OSCODA – The Michigan Bushcraft Spring Gathering is a new, free event which will be coming to Oscoda this weekend, and coordinator Charles Oncina said he hopes the inaugural run will be the first of many.
Attendees may take advantage of free, nearby camping opportunities for the duration of the weekend. But the main event will take place at the Lumberman’s Monument pavilion this Saturday, May 5, with a variety of programs kicking off at 9 a.m.
Oncina shared that Melissa Miller, a survivalist from Discovery TV’s “Naked and Afraid,” will be the headline presenter at the gathering, which will also feature free raffles and giveaways.
“You won’t want to miss it,” Oncina assured of Miller’s presentation.
The demonstrations will begin at 9 a.m. with John Chagnon, editor of the trapping section of Michigan Woods-N-Water News, who Oncina said is also the driving force behind PcsOutdoors.com.
He noted that Chagnon will give audience members tips on how to get started with trapping.
Tim Parsell, of Parsell Artisan Works, is set to take the stage at 10 a.m. “He will be teaching us how he carves and hafts an axe,” Oncina explained.
U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Archaeologist Jim Renn, beginning at 11 a.m., will then teach attendees how to craft and throw atlatls.
“At noon we will break for lunch,” Oncina said. “There are many picnic tables and grills available, and lunch is a bring your own affair.”
The presentations will pick back up at 12:45 p.m., when Blu of Mi.cology will offer tips on identifying wild edibles and mushrooms outdoors.
A history of the logging era on the AuSable River will then be presented by a USFS ranger at 1:15 p.m.
Featured presenter Miller, who is described by Oncina as a survivalist extraordinaire, will address the crowd at 2 p.m.
“She’ll be giving us the inside scoop on her experiences on ‘Naked and Afraid,’ as well as showing off some cool survival blades,” Oncina pointed out.
A lesson on proper axe usage will then be offered at 3 p.m. by Ben Piersma of Ben’s Backwoods, which specializes in the sale of products that support a backwoods lifestyle.
“He studied under Mors Kochanski and we’re super pleased to welcome him as a presenter,” Oncina said of Piersma.
Following this, Fraser Clark and Peter Desmet of the Nessmuk Wilderness School in Ontario will be teaching a firecraft class at 4 p.m.
“They’ll be coming all the way from the other side of Lake Huron and we’re fortunate to have them aboard,” Oncina asserts.
He shared that free drawings will be held between each presentation, and only one raffle – in which high-end knives will be given to the winners – will require a fee.
Shirts, patches, axes and other items will be available for purchase, as well, with Oncina noting that some additional Bushcrafters may also be showing off their wares.
Oncina said he arranged the gathering after talking to other Bushcrafters and realizing that, while there are many similar events across the country, there hasn’t been one in the Oscoda area.
“We needed it here,” said Oncina, who grew up on the AuSable River and resides near Alpena.
He described the Michigan Bushcraft Spring Gathering as a family-friendly event, adding that it would be perfect for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and other outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.
“All of the presentations are free of charge and camping all through the weekend is free of charge as well,” he stated.
Oncina highlighted the fact that the event is being called a gathering, since people can show up for the presentations by vehicle, horseback, hiking trails, ORV trails or even in a watercraft.
There are a number of avenues for attendees to make their arrival but, either way, “Let’s get together,” Oncina encourages.
For interested guests who may want to stay overnight, he pointed out that the USFS doesn’t charge for camping on its sites until May 15.
“For those who might be driving and car camping, there are a large number of sites that are free at Sawmill Point, about a mile or two down river. They are accessible from Cooke Dam Road, which goes north off of River Road,” Oncina advised.
“The campground next to Lumberman’s Monument is also an option, if you are willing to walk in from the parking area at the visitors center, but it will be closed to vehicle traffic and the rangers have asked us to keep it clean and not set hammocks up in that campground,” he continued.
Oncina also said the entire surrounding area is comprised of Huron-Manistee National Forest land. Therefore, dispersed camping is an option, as well, so long as it’s not within 200 feet of the river, unless it’s a marked backcountry site.
“Let’s spend some time on one of the most beautiful stretches of river in the Great Lakes State. It’s an incredible stretch of river, very scenic and a lovely place to spend some days outside,” Oncina wrote to fellow Bushcrafters, on his website.
“Make the trip. It’s worth it,” he urged.
The Michigan Bushcraft Spring Gathering has been made possible through the help of the following sponsors:
CRKT Knives, Survival.com, Haglund’s All Outdoors, A-1 Woods & Waters Sporting Goods, Spyderco, TOPS Knives, Dogwood Custom Knives, MI-TAC, Jay’s Sporting Goods, PcsOutdoors, GRAYL, Karen Hood, Victorinox Swiss Army and Charly O’s Pizzeria.