IT’S NOT HIGH TECH BUT A COMPASS CAN BE A LIFE SAVER

Advanced Planning Key To Having A Safe Outdoors Trip

by TREY ILES, LDWF Public Information

Today’s technology can be a valuable resource for hunting and boating trips. But relying completely on it can give a false sense of security.

Almost everyone carries a cell phone and it certainly can get you out of a tight spot when you’re lost in the woods or in the open water away from civilization. But, as happens to most people, what do you do when the power runs out? Or if you don’t have cell service? You don’t have to travel far into the Atchafalaya Basin, for example, to lose a cell signal.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Biologist Educator Daniel Hurdle said that’s why advance preparation and reverting to some old school technology is vital when planning a hunting or boating journey.

“It goes back to the old days with the compass,’’ Hurdle said. “Bring a compass along because that won’t go dead. And you can still purchase them at almost any retailer for $2-3. The main thing we teach is to develop a plan before you head out. And one of the keys to that plan is to let someone know where you’re going.’’

The education program at LDWF has come up with a simple form to fill out before leaving for your outdoor trip. By filling it out and leaving it with someone you trust you can take the initial step to being rescued in case you get lost or stranded.

It’s also important to prepare in the event you get sidetracked. Hurdle recommends bringing along several items that could aid in you being found. The first is the compass. Make sure you know how to use one before you head out.

Some other things to pack include a GPS device, topographic maps of the area where you’ll be going, a whistle, fire building materials, a flashlight and shelter material – something as simple as a large trash bag.

“You want to bring some type of signaling device and a whistle can be good for that,’’ Hurdle said. “If you start to yell, your voice will go out quick. You blow a whistle in the woods and if someone is nearby they’ll come to find out what’s going on. That’s something you don’t normally hear in the woods. People will come to check on you because you’re either ruining their hunt or they know you’re in trouble.’’

Hurdle said it is not recommended to fire shots during the day when you are lost. He said to wait until after dark if that becomes a necessity.

“If you shoot during the day, people think you’re just hunting,’’ Hurdle said. “At night, people think you’re either poaching or encroaching on their private property and will have it investigated.’’

If you do find yourself lost Hurdle said it’s important not to panic. If your cell phone is working, he recommends group texting instead of making a call. You’ll use less battery power and also have a much better chance of alerting someone with a group text.

If your cell phone isn’t an option then remain calm.

“The No. 1 thing when you get lost is don’t panic,’’ Hurdle said. “We like to use the STOP formula. Sit, think, observe and plan. Calm down and relax then assess your situation. How far am I in the woods? Am I in the middle of Sherburne (Wildlife Management Area) in the middle of 30,000 acres? Nobody is coming looking for me for at least 4-5 hours.

“We don’t want people to keep walking. The further you walk that’s makes the search area that much larger. If you can hear vehicles you’re likely near a highway or road. That’s a direction to walk. And if you have a topographic map, you can look at it and get a general sense of where you are. Use the whistle. And take out that compass.”

Common sense is something that can help get you out of a tough situation. And a big part of that is advanced planning. Plan like you won’t have all the great technology available to us today.

For more information on the LDWF Hunter’s Education program, go to http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/hunting/hunter-education.

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