Self-Reliance & The Provider Life


By Johnny Mack

Owner of Washington Backcountry and "The Soulful Hunter Podcast".  Self proclaimed "adult onset hunter", who found primal adventure was what set his soul on fire.  You'd be hard pressed not to catch him without a smile.  


What does self-reliance mean to you afield?

Self-reliance is the foundation of what a provider is and does. After that, The ability to trust and truly know yourself is fundamental towards progress and growth. I was raised in a home where the words “Either you are getting better or you are getting worse,” was pounded into my head by my father and his voice still echoes in my mind to this day. When I take his words and apply them into my love for my family, hunting and my joy for living, I am reminded of how thankful I am to be able to support my community of souls with their needs and desire for food and safety. Finally, the old saying, “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime,” is a resounding voice within my growth of being a provider.   

What it means to me

So what does self-reliance mean to me when I’m afield? Firstly, It means that I have passed through the fires of adolescence and arrived in the mastery of adulthood. That I can look upon my own soul, knowledge and skill sets, take a deep breath, and know that no matter what the world throws at me, myself and my community are going to be taken care of. Self-reliance is described as an art, because it is different to each and every person. Just like a diamond has many facets, the beauty of self-reliance stems from the different angles in which you view it. In conclusion, It is not simply the removal of obstacles, but rather the ability to assess, adapt and overcome.


How does it overlap/translate into your average days in civilization?

Firstly, The provider life does not take breaks. It is not a light switch that you can turn off and on. Secondly, It goes before me and shadows my every move. Whether I am deep within the backcountry on a hunt in search of the ultimate adventure or swallowed by the words of a book, a person's thirst for knowledge is at the core of self-reliance and provider life. 

I don't always have the answer or fix for what is needed. I have the mindset and skill set to seek and find what is lacking. Self reliance begins and ends with intent. With purpose. With eyes and hearts for others. It is the heart of a leader. So how does self-reliance translate into my average day in civilization? My answer is, it never stops. 

What's an "oddity" in your kit that you rely on and would recommend to others?

My first initial response to this question was a pocketknife, however, after much thought and conflict of a knife not being an “oddity” within my kit. I would have to say chapstick. The ability to quickly waterproof or lubricate is essential. Especially for long distance travel, repair or overall sense of safety and ease. Let alone chapped lips are the WORST! Burt’s Bees is my go-to for lip quenching cover. Self-reliance starts with my EDC (everyday carry) essentials of a pocketknife (Benchmade Mini Barrage) and chapstick. 

What skill would you want to pass along to your children, or friends?

 My response to this question has two answers and both focus on the importance of self-reliance. Humans are not merely a physical being. We are mind, body and soul.

 The first skill I hope to pass down is essential for growth and self-reliance is the ability to think critically. This is a lost skill set in today’s society. People are not the keeper of knowledge anymore. Too often do people instantly accept whatever is told to them as 100% truth. What if every time Alexa or Siri gave you an answer to a question it was wrong? How many people would use critical thinking skills to challenge the answer for truths. The ability to critically think helps a person wade through the weeds of life. And solidifies their own knowledge and ideology of who they are. It cements their knowledge and fertilizes the mind, body and soul all in one.

 The other skill that I want my children to know is the knowledge of how to hunt and harvest. To stand firm in their ability to procure food for themselves and others. This skill instantly thrusts a person into a leadership role in life and is often looked upon as an answer to prayers and or needs. Food is not only good for the body, but in addition,  it also fuels the mind and soul!

What skills/knowledge are you hoping to learn or gain to become more self-sufficient? 

 The one thing that I know I could use more work and experience at would be the ability to reverse engineer. So often in life, people give up or rather throw something away because they do not have the skill set to fix it, however, if it is made by man, it can be fixed by man. This goes back to being the owner of your own knowledge. More often than not, people simply are in too much of a hurry to pause and reflect upon circumstances to be able to adapt and overcome an obstacle. 

What are the "just in case," items you carry in your kit? 

Being a hunter and knowing that I am going to be in situations that can be both mentally, emotionally and physically demanding. For example, the first go to that I carry in my kit is Werther’s Original hard candies. Above all, there is a huge nostalgic aspect to popping one in my mouth that reminds me of home and comfort. As simple and small as it is, a hard candy to suck on helps pass the time and can lift the spirits all at once. Secondly, the other food that I ALWAYS carry with me into the wilderness is gummy bears. Whether it is a sugar rush that I am looking for or comfort food, gummy bears always seem to be the answer. 

 Although my previous two answers are pure gold, subsequently, the “just in case” items that I carry are a tourniquet and a Garmin InReach. I have heard and seen too many stories where the ability to stop blood flow with a belt is not sufficient. The prowess to conserve blood, in addition to instantly being able to send an S.O.S. emergency message is paramount for survival and self reliance.

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