SURVIVAL HUNTING TECHNIQUES


WILDERNESS SURVIVAL HANDBOOK by Alan Fry. ISBN 0-312-14763-5

 

See also : Alan Fry Links

 

 


This pager covers pages 166-173. Even though Alan cites hunting of Moose, and is centered in Canadian hunting, his principles apply to all survival hunting. His premise of being forced down over the Canadian bush country, and having to make do, applies to survival scenarios in general.

 

 

 

From  Alan Fry First Notes

Pages 163, 164, 165, Excerpted, Author’s Discussion of Firearms

 

            .... Once into .30 calibre you have a great many choices, but one cartridge, the .30-06, gives clearly the best performance, unless you opt for magnums.

 

            ... The profusion of choices is now reduced to three: the .270 Winchester, the .30-06, and the .308 Winchester.

 

            In these calibres, I recommend the following bullet weights and styles: a 150-grain pointed soft-point in the .270 cartridge; a 180-grain pointed soft-point in the .30-06 cartridge; and a 165-grain pointed soft-point in the .308 Winchester cartridge. These will serve you until your own assessment and experience lead you to a different choice.

 

            It remains then to select a rifle. There are four basic actions: the bolt, the lever, the slide, and the self-loading, or semi-automatic.

 

            The strongest of these actions is the bolt action, and for accuracy it is widely accepted as the best. With one or two exceptions, only bolt-action rifles are chambered for the .270 Winchester and the .30-06 cartridges.

 

            ... Avoid self-loading rifles. (He means semi-automatic.) Some of the pressure which is wanted for driving the bullet must be drawn off to operate the mechanism, and both accuracy and velocity are affected. Once again, some men mistake the rapidity of fire possible with these rifles for superiority, either in the rifle or in themselves, and they waste both good meat and ammunition in the process.

 

            Do not buy an old, worked-over military-surplus rifle. Buy a new rifle by an established sporting-rifle manufacturer or a used rifle of similar origin which has been checked and test-fired by a competent gunsmith. The superior quality of a top-grade sporting rifle over a military clunker is too great an advantage to be done without.

 

            Sighting equipment is also important. Undoubtedly the most accurate available is the telescope with cross-hairs or cross-hairs and post. However, for a survival-equipment rifle I suggest you purchase a rifle which can be equipped with a hunting aperture sighting system.

 

             Such a sight system is far more rugged and, in a situation where you can't have repairs or replacements made in the event of damage or malfunction, you will be much more certain of continued service. Excellent accuracy is possible with an aperture, and the risk of damage during transport is negligible. By contrast, the risk of damage during transport to the telescopic sight is considerable.

 

            Finally, with the guidance of an experienced rifleman, learn to handle your rifle with absolute care and safety and to shoot it with knowledgeable competence. In virtually every community in North America, there is a rifle club or fish-and-game association through which you can find someone willing to help you get off to a good start.

 

            I  HAVE  TWO  PIECES  OF  ADVICE  ON  HANDLING  WHICH  YOUR  ADVISER  MIGHT  NOT  GIVE  YOU.   FIRST,  IN  COLD  WEATHER  DO  NOT  BRING  YOUR  RIFLE  INTO  THE  WARMTH  OF  THE  FIRE  OR  OF  THE  INTERIOR  OF  THE  SHELTER.   LEAVE  IT  OUT  IN  THE  COLD.   THE  CHANGE  IN  TEMPERATURE  WILL  CAUSE  CONDENSATION  WHICH  LEADS  TO  RUST.

 

            THIS  CAN  OCCUR  INSIDE  THE  BARREL  NEAR  THE  MUZZLE  AND  DESTROY  ACCURACY.   SECOND,  IN  ANY  WEATHER  DO  NOT  OIL  THE  MECHANISM  BUT  KEEP  IT  IMPECCABLY  CLEAN  WITH  SOLVENT.   AN  OILED  MECHANISM  WILL  FREQUENTLY  FAIL  TO  FIRE  IN  COLD  WEATHER,   WHEREAS  AN  IMPECCABLY  CLEAN  MECHANISM  WILL  FUNCTION  AT  TEMPERATURES  AS  SEVERE  AS  ANY  IN  WHICH  YOU  ARE  LIKELY  TO  GO  OUT  TO  HUNT.    (Capitalization mine.)

 

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Hunting Techniques

 

         Now to the larger question: given these sorts of equipment for capturing food, how, exactly, does one go about it? How do you hunt the moose or snare the rabbit or fill the gill-net with a load of nourishing char?

 

          How, indeed? The successful hunter goes far afield and returns often enough with meat, but if you ask him precisely how he achieved this result, he will probably be unable to tell you except in the vaguest way, referring frequently to luck. Others, ardently desiring success, may speak of the ways of the game, of the wind, of the habits of the bull in rut, of the freshness of the track, and of the manure still steaming by the morning bed, but will come back dispirited and empty-handed.

 

          I cannot with certainty illustrate the path to a sure kill and a camp abundant with meat. Even so, there are better and worse ways to apply yourself to the problem, and if you have some sense of what to do and what not to do, your chances of success will increase. The basic steps and principles for the capture of game may seem obvious; they are, nevertheless, the foundation of good hunting. You must also bear in mind, however, that the habits of game differ widely from species to species and you must adapt the basic principles to the type of game and the habitat with which you are immediately concerned.

 

          The steps to a kill are these: first, the determination that game useful to you may exist within hunting reach of your camp; second, confirmation that such game is in fact utilizing ground within your hunting reach; third, locating the game itself; and fourth, getting a view sufficient for a killing shot or setting snares in such a way that capture is assured.

 

          Whether you seek ground squirrels or moose and whether you have been hunting for an hour or two weeks, the steps remain essentially the same. You can develop your competence by considering each step in turn.

 

          First, how do you determine that game useful to you may exist within hunting reach of your camp?

 

          You do this by assessing how well the habitat fulfils the needs of the animals known to occur in your general area. Moose occur throughout most of British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, and Alaska, and in parts of the northern Prairie provinces, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. However, for any particular location in the fall and winter, the presence or absence of moose hinges almost entirely on whether or not the specific vegetation essential to their fall and winter diet is found in the area.

 

          If you know the habitat requirements of bears, and you find yourself in need of meat in the berry season in mountain country, you know at once that game useful to your survival is very likely within hunting reach of your camp.

 

          Of course, I cannot possibly give here all the detailed information you will need to manage this first step successfully; the number of useful species of animals and the variability of habitat throughout all our bushlands are both much too great. You must prepare yourself. In doing so you will discover, if you haven't already, a most vital dimension of this bush into which you venture or over which you travel -- that is, the extensive and varied life which thrives there.

 

          Few will deny that there is pleasure in a day out on cross-country skis on a well-marked trail, even if your attention is absorbed primarily by how fast you are traveling, how fit you are, and how brilliant the snow-clad landscape is in the winter sun. Yet the adventure will be enhanced tenfold if you discover, perhaps while breaking new trail beside a meadow and along a frozen stream, traces of otter and mink and beaver; or observe that on yonder south-facing slope, which supports a stand of mixed fir, pine, and aspen, there is an undergrowth of upland willow, young birch, and red osier dogwood on which moose have been feeding.

 

          You can develop the knowledge of animals in their habitat which enables you to make an effective assessment of the ground you might someday need to exploit for survival by reading, by listening to people experienced in a particular habitat, and by direct study in the field.

 

          The biology departments of provincial and state universities are a rich source of titles for your reading. Extensive field research on all the big-game animals, as well as on many of the fur-bearers and smaller game, has been done in the last few decades and has broadened significantly our understanding of the dependence of animal species on their habitats. To understand what an animal must find on the land around him in order to live and procreate is to know, among other things, where there is a chance that you will find him.

 

          Talk to the people who are experienced with the wildlife in the particular type of bush in which you are interested, especially those who live in some measure by hunting in that bush. Then go afield to confirm by your own observation what animal life thrives there and what use each animal makes of the ground in the different seasons in order to survive and procreate. When out in the field you will find that steps one and two -- assessing the habitat for game possibilities and confirming the presence of game -- are inseparable. The same excursion which confirms the likely quality of the habitat brings the delight of discovering fresh signs. Ripe berries on the mountainside tell you that bear may be about; piles of fresh dung, found within moments of casting about between the bushes, tells you that bears may be about and perhaps, as the Indian women of the Yukon do, you should sing a berry-picking song to warn the bears of your presence in order to avoid a too-sudden confrontation in the thickets.

 

          Take with you on these study trips those texts which you believe will be most useful. In moose country you might wish to carry a booklet which identifies food species by seasons. I also make constant use of the Field Guide to Animal Tracks by Olaus Murie in the Peterson Field Guide series. This, along with my copy of the Mammals of British Columbia by Cowan and Guiguet, is dog-eared from frequent reference.

 

          If you harbor the soul of the true outdoors person I promise you that your excursions into the bush will reward you, whether or not you ever take an animal for food. The meaning the bush holds for you will deepen with every new discovery. Here in the night the deer were feeding. By this pond a family of otter lives. On this side hill in the winter the moose fed in number, though there is no sign of them now. The edge of this field is a veritable homestead of yellow-bellied marmot. A bear passed this way perhaps two days ago, and so on.

 

          When you become adept at identifying likely habitat and then confirming by tracks, manure, and other signs that certain animals are about, you begin to realize that this is the easier end of the hunting skill. More difficult is to locate one or more specific animals, and most difficult is to get a view sufficient for a kill, whether or not your life actually hangs on killing the animal for meat.

 

          You must learn to judge the freshness of sign. Last week's track is of interest for what it tells you of recent use of the ground; a track made a few moments ago holds the immediate promise of meat on which to survive -- if you make the right movements over the next little while.

 

          Think about the sign you see. A fresh track has a crisper quality to the print, a sharpness about the edges, which the older track has lost. If it rained overnight, only this morning's track will be unworn by the rainfall. If leaves are falling, the older track has a leaf or two fallen into it, the fresher one has only the leaf imprinted into the track by the footfall of the deer. If a trace of pellet snow fell at daybreak, only the freshest track will be without it. In cold weather, the loose snow which falls back into the moose track as the foot lifts out will set firmly in a few moments; if your finger finds it still loose, the track is very fresh indeed and, in fact, you probably frightened the animal off.

 

          In a short while you become skilled at gauging the freshness of manure. Freshly dropped, it has a bright appearance, whatever its color. As it ages, the brightness fades. This morning's droppings are distinct from yesterday's and yesterday's from last week's. Droppings made since the last rain are distinct from those made preceding it.

 

          In cold weather, droppings freeze. Those made moments ago are still warm; those made a little earlier are chilled; those made earlier yet are beginning to freeze; those made several hours ago, depending on the temperature, are frozen. Most often on rising from a bed a large animal makes droppings before moving off. The skilled hunter habitually takes a pellet between thumb and forefinger to test its freshness. Is it still easily compressed and warm to the touch? Is it chilled yet? Is it beginning to freeze? The manure tells him how long ago the animal moved off and how far, therefore, he may be from his quarry.

 

          Though tracks and manure are the most common signs to look for, you learn to recognize others as well. Freshly browsed osier tells you moose are present; chewed bark -- most often pine, though other trees may show sign as well -- tells you that porcupine are about (though you must distinguish between different bark-chewing signs as moose and elk eat bark at some seasons too); green pine twigs nipped off and bark chewed from very young pine trees that have tender growth near ground level suggest the varying hare; during the rut, a pawing place, freshly used, will indicate deer or moose, depending on the size and the associated track; a wallow speaks of elk; all the antlered animals work the velvet from their racks as the rut approaches in the fall, and bushes used for the purpose will show the characteristic rubbing marks.

 

          Pay close attention to what you see on the trail today, for if you come this way tomorrow, you want to recognize new sign. A moose's hooking on a sapling where you know with certainty none existed yesterday tells you that moose are using the ground and that your search for meat is narrowing.

 

          When the frequency of fresh sign tells you that the animals you seek are clearly in the vicinity, you must alter your method of travel (if indeed you continue to travel at all) in order to make the most of your chances for a useful view. When you are in the stages of scouting, both for likely habitat and for signs within the habitat, you may move along at a steady pace with the idea of scouting as much ground in a-day as you can. However, once you find enough fresh sign to know that game is in the vicinity, you must slow down and move silently; you must work into or across the wind if at all possible; you must take full advantage of cover and must search with your eyes and with your ears with totally concentrated attention. You may spend hours in a quarter-mile of ground if you are certain that game is there. If you spot the game before the game spots you, your chances of success are far better than if matters develop the other way about.

 

          Now it is impossible to give fixed rules for how to proceed at this stage of the hunt. Exactly what will work best depends on many factors: on the species being hunted; on the nature of the terrain and cover; on the conditions of wind and weather, and on the season of the year; even on the question of whether this particular ground is hunted heavily in the season by recreational hunters or not.

 

          None the less, some general ideas are useful so long as you use your own initiative in applying them. I will offer you observations and suggestions which, at some times and in some places, but never in all of either, will prove useful.

 

          Try this rule: if the game is moving, remain still; if the game is not moving, stalk it. Daybreak and dusk are feeding times for most game, and if you sit motionless with a good view over likely ground, you may see more game than if you are on the move, however cautiously. You will also have the best chance for a rested and accurate shot. Also, if food is running short in camp and you are on tight rations, you will use less energy sitting than moving, however slowly.

 

          Deer, more than moose, elk, and caribou, are night-feeding animals. Remember that if there is a bright moon up through much of the night, deer will rarely move in daylight. On the other hand, a black and stormy night will keep most game down, and if the weather lifts in early morning, the game will be on the move.

 

          Large game often beds up in the daytime in draws and gullies, and some terrain is characterized by a series of draws lying in roughly the same direction. Hunt up or across the wind, whichever lets you also hunt across the direction of the draws. As you come over the rise to search in each successive draw, proceed with absolute caution.

 

          In good tracking-snow you may decide to trail an animal, having found track so fresh that you know you cannot be far from a view, Most game is very alert to anything following on its back trail, and you are better advised to make large half-circle departures to the downwind side of the trail than to stay dead on it. Come back to the trail at intervals, working up the wind with caution. When you intercept the trail, assess its freshness anew, then make another wide half-circle. If your quarry is traveling in earnest, you will be outdistanced, but if it is stopping to feed or to consider a bedding place, you may get a view as you approach the trail from one of your circling maneuvers. The animal you trail may also lead you to others, increasing your chance of a kill.

 

          If you startle an animal which you see too briefly to shoot (or perhaps only hear as it strikes off through a thicket), it will often be useful to abandon caution and attempt a very fast circling action to the downwind side. Make all the noise you need in order to move quickly. Move so as to overtake the animal on its downwind side and then come up toward what you reckon to be its line of movement. The point of this manoeuver is that if the animal keeps moving you won't see it again anyway, but if the animal stops to follow the sound of your movement while attempting to get your scent, you will often get a view as both you and the animal search for each other.

 

          Another theory is that you should stop as soon as you realize you have startled an animal and remain dead still for a long while -- as much as half an hour or more. The animal may circle back to discover what startled it, and you may get a shot. Mule deer particularly seem to suffer from curiosity. I prefer the fast-circling action, but I make no claim that it is superior.

 

          When moose are on pond feed, you may hunt with great effectiveness at daybreak and again at dusk by making a small raft and drifting on a pond within shooting range of the shore. Try to take your game as soon as it appears on the shoreline, as it is very difficult to recover a carcass from the deeper water in which moose quite readily feed. A distinct side benefit to this procedure -- the mosquitoes are usually less numerous out in the middle of the pond than in the brush on shore!

 

          Two people hunting in co-operation can often more than double their individual chance of success. If you know that game is almost certain to be found in a specific location from the signs you have seen there, one hunter may sit in wait at one side of the location while the other comes through from the opposite side. Need one add that this co-operative hunting requires totally responsible safety behavior by both hunters? Either will shoot only with a positive view of the game and the ground behind the game.

 

          Should you go down in an aircraft in remote bush there is a good chance that any game you find there is not heavily hunted by recreation hunters in the season, often not hunted at all. This fact will greatly affect your success. There is no doubt that game which is not ordinarily hunted can be taken with much greater ease than game subject to regular hunting.

 

          Recreation hunters, seeing no game, often complain that all the game is gone and heap criticism on the government department responsible for management of wildlife resources. People opposed to hunting often make the same complaint, though from a different motive. Undoubtedly there are places where game was once abundant and is now scarce, but the scarcity is primarily due to loss of habitat to human activity, rather than to hunting, and where habitat still exists, game still exists.

 

          In some of my favorite haunts, in the past, I rarely hunted more than a day or two, often only a few hours, in order to take meat with assurance. Hunting those same haunts now I might spend two or three weeks in diligent hunting, yet come away empty handed. Still, I suffer no great disappointment, for I discover, daily, that an abundance of game is still there, although it has grown ten times more wary than it used to be. This should be reassurance enough that the remoteness of the bush you may go down in is much in your favor for, other things being equal, remoteness means an absence of hunting and game that is consequently much more easily found and killed.

 

          The next step to consider is planning the shot. Here the hunter has two basic choices: a shot to the vital organs or to the head and neck.

 

          A skilled marksman, shooting from excellent advantage, will place a killing shot into the head-and-neck area, thereby taking game with virtually no bullet damage to usable meat. However, a slight error in placing this shot can mean a clean miss at best, and a miserable death for the animal, which you will probably never recover, as a distinct possibility.

 

          If well placed, the shot into the vital organs will ruin little meat; if poorly placed it will ruin more meat but still bring the animal down. The effective target area in this shot is much larger than in the head or neck shot and is without question the best choice for the survival hunter.

 

          The shot is easily placed from a full side view and can still be placed if the animal is partially turned away. In this case the shot enters on an angle but will still be effective. Placed from the front, the shot is, in essence, into the full of the chest at the base of the neck.

 

          If the camp is in desperate straits for food and the vital-organs shot cannot be made, you must hit the animal in any way that is likely to bring it down. A survival situation is not a sporting proposition; you must get food however you can, and if this means crippling an animal in the hope of tracking it down for a final kill, that must be accepted.

 

          In any case you must search thoroughly for any animal at which you shoot that does not go down at once -- or even appears not to have been hit at all. A large animal may travel a surprising distance after being hit fatally with a shot to the vital organs, and unless you search diligently, you could return to camp in the belief that you have failed when in fact you might have had meat in abundance.

 

The following sketch (Figure 7:1) shows the target area for the vital-organs shot.

 

 

 

 

 

Next Section of

Survival Hunting Techniques 

 

Pages 173 - 202

WILDERNESS SURVIVAL HANDBOOK by Alan Fry. ISBN 0-312-14763-5