Frank Miniter is the author of “The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide” and “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting“, the executive editor of American Hunter, and a former senior editor of Outdoor Life. Miniter is also the ultimate man. He has run with the bulls of Pamplona, snowshoed the Klondike, and survived everywhere from the Amazon to Manhattan. Miniter lives in New York.
I thoroughly enjoyed this interview and when my family and extended family gathered round, read it aloud to their delight. Thanks Frank!
Q&A with Frank Miniter, author of The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide
How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?
Ever heard of “the Gunks?” Climbers call it that. It’s short for “Shawangunk Ridge,” and is a mountain that extends 47 miles north from New Jersey. I grew up on the north end of its white conglomerate cliffs, sage tops, and oak flats. It’s a short drive from Manhattan, but big enough to get lost in. A few years ago I had to lead two lost hikers from New Jersey out.
A man and a boy came meandering down a spring green valley. They spotted me and came stumbling. I was planning to spend a peaceful night in the budding forest when they trudged up. The man shuffled his feet in brown maples leaves as he beseeched, “Which way’s the trail?” His 10-year-old son stood sweating, looking dolefully at the forest floor.
“Oh, I’ll have to guide you,” I told him.
While we walked the father spoke nervously about just wanting a walk in the woods, that they were from New Jersey and didn’t know the area. He’d lost his way, hated himself for putting his still-growing son in what he thought was a life-threatening situation. When he saw the trail he sighed deeply and his son’s eyes rolled, his respect for his father dashed. Civilization stood two miles one way and three the other. Warm spring air was gushing like a river over the forest. They were in no danger. But a setting sun in an unfamiliar forest causes otherwise sane people to panic. In the dark of night he may have walked off a cliff or stepped in a hole and broke his leg, or worse, his son might have.
The calamity was avoidable. But he didn’t bother to carry a GPS, a compass, or even a map. He didn’t think he had to, because, as Rachel Carson penned, we live in “an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival.” He didn’t think he had to know, so he didn’t.
This experience is part of the reason I wrote the book The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide.
What has been your favourite outdoor recreations area?
I’ve been in Alaska’s southeastern rain forest. And was enthralled with Admiralty Island’s uncut old growth. Under the huge trees, in the always-wet moss, are grizzly trails. It’s a primal place. But I’ve also floated a good portion of the Amazon, and have been in Russia’s taiga, and in Namibia’s Kalahari, Spain’s Pyrenees, and Japan’s volcanic mountains. They all have something special in them. But you can’t just backpack them. Too many do that. You have to stop, to slow down, to track the game and really look around. It’s the difference between a bus tour of Europe and living for a summer in Paris. You become a part of things.
Have you ever experienced a wilderness medical emergency or been lost in the wilderness? If so please describe this adventure and any lessons learned.
I had to carry a man who threw out his knee four miles down a mountain in southern Montana once. It teaches you how much civilization softens us. I had to make a splint for me own ankle another time. Always carry a medical kit and know how to use it. Never underestimate hypothermia. I spent hours trying to reason with someone who didn’t see the signs and started to do erratic things. Your life is in your hands out there.
Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?
I’m a hunter and a fisherman. I seek out and cherish experiences with wildlife. Some of my hiking/climbing friends don’t understand why I hunt. The reasons are many. And a lust for killing isn’t any of them. I’ve found that hunting gives you an active role as a predator in nature; though, as a human, you always have to apply a moral code to what you do. As you decipher these things, you find things about yourself, and about being a responsible part of the planet. People have always hunted, just as wolves have. And it has become a critical part of saving ecosystems. I write a lot about this topic because it has challenged me and changed me. I even wrote a book on hunting and the environment (The Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting).
But yes, I was once treed by a black bear. I watched a whitetail doe give birth. A redtail hawk once killed a grouse 10 feet from me. I’ve been within feet of kudu and had shivered when a grizzly in British Columbia let me know he was the king of the forest. I snuck within a hundred feet of two bighorns clashing horns in Colorado. Maybe I was most scared when I once helped a Florida alligator trapper—that murky water is nightmarish. Just this morning a flock of mature gobblers fed with 10 feet of me. I was snapping photos. They never did see me.
What is your favourite outdoor website?
I’m a fan of www.outsidemag.com and http://adventure.nationalgeographic.com/ and other magazine sites. Whenever I’m about to travel I suppose I hunt out the best sites to give me the inside scoop on that area. I’m now planning a trip to Ireland that has all my attention.
What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?
I suppose I’ve bought the most stuff from www.cabelas.com, though there aren’t many I haven’t purchased product from.
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Frank Miniter is the author of The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide. A free chapter can be found on www.ultimatemanssurvivalguide.com.