The Core Four - Food
One of our most urgent requirements is food. In contemplating virtually any hypothetical survival situation, the mind immediately turns to thoughts of food. Unless the situation occurs in an arid environment, even water, which is more important to maintaining body functions, will usually follow food in our initial thoughts.
The survivor must remember that the three essentials of survival. Shelter, water and food are prioritized according to the estimate of the actual situation.
This estimate must not only be timely but accurate as well. We can live for weeks without food but it may take days or weeks to determine what is safe to eat and to trap animals in the area.
Therefore, you need to begin food gathering in the earliest stages of survival as your endurance will decrease daily. Some situations may well dictate that shelter precedes both food and water.
ANIMALS FOR FOOD
Unless you have the chance to take large game, concentrate your efforts on the smaller animals. They are more abundant and easier to prepare. You need not know all the animal species that are suitable as food; relatively few are poisonous, and they make a smaller list to remember.
However, it is important to learn the habits and behavioral patterns of classes of animals. For example, animals that are excellent choices for trapping, those that inhabit a particular range and occupy a den or nest, those that have somewhat fixed feeding areas, and those that have trails leading from one area to another.
Also, you must understand the food choices of a particular species to select the proper bait. You can, with relatively few exceptions, eat anything that crawls, swims, walks, or flies.
You must first overcome your natural aversion to a particular food source. Historically, people in starvation situations have resorted to eating everything imaginable for nourishment. A person who ignores an otherwise healthy food source due to a personal bias, or because they feel it is unappetizing, is risking their own survival.
Although it may prove difficult at first, you must eat what is available to maintain your health.
Some classes of animals and insects may be eaten raw if necessary, but you should, if possible, thoroughly cook all food sources whenever possible to avoid illness.
The most abundant and easily caught life-form on earth are insects. Many insects provide 65 to 80 percent protein compared to 20 percent for beef. This fact makes insects an important, if not overly appetizing, food source.
Insects to avoid include all adults that sting or bite, hairy or brightly colored insects, and caterpillars and insects that have a pungent odor. Also avoid spiders and common disease carriers such as ticks, flies, and mosquitoes.
Rotting logs lying on the ground are excellent places to look for a variety of insects including ants, termites, beetles, and grubs, which are beetle larvae. Do not overlook insect nests on or in the ground. Grassy areas, such as fields, are good areas to search because the insects are easily seen.
Stones, boards, or other materials lying on the ground provide the insects with good nesting sites. Check these sites. Insect larvae are also edible.
Insects that have a hard outer shell such as beetles and grasshoppers will have parasites. Cook them before eating. Remove any wings and barbed legs also. You can eat most soft-shelled insects raw.
The taste varies from one species to another. Wood grubs are bland, but some species of ants store honey in their bodies, giving them a sweet taste. You can grind a collection of insects into a paste. You can mix them with edible vegetation. You can cook them to improve their taste.
Fish represent a good source of protein and fat. They offer some distinct advantages to the survivor or evader. They are usually more abundant than mammal wildlife, and the ways to get them are silent.
To be successful at catching fish, you must know their habits. For instance, fish tend to feed heavily before a storm. Fish are not likely to feed after a storm when the water is muddy and swollen.
Light often attracts fish at night.
When there is a heavy current, fish will rest in places where there is an eddy, such as near rocks. Fish will also gather where there are deep pools, under overhanging brush, and in and around submerged foliage, logs, or other objects that offer them shelter.
There are no poisonous freshwater fish. However, the catfish species has sharp, needlelike protrusions on its dorsal fins and barbels. These can inflict painful puncture wounds that quickly become infected.
Cook all freshwater fish to kill parasites. As a precaution, also cook saltwater fish caught within a reef or within the influence of a freshwater source. Any marine life obtained farther out in the sea will not contain parasites because of the saltwater environment. You can eat these raw.
Most fish encountered are edible. The organs of some species are always poisonous to man; other fish can become toxic because of elements in their diets.
Ciguatera is a form of human poisoning caused by the consumption of subtropical and tropical marine fish which have accumulated naturally occurring toxins through their diet.
These toxins build up in the fish’s tissues. The toxins are known to originate from several algae species that are common to ciguatera endemic regions in the lower latitudes.
Cooking does not eliminate the toxins; neither does drying, smoking, or marinating. Marine fish most commonly implicated in ciguatera poisoning include the barracudas, jacks, mackerel, triggerfish, snappers, and groupers.
Mammals are excellent protein sources and, for Americans, the tastiest food source. There are some drawbacks to obtaining mammals. In a hostile environment, the enemy may detect any traps or snares placed on the land.
The amount of injury an animal can inflict is in direct proportion to its size. All mammals have teeth and nearly all will bite in self-defense. Even a squirrel can inflict a serious wound and any bite presents a serious risk of infection. Also, any mother can be extremely aggressive in defense of her young. Any animal with no route of escape will fight when cornered.
All mammals are edible; however, the polar bear and bearded seal have toxic levels of vitamin A in their livers. The platypus, native to Australia and Tasmania, is an egg-laying, semiaquatic mammal that has poisonous claws on its hind legs. Scavenging mammals, such as the opossum, may carry diseases.
All species of birds are edible, although the flavor will vary considerably. The only poisonous bird is the Pitohui, native only to New Guinea. You may skin fish-eating birds to improve their taste. As with any wild animal, you must understand birds’ common habits to have a realistic chance of capturing them. You can take pigeons, as well as some other species, from their roost at night by hand. During the nesting season, some species will not leave the nest even when approached. Knowing where and when the birds' nest makes catching them easier.
Birds tend to have regular flyways going from the roost to a feeding area, to water, and so forth. Careful observation should reveal where these flyways are and indicate good areas for catching birds in nets stretched across the flyways.
Roosting sites and waterholes are some of the most promising areas for trapping or snaring.
Nesting birds present another food source; eggs. Remove all but two or three eggs from the clutch, marking the ones that you leave. The bird will continue to lay more eggs to fill the clutch. Continue removing the fresh eggs, leaving the ones you marked.
Paul has had an interest in the outdoors since he was a young kid. Walking, tracking and exploring the wilderness around him, from disused overgrown railway lines to the vast wilderness of the UK national parks. Over the last few years Paul has honed his skills into specific areas of bushcraft and survival. He is an expert in map reading, shelter building and knots, traps and fishing.