Hunting and Gathering Wild Food

Imagine this scenario:

A small nuclear conflict erupts in the Middle East destroying several countries and preventing much of the world’s oil supply from reaching the marekt. Airbursts knock out more than half of the world’s satellite communications systems. Due to favorable weather conditions and plain dumb luck, fall-out over the United States is not life threatening — as it is in parts of the Far East — and the EMP damage to our electronic systems is minimal. However life as we know it is disrupted as fuel prices reach $10 and then $20 per gallon.

Fruits and vegetables grown in Florida and California can’t reach markets in other states. Corn and wheat crops are abundant, but most farmers don’t have the fuel to run harvesters, and those that do, fill their silos, but the grain can’t reach the market. Store shelves are emptied in two days of panicked buying that sees a five-pound bag of flour go from $1.69 to $8.99.

The economy goes into a tailspin, and inflation reaches 300 percent in the first two weeks. You’re lucky you still have a job, but you wonder how on earth you’ll get there without gas for the car.

The president tries to regain control of the country by releasing stocks of food and oil, but it’s just a drop in the bucket. In a measure of how bad things have become, he declares marshal law and nationalizes all gasoline, refineries, and oil reserves. Suddenly, Uncle Sam is the only gas station on the block, and they’re not pumping for anybody, no matter how much silver you cross their palms with. Riots break out in seventeen major cities and the National Guard has to be called out. LA burns (again) as does Philadelphia. There’s a national curfew and trouble makers are hauled off to camps. 60 Minutes runs a story on these concentration camps, which nobody ever admitted were in existence, but they experience technical difficulties and the broadcast is cut off in the middle of the story. FEMA becomes a four letter word.

Suddenly, the three weeks of food in your larder looks frighteningly small. You wish you had more room on your credit card, but then, smart merchants are only accepting cash, and some will take only silver or gold. You can’t wait for the few tomato plants and cucumbers you have growing in the back yard to bear fruit, and even then, you know it won’t be enough. Winter is coming, and the papers say the utilities can’t guarantee there will be enough gas or electricity to heat peoples’ homes.  You start thinking how you can rip the gas log out of the fireplace so you can burn wood, but without food, warmth seems to be a secondary issue…

Maybe it’s time to look to nature to help feed you. That’s great if you are a farmer or have an acre or two of tillable land. With the proper seed stock, a lot of hard work, and only hand tools, you can grow enough food to feed your family, but it is practically a full time job.

But if you don’t have the land, or if it’s too late to plant crops this season, that means a return to hunting, trapping and gathering.  If you can identify wild plants that can supplement your existing diet, good for you. If not, better go out and buy a few guide books right away. Get ones with pictures, you’ll need them. Just hope everyone else doesn’t have the same idea, or the cat tails and wild asparagus will be stripped clean in seconds.

Captain Dave has eaten all sorts of wild plants, from salad greens he probably would have tromped over on any other day to wild mushrooms to the heads of milkweeds (properly prepared, of course). It is not his first choice, but it is better than tightening the belt.

Captain Dave supports hunting as a great American past time, a great form of recreation, an important tool in game management, and a terrific source to supplement your traditional menu during these good times. Will hunting be enough to put food on the table during a survival situation? Don’t count on it unless you live in a very rural area or have hundreds of acres.

If you’re a hunter, you know how crowded it usually is on opening day. Could you imagine what the local game lands would be like if everyone’s dinner depended on hunting? How quickly would we strip this continent of all edible game?

Planning on fishing? So are all your neighbors.  And some of them are likely to do it in a way that wipes out all the fish, such as by using dynamite. So if you are in a populated area, don’t count on hunting and fishing to be the best way to provide food for your family. You need to be in a sparsely populated area with a high concentration of game to survive on hunting alone.

There are some areas of the country where the ratio of people to wildlife will still support sustenance hunting. But for most of us, that’s not the case. You may be able to supplement your food supply with some game, but don’t count on it.

A better choice is trapping the small creatures that most hunters will avoid, including rabbits, squirrels, woodchucks, raccoons, muskrats and other “varmints” that are usually below what we consider to be game animals.  If you live in the city, you may be limited to pigeons, squirrels and rats, but when you are hungry enough, these will be a welcome addition to your table or the perpetual stew pot.

What does Captain Dave recommend you do if the above scenario comes to play?

  • At the first hint of trouble and rising prices, visit the local food warehouse and grocery stores and buy as much as you can afford. Get the 50 pound bags of rice and the 25 pound bags of flour. Buy up canned foods and dried foods.  Use your credit cards and part of your emergency cash stash, if necessary. See Captain Dave’s list of last minute items to buy in an emergency.
  • Hunker down at home and protect what is yours.
  • Keep a low profile and avoid contact with others, except fellow members of your survival group. Avoid trouble and confrontations. Don’t brag; help out others where you can to prevent resentment.
  • Hope that within six months the country will have recovered or at least stabilized. If not, the population will probably be a lot smaller when winter is over.

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