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DNR has a STOP plan for adventurers

Three lost Minnesota bear hunters, recently forced to spend the night in the woods, provide a reminder that anyone enjoying the outdoors should know the basic rules of wilderness survival, said Capt. Mike Hammer, a Department of Natural Resources Enforcement Education Program coordinator.

Panic is the biggest enemy if someone gets lost in the wood. Hammer said the acronym STOP should be used to prevent tragic events in the outdoors.

SIT: Collect your thoughts and realize that you are not lost; you just can't find your camp or vehicle.

THINK: What do I have at my disposal both physical and mental that can help me in this situation? Inventory your survival kit and start to develop a plan.

OBSERVE: Look around, is there shelter, water, an open area where searchers could see you?

PLAN: Create a plan of action. Pick a spot that you can build a fire for heat and signaling. In addition, can the spot provide basic shelter? Most of all remain positive, you will survive.

A basic survival kit can be packed into a quart-size plastic bag and should contain the following.

- Basic shelter materials: Two 55-gallon garbage bags and 30 feet of braided mason's line.

- Means to start a fire: Disposable lighter, waterproof matches or matches stored in a waterproof container, or 10 feet of toilet paper or petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls in a film canister.

- Means of signaling: Whistle, signal mirror (could be an old CD). A fire is also a signal.

- Means of knowing direction: A compass.

- Comfort food: Food bar, nuts, or trail mix.

When heading outdoors, plan for the unexpected and be prepared to spend the night in the woods. Here are some things to do before heading out.

- Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

- Carry a compass or GPS and know how to use it.

- Carry a basic survival and first-aid kit.

- Carry a cell phone but don't rely on service everywhere.

- Check the weather and dress for it.

These outdoor safety tips and much more about outdoor survival are part of the Minnesota DNR Hunter Education Firearms Safety Program. There is a free online study guide for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts on the DNR Web site at www.dnr. Click on "Hunter Exam."