Submitted May 20, 2009

I will not leave home or camp without my “essentials”

In 1975 I was hunting in the Gallatin National Forest in Montana. This was a guided Elk hunt on horseback. The day started before dawn as we worked our was to the base of a cliff, left the horses, broke up into 2 groups (2 hunters, 1 guide each), but I was to hunt alone that day. I am an experienced hunter, Eagle Boy Scout, fairly experienced woodsman and consider myself fully capable of surviving in the wilderness. Because we were in a hurry to get out of camp, I forgot my “essentials” pack and when I realized it wasn’t with me we were too far down the trail to go back.

You know what happened. I got turned around at the end of the day and after trying several trails I realized that I had no clue where the trail back to the horses was hiding itself. As the afternoon was quickly disappearing, I found a place to “hole up’, gathered firewood, shot some fools grouse (my 300 Win Mag was pretty tough on them) and was pretty ready to spend the night. I thought I’d try just one more time to find the trail before resigning myself to a lonely night in the wood. By sheer luck I caught a glimpse of two little ponds that I had seen on A TOPO map. They were named Pat and Jenny. I then recognized the drainage and knew where I was. I had to clamber down a rather steep cliff, banging up a brand new Weatherby rifle pretty badly and just after dark I stumbled down the drainage to where we left early that morning. The wrangler was waiting for me and we made our way back to camp getting there about 9:00 PM.

I was tired and really mad at myself for leaving my essentials bag. I had no map, no compass, no food, no protection from the elements, no first aid supplies, no matches or a lighter. It would have been a very cold night up there because that evening it snowed about 18”. Thankfully I didn’t panic and I logically thought through what I had to do. I also made my mind up to set a time for the decision to stay put and make the best of what I had, build a fire, eat some mangled fool’s grouse and wait for the morning rescue team to come. I took enough ribbing to last a lifetime when I got back to camp; something about the intrepid outdoorsman really being a nimrod etc.

Since that time I will not leave home or camp without my “essentials”.

Bill Campbell

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