Some time ago I wrote a post about whether I believed Bigfoot was real, and if it was possible for them to exist in the United Kingdom. I think for me the jury is still out on that, but it does seem as COVID restrictions are being eased, more people across the land are heading outdoors to go squatchin.
During the lockdown period there have been a number of television shows broadcast on the subject and the online streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix are also getting in on the act.
Regardless of which channel and what programme you watch, I would urge you to keep one thing in the forefront of your mind.
These shows are made for entertainment purposes. You don’t believe me? Trying watching any of them with the sound off. Concentrate on what is being shown to your eyes without the dramatic music in the background, or the commentator / narrator telling you what you have been shown, rather than letting you see and form your own conclusions. These shows have to be made this way because quite frankly, squatchin’ would make for very boring viewing, unless you have an absolute passion for the subject, because it is a very time intensive activity and chances of seeing anything are slim to none. That’s definitely not the sort of material that will generate the ratings that will justify the cost of the production of a TV Show. Remember TV Shows live and die by their ratings so its little wonder the producers of these shows have to spice them up a bit with dramatic music, cliff hangers before commercial breaks and strange antics.
What not to do?
I cannot lay down any hard and fast rules for successful sightings. All I can say is what I avoid doing and explain why. You need to be responsible for your own safety.
Screaming and hollering
We’re told by the ‘experts’ that Sasquatch are shy, elusive creatures. This fits nicely in line with the fact that sightings are very rare occurrences. Yet on show after show, we are shown the on-screen people thumping tree trunks with other pieces of wood to make loud knocking noise. When they’re not doing that, you’ll find at least one of the team on each show claim they know how to do a ‘call’ which results in them bellowing out some sort of screech at the top of their lungs.
Both of these activities make no logical sense to me as a method to attract a sasquatch. Think about other confirmed elusive creatures we have in the UK. Deer are often stalked for example in the Highlands of Scotland. The Ghillies who know the land they manage, do not resort to making loud noises in order to attract a stag. They know that in order to find shy, elusive creatures such as deer, noise will alert the deer to the presence of people and their flight response will kick in and the deer will flee. They know noise must be kept to a minimum and if spotted, the deer should be approached from an upwind direction.
So if we transpose known successful stalking techniques to squatchin, it becomes clear that any TV Show using those successful deer stalking techniques would result in a very boring show that nobody would be interested in watching.
Also, just because you’ve gone squatchin and you’re doing your knocks and calls, doesn’t mean that other people are not doing exactly the same as you. So what is to stop each group sending each-other messages all night and claiming they’re from a Sasquatch. Neither group would know the other is there.
So the key thing is to remain silent, or a least as quiet as is possible, when you are in the forest. Listen to the sounds of the forest and its animals that are awake and moving around at the time you are there.
Stomping round the forest
Going back to our deer hunting comparison, remember that every movement you make creates a noise and we want to keep noise to an absolute minimum. So we really want to pick a spot and stay as close to that spot as possible. If you’ve found an area where you believe there is evidence of sasquatch activity, pick a place where you can view that area and take a seat. Once you are sat down, you need to let your eyes adjust to the prevailing levels of light, or darkness so you can observe what is happening around you. Another key factor is to listen. You’ll be surprised by the sounds of the forest environment at night. It becomes a very different place from woodlands and forested areas you may have visited during the day.
I always recommend that people visit a place several times during daylight hours to get a good picture of the lie of the land. You need to know where the streams, river, deep ravines are. You’ll want to know; where the drainage ditches are, where timber has been recently harvested and left tree stumps you could trip on. Also while you are there in daylight, use all your senses. Remember, this isn’t a casual trip to a forest, it is a research field trip. Ask yourself what you can see, hear, smell etc. Record everything in a little notebook. I tend to have a pocket sized A6 notebook with me whenever I’m out and about.
Do the same on your night visits. What do you find is different between the day and night visits? Sit down and record it in your notebook.
If you’re in a managed forest, find out who is responsible for its management. Try and talk to staff at any visitor centres and ask them about other activities that happen in the forest. Prior to the pandemic many had started running ‘family bushcraft’ courses and little shelters started appearing around the place. I lost count of the number of times I had to explain to people these were man made structures and not a Sasquatch lair. In essence you’re trying to find out as much as you can about the place, which will help you to spot something out of the ordinary.
Above all there is one thing to remember when you’re in the forest:
Going out with large groups
Whilst it is true there is safety in numbers, large groups make a lot of noise. So you want to keep numbers to a minimum. Going out on your own is risky. Not for fear of being attacked by any creature we have in the UK, but if you get injured you have to think very carefully about how you will summon help. A group of three would seem about ideal to me. If someone gets injured you have one person to stay with casualty (if they can’t or it is not safe to move them) and one to go for help.
Groups larger than three would generate enough noise to alert the animals around you.
Also, prior to going out, if you agree a set of hand signals, it would help to keep the noise down whilst communicating amongst the group. Now I know some people favour the use of walkie-talkies. There are some inexpensive options on the UK market that do not require a transmission licence. If you’re going to go down the walkie-talkie route, make sure you get ones that have a socket for an ear-piece. That will allow you to hear others’ transmissions without them booming out through the unit’s speaker.
Have a basic first aid kit
Make sure you have access to a basic first aid kit. More importantly, make sure you know the contents of the kit and basic first aid techniques to allow you to help someone.
Scanning tree-lines with extremely bright lights
Whilst powerful torches, and there are some incredibly powerful torches out there now, may seem like a good idea, they’re not. Scanning tree-lines with high powered torches is the easiest way to scare any type of creature, never-mind illusive ones, at night. It is also the easiest to attract unwanted attention from members of the public and if you’re really unlucky, The Police. Imaging having to explain to a Constable that you were looking for traces of sasquatch and not out poaching as they will believe you were. So waving around a high powered torch will not only damage your own night vision, but could cost you a few hours answering questions at a Police Station. I have only ever encountered the Police once when I’ve been out at night when I was actually doing a skywatch. Thankfully the Constable I spoke to had an interest in UFOs and once I explained what I was doing and why, he left me in peace. He did let me know it could have been quite different if some of his colleagues had turned up instead after he had searched both me and my car. Perhaps it was the abundance of camera and recording equipment I had with me that convinced him I was genuine, but if ever you do get approached, be courteous, polite and prepared to explain what you are doing.
There is a lot more to say on the “What not to do…” front but I’ll leave that for a part 2 in the not too distant future.