This is probably my favorite installation of my “survival food” series. Growing up on a farm in Ohio, I was raised to appreciate and respect nature and all that it has to offer us – especially the tasty critters that are always running around! In a survival situation, red meat might end up saving your life. With a little bit of know-how and tools in your bug out bag, you will be able to greatly increase your odds of securing your next furry/feathery meal.
The SAS Ultimate Survival Guide has over 50 pages dedicated to tracking, trapping, hunting and preparing these types of animals. I know I plug this book alot, but it is one of the most important things I carry with me in my bug out bag – there’s alot of information that you might forget if you’re caught in an actual survival situation.
1. Hunting. This might seem like the obvious first choice, but not necessarily. If you have a gun or bow and arrows, it would definitely be a good idea to keep them at the ready in the event you scare up a potential meal – or threat – during your travels. I don’t have the space in this article to tell you about weapon safety, so I’ll assume that if you have one, you know how to use it properly (if not, let me know by commenting below or “shooting” me an email, and I’ll be more than happy to pass on what I know).
A shot to the head is an instant kill, but it’s a small target and especially hard to hit on a moving animal – aim right behind the front shoulder about 1/3 up the animals body if it’s broadside or the middle of its chest if it’s facing you. This shot will hit the vital area (hearts and lungs) and is lethal. I’ve seen deer run over 100 yards after being shot through both lungs – don’t give up the blood trail if you think you made a good shot!
If you’re shooting at birds, aim for the spot the neck meets the body. You can also fashion other hunting tools such as spears, bolas, or throwing sticks. A major downside to hunting is that you have to always stay alert and actively doing it – whether you’re stalking an animal you can see, simply walking around, tracking, or sitting still – unlike trapping.
2. Trapping basics. Traps have to be given enough time to actually work – typically at least over night.The great thing about traps is that they keep working while you can be resting or gathering other sources of food. Take care to try to disturb the area you are placing your trap as little as possible. Try to cover your scent when handling your trapping material – gloves, mud, hickory nut oil, etc. Place your trap in areas where you see a lot of animal signs/activity – trails, droppings, chewed plants, etc.
Some traps need to be baited while others just need to be placed where the animal will be walking through/over it. Look for natural funnels (or create your own with logs/branches) that will lead your prey towards your trap. The biggest key to all trapping is the tension of the trigger – if it’s too tight, it may not release when an animal is taking the bait; too loose and it could collapse on its own. Finding the right way to set your trap takes practice and a little bit of luck. Try to stay within ear shot of your traps – when an animal is caught and not immediately killed, you need to get to it as quick as possible to not only ease its suffering but also to avoid it getting away or becoming a meal for another animal. Make sure your trap is as strong as possible and tightly secured – you’d be surprised how much of a struggle a rabbit or squirrel could put up when it’s trying to escape.
3. Snares. Snares come in many forms and fashions. They can be made with 550 cord, fishing line, or wire. I prefer to pack a few pre-made wire snares. These take up very little space/weight, require little preparation, and have a locking mechanism on them so that when the noose is tightened, it can’t be loosened (which could possibly happen with wire alone or 550 cord). Snares can be baited, a walk through noose, platform triggered, or trip line triggered. They are also typically spring loaded (as opposed to allowing the animal to pull a noose tight by simply walking) by bending a sapling over and securing it with whatever trigger mechanism you choose. For larger animals, you can use multiple saplings that pull in opposite directions.
Rabbits are some of the easiest animals to snare and can be caught by suspending a loop over a trail without spring loading it if you are pressed for time. Another trick for squirrels is leaning a branch at about a 45 degree angle at the base of the tree and suspending a loop over that branch – the squirrel will see an easier way up the tree, walk on the branch, and hang itself in your trap. Birds can be caught by placing multiple loops along a branch with the loops facing up. The birds will go to land on the branch and either be caught while landing or taking off. You could even bait these by spreading on peanut butter or mashed up worms and sprinkling seeds on it or use a hook or safety pin to pin a live insect to the branch.
4. Deadfall Traps. This is what it sounds like – a heavy weight falling on an animal and killing it. You’re only limited by your imagination when crafting these. A great thing about these is that most of your materials can be found around you. A figure four deadfall trap is one of the first ones I learned to make, and I highly suggest you practice it. Learning this trap alone could be all you need. Check out my video on how to make a deadfall trap here. As with snares, the big key is getting the right balance between trigger sensitivity and stability. Be careful when setting these up in a true survival situation – if the deadfall weight crushes your toes or slices open your hand, you’ll have bigger things to worry about than eating. Common forms of deadfalls include a trip wire over a path with an overhanging weight or other baited traps similar to the figure four.
There are other forms of traps, but if you learn multiple ways to make both of these basic types of traps, you will be more than able to get your next survival meal.
I’ll leave you with a few – but important – tips regarding traps:
- If the trap is big enough to get your hand/foot, always be aware of where it is – especially if you are forced to be walking at night.
- Traps big enough to kill a boar or deer could also kill you.
- If you are in a group of people, always make sure they know where the traps are and try to keep them away from them.
- When leaving an area that you have set traps, disarm and disassemble them if your situation allows it – traps left set could potentially kill and animal needlessly or harm another human being.