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Wilderness enthusiast talks about surviving in the wild

Friday, November 5, 2010

(Photo)
Jason Fajt uses the bow technique to demonstrate how he makes fires while living in the woods Thursday evening at the Putnam County Museum. He also used flint and steel to start fires, and noted that the flint method is much easier. Banner Graphic/JOSH GARVEY
GREENCASTLE -- Jason Fajt talked about his experiences surviving in the wild at the Putnam County Museum Thursday night.

Fajt, who works with the Indiana State Police when he's not in the wilderness, talked about the different techniques he has used to survive in forests. During the talk, Fajt tried to answer a question he posed at the beginning of the talk.

"What inspires somebody to go into the woods for a couple of days with nothing but a knife, homemade bows and arrows and a safe water supply?" Fajt asked to begin.

Fajt attributed some of his desire to survive in the wild to a fascination with American Indians when he was young.

"Whenever I saw a cowboy movie, I wanted the Indians to win," Fajt said.

Fajt discussed some of the literature that has influenced him, including a wilderness survivor guide and a biography of Tecumseh called "Panther in the Sky."

"I actually read this book in stages and I just savor it," Fajt said.

Fajt said one book about American Indian bows was a more practical inspiration.

"I make Native American bows," Fajt said. "That's one of my hobbies that I developed, and the chief way that I try to survive in the woods is with that bow and arrow."

Fajt passed around some of the bows he had made, including one that looked a little shorter than a grown man's arm.

(Photo)
Jason Fajt shows bows he has made for his excursions into the wilderness Thursday night at the Putnam County Museum. Fajt was at the museum talking about his experiences doing survival trips into wooded areas. Banner Graphic/JOSH GARVEY
"It looks like a kid's bow, doesn't it?" he said. "Try giving it a pull. It can shoot through buffalo."

Fajt then joked that the way you make a bow is to "whittle away everything that isn't a bow."

Fajt said the food source he tries to rely on when on these excursions is squirrel. He also said one of the things he admired in American Indian culture was the respect they showed to the animals they hunted, something they said wasn't always present with modern hunting.

"It's not just killing and eating," Fajt said. "That animal basically gives its life up so that you can survive."

Fajt said he assembles his own shelter while in the wilderness.

"The best way to describe it is a squirrel's nest," Fajt said. "That's kind of what this shelter is."

Fajt said he begins with a central log. He then places a series of pieces of wood onto the beam, like a "whale's ribcage," he said. The pieces of wood are then covered with debris and then more sticks.

"I stayed nice and warm in that," Fajt said. "It actually rained, and I mean stormed, and not a drop of water got in my shelter."

Fajt said he brings his own water supply to avoid getting sick during his excursions. He mentioned while he is out looking for food he has to find his own water to avoid muscle cramps and headaches.

He showed an image demonstrating that water could be gathered from leaves, showing a picture of a shot glass half-full as a result of the water on two leaves.

Fajt also showed different types of tea that he makes while out in the woods, including sumac, pine needles and rose hips.

"After the flower falls off in the late fall you'll see those rose hips, and that's typically what they make vitamin C tablets out of," he said.

Fajt, who has been going into forests for four-day stretches for eight years, said he began doing his survival trips before shows like "Survivorman" and "Man vs. Wild" became well known.

"The second year I did this, one of my good friends told me about this guy 'Survivorman,'" Fajt said. "Back then, Greencastle didn't have the station he was on."

Fajt also talked about some of the plants he ate. Since he usually goes out in the fall, he said he's lucky if pawpaw fruits are still available. More often, he said he eats the roots of cattails.

"You just pull the cattail up and harvest the root and soak it," Fajt said. "That's one of the things I sustain myself on."