The Essentials – Never Leave Camp without Them

Posted on September 16, 2014







Guest blogger, Randy Flannery is an Outfitter, Master Maine Guide, deer hunter, and personal friend who I have had the good pleasure of sharing many a deer camp with. Randy and his business, Wilderness Escape Outfitters is located in Danforth, Maine and can be found at,






When I was a young boy my grandfather started teaching me about the woods and wilderness navigation. One of the first things I was taught about woodsmanship is to never enter the woods without being prepared.

The woods can be a beautiful and wonderful place, full of life and adventure, but they must always be respected no matter what reason you have for entering them; hunting, hiking, horseback riding, or any other reason. As my friend Bob Howe says: “Mother Nature is beautiful but she can also be vicious.”

This topic is discussed by guides and outfitters just about every week of every hunting season. Why so often? Because just about every week of every hunting season there is someone in camp who is deathly afraid of the woods.


Being afraid of the woods is certainly understandable with hunters just starting out. They have just started the learning process and have not yet gained their confidence. However, what is really amazing is many of these people who are afraid of the woods have been hunting for many years. The sad part is they have never taken the time to learn how to use a compass so they can overcome their fears of getting lost. Unfortunately, what they fail to realize is they are missing out on so much, and they are greatly diminishing their opportunities for success by not overcoming their fears.

Last year I was guiding a client during the bear season I had not seen since I had first guided him almost 20 years ago. He told me that he had been on many hunting trips for bear, deer, and moose throughout the U.S. and Canada during that time. He also told me that although he did have success on some of those trips, most of them were unsuccessful. I remembered that when I had guided him, he had been quite scared of the woods. I never expected that he would still be afraid after all these years. Unfortunately, I was wrong. It didn’t take very long to see that even after all these years and all the hunting trips he had been on, he was still afraid of the woods.

He literally tied 3 foot strips of fluorescent orange flagging tape every 3 to 5 feet apart on the trail going from the road to the tree stand. That trail to one of our tree stands and bear bait sites has been used for 17 years and besides being well flagged already, it is so beaten down from use it really doesn’t need any flagging tape to travel it, even in the dark.


I asked him why, after all these years, he still had not learned how to use a compass so he could rid himself of his fear of getting lost. His response was that he doesn’t need a compass in New Jersey where he has lived and hunted for over 50 years. When I asked him about all the hunting trips he had been on he said, “They always make me nervous but I still go.” I cannot imagine anyone hunting for over 50 years and still being afraid of the woods. I can only imagine how much more success he would have had in his hunting career if he had overcome his fear of getting lost at an early age. This calls to mind two Japanese proverbs: “When in search of success you must embrace change” and, “What is not resolved is repeated.”

When it comes to woodsmanship, a good way to start is with what my grandfather called “The Essentials”. The Essentials are things you should always bring into the woods with you. They are:

 Hunting partners - 3

#1) Three Compasses. You should always carry three of them because if one stops working properly, you need to be able to determine which one is right. By carrying three, you have enough to compare. The two compasses that are showing the same reading are the right ones to use.

Now I know some of you are thinking, why not a GPS? All I can say is although I am sure that a GPS can be a very handy tool, a GPS will never take the place of or be as good as a compass. A compass works off the gravitational pull of the earth, which is God-made, and a GPS works with batteries and satellites, which are man-made. Which would you rather trust? My friend and well-known deerslayer, Pop Bernier, always says that GPS stands for getting properly screwed up. I can relate to this because I have had to look for many people over the years who had gotten lost with a GPS because they used it instead of a compass, or they trusted it more than their compass.


#2) A topographical map of the area. Carrying a topo map of the area you are navigating is helpful too. It shows you the water sources, elevation changes, drainages, saddles, and the best routes to navigate through an area. It also shows you where the roads are in case you need to head out to the nearest one at the end of the day.

#3) Three fire starters. Whether you carry waterproof matches, windproof lighters, or flint and steel, you should always carry three.

#4) A good knife. The value of a knife is immeasurable. Make sure you have a good one.

#5) A powerful flashlight. A good flashlight is a must. I don’t care how good you are in the woods, once it gets dark, if you do not have a good flashlight you are going nowhere.

#6) Extra batteries. Your flashlight is not much good without batteries. Make sure you carry extra ones.


Whatever your reason for entering the woods, there many other useful items that you can choose to bring with you depending on what activity you are planning. Hunters certainly do not want to enter the woods without having their choice of weapon, as well as ammo, wool clothing, and other unique tools for the job. However, the most important thing to remember whenever you are about to enter the woods is to make sure that you have The Essentials – by doing so you will always be prepared.



All images and text on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier

© 2014 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.


Posted in: Guest Blog