Finally onto the Great White Hunter, manly stuff! It should be clear that lower life forms are likely to be the staple animal protein, but rabbit and rodents taste good too. I will focus on smaller animals primarily because they require less energy to catch, and I don't know about you but I can't eat a whole wildebeest in one hit, and I don't plan on being in a survival situation long enough to smoke, preserve, and carry 60kg of meat. Mammals are good because they don't have toxic flesh. They generally don't have venom of any kind (platypus - yes, I know, a monotreme, not a mammal has a venom in its claw, and porcupines are just nasty). However there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Some animals can carry rabies, others tuberculosis, brucellosis, and other -osis'es. They also have a range of internal parasites that are happy calling humans home. More on that later. Some first principles are: Observe. Mammals have more obvious signs of activity than other motile animals. They leave tracks, they have habits, they are lazy. Kind of like us. These behaviors can be used to our advantage. We can see where they go by repeated use of tracks, bedding sites, burrows, water holes. Think at the level of the animal too - the track of a rabbit may only be noticeable at rabbit-level. Look for sign - animals poop, and often do so at particular sites. They are lazy in that they will take the easiest way from A to B. This is not always a straight line. They will avoid obstacles, and take the easy way down and up slopes such as zig-zagging and hence making their own trails.
Second, Anticipate. By observing we can work out where they are likely to be, for what purpose, and what they will do to avoid problems getting there. This opens them to ambush. If actively hunting or even trapping them we can screw with their habitual routine and fluster them. What do animals like rabbits do when they are startled out of their comfort zone? Run like hell. What do herding animals do? Herd, then run like hell. I'll say at the outset that unless you develop some skill and weaponry very quickly, hunting is going to be very unproductive. Trapping will be your best bet.
There are lots of cool traps and set ups in Lofty Wiseman's book, so look there for inspiration for the man-size traps. I'll dispense with these first. I've never made a small-scale deadfall trap that works. Spear and arrow traps - well... Expending that effort on a single trap and making so much smell and sign that no self-respecting animal would go near it doesn't seem worth it. Pitfall traps will also be too obvious, but are more likely to work, if you can be bothered doing the digging. In short, ignore the Rambo movies with the springing spears and arrows. Snares are the way to go - lots of them. In short, after the O and the A, then follows the Plan. Hey - my first acronym! Celebration. To catch wild animals - think OAP! Ok, that joke was only (marginally) funny to you English folks out there.


A snare is a running loop that is intended to strangulate or at least wrap around the body of an animal and make it unable to get away.Running snare Snares work - they have traditionally been used by artisanal and commercial fur trappers for umpteen years. In its simplest form a running snare is a monofilament or fine wire noose positioned along a track and secured to a solid anchor. The principle is that an animal travelling along just happens to stick its head and body through far and hard enough for the noose to tighten so it is stuck there until you come along and despatch it. The probability of it just happening along is improved by observation. Animals make and follow tracks. Short animals such as rabbits will follow gaps or tunnels through vegetation. These tracks are ideal sites for running snares. Similarly, burrowing animals (rabbits again) are very obvious paths an animal will follow. I have caught rabbits, squirrels (on logs), among others using these sort of traps. A word of caution - the little buggers are quick to work out what's happening, and it won't take them long to shake off or bite through monofilament. Wire is better, but a bit easier to wriggle out of if it's too stiff. Be prepared to tend the trap quickly. As a note on size - experiment. But for animals like rabbits a fist-sized or slightly larger noose, about 4 or 5 fingers above the ground is about right. Remember - the little bugger has to get its head and ears through, probably on the hop - all without realising it has been snagged. It's better to start a bit too big than too small.

Twitch-up snares don't look like they should work, but they do.Twitch up snare Twitch up traps take advantage of an elastic system - a sapling, for example that is held down by notches in the anchor and the toggle, and 'twitches up' (rapidly - watch your eyes!) and catches the animal. They have a few advantages over simple running snares in that the noose is fastened by an external force, not the animal's momentum or panic, and the animal is less likely to be able to free itself. It's hard to bite through a line when you're dangling in the air, and you don't have hands. I've had most success with twitch-ups on the routes I would normally place a running snare. Practice makes perfect with these. I had a compost heap that seemed to attract rats, and after a bit of observation I saw their access/exit points and trapped. It worked, and I got a lot of practise. Although the down side was I had to stop working at the computer every 15 minutes to despatch a dangling rat.

Baited twitch-ups Bait stick snare should work for mustelids (weasels, stoats) if you have offal as bait. I've never really been in places where I've considered using them primarily due to lack of spare offal, and no obvious mustelid sign around to consider baiting for them.

As with birds, entanglement methods can improve your chances particularly with mammals that live in groups. Noose sticks along trails or along obvious paths like branches for squirrels or possums work. If an animal (squirrel for example) misses the first noose, it may get caught in the next or, more likely, it gets panicked and just bolts along the trail and gets caught - the flight response. Its chances of getting caught are greatly improved over a single noose, and running snares require momentum to tighten.Squirrel pole

OK - read my Disclaimer before you send the hate mail - as with birds fishing hooks are a very effective snagging method in place of or addition to noose sticks. And no, I have not practiced this, but I have caught myself before on treble hooks. In the army one of the obstacles the Pioneers would place was low-entanglement barbed wire, concealed in large quantities at ankle level. Affectionately known as bastard wire. It doesn't kill you, but it makes it damned hard to run away. Entanglement systems of fish hooks will work in the same way.

Pit fall traps

I considered pit fall traps to catch reptiles - they work pretty well. Pitfall trips can also work against mammals, but in my opinion unless they are large, deep, and targeted at larger animals that just happen to be of a size where they can fall in, but not maneuver themselves enough to get out I'm not sure whether they are worth the effort. Artisanal traps have been used since neolithic times- so they work if correctly placed - but they require a lot of effort to make and have been seasoned for seasons, and indeed generations. To put this into perspective, there are remnants of bear/elk whatever pits in northern Scandinavia. Presumably they worked. Their size? Between 4-7 meters. Thats a lot of digging...

If you were really intent on building one, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of success - assuming the presumably smart and aware animal for some reason can't sense it is there.
As much as possible, dig the hole so it is an inverted funnel shape. This will make it harder for an animal to get out.Pit fall trap Firmly seating pointed sticks downward into the hole will add to the funnel effect. Shallow versions of this sort of arrangement have been proposed in which an animal is supposed to stick its head in to go for a bait, then somehow not get out due to the sticks. This is notably supposed to work for badgers. I'm sceptical, unless it was engineered very well - even seen a PO'd badger? Give any animal half a chance, in its panicked state it will find the strength to get out - particularly if all four feet are on the ground. I know I would. However when stuck in a funnel shaped hole it will only have half its available legs to use to get out.
We can further improve our chances by injuring it on the way down. This is the good old Punji spike trick. Embedding spikes in the bottom of the trap - while they are unlikely to kill the animal - will certainly hurt it a lot and decrease its ability to get out. Technically this is a trou de loup (wolf trap), used from medieval times for defense against human attack and described militarily since the Roman Empire. My only personal experience with this type of (accidental) trap was when my CSM fell into a weapon pit at night and impaled his leg on a star picket. It didn't kill him, and he could still climb out by himself. He just squawked a lot. You will probably get a similar response from a pig.
But combine this with wire entanglement snares in the bottom - along the lines of the Bal Chatri bird trap - and we are starting to get toward a trap that - if an animal falls in - has half a chance of keeping it in the hole. Combine that with fences and obstacles along the track to channel the animal, and maybe being able to herd the animal or herd of animals along the track - maybe, just maybe you might get something.
Sound like something out of the movies? You betcha. Digging a huge hole without leaving excessive sign, having to move and dump the spoil, clambering in and out of a pit leaving a scent signature even a human could follow - to hopefully catch one pig. I think I'll stick with my worms, insects, and rodents. And of course use the effort walking out to find civilization. If anyone out there has any experience - successful or otherwise - share it. Particularly on the effort:outcome ratio.

Deadfall traps

I consider these for completeness. I've had little success with them primarilyFigure four deadfall trap because of the effort required in making an effective one. They are based on the principle of constructing a trigger mechanism. The trigger is a key element of the system. It has to be strong enough to support the deadfall, yet light and sensitive enough to trigger the trap. This is not easy, and from experience of trying to get it right you tend to crush your hand a few times before getting it right. Having a second pair of hands helps.
The Figure 4 mechanism pictured (its a good diagram of the component pieces) looks a bit too flimsy to work, but it does with trial and error. Lay out the pieces you intend to whittle to shape on the ground and mark the notches first. Getting the Figure 4 shape is important for balance.Toggle stick or Paiute deadfall An alternative trigger is to use a toggle switch. The tripping mechanism is a baited stick wedged relatively lightly against the bottom of the deadfall. The junction of the bait stick and the upright is where the toggle is held in place. This is not as sensitive as the Figure 4, but easier to set. Personally I prefer the toggle trigger.
Generally you require a weight of about 5x the mass of the animal to land on the thing and pin it hopefully long enough for you to get there and finish it off. You are relying on gravity to act fast enough to trap the animal. Dredging back to high school physics... acceleration due to gravity in a vacuum is 9.8 m/s2 - not that fast for the first 50cm-1m of drop for a rock. Certainly enough time for an animal to bolt unless the deadfall is pretty big.
This is not to say they don't work. They were a mainstay in the American fur trade. A.R. Harding's book is an excellent source of what works - if you have the time and tools to make lines of them.


I said before that trapping small animals will be your best bet. First of all, small animals are more abundant. Second, hunting takes weaponry and skill. Having a rifle or bow and arrow, while it will help, is no guarantee you will get something. I've been hunting in areas where sign is few and far between - sometimes you just get skunked... When it comes to making weapons, the only thing I recommend trying to fashion is a club of some sort. In its simplest form, a heavy piece of wood about 1m long. You can try weighting it by lashing a rock to one end. If nothing else, it will make you feel a bit happier. Having something between you and the pointy end of an animal always gives me the illusion of safety. Its main use will be to help despatch something caught in a snare or other trap. Your knife is the best weapon you will have on you, but of course it means you have to be pretty bloody close to the animal to use it. This is hazardous to your health. Even when pig-hunting 'pig sticking' was only something we would consider with a few dogs latched onto the pig beforehand. You should have a bola for birds, but your chances of bringing a mammal down with it are remote.
By all means if you are experienced at stalking, have a good arm, and the time to build a spear and heat-harden the tip - maybe build a woomera/alatl - go for it. I note during the preparation of this page there is a movement that uses spears for modern hunting. From looking at the spears, they appear to be more applicable for when you have dogs bailing up the animal, or the animal charging you. I don't think this is wise. I have seen (and had a go myself) Australian aboriginals spearing - the spears are about 8 feet long, usually launched using a woomera. Yes, with practise they work in open country with good stalking. You will only get one or two chances before they get wise - do you really have time to completely learn a new skill that may or may not work? I generally use my time for easier ways of getting food.

Preparation and cooking

Now, by some miracle, You have a dead mammal in your hands! Time to butcher it. A few things to think of first. First, you will need to bleed, gut, and skin it. Its going to be messy, so you need to find somewhere to do this. Curiously the US Army FM suggests doing it near a water source. I can think of nothing more silly. First, you don't set up your latrine near water, so why gut an animal there? Second - and an important consideration if you are in an environment where there are potentially dangerous carnivores around - what other animals is this going to attract? Keep it away from where you plan to sleep. For small game, find a convenient spot, dig a reasonably sized hole for the bits you don't want, organise everything you need (knife, cordage, garbage bags for the meat, convenient branches to keep materials off the dirt). I advise bleeding the animal - hang it upside down or, if too big, at least with its head downhill over your conveniently dug offal hole), and cut its head off or cut its throat. Some folks collect the blood - if you are organised, this is a good thing to do. Blood is nutritious and can simply be tossed into the pot with everything else.Skinning small mammals It just kind of coagulates. Not particularly yummy, but just swallow it and think of England. However you must be careful collecting the blood. Don't just hack the head off - you will get digestive juices and frothy lung crap in the mix as well. Cut only the carotid arteries and jugular veins - leave the oesophagus and trachea intact. If you've already slit the throat when administering the coup de grace, everything may have been cut. You can try tying the trachea (windpipe) and oesophagus (gullet) closed - fold them over and tie them shut.
Now peel the animal... For small animals, if you don't plan to keep the skin in its entirety,Skinning and butchering mammals simply make a slice across the back, stick your fingers in under the skin layer and just wrench it apart, then cut off the skin. Slit the body open from stem to stern and scoop the entrails out. Keep the liver, heart and kidneys. They are perfectly edible.
With larger animals its easier if they have been strung up, with two pairs of hands and some decent rope. If you are planning tp bleed the animal, then this will have to be upside down. However it is best to sling them head up for gutting so you don't contaminate the flesh with gut contents. More typically you will at best be able to roll the animal on its back, sit on it and slice it. The diagram presented here is a good template. First slice from throat to tail. A word of caution - lift the skin from the body and cut upwards. Don't go all feral on it! This reduces the chance of cutting the gut and potentially spoiling the meat. You will probably need to use some downward pressure to get through the rib cage though. Here you will have to juggle some bits. The bladder will contain some urine - normally most has been expelled by the time the thing is dead. Pinch or tie off the urethra before cutting around to remove it from the body. Many mammals such as deer and their relatives will have musk glands around the sexual organs - be very careful cutting and scooping these away as they will spoil the meat. It is best to tie off the gut at the anus, then cut below the tie-off so as not to contaminate the gut with faeces.
Cut the gullet and windpipe, if not already cut, and start to scoop everything out from the chest cavity down, into your conveniently placed hole. Keep the heart, liver, and kidneys and tongue. If you can get to the brain, it is edible. However, a mushy brain (excuse the technical term) is a bad sign - it indicates rabies. A caution about liver... Avoid eating liver of carnivores and bears and, according to one source, moose and walrus. They can contain excessively high concentrations of vitamin A, which is toxic in high doses and has killed antarctic explorers. Inspect the liver for worms, cysts and general health. It should be deep red and firm to the touch. Parasites generally accumulate in organs rather than skeletal muscle, so if in doubt just dodge the offal.
The degree to which you skin the animal is up to you. When hunting I would normally gut and field dress the animal - make a pack of the the edible bits wrapped up in its own skin. Australian aboriginals often don't bother skinning haunches of kangaroo - they just get thrown onto coals and roasted in their skin. Kind of smelly, but easy. Skinning other bits is simply a matter of cutting the connective subcutaneous tissue, grabbing a handful of skin, and tearing it off. Not pretty, but easier on your knife.
Now for the butchering into manageable sizes. You can do this the pretty way, or just follow a few simple rules. Work at the joints, cut all tendons, use a bit of brute force to wrench the joint apart, and cut the supporting ligaments. Easy. As a comment on brute force... If you just have a single foldable knife - this is a precious tool so for goodness sake don't break it. Use sharpened sticks and rocks to hammer joints apart, spread ribs apart and so on if necessary. Never use your knife as a lever - it will break.

For cooking, remember whatever you've caught doesn't have a Department of Health stamp. Cook it well. Boiling is usually safest - it ensures the meat has been heated to boiling point through. Roasting is OK - but beware of meat near the bone that may be undercooked.