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School of Primitive & Traditional Skills

At Gone Feral, we’re all about getting people outside, doing.

In an age of an increasingly virtual existence and digital relationships, we’re bucking the trend by offering experiences in the raw reality of life: the primitive and traditional skills that it takes to live off the land.

About Founder & Director, Doug Hill

Doug has been called a “steward of the old ways”, “MacGyver of the woods”, and “Bow Drill Jesus”, among other things both couth and uncouth.

But first and foremost, you could call Doug a teacher. His eyes alight in those teachable moments as he recognizes the opportunity to share. He is also a writer, filmmaker, naturalist, and practitioner of primitive and traditional living skills.

Doug Hill On The Cover of Westword

Doug on the cover of Westword magazine, Denver, Colorado. Photo by Anthony Camera.

Doug is an Adjunct Instructor with Red Rocks Community College, where he teaches Wilderness Survival Skills and Winter Survival in the Outdoor Education department as well as Bow-Carving in the Fine-Woodworking program. He teaches annually for the Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s Field Institute, at the primitive skills gathering Rabbitstick, and for outdoor programs throughout Colorado and across the US.

Doug is a Consulting Member for the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education and volunteers as a Naturalist and Trail Guide with the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Department. He is a strong proponent of experiential education and brings a hands-on approach to all that he teaches.

Doug lived outdoors for three months interning with Robin Blankenship at her Stone Age skills school Earth Knack where he co-led school and public programs. He also completed the six-month Hunter-Gatherer Intensive with Eddie Starnater at Practical Primitive, studied prehistory and technology with Steve Watts at the Center for Aboriginal Studies of The Schiele Museum of Natural History, as well as winter bushcraft and survival with Tim Smith at Jack Mountain Bushcraft, developed his knowledge of the natural world through Jon Young’s Kamana Naturalist Training Progam, and took the Standard with Tom Brown, Jr at his Tracker School.

Always the student, Doug continually attends and presents at conferences, gatherings, and other educational networking events to improve his skill level and keep current on educational thinking and practice.

Doug holds a B.S. in Technological Studies/Technology Education from The College of New Jersey, a Standard Certificate of Teaching in the field of Industrial Arts/Technology Education, and holds memberships in the Society of Primitive Technology, the Colorado Archaeological Society, and the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education. He has a background in teaching public high school before turning to informal environmental and outdoor education.

Doug is certified as a Wilderness First Responder by NOLS’ Wilderness Medicine Institute and in K9 First Aid & CPR by paramedic Eric Roth. His first three films, What if… (2010), Old Skill, New Use (2015), and The Children (2016) were all accepted into international film festivals, he was the winner of the 2014 If These Boots Could Talk short story contest and he contributed to the 2011 book on homelessness Until They Have Faces.

Doug Hill and Gone Feral in the Media

Regarding “Survival”

At Gone Feral, we don’t settle for ‘survival’. The Gone Feral approach is to teach a well-rounded set of skills that promotes comfort in the natural world. Here’s the metaphor: if you were to be dropped into a foreign country, a “cultural wilderness” so to speak, where you’ve never been, don’t speak the language, and don’t know a soul…what would you do?

Doug Hill in Buckskin with Bow and Arrow

The ‘survival skills’ approach would have me show you the one place you could find help, teach you three words that might get you helped, and maybe give you a quarter for a pay phone. But what happens when you have no idea how to get to that place of help and discover that there is no phone? And what if you go somewhere that a different language is spoken…

The Gone Feral approach is to teach a breadth and depth of wilderness skills to promote confidence, self-reliance, experience, proficiency, and stewardship. Skills and experience that translate across terrain and ecosystems. Should you ever find yourself in a situation where life or safety are at stake, you’ll have the skills you need to adapt, improvise, survive…and thrive.

I could teach you in three minutes how to survive a night in the woods in a majority of places on the planet. In fact, what the hell-

  1. Carry a modern firestarter (like a ferro rod or matches) as well as tinder (WetFire or 100% cottonballs soaked in petroleum jelly) both inside waterproof containers (but separate from one another).
  2. When you get stuck for the night: S.T.F.D. That stands for Sit The Hell Down. (The F is silent.) Get calm.
  3. Find a natural shelter or scrape one together into something that resembles a lean-to.
  4. Use your fancy fire starter and tinder to get a blaze going. Locate it one step in front of your lean-to and build it as long as you are tall. Collect as much firewood as you think you’ll need for the night. Then triple that amount.
  5. Sleep. Wake to stoke the fire as necessary.

That’s the nutshell version. If you want to learn more, or actually do it, come see us for a course.

On Location for In-Person Workshops, Group Outings, and Apprenticeship Training

Most of our courses take place at our 320-acre Field School north of Ward, Colorado. The site boasts a wilderness “feel” and resources while being easily accessible and close to home.

Occasionally, courses take place at other sites throughout Colorado and across the U.S. Please check individual courses of interest for their location.

campcraft

Field School

Our 320-acre Field School lies just off the Peak-to-Peak Highway (Hwy 72) north of Ward, Colorado. Situated at 9000’, it boasts a year-round creek and all the life and resources of the Colorado Montane forest, including bear, elk, moose, lion, lodgepole, aspen, fir, and more. Infrastructure is ‘primitive’ and includes a composting toilet (as of April 2016). There is no plumbing or electricity. The site is a 1 ½ mile hike down a rugged trail from the trailhead (and parking). May to September we have nearby private vehicle emergency access. Please plan to carry your gear from the trailhead to the site.

If you are traveling from a location below 5500’, we strongly recommend that you arrive 2-3 days early and stay in the nearby town of Nederland in order to acclimate to the elevation. Altitude illness (including AMS, HAPE, and HACE) can effect anyone regardless of physical condition, age, gender, or race, and we can’t emphasize enough the ability to acclimate.

Other Sites

Niwot: Occasionally we run courses a little closer to home near the town of Niwot, Colorado. Courses take place on the grounds of the Haystack Mountain Golf Course, predominantly in the wild areas along the North Branch of the Boulder Creek and nearer to Haystack Mountain itself.

Jax: For less-wild, equipment-heavy courses we offer courses at Jax Outdoor Gear in Lafayette, Colorado. Courses may be inside or out, depending on content. Please arrive prepared for both.
School Policies

Please read this information in its entirety, regarding school and refund policies before registering for a course with Gone Feral.

Gone Feral School Policies

Please read the information below in its entirety before registering for a course with Gone Feral.

Summary

Gone Feral LLC is a private company focusing on work with adults. As we all come from different backgrounds and perspectives, our policies are established for the benefit, safety, and comfort of all participants. In brief, please help us to maintain a “family atmosphere” while on courses with Gone Feral, both on and off our Field School site.

Behavior

Mature, responsible behavior is expected at all times. Please keep colorful language to a minimum.

Firearms, Alcohol, Drugs

Alcohol, firearms, and drugs (including marijuana) are prohibited on Gone Feral courses at all times. If you plan to smoke (tobacco) please see our staff for an appropriate smoking location onsite.

Animals/Companions/Pets

Courses are inherently dangerous for domestic animals. They may also cause undue stress to wildlife. We love animals. So please leave them at home. Participants arriving with pets (including planning to leave them in their vehicle) will be asked to leave the course, without a refund.

Enrollment

Payment is due for courses at the time of registration in order to confirm your spot on a course.

Refund Policy

We are a very small operation. We maintain small class sizes to assure a strong experience for participants. As such, we do not overbook on courses and it is difficult to fill last minute openings. Late notice cancellations adversely affect our operating expenses, staffing needs, and the experience of participants. Please be 100% sure you can, and want, to take a course before enrolling.

In the event of a necessary cancellation, refunds will be given accordingly:

  • Full refund, less a $35 administrative fee for cancellations made more than 4 weeks prior to a course start date
  • 50% refund for cancellations made more than 14 days prior to a course start date
  • No refund will be given for cancellations made less than 14 days prior to a course start date

Physical Condition

While our courses are not deliberately physically demanding by athletic standards, they do take place at 9000’ in a semi-dry environment. In addition, the practice of primitive/wilderness skills and bushcraft may be outside the normal physical demands of participants. Please consult your physician before registering for one of our courses. Contact us in advance if you have questions.