Hunting and (mostly) gathering

Life has been a little...intense since my last post. I decided to get married, join the National Guard, and start my own business about 3 years ago. So my goal to develop some primitive survival efficacy has taken a back seat. Some folks use the term "back seat" euphemistically to denote something they have lost interest in or motivation for. Not the case here. Developing primitive skills has always been and will continue to be a long term priority for me. The dictates of passion and modern life do occasionally get in the way, but I'm in this to win it over the long term.

That said, I finally managed to get out for a quick mid-week survival outing last night. I learned from previous outings that each attempt at advancement demands a FOCUSED micro-goal, stripped of the utopian ideal to get it all, right now. Last night I focused on food.

I'm relatively comfortable with building a shelter and surviving the night, and with building a fire using primitive methods. But I'm so lost when it comes to food sources that I suck even as a hunter with a firearm.

Last night I went out with: my Army ruck packed with sleep system (waterproof shell with 2 embedded sleeping bags), tarp, cook pot, lighters, headlamp, a .22 rifle, and a couple other useful items, but no food. The plan was to eat whatever I could find and/or shoot, and boil water for hydration.

I set up camp at a shallow pond in the lowlands south of Mount Norwottuck. I figured plant food is a guarantee, while game is uncertain, so within the first 30 minutes I collected a quart of wintergreen berries and an armload of cattail roots.

This is my first time harvesting cattail roots in a primitive situation. It's more challenging than it seems. I had to remove boots socks, roll up pants and sleeves, and wade into the frigid pond. There, I muscled up roots by grasping the cattail plants at the base below the surface of the water and vigorously wiggling and pulling them upward. There may be a more efficient way, but I was able to accumulate a decent amount of horizontal roots in 10 minutes or so.
Roasting the roots and boiling hemlock needle tea

The cleaned roots

The removed plants

A decent collection

Wintergreen populations tend to fruit more next to water

Peel the swampy exterior, and chew the starchy core

From there, I cut the rotting plants off the roots and cleaned and trimmed them in the pond water. I brought my collection back to camp and set off to find some squirrel, porcupine, or whatever else I might legally harvest.

An unexpected obstacle to hunting and foraging is finding your way back to camp once you're done exploring. I paid close attention to terrain features and kept track of distance using my pace count (about 70 paces for 100 meters).

Sadly, I only saw one squirrel on my trek, and it was a wildly difficult shot. No luck. I headed back to camp after the sun set.

I quickly built a fire and collected a pot full of pond water. I added to it a handful of hemlock bows and got it boiling. 10 minutes later I had 2 quarts of delicious hemlock needle tea.

During that time I burned off the rootless on my cattail stash, and began roasting the roots. I found I could easily peel off the charred outer layer and munch on the starchy interior. It's a bit weird, but you have to chew the fibrous core until you've ingested all the starch, then spit out the mass of fiber. More delicious than it sounds, I promise. I went from hungry to stuffed over the 45 minutes of roasting and eating. I didn't even want my dessert of wintergreen berries after (who can resist a quart of toothpaste??).

I finished off my tea and reclined, staring up at the canopy and contemplating my life. Eventually I set up my sleep system and enjoyed a solid night's sleep on a soft pad of forest litter. Wintergreen berries for breakfast, and then I packed up and hiked out.

It wasn't a mind blowing advancement of skills, but hey, I primitively harvested a wild source of starch and got full on it. All for the first time. I can add it to the toolkit.