The Outdoor Station

A How-To Guide to Survival Food – Includes Hunting, Fishing And Trapping

If you want to survive in the wild, one of the first things you are going to need to find is food. Once you have made sure you are safe and have explored what your surroundings are likely to provide, as well as what equipment and tools you already have, you need to develop a good strategy for staying fed.

This can include living off the natural land with foods such as berries and tubers, all of which are available if you know where to look for them. Even if you don’t have any equipment like a knife ready to hand, there is plenty in the wilderness that can help you survive. You can make your own blades, construct spears for hunting and fish in the local river or lake. A little bush craft can go a long way, as the Australians say.

Hunting in the Wild


You may be lucky to have a number of tools that are available in our modern world, including a knife, cross bow or even a high power rifle. Even if you do have these things you might want to brush up on your ability to track and spot the signs of local wildlife.

If you don’t have a rifle or other modern day tools to track and kill wildlife, then you are going to need to make your own. Wilderness survival inevitably requires a mixture of hunting and trapping skills that can greatly improve your chances of staying alive in both the short and long term. If you’re setting a racoon trap, building a snare or ice fishing on a lake, learning the following basic skills can make a big difference.

Hunting Tools

You might not realize it but there are plenty of tools available for hunting all around you in the wilderness. You just have to know how to harvest them, fashion them to your needs and then use them. Whether you are laying traps, making spears, salmon fishing or hog hunting, learning the relevant survival skills is important.

Making a Primitive Knife

One of the simplest and most important tools you can make in the wild and use for hunting is a knife. Hopefully, you’ll have one store bought and ready for use before you end up in a survival situation. If you don’t, it’s okay. Making a primitive stone flake knife takes time and a little dedication but at the end you should have a blade that can cut flesh and wood. These are not state of the art metal blades but they will do the job you need them to do and help keep you alive in trying circumstances.

Further information can be seen here: How to make sharp stone tools in the wild.

Bow and Arrow


A survival bow is different from the ones that you buy in the shop but can be made and used for close quarter hunting where you have to stalk the animal and get as near to it as possible. The good news is that you can use a range of woods to make a bow. All you need to choose something that is considered hardwood because of its durability. If you have few or no tools available, you are going to need a straight sapling or piece of wood that has all the characteristics of a bow.

Making a hunting bow is going to require a good deal of skill and ability and the standard and power will depend on what tools you have available. If you find yourself in the wilderness with just the clothes you are wearing and nothing else, then you’ll have to find everything in its natural state – that includes making the bow string by weaving fibers to create something with the power to fire an arrow.

Find out more about making a primitive bow and arrow. Or read Jason Knight’s How to Make a Quickie Bow from a Sapling guide.

Hunting with a bow and arrow can involve stalking your prey or more likely finding an area on an animal trail to sit and wait unit something like a hog or deer comes by.

Spears: The Simplest Hunting Tool

A hunting spear is one of the simplest tools to make if you need to track and kill an animal to eat. All you need for a basic spear is a straight piece of wood or sapling that you can fashion to a point at one end. The ideal length for a spear is around 6 to 8 foot which means you will have to search around for an ideal piece of wood that is that long, relatively straight and narrow enough to hold and throw. The key to making a good point on your spear is to harden it over a fire and scrape off the blackened wood until you get a sharp but not pointed end.

The problem with a hunting spear is that you need to get relatively close to the animal you are trying to kill and requires you to develop a good deal of skill. When mastered though, it is an excellent tool for both land animals and fish.

For more details read a guide to making a primitive hunting spear.

Tracking and Finding Food

Learning how animals behave is the biggest key to successful hunting. When you know where your prey is likely to be hanging out, and the know the best way to kill it, then you have more of a chance of succeeding. Many animals will follow particular trails or come to specific areas with water to drink and feed. Learning the lay of the land can involve a good deal of observation at first especially if you are in unfamiliar surroundings. Recognizing animal tracks and being able to follow them is another key skill that needs to be developed. Finding some way to camouflage yourself is also an important part of hunting so that you can get as close as possible to an animal in order to kill it.

Fishing in the Wild

One of the biggest sources of food in the wild is in rivers, lakes and the ocean. Fishing can take many forms from standing in a river and using your hands to creating hook and line systems, traps and fish spears. Because of their slippery nature, catching fish either needs a good deal of skill and dexterity or the right equipment. If you are lucky enough to have something like a rod, line and hook then all the better, but if you find yourself in a situation of wilderness survival then you’ll have to use what is around you. The good news is that you’ll be able to find all you need.

Basic Fishing Techniques

There are quite a few ways to catch fish whether you are inland or by the sea. Compared to hunting, if you have a good water source nearby, fishing is a much easier way to find food.

Hand Fishing

The most primitive type of fishing is by hand where you stand in the water and wait for a trout or salmon to swim by, scoop it up and throw it onto the land. Although it is still practiced today by many primitive tribes and even in some parts of the US, it takes an enormous amount of patience and skill and is best suited to areas where fish stocks are more plentiful.

Nets and Fish Traps

A much less labour intensive way to catch fish is to use a net or make a fish trap. Traps are fairly easy to make even if you only have rudimentary tools. All you need to do is create a container that the fish can swim into and then finds it difficult to get out. Find out about making a fish trap here.

Hand Lines and Hooks

The time honored way of catching a fish is a hand line with a hook on the end and some bait such as worm or maggot. The trick here is to get the fish to swallow the bait and at the same time catch them on the hook. Some fish like mackerel in the sea don’t require bait but something shiny like a lure to attract their attention.

Creating a Fish Weir

Another option similar to building a fish trap is to make a weir or water trap. If the level of the water in a river or lake varies, then building a small area up with stones to create an enclosure can catch fish once the water level falls.

Spear Fishing

Another fish trapping option is to spear the fish but again this takes a good deal of skill and patience. Fishing spears usually work better when they have a pronged end. You can see how to make one in the video below.

Ice Fishing

One particular kind of fishing is found in more northern parts of the world where lakes and rivers are often frozen over. Ice fishing involves cutting a hole into the surface so that you can get at the water, and the fish, below. It’s practiced by many cultures and tribes such as the Inuit and Eskimo. The key to ice fishing is patience – because of the cold water, fish don’t move as fast or take to bait as quickly and are in a state of semi-hibernation. There are various techniques such as jigging and tightlining that are used to increase the chances of success.

Trapping for Survival

One key area for surviving in the wild is learning how to use and place traps that capture wildlife of all sizes. Whether it’s birds, fish or mammals, having a strategically placed trap can often make the difference between life and death. The good news is that with a little know-how and the right choice of area, trapping can yield good returns for little effort.

Types of Snare Trap

There are a variety of different snare traps from simple wires attached to a solid base to more elaborate constructions, all of which can generally be made from things you can find on the landscape.

Bait Stick Snares

All you need for this are a rope or wire for the snare and some wood as well as a bit of your prey’s preferred food. The snare is arranged on the ground and the animal comes along and starts to eat the food and the snare pulls around a limb trapping them. There are variety of ways to make a bait snare including this one.

Motion Triggered Snares

An alternative to the bait snare, which doesn’t require an enticing tidbit of food, is the motion triggered snare. This relies on finding a run or trail where an animal is likely to come through at a speed high enough to trigger the snare. Variations on this include a squirrel pole that has a number of snares attached to it.

Fixed Snare

A fixed loop snare is the simplest design and usually involves a wire that can close around the limb of an animal and hold it fast. The problem with this is that it normally depends on a good deal more chance than a motion triggered or baited snare.

Treadle Snare

A little more complicated that your standard device, the treadle snare uses a spring pole that is activated by the animal stepping onto a stick framework which then draws the noose tight around it. If you are good at building things, this snare is great for catching slightly larger animals. Find out how to make one in the video below:

Capture and Kill Traps

While a snare is the perfect way to trap animals in the wild, there are other methods any survival hunter can use.

Deadfall Traps

One of the simplest forms is the deadfall which consists of a heavy object and a few sticks and is relatively easy to set up. All you need is something like a flat heavy stone and about three sticks that are the same diameter and length. These fit together to hold up the stone which falls once the animal enters the area. The weight of the stone should be enough to trap or kill the animal once it falls. There are a few variations on the deadfall trap such as this one from

Bow Traps

A deadlier kind of device is the bow trap which essentially fires a pointed dart at the animal when it steps on the release. It requires a good deal of skill to build as you have to make a mini-bow with enough tension on it to pierce the animal and kill it. The speed of release is also important. Find out how to make a bow trap here.

Choosing the Right Trap

There is no once size fits all trap for every animal in the wilderness. There are different techniques for squirrel traps and different ones for rabbits and you will need to do your research to find which one matches a certain wilderness situation. Generally, if you are in a survival situation then you need to set as many traps as possible to give yourself a chance. This involves taking a good look at the area around you and finding the best spots to lay traps.

  • Get to know trails and runs in your local area.
  • Search out feeding sites and watering holes where animals are more likely to visit.
  • Keep an eye open for animal droppings and tracks.

Setting up traps is usually the easiest part of the hunting equation. It’s putting them in the most likely places that makes all the difference. Yield of catch will rise the more traps you have, but that may in turn depend on how much material you have such as snare wire or rope. Baiting is also important – you are more likely to attract an animal to the snare if you have something edible there.

Survival Training

If you are likely to find yourself in the wilderness, then survival training is important. A big part of this is hunting, fishing and trapping your own food. While you might be able to do it with a certain amount of common sense, developing some basic survival skills such as learning how and where to set a snare trap can certainly mean the difference between life and death.

Further Resources


Hunting and Survival in the Wild: Wildwood Survival
How to Track Food in the Woods
Modern Hunters
Roe Hunting Resources


Wild Fishing in Remote Areas
Survival Fishing Kits for UK Preppers
5 Fishing Techniques to Ensure Your Survival Off Grid
Primitive Fishing Techniques


Survival Traps and Snares
The 15 Best Survival Traps and How to Make Them
How to Make a Double Spring Snare Trap


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