April Challenge trip interrupted by gut feeling of danger

Discussion in 'Adventure, Hiking, Backpacking and Travel' started by Reno Lewis, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. Reno Lewis

    Reno Lewis Knot-A-Challenge Champion

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    *UPDATE 18/04/2018* -- Gut feeling was justified. Tonight at dusk multiple people saw a large male cougar leaving the forest about 300 meters from where I was in the below videos. This is the same cougar I've been stalked by once in the same forest.





    A few days ago, I took delivery of a new blade that I've been rather anxiously awaiting.

    Even though I have already made a full trip report for the April Challenge @Strigidae is holding, I decided to take my new steel into the woods, to the same spot I was at before, and make yet another try stick with my new blade.

    We just had a rather massive storm slam into us from the Pacific, uprooting at least two large trees in my neighborhood, so I was looking forward to seeing the windfall in the forest. Surprisingly, there wasn't much notable windfall at all. Lots of little twigs and branches up to about wrist thickness, but nothing bigger.

    The stream was about twice as high as it was a week ago.

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    It had been raining off and on all day, so everything was soaking wet. Luckily the sun decided to shine for me.

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    These pics were taken right on the side of the trail, which had turned into a little stream.

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    The trail was flooded in multiple places, making for good track traps.

    Even with the soft ground, the only tracks I could discern were at least 48hrs old, and likely from the black bear that had come from this forest and into our neighborhood two night ago.

    Unfortunately, the tracks were mostly washed out and not discernible enough for good pics.

    Big bear, 500-600lbs or so, older, very healthy. He's been around for a while and has never caused an issue, I've seen him on multiple occasions, and he always turns tail and runs at the first sound of a human voice.

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    Some windfall.

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    I found a nice freshly fallen Maple branch that was about thumb thick, not but 50 meters from my filming location, so I snatched it up and continued on my way.

    Before setting down for my video, I had a feeling of unease and of hyper-alertness. Something just didn't seem quite right.

    I've got a fair amount of experience in the woods, and I've learned to trust my gut, especially when I'm by myself. There's nobody else there to pick up on signs of something being off.

    I've come to learn over the years, that when the birds are all silent, and nothing dares make a sound, a predator lurks near.

    I've been stalked by Grizzly, a Wolf and by numerous Mountain Lions, and each and every time, there were no forest sounds. No birds, no frogs, no wind rustling the trees. Just dead. quiet.

    Some hunters refer to this as "the vortex", others just know it as "when it gets unnaturally quiet".

    Whatever you may or may not know it as, knowing how to read the forest, be it tracks in the ground, or the sounds of animals (or the lack thereof), is something every outdoorsman should acquaint themselves with.

    It may very well save your life one day, whether you know it did or not.

    Trust your gut. Trust your primeval instincts.


    *For those of you who may be watching with young ones, please be aware I do swear at about the 9:33 mark*




    Around the end of the video, the silence got to me, and the feeling of unease intensified, so I cut it short, took a picture of my completed try stick, hastily packed up, purposefully leaving my knife unstrapped in its sheath, with my bear spray at the ready.

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    As I got down the hill from my filming location, constantly scanning 360 degrees, up and down, I heard Stellar Jays.

    Stellar Jays are very expressive birds, and very vocal. They have very discernible calls, and what I was hearing was without doubt a call of distress and danger, maybe 200 meters away.







    So, with that, I made it out of the woods, and with no sign of what caused my gut feeling, I headed in and cleaned up.

    Your subconscious mind has a way of knowing more than your conscious mind. You pick up on things, or lack of things, various signs, that you might actively ignore, but your subconscious keeps track of.

    When these things become so overwhelming, it tends to show itself as a gut feeling. You have these feelings for a reason, and one of the worst tings you could possibly do is suppress what your natural instincts are telling you.

    Fear, when unbridled can be debilitating, but when fear is completely ignored, it might just get you killed.

    Anyway, enough philosophical crap, thanks for tagging along! And remember, trust your gut!
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2019
  2. Bushman5

    Bushman5 Member

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    love this! because i have been there.

    its funny you mention the Stellar jays.....and their tone when stressed or panicky ...........i have experienced the same with crows and ravens.

    Lots of bears waking up and emerging from their dens for spring feeding these last few weeks. The den near Hobo Camp and Deer Camp , is suddenly empty......
     
  3. Bushman5

    Bushman5 Member

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    and another issue which you and I are well versed in....you and I walk silently in our respective forests. Most hikers make a gull-darn racket and that alerts bears and cougars that there are humans it the area .....

    but you and I and @Se7eN all walk completely silently.

    I have had so many close calls because i have spooked animals within 15 to 30 feet, and they had no idea i was there.
     
  4. Reno Lewis

    Reno Lewis Knot-A-Challenge Champion

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    I think most seasoned outdoorsmen have been there at one point or another.

    And absolutely, the same goes for both Ravens and crows. There's actually a family of Ravens who live in the forest I frequent. When we first moved here, there were two, but after that first year, I saw they had two chicks. As they began to learn how to fly, they would rest on our roof and playfully squawk at us in the yard.

    As I began to explore the woods, they would follow me throughout the forest, hopping from tree to tree, watching me.

    All four of them are still around, but they tend to be more comfortable with my presence these days.
     
  5. Reno Lewis

    Reno Lewis Knot-A-Challenge Champion

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    Completely true.

    When I come up on a blind corner, or near thick brush, if I think there might be something there, I'll normally just say something in a loud, stern, but not aggressive voice like "Hello! - - Hey there! -- Heeeey bear!". Other than that, I greatly dislike things like bear bells. I like hearing what's around me, instead of making so much noise I can't hear a damn thing.

    Basically, I like having the choice of being heard or not.

    Also stems from SAR, can't hear a distress call if you can't even hear your own footfall.

    I've got so close to some robins that once they see me about 10' away, they freak right out, fly into a tree and start giving me crap.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  6. anrkst6973

    anrkst6973 Member

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    Good stuff Reno. I've tracked the movement of big hogs by listening to the jays and other birds "yell" at them as they move thru the forest. Almost like sonar pings, and quite reliable.
     
  7. Hammer

    Hammer Member

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    Great observations and a good reminder that the woods can tell us a lot, if we abide and pay attention.

    A shoulder injury prevents me from bowhunting anymore, but when I did, it taught me a TON about the value of being quiet and still in the woods. To this day, a number of my most amazing wildlife encounters were the result of this.

    Btw, which Bark River is that?
     
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  8. Willow

    Willow Member

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    I've had my dog stalked by coyotes before. She chased off a young female and came trotting back down the trail towards me all tail high and proud. What she didn't see was the other 2 coyotes setting a trap for her just off in the bushes. The young female had circled back and was just about ready to spring their plan when I yelled out from a few feet away for my dog to heel. The coyotes never saw me until I stepped out and yelled. Then they bolted!

    We had actually tracked a pack of about 30 deer back in the swamp and apparently the coyotes had the same idea.
     
  9. BlueDogScout

    BlueDogScout Member

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    I need to learn to hike quieter in the woods. Next skill to start practicing I guess... @Bushman5 any tips?
     
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  10. Hammer

    Hammer Member

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    Have you ever read Tom Brown's "Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking?" It's got a lot of good info on moving quietly in the woods, etc.
     
  11. BlueDogScout

    BlueDogScout Member

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    I just recently bought that one on two other of his books but I haven’t gotten to them yet. Might have to move them up the reading list
     
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  12. Reno Lewis

    Reno Lewis Knot-A-Challenge Champion

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    Thanks gents, appreciate the thoughts.

    It really is. A while back I heard a Stellar Jay hopping around making a massive ruckus and thought he was upset by my presence, but then I saw that he was actually following two embattled squirrels through the forest. Following along and "yelling" at them as they went. Was quite a sight to behold.


    Part of being in the woods for me is reading the environment. As a tracker, we spend a lot of time looking at the ground and surrounding underbrush, but what a lot of people forget is to read what else is around and going on around you.

    You can learn a lot about the ever-changing forest by just paying attention and knowing how to read the signs. It's why I'll never understand people who go into the woods and **** themselves off from their surroundings with things like bluetooth speakers.

    It's a Teddy 2. Cuts surprisingly well for such a big knife.


    That's a great example of the things you can see by being stealthy, and observing your surroundings. Glad your dog didn't end up getting attacked.

    That reminds me a lot of what began happening where I lived up North the year before we moved, but instead of coyotes, they were wolves, and instead of dogs, it was dog walkers.

    A dog walker noticed a lone wolf following him and his two rottweilers on a fairly popular oceanside FSR, so he stopped and turned around to head back to his vehicle. As he did so, two more wolves appeared behind him on the road, but seemed to keep their distance.

    A few minutes later, he arrived back at the trail parking lot, only to find three more wolves waiting for him at his vehicle.

    He was able to scare them off far enough to get into his car and get away, but those same wolves would continue this behavior of actively hunting and laying traps for humans, including circling trailers inhabited by humans, dogs and cats just after sundown, and would successfully kill multiple domestic animals before conservation hunted them down.


    I won't pretend to be any expert on silently traversing the woods or anything, but I can offer a few tips.

    Go slow. Be deliberate with your foot placement. Try not to step on any twigs, branches, dead leaves or anything that will make excessive sound if you're able. As you gain experience, as with everything, you'll be able to pick up speed at your own pace. It will become second nature.

    Focus on your foot placement first, but when this becomes second nature, focus on your breathing. A lot of subtle sounds can be lost over the sound of huffing and puffing.

    Silence your gear. Do a rattle test. Doesn't matter how precise and silent your walking is if you sound like Santa Claus coming down the trail. I don't always walk completely silently, but even something like a metallic zipper pull will drive me crazy jingling around during a normal hike, and will obscure minute sounds. I always replace them with just plain cord.

    As you start to move more silently, you should start focusing on listening to what's around you. Listen to the birds, try spotting the birds in the brush before they spot you. Try to keep your own sounds quieter than the sounds around you.
     
  13. Hammer

    Hammer Member

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    This can't be emphasized enough. And when you think you're going slow, cut it in half and go twice as slow. We tend to bring our 'hurried' state of mind and body pacing into the woods with us, and we usually aren't even aware of it. That's fine if you're making miles and need to get from A to B, but when time isn't of of the essence (and let's be honest - if you're in the woods, mountains, etc. speed isn't that important most of the time), you can see and hear so much more, and have a richer experience. Even just sitting somewhere and doing nothing (another thing we are really bad at) for an extended period of time except for watching and listening , can reveal a lot you never knew was there.

    Brown's book has some good info on foot placement, pace, etc. and exercises to practice next time you're out there. I found them kind of fun, as well as a big help with getting 'bowhunting close' to animals.
     
  14. Reno Lewis

    Reno Lewis Knot-A-Challenge Champion

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    I can't agree more. Suppose I'll have to pick that book up, it was also recommended to me by my tracking instructors.

    I've seen pictures of myself on SAR, taken by teammates, in some of the most beautiful, awe inspiring places, and I'll just look at the picture and think to myself "Damn, I was actually there..?".

    When we have a task, with a place we need to be, we tend to focus on just getting there, not with what's around us while on a trail. Unless we're actively searching, etc, of course.

    I find this also happens with most modern hikers. It's a race to summit as many peaks as possible, or hike as many trails as you can in a season.

    A lot of people tend to forget, the journey to a location is often times better than the location itself.

    Go slow and enjoy yourself.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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  15. BlueDogScout

    BlueDogScout Member

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    Thank you I’ll keep that in mind

    I think it will be the next one I start
     
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  16. Bushman5

    Bushman5 Member

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    Like others have said.. ....slow deliberate foot placement.

    Silence your gear. Zippers, clanking canteens, gear inside your load out. Nylon clothing makes a hell of a racket.

    I hate Velcro on pockets and gear. .. ...might as well crash thru the woods in a Bro-Dozer blaring wigger rap.
     
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  17. BlueDogScout

    BlueDogScout Member

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    I also hate Velcro on pouches, I have most everything to no rattle and no shine. Learned that from WWII paratroopers lol they did gueriila warfare so they were in and out. In most woodlands how do you not step on leaves or sticks?
     
  18. Willow

    Willow Member

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    One piece of advice I'd suggest is to acclimate yourself with the woods before you head out. If I'm going out on a hunt, I'll build a small fire and use the smoke to mask my scent. While I'm waiting, my hearing and eyesight are acclimating to the current conditions. It's the same way you want to acclimate your eyes for night vision. This will help you to get closer to nature. After that it just comes down to experience and muscle control. Nobody has mentioned it but it takes a lot of leg and core muscles to stalk slowly.
     
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  19. Willow

    Willow Member

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    You're not. Try to roll your foot fall instead of letting your foot fall flat to the ground. The same way you would open Velcro. Slowly and gradually is better then all at once.
     
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  20. BlueDogScout

    BlueDogScout Member

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    I usually roll step but I need to make a mental effort I guess
     

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