Everyone talks about preparing for the end of the world and what they need to do to survive. They plan to collect food, water and other supplies, but they rarely think about what they’ll need to do to keep themselves and their families fed once the canned foods run out.
Hunting is one way to keep food on the table, but it’s something that will take practice and patience. It will also change depending on the season — and we’re not even talking about hunting seasons, which won’t matter if we hit a SHTF scenario. Here are some tips, tricks and techniques to help you hunt for food year-round so you will be able to keep your family fed, no matter what.
This piece will focus primarily on food animals that are native to North America, but we’ll throw in some information for other parts of the world where we can find it. Your experience hunting for food will be unique to the area where you live or are sheltering, so make sure you keep that in mind. The seasonal tips should apply to every hunting experience, though you may need to flip them around if you’re reading this in the southern hemisphere.
Spring Hunting Tips
Spring brings with it the promise of new life, warmer temps and the beginning of the planting season. The cold winter weather is over, and while it might still be cool in the early morning and late evening, you can spend the majority of your time outside comfortably without worrying about piling on extra layers of clothing.
It’s also an ideal time to hunt because animals will be more active, coming out of hibernation. Warm weather means more available food, after all. If you’ve made it through the winter in an SHTF scenario, now is the time to start replenishing the stockpiles that you depleted during the winter.
Depending on where you live, springtime hunts usually include turkeys, bears and wild boar — which are a nuisance species in the southeastern United States, and you don’t always need a license. Everything is coming out of hibernation or taking advantage of the more readily available food.
Spring hunting can require a lot of patience and a better awareness of the animals in your area. It’s mating season for many species and some — like bears and deer— may have cubs that were born during the tail-end of winter. Be careful that you’re not overhunting one specific species, and when you’re hunting bear, don’t kill nursing mothers that may leave cubs behind who aren’t yet ready to fend for themselves. That’s why you can’t hunt many species that are good for providing food — like deer — until later in the year.
Turkey hunting is prime in spring because large flocks of these tasty game birds get together to breed. Keeping track of their movement is easy when the males are sounding off, trying to attract females, but they’re harder to find when they’ve found a mate and aren’t gobbling as much.
That’s where trail cams come in handy. Yes, they are good for more than just spotting deer. The turkey might be quiet once it’s found a mate, but it still has to come down from its roost to eat and drink. Trail cams can help you find a flock and — depending on how you position them — even help you track its movement through the forest.
Once the weather starts warming up, we’ll leave the bears and turkey behind for some more challenging game.
Summer Hunting Tips
In some states you can continue to hunt bear into the summer months, even through June or August, but there are plenty of other prey animals to choose from once you move into summer. Even cold-blooded reptiles are active at this point, though some of them may have started moving toward the end of spring. It all depends on where you’re located and what the weather looks like as the season changes.
If you’re in Florida, you can hunt for python during summer. These snakes are tasty when cooked properly and are an incredibly invasive species in southern Florida. They’re turning the entire ecosystem on its ear, even consuming apex predators like panthers and alligators when they get large enough. The state has invited hunters to help with the surplus python population, and if you’re in the area, it can be a great way to supplement your family’s food supply.
Wild boar is another species you can hunt nearly any time of year because they’re considered a nuisance. Wild boar in the United States cause more than $1.5 billion in damage every year.
One summer species that’s often overlooked is the coyote. They can be tasty if you prepare them properly, but many people have an aversion to eating them because they look too much like the family pet. Still, you can focus on carving a chunk out of the coyote population in the summertime because they target new fawns, which could put a damper on your deer hunting later in the year.
Toward the end of summer, whitetail deer and pronghorn antelope are both good targets. Pronghorn antelope are the fastest hoofed mammals in North America and are native to the American West. Also, some states allow you to start hunting deer late in the summer.
Some birds, like doves, pigeons and even Canadian geese, all have hunting seasons, depending on where you’re located. If the world hasn’t ended, make sure you’re paying close attention to hunting seasons and bag limits so you don’t get yourself in trouble with game wardens!
Fall Hunting Tips
When you start thinking about fall hunting, the first thing that probably comes to mind is deer. Autumn is when deer season opens for most of the country, but while venison is a fantastic protein source that will help keep your family fed, it isn’t the only one you can seek during these cooler months. Some states also have fall turkey seasons. It’s incredibly popular because people want to bring home a fresh turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner.
Deer are always popular in fall, but if you don’t have any in your area, you’re not without options. There are also pronghorn antelope, as well as elk. The type of animal you choose to hunt will depend entirely on your location. As you move into October, moose becomes an option as well. One or two large moose could keep you fed for quite a while.
If you’re in a pinch and need to stock up for winter, squirrels and other small rodents can be a good option in the fall. They’ve spent the last few months fattening up and storing food in preparation for winter. While squirrels will never have a lot of meat, they’re bigger now than they are in the spring after months of lean foraging.
Early fall is also a good time to hunt coyote, for multiple reasons. Not only are you stocking up your freezer for the winter, but they’re also coming into their winter pelts. Use them to make coats to keep you warm if you’re so inclined.
Winter Hunting Tips
Once temperatures start to drop most people want to stay inside where it’s nice and warm. However, if you don’t have enough food to keep you fed during these cold months, you’ll need to get out and hunt. This is especially true if you’re in a survival situation, and a trip to the grocery store or your local butcher isn’t an option.
Hunting in winter can be challenging, but there is still plenty of game to be had. It can actually be easier to find your target in the snow than it is during any other season. Winter is great for birds, from pheasants and ruffled grouse to geese and ducks, depending on where you’re located. Migratory birds tend to head south during the colder months, so they’re easy to follow.
Deer, moose, elk and reindeer are all cold-weather prey as well. While larger animals like bears have settled down for their winter hibernation, these creatures are still navigating the wilderness in search of food. Snowy landscapes might make it harder for them to forage, leading them to wander further than they might during the warmer months. Snow makes it easier for even inexperienced trackers to follow footprints.
Small game is also possible to find during the snowy winter months. They don’t have a ton of meat on them, but winter can be the perfect time to stock up on squirrel, rabbit, pigeon and porcupine, depending on what small game is native to your area. Again, use the snow to track their movements.
The biggest challenge you’re going to face when hunting in the winter isn’t going to be finding a target — it’s going to be the weather itself. Brutally cold temperatures can be dangerous or even deadly if you’re underprepared. If you’re not appropriately dressed and layered, you could find yourself losing fingers and toes to frostbite while you wait for a deer or rabbit to cross your path. You may also end up spending less time out in the woods because you’re uncomfortable in the cold, so you won’t be able to bag as many kills.
Don’t go out into the woods in the winter unprepared. Wear warm and comfortable clothes and layer up. Remember, you can always take layers off if you need to.
Practice These Skills Before You Need Them
The last tip we can offer is to practice these skills before you need them. Hopefully, we’ll never have to face a world-ending scenario where subsistence hunting and foraging is the only way to stay alive. If it does happen, you don’t want to go out into the woods armed with nothing more than a YouTube video and a gun. If you’re planning to hunt to keep your family fed year-round, practice your target shooting, tracking a prey animal and cleaning it once you’ve brought it down.
Even following currently existing hunting seasons and bag limits, it’s possible to supplement your family’s diet with wild game. In a SHTF scenario, things like hunting seasons will go out the window in favor of survival, but it’s a good idea to stick fairly close to these seasons when choosing your prey. If you’re surviving on wild game, the last thing you want to do is upset the local ecosystem while you’re trying to stay alive.
The more you hunt, the more you’ll become in-tune with the changing seasons. In the spring, you’ll take turkeys and maybe a bear, if you can find a male or a female without cubs. In the summer, you might switch to wild boar and small game, taking coyotes to protect the young deer that might later grow up to become your dinner.
In the fall, you’ll stock up on deer, antelope, moose and other large game that is all in season. Once the winter months roll around, you can enjoy the food in your freezer and supplement it with deer, birds and other small game.
You’ve got plenty of options, so if you ever find yourself needing to hunt to feed your family, be smart and patient. If you are, you’ll have plenty of food to go around.
[Editor’s note: This was a guest post. Personally, I’m not a hunter, so I prefer to “hunt” my food at the grocery store. If you want to know precisely which foods you should stockpile for survival, read my book on the topic.]