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Friday, September 10, 2010

Creating “The Plan” – Food – Part #2

In my previous BLOG posting I talked about food for those of you staying in an urban or suburban setting.  In today’s BLOG post I am going to talk about food for those of you deciding to survive out in the wilderness.  Please realize that this post cannot cover every type of outdoor, wilderness environment and will be dedicated to the basics that could apply more generally and broadly.  In future BLOG postings, I will go into specifics not only on the how-to; but, also on the where (geographically) it is most applicable.  For the sake of clarity, let me define what I mean by wilderness survival setting – to me, it means surviving in the outdoors (wilderness) in a NON-permanent location and shelter.  If you are settled down in one location and have a permanent shelter then ultimately you will fall more and more into the urban or suburban survival setting.  Okay let’s get started then.

Surviving in the wilderness and getting enough food to sustain you and your loved ones boils down to three (3) techniques that I refer to as FFH or sometimes as F2H – this is short for: Foraging, Fishing and Hunting.  It is critical to understand that in the wilderness you should be seeking food by expending the LEAST amount of calories.  That means the food you get should not cost you more calories than you would gain from eating it.  You will notice that there is no Farming listed as an option and this is very deliberate.  If you are not staying put in one place for very long then farming just doesn’t seem practical.  However, if you plan to return to a given location from time-to-time then planting (sowing) seeds for later harvesting might make sense; even though you would not be around to tend to the planted “garden”.

Foraging for food, if done right, can yield some immediate, nutritional things to eat that can sustain you and your loved ones.  Now let’s be clear here.  You WILL need an open mind and also some knowledge of plants and insects to successfully pull off foraging.  

Quick TIP: Make sure you have at least one book suitable for your location that details edible plants and also what insects are in your area.  The wilderness can be a great provider for food, IF you know where and what to look for.

Pound-for-pound, insects have more protein than meat (beef, chicken, pork, lamb, etc…) which is a good thing since they are much smaller than the more traditional sources of proteinA general Rule-of-Thumb is that any insect (or other living thing) that is brightly colored, is poisonous and should be handled with care or avoided completely.  Why go after food that could cause you serious injury or death?   That means not risking your life by going after that bee hive (colony or nest) for some wild honey; unless, you want to get stung to death or you have the proper bee keeper’s outfit to wear.  Be extra careful around bee colonies as there are fair amounts of the Africanized honey bee populations here in North America that will attack you even if you are not doing anything to them except just being close by.  In some parts of Mexico, wasps are collected en masse (the whole nest) and put into a sack for collection.  Later the women throw the wasps and nest onto a hot griddle, flat top cooking surface or frying pan to be cooked – and yes, they do get stung.  Some common insects that generally should be okay to eat (although perhaps not so tasty eaten uncooked) are: termites, ants, larvae, maggots, worms, grasshoppers and roaches.  This is quite an appetizing list – right?  Well get over it.  These insects (and others as well – get a book) can possibly save your life by providing enough protein to keep you going until perhaps you stumble upon that perfect “surf and turf” meal served on gold-rimmed china plates in the middle of the wilderness.  Yeah, good luck finding that out in the middle of nowhere.  So suck it up and deal with the reality that you and your loved ones just might be eating “bugs” for food.  Of course, cooking the insects might make consuming them a lot more palatable for the average person and depending on how you cook them, they could be quite delicious, as well as, nutritious.  

Keep a good look out for edible plants and herbs as well.  Nuts, berries, wild onions, dandelion greens, sheep’s sorrel, various roots (e.g., cat tails) and a whole lot more await you if you are aware of what to look for in your given location.  That’s why it is critical to have at least one guide book (with color photos) to help you identify the edible vegetation in your area and also the poisonous ones to avoid at all costs.  Avoid mushrooms and other fungus unless you are 100% sure and even then – very, very, VERY confident they are NOT poisonous!

If you are near any water that has fish in it then the next option might seem obvious; but, is it really?  Just because there are fish available doesn’t make them safe to eat.  Is there a film or slick floating on top of the water? Does the water smell or have any strong or unpleasant odors coming from it?  Are there dead fish (or animals) floating on the water or washed up on the shore?  Is there a fair amount of garbage or debris floating on the water’s surface?  If so look elsewhere.  If you are by fresh water; you need to look for signs that animals (specifically mammals) use the water to drink from and then look around to make sure those same animals have not gotten sick and/or died anywhere around the water.  If you are by fresh water, then another good sign to look for is the amount and overall health of vegetation by the water.  If the vegetation by the “fresh” water is dying or dead that too is not a good sign.  So assuming you’ve done all of the above checks is the water and fish contained in it safe?  Well there is never any guarantee that they are 100% safe; however, at least you know that it is not highly poisonous to the point of death surrounding it.    Now that you have reassured yourself that there aren’t any obvious signs of hazardous pollution or poisons in the water it’s time to go fishing.  There are several ways to catch some fish (assuming they are in the water) that you can use.  One method is the tried and true using a fishing rod and reel with some bait or lure attached to a hook.  If you don’t have a rod and reel you can always use a drop line by itself or attached to a “green” branch (don’t use dry wood it might break) to use as a makeshift rod.  You can also use a fishing spear with 3-4 sharp prongs (spear tips) close together at the end – ideally with barbs on each prong.  If you have a bow you should also buy or make some fishing arrows (with barbs).  Keep in mind that the water refracts light and makes objects below the surface seem to be in a position that is slightly off from where you think the object (fish) actually are – adjust accordingly or wear polarized sunglasses to help remove the optical distortion and reflection from sunlight.  Lastly, you can create traps for the fish using either netting or created out of rocks and branches whereby you literally get the fish into a position it can’t easily escape from and thereby elude your attempts to catch them.  If you are nearby an ocean then don’t forget the various types of shellfish which make some excellent eating – build traps for crabs and lobster.  If you are near a bayou (or some types of streams) then crawfish (looks like a baby lobster) also make some tasty eating (use your hands or a net to catch these rascals).  While on the topic of fish, I do not recommend eating the fish raw (a la the Sushi way) as there is still a chance for toxins to be in the fish or even parasites (which will transfer into a human body).  Even if it doesn’t kill you, it can make you very sick – so it’s not worth the risk.  Make sure you keep your catch alive ideally in some water before you eat it and if you are not eating the fish right away you need to clean out and remove all of the innards and rinse the fish clean.  Smoking and/or salting the fish will dry it out and make it last a little longer from a food storage point of view.

Hunting is the last method to be discussed in the gathering of food section.  Depending on how you are doing the hunting it could use up a lot of calories so be very mindful of this.  Some of the more common ways for hunting are with a gun or with a bow and arrow (longbow, compound bow or crossbow) – these options make perfect sense when you are hunting game that is fairly large (basically you need the stopping power and it’s worth the cost of using scarce ammunition).  Be mindful of the need to keep arrows and bullets for when you MOST need them so don’t go wasting them needlessly on small game that can be had using other methods of hunting.  Some other proven methods of hunting include: spears (short and long), slings (like the kind that David used on Goliath in the Bible), slingshots (I prefer the modern versions myself), snares, traps and pits.  Other methods like clubs tend to require you to use too much energy and hence calories to be really worthwhile.  Using snares, traps and pits tend to not require you to use very much energy so I highly recommend these methods of hunting and you should learn as many of them as possible.  Make sure you place them on an obviously well used trail or path that the animals use (generally to go to/from a source of drinking water).  Of the 3 just mentioned, hunting pits do require a fair amount of labor to initially set up since you will have to dig the pit (deep enough to prevent escape), fill it with sharpened stakes, and cover it with thin pieces or wood covered by leaves, light coating of dirt  and other vegetative mater.   However, the pit can hopefully be used several times before it becoming worthless so the energy used to create it needs to be divided over it practical useful lifespan.  IMPORTANT: You must realize that ANY animal will become 1000% more dangerous and unpredictable when it is trapped and/or wounded.  Use caution when dealing with ANY trapped or wounded animal and try to finish them off from a distance so you do not get injured (or worse).  Hunting with weapons that can kill from a distance requires you to master the arts or: patience, stealth, speed, accuracy and positioning yourself DOWNWIND from whatever it is you are hunting.  Too many misses, screw-ups or other losses will ultimately train the game to avoid the area you have chosen as your hunting ground – even if just temporarily.  If you don’t get a kill on the first attempt; but, the animal is stunned finish them off quickly and try not to waste scarce resources like ammunition.  Once you are successful in your hunt you must quickly gut and clean your game so that it does not go bad (which it will do VERY quickly) and then cook it immediately (if you do not have some form of cold storage available) to prevent spoilage.  Using the same technique described above for fish, you can also smoke, dry and/or salt your game so that it will last longer.

In my next BLOG posting I will talk about methods for cooking – including making fire.

Stay tuned for the next BLOG post that will continue with Creating “The Plan” – Food – Part #3.

Survival is a combination of preparedness plus a survival mindset. If you have the WILL to survive, the skills/knowledge to survive, as well as, some planning and preparation ▬ then you will ultimately survive. Don't wait until it is too late or your chances for survival will diminish accordingly. As always, good luck and know I am on your side. ~~ The Survival Guy