ANIMALS FOR FOOD
When forced to live off of the land you first thoughts with regard to food should not be directed at large game. Large game is harder to kill and usually more wary of people. Small animals will provide you with a more consistent source of protein.
Relatively few animals are poisonous so learning which ones to avoid is fairly simple.
You can, with relatively few exceptions, eat anything that crawls, swims,
walks, or flies. The first obstacle is overcoming your natural aversion to
a particular food source. You wouldn't want to starve while surrounded by food.
The most abundant food source on earth is the lowly insect. They are easily caught. Insects are actually higher in protein than beef by a factor of more than three. So insects can be an extremely important survival food. Insects to avoid include all adults that sting or bite, hairy or brightly colored insects, and caterpillars and insects that have a pungent odor. Also avoid spiders and common disease carriers such as ticks, flies,
Rotting logs are great places to look for a insects including ants, termites, beetles, and grubs. Grassy areas, such as fields, are good areas to search because the insects are
plentiful and easily seen. Stones, boards, or other materials lying on the ground provide
the insects with good nesting sites. Check these sites for insect larvae. Insects such as beetles and grasshoppers that have a hard outer shell will have parasites. Cook them before eating. Remove any wings and barbed legs also. Mix insects with plant material is a good way to overcome aversion to eating such distasteful food.
Worms (Annelidea) are an excellent protein source. Dig for them in
damp rich soil. After capturing them, drop them into clean, potable water for a few minutes so that they will first purge themselves. Then you can eat them either cooked or raw.
Freshwater shrimp can be collected from ponds with a dipnet (grass shrimp) larger river shrimp can be pulled from rivers such as the Mississippi River by putting out dense Christmas tree like bushes into the water and then pulling them out quickly after they have had a long sit. Many of the shrimp will fall off but if the bush is dense enough and you pull it out quickly enough you can manage to catch some shrimp as they fall onto the ground when you shake them out of the bush.
Crayfish (crawfish) are basically small lobsters. Crayfish love meat and if they are present you can catch them with a piece of rotting meat and a string. Don't waste good meat as bait. Use discarded pieces that aren't suitable to eat.
Crabs will come to bait placed at the edge
of the surf, where you can trap or net them. Crabs are
nocturnal and caught best at night but that daytime can be productive for them as well. Again meat on a string slowly lifted will allow you to scoop them up in a net or something before they let go. Boil them before eating.
This class includes octopuses and freshwater and saltwater shellfish
such as snails, clams, mussels, bivalves, barnacles, periwinkles, chitons,
and sea urchins. All of these make excellent food.
River snails or freshwater periwinkles are plentiful in rivers, streams,
and lakes up north.
In fresh water, look for mollusks in the shallows, especially in water with
a sandy or muddy bottom. Look for the narrow trails they leave in the
mud or for the dark elliptical slit of their open valves.
Near the ocean, search in the tidal pools and the wet sand. Rocks along
beaches or extending as reefs into deeper water often bear clinging
shellfish. Snails and limpets cling to rocks and seaweed from the low
water mark upward. Large snails, called chitons, adhere tightly to rocks
above the surf line.
Mussels may be poisonous in tropical zones during the summer!
Steam, boil, or bake mollusks in the shell. They make excellent stews.
Do not eat shellfish that are not covered by water at high tide!
Fish represent a good source of protein and fat. They offer some distinct
advantages to the survivor. They are usually more abundant
than mammal wildlife. To be successful at catching fish, you must know their habits. For instance, fish tend to feed heavily before a storm. Fish are not likely to feed after a
storm when the water is muddy and swollen. Light often attracts fish at
night. Fish will also gather where there are
deep pools, under overhanging brush, and in and around submerged
foliage, logs, or other objects that offer them shelter.
It is impossible to tell you how to successfully fish when the skill is hard enough without trying to generalize all the different species and places to fish. Keep in mind that fish doesn't necessarily mean big fish. If you don't have proper equipment it will probably serve you best to simply grab a long club like stick and bash it down on top of any minnows you see at the waters edge. The concusion will stun or kill the fish and although small it is a lot better than nothing.
There are no poisonous freshwater fish. However, the catfish species has
sharp, needle-like protrusions on its dorsal fins and barbels. These can
inflict painful puncture wounds that quickly become infected.
Cook all fish to kill parasites when possible but saltwater species a generally safe to eat raw. Only saltwater fish can be poisonous. Avoid eating anything other than the meat. Intestines and eggs should be avoided as they might be poisonous.
Frogs and salamanders are found around water. There are few poisonous species of frogs so avoid any brightly colored frogs. Do not however eat toads. Toads should be avoided at all cost.
Reptiles are a good protein source and relatively easy to catch. You
should cook them first. Box turtles can be toxic avoid them completely. Cooking does not destroy this toxins. Poisonous snakes, alligators are not poisonous but obviously present a different sort of hazard. Proceed with caution.
All species of birds are edible. You can take pigeons from their roost at night by hand. During the spring you might be able to pluck some birds straight off of a nest they are protecting.
Other than that the best way to catch birds for food is through the use of traps. Traps allow you to work on other things while the trap works silently and patiently for you.
Nesting birds present another opportunity... eggs.
Mammals are excellent protein source. Traps whether modern or primitive are the best way to go about catching them. A swift hit on the back of the head will kill any animals you catch instantly.
TRAPS AND SNARES
There are many different kinds of traps. Which one or ones you use will depend on your location and circumstances.
Look for the following:
Runs and trails.
Chewed or rubbed vegetation.
Nesting or roosting sites.
Feeding and watering areas.
Link to how to make various traps! Traps
Trap and Snare Construction
Traps and snares crush, choke, hang, or entangle the prey. A single trap or
snare will commonly incorporate two or more of these principles. The
mechanisms that provide power to the trap are almost always very simple.
The struggling victim, the force of gravity, or a bent sapling's tension
provides the power.
The heart of any trap or snare is the trigger. When planning a trap or
snare, ask yourself how it should affect the prey, what is the source of
power, and what will be the most efficient trigger. Your answers will
help you devise a specific trap for a specific species. Traps are designed
to catch and hold or to catch and kill. Snares are traps that incorporate
a noose to accomplish either function.
Position your traps and snares where there is proof that animals pass
through. Placing non-baited traps randomly will almost never catch any food.
You must remove or mask the human scent on and around the trap you
Concentrate your trapping efforts on birds as they are more mobile and can't smell so your scent won't scare them away from the trap like it will with most mammals.
Actually removing the scent from a trap is difficult but masking it is
relatively easy. Use the fluid from the gall and urine bladders of previous
kills. Mud, particularly from an area with also helps. Also use it to coat your hands when handling the trap and to coat the trap when setting it.
Traps or snares placed on a trail or run should use sticks to guide the animal to move where you want it to. A line of sticks stuck in the ground can serve this purpose. Although it stands out to you and me but to a raccoon or mink etc it doesn't really throw up any red flags in their minds.
Use of Bait
Baiting a trap greatly increases your chances of success.
When catching fish, you must bait nearly all the devices. Success with an
unbaited trap depends on its placement in a good location. A baited trap
will actually draw animals to it. When using bait scatter bits of it around the trap to give the prey a chance to sample it.
There are several killing devices that you can construct to help you
obtain small game to help you survive. The rabbit stick, the spear, the
bow and arrow, and the sling are such devices.
One of the simplest and most effective killing devices is a stout stick as
long as your arm, from fingertip to shoulder, called a "rabbit stick." You
can throw it either overhand or sidearm and with considerable force. It
is very effective against small game that stops and freezes as a defense.
You can make a spear to kill small game and to fish. Jab with the spear,
do not throw it.
Bow and Arrow
A good bow is the result of many hours of work. You can construct a
suitable short-term bow fairly easily. When it loses its spring or breaks,
you can replace it. Select a hardwood stick about one meter long that is
free of knots or limbs. Carefully scrape the large end down until it has
the same pull as the small end. Careful examination will show the natural
curve of the stick. Always scrape from the side that faces you, or the
bow will break the first time you pull it. Dead, dry wood is preferable to
green wood. To increase the pull, lash a second bow to the first, front to
front, forming an "X" when viewed from the side. Attach the tips of the
bows with cordage and only use a bowstring on one bow.
Select arrows from the straightest dry sticks available. The arrows should
be about half as long as the bow. Scrape each shaft smooth all around.
You will probably have to straighten the shaft. You can bend an arrow
straight by heating the shaft over hot coals. Do not allow the shaft to
scorch or burn. Hold the shaft straight until it cools.
You can make arrowheads from bone, glass, metal, or pieces of rock. You
can also sharpen and fire harden the end of the shaft. To fire harden wood,
hold it over hot coals, being careful not to burn or scorch the wood.
You must notch the ends of the arrows for the bowstring. Cut or file the
notch; do not split it. Fletching (adding feathers to the notched end of
an arrow) improves the arrow's flight characteristics, but is not necessary
on a field-expedient arrow.
You can make a sling by tying two pieces of cordage, about sixty centimeters
long, at opposite ends of a palm-sized piece of leather or cloth.
Place a rock in the cloth and wrap one cord around the middle finger
and hold in your palm. Hold the other cord between the forefinger and
thumb. To throw the rock, spin the sling several times in a circle and
release the cord between the thumb and forefinger. Practice to gain
proficiency. The sling is very effective against small game.
You can make your own fishhooks, nets and traps and use several methods
to obtain fish in a survival situation.
You can make field-expedient fishhooks from pins, needles, wire, small
nails, or any piece of metal. You can also use wood, bone, coconut shell,
thorns, flint, seashell, or tortoise shell. You can also make fishhooks
from any combination of these items.
To make a wooden hook, cut a piece of hardwood about 1 inch (2.5cm)
long and about 1/4 inch (6mm) in diameter to form the shank. Cut a notch
in one end in which to place the point. Place the point (piece of bone,
wire, nail) in the notch. Hold the point in the notch and tie securely so
that it does not move out of position. This is a fairly large hook. To
make smaller hooks, use smaller material.
A gorge is a small shaft of wood, bone, metal, or other material. It is
sharp on both ends and notched in the middle where you tie cordage.
Bait the gorge by placing a piece of bait on it lengthwise. When the fish
swallows the bait, it also swallows the gorge.
A stakeout is a fishing device you can use in a hostile environment. To construct a stakeout, drive two supple saplings into the
bottom of the lake, pond, or stream with their tops just below the water
surface. Tie a cord between them and slightly below the surface. Tie two
short cords with hooks or gorges to this cord, ensuring that they cannot
wrap around the poles or each other. They should also not slip along the
long cord. Bait the hooks or gorges.
If a gill net is not available, you can make one small diameter line, preferably mono fishing line or similar material. Tie the line between two trees. Attach several
core lines to the easing by doubling them over and tying them with
prusik knots or girth hitches. The length of the desired net and the size
of the mesh determine the number of core lines used and the space
between them. Starting at one end of the easing, tie the second and the
third core lines together using an overhand knot. Then tie the fourth
and fifth, sixth and seventh, and so on, until you reach the last core line.
You should now have all core lines tied in pairs with a single core line
hanging at each end. Start the second row with the first core line, tie it
to the second, the third to the fourth, and so on.
To keep the rows even and to regulate the size of the mesh, tie a guideline
to the trees. Position the guideline on the opposite side of the net
you are working on. Move the guideline down after completing each
row. The lines will always hang in pairs and you always tie a cord from
one pair to a cord from an adjoining pair. Continue tying rows until the
net is the desired width. Thread a suspension line easing along the bottom
of the net to strengthen it.
You may trap fish using several methods. Fish baskets are
one method. You construct them by lashing several sticks together with
vines into a funnel shape. You close the top, leaving a hole large enough
for the fish to swim through.
You can also use traps to catch saltwater fish, as schools regularly
approach the shore with the incoming tide and often move parallel to
the shore. Pick a location at high tide and build the trap at low tide. On
rocky shores, use natural rock pools. On coral islands, use natural pools
on the surface of reefs by blocking the openings as the tide recedes. On
sandy shores, use sandbars and the ditches they enclose. Build the trap
as a low stone wall extending outward into the water and forming an
angle with the shore.
If you are near shallow water (about waist deep) where the fish are large
and plentiful, you can spear them. To make a spear, cut a long, straight
sapling. Sharpen the end to a point or attach a knife,
jagged piece of bone, or sharpened metal. You can also make a spear by
splitting the shaft a few inches down from the end and inserting a piece
of wood to act as a spreader. You then sharpen the two separated halves
to points. To spear fish, find an area where fish either gather or where
there is a fish run. Place the spear point into the water and slowly move
it toward the fish. Then, with a sudden push, impale the fish on the
stream bottom. Do not try to lift the fish with the spear, as it with probably
slip off and you will lose it; hold the spear with one hand and grab
and hold the fish with the other. Do not throw the spear, especially if
the point is a knife. You cannot afford to lose a knife in a survival situation.
Be alert to the problems caused by light refraction when looking at
objects in the water.
At night, in an area with a good fish density, you can use a light to
attract fish. Then, armed with a machete or similar weapon, you can
gather fish using the back side of the blade to strike them. Do not use
the sharp side as you will cut them in two pieces and end up losing
some of the fish.
PREPARATION OF FISH AND GAME
FOR COOKING AND STORAGE
You must know how to prepare fish and game for cooking and storage in
a survival situation. Improper cleaning or storage can result in inedible
fish or game.
Do not eat fish that appears spoiled. Cooking does not ensure that
spoiled fish will be edible. Signs of spoilage are:
Suspicious color. (Gills should be red to pink. Scales should be a
pronounced shade of gray, not faded.)
Dents stay in the fish's flesh after pressing it with your thumb.
Slimy, rather than moist or wet body.
Sharp or peppery taste.
Eating spoiled or rotten fish may cause diarrhea, nausea, cramps, vomiting,
itching, paralysis, or a metallic taste in the mouth. These symptoms
appear suddenly, one to six hours after eating. Induce vomiting if symptoms
Fish spoils quickly after death, especially on a hot day. Prepare fish
for eating as soon as possible after catching it. Cut out the gills and
large blood vessels that lie near the spine. Gut fish that is more than
10 centimeters long. Scale or skin the fish.
You can impale a whole fish on a stick and cook it over an open fire.
However, boiling the fish with the skin on is the best way to get the
most food value. The fats and oil are under the skin and, by boiling, you
can save the juices for broth. You can use any of the methods used to
cook plant food to cook fish. Pack fish into a ball of clay and bury it in
the coals of a fire until the clay hardens. Break open the clay ball to get
to the cooked fish. Fish is done when the meat flakes off. If you plan to
keep the fish for later, smoke or fry it. To prepare fish for smoking, cut
off the head and remove the backbone.
To skin a snake, first cut off its head and bury it. Then cut the skin down
the body 6 to 8 inches (15-20cm). Peel the skin back, then
grasp the skin in one hand and the body in the other and pull apart.
On large, bulky snakes it may be necessary to slit the belly skin. Cook
snakes in the same manner as small game. Remove the entrails and
discard. Cut the snake into small sections and boil or roast it.
After killing the bird, remove its feathers by either plucking or skinning.
Remember, skinning removes some of the food value. Open up the body
cavity and remove its entrails, saving the craw (in seed-eating birds),
heart, and liver. Cut off the feet. Cook by boiling or roasting over a spit.
Before cooking scavenger birds, boil them at least 20 minutes to kill
Skinning and Butchering Game
Bleed the animal by cutting its throat. If possible, clean the carcass near
a stream. Place the carcass belly up and split the hide from throat to
tail, cutting around all sexual organs. Remove the musk
glands at points A and B to avoid tainting the meat. For smaller mammals,
cut the hide around the body and insert two fingers under the hide
on both sides of the cut and pull both pieces off.
Note: When cutting the hide, insert the knife blade under the skin and turn
the blade up so that only the hide gets cut. This will also prevent cutting hair
and getting it on the meat.
Remove the entrails from smaller game by splitting the body open and
pulling them out with the fingers. Do not forget the chest cavity. For
larger game, cut the gullet away from the diaphragm. Roll the entrails
out of the body. Cut around the anus, then reach into the lower abdominal
cavity, grasp the lower intestine, and pull to remove. Remove the
urine bladder by pinching it off and cutting it below the fingers. If you
spill urine on the meat, wash it to avoid tainting the meat. Save the
heart and liver. Cut these open and inspect for signs of worms or other
parasites. Also inspect the liver's color; it could indicate a diseased animal.
The liver's surface should be smooth and wet and its color deep red
or purple. If the liver appears diseased, discard it. However, a diseased
liver does not indicate you cannot eat the muscle tissue.
Cut along each leg from above the foot to the previously made body cut.
Remove the hide by pulling it away from the carcass, cutting the connective
tissue where necessary. Cut off the head and feet.
Cut larger game into manageable pieces. First, slice the muscle tissue
connecting the front legs to the body. There are no bones or joints
connecting the front legs to the body on four-legged animals. Cut the
hindquarters off where they join the body. You must cut around a
large bone at the top of the leg and cut to the ball and socket hip
joint. Cut the ligaments around the joint and bend it back to separate
it. Remove the large muscles (the tenderloin) that lie on either side
of the spine.
Separate the ribs from the backbone. There is less work and less wear
on your knife if you break the ribs first, then cut through the breaks.
Cook large meat pieces over a spit or boil them. You can stew or boil
smaller pieces, particularly those that remain attached to bone after the
initial butchering, as soup or broth. You can cook body organs such as
the heart, liver, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys using the same methods
as for muscle meat. You can also cook and eat the brain. Cut the tongue
out, skin it, boil it until tender, and eat it.