6 Bushcraft Skills Every Prepper Should Know
Survival by definition is to continue to live and to sustain life. In today’s world given all of the survival reality shows, survival is defined as living long enough to be rescued, until the natural disaster subsides or in some cases, until the show is over and it’s time to pack up the gear.
In years past some people defined survival as living as best as you could, and bushcraft was the art of being able to live in the bush (in the outdoors) for extended periods not only having the skills to sustain life but being able to thrive in that environment.
Today’s Preppers actually need bushcraft skills because any disaster can turn into a long-term survival situation, where skills for surviving for short periods are simply not enough.
The power grid can be damaged or disabled for years by hackers, and anyone that has been paying attention knows people are trying on a daily basis to hack into and shut down major components of the country’s infrastructure.
Once cities become uninhabitable because of no electricity or other causes people will no choice but to seek safety into the wilderness, but to survive you will need bushcraft skills.
What Do You Need To Do To Survive
Shelter is your first priority and you do not have a lot of time in some cases. The most important part about any shelter is insulation between you and the ground in cold weather and breaking the wind.
If you were to sleep on the cold ground, your body heat would conduct into the ground quickly and you might not wake up because of this rapid heat loss. Ground cover is first then overhead cover. If all you have, is a thermal blanket, for example, then wrap in it instead of trying to build a tent out of it for overhead cover. Seek natural overhead cover and use the blanket for insulation.
You can spend all day building a roof over your head and then freeze to death lying on the cold ground. Build an elevated bed if possible, or at least have ample insulation between you and the ground. Pile up boughs and other vegetation underneath any raised beds to keep the wind from flowing under the platform. Then focus on the roof.
Fire is needed for warmth, water purification, to repel predators and insects, signaling rescue personnel and for morale. Fire should be a priority as soon as your shelter is constructed and always have one before it gets dark with ample wood for the night.
In dry warm climates, anyone can create a fire but it takes a certain skill set and knowledge to start a fire in a wet environment. Unless you have extensive fire starting skills, you would need the means to create fire on your person. You simply cannot begin rubbing two sticks together to create fire unless the conditions are near perfect. Wet or damp wood and tinder will not allow a fire to be created this way.
Carry a fire kit that contains magnesium sticks, Ferro rods, waterproof matches and dry tinder. Tinder can be cotton balls saturated with petroleum jelly, which are ideal for damp conditions. Alcohol based hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes can also be used. A spark from flint and metal can ignite tinder that has alcohol applied to it. Carry char cloth, which can also be ignited from a single spark along with dried grasses and/or fatwood (pine resin) and wood curls from seasoned wood.
Cordage is needed for shelter building, snares, lashing materials to your pack or body, restraining people and for carrying or pulling items.
Making cordage from materials found in the wilderness while maybe harder than some survival manuals and reality shows sometimes make it out to be, can be done by anyone. It is particularly difficult in cold weather, but persistence will pay off as well as attention to detail. Certain types of rope, string or twine are made from plant material and you are surrounded by plant materials in a wilderness environment.
Plant materials that are ideal for making cordage include dogbane, milkweed, hemp, flax, cattails, yucca, willow, cedar, tulip trees (many times mistaken for poplar) and basswood. You can essentially make twine or string from any plant material that can be twisted or plaited.
The fiber of the plant is used and then the individual strands are twisted or braided together. In some cases, a supple vine can be used as is. Grasses can be used by tying the ends of three pieces together to do a simple braid. Larger fronds like those found on cattail or certain cacti can be used to make carrying containers by weaving the fronds into baskets, bowls or even into sleeping mats. To make string from cattail fronds separate the fronds into fibers and twist or braid together.
Clothing and other material can be cut into strips and twisted together as well as strips of plastic. If you become stranded in a vehicle, you may have plastic grocery sacks that can be used and even the vehicle wiring can become cordage. The material in car seating can be cut into strips and braided together as well. Do not forget shoelaces and drawstrings on clothing and backpacks.
Humans and grizzly bears, for example, are considered apex predators, which mean they are hunters and typically not the hunted. Grizzlies live in an environment where they are the biggest animal with no predators that consider them prey because of their size and ferocity. A human’s ability to reason and use weaponry along with the capability to control the environment around them is why humans are considered apex predators.
However, being an apex predator does not mean that prey will give themselves up to you. You have to hunt for it and if you enter the wilderness without hunting or trapping skills, you may very well go hungry.
Learn hunting skills before you need the skills to provide food for you and your family. Hunters that are desperate rarely do well for obvious reasons and hunters become desperate because of lack of success that stems from lack of training and experience. You do not need to come back to camp more than one time empty handed with hungry mouths staring up at you to understand desperation.
You need certain skills sets, tools, and equipment to hunt successfully. This does not mean you cannot improvise however, because after all you are an apex predator because of your ability to reason, in other words you can solve problems.
Hunting Trapping Snaring Small Game
If you do not have a firearm, cross bow or longbow then your chances of bringing down big game are low. This means you have to concentrate on smaller game that can be caught in snares or traps or in some cases brought down by thrown sticks or stones. Certain birds can be knocked down by stones and hunters in certain parts of the world routinely hunt birds and small mammals with sticks.
Spears can be used as well but success with a spear has more to do with luck than skill unless you have extensive skill in throwing one. However, spears can be used by practically anyone to fish with if you stand directly over the fish and plunge straight down while still hanging onto the spear.
Thrown spears unless specifically designed and balanced do not have enough thrust behind them. You would need more than a sharpened wooden end in most cases, so this means giving up a fixed bladed knife to use as a spear point.
Snares once set can be considered a passive food-gathering method so set your snares first and then fish or hunt. You simply cannot rely on just one method of capturing game. You have to increase your chances of success by employing multiple methods.
Set snares along game trails that lead to and from water but keep in mind larger predators also use these trails so you will be competing for resources. Trapped animals are an easy meal for larger animals so you have to check your traps often.
A simple snare is nothing more than cordage or wire in a loop with a slipknot. The animal walks into the noose and it tightens as they try to push through. The loop must be sized for the type of game in the area. Too big of a loop and the animal walks through the snare and two small of loop means their head cannot enter the loop.
You see tracks in the snow or mud, now what do you do? You are hungry, do you follow the tracks or sit tight and hope another animal comes along because the tracks may indicate a trail that other animals might move along as well.
You should be able to tell right away if it is a trail used by all animals, trails usually lead somewhere, and it is usually to a water source. Multiple tracks of various animals and the age of the tracks would indicate a game trail that has been used for some time.
You have to know to some extent how old the tracks are, if they are days old it will not do you any good to follow them. In a survival situation, you have to balance the effort against what you may gain. If you burn up 2,000 calories in hopes of stumbling upon something then you will likely end up with a deficit at the end of the day.
With a little practice, you can determine fresh tracks from old tracks particularly in snow or mud. Tracks in snow will lose their shape quickly depending on wind and temperature. If you cannot look at the track and see an actual print imbedded then it is likely an old track. Older tracks in the snow all tend to look alike and it is difficult to determine if it is a deer, rabbit or even human after awhile because of snow melting and from snow that has been blown into the tracks.
Tracks hours old in the mud will begin to crumble at the edges if there is sun or breezes. You can easily see where the mud is drying around the rim.
Bent or broken vegetation is another sign an animal or human has passed by. In cold weather, it will be harder to determine how long ago because the vegetation will not likely have sap. Green vegetation will have seepage, a fresh break is easily identified by the fresh sap, and older breaks will be readily evident as well by the effects of weathering. Note the height of the break from the ground to get an idea of the size of the animal.
Grasses that have been trampled will typically begin to spring back after an hour in warm weather but the time it takes depends on how high the grass is. If the grass is, only a few inches high it will spring back into position faster than deeper grass.
Foraging is simply the act of gathering supplies usually food. Edibles to forage for in a wilderness environment include nuts, berries, and edible plants.
Unless you have extensive experience with plants and their identification, the risk is usually not worth it because some plants and berries can be toxic to humans sometimes resulting in death if eaten.
There are edible plants however, that are readily identifiable from their pictures such as cattails, arrowroot, and even daylilies growing wild. These plants do not resemble other plants that may be poisonous.
Everyone knows what pinecones look like along with pine trees. Pine nuts found in pinecones from any pine tree are edible as well as the inner layer of bark on all pine trees.
Pinion nuts, for example, were a staple of Native Americans diets and the local people often migrated according to the Pinion nut’s growing season.
Berries that are easily indentified include blackberries, raspberries and Indian strawberries, which should not be confused with so-called wild strawberries. Strawberries really are not wild berries and if you find the white blossomed berries then they are traditional strawberries and not Indian berries. The white blossomed plants are likely holdouts from a farm that was in the area or birds have carried the seed. Indian strawberries have yellow blossoms and do not taste like a strawberry but they are edible and plentiful if you find a patch.
Foraging must be done regularly because you are competing with birds and other mammals in the area so you need to keep track of the ripening process. Over time, you will know when to begin looking and where to look.