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Len McDougall

Agent: None
117 Michigan
Petoskey, Michigan, United States


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Biography of Len McDougall, Outdoor Writer

Len McDougall is a professional outdoorsman with more than 30 years’ experience in the north woods. A full-time outdoor writer and author of the books, Practical Outdoor Survival, Made for the Outdoors, The Complete Tracker, The Outdoors
Almanac, The Snowshoe Handbook, and The Outward Bound Wilderness Survival Handbook, he teaches survival classes by appointment and sometimes works as a guide.
Len’s interest in all things natural began at age 10. Having grown up with Indians of the Odawa and Ojibwa tribes in Northern Michigan, the Elders considered him more Nish-na-bee (Indian) than Chee-mook-a-mon (white), and accepted him as one of their own. With that status, he was eligible to receive the teachings of the Grandfathers, who are obligated by culture to pass what they know to the next generation. With no written language the tribes had already lost much, but what remained was enough to strike a fire in
young Len’s heart. With a passion that would consume his life, the boy “went Indian.”
At 12 Len was backpacking solo for a week at a time in summer. At 13 he was running a trapline to provide his family with money from the sale of pelts. At 16, he nearly died of hypothermia during his first solo winter camping trip. The following summer he was bitten by a Massasauga rattlesnake and survived 3 days alone in the woods before finding his way
back home (“Snakebitten!,” Michigan Out-of-Doors, October ‘85) . At 23, he was given
up for dead by local authorities while backpacking in -35 degree windchills. At 27, he was again given up for dead under similar conditions. At 38, he survived 3 days alone in a blizzard with windchills that exceeded -65 degrees, and no one worried.
In March 1997, Len found the first pair of timber wolves to migrate south to
Michigan’s Lower Peninsula in 100 years. He is currently guiding biologists from the
Natural Resources Commission of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians into the
area, gathering data on what has now become a viable pack. This is the first time a single, isolated wolf pack has been studied as it develops from a single pair into several packs, and wolf experts have already begun to take notes.
Having forged a career in manufacturing Quality Control for 10 years prior to becoming a writer, Len has found a niche in evaluating and writing about outdoor
products. At present he evaluates samples from more than 150 manufacturers, including
Sorel, Winchester, La Crosse, Kelty, MSR, Jansport, Pur, Tecnica, Pentax, Slumberjack,
MSR, Tasco, Timex, Simmons, Buck Knives, Brunton, Tecnica, and Remington. His
real-life field tests routinely find flaws in products that receive glowing reviews from his contemporaries, and he is called on frequently to evaluate conceptual designs, prototypes, and new gear before it reaches the marketplace.
At age 43, Len says he’s had more financially lucrative jobs than writing, but none more fulfilling. He likes to think that what he writes is a contribution to the well-being of fellow outdoorsmen. A grandfather himself, Len has assumed the obligation to pass along what he learned from his Indian mentors.
Although considered a loner by the people who know him best, Len prides himself on being available to lend a helping hand to those in need. In his own words, “There are only two rules to a good life: Always do the right thing, and always be the Good Guy.
Everything else will follow.”

Interests: Backpacking, fastpacking, snowshoeing, winter backpacking, tracking, hunting, shooting, wilderness survival, outdoor photography, wildlife research (esp. gray wolves), and virtually all aspects of livng comfortably within a wilderness environment.

Published writer: Yes

Freelance: Yes


Published works:


  • Practical Outdoor Survival: A Modern Approach to Staying Alive in the Wilderness
  • The Snowshoe Handbook
  • Made for the Outdoors: Over 40 Do-it-Yourself Projects for the Great Outdoors
  • The Complete Tracker: Tracks, Signs and Habits of North American Wildlife
  • The Outdoors Almanac: Practical Solutions for the Wilderness Experience