When it comes to outdoor living skills, books are a great way to take advantage of a Master Woodsman’s experience and see “where their mind has been.” We have worked hard to put together an extensive bibliography at Master Woodsman to include downloads and that is general in nature to accommodate our wide audience range.
While many instructors will reference an influential book or two, it is rare to have one share their entire bibliography. Cooper, John Montgomery. Snares, Deadfalls, And Other Traps Of The Northern Algonquians And Northern Athapaskans. There is considerable overlap between this section and the Primitive Living Skills section. Although there is some interesting information in this section, most of it is either ill-informed or superfluous if you’ve read Jenkins. This section has a variety of food related topics, from cooking to food preservation to fasting for both health and survival reasons.
This section omits the countless books on edible and medicinal uses of wild plants for the simple reason that there are hundreds, if not thousands of them. There is a lot of overlap between this section and the one on Bush Living Skills and Camping. Contrary to those who think bushcraft is the domain of uneducated bumpkins, in reality it is the joining of history and science. There are likely hundreds of books on the science of perception and sensory awareness, but few that have do do with outdoor endeavors.
Next to losing weight, getting rich with no money down and making yourself more attractive to the opposite sex, there have probably been more books written on wilderness survival than on any other topic.
In my workshops I teach that tracking can’t be taught without a knowledge of the animal and the habitat.
Snowshoes and Solitude DVD – Survivorman Les Stroud’s first wilderness film and the story of he and his wife’s year spent in the Wabakimi wilderness. The truth, as it is with most subjects with opposing extremes, lies somewhere in the middle. Francis Galton’s Art of Travel, 1872 (or Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries), (Reprint). The Salt Book; Lobstering, Sea Moss Pudding, Stone Walls, Rum Run- ning, Maple Syrup, Snowshoes, and Other Yankee Doings. Black Spruce Journals: Tales Of Canoe-Tripping In The Maine Woods, The Boreal Spruce forests Of Northern Canada, And The Barren Grounds. The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide to Its History, Construction, Restoration, and Maintenance.
But most of them are crap, written by people with no experience about which they’re writing. This contains less than 1% of the available literature on trapping, with much of it written by practitioners in the field (unlike most of the junk that passes for survival literature). Black Spruce Journals; Tales Of Canoe-Tripping In The Maine Woods, The Boreal Spruce Forests Of Northern Canada, And The Barren Grounds.
I met Les at the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous years ago, before he became a star, and he plays men’s league hockey with a friend of mine from college. It chronicles Bob Wagg and Walter Lane, two Maine trappers, over four seasons of their living in the bush. If you’re heading to bear country and are worried about storing your food, remember this; you don’t need to manage your food, you need to manage your food smells. I made a copy of this while a student of Errett Callahan’s Cliffside Workshops (highly recommended). They philosophize, drink, swear, and do a bunch of other things that make this probably not fit for children. This is volume 1 (of 2) of the first ten years of articles in the Journal of the Society of Primitive Technology.
This is volume 2 (of 2) of the first ten years of articles in the Journal of the Society of Primitive Technology. Looks at the realities of eating a wild diet off of the land through hunting, trapping, fishing and foraging.
The McPherson’s originally published a series of small booklets on primitive skills, eventually combining them into this volume and a second.
He wrote Cree Trappers Speak (which I’ve been unable to obtain), where he set down an oral history of Cree trappers as an educational resource for future trappers. Ben Kilham has raised several generations of bear cubs, and as such knows more about how bears live and think than likely anyone else in the world. Everyone who has heard of braintanning in the last decade has heard of Matt Richards’ book, and for good reason. Written for subsistence trappers and hunters, this has lots of information on things like building a dog sled, making snowshoes, and building a fish wheel, amongst other things. George Washington Sears wrote under the pen name Nessmuk about the Adirondacks and bush living in general. This was written for boys with little money, but a desire to make their own boat with the materials they had on hand.

Traditional nutrition and food preparation, based on anthropological research of tradtional cultures by the Weston Price Foundation.
This was given to me by a past student after I mentioned a rock in the woods that would be great by our fireplace. The tales of Thomas Jefferson Coongate, the one-eyed poacher of the Maine woods and Robin Hood of Mopang Forest. Thought provoking and good to keep in mind when you pass an Amanita muscaria on your travels.
Burch turns his considerable knowledge to the topic of navigation for small, paddle-propulsion crafts in coastal waters. Gil Gilpatrick spent forty years guiding canoe trips on the Allagash, as well as other rivers. It chronicles the experiment of some European people in a primitive living experience during the 1970s.
The McPherson’s originally pub- lished a series of small booklets on primitive skills, eventually combining them into this volume and a second. Watts is the president of the Society of Primitive Technology and a talented craftsman, and this is a great book with a focus on the southeastern US. With every trip to the bookstore I find one or two new books, each having a writer with a more-groomed pedigree than its predecessors. Emdin is a retired Canadian military survival instructor, and his book demonstrates the importance of having a plan and implementing it immediately.
Robertson also wrote Survive the Savage Sea, based on his 37 days adrift in the Pacific in a life raft after his boat sank in 1972. While some of it it is written by people with a limited grasp of language and grammar, they’re the one’s out there trapping, and it hasn’t been filtered through professional writers. I first read Dick Proenneke’s book in the Kenai, Alaska library, when I was living in Sterling.
Elliot Merrick graduated from Yale and had a short stint working in New York City, as documented in the first five pages of this book. Chronicles the Shepardson family on their three year, 6000 mile canoe trip from New Hampshire to Alaska. The history of the early sporting camps on the upper Aroostook River, where we spend a lot of time traveling by canoe. Joeseph Knowles, in his 40’s, stripped to his underwear at King and Bartlett Camps, then walked into the woods for 2 months of living off the land.
This book explores the science behind traditional medical practices such as those listed in the title..
As a kid and teen it was my bible of woods lore, even though I was in New Hampshire and the author wrote from, and about, Australia. Sacred Ecology includes much of that information, as well as information on hunting and fishing, and examines the role of traditional ecological knowledge with regard to the modern science of ecology. His book isn’t about how to deal with problem bears, but rather his experiences with the bears he’s raised. Clearly written, a simple process, and an easy writing style, with a large website and active message boards to answer any questions that might arise. I searched through used bookstores for years before I found a copy, then a year later they reprinted it, and now you can get it on the web for free.
Included is information on trapping, building snowshoes and spruce bark canoes, and shingling a house with flattened cans of white gas. Encyclopedic in its scope, a must read by all who spend significant amounts of time in the bush.
He would travel very light by birchbark canoe, and is revered for his knowledge, quotations, and knives. Drawing on numerous resources, it catalogs the pithy quotations from older books, as well as photos. As Mason wasn’t from the northeast there’s very little on poling canoes, but other than this it’s a great text and reference.
A great introduction to fasting for health, but valuable to the wilderness survivor in that they might have no other choice but to fast.
It’s filled with lots of ideas for simple crafts you can do with both kids and adults, and was worth every cent I paid for it. Great stories of how he and his cronies live in the forest by hunting and fishing and staying one step ahead of the game warden, all while enjoying an occasional jug of Hernando’s Fiery Dagger rum. The premise of the book is that you just purchased a million-dollar yacht, you’re sailing offshore, and you simultaneously get hit by lightning, get your maps swept overboard by a wave, and lose your compass (you decide how). Unlike Burch, this isn’t technical but is clearly written and interesting to even the casual weekend navigator. Nothing special about this specific book, but such a volume is useful to have as they usually have simple explanations of solar lore as well as understandable diagrams. Not a lot of background material, but excellent for teaching you what you need to do in a survival situation.

Shrouded in mystery, to this day the identity of the man they were hunting isn’t known for sure. And since most survival experts on TV these days are city people who spend a few weeks in the country each year, it’s good to see them trapping, swearing, and not trying to look their best for the camera.
It came out after he was done that he might not have done everything he said he did, but to anyone who has spent time living off the land his book is refreshingly written by a kindred spirit. The wild west is often seen as the defining American experience, and has been lauded by Frederick Jackson Turner in his frontier thesis as our defining characteristic.
He traveled extensively with native guides who constantly demonstrated the tech- niques of living off the land, which he then wrote about in his books. Their writing is a breath of fresh air in a genre dominated by professional writers who have no field experience with their topics.
Berkes defines traditional ecological knowledge as “A cumulative body of knowledge, practice and belief, evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment.
I made my own scraping tools from a truck leaf spring and tanned my first hide while checking his book to make sure I wasn’t screwing up. Other chapters on lining, portaging, and canoeing in and around ice, as well as a section on the the author’s ideal northwoods canoe, make this a great addition to the paddler’s library.
This shows more of Keewaydin’s techniques, as well as the most significant discussion of the tump line I’ve seen. It works, it’s simple, it’s cheap, and it dispels common myths that are annoyingly spouted off by people who don’t know any better.
Written by a rafting guide in the southwest, its another example of the high-tech, sensitive ecology recreation crowd forcing their beliefs on everyone.
In the first, the author is subsistence hunting with a native on the west coast of Greenland.
Common in used book stores and on the web, this now out-of-print encyclopedia of fishing has something about everything.
David Burch has advanced degrees in astrophysics, so the book contains some math and science, but if you can make it through them the payoff is it will be impossible to ever be lost on Earth again if you wear a wrist watch. You won’t find a discussion of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs, but you will find advice for the camp cook, advice on gear, and lots of advice on how to manage people. Common in used book stores and on the web, it chronicles a the author’s journey through areas of non-industrialized people who adapt their lifestyle and building practices to their environment.
Amazing line drawings and solid research make them both enjoyable to read and useful to use. Now there are hundreds of instructional videos available as well, with varying levels of quality.
Dorothy Boone Kidney lived at Lock Dam on Chamberlain Lake, on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. His detractors, who said he spent some time at a friend’s cabin, were unanimous in saying that he had the skills to have done that which he wrote about. The McPhersons, in contrast, have less than polished writing skills, but like much of the information available on trapping, they write from their own experiences in the field. If you read the book you’ll notice she’s not talking about the woods, as is describe in the title.
This book talks about what the toxins are, how they affect people, and dosages that are dangerous. This book is the journal of his second year there, when he and his wife went into the interior of the province with the trappers for the winter. I’ve been there many times guiding canoe trips, and her memoirs are fun to read both for me and my clients. In the third, he’s having a civilized discussion with the leader of an animal rights group. Well illustrated with numerous photos, this volume is a great introduction to primitive living skills as well as a great reference for people who have been at it for a decade. In my opinion the best two from this list that deal with actual survival, and they complement each other well, are Emdin and Lundin. He documents his experiences poling up the Grand (since renamed the Churchill) river, snowshoeing, trapping, and living off the country. There is some interesting information on factory farm crop production, and the author makes a convincing case that as an environmental advocate his eating of wild game that he hunts himself is better for the planet than a vegetarian diet based on mass-produced crops. If you’re looking for a book with facts and trivia about a variety of situations, try Maniguet.

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