Skills Card: Determining North Without a Compass
No. 6 on our list of 25 things every hunter should know. Download it below, then print it out, take it home or even hunting.
June 08, 2009
Don’t fret about which side of the tree the moss grows on—that doesn’t work anyway. Use the sun. It rises in the east and sets in the west. When you’re far enough from the equator the sun’s position at midday will also tell you north and south; for example, during autumn in the Northern Hemisphere the sun will stay in the southern part of the sky as it travels. Or here’s a neat trick: Find a straight, slender stick about 2 feet in length; securely place it in the ground so it’s pointing directly at the sun. (There shouldn’t be a shadow.) Wait 10-15 minutes or until there is a shadow about 4 inches long. The shadow will be pointing east. Stand with the stick on your left, with the shadow extending to your right. You’ll be facing toward the north. On a clear night you can use the stars:
Northern Hemisphere: Polaris, the North Star, is the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper constellation. The Big Dipper’s two rightmost stars point to the North Star. If you’re having trouble, remember that the constellation Cassiopeia is always on the opposite side of the North Star from the Big Dipper. Draw an imaginary line straight down from the North Star to the ground. This direction is true north; if you can find a landmark in the distance at this point, use it as a guide.
Southern Hemisphere: The North Star is not visible, and no single star always indicates north or south, but you can use the Southern Cross as your guide. This constellation has five stars and the four brightest stars in it form a cross that is angled to one side. Identify the two stars that make up the long axis of the cross. These stars form a line that points to an imaginary point in the sky above the South Pole. Draw an imaginary line from this point to the ground, and try to identify a corresponding landmark to steer by.