If you want fresh meat you ain’t gonna get it in the supermarket. To quote Monty Python “Say no more”. To enable you to get a sneaky taste of the good stuff, you have to take part in the demise of your creature of choice. Be it by way of a rod or gun or some sort of trap. Does wild meat taste better? I would say yes, if your talking free range and a healthy diet then the meat you get will almost certainly reflect those two attributes.
The problem these days is not the way in which you come across the animals you can eat, but method of dispatch. Our society is far too sanitised today to allow many of the snares below to be used. Legality and cruelty to animals is taken very seriously, thus doing things the old fashioned way is frowned upon. It is for these reasons I would discourage anyone to go ahead and set any of these traps, but for those of you willing to get your hands dirty you will almost certainly be rewarded! Society today is hell bent on the suppression of the old way of life…should we move into the 21st century forgetting all of which got us where we are today? I don’t think you would find many hunter-gatherers saying to one and other; “Probably shouldn’t use that trap because it might hurt the animal and I don’t want to be responsible for killing it…”. Hell no! I think they were more concerned with staying alive. There is the same old argument stating the fact that why would you need to do this when you can buy your meat in a shop. I believe the answer to this is three-fold, its called living (because life can pass you by without ever having truly felt the male instinct to hunt and provide and act on it), the meat is too good and of course it is free food.
I have used many of these traps and they are all fairly humane, as long as they are regularly checked. The sense of the achievable is also a huge factor, the connection with the land around you and knowing that you have read it correctly and set your trap in the right place in order to secure food. All these things are important so we don’t forget just how lucky we are today. I pay great respect to the people who have developed these cunning methods of capture throughout the centuries, especially the poachers of old England who managed to provide for their starving families, without which some of you may not even be here today.
The Ground Snare:
The traditional method for catching Rabbits, also used for pheasants. The snare itself is quite often made from a short hazel peg and a length of twisted brass wire with a running loop. Never set in front of an animal’s hole, always in hedgerows or rabbit/game runs. The same principle applies to the spring snare below only the spring snare suspends the prey off the ground away from other predators.
This is a good way of catching squirrels especially if the pole is baited, I myself have had a squirrel pole set for two days without anything happening. Add a few acorns or cracked wheat and the results are a lot better (2 on 1 pole!). Again this method employs a wire noose and a couple of poles can be placed against a few trees in a wood, ideally against a tree which holds a Drey (squirrels ‘nest’).
A useful method for a variety of prey, set on a game trail, this method can turn out, squirrels, rabbits, pigeons, game and even rats. In place of a large rock, a bundle of logs bound together can be used. Again it helps to bait this trap and ideally know what animal you are after in order to select the correct height to set the trigger stick.
Here are three useful traps to have up your sleeve, a couple on the wrong side of the law. The first two are derived from old English poaching methods (The New poachers handbook by Ian Niall, Heinmann: 1960).
The Line Snare:
A cunning method for getting your hands on pigeons and pheasants. Best set in open corn stubble, grassland or along hedgerows. The more set the higher chance of success, fishing line or thin cord is threaded through raisins or berries (about 6 to 7 on 5 foot of line). The principle is, the bird will take the bait eating along the line, by the time it gets to the last morsel it has about 4 foot of line in its gut and is well and truly stuck. Another form of this snare is to set a line with a baited hook…animal rights eat your heart out.
The Wildfowl snare:
This method of snaring wildfowl was certainly developed out of a need for complete un-detection. The idea being to drive a thick wooden stake into the lake bed or slow moving river bed and place a stone the 1/3 a weight of a duck on top, onto the stone is tied a short length of line with a baited hook of bread or even worms (as long as they float on or near the surface. Once the duck has taken the bait and the hook is set, the duck’s movement will make the stone drop pulling the duck into deeper water drowning it. Make sure you get to it before the pike do!
Ojibwa bird pole:
This has been used for hundreds of years by Native Americans. The trap is set in a clearing or field and acts as a perch for unsuspecting birds. The pole is about 4ft in height and the snare wire is attached to a stone, which is kept in place by a thin pencil sized stick. When the bird lands on the perch, its weight will force the pencil sized stick down and the snare will tighten around the birds feet suspending upside down in the air ready for collection…don’t use too heavy a stone otherwise you might take the legs clean off!
In my opinion, by far the easiest method of obtaining food is to look to the water. In most cases it is best to be in easy reach of a river or lake for a variety of reasons, mainly for fish.
The Night line:
This is by far the most effective way of fishing for survival as it involves very little energy being used. Prepare as many as you can to increase your chances. Set them before night falls, check them around Midnight, remove your catch (most likely Eels) and rebait for checking in the morning. Can catch almost every type of fish, I once caught an Eel which a Pike had decided to take and the result was 2 for 1!
The Fish dam:
This method is used on small shallow rivers or streams in places such as Scotland/Devon/Wales. A bit more labour intensive, yields smaller fish but once it is built it can be checked constantly and requires little or no maintenance. Again if baited with chopped worm etc. results can be improved.
Please note: Some of these illustrations are from field & stream.