Back to Start Page
= Basic Field Craft =
US Army Survival Manual FM 21-76 ISBN 1-56619-022-3
These following pages come from the manual published in October 1970, which has no ISBN number. It is different than the 1998 version cited above.
Disclaimer. These pages are from a military survival manual. If you try some of the what is discussed, in normal times, then you pay all tickets. Check your local regulations, ask a Ranger.
ANIMAL FOODS pages 122-127, edited
Fresh water lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers are abundant food reservoirs. Look for them wherever you are; they support more animal life in a smaller area than the land, and often the food they harbor is easier to acquire. You can count on finding such water animals as fish, frogs, snails, and crabs around or in most inland waters.
FISH. Of the animal life around or in fresh water, fish are probably the most difficult to catch; so don't expect too much at one sitting. It may take hours or even days before you are successful. It can be done though, even with crude equipment, if you are patient, and know where, when, and how to fish.
WHEN TO FISH. It is difficult to state the best time to fish because different species feed at different times, both day and night. As a general rule, look for fish to feed just before dawn and just after dusk; just before a storm as the front is moving in; and at night when the moon is full or waning. Rising fish and jumping minnows may also be signs of feeding fish.
WHERE TO FISH. The place you select to start fishing depends on the type of water available and the time of day. In fast running streams in the heat of the day, try deep pools that lie below the riffles. Toward evening or in the early morning, float your bait over the rifflle, aiming for submerged logs, undercut banks, and overhanging bushes. On lakes in the heat of the summer, fish deep as fish seek the coolness of deeper water. In the evening or early morning in summer, fish the edges of the lake; fish are more apt to feed in shallow water. Lake fishing in the spring and late fall is more productive on the edge in shallow water because fish are either bedding or seeking warmer water. With practice you can locate the beds of some species of fish by their strong, distinctively "fishy" odor.
BAIT. As a general rule, fish bite bait taken from their native water. Look in the water near the shores for crabs, fish eggs, and minnows and on the banks for worms and insects. If you hook a fish, inspect its stomach to see what it has been eating; then try to duplicate this food. Use its intestines and eyes for bait if other sources are unproductive. If you use worms, cover the hook completely. With minnows, pass the hook through the body of the fish under its backbone in the rear of the dorsal fin. Be sure you do not sever the minnow's backbone.
You can make artificial bait from pieces of brightly colored cloth, feathers, or bits of bright metal fashioned to duplicate insects, worms and minnows. Strive to make your artificial bait look natural by moving it slowly or copying the actions of natural fish food.
MAKING HOOKS AND LINE. If you have no hooks, improvise them out of pins, bone, or hardwood. By twisting bark or cloth fibers you can fashion a sturdy line. Using the inner bark of a tree, knot the ends of two strands and secure them to a solid base. Hold a strand in each hand and twist clockwise, crossing one above the other counterclockwise. Add fiber as necessary to increase the length of the line. If you have parachute shroud lines available, use these for your line.
CATCHING FISH. There will be times when the most elaborate line and suitable bait will not yield a single fish. Do not become discouraged because there are other methods that may prove more productive.
SET LINES. Set lines provide a practical method for catching fish if you happen to be "holed-up" for a period of time near a lake or stream awaiting an opportunity to continue your trip safely. Simply tie several hooks onto your line. Bait them and fasten the line to a low-hanging branch that will bend when a fish is hooked. Keep this line in the water as long as you are in the area, checking it periodically to remove fish and rebait the hooks.
An excellent hook for a set line is the gorge or skewer hook. Sink the skewer into a chunk of bait. After the fish swallows the bait, the skewer swings crosswise and lodges in the stomach, securing the fish to the line.
JIGGING. This method requires an 8 - to l0 - foot limber cane or similar type pole, a hook, a piece of brilliant metal shaped like a commercial fishing spoon, a 2 - to 3 - inch strip of white meat or pork rind or fish intestine, and a piece of line about 10 inches long. Attach the hook just below the spoon on the end of the short line, and tie the line to the end of the pole. Working close to the edge near lily pads or weed beds, dabble the hook and spoon apparatus just below the surface of the water. Occasionally slap the water with the tip of the pole to attract large fish to your bait. This method is especially effective at night.
USING YOUR HAND. This method is effective in small streams with undercut banks or in shallow ponds left by receding flood waters. Place your hands in the water and allow them to reach water temperature. Reach under the bank slowly, keeping your hands close to the bottom if possible. Move your fingers slightly until you contact a fish. Then work your hand gently along its belly until you reach its gills. Grasp the fish firmly just behind its gills.
MUDDYING. Small isolated pools caused by the receding waters of flooded streams are often abundant in fish. Disturb the mud of the bottoms of these puddles by stamping in them or using a stick until the fish are forced to seek clearer water at the surface. Then throw them out with your hands or club them.
SPEARING. This method is difficult except when the stream is small and the fish are large and numerous; during spawning season; or when the fish congregate in pools. Tie your bayonet on the end of a pole; lash two long thorns on a stick; or fashion a bone spear point, and position yourself on a rock over a fish run. Wait patiently and quietly for a fish to swim by. Select only the large fish.
NETS. The edges and tributaries of lakes and streams are usually abundant with fish too small to hook or spear but large enough to net. Select a forked sapling and make a circular frame. Stitch or tie your undershirt, making sure the bottom is closed. Scoop upstream around rocks or in pools with this improvised net.
SHOOTING. If you are fortunate and have a weapon and sufficient ammunition try shooting fish. Aim slightly under the fish in water that is less than three feet deep. A hand grenade exploded in a school of fish will supply you with food for days. Dry or otherwise preserve those that you do not eat fresh.
HUNTING Pages 142-143, edited slightly
Hunting animals and birds is not an easy job for even the most experienced woodsman; therefore, as a beginner, "still hunt." Find a place where animals pass - a trail, watering place, or feeding ground. Hide nearby, always downwind so the animal can't smell you, and wait for game to come to within range of your weapon or to walk into your trap. Remain absolutely motionless.
If you decide to stalk an animal, do so upwind, moving slowly and noiselessly only when he is feeding or looking the other way. Freeze when he looks your way.
Hunt in the early morning or at dusk and look for animal signs such as tracks, a game run, trampled underbrush, and droppings. Remember-animals depend upon their keen sense of sight, hearing, and smell to warn them of danger.
Birds can see and hear exceptionally well but are lacking in their sense of smell. During nesting periods they are less fearful of man. Because of this you can catch them easier in the spring and summer, especially in temperate or Arctic areas. They nest in cliffs, branches, marshes, or trees and by watching the older birds you can locate the young or eggs.
The secret to hunting successfully is seeing your quarry before he sees you, so keep alert. Watch for signs that tell of the presence of game. As you approach a ridge, lake, or clearing slow down and peer first at distant then closer ground. At water holes that show signs of game, hide and wait until an animal approaches even though it takes hours. In general, apply the military principles of movement and concealment that you have learned.
If you have a weapon and see a chance to use it, whistle sharply to encourage your quarry to stop, giving you a chance for a standing shot. On large game aim for a neck, lung, or head shot. In the event you wound an animal and it runs, follow its blood trail slowly but deliberately. If the quarry is wounded severely, it will lie down soon if not followed; and when it lies down, it will usually weaken and be unable to rise. Approach it slowly and finish it off. After killing a large animal such as deer, gut and bleed it immediately. Cut the musk glands from between its hind legs and at the joints of its hind legs. Be careful not to burst the bladder while removing it.
Before you can trap with any luck, you must decide what you wish to trap; what the animal will do; and then catch him doing it. Determine the kind of food he eats and bait your trap accordingly.
Rats, mice, rabbits, and squirrels are easy to trap. These small mammals have regular habits and confine themselves to limited areas of activity. Simply locate a hole or run and bait and set your trap.
Following are some tricks that may increase your "take" if you decide to trap game or birds: To catch a mammal that lives in hollow trees, try inserting a short forked stick in the hole and twisting so that his loose skin will wrap around the fork. Keep the stick taut while pulling it out. Smoke burrow-living animals out of their dens; then using a noose attached to the end of a long pole, snare the quarry as it emerges from the hole. Use the noose method to snare birds that are sitting on eggs or roosting. After finding a roosting or nesting area, conceal yourself and wait quietly for the bird to return. Slip the noose quickly over the bird's head and pull to the rear and upward. Bait a fish hook with a minnow and place it on the shore near the water. Chances are a bird will snatch it.
Set snares or traps at night in runways containing fresh tracks or droppings. If you have used a spot for butchering an animal, set a snare in the area. Use animal entrails for bait. If you are still without food after experimenting with these methods, set the woods or grassland on fire and wait for the game to break through. Do not use this method except as a last resort.
FIREMAKING page 149-150 edited slightly
You need fire for warmth, for keeping dry, for signaling, for cooking, and for purifying water by boiling. Survival time is increased or decreased according to your ability to build a fire when and where you need it.
You should be able to build a fire under any conditions of weather, if you have matches. For this reason, when operating in remote areas always carry a supply in a waterproof case on your person. It's advisable to learn to shield a match flame for some time in a fairly strong wind. Practice this; it could save
Don't build your fire too big. Small fires are easier to control. Build a series of small fires in a circle around you in cold weather. They give more heat than one big fire.
Locate your fire carefully to avoid setting a forest fire. If the fire must be built on wet ground or snow, first build a platform of logs or stones. Protect your fire from the wind with a windbreak or reflector. These also concentrate the heat in the desired direction.
Use standing dead trees and dry dead branches for fuel. The inside of fallen tree trunks will supply you with dry wood in wet weather. In treeless areas, rely on grasses, dried animal dung, animal fats, and sometimes even coal, oil shale, or peat which may be exposed on the surface. If you are near the wreckage of an aircraft, use a mixture of gasoline and oil as fuel. Be careful how you ignite and feed the gasoline. You can use almost any plant for firewood, but do not burn the wood of any contact poisoning plant. (They mean like poison ivy.)
Use kindling that burns readily to start your fire, such as small strips of dry wood, pine knots, bark, twigs, palm leaves, pine needles, dead upright grass, ground lichens, ferns, plant and bird down, and the dry, spongy threads of the giant puffball, which, incidentally, are edible. Cut your dry wood into shavings before attempting to set it afire. One of the best and most commonly found kindling material is punk, the completely rotted portions of dead logs or trees. Dry punk can be found even in wet weather by knocking away the soggy outer portions with a knife, stick, or even your hands.
Paper or gasoline may be available as tinder. Even when wet the resinous pitch in pine knots or dried stumps ignites readily. Loose bark of the living birch tree also contains a resinous oil which burns rapidly. Arrange this kindling in a wigwam or log cabin pile.
Bank your fire properly. Use green logs or the butt of a decayed punky log to keep your fire burning slowly. Keep the embers out of the wind. Cover them with ashes, and put a thin layer of soil over them. Remember it takes less work to keep your fire going than to build another one.
COOKING WILD FOOD pages 158 to 168, edited.
SKINNING AND CLEANING
FISH. As soon as you catch a fish cut out the gills and large blood vessels that are next to the backbone. Scale it. Gut the fish by cutting open its stomach and scraping it clean. Cut off the head unless you want to cook the fish on a spit. Fish like catfish and sturgeon have no scales. Skin them. Small fish under four inches require no gutting, but should be scaled or skinned.
FOWL. Most fowls should be plucked and cooked with the skin on in order to retain its food value. After the bird is plucked, cut off the neck close to the body and clean out the insides through the cavity. Wash it out with fresh, clean water. Save the neck, liver, and heart for stew. It is easier to pluck a fowl after scalding it. Waterfowl are an exception. They are easier to pluck dry.
Scavenger birds like vultures and buzzards should be boiled for at least 20 minutes before you cook them. This kills parasites.
ANIMALS. Skinning and dressing. Clean and dress the carcass as soon as possible after death because to delay will make your job harder. To prepare light and medium sized animals-
Hang the carcass head downward from a convenient limb. Cut its throat and allow the blood to drain into a container. Boil it thoroughly. It is a valuable source of food and salt.
[page 141-142 SAS Survival Guide; John Wiseman; HarperCollins Publishers; ISBN 0 00 470 1674. Bleed animal by cutting jugular or carotid artery in its neck. When the animal is hanging, these will bulge clearly. Make cut either behind the ears - stab in line with ears to pierce vein on both sides of head at same time - or lower down in V of neck, before artery branches. Unless you have a stiletto knife, the latter is best. CUTTING THROAT FROM EAR TO EAR RISKS CONTAMINATION OF BLOOD WITH CONTENTS OF STOMACH.]
Make a ring cut at the knee and elbow joints and a "Y" cut down the front of each of the hind legs and down the belly as far as the throat. From the belly make a cut down each foreleg. Make a clean circular cut around the sex organs. Working from the knee downward, remove the skin. Cut open the belly. Pin the flesh back with wooden skewers, and remove the entrails from the windpipe upward, clearing the entire mass with a firm circular cut to remove the sex organs.
Save the kidneys, liver, and heart. Use the fat surrounding the intestines. All parts of the animal are edible, including the meaty parts of the skull such as the brain, eyes, tongue, and fleshy portions. Throw away the glands and entrails in the anal and reproductive regions.
Save the skin. It is light when dried and is good insulation as a bed cover or article of clothing.
LARGER ANIMALS. To prepare, follow the steps outlined above, except for hanging the carcass. This may be impossible because of the lack of a suitable method of hoisting the animal.
RATS AND MICE. Both rats and mice are palatable meat, particularly if cooked in a stew. These rodents should be skinned, gutted, and boiled. Rats and mice should be boiled about 10 minutes. Either may be cooked with dandelion leaves. Always include the livers.
RABBITS. Rabbits are tasty but provide no fats to a diet. They are easy to trap and kill. To skin, make an incision behind the head or bite out a piece of skin to allow you to insert your fingers. Peel back the hide. To clean it, make an incision down the belly, spread open, and shake strongly. Most of the intestines will fall out. What remains can be scraped and washed out.
OTHER EDIBLE ANIMALS. Dogs, cats, hedge hogs, porcupines, and badgers should be skinned and gutted before cooking. Prepare them as a stew with a quantity of edible leaves. Dog and cat livers are especially valuable.
REPTILES. Snakes (excluding the sea snakes) and lizards are edible. Remove the head and skin before eating. Lizards are found almost everywhere, especially in tropical and subtropical regions. Broil or fry the meat.
HOW TO COOK
WHY COOK? Cooking makes most foods more tasty and digestible, and destroys bacteria, toxins, and harmful plant and animal products.
BOILING - GENERAL. When meat is tough, or when other foods require long cooking, boiling is the best way to prepare it for later frying, roasting, or baking. Boiling is probably the best method of cooking because it conserves the natural juices of the food. Remember that boiling is difficult in high altitudes and is impractical at altitudes in excess of 12,000 feet.
VESSELS FOR BOILING. Water can be boiled in vessels made of bark or leaves, but such containers burn below the waterline unless the vessel is kept moist or the fire kept low. Birch bark makes a good container. Secure the sides with thorns or slivers of wood. Water can be boiled in a scooped out hole in clay or in a hollow log by dropping heated stones into it.
ROASTING OR BROILING. This is a quick way to prepare wild plant foods and tender meats. Roast meat by putting it on a stick and holding it near embers. Roasting hardens the outside of the meat and retains the juices.
BAKING. Baking is cooking in an oven over steady, moderate heat. The oven may be a pit under your fire, a closed vessel, or leaf or clay wrapping. To bake in a pit, first fill it with hot coals. Drop the covered vessel containing water and food in the pit. Place a layer of coals over it and cover with a thin layer of dirt. If possible, line your pit with stones so that it holds more heat. Pit cooking protects food from flies and other pests and reveals no flame at night.
STEAMING. Steaming can be done without a container and is suitable for foods that require little cooking, like the shellfish. Place your food in a pit filled with heated stones over which leaves are placed. Put more leaves over your food. Then force a stick through the leaves down to the food pocket. Pack a layer of dirt on top of the leaves and around the stick. Remove the stick and pour water to the food through the hole that remains. This is a slow way to cook, but it is effective.
PARCHING. Parching may be a desirable method of preparing some foods, especially grains and nuts. To parch, place the food in a metal container and heat slowly until it is thoroughly scorched. In the absence of a suitable container, a heated, flat stone may be used.
UTENSILS. Anything that holds food or water may be used as a container--turtle shells, sea shells, leaves, a section of bark.
COOKING PLANT FOOD.
POT HERBS. Boil leaves, stems, and buds until tender. If the food is bitter, several changes of water will help to eliminate the bitterness.
ROOTS AND TUBERS. They can be boiled but are more easily baked or roasted.
NUTS. Most nuts can be eaten raw, but some, such as acorns, are better crushed than parched. Chestnuts are good roasted, steamed, or baked.
GRAINS AND SEEDS. Grains and seeds are more tasty when parched but they can be eaten raw.
SAP. You can dehydrate to a syrup any sap containing sugar. Simply boil away the water.
FRUIT. Bake or roast tough, heavy-skinned fruits. Boil succulent fruits. Many fruits are good raw.
COOKING ANIMAL FOOD.
GENERAL. Boil animals larger than a domestic cat before roasting or broiling them. Cook the meat as fast as possible when broiling because it toughens over a slow fire. When cooking larger animals, cut them into small pieces. If the meat is exceptionally tough, stew it with vegetables. If you intend to broil or bake any type meat, use some fat whenever possible. In the case of a bake, put the fat on top so that it melts and runs down on the bake.
SMALL GAME. Small birds and mammals can be cooked whole or in part, but you should remove entrails and sex glands before cooking. Wrap a big bird in clay and bake it. The clay removes the feathers when it is broken from the cooked carcass. Boiling is the best method of cooking small game because there is less waste. Add taste to the bird by stuffing it with berries, grains, roots (onions), and greens.
FISH. Fish may be roasted on an improvised grill of green sticks or baked in leaves and clay, or they may be cooked over direct heat by using a crane.
REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS. Frogs, small snakes, and lizards can be roasted on a stick. Large snakes and eels are better if boiled first. Boil turtles until the shell comes off. Cut up the meat and mix it with tubers and greens to form a soup. Salamanders, roasted on a stick, are edible. Skin all frogs and snakes before cooking as the skin may be toxic.
CRUSTACEANS. Crabs, crayfish, shrimps, prawns, and other crustaceans require cooking in order to kill disease producing organisms. They spoil rapidly, however, and should be cooked immediately after capture. Cook them alive by dropping them in boiling water.
MOLLUSKS. Shellfish can be steamed, boiled, or baked in the shell. Shellfish make an excellent stew with greens or tubers.
INSECTS. Grasshoppers, locusts, large grubs, termites, ants, and other insects are easy to catch and will provide you nourishment in an emergency.
EGGS. Edible at all stages of embryo development, eggs are among the safest of foods. You can hard boil eggs and carry them for days as reserve food.
SEASONING. Salt can be obtained by boiling seawater. The ashes of burned hickory boughs and some other plants contain salt that can be dissolved out in water. When the water has been evaporated, the salt has a black tint. The citric acid in limes and lemons can be used to pickle fish and other meat. Dilute two parts of fruit juice with one part salt water. Allow the fish or meat to soak for half a day or longer.
[ SAS Survival Guide; John Wiseman; ISBN 0 00 470 1674 Page 36. Salt can be obtained from the roots of Hickory trees. Boil roots until all water is gone and black salt crystals are left.]
BAKING BREAD. Bread may be made with flour and water. If possible, use sea water for the salt. After kneading the dough well, place it in a sand-lined hole. Then place sand on top of the hole and cover the dough with glowing coals. By experimentation you should be able to get the dough and temperature correct enough to prevent sand from clinging to the cooked bread. Another method of baking bread is by twisting it around a green stick from which the bark has been removed, and placing it over a fire. The stick should be bitten first to determine if the sap is so sour or bitter that it will affect the taste of the bread. Bread also may be made by spreading dough into thin sheets on a hot rock. A little leaven (dough allowed to sour) added to your bread dough improves the loaf.
FREEZING. In cold climates preserve your excess foods by freezing.
DRYING. Plant food can be dried by wind, sun, air, or fire, or any combination of these four. The object is to get rid of the water.
Cutting meat across the grain in one-fourth inch strips and either drying it in the wind or smoke will produce "jerky." Put the strips of meat on a wooden grate and dry until the meat is brittle. Use willow, alders, cottonwood, birch, and dwarf birch for firewood because pitch woods such as pine and fir make the meat unpalatable. Creating a covered frame will help the process. Hang the meat high and build a slow smoldering fire under it. Perhaps a quicker way of smoking meat is by the following method: Dig a hole in the ground about 1 yard deep and one-half yard wide. Make a small fire at the bottom of the hole (after starting the fire use green wood for smoke). Place an improvised wooden grate about three-fourths of a yard up from the bottom. Use poles, boughs, leaves, or any available material to cover the pit.
The methods of preserving fish and birds are much the same as for other meats. To prepare fish for smoking, cut off the heads and remove the backbones. Then spread the fish flat and skewer in that position. Thin willow branches with bark removed make good skewers. Fish also may be dried in the sun. Hang them from branches or spread them on hot rocks. When the meat dries, splash it with sea water to salt the outside. Don't keep sea food unless it is well dried and salted.
Leaves, berries, and other wild fruits can be dried by air, sun, wind, or fire, with or without smoke. Cut fruit into thin slices and place in the sun or before a fire. Mushrooms dry easily and may be kept indefinitely. Soak them in water before using.
A good concentrated food is pinole. It is made by parching corn grains or seeds in hot ashes or heated stones, or in an oven. Pinole keeps indefinitely, contains a maximum of calories for its weight, is easy to prepare, and can be eaten raw or cooked. A small handful of pinole in a cup of cold water has a pleasant flavor and is highly nutritious.
FM 21-76 US ARMY SURVIVAL MANUAL, 1998, Dorset Press ISBN 1-56619-022-3
Page 3-3 To make soap--
Extract grease from animal fat by cutting the fat into small pieces and cooking them in a pot. Add enough water to the pot to keep the fat from sticking as it cooks. Cook the fat slowly, stirring frequently. After the fat is rendered, pour the grease into a container to harden.
Place ashes in a container with a spout near the bottom. Pour water over the ashes, and in a separate container collect the liquid that drips out of the spout. This liquid is the potash or lye. Another method for obtaining the lye is to pour the slurry (the mixture of ashes and water) through a straining cloth.
In a cooking pot, mix two parts grease to one part potash. Place this mixture over a fire and boil it until it thickens.
After the mixture--the soap--cools, you can use it in the semiliquid state directly from the pot, or you can pour it into a pan, allow it to harden, and cut it into bars for later use.
SAS Survival Guide; John Wiseman; HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN 0 00 470 1674
SOAP: Washing with soap leaves skin less waterproof and more prone to attack by germs. However, soap is an antiseptic, better than many others, such as iodine, which destroy body tissue as well as germs. It is ideal for scrubbing hands before administering first-aid. Save supplies for this.
SOAP-MAKING: TWO ingredients - an oil and alkali - are needed. The oil can be animal fat or vegetable, but not mineral. The alkali can be produced by burning wood or seaweed to produce ash.
To make soap, wash the ash with water then strain and boil it with the oil. Simmer until excess liquid is evaporated and allow to cool. This soap is not antiseptic. Add horseradish root or pine resin to make it antiseptic. Too much alkali in the mix will dry the skin, leaving it sore.