'Turn around' navagation.


Richard Proenneke
Aug 3, 2011
Reaction score
Often the newbie starts off when heading 'bush' by learning various ways to take a heading to determine the correct direction he must travel in.
However, in learning & practicing that skill it is often very easy to forget to 'look back' to determine your bearing.
The value of this was highlighted to me many years ago when I first staretd my deer hunting career.

I had been hunting deer in the high country at that stage for about 3 years & was steadilly building my confidence.
The area I was hunting had a track running parallel along a river for many miles on the same side as my camp.
On this occasion I had chosen to hunt across the river, which would entail heading up a ridge on the other side & into the valley beyond.
I crossed early, headed up the ridge & then travelled down t'other side into the valley. I hunted for a number of hours & then decided it was time to head back to camp. On once again cresting the ridge I started heading down my ridge toward the river where I crossed, only to find someone had moved the river & my camp. This was a totally differnet place to where I had crossed that morning.

It was getting late, and the weather had been building from a light drizzle to a steady rain. What to do? Where the hell was I.
Ok, back to basics - sit down for a minute & think. What had happened?
I found myself at the bottom of what I thought was the ridge I had gone up that morning, only to find I had come down a different ridge altogether ,that I had not noticed on the way up, & had consequently hit the river at a completely differnet place.
What to do about it?

My decisions were;
1. Head back up the ridge in the near dark & building rain to try to discover the correct ridge that would lead down to my camp across the river.
2. Cross the river knowling that I would then only have to travel perpendicular from the river for no more than 200 meters, in order to find the track running parellel with the river, and which would therefore lead me back to camp (which I knew would be no more than 8kms away - if I walked in the right direction).
3. Hunker down & make a shelter for the night & start in fresh light the following morning.

If I chose option 1. there was no guarantee I would find my correct ridge to decend down in the dark & the building rain would make that doubly difficult as well as dangerous.
If I chose oiption 2. I knew I stood a 50/50 chance of heading in the right direction back to camp - as long as I cpould find the track at all or didn't break my neck traveling along it in the dark.
So, I chose option 3. I managed to build a fairly good rudimentary shelter all things considered.
I had a reasonable rock overhang on the riverbank that was protecting me from the rain and wind.
I had a good supply of materials along the river bank with which to build a shelter & bedding, & I had adequate dry fuel for a fire which could be lit under the overhanging rock to keep me warm.
It was not the most comfortable night I had ever experienced but I was able to dry my clothes adeqately, make a hot cup of tea, & spend a reletively dry/warm night in my shelter/overhang.
The next morning I woke up, again had a bracing cup of tea, crossed the river, found the track & was back in camp by 10am, one very relieved hunter.

What this highlighted was;
On initially heading up the ridge I had actually gone up an offshoot ridge (which I didn't know at the time) & then come down another completely different offshoot altogether. If I had been watching where I had come from as much as where I was going I would not have made that mistake.

When travelling we attempt to walk along a chosen route. That route has a start point & a finsih point and so we atempt to stay on a line between those two points.
That means we must learn to look back as well as look forward.
If we dont then we effectively make our own position a travelling 'start point' around which our direction line can rotate.
Should we find the need to back track we would instantly become lost, which is basically what happened to me all those years ago.

What that expeirence taught me was the importance of 'turn around' navagation (and not panicking once I realised the situation I was in).
Making sure we keep the point from which we start fixed as well as the point at which we hope to finish.
Thus keeping ourselves on a line somewhere between the two points.
Bearings & headings.
The two go hand in hand together. Take one & forget the other & you are likely to find yourself very easilly lost.
So basically, when heading forward never forget to turn around regularly & also look back.
I was lucky & learned a lot back then, but it could just as easilly have had a very different outcome for me.
I've never forgotton that lesson.

Bill A.


F. C. Selous DSO
May 5, 2011
Reaction score
Yes, there are always two direction on the trail.

Another thing to do before you set out is a map study, look at the ground you will be covering and set some "cut off" features like tracks/roads, creeks/rivers, steep features, etc. also set your self an area in a fixed direction from your camp, for example a "box" to the north of your camp location, then if you get geographically misplaced, you know that the camp is to the south of your area and that when you hit a cut off feature it's time to turn around and head back, then you hit the next cut off at the bottom of your box and use it as a hand rail back to your camp.


Richard Proenneke
Aug 3, 2011
Reaction score
Yeah one of the reasons I took the course of action I did in that situation was that I knew the area reletively well & had a map of it.
I basically knew that if I went south I would hit the river (which I had anyway) & that once over the river the track ran parellel for approx 30+kms.
The problems I faced were; 1. Not knowing exactly which way to go once I crossed the river & found the parth. 2.Not knowing exactly how far away from camp I was & 3. Not having enough daylight left to effect a re-trace or cross & search for camp.
hence I decided that seting up for a night out & starting fresh in the morning held the best chance of a successful outcome.

Since that experience I have often found myself in a similar situation where I would head up a ridgeline only to find several converging ridges all comming together.
However, I've never been caught out again like that once I realised what was happening.
Often it is not immediately evident unlkess you're aware of it & keeping track. Basically you go up one ridge, but once you start downhill you're faced with a choice between several.

Afterwards I was fortunate enought to have a chance to meet & chat with one of Australia's most experienced & knowledgeable deer hunters & he told me that two of the things he had learned to do was; 1. to create a natural 'corridor' which he would then not venture out of & 2. To better learn to use his peripheral vision.
It is a natural human condition to become 'point focused'. That is to say that because we have reletively good eye sight & are able to naturally trialngulate, we tend to become focused on one partuclar point within our vision, sometimes to the point where we may exclude other significant landmarks. It's a bit like the guy driving his car & watching the tail lights of the guy in front of him. He never sees the car 500 meters ahead hit the brakes, but the guy that's watching 500 meters ahead easilly sees a far greater array of things going on & has a much better overall view of the situation. He's the one that wont need to hit his brakes as he's seen it comming well prior & has had plenty of time to move out of harms way. So it is when hiking. If you tend to focus on one partricluar outcrop, etc you can very easilly miss other features which can give a far better overview of the whole terrain in which you're travelling. I've now trained myself to see thew other ridges as I am climbing & to take note of where my own ridge has come from. It's surprising how many new deer hunters I have since seen do exactly the same thing.

Bill A.

Big Bill

Lofty Wiseman
May 20, 2011
Reaction score
one thing.....yep make sure you have a perimiter.but with alot of RPC's on maps make sure you eyeball the perimiter.........as some RPC,s have become totally over grown..........yet on a map they may be shown even as a 2wd trk.........The DSE here in Vic love to hide tracks as well often the track opens up after a bit but cannot be seen from another road or track........