Deer hunters are in the woods today for the first day of buck season.
This year marks the first time in over 50 years that the opening of rifle deer season in Pennsylvania will be on a day other than the Monday after Thanksgiving. PA Game Commission officials say they’re hopeful the Saturday opening will increase participation this year. Rifle deer season is always one of the most anticipated periods in Pennsylvania, with an estimated 550 thousand hunters expected to take to Penn’s Woods on the first day alone.
It’s that time of year again for hunters to make their list and check it twice prior to the opening day of rifle deer season.
They are making sure that they have everything they need for a successful day of hunting, but does that list include items to be prepared in case of an emergency or getting lost in the woods?
Believe it or not, but this is one of the times of the year when search and rescue operations are most busy.
Having a medical emergency or getting lost in the woods is something that can happen to any of us at any time. There are simple steps everyone can take to make sure that if it does happen, they are properly equipped for an extended stay in the woods and can easily be found.
The following list was prepared by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR):
- Always plan out your trip ahead of time with a map. It is important to lay out your trip, including where you are going and how you’ll get there. Become familiar with the surroundings of where you are heading.
- Always tell someone where you are going and your expected time of return. Write down your plans and indicate on a map where you are going. Let them know that you will call when you return. If they do not hear from you, they can contact the proper authorities and a search can be started. Also, leave a copy of your plan in your vehicle as well. Do not leave your plan on the dash or seat, where it can be easily spotted by someone hoping to break into vehicles.
- Don’t rely on your cell phone; take a paper map with you. Cell phones and GPS units are not reliable in remote areas. You may experience a drained battery or no cellular reception. A compass also is a helpful tool that is a perfect companion to your map.
- Bring other helpful gear. Take matches, a knife, a whistle to sound for rescuers, food, and water with you. Also remember to always dress properly for the outdoors and weather conditions.
- Follow your plan. When you’re on your adventure, stay on designated trails and learn what trail markings indicate the trail you need to be on.
If you should become lost or injured, follow these simple tips:
- Remain calm. While this sounds easy, many people will panic when in an undesirable, unfamiliar situation. Remaining calm will help a lost individual make sound, rational decisions.
- Stop walking. Walking with unfamiliar landmarks will often lead someone who is lost to wander in circles and can potentially cause a longer rescue time.
- Seek/build shelter and a fire depending on weather conditions. Staying warm and dry are two key elements to surviving an extended period in the wild. Preventing hypothermia — a condition where your body core temperature is too low to sustain your health — is critical. Learn about hypothermia (PDF) and ways to avoid it before you ever become lost in the woods.
- Only as a last resort, follow a stream — if no one knows your whereabouts, if you do not have the means to stay warm, and if you are at a point of last resort, find a stream and follow the water downstream. All streams in Pennsylvania will eventually lead to a road.