Submitted March 27, 2013

Never Forget the Spare Batteries

Several years ago I was hunting with a friend, Len, in southeastern Idaho. The time of year was fall and there was snow on the ground. It wasn't extremely cold but it was cold enough that a person needed to dress properly to avoid hypothermia. We were in an are where vehicle access was blocked by barricades so we of course had to walk in. Len and I had made plans to meet at a certain point just a mile or two from the barricade. He would walk the dirt road and I was to follow an animal trail I had found on an earlier hunting trip using my GPS to end up at the right meeting spot. I was dressed properly and carried a day pack with essential items in case we were not able to return before dark.

We both departed for the meeting spot in late afternoon and planned to meet about an hour before sunset so we could walk the road out. Len arrived at the spot as planned but I was not there. Everything was going just fine for me until I was about 300 yds from the spot when my GPS went blank. I tried to turn it back on several times when I finally figured out that the batteries had died. I was depending on the GPS to take me to the spot but now I could only guess where the spot might be since I didn't bring a compass this time. Guess what? I had no spare batteries with me. I tried signaling by firing a couple of rounds with my handgun but were not close enough to make a connection. Len did the right thing and eventually returned to camp and waited as he had no way to know where to look for me.

It was now dark but lucky for me the sky was clear and I had a general idea which way the main highway was from my location, pretty much directly west. I knew that the main highway ran north and south so I knew if I walked in a westerly direction, I would eventually run into it but had no idea how far. One of many skills I learned on Boys Scouts (long time ago) was to find north from looking at the stars and find the Big Dipper. I found the North Star, faced it and stuck out my left arm (pointing west) and headed toward where the highway should be. About three hours later, I found the highway and hitched a ride back to my camp where Len was very happy to see that I found my way back.

I no longer leave camp without taking spare batteries for my GPS or a backup compass with map. I could have survived for a few days out there with the stuff I had in my pack but that wouldn't have been my first choice.

– Dave Forrest

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