Native Americans have recognized and taken advantage of the beneficial characteristics found in birch bark for centuries. And those same inherent traits that made birch bark so important to their people can still be useful today in a variety of ways.

Historic Use of Birch Bark

Many Native Americans tribes recognized that birch bark possessed properties that were unique when compared to the other tree species. When peeled from the tree the bark became tough and durable, yet pliable, flexible and was highly waterproof. Those characteristics made it perfect for papering the exteriors of their canoes as well as their homes. Birch bark was also commonly used for making baskets, which were used for transporting and holding water, fruit and various other items. And because of it flexibility it was sometimes used in the tribal artwork, for making maps and even employed as ceremonial wraps for the dead as part of their burial ceremonials. While many of these uses are no longer applicable to modern man, birch bark can still play a significant role when it comes to your personal survival needs.

Birch bark as a Fire Starter

Sometimes it is difficult to find dry tinder in an outdoor setting, but even in a downpour rain storm green birch bark will allow you to get your fire going quickly and efficiently. The reason for this is the fact that the green bark contains a high degree of natural pitch that burns readily. As a fire starter you must only use the green bark, not the dry stuff that frequently is found peeling from around the trunk. In order to protect the tree from damage you must avoid ringing the entire trunk.

A cut around the entire circumference of the tree could eventually result in killing the tree. But usually only a small strip of the green bark is all that is necessary to get your fire started quickly and efficiently. You will probably be amazed at how easy the bark will be to light and how intense it will burn.

For an Emergency Splint

The same properties that the Native Americans found useful for constructing their canoes, baskets and other items, birch bark can be used as a very effective splint in the event of a broken limb or to protect other types of injuries. Wrapped around the injured area it will go a long ways to help to keep the wound immobile.

Once the injured area has been encased in the birch bark it should be secured in place. If you had the forethought to pack a roll of duck tape with you that would work great to hold the pieces of bark together. Nevertheless, a string or rope can also be used. And, if you can’t find anything else you can take further advantage of the birch tree by cutting small strips of flexible bark to be used for tying.

Birch Bark Moose & Elk Hunting Bugles

Again, because of the flexible nature of the birch bark it can be used to make game calls for species like elk or moose. If your targeted game is a bull elk your call will likely take the form of a long slender tube and for a moose call it would generally be shaped in a long funnel form.

Simply cut enough bark to form the call and use strips of the bark to hold it together. Once the bark dries it will retain that shape. Because it generally takes a fair amount of bark to make either of these calls it is best to make your cuts laterally down the trunk rather than around it to avoid any unnecessary damage to the tree’s lifeblood.


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