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As the weather cools and hunting season approaches, more and more of us will be spending more time outdoors. This often means more people venturing further off the beaten path looking for that perfect view of the changing leaves or tracking down that trophy buck. Whatever the reason, there is always a chance for things to go wrong.

You don't have to be Bear Grylls or be training for the next season of "Survivor" to get into a situation where you need some basic survival skills. In the outdoors we are just one wrong step from being in a situation that can go from bad to worse in a real hurry.

No one likes to think about being stuck or lost in the wilderness overnight or even longer. Each year we hear dozens of stories of hunters, hikers, or even children getting lost in the woods for days on end.

Fortunately, in the Mountain State we only have a few weeks each year of truly extreme temperatures and weather so for the most part surviving outside overnight isn't something that will take years of training and preparation. It can be stressful or even traumatic, but if you can keep your wits about you it can be done even in inclement weather.

Luckily, there are a few things that will help us to be prepared for the situation and help keep one night from turning into two. The best thing anyone can do happens even before you step outside. Tell someone where we are going and what time we expect to get back. We hear this all the time, but time is of the essence in any emergency and the simple fact that someone knows where to start looking can save hours and hours of time that could be spent on focusing on getting us out of our predicament.

Another important thing to remember when you figure out that you are lost, or you aren't going to be able to make it out of the mountains at night, is to remain calm. As skies darken and the sounds of a daytime forest transform into a dark foreboding environment with entirely new sounds, or even worse eerily quiet, it can be hard not to panic.

Keeping your wits about you in any emergency is half the battle. If you find yourself in an emergency outdoors it may be time for one of those self-pep-talks or just to sit quietly and take stock of the situation around you and think about all your options. Do whatever it takes to get yourself calm and thinking about what your next move is to help get out of the situation.

Stay Put! If you find yourself lost in the woods, especially at night, the best thing to do is stay put. It is harder for anyone searching for someone who is lost to find them if they are chasing a moving target. The best thing you can do if you find yourself stuck and you can't get out or don't know the way is to just sit tight.

Look around for a good spot where you will be visible, and you can find some shelter and comfort from the elements and wait for others to come to you. It may not be the most pleasant option, to just sit and wait, but it is almost always the best one. Especially if your other option is stumbling around in the mountains at night. So much can go wrong there.

In this day and age there are hundreds of gadgets on the market that are specifically designed for emergencies outdoors and some of them are amazing, cheap, and come in handy even in times that aren't emergency situations.

Probably, the most useful gadget is one of the plethora of fire starting apparatuses available. Fire is a wonderful thing if you are lost or hurt and stuck in the outdoors. It provides light, heat and more comfort than we care to admit. It, also, can be seen from a long way away, so it will be a beacon in the night for anyone looking to find us.

A lighter is great for starting a fire, but it can be troublesome in the rain or snow. There are flint steel combinations that will readily strike in the dampness and numerous fire starter kits on the market, too. These things are amazing at how they can quickly send a signal or even start a simple camp fire.

Another little gem that I always keep in my daypack when hiking the mountains is an emergency blanket. These thin little sheets of reflective plastic weigh almost nothing, cost only a couple of bucks and can trap in heat and shed off water like nothing I have ever seen.

Throw a fire starter and a couple of space blankets in your pack, or even your pockets, and you have just increased your comfort level 10-fold in the event you get stuck outside for the night. The old saying, "Fate favors the prepared" stands true for everything from preparing for that trophy bull elk to walk out in front of you on that western hunting excursion to simply walking out alive after getting lost in the wilderness on a late evening bowhunt.

I am by no means a survival expert, nor do I claim or want to be. I do know that if I ever find myself in a situation that I must spend a night stuck outdoors I want to be as prepared as I can. The internet and library (yes, I said library. I am that old.) are full of videos, articles and books on survival in the outdoors.

Like most things, the knowledge of how to survive in the wild for a short period of time is something I would much rather have and not need, than need and not have. No one expects to get lost or hurt and not be able to make it out of the woods before nightfall, but it happens. A few extra items in your hunting or hiking gear and a little bit of forethought can go a long way to making those unfortunate times a little less scary.

So, before your next outing take a minute to look through your gear. Do you have a few items that might help in an emergency? Ask yourself what would you do if you got lost out there? And most importantly, does anyone know where you are going and when you should be back? These are some simple things we can all do that will help keep us safe every time we step outside.

Roger Wolfe is an avid outdoorsman and has spent most of his life hunting and fishing and writes a weekly outdoors column for HD Media. He is a resident of Chapmanville and can be reached via email at wolfeii@hotmail.com.


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