Day: July 9, 2015

Dangerous Animals

Dangerous Animals

The threat from animals is less than from other parts of the environment. However, common sense tells you to avoid encounters with lions, bears, and other large or dangerous animals. You should also avoid large grazing animals with horns, hooves, and great weight. Move carefully through their environment. Caution may prevent unexpected meetings. Do not attract large predators by leaving food lying around your camp. Carefully survey the scene before entering water or forests.

Smaller animals actually present more of a threat to you than large animals. To compensate for their size, nature has given many small animals weapons such as fangs and stingers to defend themselves. Each year, a few people are bitten by sharks, mauled by alligators, and attacked by bears. Most of these incidents were in some way the victim’s fault. However, each year more victims die from bites by relatively small venomous snakes than by large dangerous animals. Even more victims die from allergic reactions to bee stings. These smaller animals are the ones you are more likely to meet as you unwittingly move into their habitat, or they slip into your environment unnoticed.

Keeping a level head and an awareness of your surroundings will keep you alive if you use a few simple safety procedures. Do not let curiosity and carelessness kill or injure you.


11-1. Insects, except centipedes and millipedes, have six legs; arachnids have eight. All these small creatures become pests when they bite, sting, or irritate you.

11-2. Although their venom can be quite painful, bee, wasp, and hornet stings rarely kill a person who is not allergic to that particular toxin. Even the most dangerous spiders rarely kill, and the effects of tick-borne diseases are very slow-acting. However, in all cases, avoidance is the best defense. In environments known to have spiders and scorpions, check your footgear and clothing every morning. Also check your bedding and shelter. Use care when turning over rocks and logs. See Appendix D for examples of dangerous insects and arachnids.


11-3. You find scorpions (Buthotus species) in deserts, jungles, and forests of tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate areas of the world. They are mostly nocturnal. Desert scorpions range from below sea level in Death Valley to elevations as high as 3,600 meters (12,000 feet) in the Andes. Typically brown or black in moist areas, they may be yellow or light green in the desert. Their average size is about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch). However, there are 20-centimeter (8-inch) giants in the jungles of Central America, New Guinea, and southern Africa. Fatalities from scorpion stings are rare, but do occur with children, the elderly, and ill persons. Scorpions resemble small lobsters with raised, jointed tails bearing a stinger in the tip. Nature mimics the scorpions with whip scorpions or vinegarroons. These are harmless and have a tail like a wire or whip, rather than the jointed tail and stinger of true scorpions.


11-4. The brown recluse, or fiddleback spider, of North America (Loxosceles reclusa) is recognized by a prominent violin-shaped light spot on the back of its body. As its name suggests, this spider likes to hide in dark places. Though its bite is rarely fatal, it can cause excessive tissue degeneration around the wound, leading to amputation of the digits if left untreated.

11-5. Members of the widow family (Latrodectus species) may be found worldwide, though the black widow of North America is perhaps the most well-known. Found in warmer areas of the world, the widows are small, dark spiders with often hourglass-shaped white, red, or orange spots on their abdomens.

11-6. Funnelwebs (Atrax species) are large, gray or brown Australian spiders. Chunky, with short legs, they are able to move easily up and down the cone-shaped webs from which they get their name. The local populace considers them deadly. Avoid them as they move about, usually at night, in search of prey. Symptoms of their bite are similar to those of the widow’s—severe pain accompanied by sweating and shivering, weakness, and disabling episodes that can last a week.

11-7. Tarantulas are large, hairy spiders (Theraphosidae and Lycosa species) best known because they are often sold in pet stores. There is one species in Europe, but most come from tropical America. Some South American species do inject a dangerous toxin, but most simply produce a painful bite. Some tarantulas can be as large as a dinner plate. They all have large fangs for capturing food such as birds, mice, and lizards. If bitten by a tarantula, pain and bleeding are certain, and infection is likely.


11-8. Centipedes and millipedes are mostly small and harmless, although some tropical and desert species may reach 25 centimeters (10 inches). A few varieties of centipedes have a poisonous bite, but infection is the greatest danger, as their sharp claws dig in and puncture the skin. To prevent skin punctures, brush them off in the direction they are traveling.


11-9. Bees, wasps, and hornets come in many varieties and have a wide diversity of habits and habitats. You recognize bees by their hairy and usually thick body, while the wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets have more slender, nearly hairless bodies. Some bees, such as honeybees, live in colonies. They may be either domesticated or living wild in caves or hollow trees. You may find other bees, such as carpenter bees, in individual nest holes in wood or in the ground like bumblebees. The main danger from bees is the barbed stinger located on their abdomens. When a bee stings you, it rips its stinger out of its abdomen along with the venom sac, and dies. Except for killer bees, most bees tend to be more docile than wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets, which have smooth stingers and are capable of repeated attacks.

11-10. Avoidance is the best tactic for self-protection. Watch out for flowers or fruit where bees may be feeding. Be careful of meat-eating yellow jackets when cleaning fish or game. The average person has a relatively minor and temporary reaction to bee stings and recovers in a couple of hours when the pain and headache go away. Those who are allergic to bee venom have severe reactions including anaphylactic shock, coma, and death. If antihistamine medicine is not available and you cannot find a substitute, an allergy sufferer in a survival situation is in grave danger.


11-11. Ticks are common in the tropics and temperate regions. They are familiar to most of us. Ticks are small, round arachnids. They can have either a soft or hard body. Ticks require a blood host to survive and reproduce. This makes them dangerous because they spread diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, encephalitis, and others that can ultimately be disabling or fatal. There is little you can do to treat these diseases once they are contracted, but time is your ally since it takes at least 6 hours of attachment to the host for the tick to transmit the disease organisms. Thus, you have time to thoroughly inspect your body for their presence. Beware of ticks when passing through the thick vegetation they cling to, when cleaning host animals for food, and when gathering natural materials to construct a shelter. Always use insect repellents, if possible.


11-12. Leeches are bloodsucking creatures with a wormlike appearance. You find them in the tropics and in temperate zones. You will certainly encounter them when swimming in infested waters or making expedient water crossings. You can find them when passing through swampy, tropical vegetation and bogs. You can also find them while cleaning food animals, such as turtles, found in fresh water. Leeches can crawl into small openings; therefore, avoid camping in their habitats when possible. Keep your trousers tucked in your boots. Check yourself frequently for leeches. Swallowed or eaten, leeches can be a great hazard. It is therefore essential to treat water from questionable sources by boiling or using chemical water treatments. Survivors have developed severe infections from wounds inside the throat or nose when sores from swallowed leeches became infected.


11-13. Despite the legends, bats (Desmodus species) are a relatively small hazard to you. There are many bat varieties worldwide, but you find the true vampire bats only in Central and South America. They are small, agile fliers that land on their sleeping victims, mostly cows and horses, to lap a blood meal after biting their victim. Their saliva contains an anticoagulant that keeps the blood slowly flowing while they feed. All bats are considered to carry rabies. Any physical contact is considered to be a rabies risk. They can carry other diseases and infections and will bite readily when handled. However, taking shelter in a cave occupied by bats presents the much greater hazard of inhaling powdered bat dung, or guano. Bat dung carries many organisms that can cause diseases. Eating thoroughly cooked flying foxes or other bats presents no danger from rabies and other diseases, but again, the emphasis is on thorough cooking.


11-14. There are no infallible rules for expedient identification of venomous snakes in the field, because the guidelines all require close observation or manipulation of the snake’s body. The best strategy is to leave all snakes alone. Where snakes are plentiful and venomous species are present, the risk of their bites negates their food value. Apply the following safety rules when traveling in areas where there are venomous snakes:

  • Walk carefully and watch where you step. Step onto logs rather than over them in a survival situation. During evasion, always step over or go around logs to leave fewer signs for trackers.
  • Look closely when picking fruit or moving around water.
  • Do not tease, molest, or harass snakes. Snakes cannot close their eyes. Therefore, you cannot tell if they are asleep. Some snakes, such as mambas, cobras, and bushmasters, will attack aggressively when cornered or guarding a nest.
  • Use sticks to turn logs and rocks.
  • Wear proper footgear, particularly at night.
  • Carefully check bedding, shelter, and clothing.
  • Be calm when you encounter serpents. Snakes cannot hear and you can occasionally surprise them when they are sleeping or sunning. Normally, they will flee if given the opportunity.
  • Use extreme care if you must kill snakes for food or safety. Although it is not common, warm, sleeping human bodies occasionally attract snakes.

11-15. Appendix E provides detailed descriptions of the snakes listed in Figure 11-1.

The Americas

  • American Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
  • Bushmaster (Lachesis muta)
  • Coral snake (Micrurus fulvius)
  • Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
  • Fer-de-lance (Bothrops atrox)
  • Rattlesnake (Crotalus species)


  • Common adder (Vipers berus)
  • Pallas’ viper (Agkistrodon halys)

Africa and Asia

  • Boomslang (Dispholidus typus)
  • Cobra (Naja species)

Figure 11-1. Venomous Snakes of the World

Africa and Asia (Continued)

  • Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica)
  • Green tree pit viper (Trimeresurus gramineus)
  • Habu pit viper (Trimeresurus flavoviridis)
  • Krait (Bungarus caeruleus)
  • Malayan pit viper (Callaselasma rhodostoma)
  • Mamba (Dendraspis species)
  • Puff adder (Bitis arietans)
  • Rhinoceros viper (Bitis nasicornis)
  • Russell’s viper (Vipera russellii)
  • Sand viper (Cerastes vipera)
  • Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus)
  • Wagler’s pit viper (Trimeresurus wagleri)


  • Death adder (Acanthophis antarcticus)
  • Taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus)
  • Tiger snake (Notechis scutatus)
  • Yellow-bellied sea snake (Pelamis platurus)


Figure 11-1. Venomous Snakes of the World (Continued)


11-16. The polar regions are free of snakes due to their inhospitable environments. Other areas considered to be free of venomous snakes are New Zealand, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Polynesia, and Hawaii.


11-17. The Gila monster (Heloderma suspectrum) of the American Southwest and Mexico is a dangerous and poisonous lizard with dark, highly textured skin marked by pinkish mottling. It is typically 35 to 45 centimeters (14 to 18 inches) in length and has a thick, stumpy tail. The Gila monster is unlikely to bite unless molested but has a poisonous bite.

11-18. The Mexican beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum) resembles its relative, the Gila monster. However, it has more uniform spots rather than bands of color. It also is poisonous and has a docile nature. You may find it from Mexico to Central America.

11-19. The komodo dragon is a giant lizard (Varanus komodoensis) that grows to more than 3 meters (10 feet) in length. It can be dangerous if you try to capture it. This Indonesian lizard can weigh more than 135 kilograms (300 pounds).


11-20. Common sense will tell you to avoid confrontations with hippopotami, alligators, crocodiles, and other large river creatures. However, there are also the following smaller river creatures with which you should be cautious.

11-21. Electric eels (Electrophorus electricus) may reach 2 meters (7 feet) in length and 20 centimeters (8 inches) in diameter. Avoid them. They are capable of generating up to 500 volts of electricity in certain organs of their body. They use this shock to stun prey and enemies. Normally, you find these eels in the Orinoco and Amazon River systems in South America. They seem to prefer shallow waters that are more highly oxygenated and provide more food. They are bulkier than American eels. Their upper body is dark gray or black with a lighter-colored underbelly.

11-22. Piranhas (Serrasalmo species) are another hazard of the Orinoco and Amazon River systems, as well as the Paraguay River Basin, where they are native. These fish vary greatly in size and coloration, but usually have a combination of orange undersides and dark tops. They have white, razor-sharp teeth that are clearly visible. They may be as long as 50 centimeters (20 inches). Use great care when crossing waters where they live. Blood attracts them. They are most dangerous in shallow waters during the dry season.

11-23. Be careful when handling and capturing large freshwater turtles, such as the snapping turtles and soft-shelled turtles of North America and the matamata and other turtles of South America. All of these turtles will bite in self-defense and can amputate fingers and toes.

11-24. The platypus or duckbill (Ornithorhyncus anatinus) is the only member of its family and is easily recognized. It has a long body covered with grayish, short hair, a tail like a beaver, and a bill like a duck. Growing up to 60 centimeters (24 inches) in length, it may appear to be a good food source, but this egg-laying mammal, the only one in the world, is very dangerous. The male has a poisonous spur on each hind foot that can inflict intensely painful wounds. You find the platypus only in Australia, mainly along mud banks on waterways.


11-25. In areas where seas and rivers come together, there are dangers associated with both freshwater and saltwater. In shallow saltwaters, there are many creatures that can inflict pain and cause infection to develop. Stepping on sea urchins, for example, can produce pain and infection. When moving about in shallow water, wear some form of footgear and shuffle your feet along the bottom, rather than picking up your feet and stepping.

11-26. Stingrays (Dasyatidae species) are a real hazard in shallow waters, especially tropical waters. The type of bottom appears to be irrelevant. There is a great variance between species, but all have a sharp spike in their tail that may be venomous and can cause extremely painful wounds if stepped on. All rays have a typical shape that resembles a kite. You find them along the coasts of the Americas, Africa, and Australia.


11-27. There are several fish that you should not handle, touch, or contact. There are also others that you should not eat. These fish are described below.

11-28. Sharks are the most feared animal in the sea. Usually, shark attacks cannot be avoided and are considered accidents. You should take every precaution to avoid any contact with sharks. There are many shark species, but in general, dangerous sharks have wide mouths and visible teeth, while relatively harmless ones have small mouths on the underside of their heads. However, any shark can inflict painful and often fatal injuries, either through bites or through abrasions from their rough skin.

11-29. Rabbitfish or spinefoot (Siganidae species) live mainly on coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans. They have very sharp, possibly venomous spines in their fins. Handle them with care, if at all. This fish, like many others of the dangerous fish in this section, is considered edible by native peoples where the fish are found, but deaths occur from careless handling. Seek other nonpoisonous fish to eat if possible.

11-30. Tang or surgeonfish (Acanthuridae species) average 20 to 25 centimeters (8 to 10 inches) in length and often are beautifully colored. They are called surgeonfish because of the scalpel-like spines located in the tail. The wounds inflicted by these spines can bring about death through infection, envenomation, and loss of blood, which may incidentally attract sharks.

11-31. Toadfish (Batrachoididae species) live in tropical waters off the Gulf Coast of the United States and along both coasts of Central and South America. These dully-colored fish average 18 to 25 centimeters (7 to 10 inches) in length. They typically bury themselves in the sand to await fish and other prey. They have sharp, very toxic spines along their backs.

11-32. Poisonous scorpion fish or zebra fish (Scorpaenidae species) are mostly around reefs in the tropical Indian and Pacific oceans and occasionally in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. They average 30 to 75 centimeters (12 to 29 inches) in length. Their coloration is highly variable, from reddish brown to almost purple or brownish yellow. They have long, wavy fins and spines and their sting is intensely painful. Less poisonous relatives live in the Atlantic Ocean.

11-33. Stonefish (Synanceja species) are in the Pacific and Indian oceans. They can inject a painful venom from their dorsal spines when stepped on or handled carelessly. They are almost impossible to see because of their lumpy shape and drab colors. They range in size up to 40 centimeters (16 inches).

11-34. Weever fish (Trachinidae species) average 30 centimeters (12 inches) long. They are hard to see as they lie buried in the sand off the coasts of Europe, Africa, and the Mediterranean. Their color is usually a dull brown. They have venomous spines on the back and gills.

NOTE: Appendix F provides more details on these venomous fish and toxic mollusks.

11-35. The livers of polar bears are considered toxic due to high concentrations of vitamin A. There is a chance of death after eating this organ. Another toxic meat is the flesh of the hawksbill turtle. These animals are distinguished by a down-turned bill and yellow polka dots on their neck and front flippers. They weigh more than 275 kilograms (605 pounds) and are unlikely to be captured.

11-36. Many fish living in lagoons, estuaries, or reefs near shore are poisonous to eat, though some are only seasonally dangerous. Although the majority are tropical fish; be wary of eating any unidentifiable fish wherever you are. Some predatory fish, such as barracuda and snapper, may become toxic if the fish they feed on in shallow waters are poisonous. The most poisonous types appear to have parrotlike beaks and hard shell-like skins with spines and can often inflate their bodies like balloons. However, at certain times of the year, indigenous populations consider the puffer a delicacy.

11-37. The blowfish or puffer (Tetraodontidae species) are more tolerant of cold water. They live along tropical and temperate coasts worldwide, even in some of the rivers of Southeast Asia and Africa. Stout-bodied and round, many of these fish have short spines and can inflate themselves into a ball when alarmed or agitated. Their blood, liver, and gonads are so toxic that as little as 28 milligrams (1 ounce) can be fatal. These fish vary in color and size, growing up to 75 centimeters (29 inches) in length.

11-38. The triggerfish (Balistidae species) occur in great variety, mostly in tropical seas. They are deep-bodied and compressed, resembling a seagoing pancake up to 60 centimeters (24 inches) in length, with large and sharp dorsal spines. Avoid them all, as many have poisonous flesh.

11-39. Although most people avoid them because of their ferocity, they occasionally eat barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda). These predators of mostly tropical seas can reach almost 1.5 meters (5 feet) in length and have attacked humans without provocation. They occasionally carry the poison ciguatera in their flesh, making them deadly if consumed.


11-40. The blue-ringed octopus, jellyfish, and the cone and auger shells are other dangerous sea creatures. Therefore, you should always be alert and move carefully in any body of water.

11-41. Most octopi are excellent when properly prepared. However, the blue-ringed octopus (Hapalochlaena lunulata) can inflict a deadly bite from its parrotlike beak. Fortunately, it is restricted to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and is very small. It is easily recognized by its grayish white overall color and irridescent blue rings. Authorities warn that all tropical octopus species should be treated with caution because of their poisonous bites, although their flesh is edible.

11-42. Deaths related to jellyfish are rare, but the sting they inflict is extremely painful. The Portuguese man-of-war resembles a large pink or purple balloon floating on the sea. It has poisonous tentacles hanging up to 12 meters (40 feet) below its body. The huge tentacles are actually colonies of stinging cells. Most known deaths from jellyfish are attributed to the man-of-war. Other jellyfish can inflict very painful stings as well. Avoid the long tentacles of any jellyfish, even those washed up on the beach and apparently dead.

11-43. The subtropical and tropical cone shells (Conidae species) have a venomous harpoonlike barb. All have a fine netlike pattern on the shell. A membrane may possibly obscure this coloration. There are some very poisonous cone shells, even some lethal ones in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Avoid any shell shaped like an ice cream cone.

11-44. The auger shell or terebra (Terebridae species) are much longer and thinner than the cone shells, but can be nearly as deadly. They are found in temperate and tropical seas. Those in the Indian and Pacific oceans have a more toxic venom in their stinging barb. Do not eat these snails, as their flesh may be poisonous.

Poisonous Plants

Poisonous Plants

Successful use of plants in a survival situation depends on positive identification. Knowing poisonous plants is as important to you as knowing edible plants. Knowing the poisonous plants will help you avoid sustaining injuries from them.


10-1. Plants generally poison by—

  • Contact. This contact with a poisonous plant causes any type of skin irritation or dermatitis.
  • Ingestion. This occurs when a person eats a part of a poisonous plant.
  • Absorption or inhalation. This happens when a person either absorbs the poison through the skin or inhales it into the respiratory system.

10-2. Plant poisoning ranges from minor irritation to death. A common question asked is, “How poisonous is this plant?” It is difficult to say how poisonous plants are because—

  • Some plants require a large amount of contact before you notice any adverse reaction although others will cause death with only a small amount.
  • Every plant will vary in the amount of toxins it contains due to different growing conditions and slight variations in subspecies.
  • Every person has a different level of resistance to toxic substances.
  • Some persons may be more sensitive to a particular plant.

10-3. Some common misconceptions about poisonous plants are—

  • Watch the animals and eat what they eat. Most of the time this statement is true, but some animals can eat plants that are poisonous to humans.
  • Boil the plant in water and any poisons will be removed. Boiling removes many poisons, but not all.
  • Plants with a red color are poisonous. Some plants that are red are poisonous, but not all.

10-4. The point is there is no one rule to aid in identifying poisonous plants. You must make an effort to learn as much about them as possible.


10-5. Many poisonous plants look like their edible relatives or like other edible plants. For example, poison hemlock appears very similar to wild carrot. Certain plants are safe to eat in certain seasons or stages of growth but poisonous in other stages. For example, the leaves of the pokeweed are edible when it first starts to grow, but they soon become poisonous. You can eat some plants and their fruits only when they are ripe. For example, the ripe fruit of May apple is edible, but all other parts and the green fruit are poisonous. Some plants contain both edible and poisonous parts; potatoes and tomatoes are common plant foods, but their green parts are poisonous.

10-6. Some plants become toxic after wilting. For example, when the black cherry starts to wilt, hydrocyanic acid develops. Specific preparation methods make some plants edible that are poisonous raw. You can eat the thinly sliced and thoroughly dried (drying may take a year) corms of the jack-in-the-pulpit, but they are poisonous if not thoroughly dried.

10-7. Learn to identify and use plants before a survival situation. Some sources of information about plants are pamphlets, books, films, nature trails, botanical gardens, local markets, and local natives. Gather and cross-reference information from as many sources as possible, because many sources will not contain all the information needed.


10-8. Your best policy is to be able to positively identify plants by sight and to know their uses or dangers. Many times absolute certainty is not possible. If you have little or no knowledge of the local vegetation, use the rules to select plants for the Universal Edibility Test. Remember, avoid

  • All mushrooms. Mushroom identification is very difficult and must be precise—even more so than with other plants. Some mushrooms cause death very quickly. Some mushrooms have no known antidote. Two general types of mushroom poisoning are gastrointestinal and central nervous system.
  • Contact with or touching plants unnecessarily.


10-9. Contact dermatitis from plants will usually cause the most trouble in the field. The effects may be persistent, spread by scratching, and particularly dangerous if there is contact in or around the eyes.

10-10. The principal toxin of these plants is usually an oil that gets on the skin upon contact with the plant. The oil can also get on equipment and then infect whoever touches the equipment. Never burn a contact poisonous plant because the smoke may be as harmful as the plant. You have a greater danger of being affected when you are overheated and sweating. The infection may be local or it may spread over the body.

10-11. Symptoms may take from a few hours to several days to appear. Symptoms can include burning, reddening, itching, swelling, and blisters.

10-12. When you first contact the poisonous plants or when the first symptoms appear, try to remove the oil by washing with soap and cold water. If water is not available, wipe your skin repeatedly with dirt or sand. Do not use dirt if you have blisters. The dirt may break open the blisters and leave the body open to infection. After you have removed the oil, dry the area. You can wash with a tannic acid solution and crush and rub jewelweed on the affected area to treat plant-caused rashes. You can make tannic acid from oak bark.

10-13. Poisonous plants that cause contact dermatitis are—

  • Cowhage.
  • Poison ivy.
  • Poison oak.
  • Poison sumac.
  • Rengas tree.
  • Trumpet vine.


10-14. Ingestion poisoning can be very serious and could lead to death very quickly. Do not eat any plant unless you have positively identified it first. Keep a log of all plants eaten.

10-15. Symptoms of ingestion poisoning can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, depressed heartbeat and respiration, headaches, hallucinations, dry mouth, unconsciousness, coma, and death.

10-16. If you suspect plant poisoning, try to remove the poisonous material from the victim’s mouth and stomach as soon as possible. If the victim is conscious, induce vomiting by tickling the back of his throat or by giving him warm saltwater. If the victim is conscious, dilute the poison by administering large quantities of water or milk.

10-17. The following plants can cause ingestion poisoning if eaten:

  • Castor bean.
  • Chinaberry.
  • Death camas.
  • Lantana.
  • Manchineel.
  • Oleander.
  • Pangi.
  • Physic nut.
  • Poison and water hemlocks.
  • Rosary pea.
  • Strychnine tree.

10-18. Appendix C provides photographs and descriptions of these plants.

Survival Use of Plants

Survival Use of Plants

After having solved the problems of finding water, shelter, and animal food, you will have to consider the use of plants you can eat. In a survival situation you should always be on the lookout for familiar wild foods and live off the land whenever possible.

You must not count on being able to go for days without food as some sources would suggest. Even in the most static survival situation, maintaining health through a complete and nutritious diet is essential to maintaining strength and peace of mind.

Nature can provide you with food that will let you survive almost any ordeal, if you don’t eat the wrong plant. You must therefore learn as much as possible beforehand about the flora of the region where you will be operating. Plants can provide you with medicines in a survival situation. Plants can supply you with weapons and raw materials to construct shelters and build fires. Plants can even provide you with chemicals for poisoning fish, preserving animal hides, and for camouflaging yourself and your equipment.

NOTE: You will find illustrations of the plants described in this chapter in Appendixes B and C.


9-1. Plants are valuable sources of food because they are widely available, easily procured, and, in the proper combinations, can meet all your nutritional needs.



The critical factor in using plants for food is to avoid accidental poisoning. Eat only those plants you can positively identify and you know are safe to eat.

9-2. Absolutely identify plants before using them as food. Poison hemlock has killed people who mistook it for its relatives, wild carrots and wild parsnips.

9-3. You may find yourself in a situation where you have had the chance to learn the plant life of the region in which you must survive. In this case you can use the Universal Edibility Test to determine which plants you can eat and which to avoid.

9-4. It is important to be able to recognize both cultivated and wild edible plants in a survival situation. Most of the information in this chapter is directed toward identifying wild plants because information relating to cultivated plants is more readily available.

9-5. Consider the following when collecting wild plants for food:

  • Plants growing near homes and occupied buildings or along roadsides may have been sprayed with pesticides. Wash these plants thoroughly. In more highly developed countries with many automobiles, avoid roadside plants, if possible, due to contamination from exhaust emissions.
  • Plants growing in contaminated water or in water containing Giardia lamblia and other parasites are contaminated themselves. Boil or disinfect them.
  • Some plants develop extremely dangerous fungal toxins. To lessen the chance of accidental poisoning, do not eat any fruit that is starting to spoil or is showing signs of mildew or fungus.
  • Plants of the same species may differ in their toxic or subtoxic compounds content because of genetic or environmental factors. One example of this is the foliage of the common chokecherry. Some chokecherry plants have high concentrations of deadly cyanide compounds but others have low concentrations or none. Horses have died from eating wilted wild cherry leaves. Avoid any weed, leaves, or seeds with an almondlike scent, a characteristic of the cyanide compounds.
  • Some people are more susceptible to gastric distress (from plants) than others. If you are sensitive in this way, avoid unknown wild plants. If you are extremely sensitive to poison ivy, avoid products from this family, including any parts from sumacs, mangoes, and cashews.
  • Some edible wild plants, such as acorns and water lily rhizomes, are bitter. These bitter substances, usually tannin compounds, make them unpalatable. Boiling them in several changes of water will usually remove these bitter properties.
  • Many valuable wild plants have high concentrations of oxalate compounds, also known as oxalic acid. Oxalates produce a sharp burning sensation in your mouth and throat and damage the kidneys. Baking, roasting, or drying usually destroys these oxalate crystals. The corm (bulb) of the jack-in-the-pulpit is known as the “Indian turnip,” but you can eat it only after removing these crystals by slow baking or by drying.



Do not eat mushrooms in a survival situation! The only way to tell if a mushroom is edible is by positive identification. There is no room for experimentation. Symptoms caused by the most dangerous mushrooms affecting the central nervous system may not show up until several days after ingestion. By that time, it is too late to reverse their effects.


9-6. You identify plants, other than by memorizing particular varieties through familiarity, by using such factors as leaf shape and margin, leaf arrangements, and root structure.

9-7. The basic leaf margins (Figure 9-1) are toothed, lobed, and toothless or smooth.

Figure 9-1. Leaf Margins

Figure 9-1. Leaf Margins

9-8. These leaves may be lance-shaped, elliptical, egg-shaped, oblong, wedge-shaped, triangular, long-pointed, or top-shaped (Figure 9-2).

Figure 9-2. Leaf Shapes

Figure 9-2. Leaf Shapes

9-9. The basic types of leaf arrangements (Figure 9-3) are opposite, alternate, compound, simple, and basal rosette.

Figure 9-3. Leaf Arrangements

Figure 9-3. Leaf Arrangements

9-10. The basic types of root structures are the taproot, tuber, bulb, rhizome, clove, corm, and crown (Figure 9-4). Bulbs are familiar to us as onions and, when sliced in half, will show concentric rings. Cloves are those bulblike structures that remind us of garlic and will separate into small pieces when broken apart. This characteristic separates wild onions from wild garlic. Taproots resemble carrots and may be single-rooted or branched, but usually only one plant stalk arises from each root. Tubers are like potatoes and daylilies. You will find these structures either on strings or in clusters underneath the parent plants. Rhizomes are large creeping rootstock or underground stems. Many plants arise from the “eyes” of these roots. Corms are similar to bulbs but are solid when cut rather than possessing rings. A crown is the type of root structure found on plants such as asparagus. Crowns look much like a mophead under the soil’s surface.

Figure 9-4. Root Structures

Figure 9-4. Root Structures

9-11. Learn as much as possible about the unique characteristics of plants you intend to use for food. Some plants have both edible and poisonous parts. Many are edible only at certain times of the year. Others may have poisonous relatives that look very similar to the varieties you can eat or use for medicine.


9-12. There are many plants throughout the world. Tasting or swallowing even a small portion of some can cause severe discomfort, extreme internal disorders, and even death. Therefore, if you have the slightest doubt about a plant’s edibility, apply the Universal Edibility Test (Figure 9-5) before eating any portion of it.


Test only one part of a potential food plant at a time.


Separate the plant into its basic components—leaves, stems, roots, buds, and flowers.


Smell the food for strong or acid odors. Remember, smell alone does not indicate a plant is edible or inedible.


Do not eat for 8 hours before starting the test.


During the 8 hours you abstain from eating, test for contact poisoning by placing a piece of the plant part you are testing on the inside of your elbow or wrist. Usually 15 minutes is enough time to allow for a reaction.


During the test period, take nothing by mouth except purified water and the plant part you are testing.


Select a small portion of a single part and prepare it the way you plan to eat it.


Before placing the prepared plant part in your mouth, touch a small portion (a pinch) to the outer surface of your lip to test for burning or itching.


If after 3 minutes there is no reaction on your lip, place the plant part on your tongue, holding it there for 15 minutes.


If there is no reaction, thoroughly chew a pinch and hold it in your mouth for 15 minutes. Do not swallow.


If no burning, itching, numbing, stinging, or other irritation occurs during the 15 minutes, swallow the food.


Wait 8 hours. If any ill effects occur during this period, induce vomiting and drink a lot of water.


If no ill effects occur, eat 0.25 cup of the same plant part prepared the same way. Wait another 8 hours. If no ill effects occur, the plant part as prepared is safe for eating.


Test all parts of the plant for edibility, as some plants have both edible and inedible parts. Do not assume that a part that proved edible when cooked is also edible when raw. Test the part raw to ensure edibility before eating raw. The same part or plant may produce varying reactions in different individuals.

Figure 9-5. Universal Edibility Test

9-13. Before testing a plant for edibility, make sure there are enough plants to make the testing worth your time and effort. Each part of a plant (roots, leaves, flowers, and so on) requires more than 24 hours to test. Do not waste time testing a plant that is not relatively abundant in the area.

9-14. Remember, eating large portions of plant food on an empty stomach may cause diarrhea, nausea, or cramps. Two good examples of this are such familiar foods as green apples and wild onions. Even after testing plant food and finding it safe, eat it in moderation.

9-15. You can see from the steps and time involved in testing for edibility just how important it is to be able to identify edible plants.

9-16. To avoid potentially poisonous plants, stay away from any wild or unknown plants that have—

  • Milky or discolored sap.
  • Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside pods.
  • A bitter or soapy taste.
  • Spines, fine hairs, or thorns.
  • Foliage that resembles dill, carrot, parsnip, or parsley.
  • An almond scent in woody parts and leaves.
  • Grain heads with pink, purplish, or black spurs.
  • A three-leafed growth pattern.

9-17. Using the above criteria as eliminators when choosing plants for the Universal Edibility Test will cause you to avoid some edible plants. More important, these criteria will often help you avoid plants that are potentially toxic to eat or touch.

9-18. An entire encyclopedia of edible wild plants could be written, but space limits the number of plants presented here. Learn as much as possible about the plant life of the areas where you train regularly and where you expect to be traveling or working. Figure 9-6 list some of the most common edible and medicinal plants. Detailed descriptions and photographs of these and other common plants are in Appendix B.

Temperate Zone

  • Amaranth (Amaranths retroflex and other species)
  • Arrowroot (Sagittarius species)
  • Asparagus (Asparagus officials)
  • Beechnut (Fags species)
  • Blackberries (Rubes species)
  • Blueberries (Vaccinium species)
  • Burdock (Arctium lappa)
  • Cattail (Typha species)
  • Chestnut (Castanea species)
  • Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
  • Chufa (Cyperus esculentus)
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)
  • Nettle (Urtica species)
  • Oaks (Quercus species)
  • Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)
  • Plantain (Plantago species)
  • Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)
  • Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia species)
  • Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
  • Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
  • Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
  • Strawberries (Fragaria species)
  • Thistle (Cirsium species)
  • Water lily and lotus (Nuphar, Nelumbo, and other species)
  • Wild onion and garlic (Allium species)
  • Wild rose (Rosa species)
  • Wood sorrel (Oxalis species)

Figure 9-6. Food Plants

Tropical Zone

  • Bamboo (Bambusa and other species)
  • Bananas (Musa species)
  • Breadfruit (Artocarpus incisa)
  • Cashew nut (Anacardium occidental)
  • Coconut (Cocoa nucifera)
  • Mango (Mangifera indica)
  • Palms (various species)
  • Papaya (Carica species)
  • Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum)
  • Taro (Colocasia species)

Desert Zone

  • Acacia (Acacia farnesiana)
  • Agave (Agave species)
  • Cactus (various species)
  • Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera)
  • Desert amaranth (Amaranths palmer)

Figure 9-6. Food Plants (Continued)


9-19. One plant you should never overlook is seaweed. It is a form of marine algae found on or near ocean shores. There are also some edible freshwater varieties. Seaweed is a valuable source of iodine, other minerals, and vitamin C. Large quantities of seaweed in an unaccustomed stomach can produce a severe laxative effect. Figure 9-7 lists various types of edible seaweed.

  • Dulse (Rhodymenia palmata)
  • Green seaweed (Ulva lactuca)
  • Irish moss (Chondrus crispus)
  • Kelp (Alaria esculenta)
  • Laver (Porphyra species)
  • Mojaban (Sargassum fulvellum)
  • Sugar wrack (Laminaria saccharina)


Figure 9-7. Types of Edible Seaweed

9-20. When gathering seaweed for food, find living plants attached to rocks or floating free. Seaweed washed onshore any length of time may be spoiled or decayed. You can dry freshly harvested seaweed for later use.

9-21. Different types of seaweed should be prepared in different ways. You can dry thin and tender varieties in the sun or over a fire until crisp. Crush and add these to soups or broths. Boil thick, leathery seaweeds for a short time to soften them. Eat them as a vegetable or with other foods. You can eat some varieties raw after testing for edibility.


9-22. Although some plants or plant parts are edible raw, you must cook others for them to be edible or palatable. Edible means that a plant or food will provide you with necessary nutrients; palatable means that it is pleasing to eat. Many wild plants are edible but barely palatable. It is a good idea to learn to identify, prepare, and eat wild foods.

9-23. Methods used to improve the taste of plant food include soaking, boiling, cooking, or leaching. Leaching is done by crushing the food (for example, acorns), placing it in a strainer, and pouring boiling water through it or immersing it in running water.

9-24. Boil leaves, stems, and buds until tender, changing the water, if necessary, to remove any bitterness.

9-25. Boil, bake, or roast tubers and roots. Drying helps to remove caustic oxalates from some roots like those in the Arum family.

9-26. Leach acorns in water, if necessary, to remove the bitterness. Some nuts, such as chestnuts, are good raw, but taste better roasted.

9-27. You can eat many grains and seeds raw until they mature. When they are hard or dry, you may have to boil or grind them into meal or flour.

9-28. The sap from many trees, such as maples, birches, walnuts, and sycamores, contains sugar. You may boil these saps down to a syrup for sweetening. It takes about 35 liters of maple sap to make 1 liter of maple syrup!


9-29. In using plants for medical treatment, positive identification of the plants involved is as critical as when using them for food. Proper use of these plants is equally important.


9-30. The following terms and their definitions are associated with medicinal plant use:

  • Poultice. This is crushed leaves or other plant parts, possibly heated, that are applied to a wound or sore either directly or wrapped in cloth or paper. Poultices, when hot, increase the circulation in the affected area and help healing through the chemicals present in the plants. As the poultice dries out, it draws the toxins out of a wound. A poultice should be prepared to a “mashed potatoes-like” consistency and applied as warm as the patient can stand.
  • Infusion or tisane or tea. This blend is the preparation of medicinal herbs for internal or external application. You place a small quantity of a herb in a container, pour hot water over it, and let it steep (covered or uncovered) before use. Care must always be taken to not drink too much of a tea in the beginning of treatment as it may have adverse reactions on an empty stomach.
  • Decoction. This is the extract of a boiled-down or simmered herb leaf or root. You add herb leaf or root to water. You bring them to a sustained boil or simmer them to draw their chemicals into the water. The average ratio is about 28 to 56 grams (1 to 2 ounces) of herb to 0.5 liter of water.
  • Expressed juice. These are liquids or saps squeezed from plant material and either applied to the wound or made into another medicine.

9-31. Many natural remedies work slower than the medicines you know. Therefore, start with smaller doses and allow more time for them to take effect. Naturally, some will act more rapidly than others. Many of these treatments are addressed in more detail in Chapter 4.


9-32. The following remedies are for use only in a survival situation. Do not use them routinely as some can be potentially toxic and have serious long- term effects (for example, cancer).

  • Antidiarrheals for diarrhea. This can be one of the most debilitating illnesses for a survivor or prisoner of war. Drink tea made from the roots of blackberries and their relatives to stop diarrhea. White oak bark and other barks containing tannin are also effective when made into a strong tea. However, because of possible negative effects on the kidneys, use them with caution and only when nothing else is available. Clay, ashes, charcoal, powdered chalk, powdered bones, and pectin can be consumed or mixed in a tannic acid tea with good results. These powdered mixtures should be taken in a dose of two tablespoons every 2 hours. Clay and pectin can be mixed together to give a crude form of Kaopectate. Pectin is obtainable from the inner part of citrus fruit rinds or from apple pomace. Tea made from cowberry, cranberry, or hazel leaves works, too. Because of its inherent danger to an already under-nourished survivor, several of these methods may need to be tried simultaneously to stop debilitating diarrhea, which can quickly dehydrate even a healthy individual.
  • Antihemorrhagics for bleeding. Make medications to stop bleeding from plantain leaves, or, most effectively, from the leaves of the common yarrow or woundwort (Achillea millefolium). These mostly give a physical barrier to the bleeding. Prickly pear (the raw, peeled part) or witch hazel can be applied to wounds. Both are good for their astringent properties (they shrink blood vessels). For bleeding gums or mouth sores, sweet gum can be chewed or used as a toothpick. This provides some chemical and antiseptic properties as well.
  • Antiseptics to clean infections. Use antiseptics to cleanse wounds, snake bites, sores, or rashes. You can make antiseptics from the expressed juice of wild onion or garlic, the expressed juice from chickweed leaves, or the crushed leaves of dock. You can also make antiseptics from a decoction of burdock root, mallow leaves or roots, or white oak bark (tannic acid). Prickly pear, slippery elm, yarrow, and sweet gum are all good antiseptics as well. All these medications are for external use only. Two of the best antiseptics are sugar and honey. Sugar should be applied to the wound until it becomes syrupy, then washed off and reapplied. Honey should be applied three times daily (see Chapter 4). Honey is by far the best of the antiseptics for open wounds and burns, with sugar being second.
  • Antipyretics for fevers. Treat a fever with a tea made from willow bark, an infusion of elder flowers or fruit, linden flower tea, and aspen or slippery elm bark decoction. Yarrow tea is also good. Peppermint tea is reportedly good for fevers.
  • Colds and sore throats. Treat these illnesses with a decoction made from either plantain leaves or willow bark. You can also use a tea made from burdock roots, mallow or mullein flowers or roots, and yarrow or mint leaves.
  • Analgesics for aches, pains, and sprains. Treat these conditions with externally applied poultices of dock, plantain, chickweed, willow bark, garlic, or sorrel. Sweet gum has some analgesic (pain relief) properties. Chewing the willow bark or making a tea from it is the best for pain relief as it contains the raw component of aspirin. You can also use salves made by mixing the expressed juices of these plants in animal fat or vegetable oils.
  • Antihistamines and astringents for itching or contact dermatitis. Relieve the itch from insect bites, sunburn, or plant poisoning rashes by applying a poultice of jewelweed (Impatiens biflora) or witch hazel, which give a cooling relief and dry out the weeping (Hamamelis virginiana) leaves. The jewelweed juice will help when applied to poison ivy, rashes, or insect stings. Jewelweed and aloe vera help relieve sunburn. In addition, dandelion sap, crushed cloves of garlic, and sweet gum have been used. Crushed leaves of burdock have received only so-so reports of success, but crushed, green plantain leaves show relief over a few days. Jewelweed is probably the best of these plants. Tobacco will deaden the nerve endings and can also be used to treat toothaches.
  • Sedatives. Get help in falling asleep by brewing a tea made from mint leaves or passionflower leaves.
  • Hemorrhoids. Treat them with external washes from elm bark or oak bark tea, from the expressed juice of plantain leaves, or from a Solomon’s seal root decoction. Tannic acid or witch hazel will provide soothing relief because of their astringent properties.
  • Heat rash. Tannic acid or witch hazel will provide soothing relief because of their astringent properties but cornstarch or any crushed and powdered, nonpoisonous plant should help to dry out the rash after a thorough cleansing.
  • Constipation. Relieve constipation by drinking decoctions from dandelion leaves, rose hips, or walnut bark. Eating raw daylily flowers will also help. Large amounts of water in any form are critical to relieving constipation.
  • Antihelminthics for worms or intestinal parasites. Most treatment for worms or parasites are toxic—just more so for the worms or parasites than for humans. Therefore, all treatments should be used in moderation. Treatments include tea made from tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) or from wild carrot (poisonous) leaves. Very strong tannic acid can also be used with caution as it is very hard on the liver. See Chapter 4 for more deworming techniques.
  • Antiflatulents for gas and cramps. Use a tea made from carrot seeds; use tea made from mint leaves to settle the stomach.
  • Antifungal washes. Make a decoction of walnut leaves, oak bark, or acorns to treat ringworm and athlete’s foot. Apply it frequently to the site, alternating with exposure to direct sunlight. Broad-leaf plantain has also been used with success but any treatment should be used in addition to sunlight if possible. Jewelweed and vinegar make excellent washes but are sometimes difficult to find.
  • Burns. Tannic acid, sugar, and honey can be used as explained in Chapter 4.
  • Dentifrices for teeth. See Chapter 4 for other techniques in addition to using twigs of sweet gum for its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antiseptic properties.
  • Insect repellents. Garlic and onions can be eaten and the raw plant juice rubbed on the skin to repel some insects. Sassafras leaves can be rubbed on the skin. Cedar chips may help repel insects around your shelter.
  • Tannic acid. Because tannic acid is used for so many treatments (burns, antihemorrhagics, antihelminthics, antiseptics, antidiarrheals, antifungals, bronchitis, skin inflammation, lice), a note as to its preparation is in order. All thready plants, especially trees, contain tannic acid. Hardwood trees generally contain more than softwood trees. Of the hardwoods, oak—especially red and chestnut—contain the highest amount. The warty looking knots in oak trees can contain as much as 28 percent tannic acid. This knot, the inner bark of trees, and pine needles (cut into 2-centimeter [1-inch] strips), can all be boiled down to extract tannic acid. Boiling can be done in as little as 15 minutes (very weak), to 2 hours (moderate), through 12 hours to 3 days (very strong). The stronger concoctions will have a dark color that will vary depending on the type of tree. All will have an increasingly vile taste in relation to their concentration.


9-33. Plants can be your ally as long as you use them cautiously. Be sure that you know the plant and how to use it. Some additional uses of plants are as follows:

  • Make dyes from various plants to color clothing or to camouflage your skin. Usually, you will have to boil the plants to get the best results. Onionskins produce yellow, walnut hulls produce brown, and pokeberries provide purple dye.
  • Make fibers and cordage from plant fibers. Most commonly used are the stems from nettles and milkweeds, yucca plants, and the inner bark of trees like the linden.
  • Make tinder for starting fires from cattail fluff, cedar bark, lighter knot wood from pine trees, or hardened sap from resinous wood trees.
  • Make insulation by fluffing up female cattail heads or milkweed down.
  • Make insect repellents by placing sassafras leaves in your shelter or by burning or smudging cattail seed hair fibers.

9-34. Whether you use plants for food, medicine, or the construction of shelters or equipment, the key to their safe use is positive identification.

Food Procurement

Food Procurement

One of man’s most urgent requirements is food. In contemplating virtually any hypothetical survival situation, the mind immediately turns to thoughts of food. Unless the situation occurs in an arid environment, even water, which is more important to maintaining body functions, will usually follow food in our initial thoughts. The survivor must remember that the three essentials of survival—water, food, and shelter—are prioritized according to the estimate of the actual situation. This estimate must not only be timely but accurate as well. We can live for weeks without food but it may take days or weeks to determine what is safe to eat and to trap animals in the area. Therefore, you need to begin food gathering in the earliest stages of survival as your endurance will decrease daily. Some situations may well dictate that shelter precede both food and water.


8-1. Unless you have the chance to take large game, concentrate your efforts on the smaller animals. They are more abundant and easier to prepare. You need not know all the animal species that are suitable as food; relatively few are poisonous, and they make a smaller list to remember. However, it is important to learn the habits and behavioral patterns of classes of animals. For example, animals that are excellent choices for trapping, those that inhabit a particular range and occupy a den or nest, those that have somewhat fixed feeding areas, and those that have trails leading from one area to another. Larger, herding animals, such as elk or caribou, roam vast areas and are somewhat more difficult to trap. Also, you must understand the food choices of a particular species to select the proper bait.

8-2. You can, with relatively few exceptions, eat anything that crawls, swims, walks, or flies. You must first overcome your natural aversion to a particular food source. Historically, people in starvation situations have resorted to eating everything imaginable for nourishment. A person who ignores an otherwise healthy food source due to a personal bias, or because he feels it is unappetizing, is risking his own survival. Although it may prove difficult at first, you must eat what is available to maintain your health. Some classes of animals and insects may be eaten raw if necessary, but you should, if possible, thoroughly cook all food sources whenever possible to avoid illness.


8-3. The most abundant and easily caught life-form on earth are insects. Many insects provide 65 to 80 percent protein compared to 20 percent for beef. This fact makes insects an important, if not overly appetizing, food source. Insects to avoid include all adults that sting or bite, hairy or brightly colored insects, and caterpillars and insects that have a pungent odor. Also avoid spiders and common disease carriers such as ticks, flies, and mosquitoes.

8-4. Rotting logs lying on the ground are excellent places to look for a variety of insects including ants, termites, beetles, and grubs, which are beetle larvae. Do not overlook insect nests on or in the ground. Grassy areas, such as fields, are good areas to search because the insects are easily seen. Stones, boards, or other materials lying on the ground provide the insects with good nesting sites. Check these sites. Insect larvae are also edible. Insects that have a hard outer shell such as beetles and grasshoppers will have parasites. Cook them before eating. Remove any wings and barbed legs also. You can eat most soft-shelled insects raw. The taste varies from one species to another. Wood grubs are bland, but some species of ants store honey in their bodies, giving them a sweet taste. You can grind a collection of insects into a paste. You can mix them with edible vegetation. You can cook them to improve their taste.


8-5. Worms (Annelidea) are an excellent protein source. Dig for them in damp humus soil and in the rootball of grass clumps, or watch for them on the ground after a rain. After capturing them, drop them into clean, potable water for about 15 minutes. The worms will naturally purge or wash themselves out, after which you can eat them raw.


8-6. Freshwater shrimp range in size from 0.25 centimeter (1/16 inch) up to 2.5 centimeters (1 inch). They can form rather large colonies in mats of floating algae or in mud bottoms of ponds and lakes.

8-7. Crayfish are akin to marine lobsters and crabs. You can distinguish them by their hard exoskeleton and five pairs of legs, the front pair having oversized pincers. Crayfish are active at night, but you can locate them in the daytime by looking under and around stones in streams. You can also find them by looking in the soft mud near the chimney-like breathing holes of their nests. You can catch crayfish by tying bits of offal or internal organs to a string. When the crayfish grabs the bait, pull it to shore before it has a chance to release the bait.

8-8. You can find saltwater lobsters, crabs, and shrimp from the surf’s edge out to water 10 meters (33 feet) deep. Shrimp may come to a light at night where you can scoop them up with a net. You can catch lobsters and crabs with a baited trap or a baited hook. Crabs will come to bait placed at the edge of the surf, where you can trap or net them. Lobsters and crabs are nocturnal and caught best at night.

NOTE: You must cook all freshwater crustaceans, mollusks, and fish. Fresh water tends to harbor many dangerous organisms (see Chapter 6), animal and human contaminants, and possibly agricultural and industrial pollutants.


8-9. This class includes octopuses and freshwater and saltwater shellfish such as snails, clams, mussels, bivalves, barnacles, periwinkles, chitons, and sea urchins (Figure 8-1). You find bivalves similar to our freshwater mussel and terrestrial and aquatic snails worldwide under all water conditions.

Figure 8-1. Edible Mollusks

Figure 8-1. Edible Mollusks

8-10. River snails or freshwater periwinkles are plentiful in rivers, streams, and lakes of northern coniferous forests. These snails may be pencil point or globular in shape.

8-11. In fresh water, 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.

8-12. Near the sea, look 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 upward. Large snails, called chitons, adhere tightly to rocks above the surf line.

8-13. Mussels usually form dense colonies in rock pools, on logs, or at the base of boulders.



Mussels may be poisonous in tropical zones during the summer! If a noticeable red tide has occurred within 72 hours, do not eat any fish or shellfish from that water source.

8-14. Steam, boil, or bake mollusks in the shell. They make excellent stews in combination with greens and tubers.



Do not eat shellfish that are not covered by water at high tide!


8-15. Fish represent a good source of protein and fat. They offer some distinct advantages to the survivor or evader. They are usually more abundant than mammal wildlife, and the ways to get them are silent. To be successful at catching fish, you must know their habits. For instance, fish tend to feed heavily before a storm. Fish are not likely to feed after a storm when the water is muddy and swollen. Light often attracts fish at night. When there is a heavy current, fish will rest in places where there is an eddy, such as near rocks. Fish will also gather where there are deep pools, under overhanging brush, and in and around submerged foliage, logs, or other objects that offer them shelter.

8-16. There are no poisonous freshwater fish. However, the catfish species has sharp, needlelike protrusions on its dorsal fins and barbels. These can inflict painful puncture wounds that quickly become infected.

8-17. Cook all freshwater fish to kill parasites. As a precaution, also cook saltwater fish caught within a reef or within the influence of a freshwater source. Any marine life obtained farther out in the sea will not contain parasites because of the saltwater environment. You can eat these raw.

8-18. Most fish encountered are edible. The organs of some species are always poisonous to man; other fish can become toxic because of elements in their diets. Ciguatera is a form of human poisoning caused by the consumption of subtropical and tropical marine fish which have accumulated naturally occurring toxins through their diet. These toxins build up in the fish’s tissues. The toxins are known to originate from several algae species that are common to ciguatera endemic regions in the lower latitudes. Cooking does not eliminate the toxins; neither does drying, smoking, or marinating. Marine fish most commonly implicated in ciguatera poisoning include the barracudas, jacks, mackerel, triggerfish, snappers, and groupers. Many other species of warm water fishes harbor ciguatera toxins. The occurrence of toxic fish is sporadic, and not all fish of a given species or from a given locality will be toxic. This explains why red snapper and grouper are a coveted fish off the shores of Florida and the East Coast. While they are a restaurant and fisherman’s favorite, and a common fish market choice, they can also be associated with 100 cases of food poisonings in May 1988, Palm Beach County, Florida. The poisonings resulted in a statewide warning against eating hogfish, grouper, red snapper, amberjack, and barracuda caught at the Dry Tortuga Bank. A major outbreak of ciguatera occurred in Puerto Rico between April and June 1981 prompting a ban on the sale of barracuda, amberjack, and blackjack. Other examples of poisonous saltwater fish are the porcupine fish, cowfish, thorn fish, oilfish, and puffer (Figure 8-2).

Figure 8-2. Fish With Poisonous Flesh

Figure 8-2. Fish With Poisonous Flesh


8-19. Frogs are easily found around bodies of fresh water. Frogs seldom move from the safety of the water’s edge. At the first sign of danger, they plunge into the water and bury themselves in the mud and debris. Frogs are characterized by smooth, moist skin. There are few poisonous species of frogs. Avoid any brightly colored frog or one that has a distinct “X” mark on its back as well as all tree frogs. Do not confuse toads with frogs. Toads may be recognized by their dry, “warty” or bumpy skin. They are usually found on land in drier environments. Several species of toads secrete a poisonous substance through their skin as a defense against attack. Therefore, to avoid poisoning, do not handle or eat toads.

8-20. Do not eat salamanders; only about 25 percent of all salamanders are edible, so it is not worth the risk of selecting a poisonous variety. Salamanders are found around the water. They are characterized by smooth, moist skin and have only four toes on each foot.


8-21. Reptiles are a good protein source and relatively easy to catch. Thorough cooking and hand washing is imperative with reptiles. All reptiles are considered to be carriers of salmonella, which exists naturally on their skin. Turtles and snakes are especially known to infect man. If you are in an undernourished state and your immune system is weak, salmonella can be deadly. Cook food thoroughly and be especially fastidious washing your hands after handling any reptile. Lizards are plentiful in most parts of the world. They may be recognized by their dry, scaly skin. They have five toes on each foot. The only poisonous ones are the Gila monster and the Mexican beaded lizard. Care must be taken when handling and preparing the iguana and the monitor lizard, as they commonly harbor the salmonellal virus in their mouth and teeth. The tail meat is the best tasting and easiest to prepare.

8-22. Turtles are a very good source of meat. There are actually seven different flavors of meat in each snapping turtle. Most of the meat will come from the front and rear shoulder area, although a large turtle may have some on its neck. The box turtle (Figure 8-3) is a commonly encountered turtle that you should not eat. It feeds on poisonous mushrooms and may build up a highly toxic poison in its flesh. Cooking does not destroy this toxin. Also avoid the hawksbill turtle (Figure 8-3), found in the Atlantic Ocean, because of its poisonous thorax gland. Poisonous snakes, alligators, crocodiles, and large sea turtles present obvious hazards to the survivor.

Figure 8-3. Turtles With Poisonous Flesh

Figure 8-3. Turtles With Poisonous Flesh


8-23. All species of birds are edible, although the flavor will vary considerably. The only poisonous bird is the Pitohui, native only to New Guinea. You may skin fish-eating birds to improve their taste. As with any wild animal, you must understand birds’ common habits to have a realistic chance of capturing them. You can take pigeons, as well as some other species, from their roost at night by hand. During the nesting season, some species will not leave the nest even when approached. Knowing where and when the birds nest makes catching them easier (Figure 8-4). Birds tend to have regular flyways going from the roost to a feeding area, to water, and so forth. Careful observation should reveal where these flyways are and indicate good areas for catching birds in nets stretched across the flyways (Figure 8-5). Roosting sites and waterholes are some of the most promising areas for trapping or snaring.

Figure 8-4. Birds' Nesting Places

Figure 8-4. Birds’ Nesting Places

Figure 8-5. Catching Birds in a Net

Figure 8-5. Catching Birds in a Net

8-24. Nesting birds present another food source—eggs. Remove all but two or three eggs from the clutch, marking the ones that you leave. The bird will continue to lay more eggs to fill the clutch. Continue removing the fresh eggs, leaving the ones you marked.


8-25. Mammals are excellent protein sources and, for Americans, the tastiest food source. There are some drawbacks to obtaining mammals. In a hostile environment, the enemy may detect any traps or snares placed on land. The amount of injury an animal can inflict is in direct proportion to its size. All mammals have teeth and nearly all will bite in self-defense. Even a squirrel can inflict a serious wound and any bite presents a serious risk of infection. Also, any mother can be extremely aggressive in defense of her young. Any animal with no route of escape will fight when cornered.

8-26. All mammals are edible; however, the polar bear and bearded seal have toxic levels of vitamin A in their livers. The platypus, native to Australia and Tasmania, is an egg-laying, semiaquatic mammal that has poisonous claws on its hind legs. Scavenging mammals, such as the opossum, may carry diseases.


8-27. For an unarmed survivor or evader, or when the sound of a rifle shot could be a problem, trapping or snaring wild game is a good alternative. Several well-placed traps have the potential to catch much more game than a man with a rifle is likely to shoot. To be effective with any type of trap or snare, you must—

  • Be familiar with the species of animal you intend to catch.
  • Be capable of constructing a proper trap and properly masking your scent.
  • Not alarm the prey by leaving signs of your presence.

8-28. There are no catchall traps you can set for all animals. You must determine what species are in the area and set your traps specifically with those animals in mind. Look for the following:

  • Runs and trails.
  • Tracks.
  • Droppings.
  • Chewed or rubbed vegetation.
  • Nesting or roosting sites.
  • Feeding and watering areas.

8-29. Position your traps and snares where there is proof that animals pass through. You must determine if it is a “run” or a “trail.” A trail will show signs of use by several species and will be rather distinct. A run is usually smaller and less distinct and will only contain signs of one species. You may construct a perfect snare, but it will not catch anything if haphazardly placed in the woods. Animals have bedding areas, water holes, and feeding areas with trails leading from one to another. You must place snares and traps around these areas to be effective.

8-30. If you are in a hostile environment, trap and snare concealment is important. However, it is equally important not to create a disturbance that will alarm the animal and cause it to avoid the trap. Therefore, if you must dig, remove all fresh dirt from the area. Most animals will instinctively avoid a pitfall-type trap. Prepare the various parts of a trap or snare away from the site, carry them in, and set them up. Such actions make it easier to avoid disturbing the local vegetation, thereby alerting the prey. Do not use freshly cut, live vegetation to construct a trap or snare. Freshly cut vegetation will “bleed” sap that has an odor the prey will be able to smell. It is an alarm signal to the animal.

8-31. You must remove or mask the human scent on and around the trap you set. Although birds do not have a developed sense of smell, nearly all mammals depend on smell even more than on sight. Even the slightest human scent on a trap will alarm the prey and cause it to avoid the area. Actually removing the scent from a trap is difficult but masking it is relatively easy. Use the fluid from the gall and urine bladders of previous kills. Do not use human urine. Mud, particularly from an area with plenty of rotting vegetation, is also good. Use it to coat your hands when handling the trap and to coat the trap when setting it. In nearly all parts of the world, animals know the smell of burned vegetation and smoke. It is only when a fire is actually burning that they become alarmed. Therefore, smoking the trap parts is an effective means to mask your scent. If one of the above techniques is not practical, and if time permits, allow a trap to weather for a few days and then set it. Do not handle a trap while it is weathering. When you position the trap, camouflage it as naturally as possible to prevent detection by the enemy and to avoid alarming the prey.

8-32. Traps or snares placed on a trail or run should use funneling or channelization. To build a channel, construct a funnel-shaped barrier extending from the sides of the trail toward the trap, with the narrowest part nearest the trap. Channelization should be inconspicuous to avoid alerting the prey. As the animal gets to the trap, it cannot turn left or right and continues into the trap. Few wild animals will back up, preferring to face the direction of travel. Channelization does not have to be an impassable barrier. You only have to make it inconvenient for the animal to go over or through the barrier. For best effect, the channelization should reduce the trail’s width to just slightly wider than the targeted animal’s body. Maintain this constriction at least as far back from the trap as the animal’s body length, then begin the widening toward the mouth of the funnel.


8-33. Baiting a trap or snare increases your chances of catching an animal. When catching fish, you must bait nearly all the devices. Success with an unbaited trap depends on its placement in a good location. A baited trap can actually draw animals to it. The bait should be something the animal knows. However, this bait should not be so readily available in the immediate area that the animal can get it close by. For example, baiting a trap with corn in the middle of a cornfield would not be likely to work. Likewise, if corn is not grown in the region, a corn-baited trap may arouse an animal’s curiosity and keep it alerted while it ponders the strange food. Under such circumstances it may not go for the bait. One bait that works well on small mammals is the peanut butter from a meal, ready-to-eat (MRE) ration. Salt is also a good bait. When using such baits, scatter bits of it around the trap to give the prey a chance to sample it and develop a craving for it. The animal will then overcome some of its caution before it gets to the trap.

8-34. If you set and bait a trap for one species but another species takes the bait without being caught, try to determine what the animal was. Then set a proper trap for that animal, using the same bait.

NOTE: Once you have successfully trapped an animal, you will not only gain confidence in your ability, you will also have resupplied yourself with bait for several more traps.


8-35. Traps and snares crush, choke, hang, or entangle the prey. A single trap or snare will commonly incorporate two or more of these principles. The mechanisms that provide power to the trap are usually very simple. The struggling victim, the force of gravity, or a bent sapling’s tension provides the power.

8-36. The heart of any trap or snare is the trigger. When planning a trap or snare, ask yourself how it should affect the prey, what is the source of power, and what will be the most efficient trigger. Your answers will help you devise a specific trap for a specific species. Traps are designed to catch and hold or to catch and kill. Snares are traps that incorporate a noose to accomplish either function.

Simple Snare

8-37. A simple snare (Figure 8-6) consists of a noose placed over a trail or den hole and attached to a firmly planted stake. If the noose is some type of cordage placed upright on a game trail, use small twigs or blades of grass to hold it up. Filaments from spider webs are excellent for holding nooses open. Make sure the noose is large enough to pass freely over the animal’s head. As the animal continues to move, the noose tightens around its neck. The more the animal struggles, the tighter the noose gets. This type of snare usually does not kill the animal. If you use cordage, it may loosen enough to slip off the animal’s neck. Wire is therefore the best choice for a simple snare.

Figure 8-6. Simple Snare

Figure 8-6. Simple Snare

Drag Noose

8-38. Use a drag noose on an animal run (Figure 8-7). Place forked sticks on either side of the run and lay a sturdy crossmember across them. Tie the noose to the crossmember and hang it at a height above the animal’s head. (Nooses designed to catch by the head should never be low enough for the prey to step into with a foot.) As the noose tightens around the animal’s neck, the animal pulls the crossmember from the forked sticks and drags it along. The surrounding vegetation quickly catches the crossmember and the animal becomes entangled.

Figure 8-7. Drag Noose

Figure 8-7. Drag Noose


8-39. A twitch-up is a supple sapling that, when bent over and secured with a triggering device, will provide power to a variety of snares. Select a hickory or other hardwood sapling along the trail. A twitch-up will work much faster and with more force if you remove all the branches and foliage.

Twitch-Up Snare

8-40. A simple twitch-up snare uses two forked sticks, each with a long and short leg (Figure 8-8). Bend the twitch-up and mark the trail below it. Drive the long leg of one forked stick firmly into the ground at that point. Ensure the cut on the short leg of this stick is parallel to the ground. Tie the long leg of the remaining forked stick to a piece of cordage secured to the twitch-up. Cut the short leg so that it catches on the short leg of the other forked stick. Extend a noose over the trail. Set the trap by bending the twitch-up and engaging the short legs of the forked sticks. When an animal catches its head in the noose, it pulls the forked sticks apart, allowing the twitch-up to spring up and hang the prey.

NOTE: Do not use green sticks for the trigger. The sap that oozes out could glue them together.

Figure 8-8. Twitch-Up Snare

Figure 8-8. Twitch-Up Snare

Squirrel Pole

8-41. A squirrel pole is a long pole placed against a tree in an area showing a lot of squirrel activity (Figure 8-9). Place several wire nooses along the top and sides of the pole so that a squirrel trying to go up or down the pole will have to pass through one or more of them. Position the nooses (5 to 6 centimeters [2 to 2 1/4-inches] in diameter) about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) off the pole. Place the top and bottom wire nooses 45 centimeters (18 inches) from the top and bottom of the pole to prevent the squirrel from getting its feet on a solid surface. If this happens, the squirrel will chew through the wire. Squirrels are naturally curious. After an initial period of caution, they will try to go up or down the pole and will be caught in the noose. The struggling animal will soon fall from the pole and strangle. Other squirrels will soon be drawn to the commotion. In this way, you can catch several squirrels. You can emplace multiple poles to increase the catch.

Figure. 8-9. Squirrel Pole

Figure. 8-9. Squirrel Pole

Ojibwa Bird Pole

8-42. An Ojibwa bird pole is a snare that has been used by Native Americans for centuries (Figure 8-10). To be effective, it should be placed in a relatively open area away from tall trees. For best results, pick a spot near feeding areas, dusting areas, or watering holes. Cut a pole 1.8 to 2.1 meters (6 to 7 feet) long and trim away all limbs and foliage. Do not use resinous wood such as pine. Sharpen the upper end to a point, then drill a small-diameter hole 5 to 7.5 centimeters (2 to 3 inches) down from the top. Cut a small stick 10 to 15 centimeters (4 to 6 inches) long and shape one end so that it will almost fit into the hole. This is the perch. Plant the long pole in the ground with the pointed end up. Tie a small weight, about equal to the weight of the targeted species, to a length of cordage. Pass the free end of the cordage through the hole, and tie a slip noose that covers the perch. Tie a single overhand knot in the cordage and place the perch against the hole. Allow the cordage to slip through the hole until the overhand knot rests against the pole and the top of the perch. The tension of the overhand knot against the pole and perch will hold the perch in position. Spread the noose over the perch, ensuring it covers the perch and drapes over on both sides. Most birds prefer to rest on something above ground and will land on the perch. As soon as the bird lands, the perch will fall, releasing the overhand knot and allowing the weight to drop. The noose will tighten around the bird’s feet, capturing it. If the weight is too heavy, it will cut off the bird’s feet, allowing it to escape. Another variation would be to use spring tension such as a tree branch in place of the weight.

Figure 8-10. Ojibwa Bird Pole

Figure 8-10. Ojibwa Bird Pole

Noosing Wand

8-43. A noose stick or “noosing wand” is useful for capturing roosting birds or small mammals (Figure 8-11). It requires a patient operator. This wand is more a weapon than a trap. It consists of a pole (as long as you can effectively handle) with a slip noose of wire or stiff cordage at the small end. To catch an animal, you slip the noose over the neck of a roosting bird and pull it tight. You can also place it over a den hole and hide in a nearby blind. When the animal emerges from the den, you jerk the pole to tighten the noose and thus capture the animal. Carry a stout club to kill the prey.

Figure 8-11. Noosing Wand

Figure 8-11. Noosing Wand

Treadle Spring Snare

8-44. Use a treadle snare against small game on a trail (Figure 8-12). Dig a shallow hole in the trail. Then drive a forked stick (fork down) into the ground on each side of the hole on the same side of the trail. Select two fairly straight sticks that span the two forks. Position these two sticks so that their ends engage the forks. Place several sticks over the hole in the trail by positioning one end over the lower horizontal stick and the other on the ground on the other side of the hole. Cover the hole with enough sticks so that the prey must step on at least one of them to set off the snare. Tie one end of a piece of cordage to a twitch-up or to a weight suspended over a tree limb. Bend the twitch-up or raise the suspended weight to determine where you will tie the trigger. The trigger should be about 5 centimeters (2 inches) long. Form a noose with the other end of the cordage. Route and spread the noose over the top of the sticks over the hole. Place the trigger stick against the horizontal sticks and route the cordage behind the sticks so that the tension of the power source will hold it in place. Adjust the bottom horizontal stick so that it will barely hold against the trigger. As the animal places its foot on a stick across the hole, the bottom horizontal stick moves down, releasing the trigger and allowing the noose to catch the animal by the foot. Because of the disturbance on the trail, an animal will be wary. You must therefore use channelization. To increase the effectiveness of this trap, a small bait well may be dug into the bottom of the hole. Place some bait in the bottom of the hole to lure the animal to the snare.

Figure 8-12. Treadle Spring Snare

Figure 8-12. Treadle Spring Snare

Figure 4 Deadfall

8-45. The figure 4 deadfall is a trigger used to drop a weight onto a prey and crush it (Figure 8-13). The type of weight used may vary, but it should be heavy enough to kill or incapacitate the prey immediately. Construct the figure 4 using three notched sticks. These notches hold the sticks together in a figure 4 pattern when under tension. Practice making this trigger beforehand; it requires close tolerances and precise angles in its construction.

Figure 8-13. Figure 4 Deadfall

Figure 8-13. Figure 4 Deadfall

Paiute Deadfall

8-46. The Paiute deadfall is similar to the figure 4 but uses a piece of cordage and a catch stick (Figure 8-14). It has the advantage of being easier to set than the figure 4. Tie one end of a piece of cordage to the lower end of the diagonal stick. Tie the other end of the cordage to another stick about 5 centimeters (2 inches) long. This stick is the catch stick. Bring the cord halfway around the vertical stick with the catch stick at a 90-degree angle. Place the bait stick with one end against the drop weight, or a peg driven into the ground, and the other against the catch stick. When a prey disturbs the bait stick, it falls free, releasing the catch stick. As the diagonal stick flies up, the weight falls, crushing the prey. To increase the effectiveness of this trap, a small bait well may be dug into the bottom of the hole. Place some bait in the bottom of the hole to lure the animals to the snare.

Figure 8-14. Paiute Deadfall

Figure 8-14. Paiute Deadfall

Bow Trap

8-47. A bow trap is one of the deadliest traps (Figure 8-15). It is dangerous to man as well as animals. To construct this trap, build a bow and anchor it to the ground with pegs. Adjust the aiming point as you anchor the bow. Lash a toggle stick to the trigger stick. Two upright sticks driven into the ground hold the trigger stick in place at a point where the toggle stick will engage the pulled bowstring. Place a catch stick between the toggle stick and a stake driven into the ground. Tie a trip wire or cordage to the catch stick and route it around stakes and across the game trail where you tie it off (as in Figure 8-15). When the prey trips the trip wire, the bow looses an arrow into it. A notch in the bow serves to help aim the arrow.

Figure 8-15. Bow Trap

Figure 8-15. Bow Trap



This is a lethal trap. Approach it with caution and from the rear only!

Pig Spear Shaft

8-48. To construct the pig spear shaft, select a stout pole about 2.5 meters (8 feet) long (Figure 8-16). At the smaller end, firmly lash several small stakes. Lash the large end tightly to a tree along the game trail. Tie a length of cordage to another tree across the trail. Tie a sturdy, smooth stick to the other end of the cord. From the first tree, tie a trip wire or cord low to the ground, stretch it across the trail, and tie it to a catch stick. Make a slip ring from vines or other suitable material. Encircle the trip wire and the smooth stick with the slip ring. Emplace one end of another smooth stick within the slip ring and its other end against the second tree. Pull the smaller end of the spear shaft across the trail and position it between the short cord and the smooth stick. As the animal trips the trip wire, the catch stick pulls the slip ring off the smooth sticks, releasing the spear shaft that springs across the trail and impales the prey against the tree.

Figure 8-16. Pig Spear Shaft

Figure 8-16. Pig Spear Shaft



This is a lethal trap. Approach it with caution and from the rear only!

Bottle Trap

8-49. A bottle trap is a simple trap for mice and voles (Figure 8-17). Dig a hole 30 to 45 centimeters (12 to 18 inches) deep that is wider at the bottom than at the top. Make the top of the hole as small as possible. Place a piece of bark or wood over the hole with small stones under it to hold it up 2.5 to 5 centimeters (1 to 2 inches) off the ground. Mice or voles will hide under the cover to escape danger and fall into the hole. They cannot climb out because of the wall’s backward slope. Use caution when checking this trap; it is an excellent hiding place for snakes.

Figure 8-17. Bottle Trap

Figure 8-17. Bottle Trap


8-50. There are several killing devices that you can construct to help you obtain small game to help you survive. The rabbit stick, the spear, the bow and arrow, and the sling are such devices.


8-51. One of the simplest and most effective killing devices is a stout stick as long as your arm, from fingertip to shoulder, called a “rabbit stick.” You can throw it either overhand or sidearm and with considerable force. It is best thrown so that it flies sideways, increasing the chance of hitting the target. It is very effective against small game that stops and freezes as a defense.


8-52. You can make a spear to kill small game and to fish. Jab with the spear—do not throw it. Paragraph 8-67 explains spearfishing.


8-53. A good bow is the result of many hours of work. You can construct a suitable short-term bow fairly easily. When it loses its spring or breaks, you can replace it. Select a hardwood stick about 1 meter (3 feet) long that is free of knots or limbs. Carefully scrape the large end down until it has the same pull as the small end. Careful examination will show the natural curve of the stick. Always scrape from the side that faces you, or the bow will break the first time you pull it. Dead, dry wood is preferable to green wood. To increase the pull, lash a second bow to the first, front to front, forming an “X” when viewed from the side. Attach the tips of the bows with cordage and only use a bowstring on one bow.

8-54. Select arrows from the straightest dry sticks available. The arrows should be about half as long as the bow. Scrape each shaft smooth all around. You will probably have to straighten the shaft. You can bend an arrow straight by heating the shaft over hot coals. Do not allow the shaft to scorch or burn. Hold the shaft straight until it cools.

8-55. You can make arrowheads from bone, glass, metal, or pieces of rock. You can also sharpen and fire-harden the end of the shaft. Fire hardening is actually a misnomer. To fire-harden wood, hold it over hot coals or plunge it deep under the coals in the ashes, being careful not to burn or scorch the wood. The purpose of fire hardening is to harden the wood by drying the moisture out of it.

8-56. You must notch the ends of the arrows for the bowstring. Cut or file the notch; do not split it. Fletching (adding feathers to the notched end of an arrow) improves the arrow’s flight characteristics. Fletching is recommended but not necessary on a field-expedient arrow.


8-57. You can make a sling by tying two pieces of cordage, each about 60 centimeters (24 inches) long, at opposite ends of a palm-sized piece of leather or cloth. Place a rock in the cloth and wrap one cord around your middle finger and hold in your palm. Hold the other cord between your forefinger and thumb. To throw the rock, spin the sling several times in a circle and release the cord between your thumb and forefinger. Practice to gain proficiency. The sling is very effective against small game.


8-58. You can make your own fishhooks, nets, and traps. The paragraphs below discuss several methods to obtain fish.


8-59. You can make field-expedient fishhooks from pins, needles, wire, small nails, or any piece of metal. You can also use wood, bone, coconut shell, thorns, flint, seashell, or tortoise shell. You can also make fishhooks from any combination of these items (Figure 8-18).

Figure 8-18. Improvised Fishhooks

Figure 8-18. Improvised Fishhooks

8-60. To make a wooden hook, cut a piece of hardwood about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) long and about 6 millimeters (1/4 inch) in diameter to form the shank. Cut a notch in one end in which to place the point. Place the point (piece of bone, wire, nail) in the notch. Hold the point in the notch and tie securely so that it does not move out of position. This is a fairly large hook. To make smaller hooks, use smaller material.

8-61. A gorge or skewer is a small shaft of wood, bone, metal, or other material. It is sharp on both ends and notched in the middle where you tie cordage. Bait the gorge by placing a piece of bait on it lengthwise. When the fish swallows the bait, it also swallows the gorge. If you are tending the fishing line when the fish bites, do not attempt to pull on the line to set the hook as you would with a conventional hook. Allow the fish to swallow the bait to get the gorge as far down its throat before the gorge sets itself.


8-62. A stakeout is a fishing device you can use in a hostile environment (Figure 8-19). To construct a stakeout, drive two supple saplings into the bottom of the lake, pond, or stream with their tops just below the water surface. Tie a cord between them just slightly below the surface. Tie two short cords with hooks or gorges to this cord, ensuring that they cannot wrap around the poles or each other. They should also not slip along the long cord. Bait the hooks or gorges.

Figure 8-19. Stakeout

Figure 8-19. Stakeout


8-63. If a gill net is not available, you can make one using parachute suspension line or similar material (Figure 8-20). Remove the core lines from the suspension line and tie the casing between two trees. Attach several core lines to the casing by doubling them over and tying them with prusik knots or girth hitches. These lines should be six times the desired depth of the net (for example, a 6-foot [180-centimeter] piece of string girth-hitched over the casing will give you two 3-foot [90-centimeter] pieces, which after completing the net, will provide a 1-foot [30-centimeter] deep net). The length of the desired net and the size of the mesh determine the number of core lines used and the space between them. The recommended size of the spaces in the net mesh is about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) square. Starting at one end of the casing, tie the second and the third core lines together using an overhand knot. Then tie the fourth and fifth, sixth and seventh, and so on, until you reach the last core line. You should now have all core lines tied in pairs with a single core line hanging at each end. Start the second row with the first core line, tie it to the second, the third to the fourth, and so on.

Figure 8-20. Making a Gill Net

Figure 8-20. Making a Gill Net

8-64. To keep the rows even and to regulate the size of the mesh, tie a guideline to the trees. Position the guideline on the opposite side of the net you are working on. Move the guideline down after completing each row. The lines will always hang in pairs and you always tie a cord from one pair to a cord from an adjoining pair. Continue tying rows until the net is the desired width. Thread a suspension line casing along the bottom of the net to strengthen it. Use the gill net as shown in Figure 8-21. Angling the gill net will help to reduce the amount of debris that may accumulate in the net. Be sure to check it frequently.

Figure 8-21. Setting a Gill Net in the Stream

Figure 8-21. Setting a Gill Net in the Stream


8-65. You may trap fish using several methods (Figure 8-22). Fish baskets are one method. You construct them by lashing several sticks together with vines into a funnel shape. You close the top, leaving a hole large enough for the fish to swim through.

Figure 8-22. Various Types of Fish Traps

Figure 8-22. Various Types of Fish Traps

8-66. 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 location at high tide and build the trap at low tide. 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.


8-67. If you are near shallow water (about waist deep) where the fish are large and plentiful, you can spear them. To make a spear, cut a long, straight sapling (Figure 8-23). Sharpen the end to a point or attach a knife, jagged piece of bone, or sharpened metal. You can also make a spear by splitting the shaft a few inches down from the end and inserting a piece of wood to act as a spreader. You then sharpen the two separated halves to points. To spear fish, find an area where fish either gather or where there is a fish run. Place the spear point into the water and slowly move it toward the fish. Then, with a sudden push, impale the fish on the stream bottom. Do not try to lift the fish with the spear, as it with probably slip off and you will lose it; hold the spear with one hand and grab and hold the fish with the other. Do not throw the spear, especially if the point is a knife. You cannot afford to lose a knife in a survival situation. Be alert to the problems caused by light refraction when looking at objects in the water. You must aim lower than the object, usually at the bottom of the fish, to hit your mark.

Figure 8-23. Types of Spear Points

Figure 8-23. Types of Spear Points


8-68. At night, in an area with high fish density, you can use a light to attract fish. Then, armed with a machete or similar weapon, you can gather fish using the back side of the blade to strike them. Do not use the sharp side as you will cut them in two pieces and end up losing some of the fish.


8-69. Another way to catch fish is by using poison. Poison works quickly. It allows you to remain concealed while it takes effect. It also enables you to catch several fish at one time. When using fish poison, be sure to gather all of the affected fish, because many dead fish floating downstream could arouse suspicion. Some plants that grow in warm regions of the world contain rotenone, a substance that stuns or kills cold-blooded animals but does not harm persons who eat the animals. The best place to use rotenone, or rotenone-producing plants, is in ponds or the headwaters of small streams containing fish. Rotenone works quickly on fish in water 21 degrees C (70 degrees F) or above. The fish rise helplessly to the surface. It works slowly in water 10 to 21 degrees C (50 to 70 degrees F) and is ineffective in water below 10 degrees C (50 degrees F). The following plants, used as indicated, will stun or kill fish:

  • Anamirta cocculus (Figure 8-24). This woody vine grows in southern Asia and on islands of the South Pacific. Crush the bean-shaped seeds and throw them in the water.
  • Croton tiglium (Figure 8-24). This shrub or small tree grows in waste areas on islands of the South Pacific. It bears seeds in three angled capsules. Crush the seeds and throw them into the water.
  • Barringtonia (Figure 8-24). These large trees grow near the sea in Malaya and parts of Polynesia. They bear a fleshy one-seeded fruit. Crush the seeds and bark and throw into the water.
  • Derris eliptica (Figure 8-24). This large genus of tropical shrubs and woody vines is the main source of commercially produced rotenone. Grind the roots into a powder and mix with water. Throw a large quantity of the mixture into the water.
  • Duboisia (Figure 8-24). This shrub grows in Australia and bears white clusters of flowers and berrylike fruit. Crush the plants and throw them into the water.
  • Tephrosia (Figure 8-24). This species of small shrubs, which bears beanlike pods, grows throughout the tropics. Crush or bruise bundles of leaves and stems and throw them into the water.

Figure 8-24. Fish-Poisoning Plants

Figure 8-24. Fish-Poisoning Plants

  • Lime. You can get lime from commercial sources and in agricultural areas that use large quantities of it. You may produce your own by burning coral or seashells. Throw the lime into the water.
  • Nut husks. Crush green husks from butternuts or black walnuts. Throw the husks into the water.


8-70. You must know how to prepare fish and game for cooking and storage in a survival situation. Improper cleaning or storage can result in inedible fish or game.


8-71. Do not eat fish that appears spoiled. Cooking does not ensure that spoiled fish will be edible. Signs of spoilage are—

  • Sunken eyes.
  • Peculiar odor.
  • Suspicious color. (Gills should be red to pink. Scales should be a pronounced shade of gray, not faded.)
  • Dents that stay in the fish’s flesh after pressed with your thumb.
  • Slimy, rather than moist or wet, body.
  • Sharp or peppery taste.

8-72. Eating spoiled or rotten fish may cause diarrhea, nausea, cramps, vomiting, itching, paralysis, or a metallic taste in the mouth. These symptoms appear suddenly, 1 to 6 hours after eating. Induce vomiting if symptoms appear.

8-73. Fish spoils quickly after death, especially on a hot day. Prepare fish for eating as soon as possible after catching it. Cut out the gills and the large blood vessels that lie near the spine. Gut fish that are more than 10 centimeters (4 inches) long. Scale or skin the fish.

8-74. You can impale a whole fish on a stick and cook it over an open fire. However, boiling the fish with the skin on is the best way to get the most food value. The fats and oil are under the skin and, by boiling, you can save the juices for broth. You can use any of the methods used to cook plant food to cook fish. Pack fish into a ball of clay and bury it in the coals of a fire until the clay hardens. Break open the clay ball to get to the cooked fish. Fish is done when the meat flakes off. If you plan to keep the fish for later, smoke or fry it. To prepare fish for smoking, cut off the head and remove the backbone.


8-75. To skin a snake, first cut off its head, to include 10 to 15 centimeters (4 to 6 inches) behind the head. This will ensure you remove the venom sac, which is located at the base of the head. Bury the sac to prevent further contact. Then cut the skin down the body 2 to 4 centimeters (1 to 1 1/2 inches). Peel the skin back, then grasp the skin in one hand and the body in the other and pull apart (Figure 8-25). On large, bulky snakes it may be necessary to slit the belly skin. Cook snakes in the same manner as small game. Remove the entrails and discard. Cut the snake into small sections and boil or roast it.

Figure 8-25. Cleaning a Snake

Figure 8-25. Cleaning a Snake


8-76. After killing the bird, remove its feathers by either plucking or skinning. Remember, skinning removes some of the food value. Open up the body cavity and remove the entrails, saving the craw (in seed-eating birds), heart, and liver. Cut off the feet. Cook by boiling or roasting over a spit. Before cooking scavenger birds, boil them at least 20 minutes to kill parasites.


8-77. Bleed the animal by cutting its throat. If possible, clean the carcass near a stream. Place the carcass belly up and split the hide from throat to tail, cutting around all sexual organs (Figure 8-26). Remove the musk glands at points A and B to avoid tainting the meat. For smaller mammals, cut the hide around the body and insert two fingers under the hide on both sides of the cut and pull both pieces off (Figure 8-27).

NOTE: When cutting the hide, insert the knife blade under the skin and turn the blade up so that only the hide gets cut. This will also prevent cutting hair and getting it on the meat.

Figure 8-26. Skinning and Butchering Large Game

Figure 8-26. Skinning and Butchering Large Game

Figure 8-27. Skinning Small Game

Figure 8-27. Skinning Small Game

8-78. Remove the entrails from smaller game by splitting the body open and pulling them out with the fingers. Do not forget the chest cavity. For larger game, cut the gullet away from the diaphragm. Roll the entrails out of the body. Cut around the anus, then reach into the lower abdominal cavity, grasp the lower intestine, and pull to remove. Remove the urine bladder by pinching it off and cutting it below the fingers. If you spill urine on the meat, wash it to avoid tainting the meat. Save the heart and liver. Cut these open and inspect for signs of worms or other parasites. Also inspect the liver’s color; it could indicate a diseased animal. The liver’s surface should be smooth and wet and its color deep red or purple. If the liver appears diseased, discard it. However, a diseased liver does not indicate you cannot eat the muscle tissue.

8-79. Cut along each leg from above the foot to the previously made body cut. Remove the hide by pulling it away from the carcass, cutting the connective tissue where necessary. Cut off the head and feet.

8-80. Cut larger game into manageable pieces. First, slice the muscle tissue connecting the front legs to the body. There are no bones or joints connecting the front legs to the body on four-legged animals. Cut the hindquarters off where they join the body. You must cut around a large bone at the top of the leg and cut to the ball-and-socket hip joint. Cut the ligaments around the joint and bend it back to separate it. Remove the large muscles (the tenderloin or “backstrap”) that lie on either side of the spine. Separate the ribs from the backbone. There is less work and less wear on your knife if you break the ribs first, then cut through the breaks.

8-81. Boil large meat pieces or cook them over a spit. You can stew or boil smaller pieces, particularly those that remain attached to bone after the initial butchering, as soup or broth. You can cook body organs such as the heart, liver, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys using the same methods as for muscle meat. You can also cook and eat the brain. Cut the tongue out, skin it, boil it until tender, and eat it.


8-82. To smoke meat, prepare an enclosure around a fire Figure 8-28). Two ponchos snapped together will work. The fire does not need to be big or hot. The intent is to produce smoke and heat, not flame. Do not use resinous wood because its smoke will ruin the meat. Use hardwoods to produce good smoke. The wood should be somewhat green. If it is too dry, soak it. Cut the meat into thin slices, no more than 6 millimeters (about 1/4 inch) thick, and drape them over a framework. Make sure none of the meat touches another piece. Keep the poncho enclosure around the meat to hold the smoke and keep a close watch on the fire. Do not let the fire get too hot. Meat smoked overnight in this manner will last about 1 week. Two days of continuous smoking will preserve the meat for 2 to 4 weeks. Properly smoked meat will look like a dark, curled, brittle stick and you can eat it without further cooking. You can also use a pit to smoke meat (Figure 8-29).

Figure 8-28. Tepee Smoker

Figure 8-28. Tepee Smoker

Figure 8-29. Smoking Meat Over a Pit

Figure 8-29. Smoking Meat Over a Pit


8-83. To preserve meat by drying, cut it into 6-millimeter (1/4-inch) strips with the grain. Hang the meat strips on a rack in a sunny location with good airflow. Keep the strips out of the reach of animals. Cover the strips to keep off blowflies. Allow the meat to dry thoroughly before eating. Properly dried meat will have a dry, crisp texture and will not feel cool to the touch.


8-84. You can also preserve meats using the freezing or brine and salt methods. In cold climates, you can freeze and keep meat indefinitely. Freezing is not a means of preparing meat. You must still cook it before eating. You can also preserve meat by soaking it thoroughly in a saltwater solution. The solution must cover the meat. You can use salt by itself but make sure you wash off the salt before cooking.



In many survival situations, the ability to start a fire can make the difference between living and dying. Fire can fulfill many needs. It can provide warmth and comfort. It not only cooks and preserves food, it also provides warmth in the form of heated food that saves calories our body normally uses to produce body heat. You can use fire to purify water, sterilize bandages, signal for rescue, and provide protection from animals. It can be a psychological boost by providing peace of mind and companionship. You can also use fire to produce tools and weapons.

Fire can cause problems, as well. The enemy can detect the smoke and light it produces. It can cause forest fires or destroy essential equipment. Fire can also cause burns and carbon monoxide poisoning when used in shelters.

Weigh your need for fire against your need to avoid enemy detection.


7-1. To build a fire, it helps to understand the basic principles of a fire. Fuel (in a nongaseous state) does not burn directly. When you apply heat to a fuel, it produces a gas. This gas, combined with oxygen in the air, burns.

7-2. Understanding the concept of the fire triangle is very important in correctly constructing and maintaining a fire. The three sides of the triangle represent air, heat, and fuel. If you remove any of these, the fire will go out. The correct ratio of these components is very important for a fire to burn at its greatest capability. The only way to learn this ratio is to practice.


7-3. You will have to decide what site and arrangement to use. Before building a fire consider—

  • The area (terrain and climate) in which you are operating.
  • The materials and tools available.
  • Time; how much time do you have?
  • Need; why do you need a fire?
  • Security; how close is the enemy?

7-4. Look for a dry spot that—

  • Is protected from the wind.
  • Is suitably placed in relation to your shelter (if any).
  • Will concentrate the heat in the direction you desire.
  • Has a supply of wood or other fuel available. (Figure 7-4 lists types of material you can use.)

7-5. If you are in a wooded or brush-covered area, clear the brush and scrape the surface soil from the spot you have selected. Clear a circle at least 1 meter (3 feet) in diameter so there is little chance of the fire spreading.

7-6. If time allows, construct a fire wall using logs or rocks. This wall will help to reflect or direct the heat where you want it (Figure 7-1). It will also reduce flying sparks and cut down on the amount of wind blowing into the fire. However, you will need enough wind to keep the fire burning.



Do not use wet or porous rocks as they may explode when heated.


Figure 7-1. Types of Fire Walls

Figure 7-1. Types of Fire Walls

7-7. In some situations, you may find that an underground fireplace will best meet your needs. It conceals the fire and serves well for cooking food. To make an underground fireplace or Dakota fire hole (Figure 7-2)—

  • Dig a hole in the ground.
  • On the upwind side of this hole, poke or dig a large connecting hole for ventilation.
  • Build your fire in the hole as illustrated.

Figure 7-2. Dakota Fire Hole

Figure 7-2. Dakota Fire Hole

7-8. If you are in a snow-covered area, use green logs to make a dry base for your fire (Figure 7-3). Trees with wrist-sized trunks are easily broken in extreme cold. Cut or break several green logs and lay them side by side on top of the snow. Add one or two more layers. Lay the top layer of logs opposite those below it.

Figure 7-3. Base for Fire in Snow-covered Area

Figure 7-3. Base for Fire in Snow-covered Area


7-9. You need three types of materials (Figure 7-4) to build a fire.

Figure 7-4. Materials for Building Fires

Figure 7-4. Materials for Building Fires

Figure 7-4. Materials for Building Fires (Continued)

Figure 7-4. Materials for Building Fires (Continued)

7-10. Tinder is dry material that ignites with little heat—a spark starts a fire. The tinder must be absolutely dry to be sure just a spark will ignite it. If you have a device that generates only sparks, charred cloth will be almost essential. It holds a spark for long periods, allowing you to put tinder on the hot area to generate a small flame. You can make charred cloth by heating cotton cloth until it turns black, but does not burn. Once it is black, you must keep it in an airtight container to keep it dry. Prepare this cloth well in advance of any survival situation. Add it to your individual survival kit. Other impromptu items could be alcohol pads or petroleum jelly gauze.

7-11. Kindling is readily combustible material that you add to the burning tinder. Again, this material should be absolutely dry to ensure rapid burning. Kindling increases the fire’s temperature so that it will ignite less combustible material.

7-12. Fuel is less combustible material that burns slowly and steadily once ignited.


7-13. There are several methods for laying a fire and each one has advantages. The situation you are in will determine which of the following fires to use.


7-14. To make a tepee fire (Figure 7-5), arrange the tinder and a few sticks of kindling in the shape of a tepee or cone. Light the center. As the tepee burns, the outside logs will fall inward, feeding the fire. This type of fire burns well even with wet wood.


7-15. To lay a lean-to fire (Figure 7-5), push a green stick into the ground at a 30-degree angle. Point the end of the stick in the direction of the wind. Place some tinder deep under this lean-to stick. Lean pieces of kindling against the lean-to stick. Light the tinder. As the kindling catches fire from the tinder, add more kindling.


7-16. To use the cross-ditch method (Figure 7-5), scratch a cross about 30 centimeters (12 inches) in size in the ground. Dig the cross 7.5 centimeters (about 3 inches) deep. Put a large wad of tinder in the middle of the cross. Build a kindling pyramid above the tinder. The shallow ditch allows air to sweep under the tinder to provide a draft.


7-17. To lay the pyramid fire (Figure 7-5), place two small logs or branches parallel on the ground. Place a solid layer of small logs across the parallel logs. Add three or four more layers of logs, each layer smaller than and at a right angle to the layer below it. Make a starter fire on top of the pyramid. As the starter fire burns, it will ignite the logs below it. This gives you a fire that burns downward, requiring no attention during the night.

Figure 7-5. Methods for Laying Fires

Figure 7-5. Methods for Laying Fires

7-18. There are several other ways to lay a fire that are quite effective. Your situation and the material available in the area may make another method more suitable.


7-19. Always light your fire from the upwind side. Make sure you lay the tinder, kindling, and fuel so that your fire will burn as long as you need it. Igniters provide the initial heat required to start the tinder burning. They fall into two categories: modern methods and primitive methods.


7-20. Modern igniters use modern devices. These are items that we normally think of to start a fire.


7-21. Make sure these matches are waterproof. Also, store them in a waterproof container along with a dependable striker pad.

Convex Lens

7-22. Use this method (Figure 7-6) only on bright, sunny days. The lens can come from binoculars, a camera, telescopic sights, or magnifying glasses. Angle the lens to concentrate the sun’s rays on the tinder. Hold the lens over the same spot until the tinder begins to smolder. Gently blow or fan the tinder into a flame and apply it to the fire lay.

Figure 7-6. Lens Method

Figure 7-6. Lens Method

Metal Match

7-23. Place a flat, dry leaf under your tinder with a portion exposed. Place the tip of the metal match on the dry leaf, holding the metal match in one hand and a knife in the other. Scrape your knife against the metal match to produce sparks. The sparks will hit the tinder. When the tinder starts to smolder, proceed as above.


7-24. Use a battery to generate a spark. Use of this method depends on the type of battery available. Attach a wire to each terminal. Touch the ends of the bare wires together next to the tinder so the sparks will ignite it.


7-25. Often, you will have ammunition with your equipment. If so, carefully extract the bullet from the shell casing by moving the bullet back and forth. Use the gunpowder as tinder. Discard the casing and primers. A spark will ignite the powder.

NOTE: Be extremely careful during this operation as the primers are still sensitive and even a small pile of gunpowder can give surprising results.


7-26. Primitive igniters are those attributed to our early ancestors. They can be time-consuming, which requires you to be patient and persistent.

Flint and Steel

7-27. The direct spark method is the easiest of the primitive methods to use. The flint and steel method is the most reliable of the direct spark methods. Strike a flint or other hard, sharp-edged rock with a piece of carbon steel (stainless steel will not produce a good spark). This method requires a loose-jointed wrist and practice. When the tinder catches a spark, blow on it. The spark will spread and burst into flames.


7-28. The fire-plow (Figure 7-7) is a friction method of ignition. To use this method, cut a straight groove in a softwood base and plow the blunt tip of a hardwood shaft up and down the groove. The plowing action of the shaft pushes out small particles of wood fibers. Then, as you apply more pressure on each stroke, the friction ignites the wood particles.

Figure 7-7. Fire-Plow

Figure 7-7. Fire-Plow

Bow and Drill

7-29. The technique of starting a fire with a bow and drill (Figure 7-8) is simple, but you must exert much effort and be persistent to produce a fire. You need the following items to use this method:

  • Socket. The socket is an easily grasped stone or piece of hardwood with a slight depression in one side. Use it to hold the drill in place and to apply downward pressure.
  • Drill. The drill should be a straight, seasoned hardwood stick about 2 centimeters (3/4 inch) in diameter and 25 centimeters (10 inches) long. The top end is round and the low end blunt (to produce more friction).
  • Fire board. Although any board may be used, a seasoned softwood board about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) thick and 10 centimeters (4 inches) wide is preferable. Cut a depression about 2 centimeters (3/4 inch) from the edge on one side of the board. On the underside, make a V-shaped cut from the edge of the board to the depression.
  • Bow. The bow is a resilient, green stick about 2.5 centimeters (3/4 inch) in diameter with a bowstring. The type of wood is not important. The bowstring can be any type of cordage. Tie the bowstring from one end of the bow to the other, without any slack.

Figure 7-8. Bow and Drill

Figure 7-8. Bow and Drill

7-30. To use the bow and drill, first prepare the fire lay. Then place a bundle of tinder under the V-shaped cut in the fire board. Place one foot on the fire board. Loop the bowstring over the drill and place the drill in the precut depression on the fire board. Place the socket, held in one hand, on the top of the drill to hold it in position. Press down on the drill and saw the bow back and forth to twirl the drill (Figure 7-8). Once you have established a smooth motion, apply more downward pressure and work the bow faster. This action will grind hot black powder into the tinder, causing a spark to catch. Blow on the tinder until it ignites.

7-31. Primitive fire-building methods are exhausting and require practice to ensure success. If your survival situation requires the use of primitive methods, remember the following hints to help you construct and maintain the fire:

  • If possible, use nonaromatic seasoned hardwood for fuel.
  • Collect kindling and tinder along the trail.
  • Add insect repellent to the tinder.
  • Keep the firewood dry.
  • Dry damp firewood near the fire.
  • Bank the fire to keep the coals alive overnight.
  • Carry lighted punk, when possible.
  • Be sure the fire is out before leaving camp.
  • Do not select wood lying on the ground. It may appear to be dry but generally doesn’t provide enough friction.