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Time to test your survival knowledge.  The key to survival is minimizing experimentation.  There are a lot of things you have to do in a survival situation: choose a shelter site, make a shelter, find water, find food, make fire, navigate treacherous terrain, etc etc.  Any time you have to experiment, you are essentially gambling with your time, energy, and calories.  An expert survivalist will know exactly where to make shelter, where to find food, where to find bow-drill parts and other tools and so on.  When you achieve this level of skill then survival is easy (as long as you are in a landscape that can support you).  Here are some questions to think about.

1.  What are 10 factors that you would consider when choosing a shelter location?

2.  What are 3 birds whose calls will lead you to water?

3.  What are two tree species that tell you where there is water?

4. Where would you go to find stones for cutting tools?

5. What is the most abundant small game in western Washington and where would you find them?

6.  What 2 parts of cattail is edible this time of year (spring)?

7.  How do you skin a rabbit without a cutting tool?

8.  Are slugs good to eat?

9.  How long can you expect to live off the land off of small game?

10.  What is the easiest trap to make without a cutting tool?

11.  Where would you go to find bow-drill parts (in western Washington)?

12.  Where would you go to find cordage (in western Washington)?

13.  What are some different cordage options in western Washington and for what different tasks would you use them for? 

Looking forward to your answers!


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This is a great quiz!  Some of these questions are very challenging.  I think the answers would vary slightly or dramatically depending on where you end up doing a survival situation...

1) - close proximity to materials

- away from widow-maker branches or trees

- avoid low spots that can collect water quickly

- avoid areas with concentrated activity of venomous snakes

- make a shelter appropriate for your needs (the right size and shape)

- don't place your shelter next to water that can rise rapidly

- don't place your shelter at the top of a hill/mountain (too cold)

- don't place your shelter in a deep valley (cold sink at night)

- use strong structural poles that can hold at least your body weight


2) - red-winged blackbird

- marsh wren

- American bittern

3) - willow species

- cottonwoods

4) - along large creeks or river bars

5) - Do voles count as small game?

6) - pollen heads and very young leaves

7) - I don't know.

8) - Depends on how they are eaten and with what.  Also, in some areas such as on the islands of Hawai'i, slugs can carry diseases that can be transmitted if ingested raw.

9) - I think that is dependant on what kind of small game, but if I had to guess generally speaking, I would say a few months at most.

10) I am not sure... perhaps a basic snare or very simple deadfall.

11) Look up in trees for dry branches, or in the fallen root balls that a suspended off the wet ground.

12) Depends on what you need it for and which plant you are looking for.  Generally, moist woodland edges and riparian areas are good.

13) Stinging nettle ( one of the strongest plant fibers in the area, good choice for bowdrill cord).  Red cedar bark (very strong, lots of processing, can be used to tow a lot of weight).  Fireweed (not the strongest, but common and useful for more basic survival needs such as simple lashings).  Willow back (temp lashings for shelter poles).  I am sure we can think of more...

Great job Fil, 

1.  I would add avoiding areas with high winds and specify close proximity to shelter building materials, firewood, drinking water, and food.  

5.  I was not thinking of voles.  I'm thinking of something juicier and easier to trap.

6.  I haven't eaten young cattail leaves - are they good?  I was thinking of the pollen and inner part of young shoots.

7.  Rabbits have super thin skin.  You can just tear through it with your hands around the knee and then tear it along the same lines you would use a knife to skin larger game.  If the skin is especially tough you can force the knee bone through the skin and open it that way.

8.  I have a friend who told me he had eaten hundreds of slugs.  I'm not sure what species they were and I would definitely recommend cooking them.

9.  Generally I would say that living off of small game is the same as starving slowly.  In some places native people did rabbit drives where they ate a huge abundance of small game and if you are adding bigger "small game" like beavers then you can certainly live long-term off of them.  I would say in western Washington you NEED to kill something large within the first couple weeks.  It is extremely difficult doing all your survival chores when you don't have enough to eat.  

10.  Paiute traps are very easy to make without cutting tools as long as you can whip up a little bit of cordage.  For the vertical stick you can use a forked branch.  Very quick and easy.

11.  I would add going towards water.  Most good bow-drill trees grow by water (cottonwoods/willow).  


1.  1-level site 2-avoid hazard trees 3-avoid high winds 4- positive drainage 5-close to water 6-close to fuelwood 7-close to food 8-close to stone tools 9- avoid poisonous plants and animal habitat 10- close to shelter materials

2. Red wing blackbird, marsh wren, dipper

3. willow, cottonwood

4. low spots (river banks, creeksides, etc.) road cuts are good too.  Anywhere stone has been exposed

5. It depends on what you mean by small game.  If bullfrogs are small game then it is bullfrogs.  If we are talking mammals, then it is either aplodontia or doug squirrel or ( I doubt this one) cottontail

6. rhizome and shoot

7. stand on its front feet and yank on the hinds?

8.  They are not good by any means, but a few can be ingested I guess.  I watched a teenager eat a huge one raw for 20 bucks.

9.  A month maybe a little more. If you are by yourself then maybe a little bit longer.

10. I don't know.  A snare?

11. standing dead wood from cedar, cottonwood, or willows.  Or old growth cedar can work.

12. Nettle patches.

13. Nettle (good), cedar bark (good),  fireweed (moderate), cattail (moderate/weak), cedar and spruce rootlets (moderate) for rough lashings, rawhide (good when not raining), sinew (good), scotchbroom bark (weak), trailing blackberry (weak)

How did I do?

Steve, you did great.

5. I didn't think about bullfrogs.  That is a good point.  They are a seasonal food source though which is something to consider.  In western WA I'm going to say aplodontia is the most abundant and practical to catch small game.

7. Rabbit skin is so thin you can just pull it apart along the same lines you would cut if you had a knife.

8.  I have a friend from Teaching Drum who has eaten hundreds of slugs.  He is still alive although he is a little weird.  I didn't know him before he was a slug eater so I can't tell you if it affected his brain.

9.  I think in western WA you are not going to do well at all off of small game.  I would personally want to kill a large animal in the first week.  Small game helps you starve slower but you are not going to put on weight unless you can kill beavers or larger.  

10.  Pauite is the easiest one I know of... I'll draw a diagram.

13.  Nice variety there.  I would add green willow bark.  I've seen entire shelters lashed together with willow bark.  They were very solid shelters.

Here is the no-carving paiute:

Very simple as long as you can make a little bit of cordage.


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