What do you do if you get lost in a snowstorm?

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What do you do if you get lost in a snowstorm?

Postby Mike Brooks » Thu Jan 10, 2008 9:15 am

I have been lost in a few big snowstorms, I was turned around, could not find my hunting stand, and got extremely frustrated. The GPS that they have now would really have helped me. Anyone else experience this kind of event, or something like it? :shock:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not into your own understanding, Proverbs 3:5
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Snow storm

Postby thumper » Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:44 pm

Hi Mike;
This is a difficult one, and it depends on where you are and what you have with you.
If you have no survival equipment with you and are on featureless prairie with no trees or brush that you can see, miles from a road, and it is already dark and the storm is still raging, you are inline for your Choir robe fitting, because you aren't going to make it, if you don't get control of your fear period!
The standard advice when lost is to stay put, but if you have no shelter I don't believe this is wise in a blizzard.
In this situation I feel the best thing you can do is to keep moving, but do it slowly. At this point you are not concerned about speed, because you don't know where you are going anyway, so you can't be late when you arrive, so don't worry about it. If you had even an aluminized survival blanket, I would suggest that you find deep enough snow to burrow down into and cover yourself with with the survival blanket, and allow the snow to help insulate your body.
The biggest fear in this is that you are probably already wet from melting snow on your clothes and your core temp will drop quickly unless you can get yourself sealed off from the wind and snow. The problem with stopping is that you will most likely fall asleep, and die in the night.
My reasoning for keeping moving, slowly is that you will continue to generate heat, and you may find decent shelter in some timber where you can makeshift a lean to, and maybe even start a fire.
If you know you are not in an area where shelter or road access is available, then simply walk in a circle, 20-30 yards in dia. and sing a song, or recite poetry, or scripture to yourself to keep up a slow cadance and keep your mind off of your pain and situation. You can't get lost any worse because you have a track to follow round and round. Plus you will leave a really cool looking deep snow ring in the open for an aircraft to see the next day.

The important issue is to move slowly, this will allow you to keep from injuring yourself from a fall, conserve energy, you won't tire out and need to lie down as quickly, and it will keep you from panic. You can't be really panicked and still just shuffle along slowly. The very act of slowing down, alleviates some of the tendancy to panic. You can stay on your feet for many many hours, until next morning for sure if you do it slowly. Staying on your feet keeps you awake, moving slowly keeps you from sweating, which will kill you quickly because you are using up excess heat and giving off too much body liquid, and wet clothes don't insulate as well as dry cloths do. I don't believe any corpse has ever been found in a standing position in knee deep snow, so if you are upright, you are still alive, remember that.

I've been lost three times and twice in a snow storm, once while tracking a wounded moose for a friend who shot it poorly a couple hours before, in 12-16 inches of snow and blowing snow coming down. After 6 hours and darkness was setting in, my wool pants were solid blocks of ice from the knees down from all the snow melt and freezing on them.
When I came to the top edge of a river bank, which shouldn't have been there, I definitely knew I was lost. I tried firing three shots on two separate occassions to get the attention of the hunting party I was helping, and they heard me from the highway they were waiting on about 2-3 miles away. Unfortunately for two reasons I didn't hear their reply.

First was that the wind was blowing from me to them at about 15 miles/hr. and secondly they were too cheap. Too cheap, how does that play into this scenario, well, although they carried a .308 and a .303, they chose to answer my three shots with the .22 they had in the truck, (.22 shells are cheaper you know) so I had a good estimation as to what the value of my life was to them after that.
When I didn't hear a reply I started looking for a place to build a lean to as I was carrying my survival fanny pack, and had the tools to make a night of it. I then decided that, I had about 30 minutes of dim light left, and there was going to be a good moon to light up the sky afterwards for me to see enough to make a shelter, plus I had two small flashlights with me just incase.
I decided I would walk for 30 minutes down the cutline I was on to see what I could find. At about 15 minutes, the line split and I took the left fork and it eventually came out onto an old well site, which had a service road leading away from it. I started to walk down it, and it came to a better road, then a better one, and eventually I was picked up by a fish and Wildlife officer who was looking for me in the area driving the roads. He was told by the hunting party, that I was in the area and they hadn't heard from me in 6 hours. So I made it out, but I was prepared to stay if I hadn't found the well site in 30 minutes of steady walking.
The most important things to remember is, don't panic, be prepared with the stuff you need to spend the night, and the knowledge to do so. Carry extra ammo in case you need to signal, and don't hunt with or agree to help out anyone who is too cheap to fire big game rifle shells when they hear your distress signal.
Needless to say I wasn't impressed when I was dropped off at their truck a couple hours after dark, and they told me they could hear my three shots, twice, and how they chose to answer my distress call.

PS. Never found the moose, too much snow, and the blood trail died, amongst too many other tracks. If I had found the moose, I would have skinned it, and being too fat to crawl inside, wouldn't have bothered gutting it, but would have lied down on top of the skinned and very hot carcass (heat rises) and covered myself with the hide, hair side towards me.
Wouldn't that be a sight for a searcher to find the next day, emerging from the snowbank covering it!
If you HATE then there is no GRACE! The opposite of LOVE is APPATHY, The opposite of HATE is UNDERSTANDING!
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Postby Mike Brooks » Thu Jan 10, 2008 5:31 pm

Thumper, that is a great story, I enjoyed reading it, I had something like that happen to me and will share it after January 26th. I learned a lot about 3 shots and expecting people to come looking for you. They will not get out of bed at 3:00 AM to help, plus they were in a wall tent. Not like a cabin or house, and you couldn't hear anything. Great story Thumper!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not into your own understanding, Proverbs 3:5
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Postby chuck7 » Mon Jan 28, 2008 8:45 pm

I got lost twice this year..

1st time..I got down out of my stand and decided to do a little scouting..After 1 hour, I realized I was lost.I screamed alot but that didn't help..I never brought my compass. I prayed a few times..Somehow I stumbled on a foot path I recognized and I found my way.

2nd time ..I came out of my stand and I decided to scout some more. I found a real nice spot..I attached my climber and shot an "Estimate' asthmus..NEVER DO THAT!! Thenext day I came to the field.I knew my climber was about 400yds somewhere between 120 degrees and 140 degrees. :oops: NOT GOOD..It was so foggy that you couldn't see 10 feet in front of you. 20 degrees difference is not good. I missed my stand by 100 yds..I had to wait till day break to find my stand and therfore messed up the last day of deer huntng becasue I didn't set up trail tacks..{Left them at home} and didn't shoot an accurate asthmus on my compass.
Big lesson learned.
Chuck Borden
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Postby Mike Brooks » Wed Jan 30, 2008 6:21 pm

ouch Chuck :shock: I have done that myself, someday when I am bored I will write about it. :oops:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not into your own understanding, Proverbs 3:5
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Postby silvertip » Sun Mar 02, 2008 4:07 pm

I posted this on the GPS thread...but it equally apply' s here...

a standard compass should always accompany the GPS in your pack...the magnetic poles of the earth will always be working...having a reading of your start point and knowing how to do a return are essential to hiking or hunting in even semi wilderness locations...the gps is cool...but if the batteries go dead what then...extra batteries are always something that should be in your pack if you are using a GPS unit too...along with that compass ...

and if you are in a semi wilderness area a top map is always a good idea...this can all be folded up pretty neat in your pack...I have in the past made a smaller print of the specific area and laminated it...I did this primarily when I was guiding divers with nautical charts...but having an "old school" map never hurt anyone...it will really help picking out landmarks...peaks,rivers ,creeks etc...sometimes being lost...in the words of Daniel Boone..."is just being a bit bewildered"...

I have been lost more times than I can count...once in the mountains of New York state in 1980 I was following deer in the snow for a few hours...I had missed an opportunity with my bow at a nice buck...and because the conditions were perfect(18" of fresh powder and it was coming down about 2" an hour) I was able to follow them for about two hours unnoticed...in an area that I thought I knew pretty good..but with 12-24 new inches of snow, I was totally lost 3 miles from my truck...and the sun was nowhere to be found. I did not pack my snowshoes(which I also regretted, almost 2 feet of snow in some areas...plus what was newly down) so it was as hard as it gets..that old Silva compass turned what may have been a very cold night into a nice supper with my family...and of course you don't have to tell anyone...that compass saved me from being embarrassed...LOL...a GPS would have been good...except for the fact that they weren't invented yet...

like power tools...learn how to use a hand tool first !!!...in this case a compass...then that GPS will be an excellent option...but my experiences in dead reckoning navigation at sea...or being lost in a snow storm...its always good to have a few options...you never know when you will need them...but if you are prepared a disaster can be turned into a slight inconvenience...t :grin:
silvertip
 


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