Today I hit my wall. I have writers block. I’ve sat here looking at the blank screen, going to the kitchen for more coffee, going to the bathroom to get rid of coffee, and yet the screen was still white and blank when I sat back down. It’s not like I was embarking on a novel, a great piece of literature impersonating Hemingway, or a black horror mocking Stephen King. No … just a simple survival blog.
That’s when it struck me …. There’s nothing simple about surviving. We, and I mean Me, I, Myself, have become so reliant on modern conveniences I have severe doubts of my ability to survive without electricity much alone in the wilderness. I’m an avid deer hunter, in Missouri opening day is nearly a National holiday. I spend an entire week deep in the woods “roughing it” and hunting prey just like my ancestors. Then I really stopped and thought about it.
Yes, I’m in the woods, but in those woods sets a 34 foot camper with a slide out. Electricity is readily available operating the lights, microwave, radio, satellite TV, while the furnace runs on gas for heat, as does the stove and oven for cooking and baking. Water, hot and cold is supplied from a tank under the camper and is of seemingly endless supply.
Hear the old joke “Does a bear shit in the woods?” I don’t unless I get the urge while out hunting. Which is very aggravating because I must secure my 45/70 weapon, careful not to bang the scope against the tree, they didn’t have that problem with muskets. Then I must peel off my $400 super insulated camouflage coveralls, I never take them off because my $250 boots are a problem to put back on with the insulated socks. If I have a disappointing day of hunting I jump on my Honda ATV and ride back to camp, and some of those logging roads are really rough and bumpy.
I’m ashamed to say, but that’s when I really realized my mountain man persona was fake. It was not done on purpose, no fraud intended, just honest role playing I guess. However, I was not alone. Like I said deer hunting in big in Missouri and the highways are lined with campers and motor-homes, $2000 to $150,000, rushing to the woods to rough it.
To these honest, hardworking people, male and female, my wife loves deer hunting, I dedicate this blog post. I’m going to strive to inform, people like myself, how to actually survive a catastrophe, man made or the wrath of mother nature.
The first step to understanding basic survival skills is to recognize what is considered the greatest threats to your continued survival. Although dangers in the jungle differ from those in the desert, they all fall within categories of threats.
And in that specific order are your worse enemies, and pose the greatest threats to you and your family. Therefore, you must know these 4 responses in dealing with said dangers in order to survive.
Drive these chilling facts deep into your memory if you think you’re playing Cowboy and Indians.
Extreme Weather, especially frigid wet conditions, can kill you in the short time span of 3 minutes.
A lack of water can kill you in 3 days through dehydration as the body shrivels like a prune.
No food will kill you in 3 weeks as the body consumes itself, eating fat, then muscle, then organs
It must be noted before continuing there are disagreements, difference of opinion would be better, within the survival community of which element of danger requires addressing first. Some say water, some say shelter while others maintain without fire you’re just wasting your time. Here is where you’ll have to utilize common sense. Caught in a snow storm … better find shelter. Desert environment … water is priority.
Let’s begin with shelter.
Short definition: “A structure that will protect you from the elements.” That protection can be in the form of an overhanging cliff, a fallen tree or a make-shift stick and leaves structure. Let’s look at 2 of the easiest shelters to build.
The lean-to is one of the simplest primitive shelters to construct, taking about an hour or so, depending on material availability, to build.
Step one: Locate a strong, somewhat straight pole and secure it between two trees. You can lash it, wedge it between low branches, whatever it takes to keep it from moving.
Step two: Lean sticks against the side until completely covered. These can be stripped of leaves or full of leaves as long as they are strong enough. Then heap leaves, grasses, palm leaves, whatever helps block the elements.
The shelter is not perfect. It doesn’t hold heat and if the rain or wind shifts direction it could pose a problem. However, it is quick and easy to build with little or no tools.
The Leaf Hut. This is essentially finishing the lean to structure, but requires more work and time, but offers better weather protection and insulation. Select a sturdy pole at least 9 to 12 feet long.
The leaf hut is a two-sided, wedge-shaped lean-to with much better weatherproofing and insulating qualities. To build one, select a long, sturdy pole 9 to12 feet long. Prop it up in the fork of a tree; or set it on a rock, stump, or two forked prop sticks. Then, cover the sides of the pole with tree branches to act as ribs. These are placed at an angle along both sides of the ridge pole. Place the ribs close together so that your hut covering won’t fall through. Next, heap vegetation over the framework (this can be anything that traps air, including grass, ferns, moss, pine needles, brush, or pine boughs). Two to 3 feet of vegetation covering all sides of the shelter is enough to keep you dry inside. Finally, fill the inside of the hut with a thick pile of vegetation for your bedding.
Not to debate evolution, but scientist that do subscribe to that theory maintain man broke away from animals due to the discovery of fire. Not just for warmth, protection, etc, but they maintain cooking the food, instead of consuming it raw, helped build brain cells and … well, the rest is history. Believe the theory or not there is no disputing fire is a vital element in a survival situation.
Don’t lose the ember
There are basic requirements for starting fire, no matter the method you use. You must have very dry flammable material which easily catches fire. Cotton balls, dry leaves, paper, wood shavings, dried moss, Brillo pad, paper money (won’t do you any good if you’re dead) cattails, the list is endless depending on location.
You must have elements (tools) in which to create an ember or spark. This can be two sticks, flint and steel, matches, lighter, magnifying glass, a battery, anything to create heat. Obviously some methods are extremely hard to perform successfully, while others are quite simple. I prefer simple. I highly recommend carrying some sort of fire-starter to insure success. Knives with built in fire-starters are available for instance.
Tip: Starting with an extremely flammable source of kindling is crucial and fabrication of a fire making tool (bow & string) can be trying. The actually physical effort required for starting a fire with primitive methods is exhausting and requires concentration. All this can lead to your forgetting to have an ample amount of small dry sticks to create a sustainable fire once you get your kindling going. Don’t forget fire building material.
Did you know if you make connections across the two poles of a battery with a Brillo pad, you will start a flame?
Water: Unless you are in weather conditions which can lead to imminent death, like minus 20 F, I believe finding water to be the number issue to resolve, and I say that because lack of water leads to the quickest death of all other dangers.
Just because you locate water doesn’t mean problem solved. Salt water will have to be desalinized, debris littered water will have to be strained, all water no matter how clean it appears should be boiled. I realize you can filter water with natural products, charcoal, sand, pebbles, and that may be the route you’re forced to take. But if possible … boil the water.
Even if the stream water is relatively clean and safe to drink, there are still parasites that although not deadly, can still give you a stomach ache or a little worse. You’re in a bad enough situation, why take an unnecessary risk because you decided to get lazy.
Food: Our bodies are used to eating and it’s a natural reflex to feel hungry as the body realizes it’s burning calories and not replacing them. However, unless you are in an expected long term situation, food is the last thing to worry about. But if you have a shelter built, a fire raging and a good supply of water … let’s go get some grub.
There are literally hundreds of types of snares, some easy to build, others not so much. I don’t have the time, energy or space to list a bunch of different types. However, I’ll tell you about one that I bet you’ve never thought of … a rat trap. It’s essentially nothing more than an over sized mouse trap, but can easily capture small game, squirrels, chipmunks, weasels, etc etc. This is a low-cost, low-tech, and easy to transport device and by incorporating simple food-based baits with these traps, you can be sure to have food and fur at camp each night.
Use your eyes to help your chances of eating. Scour the ground for droppings, rubs, foot prints, trails. The first thing you need to know is what kind of animals are in your area and are they a possible target. You may know moose are present, and you may even have a rifle, but a moose will range for miles and miles, an unlikely target.
Generally speaking, small game animals are active in the early morning and early evening. They are wary of being spotted by predators and cling to areas of dense vegetation and cover. They travel along the edges of open ground using fence-rows and waterways as a corridor. They are predictable and habitual; just like us. They tend to travel the same trails and will usually choose the path of least resistance. All of these traits can be exploited to put meat in your belly.
Lastly, Butchering & Preparing Food:
The only reason I mention this skill, because every animal is butchered differently, is because you can totally destroy the kill if you don’t take care. Number one, a sharp knife is the Most critical tool you need. Ever hear the saying “You won’t cut yourself with a sharp knife.”? A razor sharp knife allows you the control to carefully cut whatever it is you’re butchering, while a dull knife will require undue pressure and a sawing motion. Ingredients for an accident.
Pretend you are undressing a doll. Sounds dumb but it’s the best I could come up with. Slice through the fur and skin, not too deep as you don’t want to contaminate the meat with bile from the organs, around the legs, the head and down the belly. Begin at the head and begin peeling the fur and skin off. This is not an easy task and some animals are damn stubborn about giving up their coat even dead.
It will look better cooked
Remove all the internal organs, known as gutting, and discard, leaving only the meat to cook. Be sure to discard the guts far from your camp. You don’t want to eat it, but there are a lot of forest creatures, some you don’t want to meet, who will and they can smell it from miles away.
Survival is not just one thing. It’s a combination of education, experience, common sense, preparation and a host of other variables. Having all the fancy tools in the world won’t matter if you don’t know how to use them. Experiment, practice, read, observe. One day your life may depend on it.