It goes without saying that living off the land is rather difficult.
Once you’ve got your water supply sorted, the biggest challenge in the aftermath of a disaster is going to be food. There won’t be enough to go around. Plus, you’ll be competing with every other survivor who is also living off the land to feed their families.
But I want to let you in on a little secret.
A little knowledge can give you a fighting chance when it comes to catching your own dinner.
And today, I’m going to cover exactly what you need to know to hunt wild game, and keep your family fed and happy, no matter what. With these techniques practice makes perfect, so I encourage you to get out and try to hone your hunting skills before you need to rely on them alone. Just be careful. Your state probably has strict regulations on hunting, and there will be licenses and certain restrictions you need to follow. Stick to the law people. A quick call to your local parks and recreation office will probably give you all the information you need.
Once you’re sorted, it’s time to start hunting.
Break out the big guns
If you’re able to land big game like a deer, you’ll have enough meat to keep your family from going hungry for weeks. To do so, you’re going to need a rifle, with enough range to land your shot.
For starters, I like to build a hide. Following the animals around burns calories that are far too scarce, and in a SHTF scenario it greatly increases the risk you’ll come across other survivalists. Survivalists who may want to relieve you of your rifle and ammunition to stock up their own supplies. So, play it safe. Stick to your hide.
Build your hide somewhere where you’ve got a decent outlook onto a plain, in an area where you’ve previously noticed deer activity. It could be scat or the fact you noticed them earlier in the season when you were out fishing or hiking. My hide is quite simple, a few boards up in a tree, covered with a home-made camouflage tarp. It also gives me a little shelter from the elements, and I can carry the tarp back with me once I’m done.
When hunting big game, you want to eliminate as much human odor as possible, so try to setup downwind, and don’t lather up on the cologne before your hunt. Then just sit and wait until one crosses your path. I prefer to wait until I know I’ve got the kill shot, as you usually only get one chance to take the animal down humanely.
Start hunting the little things
Now just because you’re not able to hunt big game, it doesn’t mean you should go hungry. There’s going to be plenty of smaller game around, especially in the early days of a crisis.
For small game though, I’d break out a smaller gun. A .22 rifle is plenty to take down rabbits, squirrels and anything else you may come across, with one other key benefit.
In a disaster, you may not have the ability to properly store all the meat from a large animal’s carcass. Instead, if you can hunt something smaller, giving you “just enough” meat for your meal, it won’t spoil and you’ll be a more responsible hunter.
For rabbits, they’re best targeted at dawn or dusk, if you’re able to get in the back of a truck with a bright spotlight you can shine on them to stun the rabbits momentarily. Without this, you’re going to have to stomp through the underbrush, simply take about 10 quick steps, before pausing for a count of 20. Repeating this process is usually enough to flush them out.
Use traps to your advantage
One of the best means of catching your own dinner is to trap it. I also like to call it passive hunting. It’s illegal in many areas to use spring traps and snares, but if your life is on the line it’s one of the most calorie-efficient ways to live off the land.
There’s a golden rule though.
The more traps you set, the greater your chances of catching dinner.
I’d recommend targeting small game if you’re setting traps, but if you’ve got some sturdy wire you could also set larger snares for wild boar, or any other larger animals in the area.
There’s not a whole lot to trapping, you simply make a noose out of a loop of wire, tying the other securely to a fixed point, like a nearby tree trunk or stake. Wedge it open with a twig, and once the animal runs through it’ll struggle, pulling the noose tight.
The important part is where you set them.
For traps to be effective, you’ve got to set these on a game trail. Spend your time looking for any animal signs through the undergrowth, which could be a particularly flattened area through the grass, or at the entrance to a den or burrow that you can see is being used.
Just be careful. Snares are a great way to trap animals, but they don’t often kill. Be wary when approaching your traps, as you may just find yourself coming face to face with a very angry animal when you return.
Learn how to fish effectively
My first knife was a gift from my dad for my fishing kit, and I’ve been chasing “the next big one” for most of my adult life. Any chance I could get, I was out fishing.
One of the most critical items I keep in my bug out kit is my fishing gear. It’s not much, a couple of hundred yards of line wrapped around an old film canister. Which inside has an assortment of hooks and a couple of lures I can use to catch my dinner. It takes very little space, and means I’ve always got a means of living off the land, so long as there’s a beach, lake or a stream about.
You can actively fish with lures, or set a number of baited lines and wait for the fish to come to you. I do need to warn you though. Setting multiple lines is often illegal, but if you’re fighting to stay alive I’d advise doing everything in your power to make it so. Put these out, then get to your next survival tasks, like building a shelter or starting your fire.
After a while, come back and check the lines, rebait if necessary and when you’re done make sure you bring all the lines in. There’s no excuse for leaving your rubbish about.
In my opinion these four skills are critical if you’re planning to live off the land. But they’re taken for granted by too many people who love the trappings of modern life. In a disaster, when the supermarket shelves are not being replenished overnight, finding your family dinner is going to rest on your shoulders. So learn these basic hunting techniques now, so you’re not starving when a real disaster strikes.