After water, man’s most urgent requirement is food. In contemplating virtually
any hypothetical survival situation, the mind immediately turns to thoughts of
food. Unless the situation occurs in an arid environment, even water, which is
more important to maintaining body functions, will almost always follow food
in our initial thoughts. The survivor must remember that the three essentials
of survival–water, food, and shelter–are prioritized according to the estimate
of the actual situation. This estimate must not only be timely but accurate as
well. Some situations may well dictate that shelter precede both food and
ANIMALS FOR FOOD
Unless you have the chance to take large game, concentrate your efforts on the smaller
animals, due to their abundance. The smaller animal species are also easier to prepare. You
must not know all the animal species that are suitable as food. Relatively few are
poisonous, and they make a smaller list to remember. What is important is to learn the
habits and behavioral patterns of classes of animals. For example, animals that are
excellent choices for trapping, those that inhabit a particular range and occupy a den or
nest, those that have somewhat fixed feeding areas, and those that have trails leading from
one area to another. Larger, herding animals, such as elk or caribou, roam vast areas and
are somewhat more difficult to trap. Also, you must understand the food choices of a
You can, with relatively few exceptions, eat anything that crawls, swims, walks, or flies. The
first obstacle is overcoming your natural aversion to a particular food source. Historically,
people in starvation situations have resorted to eating everything imaginable for
nourishment. A person who ignores an otherwise healthy food source due to a personal
bias, or because he feels it is unappetizing, is risking his own survival. Although it may
prove difficult at first, a survivor must eat what is available to maintain his health.
The most abundant life-form on earth, insects are easily caught. Insects provide 65 to 80
percent protein compared to 20 percent for beef. This fact makes insects an important, if
not overly appetizing, food source. Insects to avoid include all adults that sting or bite, hairy
or brightly colored insects, and caterpillars and insects that have a pungent odor. Also
avoid spiders and common disease carriers such as ticks, flies, and mosquitoes.
Rotting logs lying on the ground are excellent places to look for a variety of insects
including ants, termites, beetles, and grubs, which are beetle larvae. Do not overlook insect
nests on or in the ground. Grassy areas, such as fields, are good areas to search because
the insects are easily seen. Stones, boards, or other materials lying on the ground provide
the insects with good nesting sites. Check these sites. Insect larvae are also edible. Insects
such as beetles and grasshoppers that have a hard outer shell will have parasites. Cook
them before eating. Remove any wings and barbed legs also. You can eat most insects raw.
The taste varies from one species to another. Wood grubs are bland, while some species of
ants store honey in their bodies, giving them a sweet taste. You can grind a collection of
insects into a paste. You can mix them with edible vegetation. You can cook them to
improve their taste.
Worms (Annelidea) are an excellent protein source. Dig for them in damp humus soil or
watch for them on the ground after a rain. After capturing them, drop them into clean,
potable water for a few minutes. The worms will naturally purge or wash themselves out,
after which you can eat them raw.
Freshwater shrimp range in size from 0.25 centimeter up to 2.5 centimeters. They can form
rather large colonies in mats of floating algae or in mud bottoms of ponds and lakes.
Crayfish are akin to marine lobsters and crabs. You can distinguish them by their hard
exoskeleton and five pairs of legs, the front pair having oversized pincers. Crayfish are
active at night, but you can locate them in the daytime by looking under and around stones
in streams. You can also find them by looking in the soft mud near the chimneylike
breathing holes of their nests. You can catch crayfish by tying bits of offal or internal organs
to a string. When the crayfish grabs the bait, pull it to shore before it has a chance to
release the bait.
You find saltwater lobsters, crabs, and shrimp from the surf’s edge out to water 10 meters
deep. Shrimp may come to a light at night where you can scoop them up with a net. You
can catch lobsters and crabs with a baited trap or a baited hook. Crabs will come to bait
placed at the edge of the surf, where you can trap or net them. Lobsters and crabs are
nocturnal and caught best at night.
This class includes octopuses and freshwater and saltwater shellfish such as snails, clams,
mussels, bivalves, barnacles, periwinkles, chitons, and sea urchins (Figure 8-1). You find
bivalves similar to our freshwater mussel and terrestrial and aquatic snails worldwide under
all water conditions.
River snails or freshwater periwinkles are plentiful in rivers, streams, and lakes of northern
coniferous forests. These snails may be pencil point or globular in shape.
In fresh water, look for mollusks in the shallows, especially in water with a sandy or muddy
bottom. Look for the narrow trails they leave in the mud or for the dark elliptical slit of their
Near the sea, look in the tidal pools and the wet sand. Rocks along beaches or extending as
reefs into deeper water often bear clinging shellfish. Snails and limpets cling to rocks and
seaweed from the low water mark upward. Large snails, called chitons, adhere tightly to
rocks above the surf line.
Mussels usually form dense colonies in rock pools, on logs, or at the base of boulders.
Mussels may be poisonous in tropical zones during the summer!
Steam, boil, or bake mollusks in the shell. They make excellent stews in combination with
greens and tubers.
Do not eat shellfish that are not covered by water at high tide!
Fish represent a good source of protein and fat. They offer some distinct advantages to the
survivor or evader. They are usually more abundant than mammal wildlife, and the ways to
get them are silent. To be successful at catching fish, you must know their habits. For
instance, fish tend to feed heavily before a storm. Fish are not likely to feed after a storm
when the water is muddy and swollen. Light often attracts fish at night. When there is a
heavy current, fish will rest in places where there is an eddy, such as near rocks. Fish will
also gather where there are deep pools, under overhanging brush, and in and around
submerged foliage, logs, or other objects that offer them shelter.
There are no poisonous freshwater fish. However, the catfish species has sharp, needlelike
protrusions on its dorsal fins and barbels. These can inflict painful puncture wounds that
quickly become infected.
Cook all freshwater fish to kill parasites. Also cook saltwater fish caught within a reef or
within the influence of a freshwater source as a precaution. Any marine life obtained farther
out in the sea will not contain parasites because of the saltwater environment. You can eat
Certain saltwater species of fish have poisonous flesh. In some species the poison occurs
seasonally in others, it is permanent. Examples of poisonous saltwater fish are the
porcupine fish, triggerfish, cowfish, thorn fish, oilfish, red snapper, jack, and puffer (Figure
8-2). The barracuda, while not actually poisonous itself, may transmit ciguatera (fish
poisoning) if eaten raw.
Frogs and salamanders are easily found around bodies of fresh water. Frogs seldom move
from the safety of the water’s edge. At the first sign of danger, they plunge into the water
and bury themselves in the mud and debris. There are few poisonous species of frogs.
Avoid any brightly colored frog or one that has a distinct “X” mark on it’s back. Do not
confuse toads with frogs. You normally find toads in drier environments. Several species of
toads secrete a poisonous substance through their skin as a defense against attack.
Therefore, to avoid poisoning, do not handle or eat toads.
Salamanders are nocturnal. The best time to catch them is at night using a light. They can
range in size from a few centimeters to well over 60 centimeters in length. Look in water
around rocks and mud banks for salamanders.
Reptiles are a good protein source and relatively easy to catch. You should cook them, but
in an emergency, you can eat them raw. Their raw flesh may transmit parasites, but
because reptiles are cold-blooded, they do not carry the blood diseases of the warm-
The box turtle is a commonly encountered turtle that you should not eat. It feeds on
poisonous mushrooms and may build up a highly toxic poison in its flesh. Cooking does not
destroy this toxin. Avoid the hawksbill turtle, found in the Atlantic Ocean, because of its
poisonous thorax gland. Poisonous snakes, alligators, crocodiles, and large sea turtles
present obvious hazards to the survivor.
All species of birds are edible, although the flavor will vary considerably. You may skin fish-
eating birds to improve their taste. As with any wild animal, you must understand birds’
common habits to have a realistic chance of capturing them. You can take pigeons, as well
as some other species, from their roost at night by hand. During the nesting season, some
species will not leave the nest even when approached. Knowing where and when the birds
nest makes catching them easier (Figure 8-3). Birds tend to have regular flyways going
from the roost to a feeding area, to water, and so forth. Careful observation should reveal
where these flyways are and indicate good areas for catching birds in nets stretched across
the flyways (Figure 8-4). Roosting sites and waterholes are some of the most promising
areas for trapping or snaring.
Nesting birds present another food source–eggs. Remove all but two or three eggs from the
clutch, marking the ones that you leave. The bird will continue to lay more eggs to fill the
clutch. Continue removing the fresh eggs, leaving the ones you marked.
Mammals are excellent protein sources and, for Americans, the most tasty food source.
There are some drawbacks to obtaining mammals. In a hostile environment, the enemy
may detect any traps or snares placed on land. The amount of injury an animal can inflict is
in direct proportion to its size. All mammals have teeth and nearly all will bite in self-
defense. Even a squirrel can inflict a serious wound and any bite presents a serious risk of
infection. Also, a mother can be extremely aggressive in defense of her young. Any animal
with no route of escape will fight when cornered.
All mammals are edible; however, the polar bear and bearded seal have toxic levels of
vitamin A in their livers. The platypus, native to Australia and Tasmania, is an egg-laying,
semiaquatic mammal that has poisonous glands. Scavenging mammals, such as the
opossum, may carry diseases.
TRAPS AND SNARES
For an unarmed survivor or evader, or when the sound of a rifle shot could be a problem,
trapping or snaring wild game is a good alternative. Several well-placed traps have the
potential to catch much more game than a man with a rifle is likely to shoot. To be effective
with any type of trap or snare, you must–
• Be familiar with the species of animal you intend to catch.
• Be capable of constructing a proper trap.
• Not alarm the prey by leaving signs of your presence.
There are no catchall traps you can set for all animals. You must determine what species
are in a given area and set your traps specifically with those animals in mind. Look for the
• Runs and trails.
• Chewed or rubbed vegetation.
• Nesting or roosting sites.
• Feeding and watering areas.
Position your traps and snares where there is proof that animals pass through. You must
determine if it is a “run” or a “trail.” A trail will show signs of use by several species and will
be rather distinct. A run is usually smaller and less distinct and will only contain signs of
one species. You may construct a perfect snare, but it will not catch anything if haphazardly
placed in the woods. Animals have bedding areas, waterholes, and feeding areas with trails
leading from one to another. You must place snares and traps around these areas to be
For an evader in a hostile environment, trap and snare concealment is important. It is
equally important, however, not to create a disturbance that will alarm the animal and
cause it to avoid the trap. Therefore, if you must dig, remove all fresh dirt from the area.
Most animals will instinctively avoid a pitfall-type trap. Prepare the various parts of a trap
or snare away from the site, carry them in, and set them up. Such actions make it easier to
avoid disturbing the local vegetation, thereby alerting the prey. Do not use freshly cut, live
vegetation to construct a trap or snare. Freshly cut vegetation will “bleed” sap that has an
odor the prey will be able to smell. It is an alarm signal to the animal.
You must remove or mask the human scent on and around the trap you set. Although birds
do not have a developed sense of smell, nearly all mammals depend on smell even more
than on sight. Even the slightest human scent on a trap will alarm the prey and cause it to
avoid the area. Actually removing the scent from a trap is difficult but masking it is
relatively easy. Use the fluid from the gall and urine bladders of previous kills. Do not use
human urine. Mud, particularly from an area with plenty of rotting vegetation, is also good.
Use it to coat your hands when handling the trap and to coat the trap when setting it. In
nearly all parts of the world, animals know the smell of burned vegetation and smoke. It is
only when a fire is actually burning that they become alarmed. Therefore, smoking the trap
parts is an effective means to mask your scent. If one of the above techniques is not
practical, and if time permits, allow a trap to weather for a few days and then set it. Do not
handle a trap while it is weathering. When you position the trap, camouflage it as naturally
as possible to prevent detection by the enemy and to avoid alarming the prey.
Traps or snares placed on a trail or run should use channelization. To build a channel,
construct a funnel-shaped barrier extending from the sides of the trail toward the trap, with
the narrowest part nearest the trap. Channelization should be inconspicuous to avoid
alerting the prey. As the animal gets to the trap, it cannot turn left or right and continues
into the trap. Few wild animals will back up, preferring to face the direction of travel.
Channelization does not have to be an impassable barrier. You only have to make it
inconvenient for the animal to go over or through the barrier. For best effect, the
channelization should reduce the trail’s width to just slightly wider than the targeted
animal’s body. Maintain this constriction at least as far back from the trap as the animal’s
body length, then begin the widening toward the mouth of the funnel.
Use of Bait
Baiting a trap or snare increases your chances of catching an animal. When catching fish,
you must bait nearly all the devices. Success with an unbaited trap depends on its
placement in a good location. A baited trap can actually draw animals to it. The bait should
be something the animal knows. This bait, however, should not be so readily available in
the immediate area that the animal can get it close by. For example, baiting a trap with
corn in the middle of a corn field would not be likely to work. Likewise, if corn is not grown
in the region, a corn-baited trap may arouse an animal’s curiosity and keep it alerted while
it ponders the strange food. Under such circumstances it may not go for the bait. One bait
that works well on small mammals is the peanut butter from a meal, ready-to-eat (MRE)
ration. Salt is also a good bait. When using such baits, scatter bits of it around the trap to
give the prey a chance to sample it and develop a craving for it. The animal will then
overcome some of its caution before it gets to the trap.
If you set and bait a trap for one species but another species takes the bait without being
caught, try to determine what the animal was. Then set a proper trap for that animal, using
the same bait.
Note: Once you have successfully trapped an animal, you will not only gain
confidence in your ability, you also will have resupplied yourself with bait for
several more traps.
Trap and Snare Construction
Traps and snares crush, choke, hang, or entangle the prey. A single trap or snare will
commonly incorporate two or more of these principles. The mechanisms that provide power
to the trap are almost always very simple. The struggling victim, the force of gravity, or a
bent sapling’s tension provides the power.
The heart of any trap or snare is the trigger. When planning a trap or snare, ask yourself
how it should affect the prey, what is the source of power, and what will be the most
efficient trigger. Your answers will help you devise a specific trap for a specific species.
Traps are designed to catch and hold or to catch and kill. Snares are traps that incorporate
a noose to accomplish either function.
A simple snare (Figure 8-5) consists of a noose placed over a trail or den hole and attached
to a firmly planted stake. If the noose is some type of cordage placed upright on a game
trail, use small twigs or blades of grass to hold it up. Filaments from spider webs are
excellent for holding nooses open. Make sure the noose is large enough to pass freely over
the animal’s head. As the animal continues to move, the noose tightens around its neck.
The more the animal struggles, the tighter the noose gets. This type of snare usually does
not kill the animal. If you use cordage, it may loosen enough to slip off the animal’s neck.
Wire is therefore the best choice for a simple snare.
Use a drag noose on an animal run (Figure 8-6). Place forked sticks on either side of the run
and lay a sturdy crossmember across them. Tie the noose to the crossmember and hang it
at a height above the animal’s head. (Nooses designed to catch by the head should never
be low enough for the prey to step into with a foot.) As the noose tightens around the
animal’s neck, the animal pulls the crossmember from the forked sticks and drags it along.
The surrounding vegetation quickly catches the crossmember and the animal becomes
A twitch-up is a supple sapling, which, when bent over and secured with a triggering device,
will provide power to a variety of snares. Select a hardwood sapling along the trail. A
twitch-up will work much faster and with more force if you remove all the branches and
A simple twitch-up snare uses two forked sticks, each with a long and short leg (Figure 8-7).
Bend the twitch-up and mark the trail below it. Drive the long leg of one forked stick firmly
into the ground at that point. Ensure the cut on the short leg of this stick is parallel to the
ground. Tie the long leg of the remaining forked stick to a piece of cordage secured to the
twitch-up. Cut the short leg so that it catches on the short leg of the other forked stick.
Extend a noose over the trail. Set the trap by bending the twitch-up and engaging the short
legs of the forked sticks. When an animal catches its head in the noose, it pulls the forked
sticks apart, allowing the twitch-up to spring up and hang the prey.
Note: Do not use green sticks for the trigger. The sap that oozes out could glue
A squirrel pole is a long pole placed against a tree in an area showing a lot of squirrel
activity (Figure 8-8). Place several wire nooses along the top and sides of the pole so that a
squirrel trying to go up or down the pole will have to pass through one or more of them.
Position the nooses (5 to 6 centimeters in diameter) about 2.5 centimeters off the pole.
Place the top and bottom wire nooses 45 centimeters from the top and bottom of the pole
to prevent the squirrel from getting its feet on a solid surface. If this happens, the squirrel
will chew through the wire. Squirrels are naturally curious. After an initial period of caution,
they will try to go up or down the pole and will get caught in a noose. The struggling animal
will soon fall from the pole and strangle. Other squirrels will soon follow and, in this way,
you can catch several squirrels. You can emplace multiple poles to increase the catch.
Ojibwa Bird Pole
An Ojibwa bird pole is a snare used by native Americans for centuries (Figure 8-9). To be
effective, place it in a relatively open area away from tall trees. For best results, pick a spot
near feeding areas, dusting areas, or watering holes. Cut a pole 1.8 to 2.1 meters long and
trim away all limbs and foliage. Do not use resinous wood such as pine. Sharpen the upper
end to a point, then drill a small diameter hole 5 to 7.5 centimeters down from the top. Cut
a small stick 10 to 15 centimeters long and shape one end so that it will almost fit into the
hole. This is the perch. Plant the long pole in the ground with the pointed end up. Tie a
small weight, about equal to the weight of the targeted species, to a length of cordage.
Pass the free end of the cordage through the hole, and tie a slip noose that covers the
perch. Tie a single overhand knot in the cordage and place the perch against the hole.
Allow the cordage to slip through the hole until the overhand knot rests against the pole
and the top of the perch. The tension of the overhand knot against the pole and perch will
hold the perch in position. Spread the noose over the perch, ensuring it covers the perch
and drapes over on both sides. Most birds prefer to rest on something above ground and
will land on the perch. As soon as the bird lands, the perch will fall, releasing the over-hand
knot and allowing the weight to drop. The noose will tighten around the bird’s feet,
capturing it. If the weight is too heavy, it will cut the bird’s feet off, allowing it to escape.
A noose stick or “noosing wand” is useful for capturing roosting birds or small mammals
(Figure 8-10). It requires a patient operator. This wand is more a weapon than a trap. It
consists of a pole (as long as you can effectively handle) with a slip noose of wire or stiff
cordage at the small end. To catch an animal, you slip the noose over the neck of a roosting
bird and pull it tight. You can also place it over a den hole and hide in a nearby blind. When
the animal emerges from the den, you jerk the pole to tighten the noose and thus capture
the animal. Carry a stout club to kill the prey.
Treadle Spring Snare
Use a treadle snare against small game on a trail (Figure 8-11). Dig a shallow hole in the
trail. Then drive a forked stick (fork down) into the ground on each side of the hole on the
same side of the trail. Select two fairly straight sticks that span the two forks. Position these
two sticks so that their ends engage the forks. Place several sticks over the hole in the trail
by positioning one end over the lower horizontal stick and the other on the ground on the
other side of the hole. Cover the hole with enough sticks so that the prey must step on at
least one of them to set off the snare. Tie one end of a piece of cordage to a twitch-up or to
a weight suspended over a tree limb. Bend the twitch-up or raise the suspended weight to
determine where You will tie a 5 centimeter or so long trigger. Form a noose with the other
end of the cordage. Route and spread the noose over the top of the sticks over the hole.
Place the trigger stick against the horizontal sticks and route the cordage behind the sticks
so that the tension of the power source will hold it in place. Adjust the bottom horizontal
stick so that it will barely hold against the trigger. A the animal places its foot on a stick
across the hole, the bottom horizontal stick moves down, releasing the trigger and allowing
the noose to catch the animal by the foot. Because of the disturbance on the trail, an
animal will be wary. You must therefore use channelization.
Figure 4 Deadfall
The figure 4 is a trigger used to drop a weight onto a prey and crush it (Figure 8-12). The
type of weight used may vary, but it should be heavy enough to kill or incapacitate the prey
immediately. Construct the figure 4 using three notched sticks. These notches hold the
sticks together in a figure 4 pattern when under tension. Practice making this trigger
before-hand; it requires close tolerances and precise angles in its construction.
The Paiute deadfall is similar to the figure 4 but uses a piece of cordage and a catch stick
(Figure 8-13). It has the advantage of being easier to set than the figure 4. Tie one end of a
piece of cordage to the lower end of the diagonal stick. Tie the other end of the cordage to
another stick about 5 centimeters long. This 5-centimeter stick is the catch stick. Bring the
cord halfway around the vertical stick with the catch stick at a 90-degree angle. Place the
bait stick with one end against the drop weight, or a peg driven into the ground, and the
other against the catch stick. When a prey disturbs the bait stick, it falls free, releasing the
catch stick. As the diagonal stick flies up, the weight falls, crushing the prey.
A bow trap is one of the deadliest traps. It is dangerous to man as well as animals (Figure 8-
14). To construct this trap, build a bow and anchor it to the ground with pegs. Adjust the
aiming point as you anchor the bow. Lash a toggle stick to the trigger stick. Two upright
sticks driven into the ground hold the trigger stick in place at a point where the toggle stick
will engage the pulled bow string. Place a catch stick between the toggle stick and a stake
driven into the ground. Tie a trip wire or cordage to the catch stick and route it around
stakes and across the game trail where you tie it off (as in Figure 8-14). When the prey trips
the trip wire, the bow looses an arrow into it. A notch in the bow serves to help aim the arrow.
This is a lethal trap. Approach it with caution and from the rear only!
Pig Spear Shaft
To construct the pig spear shaft, select a stout pole about 2.5 meters long (Figure 8-15). At
the smaller end, firmly lash several small stakes. Lash the large end tightly to a tree along
the game trail. Tie a length of cordage to another tree across the trail. Tie a sturdy, smooth
stick to the other end of the cord. From the first tree, tie a trip wire or cord low to the
ground, stretch it across the trail, and tie it to a catch stick. Make a slip ring from vines or
other suitable material. Encircle the trip wire and the smooth stick with the slip ring.
Emplace one end of another smooth stick within the slip ring and its other end against the
second tree. Pull the smaller end of the spear shaft across the trail and position it between
the short cord and the smooth stick. As the animal trips the trip wire, the catch stick pulls
the slip ring off the smooth sticks, releasing the spear shaft that springs across the trail and
impales the prey against the tree.
This is a lethal trap. Approach it with caution!
A bottle trap is a simple trap for mice and voles (Figure 8-16). Dig a hole 30 to 45
centimeters deep that is wider at the bottom than at the top. Make the top of the hole as
small as possible. Place a piece of bark or wood over the hole with small stones under it to
hold it up 2.5 to 5 centimeters off the ground. Mice or voles will hide under the cover to
escape danger and fall into the hole. They cannot climb out because of the wall’s backward
slope. Use caution when checking this trap; it is an excellent hiding place for snakes.
There are several killing devices that you can construct to help you obtain small game to
help you survive. The rabbit stick, the spear, the bow and arrow, and the sling are such
One of the simplest and most effective killing devices is a stout stick as long as your arm,
from fingertip to shoulder, called a “rabbit stick.” You can throw it either overhand or
sidearm and with considerable force. It is very effective against small game that stops and
freezes as a defense.
You can make a spear to kill small game and to fish. Jab with the spear, do not throw it. See
Bow and Arrow
A good bow is the result of many hours of work. You can construct a suitable short-term
bow fairly easily. When it loses its spring or breaks, you can replace it. Select a hardwood
stick about one meter long that is free of knots or limbs. Carefully scrape the large end
down until it has the same pull as the small end. Careful examination will show the natural
curve of the stick. Always scrape from the side that faces you, or the bow will break the first
time you pull it. Dead, dry wood is preferable to green wood. To increase the pull, lash a
second bow to the first, front to front, forming an “X” when viewed from the side. Attach the
tips of the bows with cordage and only use a bowstring on one bow.
Select arrows from the straightest dry sticks available. The arrows should be about half as
long as the bow. Scrape each shaft smooth all around. You will probably have to straighten
the shaft. You can bend an arrow straight by heating the shaft over hot coals. Do not allow
the shaft to scorch or bum. Hold the shaft straight until it cools.
You can make arrowheads from bone, glass, metal, or pieces of rock. You can also sharpen
and fire harden the end of the shaft. To fire harden wood, hold it over hot coals, being
careful not to bum or scorch the wood.
You must notch the ends of the arrows for the bowstring. Cut or file the notch; do not split
it. Fletching (adding feathers to the notched end of an arrow) improves the arrow’s flight
characteristics, but is not necessary on a field-expedient arrow.
You can make a sling by tying two pieces of cordage, about sixty centimeters long, at
opposite ends of a palm-sized piece of leather or cloth. Place a rock in the cloth and wrap
one cord around the middle finger and hold in your palm. Hold the other cord between the
forefinger and thumb. To throw the rock, spin the sling several times in a circle and release
the cord between the thumb and forefinger. Practice to gain proficiency. The sling is very
effective against small game.
You can make your own fishhooks, nets and traps and use several methods to obtain fish in
a survival situation.
You can make field-expedient fishhooks from pins, needles, wire, small nails, or any piece of
metal. You can also use wood, bone, coconut shell, thorns, flint, seashell, or tortoise shell.
You can also make fishhooks from any combination of these items (Figure 8-17).
To make a wooden hook, cut a piece of hardwood about 2.5 centimeters long and about 6
millimeters in diameter to form the shank. Cut a notch in one end in which to place the
point. Place the point (piece of bone, wire, nail) in the notch. Hold the point in the notch and
tie securely so that it does not move out of position. This is a fairly large hook. To make
smaller hooks, use smaller material.
A gorge is a small shaft of wood, bone, metal, or other material. It is sharp on both ends
and notched in the middle where you tie cordage. Bait the gorge by placing a piece of bait
on it lengthwise. When the fish swallows the bait, it also swallows the gorge.
A stakeout is a fishing device you can use in a hostile environment (Figure 8-18). To
construct a stakeout, drive two supple saplings into the bottom of the lake, pond, or stream
with their tops just below the water surface. Tie a cord between them and slightly below the
surface. Tie two short cords with hooks or gorges to this cord, ensuring that they cannot
wrap around the poles or each other. They should also not slip along the long cord. Bait the hooks or gorges.
If a gill net is not available, you can make one using parachute suspension line or similar
material (Figure 8-19). Remove the core lines from the suspension line and tie the easing
between two trees. Attach several core lines to the easing by doubling them over and tying
them with prusik knots or girth hitches. The length of the desired net and the size of the
mesh determine the number of core lines used and the space between them. Starting at
one end of the easing, tie the second and the third core lines together using an overhand
knot. Then tie the fourth and fifth, sixth and seventh, and so on, until you reach the last
core line. You should now have all core lines tied in pairs with a single core line hanging at
each end. Start the second row with the first core line, tie it to the second, the third to the
fourth, and so on.
To keep the rows even and to regulate the size of the mesh, tie a guideline to the trees.
Position the guideline on the opposite side of the net you are working on. Move the
guideline down after completing each row. The lines will always hang in pairs and you
always tie a cord from one pair to a cord from an adjoining pair. Continue tying rows until
the net is the desired width. Thread a suspension line easing along the bottom of the net to
strengthen it. Use the gill net as shown in Figure 8-20.
You may trap fish using several methods (Figure 8-21). Fish baskets are one method. You
construct them by lashing several sticks together with vines into a funnel shape. You close
the top, leaving a hole large enough for the fish to swim through.
You can also use traps to catch saltwater fish, as schools regularly approach the shore with
the incoming tide and often move parallel to the shore. Pick a location at high tide and build
the trap at low tide. On rocky shores, use natural rock pools. On coral islands, use natural
pools on the surface of reefs by blocking the openings as the tide recedes. On sandy shores,
use sandbars and the ditches they enclose. Build the trap as a low stone wall extending
outward into the water and forming an angle with the shore.
If you are near shallow water (about waist deep) where the fish are large and plentiful, you
can spear them. To make a spear, cut a long, straight sapling (Figure 8-22). Sharpen the
end to a point or attach a knife, jagged piece of bone, or sharpened metal. You can also
make a spear by splitting the shaft a few inches down from the end and inserting a piece of
wood to act as a spreader. You then sharpen the two separated halves to points. To spear
fish, find an area where fish either gather or where there is a fish run. Place the spear point
into the water and slowly move it toward the fish. Then, with a sudden push, impale the fish
on the stream bottom. Do not try to lift the fish with the spear, as it with probably slip off
and you will lose it; hold the spear with one hand and grab and hold the fish with the other.
Do not throw the spear, especially if the point is a knife. You cannot afford to lose a knife in
a survival situation. Be alert to the problems caused by light refraction when looking at
objects in the water.
At night, in an area with a good fish density, you can use a light to attract fish. Then, armed
with a machete or similar weapon, you can gather fish using the back side of the blade to
strike them. Do not use the sharp side as you will cut them in two pieces and end up losing
some of the fish.
Another way to catch fish is by using poison. Poison works quickly. It allows you to remain
concealed while it takes effect. It also enables you to catch several fish at one time. When
using fish poison, be sure to gather all of the affected fish, because many dead fish floating
downstream could arouse suspicion. Some plants that grow in warm regions of the world
contain rotenone, a substance that stuns or kills cold-blooded animals but does not harm
persons who eat the animals. The best place to use rotenone, or rotenone-producing plants,
is in ponds or the headwaiters of small streams containing fish. Rotenone works quickly on
fish in water 21 degrees C (70 degrees F) or above. The fish rise helplessly to the surface. It
works slowly in water 10 to 21 degrees C (50 to 70 degrees F) and is ineffective in water
below 10 degrees C (50 degrees F). The following plants, used as indicated, will stun or kill
Anamirta cocculus (Figure 8-23). This woody vine grows in southern Asia and on islands of
the South Pacific. Crush the bean-shaped seeds and throw them in the water.
Croton tiglium (Figure 8-23). This shrub or small tree grows in waste areas on islands of the
South Pacific. It bears seeds in three angled capsules. Crush the seeds and throw them into
Barringtonia (Figure 8-23). These large trees grow near the sea in Malaya and parts of
Polynesia. They bear a fleshy one-seeded fruit. Crush the seeds and bark and throw into the
Derris eliptica (Figure 8-23). This large genus of tropical shrubs and woody vines is the
main source of commercially produced rotenone. Grind the roots into a powder and mix
with water. Throw a large quantity of the mixture into the water.
Duboisia (Figure 8-23). This shrub grows in Australia and bears white clusters of flowers and
berrylike fruit. Crush the plants and throw them into the water.
Tephrosia (Figure 8-23). This species of small shrubs, which bears beanlike pods, grows
throughout the tropics. Crush or bruise bundles of leaves and stems and throw them into
• Lime. You can get lime from commercial sources and in agricultural areas that use
large quantities of it. You may produce your own by burning coral or seashells. Throw
the lime into the water.
• Nut husks. Crush green husks from butternuts or black walnuts. Throw the husks into
PREPARATION OF FISH AND GAME FOR
COOKING AND STORAGE
You must know how to prepare fish and game for cooking and storage in a survival
situation. Improper cleaning or storage can result in inedible fish or game.
Do not eat fish that appears spoiled. Cooking does not ensure that spoiled fish will be
edible. Signs of spoilage are–
• Sunken eyes.
• Peculiar odor.
• Suspicious color. (Gills should be red to pink. Scales should be a pronounced shade of
gray, not faded.)
• Dents stay in the fish’s flesh after pressing it with your thumb.
• Slimy, rather than moist or wet body.
• Sharp or peppery taste.
Eating spoiled or rotten fish may cause diarrhea, nausea, cramps, vomiting, itching,
paralysis, or a metallic taste in the mouth. These symptoms appear suddenly, one to six
hours after eating. Induce vomiting if symptoms appear.
Fish spoils quickly after death, especially on a hot day. Prepare fish for eating as soon as
possible after catching it. Cut out the gills and large blood vessels that lie near the spine.
Gut fish that is more than 10 centimeters long. Scale or skin the fish.
You can impale a whole fish on a stick and cook it over an open fire. However, boiling the
fish with the skin on is the best way to get the most food value. The fats and oil are under
the skin and, by boiling, you can save the juices for broth. You can use any of the methods
used to cook plant food to cook fish. Pack fish into a ball of clay and bury it in the coals of a
fire until the clay hardens. Break open the clay ball to get to the cooked fish. Fish is done
when the meat flakes off. If you plan to keep the fish for later, smoke or fry it. To prepare
fish for smoking, cut off the head and remove the backbone.
To skin a snake, first cut off its head and bury it. Then cut the skin down the body 15 to 20
centimeters (Figure 8-24). Peel the skin back, then grasp the skin in one hand and the body
in the other and pull apart. On large, bulky snakes it may be necessary to slit the belly skin.
Cook snakes in the same manner as small game. Remove the entrails and discard. Cut the
snake into small sections and boil or roast it.
After killing the bird, remove its feathers by either plucking or skinning. Remember,
skinning removes some of the food value. Open up the body cavity and remove its entrails,
saving the craw (in seed-eating birds), heart, and liver. Cut off the feet. Cook by boiling or
roasting over a spit. Before cooking scavenger birds, boil them at least 20 minutes to kill
Skinning and Butchering Game
Bleed the animal by cutting its throat. If possible, clean the carcass near a stream. Place
the carcass belly up and split the hide from throat to tail, cutting around all sexual organs
(Figure 8-25). Remove the musk glands at points A and B to avoid tainting the meat. For
smaller mammals, cut the hide around the body and insert two fingers under the hide on
both sides of the cut and pull both pieces off (Figure 8-26).
Note: When cutting the hide, insert the knife blade under the skin and turn the
blade up so that only the hide gets cut. This will also prevent cutting hair and
getting it on the meat.
Remove the entrails from smaller game by splitting the body open and pulling them out
with the fingers. Do not forget the chest cavity. For larger game, cut the gullet away from
the diaphragm. Roll the entrails out of the body. Cut around the anus, then reach into the
lower abdominal cavity, grasp the lower intestine, and pull to remove. Remove the urine
bladder by pinching it off and cutting it below the fingers. If you spill urine on the meat,
wash it to avoid tainting the meat. Save the heart and liver. Cut these open and inspect for
signs of worms or other parasites. Also inspect the liver’s color; it could indicate a diseased
animal. The liver’s surface should be smooth and wet and its color deep red or purple. If the
liver appears diseased, discard it. However, a diseased liver does not indicate you cannot
eat the muscle tissue.
Cut along each leg from above the foot to the previously made body cut. Remove the hide
by pulling it away from the carcass, cutting the connective tissue where necessary. Cut off
the head and feet.
Cut larger game into manageable pieces. First, slice the muscle tissue connecting the front
legs to the body. There are no bones or joints connecting the front legs to the body on four-
legged animals. Cut the hindquarters off where they join the body. You must cut around a
large bone at the top of the leg and cut to the ball and socket hip joint. Cut the ligaments
around the joint and bend it back to separate it. Remove the large muscles (the tenderloin)
that lie on either side of the spine. Separate the ribs from the backbone. There is less work
and less wear on your knife if you break the ribs first, then cut through the breaks.
Cook large meat pieces over a spit or boil them. You can stew or boil smaller pieces,
particularly those that remain attached to bone after the initial butchering, as soup or
broth. You can cook body organs such as the heart, liver, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys
using the same methods as for muscle meat. You can also cook and eat the brain. Cut the
tongue out, skin it, boil it until tender, and eat it.
To smoke meat, prepare an enclosure around a fire (Figure 8-27). Two ponchos snapped
together will work. The fire does not need to be big or hot. The intent is to produce smoke,
not heat. Do not use resinous wood in the fire because its smoke will ruin the meat. Use
hardwoods to produce good smoke. The wood should be somewhat green. If it is too dry,
soak it. Cut the meat into thin slices, no more than 6 centimeters thick, and drape them
over a framework. Make sure none of the meat touches another piece. Keep the poncho
enclosure around the meat to hold the smoke and keep a close watch on the fire. Do not let
the fire get too hot. Meat smoked overnight in this manner will last about 1 week. Two days
of continuous smoking will preserve the meat for 2 to 4 weeks. Properly smoked meat will
look like a dark, curled, brittle stick and you can eat it without further cooking. You can also
use a pit to smoke meat (Figure 8-28).
To preserve meat by drying, cut it into 6-millimeter strips with the grain. Hang the meat
strips on a rack in a sunny location with good air flow. Keep the strips out of the reach of
animals and cover them to keep blowflies off. Allow the meat to dry thoroughly before
eating. Properly dried meat will have a dry, crisp texture and will not feel cool to the touch.
Other Preservation Methods
You can also preserve meats using the freezing or brine and salt methods.
In cold climates, you can freeze and keep meat indefinitely. Freezing is not a means of
preparing meat. You must still cook it before eating.
Brine and Salt
You can preserve meat by soaking it thoroughly in a saltwater solution. The solution must
cover the meat. You can also use salt by itself. Wash off the salt before cooking.