Bushcraft and Wilderness Survival vs. Long-Term Wilderness Living (Part 3-Gear Selection: Food)

by Justin Lowthorp on May 17, 2020

Alright, let's get right into it. For long-term wilderness living, the primary concerns for gear selection is effectiveness, durability and the ability to be maintained in the field. They can be divided into categories; food, water, fire, clothing, shelter, tools, materials, maintenance, medical and knowledge. In this post I'll cover food and related items.

Provisions

Provisions should be primarily pemmican, jerky and salt. Carbohydrate sources generally cannot be found in temperate or northern climates in any substantial quantities. To avoid the lull in energy that comes with shifting your energy source from carbs to fat, it is best in my opinion to already be in a ketogenic state and be highly efficient at utilizing fat for energy. Salt is of extreme importance, without it you'll be far less energetic or strong.

Vegetable foods are not necessary for health, but if one desires them, they can be found in your local environment. They are not worth the weight to carry them in. Seeds though have their place. Having a wilderness garden has a lot of benefits. Not only can you supplement your gathering, you can also grow bait for hunting and trapping purposes. That's my main interest in gardening.

Hunting

Now for the procurement of food. As I stated before, my opinion is that animals are food, plants are medicine. One's attention should be on making meat, all other activities are to support this goal. One needs to succeed, not suffer. Primitive methods for hunting, trapping and fishing should not be solely relied upon.

For hunting, the rifle cannot be matched in it's effectiveness and efficiency. I prefer bolt-actions and lever-actions in .308 and .22. They will easily cover your needs from the largest game on down. I am also quite fond of .44 magnum, they can be used in your sidearm for backup against dangerous game and in your primary rifle out to 120 yards (or meters).

A 1892 lever-action chambered in .44mag is very light in hand and packs around 11 or so rounds of instant death. Here in Appalachia you can get away with not needing a long-range rifle such as a .308 and it can be replaced with a .44mag lever-action. The .308 though does give you the option of reaching far past 120 yards which has come in handy for me personally on several occasions. 

I currently use a Ruger Gunsite Scout in .308 with an intermittent eye-relief scope and (2) Henry youth model .22 lever-actions, one with a scope and one without. The youth models are very easy to carry and swing well in the woods and if I'm shooting at closer range, the iron sights are my preference. I also have (3) Ruger single action revolvers; a .22 Bearcat and (2) Vaqueros in .44mag. One is a 4 5/8" barrel as backup, the other is 7 1/2" to be used for pistol hunting. I rarely carry the pistols here in WV.

For waterfowl and other birds, a shotgun is needed to stay within the law. 20 gauge is nice and easy on the shoulder but a 12 gauge has far more varieties of loads. In some states a rifle cannot be used on deer or bear, so a shotgun is a must. States such as Ohio will allow for straight-walled cartridges in long-guns for deer and other large game.

For your shotgun, several boxes of high-brass slug and buck and a variety of high and low-brass bird will take care of you for several years if only used for hunting. For your rifles, a single box of (20) .308 rounds along with a single box of (500) .22 will be all you need per person annually. This weighs very little and many decades worth can be easily cached. Make sure all cached ammo is sealed so it will not degrade. 

Cache tubes made from PVC with threaded ends work very well. The threads need to be generously smeared with Vaseline or axle grease to ensure they don't lock up and that they remain impervious to moisture. Throw a container of it in each tube to reapply each time you get into your cache. You also need to put some type of de-humidifier in each tube. A cap wrench needs to be at each cache point, ideally two so you have a backup just in case.

Trapping

For trapping, cable snares are the best option for ease of carry but many times they can only be used once. Coil spring leg holds and conibear body grip traps will last decades if properly maintained. My favorite website for all things trapping is southernsnares.com and my favorite YT channel is The Meat Trapper. Leg holds and body grips quickly start getting heavy so I never end up carrying many in my scouting pack. They are definitely cache items.

Cable snares are by far my favorite method of trapping. All you need to get started is the snare, cable extensions, snare support wire, horseshoe nails, electrician's pliers, a hatchet and perhaps some fencing pliers. A LOT of snares can be set for a variety of game without carrying much weight. You can catch anything with snares, from squirrel to something as powerful as feral hog. 

Rifle hunting can definitely feed you well enough but if you want to have plenty of time for working on other projects, a modest trapline of snares will always provide with a very minimal investment of time. If you do use leg holds, drowning sets are the way to go. They will ensure the animal is dispatched quickly, are away from scavengers and other predators and that they remain cool and won't spoil. Body grippers kill almost instantly and are extremely effective.

To set these various types of traps up, go to YouTube and type in "snaring (species)", "drowning set for (species)", and "body grip set for (species)". There are so many great channels from trappers with many decades of experience. It's too bad that YT shadow-bans these channels and vegan trolls flag the videos for removal. These trappers such as The Meat Trapper have done us a real service and their generosity cannot be understated. Due to the ridiculous policies of YT, these guys aren't making any money from monetization. 

Fishing

This one will be brief. One good rod and reel per person plus another cached for backup is what you need. Marry that with a variety of hooks, sinkers, lures, several bobbers, fishing pliers, a fillet knife and a couple banklines in a simple tackle box or bag. It is all very dependent on your local environment.

If you're up north, look into what you need for ice fishing. If on the coast, a cast net can provide a LOT of food and bait. If in crawdad country, crayfish traps are the way to go. Same with crabs, lobsters and mussels. I like to find a good cache spot where I do most of my fishing. Walking through the woods with a rod and reel can be a real pain.

Back where I grew up in SE Texas, I used to wade through the creeks barefoot feeling for freshwater clams and could gather quite a bit in a short amount of time. I'd also go jugging for catfish and had plenty of luck with that. I never noodled for cats but I did my fair share of tickling for them in ponds and creeks. As I stated above, fishing is highly localized so go to your local fishing shops and speak to the fellows that work there. Talk to the most redneck fellow you can find and you'll be set, just make sure he isn't pulling your leg. If that's not a possibility, there is always YT.

Gathering Plant Foods

Again, this is highly localized. In my experience, it is best to focus on learning the poisonous species and go from there. Until you have the poisonous species committed to memory, always carry field guides when out gathering. Most poisonous plants taste poisonous but there are a few exceptions such as poison hemlock.

Many deadly mushrooms have a cumulative effect and don't kill you right away but rather slowly shut down vital functions of your body. Many of these poisons cannot be treated and death is inevitable.

There are edible mushrooms that look very similar to poisonous ones. Proper mushroom identification is paramount. Cross reference the general appearance and color with the stamen, the gills, polypores or other spore bearing part of the mushroom with the spore print, along with the texture, odor, environment and season.

Having several field guides to cross-reference is always a good idea. The best way to get started is by going out with an experienced wildcrafter or mycologist. Even then, exercise caution, people make mistakes. Always have a measure of doubt in your mind and second-guess yourself. Better to be overly cautious than to die of liver failure.

Vegetable foods that taste good, generally are good. I have never tasted a delicious plant that turned out to be toxic. There are poisonous bland ones though, such as hemlock root. Always exercise caution, I am no expert in what's in your area, only mine. Many plants are edible only in certain times of year and only specific parts of the plant can be eaten. 

Carry field guides as specific to your local environment as possible. Color pictures and an easily navigable reference will make them far more useful. I find drawings not nearly as accurate as photos but they can be useful as a cross-reference. "Botany in a Day" by Thomas J. Elpel is an excellent place to start. Focusing on plant families rather than individual plants. Many times entire plant families are either edible or poisonous, so knowing the specific plant is a lot of times unnecessary. 

Again, focus your studies on plants and fungi on the poisonous species. Being highly educated in these will ensure your safety far more than having a more general knowledge of your local plant life. Become an expert in the toxic plants and fungi, I can't reiterate this point enough. After that, all else is on the menu if it pleases your palate.

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