For TEOTWAWKI, Do The Easy Stuff First, by Dale Martin

There are a lot of things to be fearful of in this old world.  But, for most of us Joe Average North Americans, there are things we believe that are likely to happen, and many other events that are a lot less likely.
Most of us are not all that worried about a magnetic pole shift, the Mayan calendar ending this year, the Yellowstone super volcano, or an alien invasion from outer space.  It’s not that all those things are impossible, but there are threats that are simply a lot more probable.

Mr. and Mrs. Joe Average (the people that don’t have their heads stuck in the sand in denial) are most worried about an economic collapse.  Joe knows these events have happened historically in our own country (1929), as well as many other countries.  He is not so rigid as to think it can’t happen again.

In the current world, Joe hears about it from many different media outlets.  Prior to the last few years, since around 2008, Joe never heard such dire thoughts from any media source, much less from the now countless sources.  He knows the causes could be myriad, and everyone out there has a theory and a prediction.  It might be “just” a hard economic downturn like the Great Depression, and there still might be basic law and order.  Or, it could be truly apocalyptic social disintegration.  Joe is not so arrogant as to think he knows how all the countless variables will turn out.  He might not know what the eventual “tipping point” will be, but neither is he is oblivious to what is happening in the world around him.  He sees the signs.  A recent poll indicated that nearly 50% of Americans believe there will be an economic collapse within their lifetimes.  Many see it as imminent.
Joe, being a practical sort, has stored up a little extra food, water, and supplies, including outdoor gear.  Joe and his family would much rather “bug in” than “bug out”, but he can envision a social collapse where that choice might not be his to make.  He especially knows that if the power grid were to go down, all bets are off.  Joe, trying to look ahead, can foresee a time when cities might become dangerous places, at least for a fairly extended period of time.  Though he can see this possible future, he is still more than a little reticent about the thought of bugging out his family to a remote location in a “live off the land” scenario.

However, Joe, as I have described him, has a lot more going for him than he might think if he has to put into action his bug-out plan to a remote area.  Less than 2% of the population has made any preparations for such an event.  Joe has; at least to some degree.  When he reaches his bug-out location, he has food, water, and camping gear.  He also has a little basic fishing and hunting gear.  He may not have enough for months or years, but he has some.  Most of the population will have virtually zero.

Also, he has been thinking about all the “what ifs” this new world might bring.  Again, that is a lot more than the other 98% out there who think preppers are ignorant idiots who are wasting their time.  Those folks believe the government will “do something” so that it won’t get that bad.  Yeah, right.

Even for Joe, however, life in the wilderness won’t be a picnic, especially for months on end.  Joe, like the rest of us, will need a little change of mindset.  We will all have to realize that at least some of the rules have changed.

The following is a list of “possibles” to think about.  These are all situation oriented.  Obviously, what to do will depend on the exact situation we find ourselves in, and none of us can really predict that.  We have to prepare for a little of everything, but we don’t need to go out of our way to make it any more back-breaking than it has to be.

The mantra of this list is:   Use common sense, do the Easy Stuff First.

(1)  Joe needs to go to water.  Most of us live within a few miles of a stream, river, lake, creek, or even just a pond.  The easiest stuff to successfully accomplish is almost always near water.  Obviously, this won’t help if you are stranded in the Mojave, but Joe has transportation.  Find water.
(2)  Joe needs to clear his mind of at least some old precepts.  Not many people are going to be able to take their trusty bolt action rifle (that has been in the closet for years) and go out and get a deer every couple of weeks to feed their family.  Many people think they could, but it is really unrealistic for most of us.  There might be a few exceptions.  There are a few areas of the country that are simply teeming with large game, but those areas are extremely few and far between.  Even in those areas, there will be a lot of other people competing for that same game in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  Again, think easy.  Hunting is, in most instances, a fair amount of work.  You want to conserve calories, not expend them.
(3)  After setting up his camp, Joe should try water resources.  It is generally easier to obtain protein in (or near) water than elsewhere.  Try tiny hooks for small fish.  Almost any water source will have perch or other small fish.  I have caught many small perch by using bait I scrounged up at the site such as grasshoppers, grubs, crickets, etc.  Once, I used a petal off of a very tiny white flower (or weed) I found in the grass.  All you have to catch with this improvised bait is one of these tiny fish, and then you can cut it into tiny pieces for better bait.  Once you have these tiny pieces of fish flesh for bait, you can generally catch all you want of the little buggers.  Does it matter that you can only catch 3 inch fish?  In the old world, it would not have gotten you any bragging rights, but now is a whole new ball game.  A skillet full will be good, and will conserve the canned goods and MREs you brought with you.
After all, most of us Joe Averages out there have an immediate family of five or less.  Most Joes won’t be trying to feed forty people.
(4)  Joe will have started off with a success; not a failure.  It is, admittedly, a small success, but at least it is a positive outcome, not effort expended that produced nothing.  Failures breed worry and panic.  A positive outcome will help not only Joe’s attitude, but also his wife and children.  If the kids (and their Mom) see an initial positive outcome, it eases their minds.  On the other hand, if they see Dad fail miserably right off the bat, it scares them.  Dad needs to be seen as doing things that work.  A series of little victories is a good thing.
(5)  Set traps that will work while you don’t.  Again, think easy and conserve energy.  Cut a plastic 2 liter soda bottle so that you can reverse the cone end back into the larger end, forming a cone fish trap.  Chop up one of the tiny fish you caught earlier to use for bait inside.  Let it “fish” for you in shallow water while you rest.  Again, it will only catch very small fish, but so what.
(6)  Set individual lines from limbs overhanging the water (or cut poles) to fish while you do other things.  Multi-hooked trot lines, if possible, are even better.
(7) If the body of water has crayfish (poor boy’s shrimp), toss a burlap bag or some such thick cloth into the waters edge, pat it down flat, and let it set for an hour or two.  Crayfish will hide under it, and you can catch some of them by quickly yanking it out on the bank.  Some will have their claws caught in the underside of the bag.  A lot of them will escape, but so what.  You have expended little effort.
(8) If Joe thought ahead and brought with him a piece of large plastic pipe (4” diameter, or so, like is used in sewage drain lines), he can make an un-baited hollow log catfish trap with very little effort.  He would need a piece about 3’ long.  Wire off one end so that water will flow through, but the catfish can’t.  Leave the other end open.  Tie a rope to that end (to retrieve), and toss it into the water.  Leave for several hours at least.  Catfish will swim into these just like they will an actual hollow log that has fallen into the water.  Exactly why they do it, I don’t have a clue.  But, they do.  It is a fact.  “Noodlers” take advantage of this catfish behavior.  Have you ever seen the television show Hillbilly Handfishing?
(9) Something to think about.  Most of the activities mentioned thus far are things that will fish for you while you do something else, or maybe while you simply rest.
(10) Something else to think about.  Virtually all of the above things can be hidden so that a passerby would not even notice.  In a TEOTWAWKI situation, even a remote area might have some people passing through that would rob a fish trap (or set hooks) if they were visible.
(11)  Look for shallow inlet pools.  These are little offshoots of most all waterways where water (and fish) have overflowed into shallow pools just off the main body of water.  Eventually the water level dropped slightly, leaving the fish trapped in the small pool.  If the pool is too large to grab the small fish by hand, carve a spear to stab them with.  Bamboo is relatively easy to whittle into a multi-pronged spear with barbs.  Water birds (like kingfishers) utilize these small pools because their prey is easier to catch there than in more open and deeper water.
This method is obviously a little more work, since you have to physically have to spear or catch the fish.  It won’t work while you rest.  Sorry about that.
(12)  If there are no shallow inlet pools around, you can make your own fairly easily.  Find a spot on the bank where you can wade out at least a few feet without falling into deeper water.  Drive sticks (bamboo is good, but use whatever you have) into the mud making a fence out into the water.  Obviously, the farther out you go, the longer the sticks will have to be.  Move about three feet over, and build a second fence out into the water.  Then, form a cone back toward the bank from the end of both fences.  Looking at it from the bank, it should look like an “M”.  Leave the cone of the M open, so that fish can swim in.  In essence, it is just another cone trap like you made earlier with the plastic soda bottle.  Again, a little work is involved with this one, but once built it will work for you relatively permanently.
(13)  In some waterways, schools of small fish can be netted if you just had a net.  If you can cut a ten foot long pole with a Y shaped end, you can fashion one.  Take a t-shirt and tie the sleeves into a knot.  Then, tie the shirt onto the Y end of the pole forming what hopefully looks something like a butterfly net.  Again, small fish is about all you can hope for, but so what.
(14)  Hopefully, it goes without saying that if a “big success” stumbles into your lap, go ahead and take advantage of it.  Use that trusty old rifle if an elk ambles by your camp.  Everything is situation oriented.  Don’t let doing the easy stuff blind you to an opportunity of bigger and better.
(15)  If Joe has a minnow seine or a cast net, either is quick and easy to use if the water is shallow enough to wade out a few yards.  Again, these items produce a quick gain for little effort.
(16) After a pattern of success has been developed, and the initial panic and apprehension of being forced to bug-out has faded, Joe can move on to “bigger” things if he wants.  He can move on to trying for bigger fish, hunting wild game, setting animal snares, and the like.  Squirrel or rabbit hunting generally has a high success rate.  If his time in the wilds is extended, he will eventually have to set up a water filter for when his initial supplies run low.  The really hard stuff is now starting.   But, he will have avoided the initial fear and panic that could have proved fatal for his little family.

Hope for the best.  Prepare for the worst. 

About The Author: Dale Martin is the author of several books, including Every Man’s Guide to Outdoor Survival