Thursday, June 23, 2011


[Ron Hood died in his sleep on Tuesday, June 21, 2011]

Everyone knew Ron Hood. For me, he was the one relatively local person who was teaching the survival skills I wanted to learn. I knew of Ron long before I ever heard of Tom Brown. I knew about Larry Dean Olsen from his Outdoor Survival Skills book, and wanted to attend Olsen’s classes in the wilderness, but they were a long way from home, and I had no money.

So I studied ethnobotany close to home, from whomever I could. Sometime in the late 1970s, I was invited on a Los Angeles television talk show to talk about survival. The three guests were me to talk about wild foods, and Ellen Hall of WTI to talk about survival clothing, and Ron Hood. That was the first time we met. I recalled Ron as a somewhat thin man, about 10 years older than me, who brought a scientific mind to survival topics.

Occasionally, when drought and disaster and survival were in the news, Ron and I were often interviewed for the same news items. The media called me the “soft survivalist” and Ron the “hard survivalist.” Ron’s policy was “shoot first, ask questions later,” and my policy was why kill an animal at all if you can eat plants.

Ron was a Vietnam veteran, and was teaching at Northridge when I knew him. I would hear of his Sierra excursions from time to time.

Many years passed, and I often wondered what had become of Ron Hood. I learned that he’d moved to Idaho, and was now making the Wood’s Master survival videos, and had cannily obtained the URL.

Ron’s videos went into great detail on how to make a fire, build a shelter, make traps and snares, and more. Ron was doing all this, and showing how to do it right, in the proper context, way before there were the ridiculous survival game shows (e.g. Survivor), and before the appearance of Man vs. Wild or Survivorman.

In 2000, when I began working for Fox TV’s X Show, I got many of my ideas for what skills to demonstrate to the TV audience from Ron’s videos. Some skills I learned for the first time from his videos, such as how to make the primitive cross bow, the figure 4 deadfall trigger, and snares.

I think it was 1993 when a death brought Ron (and Karen) and I a bit closer. I was leading a Wild Food Walk on Memorial Day when a close friend of Ron’s dropped dead. Ron and I shared many conversations about Martin Kruse, and Ron had told me that he wished he had been there in Martin’s final moments.

By the early 2000s, followers of Hoods on-line Forum started having their get-togethers around the country, calling themselves the “hoodlums.” I participated in a few of these, as did Dude McLean and Alan Halcon. These get-togethers segued into our annual Dirttime event, where we taught survival skills for a week in the wilderness. Ron came to many of these, the last being at Lake Silverwood in the San Bernardino Forest in 2009.

Ron inspired a whole generation of outdoor skills practitioners. His death comes as a shock to me and many others. We all send our condolences to his wife Karen and his son Jesse.

I am sure everyone has many Ron Hood stories. These are mine.