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Survival Skills

Living off the land – here’s the reality check

Living off the land – here’s the reality check

So when everything goes down, you plan on using your wilderness survival skills to live off the land. Here’s the reality check.

by Leon Pantenburg

I admire and respect people who take the time and effort to learn hunting, foraging and trapping skills to glean sustenance from the wild. That skill level is much beyond what I could ever hope to  achieve. But I am an avid hunter and fisherman, and I have learned a few things here and there.

Squirrel hunting can be challenging, but the meat is tasty and nourishing.

Squirrel hunting is challenging, but the meat is tasty and nourishing. Sometimes a fleeting glimpse through the tree tops is all you’ll see.

In the early 1980s, I was young, single and lived in Mississippi, along the big river. My weekends were devoted to hunting and fishing, and I did very well.

During my best year, I legally killed two deer, several dozen squirrels and several limits of ducks, probably about 25. I rented a freezer locker for all this meat, and I basically lived off what I had killed.

I also did well fishing, and had a stockpile of bass, crappie and bluegills.

My standard lunch was a gumbo, chowder, stew or jambalaya I made before hand and carried in a thermos. I worked on my wild game recipes, and friends at work joked about the Yankee from Iowa who had moved to Mississippi to “live off the land.”

But even with that experience and success, there was no way I could survive long term, even if I could develop the necessary foraging skills. Best bushcraft knife?

Many times, despite my best efforts, I would get skunked fishing or might miss a shot.  I never went hungry because of that, but that would be a different story if I was depending on harvesting my dinner. And even with the best and most efficient equipment, there are times when it seems as if all the game animals have vanished. Or there are days fishing when you can’t buy a bite.

I never got into trapping animals or netting fish, and that would have been an additional way to gather protein. But that is another skill set that would somehow have to be learned.

So when someone comments that he will “just learn to live off the land” as a hunter/gatherer when a disaster or long term emergency hits, I have to shake my head.

Here is an excellent post from Wood Trekker that gives the facts about this idea.

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View Comments (2)


  1. Leon

    01/06/2014 at 13:50

    I’m a scout volunteer because it’s fun, and it helps a lot of boys.

  2. jim shelton

    01/05/2014 at 06:37

    Used to roam the old grown over strip mines of northern Illinois. Loved the camping out but snatched stuffin out of Moms fridge and an m/t Hills Bros. 2lb. coffee can for a stove. So goes the good life now I’m 71 with a foot out the door. Trying to inform some of the kids around these Tennessee hills though the Scouts are pretty much canceled out due to the Liberal butt kissing bowing to the homosexual crowd. Don’t have many here but most believe the GODS WORD against that behavior.
    Trying to teach family so I just wish to thank you for the work you’re doing

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Survival Skills

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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