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Wilderness Survival Hunting

Survival hunting isn't about fancy weapons and trophy animals.


The corn snake was still moving after the head was cut off, the insides were taken out, and the skin was removed. I had strung from a branch to clean it. Once it stopped moving, I put it in a plastic bread bag and stuffed it in my knapsack. I split the pound of meat into two pieces later - one for stew, and the other for roasting over the fire.

That was when I was fourteen years old, and wanted to know everything about wilderness survival. Though I am more interested in backpacking now, the survival lessons have stayed with me, and they make me feel more at home in the wilderness. It's safer to be in the wilderness if you know how to survive. Of course, for a lightweight backpacker, knowing things like which berries you can eat also means you can go lighter.

However, I have found that very often people are interested in how to make a bow and arrows, or traps for animals, or spears and bolas. That's okay. They are interesting topics to me too. However, it is a mistake to think that these are the skills most likely to save the life of a lost hiker.

Wilderness Survival - Hunting Animals

Survival for a lost backpacker is rarely a matter of food. Water, shelter, avoiding injuries and getting found all take precedence over food. Still, when it is time to look for food, animals are the surest source of calories and protein. The surest way to obtain this food is to look for the easiest animals to kill and the easiest ways to do this.

Forget the fancy weapons that take hours to fashion. You're not trying to live out there, but only to stay alive long enough to be found. Look for the easiest animals to hunt and the easiest ways to kill them. Some suggestions follow:


Porcupines are one of the best survival foods out there. If you can hold a stick, you can hunt a porcupine. because they are so slow, they were traditionally left alone by mountain men, in order to leave a ready supply of easy food in the woods for anyone who was lost and hungry.

However, they don't die quickly. You'll have to club them hard and repeatedly - and get to them before they head up a tree. To clean a porcupine, cut it open from below, being careful of the quills. You should be able to skin it and clean it from the underside without getting stuck. Cook it over a fire (they taste good, by the way).


When you can see fish in clear, shallow water, they are often easier to spear with a sharpened stick than to catch with a hook and bait. Another technique is to wait with your hand poised over a spot they are regularly swimming by, and quickly pin them to the bottom with your hand as they come into range. I've caught 30 small fish in an hour or two in this way.

Other Easy Animals

You can catch snakes by hand, or with the help of a stick (preferable in the case of venomous ones). Crayfish are found under rocks and logs in lakes and streams (boil them like miniature lobsters). Birds that nest on the ground can sometimes be killed with a well aimed rock, and will usually circle back to give you another chance. Of course, bird eggs don't run away to fast either.

Don't forget clams, insects, grubs from rotten logs, and turtles. These can all be caught by hand. Remember, this isn't about proving your "skills" or being a mighty hunter. Always look for the easiest ways. Whit food, wilderness survival is simply about efficiently gathering calories.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Wilderness Survival Hunting