This past semester I’ve been taking a Wilderness Survival course at Michigan State University and it might be the best class I have taken yet. We’ve covered a lot of of interesting ideas in regards to the psychology of surviving and I’ve thought almost daily that this is such a relevant topic for hunters. Every year  hunters get lost in the wild and have to deal with these survival ordeals in one way or another. So are we, the big bad hunters, really as prepared as we may think?

Over the next couple weeks I plan on highlighting some interesting stories and tips that might help you survive if your grand hunting expedition takes a turn for the worse. As a hunter, it’s easy to believe that we can handle the wild and anything that mother nature might throw at us, but it’s usually not as easy as it sounds. The story of Ken Killip, a hunter and fireman from Denver, really illustrates this point. Ken and a buddy decided to take a weekend and hike across the continental divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. The two coworkers headed out on to the trail at dawn and headed towards a mountain lake to try for some fish. As their hike progressed Ken began to fall further and further behind his partner and he eventually lost sight of him. At the top of a rocky hill top Ken was suddenly caught up in a nasty lightning storm and became separated by several hours from his buddy.  After the storm,  Ken took off in the direction he thought the lake was but unfortunatly he was very wrong. Over the next several days Ken continued to plunge deeper and deeper into the wilderness making many more mistakes along the way. Despite his wilderness training and hunting experience Ken took wrong turns at many junctures, panicked, misused resources and did a lot of things that would make Man vs Wild’s Bear Grylls shake his head in disappointment. But how does this happen?

Check out this detailed account of how Ken’s trip out to the Rockies went terribly wrong on National Geographics website and think about what really happened on this fishing trip gone wrong.

Laurence Gonzales describes a moment in Ken’s journey in this way –

It was a crucial moment. Killip was now teetering on the invisible dividing line between two worlds: He was in a state of only minor geographical confusion, for he could still turn back. But by the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, he could very quickly cross over into the state of being genuinely lost. …

What do you think Ken did wrong? Maybe the more difficult question to answer is whether or not you would have made the same choices he did. What would you have done?

Next time I’ll discuss a few of the mistakes Ken made and how we hunters can learn from them, ensuring that the next time you hit the woods, you’ll come back out in one piece.