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Compass saves a hunter who got lost in the woods

He got separated from his hunting party in northern Minnesota.
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A hunter who got lost in the woods of northern Minnesota found his way home thanks to his trusty compass.

St. Louis County Sheriff's Office launched a search effort at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday after 58-year-old Craig Ainsworth went missing.

His hunting party hadn't seen him for four hours by the time they called for help, and he had been missing for almost seven hours by the time he turned up.

The sheriff's office says he found his way back to his cabin by midnight using his compass.

Before that, he said he'd got lost in the woods and ended up walking in circles.

Ainsworth fortunately had a shorter stay in the woods than 61-year-old Robert Kniefel, who spent three nights in Nemadji State Forest, south of Duluth in September.

The Pioneer Press reports he got lost after heading out grouse hunting. He had to drink bog water to stay hydrated during his three-night stay, before eventually being found and rescued by helicopter.

Going into the woods? Take a compass

Ainsworth's experience has led the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office to "strongly encourage" those heading out into the woods to "be familiar with the use of an ordinary, non-battery powered compass."

Even in the age of electronic GPS readers, these can run out of battery at inopportune moments, so it's always wise to bring a traditional compass to find your bearings.

If you do get lost, Bowhunter-Ed has some tips on how to react – the first of them being to stay calm and try to retrace your steps.

Carrying a good map is a must – preferably one showing the topography, the Minnesota DNR has a downloadable one here – as is investing in "a good compass and a GPS unit," especially when hunting somewhere unfamiliar.

As important as buying a map, compass and GPS is knowing how to use them.

You can find information on orienteering tips and classes from the Minnesota Orienteering Club. There are also beginner courses run at Minnesota State Colleges and in Ramsey County.

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