Lost in the Woods
General Topic
Contributors to this thread:
KSflatlander 27-Nov-22
Groundhunter 27-Nov-22
Goelk 27-Nov-22
Grey Ghost 27-Nov-22
Dale06 27-Nov-22
Shuteye 27-Nov-22
Corax_latrans 27-Nov-22
cnelk 27-Nov-22
KSflatlander 27-Nov-22
Basil 27-Nov-22
Norseman 27-Nov-22
Corax_latrans 27-Nov-22
BuckSlayer 27-Nov-22
Owl 27-Nov-22
t-roy 27-Nov-22
ahunter76 27-Nov-22
pav 27-Nov-22
timex 27-Nov-22
Whocares 27-Nov-22
Lawdy 27-Nov-22
DanaC 27-Nov-22
Bowhunter09 27-Nov-22
Huntiam 27-Nov-22
drycreek 27-Nov-22
sundowner 27-Nov-22
[email protected] 27-Nov-22
bowhunt 27-Nov-22
LFN 28-Nov-22
Pete In Fairbanks 28-Nov-22
fuzzy 28-Nov-22
DanaC 28-Nov-22
Two dogs mobile 28-Nov-22
hawkeye in PA 28-Nov-22
orionsbrother 28-Nov-22
Basil 28-Nov-22
Rocky D 01-Dec-22
8point 01-Dec-22
Jebediah 01-Dec-22
From: KSflatlander
I was wondering if anyone has been lost in the woods for +24 hours and what the experience was like. I work in the woods at night often (Midwest area) and there are just some areas that I seem to repeatedly get disoriented. I think I know the direction I’m walking then I check my navigation app and I determine I’m not walking in the direction I think I am. I correct my bearing and walk further recheck and figure out I’m disoriented again in a short distance (sometimes in a few hundred yards). Other places it seem intuitive and I know where I am at in the dark without ever checking a GPS.

You hear lost in the woods stories and think how the hell could someone get lost. But I can relate and have had a small sample of disorientation feeling myself. It can happen to anyone.

Anyone here been disoriented in the woods for a length of time or overnight? What was it like and how did you get yourself out? Any SARs folks here have any interesting stories?

From: Groundhunter
Are you kidding me...I was a kid in the UP.and N wis.....1993 in Ontario, dropped a big 10. This is hunting by tracking. Not TV clown hunting. 2 days to get out. No GPS back.then. maps and compass.... unless you have grizzlies, no boogie men. Just a inconvenience.


From: Goelk
I was one day lost back late 1960s. Actually I knew where I was it's was just to dark to walk back to camp when I was following a Bull Elk. I just settle under a low hanging branch and built a fire , wrap a space blanket and waited out the nite. My Dad was not happy though.

From: Grey Ghost
Ryan, I’ve never been lost in Colorado, but I got turned around in some Kansas hardwoods once. It was a overcast day, so there was no sun to get a bearing on and I didn’t have a compass or GPS on me. All I knew was I needed to walk south. I used the old “moss grows on the north side of trees” tip to find my way out. It was only about a 6 hour delay, but was still unnerving. From that day on I always carried at least a compass.


From: Dale06
Just over night once. Hit an elk just at dark in eastern Oregon. I and two friends tracked it with Coleman lanterns for several hours. About 10 pm we realized we had no idea where we were. One of my friends was scared to death. We built a fire, I rolled up in a space blanket and slept. At sun up we heard a logging truck on a road and we walked to that road and got our bearings. This was many years pre GPS.

From: Shuteye
When I was 15 years old my dad too me to Maine, deer hunting. He made me learn how to use a compass and you needed it where we were hunting. Behind the cabin it was many miles of woods and it all looked the same. Right behind the cabin was a rail road track that ran North and South. So was easy to follow the compass back to the tracks. They told us that in the past hunters had disappeared there. I even carried a spare compass. Managed to get my deer near the 1000 acre bogs and get it out. I have been lost at home when my head lamp went out and it was so foggy and dark you couldn't see at all without a light. Just waited at the base of an old oak tree till it was light enough to see. Killed a buck before I got to my stand.

Yep. Never got too turned around in the Mtns at home, but out in MN grouse-hunting… yeah, on an overcast day up near Boundary Waters, I followed a bird off into the thick stuff for a flush or three. Then I looked around and had no clue.

I knew enough about where I was to know that there was a Forest Service road to the South and many miles of roadless Big Woods East or West… and Canada if I were to head North by mistake.

That was the LAST time I went into the woods without a compass. Well, 2, actually, because despite knowing that I have zero sense of direction, I still sometimes need to check the second one to convince myself to believe the first.

Anyway… I stood where I was for a long while, ‘til I heard an outboard motor (very faintly) off in the distance. I knew the nearest lake was south of the road that I needed to get back to…

I think with the hearing that I have now, I might not have heard that motor. That would kinda suck.

I also never go anywhere far off trail without some extra calories, at least a space blanket, and always a firemaking kit. And an actual Map.

From: cnelk
Yep. Same thing for me up in N Minnesota - Lake of the Woods County - back in to 70s.

Deer hunting on a low cloudy, light snowy day. Not actually ‘lost’ but definitely turned around. Climbed many trees that day trying to see something familiar. Took awhile but finally popped out in a familiar spot.

The sucky thing is up there is some places have minerals in the ground and will mess with your compass.

From: KSflatlander
There’s one particular place in MO that that it seems I never get my internal compass straight in the dark. I correct my track with a navigation app and I somehow end right going right back in the same wrong direction in short order. I’m like WTF. It’s like my own personal Bermuda Triangle. I have no issues a couple miles away. It’s just that one area. Weird.

From: Basil
Was around 14 years old checking traps in a heavy snowstorm after school. Had a Fisher that broke the wire & took off with the trap. Was trying to catch up before the tracks were covered. Took me round & round in a big cedar swamp. I came across a set of boot prints & wondered who the hell else was out there. The 2nd time I crossed the tracks I realized they were my own. Was cold wet & getting dark fast. Felt a bit of panic & forced myself to calm down & think. Was able to get out without a compass. Don’t leave home without one.

From: Norseman
Pre gps lost on lake of the woods ice fishing

It was spring, no snow on ice for track following. Major fog came in. Didn’t have enough gas to idle the truck all night so we set up our fish houses. Long night as we could not lay down to sleep in the small portables we had.

Not really lost but could not find way out because of conditions.

“I’m like WTF. It’s like my own personal Bermuda Triangle. ”

That’s the Whole Wide World for me! LOL Grew up in Denver; never needed to know which way was North because West, obviously.

So I’m entirely dependent on landmarks. Could be just a branch across the trail, but when all you really need to do is head back down (or up) the ridge, it’s just not that complicated…..

From: BuckSlayer
Yes. Gps died. Had no backup compass. Hunting and decided I'd build a fire and wait out the night. Guys came looking for me with quads. Could hear the quads going up and down the trails. Used the sound to navigate to the trail and walked out. Was disconcerting. Carry a compass now. Got turned around a few times tracking deer or bears. Definitely don't like tracking at night anymore. Easy to get turned around in thick timber.

From: Owl
A couple of times over the years, I went to my BMC treeing a coon around my house. Boots, leash and a flashlight only because he sounds like he's only 1/3 mile deep at most. No way I could get turned around. After a couple of ravines and circumnavigating briar few thickets, I leash up and head back... only to walk almost straight away from my house. lol

Put me in a strange coat closet and I can get lost. It's embarrassing. Give me handrails and a compass and everything clears up. I don't get worked up about not back tracking my way perfectly to my starting point.

From: t-roy
One of the best lines ever, in the movie “The Mountain Men”

When asked if if he’d ever been lost, Henry Frapp (Brian Keith) says…..“Hmmm…..been fearsome confused for a month or two, but I ain’t never been lost”

From: ahunter76
Never over night & these were b/4 Cell phones, GPS. I always had a compass but on 2 occasions I did not. Colorado, I get on a Bull & half Dz cows. Misty rain & low hanging fog, clouds. I'm up just over 10,000 feet. I get close several times in about 3 hours time but never get a shot. Finally I loose them. Head back toward my truck (I think) An hour later I come to a clear high spot & can see a 4 wheel trail. I went the wrong way but now know where I am for sure. FIVE miles from my truck. Next was in the swamps of N.C. near the coast. About noon I realize I have no compass. I head in the direction " I think" is right & come out on a river. I know if I can follow the river I can get back to my vehicle. No way, it's so thick I cant even crawl through it. I finally hit an old fire lane all grown over & know it goes some where. I had already checked my gear & was preparing for a night in the woods/swamp.. I followed that grown over lane & right at dark I came out onto the dirt road & my truck was about 100 yds away. I saw so many snakes that day & my biggest ever in my life. Not a place to be over night. I have had worse experiences when not lost.

From: pav
2017 - MIssouri River Breaks, Montana. Bigdan showed me a series of plateaus connected by narrow land "bridges" that would take me several miles...all the way to the banks of the Missouri River. Found and worked elk along the river until dark. No moon that night and I found myself disoriented for about six hours. Marked every land bridge on the GPS going in...but should have marked each one twice...start and end. Came very close to crawling under a pine tree and spending the night, but eventually worked my way back to the truck in the wee hours of the morning.

From: timex
Never what I'd consider lost but yes several times over the years. Once on a tract of land flat as a pancake. I felt like I should have been back to my starting point but wasn't yet. Decided to head for the setting sun and was only a few 100 yards from where I had planned to be. Another on a mountain I had hunted for years in fog so thick ya could not see 10 yards. And several times tracking deer at night. Never in woods big enough to get lost but disoriented absolutely yes.

From: Whocares
On Crow Lake, Ontario for a late winter trout trip years ago. Probably not lost since I knew we were still on Crow!? Two of us on atv's. Getting dark and a sideways snowstorm hit blowing hard. Just before it started told my partner, Hummer, we better get back to camp. Snow hit as we took off and camp 5 or 6 miles away. Between us and camp several island, some with open water between them. I' leading, going slow as couldn't see 5 feet holding my compass up to my eyes cuz of the wet blowing snow and dark but couldn't keep my eyes open. Wanting to head SW but noticed we had veered North. Stopped and told Hummer and said we need to turn and reminded him of the hazards, He said I'm following you! Thanks. Went a ways more and saw atv tracks and stopped. Blinded again and veered. Showed Hummer the tracks and he said lets follow them. Must be our partners. I said you go ahead and I'll wait here but go slow so you don't ram into my back end. Whadya mean he says. Those are our tracks I says! Re-orient and by now its letting up a little and i can keep my eyes open for the compass and eventually see an island I recognize. Made it back and asked one of my other buddies how they navigated back and he says "just dead reckoning". Yah right! Anything for a trout, eh?

From: Lawdy
Running hounds, I spend a couple of all-nighters in our timberlands. I always carry a pack and will not leave a hound in the woods with the coyotes up here. My wife knows that if I don’t show up by noon the next day, call the warden. I have also spent a night with a downed deer to keep the coyotes away. A fire is your best friend at night. I fell through the ice while retrieving a deer and after dragging for a while in the dark, decided to start a fire and dry myself and my clothes, plus I was freezing. While circling the fire, gathering firewood in the dark I stumbled and rolled down the embankment onto a logging road right near my pickup. Lucky, because the warden would have had a big laugh finding me lost next to the road.

From: DanaC
Never overnight. Been 'turned around' fora few hours, once found myself hunting in the wrong state with the wrong weapon...

From: Bowhunter09
On a guided moose hunt in Newfoundland the guide got disoriented and we went in a big circle at dusk. It was an Overcast day so hard to get directions from the sun. I left my gps at camp that day. Turned out the guide was diabetic and was hypoglycemic. We spent a rainy night under the small spruce trees. In the morning the guide wanted to go south but I had a compass and convinced him that we needed to go north to the lake. We walked about 2 miles north and met up with the other guides looking for us. I learned a few lessons about being more prepared even with an experienced guide.

From: Huntiam
Ah not lost been turned around a time or 2 ha. Worst was ginseng huntin as a boy big national forest spent 1 extra night than we planned . Stayed a few nights with my dogs but they were the ones lost . This day in time being lost in the woods wouldn’t be a bad thing

From: drycreek
Never been lost in 60 years of being in the woods. Been lost a few times in Dallas and Houston though, that’s why I try not to ever go there. ;-)

From: sundowner
"You're never lost if you don't really care where y'are!" ----Tom Massie, Gold Fever

Spent the night once elk hunting. Planned on coming out to a draw at dark and it wasn't there. Comfortable Temps and in the morning with light I sorted it out pretty quick.

The one that shook me was a smaller timbered island by Kodiak. Needed to be back to the boat by a certain time. I did a short hunt and knew the way to go as sure as which hand was my right hand. I checked the compass just to get on the straightest line and it was pointing 180 degrees wrong? I went with my internal compass because I was 100% sure and popped out on the wrong side of the island. Now I'm almost late and shook. As I'm sorting out my direction and deciding between a straight line and walking the shore around the island, a guy and his kid otter hunting come motoring up in a skiff. They were as surprised as I was to see someone.

They gave me a ride around the island to our boat. Walking the shore would have been a long walk with all the bays and peninsulas we passed. How wrong I was, and how sure I wasn't wrong, bothered the heck out of me. Been turned around plenty of times but that was like jumping in your truck and the steering wheel is on the right hand side one morning.

From: bowhunt
I’ve never been lost.

Been misplaced for awhile several times.

From: LFN
Never been lost myself, it was drilled into me at a young age never go into the woods without a compass. Was an eagle scout and private pilot, so map and compass skills are pretty good. I do notice that some terrain like a rounded mountainside in timber will disorient my internal sense of direction.

I will tell about a lost hunter back in the early 70's, u.p. of Michigan, we have property next to a large section of national forest and rail road tracks cross our property, one unusually warm November day a couple young men from Detroit that were camped near us left their deer camp at lunchtime in light clothing to hunt snowshoe hares along the RR tracks. Although they were yelling back and forth and within 75 yards of the tracks one of them got turned around and disappeared.

My father helped with the search party, the weather turned cold that first night and with snow moving in it was not looking good.

On his third day of being lost he was found by a road crew, he was walking down a road on the other side of a busy two lane highway. they asked him if he was okay and he said he was fine he was hunting rabbits with his friend, the fact he was barefoot, tattered clothes and using his gun as a crutch tipped them off he was not right in the head.

Later he remembered losing his boots in a beaver pond and sleeping in a tree the first night, he claimed to have seen two indians in a canoe fishing (there is no lake) but had no recollection of crossing the highway, or the RR tracks as it runs parallel to the highway. Being lost messed with his head that bad.

You Southern people crack me up....!


From: fuzzy

From: DanaC
" I went with my internal compass because I was 100% sure and..."

Yeah, my own 'internal compass' proves I'm not as sharp as a duck, or even a monarch butterfly.

Glunt: Your internal compass reminds of a hunt many years ago. I was elk hunting on the Grand Mesa in Colorado. I parked along the highway and hunted to the south. I probably covered about 3 miles. I jumped a couple of small bulls. I was able to call them back, but missed a shot. It was time to head back to the pickup, and it looked like a weather change was coming. I probably got half way to my pickup and a dense fog rolled in. No problem. All I had to do was go north and I would hit the highway near my pickup. If I strayed to the east I would come to a extremely steep drop off. To the west was a well maintained gravel road that would lead to the highway. South was the direction I didn't want to go. I trusted my internal compass and headed north. Shortly I came to the drop off. No problem just head north again. Shortly I came to the drop off again. I got out my compass, and got a reading for North and took off. Pretty soon I decided to check my compass and it said I was going South. I was sure it was wrong, so I got out my backup compass. It agreed with the other compass. I was going 180 degrees from the direction I thought I was going. I finally had take a compass reading, and walk to a tree as far as I could see in that direction. Then do the same thing again. My internal compass did not work in that fog. That taught me to believe the compass.

Haven't spent the night...yet. But a few times I've went three to four hours one way. And it's taken eight to twelve on return. Does that count? The continental divide can really mess with your head.

Nothing as interesting, but with a lesson: I was hunting a new area in Northern WI and it was a gray day with low hanging clouds. Since I didn’t know the area and the sun was not visible, I stuck one of those old fashioned, pin-on compasses on my jacket to monitor my direction with a glance instead of pulling my compass out of my pocket frequently.

I thought all was good until I stepped out onto a logging road and thought, “There isn’t supposed to be a logging road here.” I checked my pin-on compass and watched as I turned and the needle hung up.

I was in no danger. My worst case scenario was some extra walking while I figured things out, but I ditched that crappy old compass and carry a good compass in my pocket and one in my pack.

Why two?

Well, I dropped my gray pack on the side of a trail through some sage to hustle to cut off some elk. No problem. It was right on the side of the trail. Again, no danger, no drama. I just felt stupid and did some extra walking. But another lesson learned with no real consequences.

From: Basil
Northern Minnesota has large iron ore deposits. I’ve been in places the compass wouldn’t stop spinning or was dead wrong. That adds another wrinkle

From: Rocky D
I have a brother that’s literally scares the hell out of us every time he goes into the big woods.

He is notorious for taking shortcuts that end up be much longer.

I remember him leading me away from where we were supposed to be going when I was around twelve with him being a couple years older but long story short I wasn’t going for it!

From: 8point
Back in the late 70's in the Idaho panhandle a friend and I ended up cutting pine boughs and siwashed when it got to dark to navigate. Outta water and all we had a couple of pieces of jerky . The rest of the crew was back at camp eating birthday cake one of my buddies daughter made for him in the wood stove. Come daylight, a 1/4 mile down the ridge we hit the log road and hiked out and found the crew. We were rewarded with coffee and cake.

From: Jebediah
Never been seriously lost, but my tendency to get turned around in the dark is alarming. No internal compass whatsoever.

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