Long hunting trips are an exciting way to experience nature at its fullest. It’s like you’re in a Jack London novel; an epic outdoor journey that forces you to survive in oftentimes extreme conditions. Sounds crazy, right? At first, yes, but once you experience the primitive nature of surviving a long hunt, especially one where you’re low on food, it seems no challenge will ever be as difficult as this let alone rewarding.
You need proper nourishment to keep you energized and alert for travelling, scouting and…sometimes surviving. You never know what can happen, especially when you’re out in the wilderness for days. Certain types of food will give you more energy, save space and already prepared for convenience in your pack, but what if you run low or out, whether that’s due to unfortunate circumstances or the hunting’s not going your way? If the situation calls for it you need to know how to find other food sources. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re low on food and need to survive the rest of your long hunting trip, you have two options.
When it comes to foraging, it’s all about knowing what you’re eating. This can be a dangerous game, even deadly if you eat the wrong plant. The #1 rule to follow when foraging and eating plants is to never eat a plant without identifying it first. If you’re new to foraging, then check a local Native Plant Society and do some reading on edible plants in a specific area. Double check with your doctor, as well, to make sure you’re not allergic to those plants.
Every area is different, so make sure to find the most common edible plant in the area you’re hunting. If it’s common, that means there’s plenty or at least more of it than normal. If you only focus on identifying a few plants, then spotting them will be easier and less overwhelming when learning how to identify them.
When foraging, remember to follow the I.T.E.M. acronym.
- Identify: Don’t just study a picture. It’s not that simple. The plant may look a bit different than the one in the photo based on its geographical region. In addition, other non-edible plants might take on a similar look, which will deceive the identifier. Consult with an expert to be able to identify other characteristics of edible plants. Takes notes and bring them with you on the hunt. Always be certain when identifying edible plants.
- Time of Year: Understand the growing cycle of the edible plants you plan on consuming. Don’t eat a plant if it’s supposed to blossom in the fall when it’s spring. It could be a deceiver, a look alike…a phony. Then again, depending on the geographical location of the plant, it could blossom twice a year. Given this confusion and uncertainty, take the time to consult a plant expert.
- Environment: Plants normally have a particular environment they thrive in. Make sure you understand that environment. Again, don’t be deceived by a look alike if it’s growing in a different environment than the plant you’re trying to eat. Consult with your local plant expert and do your research.
Another environmental factor to take into consideration is the potential pollution a plant might be receiving; water, air and soil are the three you want to pay attention to. This is mainly a concern with urban plants, not ones in the wilderness. Use common sense when analyzing the potential pollution a plant might receive. Most likely, if you’re in the wilderness, the plant’s environment should be fine.
- Method of Preparation: Don’t just grab an edible plant and take a giant chomp out of it. It might require a specific method of preparation in order for it to be edible. As always, check with a local plant expert.
If foraging doesn’t work out for you, you’re a hunter; you’ve a gun and a specific set of skills that will allow you to kill your own food. Not that foraging couldn’t come in handy. You never know if you’re gun will get damaged or lost. If that rare instance were to occur, you’d be able to survive on your foraging skills.
The best way to survive a long hunting trip is to travel with buddies or a hunting outfitter. There’s a possibility that your hunting outfitter will know how to identify edible plants, since some are trained for survival situations. Don’t just expect your outfitter to know these things, make sure to talk to him/her about it. The more you consult with other experts, plant experts or hunting outfitters, the better you’ll be off for surviving the rest of your long hunting trip without food.
Sammy Jo writes for KT’s Trophy Hunts, professional hunting outfitters in Missouri and Iowa. Contact them today for your hunting and outfitting needs.