Outdoors skills experts from across the South will participate in a three-day event this month in Oconee County, including a man who cast aside his modern amenities to live alone in a South Georgia swamp.
Colbert Sturgeon, who was featured in the National Geographic TV series “Live Free or Die,” is one of the experts on hand for the 2018 Georgia Bushcraft Spring Gathering on March 23-25.
“I’m going to teach classes, sign autographs and demonstrate some things,” Sturgeon said recently by phone. He lives a rustic lifestyle in a cypress forest he purchased between Valdosta and Quitman.
Bushcraft plans to have almost two dozen experts at the gathering teaching skills from making pine tar soap and identifying edible plants, to fire starting and hatchet throwing.
“People have become dependent on buying stuff and less dependent on making it or doing it,” Sturgeon said.
Bushcraft hosts a spring and fall gathering and at last year’s fall gathering, about 200 people attended. But organizer Casey Deming expects from 300 to 400 people at this event.
The event is staged on 70 acres off Carruth Road in southern Oconee County.
“It’s a mix between the aggressive, primitive survivalist-type people who can go into the woods and survive, and the average person who enjoys going camping with their family and spending time outside,” said Deming, who formed Bushcraft as a company with Bill McGee in 2012.
The idea was formed the previous year, when Deming said he and McGee hosted outdoors skills classes led by survival expert Dave Canterbury, who has a national reputation as an outdoorsman.
Deming said he was also interested in showing the younger generation “how much fun it is outside in nature over sitting around with a TV or iPad.”
Deming is excited about the slate of instructors, many coming from other states such as Ohio, Florida and South Carolina. One product vendor from Oregon is displaying a tent that can be erected on top of a vehicle.
Dan Eastland, a knife-maker from Greenville, S.C., will teach a course on backwoods cooking with fellow knife-maker Ethan Becker, a Tennessee resident whose grandmother wrote the legendary cookbook “The Joy of Cooking” in 1931.
“I’ve noticed a lot of people, especially people new to the Bushcraft community and camping, get really intimidated by the idea of cooking outside of the kitchen,” Eastland said. “They bring freeze-dried meals that have a lot of value, but there are so many options.”
Eastland will not only cover food preparation, but the types of cooking equipment to bring depending on the type of trip planned.
Eastland, a native of Kennesaw, supports these outdoors events.
“I teach at a fair number of these gatherings and Casey keeps them organized and does great with logistics,” he said.
One instructor, Michelle Pugh, who lives near Greenville, S.C., will teach backpacking basics. She has written books on hiking the Appalachian Trial and the John Muir Trail.
“She is really great,” said Deming, who was introduced to her through Mark DeJong, another instructor who teaches wilderness medical training.
This year, Dennis Sprinkle, a photographer from Cleveland, Tenn., will bring his telescope and camera, and explain how he photographs galaxies and planets.
“He’ll tell us about his set-up and how he does it,” Deming said.
Jason Chapman, who owns a predator-control service in the Atlanta area, will teach woodworking and spoon carving.
Sarah and Darrin Cook of Madison County will set up a range for sling-shot demonstrations.
“They are world class competitors,” Deming said, adding the pair will travel to Italy later this year for a sling-shot competition. Sarah Cook will also teach how to make salves from natural materials.
Jennifer Wehnert, who also lives in upstate South Carolina, will teach a course on identifying edible plants.
“She knows everything there is to know about that kind of thing,” Deming said.
Other topics include radio communications, vehicle recoveries, trapping and using black-powder rifles.
The fee for the weekend is $125 and includes camping on the property. There are day passes for $50 and a trip to Visit Oconee in downtown Watkinsville is good for a 10-percent discount. More information is available on the Georgia Bushcraft website.