For the last few years the interest in bushcraft and the outdoors has grown immensely to the point where it has almost become an obsession. Constantly I am asked by students where their progression within the subject lies. My answer is always the same; “study nature”. There are no areas within the subject of bushcraft that cannot be enhance and improved by understanding the world around you in more detail.
Some may be obvious, wild plants for food and medicine clearly require correct identification of the species sort. This can be taken further however by understanding the habitat requirements, associations and ecology of the individual species. Is your chosen plant found within a specific national vegetation classification (NVC)? Does a specific fungi have a mycorhizal relationship with a certain tree? The potential for study is almost endless and is something I am convinced our ancestors excelled at. I don’t believe they wandered aimlessly about hoping to stumble on the most useful plants and trees. I believe they read the landscape, the ecology and the relationships in nature and went straight to the areas most likely to provide for their needs.
Awareness and curiosity are key to noticing what grows where and with this comes a wealth of new and helpful knowledge; improvements in locating springs from the local geology, finding animals from identifying suitable habitats and even potentially aiding navigation by understanding landforms.
Studying what the deer is eating at a particular time of year, where they prefer to rest and at what time of day and their behaviour when disturbed. These are just a few of the questions which when answered will improve your tracking skills and can be applied to all the animals you wish to follow.
The connected nature of all living things is often quoted but is still true the deeper you delve into the subject the more this connectivity is revealed and the more understanding you are privy to. In my view this detail is where the serious student of bushcraft needs to focus, excellence does not reside in the latest kit but is found behind the door of the natural world and your curiosity is the key that unlocks it.