The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild - Dave Canterbury (2016)

Introduction

This book will be useful to anyone who recreates outdoors whether it be for a day hike, a trail hike, a weekend camp, or a longer-term hunting trek. It is written with the ultimate goal of understanding the difference between wants and needs when it comes to foods and their preparations.

When we think about bushcraft, especially when we introduce survival mentality into the equation, we often think of living completely off the land and meeting all of our food intake needs from the resources around us within the landscape. However, the fact is we will spend much more time in nature on a recreational basis than in a true survival situation.

At the same time we cannot go on a weeklong hunting camp and expect to live completely from what we can provide by rod and gun or even necessarily from traps and foraging. Seasonality plays a large role in foraging. Weather can affect game movements, and we are at the mercy of the season for legal take. Size limits restrict fishing . . . the list goes on. So we cannot expect in the modern day to just wander off with a few friends and live completely off the land even for a week in most areas and in most seasons.

To that end many books have been written over the years that speak to what implements and foods we can take with us and how best to store and use it, what implements we will need for food preparation, and what different food offerings can be made from just a few simple sundries.

Sometimes we can take more extravagant amounts of cooking kit and foodstuffs with us depending on our form of conveyance, and other times we are limited to what we can personally carry. Understanding this and adapting can make life on the trail very comfortable and allow us to “smooth it” as the sportswriter and conservationist Nessmuk would say.

This book is an attempt to capture the gear, methods, and types of sundries we have available to us now to get food from our surroundings. While I’ll include traditional foods and methods of gathering, catching, and preparing food, I’ll also give attention to what we have available now that may not have been attainable for those writing in the past.

It is no secret that there is romance in living as close to nature as possible. Roasting a nice piece of fresh game meat over the fire on a forked stick, while a small ash cake is cooking within the coals, and a nice cup of hot coffee poured from the kettle sets the tone for an evening of true woodsmanship under the stars. We should take advantage of this at every opportunity, but we should also be prepared to use what we can pack to supplement that food if things don’t work out as we had hoped.

While we can fashion cooking implements from natural materials to help us cut weight from packing them in, we should also realize many items available in the modern day make cooking very convenient. New materials like titanium weigh less for an entire cook kit than a single pan carried in the 1920s and 1930s. We must understand what types of materials suit our needs best and know the pros and cons of these materials, as well as what implements we can fashion from the woods to aid us in cooking, especially if we are packing in by foot and cannot afford the weight of heavy fire irons and such.

In the same respect if we are to be well-rounded and educated woodsmen, we must also be able to create many items needed for preparing our food off the landscape. This knowledge will make an emergency situation a bit less hectic. Were we to lose our kit from, say, a canoe rolling with our pack in it, washing our beloved cook set down river, we still need to make it back to our home and family, and we may need to walk a day or more to get there. We will need to know how to acquire food, disinfect water, and possibly cook without many tools on hand.

Even if we don’t have an emergency, being able to hunt, trap, fish, and forage allows us to supplement the foodstuffs we have, making more variety in our meals as well as extending our provisions. Understanding the nutritional value of plants and animals and knowing how to cook them will make us not only more at home in the natural world but more self-reliant and allow us to rely less on carried items and foodstuffs in the long run.

In survival, food is nowhere near the top of the list of priorities to stay alive especially in the short term. But I will say that variety within the diet and good food makes a lot of misfortune much easier to swallow.

Within this book we will explore everything from what types of foods we should carry for a balanced diet on the trail to what we can forage from the natural world to supplement that food, as well as what implements we should carry depending on our aim, and what we can manufacture even as it may pertain to an emergency.

We will look at how to best save room within our outfit by carrying easy-to-prepare foods as well as how to process wild foods we have harvested from the landscape. We will talk about gathering meat sources from a perspective of additional foods but these methods could also apply in an emergency if we carry the knowledge to manufacture needed items as well.

—Dave Canterbury