What’s the best way to learn to live off the land?
Do you have to grow up hunting and fishing in order to live off of the land? Tmy Boise, Idaho
Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Ah, my favorite area of study. A lifetime study actually, but one that we modern humans can learn regardless of whether we grew up in the city or the country. Living off the land is the single most challenging area of wilderness study in my opinion. Native peoples throughout the world spend their entire lives perfecting the skills of tracking, hunting, fishing, trapping and procuring wild plants.
There have been times when I’ve gone out foraging and fishing and come home with my catch within a few hours and other times when I’ve spent days out and seen nothing. Rather than looking to the land to provide all of your needs, seek to supplement your diet at home with wild foods. This will decrease your dependency on “the system,” as well as provide you with a much healthier diet.
If you want to venture off into the bush, Jeremiah Johnson style, then you will need to learn from someone versed in the subject and ease yourself into it. Start nearby with someone in your family who hunts or goes fishing regularly. They can show you the basics of safety and gear use. Acquire these as your baseline skills and then expand on them by learning a half-dozen edible plants each summer.
Research the archeological record to see what native cultures used for wild foods in your home state. No need to reinvent the wheel- the blueprint for hunting and gathering has already been worked out for you by countless generations of indigenous hunters.
Consider also taking a class in long-term wilderness living with a survival school (not an endurance hiking expedition) that focuses on the skills beyond simple survival.
Hunting, foraging, and food procurement are aimed at one thing: feeding yourself to stay alive. In my opinion, there is no justification in killing for sport. Hunt because you need to feed your family, for survival, or to supplement your diet with healthy food.