by Jesse James
ModernSurvivalOnline Patriot and Editor-at-Large
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services estimates that about 5% of the population over 16 hunts during any given year. The study was done in 2006 and if the trend for the last 20 years is any indication, it is likely a few points lower this year. Hunting is a rather Sisyphean pursuit for me, in fact Wile E. outsmarted me again last night, so this is not me chest-beating. Rather, a few thoughts on why I think it’s a worthwhile skill to become proficient at it.
Stationary shooting is fun. Shooting while moving is even more fun, and a difficult skill to master. However, few of us have had the opportunity to practice shooting at something else moving. Hunting gives you that opportunity. People who wish to do you harm are unlikely to stand in a stationary position while giving you their full profile. Why limit your practice to a less than real world scenario. Granted, I don’t recommend using your pistol to hunt, but even with a rifle it gives you a good opportunity to get comfortable, or at least familiar with shooting at a semi-moving target. In a SHTF situation this could be a game changer, reducing the learning curve most will need in a combat situation. Remember, 236 years ago an army of hunters outmatched a world superpower. The power of accurate gunfire cannot be understated.
2. Situational Awareness
SA is critical…pretty much always. Few people have it. Most of the US population wanders around in Condition White 24/7. To be successful at hunting, you have to see it before it sees you, or recognizes you as a threat. To do that you need to pay attention. You begin to notice things like game trails, footprints, scat and other indications of game. Hunting teaches you to listen. It’s amazing what a veteran hunter can pick out from the myriads of sounds in the woods. You eyes will slowly become accustomed to looking for something other than bright flashing images that we spend so much time looking at. Game glides, and their movement is infinitely more fluid than that of humans. Almost never does it come from directly in front of you. We could all use a little more practice becoming aware of what is going on around us and not just in the 45º directly in front of us. Lastly, it give you a natural sense of tactical awareness. Game follows trails and in many ways they are like humans in their desire to travel through the path of least resistance. You learn to recognize funnel points and where the best place to ambush them is. Vantage points will take on a new significance, as does cover. In my scientific estimation, approximately 95% of the population has less SA than a spring gobbler and 85% of the population has less tactical sense than a coyote. If you can learn to outsmart them, you are WAY ahead of the game.
From the time you leave the vehicle to your stand/blind you can help or hamper yourself by the noise you make and the disruption of nature you create. Hunting teaches you to walk more quietly, and at some point you will be walking IN nature rather than THROUGH nature. One day you will look back, literally, and realize that you aren’t leaving a path that looks like a herd of cattle just ran through. Nor will you sound like one. Most of us have bug-out contingency plans. If SHTF your bag would be Fort Knox on legs for so many people. I am confident in my inability to defend myself against a 10-15 people chasing me on foot with a 70 lb. bag on me. Unless your last name ends in Norris, then you should be as well. The ability to not leave an obvious trail into the woods could be the difference between you waking up (you have to sleep sometime) with your bag or without it…or possibly not waking up at all.
4. Field-testing of Equipment
We all love it. Tacticool is just that, cool. There is a plethora of big-brand hunting stuff, some works and some doesn’t. One of the biggest lessons hunting taught me is that it is the operator, far more than the equipment, is the single most accurate indicator of success. Deer don’t care if you have a custom McMillan with jewelling out the wazoo and a moon-based targeting system. All that means nothing if you don’t see them and have the requisite marksmanship to put one in the vitals. The same goes for camo, whether you have the coin to get outfitted in UnderArmor and their garishly logoed hunting gear, or you buy stuff from the local Wal-Mart, it simply needs to work. Nothing more, nothing less. A minimum level of quality needs to be there for it to work in bad conditions, and hunting affords you an opportunity to test that. Things like boots, scopes, gloves, base layers, backpacks, ammunition and backpacks can be used in a real world environment. If it doesn’t work on a weekend hunt, how well is it going to hold up to daily use and abuse? An ounce of prevention can prevent a pint of your blood later on.
Assuming you hunt something other than feral pigs, predators and nuisance animals, the game you harvested can help you cut down on the grocery bill. Ground beef hit a record high this year, the national average being $3.085 per pound. Depending on deer size you can get from 50-125 lb. of meat from the butcher. Do the math. Some don’t like venison, but it’s possible to barter with others who do for items such as canned garden vegetables or similar items. I know Virginia has Hunters for the Hungry, a program that allows you to donate your harvested deer and feed homeless or indigent people, many of whom are children or the elderly; other states may have similar programs. Many hunters learn to prepare jerky in order to save freezer space. In a SHTF situation, harvesting a deer could stretch your stored foods much longer than anticipated and provide a means of barter. Properly made jerky can potentially last for well over a year, provided it is kept dry and cool (do NOT put it in the freezer/refrigerator). Obviously turkeys, waterfowl and other game animals have less overall meat to harvest, but the benefits are the same.
I am certain many of you read this and it was nothing new. Many of you probably live in areas in which hunting is prevalent and a great majority of the community participates in it. You are statistically the minority. As the U.S. becomes further urbanized and centralized, fewer people are even familiar with the rudimentary skills necessary to feed themselves, whether through hunting or horticulture. This article is a call to the suburban and urban preppers who may have mistakenly relegated hunting to a hobby or “country boy” activity. Most states require a simple hunters education class that is in many ways informative for those unfamiliar with hunting. Many teach you how to field dress the game, proper blind and tree stand techniques and other practical skills in addition to simple gun safety.
I highly recommend those of you who live in suburban or urban areas to take the time to get a license and try it. Even if you find after going a few times that you don’t enjoy it, you will have become familiar with it. Familiarity can be a very comforting thing if one day your well-being could depend on it. It is crucial that we strive to eliminate as many learning curves as possible while nothing depends on our success. A skill set doesn’t have an expiration date and it cannot be confiscated or taken from you. Far too many urban and suburban preppers focus on BOB’s, but I see very few individuals actually investing time in bushcraft skills. It is akin to buying and using the latest space-age swimsuit, but never spending time in the water swimming. Hunting offers dynamic interaction with another sentient being, something that strictly backpacking does not. I absolutely advocate hiking as much as possible, but hunting can help domesticated man rekindle some of his predatory instinct. I’m not advocating that hunting is the be-all, end-all, or it is meant to replace trips to the range and sound tactical training. However, it can be a great tool to further complement those skills.
Get a license. Talk to your local game warden, most are happy to tell you where state and national forests are that can be hunted in. Many experienced hunters are all too happy to show a new hunter the ropes. Those living near major cities may have to drive a little, but it is a skill set that could pay enormous dividends in the future if one day your meat stopped coming shrink-wrapped, styrofoam packages.
“The rifle is the weapon of democracy… If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns, only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government—and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws.”