What Game to Hunt for Survival
Russ Chastain 03.18.20
When it comes to hunting for survival, we often think of an individual or small group stranded out in the boonies. But what if we find ourselves simply sequestered in our homes with some freedom of movement and with our power and water still on, but unable to efficiently obtain protein through supermarkets or home delivery? This what many of us may be facing in the near future as the COVID-19 drama continues to unfold.
If you need to hunt for food in this situation, you can consider hunting big game like deer, wild boars, and the like… because you will have the means to preserve your harvest by freezing it. Without that, it would be purely wasteful to kill a large animal unless it could be eaten or preserved (by smoking, for example) before it spoiled. In that situation, hunting small game will most likely give you the best return on your investment of time and energy.
There are also hunting seasons to consider. Rule of law does continue to exist, after all. Some animals may be hunted and taken year ’round, while others have restrictions which must be observed.
In most places, wild pigs can be hunted all year long. This, together with their ability to rapidly reproduce, makes wild pork an excellent choice of freezer-filler. Other unprotected edible species will vary from state to state, but may include armadillo, nutria, squirrels, skunk, rabbit, opossum, and pigeons.
What’s in Season?
To find out what’s in season, you need to look up the hunting regulations for the state in which you’re hunting. All states have websites; many also have apps you can download for free. During spring in the USA, the most-hunted living thing by far is wild turkey. These large fowl are naturally wary in the wild and can be extremely challenging to hunt. Those large, careless flocks on your local golf course? They’re likely to get a lot tougher to approach once the neighborhood gets a little hungry and starts hunting them.
Most of the time it’s not legal to shoot a hen turkey; only the males (gobblers) are fair game.
If this crisis drags on very long — which seems unlikely in light of reports that China has already closed all or most of their special COVID-19 hospitals due to a sharp decline in new cases — we may be back into deer season. For the most part, though, the vast majority of legal hunting during the summertime will be for wild boar and unprotected small game.
What’s Your Weapon?
Your available hunting tool is another factor that might dictate what critters you go after. If you only have a shotgun and birdshot, you won’t be hunting big animals — but you can certainly fill your larders with small game. If you’re toting a centerfire hunting rifle, you will want to concentrate on big game because frankly, you don’t go survival hunting to liquefy your critter with one shot.
If you’re limited to a bow or crossbow, my condolences… you’ll have to get much closer to big game than you would with a centerfire rifle, and you’ll be limited to shooting at animals that stand still for you. That said, with archery equipment you can use a variety of arrowheads to take anything from squirrel and rabbit to deer and other big game. It just requires more skill and more practice.
Many folks consider a rimfire rifle chambered for 22 long rifle (LR) to be the ultimate survival firearm, because with skill and luck it can theoretically be used to take both small and large game. It’s also cheaper to shoot than a shotgun or centerfire rifle, and makes less noise.
Should You Even Be Hunting?
Before you gear up and get your mind set on stalking mammals and fowl for your grub, stop to think about how great a supply there is and how well you are likely to fare. Will hunting be an efficient way to get protein, or should you focus on trapping game or maybe just go fishing for survival?
Here’s hoping we never have to make these decisions, but that if we do, we will be informed enough to make the right ones.
As always, I wish you happy hunting.