Finding Food in the Wild

Today I’m handing my pen (actually, a computer) to our good friend, Orrin M. Knutson, for his take on finding food in the wild. Take it away, Orrin.

Thanks, Frank.

Fishing, hunting and gathering are skills buried deep in the omnivorous animal DNA of human beings. We’ve simply become lazy, thanks to modern technologies. We no longer have to scrounge for what we eat because it has become too easy.

But, have you ever thought what you’d do for food if you were lost, stranded or caught in a major natural disaster? I hope this blog post will provide you with some valuable tips.


If you are stranded or lost in a place where there are natural or even manmade waters, fishing is likely to be your most productive food harvesting method. You can live on only fish for a very long time.

There are no poisonous freshwater fish in the United States. However, there are several in our ocean waters. Some fish taste better than others, but big or small, pretty or ugly, they are a food source that you can survive on almost indefinitely.

There are primitive methods of fishing such as by hand, with a gigging spear or woven fish traps. However, having a stash of modern fishing gear in your bug-out bag is more productive. Once you learn to tie two basic fishing knots (the loop and the blood knot), the rest is simply a mixture of commonsense, a little luck and lots of patience. Then, just add water.

All that is really needed for survival fishing are a handful of basic terminal types of tackle as listed here:

  • A 100-foot spindle of 8 to 20-pound test monofilament line
  • A couple dozen assorted bait hooks in different sizes
  • A couple dozen split-shot and weight sinkers
  • A half-dozen fishing flies
  • A half-dozen plastic baits and lead-head jigs

All this fishing stuff will fit into a small, hard, plastic box not much bigger than a bar of soap.


We know that game harvesting is a very divisive issue for some people. Still, we are talking about exigent survival, not political correctness.

Firearms. Yes, having a firearm just about guarantees you are going to eat even if only by making a dumb lucky shot. However, this is a very hard choice for many reasons. You make your own decision.

Pneumatic Rifles. Air guns are not firearms, but they are great short-range weapons for taking small game or birds and are not as legally restricted as are firearms. So, what do we recommend as a modern option to guns?

Slingshot. Almost every survivalist instructor suggests making a slingshot from scratch like Tom Sawyer. But why?

A modern slingshot is an ideal, inexpensive and fun harvesting tool. A slingshot will knock down small game and birds out to 20 yards. Using a straightened stick with makeshift fletching, your “shooter” can effectively be used like a bow and arrow to take down bigger animals such as deer at close range.

Blowgun. Using a blowgun as a small game and bird getter may sound silly in this modern age. But many people do so very successfully. Modern blowguns are very inexpensive. Just be sure to have lots of darts to go with them and practice your aim at home, often just for fun.

Primitive Hunting. You can go Neanderthal by throwing rocks or sticks. Or you can go Cro-Magnon making spears or bows and arrows from scratch. But these methods require sharp hunting skills and lots of practice.

Learn to Make Snares. We recommend that you learn to set snares made from string or wire for small game and paracord or rope for larger critters.

Gathering Wild Plant Edibles

Most native edible plants tend to be very regional within different environments. What is good in the mountains cannot necessarily be found in the desert. What grows in the plains may not be found in forests. Very few plants are outright deadly, but there are a few. We recommend that you carry a pocket field manual and practice identification often.

Rules of Harvesting Wild Plants

The commonsense rule of thumb for eating wild vegetation safely is, “If in doubt, kick it out.” Know what you are going to eat before popping it in your mouth.

Never over-eat unfamiliar plants all at once. Suddenly switching your diet can give your body a shock. Even if you find tasty vegetation that is plentiful but you’ve never eaten it before, don’t stuff your gut until you’ve been enjoying the plant in small quantities for a few days.

When it comes to wild mushrooms, pause. Although many fungi are yummy, unless you are super experienced at identification, harvesting and preparation, the rule is “Never eat wild ‘shrooms.”

How to Test a Plant for Edibility

First, crush up some leaves, stems, seeds, roots and flowers of one plant, all separately. Lightly touch the juices of each part with your tongue. If any part burns, stings, itches, causes numbness or results in other negative reactions in your mouth or on your lips, don’t eat it.

If a plant part is bitter, it may still be good to eat once boiled in two or more changes of water. But try one more test first. Smear a spot about the size of a quarter with the sap or juices on naked skin, for instance the inside of your forearm. Then wait 30 minutes. If your skin begins to itch, becomes inflamed or welts up, don’t eat it.

Here are a few of the best wild plants: dandelion, cattails, reeds, arrow root, fiddlehead fern, wild onion, wild asparagus, hard-stem and greater bulrush, yucca blossoms, pepper grass, lambs quarters, wild strawberries, pine nuts, wild rose hips and prickly pair cactus. Our personal favorites’ list goes on and on, but you get the idea.

We respectfully ask that you help us support U.S. military members by ordering a signed copy of our book, Survival 101 – How to Bug Out and Survive the First 72 Hours, teaching you basic survival skills and how to stock a bug-out bag. To order, make a request at [email protected]


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