Today I have for you “A Test in the Wild: Part 3” – a true story from one of my readers here Luke Banter. It is an awesome account of his experience “bugging out” to rural Northern Ontario to live off the land for a summer in his youth. If this is your first time reading the story you can check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
I was thrilled to see her that Friday morning, and this time Brad Linda, and his youngest daughter Stacey, came along for the ride. It was nice to get a motherly hug I’ll admit, as Linda took a hold of me, and gave me a good look over, for her report to my mother later no doubt. I think it was half way through the month. We said goodbye and Brad told us he would be back at 1500hrs Sunday. Linda gave a stern look and said, “You all behave now!” I don’t think Meagan or I realized what she really meant till later on that night, and we laughed after realizing. Meagan had brought a bag of salt and fine sand mix with her (explain later). And also came with some more bread and jam. It was good. We fished the rest of the morning. And I showed her around. She was impressed with the shelter, but had some better ideas for my fire set up. And we spent a few hours redesigning the partial lean-to that covered it. She was really smart, and like I said “pretty”.
That evening we were at the cook camp, and heard something off across the creek about 50 yards or so. After about 15 minutes and it getting closer, we knew it was something big, she knew it was a bear, and she was right. A big black bear came to the tree line very cautiously, as the smell of the fish must have brought it around. Meagan said it was a female, and thinking now, I never asked how she knew that. She took out her whistle and blew it 3 times hard, and it didn’t take long for the bear to go back into the woods. I knew enough to keep the camp clean, and I had few visitors, through the night there as I seen the evidence of scrapings.
Which reminds me, I should get back to the interesting story of hanging my food caches. Did you know that raccoons can walk a tight rope? Yes well I figured that out the hard way, and had a hole in my pack to prove it. The buggers had got into my first lot of smoked fish. And what a time figuring on how to keep them out. Then it dawned on me, the cayenne pepper. I sprinkled it around the base of the trees and on the pack and that seem to do the trick (knowledge is power). I had tied it up between two large trees and it hung between them in mid air. Please note, when handling the pepper or anything else contaminated with it, don’t rub your eyes or handle your “manhood” without washing your hands, otherwise you spend time at the water’s edge saying “damn it” a lot. Anyways, so that’s that.
As for any more animal problems to be honest, if you keep clean and responsible and use common sense, you should be fine. The animals really don’t want anything to do with you. And what I learned from the moose is make lots of noise when walking through the forest. I spent most of time dogging deer and moose that I should have been doing that anyways, but in my mind I knew I wasn’t on the hunt most of the time. Rabbit and fish had been the main source of meat thus far, and I did manage a duck from Beaver pond, and a note to the wise, don’t try and pluck a duck in the wild. My god, skin it and be done with it. Meagan said my source of fat intake was lacking, and said we would fix that on Saturday.
Later that night, at base camp we had on some water to boil for tea and coffee, and had a good laugh while playing “Uno” a card game if you are not familiar with it. We stayed up fairly late chatting drinking warm drinks, and having a really great visit. We even got into a good discussion on what it would be like if the modern world stopped, and what we would have to consider for survival. This brought up the alfalfa seeds I had brought, and the fact that I hadn’t brought a jar to grow them in, and that the jam jars were just what I needed. So we said that would be the first little project after breakfast in the morning. We went to sleep and I took the back, which was a little more cramped but after all she was my guest.
Since neither one of us believed in poaching, and were raised to respect the laws of the land, we would stay within the realm. Now having said that, in a dire survival situation you must do whatever you have to do to survive. The next morning, we had a wonderful breakfast of fresh bass and a few small blue gills, rolled in cornmeal, with some flour pancakes Meagan made, topped with strawberry Jam, and of course some coffee and tea. We got to work on taking care of those Alfalfa seeds, now there is a bit of a process but pretty darn simple to say the least. 3-4 days, instant greens. I told her later how they worked out. We checked my snares, and came up with a big male (buck) rabbit, and signs that one had gotten away. Meagan was saying my slips were set too big, and I begged to differ, as your fist should just fit through the loop. She said today we are getting some fat in the menu.
And with that we she led the way to the north side of Grassy Pond. She was looking up most of the time, as we walked, which in my mind, squirrels don’t carry around a lot of fat. After about an hour and half she stopped, looked up in to a pine tree and said “Bingo, hello there Mr. Porcupine”. I said “really?” She looked at me and said, “You bet, and there my friend is your fat source”. She said “now you gotta get it down”. I looked up the tree and he looked like he was sleeping, sad I thought, but she was right I would need that source of fat. I took him clean with one shot, and he tumbled down. Now a porcupine is soft on his underside, so stay away from the back and sides and you are good to go. And his size will be misleading as in my opinion he has “a lot of guts”. Once dressed out, and pretty shameful looking creature, but thankful for his sacrifice. We brought him back to cook camp and gave him another good cleaning and sectioned him out and smoked a good section of him while keeping some out for supper. His heart and liver was kept for supper as well.
We had another great evening, and took some time to board and salt – sand the rabbit hide we got in the snare earlier that day. This will dry the hide out to make it useful. Providing it stays dry in the future it will be useable to lie on or whichever others use you may think of. Once that was sorted away and hung in a tree we continued on making more candles, and Meagan continued working on a bowl I was making using burning coals, to hollow it out. Same goes with the candle holders. You can make a lot of things from wood by using this method with limited to no tools, and at a fraction of the time, that it would take using tools if you had them. While she let the coals do their work she worked away on another wooden spoon. She was determined hers would better than the one I had carved my first week.
Late into the night we worked away and finally around 1am we headed to sleep. The next day Meagan took me to Beaver Pond to show me how to spot beaver holes, and set snares for them. Although we never left the snares, it was a great lesson. We worked on tracking for the rest of the morning, and explored an old wasp hive. There is some benefit to getting those, of course it isn’t recommended if you don’t have to. After an “out lunch” of porcupine and navy bean paste, we headed for the north end of Beaver Pond, to meet up with her father. He was a little late getting there, but was all smiles. He came with another little surprise of apples. That was really nice to have and would be used sparingly. Said our goodbyes, and they left with a wave. I missed Meagan already, and it just goes to show you, that someone’s companionship is of great value.
I walked back to camp, and was all alone again, but not deterred. I went to work cutting more fire wood and was getting quite a stockpile. I did that until 1900hrs and had a late supper, of oats, and the remaining strawberry jam, or at least as far as I remember. I fell asleep quickly that night.
The next few weeks brought me to the middle of August, and everything was going along really well. I sat one night, looking over the pond, and wondered if I really needed to go back to the modern life. I just needed some seed stocks, and a few more tools. I figured, a good saw or two, some select chisels, an auger of maybe a few different sizes, and perhaps, a dog would be nice. I did miss Lucky. If I hadn’t been hitching a ride up there, I would have brought him I think. I wondered how things on the farm were going, as I did think about life there often. I didn’t really get updates on that over my daily radio check in as I kept it short, to preserve batteries. I had a button at my fingertips if I ever wanted to call it quits, and perhaps that helped me to stay there for the time I did.
Wicked thunderstorm in the beginning of September and came with high winds. The shelter held up well, but there was a little bit of damage down at cook camp, although nothing serious. It was more in the open down there and only required some bough replacement. Days were getting colder and shorter, but the berries were ripe everywhere now, and the bears were on the move, according to the scat I found in amongst the blueberry bushes. I was sure to make as much noise as possible in my journeys after my moose encounter, although if you sit long and quite, a seemingly dead forest comes to life soon enough. One day a Fisher came and sat practically on my lap, I kid you not! I also don’t kid when I was thankful for the extra underwear once again. I had seen him quite a few times as he must have lived nearby. I had harvested about 4 more porcupines, and many rabbits, for the rest of my stay, and even had a few frog legs in the mix. I even tried turtle, which wasn’t worth the work, if you aren’t starving. I did see Brad and Meagan a few more times before the end as well. And a few more delicious treats.
My time was also getting shorter as the second week of September came around, and during one of my radio checks, I was told my father said it was time to pack it in, and head for home. I really wanted to try the winter, I had a lot of wood cut, and would be able to make it with a stock up of staples. But the reality was I had school and was fortunate enough to have the summer off at the farm. This is a busy time, but the fall would be even busier. I really thought I would come back to this place there in the wilderness, but was never back after all. I would imagine the signs of my time there are almost gone as I took everything back with me that I had brought, which was lighter I might add. (Minus the food, and perhaps I was stronger) I did manage to bring out a few things like my fishing rod, walking stick, 2 wooden spoons, a hand crafted bowl, some select dried hides, and few little carvings. I really enjoyed the time there, and have found a place deep in my soul that I can go to when I close my eyes, where the pond is right out in front of me, and the bass are still biting.
In 1992 I set out on an adventure and a test in the wilderness. To test my knowledge, courage, will, and my understanding of the outdoors and the balance it holds. Although perhaps not a true test, I needed to be safe, and my time was limited. But turning 16 out there, eating porcupine for my birthday and topping it off with a cake from some sugar, flour, chocolate chips and homemade candle was pretty sweet! I learned that it can be done, and I know that in time of need I can go back to it.
Since then I have turned 37 years old, soon to be 38. I keep in touch with Brad, and Meagan, but sadly Linda passed away with cancer 8 years after my adventure. Meagan is still very involved in the outdoors in Northern Ontario and I’ve seen her every year for 12 years as I still went moose, and deer hunting in the area. She is married with a little boy of her own. Her father Brad, still lives outside of Noelville and never remarried.
I now have a family of my own with 2 sons and a daughter, and found a 13 year career in Law Enforcement. As of 2011, I left Law enforcement to continue to help others and expand my knowledge within the Paramedics field. We moved to Newfoundland Canada, and live on a small Island. We visit home often, and have visitors here even more often. I am still a prepper, and survivalist. And get out there and DO IT every chance I get.
Take time to enjoy the small things in life… Expand your knowledge and take calculated risks.
Read. Listen. Learn. Practice. Teach…The listen some more…then repeat…
When you learn, you can change your life. When you teach you can change the world.
I am a Prepper…and I am prepared for almost anything…Are you?
And that’s it! Luke has also been kind enough to provide everyone with his email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to see Luke in action check out his YouTube channel here. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this story as much as I have 🙂
Your survival buddy,