That being said, there is still an abundant amount of protein out there in the wilds you can take advantage of. Concentrating first on the animal protein, let’s make a list of what you can obtain during the winter months.
- Fowl: Ducks, Geese, Turkey (No! Not more turkey!), Grouse, Dove.
- Fish: Trout, Bass, Bluegill/Crappie, Pike.
- Game: Deer, Antelope (primarily the Western States), Sheep, Mountain Goat, Elk, Rabbit/Hare.
- Other Game: Black bear, Wild Boar.
In a survival situation, beggars can’t be choosers. It’s wintertime now, so we’re going to concentrate on what you’ll find (and face) in the wintertime. Black Bear are semi-hibernators; that is, they slumber for extended lengths of time during the winter and emerge periodically to feed. They do possess more than the average needed to supply humans with the essential fats. Bear meat is very tough. If you can, roast and/or smoke the meat, chop it up well or cube it, and then throw it in a Dutch oven.
Over the coals with a good amount of moisture and the meat will tenderize quite a bit more than just cooking it over a fire. Supplement this protein with cattail roots. When you dig them up (their presence is indicated by the dead reeds at the edges of frozen lakes and ponds), take the roots and boil them. They are very similar to potatoes. Acorns can also be gathered and pulverized into powder for a flour, but be advised: acorns are high in tannic acid. This can be leached out of the acorns by soaking them in water for a few hours, and then allowing them to dry out before making the flour.
Now be advised that many trappers (according to reports from the Hudson Bay Company in the 18th and 19th centuries) died from only eating rabbit. As mentioned before, wild game (especially rabbit) does not contain enough fats and nutrients to keep a person alive. As the company reported, many trappers starved to death by not rounding off their diets. The human body leaches minerals and vitamins from within itself in order to digest the rabbit, and these are passed out in the stool. The trappers literally ate themselves to death, when if they had supplemented their game with some vegetables, their protein uptake would have been assured without depleting themselves.
Pine needle tea provides enough Vitamin C when steeped in boiling water (about 1-2 cups of needles per quart of water. Beneath the snows can be shoots of different edible plants; use a guidebook for your geographical area to determine what you have available. Also, your trees such as spruce and willows, as well as lichens can provide you with nutrients to balance your needs for protein with a well-rounded diet that supplies you with vitamins and minerals. Remember, the goal is to take in more than just lean protein that will steal nutrients from your body, although protein is very, very important.
Fish and waterfowl contain more fat and while providing the protein you need are more well-rounded in terms of fats and carbohydrates. In the wintertime, the feeding activities of fish decrease, however, you will still be able to get them if you’re diligent. As worms and insects are mostly unavailable during the wintertime, you will need to use either artificial lures or you may use offal/meat from game that you have trapped or shot. With ice fishing, you’ll probably need an ice augur to open a hole in a lake. There are many rivers and streams that do not freeze totally, and it is here that you will still be able to find and catch trout.
Just 3 ounces of trout yields 21 grams of protein, along with 9 grams of fat, plus calcium, iron, potassium, and sodium. You pull in a good-sized brookie or a rainbow trout, and you’re looking at about an 8-10 lb. fish. Brown trout can reach about 30-40 lbs. You can do the math: that’s a lot of protein per fish! In addition, you can smoke and salt the daylights out of it to preserve it and carry with you. The Northern Pike (also known as Chain Pickerel) is also a good-to-eat fish. Be advised that from the beginning of January to about the beginning of February, they lose teeth and will not be able to strike as much. Be careful with them when you land them, or they can bite off a finger if they’re big enough, and their teeth are very sharp.
Be advised, especially in the Western States. Salmon are also available, but as a fisherman, you have some competition: the bears, especially Grizzly Bears. The salmon are one of their principal food sources before they hibernate, and between September and sleepy time, they eat everything and anything they can sink their teeth into, including us. Black bear will also fish for salmon and trout. If it’s a survival situation, you be the judge, but for either of those two you had better be armed. You also (regarding the Grizzly) better have the ability to prove to a court of law that it really was a survival situation, and not that your car just broke down and you would have had to walk 5 miles to get to McDonald’s. The survival situation better be real in this case.
To back up a bit, ducks and geese have high protein, and high amounts of fat…they’re a waterfowl and need that fat to insulate them from the cold of the water and in flight. Render the fat and save it in a jar in a survival situation; you can use it to supplement the wild game you take on land that is low in fat. Those two also have tremendous amounts of minerals to help balance your diet. Turkey is leaner, as it is a “ground” bird, with less fat, although it too does contain vitamins and minerals.
Also, be advised to read up on things such as Tularemia, as well as intestinal and liver flukes and parasites. All of the mentioned types of land game can have them, the former being in rabbits and the latter found especially in deer/venison, and wild pig. Cook all meat thoroughly, making sure to keep from contaminating the meat when you’re dressing it out and preparing it for the spit. Better safe than sorry, so ensure that it is cooked through and through to avoid such pitfalls.
To summarize, there are many methods to prepare your protein that you garner in the outdoors. Such is beyond the scope of this article, the point of which was to make you well aware of your options in the outdoors, especially in a survival situation. Winter is not a “dead” time of the year; it is merely dormant, with different pitfalls and challenges to face. Use your greatest resource – your mind – to learn about your geographical vicinity and the game and vegetation that you can subsist upon. I also highly recommend a good book on scats and tracks to be able to identify the game that moves about in your locale. Keep fighting that good fight, cook all your wild game until it’s well done, and be safe! JJ out!