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Field Editor ~ GUNS Magazine, Co-Author ~ Serbian Army Weapons of Victory &PH - Kudu Safaris
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Roger that Jebber!

A simple compass attached with a clip to the zipper of my coat while hunting in late September in Alaska saved our bacon!

During a seven mile trek that started with a difficult incline that rose 3500' up to a plateau that was covered with indistinguishable tundra, by the time we reached the top, the fog rolled in followed by icy cold rain that turned to sleet. We were soaked through and exhausted. our destination was a small trappers cabin that sat on a small lake just off of the edge of the canyon below.

On the climb down the day before, under a clear blue sky, I took several compass reading to familiarize myself with the local landmarks, which primarily consisted of the axis of the canyon and the river that ran through the bottom.

We had a young, inexperienced guide who was a last minute replacement for the true professional we started the hunt with. He was pulled out of the field by an unexpected FAA inspection of his newly started helicopter business. The kid forgot the radios and tried to talk Valentina and me out of taking our packs with us, since we would be down and back in the same day! Yeah right!

Two dead grizzly's later and 120 lbs of wet bear hide and skull on top of my pack, it took us six hours to climb up out of the canyon. First the fog and then the darkness set in. With no landmarks and unable to see much more than 10 yards, we slugged it out on the tundra alongside the edge of the canyon. At some point, we lost the edge following a trail that the guide was certain would take us to the cabin. Not so!

Somehow we overshot the little lake and during the flight in, I had noted that the plateau stretched for miles and was dotted with a myriad of small lakes. We came up on what appeared to be the "little lake" only after circling it in the dark, NO CABIN! I knew right away that we had followed a game trail that lead across the open tundra.

Not big on the idea of freezing to death, I told the kid that enough was enough. I should have done so earlier, but better late than never!

The sleet had turned to snow by now and it was COLD! I instructed the kid to walk 10' in front of me, while I monitored my compass with a flash-lite giving him right and left call outs to cut a path that lead to the canyon. Since I knew the axis of the canyon and river below, I told him screw the trappers cabin, we had to get down into the canyon where with a little luck, some degree of shelter and the fire starter kit in my pack, we would try to start a fire.

An indication of exactly how far we were off course, we walked for almost an hour when with absolute dumb-ass "Luck of the Irish" we accidentally stumbled right into the cabin!

By that time, the kid was vomiting and showing all of the classic signs of hypothermia. Without the compass, we'd have ALL died out there from exposure. Mind you, this was pre-GPS days.

Even without a map, a compass and a series of landmarks can save your bacon!

Warmest regards,

JPS
 
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