When considering how to become more proficient at bushcraft, you might not consider using your immediate surroundings. But, with a little imagination you might be surprised how one can hone his or her wilderness survival skills right from home.
While most would consider bushcraft a collection of wilderness survival techniques that must be utilized in a primitive surrounding, the principals of bushcraft are not constrained to some distant wilderness. Bushcraft techniques can be taught on your back porch and learned in the backyard.
Renown athlete, Arthur Ashe, once said, “”Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” This can be applied to bushcraft as well. Here are five tips to do just that!
1. FIRE BUILDING – USE WHAT YOU HAVE
Fire is an essential part of bushcraft. No matter what type of survival situation you may find yourself in, the ability to start a fire is key to staying alive. This means fire starting is paramount in the list of bushcraft skills.
In bushcraft, fire begins by collecting necessary items before the need for a fire arises. If your backyard doesn’t offer tinder material, find it elsewhere and bring it back to the house. If trying to locate wood, look for a neighbor with a brush pile. Most people will be happy to get rid of a few limbs and branches. Once you’ve located tinder and wood, consider using The Mini Inferno to start your fire.
Depending on where you live, some areas may restrict fire to specified enclosures. If restricted when trying to further your fire building skills in the backyard, consider using a homemade or purchased fire-pit for containment. Depending on what type of fire you are wanting to become more proficient at; spark based, friction based or heat based, consider using some 12”x12”concreate pavers to create a flat dry surface to practice on.
2. SHELTER CONSTRUCTION – DO WHAT YOU CAN
While the backyard may not be the most ideal place to build a shelter, it can be a good place to practice the basics skills needed for shelter construction. Your backyard might not have all the necessary items to construct a shelter, but use your imagination and set out to do what you can.
The fundamentals of shelter building remain the same no matter where you’re building a shelter. Once you locate the basic items for your shelter’s construction, practice assembly in your own backyard. This will include effectively tying cordage and fastening the various pieces of the shelter together.
If you can’t locate adequate poles to construct a shelter, consider inquiring at a nearby nursery to see if they have any smaller trees that may have died. These small trees can give you an adequate feel for the size of poles that would be needed to build a shelter if in an emergency situation. In a life or death situation, shelter is essential to survival and simply practicing shelter building in your backyard can help to sharpen your bushcraft skills.
4. BATONING – PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Batoning is the art of splitting wood with your survival knife. Mastering this technique can add a valuable wilderness survival skill to your roster. With a full tang survival knife batoning allows you to spit fire wood in an emergency situation.
Your backyard makes a perfect setting to practice this bushcrafting skill. In a more relaxed environment, you can perfect valuable skills that will be necessary if a real need arises. By using a piece of wood approximately the size of a baton, your survival knife now has an additional function. By batoning, you can notch, shape or carve wood as needed.
4. COOKING – JUST TRY IT
While practicing your fire building skills, you might as well use those coals and try your hand at cooking over an open fire. Whether you choose to use an open grate or cook with a stainless steel container, both can help you know what to and not to do if faced with a survival situation.
Butchering a Cornish hen or small chicken can help you become proficient at dressing your game and both will be tasty if cooked over open coals. You can also use a ready made survival stew to make things simple. By using your imagination you’ll be surprised how much fun cooking in your own backyard can be.
5. COMPASS AND MAPS – INCLUDE THE FAMILY
Although most bushcrafters will already be familiar with reading topographical maps and a compass, your children may not be. How to understand topographical maps and read a compass can be taught to the whole family right from your backyard.
To engage your children and make bushcraft fun for the whole family, put together a scavenger hunt in your neighborhood. This can be as simple as writing down navigational bearings and offering a reward when the last waypoint is reached.
6. KNIFE AND AXE SHARPENING – BE PREPARED
While it’s always a necessity to have a survival knife on hand, it’s equally as important to know how to sharpen and care for it. The same goes for a trusty axe. These are tools that require preventative maintenance and care.
Knife sharpening can be done at home and is a skill that once owned will give you an edge in the art of bushcraft.
7. TRAPPING – THE CATCH
One of the most intriguing skills in bushcraft is trapping. This is a skill that requires both patience and proficiency. It is also a skill that can be experimented with in your backyard.
Smaller animal traps; such as for birds, can be built right at home. Once you have decided what type of trap to build, assemble the necessary pieces and practice setting the trap. Being able to catch your prey requires an understanding of bait, proper tension and what it takes to ‘spring’ the trap. As unlikely as it sounds, most trapping skills can be learned in your backyard.
(Note: Some regions restrict or prohibit trapping of any sort. Please be sure to check your state and local game laws to make sure this type of activity is legal in your area.)
8. ARCHERY – TRIED AND TRUE
For centuries man has used the bow and arrow to fight off his adversaries and acquire food. This ancient skill cannot only be learned in the backyard, but can also provide fun for the whole family.
Today there are several companies offering economical archery equipment along with providing safe and reliable bows. Although it may seem intimidating at first, archery can be learned and greatly enjoyed with ample practice.
9. EDIBLE PLANTS – KNOW FOR SURE
Most persons with a backyard will have a dandelion or two. Even these pesky plants can help your family learn what types of plants are edible and safe for consumption. You may not have every edible plant available in the backyard, but you are likely to have some.
There are a host of resources available that can help you become familiar with edible plants like the Edible Wild Plants Guide. These resources can be studied at home and can be a source of learning for the whole family.
Learning about edible plants can also be a reason to visit various local parks or wilderness areas throughout the year. The ability to identify edible plants has always been an advanced bushcraft skill and it is sure to pay dividends if you’re ever faced with a long term self reliance situation.
10. TOOLS – MAKE IT YOURSELF
Daniel Boone may have had access to a trading post, but he was also skilled at making whatever was needed at the moment. Making your own tools can be practiced at home and does not need to be complicated.
What if you needed a simple spoon? Can you carve your own? Learning how to build simple tools is an art in itself. The lessons derived from this skill will help you think through situations where you may have to make your own tools instead of relying on store bought ones.
While there is no way to exhaust all the bushcraft skills that can be learned from home, these simple ideas will get you started. Bushcraft has been around for centuries and will continue to be a reliable source of long-term sustainment. The more proficient you are the more self reliant you will become.