On the evening of the first night of being in the instructional phase of our USMC Mountain Survival Course, we were handed a pet shop rabbit. The Marine Corps had bought a batch of larger farm raised rabbits, only to find out they carried the nasty Tularemia (rabbit fever). They discovered the disease after looking at the first rabbit’s liver, which was spotted white/yellow and/or swollen. They weren’t willing to accept the risk of disease transmission. So, they searched all the nearby pet shops and bought up all the pet bunnies they could find. Those bunnies were small and cute instead of large and fluffy and full of meat. Mine was black and white. I had always wanted a pet rabbit. Just the same, I didn’t bother naming him since he looked tasty.
Butchering a Rabbit
Using one as an example, the instructors showed how to kill, skin, and butcher them. A large portion of the class had never hunted anything except humans. Therefore, eating what they killed was new to them.
The instructors taught us the “broomstick” method for killing the rabbits. First, we pet the rabbit to calm it. Then, we put our boot on its head and snapped the spine with a clean jerk. This looked easy when they showed us and seemed easy in theory. I tried it. Mine just got really scared and angry. I couldn’t get it to hold still enough to put my boot back over its head to try again, so I used my Tanto . There was a lot of neck breaking failure going on around me. It seems brutal. But it is much more humane than how animals die in the wilderness– eaten alive.
We ate everything, including the eye balls. (They are squishy on the outside and crunchy on the inside.) I don’t recommend eating something that will make you vomit. Don’t waste your food like that. It’s probably 25 calories anyways. You will lose more calories and fluid throwing up than you would have gained. I boiled my rabbit and made kind of a broth. It wasn’t too bad, but I regretted not putting salt  in my Survival Kit.
Using the Hide
We were shown how to brain tan the skins, as another course requirement was to use the hide to make something during the course. I made a sheath cover for my Recon Tanto. It smelled and attracted flies. So I was glad I didn’t make a loin cloth.
Day Two and Three
The second day was spent with more bow and drill time. We had a few nature hikes wherewe looked for edible plants and animal sign. Did I mention we had more bow and drill time? We had lots of it. People were getting hungry. A lot of plants were eaten, along with a few bugs and no animals. I got an egg from my chicken and boiled it for brunch. The guys with roosters weren’t too happy.
Killing and Eating Our Chickens
On the third day, we killed and ate the chickens. Again, this was first demonstrated by an instructor. If you haven’t seen 26 military men trying to kill chickens with the “snapping the neck” method, hilarity ensued as angry feathered birds flew in many directions as they slipped out of hands. Mine did. Once I chased it down and caught it, I used my knife again. After plucking and gutting the carcass, I cut the meat off and boiled it, eating half and saving the rest. After seeing the Polish Commando pluck then roast his chicken whole in its skin over the fire and eat it, I regretted not doing the same. I wasted some valuable calories there.
Goat and Chicken Meat
On the fourth day, they turned two goats out for us to eat. We chased them down, killed them, ate them, and wore their skins. Only we didn’t wear the skins; there wasn’t enough to go around. Again, hilarity. At this point a lot of spears, bolos, atlatls, and clubs had been fashioned– all sorts of things. And men were flying through the air. In the end, it was cornering and tackling the goats, and slitting throats that did the work. We ate well that night with a handful of roasted meat for each of us. The rest we strung over the fire on our snare wire and slow cooked over the night into a sort of smoked jerky. Being our last night before the second phase, I ate the rest of my chicken as well.
The morning of the fifth, we tore down our shelters. We split the goat jerky evenly (a handful each), loaded up, and went for a hump. We moved several clicks further into the woods, following the stream up the mountain. When we reached a large grass clearing with an ammo can on a log in the center, we stopped. The ammo can was for proof of life. Every morning we were required to put out the fires and go down to the clearing, avoiding all other contact, and sign our initials on the log sheet inside the ammo can to prove we had survived the night. If there is no signature, the instructors come looking for you and the bear that probably ate you.
Second Phase – Individual Survival
Each instructor took a group into the woods and dropped us off one by one at our isolation sites that were scattered through the valley. For the indeterminable future, we were on our own. I would say we were far enough that no one could hear you scream. Yet, I did faintly hear someone screaming obscenities once. Still, we were pretty far apart.
We had been taught that there are certain goals to attain during the first 24 hours. You need shelter, fire, and a signal for rescue. During the following 24 hours, you are to find food and water and improve your situation. After the first 48 hours, you either keep improving while waiting rescue or make the decision to move. If no one is looking for you, you have to move. If they are looking for you, get that bonfire pyre ready to light and keep an eye out. (It is important to think smoke not flame. Flame isn’t very visible during daylight. Use fresh pine branches with lots of quick to light dry kindling and such below it. Toss in a burning stick from your campfire onto the kindling and send a smoke signal.) If you move, remember that water leads to civilization.
I set about making my shelter; a basic lean-to in a cluster of large rocks and trees to block the wind. I lashed a stout branch across two trees that were conveniently spaced and then placed cut branches from the top of that to the ground. This gave it just enough angle and height that I could sit under cover and fit laying down. I draped my space blanket  over the vertical supports and piled cut leafed branches and dirt over the top of that. This was just tall enough that I could hunch over in front of the fire in a sitting position and be under cover. The space blanket helped reflect heat back on my body. On the ground, I piled fallen pine needles several inches deep and folded the tarp  in half on top of my “bed” to sleep inside of.
In front of the bed, about 18 inches away, was my fire that I started with my knife and magnesium sparked onto Vaseline-coated cotton balls. Past the fire, I built a rock wall two feet high to reflect the heat back into my lean-to and shelter it from the wind.
For signaling, I took my signal mirror  and hung it from a nearby tree in a windy opening on the side of the hill so it would spin and reflect the sun. Then, I created numerous arrows on the ground, made from logs and sticks in a circle around my area pointing towards my campsite. I tried to get as many of these in the open as possible for any airplanes searching the area. It also was clear in any easy avenues of approach for searchers. Near my fire, with plenty of open space around it, I built a smoke signal that could be lit within moments of seeing or hearing rescuers.
At the campsite, I took my ILBE Waterproof bag and turned it inside out so the orange side was out. Then, I filled it full of water to keep next to the fire in case of an emergency. This was for two purposes– both for signaling to find my campsite, as it stood out well, and required by the course to prevent a possible wildfire.
Food on Day Two
The second day in isolation, I gathered some edible onions around my shelter and boiled a broth with a piece of goat jerky for lunch. I used the entire wild onions– stems and bulb. It still tasted bland.
The area we were in was extremely dry. All of the fallen trees and branches were bleached white from the sun and burned quickly. The amount I had to stockpile to make it through the night took several hours a days. At night, the temperature would drop to the high 30’s (Farenheit), and as the fire died down you would wake cold and have to add wood onto it. Unless you wanted to get in and out of your shelter, you had to keep the wood within reach. I put mine stacked on the outside of my shelter near my head. When I woke up to the fire going down, I could slide a little out and reach for more.
If you are thinking this is a fire hazard, it is. One of the snipers woke up to his shelter on fire. As he jumped out of it, it collapsed on him and fractured his hand. He still finished the rest of the course with a bandaged hand and in a considerable amount of pain.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part two of a five part entry for Round 71 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest . The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses , excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper . These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees  in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product  from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4  Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses .
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of  Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections , a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
- Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord  (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value), and
Round 71 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail  us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.