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Killing Animals To Survive

The snake kept moving even after the head was cut off, the insides taken out, and the skin removed. I had strung it up from a branch to clean it. When it finally stopped moving, I put it in a plastic ...

The snake kept moving even after the head was cut off, the insides taken out, and the skin removed. I had strung it up from a branch to clean it. When it finally stopped moving, I put it in a plastic bread bag and stuffed it in my knapsack. Later I would split the pound of meat into two pieces. One was for a stew, and the other for roasting over the fire.

I was fourteen years old, and I wanted to know everything about wilderness survival. I am more interested in backpacking now than in wilderness survival trips, but the survival lessons have stayed with me, and they make me feel more at home in the wilderness. It is safer to be out there if you know how to survive. Knowing things like which berries you can eat also means you can go lighter when backpacking.

However, there is something I have noticed when talking to backpackers who have an interest in wilderness survival. Very often they are interested in how to make a bow and arrows, or traps for animals, or spears and bolas. These things are interesting to me too, but it is a mistake to think that these are the skills most likely to save the life of a lost hiker.

Wilderness Survival - Killing Animals

First of all, survival for a lost backpacker is rarely a matter of food. Shelter, water, avoiding injury and getting found all take precedence over food. When it is time to look for food, though, animals are the surest source of calories and protein, and the surest way to obtain this food is to look for the easiest animals to kill and the easiest ways to do this.

This does not include fancy weapons that take hours to fashion. You are not trying to live out there, remember, but only to stay alive long enough to be found. What, then, are some of the easiest animals to hunt and the easiest ways to kill them? They include the following:


These prickly, slow moving animals are one of the best survival foods out there. If you can walk and hold a stick, you can hunt a porcupine. 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.

They don't die quickly, so you'll have to club them hard and repeatedly. To clean a porcupine, roll it over with a stick and cut it open from below. Be careful of the quills. You should be able to skin it from the underside without getting stuck. Then you can cook it over a fire (they taste good, by the way).


If you can see fish in shallow water, they are probably easier to spear with a sharpened stick than to catch with a hook and bait. Another way to get them is to wait with your hand poised over a spot they swim by, and quickly pin them to the bottom with your hand as they come into range. I have caught 30 small fish in an hour or two in this way.

Other Easy Animals

Snakes can be caught by hand, or with the help of a stick (preferable in the case of venomous ones). Crayfish can be found under rocks and logs in lakes and streams, and boil up just like miniature lobsters. Quail and other birds that nest on the ground can sometimes be killed with a well-aimed rock, and usually circle back to give you another chance. Bird eggs don't run away to fast either.

Clams, insects, grubs from rotten logs, turtles - these are some of the other foods that can be caught by hand. This isn't about proving your "skills" or being the mighty hunter. Look for the easy ways. When it comes to foodFree Reprint Articles, wilderness survival is simply about efficiently gathering calories.

Article Tags: Killing Animals, Wilderness Survival

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Copyright Steve Gillman. Visit his website for ultralight backpacking tips, photos, gear recommendations, a free book and a new wilderness survival section:

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