What Survivalists Get Wrong About ‘Living Off The Land’
As I’ve talked to various people about their survival plans, the same themes keep cropping up over and over again. That makes sense, as we all need the same things to survive. On the other hand, some of these common themes contains some really bad ideas.
The bad idea I’m referring to here is those who think that they can just go hunting to feed their families. If what they mean as “hunting” is what they do every fall, then their families are going to starve. But the fact is that while you can’t feed your family by hunting, you can augment your food supplies with it.
The biggest problem is that what most people think of as hunting is sport hunting, not survival hunting. While it’s always nice to get some game while sport hunting, it’s not necessary. If you miss your shot, that’s OK, you can always pick up some steaks at the supermarket. But when you’re hunting for survival – or “living off the land” for meat — a missed shot might very well mean that your whole family goes hungry.
Today’s sport hunting really isn’t all that fair, either. When I was growing up, we weren’t allowed to use feed corn as bait. In fact, we weren’t allowed to use anything as bait. But now, most of the people I know use corn all the time. Without it, I doubt they could get anything.
So, what’s so different about survival hunting? What do you have to do that you wouldn’t normally do?
Hunt for Whatever
In sport hunting, the idea is to go hunting for a particular type of game. In deer season, you hunt deer. In duck season, you hunt duck. But when you’re hunting for survival, you hunt for whatever you can find; even if what you can find is not something you’d normally hunt for. You’re after food and if it can be eaten, then it’s fair game. This could include domesticated animals.
Actually, this points out a huge moral dilemma that few of us have thought about. There are many things you and I can do to survive which may not be strictly legal. The question is, where do we draw the line? That’s not an easy question to answer, especially when you consider that there will be an “after” to the crisis, in which people will be charged with crimes they committed during the crisis. You sure don’t want to put yourself in the position of having to go to jail for feeding your family.
While you will need to be hunting for whatever you can get, you want to avoid hunting for small game. That doesn’t mean that you want to cross small game off the menu, though. Rather, you want to try and trap small game, so that you don’t have to spend a lot of time on it. You’ve got to get enough for your time to make it worthwhile.
I recently went dove hunting with a couple of buddies. While we did fairly well, I couldn’t help but think that we couldn’t have fed our three families one meal with the meat that we’d harvested on that hunt. Dove aren’t very big and you don’t get much meat off of them — maybe a taco or two worth out of each dove. If we had been hunting for survival, that day would have been a net loss.
Few hunters actually practice shooting with their guns. Most of them dig their hunting rifle or shotgun out when it’s time to go hunting, and then put it away for next year. How do any of them expect to be able to shoot accurately, without at least some practice?
I’m an avid shooter who goes to the range about once per week. As such, my shooting skills are fairly descent. This showed in that dove hunt I just mentioned, as I got the first three doves before either of my buddies bagged one. It wasn’t that they didn’t see any birds or didn’t take any shots, but it was that I had been practicing.
Every bullet has to count in a survival situation. Back in the pioneering days, the standard was one shot, one kill. It didn’t matter if dad was out hunting or one of the kids were. Each bullet needed to bag something for the pot. Bullets were too precious to waste.
Knowing the Game and Their Habits
In survival hunting, you can forget about baiting the game with feed corn; you won’t have any. Nor will you be able to spend days on end hunting for one deer. Hunting will mean going out in the morning or evening and returning with game after a couple of hours. Anything else would be an inefficient use of your time.
Survival is too demanding to spend the entire day on one task. Many different things need to be done each and every day. Finding food is one of those things. But it can’t take over the day. So, you’ll need to learn how to hunt efficiently, bagging what you’re after in just a little time.
That means knowing the animals and their habits. Where do they sleep? Where do they eat? What watering holes do they use? When can you expect to find them at those watering holes? Those are important things to know so that you’ll know where to find the game that you so desperately need. The easiest of those to know is when they water. Most animals will water near daybreak and dusk, so those are the best times of day to hunt.
Fortunately for us, most animals are creatures of habit. They will often have a daily circuit where they water and feed in certain areas at certain times. So once you know their habits, you’ll know where to find them.
Don’t Waste a Thing
The Native Americans were great hunters. They were great at making use of what they had hunted, as well. There was no waste, as everything was used in one way or another. The meat they didn’t eat was dried, the skin tanned and even some of the internal organs that weren’t eaten were put to use.
You and I are going to have to learn that, as well. More than anything, we’ll need to be ready to preserve any meat that we bring home if it isn’t eaten immediately. That generally means smoking or drying it, although it is possible to can meat. We’ll also need to know how to tan the hide, as we’ll need that leather for shoes and clothing.
A Final Thought
Mankind domesticated animals because it was more efficient than hunting. And that was back when there was much more game available. In today’s world, finding game is nowhere near as easy. That’s going to be especially true in a time when everyone is out there hunting, because the grocery store shelves are empty.
If you expect to live off of hunting alone, you might have a very unpleasant surprise waiting for you. Unless you live in a very remote area, where there aren’t many others hunting the game, you might very well have trouble finding enough meat for the pot.
What advice would you add about survival hunting? Share it in the section below:
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