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A Study Of Survival

Late fall of 1982, Craig Caudill, age 13, began running wildly through the forest in a state of panic. He had entered the Daniel Boone National Forest on a quest for deer, but quickly lost the trail because he was so focused on hunting. Panic-stricken and in a blind run, Caudill started shedding his outer clothing because he had gotten hot.

Fortunately, after being lost all day, he stumbled on a trail that led to a road, and eventually home. But he had done everything wrong, from a directionless run to shedding his outerwear, which could have caused hypothermia in the November coldness.

That experience was life-altering for the young hunter. As he grew older, Caudill learned everything he could about wilderness survival and becoming a good woodsman. He read dozens of books and articles, trained with experts, and twice went into the wilderness for 30 days with nothing but a knife and lived to tell about it.

Surviving in the summer wasn’t so hard. But when he tried it in the dead of winter he says, “It really, really put me to the test.” In all of his wilderness education, he also learned how lucky he was to have lived through his boyhood ordeal. He could have run in circles and finally, exhausted, frozen to death. It happens all too often in wilderness areas across the country. Caudill notes, “One of the first things search and rescue teams usually find that indicates that someone is lost in the wilderness is shed clothing.”

In 2006, Caudill created the Nature Reliance School, based in Winchester. He conducts programs in schools for kids and weekend classes for adults in the deep woods with the goal of helping you connect with nature in an “old school” way. I took one of those classes. I was amazed at what I had in my pack that would do me no good if I got lost. Even cell phones and GPS devices can be unreliable because they depend on batteries.

Caudill teaches people the “Rule of 3’s” to help them organize priorities in a survival situation: try to maintain your core body temperature within the first 3 hours; find water within 3 days; and find food within 3 weeks. Food is often the first thing people think of but it is not your first priority, says Caudill.

The contents of a daypack or backpack should include a tarp for shelter, fire-starting supplies, flashlights, a water purification device, a compass, and a knife larger than a pocket knife. Caudill also teaches people how to build lean-to shelters and other fundamentals of wilderness survival.


• Don’t panic if lost.

• Don’t eat plants in the woods without extensive knowledge of edible plants.

• Don’t even worry about food immediately. Humans can last about three weeks without it.

For more info on Caudill’s Nature Reliance School go online to or call (859) 771-8313.

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