In my 2011 quest to only eat meat which I have hunted or gathered myself, I’ve learned a lot. Most people ask me “how” I do it, so I thought I would share a bit more on the actual tasks of finding the food.
Well there is a lot to cover in this subject possibly more than one blog would allow but all the hunting so far falls into two categories; shooting and trapping. The shooting has all been in woodland, only for species authorised on an open licence and the weapon is a .22 break barrel air rifle. The traditional approach would have been bow and arrow but hunting with these traditional tools is illegal. The range and level of accuracy of an air rifle does mean that more skill is required in stalking your prey and indeed the size of game that can be effectively hunted is also limited but that’s why I like it.
Archery skills aside I think it has similar limits in its use to a bow and arrow. If you can stalk well enough, and get close enough to take a head or heart and lung shot then it’s an effective means of humanely dispatching animals. If your stalking skills aren’t up to much then you are never going to get a shot. Animals taken so far have been 1 rabbit, 2 wood pigeons and 3 grey squirrels.
Trapping is a game of patience. It’s a percentage game where in a new area you probably need to set 20 traps for every one animal you might catch and of course there are many regulations and concerns about the types of trap you can (or should) use and how to use them. I practice the use of primitive traps, made from all natural materials and I usually favour one of two designs. One is a live capture trap suitable for birds and it is effective for pigeons and crows depending on how it is baited. The other is a killing type trap that is effective for use with squirrels or rat’s. All traps should be set so they offer no harm to non targeted species and must be checked regularly at least every 24 hours. As I say there are far too many details about trapping to go into here, perhaps another blog on trapping in the future.
So far trapping has provided….1 grey squirrel! My traps are only set for around 12 hours maximum before I leave the woods and so dismantle the traps and this is much less effective than leaving them set in place and checking them regularly.
So what about the last option?
Two main sources of gathering meat the first is an easy source…arthropods (insects, crustaceans, myriapods & spiders). Woodlice (crustaceans) are an easy to gather, nutritious source of protein and once you realise they are just 'Land Prawns' they are easy to stomach and actually taste just like Prawns. You do need to collect quiet a few for a meal but for me, better a handful of woodlice than a battery farmed piece of chicken.
The other gathering option is the meat that other people (like you lovely readers), kill and leave at the roadside.
Road kill has developed a bit of a name for itself and many people are aware of it as a source of food, but perhaps lack the confidence to know what to do with it. Is it safe, what if it’s been dead a long time, what if flies have laid eggs on it, isn’t it a bit yucky with all it’s guts etc? They are all good questions. Before we go on to look at the answers it is worth remembering a few points. All meat you eat gets killed, has disgusting squishy bits, has the potential to be unsafe to eat (people who never eat road kill still get food poisoning) and may have been dead a long time.
Any road kill no matter how squashed and messy can be made safe to eat with enough preparation and with enough cooking but it can’t all be made to taste great. You just need to ask is it worth it?
To be continued ......