The Unhappy Hunting Ground: Catching Game Post-TEOTWAWKI

This post was originally written in 2009 for the now defunct American Survival Blog.

There is perhaps no idea that will lead to more starving people after any collapse scenario than the “I’ll just go hunting/fishing” scheme that many inexperienced outdoorsman (and some experienced sport hunters) seem to think is a strategy that will supply them and their family with enough meat to live once those pesky park rangers die off. While hunting and fishing are skills that may serve you well in some circumstances, most of you will never hunt enough game to feed yourself or anyone else indefinitely.

Wild game may supplement your diet and certainly can help you survive the bad times the fact is we simply no longer live in an environment that will support the long hunter who relies on meat he catches to feed his family. There are very few areas where this would be possible and in most of those areas competition among other hunters, two and four legged, will make hunting a dangerous and often unsuccessful prospect post-TEOTWAWKI.

Lest you think I’m claiming you should forget about hunting and fishing for game when the times are tough let me assure you that I think you’d be foolish to not try to supplement your larder with the occasional rabbit, pigeon, turtle, crayfish or any other creature that comes your way. However relying on the availability of those nourishing little critters and the occasional deer is foolish in the extreme and does not take into consideration environmental factors post-TEOTWAWKI that will make game scarce.

When I lived in New York I lived on the outer edge of the five Boros, where there were extremely large park systems that lie along side the rivers and in the case of Van Cortland Park literally lead into parkland and wooded areas outside of the city proper. Since there is no hunting in New York City or it’s vicinity it should surprise no one that my former home was teeming with plump and fearless game animals that could be easily harvested with an airgun (something that can be discreetly carried in a pack like the Crossman 2250 XT would be perfect for this purpose) or bow (since drawing attention to yourself with firearms being out of the question there even post-collapse) and even nowadays many older New Yorkers fish the rivers and ponds to supplement their income. Rabbits, squirrel the size of  of small cats and flocks of geese numbering over one hundred could be found in the Bronx, and the further out of the city limits you go the more animals there seem to be. Post-TEOTWAWKI this would be a hunter’s paradise right?

Wrong. Despite the somewhat deserved image of city dwellers as helpless perpetual adolescents who would simply sit in their living rooms and starve to death if grocery stores emptied New York is also home to thriving immigrant populations who come from countries where foraging for food is a family outing. Add to that the couple of million mall ninjas waiting for the collapse to test out their new $1000 crossbow (oddly, bows and crossbows are basically unregulated in a city where pepper spray was illegal for years) and not only will the game become scarce quickly but hunting accidents, and in some cases “accidents,” will claim more lives than looting. Being in any city park after sundown was risky business even in the halcyon days of Rudy Guiliani’s crime crackdowns, a couple of weeks after some sort of breakdown and even in the daytime the parks will look like war zones, and the quiet affluent suburbs with their food stores and recession gardens will be under siege.

This is in stark contrast to South Carolina where the squirrels are lean and stealthy and pressure from both sport hunters and the dozens of hawks that seem to live in my area has turned any animal smaller than German Shepard into an expert at escape and evasion. Here post-Collapse hunting may be significantly safer, but the competition will make success unsure. Unless you are an extremely proficient hunter with a “secret spot” full of animals no one knows of then puttering around with your rifle in the woods will be wasted energy and time.

Storing food in a safe location is your best bet to survive, and starting a garden to at least learn the basics of growing your own food is something we can all do, even those of you still stuck in the big city. Then there are some adjustments post-collapse which, in my opinion, hunters can make that will help them be more productive than if they stay in the sport hunting mindset.

  1. Trapping is more efficient than hunting or fishing. There are good books available on trapping animals (Like Dale Martin’s The Trapper’s Bible) and fishing traps, illegal in most places, are a better use of your time than getting out your fishing gear when putting food on the table is a matter of life and death. An image of a good fish trap can be found here.
  2. Target game others may not. For example if I stayed in New York I’d have invested in turtle and crayfish traps rather than trying to compete with the thousands of novice hunters looking for Geese and rabbits. Here there may be more competition but I know of a couple of places to trap crayfish and turtles, but I won’t even bother trying to hunt squirrel and rabbits except in one circumstance…
  3. Bring the game to you. My garden is a natural attractor to small game. Instead of trying keeping them out I’ll use this to my advantage with a trap or two to put a little extra meat in the pot. Your property is the one place there should be no competition for game obviously, and if there is you have a bigger problem than getting some protein in your Ramen soup

Of course no system is perfect. Trapping requires you make sure the traps are secured which may be difficult if times are rough enough that desperate, hungry people are out and about.  Camouflaging or standing guard will be your only options which will limit what kind of game you can take,. And attracting game to your house will only make you a more tempting target if, like me, you simply couldn’t afford to move somewhere completely isolated so neighbors will see/hear/smell your bounty.

And I’m not putting myself forward as an expert on hunting pre or post-collapse. If someone has a surefire technique to keep themselves feed on the fat of the land I’d be happy to hear about it, but post-TEOTWAWKI the smart strategy is to have a deep larder, learn to grow and forage your own vegetables and use hunting game as a supplement to your other preparations when it is safe to do so. I’ll never plan to rely solely on my ability to bag an animal, which changes depending on circumstance, and neither should you.

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