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There seem to be a lot of people in the prepping community whose bug out plan is to head off into the woods and live off the land, Grizzly Adams style. Looking back over American history, that seems like a good idea.
Many thousands of people actually did live off the land during the colonization and westward expansion of our nation. Going back even further in time, there were many Native American tribes which lived off the land for centuries.
I get it. There’s a certain romanticism about living off the land, in harmony with nature, not having to depend on stores or anything. If I could do it without too much trouble, I’d probably opt for that lifestyle too. Give me a cabin in the mountains and a lot of wild game and I’ll live out my days in peace.
But that’s a dream, not reality.
Living off the land is a lot of work. No matter how plentiful game may seem, they bed down in winter, rarely leaving their dens. If you hunt too much in the area around your cabin, the game will learn that it’s dangerous to be there and find someplace else to live.
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Cutting wood and hauling enough water for your needs is backbreaking work that will put a lot of muscle on you; but will also give you a lot of sore muscles while it’s doing so.
That’s not to say anything about building a log cabin to live in, working with nothing but crude hand tools. There are some who have done so and posted videos of their work on YouTube. Most of those cabins are quite small, yet still took weeks or even months of hard work. Cutting wood by hand is nothing like cutting it with power tools.
But the big problem with trying to live off the land is the supply issue, specifically coming up with enough to eat. There are something like 90 million hunters in the United States, pretty much all of whom will decide it’s time to go hunting, license or not, should the SHTF and the supermarkets run out of food.
With that many hunters, how long do you think it will take for the readily available game to be hunted out?
According to the combined Parks and Wildlife departments of the states, there are somewhere north of 25 million deer in the country today. That sounds like a lot, until you compare it to the number of hunters there are or the more than 325 million people living in our country.
Texas has the largest deer population, at about 5.5 million; but there are over 28 million people living in Texas; and as everyone knows, Texans love their guns.
Back in the early days of this country, the game population was much higher than it is today, and the human population was much lower. Finding game wasn’t all that hard, as long as one was in an area with plentiful game.
But while there is no game shortage today, the ratio of animals to humans has shifted drastically. There are so many of us now that it wouldn’t take long to wipe out the population of huntable animals.
Just ask any deer hunter today how hard it is to find game. Few get their deer every year, unless they are paying to hunt on a game ranch. In the more than 30 years that my dad went elk hunting in Colorado, he only brought home one elk. His success rate on deer was a bit better; but deer, even the mule deer in Colorado, don’t have anywhere near as much meat as an elk does.
Granted, there are places in the western part of the country which are remote enough, and where the population is low enough, that the wild game probably won’t be weeded out that quickly. But those aren’t the places where most people will be hunting.
Forests close to the higher population areas are the first ones that will be hunted to near extinction, with the hunters moving farther and farther afield in search of game. It won’t take long before the travel time to hunting grounds makes it impractical. Either the entire family will have to move to those hunting grounds, or they’ll need some other source of food.
There are more fish than there are deer, making fishing a potentially more profitable endeavor than hunting. But freshwater fish are small, generally only having enough meat to feed one person.
While fishing may be a good way to augment food supplies for a while, it won’t take long for our lakes and rivers to be pretty much fished out. Being able to catch enough fish to live on will require a boat to fish from, which is capable of surviving out on the ocean.
A Bigger Risk
One of the potential risks with fishing and hunting is the competition from other hungry people. I’m not so much concerned about other hunters killing the animals that I want to kill, as I am concerned that some of them might not be so discriminate about what they shoot at.
Hunters get killed every year by other hunters that shoot at a sound, something stirring in the brush, without waiting to see if it is a deer or another hunter. Worse than that, some will want to thin out the competition so that they can be ensured of getting an animal, thinking they won’t get caught.
Those same people are probably the kinds who are likely to decide that some rancher’s cattle or some farmer’s pigs are free for the taking too. That’s another big danger, as the famers and ranchers in question will likely take up arms to protect their stock. If that problem gets bad enough, some of those famers and ranchers may adopt a policy of shoot first, ask questions later.
The scarcer game gets, the more dangerous it will become to be out there trying to hunt it. As people become more desperate, it is likely they will take more desperate measures. That includes killing others to steal their kill or stealing their boat at gunpoint, so that they can go fishing themselves.
What’s the Answer?
Ages ago, our ancestors determined that it was more effective to plant crops and raise livestock, than it was to be hunter-gatherers. This was one of the earliest signs of civilization, as agriculture allowed people to have surplus food which they could trade for other goods.
In fact, the entire idea of craftsmen being able to devote their time to making products for sale or trade owes a great debt to agriculture.
If you’re planning on bugging out to the woods , it should be to somewhere you have shelter and are able to plant your own crops. Even if you do hunt to augment your food supplies, you need a stockpile of food to augment. Just as in your home, you should have a stockpile of food at that survival retreat. In addition, you should have seeds and everything else you need to start growing food.
It would be theoretically possible to bug out to the woods and stay in a temporary shelter, like a tent, while building a more permanent shelter and planting crops.
The problem with that idea is that without a shelter already constructed, where are you going to store your seed and food stockpile? How would you carry enough tools with you, while bugging out, so that you could build a log cabin? And how will you find enough time to raise crops and build a cabin, while trying to do everything else you’ll need to do to survive?
The only practical solution is to start now, before you need it. That may not be possible for everyone, which is why people have other sorts of bug out plans. But to say that you are planning on bugging out and living off the land is more of a fantasy than a true plan.
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