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CHAPTER 8 - FOOD PROCUREMENT
After water, man's most urgent requirement is
food. In contemplating virtually any hypothetical survival situation, the mind
immediately turns to thoughts of food. Unless the situation occurs in an arid
environment, even water, which is more important to maintaining body
functions, will almost always follow food in our initial thoughts. The
survivor must remember that the three essentials of survival--water, food, and
shelter--are prioritized according to the estimate of the actual situation.
This estimate must not only be timely but accurate as well. Some situations
may well dictate that shelter precede both food and water.
ANIMALS FOR FOOD
Unless you have the chance to take large game,
concentrate your efforts on the smaller animals, due to their abundance. The
smaller animal species are also easier to prepare. You must not know all the
animal species that are suitable as food. Relatively few are poisonous, and they
make a smaller list to remember. What is important is to learn the habits and
behavioral patterns of classes of animals. For example, animals that are
excellent choices for trapping, those that inhabit a particular range and occupy
a den or nest, those that have somewhat fixed feeding areas, and those that have
trails leading from one area to another. Larger, herding animals, such as elk or
caribou, roam vast areas and are somewhat more difficult to trap. Also, you must
understand the food choices of a particular species.
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. Historically, people in
starvation situations have resorted to eating everything imaginable for
nourishment. A person who ignores an otherwise healthy food source due to a
personal bias, or because he feels it is unappetizing, is risking his own
survival. Although it may prove difficult at first, a survivor must eat what is
available to maintain his health.
The most abundant life-form on earth, insects are
easily caught. Insects provide 65 to 80 percent protein compared to 20 percent
for beef. This fact makes insects an important, if not overly appetizing, food
source. 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, and
Rotting logs lying on the ground are excellent
places to look for a variety of insects including ants, termites, beetles, and
grubs, which are beetle larvae. Do not overlook insect nests on or in the
ground. Grassy areas, such as fields, are good areas to search because the
insects are easily seen. Stones, boards, or other materials lying on the ground
provide the insects with good nesting sites. Check these sites. Insect larvae
are also edible. 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. You can eat most insects raw. The taste varies from one species to
another. Wood grubs are bland, while some species of ants store honey in their
bodies, giving them a sweet taste. You can grind a collection of insects into a
paste. You can mix them with edible vegetation. You can cook them to improve
Worms (Annelidea) are an excellent protein
source. Dig for them in damp humus soil or watch for them on the ground after a
rain. After capturing them, drop them into clean, potable water for a few
minutes. The worms will naturally purge or wash themselves out, after which you
can eat them raw.
Freshwater shrimp range in size from 0.25
centimeter up to 2.5 centimeters. They can form rather large colonies in mats of
floating algae or in mud bottoms of ponds and lakes.
Crayfish are akin to marine lobsters and crabs.
You can distinguish them by their hard exoskeleton and five pairs of legs, the
front pair having oversized pincers. Crayfish are active at night, but you can
locate them in the daytime by looking under and around stones in streams. You
can also find them by looking in the soft mud near the chimneylike breathing
holes of their nests. You can catch crayfish by tying bits of offal or internal
organs to a string. When the crayfish grabs the bait, pull it to shore before it
has a chance to release the bait.
You find saltwater lobsters, crabs, and shrimp
from the surf's edge out to water 10 meters deep. Shrimp may come to a light at
night where you can scoop them up with a net. You can catch lobsters and crabs
with a baited trap or a baited hook. Crabs will come to bait placed at the edge
of the surf, where you can trap or net them. Lobsters and crabs are nocturnal
and caught best at night.
This class includes octopuses and freshwater and
saltwater shellfish such as snails, clams, mussels, bivalves, barnacles,
periwinkles, chitons, and sea urchins (Figure 8-1). You
find bivalves similar to our freshwater mussel and terrestrial and aquatic
snails worldwide under all water conditions.
River snails or freshwater periwinkles are
plentiful in rivers, streams, and lakes of northern coniferous forests. These
snails may be pencil point or globular in shape.
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
Near the sea, look 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 usually form dense colonies in rock
pools, on logs, or at the base of boulders.
Mussels may be poisonous
in tropical zones during the summer!
Steam, boil, or bake mollusks in the shell. They
make excellent stews in combination with greens and tubers.
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 or evader. They are usually
more abundant than mammal wildlife, and the ways to get them are silent. 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. When there
is a heavy current, fish will rest in places where there is an eddy, such as
near rocks. Fish will also gather where there are deep pools, under overhanging
brush, and in and around submerged foliage, logs, or other objects that offer
There are no poisonous freshwater fish. However,
the catfish species has sharp, needlelike protrusions on its dorsal fins and
barbels. These can inflict painful puncture wounds that quickly become infected.
Cook all freshwater fish to kill parasites. Also
cook saltwater fish caught within a reef or within the influence of a freshwater
source as a precaution. Any marine life obtained farther out in the sea will not
contain parasites because of the saltwater environment. You can eat these raw.
Certain saltwater species of fish have poisonous
flesh. In some species the poison occurs seasonally in others, it is permanent.
Examples of poisonous saltwater fish are the porcupine fish, triggerfish,
cowfish, thorn fish, oilfish, red snapper, jack, and puffer (Figure
8-2). The barracuda, while not actually poisonous itself, may transmit
ciguatera (fish poisoning) if eaten raw.
Frogs and salamanders are easily found around
bodies of fresh water. Frogs seldom move from the safety of the water's edge. At
the first sign of danger, they plunge into the water and bury themselves in the
mud and debris. There are few poisonous species of frogs. Avoid any brightly
colored frog or one that has a distinct "X" mark on it's back. Do not
confuse toads with frogs. You normally find toads in drier environments. Several
species of toads secrete a poisonous substance through their skin as a defense
against attack. Therefore, to avoid poisoning, do not handle or eat toads.
Salamanders are nocturnal. The best time to catch
them is at night using a light. They can range in size from a few centimeters to
well over 60 centimeters in length. Look in water around rocks and mud banks for
Reptiles are a good protein source and relatively
easy to catch. You should cook them, but in an emergency, you can eat them raw.
Their raw flesh may transmit parasites, but because reptiles are cold-blooded,
they do not carry the blood diseases of the warm-blooded animals.
The box turtle is a commonly encountered turtle
that you should not eat. It feeds on poisonous mushrooms and may build up a
highly toxic poison in its flesh. Cooking does not destroy this toxin. Avoid the
hawksbill turtle, found in the Atlantic Ocean, because of its poisonous thorax
gland. Poisonous snakes, alligators, crocodiles, and large sea turtles present
obvious hazards to the survivor.
All species of birds are edible, although the
flavor will vary considerably. You may skin fish-eating birds to improve their
taste. As with any wild animal, you must understand birds' common habits to have
a realistic chance of capturing them. You can take pigeons, as well as some
other species, from their roost at night by hand. During the nesting season,
some species will not leave the nest even when approached. Knowing where and
when the birds nest makes catching them easier (Figure 8-3).
Birds tend to have regular flyways going from the roost to a feeding area, to
water, and so forth. Careful observation should reveal where these flyways are
and indicate good areas for catching birds in nets stretched across the flyways
(Figure 8-4). Roosting sites and waterholes are some of
the most promising areas for trapping or snaring.
Nesting birds present another food source--eggs.
Remove all but two or three eggs from the clutch, marking the ones that you
leave. The bird will continue to lay more eggs to fill the clutch. Continue
removing the fresh eggs, leaving the ones you marked.
Mammals are excellent protein sources and, for
Americans, the most tasty food source. There are some drawbacks to obtaining
mammals. In a hostile environment, the enemy may detect any traps or snares
placed on land. The amount of injury an animal can inflict is in direct
proportion to its size. All mammals have teeth and nearly all will bite in
self-defense. Even a squirrel can inflict a serious wound and any bite presents
a serious risk of infection. Also, a mother can be extremely aggressive in
defense of her young. Any animal with no route of escape will fight when
All mammals are edible; however, the polar bear
and bearded seal have toxic levels of vitamin A in their livers. The platypus,
native to Australia and Tasmania, is an egg-laying, semiaquatic mammal that has
poisonous glands. Scavenging mammals, such as the opossum, may carry diseases.
TRAPS AND SNARES
For an unarmed survivor or
evader, or when the sound of a rifle shot could be a problem, trapping or
snaring wild game is a good alternative. Several well-placed traps have the
potential to catch much more game than a man with a rifle is likely to shoot. To
be effective with any type of trap or snare, you must--
- Be familiar with the species of animal you
intend to catch.
- Be capable of constructing a proper trap.
- Not alarm the prey by leaving signs of your
There are no catchall traps you can set for all
animals. You must determine what species are in a given area and set your traps
specifically with those animals in mind. Look for the following:
- Runs and trails.
- Chewed or rubbed vegetation.
- Nesting or roosting sites.
- Feeding and watering areas.
Position your traps and snares where there is
proof that animals pass through. You must determine if it is a "run"
or a "trail." A trail will show signs of use by several species and
will be rather distinct. A run is usually smaller and less distinct and will
only contain signs of one species. You may construct a perfect snare, but it
will not catch anything if haphazardly placed in the woods. Animals have bedding
areas, waterholes, and feeding areas with trails leading from one to another.
You must place snares and traps around these areas to be effective.
For an evader in a hostile environment, trap and
snare concealment is important. It is equally important, however, not to create
a disturbance that will alarm the animal and cause it to avoid the trap.
Therefore, if you must dig, remove all fresh dirt from the area. Most animals
will instinctively avoid a pitfall-type trap. Prepare the various parts of a
trap or snare away from the site, carry them in, and set them up. Such actions
make it easier to avoid disturbing the local vegetation, thereby alerting the
prey. Do not use freshly cut, live vegetation to construct a trap or snare.
Freshly cut vegetation will "bleed" sap that has an odor the prey will
be able to smell. It is an alarm signal to the animal.
You must remove or mask the human scent on and
around the trap you set. Although birds do not have a developed sense of smell,
nearly all mammals depend on smell even more than on sight. Even the slightest
human scent on a trap will alarm the prey and cause it to avoid the area.
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. Do not use human urine. Mud, particularly from an area with plenty of
rotting vegetation, is also good. Use it to coat your hands when handling the
trap and to coat the trap when setting it. In nearly all parts of the world,
animals know the smell of burned vegetation and smoke. It is only when a fire is
actually burning that they become alarmed. Therefore, smoking the trap parts is
an effective means to mask your scent. If one of the above techniques
is not practical, and if time permits, allow a trap to weather for a few days
and then set it. Do not handle a trap while it is weathering. When you position
the trap, camouflage it as naturally as possible to prevent detection by the
enemy and to avoid alarming the prey.
Traps or snares placed on a trail or run should
use channelization. To build a channel, construct a funnel-shaped barrier
extending from the sides of the trail toward the trap, with the narrowest part
nearest the trap. Channelization should be inconspicuous to avoid alerting the
prey. As the animal gets to the trap, it cannot turn left or right and continues
into the trap. Few wild animals will back up, preferring to face the direction
of travel. Channelization does not have to be an impassable barrier. You only
have to make it inconvenient for the animal to go over or through the barrier.
For best effect, the channelization should reduce the trail's width to just
slightly wider than the targeted animal's body. Maintain this constriction at
least as far back from the trap as the animal's body length, then begin the
widening toward the mouth of the funnel.
Use of Bait
Baiting a trap or snare increases your chances of
catching an animal. 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 can actually draw animals to it. The bait should be something the
animal knows. This bait, however, should not be so readily available in the
immediate area that the animal can get it close by. For example, baiting a trap
with corn in the middle of a corn field would not be likely to work. Likewise,
if corn is not grown in the region, a corn-baited trap may arouse an animal's
curiosity and keep it alerted while it ponders the strange food. Under such
circumstances it may not go for the bait. One bait that works well on small
mammals is the peanut butter from a meal, ready-to-eat (MRE) ration. Salt is
also a good bait. When using such baits, scatter bits of it around the trap to
give the prey a chance to sample it and develop a craving for it. The animal
will then overcome some of its caution before it gets to the trap.
If you set and bait a trap for one species but
another species takes the bait without being caught, try to determine what the
animal was. Then set a proper trap for that animal, using the same bait.
Note: Once you have successfully trapped an
animal, you will not only gain confidence in your ability, you also will have
resupplied yourself with bait for several more 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.
A simple snare (Figure 8-5)
consists of a noose placed over a trail or den hole and attached to a firmly
planted stake. If the noose is some type of cordage placed upright on a game
trail, use small twigs or blades of grass to hold it up. Filaments from spider
webs are excellent for holding nooses open. Make sure the noose is large enough
to pass freely over the animal's head. As the animal continues to move, the
noose tightens around its neck. The more the animal struggles, the tighter the
noose gets. This type of snare usually does not kill the animal. If you use
cordage, it may loosen enough to slip off the animal's neck. Wire is therefore
the best choice for a simple snare.
Use a drag noose on an animal run (Figure
8-6). Place forked sticks on either side of the run and lay a sturdy
crossmember across them. Tie the noose to the crossmember and hang it at a
height above the animal's head. (Nooses designed to catch by the head should
never be low enough for the prey to step into with a foot.) As the noose
tightens around the animal's neck, the animal pulls the crossmember from the
forked sticks and drags it along. The surrounding vegetation quickly catches the
crossmember and the animal becomes entangled.
A twitch-up is a supple sapling, which, when bent
over and secured with a triggering device, will provide power to a variety of
snares. Select a hardwood sapling along the trail. A twitch-up will work much
faster and with more force if you remove all the branches and foliage.
A simple twitch-up snare uses two forked sticks,
each with a long and short leg (Figure 8-7). Bend the
twitch-up and mark the trail below it. Drive the long leg of one forked stick
firmly into the ground at that point. Ensure the cut on the short leg of this
stick is parallel to the ground. Tie the long leg of the remaining forked stick
to a piece of cordage secured to the twitch-up. Cut the short leg so that it
catches on the short leg of the other forked stick. Extend a noose over the
trail. Set the trap by bending the twitch-up and engaging the short legs of the
forked sticks. When an animal catches its head in the noose, it pulls the forked
sticks apart, allowing the twitch-up to spring up and hang the prey.
Note: Do not use green sticks for the trigger. The
sap that oozes out could glue them together.
A squirrel pole is a long pole placed against a
tree in an area showing a lot of squirrel activity (Figure 8-8).
Place several wire nooses along the top and sides of the pole so that a squirrel
trying to go up or down the pole will have to pass through one or more of them.
Position the nooses (5 to 6 centimeters in diameter) about 2.5 centimeters off
the pole. Place the top and bottom wire nooses 45 centimeters from the top and
bottom of the pole to prevent the squirrel from getting its feet on a solid
surface. If this happens, the squirrel will chew through the wire. Squirrels are
naturally curious. After an initial period of caution, they will try to go up or
down the pole and will get caught in a noose. The struggling animal will soon
fall from the pole and strangle. Other squirrels will soon follow and, in this
way, you can catch several squirrels. You can emplace multiple poles to increase
Ojibwa Bird Pole
An Ojibwa bird pole is a snare used by native
Americans for centuries (Figure 8-9). To be effective,
place it in a relatively open area away from tall trees. For best results, pick
a spot near feeding areas, dusting areas, or watering holes. Cut a pole 1.8 to
2.1 meters long and trim away all limbs and foliage. Do not use resinous wood
such as pine. Sharpen the upper end to a point, then drill a small diameter hole
5 to 7.5 centimeters down from the top. Cut a small stick 10 to 15 centimeters
long and shape one end so that it will almost fit into the hole. This is the
perch. Plant the long pole in the ground with the pointed end up. Tie a small
weight, about equal to the weight of the targeted species, to a length of
cordage. Pass the free end of the cordage through the hole, and tie a slip noose
that covers the perch. Tie a single overhand knot in the cordage and place the
perch against the hole. Allow the cordage to slip through the hole until the
overhand knot rests against the pole and the top of the perch. The tension of
the overhand knot against the pole and perch will hold the perch in position.
Spread the noose over the perch, ensuring it covers the perch and drapes over on
both sides. Most birds prefer to rest on something above ground and will land on
the perch. As soon as the bird lands, the perch will fall, releasing the
over-hand knot and allowing the weight to drop. The noose will tighten around
the bird's feet, capturing it. If the weight is too heavy, it will cut the
bird's feet off, allowing it to escape.
A noose stick or "noosing wand" is
useful for capturing roosting birds or small mammals (Figure
8-10). It requires a patient operator. This wand is more a weapon than a
trap. It consists of a pole (as long as you can effectively handle) with a slip
noose of wire or stiff cordage at the small end. To catch an animal, you slip
the noose over the neck of a roosting bird and pull it tight. You can also place
it over a den hole and hide in a nearby blind. When the animal emerges from the
den, you jerk the pole to tighten the noose and thus capture the animal. Carry a
stout club to kill the prey.
Treadle Spring Snare
Use a treadle snare against small game on a trail
(Figure 8-11). Dig a shallow hole in the trail. Then
drive a forked stick (fork down) into the ground on each side of the hole on the
same side of the trail. Select two fairly straight sticks that span the two
forks. Position these two sticks so that their ends engage the forks. Place
several sticks over the hole in the trail by positioning one end over the lower
horizontal stick and the other on the ground on the other side of the hole.
Cover the hole with enough sticks so that the prey must step on at least one of
them to set off the snare. Tie one end of a piece of cordage to a twitch-up or
to a weight suspended over a tree limb. Bend the twitch-up or raise the
suspended weight to determine where You will tie a 5 centimeter or so long
trigger. Form a noose with the other end of the cordage. Route and spread the
noose over the top of the sticks over the hole. Place the trigger stick against
the horizontal sticks and route the cordage behind the sticks so that the
tension of the power source will hold it in place. Adjust the bottom horizontal
stick so that it will barely hold against the trigger. A the animal places its
foot on a stick across the hole, the bottom horizontal stick moves down,
releasing the trigger and allowing the noose to catch the animal by the foot.
Because of the disturbance on the trail, an animal will be wary. You must
therefore use channelization.
Figure 4 Deadfall
The figure 4 is a trigger used to drop a weight
onto a prey and crush it (Figure 8-12). The type of
weight used may vary, but it should be heavy enough to kill or incapacitate the
prey immediately. Construct the figure 4 using three notched sticks. These
notches hold the sticks together in a figure 4 pattern when under tension.
Practice making this trigger before-hand; it requires close tolerances and
precise angles in its construction.
The Paiute deadfall is similar to the figure 4
but uses a piece of cordage and a catch stick (Figure 8-13).
It has the advantage of being easier to set than the figure 4. Tie one end of a
piece of cordage to the lower end of the diagonal stick. Tie the other end of
the cordage to another stick about 5 centimeters long. This 5-centimeter stick
is the catch stick. Bring the cord halfway around the vertical stick with the
catch stick at a 90-degree angle. Place the bait stick with one end against the
drop weight, or a peg driven into the ground, and the other against the catch
stick. When a prey disturbs the bait stick, it falls free, releasing the catch
stick. As the diagonal stick flies up, the weight falls, crushing the prey.
A bow trap is one of the deadliest traps. It is
dangerous to man as well as animals (Figure 8-14). To
construct this trap, build a bow and anchor it to the ground with pegs. Adjust
the aiming point as you anchor the bow. Lash a toggle stick to the trigger
stick. Two upright sticks driven into the ground hold the trigger stick in place
at a point where the toggle stick will engage the pulled bow string. Place a
catch stick between the toggle stick and a stake driven into the ground. Tie a
trip wire or cordage to the catch stick and route it around stakes and across
the game trail where you tie it off (as in Figure 8-14).
When the prey trips the trip wire, the bow looses an arrow into it. A notch in
the bow serves to help aim the arrow.
This is a lethal trap.
Approach it with caution and from the rear only!
Pig Spear Shaft
To construct the pig spear shaft, select a stout
pole about 2.5 meters long (Figure 8-15). At the smaller
end, firmly lash several small stakes. Lash the large end tightly to a tree
along the game trail. Tie a length of cordage to another tree across the trail.
Tie a sturdy, smooth stick to the other end of the cord. From the first tree,
tie a trip wire or cord low to the ground, stretch it across the trail, and tie
it to a catch stick. Make a slip ring from vines or other suitable material.
Encircle the trip wire and the smooth stick with the slip ring. Emplace one end
of another smooth stick within the slip ring and its other end against the
second tree. Pull the smaller end of the spear shaft across the trail and
position it between the short cord and the smooth stick. As the animal trips the
trip wire, the catch stick pulls the slip ring off the smooth sticks, releasing
the spear shaft that springs across the trail and impales the prey against the
This is a lethal trap.
Approach it with caution!
A bottle trap is a simple trap for mice and voles
(Figure 8-16). Dig a hole 30 to 45 centimeters deep that
is wider at the bottom than at the top. Make the top of the hole as small as
possible. Place a piece of bark or wood over the hole with small stones under it
to hold it up 2.5 to 5 centimeters off the ground. Mice or voles will hide under
the cover to escape danger and fall into the hole. They cannot climb out because
of the wall's backward slope. Use caution when checking this trap; it is an
excellent hiding place for snakes.
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. See spearfishing
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 bum. 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 bum or scorch the
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 (Figure 8-17).
To make a wooden hook, cut a piece of hardwood
about 2.5 centimeters long and about 6 millimeters 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 (Figure 8-18). 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
using parachute suspension line or similar material (Figure
8-19). Remove the core lines from the suspension line and tie the easing
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. Use the gill net as shown in Figure 8-20.
You may trap fish using several methods (Figure
8-21). 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 (Figure 8-22). 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.
Another way to catch fish is by using poison.
Poison works quickly. It allows you to remain concealed while it takes effect.
It also enables you to catch several fish at one time. When using fish poison,
be sure to gather all of the affected fish, because many dead fish floating
downstream could arouse suspicion. Some plants that grow in warm regions of the
world contain rotenone, a substance that stuns or kills cold-blooded animals but
does not harm persons who eat the animals. The best place to use rotenone, or
rotenone-producing plants, is in ponds or the headwaiters of small streams
containing fish. Rotenone works quickly on fish in water 21 degrees C (70
degrees F) or above. The fish rise helplessly to the surface. It works slowly in
water 10 to 21 degrees C (50 to 70 degrees F) and is ineffective in water below
10 degrees C (50 degrees F). The following plants, used as indicated, will stun
or kill fish:
(Figure 8-23). This woody vine grows in southern Asia
and on islands of the South Pacific. Crush the bean-shaped seeds and throw
them in the water.
(Figure 8-23). This shrub or small tree grows in waste
areas on islands of the South Pacific. It bears seeds in three angled
capsules. Crush the seeds and throw them into the water.
(Figure 8-23). These large trees grow near the sea in
Malaya and parts of Polynesia. They bear a fleshy one-seeded fruit. Crush the
seeds and bark and throw into the water.
(Figure 8-23). This large genus of tropical shrubs and
woody vines is the main source of commercially produced rotenone. Grind the
roots into a powder and mix with water. Throw a large quantity of the mixture
into the water.
(Figure 8-23). This shrub grows in Australia and bears
white clusters of flowers and berrylike fruit. Crush the plants and throw them
into the water.
(Figure 8-23). This species of small shrubs, which
bears beanlike pods, grows throughout the tropics. Crush or bruise bundles of
leaves and stems and throw them into the water.
You can get lime from commercial sources and in agricultural areas that use
large quantities of it. You may produce your own by burning coral or
seashells. Throw the lime into the water.
Crush green husks from butternuts or black walnuts. Throw the husks into the
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--
- Sunken eyes.
- Peculiar odor.
- 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 appear.
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
To skin a snake, first cut off its head and bury
it. Then cut the skin down the body 15 to 20 centimeters (Figure
8-24). 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 (Figure
8-25). 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 (Figure
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.
To smoke meat, prepare an enclosure around a fire
(Figure 8-27). Two ponchos snapped together will work.
The fire does not need to be big or hot. The intent is to produce smoke, not
heat. Do not use resinous wood in the fire because its smoke will ruin the meat.
Use hardwoods to produce good smoke. The wood should be somewhat green. If it is
too dry, soak it. Cut the meat into thin slices, no more than 6 centimeters
thick, and drape them over a framework. Make sure none of the meat touches
another piece. Keep the poncho enclosure around the meat to hold the smoke and
keep a close watch on the fire. Do not let the fire get too hot. Meat smoked
overnight in this manner will last about 1 week. Two days of continuous smoking
will preserve the meat for 2 to 4 weeks. Properly smoked meat will look like a
dark, curled, brittle stick and you can eat it without further cooking. You can
also use a pit to smoke meat (Figure 8-28).
To preserve meat by drying, cut it into
6-millimeter strips with the grain. Hang the meat strips on a rack in a sunny
location with good air flow. Keep the strips out of the reach of animals and
cover them to keep blowflies off. Allow the meat to dry thoroughly before
eating. Properly dried meat will have a dry, crisp texture and will not feel
cool to the touch.
Other Preservation Methods
You can also preserve meats using the freezing or
brine and salt methods.
In cold climates, you can freeze and keep meat
indefinitely. Freezing is not a means of preparing meat. You must still cook it
Brine and Salt
You can preserve meat by soaking it thoroughly in
a saltwater solution. The solution must cover the meat. You can also use salt by
itself. Wash off the salt before cooking.