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Practical Protein what you can catch and eat in a wilderness survival emergency

Updated on July 26, 2013

The Survival Rule Of Threes

You Can Survive
Three Minutes
Three Hours
Three Days
Three Weeks

Practical Protein

This is the final installment in our series dealing with the survival "Rule of Threes." In this hub you'll learn the basics of catching, preparing and eating wild sources of protein. In a survival situation calorie and fat consumption can be important. The best source for these important nutrients is animal protein.

Remember that in most survival situations of a week or less you really don't need to eat to survive. Still, a nice meal goes a long way toward boosting your moral. All wild game acquired should be thoroughly cooked to avoid the risk of eating live parasites.

In acquiring food you need to consider whether the energy and moisture expended is worth the return in protein and calories.

You also need to keep in mind that if you kill a protected animal, even for survival reasons, you might be facing legal ramifications.


With these factors in mind, lets explore the basics of finding practical protein in a survival situation. With very few exceptions, you can safely eat anything that crawls, swims, walks or flies. The hardest part of actually eating available protein sources could be overcoming your aversion to eating things you might consider gross.


In most cases attempting to kill any big game animal for survival food is not worth the risk. The only possible exception would be if you have an appropriate hunting weapon with you such as a hunting bow or firearm.

All big game animals are surprisingly strong, have formidable tools for self defense, and will fight to survive if cornered.

Eating meat from a dead animal that you find is not a good idea and is not worth the risk of getting sick.

If you do find big game animals in your area you can watch or follow them to see if they might lead you to another food source or to water.


Predators of all sizes should also be avoided. By nature they are better armed and more aggressive than prey animals. You might think you can handle a half grown raccoon, but keep in mind that a Utah State University study revealed that over 80% of raccoons tested had been exposed to rabies.


For our purposes, Small game would include any animal or bird the size of a large rabbit down to the size of a mouse. These animals are more abundant than larger animals, often follow predictable patterns that can be exploited and can often be trapped, making the energy return for effort expended more reasonable.

Remember that these animals still have sharp teeth and should not be handled unless you are sure they are dead. Even a small bite can become infected and turn into a life threatening situation.

Basic rabbit snare

Traps and Snares

The simplest snares are often the most effective, such as the one shown in the video on the right. The snare is set on a location where small animals are likely to travel in such a way that, as they walk, their head will pass through the noose and tighten around their body, holding them captive until you can dispatch them with a rock or stout stick. You should have noose making material in your survival kit. If not, you can use shoelaces or draw cords from clothing. Thin picture hanging wire makes good snares. There are many websites and videos showing how to build more complex snares and traps, but this design can be set with minimal supplies, tools, effort and with little or no disturbance that could frighten animals away.

Position your traps and snares on runs and trails, near nesting or roosting sites or close to feeding and watering areas. To conserve energy, snares should also be set fairly close to your shelter so they can be checked easily.

It might be wise to carry a spear or throwing stick as you forage for water, edible plants and firewood. You might encounter an animal that you can dispatch.

All animals should be skinned, gutted and well cooked before eating. The simplest cooking methods include placing the meat directly in the hot coals, or suspending it over the fire on a stick.


The best way to catch fish is with the fishing line and hooks from your survival kit. (These can also be used to catch birds). Bright colored fabric or insects will make the best lures and baits. Look for worms and grubs under fallen trees and rocks.

Hooks made from pull tabs from soda cans

If you don't have fishing equipment you can improvise. Hooks can be made from sharpened sticks, thorns, safety pins and pull tabs from pop cans. Some shoelaces, like paracord, have inner strands that can be pulled out and used for fishing line.

In lakes and ponds concentrate your efforts near inlets or springs, along rocky outcrops, under trees and along underwater drop offs.

How to build a fish trap

Fish can also be hunted with spears or caught in traps.

Fish traps can be woven out of willows or other supple branches. A backward facing funnel helps hold fish in the trap. Place the trap in a slower moving section of a stream with the mouth facing downstream. Use rocks, logs or other material to funnel the fish into the mouth of the trap. You can wait for fish to move upstream naturally or scare them toward the trap by wading, throwing things into the stream or hitting it with branches. Fish naturally flee upstream when disturbed

In water that is not moving such as ponds and lakes, bait can be placed in the trap to attract them. Other food, such as crayfish might also be caught in a fish trap.

In many cultures insects are considered a delicacy.
In many cultures insects are considered a delicacy.


Although they might seem like the least palatable of survival foods, insects could very well be the most valuable source of protein available. They are the most abundant life form on earth, easily caught and very high in protein.

Insects are 65% to 80% protein compared to only 20% for beef. You should avoid insects that sting or bite, are hairy or brightly colored or have a pungent odor. You should also avoid spiders and disease carrying insects like ticks, flies and mosquitoes.

Rotting logs and trees are usually good places to find edible insects such as ants, termites, beetles and grubs. Look under stones and other larger objects as well.

Its best to remove wings and barbed legs before eating.

Grassy areas like fields and meadows are also good places to find insects. Many insects with hard shells like grasshoppers and beetles may have parasites and should be roasted before eating. Most other insects can be eaten raw.

In many countries insects are sold as delicacies. Bears consider them to be special treats.


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