I love spending time outside, living simply experiencing what nature has to offer. Over the last decade I have been fortunate enough to attend a number of bushcraft courses in the UK and overseas with a few of the ‘leading’ schools in the field. These days I prefer to make my own adventures and spend time in the wilds with friends and family, however I recognise that some skills are still best learned from an expert and so this review shares my recent experience with Frontier Bushcraft, a school run by Paul Kirtley.
In the autumn of 2010 I had been out mushrooming with a friend of mine and afterwards we his parents met us for lunch, they arrived with his 50% of a half share in a pig! It was a boot full of meat and we spent some time talking about how best to process it. This got me thinking about butchery and dealing with large game and I decided I wanted to learn more. I spoke to a couple of bushcraft schools to see what they could do and ended up opting to go with Frontier Bushcraft. I knew Paul Kirtley from an Arctic course I had been on with Woodlore in 2009 and we’d stayed in touch so I knew he had the skills to run something bespoke and to a high standard. I had managed to get a few mates together and so there were six of us who signed up for a weekend of advanced skills training.
About the course
Paul and I spoke a few times before the course and I briefed him on our interest. We wanted to learn about butchering larger game and about how to use the various parts of an animal for different bushcraft purposes. So we set a date and I sat back and looked forward to the weekend away.
Frontier bushcraft ran the course on their primary site in East Sussex, They use a very large private wood which turned out to be an amazing location, there was loads of space for everyone to spread out and have a bit of privacy. After we had set up camp we sat down for a brew and a briefing from Paul. He explained the plan for the weekend and how the camp worked.
After the local stalker had delivered a freshly culled deer we got down to the purpose of the weekend, learning how to butcher and process large game. Paul took us through this, step by step and explaining in detail the different ways of ‘skinning a cat’. Our plan was to utilise the meat from the deer for our meals and keep the other parts of the beast for processing later.
I was very impressed with the way Paul patiently explained the entire process of gutting, skinning and then butchering the animal. A couple of us on the course were Scout Leaders and it was important to us to learn the process in sufficient detail to pass on the skills to others. We then went on to look at the various uses of the rest of the animal, the hide, sinews, bone and antler. There wasn’t enough time on a weekend course for to practice all of these skills on detail so we agreed who was going to keep the various parts and then Paul briefed us in detail on how to process them into useable products.
Paul also worked in the time for us to build a tipi using poles from the woods and tarpaulins, after we had constructed the shelter we used it as our base for the rest of the weekend for cooking, eating and relaxing. It was a great thing to do and with a fire inside it proved to be a welcome refuge for a chilly night. You can see pictures on the Frontier website here:
On the Sunday we spend time exploring the site more widely and observing deer in their natural environment. Its fascinating walking in the woods with Paul, he sees things that others miss and was able to use his advanced tracking skills to show us sign and spoor left by deer and relate this to what we had been learning earlier in the weekend.
Overall the weekend was excellent, good food, great location, high standard of training and a well organised camp. If you are new to bushcraft then Frontier have some great courses on offer, if you have been doing things for a while and want to learn some of the more ‘advanced’ skills then I’d recommend having a chat to Paul so he can tailor something to your needs. I think he did something similar for another group on BCUK and remember reading that they had a good experience too.
Some photos below
All the best
The deer - an amazing animal
Paul explaining how we would hang the deer
Skinning the deer
Cooking up the heart bushcraft style
Making poles for the tipi
Erecting our tipi
The tipi in the woods - a wonderful home for a weekend!
Deer spoor in the woods near where we camped