Winter Survival Quiz by Field & Stream's Keith McCafferty

  1. 1) You're hunting in unfamiliar wilderness, and you're concerned about getting lost. You'll be able to find your way to safety as long as you can orient your position with respect to which of the following guideposts:

[A] A prominent peak, pond or other feature of land marked on the map

[B] A baseline such as a road or river

[C] A trailhead or parking lot

[D] The sun

  1. 2) You become aware that you have lost your bearings. Your first step is to:

[A] Stop walking and immediately make camp

[B] Follow the nearest watercourse in a downstream direction

[C] Gain a ridgetop for a vantage

[D] Mark your position and try to navigate back to the last place that seemed familiar

  1. 3) You know that a calm, clear-thinking head is your most important survival tool, and recognizing the first stages of panic can help you regroup and focus. What behavior is a sure indication that you're losing your cool?

[A] Walking in a circle

[B] Breaking into a trot

[C] Dropping your rifle and pack so you can move more freely

[D] Turning downhill to find a creekbottom to lead you to safety

  1. 4) Even if you're lost, you can fix your position on a topographic map as long as you can do which of the following things:

[A] See two landmarks marked on the map

[B] See one landmark marked on the map and orient your compass with respect to the sun

[C] Estimate your pace, direction, and time traveled from a fixed location on the map

[D] Take a bearing with your compass to a prominent landmark marked on the map

  1. 5) You're definitely lost, and it's getting dark. Which camping spot will be the warmest once the sun goes down?

[A] A forested south slope

[B] A forested north slope

[C] An open south slope

[D] A creekbottom

  1. 6) The weather is bad, and you only have matches. Which of the following natural fine kindlings will not reliably ignite?

[A] Hardened resin blisters found on the trunks of spruce and pine trees

[B] The lichen commonly known as Old Man's Beard

[C] Shredded birch bark

[D] Shaved inner bark from a poplar tree

[E] Dry grass

  1. 7) You've been lost for hours and are growing hungry and weak. You're spending the night without a fire, and in your pack you have an energy bar, an apple, and a stick of salami. Which should you eat first?

[A] Energy bar

[B] Apple

[C] Salami

  1. 8) The temperature plummets, and you have nothing left in your daypack to put on. What is the lightest-weight garment that you could have brought that would significantly conserve the heat your body generates?

[A] Down vest

[B] Wind shirt

[C] Wool union suit

  1. 9) As you suffer through the night, you look to the heavens for help. You know that the North Star is the most reliable directional signpost in nature, but how do you find it?

[A] It is the last star on the ladle of Ursa Major, the Big Dipper.

[B] It is the first star on the handle of Ursa Major, the Big Dipper.

[C] It is located beyond the Big Dipper, in the direction where the last two stars of the ladle point.

[D] It is the first star on the handle of Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper.

[E] Except for planets, it is the brightest star in the northern hemisphere.

  1. 10) You made it through the night, but you're still lost. You have to make a decision: Should you stay where you are, signal for help, and wait for rescue; or try to hike to safety? The answer depends on which of the following factors:

[A] The likelihood of your being missed and searched for

[B] Your knowledge of the surrounding area

[C] The ruggedness of the terrain

[D] Your level of survival skills

[E] Impending changes in weather

  1. 11) Hypothermia is the No. 1 killer of sportsmen and the biggest threat to your survival. Which of the following signs should you look for as an early warning that you may be hypothermic?

[A] Profuse sweating even in very cold temperatures

[B] Being unable to accurately touch your thumb to the little finger of the same hand

[C] Poor vision

[D] Confusion

[E] Slow reflex time

  1. 12) Where are searchers most likely to pick up a track by which they can identify you after you are reported missing?

[A] On the trail you used to go hunting

[B] Within 3 feet of your vehicle

[C] Within the specific area you said you'd be hunting

[D] On the floor mat of your vehicle

The Answers

  1. 1) [B] A baseline such as a road or river. It is far easier to hit a long target, like a power line or stream, than it is a tall one such as a hilltop or a small one such as a pond. When leaving for a hunt, always note in which direction you need to travel to reach a baseline. Then, if you become confused, all you have to do is take a bearing with your compass in that direction and walk a straight line.

  2. 2) [D] Mark your position and try to find your way back to the last familiar place. This is called the "home base" method of navigation. Indicate your trail as you backtrack with bits of marking tape, toilet tissue, snapped bush branches, or tree blazes. If you can't find that familiar place, return to home base and make a short foray in another direction. Repeat the process until you locate a spot that gives you your orientation. If you can't, or darkness closes in, make camp at home base.

  3. 3) [C] Dropping your rifle and pack. Search-and-rescue personnel take this as an early sign of panic.

  4. 4) [A] See two landmarks marked on the map. By using the sight on your compass to take a back bearing from each of the landmarks, then plotting those lines on the map, you can determine your position as the point where the lines intersect. This method is most accurate if the two landmarks intersect with the hunter's position at roughly a 90-degree angle.

  5. 5) [B] A forested north slope. South slopes, wooded or open, are subject to extreme temperature shifts--warm during the day, bitter cold at night. Forested north slopes may be chilly during the day, but the nighttime temperature will not fall as far as it does in the other locations.

  6. 6) [B] Old Man's Beard. This hanging lichen, which ignites easily in dry weather, absorbs moisture from the air on damp days and will not burn.

  7. 7) [A] Energy bar. Many such bars are high in both complex carbohydrates and simple sugars, which can give you a boost of energy that lasts an hour or more, long enough to construct or improve upon a natural shelter. An apple is a hit of sugar that causes a brief spike in energy, followed by a crash as your body produces an overdose of insulin to counteract the rush. Save the salami for your midnight shivers. Fats and proteins release their energy into the bloodstream at a slower rate than carbs and help repair stressed muscles, as well as keep the body warm.

  8. 8) [B] Wind shirt. A thin nylon wind shirt worn next to your skin or over an undershirt will act as a vapor barrier and trap body heat more efficiently than a wool union suit or down jacket. However, once you have stopped moving and have gotten out of the wind, the down jacket and wool shirt provide more loft and dead air space and will keep you warm longer.

  9. 9) [C and D] The North Star lies beyond the Big Dipper. If you draw an imaginary line from the last two stars on the ladle, estimate the distance between those two stars, and then follow that direction six more distances from the ladle's tip, you will find the North Star. The North Star also is the first star on the handle of Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper, but because the Little Dipper is composed of dim stars, it is easier to locate with the Big Dipper as a reference.

  10. 10) [ALL OF THE ABOVE] Trying to find your way to safety or staying put is a judgment call based on many factors. If you have left a note at home, it's probably better to stay where you are. It's much easier for searchers to hit a stationary target than a moving one. Likewise, stay put if the weather is turning worse or if the terrain is rugged. And definitely stay put if you doubt your skills to survive another exhausting day of hiking. But if no one is likely to come looking for you, the weather is fair, and you are secure in your ability to survive, then it might be better to try to walk out on your own. Always mark a trail for searchers to track your progress.

  11. 11) [B] Being unable to accurately touch your thumb to the little finger of the same hand. Along with shivering, fumbling hands are one of the first symptoms of mild hypothermia, when your body temperature has dropped several degrees. Make fire now, while you still can.

  12. 12) [B] Within 3 feet of your vehicle. There will be a confusion of tracks both inside your vehicle and on any trail you might have used. This is a strong reason for you to make an impression of the soles of your hunting boots by stepping on a sheet of tin-foil and leaving it with an attached note of your hunting itinerary for family or friends.


(12) You're ready to hunt anytime, anywhere.

(8-10) Bone up on your skills before you go hunting alone.

(6-8) Stick with a guide, tenderfoot.

(5 or less) The NFL provides an excellent alternative to hunting on cold November Sundays.