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Thread: Living off the land

  1. #1
    I'll most likely shit myself



    bacpacker's Avatar
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    Living off the land

    Here is an interesting article about living off the land that brings up several points about what lots of people think will happen WSHTF and their ability to survive. It sure gave me some things to reconsider. The whole article is pretty long. Here is a part of it.

    http://preparedchristian.net/living-.../#.UlikEVNGblS

    Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions About Hunting and Gathering
    October 11, 2013 by Chris Ray 9 Comments

    The Following article was written by Ross Gilmore and is reposted with his permission. The original article can be found here at his site, Wood Trekker.

    From time to time I will see someone say that their bug out plan is to head to the woods and live off the land. I have always thought that this was a bad idea, but only had conjecture to back up my opinion. Rob has done a fantastic job of crunching numbers and shows just how much someone would have to hunt and gather to bring in enough calories.


    Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions About Hunting and Gathering



    Ah, living off the land. Thriving in the wilderness with the use of your skills. It is the ultimate goal of many bushcrafters and survivalists. Numerous posts have been written on forums about this subject, and as soon as one ends, another is started. Of course, actual evidence is rarely presented. We often fall back on positions such as “our ancestors did it, so clearly I can do it”, or “I was out last week and saw a bunch of cattails and barriers, so my food sources are secure”.

    The problem is not made any better by so called experts in the field, who fuel the myth that they are feeding themselves in the wilderness. I vividly remember watching Andrew Price, host of A-Z of Bushcraft in one of the episodes, waking up in the morning, walking a few feet next to camp, gathering a few berries, and then turning the the camera and saying “breakfast is served”. Ray Mears, aside from his excellent series, Wild Foods, has numerous instances where he gathers meager resources and then implies that his food requirement have been met. Of course, none of them ever bother to calculate or present actual caloric values, or discuss the long terms consequences. Similarly, people like Dave Canterbury, who discuss at length hunting in wilderness living conditions, never actually do the math of how much game has to be killed to justify the weight of that shotgun being carried, or whether the numbers would work out at all.

    For the past year I have been attempting to gather some actual numbers on the subject, so we can have a more meaningful conversation about what it would take to sustainably feed a person in the wilderness, and consequently, what tools may be suited for the task. I must admit, I have been slacking with the project because of its tedious nature. Last week however, a reader referred me to a source related to the Chris McCandless post, which provided me with some of the information I was searching.

    Samuel Thayer, author of the books Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden, wrote an essay related to the starvation of Chris McCandles titles Into the Wild and other Poisonous Plant Fables. While much of the essay focuses on disproving theories of poisonous plants, the last section discusses actual caloric requirements for a person living in the wilderness, and what resources that would require.

    So, let’s assume a scenario where a person will be going into the wilderness with the intention of living off the land. He will practice wilderness self reliance, he will thrive in nature, and whatever other cliché you want to insert here. Let’s also assume for the moment that there are no hunting or fishing regulations that we have to comply with, and let’s assume that the person has all necessary equipment, including hunting and fishing tools. What would the person need to procure each day in order to live in a sustainable manner for a prolonged period of time?

    Well, the first piece of the puzzle is the required calories. Citing Michele Grodner’s Foundations and Clinical Applications of Nutrition, Thayer calculates that a male who is physically active under wilderness living conditions would need approximately 3,300 calories per day. This number seems consistent with calculations done by long distance backpackers, who usually aim for a bit over 3,000 calories per day. So, to maintain one’s physical condition, and prevent weight loss, the person in question must consume about 3,300 calories each day. Of course, there are other nutritional requirements, but at a very basic level, to prevent death from starvation in the long run, this caloric minimum must be met.

    The above caloric requirement for wilderness living should not be confused with accounts of short term survival, where a person stays in the wilderness, slowly losing body weight, until they are rescued. We have plenty examples like this from series like Survivorman, Naked and Afraid, etc. Those are not examples of sustainable hunting and gathering situations, and we should not have any delusions about the long term applications of such a starvation diet.

    So, sticking with the 3,300 caloric requirement per day, what would it take to meet these caloric needs?

  2. #2
    Crotch Rocket


    mitunnelrat's Avatar
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    Damn man, don't go bursting my delusional bubble on how I'm handling my worst case scenarios

    In point of fact I believe its better to plan against needing to do this, which in my case means estimating how long I may need to be "in transit" and packing 25-33% more than I think I may need for a safety cushion. It most definitely is not my bug in plan.
    Consilio et animis

    Essayons!

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    Two important issues. First, the average of 3300 calories a day doesn't mean you have to come up with 3300 calories a day. Traditional hunter-gatherers lived much more in a boom and bust society than we are used to. Finding a large food supply and consuming 9000 calories a day for 3 days, then having a week of 1000 calorie-days worked then and is probably more likely. Second, the ability to live off the land is very dependent on the land where you are. I'm in southern Louisiana where it is relatively easy to go out and get dinner out of the ditch alongside of the road. So where you are along with an understanding of the land itself makes a big difference. In my younger days on the farm I knew where to find fish and turtles, where to get a deer or assorted small game, where the wild fruits and grains were, and so on. So a little knowledge can go a long way, and not just a general knowledge of "here is how you do" but a more specific "here is how you do it HERE."

  4. #4
    I'll most likely shit myself



    bacpacker's Avatar
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    Excellent point about the Boom and Bust cycles. When taking the seasons into account in particular.

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    Good read

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    Reminds me of the first few seasons of the CBS show "Survivor". Intially the show provided a meager anmount of rice, and the contestants were supposed for live off the land. I read they were given instructions on what food sources were naturally availble in the area. Those people were starving so bad at the end of only 3 weeks they were loosing hair in clumps, could barely walk, and were getting ill. After the first few seasons, the show increased the food amounts to keep their contestants alive.
    I read a book called "A Land Remembered", and although fictional, it presented a bleak picture for early Florida settlers trying to live off the land, even with a garden and hunting.
    I consider native food sources a great supplment, and if worse came to worse would try my hardest to make it work, but I hope I never have to.

  7. #7
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    I think it depends on your definition of "living off the land". Walking off into the woods and starting with just what you can carry is nearly impossible. Raising and growing everything you need to sustain yourself on your own land is more doable.

    I can raise enough meat to feed a family of 4 through a year as well as enough milk to keep the family going and enough vegetables between gardening and gathering to sustain a family of 4 on about 5 acres of land. A dozen or so hens and a rooster will produce enough eggs for the family and to hatch the occasional batch of chicks.

    With the occasional walk about to gather wild greens and berries during harvest times.

    The problem comes in in the form of staying on top of all the work. You will have to all work together all day to keep up.

    Storing food becomes much more important and waste is your enemy. Also, knowing what to gather is really important. Everyone mentions cat tails to eat but realistically how many cat tails are you going to find in a year? Not very many.

    Yet, Polk salat grows everywhere in the spring. With a little work enough can be gathered and canned to store away 50 quarts of greens for winter. But you have to know what it looks like and how to prepare it. If you boil down Polk salat and eat it you will pay for it with severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, possibly to the point of death. But if you boil it down, drain it (water will be green) put in fresh water and boil again. Repeating until the water is clear at the end of the boil (usually changing water 2 or 3 times) it tastes like collard greens and is excellent cooked in with scrambled eggs.

    Knowing when the dew berries and black berries will come ripe and where they grow is important. Knowing when muscadines come ripe and where to find them. Remembering to take a rifle with you while gathering muscadines is important too. Black bear real like muscadines.

    You will have to become less squeamish about what you are willing to eat. If you kill a chicken hawk that was after your chickens, you eat the hawk. If you have a trap line going and you catch a bobcat or a possum, you eat them.

    Being dependent on the availability of big game for meat is a bad idea. They are not always around when you want to kill them. So when they are around you need to take advantage of it. Then you need to know how to preserve the meat before it spoils.

    You are much better off raising rabbits. Rabbits produce more meat in a year then cattle will. (Especially factoring in how much they eat). And you don't have 1000 pounds of meat the get put up all at once.

    This is how my wife and I live now. We still buy stuff from the grocery store while we can and put back supplies for a bad growing season and stuff we can't produce on our own (such as salt and some grains) but the majority of what we eat comes off of our land.
    It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark.

  8. #8
    The hot sexy one

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    Thus the reason the indians followed the buffalo herds....

    Rabbits...maybe I have been trying to find a cheap meat source which is abundant, easily prepared and not boring . Rabbits fit my plan , but the meat is lean and requires more than one for our meals.

    Maybe using rabbit as filler in recipes half ground beef/half ground rabbit?

  9. #9
    For the Love of Cats


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    It would be tough to live off the land up here now. I just fired up my sled and packed down some trails for x-country skiiing and snowshoeing, but one step off the trail and I was into 3+ feet of snow. There are still a few rosehips sticking up in places, and of course the inner bark of some trees, but beyond that the only food sources I have are meat. This is where following the bounty cycles are critically important. I have several hundred jars of fruit/veggies that I put up over the summer/fall, and enough meat to get me through til next summer, if need be. I have a well beaten path to all systems that I need (garage, woodshed, doghouse, etc.) But even a simple walk to my hunting shack (if I was so inclined) would be a half day affair and be so costly in calories it would be foolish)

    This is the time of year to hunker down by the fire and work on some crafts, plan next years gardens, an relax a little.
    Give a man fire, and he'll be warm for a day!
    Light a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life!

    Cat's are food... not friends!

    If you're going to fight, then fight like you're the third monkey on the ramp into Noah's arc... and brother, it's starting to rain.

  10. #10
    Damn the propane, save the bacon!


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    That article causes some serious thought to how tough it could be. I think we've all been fishing/hunting and not score. Could make for a bad day when it really counts.
    Be ready now, you won't have that chance later.

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