We've covered where to hunt and when to hunt ... now it's time to talk about preparing for how to hunt.
My son Nathan and I have been leading groups into the forests for the past five years or so, teaching them how to hunt for wild mushrooms. As a result of this, and the experiences we've had, I've developed a fairly extensive checklist.
Hunting in the forest can be dangerous. Here are some of the hazards, prioritized according to what I feel is the greatest ot the least risk:
1) Getting lost. It is so easy to get lost in the wild rainforest. I've been lost once (for just about an hour), and it was terrifying. One time when leading a group, against my better judgment I allowed a team of hunters to descend into a step valley, about 90 minutes before sundown. They ended up getting lost down there. Fortunately they had a flashlight and whistles, and using a combination of loud noisemakers (I usually carry a pistol for this purpose) and their whistles we were able to locate and retrieve them after a few hours of wandering in total darkness. But I still think getting lost in the forest is the greatest hazard.
2) Hunters and other human beings. We hunt where others also hunt for big game (bear, deer, elk, etc.) with rifles and crossbows. There are also lots of idiots out there plinking away at tin cans. I don't want to be mistaken for a wild animal, or hit by a stray bullet, so I always wear brightly colored clothing and make a lot of noise, and try and stay well away from the sound of any shooting.
3) Getting injured. We hike in very rough terrain, and I've taken many a tumble. I'm also not the most graceful person, as evidence by the embedded video above. There are also lots of plants or insects that can hurt you out there. (For instance, in Eastern Washington I've come within inches of being struck by rattlesnakes ... twice!) So I always try to hunt with others, and carry basic first aid supplies and a GPS, in case I break a leg and the person I am hunting with needs to go for help and reacquire me in the forest.
4) Wild animals. I mentioned rattlesnakes already, but where we hunt there are also bears and big cats.We frequently see their spoor or paw prints, though we haven't yet seen the actual animals, which are quite bashful, thankfully. But I always carry grizzly bear mace, just in case.
None of these dangers, of course, are as great as the danger accidents while traveling the roads and trails to and from hunting grounds by vehicle ... so drive carefully and defensively!
Now here is my checklist of how to be prepared for the hunt:
Water and high-energy snacks - running out of water is a real danger. On a three-hour hunt, I typically carry one or two bottles of drinking water and also a "bota bottle" water filter for refilling from clean streams.
To replenish your energy reserves, carry lightweight but high energy snacks like dried fruit, granola or energy bars.
Compass - a working compass is a must to help prevent getting lost in the forest.
GPS - These are a bit pricey, but my hunting has been revolutionized after using a Garmin RINO 655T, which also has the ability to communicate (like a walky-talkie) over the GSM band.
Walky Talkies - Most smartphones don't acquire a signal or access GPS in most of the forested areas where we hunt. I always carry a pair simply to stay in touch with others in my hunting party. It's easy to get separated.
Noisemakers - A good, loud whistle is a must. The one time I got lost, I had both a whistle and a walkie-talkie. My son was (eventually) able to re-acquire me by use of both of these together. I also carry a pistol, both for protection against wild animals, and security, and mostly as a noisemaker. In Washington State, you can carry a pistol with a concealed pistol permit. Be sure to keep it (and other valuables) secure in a backpack. I've had my pistol fall out of a belt holster in the forest, and also mislaid plenty of knives and walky-talkies. There's an art to keeping everything secure, and a pistol is on the top of this list.
Mushroom knife - Good shroomers will cut a mushroom off at its base so as not to disturb the organism beneath more than necessary. A good, sharp mushroom knife which is securely attached by lanyard and/or brightly colored is very handy. Be sure the blade folds safely away when not in use.
Basket - Placing mushrooms in a loosely woven basket (preferably with a lid) is important for re-seeding the forest floor with mushroom spawn as you hike. I separate types of mushrooms in my basket using loose cloth bags. You will also want (possibly in your vehicle) a one-gallon measuring container so you can know the quantities that you harvest, which is required when and where permits are required.
Your permit and printed map - Of course.
A lightweight camera for photographing mushrooms you don't collect. In heavy rainforest, you may wish to keep such electronics and other water-sensitive items in a drybag.
Good, waterproof hiking shoes or light boots.
Layered clothing suitable to the climate. Something that you wear should be brightly colored (flourest green, orange, or yellow is best). In heavy rainforest you'll want to protect exposed legs and arms from scratches and mosquito bits. Wear a hat that protects the back of your neck from tree debris, spiders and mosquitoes.
A light jacket and/or emergency blanket - Even if you don't need a jacket for hunting, think in terms of what you might need to stay warm if you were to have to spend the night, or the weather changed dramatically.
A flashlight, blinking emergency light, and/or flare - In case you got stuck after dark or got lost.
Bug spray or essential oils to protect against mosquitoes. I also take a daily garlic tab which seems to make me less susceptible to their charms. In the insect world, ticks can also be a problem ... I've been bitten once, and my wife has been bitten once. We never saw the ticks, but after discovering the telltale "bullseye rash" we both got prophylactic antibiotics treatment against the possibility of Lyme Disease.
A small portable first aid kit with bandages and ointment for insect bites, scratches or skin irritation. Also carry a small amount of meat tenderizer for nasty bee stings. If you're allergic, be sure to bring an Epi Pen.
Also be sure to bring something you can use to pack out any trash you might generate, such as empty water bottles or energy bar wrappers. Leave no trace! There is a special compartment in hell for people who litter in God's beautiful green forests.
Okay. Thanks for sharing, Justin!
What kind of mushrooms do you think Sasquatch eat?
Very few people actually mention this because of the stigma of sounding crazy and the lack of serious research regarding this, but one other danger (which could be classified under dangerous animals) is the possibility of running into wild bipedal hominids, or sasquatch. They are out there, although more active at night. They typically leave people alone when there is more than one, and do actually flee when one person is present, yet they are wild, enormous, incredibly strong, and can be an imminent danger to your life (especially if alone). I have had friends with several terrifying encounters!