Harvesting Wild Meat: the Simple Art of Primitive Trapping

Harvesting Wild Meat: the Simple Art of Primitive Trapping

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A book describing how to catch birds and animals with nothing more than rocks, sticks and string. In writing this book, the author has drawn on his extensive research and personal experience. Having a strong respect for nature himself, he encourages modern hunter-gatherers to act in an ethical and humane manner. The book provides insight into a topic that has been of critical importance to our ancestors. Here is a source of accurate and practical information to be used wisely and preserved for future generations.

From: Harvesting Wild Meat: The Simple Art of Primitive Trapping, by Stephen R. Coote

1. Introduction

For years I have been fascinated by primitive traps and snares. When I assembled my book “Ancient Skills” in 2002, I decided not to include a chapter on trapping. I felt that it could be a sensitive subject, and I didn't want to encourage irresponsible people to set traps.

But the fascination lingered on, and over the last few years I've seen a proliferation of trapping information on the internet. When a Spanish publisher approached me with the idea for this book, I jumped at the opportunity. I hope that what I've written will be a good influence.

Before you read further, I have to make it clear that it may be illegal to use primitive traps (or any traps) in some places. So I urge everyone to check their local laws and to abide by them. But even if trapping is currently against the law where you are now, there is no need to set aside this book. The ideas written here could give you a greater understanding of animal behaviour, hunting and primitive technology. You may get an insight into aspects of our ancestors' lives. And you will have knowledge that could be used or taught in order to help people survive. It is conceivable that one day more people will want, or need, to eat meat from the hedgerows and forests. And if common sense prevails, trapping may once again become a legal and efficient means of harvest.

City folks are likely to be somewhat removed from the realities of food production. While many enjoy eating meat, they may not reflect deeply upon where the meat in the plastic package comes from. In many cases, the animal that provided the meat may have led a somewhat restricted life. It may have been forced to ingest certain hormones and chemicals. And just prior to the end of its life, it may have been herded on to a truck and forced into a processing plant.

A hunter harvests 'free range' meat from a natural environment. The end should come quickly with a well-placed shot or blow from a club.

There is a conception that trapping is cruel. I agree that it can be. But if done with care and respect, any suffering involved may well be much less than many might imagine.

I cannot speak with absolute authority about how a trapped animal may feel because I have never been a trapped animal. However I have observed many animals over the years as I've hunted, trapped, helped on farms and kept pets. I have come to the conclusion that animals generally don't get as worked up emotionally as humans might. They tend to live more 'in the moment'. Injured animals often seem to carry on with life to the best of their ability. On many occasions, live-trapped animals have been very relaxed as I've quietly approached the trap.

I believe that the state of mind of the hunter can seem to influence the trapped animal. This is something that is hard to prove to others, but hunters might like to keep the idea in mind as they wander around the hills. And this might be considered if you read about the feats and ideas of early hunters who seemed to get co-operation from their quarry. In fact, I believe our thinking shapes our total experience, but such a discussion is really the subject of another book. There is much more to life than we once might have thought. And who is to say that death is final and that animals are not just playing their part in an enjoyable cosmic game?

Vegetarians have my sympathy. I enjoy observing animals and they are fun to have around. They can express so much intelligence and joy. Maybe one day I, too, will stop eating flesh. But I haven't evolved to that state yet. I like to eat meat just as other animals seem to enjoy eating each other. Few people would expect a tiger or crocodile to become vegetarian.

Over the years our family has saved significant money by growing fruit and vegetables and harvesting wild game. A trap can be 'hunting' for you 24 hours a day, and it may be a safer and more convenient option than hunting with a firearm. Furthermore, effective traps can be made from readily-available methods at virtually no cost (other than time).

In my country, certain animals are regarded as pest species. Up until the time of writing this, aerial drops of poison have taken place in our wilderness areas in an effort to reduce animal numbers. Personally, I do not like the use of poison. We can't be sure of the total effect it has, and it is not a nice way to end an animal's life. I, and others, have used traps to catch these pest species. I have utilized the under-rated meat, and profited from selling skins and fur.

Like many others, I've used traps to catch rats and mice around my property. I have found that simple primitive deadfalls are very effective for this task, and it is possible that they are more likely to catch the rats that have become wary of factory-made traps.

As I browse the internet, it seems that there is an upsurge in interest in primitive skills and wilderness survival. Knowing how to make and set traps is an important part of both these things. In my opinion, the cooked meat from most birds, reptiles and mammals is edible. By setting a few traps in an intelligent manner, it is likely that the trapper will obtain sustaining food.

Simplicity is a good thing. There are designs around for all sorts of traps that might appeal to the mechanically minded, but I've found that a simple bit of cord can be all that is needed to secure a meal.... and a rock and a couple of sticks can effectively catch a rat. Sometimes the situation might call for a more elaborate trap, but I tend to stay with the simplest types because they are generally quicker to build and more reliable in their operation. The traps I have described in this book are simple devices for obtaining food or fur, and I have deliberately not described man-traps or anything that may be excessively dangerous or unreliable.

The methods and measurements portrayed in this book should be regarded as a guideline only. There is seldom one right way of making a trap. The few methods I describe are ones I have experimented with, but there are many other trap designs and ideas in existence... some of which might be ideally suited to your particular needs. Consider this book as food for thought... a place to start as you go off to experiment with your own ideas and materials.

Although this book is intended as a guide to 'primitive' trapping, I have often used relatively modern tools and materials to make and set my own traps. Nylon cord makes excellent snares, and a steel knife is very convenient. However, very effective traps can be made with relative ease using only the materials that nature provides. All the traps described in this book can be made by any practical person using common materials. And major hunting principles are virtually the same today as they were ten thousand years ago.

Some simple illustrations are included in this book. My motive in drawing the pictures was to try to make the principles and structure of the subject as clear as possible rather than to make a faithful reproduction of what something looks like from one angle.

It is fair to say that most of us are here today because our ancestors were successful hunters. Trapping is part of mankind's cultural heritage, and an effective means of pest control, procuring food and gathering useful materials. An understanding of trapping may help to provide our daily needs as well as give insight as to how our ancestors lived. This book contains information to be used wisely and preserved for future generations.

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