Posts Tagged With: Medicine Bow

Secrets of the Forest: The Best Outdoor Education Book I’ve Read

by Todd Walker

Secrets of the Forest- The Best Outdoor Education Book I've Read -

I recently began working with at-risk youth in our county’s alternative school, Rise Academy. My “job” is to offer project-based learning opportunities to develop self-reliant skills in our students.

My curriculum guide is a blank slate. There are no state approved guides for Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance in academia. I must write my own. Out of necessity, I began to pull from my own experience and those of my mentors. Fortunately, one of my teachers, Mark Warren, director of Medicine Bow, recently published the first in a series of four books, Secrets of the Forest.

Secrets of the Forest, Volume 1, is broken into two parts:

  1. The Magic and Mystery of Plants, and…
  2. The Lore of Survival

I ordered and quickly devoured Volume 1. If you’ve ever wondered how to transfer lost knowledge and skills to our next generation, this book series is your guide. Mark is no newcomer in the world of primitive skills and nature study. He’s been passing on his knowledge to young and old for over a half century. I’ve had the pleasure of attending several of his classes in Dahlonega, Georgia. Mark is a walking encyclopedia of earth-lore and the skills required to call Nature home.

Secrets of the Forest- The Best Outdoor Education Book I've Read -

Mark showing an impromptu lesson on stringing a bow during a Winter Tree Identification class.

Part 1: The Magic and Mystery of Plants

Students at Medicine Bow are fully submerged in experiential, hands-on learning. Reading Mark’s book is no different. Over 200 original activities are included to engage one’s senses in the forest. Making your own Botany Booklet, written and illustrated by you, is worth the price of this first volume. It only consist of six sheets of folded paper (12 pages) but will set a student on a path of discovery in the amazing green world surrounding us.

Secrets of the Forest- The Best Outdoor Education Book I've Read -


“Plant study is the foundation upon which all survival skills are built.” ~ Mark Warren, p. 16

Mark is quick to point out that modern humans have lost the instincts of our paleo ancestors regarding plant usage. Therefore, we must approach our study of plants on an academic level. Eating the wrong plant, or wrong part of a plant, in the wrong season can be deadly. However, embracing the study of plants and trees for food, medicine, and craft is worth the time and effort.

I’ve read many online discussions of outdoorsy people expressing their desire to become more proficient in plant identification and use. Many have purchased botanical field guides specific to their locale. These guides are helpful for identification but rarely offer hidden secrets of a plant. In Chapter 6, 100 Plants ~ And Their Many Gifts, Mark offers insight into plants/trees of southern Appalachia which I’ve never read in other botanical books. Color photos of each plant await at the end of this chapter to aid in identification.

Chapter 10 is devoted entirely to Poison Ivy. Anyone spending time outdoors will appreciate the information on this rogue plant. From identification, protecting ourselves, treating the rash, and even making oneself immune, Mark covers it all.

Part 2: The Lore of Survival

“If you get lost out there, the world around you may seem your enemy, but it’s not. It’s just that you’ve forgotten what your ancestors knew a long time ago.”

~ Natalie Tudachi, Blue Panther Woman of the Anigilogi clan, Let Their Tears Drown Them (p. 167 – Secrets of the Forest)

Reading this volume will give you knowledge, but knowing is not enough – there must be urgency in doing the stuff. As with Part 1, many hands-on activities accompany The Lore of Survival section. Chapters include:

  • The First Step ~ getting started in survival skills
  • The Ties That Bind ~ cordage
  • Oh Give Me a Home ~ shelter building
  • Sticks and Stones ~ the multi-use rabbit stick
  • Water, Water Everywhere ~ water purification
  • Hors D’oeuvres of Protein ~ adventures with larvae
  • A Kitchen in the Forest ~ cooking in the wild
  • An Army of Silent Hunters ~ traps and snares
Secrets of the Forest- The Best Outdoor Education Book I've Read -

Describing the finer details in a tracking class at Medicine Bow.

Mark’s approach to wilderness survival centers around the primitive technology used by the Cherokee who called Southern Appalachia home. Our relationship with “the real world” (forest) becomes intimate as we integrate primitive survival skills. This may seem overwhelming, depending on the forest to provide your needs, so take one skill of interest and practice until proficiency is developed.

Of particular interest to me, since I’m allergic to yellow jacket stings to some degree, is the section on making yellow jacket soup. Larvae, not adults, are used to make a nutty flavored, protein-packed soup. Mark gives detailed descriptions on how to “safely” dig and harvest larva from a yellow jacket nest. My experience with the business end of these stinging insects has prevented me from attempting a heist. However, after reading his experience, it sounds doable even for me.

Secrets of the Forest- The Best Outdoor Education Book I've Read -

Hands-on learning in a creek studying animal tracks and sign.

I respect Mark Warren a great deal, not only for his passion to share this lost knowledge, but more so because he lives what he describes his book. He traded theory for action decades ago. When purchasing his book or attending his classes, you’ll quickly discover that Mark is the real deal with a depth of experience sorely lacking in the world of outdoor education.

If you teach wilderness living skills, scouts, school children, or just interested in expanding your own outdoor education, I highly recommend Secrets of the Forest! Order yours at his site: Medicine Bow.

Update 08/11/2017: Calling Up The Flame – The Art Of Creating Fire -and – Feeding The Spirit – Storytelling And Ceremony : Vol. 2 – by Mark Warren just became available.

While you’re there, check out his class schedule. I’ll be attending The Art of Archery class in September. Mark knows a thing or two about archery. He was the World Long Bow Champion in 1999.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

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Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 15 Comments

Stalking: The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals

by Todd Walker

The art of getting close to wild animals has been replaced by high-powered rifles and telephoto lens. Like other lost skills of self-reliance, a revival is in order.

Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals -

One man fanning the primitive fire is Mark Warren. A soft-spoken man, reverence and passion for nature and her bountiful resources flows from his life like a refreshing mountain stream. My time at Medicine Bow, Warren’s Primitive School of Earthlore near Dahlonega, Georgia, challenged not only my physical abilities, but awakened my mind and spirit.

As young boys, my brother and I spent countless hours re-enacting exploits of woodsmen we either read about or watched on TV. Fiberglass bows in hand, we’d crawl through fields of broom sedge and pop up as close to a cow or flock of robins as possible. Our cows would give us their usual stare and continue grazing. Farm animals were easy to stalk.

Why learn this lost skill?

The obvious benefit is for hunters with primitive weapons. Harvesting animals with a hickory self bow requires that you be as close as possible to the intended target for a clean kill. You owe that much to the animal for providing meat and resources for sustainability.

Observers and photographers of wild animals would do well to practice stalking techniques. Doing so may revel phantoms of the woods you’ve only dreamed of capturing in your lens.

The main benefit I personally received under Mark’s instruction was the complete immersion in nature. Slowing down to a snail’s pace uncovered small, “invisible” wilderness details unnoticed when trekking full speed ahead. Connecting to our ancestral roots always feeds my soul and waters the primal tree.

An analogy Mark often used was that of a rock tossed into a pond. The impact ripples to every shoreline. The idea being to minimize your wake in the animal’s living space.

To increase your chances of getting close to wild animals, stalking employs the following elements…

  • Patience
  • Balance
  • Strength
  • Camouflage
  • Scent Control

Follow along as I break down what I learned about making a successful stalk.


Native Americans learned to stalk by observing interactions between predator and prey.

Drab colored animals like deer, rabbit, and fox have evolved away from color vision to survive. Their ability to blend into their surroundings as predator or prey renders color recognition unimportant for survival. Now the rods in their eyes dominate to detect motion in their field of vision.

Working the wind correctly and being camouflaged helps conceal your presence but movement is the worst offender of blending into the forest.

Sound may alert wild animals, but our movement is what causes them to vanish into the brush like smoke. This is the main reason the forest appears void of wildlife when we thrash along in our human gait.

We must s-l-o-o-o-w down to ultra-slow motion and take a form not easily recognized by wild game. Which reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the movie Jeremiah Johnson.

Here’s the exchange…

Bear Claw tells Johnson, a mountain man wannabe, to step out on the side of his horse to shoot an elk. Jeremiah asks, “What if he sees our feet?” Bear Claw responds in common sense wisdom and wit…

Elk don’t know how many feet a horse has! No, you durn fool, slide it up over the saddle.

Stalking is a game of practice, and practice makes permanent. One stalking step, done correctly, should take about two minutes on average. To be honest, my steps take about one minute when my legs are fresh… less as my stalk continues.


Think and walk like a fox. Its gait is like walking on the baseline of a gym floor. No right-to-left swagger or bobbing up and down… just a narrow, smooth, streamline glide.

Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals -

A rear view of stalking

Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals - Stalking- The Lost Art of Getting Close to Wild Animals -

Human locomotion demands that our body be thrown out of balance to one side or the other. And then there’s our heel strike. Lift one foot and move it forward until our heel impacts the earth sending alarm waves throughout the forest.

When I run for exercise, which is rarely these days, I prefer to run barefoot. This method of running will quickly teach you not to strike your heel first on each landing. My posture and foot strike necessitates a smooth, floating motion… which is the goal when stalking.

To demonstrate our unbalanced movement, Mark assembled our class in a straight line facing him. From a balanced position, feet shoulder-width apart, he gave the command, “walk”. Within a nanosecond, the command “freeze” was given. Our side-to-side shift was obvious. Try it yourself with a friend. Animals know this distinctive sway as human and avoid the lumbering figure in the woods.

This technique of walking like a fox is very demanding. Here’s a short video of my fox walk. Notice the shakiness in my front leg. And this demonstration wasn’t even in ultra-slow motion. I have a new appreciation of all who’ve come before us who stalked within a few feet of wild game… Mark Warren include.

No matter how delicately I placed my forward foot on the forest ground, my novice stalking legs would lose balance and crack a twig or crunch leaves from time to time. Sounds alert animals. But sound is not always a deal breaker when stalking. The forest is full of sound. Keep your eyes focused on the target the duration of the stalk so you can freeze at a moments notice if animal stares in your direction to investigate the sound.


There were many times during the class that students had to hold a stance in awkward positions. One exercise included Mark mimicking a deer. We encircled him at a distance of 15 yards or so and had to stalk towards him as he foraged and pawed at wild food. His mannerisms on all fours were amazingly similar to white-tailed deer I’ve observed.

If Mark spotted us cutting corners on our technique to the point of alerting him, he would snort and wheeze like a deer and point at the offender to go back to the starting line. If he lifted his head in our direction we would have to freeze like a heron hunting in knee-deep water… no matter the cycle of ultra-slow motion. Quadriceps and hip flexers screamed silently hoping the “deer” would bow and graze again.

I enjoy Primal/Paleo workouts. The level of functional fitness needed to stalk wild animals is different from any sport or recreational activity I’ve ever experienced. My legs and hips were sore for days after the class. Mark told us that martial artists found the most success of anyone attending his stalking class. Even more so than professional athletes.

Camouflage and Scent

It isn’t necessary to spend a fortune on expensive camouflage clothing. Wear quite, loose-fitting clothes of natural material with a varied pattern that will break up your silhouette in the forest. Avoid the swish of synthetic material rubbing together. Oh yeah, the sound of clinking metal is a sound made only by humans in the woods. Check your pockets and gear before heading out.

Remembering what we learned about the role of rods and cones in wild animal eyes, even the popular pink camo patterns will work for stalkers. A bit of cooled campfire charcoal smeared on your face and exposed skin may appear too Rambo for some but will certainly dull the shine.

A wise stalker prefers a position with the wind blowing his human scent away from the animal. Even with the wind in your face (upwind), a cover scent such as natural plant material crushed and rubbed on clothing helps hide your human odor. You could also go the commercial route and apply cover scents and scent blockers.

The best teacher is the one who always remains a student. Mark Warren’s appetite for woodslore and primitive skills is demonstrated by his passion to inspire others to get out there and experience nature firsthand.

I think I’ll keep my student status.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

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Categories: Bushcraft, Doing the Stuff, Lost Skills, Primal Skills, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

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