Second Phase – Individual Survival in the USMC Mountain Survival Course (continued)
I was on the third day of my individual isolation survival of the USMC Mountain Survival course. By mid-afternoon I had improved my fuel (wood) situation, improved my shelter and signaling for rescue, and boiled enough water to fill my plastic bladder and two Nalgene bottles. So I went scrounging for food.
Food for Day Three
I was five yards from a small running stream that provided just enough running water to scoop some out with a metal cup. Another 50 yards downhill from my shelter, the stream emptied into a larger stream several feet across. The stream was small. The fish in it were, at best, three or four inches long. I hooked some line to some low hanging branches, baited the smallest hooks from my fishing kit, and dropped them into the stream. Then I made a quick split point spear. It was easy enough. Find a straight stick, sharpen the point, and then split the point into two. Wedge a small piece of wood between the two points and wrap some fishing line around to hold the wedge in place.
Now you’ve got a simple fish spear. Then wander around the river banks and wade out. Stand still and look for fish. Put the tip in the water. Move slowly, and keep an eye on where your shadow falls. It will warn the fish that there is danger above. Keep your spear aimed slightly below the fish (water reflection), and use a quick thrust. I used to do this all the time as a kid. Like then, I’ve never actually got anything but frustrated.
After my fishing trip, I set about setting up snares on any potential game trails or burrowed dens in the ground. I spent more time on this. I believed I had the best chance at catching something to eat in this manner. Unfortunately, at the elevation where we were, there was not much game. I did see two mule deer later on during this phase and tried to get close enough to kill them. I have more on that later.
Basic Chores and Assignments
Evening was coming on, so I stripped down and washed my clothes and body in the stream. Then I went back to my shelter, read my Bible, and worked on my assignments.
For the next few days I gathered wood, continually improved my shelter and living area, checked lines and traps (moving them at times), and worked on our assignments. The assignments during this portion of the course included: making weapons, utensils, and a bowl. We were also assigned the task of tanning our rabbit hide for something useful.
Utensils and Bowl Made
For utensils, I carved out a spoon and fork from a flat piece of split wood shaped out with my knife. I never actually used them. It’s not like I had food. It was just a wood carving exercise for the most part. For the bowl, I used the folding saw and cut a length of dry fallen log about eight inches in diameter. Using my knife, I stabbed and pried into the center as best I could to make a hollow. Then using a pair of sticks, like pinchers, (Pro Tip: Carry a Multi-Tool with pliers!) I put a lump of coal into the indention and began to blow.
This started the slow process of burning a hollow core out for the bowl. The requirement was that your bowl was capable of holding an amount of water equal to your metal cup. If the bowl cracked, you could use sap to fill and keep the water in. I used some of the wax from the survival kit’s wax candle. It was worthless as an actual light. I helped the process with my knife whenever possible, as it was faster by digging with the tip of the blade then slow burning with a piece of coal.
For a weapon, I made a war club. I found a dead tree with a large “turn”, at almost 90 degrees at the bottom. I cut the tree down below the turn and left about three feet of trunk above it. Then, I whittled a proper shape and handle. I seared it over the fire to harden the wood. It began to crack towards the end, but I wrapped some of my snare wire around it tightly to keep it together. Using an awl on the end of the U.S. Survival Knife, I made a hole in the end of the handle and ran a length of 550 cord through to make a loop. (Get a multi-tool. (for this!) This thing was awesome. It’s what I used when I stalked the two mule deer that wandered by my camp.
My Mule Deer Attack
My plan was to sneak up as quickly as I could and try to brain one of the deer with a good throw of my handmade weapon. This didn’t work for a number of reasons. There wasn’t much cover, and I reeked of smoke from fire. Plus, I had never thrown my club, so I wasn’t sure how far I could throw it. The skittish animals never came in to what I thought was a good throwing distance.
Eventually they tired of me and ran off. (I carried the club through the entire course like BamBam from the Flintstones and brought it home with me stuffed in my seabag on the plane. I put some polyurethane on it to keep it from splitting while it dried. Then I hung it up in the bedroom. A few years later, it still looks like it did the day I carried it out of the wilderness.) We weren’t told how long we would be on our own. After five days of eating a small piece of goat jerky and a few handfuls of wild onions a day, my energy was pretty low. I found myself taking a lot of rests I normally would not have taken.
Food On Day Five
On my regular diet, I hate most vegetables. I definitely hate all “leafy” plants. I have tried. Really. I don’t know how many dandelions or horse mane I tried to eat. The wild onions weren’t too bad, but trying to eat them with the stems made it rough. I managed. However, could I eat the bugs? No, thank you. During the first phase, when I was sheltering with the Corpsman, he was eating carpenter ants on day one. He swore they tasted like sweet tarts. I don’t know. I didn’t try them. Worms, grubs, all that food out there are, yeah, calories.
But do you know how many ants and worms you’d need to eat for it to matter? It works for some animals, but it wasn’t worth the effort in my situation. As a last resort, yes. They are better than nothing. But if you are down to eating bugs, you are in some serious trouble. I wasn’t there yet. (I knew my return flight date!) The wild edible plants around me didn’t have many calories either, by the way.
Their caloric count was nothing like a potato, carrot, or something with substance and starchy carbs. As for my snares and traps, I found a couple that showed signs of something moving them, but they had no catches. Nothing was on the fishing lines either. I had small hope for them. I did spear fish again, and again the minnows eluded me.
Moving On Again
The evening of our fifth day, the instructor showed up and checked my assignments. I was told to break camp in the morning. We were all told to tear down the shelters, scatter the materials used to the wind, and destroy all evidence we were ever there. We were to all meet at the ammo can with the log book for the next phase. The next morning I pulled the shelter down and made sure all my gear was packed and my water topped off. I threw the stones for the fire wall down the hill and dragged the branches and logs from my shelter into the woods.
I took down my signaling mirror and erased the arrows pointing to my site. The orange water bag was used to carefully put out the fire and I stirred the ashes until nothing smoked. I cleared the place out pretty well, except I forgot my wag bag, but that was okay. I only had to use it once the entire time and wouldn’t need it again.
Phase 3 – Group Survival
That morning, we trickled into the clearing. Everyone was filthy. Some had minor burns, scrapes, and cuts. That sniper with the fractured hand looked especially rough. Our dirty beards were starting to show up nicely on our soot-covered faces. The temperature had started to drop lower at night, even though it was mid-July. That morning we were all bundled up. I had my grid fleece on under my blouse with the neck zipped up.
The boonie cover was on my head and shemagh was wrapped around my neck covering most of my face. Still, I was shivering. We talked about our adventures. A couple of guys had seen each other from a distance, but no one admitted any contact. I personally hadn’t seen anyone but the instructor. A couple of guys managed to snare a couple of ground squirrels to eat. Most of us had eaten more onions than we cared to ever eat again. I don’t know about the Polish Commando. He barely spoke English, but he acted like this wasn’t anything new for him.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part three 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.