Hunting, trapping and gathering from nature in a post-SHTF situation probably won’t provide you with all the food you need to survive, but such skills can help to supplement limited supplies. Assuming you aren’t in a totally lifeless urban area, most regions of the world teem with some form of natural life, from bugs and birds to small mammals and larger game.
The most populous wild animals in most of the US include deer, rabbits, nutria, wild ducks and geese, turkey, quail, and pheasant. Many regions also have elk, moose, pronghorn antelope (though they technically aren’t antelope), wild goats and even wild boar. These larger game animals are just what you would want to hunt in a survival situation, but more often than not you may need to focus on smaller prey like rabbits and squirrels.
Right now, you probably don’t fancy yourself as someone who will eat squirrels, groundhogs or possums, but when times get tough you may discover that such critters are a welcome addition to your dinner table. The rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t be overly discriminatory when it comes to what you will or will not eat in a bare-bones survival situation. The less you discriminate, the more likely it is that you will survive to eat a more refined meal another day.
You might not have thought about it, but some of the mouse and rat traps that are available are actually a pretty good investment in case of an emergency. Mice, and rats for that matter, may not be high up on your post-SHTF menu, but if something can catch a rat it can also catch a squirrel or any number of other similarly sized critters. Mouse and rat traps are also great to have on hand simply because they can catch vermin that might try to access you stored food.
Another simple, effective trap is a snare. Easily constructed from paracord, a few dozen snares placed in the right locations can potentially net you a variety of creatures. Snares are great for catching birds and small mammals, including possums and raccoons. In any case, traps of all shapes and sizes are a useful tool in your arsenal and you should make use of them.
Stock Proper Ammunition
If you intend to hunt using a weapon, be sure to stock plenty of the proper ammunition. Your AK-74 or AR-15 rifle for fending off assailants is not quite what you’ll want to take out hunting. A .22 LR or a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun is more suitable for hunting, depending on what kind of game you’re after. Some hunters prefer to use a bow and arrow, or a crossbow, but whatever your weapon of choice be certain you have plenty of ammunition for it.
One of the most useful tools you will need to hunt and /or trap successfully is a reliable knife. Many survivalists and hunters prefer something with a 6” – 9” blade, which should be kept sharp and well cared for at all times. You’ll need a good knife in order to bleed out and field dress any game that you succeed in killing, as well as to assist in butchering larger animals as needed. A good knife can also be used to make snares, prepare kindling, and for self-defense.
Another important aspect of successful hunting is patience. Sometimes you’ve simply got to sit tight and wait out your prey, as in the case of staking out a known watering area, mating ground or feeding area. Getting impatient or trekking all over the countryside is more likely to leave you tired, disappointed and still hungry than to result in a successful hunt and a filled belly.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
As with all things related to prepping, from gardening to cooking to sewing your own clothes, now is the time to practice, practice and practice some more. When it comes to hunting, practice is especially important because you’ll want to be able to successfully hunt and kill something to eat if or when the time comes and you’re starving. Locating and tracking suitable prey is one of the skills that you’ll need to practice in order to be a good hunter, otherwise you’re liable to spend a lot of time searching fruitlessly for something to eat and slowly starving in the interim.
There are some things you shouldn’t eat, though. At the top of the list is already dead animals. Tempting though the meat may be when you’re starving, don’t eat animals that you find dead or dying. Such animals could have died for any number of reasons unknown to you, including poisoning, parasitic infection, disease and so on. Likewise, don’t hunt or consume the meat of animals that are ill, cooking the flesh will not make it safe for consumption.
To go hand in hand with your hunting and trapping skills, it would also be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basics of salting, drying and /or smoking meats. Such treatments will allow you to store meats for much longer periods of time, thus ensuring that you and your family have food and that as little of your kill goes to waste as possible. Be sure to stock up on plenty of salt if you know, or anticipate, that you will be doing a substantial amount of hunting to survive.
Other Edible Critters
Depending on your level of squeamishness, there are a variety of less desirable animals that have been (and in some places still are) consumed throughout human history. These include certain species of frogs, certain types of insects, caterpillars, many types of ants, and bees among others. Even turtles, tortoises, and alligators are edible if you can catch them, as are raccoons, skunks, weasels and possums.
Snails, slugs, lizards, geckos and snakes are all potentially edible as well, and you might be surprised by how much nutrition such animals can contain. Bugs such as ants, for instance, are an excellent source of protein. Then there are traditional predators, including bears, wolves, coyotes, foxes, and mountain lions. While you might not want to go out of your way to hunt known predators like these, they are certainly edible if you do happen to kill them.