If you were to ask me my best accomplishment with a longbow I would probably tell you a head shot on a grouse. Taking an animal of any size with stick and string is an accomplishment, and sometimes this task will help you when it really counts. Be it survival, table fair, or practicing for the big game moment of truth, small game hunting is a great way to stay honed in as an archer.
Small game hunting may be the saving grace if you ever find yourself in a survival situation. Small game hunting skills can provide the needed protein in a survival situation to fuel your body the last few miles to safety. Don’t get me wrong, harvesting a caribou in a survival situation may provide the needed calories but chances are if you are in an emergency situation you wouldn’t necessarily have the transportation or energy needed to move 300+ pounds of meat. If you shot a big game animal, you would only be able to eat 1-5 pounds per day leaving a substantial amount of meat for the scavengers such as fox, coyote, wolves, bears, birds, etc. Small game is nature’s fast food. It is easier to find, easier to harvest, easier to transport, less cook time, less calories spent field dressing, etc.
When you’re in the wild, you can’t be picky. You take the calories nature provides and you capitalize on any edible food source available, unless you have thought ahead and have a Mountain House for every meal (one package in each pocket)… Having ample food, emergency rations, and a food game plan will help you if you ever do find yourself stranded. Recently on an expedition in Alaska, several explorers and I found ourselves in an emergency situation in which due to weather our bush plane could not land, leaving us stranded for days without food. We were in a National Park and were not allowed to hunt, and food was scarce. The point is, it can happen even if you do plan ahead and have contingencies in place.
Traditional archery in my opinion is one of the best possible ways to take small game. I say this because of the duration of my expeditions, frequently extending a month in length and beyond. Bullets and guns are nice to have to hunt for any game species, however while in the woods on an extended expedition or hunting trip it is difficult to make your own ammunition. On the other hand, arrows can be shot over and over again. Some of my “keeper” flu flu arrows have taken multiple small game species for the table. Archers also have the ability to arrow smith broken arrows back to life, or in desperate occasions whittle a brand new arrow and hunting point from materials found in the woods.
Small game for Survival: When out on Alaska spring bear hunts or a fall moose hunt the adventure usually extends a few days past our set end date(not by choice). The same scenario has happened multiple times on fall sheep hunts, at which point in the hunt I switch into survival mode and start looking for closer opportunities at food rather than distant ridges. When your week long adventure turns into a two week ordeal, you have now found yourself in a survival situation (for lack of better term). The very worst thing you can do is leave all of your gear and venture great distances to find small game. Being separated from your lifeline will only make matters worse. My suggestion to find some table fair is to become opportunistic and hunt while you travel.
If you are covering terrain, heading toward the landing strip your pilot dropped you at (or your truck or vehicle etc) your best shot at finding game is coincidentally. That has been my experience at least. My game plan for survival food is as follows. I walk with all of my gear until I find fresh sign or a good area where I have confidence a small critter could be hiding. If the opportunity presents itself, I will take a shot at my quarry with my pack on. However, if I have the time, I will put my pack down once I “have the feeling” that game is in the area. I will place my pack at a landmark and will take several trips of flagging tape and place them high above my pack so my gear will be easily found from several hundreds yards away. Once I work the particular piece of terrain I circle back to my flagging tape, throw my pack on my back and carry on towards my destination. This technique has worked for me countless times and more times than not, I will simply run into some kind of small game table fair.
Last year on National Geographic’s Ultimate Survival Alaska expedition, I found myself and several other explorers desperately in need of extra protein to supplement our 1/2 cup of beans and 1/2 cup of rice. We were in a survival situation in which we needed protein and we also needed to get to our LZ (landing zone) and place of departure. We didn’t have much time to drop our packs, set up a base camp and hunt for several days. We mainly had to cover miles of terrain to get to the LZ, otherwise the pilot would leave with out us. We had to be opportunistic in a sense that we didn’t have much time at all to devote to hunting. Luckily, while moving towards the LZ we spotted a cliff over hanging the Bering Sea that had a resident flock of birds roosting within the rocks. We dropped our packs (had one person stay with the gear) and put the sneak on the unsuspecting sea birds. Within minutes I had downed two birds from the cliffs and slung the majority of my arrows into the Bering Sea. Good thing the tide was on our side and we had an individual willing to play the retriever for us. We all ate, and slept very well that night.
Alaska’s big game hunting season usually coincides with some of the small game hunting seasons, I must admit I am always ready to “coincidentally” run into small game table fair. While I’m on the hunt, a great way to be honed in for the moment of truth is to practice on small game, not to mention the bonus of extra calories. A ground squirrel roasted over a small fire then thrown into a mountain house meal is a great way to boost protein content for your supper. This survival hunting technique has proved successful for me in the past, and will continue to put protein in the pot for the future. Whether you’re hunting for survival, for table fair, or practice for the big game hunting moment of truth, small game hunting is the perfect way to keep your archery game tight and your survival skills dialed in.
Survival Tips: Carry a knife, a bic lighter, and a water bottle with you no matter how close your pack and gear is.
-Check your local game hunting regulations (as well as small game hunting regulations) before depending on any small game for survival. No matter the situation, its always a good idea to know the law.