Survivorman - Temagami, Canada
Canada Ontario Temagami
Just had my last meal before Les and I embark on a unique hunting experience. A night in the bush with a morning hunt is my usual tour of duty and I absolutely love it. But here in Temagami, Les has thrown in a twist! “Bring the cameras, purposely get completely lost, take no supplies and SURVIVE!” he asked me “Are you up for it?” Are you kidding! Absolutely!
Les followed me to my room after dinner and commanded, “hand over your backpack!” Reluctantly I did. He then dumped it out on the bed and proceeded to split the goods – “yes – no – yes – no, no, no, no, no, no – yes”. On the final “yes” was a lonesome stick of beef jerky – how gallant – how generous! He then gathered what he had disallowed into a bag and left. “See you in the morning,” he grinned, feeling quite satisfied he had stripped me of my most precious comforts. “Heartless!” I grunted.
But actually, I was impressed. To see Les in action, preparing for this shoot is impressive to say the least. When you’re friends with someone you don’t usually see them at work. Here, and for days prior to this, Les has blown me away with his professionalism, calculated attention to detail and concept of timing, the dispatch of an enormous production, behind the scenes of what ends up as just 2 guys, lost in the bush for a few days. And with past shoots being edited, future shoots being planned and him grabbing slivers of time to brief the pages of his upcoming book, he is STILL checking my pack for one too many sticks of BEEF JERKY? Impressive!
The Bear Hunt is in full swing. I brought a tree stand and my bow for what I hope will be a productive hunt. Decided to back strap my short 410 shotgun, Les has the 12-gauge given to me by my Father. Headed into the bush on an ATV– stoked for our evening. Just 3 hours to sundown. Les dropped me off and handed me a flippin CAMERA! O.K. I’ve been hunting for 30 years and filming for 30 minutes. Never handled one of these before. Nor have I talked to an imaginary bunch, behind a lens, that might view my attempt to be a filmmaker as futile. But hey, what the heck. Maybe I’ll pass the audition? Who knows? Here goes….
Found a beautiful tree to mount my tree stand just 10 paces from fresh Bear sign. This stand is a fabulous assembly. It’s easy to carry complete with a ladder, foot stand and seat to get me 20’ above ground in 10 minutes. I could hear Les on the ATV fading away in the distance.
The evening was slowly closing in when I finally settled into my tree stand for a brief hunt. If a bear were around, it would have probably been entertained by Elmer Fudd busy with his camera and tree stand filming himself, rather than quietly waiting for a bear to pass. Still I was hopeful with a good hour of motionless silence, watching my world darken.
As night fell, there was an unmistakable sense of humidity with it. You know, when you can feel it? RAIN. Had to hustle! About 30 yards away, I spotted a good rock face to throw up a quick lean-to. Threw on my trusty headlight and with a handful of deadfall (so not to make much noise) I created a quick shelter. There is plenty of birch here so it wasn’t long before I had a birch bark bed and shingled shelter.
Rain poured from the sky all night. Shelter worked great—damp—but not drenched.
I sat quiet all morning as no game came through. Les was way past our agreed rendezvous time with that ATV. I didn’t know he had to leave it behind and was walking the bush for hours in my general direction.
The international signal for hunter in distress is 3 shots.
When Les fired that shotgun, it truly had me concerned and excited, was he in trouble or was he trying to find me? I responded with a shot. Cell phones don’t work way up here, we had no radios, this truly was our only communication, and it worked famously. Once together he explained to me our scenario, with the GPS rendered useless- the ATV was lost and so were we!
And so began our adventure. It’s no game, this is real – SURVIVAL.
A full day and two nights of cold rain…depressing. Les and I huddled under my poncho all night. Didn’t sleep much but no time for catnaps. Get moving, get warm – we’re hungry, wet and cold – hypothermia is lurking, always. Les is so aware of that – and so careful to avoid it. The sun lifted our spirits and has given us renewed strength to move on.
Now to sunset, what a day, hiked all today to a beautiful lake, lots of water now, but is it safe to drink?
I used a shotgun shell and flint to light our first fire in three days. Honestly, Les has been bushwhacking ALONE for TOO long. It’s like, your always driving and suddenly you’re a passenger. Let’s face it, you can’t relax! Anyway, I must say, I was awfully relieved to see that damn fire ignite with SURVIVORMAN peering over my shoulder. I never would have heard the end of it!
After a cool dry night, Les and I took turns feeding the fire. We both slept well. Up with the sun, Les went forging and setting snares and I busted rotten deadfall for bait and headed to the lake for a fish breakfast!
I was permitted to keep my ice fishing stick in my pack, so with that and a hook from my hat I confidently hit the shores. I honestly worked 200’ of shoreline with every trick in the book, for like 8 hours. NOT ONE FISH!! Les came out of the bush at one point with that “how great I am” look in his eye, (oooooo how I hate that) and quite obnoxiously asked, “how’s the fishing?” I didn’t answer. “Oh, having a little trouble are we? Well I have a little something for you…” He smirked, and quite pleased with himself he pulled a FROG from his pocket! I damn near popped a seam! That’s a Bass guaranteed! BUT it’s also a meal. We discussed it and decided to try it. I mean a Bass would be like a LIFE SAVER! I RIGGED THAT BABY THROUGH THE NOSE AND FIRED IT OUT THERE…2-3 HOURS…Nothing! Truly I was puzzled! An old fly fisherman once told me “the line is a telegraph of your emotions.” If you’re desperate and anxious to catch a fish, they sense it. How many times have you looked the other way, put down your rod or sipped a beer and bang – a hit!
Meanwhile, Survivorman came up with ALL the goods – snake, frog, sar sapporilla, wintergreen, and blueberry leaf tea, even cucumber – fabulous! But ironic, don’t you think? Great white hunters, two shotguns, a bow, knives, snares and what are we eating? Wild edibles, a snake and what was once bait is now dinner! Bon-a–petite!
A pack of Wolves is howling in the distance, eerie and yet so beautiful.
I’m really feeling weary, easily winded. But amazingly when I ate the tiny frog’s leg and tasted the meat, my mind somehow convinced my stomach I was eating a meal. My hunger subsided for a short while, very short. Really very hungry, maybe the snares will be fruitful tonight. My kingdom for a piece of that jerky.
Nights are getting colder. Broke camp early this morning and started moving. Les checked his snares, nothing. Cold, hungry. Really concentrated on hunt today for bird or small game. Picked a squirrel out of a tree with the 410 shotgun that Les had pointed out! GOOD MAN!
Fabulous! – Something to eat! Les made a great tea! Spruce needle, sweet fern wintergreen leaves and rainwater in my old tin cup, most useful cup in the world is an OLD TIN CUP! From digging a hole, to stew’n a stew – a man isn’t anything without an OLD TIN CUP! Stuffed the squirrel with wintergreen and roasted him on a spit. DELICIOUS! Really felt like we just bagged a flippin BUFFALO!
Had a good fire going, pulled out the harps and played some blues. We nailed a duet and called it “The Squirrel Celebration Song!” Told stories like old timers sitting in the backwoods, like the goods on my bear claw/caribou tooth necklace. I wear it around my neck, sometimes on my hat. The teeth I pulled from the carcass of a caribou around the 54th parallel off the tip of Labrador and the Bear Claws came from my good chum Ricky – she damn near killed him but he was quick on the draw! Les told the tale of his encounter with a Bull Moose chasing him right up a tree! HA HA, THAT’S WHAT YOU GET, calling a Bull during the rut! Lucky to SURVIVE that one eh SURVIVORMAN?
SHIVER ME TIMBERS! ICE!!!!!
This is really grueling. Very hard. Les and I have both been in the bush for days ALONE – no doubt, to have a comrade with you is an enormous advantage physiologically. Like having a spotter in the gym. He drives your adrenaline. I’m not used to carrying a camera and caring for such delicate hardware while aggressively bushwhacking – and the bush is getting thicker.
Taking a break, our spirit is lifted by the sound of a chopper. SEARCH AND RESCUE! Got to get to an open area, Les figures there’s a lake somewhere north of us, we’re gonna try to find it! Temps are finally starting to rise.
Really drained, struggling. Taking another break. While crossing a marsh, I stepped into a hole that went up to my chest in sludge and swamp water. I peeled down to butt naked. Les and I rung out my clothes and I’m just hanging them for 10 minutes in the sun before I put them back on – BRUTAL!
I bagged a GROUSE a while ago! What an AWSOME meal that’s going to be! Have it in my pack for a spit on a fire when we get to that lake. The chopper keeps getting close, then farther away—we don’t get it?
Les is great, constantly finding wild edibles to keep our energy, and water, lots of water from moss, etc… AND driven! “Let’s keep going, keep moving, until we find a clear opening or the lake”, DRIVEN, HE’S DRIVEN. Strong willed, his character is ideal for this type of situation– a good man, a good friend and I'm proud to call him “My Brother.”
Well, we made it to the lake! Les was right, it was north of us. We got that signal fire going like big time to signal the chopper and it wasn’t long before the search and rescue Canine Unit walked right in on us! We were tracked by an awesome German Sheppard. The Search and Rescue chopper extracted like a scene out of the CAMBODIAN JUNGLE and all was a great success! It WAS a long week!
BUT WAIT!! WHAT OF THE BIRD?!
Ahh yes! MY PRIZE GROUSE! Well I’ll tell you…
Yesterday, Les and I were shuttled out of the back woods to a local motel for a shower and a small banquet for all the crew, associates and a few lucky prize winning Survivorman fans. Believe me, the smell of food cooking coming from the kitchen was truly intoxicating!
With all the commotion, nobody noticed when I slipped in the back door of the kitchen and presented the head chef with my request. He gallantly accepted and shortly after with Les and I at the head of the table, the first coarse was presented.
“What’s this?” Les inquired, “Chum, this is our GROUSE!” I said, and with some long- winded speech, I introduced the table to what was one of the most celebrated moments of our adventure. THE GROUSE, was then shared with all who were there, and was given full honors in our celebration. And so ends the TEMAGAMI WILDERNESS shoot. This was a unique and gratifying 7 days spent with my good friend Les. And Les, I thank you. There is a bond of trust and respect that is forged between those who find themselves suffering together. When one human being reaches out to another and he who is in need gains strength from that, together they can rise above all forms of peril. Forever He will be my BROTHER.