Monday, June 4, 2018

Small Game and Survival

Many preppers talk about hunting after SHTF. I have heard countless discussions about caliber, availability of ammunition, capability of weapons, and so on. These discussions almost inevitably center around the taking of large game, as an elk or a deer can provide a lot of meat for someone.

I go the opposite direction and make an argument for taking small game instead. This approach has several advantages:
  • Small game is very common. In fact, most small game animals are considered pests. In Utah, there are a number of small game animals that do not require a permit of any sort to hunt or trap. You are almost guaranteed to find small game animals within city limits, even in big cities.
  • Small game is likely to disappear last in a long term emergency. Everyone else will be busy hunting large game, leaving the small things for you.
  • Small game makes a single meal, and if you don’t have refrigeration that makes a big difference. You may have to kill two or three animals to get a meal, but you don't have to spend time processing the rest of the meat so that it's preserved without refrigeration. 
  • You can hunt small game with smaller, cheaper weapons. A slingshot is much easier to acquire and keep in your preps than a full size hunting rifle, and the ammunition is cheaper and much easier to improvise. I don’t recommend a slingshot for hunting deer (even if it has been done), but it's fine for hunting quail. Airguns and bows that are sufficient to the task are much cheaper than ones up to hunting large game, and blowguns are a traditional method to hunt small game.
  • Small game traps are much easier to keep. They are lighter, smaller, less expensive, and easier to improvise with wire or rope. 
  • Small game hunting is inexpensive. In Utah, the permit for small game is much less expensive than that for a deer tag. A combined small game/fishing licence along with an air rifle, ammunition and so on costs less than a single elk tag. This means that you can afford to practice.

You aren't limited in variety when it comes to small game, either:
  • Pheasant is originally from Asia, but it now ranges over much of the world specifically from people introducing it as a game animal. Its taste is excellent, and it has provided food for centuries. It has lovely feathers that can also (and often have been) used for decoration.
  • Potguts (also known as Uinta ground squirrels) and similar squirrels are a popular source of protein for small game hunters.
  • Rabbits have no bag limit where I live and everywhere I have looked at the hunting laws for. They are also commonly considered a pest animal, and may not even require a permit to hunt.
  • Pigeons (a domesticated form of doves) are possibly the most common animal in any major city, and they were originally bred as poultry. They are a common food in the middle east and there are countless recipes for them online. 
  • Raccoons are a pest across much of the US, and a staple of southern cooking in days gone by. My grandmother told stories of hunting and eating raccoons during the great depression, and how tasty they really are.
You may want to be careful with any animals living in a city. Since they are surviving on garbage, the taste may be poor, and any of the mammals may have rabies, so look up the symptoms and signs of it to prevent infection.

Be sure to look up your local laws and regulations before you start hunting small game -- you don’t want to violate the law!

Good luck, be safe, and don’t forget to practice.

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