Wilderness Survival For City Dwellers

Welcome to this week’s Survive The Coming Collapse newsletter, brought to you by Tactical Firearms Training Secrets, which goes into detail on how to keep improving your firearms skills in a time of crazy-expensive ammo…if you can even find it. If you own a gun, you need this book. It’s less than a single ticket to the movies and you’ll save more than that in your first 5 minutes of training.   If you’re a fan of Top Shot, Dustin Ellermann is on the cover and demonstrates skills throughout.  To learn more, go >HERE< now.  And, to see my brief commentary on Wednesday night’s episode 2 of Top Shot: All Stars, go >HERE<  -David

Survival Diva here, about to upset the applecart for some who plan to flee to the wilderness post SHTF. The good news is that with forethought and preparation, you can drastically reduce the challenges posed by wilderness survival.

Many of us here on the forum have given up luxuries in order to prepare and many of us spend a good deal of our time researching what it will take to survive after a breakdown in infrastructure and/or civil order, and then make the necessary improvements needed to increase our preparedness. In that vein, I have listed some of the challenges that will have to be overcome to survive for any length of time in the wilderness.

(David’s note:  Why mention the wilderness when a lot of what I have written about focuses on urban skills?

Great question.  I actually wrote an article on this that I encourage you to read by going >HERE<.  In short, for many families, it’s easier to get them to buy into practicing wilderness survival skills than it is to get them to buy into practicing urban survival skills.  And, although there’s not a perfect correlation between wilderness and urban survival skills, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.  In other words, you might not be able to get your family to turn off the utilities to your house for 48 hours to test your preparations at home, but it’s much more likely that you CAN get them to go hunting, fishing, or camping for 48 hours.  Perfect?  No.  Baby steps in the right direction?  Absolutely.

It’s a page right out of Mary Poppins’ book…hide the work behind fun and you learn without knowing it.)

Although many of us already enjoy the outdoors, and aren’t strangers to camping, fishing and hunting, please take a look at the list below and access your personal survivability during a long-term crisis.  Everybody is going to have different scales of success–if you’re in your 70s and your 95 year old mother lives with you, your realm of possibilities are slightly different than a single guy in his late 20s who just got out of the Army after 2 Airborne deployments.  With that in mind:

  1. Are you physically fit, to the point that hiking steep mountainsides, or running with a heavy backpack is possible?
  2. Could you withstand extreme heat or cold for long periods of time?
  3. Could you deal with a soaking tent, clothing, and terrain during the spring and fall?
  4. Can you identify edible plants for food and medicinal purposes, and do you have a thorough book on edible plants that will let you know what is safe to eat if ever there was a question?
  5. Do you have the shooting or archery skills that will allow you to hunt, and if so, do you have the right equipment and ammo to get the job done?
  6. Can you make a snare to catch game?
  7. If you were to take down a deer or another animal, could you gut it, butcher it, and preserve the meat while in the wilderness?
  8. Do you have what it takes to defend yourself, even when that may mean having to take another person’s life while having to defend your or your loved ones life?  Put another way, have you answered the question of whether or not your life is worth preserving if someone else is trying to snuff it out?
  9. Will children be with you, and if so, would it be possible to keep them silent if it becomes necessary to “disappear” from others?
  10. Do you have the skills to start a fire from scratch when the matches run out?
  11. Do you have the skills and equipment to cook over an open fire pit?
  12. Do you have the stamina to wash clothes in a stream, gather wood and carry the heavy water containers back to camp?
  13. Will there be enough members in your group to patrol the parameters of your camp site when such safety measures become necessary?  Do you know how to patrol?  Do you know how to set up perimeter alarms?
  14. Are you free of physical limitations or ailments that would make living in the wilderness for a long period of time unrealistic?
  15. Do you have a “the glass is always half-full” mental attitude that will let you continue, even when the going gets rough?
  16.  Are you close to a wilderness setting, and if not, do you have the combat training to get past groups of looters and worse who will want what you carry in your backpack?
  17. Is everyone in your family or group team players, or are there those who may cause dissention?
  18. Do you have reality based (no punching to the face) hand-to-hand combat and tactical training expertise, like Target Focus Training?
  19. Do you have the medical training to treat emergencies such as wounds, and general illness and could you treat a dental problem?

This list was not meant to deflate anyone’s plan to flee to the wilderness. Many others have faced these questions and have worked to fill in any holes in their survival plan through training and practice.  It’s not an all or nothing proposal.    It’s simply a self-check that you can use to identify vulnerabilities, prioritize them, and start knocking them off one at a time.

Now is an excellent time to honestly access your survival skills and work on your expertise if necessary.

If you feel you are up for extended wilderness survival, and that’s backed up by personal experience, then you probably are. However, there is one other aspect about wilderness survival that should be considered.

When I grew concerned over the high number of folks who plan to flee to the wilderness and live off wild game when SHTF,  I asked an Alaskan Fish and Game manager if people could expect to survive off wild game during a long-duration crisis. His answer was pretty much what I expected; “If people plan on surviving on moose and bear for any length of time, they’re gonna starve.

What moose and bear that would be left would be high in the mountains, where only a hardy few could climb, and even fewer would be able to drag the kill back down the mountain,” was his chilling answer.

He went on to say the moose and bear population (there are no deer in central Alaska and the caribou are predominantly in the far north) will be hunted in a matter of weeks. However, the feedback I got from my Fish & Game contact is partially due to everyone in Alaska having numerous firearms, and many of them are avid hunters, so you may have better odds in your region.

Have a look at the following wild game demographics in the U.S. and pit the numbers against the U.S. population of nearly 321 million

For this post, I did extensive research for the most current  population of the  most commonly hunted wild game.


The deer population today is between 24 to 30 million. Lucky for us, this is an amazing recovery from the 500,000 in the 1900’s.


The U.S. Elk population is 1 million and growing.

Wild Boar

The wild Boar population is predominately concentrated in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, California, and surprisingly, Oregon and Hawaii, but they are are found to a smaller extent in three-fourths of U.S. states. Their population is  approximately 5 million.

Black Bear

The Black Bear population throughout the U.S is 300,000. However, in Florida and Louisiana, the black bear is on the threatened list.

Brown Bear

As you’d expect, the brown bear population is concentrated in Canada and Alaska and total to 30,000.


The beaver population is estimated to be from 6 to 12 million.


A VERY rough estimate of the U.S. squirrel population stands at approximately 1.12 trillion—very, very small meals.

Wild Turkey

There are an estimated 7 million wild turkeys in the U.S.

Although mountain goats, and bighorn and thinhorn sheep were once popular game, their numbers have dwindled. Because of their low numbers they were not added to the list. Opossums are routinely hunted in some regions of the United States and as they are both omnivores and herbivores, they are extremely adaptable while their habitat continues to grow. Although Opossum numbers are large, population statistics are not available.

(David’s note:  Perhaps the most disturbing part of this is that, frankly, most people suck at both hunting and shooting.  They can’t stalk.  They don’t have good noise, smell, or visual discipline.  They don’t shoot their weapons regularly.  Most don’t have them sighted in accurately.  Many don’t have good trigger discipline.  Others don’t know where to aim for quick, clean kills.  Some misjudge size and kill 90 pound fawns.  Others shoot females of species with low population densities.  Fix all of those problems, and hunters have a tendency to rush their shots, try to shoot through trees, or engage game at distances beyond their ability.  And, if they get lucky, they don’t wait for their prey to bleed out, can’t track a blood trail from a double lung+heart shot, and wouldn’t recognize spor on a freshly raked beach.  (can you tell I get a little riled up on this topic?)

Add all of these factors together and multiply them by the number of low-skill hunters who plan on living off of the land in a disaster situation and the most likely scenario is that a LOT of high quality, edible game will get shot and killed but the meat wasted or eaten by scavengers.  Heck, with big game, you’ve even got the issue of how to pack the meat out after you shoot it…which oftentimes results in 1/2-3/4 of the kill being left behind.

Why do I mention all of this?  First of all, as a tool for self assessment.  Secondly, if you’ve got all of your skills honed, the game in your area of operations will still be subject to people who don’t know what they’re doing, so plan accordingly.)

If you are as disappointed with the numbers of wild game vs. the human population as I was, there are things we can do to get through lean times.

If you will be locating to a fishing area, an important part of your survival equipment should include fishing gear for all members of your family or group.

If you haven’t already, start educating yourself on wild edible foods. I highly recommend a field book that includes clear photos of poisonous look-alikes so you’re able to correctly identify plants before consuming them. Personally, I own two such books: Edible & Medicinal Plants of the Rockies by Linda Kershaw and Edible Wild Plants; A North American Field Guide by Elias & Dykeman. If you have a favorite, please share it with the group!

Consider burying cashes of food and supplies in the location you will be relocating to before a crisis strikes. Of course, this is best done with stealth!

That concludes this week’s post. Next week I will be concentrating on how to harden your home against looters for those of you who plan to shelter in place.

Does your escape plan include fleeing to the wilderness, or do you plan on surviving in place, no matter what? Do you have a strategy to harvest wild foods? Please share your hunting tips and strategies with the forum. If you are proficient at gathering wild foods and medicinal herbs, please share your tips along with any books you would recommend by commenting below.

Chapter 11 of Implant is now available. Click Here to continue reading!

God bless and stay safe,

David Morris and Survival Diva


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  1. Another source of protein I don’t see mentioned is rats and mice. They are everywhere but few people see them. Learn their habits and lifestyle now, including how to hunt and trap them. An example – I noticed rats using the hedgerow at a Starbucks to hide while waiting for customers to drop bits of food. Soon after the folks leave the rats dart out from hiding and snatch the crumbs so fast its a blur. As an survival experiment, I purchased the smallest fish hooks I could find, secured them with spider wire to a Starbucks sidewalk table and baited it with doughnut crumbs pressed on the hook like catfish dough bait…then waited. Within five minutes I had snagged two! The hardest part was not drawing attention from passerby’s.

  2. Dogs (and cats) will be abandoned almost immediately. They will quickly revert to pack hunters posing a very high threat level. However, since they will be hunting you and what domestic livestock you retain, “hunting” them should provide you meat if you’re up to the fight. Domestic dogs gone wild are considerably more dangerous than their native cousins because they have little, if any, fear of humans.

  3. As someone who has hunted, fished, camped and farmed for over 50 years, I think panicking is not the answer. Survival skills are learned over years, not days, weeks, or months. I think that the deer population is probably safe. How many deer hunters are there in the US? Approximately 10 million and population of the US, about 316 million, so 300 million inexperienced deer hunters will not last long in a survival situation. The estimated population of deer in the US is approx. 30 million. Even if a non hunter happened to kill a deer, can they dress it out, skin it, then cut the meat up and preserve it? Would you know how to prepare and cook deer? Not likely. And if you never had squirrel dumplings and rabbit stew growing up, how will you survive. My brother and I had approx. 50 rabbit boxes when we were 12 years old, and we caught more than rabbits. Like Dave says, shooting is a skill learned over years and you have to practice this skill. So, the likelyhood of a non-hunter, non-shooter picking up a rifle and walking into the woods and shooting a deer is pretty slim. And anyone who has ever hunted can tell you there is a big difference between a deer that is hunted and one that is seen and photographed in a Park. Could you kill a big fat Copperhead, skin it, then fry it up like Sunday Chicken. I just got through canning 30 quarts of green beans and will probably do 30 more this weekend. Also cucumbers, squash, onions, peppers, corn, and tomatoes are starting to come in. To survive, it takes many skills, more than just going to the grocery store and storing a years worth of food. My grandparents who grew up in the mountains of NC were almost completely self sufficient, only buying coffee, sugar, and their tobacco products. The garden was plowed with a mule, and the mule was also used to drag logs out of the woods.They had no electricity, running water or inside toilet, yet they lived a very good life and were extremely clean in everything they did. All meals were cooked on a wood cook stove. They taught me many of these skills, and you can cook anything in a Dutch oven. Also Charlie, my friend for over 30 years has taught me many survival skills while hunting in the wilderness areas of Idaho. So, if the SHTF actually happens, then the first thing that will happen, Dave will be gone and so will Survival Diva because your computer will no longer work. So if you have no idea how to survive right now, then when the SHTF your S is going to be pretty weak.

  4. Here in the eastern states, Maryland specifically, fish caught out of rivers may cause you more harm than good. We’re told not to eat them as the water is seriously polluted. Male fish have female genetalia and vice versa. If the water is so bad that it confuses the fish, what would it do to us? Some SERIOUS filtration requirements will have to be met to use water from the Potomac and upper tributaries or else we might just be doing ourselves in. You need to be aware and plan ahead. There are great books available on how to filter your water. Get and read them… and then get your equipment. When TSHTF will likely be too late!

  5. I always shoot for the negative reviews. This one brings up good points about one of the recommended books. For me, I tend to believe reviews that are wordy and have emotion.

    This review is from: Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies (Paperback)
    I’m very unhappy that there were no reviews of this book that discuss it’s overwhelming flaws — I just wasted $15.

    At first glance, it looks promising: the book is very nicely bound with a water-resistant cover and nice glossy photos, and appears to be well organized into categories such as trees, shrubs, herbs, etc.

    Unfortunately, the actual content of the book is laughable. Statements like “was said to be used for…” and “was reputed to be…” are the norm here. I have no use whatsoever for hearsay or speculation, especially if I’m going to be eating the plants that I read about! Yes, I bought a book on edible plants… because I want to EAT them. I thought it would be safe to assume that the author would be presenting first-hand personal experience, not just rehashing unconfirmed information. None of the statements made in the book are referenced as they appear, either, so it’s impossible to know where any piece of information came from (unless you want to read every book in the bibliography). Also, the medicinal uses listed are so vague and generalized as to be completely useless. “Was said to be used for heart trouble, and kidney and respiratory problems.” Are you KIDDING me? That statement covers literally hundreds of potential conditions with totally different causes, and therefore different treatments. One plant will treat any condition in all of those categories? Really? Also there is no mention of dosages, so how much do you take, in what form, how often? On that note, several entries state that “large dosages” of certain plants are poisonous. What’s a “large dose”? 100 grams? 10 grams? 1 gram? If I’m going to potentially be POISONED by a plant listed in the book, I obviously need to know specifics, or at least a general range. I don’t see myself just giving it a try and seeing what happens: “oops, I guess I ate too much, now I’m poisoned, shuks.” I bought this book so that I would have specific, practical information provided by someone with personal experience who knows what they’re talking about, so that I could actually use edible and medicinal plants effectively and safely. VERY DISAPPOINTED.

  6. The simple answer is cannibalism. Human target are easy prey and lots of them. Just joking!!! Honest, I am.

    • Caribou says:

      I know that you are joking but remember that there have been repeated reports of cannibalism coming out of N. Korea in recent years. History is replete with exactly these sort of events.

      In a long term famine look to your own security.

  7. David,
    With droughts, vegetation at stressed levels and add into the mix a bunch of untrained and undisciplined people into the forest, the opportunity for catastrophic fires increases exponentially. Not only will the resources for a future stable economy be destroyed, but the loss of human life will be frightening. Please advise folks to stay home and survive, rather than risk greater losses.

  8. survive in place is best for me, small town. Now you should realize that food is canned and stored for sale in the following year. there is a year’s worth of food sitting in warehouses around the country to allow the big chains to re-stock. Most city folks do not understand where food comes from. the wilderness may be the last place to be for about 4 weeks after shtf. If you can make it for four weeks you can out last most of the brutality – it could get ugly though. Blend in, be prepared and make friends. i know there is only 3 days of food in most grocery stores – but this supply is backed up. But it will probably be gathered in by the military. Have fishing gear in spades and learn to trap food, quieter and easier. the successful hunter may become the hunted on his way back to camp!

  9. I will again bring up unlikely food urban food sources. In SoCal your chances of hunting in the mountains will be one in several million. The SoCal mountains are steep and covered with tough chaparral. With so many people jammed into a small space, you will be hunting a small number of animals and competing with a large number of humans. The same with fishing. The lakes in SoCal only contain fish because the DFG or proprietary owners of the lakes stock them with fish. In a collapse, those fish and the small number of fish off shore in the ocean would be gone in a very short time — if you could find a spot on the shore to fish from and get home in one piece with your catch. Consider some unusual food sources: Pigeons lots of them in urban areas. You might want to try trapping them so that you can clean out their systems before eating them. Seagulls near the beach and some inland areas; lots of crows in all urban areas; Snails in your garden, feed them cornmeal for a week before eating them; all the critters that another writer talked about; I have been told that mountain lions, the animals responsible for our low deer population, are good to eat; some cultures eat dogs. I have been told someone who claimed first hand knowledge that brown dog is better tasting than black dog. Horses that are too broke down to ride. The French eat horse meat as do many other cultures. Many items that one would turn up their noses at become sources of food in times of extreme crisis. In Stalingrad the Russians made soup from their belts and shoes. They scraped the backside of wall paper for the wheat paste that was used to hold the wall paper on. Won’t work today as wall paper paste is made from artificial ingredients.

  10. My husband and I are getting on in age so I am trying to find ways to stay in place. I feel like gardens, especially well-manicured ones, will be lures for looters and such so I did some research and found some wild plants that had high nutritional value. Two of my favorite are Stinging Nettle and Borage. I figured these types of “weed” plants can just be left to their own devices, they will make the yard look overgrown and unkempt and supply us with nutrition without attracting attention. Kind of like hiding in plain sight.

  11. Rightontheleftcoast says:

    Excellent article.

    Very Good Advice about finding edible food in your area- living in SoCal, which is basically a mix of chapparal, maritime coasta sage scrub, and desert- your choices are limited and its a LOT of work to gather enough protein to get by. If you havent done it, best to try it on bit by bit- you will be surprised by what is and is not available by season too.

    Fishing- hmmm. One friend tells me he will just go to the beach and get all the food he needs, and when I ask him when was the last time he went fishing… blank look.

    Hunting here is hard hunting – up and down ground on the public lands, where you can get past the locked gates on private inholding that block access roads. The folks on the the Indian Reservations are rightfully protective of their land, to the point of confiscating weapons and cars from trespassers, and you can count on that geting tougher when TSHTF. So you better be VERY fit to get 50-100 miles from your suburban home, with your gear, to where you can even find game, thats already pretty shy.

    The few not-so-shy deer close to the city in preserves will be gone fast, and so will the bunnies, and the neighbor’s cat too. You are going to be competing with feral dog packs in the open spaces and streets, especially in ag areas in a couple weeks to a month later, so it might be good to look up recipes on that protein source.

  12. joseph L M says:

    Hello David
    I have no choice in this matter , I will stay in place , I have known this from the beginning that why in everything I have prep for in the back of my mind how do I fend off – looters, gangs , my worthless neighbors , and protect my group which include several of my elderly neighbors. The hard part is the money but , if you plan carefully , do research , set-up lines of communications with like minded people anything is possible.
    I would like to touch on your article this week, you may not realize this but look at the cities as wilderness and asses the resources there as if you were in the backwoods. Just a small example the cities neighborhoods have alley which the city pick up trash , utilities poles are located .These day many of the alleys are not well tended and down right over grown with weeds. Well if you know where to look you find wild greens, wild onions, edible roots of all sorts. Mulberries, forgotten fruit trees, trees that produce nuts in the fall and pockets of wild life that know where the food is as well, Opossums , coons, squirrels, muskrats, some game birds, pigeons and so on. Dealing with the hungry human population would be a major issue , how to gather and hunt without becoming the hunted.
    Just a side note this may be wrong of me to think this and find humor in it , every year as deer season starts up me and my friends we take bets on how many new hunters are killed by there own actions in the woods last year it was 16 that either shot themselves or were shoot by another new hunter, can you imagine thousands of city people in the woods with guns they have no ideal how to uses , it will be a blood bath.
    Your article again is a great help, it gives me a couple new ideals for food prepping and love Implant.

    • Survival Diva says:


      All of your points here are spot-on. Inexperience will lead to deaths, and hunting accidents by inexperienced hunters will be at the top of that list. Next week’s post will be specifically about hardening a home or an apartment and it will be another layer to protect your group and neighbors. Thank you for the feedback on Implant : )

  13. I think that someone forgot to include fishing knowledge and equipment.

    • Survival Diva says:


      I’ll be writing a post exclusively on fishing soon and should have mentioned that in the post.

  14. There you go again, David 😉

    Just when I start feeling kinda complacent about my prepping, you whack me up side the head with this article… I now know I need to work on items 1, 2, 4, 10, 13, 16, 19.
    I guess needing to work on a third of them is better than ALL of them 🙂

    Very sobering article. So, my strengths are in the hunting, shooting, camping arena. As you stated, mindset is key in survival situations. I’m in Northern California where we have lots of wild boar.

    I’ve bagged 19 (8 with a pistol) in the past 6 years or so. True, fundamental hunting skills are necessary… but pigs are not nearly the stealth challenge required for deer (bucks). I am a very proficient shooter, so that clearly adds to the hunting success (your emphasis on honing those skills is quite relevant).

    It is just coincidental that my last two wild boar kills (last month and last Fall) were my two longest shots… 460 and 395 yards… both one shot kills (chest shots).

    Handgun is more challenging, given that the advertised lethality of the 44 mag (Dirty Harry) must not have been communicated to my first 175# wild boar.. My first shot (240 gr JHP) at 60 yards offhand thru the chest… no reaction… then he ran in my direction. My second shot as he ran by at 5 yards was also in the chest (2″ from the first shot)… no reaction. We were on on a plateau on top of a hill, so he turned and came by again. It took a third shot (head/neck) to put him down.

    In a survival situation, this is a critical situation… had he wanted to slash me on his first pass, I would have been toast. I now carry a 460 S&W Mag (shooting 454 Casull) and it makes consistent one shot stops.

    In a survival situation, bullet placement is key… you are MEAT hunting. An animal that gets away, or worse…wounded… does not help your cause. As most hunters know, a heart/lung shot is generally accepted as the high probability shot …. considering marksmanship, range estimation, and wind drift. A gut shot causes unnecessary suffering and contaminates a lot of meat. A shoulder or hind shot destroys a lot of useful meat.

    Just sharing a few ideas… You article is a target rich environment 😉 Thanks David.

    • Hey Vic,

      Don’t look at it as being a pass/fail proposition. It’s a continuum, and it’s important to have a realistic view of where you’re at on the continuum so that you make plans that have a chance of succeeding.

      As an overly simple example, if you don’t know how to fish and your plan is to survive on a sailboat, you’ve got a problem.

      Thanks as always, Vic.


  15. Some of our loved ones might be handicapped/disabled to some extent. This requires even more strength and stamina.

    • Survival Diva says:


      Yes, it will be more difficult. In our group, some of the older in the group have already said they would prefer to stay behind. Their desire is to have a quality of life and would rather take their chances at the cabin, rather than to try to walk long distances and camp where North Idaho winters can be brutal.

      • CivilWarLady says:

        I have read and do Civil War as a hobby. But, I am disabled. I am planning on staying in my house and having at least two of my four boys here. One has a wife that has hunted and knows how to field dress a deer, we actually get them and other animals in our back yard. We have a large area of woods behind our house. My neighbors also hunt and fish.
        I cook over fires and don’t need matches or a lighter to get one started. I would have all my cast iron to cook with also.
        We also are in an area that most streams and some smaller public lakes, you are told not to eat the fish from.
        For protection, all my boys will fight and to the death if need be. They all thought I was crazy when I started to put emergency bags together, until they see what I have packed. I dehydrate foods to store them. I have plenty of books on back in the Civil War how they salted meat and other foods. Some kids, don’t even know that eggs can come in different colors or cucumbers make pickles! Don’t the school teach children anything about the food system.
        I love my next store neighbors because they have the same thinking. We also have elderly around us that might need help from looters.
        Just my input. I must get more wood and rain water collected though to stay put. I also know how to make my own soap, though just working on making lye from the ashes still.
        Thanks for reading.


  1. […] Hunting is planned for by many Peppers.  Sadly, hunting in wilderness areas during a protracted crisis is likely to be touch and go for several reasons (for the record, I’m all for hunting, but it should be in combination with gathering wild foods and gardening).  Last year, I wrote an article about the likelihood of game being scarce due to over-hunting, entitled Wilderness Survival For City Dwellers.  […]

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