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Mena Arkansas News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Ouachita Bushcraft & Survival: SURVIVALIST EXTRAORDINAIRE

By Steven E. Stillwell

IT’S TIME TO FIND OUT: Do you possess the necessary skills to call yourself a survivalist? Reality television programs such as; Naked and Afraid, Man verses Wild, Survivor Man, Dual Survivor, and Alone have been captivating audiences for approximately a decade now, and the viewer subscribership is continually gaining momentum, with millions of Americans and Canadians  watching! Two of the most popular social media hubs, YouTube and FaceBook, are being flooded with skilled and amateur outdoorsmen alike, who are promoting and showcasing their Bushcrafting skills. Some of these individuals are teaching professional classes, while others are just posting their adventures for fun. So the question remains; are you a survivalist who can sustain yourself with minimal provisions in a wilderness setting for a prolonged period without succumbing to the elements? 

I recently had the privilege to interview the SEASON SIX winner of ALONE, Jordan Jonas, and needless to say, I was impressed. HARCORE SURVIVAL isn’t something that should be approached with a haphazard attitude, so Jordan and I spoke on several different occasions so we could convey a positive message! 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the ALONE CHALLENGE, thousands of people apply for this annual program by sending pictures, videos, and resumes, but only TEN make the cut. All of the contestants are allowed to pick 10 essential items from a preapproved list, and trust me; it’s a complicated process! When the survivalist picks one tool, they’re foregoing another, and this mandates having a solid strategy. 

BUSHCRAFTING IS CREATIVITY IN ITS PURIST FORM. Many of the former contestants have displayed incredible ingenuity by crafting additional tools from scavenged and natural resources! Fishing lures, rods and reels, spoons, bowls, small boats, game snares, deadfalls, and hunting implements are just a few of the items that I’ve observed on previous shows.   

WHEN THE SELECTION PROCESS IS COMPLETE, the candidates are taken to a remote location with the program’s expert support team where they receive additional training. HANDS-ON DEMONSTRATIONS, ensure that each contestant is up for the task. When this phase is complete, all of the backpacks are loaded, and the cast members are transported via helicopter or boat to their predetermined spot. Everyone is dropped off in a separate location, hundreds of miles from civilization, and approximately ten, to seven miles from one another, hence the title, ALONE. The one who survives the longest receives a grand prize of $500,000 dollars!  

Before I interviewed Jordan, I compiled a specific, bullet-point list of questions to ask, so we could analyze and learn from his experience. When you read his responses, I’m confident that many of you will recognize some of the common traits that we all share! SOME OF THE MOST DEFINING QUALITIES ARE; you can never learn enough, being versatile, and constantly striving to become more proficient. 

Jordan survived for 77 days in Northern Canada, and he was only 70 miles south of the Arctic Circle in an area known as, GREAT SLAVE LAKE. He was also the first contestant in the history of the ALONE program to harvest a big game animal, a BULL MOOSE, with his recurve bow, which counted as one of his 10 items! This feat of endurance also entailed being exposed to severe temperatures that plummeted to -10 degrees, and the season was only late fall.      

Steve Stillwell: Tell me about yourself? Where are you from, what’s your background, and do you have a profession?

JORDAN JONAS: Wow, that’s a broad question. I was actually born in Illinois, but I grew up on a farm in Idaho. I consider myself to be {a jack-of-all trades} in the construction realm. I’ve done everything, including electrical, plumbing, demolition, remodeling, and carpentry.  I also love animals, big and small, bee-keeping, tending goats and cows, things like that.  

Steve Stillwell: What are your hobbies and passions? Tell me what motivates you?    

JORDAN JONAS: I enjoy several things that are outdoor related, like hiking, foraging for mushrooms, and camping in the mountains, especially out West where you can get some inspiration. I also enjoy deer hunting, but I’ve never used a rifle to kill one in the United States, it’s always been with a bow!  

Steve Stillwell: So you’re telling me in a roundabout way that you’ve hunted with a rifle in a foreign country?

JORDAN JONAS: Yah, I hunted with the native Evenki, when I lived in Siberia, but mainly, I just tagged along. 

Steve Stillwell: Please elaborate on your deer hunting? What’s the best animal you’ve taken on this continent?

JORDAN JONAS: I don’t consider myself to be a trophy hunter; I just like to fill my freezer up with meat to feed my family. The largest thing that I’ve taken so far was that moose in Canada. 

TALK ABOUT SETTING THE BAR HIGH, we both began to laugh when I told Jordan that he couldn’t harvest anything bigger than that incredible Bull Moose. He used a technique that he’d learned in Siberia to funnel the animals into a corridor, enabling him to get within archery range to pull off his shot. After identifying their travel routes, by scouting for tracks, droppings, and other distinguishable signs, he used his camp ax to chop down some smaller trees, thus creating several barriers to alter their course! He also found some old, rusted tin-cans when he was exploring on another occasion. These were most likely discarded by Canadian trappers, decades ago, and they factored into his equation. With his fishing line, Jordan rigged up some trip wires that would sound a noisy, rattling, can-clanking alarm. HIS PLAN WORKED PERFECTLY, and a few days later, he bagged his quarry after it stumbled into the killing zone! 

Steve Stillwell: When did you become seriously interested in Bushcrafting and survival?

JORDAN JONAS: I’ve always been interested in the outdoors, even at a young age. When I traveled to Russia and lived with the natives in Siberia, this was a practical learning experience, because these people did things that worked. I’d consider this to be AN ABOVE, AND BEYOND lesson in survival.  

Steve Stillwell: Can you tell me what your goals are, both long-term and short? 

JORDAN JONAS: I was thinking about starting a survival school, and possibly writing a manual. I’d also like to spend more time with my family and work on some personal projects, like remodeling our home! 

Steve Stillwell: Now it’s time to get down to the proverbial nitty-gritty, what would you consider to be your strongest survival skill? 

JORDAN JONAS: Most certainly, the mental aspect and staying positive! Being {a jack of all trades} helps, because you’ve got to be well rounded and have a broad range of knowledge. I wouldn’t consider myself to be an expert at any one particular skill, but knowing how to do a lot of things adds up. There’s always room for improvement, and we can always learn more.

Steve Stillwell: Let’s talk about self evaluation. Is there a particular skill that needs improvement?

JORAD JONAS: I’d like to improve on my fishing skills. That Northern Pike I caught on the show, was the biggest fish that I’d ever landed in my life. We did a lot of fishing when I lived in Russia too, and I learned a few tricks, but there’s one thing that really worries me, and that’s pollution. 

CONSERVATION IS VITAL. I respected the fact that Jordan was concerned about the environment, and in my opinion, all of us should be. When he mentioned pollution, he was talking about everyone being good stewards on a global scale, and taking care of our rivers, streams and waterways! Numerous cultures sustain their families and villages by harvesting edible resources from the oceans! If we’re not careful, mercury, crude oil, radioactive waste, garbage and other hazardous materials could take their toll on the planet’s aquatic life. Red tide is also a viable threat, killing everything in its wake. 

IT’S COMMON KNOWLEDGE that cold weather burns calories, therefore people living in subzero temperatures must ingest a sufficient amount of fat to sustain themselves. Following his moose harvest, Jordan was plagued by marauding wolverines that were craving his stockpile! To counter these nightly raids, he constructed an elevated food cache, reset his tripwire alarms, and patiently waited to catch his culprits. A few nights later, his efforts paid off, and he was able to dispatch one of these gnarly, growling predators with his ax, but shortly thereafter, more raids would follow, because bandits usually run in pairs.

IT’S THE FOURTH QUARTER, SO DON’T QUIT. In spite of these setbacks, and a few others, Jordan managed to stay focused and positive. THIS IS A LESSON WE CAN NEVER FORGET. When others would have conceded, he used his wits, and fought with all of his strength to stay in the game. Survival is the ultimate mental challenge! 

Steve Stillwell: You’re a very upbeat, and positive guy, let’s delve into this topic. Can you tell me how you managed to do this?

JORDAN JONAS: Being multifaceted, helps, and having some food was great. I don’t have a lot of, skeletons in the closet, and things to distract me. I tried to stay busy, and when I did this, it kept me mentally occupied. When you’re living in cold weather, you’ve got to move around to stay warm. I’d work on a project, like that fishnet I made, until my hands and feet were numb, and then I’d go back inside of my shelter to warm up. 

FRESH AIR TANTALIZES THE TASTE BUDS. Another topic that Jordan elaborated on was how tasty everything was, especially the moose steaks and fresh fish. Most of us who consistently eat in the outdoors can attest to this experience. Campfire cooking yields some of the most delicious tasting cuisine a person can eat, especially if they know how to manipulate and bank their coals, to control the heat. BE FOREWARNED, an inexperienced camper can also scorch a meal in a hurry, if they lack these cooking skills.

HYPERTHERMIA AND FROSTBITE ARE THE GREATEST ARCTIC THREATS. The survival triangle is pretty straightforward; food, shelter, and water are the basic necessities! Personal hygiene and staying healthy are also at the top of the list. Jordan’s knowledge of construction enabled him to build a warm, sturdy enclosure that wouldn’t cave-in when the snow storms and gusting winds prevailed. Even though Jordan pushed his body to the limit, he recognized what his threshold was, and he never went beyond that point. IT’S IMPERATIVE TO KNOW YOUR PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS. 

Steve Stillwell: Would you consider another challenge such as this? 

JORDAN JONAS: Yes, but it would have to be in an area where there’s plenty of resources and game. I wouldn’t want to compete in a starving contest, because I’m too skinny. 

In closing, Jordan offered some excellent advice. There are a lot of folks who would love to embark on an experience like this, but for some reason they don’t. He’s right, because North America is brimming with wilderness areas that are accessible to the public at little, to no cost. 

JORDAN JONAS: You can’t let anything hold you back. TEST YOURSELF, AND JUST GO OUT AND DO IT. 

DOES SOCIAL MEDIA INTEREST YOU? You can follow Jordan’s adventures by visiting the author’s FaceBook page, OUACHITA BUSHCRAFT AND SURVIVAL. There, you’ll find links to his YouTube channel, and FaceBook pages. Jordan recently harvested a black bear, and whitetail deer with his Matthews compound bow! He also posted footage of two mature bucks sparring underneath his stand.  

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