Much of today’s survival discussion focuses on storing freeze-dried and canned foods and hunting game with guns. For the long term we can grow gardens, resume agricultural food production, and keep domesticated animals, just like our ancestors did in the 1800’s. However, what can we do for short-term food, without the stores, garden harvest, and chicken coops? One positive scenario is we can learn how to be good foragers and hunter-gatherers.
An advantage of hunter-gatherer hunting techniques for today’s survivalist is that they are quiet. Trapping a rabbit in a snare or a net trap doesn’t give away your position quite like the loud report from your rifle.
Early human hunter-gatherer societies started developing modern hunting techniques many thousands of years ago, before the domestication of livestock, and the evidence of early man at the start of argriculture show hunting was a source of about a third of the human diet. The development of hunting tools had advanced from rocks and clubs with the development of the bow and arrows. There is fossil evidence for the use of spears in Asia for hunting. Hunter-gathering lifestyles still exist in some remote locations but are now mostly seen in old National Geographic magazines and TV documentary films.
Alex Czartoryski and others have reported on some of the cultures still practicing hunting-gatherer lifestyles until the recent past. Some of these include tribes along the Amazon (Piraha and Ache), the African San people and Kalahari bushmen, the Sentinelese of the Andaman Islands, The Vedda of Sri Lanka, the Fayu of New Guinea, the Miabri tribesmen of Laos, the Batak of the Western Philippines, and the Hazda of Tanzania, Africa.
In a true survival situation, surrounded by hungry people scavenging and foraging for food, I would prefer not to announce that I might have killed something to eat with loud gunfire. What are the best ways to hunt for meat without shooting your gun?
First, let me say that all the techniques described herein for hunting any species, out of season, without a license, in a regulated location, are for discussion purposes and only for emergency purposes.
We all know from watching Hawaii Five O about the use of a cast net for catching fish. The same net can be used effectively for catching small mammals and birds. Throwing a net takes some practice, but it is easy to use the net as a concealed trap laying on the ground to surprise small game.
One of the easiest and most neglected methods for hunting is with a net. Early men and women used natural fibers from grasses and bark fibers to weave thread and make strings and cords that could be used to make snares and nets to trap birds and small animals for food.
I think everyone should consider purchasing a 6’-8’ diameter net with a ½ inch mesh for their BOB. It weighs about a pound but is worth it. It requires very little training to put down a hunting net trap where large birds or small game have been observed feeding.
Pick a likely location and remove the surface litter from a small clearing and spread your net flat on the ground. Camouflage the outer perimeter of the net with natural leaf litter.
Bait the trap. Find what natural feed the birds or animals are feeding on. Gather some berries, seeds, or edible plants and place most of them in the center of the net. Lead a small trail of food from the edges of the net in towards the center. Tie some long lengths of 30lb test monofilament fishing line every couple of feet to the edges of the net for pull lines. Preferably lead all these small lines to a couple of long lengths of a central paracord that are led away from the net and up over a tree limb. You get the idea. You are hidden downwind of the trap as far as you can get and still able to see the net. Get comfortable and be prepared to wait patiently for a long time until your lunch returns to feed on the bait. Set the trap and collect your game. Again, there is no loud rifle noise and no difficult bow and arrow shots.
You can also convert a flat casting type net into a purse net by inserting a drawstring around the perimeter. The purse net was used in front of an animal burrow to trap it when it ran out. Smoking leaves were used to “smoke out” the animal from its burrow and into the purse net. Hopefully, when the animal rushes out of the burrow, it crashes into the purse net and tightens the draw string so it is captured.
What other simple and quiet tools can you use to bring down small critters? The good old sling shot requires more practice to get accurate at close range but is also effective for food gathering, as most country boys know.
If you are practiced enough to be able to hit a lime-sized target consistently at 10 yards or more, then you have a good likelihood of harvesting birds and small mammals for dinner. My slingshot is store bought and relies on the great invention called surgical rubber tube. My supply of ball bearing ammunition could eventually be replaced by small round stream pebbles. The rubber has a lifetime of a few years, if you store it out of the sun.
The primitive sling is another hand-held hunting weapon that requires considerable practice to become proficient. I made one out of leather and tried, but I couldn’t get good accuracy at any range. Still, give it a try because it is lightweight, made from natural materials, and is quiet. I had the same experience with the primitive throwing stick. We all likely played with a boomerang, but I never got proficient enough to compete with the Australian aboriginals for hunting game. Maybe I wasn’t hungry enough.
An important part of my bug out gear is a walking staff, made from a wooden rake handle and tipped with a 6” piece of steel rebar, sharpened to a point. This is my modern version of a Roman spear. You can easily make this valuable tool with a handsaw, electric drill, hacksaw, and a steel file.
The six-foot staff is very useful support for walking over uneven terrain for improving balance and for personal defense against feral dogs or mountain lions. Another use is as a hunting spear– a basic tool of hunter-gatherers.
This versatile “stick” also makes an excellent center post for a plastic tarp, improvised, shelter. I carry a small roll of lightweight plastic “painter’s tarp” in my BOB. I use it for a waterproof ground cloth and for erecting a small rain shelter. Another purpose for my spool of monofilament fishing line is to secure the corners of my improvised sheet plastic shelter in the wind. I tie a small rock in the corners of the plastic to secure the monofilament tie-downs. You can improvise some natural camouflage for yourself or your shelter by using your net and attaching leaves, weeds, and natural litter to it.
A final touch for my “walking stick” spear was to drill a 3/8” diameter hole about shoulder height up from the ground. I attached a 6” piece of yellow #2 pencil to the top of the walking stick so it can be inserted in the hole. Now your versatile walking stick can serve as a steadying muzzle rest for you rifle for those long shots where being quiet doesn’t matter.
There is another benefit for using a pencil instead of a plain wooden dowel for my homemade ”bench rest”. I can leave a note for someone on the trail. The sharpened spear tip works well for dispatching snakes and spearing fish, crawdads, frogs, and small mammals when they are available.
We all know the classic longbow and steel tipped arrows are one of the best high tech hunting weapon inventions in human history. Practice, practice, practice and you have a quiet, efficient food hunting tool for birds and game. With some training and experience you can fabricate your own bow, bowstring, arrows, and arrowheads from found and natural materials.
The modern manufactured crossbow is increasing in popularity. It is more familiar for a rifle shooter to adapt to using. Again, it is also quiet. You could make extra “bolts” or small arrows for your crossbow by sharpening and fire hardening straight pieces of pine wood. The crossbow can be a lethal hunting tool at 15 yards for deer size and smaller game. Like regular bow archery, the key to consistent hunting results is constant practice.
You can see the list of improvised hunter-gather tools can get long, and you need to consider weight and what items will likely give you the most food to eat quickly. For my BOB, the net has a top priority because it is easy to learn to use, is inexpensive, doesn’t weigh much, and has several beneficial uses. Good hunting!