Hunting for survival is a topic on my mind. I ran into an old coworker and his wife while volunteering at the local food bank the day before Thanksgiving. While exchanging pleasantries, his wife mentioned that she had heard we lived on a farm well outside the city. It’s not really a working farm, I explained, but more like a hobby farm on a lot of acreage.
Our Acres Down the Road in the Country
My wife and I have plans to use most of our 15 acres down the road, but with two small children we have neither the time nor the money to realize most of them currently. Still, we have our big garden, our wood heat, and our chickens. We’re not completely off the grid, but we’re as far out into the country as we can get while still maintaining employment and family obligations. We love the clean air, the privacy, and living closer to nature. We regularly see all kinds of wildlife you would never see in the city or the ‘burbs.
Conversation About My Shooting Holiday Turkey
The conversation turned to our plans for the holiday weekend. I took out my phone and proudly showed her the wild turkey I had shot, which would be the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving feast. (Several weeks prior, fortuitously, I had noticed the local flock of wild turkey hens walking through the woods behind my house on a Saturday afternoon. It was Fall turkey season here in Ohio, and hens are fair game, so I grabbed my Remington 870 with the 28” barrel and screw-in full choke, already loaded with #7 shot. As I tried to quietly open the sliding glass door onto my deck, several of the hens noticed me and the flock began to break apart.
Time seemed to slow down, and I calmly shouldered my weapon and put the sights on the head of a large hen on the far right of the group that had frozen momentarily. Clicking off the button safety with my index finger, I dropped her with a single shot. In the moment, my adrenaline kicked in, and I hardly noticed the loud report from the 12 gauge that set my ears ringing. I set my gun down on the deck and walked down into the dry creek bed where she had flopped in her death throes, and I wrung her neck to stop the thrashing. The distance was about 40 yards—well beyond my farthest archery target bag in the woods. (That’s not bad for a 25-cent cell from Walmart, but I think it was the full choke that made the difference.)
After plucking all the feathers, gutting, removing the crop, and cutting off the head, wings, and feet, our Thanksgiving turkey was 6.6 pounds when we placed her, whole and wrapped in freezer paper, into our deep freezer. It’s quite a bit smaller than a Butterball, but for our small family gathering it would more than suffice. The small size was more than made up for by the novelty factor of having an honest-to-God wild turkey for dinner, and being able to tell the story of how it came to be there.
Coworker’s Wife Mentions Hunting To Survive At My Place
My coworker’s wife, after feigning outrage that I had “killed” my own turkey (they lived in a gentrified neighborhood in the city), was nevertheless impressed and mentioned that if the world goes to hell in a hand basket, they were coming to my place. I smiled and said in that case we would all just starve together, before trying to briefly explain how there weren’t that many turkeys and certainly not enough to go around. “Oh, we can just shoot squirrels or something and eat them. My husband is from a third-world country, so he is probably used to it.” My coworker, a Vietnamese-American, just looked at me with mild amusement. That was basically the end of our conversation. We had work to do after all. I waved goodbye and extended the invitation for them to come shoot guns at “the farm” sometime.
Thinking About Terrible Plan to Survive On Hunted Food
After that innocuous exchange, I began thinking about food procurement in a survival situation. It was particularly top-of-mind since I was spending the next several hours handing out bags of groceries to needy folks in the inner city. I think there’s a grave misconception among a large part of the population that they will somehow “shoot deer” or whatever if something really bad happens and they can no longer buy food at the supermarket. This is a terrible plan, primarily for two reasons:
- In the vast majority of the U.S., even in suburbia where deer are considered overpopulated and a nuisance, there simply isn’t enough wild game to go around, and
- Wild game simply doesn’t offer enough calories.
Dear Hunting in Ohio
As a deer hunter, I think a lot about deer hunting around this time of year. Ohio’s deer hunting season (deer is the primary game animal in the state) lasts roughly from the end of September until the beginning of February. Ohio is one of the top states in the country for licensed hunters and has relatively liberal bag limits (up to four does per county), yet the success rate in a typical year is only around 0.4 deer harvested per hunter. This, with each hunter already having the advantage of modern equipment (tree stands, compound bows, firearms, camouflage clothing, trail cameras, ATVs, deer feeders, scent lures, GPS tracking– the list goes on and on).
Hunters also hunt for recreation rather than survival, and they are well rested, well fed, and relatively pampered by our modern existence. They can pick and choose when to “roll the dice” on a hunt without being burdened by other tasks, such as perimeter security, survival gardening, carrying buckets of water, doing laundry by hand, or other chores, which would suddenly materialize in a grid down environment. The stores are still open, the lights are still on. They don’t have to worry about a sniper killing them outside their front door for the meager contents of their pantry or kitchen cupboards. Taking a deer is not a “do or die” proposition, and I believe that increases rather than decreases the odds of success.
Feels a Lot Like Gambling
I use terms like “roll the dice” and “odds” because a lot of times hunting feels like gambling. Not only that, it can be an emotional rollercoaster. It is a game where “the house” almost always wins and there is an extremely low probability of success. The vast majority of the time I go out I am unsuccessful. Most times I don’t even see a deer, much less get a chance to shoot at one. I would say a 5% success rate for any given sit of several hours would be absolutely fantastic, to put things in perspective. That means going home empty-handed 19 times out of 20, if you are doing really well. And these crummy odds are for people who ostensibly understand what they are doing.
Modern Hunting Odds
Hunters know where deer will generally be (varies), and when (first and last hour of daylight). They know what part of the body to shoot at (generally heart and lungs), how to track them after the shot, how to field dress properly, and either how to butcher the deer or where a processor can handle the task for a fee. When this is all done, hunters have access to grid electricity and modern refrigeration to preserve the venison for a meal possibly years in the future.
Hunters have experience, gear, skills, and information that non-hunters in a pre-collapse environment simply do not possess, nor will have time to acquire when the lights go out for good. With all of those advantages, their success rate is still a paltry 0.4 animals, per year. Simply put, a non-hunter with visions of hunting deer in the woods for food is engaging in pure fantasy.
Even If Successful, It Doesn’t Sustain Someone Long
But even if the non-hunter was somehow able to rise to the occasion and harvest, field dress, and successfully process a deer and do so without getting his kill stolen or being shot himself by bandits or starving members of The Golden Horde, even if that non-hunter for some reason possesses a generator or a solar array to power a deep freezer so the meat doesn’t spoil, or perhaps knows how to safely pressure can the meat in mason jars, even then he is at a disadvantage for this simple reason: Venison doesn’t contain enough calories to sustain someone for very long. Depending on your Google search and which website you believe, venison has about 600 calories per pound. That seems like a lot, right? Well, actually it’s not.
That 150-pound doe you just shot actually only has about 50 pounds of usable meat. The rest is teeth, skin, bones, hooves, tendons, blood, offal, and hide. Sure, in a survival situation, you could cook the bones for marrow or soup and eat the organs to stretch it a bit, but fundamentally that animal only has about 30,000 calories in it (50 x 600). The meat has a lot of protein, vitamins, and minerals in it, and is very healthy, but 30,000 calories will only feed one person for about two weeks on a 2,000 calorie a day diet. That becomes one week if you have a hunting partner or a spouse, and it’s mere days if you have more hungry mouths to feed.
Grid Down Calorie Intake
You can count on eating a lot more than 2,000 calories a day if the grid is down and you’re doing a lot of manual labor (like hauling a 150-pound dead weight out of a ravine, then hanging it up and cutting it apart). That turkey I shot? Maybe 4 or 5 pounds of useable meat was enough to feed one person for a day or two. And if you figure a quarter pound of meat on average for a single squirrel, you would quickly decimate the local squirrel population in short order, assuming they didn’t all go into hiding after seeing you kill and eat the first couple. So there would be no cute squirrels left to see frolicking in the woods, and you would still starve to death.
We Are Blessed In Current Civilization
Mulling over this dismal math on the way out to my tree stand the other night, I reflected on how blessed we currently are to live in a civilization and how much we take for granted. There are plenty of problems in the world to be sure, but water still comes out of the tap, electricity comes out of the wall, and food still comes from the grocery store!
Corn Versus Deer
As I was pouring a 50-pound bag of feed corn  on the ground, I realized in a survival situation I would not be using this corn to bait deer; I would be eating it! The feed corn has significantly more calories than the deer I was pursuing. Corn has approximately 1600 calories per pound. That’s 80,000 calories for the whole bag. Nutritional value aside, the corn has nearly three time the calories of an average sized deer. And in our modern society it’s available at the feed store for only $7. That’s quite a bargain! Under current conditions, it makes sense for me to trade this corn for the deer. But if corn suddenly was unavailable at the feed store (i.e. the delivery truck didn’t come to restock the inventory every Monday), I definitely wouldn’t be dumping it in the woods like I do now.
Hunting For Food in Grid Down Situation Not Realistic
To summarize, it’s not realistic for anyone, hunters and non-hunters alike, to expect to feed themselves in a grid down situation by hunting. It is just not a reliable food source. The calorie yield is simply too low, and even if you are lucky once, you will probably starve before you are able to harvest another animal. In a rural area there are fewer people, but there are still too many people and not enough wild critters to go around. This is why humans invented agriculture. Hunting is a hard way to make a living! I read somewhere that the space needed to support a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is approximately 10 square miles per person.
That probably varies based on terrain, but if it’s even remotely accurate, everyone outside of the Redoubt area (and probably there as well) needs to be learning to grow and store as much food as they think they will need. It is essential to keep a deep larder; buy, store, and rotate shelf-stable foods. Buy them at the store while they are inexpensive and abundant, and put them back. Someday they may not be as easy to come by.
Hunting More Difficult in Grid Down Situation
In a grid down situation, hunting game will be much more difficult, due to increased competition/security concerns, at least for a while, as people who did not heed this advice learn the hard way. We need only look to Venezuela for how this turns out, with people eating their pets or even zoo animals to survive. Pictures of malnourished infants are particularly heartbreaking to me as a parent. Did I mention the importance of food storage? A bird in hand is worth two in the bush, as the saying goes. In a dire situation, a can of tuna is a lot more valuable than “maybe” being able to go out and harvest a game animal. As a serious minded prepper, hunting should be viewed much as it is today during these relatively good times– a nice to have/extra bonus on the dinner table but definitely not something to rely on.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 74 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 $1,095 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),
- 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), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses .
- 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,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of  Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- 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, and
- 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).
Round 74 ends on January 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.