STORIES OUT THERE FISHING By: Keith ''Catfish'' Sutton 6 Woodsmanship Skills Every Angler Should Learn These woodsmanship skills can make life in the outdoors simple, and they also just might save your life some day Knowing and practicing skills like starting a fire with one match could save your life in a dire situation. (Keith Sutton photo) Many people who call themselves outdoorsmen these days have little or no knowledge of basic woodsmanship skills that can make life outdoors safer. Some have no idea how to build a shelter or to navigate without a GPS or map. Starting a fire with a single match and cooking without utensils are lost arts. If forced by calamity into a survival situation, many would find it difficult to stay warm, well fed and healthy. Some might even die. Learning the woodsmanship skills presented in the paragraphs that follow is an insurance policy that can help you survive if you find yourself thrust into a survival situation. Study these tips and practice each one so you don’t become a statistic. How to Build an Emergency Shelter Bough structures that reflect a fire’s warmth, serve as windbreaks and provide overhead cover are important emergency shelters. They can be erected without tools in an hour in an area with downed timber – less if you find a makeshift ridgepole such as a leaning tree to support the boughs. Step One: Wedge a ridgepole into the lower forks of two closely growing trees (one end can rest on the ground if necessary), or support each end of the ridgepole with a tripod of upright poles lashed together near the top. Step Two: Tilt branches or poles against the ridgepole to make a frame. To strengthen this, interlace limber boughs through the poles at right angles. Step Three: Thatch the lean-to with slabs of bark and/or leafy or pine-needle branches, weaving them into the framework. Chink with sod, moss or snow to further insulate. One-Match Fire Lighting a fire should be accomplished with a single match if possible. Even when plenty of matches are at hand, this skill may someday mean the difference between a warmly comfortable camp and a chilly, miserable one. Ordinary wooden matches are best and should be kept in a waterproof, unbreakable container. Place a softball-size piece of tinder on a slab of dry bark or the ground. Good tinder ingredients include lint (check your pockets and belly button), cotton threads, dry-wood powder, unraveled string, bird or mouse nests, dry splinters pounded between two rocks, dry shredded bark or pine needles, and slivers of fat pine. After the tinder is laid, pile a handful of small, dry twigs (preferably evergreen twigs) above this. Over this nucleus, lean a few slightly larger, seasoned branches. Also in teepee fashion, so ample oxygen will reach all parts of the heap, lay up some big pieces of dead wood. With the fire pile sheltered from wind and rain, ignite the tinder so the flames will eat into the heart of the pile. When the fire gets going well, you can shape it any way you want. Get Your Bearings One way to determine direction without the aid of a compass or smartphone is to drive a straight 3-foot stick into the ground in a sunny location and set a stone at the tip of its shadow. Wait 20 minutes and then place another rock where the tip of the shadow has moved. The first marker indicates the west end of a line running between the two rocks; the second marks the east. North Star Guide If you are in the northern hemisphere, you can use the North Star to locate north. To find it, locate the Big Dipper, then follow the line made by the two stars that form the front end (opposite the handle) of its “cup.” These point to the North Star (Polaris), which always lies directly over north on the horizon. Cooked on a Spit Spit roasting – turning a hunk of spitted meat over campfire flames – is one of the oldest and simplest cooking methods, ideal for preparing anything from a haunch of venison to a bluegill. The spit is a long, straight, green tree limb, preferably one with a fork on one end that can serve as a handle for turning. Choose wood with no tendency to impart poor taste to the food, such as green oak or hickory. If you have a knife, shave the spit to flatten it along two opposite sides (this prevents food from rotating on the stick) and suspend it across the coals atop two forked sticks driven into the ground on opposite sides of the fire at an appropriate height. Turn the food while it broils to taste, basting with drippings caught in a pan or curved slab of bark placed beneath it. Fish Baked in Clay A quick way to cook fish outdoors is sealing it inside a coating of fine, sticky clay. If the clay isn’t already wet, work it with water until it reaches the consistency of stiff dough. Then mold it about an inch thick completely over the whole fish. Bury in hot coals until the covered fish resembles a hard, hot brick. Baking will take about 15 minutes per pound. When you break open the clay shell, fins and scales will come off with it, leaving a steaming, savory feast.