How to Track and Prepare Mammals for Food n Wilderness Safety

Mammals provide a source of meat. In a survival situation, they should be considered a great source of food and nourishment. That said, unless you have a rifle with you, it will be nearly impossible to procure large mammals, such as deer. Instead, you will be much more successful with smaller mammals, such as squirrels, rabbits, and the like.

Tracking Game

The easiest way to procure small mammals for food is to first track them. Look for beaten-down trails that may lead to water or bedding areas. You can also look for nests, burrows, flattened-down grass in fields, as well as fresh droppings.

Using Handheld Weapons to Acquire Game

If you do not have access to a rifle or other type of gun to acquire game, you will have to improvise using handheld weapons. Handheld weapons include spears, rocks, throwing sticks, weighted clubs, slingshots, and rodent skewers. Let's discuss how to use each of these examples of handheld weapons.


Any spear that you use to hunt game should be between five and six feet long. Hold the spear in your right hand. Raise the spear above you shoulder. The spear should be parallel to the ground, and your hand should be in the center of the spear. Put your left food forward. The trunk of your body should be perpendicular to the game you are targeting. Point your left hand and arm toward the game. This will help guide you in throwing the spear. When you are ready, thrust your arm with the spear forward, and release the spear. You want to aim for the chest and heart of the animal. If you are left handed, reverse these directions to accommodate your left hand.


You can use rocks to throw at, hit, and stun an animal. Once you stun the animal by hitting it with the rock, you can catch and kill it. When you throw the rock, you should aim for the animal's head and shoulders. Treat the rock as if it were a baseball, and throw it the same way.

Throwing Sticks

A throwing stick should be two to three feet long. One end should be weighted. Hold the thinner or lighter end of the stick, then throw it. You can throw it overhand or using a sidearm throw. You should aim for the animal's head or shoulders.

Weighted Club

You will need to construct a weighted club using materials found in the wilderness. You will need a rock that is six to eight inches long. It will also need to be three to four inches wide, as well as one inch thick. In addition, you will need to cut a two to three foot branch of straight-grained wood. It should be one to two inches in diameter. Lash a line around the wood. The lash should be six to eight inches down on one end. The wood should then be split down the center and to the lash. Next, insert the rock between the wood (where you split it). Put it as close to the lashing as possible. To fasten the rock to the stick, use lashing above, below, and then across the rock. Use the weighted club in the same manner as a throwing stick.


To use a slingshot, place a small rock in the pouch of the slingshot. Hold it there with your thumb and pointer finger on your right hand. Your left foot should be placed forward. The trunk of your body should be perpendicular to the target. Straighten your righ arm as you hold the slingshot, then draw the pouch back toward your right eye. The animal you are targeting should be positioned between the fork of the slingshot. Aim for the head or shoulder of the animal when you release the rock.

If you do not have a slingshot as part of your gear, you will have to create an improvised slingshot. To do this, you will need:

1.      Elastic cord

2.      Surgical tubing

3.      Bungee cord

4.      Webbing or leather (for the pouch)

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To create the slingshot, cut a forked branch. The branch should be six to eight inches long. The forked side should be three to five inches. You will need to carve notches on the forked side that are ½ inch down from the top. Next, take the elastic cord (or line). You will need two pieces that are 10 to 12 inches long. Wrap the end of each cord around the carved notches, then lash them together. Once you have done that, it is time to create the pouch. To create the pouch, cut a piece of webbing or leather that is three inches long, as as well as one to two inches wide. Make a small hole that is ½ inch from each side, then run ½ of the free end of the cord through the hole. Secure the cord by lashing it to each side.

Rodent Skewers

If you want to catch a rodent that is holed up in the ground or a nest, you can use a forked spear that is made from a long sapling as a rodent skewer. Thrust the pointed end into the hole until you feel the animal, then twist so it gets snagged in the fur. You can then pull the animal out. Use a club or rock to kill the animal.

Using Traps and Snares

In addition to using handheld weapons, you can also use snares and traps. There are many different types of snares that you can use to catch wild game. However, the best type of snare that you can use, regardless of climate, is the simple loop snare.

About Snares

Snares are made using wire, cable, or a line strong enough to hold the type of animal that you want to catch and wired to a small tree. The snare has a loop that is placed several inches above the ground. How high the loop is placed also depends on the size of the animal that you want to catch. The idea is to place bait near the snare so that the animal moves forward and places his head in the snare. When the animal does this, the snare tightens and chokes the animal.

Making a Simple Loop Snare

You can make a simple loop snare out of line or wire. If you are making it out of wire, make a fixed loop by bending the wire two inches from the end. Fold it back on itself, then twist the end of the wire and the body together. Make sure to create a small loop.

Below is a rough, hand-drawn sketch that pictures the four different steps in creating a simple loop snare with wire:

Next, twist the loop in the middle until an "8" is formed, then fold the top half of the eight over the bottom half. Run the end of the wire through the loop. If you are making the snare out of line, start by making a slipknot. The slipknot should tighten down when an animal puts its head through, then moves forward.

You should place at least fifteen snares for every one animal you want to catch. You should place snares at openings to dens or in well-traveled areas. Attach the free end of the snare to a rock or branch. Make sure to hide your scent by placing the snare under water or over smoke for several minutes. The scent of a human will scare off an animal.

Making a Squirrel Pole

You can use a squirrel pole to catch several squirrels at the same time. The best part of using a squirrel pole is you do not need many materials, time, or even effort. All you have to do is attach multiple simple loop snares to a pole that is about six feet long. Lean the pole in on area where squirrels feed. To determine where squirrels feed, look for mounds of pinecone scales. These are usually on stumps or fallen trees. The idea is that the squirrel will use the pole to access his feeding site.

The Common Trap

Preparation is key to survival. That said, if you have room in your gear, you can prepare to catch animals for food in a survival situation by packing a few large rat traps. These traps aren't just for catching rats or mice. You can also catch snakes, rabbits, opossums, squirrels, and birds.

Put a hole in one corner of the trap. Run a 10' piece of paracord through the hole, and tie a knot at the end to secure it. Tie the paracord to a branch or pole. Place some bait on the trap to attract animals.

The Paite Deadfall Mangle Snare

To construct this type of snare, you will need four slender branches and a short line. The trap will have five parts:

1.      Upright. The upright part is the only part that has contact with the ground.  It should have a blat bottom and beveled top.  In addition, it needs to be long enough so that a 45-degree angle is created between the mangle device, which is typically a rock, and the ground.

2.      Diagonal. The diagonal part is 2/3 the length of the upright part.  This part is created by cutting a notch that's one inch from the tip.   You will then cut a circular groove ½ inch up on the other end.

3.      Trigger. Use a small branch for the trigger that extends one inch beyond both sides of the upright part when placed perpendicular to it. 

4.      Bait stick.  The bait stick needs to be long enough to touch both the trigger stick and rock when its parallel to the ground.

5.      Line.  The line is attached to the circular notch on the diagonal part.  It should be long enough to wrap around the lower part of the upright while attached to the trigger.  The line that's attached to the trigger should be opposite the line coming off the diagonal.  There should be a 45-degree angle between the upright and the upper end of the diagonal.

Set the snare by tying the line to the circular groove. Place the diagonal, notch side up, on the rock. You want to form a 45-degree angle between the rock and the ground. Next, place the beveled side of the upright into the notch. Keep the 45-degree angle. Place the upright to it is perpendicular to the ground.

Attach the line to the trigger by running the line off the diagonal's groove around the upright. The trigger should be perpediular to the upright. It should also be on the side away from the rock. The bait stick should hold the trigger in place. Place the bait stick parallel to the ground. One end of it should touch the trigger. The other end should touch the lower part of the rock.

Put bait on the bait stick. The idea is that when an animal tries to eat the bait, the trigger is tripped, and the rock falls on the animal.

Types of Bait

Different types of animals will respond to different types of bait. That said, you can use small pieces of meat or fish to catch opossums and turtles. Seeds, grass, and berries will attract rabbits and birds. You can also catch a mouse and use it as bait for a snake.

Animals to Avoid Eating

There are only two types of small animals that you might want to avoid eating. Those two animals are the armadillo and the raccoon. Armadillos are known to spread leprosy in humans. There may not be any signs of leprosy, but it can still be spread to you if you eat it. Raccoons are carriers of rabies. If you are in a survival situation, and you have no choice, make sure to cook the raccoon meat throroughly before eating it. That said, if it is eating a raccoon or armadillo - or starvation - you may choose to take your chances.