As you cozy up next to your dakota fire pit, surrounded by mosquitos, chomping away on the chewiest meat you’ve ever sunk your teeth into… it hits you. “This is what it would be like when the SHTF? Eating squirrel, possum, and fish, while lugging the heaviest backpack, fighting off injury, and trying to stay warm??” I hope you brought your seasoning and a blanket.
If you’re like me, you’ve purchased a lot of survival gear, but much of it is still shiny and new. That emergency stove doesn’t even have a spec of black on it, your traps don’t have any rust, and the only blood your knife has ever had on it is your own from foolishly testing it’s sharpness … that all changed this past weekend.
The trip started with a 2 1/2 mile hike through the calf-busting sandy terrain of Central Florida. Along the route, my friend Daniel spotted a squirrel. Since we were survival camping, I pulled out the Ruger 10-22 with it’s broken front sight and shot the squirrel. We quickly threw it in a plastic bag and stuck it into his backpack.
We were survival camping after all, but still sensitive to the liberal yuppies that might come flamboyantly skipping down the trail holding hands and cuddling with trees. Although I’m usually in the mood to mess with those ignorant and overly voiceterous pricks, today wasn’t the day… we put our heads down and just kept trekking.
At the end of the 2 1/2 mile hike we found a few trees, dropped down our gear, and caught our breath. Although I run 6 miles a day, I don’t do it with 50 lbs of gear strapped to my back in the sand. It was this point that I regretted my last minute decision to grab a box of shotgun shells and my short-barrel-class-3-shotgun. This foolish decision added unnecessary weight and strain on my shoulders… first note to self: Invest in a backpack that has hip weight distribution.
I broke out my new Hennesy Hammock and tied it between two trees, while Daniel tied paracord to a black piece of fabric and strung up a tarp. Little did I know that I was about to experience a terrible night of sleep, while he snored away in bliss… more on that later. Second note to self: Buying great gear doesn’t guarantee comfort. Learning to use what you have will grant you a night of perfect sleep.
Daniel went to work digging a Dakota Fire Pit, while I collected twigs. He started the fire without any matches or chemicals, just a ferro rod and his knife. An extremely valuable skill to learn! The whole trip was about sharing our knowlege. He had primitive camping skills that I learned, while I had the hunting skills for him to learn.
I showed him how to skin an animal, something that he had never done before. All was fine until we realized that the squirrel was completely infested with worms… yes, that’s right. You could see through his intestines and see every freakin’ worm in there. So, what did we do? Threw the guts in a gut bucket, and started hanging Yoyo fishing traps with the worms and guts from our newly departed fuzzy friend.
(Note that the squirrel on the left is covered in a ziplock bag. A great trick to keeping flies off of it until you’re ready to cook it… and yes, the squirrel on the right’s heart is falling out of his chest.)
Now, if you’re not familiar with a Yoyo trap, it’s basically the equivalent of what a republican is to a liberal. The republican does all the work, while the liberal comes in and spreads the wealth. In other words, the Yoyo trap catches the fish while you’re sitting on your butt, so you can go take it later and give it to yourself and your friends. If you’re like me though, you’re gathering wood and setting up camp while your little trap is working.
Spend the next 10 seconds and click on this video to see what you need to spend about $20 to get a dozen Yoyo traps now.
Realizing that we both forgot a lightweight titanium plate, I went to work on making one from surrounding materials. Using my feminine side, I gathered some green palms and wove together a plate so we could have a clean surface to gut the fish on, instead of setting it in the sand and dirt. It turned out to be great, however… Third note to self: Pack latex skinning gloves, and a titanium plate. One hand smelled like squirrel guts, and the other smelled like fish.
The sun started to go down as we finished prepping our food and started to cook. The meal consisted of fish, squirrel, and thankfully a bag of mountain house freeze dried noodles and chicken. We were survival camping afterall, but not stupid. Some might call that cheating… I like to think of it as foresight.
We did get a little lucky. Someone before us had left behind a piece of metal grating, so we used that to set our frying pans and pots on. Had it not been there, we simply would have grabbed some green sticks and placed them over the dakota fire pit to hold the pots above the fire. However, survival camping is about finding what you can in the wild and using it.
Once we knew the squirrel was cooked well, and that there was no chance of any living larva or worms, we started to eat. Eating overcooked squirrel is like chewing on game-flavored chicken, only really tough… really chewy. Fourth note to self: Remove the meat from the bone to season both sides evenly so there is no game flavor… just chewiness.
Daniel whipped up a concoction that was… well, it was bread on a stick. It’s a great survival meal because it’s full of carbs, packs small, and plays big. Roughly 1/2 cup of powder turned into a loaf of bread that fed us both very well.
I’ll have to see if I can get him to release the recipe… it was delicious!
I almost forgot to tell you about the other fish we caught… We landed another bluegill, and even an alligator gar. However, we heard the flailing around in the water and ran over to the water’s edge… to our amazement, there was this 18 inch fish caught on the end of our line. We just sat there mesmerized by this hideously beautiful half fish, half gator – rather than pulling in the line. Since we already ate, we let the fish go. Today wasn’t his day to be eaten.
We cleaned up our camp and got ready to head to bed, when I decided to try my luck with a conibear 110 trap. I had previously set three of these traps in my backyard… my squirrel infested back yard. I baited them with peanut butter, nuts, you name it – for three long days… I watched anxiously as a squirrel went up to it, and nudged the trap release lever… I warned my wife to look away because what she was about to see would wreck her innocence…
At that point the squirrel jumped up, went around the trap, grabbed the food and cluelessly pranced off. I looked over at my wife to find her holding back her laughter. Finally she couldn’t take it any more and she burst in to laughter. Kicking her feet and pointing at me while laughter started to make her eyes water… Note to self #5: Maybe I’m not a trapper…
So jumping back to the survival camping, I decided to test my luck one more time. Regardless of what you might think, a conibear 110 will not necessarily break your thumb if it happens to go off while you’re setting it… although, it is a little sore today… nonetheless, I dug a small hole, threw the guts into the hole, and lay the trap sideways into the hole. My theory was that during the night a raccoon would try to reach in the trap with its paw and grab the guts. Everything I had read said that it was good for small game, like squirrels… but since you all know how that went, I thought I had nothing to lose.
After a long night of tossing and turning, due mostly to the fact that I tied my hammock between two trees that were too close and I slept like a “U”, I got up to check the trap… Needless to say, opossums are equally as smart as they are hideous.
This foul critter decided to go head first into a conibear 110… the rest is history.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao-tzu
My journey has just begun, but I’d have to say it was extremely successful. I learned many lessons over the 24 hour period. I have much to learn still, but I’m happy to say one thing.
“I did it.” I took the time to break in my gear, learn mistakes… and yes, even eat rodents. All of this taught me one major concept: Do everything in my power to avoid this type of “bug-out”. Plan ahead, store real food, and make a plan. Put that plan in to motion and practice it with consistency; or you might just have opossum for breakfast.