Living off the land or Bugging out has become one of the hot topics that defines the prepping community. Everyone has a bug out bag and everyone is planning on getting out of Dodge if things fall apart. Part of that comes from the idea that many preppers are expecting a serious enough of a disaster to cause a general breakdown of society. That’s prudent from a planning point of view, as preparing for such a severe disaster means that you’re covered for a smaller one as well.
Of course, preparing to bug out doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to follow through and bug out when the time comes. We should all have a plan to bug out, just in case we have to, but unless you have a hidden cabin in the wilderness, you probably don’t want to bug out unless you have to.
I’ve got a concern about all these people bugging out though. Few people actually have that hidden cabin we’d all like to have. So that means that most of these people who are talking about bugging out, are planning on bugging out into the wild and living off the land. Once their three days worth of food runs out, they won’t have anything to eat, except for that which they manage to harvest from nature.
Living off the land is much harder than most people realize. Granted, it’s part of our country’s history that many did so in the early days. Pioneers and settlers often had no other choice but to live off the land. While some of them died, many more were successful, even without our modern firearms and all the fancy survival gadgets we can buy.
But that doesn’t mean that you and I can live off the land as easily as they did. First of all, there isn’t as much wild game available today as there was back then. That alone would make it harder to live off the land than it was in the early days of the country. While conservation efforts work to maintain a good population of wild animals all over the country, the population levels they are maintaining are based upon available wilderness land for the animals to live in. With so much of our land dedicated to agriculture, there isn’t as much available for wildlife as there once was.
This is worse in some areas of the country, than it is in others. The western states have more open spaces than the eastern ones do. The worst are probably those in the Great Plains, which has become the breadbasket of not only America, but much of the world as well.
The lower game population isn’t the only problem though. In addition to that, we also have a much higher human population in our country. In the times when people were living off the land, there were probably only a couple million people in North America. Today, we have well over 300 million in the United States alone. If everyone tried to live off the land, the game would have a hard time finding a place to hide.
Of course, some would succeed in surviving off the land, but the vast majority wouldn’t. With that many people trying to live off the land, the available game would become overhunted quickly. Those that weren’t killed would go deeper into the wilderness, looking for places where they would be much less likely to encounter man.
So, once the first brief flurry of hunting was over, finding animals to shoot for food would become very difficult. I’d say that it would be much easier to go kill a domesticated steer somewhere. Of course, if you were able to do that, there’s a good chance that you’d be shot by the rancher that owns those steer. They’re not going to take lightly to people killing off their livestock, regardless of how hungry the people are.
There’s another huge difference between living off the land today, as compared to living off the land 200 years ago, that’s the difference in knowledge between modern man and our ancestors. We are used to living in cities and having all our modern conveniences. So, we don’t know the plant life as well as our ancestors did. That will severely hurt our ability to gather berries, nuts and edible plants from the wild.
About the only people who stand a chance of successfully living off the land are those who live deep in the wilderness and are closely in touch with their surroundings. But then, those people may be living in that way, long before a disaster strikes.
You see, living off the land entails much more than just going hunting in the fall does. Without detailed knowledge of nature, chances are slim. Two hundred years ago, that sort of knowledge was much more common than it is today. You could learn it, but that would require making the commitment and investment to find the necessary information and learn it, preparing yourself to be able to live off the land.