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Survival Trapping and Fishing

Survival Trapping and Fishing – A Numbers Game

March 15, 2013 by sensible survival

As I have stated in a previous post, it is difficult to survive in the wild by only gathering wild plants.  Unless you can gather nuts or mature seeds it is hard to come up with enough protein to survive.  You will almost certainly have to turn to animal protein to meet your body’s needs.

Hunting, in most instances, is one of the least efficient ways to gather animal protein.  If you are hunting, that’s all you can do; and you will probably have only one chance to either succeed or fail.  Fishing with a pole in your hand presents the same problem.  You must remain totally occupied with this one task, and you will either catch fish or you won’t.

Traps and trotlines offer multiple chances for success at the same time, and they will work for you while you take care of other tasks or even while you sleep.  The thing about trapping and trotlining is that they are both a numbers game.  If you just set out one trap you might as well go hunting.  If you just set out one hook you might as well stand on the bank and fish.  The idea is to set out as many hooks and traps as possible so that you can maximize your chances of securing food.

Let’s talk about fishing first.  It takes considerable cordage to set out a trotline.  If you have fifty feet of para-cord you could cut off ten feet, remove the outer sheath, and have seven, ten foot long pieces of 50lb. test nylon to cut up into drop lines.  If you don’t have any fish hooks, you can make fifteen or twenty gorge hooks in a fairly short time.  If you don’t have any cordage, then I would abandon the idea of a traditional trotline.  It would take hours and hours to twist up enough cordage to make such a line.  If you have to make your own cordage, then I would recommend that you go with drop lines.  A drop line is just a short piece of cordage with a baited hook and weight.  Locate an area where low trees and /or bushes hang out over the water, and tie a drop lines to various branches.  This won’t get you out into deep water like a trot line stretched across the river, but it will get hooks into the water.  You will have to turn up grubs, earthworms, and other insects or larvae to bait your hooks the first time, but if you make a catch you can use fish entrails for subsequent baiting.

Traps can be time consuming to make, but just one trap does not have much chance of securing food.  I think that I would set out fishing lines first, then gather materials to make traps around the fire at night.  The figure 4 deadfall and the rolling snare are both pretty easy to make.  The real time consumption comes when you are selecting locations for your traps and preparing the sets.  I would try and set at least ten good traps, and twenty would be better.  The more you set, the better your chance of making a catch.  If you set baited traps you will have to forage for the initial bait, but once you catch the first animal you can use entrails for subsequent traps.

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Bug-Out Shelter Kit

Bug-Out Shelter Kit

September 13, 2017 bt sensible survival

When some people are camping they like to be in a tent; other people like to sleep in the open or under a tarp.  I am in the later group.  If the weather is nice, I like to sleep in a hammock or a sleeping bag and bivy sack under the stars.  If the weather is threatening rain or if it is cold; I like to sleep under a tarp.  There are several reasons that I prefer a tarp.  For one, tarps are very light to carry.  My tarp set-up including lines, stakes, etc. weighs 3 lbs. 10 oz.(that’s about 1.65 kilos for my non-American friends).  For another thing, a tarp is very versatile as far as different set-ups.  A tarp can be set up to take advantage of a fire for additional heat in the winter, and it can be suspended overhead to allow better air circulation in the summer.  A tarp also allows better exterior visibility than a tent.  And lastly, a tarp can be used in conjunction with a hammock, something that is not possible with your average tent.

I’m going to do a couple of posts on my favorite tarp set-ups; but before I do that, I thought it might be good to show you my bug-out tarp kit.  Some might say that I include too much in my kit.  Some of the items could be foraged or manufactured in the wild.  This is true.  You could, in fact, build your entire shelter from foraged materials, and I encourage you learn how to do just that.  But, everything about survival is a trade-off.  You have to constantly be thinking about how much space you have in your pack, the weight of items that you carry, the time necessary to locate and/or make items in the wild, and the calories burned carrying items as opposed to the calories burned making items.  I consider the small amount of added weight in my kit to be negligible compared to the time and calories used to do things like cutting tent stakes.  My whole tarp kit weighs three pounds and ten ounces and rolls up into a nice 24” by 6” bundle.

Using the items in this kit I can make my three favorite tarp set-ups without any additional materials. So anyhow, this is what’s in my kit.

Item number one is my tarp.  It is an inexpensive vinyl tarp that you can get at Harbor Freight or Wal-Mart.  The tarp is about eight by ten feet.  I used tarps like this for several years; but I recently modified it, as outlined in the previous two posts, by painting the inside with reflective aluminum paint, and I have added a center loop to the outside.

Some set-ups require a ridge line.  I carry a twenty-five foot piece of 550 para-cord to use as a ridge line.  It has permanent loop tied into one end.  The ends of all of my cords have been melted to prevent fraying.  Be sure that you use good, military grade para-cord, not the cheap stuff from the craft store.

A 40 inch long bungee cord is handy for quickly setting up plow-point shelters (more on that in the next post).

I carry eight guy lines that come in handy for some set-ups.  Each guy line is six feet long with a permanent loop in one end.

My kit includes eight tent stakes.  Two on them are about eleven inches long and made of steel. 

The other six are seven inches long and made of aluminum.  These are actually aluminum nails that are used to hang rain gutters.  You can buy them at the hardware store for about fifty cents each. 

I keep them bundled together with one of those thread covered rubber hair bands.

Some small loops of para-cord come in handy for certain set-ups.  I carry six pre-made loops bundled together with a hair band.

I carry four little sticks that are pre-cut to about two inches long.  These are used for tarp attachments and to secure easy release knots (more on this later).

All of the lines, stakes, and etc. are stored in a small stuff-sack.

The last item in my kit is a piece of camo netting that I can drape across the front of my shelter to help conceal it.

So, that’s my tarp kit.  In subsequent posts I will show you how to make several tarp set-ups using the items in this kit.

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Preparing and Using Sinew

Preparing and Using Sinew

To make many of the more advanced tools and weapons associated with wilderness survival you will need two animal products, sinew and rawhide. What sinew is, how to obtain it, and how to process it is the subject of this post.

What is Sinew?
Sinew can be obtained from the tendons of any mammal. Tendons are the tough stringy things that attach muscles to bones. When these tendons are processed into sinew they provide a wonderful material that can be used to make super strong cordage, good sewing thread, and they can be used as a binding twine to attach arrowheads, arrow fletchings, knife blades, spear points, drill points and etc. Sinew is as tough as nylon, and it is impregnated with its own natural glue that can be activated with a little moisture. Sinew shrinks a little when it dries so that is binds things together tightly. Sinew will last for hundreds of years if it is protected from moisture. In short, sinew is a super material that has no modern equivalent. The only down-side to sinew is that it must be kept dry. If you get it wet it will soften and stretch, and whatever you have bound together with it will come apart. If you think that any sinew that you have used may be exposed to moisture, you must coat it with pine sap or some other agent that will waterproof it.

How do You Obtain Sinew?
One of the most widely available sources of sinew is from the deer, although elk or buffalo will work just as well. The most useful sinews are located in the lower legs and along the upper back lying over the back straps. If you hunt deer you can remove both the leg and back sinews when you are butchering. If you have friends that hunt you can ask them to bring you the lower legs when they butcher. The lower legs have no usable meat on them and most people just cut them off and throw them away. Hunters will usually be glad to give you this part of their kill even if they do think you’re a little strange for wanting it. You can even go to most packing houses during deer season and they are often glad to get rid of any legs that they have. All of my friends know that I want deer legs and I usually get anywhere from twenty to fifty a year just for the asking. Pictured below: deer leg

How do You Process Sinew?
To remove the sinews, you need a sharp knife or a good sharp flake of flint. Slice down the back of the leg from knee joint to just above the dew claws and peel the skin back. Lying just below the skin is a white membrane. This membrane encases the tendon which lies in a shallow groove down the back of the leg bone.

Split open the membrane and you will see a milky white cord looking thing. This is the tendon.

You can usually slip your finger under the edge of the tendon and lift it up out of the bone a little. When you get the tendon up out of the groove, run your knife up and down to loosen the tendon even more.

I usually run my knife down toward the hoof, and when I can’t go any farther, I turn the blade up and slice through the tendon freeing that end. You can then grab the tendon with you hand and peel it out down toward the knee joint. When you pull up as much of the tendon as you can get, cut that end off with your knife.


There may be some membrane left sticking to the tendon (kind of a slimy case) and if you can remove this it will be helpful although it’s not vitally necessary.When you have a white floppy tendon in your hand, the hard part is done.

Just set the tendon out in the sun or on the kitchen drain board if your spouse is out of town. In less than twenty-four hours the soft wet tendon will be hard, dry, and kind of a translucent yellow color. It looks a lot like plastic.

Now take the dried tendon and use a smooth round rock or the round end of a ball peen hammer and start pounding. What ever you pound with, it needs to be rounded. Flat edges, like the flat of a hammer or axe, will cut the fibers in the sinew.

As you pound, the sinew will start to turn white, and it will begin to separate into fluffy white fibers. You can now take you fingers and pull apart the fibers is small bundles about the thickness of a pencil lead or smaller.

These little fiber bundles are what you’re looking for. You can use them to back a bow, make a bow string, sew leather together, tie on arrowheads etc.

To use the sinew to, for example, tie on an arrow head; all you have to do is pop a piece in your mouth and chew on it a little. Don’t be squeamish. It’s no different than chewing on a piece of deer jerky. The saliva in your mouth and the gentle chewing will soften the sinew in seconds. Don’t chew too long or you will wash all of the glue out of the sinew.

When the sinew is soft remove it from your mouth and wrap it around your arrowhead. You don’t have to tie it off because the sinew will stick to itself. Set it in the sun for twenty or thirty minutes and it will dry hard and tight. Coat the sinew with melted pine sap or carpenter’s glue and let it dry. Pictured below: sinew bow string, arrowhead, spearhead, and knife blade all attached with sinew; and sinew backing on an elm wood bow.