Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

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Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by pasha » Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:54 am

Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions About Hunting and Gathering
http://woodtrekker.blogspot.com/2013/09 ... s-and.html
I found this to be a very interesting read. Here is a small sample.

"Ah, living off the land. Thriving in the wilderness with the use of your skills. It is the ultimate goal of many bushcrafters and survivalists. Numerous posts have been written on forums about this subject, and as soon as one ends, another is started. Of course, actual evidence is rarely presented. We often fall back on positions such as “our ancestors did it, so clearly I can do it”, or “I was out last week and saw a bunch of cattails and barriers, so my food sources are secure”.

The problem is not made any better by so called experts in the field, who fuel the myth that they are feeding themselves in the wilderness. I vividly remember watching Andrew Price, host of A-Z of Bushcraft in one of the episodes, waking up in the morning, walking a few feet next to camp, gathering a few berries, and then turning the the camera and saying “breakfast is served”. Ray Mears, aside from his excellent series, Wild Foods, has numerous instances where he gathers meager resources and then implies that his food requirement have been met. Of course, none of them ever bother to calculate or present actual caloric values, or discuss the long terms consequences. Similarly, people like Dave Canterbury, who discuss at length hunting in wilderness living conditions, never actually do the math of how much game has to be killed to justify the weight of that shotgun being carried, or whether the numbers would work out at all.

For the past year I have been attempting to gather some actual numbers on the subject, so we can have a more meaningful conversation about what it would take to sustainably feed a person in the wilderness, and consequently, what tools may be suited for the task. I must admit, I have been slacking with the project because of its tedious nature. Last week however, a reader referred me to a source related to the Chris McCandless post, which provided me with some of the information I was searching.

Samuel Thayer, author of the books Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden, wrote an essay related to the starvation of Chris McCandles titles Into the Wild and other Poisonous Plant Fables. While much of the essay focuses on disproving theories of poisonous plants, the last section discusses actual caloric requirements for a person living in the wilderness, and what resources that would require."
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by KYZHunters » Mon Oct 14, 2013 5:49 am

Thanks for posting a link to that blog; it's really informative. The comments in the thread cited were also very telling and the number of people who wanted to fight over the data is a good indication of how many believe that living off the land is a good option. One of those responding mentioned how a depression era relative spoke of no game being available and that reflects what my neighbors in Kentucky tell me. Deer hunting was closed in Kentucky between 1912 and 1946 because it had reached an unsustainable point due to over-hunting. Opening hunting again in the state without management of numbers caused the deer population to plunge again and it took severe restrictions and stocking of 12,000 deer a year in the 80s and 90s to get us where we are today. If everyone was hunting to feed their families I think the place would be emptied out again quickly. Same for turkey, squirrel and other game.
I think the delusions and misconceptions about living off the land can be applied to farming or intensive gardening. I've been hard at it for almost 8-years and I'm nowhere close to self-sufficient. My family could survive but not thrive on what we have going on now but all it would take would be drought, disease or a non-permissive environment in which to farm and we'd be hurting.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by PrairieRat » Mon Oct 14, 2013 7:48 am

How DID people live before they knew about calories? lol
I grew up "pocket camping" (you were only allowed to carry what was in your pockets) in Alabama in the '60's & '70's, anyone who could starve in a southern forest will not be missed.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Jaeger » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:17 am

Very true, but what percentage of your state's population were pocket camping the same weekends that you were? If 99% of the people dropped dead of some plague I like Average Joe's chances living off the land, but if some other calamity occurred that did not involve rapidly right sizing the population for subsistence living I think you get the scorched fields and denuded forests in very short order. This country has a great deal of firepower in the hands of the citizens. Desperate people do desperate things. My guess is ugliness quickly.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by TacAir » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:46 am

For a reasonable look at what you expect in the Inter-mountain West, read

Outdoor Survival Skills
Larry Dean Olsen
ISBN 10: 0842500014 / 0-8425-0001-4

The book can be had used. First published in the early 70's, it is good enough to have survived the times, as they say. Well written, well illustrated and has a plant guide. If you live in the West, this book could be a wake up call as far as 'living off the land'.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Manimal2878 » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:47 am

That is an excellent article.

If living off the land was so easy the entire arc of civilization would not be bent toward agriculture.
PrairieRat wrote:How DID people live before they knew about calories? lol
Often they didn't, half the population of many frontier settlements starved to death because they couldn't find enough food come winter.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Doctorr Fabulous » Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:08 am

PrairieRat wrote:How DID people live before they knew about calories? lol.
Poorly, normally malnourished. Gout, often called the rich man's disease, comes to mind, but there's a whole bunch of other stuff like scurvy, "rabbit starvation," beriberi (more common in areas using white rice, IIRC) and rickets. Infant mortality was high, generally mortality rates weren't great, and most people lived shorter, harder lives. People lived in settlements not jsut for security, but because it reduced the chance of a family starving to death if someone was hurt or a few animals killed. There are very few post-stone age peoples who live off the land, and those that do usually live tribally and migrate to follow a herd or to let the local fauna regrow, which is sort of a lazy version of farming, and it only works in very population-sparse areas.

Farming and husbandry pre-date every manuscript we ahve for a reason. If it's workable in an area, it's much more efficient.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Boondock » Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:19 am

PrairieRat wrote:... anyone who could starve in a southern forest will not be missed.
That's a narrow-minded, borderline BS statement.

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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Halfapint » Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:54 pm

I have to agree with most everyone else. That this country in particular we are a little gungho about thinking we could live off the land. Perhaps because our country is so new, and so large that just a couple generations ago many people had farmsteads that were/had to be selfsufficient. We also only heard of those that made it, not the people who suffered and died in the harsh winters.

If everyone had to go out and start hunting/gathering to feed their families you'd see a complete raping of the land. Animals would be gone, pants would be stripped and seas would be empty.

This was an educational read, though personally I think the 3300cal/day is a little much especially over an extended period. There are plenty of places where people do not intake as much food and do plenty of hard work every day. They may not be gaining mass but they are not starving either. With that said i think as a base his numbers are a pretty good, especially to make a point of look now much stuff you have to gather/kill to feed JUST YOU.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Doctorr Fabulous » Mon Oct 14, 2013 1:04 pm

Halfapint wrote:I have to agree with most everyone else. That this country in particular we are a little gungho about thinking we could live off the land. Perhaps because our country is so new, and so large that just a couple generations ago many people had farmsteads that were/had to be selfsufficient. We also only heard of those that made it, not the people who suffered and died in the harsh winters.

If everyone had to go out and start hunting/gathering to feed their families you'd see a complete raping of the land. Animals would be gone, pants would be stripped and seas would be empty.

This was an educational read, though personally I think the 3300cal/day is a little much especially over an extended period. There are plenty of places where people do not intake as much food and do plenty of hard work every day. They may not be gaining mass but they are not starving either. With that said i think as a base his numbers are a pretty good, especially to make a point of look now much stuff you have to gather/kill to feed JUST YOU.
3300 is a lot. More, I'd wager, than is necessary. It's right about the range for a bug out or surival when you need to walk and you're tryign to maintain your weight, but when you work all day farming or herding, you get lean quick. Americans are also bigger than most 3rd worlders from the get-go.

I think it's helpful to look at what happened to the buffalo, elk, and deer during harsh times. Or what sailors did to the little islands they landed on.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by ineffableone » Mon Oct 14, 2013 1:59 pm

While I have snares, a sling shot, a bow, fishing gear, etc ready for living off the land. As well as plenty of experience and skills for gathering wild edibles. I have long realized that in a real SHTF/PAW living off the land will be very dicey. The available resources will dwindle very quickly, and the range you need to hunt and gather puts you in constant risk of attack from others who are competing for the same resources.

On a recent thread I mentioned that a good thing people could do if they didn't already have domesticated livestock animals is in SHTF/PAW live trap some wild animals and "domesticate" them. Early in SHTF before the game has disappeared for example it could be a good idea to catch some bunnies and breed yourself some rabbit meat or plenty of other animals that can be penned and raised for your use. Something you could do to prep for this sort of thing, is get the supplies you might need to make a pen. Get a roll or two or three of chicken wire, have a surplus of nails and screws, have plenty of lumber stored, etc. Find plans for possible domestic animal cages you could build in SHTF and stock up on the supplies you need to make them. While you might not be able to raise rabbit or goats or chickens now, you would be ready to do it if you had the opportunity. And those supplies could be utilized for other projects if needed.

Another thing I advocate a lot is seed stock. Even if you can't grow a garden now, having seed to plant in PAW is a good plan. Seed is light low bulk and can store a long time. While it is handy to also stock up on garden tools and supplies, worst case senerio you can improvise plenty with no specialized tools. The important things to stock up on besides seed would be good books related to gardening and harvesting your seed to replant.

For both livestock and seed stock it would be wise to stock up on food storage. These things both tend to give more food than can be eaten right away and in PAW you likely wont have refrigeration etc. So having stocks for canning or other food storage is a good idea.

Of course it is better to have the garden already and the livestock already, but not always realistic for everyone in their current situations.

It should be pointed out that early hunter gathers actually worked a lot less (many experts estimate H/G life to have a 4hr work day average) than early or even modern farmers. Having more time for family, art, general recreational activities, etc. Of course this was before the deforestation and animal devastation and migration route blocking that was done by the farmers and modern society. I think this fact of an "easy life" as a hunter gather in the past is part of what makes people romanticize the concept and think they could survive that way. Of course the amount of knowledge of migration patterns, when and where different foods would be available and all the other things that developed over 100,000 yrs of hunting and gathering would be missing if modern man went out to try and do this life now.

Here is a little fun video about the Agriculture Revolution to give a little perspective
The Agricultural Revolution: Crash Course World History #1
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by JayceSlayn » Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:18 pm

I read the OP article on the Wood Trekker blog a little while back. He obviously brings up a good point, and it is a little disheartening to see nutrition requirements so often glossed over. In reality, living off the fat of the land in particular seasons may be easily possible, but without being able to gather and store food for the long term, austere seasons are likely to see you starve quickly. Nowadays, proper nutrition in a first world country is very easy to access, but some of us still have difficulty managing aspects of it. While salt, sugar, and fat abound to excess in processed foods, they are relatively sparse in natural food sources.

One show that I thought treated the issue with procuring enough food over a long term to sustain a person was also posted back on ZS some time ago: Alone in the Wild. The survivor lost a dramatic amount of weight, was forced to forage daily for meager food, and eventually food became his sole obsession day-in and day-out. He was arguably rescued from starvation by a food drop from his producers. The show was also very good for detailing his mental and emotional frustrations with the situation: slipping into depression about not being able to manage the situation satisfactorially, and just wanting to talk with another human being, etc.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Murphman » Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:49 pm

The fact that their are bag and creel limits should tell anyone who thinks they can live off the land how long that will actually happen if everyone has to do it. Limits rarely existed prior to the 1900's. I grew up hearing stories of lobsters and bluecrab being so plentiful that they were used for fertilizer from my grandparents and great uncles. Now there is a limit on even junk fish that breed quickly.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Woods Walker » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:06 pm

I use knowledge such as medicinal plants, wild edibles, firecraft, fishing and hunting skills etc etc for the joy of doing them and to have more options if faced with some unexpected situations. Anyone who thinks they can live over an extended time solo off the land is IMHO delusional. I have debated this topic with those who believed otherwise and it was frustrating.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Woods Walker » Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:12 pm

pasha wrote:Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions About Hunting and Gathering
http://woodtrekker.blogspot.com/2013/09 ... s-and.html
I found this to be a very interesting read. Here is a small sample.

The problem is not made any better by so called experts in the field, who fuel the myth that they are feeding themselves in the wilderness. I vividly remember watching Andrew Price, host of A-Z of Bushcraft in one of the episodes, waking up in the morning, walking a few feet next to camp, gathering a few berries, and then turning the the camera and saying “breakfast is served”. Ray Mears, aside from his excellent series, Wild Foods, has numerous instances where he gathers meager resources and then implies that his food requirement have been met.
No expert like those guys however however can attest to the physical effort and luck required to pull off a good meal in the woods. I actually got the opportunity to photograph such an activity during one of our MBO contests. Just an overnight outing.

These items were found during the day.

1. Naturalized apples.
2. Hickory nuts.
3. Wood sorrel.
4. wild scallions/onion grass.
5. Hemlock needles for tea, steeped in a can found on the ground.
6. Native brook trout caught with a DIY fishing pole made from a FAK, pine tar glue (made on site) and a maple sapling plus fising line and #12 hook.
7. Pine pitch.

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I could have gathered more edibles and maybe caught more trout but it was nearly peak season for lots of things. Even then it took time and effort along with some risk. What risks? I could have burned myself making the glue, boiling drinking water or cooking. I could have slipped on rocks when fishing, fallen over an exposed root, been stung by bees which were all over the place. I was chewed on by all sort of bugs including Lyme disease infested ticks. Heck in my last video posted partly on the topic of wild edibles a hickory nut hit me in the head when foraging, actually had the camera on when it happened. What if I was looking up? Guessing that little bit of foraging would be over for at least a few hours. :lol:

Naturally these risks are low but we are talking about fantasy living off the land not an overnight trip. One injury could be enough to start a downward spiral. Even during the best of times with ok weather, light rain overnight and temps 70-50 it just isn't easy. Toss in less than optimal months, bad weather, sickness and physical injury clearly the math of the universe is working against the fantasy backpack living off the land survivalist. Improving your situation is good, delusion expectations on the other hand seldom works out.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by tedbeau » Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:28 am

Woods Walker wrote:
pasha wrote:Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions About Hunting and Gathering
http://woodtrekker.blogspot.com/2013/09 ... s-and.html
I found this to be a very interesting read. Here is a small sample.

The problem is not made any better by so called experts in the field, who fuel the myth that they are feeding themselves in the wilderness. I vividly remember watching Andrew Price, host of A-Z of Bushcraft in one of the episodes, waking up in the morning, walking a few feet next to camp, gathering a few berries, and then turning the the camera and saying “breakfast is served”. Ray Mears, aside from his excellent series, Wild Foods, has numerous instances where he gathers meager resources and then implies that his food requirement have been met.
No expert like those guys however however can attest to the physical effort and luck required to pull off a good meal in the woods. I actually got the opportunity to photograph such an activity during one of our MBO contests. Just an overnight outing.
Interesting thread. I have some basic gathering skills, no where near the knowledge of Woods Walker however. It would be interesting to find out how many calories/grams of protein and carbs Woods Walker"s gathering/fishing netted him in his referenced post.

I can see where hunting trapping and gathering can help supplement your supplies in a bug out situation, except that if your bugging out, will you have time to hunt or trap? You can hunt on the move but it's a balancing act between covering ground to get away from the cause of the bug out verses stealth/staking speed. Snares require time to set and need time to work and require you to backtrack to them. Gathering at least can be done on the move so it's probably the best use of time and resources.

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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Manimal2878 » Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:42 pm

Woods Walker wrote: It would be interesting to find out how many calories/grams of protein and carbs Woods Walker"s gathering/fishing netted him in his referenced post.
Just looking at the pic, taking wild guesses and googling the calories I came up with 1114 calories.

Wiki says that a trout filet only has about 117 calories. If those apples are at all similar to store bought apples they would have about 120 calories each. The hickory nuts about 20 each. Sorrel is about 30 per chopped cup. Berries about 15 per ounce. The other vegetation in the pic would have hardly any calories.

So in that pic I see: Trout: 234 calories
Apples: 120
Nuts: 460
Sorrel: 30
Wild onion: 30 ish?
Purple berry things? 240? (Not sure what those are, if they are like other berries probably about 15 calories an ounce, looks to be about a pound.)
Total: 1114 calories

My base metabolic rate doubles that. Depending on the effort to gather that amount of food I might be better off to just sit there doing nothing if it was a short term type survival situation. Long term I would starve to death if that is all I could come up with each day.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Boondock » Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:47 pm

tedbeau wrote:I can see where hunting trapping and gathering can help supplement your supplies in a bug out situation, except that if your bugging out, will you have time to hunt or trap?
Very, very well put. That's an extremely important consideration and highly overlooked in most wilderness bug-out contingencies.

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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by GentryMillMan » Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:50 pm

This blog does a good job of pointing out how much you really need to weigh the risk/reward of anything you are doing. There is much debate on the actual amount of calories he is suggesting someone would need, but that all ultimately comes down to what are you really doing. If you are sitting watching a fishing line you probably aren't burning a lot of calories anyway. If you are stalking a deer through rough terrain you are probably burning through them pretty quickly. so to say that you need 3k calories is probably a nice goal, but not always true IMO..
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Oct 16, 2013 6:51 pm

Manimal2878 wrote:
Woods Walker wrote: It would be interesting to find out how many calories/grams of protein and carbs Woods Walker"s gathering/fishing netted him in his referenced post.
Just looking at the pic, taking wild guesses and googling the calories I came up with 1114 calories.

Wiki says that a trout filet only has about 117 calories. If those apples are at all similar to store bought apples they would have about 120 calories each. The hickory nuts about 20 each. Sorrel is about 30 per chopped cup. Berries about 15 per ounce. The other vegetation in the pic would have hardly any calories.

So in that pic I see: Trout: 234 calories
Apples: 120
Nuts: 460
Sorrel: 30
Wild onion: 30 ish?
Purple berry things? 240? (Not sure what those are, if they are like other berries probably about 15 calories an ounce, looks to be about a pound.)
Total: 1114 calories

My base metabolic rate doubles that. Depending on the effort to gather that amount of food I might be better off to just sit there doing nothing if it was a short term type survival situation. Long term I would starve to death if that is all I could come up with each day.
The native brook trout was nearly totally eaten so the numbers might be higher. Fillets are just too wasteful, impractical and fancy for me. More so considering I didn't have utensils. :lol:

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I did catch other trout that day however they were shorts so let them go. Here is one of them.

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The berries are actually a fruit. Grapes grow in open areas like the margins of fields or even within the tree canopy. Here is the actual vine I picked them from during the outing. Despite being past season I could have taken more.

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That wasn't the best year for hickory nuts but could have foraged much more. Here is the result of 30 minutes of foraging today. We picked 3 naturlized apples and a good amount of hickory nuts.

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What I gathered for an MBO contest within Autumn doesn't imply that's the maximum time would allow. Also in no way does it imply I could reproduce that success again. I had tons of failures during other outings. I think foraging should be viewed as a tool to better a person's situation but not at the expense of more pressing needs.
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by angelofwar » Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:14 pm

ineffableone wrote: Here is a little fun video about the Agriculture Revolution to give a little perspective
The Agricultural Revolution: Crash Course World History #1
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http://www.zombiehunters.org/forum/view ... w#p2141127

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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by ineffableone » Thu Oct 17, 2013 12:04 am

angelofwar wrote:Be a MONGOL!!! :clap:
:awesome:

If you watch the other vids in the series, over and over they mention the Mongols are the exception.
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angelofwar
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by angelofwar » Thu Oct 17, 2013 12:28 am

:words:
ineffableone wrote:
angelofwar wrote:Be a MONGOL!!! :clap:
:awesome:

If you watch the other vids in the series, over and over they mention the Mongols are the exception.
I believe there are people that are the epitome of the human spirit...the strong men that carried the world on the shoulders, and made due, regardless of what state they found them selves...and I believe these people still exist...mostly in spirit/mental fortitude...
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts..."
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Woods Walker
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Re: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions

Post by Woods Walker » Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:50 pm

So does anyone want me to do it again? Here is what I am thinking about.

1. Use marginal means to start a fire. No matches, lighters or firesteels.
2. Use marginal means to fish. Just stuff that is often packed in a BOB or PSK. No rod and reel.
3. No packed food or water.
4. I have a hunting licence but will forgo small game hunting.
5. No stoves or eating utensils. Would have to make a pot hook.

I would target maybe these wild edibles in no particular order.

1. Hickory nuts.
2. Black Walnuts.
3. Partridge berries.
4. Wild carrots. First year growth.
5. Conifer needles. Say Eastern White pine or Hemlock.
6. Wild grapes. Could be past season.
7. Onion grass/wild scallions.
8. Wood Sorrel.
9. Rose hips.

I know of more that can be found this time of year but those would be my primary targets. Any speculation on how many calories could be obtained in the time allowed 1-2 days and actually carried around? How many of the target edibles could be found? They don't live in the same areas so might not walk out of the river valley just to find stuff growing in the margins of fields or just might. Hard to say? I would also have to find the materials needed for marginal firecraft. If time allows might do a bow drill as well. I would pack my hammock taking the need for shelter off the table.

Edit. Could do a new fire chain. Start a coal using either a bow drill or knife and quartz but the small spark caught on fungus, chaga then blow that coal into fire to create natural charred materials. That charred material would in theory more easily create the next fire. Hence the term fire chain.
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