More than one way to skin — well, catch a rabbit!

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I was talking to a young friend who is at the US Air Force Academy last night. He was telling me that his summer will involve some intensive training in survival and that one of the things he’ll be doing is trapping or catching his own food. Good luck to him! It’s tough. You need patience and skill. So if you want to start practicing , here’s how. Oh, and you might want to try the U.S. Army Handbook. It has some straightforward diagrams that will help you skin it right.

There are several killing devices that you can construct to help you obtain small game to help you survive. The rabbit stick, the spear, the bow and arrow, and the sling are such devices.

Rabbit Stick

One of the simplest and most effective killing devices is a stout stick as long as your arm, from fingertip to shoulder, called a “rabbit stick.”  You can throw it either overhand or sidearm and with considerable force. It is very effective against small game that stops and freezes as a defense. You need to practice this a lot! Get a stuffed toy and do it over and over. Then get a friend to pull it on a string as you throw (a long string will minimize law suits!)

Spear

You can make a spear to kill small game and to fish. Jab with the spear, do not throw it.Water refracts (Remember that Castaway moment with Tom Hanks where he keeps missing) so you have to adjust your throw.

Bow and Arrow

A good bow is the result of many hours of work. You can construct a suitable short-term bow fairly easily. When it loses its spring or breaks, you can replace it. Select a hardwood stick about one meter long that is free of knots or limbs. Carefully scrape the large end down until it has the same pull as the small end. Careful examination will show the natural curve of the stick. Always scrape from the side that faces you, or the bow will break the first time you pull it. Dead, dry wood is preferable to green wood. To increase the pull, lash a second bow to the first, front to front, forming an “X” when viewed from the side. Attach the tips of the bows with cordage and only use a bowstring on one bow.

Select arrows from the straightest dry sticks available. The arrows should be about half as long as the bow. Scrape each shaft smooth all around. You will probably have to straighten the shaft. You can bend an arrow straight by heating the shaft over hot coals. Do not allow the shaft to scorch or burn. Hold the shaft straight until it cools.

You can make arrowheads from bone, glass, metal, or pieces of rock. You can also sharpen and fire-harden the end of the shaft. To fire harden wood, hold it over hot coals, being careful not to bum or scorch the wood.

You must notch the ends of the arrows for the bowstring. Cut or file the notch; do not split it. Fletching (adding feathers to the notched end of an arrow) improves the arrow’s flight characteristics, but is not necessary on a field-expedient arrow.

Sling

You can make a sling by tying two pieces of cordage, about sixty centimeters long, at opposite ends of a palm-sized piece of leather or cloth. Place a rock in the cloth and wrap one cord around the middle finger and hold in your palm. Hold the other cord between the forefinger and thumb. To throw the rock, spin the sling several times in a circle and release the cord between the thumb and forefinger. Practice to gain proficiency. The sling is very effective against small game.

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