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Wildlife For Food

Meat is more nourishing than plant food. In fact, it may even be more readily available in some places. But to get meat, you need to know the habits of, and how to capture, the various wildlife.

To satisfy your immediate food needs, you should seek first the more abundant and easier to obtain wildlife, such as insects, crustaceans, mollusks, fish and reptiles.


Many insects that are abundant in various parts of the world are a valuable source of food, and most are easily caught by hand. These include large grubs (the larvae of insects), locusts, grasshoppers, ants, and termites. You can fry, boil, or roast them, but you may prefer to add them to a stew containing other foods to make them more palatable. You can even eat them raw except for grasshoppers, which may contain harmful parasites. (Do not try to eat the large grasshopper legs as they have barbs that may stick in your throat.) Insects are high in fat content; many, ounce for ounce, have higher protein value than beef.

Water Wildlife

You should never go hungry when you're near a body of water -- a lake, a stream, a river, an ocean. Most bodies of freshwater and saltwater contain crustaceans, mollusks, and fish as well as other forms of edible water creatures. And you can usually catch water wildlife faster, more easily, more quietly, and in greater quantity than you can land wildlife. You need only know their habits, the best time of day to catch them, and how to catch them to have a plentiful supply of food.

Crustaceans. This class includes freshwater and saltwater crabs, crayfish, lobsters, shrimp, and prawns. All are edible, but you should always cook the freshwater crustaceans as they may harbor harmful parasites.

Freshwater shrimp are abundant in tropical streams, especially where the water is sluggish. Look for them swimming or clinging to branches or vegetation in the water.

Saltwater shrimp live on or near the sea bottom. You can scrape them up, or at night you can lure them to the surface with a light and catch them with a hand net.

Freshwater crabs and crayfish are found on moss beds under rocks and brush in streams or swimming in shallow water. You can pick them up by hand or scoop them up with a dip net.

Saltwater crayfish and lobsters are found on the ocean bottom in water 10 to 30 feet deep. You can use lobster traps (link), a jug, or a baited hook to catch them. Lift your catch out of the water with a dip net.

Many species of crabs and lobsters are nocturnal and are most easily caught at night.

Crabs creep, climb, and burrow. You can easily catch them in shallow water using a dip net. You can also catch them in traps baited with fish heads or animal guts.

Mollusks. This class includes freshwater and saltwater shellfish such as snails, clams, mussels, bivalves, periwinkles, chitons, and sea urchins. Bivalves similar to our freshwater mussel and terrestrial and aquatic snails are found worldwide under all water conditions.

River snails or freshwater periwinkles are plentiful in the rivers, streams, and lakes of northern coniferous forests. These snails may be pencilpoint or globular in shape.

In freshwater, look for mollusks in the shallows, especially in water with a sandy or muddy bottom. Look for the narrow trails they leave in the mud or for the dark elliptical slit of their open valves.

Near the sea, wait for low tide then check in the tidal pools and the wet sand. Rocks along beaches or extending as reefs into deeper water often bear clinging shellfish. Snails and limpets cling to rocks and seaweed from the low-water mark up. Large snails called chitons adhere tightly to rocks above the surf line.

Mussels usually form dense colonies in rock pools, on logs, or at the base of boulders.

CAUTION: Mussels are poisonous in tropical zones during the summer.

Mollusks should be steamed, boiled, or baked in the shell. They make excellent stews in combination with greens and tubers.

CAUTION: Do not eat shellfish that are not covered by water at high tide.

Fish. Of the wildlife around or in freshwater, fish are probably the most difficult to catch. But you can catch fish, even without modern fishing equipment, if you know when, where, and how to fish. And you can easily make hooks and line and find bait in most areas near water.

How to Make Fishhooks. You can make hooks from pins, needles, wire, small nails, or any piece of metal; out of wood, coconut shell, bone, thorns, flint seashell, tortoise shell; or out of a combination of these items. One way to make a wooden fishhook (figure 7-1) is as follows:

To tie securely --

Figure 7-1. Improvised fishhooks. (Need to scan)

Make sure that the fishhook is the right size for the size of fish found in the area.

How to Make Fishlines. You can make a fishline from suspension lines or from plant or cloth fibers. The inner bark of trees make the best fibers to use. To make a line from the fibers (figure 7-2) --

NOTE: Fibers from hemp, nettles, common and swamp milkweed, yucca, and reeds also make good lines.

How to Find Bait. Generally, fish bite bait that is native to their area. So look in the water near the shores for crabs, fish eggs, and minnows and on the bank for worms and insects. After you catch a fish, open it and examine its stomach and intestines to see what it was eating. Try to duplicate its food. You can use feathers, pieces of brightly colored cloth, or bits of bright metal or shell to make artificial lures.

When to Fish. As a general rule, look for fish to feed just before dawn and just after dusk, just before a storm as the front is moving in, and at night when the moon is full or waning. Rising fish and jumping minnows are often signs of feeding fish.

Where to Fish. The body of water, the zone in which it is located, the time of year, and the time of day all have a bearing on where to fish.

In lakes or large streams, fish tend to approach the banks and shallows in the morning and evening.

In streams, fish often gather in pools and deep calm water, at the bottom of riddles and small rapids, at the tail of a pool, in eddies below rocks or logs, under deep undercut banks, in the shade of overhanging bushes, and around submerged logs and rocks.

Fish seek shelter at the mouths of small tributary streams when the main rivers or streams are high or muddy.

In shallow streams during hot weather, fish gather in the deepest pools, in places where cool underground water enters the main stream, and under rocks.

In temperate zones in cool spring weather, fish tend to move to shallow water that is warmed by the sun.

How to Catch Fish. Perhaps you've failed to catch any fish with your pole, hook, line, and bait. Don't get discouraged. Try other methods, such as those described below.

Set lines. This is a practical way to catch fish if you stay near a lake or stream for some time. Tie several hooks on a line, bait the hooks, and fasten the line to a low-hanging branch that will bend when a fish is hooked. Check the line periodically to remove fish and to rebait the hooks.

A gorge or skewer hook is an excellent hook for a set line. To make a gorge hook (figure 7-1), sharpen both ends of a short piece of bone or wood and cut a notch circling the middle of it. Tie a line to it. Bait the hook so that when the skewer is in the water, it will lie back along the line. Fix the line in the water. When a fish swallows the bait, the line sets and the gorge swings crosswise and lodges in the fish's gullet or stomach.

Set a stakeout. This is a fishing device you can use secretly. You can set many stakeouts with little danger that other persons will detect them. To make a stakeout (figure 7-3), stick two reeds on the bottom of the stream or lake. Run a line between the two reeds (the line can slide up and down the reeds). To this line, tie two other lines with fishhooks attached. Make sure the lines will not become entangled with each other or with the upright reeds.

Figure 7-3. Stakeout. (insert picture)

Just before dark, bait hooks with worms, bee larva, or other suitable bait. At dark, lower lines in the water. Wait 1 to 1-1/2 before checking the lines for fish; rebait the hooks if needed and then wait another hour before checking for fish. Check the lines again at first light.

Try jigging. This method is especially effective at night. You will need a limber cane or pole 8 to 10 feet long; a piece of line about 10 inches long; a hook; a piece of bright metal shaped like a commercial fishing spoon; and a small strip of white meat or fish intestine. Tie the line to the end of the pole. Attach the spoon and the hook on the line so that the hook is just below the spoon. Bait the hook and dabble it and the spoon just below the surface of the water near lily pads or weed beds. Occasionally slap the water with the tip of the pole to attract large fish to the bait.

Use your hands. This method is effective in small streams with undercut banks or in shallow ponds left by receding flood waters. Place your hands in the water and slowly reach under the bank, keeping your hands close to the bottom if possible. Move your fingers slightly until you contact a fish. Then work your hand gently along its belly until you reach its gills. Grasp the fish firmly just behind the gills. If you are handling catfish or fish with spiney dorsal fins, take care to avoid getting stuck.

Try muddying. Small pools caused by receding waters of flooded streams often contain many fish. By stamping the bottoms of these pools or stirring the mud with a stick, you make the water muddy so that the fish rise to the surface to seek clearer water. You can then club the fish or toss them out of the water with your hands.

Use a net. A net is more efficient than the other means discussed above for catching fish. But it takes time to make a large net. You can, however, quickly make a dip net to catch small fish to use for bait or to eat. Fish too small to hook or spear are usually abundant at the edges of lakes and streams or in their tributaries. A dip net to catch these fish can be made using a forked sapling and a piece of cloth, such as your undershirt. Bend the two limbs of the sapling fork, securing the ends firmly together, so that they form a circular frame. Close the neck and the armholes of the undershirt by making a knot in the top. Attach the bottom of the undershirt to the circular frame, using pins, wire, or any other available item that will secure it.

An even better way to catch fish is with a gill net. But you need time to make it. You also need a suspension line or similar line and two uprights or trees standing apart about the same distances as the planned length of your net. To make it (figure 7-4) --

NOTE: You can use a guide line, moving it down for each row of knots, to make the mesh the same size. Be sure to place the guide line on the side of the net opposite to you so it won't interfere with your work.

Follow the same procedure for the third row as you did for the first row and the same procedure for the fourth as for the second, and so forth.

Continue making the mesh until you reach the depth of net you desire.

Thread suspension line casing along the bottom and sides of the net to strengthen it and to make it easier to handle.

You are now ready to set the net. But first, attach small pieces of wood (floats) to the top and stones (anchors) to the bottom of the net.

Secure the net to poles or saplings in the water near the bank so that the net is set at a 45 degree angle to the current (figure 7-5). This angle will help to keep floating refuse from catching in the net.

Figure 7-4. Making a gill net. (insert picture)

If you have another person with you, you can attach poles to the ends of the net. The two of you can then work the net up and down the stream. Be sure to pull up the net every few minutes and remove the fish before they can escape.

Use fish traps and baskets. These can be used for either freshwater or saltwater fish. They take a lot of time and effort to make, however, and are difficult to carry when you move on. Shown in figures 7-6 and 7-7 are some types of fish traps you can make.

Figure 7-5. Setting a gill net in the stream. (insert picture)

Figure 7-6. Setting a fish trap in a stream. (insert picture)

When setting traps for freshwater fish, keep in mind the habits listed here.

You can also use traps to catch saltwater fish as schools regularly approach the shore with the incoming tide and often move parallel to the shore. Pick a trap location at high tide and then build your trap when the tide is low. On rocky shores, use natural rock pools. On coral islands, use natural pools on the surface of reefs by blocking the openings as the tide recedes. On sandy shores, use sandbars and the ditches they enclose. Build the trap as a low stone wall extending outward into the water and forming an angle with the shore.

Shoot fish. If you have a weapon and sufficient ammunition and are not concerned about revealing your location, try shooting fish. Aim slightly under the fish in water that is less than 3 feet deep.

Use explosive devices. You can also get fish by tossing a light explosive device in a school of fish. Be prepared, however, to retrieve the fish at once as their air bladders are usually ruptured by the blast and they sink quickly. This will supply food for days. Dry or preserve those you do not eat fresh (link).

Spear fish. If you are near shallow water (about waist deep) where the fish are large and plentiful, you can spear them. It is easy to make a spear using materials at hand. For the shaft use a long straight sapling or a length of bamboo. If the sapling has a solid core, shape one end to a point. If not, tie a bayonet, a pointed piece of metal, a sharpened bone, a knife, or thorns to it. With bamboo, shape two points just below the joint.

Figure 7-7. Various types of fish traps. (scan)

Figure 7-8. Types of spear points. (scan)

Find a rock or bank over a fish run and wait patiently and quietly for fish to swim by. You may be more successful spearing fish at night with the aid of a torch. Light attracts fish, highlights them, and reflects from their eyes. It also lights the stream bottom so that you can see and gather other aquatic life.

If you have to go in the water to a place where fish seem to gather --

Try poisoning fish. Another way to get fish is by using poison. Poison works quickly, it allows you to remain undercover while it takes effect, and it enables you to get a number of fish at one time. Some plants that grow in warm regions of the world contain rotenone, a product that will stun or kill cold-clooded animals but will not affect persons who eat the animals. The best place to use rotenone, or rotenone-producing plants, is in ponds or at the head-waters of small streams containing fish. Rotenone acts quickly on fish in water 70 degrees F or above, and the fish rise helpless to the surface. It works slowly in water 50 degrees to 70 degrees F and is ineffective in water below 50 degrees F. The following plants, used as indicated, will stun or kill fish:

Lime will also poison fish. You can burn coral and seashells to get lime. Throw the lime into the water.

Before putting fish poison in the water, devise a means of picking up the stunned fish. Perhaps a dip net is all you will need. Or you may need to build a blockade downstream to catch the fish.

Try chop fishing. If you are on a beach and light security is not a factor, you can use the chop fishing technique to get fish at night when the tide is low. You will need a torch, a means of lighting the torch, and a machete.

With the lighted torch in one hand and the machete in the other --

Try ice fishing. You can obtain fish in the winter by fishing through a hole in the ice. Keep the hole open by covering it with brush and heaping loose snow over the cover.

CAUTION: Make sure the ice will hold your weight. Carry a pole 8 to 10 feet in length and 2 inches in diameter to help you get out of the water should you break through the ice.

Fish tend to gather in shallow water in winter. So cut ice holes where you feel the water is medium deep. Possible places are where the shelf near the shore drops off to lake bottom, at the edge of reeds, or close to some projecting rock formation.

Take a 3-foot pole and a string long enough to reach the bottom of the place where you fish. Make a spoon-shaped spinner from a piece of bright metal. Attach an improvised fishhook to the line just above the hook. When fishing, move the rod in an up-and-down motion in such a way that the bright metal object vibrates.

Figure 7-15. Ice fishing hole. (scan)

Another method is to place a rig similar to the one in figure 7-15 at several holes. When the flag moves to an upright position, remove the fish and rebait the hook.

Eels. Eels are fish with a snakeline appearance found throughout the world in freshwater and saltwater. They are smooth skinned and swim underwater. (snakes are scaled and usually swim on top.) Eels are excellent eating. You can catch them during the day in muddy water or at night using the same methods as for catching fish at night. Eels are easily speared at night under a torchlight. After catching an eel, strike a sharp blow to the head to stun it. Eels, like catfish, should be skinned before cooking.

Poisonous Fish. Some fish are poisonous to eat due to alkaloids in their flesh or to poisonous foods they have eaten. Cooking does not destroy these toxins. There is no firm guide for identifying poisonous fish. Some characteristics, however, are smooth skin, rough skin, bristles, or spines rather than true scales; some puff up or inflate when disturbed. Poisonous fish are seldom found in the open sea, but live around rocky or coral reefs and muddy or sandy shores. Examples are the puffer, porcupine, cow, and thorn fish (figure 7-16), which contain toxic substances in their flesh. If there are natives in the area, observe what fish they eat.

No poisonous fish are known to live along the shores of the North Pacific and Arctic Oceans. The eggs of the sculpin, however, are deadly poisonous. Do not eat fish eggs found in clusters or clumps on rocks, logs, or reefs.

Figure 7-16. Fish with poisonous flesh. (scan)

Small Amphibious Animals

Frogs, newts, and salamanders inhabit areas surrounding freshwater in warm and temperate climates throughout the world.

Hunt frogs at night when you can locate them by their croaking. Club them or snag the larger ones on a hook and line. Skin a frog, cook and eat the entire body.

Newts and salamanders are found under rotten logs or under rocks in areas where frogs are abundant. Skin and remove the innards before cooking these amphibians.



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