Food Acquisition Methods That Just Don’t Work

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Author of The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices

Search around on prepping/survival articles long enough and you’ll see all kinds of recommendations for grid down/bug-out food acquisition that are incredibly novel and primitive. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong about that either.

However, I do think that one needs to go into such a situation with a realistic mindset. The reason we tell people to start gardening now rather than post-disaster is because there’s a learning curve involved, it takes time to master it, and though it’s entirely possible to learn things on the fly, Apocalypse World isn’t the best place to seek to do so. (That’s why it’s so important to have supplies on hand – click here to download our free Quickstart Guide to Building a 3-Layer Food Storage Plan.)

These tools may not be the best to rely on in an Apocalypse

The same can be said for some of these food acquisition methods you’ll see advocated for out there. While many of them find their place in history as devastating weapons or sources of food procurement for aboriginal peoples, I don’t believe they are the best of methods to rely upon in modern day.

Take a look at my reasoning as to why for each:

A Sling

Throughout history the sling was a devastating weapon in the hands of a trained enemy. Consider David and Goliath. The Roman medical writer Celsus would even state that a stone slung by a sling (say that five times fast) had the ability to penetrate skin and lodge within an enemy’s body. Again, the story of David and Goliath shows that as well, as the stone sunk into Goliath’s forehead.

As lead projectiles came into play – creating projectiles 8x denser than lead – ancient slingers became even more dangerous opponents.

However, in modern times this is likely not going to work for you.

Why?

Well for one of the reasons that the sling gradually fell out of favor as a weapon: the amount of training required to use it successfully is intense. Roman historian Livy states that it was due to this knowledge that states began sling training with children at as young of an age as possible.

From my own personal experience with a sling, I can attest to the fact that it’s ridiculously hard to master. I’ve spent several hours out in the mountains over the years practicing with a sling and all to a rather pathetic outcome.

While I can typically launch a stone in the right direction getting any degree of accuracy for me is laughable. A tree that’s only 20 feet in front of me will be hit maybe 3 out of 5 times, but even then I can’t figure out how to hit the height I want to hit.

Add to that sling training is tiring. Spend an hour spinning your arm over your head and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s because of all this I don’t think a sling is a practical means of food procurement for the average prepper.

Throwing Sticks

While I admit this is most certainly better than nothing – and if I had nothing else this would be a form of primitive technology I would utilize – I don’t believe that throwing sticks are a great means of meat procurement when other options are available.

For those who are unsure of what I’m talking about, a throwing stick is just a stick that’s been carved to be bulbous on one end and is then thrown parallel with the ground towards a small mammal. The stick hits the animal, either stunning or killing it, and the hunter collects his food.

The most famous historical design of such would be the boomerang. The Aborigines in Australia used these to take down animals even as big as kangaroos. That’s truly impressive.

But can the average American prepper expect similar results? I don’t think so.

I think the problems here are multiple. For starters, this is another piece of technology that takes a lot of practice. Yes, anybody can throw a stick, but can you hit what you’re aiming for with that stick? Bunnies are likely what that target is, and these are fast and observant little boogers.

You’re going to frustrate yourself more than you’re going to hit the target with these.

Atl-atl

While there are some die-hard hog hunters out there who utilize a boar spear for their hunts, you aren’t going to find anybody in the modern world who hunts with an atl-atl – a lever designed to launch a spear farther.

While I do think that throwing a spear is a more natural form of primitive hunting for many, I don’t think that an atl-atl is something people adapt to as quickly. The few times I’ve toyed around with one it’s been fun to see how much further we could sling a spear but there wasn’t any great degree of accuracy we received with one.

Better Alternatives to Meat Procurement

While toying around with all the above designs is a fun way to spend some time, I do think that there are better investments of time if you’re interested in improving your survival game harvesting abilities. Of the potentials, I think the below are your best bets.

Bows

If there was one form of primitive technology I would want to become proficient in for meat procurement, this would be it. Bows are a fantastic way to put a steak on the plate. You can pick a nice compound model up for around $300, put another $50 into arrows, and you have the means for hours and hours of practice.

Personally, all my practice has come with a recurve, and I can attest to the fact that it still takes quite a bit of training to end up regularly hitting a target where you want. However, the level of training necessary is much less than what it would take you to become proficient with a weapon such as a sling.

Guns (duh)

You were expecting this one, weren’t you? This is easily the most efficient means of game harvesting that I know of. And yet not everybody is a born marksman. This is a skill that needs to be practiced for one to become proficient in it and not a lot of people out there have spent the time necessary to be able to reliably hit a deer from 200 yards.

You would be much better off practicing your long-range shooting or spending some time plinking with a .22LR rifle than you would throwing a stick at a target in the woods repeatedly.

It’s not enough to just have a gun. You have to train with it as well.

Traps

Trapping is a personal favorite method of mine. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s silent. I can set out a trapline in about two hours, and then go back home drink some Disaster Coffee, eat some banana nut bread, and take a nap. And all throughout that time the traps are still working for me.

Unless you’re carving deadfall widgets, these don’t require a lot of labor or frustration to set up either. Snares, body traps, and leg traps all take a few minutes to set up until you can move onto the next one.

Is this the final word?

By no means! The methods you use for meat procurement in a survival situation are going to depend on the game around you, what tools you have at hand, your skillset, environment, and a number of other factors as well. My intentions here are to simply give my take on why I don’t believe you should have high hopes of relying on your homemade sling, stick, or whatever else to procure a plentiful supply of protein.

But let’s hear your thoughts on the matter. Are there other forms of meat procurement you think work or don’t work? Let us know in the comments below!

About Aden

Aden Tate has a master’s in public health and is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.comTheFrugalite.comPewPewTactical.comSurvivalBlog.comSHTFBlog.comApartmentPrepper.comHomesteadAndPrepper.com, and PrepperPress.com. Along with being a freelance writer, he also works part-time as a locksmith. Aden has an LLC for his micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

Food Acquisition Methods That Just Don’t Work
Food Acquisition Methods That Just Don’t Work
Aden Tate

Aden Tate

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  • All weapons take dedicated practice. That said owning traps doesn’t make you a trapper. Using them, getting dirty day after day and being observant of what works and not so much can give you some skill at trapping. I’ve hundreds of hours doing trapping and am a rank beginner compared to some of my trapping friends.

    A wrist rocket with a whisker biscuit attachment drives my back pocket arrows quite nicely. Pronged bird points lets me hunt birds well AND recover my Orange Colored Arrows for later. And as I can simply rotate that whisker biscuit down, I can use marbles or such to do the job on squirrels, rabbits and the gardener’s enemy the Woodchuck.

    But then again, I enjoy pulling my wrist rocket out of my pocket and using it regularly. Doesn’t get my neighbors excited like firing off a gun and does the job pretty well.

  • Oh, I forgot, if you want a Plentiful Supply of Protein as the Author speaks about raise Rabbits.

    Once the rabbitry is set up and a good breeding trio is going you will have plenty of what I laughingly call “Chicken” to enjoy. Odd how so many folks are disturbed about eating the “Easter bunny” but chow down on eggs and chicken wings. I used to buy chicken wings to add to my “Chicken” dinners.

    From reading family diaries about the Great Depression almost ALL wild food was hunted out early on. Most in the first two years. Has taken decades to reestablish deer herds and such afterwards. THAT and like hungry Bears today the Gunshot *Might* bring eager other hunters to enjoy your kill. Might get ugly.

    • I have chickens, duck, and rabbits as protein sources. Rabbits are easy, silent, not too picky eaters of plants and you aIso get a nice little furry hide. Chickens will happily clean up the guts after butchering. Rabbit is a mild flavored white meat. I’m very happy with them.

    • guinea pigs. just remember that wild game and even raised rabbits and maybe gp may be low in fat and you need fat for fat soluble vitamins.

    • That’s for sure! My grandfather was an adult in Tx during the depression. They ate armadillos- (Hoover hogs, as they called them!) He said after about 2 years it was hard or harder to find them.

  • A sling…. Haha! ????
    This is the first i’ve read about ANYONE even entertaining such a device outside of just straight ha-ha’s and afternoon fun.
    To rely upon it for food? Not even renotely practical.
    Maybe in a Gilligan-grade situation on a desert island when you got sick of eating fish… Lol

    • It worked against Goliath, didn’t it?
      Seriously though, it’s just another possible tool in the toolbox.
      Personally I would prefer an AR.

  • Many methods are iffy at best. Often times it’s the type of game being taken improperly and not the weapon.
    Everyone has this grand idea about deer and survival all the while watching porcupine, birds, possums, coyotes etc. walk by.
    Your sitting there with a blowgun wanting a 250lb hog but letting protein walk by.
    Eat what you can kill right now for survival. Rice is much better with the breast of a Robin than plain.

    • Yes! I still my old pellet rifle to take small game. They are quieter than a .22 rifle, even cheaper to shoot, and can come in many different calibers. I have .177 and .22 ones rabbits, squirrels, birds can be had with practice.

      • As I note in the article I wrote, air has come a long way, both in the rifle/pistol themselves, but the ammo too.
        Slugs are now all the rage. Hollow point, better BC for longer range shooting when compared to diabolo pellets.
        With my moded and tuned .22 Marauder, I can get 50 consistent shots at around 900fps (=about 38ft/lbs).
        Same rifle, I can do the 5-for-5 Dime Challenge at 35 yards from the bi-pod prone (bolt action).

  • One other method that you did not mention was a commercial style, Y shaped sling shot.
    The standard sling shot most people are familiar with.
    They are much easier to master and can be quite deadly.
    Now, some sling shots can also be used to shoot arrows.
    This includes attachments for bow and arrow, type of fishing.
    (Just a note: most shepherds slings and sling shots include a lot of variables, including the choice of projectile and it’s shape, which will impact it’s accuracy.).

    Now I do not think that the line and sinker type of fishing will be a good use of ones time come SHTF, but other methods may be useful. Fishing nets, traps and bow and arrow type of fishing methods may be good options.
    I suspect one will find in a SHTF scenario, that there is more to do than there are hours in the day to do them. So methods that do not require your constant attention or participation to work. are what you should be concentrating on learning and using.

    • I forgot “bowfishing” with a wrist rocket and a whisker biscuit. I’ve done some of that last year. Easier once you get the hang of the water refraction to correct your aim. A solid fiberglass arrow is best for that. As it’s attached to your “bow” it’s easy to recover.

      Even carp tastes good when you’re hungry. I’ve used the guts and debris for fertilizer BUT be aware many animals will dig up your garden to eat the fertilizer.

      I call that situation Hunting over BAIT. Works really well 🙂 My chickens love those guts and leftovers, cheap chicken protein. Racoon fat makes great leather oil for boots and such.

  • I had a “modern” sling shot growing up as a kid. Spent many a summer slinging at everything from cans, to 2x4s on a pond, to squirrels.
    I would not count on one to put dinner on the table.

    I will stick with air, rimfire, centerfire.
    I was pretty good with a traditional recurve bow, though.

  • Many people get duped into buying emergency seed packs for when SHTF. A lot of people (Bloomberg) think you just dig a hole, drop in a seed and water and instant food. Not going to happen. Most vegetables take months to mature and all have their own requirements. If you have never had a garden you are going to starve. Learn how to grow your own food even if it’s in 5 gal. containers, you will learn, and you get to eat the rewards.

  • Traps are more effective per dollar (per meat nibble) than “sporting” hunting with firearms, after the big tasty animals have been hunted-out (60 days from The Battle For Aisle Three at every grocery store near you). 6 pounds of critters every few days is better and quieter than stalking the Last Venison, ESPECIALLY if you are lacking big critter sized preserving locker (freezing, drying, smoking, canning, etc) and must tribally feast before it rots, then starve again. Fish traps are extra time & effort food efficient, with proof being very well fed PNW pre-contact Indian tribes.

    Whole Wheat in vacuum/O2 removed Mylar bag buckets (even Organic non-GMO expensive wheat) is the ticket to get past the 2nd winter of dying at a Regular Income price. See Bison Prepper website for extensive details. Boring and cheap wheat stacked deep is how you avoid 1966 to 1976 rural Chinese longpig diet (eating or being). Enough Calories to walk the trapline to get those tasty little critters and berries, vs. Thinner and weaker every day. Boring sufficient diet is angry motivating!

  • Fun article. However, when i was around ten (sixty years ago in the Utah/Idaho area) I began actually training with all three of the items you mentioned. Around twelve, I had whipped enough river rocks I could hit flying butterflies with the sling. (Not likely anymore since i kinda abandoned the sling over time) Yet I did take quite a few rabbit with sticks (with the local Navajo kids) and still practice rabbit stick and atl-atl on 20oz water bottles as a hobby. I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable hunting with them in SHTF, since they seem like old friends.

  • Having fresh home-grown tomatoes out of your bucket on the deck is nice, but its not a survival garden. Most people don’t have the space or the KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, or Ability) to grow enough variety and preserve it to actually survive on. That’s just a fact. In the old days the entire large family worked that three to five acre plot together to grow enough vegetables for the family. Devoid of the mechanized means of cultivation takes a lot of people doing manual labor by hand to make it work, and it requires months of hard effort every day during the growing season… and it still depends on the weather. Having that capability is rare these days. Maybe some of the Amish can pull it off. Some still have animal-powered farm machinery and the animals to power it.

    As someone else pointed out, wild meat will disappear at a rapid pace, especially the large game. Even so, actual hunting takes valuable time away from other critical pursuits. So does fishing unless trot lines are ‘jug’ fishing is used. I have spent entire days hunting or fishing and come home empty-handed. I imaging all of us engaging in those pursuits have done so as well. I like the trapping idea. Traps ‘hunt’ 24/7, allowing us to engage in other important tasks. It, to, is a skill with a learning curve, and it has all sorts of nuances that, once learned, will produce more results. I can set several squirrel and/or rabbit snares and feel confident that I will have some protein when I check the snares later. I just have to be careful not to over harvest. As for actually hunting with a gun, I would be more inclined to just have a gun handy as I went about doing other things for those ‘targets of opportunity’ that might present themselves.

    Should the SHTF as envisioned by many actually occur there will be a lot less population within months, if not weeks, including many who thought they were prepared.

  • Learn how to build and use primitive bows and arrows, both come with huge learning curve! It takes a long time to gather the material and build them but the ability to walk in the woods with out anything and build weapons that can bring down most any game is a great thing to know. It would be ideal to start as a hobby and build from there, I have been doing this for 20 years and at times struggle to accomplish what I am after. It is all out there to be made and used it just takes knowledge and time. Growing mushrooms would be a valuable asset as well.

  • I would also add flintlock smooth bores to the possible list most all the things needed can be made by the user with the knowledge of how some could be dangerous or illegal but the knowledge how isn’t. And I can attest for the air guns! I have a hatsan flash in .25 and a mold for slugs and the power of this combination is surprising.

    • A 12 ga shotgun is perhaps the most flexible hunting tool you can own. Load it with target loads for small game or carry slugs for the big guys. Good to 50 yards, easy. Biggest problem for any firearm is the noise; everybody within a mile of you knows what’s up.

  • I’m a firm believer in the idea of being a renaissance man. Being able to do many things competently leaves you in a better all around position. Especially in the aftermath of a catastrophe. When it comes to food procurement, I’ve done my best to be aware of wild edibles and also try to propagate them on my land. So as to not look as if I’m purposely growing a renewable food source. Theses plants also bring in the game I would need to feed my small family. Now when it comes to wild game. I will use a bow to get deer and turkey on my small patch of land. I’ve also been known to harvest squirrels with an inexpensive crossbow, backing my field points with what are known as turkey grabbers. I’ve been able to get them on the limb while moving. These techniques are silent as the author says. They do not make enough noise to get the neighbors in an uproar. Nor does it seem odd that I’m walking about with with either weapon in my hands since I practice quite a bit and have a number of target blocks strewn about in my woods. Even though I will occasionally practice with more primitive methods. I would only depend on them if nothing else is available. Great article BTW!

  • Great article & some most helpful comments as well. While armadillos are edible (considered a delicacy in Mexico I’ve been told), you might also consider they are carriers of leprosy. There was an article on it, back 2-3 years ago. I’ll have to see if I can find it to post.

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