Friday, June 1, 2012

Living Off The Land

There is a myth taught by countless survival manuals and well meaning educators that it only takes a few hours of hunting and gathering each day to find and prepare enough food for long term survival. Except in maybe a few ideal locations around the planet this couldn't be farther from the truth, especially for the vast majority  of people that are, at best, weekend survivalists. Finding  enough  food , animals and plants, to provide one's daily nutritional  requirements for long-term subsistence is vastly underestimated by most people. By nutritional requirements I mean having enough food that one is not in a constant state of losing body mass and slowly starving.

Just to put this into some kind of perspective that can be more easily grasped,  consider this: around 3000 calories per day are required to maintain one's health and weight. A common red squirrel weighs 5  to 9 ounces and dressed out, ready to eat, gives you about 3 ounces of food. This means you'd need to eat about 25 squirrels per day to meet your caloric requirements. That's a lot of squirrels  folks.  Even if you managed to catch larger animals, say rabbits, turtles, snakes etc., one a day is not going to hack it. For short term survival  this will keep you going much longer of course but for several months of living off the land you are going to have to step it up by several notches.

There's an essay in Samuel Thayer's book "Nature's Garden" that goes into details about what one needs for long term survival and I consider it to be the best information that I've ever read on the subject. Even if you aren't all that much interested in edible plants (maybe you should be) that section of the book alone is worth the price. That article also gives the definitive explanation of why Chris McCandless died ("Into the Wild" book and movie) and completely debunks the theory that his death was due to eating poisonous  plants. ( actually this was done by several researchers but most people still tend to believe the Hollywood version) )
The gist of it is simple. Just like Chris McCandless , most people underestimate how much knowledge - and food- that  it takes to survive long-term living off the land and also overestimate their own skills and knowledge. If you are going to live off the land in a long-term subsistence situation, food must be a major priority. How skilled you are at getting that food will determine your success.