I’ve thought a lot about what it takes to become proficient at bushcraft and a competent guide. Obviously, it takes a lot of hands-on instruction and a lot of time spent in the bush doing it. But it also takes a lot of rigorous study. The natural world is not something that can be learned in a weekend, or revealed through the verbosity of an instructor. It takes focused study over a long period of time to gain this knowledge. And there are numerous bushcraft, camping, and subsistence living skills books that one should read in order to be considered knowledgeable and well read on the subject. All told, I figure that it would take at least two years, maybe more. But think of it this way; an undergraduate degree will take you from 3-5 years, so time wise it’s still a bargain.
So here’s my ideal learning progression for personal or instructor development:
1. Take a semester course
2. Begin reading the 100 most important books
3. Begin serious nature study of an hour per day
4. Go on an extended trip in the bush
5. Get hunting, fishing, trapping licenses and a guide’s licence
6. Take a second semester course (different season)
7. Go on a second extended trip in the bush (different season than the first)
8. Be a TA for a semester course
9. Finish reading 100 most important books
9. Have a well-kept logbook and portfolio of your work
By this point you’d have developed and documented KSE:
Knowledge – Knowing something about plants, animals, weather, water, canoes, building things, making what you need from the materials at hand, and knowing a lot about those materials. It’s knowing how to lead a group, watch for danger signs, mediate an argument 50 miles from town, explain and demonstrate how to make a bow drill fire, etc.
Skill – Knowing how to efficiently paddle and pole a canoe, use an axe, use a knife, light a fire in the rain, make a pack basket, etc.
Experience – Because having done is much more important than knowing how.
This is a first-draft outline, so it’s sure to change over time.