Survival Skills, Part III: Finding Food

A deer caught in a snare can feed you for weeks, but your odds of catching small game, birds, and fish and of gathering wild foods are much higher. Here's how

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Snares
Small-game snares can be made from the interior strands of parachute cord, braided strands of sinew, or fishing line. Snares stout enough to secure game as large as deer need to be made of rawhide or parachute cord.

skill Ground Snare (picture)
Position the snare at head height and tie off the end to a tree, a stake in the ground, or a log that the animal can only drag a short distance as the noose tightens. Make snares from cord, fishing line, or wire if available.

skill Spring Snare (picture)
This set employs a trigger that snatches game into the air as it strains against the noose. It's good for rabbits and game as large as deer.

Deadfall Traps
Deadfalls that use logs or rocks to squash prey are typically baited, but they also work along trails or outside burrows when a passing animal or bird brushes against the trigger.

skill Spring Deadfall (picture)
One of the easiest traps to make and set, the spring deadfall (see page 59) depends upon the game worrying the bait, so it's best used for carnivorous animals and rodents such as pack rats.

Tension Traps
Employing fire-hardened spear points under tension, these can be deadly to predator and prey alike. Always set and approach an impaling trap cautiously from behind and use only in an emergency in remote areas, where another human or domestic animals are not going to blunder past.

skill Spring Spear Trap (picture)
This trip-wire set is effective for wild pigs, deer, or other game that regularly sticks to defined game trails. Make certain the horizontal thrust of the spear is at a level that will impale the body of the game sought. This is an extremely dangerous trap; use it with caution.

Bird Traps
Birds can be much easier to trap than mammals and should be among your first targets for a meal.

skill Ojibwa Bird Pole (picture)
Set this trap in a large clearing where birds will naturally seek it out as a landing place.

  • Step One Sharpen both ends of a 6-foot pole and drill a small hole near one end. Drive the other end into the ground until it is secure.
  • Step Two Cut a 6-inch-long stick that will loosely fit into the hole. Tie a rock to a thin cord and pass the cord through the hole in the pole, then make a slip noose that drapes over the perch.
  • Step Three Tie an overhand knot in the cord in back of the slip noose and place the stick against the hole. Tension should hold it in position. When a bird flies down and perches, it will displace the stick, the rock will fall, and its feet will be caught as the loop quickly slides through the hole.

Fish Traps
Fish swim next to banks at night or move from deep holes into shallow water to feed. They can often be directed into traps from which they are unlikely to escape.

skill Funnel Trap (picture)
Make the walls of the funnel trap with piled-up stones or tightly spaced sticks driven solidly into the river or lakebed. Close the entrance to the trap, roil the water, then either spear the fish or net them with a seine made by tying a shirt or other cloth between two stout poles.

Making Stone Points
Points and blades chipped from cryptocrystalline rocks such as chert, flint, and obsidian make the sharpest knives, arrowheads, and spear tips, although efficiently using the latter two requires lots of practice.

Step One (picture)
Strike flakes from a tool stone by hitting it with a hard rock. This is called "percussion flaking." Some flakes will be suitable as is for knives; others will require more flaking.

Step Two (picture)
Place the tip of an antler tine or bone point against the flake and apply a twisting push toward the edge of the stone. Continue flaking off small cones near the edge until the point of the stone is evenly chipped and razor sharp.