A warriors deadliest weapon is their mind
The more time that you spend in the woods, the more in tune you become with the environment. You begin to see things that you had not noticed before, you hear things that you could not hear and you smell things that you could not smell before and eventually, you will begin to sense the presence of other animals, including humans before you can see, hear or smell them.
This degree of awareness put´s you in a position where you can become aware of every other animal in the forest before they become aware of you. This gives you the advantage when you want to remain unseen by others or if you want to hunt for food, avoid being eaten by another predator and move silently and stealthily through the forest leaving no trace of your presence behind.
I often sense that I am being watched while in the woods. It used to make me uncomfortable but I have since learned that it usually means that I am actually being watched. When I pick up on the sensation that I am being watched, I now listen, smell and look more intently and usually a fox will dash off from behind a bush or a deer will appear from nowhere.
When you feel like you are being watched, you probably are being watched by something
With these heightened senses, you can become the most dangerous animal in the woods.
First steps – Slow Down
To reach this level of heightened awareness, you must first SLOW DOWN. Slow down your movements and your breathing so that you become relaxed and still. This is best achieved by sitting down comfortably and silently and simply breathing in and breathing out, slowly until you start to feel relaxed and calm.
Once you reach this calm state, you will notice that the birds are singing, the leaves are rustling and the sound of the winds is blowing through the treetops. You might hear the creaking of the trees as they sway back and forth and the sound of insects eating the rotting logs around you. It will seem as if the forest just came to life around you.
The reason for this is that in nature, every other animal is engaged in its own fight for survival and avoiding predators is high on the list of every animal’s priorities. Human beings who have become accustomed to living in cities are loud, move quickly and generally create a disturbance around them. Other animals hear this, smell this and see this long before we see them and they simply vanish when a human moves into the area.
When you take the time to slow down and to find the rhythm of nature, the other animal will be less wary of you and will generally accept you as another animal living in the forest instead of a massive, scary, force of death and destruction to be avoided at all costs (which is the general attitude towards humans among forest dwellers).
Now that you can sit still without disturbing the environment around you, learn how to move in the same way.
Be aware of what you are stepping on. Do you step on the twigs and sticks or do you step over them or around them?
Do you walk through the dry leaves or take a different route around them that makes less noise?
Sometimes, you cannot tell how much noise will be made by simply looking at the ground and it requires you to test the ground before you commit your full weight to the step. This technique is difficult to explain in words but actually very easy to learn.
When we walk normally, we commit our weight to the next step before we have actually placed our forward foot down in the ground. This causes a slight thump and our foot crashes down. If we are moving on the cluttered ground, our weight will break and snap sticks or disturb dry, crunchy vegetation which will alerts every animal within earshot that we are there.
To avoid this, we must adapt the way we walk so that our weight remains on the back foot until we have placed our forward foot onto the ground. By placing our forward foot down and keeping our weight on the back foot, we can test the ground to determine if we are stepping on something that is going to make noise or not. It also forces us to move more slowly and in a more considered way which helps us to take in more details around us and enhances our situational awareness. This is a good thing as it further enhances our overall awareness of the full range of sights, smells and sounds that tell us a story of what has been happening in the area and which other animals may be nearby.
You don’t have to learn Tai Chi to achieve this but the principles in this ¨Tai Chi Walk¨ demonstration video are what I am talking about.
If we want to become part of the environment, if we want to make the forest our home, our domain and become the master of the forest, we need to blend in. In the same way that a man wearing a business suit would look out of place or stand out like a sore thumb at a music festival, a person wearing brightly cloured clothing or even all black clothing in the forest also stands out.
They stand out because a business suit at a music festival is incongruent with the surroundings and a person who is incongruent with the surroundings is very often up to something. It is a threat indicator and the same applies to the forest.
Obviously, brightly coloured clothing will make you stand out visually but it also signals to the other animals that there is something wrong. All of the other animals in the forest are camouflaged in their own way and an animal that has no camoflage at all is a potential threat.
Wear earthy, muted colours. Greens and Browns are perfect. You do not need to wear camouflage clothing, just colours that blend in with the surroundings so that you do not stand out from a distance.
Moving slowly, moving quietly and wearing mute colours to help you blend in will make a huge difference to your experience in the forest, you are already well on the way to mastering the environment. You will encounter other wild animals much more frequently and may even bump into animals as they do not see you until the last moment.
We should also now be at the point where sneaking up on animals is a realistic pursuit.
Learn to identify every tree, plant and animal track and sign, instead of ¨that tree over there¨ it becomes ¨ẗhat birch tree with the fork at the top and the burl on the right side of the trunk¨
The more detail that you can identify the more complete your picture of the environment.
Instead of the woods just being ¨the woods¨, you will know every detail of the area that you are in, where the hard ground is, where the wet ground is, where the patch of acorns that attracts Boar is, You will know where the berries are and where the best firewood is.
This all helps to complete your mental map of where you are. If you hear strange noises in the night near the acorn patch, the chances are that it is just a pig eating acorns and not an axe murderer on his way to chop your head off.
When you can identify the many animal tracks and signs, you can get a picture of which animals have been in the area and what they were doing while there.
If you have followed all of the advice so far, you can follow some of these tracks and if they are fresh, you will eventually catch up with the animal that you are tracking. This is an important step up in your abilities. When you can locate fresh tracks and then catch up with an animal, that puts you in touch with your instincts as a hunter and it is a very rewarding feeling not too mention incredibly useful when trying to catch food.
Being really sneaky
If you want to become really sneaky then consider the following
- Shine (texture) – Make sure you can not be detected by light reflecting off of a shiny surface on your clothing and equipment
- Shape – Use cover and camouflage clothing to break up the shape and outline of your body
- Shadow – Use the shadows to move in, you are very difficult to spot if you lurk in the shadows
- Spacing – If you are in a group of people, spread out so that you are not clustered together making a big, visible disturbance
- Silhouette – Do not reveal your presence by standing up on high ground, if you are moving around make sure that there is something behind you, if something is looking for you and there is just you and the sky behind you, you are very easy to spot.
- Movement – Keep movement smooth and slow. Most animals, including us, detect movement much easier than we detect shapes or colours. Our eyes and brains detect movement above all else so keep it to a minimum and keep it slow and smooth.
- Sound – Make as little noise as possible, aim for silence.
It is not always necessary to be this stealthy but it certainly helps when you are seeking a deeper connection with nature and the ability to hunt for food, this is how to achieve that.
Try it, it´s quite easy to do once you become mindful of your presence and recognise that all of the other animals are doing this too, which is why they are often hard to find.