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Survival skills - Camouflaged boys coming out of the forest

Survival Skills


What boy who has read Hatchet or My Side of the Mountain hasn't dreamed of one day going into the woods to live off the land? That dream can become a reality at Night Eagle!

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” 


- Henry Thoreau


During the summer, after learning how to be comfortable in the woods, small groups of campers may set out with their counselors on survival hikes. Equipped with just their knives and blankets, and wearing only a simple breechclout like well known survival instructors Tom Brown or Eustace Conway, boys will have the opportunity to test the skills and knowledge they have acquired while at Night Eagle.


In the rich hardwood forests of the Green Mountains, one of our country's most diverse communities of plant and animal life, campers will build debris huts, learn to find safe drinking water, make bow drills, and forage for food. Boys won't have to eat cattail root, frog legs, roasted grasshoppers, or plantain, but someday it might be nice to know that they all can be quite tasty!

Two boys lying in their debris hut
A boy blowing on his tinder bundle

During the day, the sky will offer its lessons to the group as they learn to identify various cloud formations that can help in predicting the weather. At night, campers will view the constellations and discover the significant role stars can play in helping guide a person to safety.


If they are lucky, campers will be able to schedule their trip to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower - - a celebrated annual August occurence - - and will be able to witness an awesome display of "shooting stars." If the skies are cloudy, campers can enjoy sitting around the campfire, talking about the day's activities, and taking in the sounds of the night - - the hooting of owls, the yelping of coyotes, and maybe the occasional slapping of a beaver's tail on the lake.


On survival hikes, campers acquire an increased awareness of themselves and their environment, and they are able to practice the skills they have learned (fire building, debris shelters, wild edibles, tracking, camouflage, navigation, tool making, cordage, and water procurement). Acquiring these survival skills, and then being able to practice and use them, allows campers to develop a more positive self-image and an authentic sense of personal accomplishment.

Survival skills - A boy using a. knife to gather birch bark
Survival skills boy using a bow drill to get a coal
Survival skills - Two campers camouflage themselves with mud
Survival skills - A hand made birchbark basket filled with wild edible Vermont plants
Boys starting a fire with a hand drill
Survival skills - A boy eats edible cattail gathered in Vermont
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