The Hunter’s fire technique
An overview of the technique, building method and advantages/disadvantages.
This fire technique has a small to average amount of woodconsumption. This type of fire is made to regulate the heat of the fire and to constantly be able to add or adjust the wood / coals under the pots. The fire needs a lot of small maintanance to keep the temperature exactly how you want it to be. It can burn for 5 to 10 minutes maintenance-free but this is not really what this technique is for. You want to maintain the fire to keep the temperature exactly right.
The name of this fire derives of how this fire is most often used. Hunters directly prepared meals out of their hunt and they needed big pots to make stew. Often several big pots are needed to prepare different ingredients on different temperatures. A hunters fire meets these requirements.
The adjustment to the fireplace makes it easy to add new fuel to the fire without the need of lifting pots. Also embers can be taken out of the fire and can easily be replaced to cook on. This makes regulating the heat very easy.
Build technique and methods to start the fire
First dig out the first ground layer (till sand or rock-bottom) to be able to clean the fireplace up afterwards and have a secure fire-spot. Also read ‘Before making a fire‘ (opening in new tab) to read about ‘safety’, ‘order’ and ‘leaving no trace’.
Key in making a good hunters fire is preparation. First decide from which direction the wind is blowing (most of the time). Visualize a rectangle in line with this direction and place two long and wide logs in line with the long sides of this rectangle. It should be about 3,5ft / 1M long and 1 to 1,5 ft (30 to 40cm) wide. By directing the opening towards the direction where the wind is coming from, you don’t have to add oxygen by blowing into the fire all the time.
As an alternative for the two long logs, which will inevitable end up burning, you can use stones or clay to make the two long sides of the rectangle.
These rigs will keep the fire compact and lead the heat upwards. They also provide a steady base for the pots. If the pots are not wide enough to stand on both rigs you can use two fresh thick green branches to cross this distance. Place the pot on these braches.
Start a fire using the teepee or criss-cross technique on the side where the wind is blowing from. When the fire is steady and produces coal, you can take these coals out of the fire along with the direction of the wind. Now you can place pots on the part with coals for low-temperature slowcooking / stewing and place pots on the part with the open flame for high-temperature fastcooking / baking.
Keep the fire burning by sliding new twigs and small branches under the pots in the open flame. Keep the coals on temperature by regularly adding coals from the fire to the place you cook on coals.
Leave no trace
To fit this fire into the ‘Leave no trace principal‘ you must dig a fire-pit in advance This pit needs to be dug till sand or clay-ground is reached. Making a fire on rock-bottom is not recommended as the marks of your fire can never be erased. After the fire has burned down and the coals are cooled, the top-ground layer can be replaced to leave no trace.
Pro’s and con’s
The hunters fire is, like said, effective for cooking. You can perfectly regulate the heat of the fire to your desires and needs. It is possible to cook with more than two pots and the pots can be really big.
This fire is not effective as a campfire as it does not give a lot of heat, light and needs a lot of maintenance. It needs some wind to be effective and has to be build in this direction to be working. If not, the fire will smoulder a lot and you have to blow a lot to compensate. It needs low to average initial expenditure of energy to create this fire. Fuel needs to be added every 5 to 10 minutes in small portions. This fire might not keep the most cheeky animals away but will keep most of them on a distance.
It depends on your situation which fire technique is best for you.
You have to pay attention to the possibility of a root fire when using a hunters fire in a wooded area. This is a fire that burns underground along the root system of a tree. Root fires can also travel underground and resurface some distance from their point of origin. This is especially the case in dry conditions.