire with matches, or a lighter, but how many of you reading this article have the knowledge to do this using raw materials, and Stone Age techniques? The big question is; WHAT IF you were lost in the wilderness and you dropped your matches somewhere along the trail before becoming disoriented? Your breath quickens, you reach into your pockets, nothing ‒ and then you notice that daylight is fading fast, the temperature is plummeting, and the risk of freezing to death is an imminent reality!
On one of my recent camping trips, my good friend, and fellow Bushcraft aficionado, Morris McCann lit our campfire using nothing but a primitive bow drill. Needless to say, I was impressed, because this takes patience, practice, and a little bit of talent, but if he can do it, so can you!
Back to our scenario; if you’re wearing shoes, or boots, you can use your laces to make a small, flexible bow, after locating the appropriate size tree-limb. The Ouachita National Forest is brimming with raw materials and deadwood, so you don’t have to look very far. All that you need to complete this kit is a straight wooden spindle, a bearing block, and a hearth-board with a small notch cut in the side. Dead seasoned cottonwoods, willows, pines, and even cedars should be used for construction, just make sure that everything’s dry. Hopefully you didn’t lose your pocket knife, but if you did, you’ll need to find a sharp stone to finish the task. If you’re experienced, these things can be done in a relatively short amount of time, but again, this take practice.
When your fire-starter is complete, you’ll need a tender bundle to place your hot coal inside of. Processed cedar or cottonwood bark is excellent. Make sure that you have plenty of kindling, and larger pieces of wood in position, because your first try is usually your best. The last thing you need at this point is to have your fire go out, because you didn’t gather enough wood.
Char-cloths, flint and steel, and fire piston starters are more modern methods of fire ignition, but technically speaking, these are still considered, OLD SCHOOL and PRIMITIVE METHODS.
A word of advice from Mr. McCann; bow drills require a little physical exertion, and you might break a sweat! Be very careful not to let any of your perspiration drip on the fire-board, because this could extinguish your coal, or render your kit inoperable. It’s interesting to know that science and common sense are still applicable, even when you’re pretending to be a Caveman.
McCann and I have enjoyed camping together in different seasons, sometimes in foul weather, and during our first outing, he shared some very interesting information with me. For those of you who aren’t familiar, renowned survivalist Cody Lundin who costarred on the television series, DUAL SURVIVAL teaches primitive and modern survival classes, by appointment only. McCann had the opportunity to attend, and he enjoyed Cody’s classes so much that he’s traveled back to Arizona for additional sessions. He also stated that Cody is an extremely knowledgeable individual, who takes his work seriously, yet at the same time, he’s very humble.
Some of the best instructors I’ve known never claim to be experts, because in my opinion, we can always learn more, and every year I do.
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